364. Minutes of Meeting of the Special Group for Counterinsurgency1

PRESENT

  • Governor Harriman, Mr. McCone, Mr. Forrestal, Mr. Wilson vice Mr. Murrow, Mr. Solbert vice Mr. Gilpatric, Mr. Poats vice Mr. Bell, General Krulak vice General Taylor, Mr. Nolan vice the Attorney General
  • Mr. Hannah and Mr. Mendenhall were present for Items 2 and 3
  • Mr. Margolies was present for Item No. 4
  • Mr. Cottrell and Mr. Maechling were present for the meeting

[Here follows agenda item 1.]

2. Southeast Asia Status Report

Viet-Nam—Mr. Mendenhall stated that the war is going badly and pointed out specific reasons why there has been lack of progress in the Delta area. He added, however, that a number of recommendations are now being considered to reverse this trend.

It has been difficult to get Strategic Hamlet moving again because of the lack of central direction and the re-establishment of administrative controls. Mr. Mendenhall believes that it will take some time for the new Government to improve this condition.

Mr. McCone commented that a recent report has been brought to his attention which states that the situation in Long An Province is rapidly deteriorating. He asked if all the responsible agencies agreed with this appraisal. There was general agreement that the situation in this province is serious and that prompt action is needed.

Mr. McCone stated that the responsibility of the Group to follow up reports on Viet-Nam that indicate a need for action should be clarified. During the last few months, the Group had received advance warning by various individuals that the hamlet program in the Delta was becoming over extended but apparently no action was taken to look into this situation.

The Chairman suggested that following Secretary McNamara’s trip to Viet-Nam, the role of the Group to follow up on the execution of programs for Viet-Nam should be reviewed and clarified.

Thailand—Mr. Hannah reported that, in general, all programs related to internal security are progressing satisfactorily and it is [Page 705]planned to follow up on those programs that require special attention. Problems will undoubtedly arise as a result of Sarit’s death. Although Thanom has been named Prime Minister, it is believed that there will be considerable maneuvering for power by various rivals and cliques. However, at this time the political situation looks favorable.

The Country Team has been asked to report by the end of the month on progress that has been made to get the Thai Government to prepare their own version of the Internal Security Plan.

The Group requested that Defense submit a full report as soon as possible on what additional steps will be taken to correct the deficiencies in the locomotives sent to Thailand.

3. Remarks by Mr. Forrestal

Viet-Nam—Mr. Forrestal stated that he agreed that the situation in the Delta was serious and that one of the reasons that this has not been uncovered before is that previous reports on progress at the province level had been too optimistic.

He observed that there is inertia within the new Government; although they recognized that they have problems, little has been done to resolve them, or to take positive action. He recommended that the US Government get across to the key generals that they should stop political quarreling and concentrate on the war effort in threatened provinces. We should assist the current Government in the preparation of a new hamlet program in order to get this program moving as soon as possible. If we concentrate on the war, and not divert our attention to marginal problems, the chances of success will be greatly enhanced. He recommends that a high priority be given to the Delta.

Mr. McCone added that the Amnesty Program is important and should be included as part of any accelerated program.

During a discussion on the validity of reports on progress in the provinces, Mr. Forrestal stated that it should be understood that normally there are only two US advisors at the province level, one representing the military and the other the AID mission. These individuals have only a limited opportunity to obtain a detailed assessment of the situation and, by necessity, have to rely on the province officials as their chief source of information.

[Here follow Forrestal’s remarks about Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand and agenda item 4.]

James W. Dingeman
Executive Secretary
  1. Source: Department of State, Special Group Counterinsurgency Files: Lot 68 D 451, Minutes of Meetings. Secret. Drafted by James W. Dingeman who is not listed among the participants.