380. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

1000. You are to seek appointment as soon as possible with General Minh and present him with unclassified letter from the President (text to follow) and make oral presentation. You should tell Minh that it is expected that the letter will be released at January 1 noon press briefing, Texas time, and that GVN would release simultaneously in Saigon. (FYI: If there are any changes in these plans we will inform you flash. End FYI)

Here follows text unclassified letter:

Dear General Minh:

As we enter the New Year of 1964, I want to wish you, your revolutionary government, and your people full success in the long and arduous war which you are waging so tenaciously and bravely against the Viet Cong forces directed and supported by the Communist regime in Hanoi. Ambassador Lodge and Secretary McNamara have told me about the serious situation which confronts you and of the plans which you are developing to enable your armed forces and your people to redress this situation.

This New Year provides a fitting opportunity for me to pledge on behalf of the American Government and people a renewed partnership with your government and people in your brave struggle for freedom. The United States will continue to furnish you and your people with the fullest measure of support in this bitter fight. We shall maintain in Viet-Nam American personnel and materiel as needed to assist you in achieving victory.

Our aims are, I know, identical with yours: to enable your government to protect its people from the acts of terror perpetrated by Communist insurgents from the North. As the forces of your government [Page 746]become increasingly capable of dealing with this aggression, American military personnel in South Viet-Nam can be progressively withdrawn.

The United States Government shares the view of your government that “neutralization” of South Viet-Nam is unacceptable. As long as the Communist regime in North Viet-Nam persists in its aggressive policy, neutralization of South Viet-Nam would only be another name for a Communist take-over. Peace will return to your country just as soon as the authorities in Hanoi cease and desist from their terrorist aggression.

Thus, your government and mine are in complete agreement on the political aspects of your war against the forces of enslavement, brutality, and material misery. Within this framework of political agreement we can confidently continue and improve our cooperation.

I am pleased to learn from Secretary McNamara about the vigorous operations which you are planning to bring security and an improved standard of living to your people.

I wish to congratulate you particularly on your work for the unity of all your people, including the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai, against the Viet Cong. I know from my own experience in Viet-Nam how warmly the Vietnamese people respond to a direct, human approach and how they have hungered for this in their leaders. So again I pledge the energetic support of my country to your government and your people.

We will do our full part to ensure that under your leadership your people may win a victory—a victory for freedom and justice and human welfare in Viet-Nam.

Sincerely, Lyndon B. Johnson

General Duong Van Minh, Chairman,

Military Revolutionary Council, Saigon.

Oral Presentation:

When you present the letter to General Minh you should also make following points confidentially on behalf of President Johnson:2

It is vitally important to act now to reverse the trend of the war as rapidly as possible.
We trust that personnel changes are now virtually complete and that both military commanders and province chiefs can now get down to the job at hand.
We hope that General Minh can designate a Chief of the Joint General Staff and a Commander of the III Corps who will have no other responsibilities and can devote themselves exclusively to these mammoth tasks.
We assume that, as General Don promised Secretary McNamara, the GVN will make available sufficient troops in the six key provinces in the III Corps to give its forces the necessary numerical superiority.
We have been glad to learn of the stress which General Minh places on small-unit actions, particularly in the Mekong Delta. We hope that equal stress will be placed on night actions, both for ambushing Viet Cong and for relieving villages under attack. To win the support of the population it needs to be emphatically demonstrated that the Viet Cong are being beaten precisely at their own game.
We consider it extremely important that the necessary civil-military coordinating machinery for clear-and-hold operations followed by an effective program to give the villages protection and security be established in Saigon.
It is likewise extremely important that program directives be issued at an early stage by the central government to lower echelons for proper implementation of all aspects of the program for giving villagers protection.
We also urge early revitalization of the amnesty program.
We are encouraged by the exploratory talks which the Vietnamese Government has held with Cambodian Government officials for improving relations between the two countries. We hope that both Governments can proceed to actual negotiations for the settlement of their bilateral problems.
We accept with pleasure General Minh's invitation to set up an American brain-trust to work with his government and we are prepared to furnish any personnel needed for this purpose.
General Minh can also be sure that he has the complete support of the United States Government as the leader of Viet-Nam. We believe he can magnetically rally the Vietnamese people if he will really try to do so. He should be told leadership is an essential political ingredient of victory such as was the case with Magsaysay in the Philippines.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET. Secret Flash. Drafted by James M. Montgomery of the Vietnam Working Group, cleared by Forrestal, and approved by Hilsman. A draft of the letter to Minh, a draft of the oral presentation, and a covering memorandum from Rusk to the President were prepared by Mendenhall on December 26. Rusk took the drafts and the memorandum to the LBJ Ranch in Texas on December 27 where the President approved them. Rusk's memorandum to the President reads in part as follows:

    “As a follow-up to Secretary McNamara's visit to Viet-Nam, we recommend a Presidential message to General Duong Van Minh, Chairman of the Military Revolutionary Council in Viet-Nam, stressing the urgency of action to reverse the adverse trend in the war as well as reaffirming the United States policy of complete support for the Vietnamese Government. At the same time public uneasiness and confusion in both the United States and Viet-Nam necessitate a highly authoritative statement of United States war aims, intentions regarding the withdrawal of military personnel, and policy on neutralization.” (Ibid.)

    To meet these two purposes, the memorandum recommended the letter to General Minh and a “supplementary message” to be delivered orally by Lodge.

  2. Lodge reported in telegram 1242 from Saigon, January 1, that he delivered the letter and made the 11 points to General Minh with General Kim present during an interview at 10:30 a.m. on January 1. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)