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

2027. Eyes only for the Ambassador from the Secretary.


Situation in Southeast Asia is clearly moving toward basic decisions both in the free world and in the communist world.

The present activity with regard to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam illustrates that the central issue of pressures from the Communist North will have to be faced not just by us but by other allies.

You are aware of recent steps with regard to bombing operations in Laos and reconnaissance which step up the pace. The Geneva Accords of 1962 are very specific and have been grossly violated by the continued presence of Viet Minh in Laos and the persistent use of Laos for infiltration of South Vietnam. We intend to press very hard for the full and complete implementation of those accords on the basis of an international and legal position which is very strong indeed.

At a time when we and other governments are facing decisions on further military action in Southeast Asia, including the possibility of actions against North Vietnam, the fragility of the present situation in South Vietnam is very much on our minds.

On the basis of my talks with congressional leaders and committees and a sensing of public concern about Southeast Asia, I am convinced that the American people will do what has to be done if there is something to support. The prospect that we might strike the North, with all of the attendant risks, only to lose the South is most uninviting.

We need your judgment as to what more can be done to achieve the reality and appearance [of] greater solidarity in South Vietnam and to improve the actual administration performance of the government itself in grappling with the awesome problems.
When I was in Saigon, we talked about whether the nongovernmental community could be stimulated to demonstrate solidarity with the fight against the Viet Cong. Recent reports of new religious crises, rumblings among senior officials of government, delays in administration action to get on with the most elementary tasks of government are all disconcerting. From this end we are prepared to furnish men, material, funds on whatever scale is required to defeat the Viet Cong. But I feel the need to assure the President that everything humanly possible is being done both in Washington and by the government of Vietnam to provide a solid base of determination from [Page 345] which far-reaching decisions could proceed. I would greatly appreciate, therefore, your comments on such questions as the following, plus any others along the same lines which might occur to you.
Is there any way in which we can shake the main body of leadership by the scruff of the neck and insist that they put aside all bickering and lesser differences in order to concentrate upon the defeat of the Viet Cong?
Can we find some way to get the leaders of the religious communities to declare a moratorium on their differences until the anti-religious Communist threat has been thrown back?
How can we provide personnel experienced and trained in military government to work along side Vietnamese counterparts in order to galvanize the machinery of government?
Can we find some way by which General Khanh can convince larger segments of the people that they have a stake in the success of his leadership against the Viet Cong?
Can we devise further incentives to enlist the full cooperation of ordinary people both in the cities and in the countryside to pursue the struggle as one in which they are personally involved?
Everyone here in Washington is deeply impressed by the magnitude and difficulty of the problems faced by General Khanh, yourself and General Harkins but, in the face of the prospect of a deepening crisis and the possible necessity for asking the American people to accept larger sacrifices and grave risks, we want to be sure nothing is left undone which could be done to strengthen the position of South Vietnam itself.

I find it hard to believe, for example, that General Khanh and General Minh cannot find a basis to work together as patriotic Vietnamese even though it may require General Khanh to take some chances on working with some of those he displaced when he assumed power. I do not understand why so much delay in strengthening the puny diplomatic effort of Vietnam abroad. I can’t see why we are just now able to approve a January budget. I can’t see why materials in warehouses and pipelines cannot be moved promptly to the countryside to achieve the purpose for which such materials are being supplied. Surely administration can go on a war footing and French techniques of triple entry bureaucracy can be set aside in order to get prompt action. Having served in India, Burma and China during World War II I have had considerable personal experience with how deliberate all deliberate speed can be in that part of the world, but somehow we must change the pace at which these people move and I suspect that this can only be done with a pervasive intrusion of Americans into their affairs. I would deeply appreciate it if you would give me your best judgment as to how we on the American side can further stimulate Vietnamese solidarity and effort. In other words, what more [Page 346] can we do to make it quite clear to the American people that if a great deal more is required of them there is something solid to support and that what we may ask of them has point and the prospect of success.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.