170. Draft Memorandum for the President Prepared by the Secretary of State’s Special Assistant for Vietnam (Sullivan)1


  • United States Role in Viet-Nam

1. Problem: The Vietnamese Government is not operating efficiently enough to reverse the adverse trend in the war with the Viet Cong. The Khanh Government has good intentions; it has announced good general plans and broad programs; but these plans are not being translated into effective action against the Viet Cong on either the military or the civil side. It has, therefore, become urgently necessary to find a means to infuse the efficiency into the governmental system that it now lacks.

2. General Concept: American personnel, who have hitherto served only as advisors, should be integrated into the Vietnamese chain of command, both military and civil. They should become direct operational components of the Vietnamese Governmental structure. For cosmetic purposes American personnel would not assume titles which would show command functions, but would rather be listed as “assistants” to the Vietnamese principals at the various levels of government.

3. Extent of American Integration: Americans should be integrated at all levels of the Vietnamese Government. General Khanh and General Tran Thien Khiem would continue to be superior in rank to any Americans integrated into the Vietnamese hierarchy, and Ambassador Lodge would continue to serve as the President’s principal representative and over-all policy advisor to General Khanh.

Americans would be integrated into the Central Government to insure that decisions are taken, orders are issued and funds, supplies and personnel are made available for their implementation, and execution actually takes place. At the regional level Americans, both military and civilian, would also be introduced into the corps and divisional apparatus, particularly to insure that military and civil activities are coordinated. Americans would likewise be brought into the [Page 360] government machinery at province and district level to insure that the counterinsurgency programs are actually executed at the level at which the people live.

Aside from the command aspect which Americans would assume, the principal other new element in this concept would be the introduction of American civilians at the district level. Their purpose would be to insure that programs are put into effect at the village and hamlet level to gain the support of the people.

Charts are attached2 showing a recommended pattern of integration for Americans at the various levels of the Vietnamese Government.

4. Sources of American Personnel: The great bulk of the Americans required for integration into the Vietnamese Government structure would come from those already serving in the Embassy, MACV, USOM, USIA [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Lt. General Westmoreland, Deputy Commander, USMACV, would be the senior American integrated into the Vietnamese structure. David Nes, now Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy, would be the next senior man. Both should be introduced into the Vietnamese structure just below the levels of Generals Khanh and Khiem. In practice we believe that, in view of the good working relationship between these two Americans, Westmoreland would concentrate on security affairs and Nes on civil affairs.

As shown on the attached charts, other senior Americans, such as George Tanham, the Deputy Director of USOM for Counterinsurgency, Sol Silver, the Assistant Director of USOM for Programming and Economic Planning, Major General Richard Stilwell, Chief of Staff of MACV, and Barry Zorthian, Public Affairs Officer, would also be integrated. Most other officials of the American agencies in Viet-Nam would likewise be integrated at appropriate levels.

Additional recruitment of Americans would be required for civil functions. The total number would be about 950, broken down as follows:

Civil Functions Civilians Military Personnel
Corps 40
Divisions 10
Provinces 200 200
Districts 250 250
Total 500 450

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The main recruitment problem concerns Americans to perform civil functions at the district level. We envisage an average of two Americans per district for this purpose (augmented by Filipinos and Chinese Nationalists). Not all of the Americans would be required immediately as they should be phased into the picture as clear-and-hold operations are progressively mounted from district to district. Civilians can be recruited either through (a) a Presidential appeal for volunteers from the Foreign Service, AID, CIA, USIA and Peace Corps or (b) Department of State assignment of a specific number of career officers to this function. As shown in the table above, one-half of the number required could come from military officers assigned by the Department of Defense to civil affairs duties.

Personnel at the district level would confront a maximum risk and casualties would be virtually certain. Since the U.S. should take any feasible measure to assure their security, it is important that Vietnamese units of the Civil Guard and Self-Defense Corps, which operate at this level, be encadred with an adequate number of American military personnel to insure that they will operate effectively.

Throughout the integration process we should be highly selective regarding the Americans chosen for these positions. Success will to a large extent depend upon their ability to get along with Vietnamese officials.

5. Residual American Setup in Viet-Nam: Each American agency would retain a modest traditional establishment in Viet-Nam. These establishments would be responsible (as at present) for U.S. policy recommendations and implementation, for over-all programming of U.S. input, for logistical and financial support, for reporting (which would be specifically excluded from the functions of the Americans integrated into the Vietnamese structure other than that required by their operational duties) and for the administrative support of the integrated Americans.

Charts showing the new organization of the American agencies are attached.3

6. Integration of Third Countries: We should also seek to obtain the agreement of both the Vietnamese Government and of third countries with advisors in Viet-Nam for the integration of the latter into the Vietnamese structure. We propose that Mr. R.G.K. Thompson, Chief of the British Advisory Mission, be integrated with General Westmoreland and Mr. Nes at the top level. Other British, Australian and any additional third-country advisors who are or become available would also be integrated at appropriate levels.

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7. Changes in the Vietnamese Structure: We should proceed with integration without waiting for any changes in the Vietnamese structure. If acceptable to General Khanh, we should, however, seek the following minimal changes (which the attached charts reflect):

Designation of General Khiem as “Deputy Premier” (in addition to his function as Minister of Defense) to place him above General Westmoreland and Mr. Nes.
Elimination of General Do Mau as a Vice Premier by placing the Ministries for which he is responsible under the Vice Premier for Pacification where they more appropriately belong. In view of reports of Do Mau’s intrigues against General Khanh the latter will probably gladly sacrifice him. However, in order to remove him from availability to intrigue, he should be given a significant post abroad.
We considered replacing Nguyen Ton Hoan as Vice Premier of Pacification, in view of his inactivity and political maneuvering, but decided it would cause fewer political problems to keep him. He is surrounded by Americans who can easily work around him, if necessary.
We would move the Ministry of Defense out from under the Vice Premier of Pacification, leaving the latter to deal with civil pacification matters only.
We would place the Directorate of New Rural Life under Colonel Lac directly under the Vice Premier for Pacification where it seems to belong.
We would move the Self-Defense Corps and Hamlet Militia (Popular Forces) from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Defense where they would become a component of the ground forces thus enabling coordinated use of all ground forces available. (This is reportedly already in process.)
Civilian officials would be assigned at the corps level to effect coordination of military and civil activities and better support of the lagging civil activities.

While not reflected in the attached charts, we believe there would be merit to elimination of divisions from the Vietnamese military structure and placing all authority for pacification, military and civilian, in the hands of the province chiefs under the control of the corps commanders. Retention of responsibility for military activities in the divisions perpetuates the division of authority which has plagued counterinsurgency operations to date.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 70 D 265, NSC Meeting, May 24, 1964. Top Secret.
  2. Not found.
  3. Not found.