177. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Rowan) to the President 1

During and since my visit to South Viet-Nam,2 USIA has given the highest priority to altering its program so as to meet the urgent needs of Southeast Asia. In this connection, I have:

1.
Increased the USIA staff in Viet-Nam by adding ten new positions.
2.
Assigned three officers to Viet-Nam on temporary duty to assist in radio program production and other information activities.
3.
Authorized the direct transfer of personnel from any post in the world to fill needs in South Viet-Nam.
4.
Facilitated an agreement with the Defense Department to train an additional 42 Army officers who will serve as psychological warfare and civil affairs advisors at the province level. This will permit a vitally-needed expansion of the psychological warfare program in the countryside.
5.
Recommended to AID (and secured its agreement) that a $278,000 “petty cash” fund be set up to insure that the information program in the provinces is not hampered because of lack of funds to cover such items as paper, ink or spare parts.
6.
Increased Voice of America broadcasting into North Viet-Nam and made arrangements for a broad expansion of VOA broadcasts in Vietnamese in early July.
7.
Secured the agreement of the Government of Viet-Nam to the installation of a portable 50 kilowatt transmitter to be located near Hue for broadcasting into North Viet-Nam (this is a joint USIA-Defense project, with Defense providing most of the money).
8.
Arranged to fly, with the help of the Defense Department, three 50 kilowatt short-wave transmitters from Liberia to the Philippines so as to increase our Southeast Asia coverage by fifty per cent.
9.
Agreed to provide a USIA officer as an engineering advisor to Radio Viet-Nam.
10.
Asked the Australian Government to provide a program advisor for Radio Viet-Nam.
11.
Placed on duty a USIA officer to advise the Government of Viet-Nam on motion picture production and have agreed to provide a production specialist for the GVN printing plant.
12.
Agreed to provide a USIA officer who will serve as personal press relations advisor to Premier Khanh (this officer; who previously gave award-winning service in Viet-Nam, has been pulled out of France and is now enroute to Saigon).
13.
Submitted a comprehensive country-wide information program for approval of the Government of Viet-Nam (this has been approved in principle and the GVN is now being pressed to implement the program with speed).
14.
Set up in Washington a special research unit to produce materials on Viet-Nam for use by VOA and other facilities.

Following are more details on the actions listed above:

VOA PROGRAMMING TO VIET-NAM

On May 3 we introduced a new half-hour of prime evening time broadcasting to Viet-Nam. This raised to three hours per day our program designed to influence listeners in the North. By mid-July, VOA will broadcast a solid evening block of five and one-half hours, from 7:00 pm until 12:30 am Saigon time, plus one-half hour each morning.

To sustain this expanded schedule VOA is recruiting 12 new Vietnamese employees for work in Washington, has stationed an American officer in Saigon to develop new program materials on the scene, and is increasing use of Vietnamese students and other Vietnamese nationals in the United States. These additional resources will provide us with a great deal more material on North Viet-Nam than we have been able to get in the past.

USIA and the Army are cooperating in the crash construction of a 50 kilowatt medium-wave transmitter in Hue. Components are being flown from Liberia and the United States. The transmitter should be relaying VOA by July 18 and should give competitive coverage of North Viet-Nam unless the Communists resort to jamming.

In addition, the three 50 kilowatt short-wave transmitters to be flown from Liberia to the Philippines next month are expected to be operational by July 18. The Philippines is an ideal distance from Viet-Nam for short-wave coverage. These three transmitters will provide a good signal for a full program day.

I discussed with you our need for a megawatt medium-wave transmitter in the area in order for us to compete with Peking and Hanoi. I want to emphasize, however, that this facility is not of immediate importance because 18 to 24 months would be required for its construction. We have rushed, therefore, to install the kind of facilities that can have some immediate influence on the situation.

[Page 384]

COORDINATION OF INFORMATION OPERATIONS WITHIN THE U.S. MISSION IN SAIGON

General lack of coordination has been, in my view, our gravest problem in terms of the information-psychological program. You are aware, I believe, that in accepting Barry Zorthian as the Public Affairs Officer last January, Ambassador Lodge specified in a telegram to Ed Murrow that Zorthian “will not have responsibility for press relations (newspaper, magazines, television, radio) as I do this work myself.”3 In addition the military had its own information program. The general result was that no one could be sure who was responsible for what, which is why I asked in my earlier memorandum to you4 that Zorthian be given over-all responsibility in this area.

There has been considerable progress in recent weeks. Zorthian has been made Chairman of a mission-wide Psychological Operations Committee and a Joint Field Service Center has been created to merge the resources of all U.S. agencies for the psychological effort.

I emphasize, however, that Zorthian and the USIA staff are still not in a position where they have any clear responsibility for dealing with the American press. I do not say this to suggest that giving them such responsibility would end the spate of critical articles written by American newsmen. Many, such as those by Jim Lucas in the Washington Daily News, are the products of reporters who go out into the field, gain the confidence of our soldiers and then pick up bits of information which they turn into stories that are not at all helpful to our over-all mission. These are reporters who will be influenced little, if at all, by government press officers. I do believe, however, that Zorthian and other USIA officers ought to be free to make whatever effort they can to inform and give guidance to American newsmen.

One aspect of the reports by American newsmen that has bothered me was their tendency to emphasize American mistakes and acts that could be called “brutal” and to give little coverage to Viet Cong atrocities. USIA has recommended that a special Army photographic team be sent to South Viet-Nam to cover combat actions and to make available to American and other newsmen the kind of photographs that put across the stories we want told. The military have agreed to do whatever is necessary.

COOPERATION WITH VIET-NAM GOVERNMENT

Our ability to move on the Country-wide Information Plan depends largely on the extent to which we can budge the GVN to go along.

[Page 385]

The GVN has set up a counterpart to the U.S. Mission’s Psychological Operations Committee, and a joint committee representing the two governments began meeting immediately after my departure from Saigon.

This represents a significant step in view of the fact that no national information plan existed under previous GVN regimes and we could get no cooperation in producing one. My officers report that the current government is moving much more slowly than we like, but we are prodding them in Saigon, and I have indicated to Zorthian my willingness to write the Minister of Information from this end to urge greater speed on his part.

SUMMARY

USIA has given its highest priority to South Viet-Nam. In terms of its own program and that of the Government of South Viet-Nam, we are moving as rapidly in Viet-Nam as is possible and sparing no facility or personnel in our efforts to see that the rest of the world knows what is at stake in Viet-Nam and Southeast Asia.

Carl
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol X. Secret.
  2. Rowan accompanied Rusk to South Vietnam, April 17–19.
  3. Telegram 1285 from Saigon, January 10. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  4. Document 122.