183. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President1


Mac Bundy tells me that you are interested in the time factor in the struggle in South Vietnam: Is it working with us or against us, and if against us, how fast?

I cannot speak with any assurance about the military situation. I think that in spots there are signs of improvement, and in some areas there are signs that the Government’s efforts to reach people are beginning to show progress. But these are isolated indications and, in my judgment, are not widespread enough to indicate a trend for the better.

I can speak more confidently about the political atmosphere in Saigon. The feeling there is that the Government’s military and political position continues to erode. There is doubt that the war will ever [Page 397] be ended the way it is now being fought; and this produces a tendency towards factionalism, bickering, and probably some coup plotting in political and military circles.

I don’t think that there is in the near future a danger of military collapse; but there is an increasing danger of political accident or upheaval, unless there is some dramatic change in the atmosphere in which the struggle is being waged. What I think is needed fairly soon (i.e. within the next month or 6 weeks) is action by the United States in some part of Southeast Asia which gets across forcefully to the Vietnamese a sense that we believe Communist insurgency can be contained and that we will do whatever is required to insure this.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. X, Memos. Top Secret. In White House telegram CAP 64144, May 29, McGeorge Bundy sent the text of this memorandum to the Johnson Ranch in Texas. Bundy described the memorandum as “the most sensitive account I have yet seen of the probable balance of forces in South Vietnam.” (Ibid., Southeast Asia, Vol II, Memos CB)