184. Summary Record of a Meeting, Department of State1


  • Viet-Nam and Honolulu Meeting


  • State: Messrs. Ball, Harriman, Green, Sullivan, Trueheart and Read
  • Defense: Secretary McNamara and Mr. McNaughton
  • AID: Mr. Stoneman
  • CIA: Mr. Colby, Mr. Cooper, Gen. Carter
  • White House: Mr. Bundy and Mr. Forrestal

Mr. Ball distributed the agenda (attached)2 with five points on questions relating to Viet-Nam.

Agenda Item I

Mr. Ball asked for comment on his assessment that the general situation in Viet-Nam was deteriorating.

Secretary McNamara agreed with this assessment. He said he agreed with UK representative Thompson who was in Washington this week, who said that his assessment was that nothing much was happening and that there was lots of talk but little action. He said that [Page 398] Thompson had stated that he did not know whether we were beyond the point of no return, and that if the present deterioration continues the situation would disintegrate in anywhere from three to four months to nine months from now. If the situation is to be retrieved Thompson favored getting rid of the Dai Viet. Secretary McNamara said these conclusions were approximately the same as his own.

Mr. Sullivan stated Thompson had made the point to him that the US must cross the line between its advisory role and action or operational role for at least the top ten officials in the country. Thompson thought we weren’t getting more than 10 cents on our dollar of material input.

Agenda Item II

Mr. Ball asked why interlarding was not doing the job. Why weren’t oil spot procedures working out?

Secretary McNamara said that it was complex administrative problems and that the main difficulty was the lack of competent political and military personnel.

Mr. Forrestal said it was the question of trying to improve morale in South Vietnam that was critical in his opinion. Mr. Sullivan stated that many people in the south were now hedging their bets on the future with the thought that the US would cut its losses and pull out. He said in addition there was a premium on inefficiency because efficient administrators were prime subjects of assassination. Mr. McNamara asked the Agency representatives to prepare a paper on the attacks on division and district chiefs to see if there was corroboration for the view that the efficient leaders were the principal targets for assassination.

Mr. Stoneman stated that Secretary Rusk felt that we should try a pilot program in provinces where the deterioration was not advanced.

Secretary McNamara said we are already trying to do too many things and that AID was short 80 persons already. We should concentrate on the provinces in the south and west of Saigon where the situation was critical and not start other new programs.

Mr. Ball stated that one of the purposes of the Honolulu meeting should be to assure that there are no arbitrary limits on personnel.

Mr. Colby stated that the Agency has received indications of reservations at both low and high levels in the Vietnamese government to our encadrement proposal forwarded to Lodge three or four days ago. Mr. Colby’s view is that the most important thing is to integrate civil and military functions under a single commander.

Mr. Ball expressed reservation to any proposal which would have the effect of putting Western representatives out front with all the argument of neo-colonialism which could be brought to bear against us.

[Page 399]

Agenda Item III

Secretary McNamara said he thought we should have somebody looking at the problem of “surrender terms” if we took the war to the North; or, more accurately, the problem of when we should stop if such a venture is undertaken.

Mr. McNaughton said that a study was underway on this point and the Agency also indicated it had some studies underway on related problems.

Honolulu Meeting

Secretary McNamara said that he thought the Honolulu talks should proceed on two or three planes.

  • First, on the military questions two military sub-groups should get to work to examine the J–3 and J–4 problems, and contingency war plans.
  • Second, an information panel should be set up, chaired by Carl Rowan or Bob Manning, to examine four different information problems: (1) North Vietnam (2) South Vietnam (3) US and (4) European allies, i.e., the problems of information originating in the south beamed towards the north, information beamed into the south and what we are putting out in the US for domestic and overseas consumption.
  • Third, Gaud and Sullivan should chair a panel examining the pilot province program and this team would have aid, military and political considerations to take into account.

At the policy-making level the two Secretaries and Ambassador Lodge should examine the problems of getting Khanh’s backing and cooperation for our program and the choice of international forums. The Secretary said we would put the detailed agenda together on the airplane.

Gov. Harriman said he thought we needed more work done on the question of what “carrots” we could offer to North Vietnam. It was generally agreed that this did not need more attention

Secretary McNamara said he saw the purposes of the Honolulu meeting as follows: (1) to exchange views with Lodge and Westmoreland on our assessments and estimates of the situation in South Vietnam; (2) to map out more effective actions against the Viet Cong; and (3) to consider tentative courses of action in case the situation in the south continues to deteriorate and to try to achieve accord on our contingency plans against the North.

Mr. Cleveland stated that we would have a huge job of convincing the rest of the world of our assumption that if we can’t win in Indo-China, we can at least prevent Peking and Hanoi from doing so.

[Page 400]

Secretary McNamara stated that that is what the President, Secretary Rusk and he had been worrying about for the last week or more.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret. Drafted by Benjamin Read, Executive Secretary, on May 30. The source text indicates that Ball served as chairman of the meeting. There are several handwritten editorial changes in the source text, presumably by Read.
  2. Not found.