188. Summary Record of a Meeting1
MEETING OF PRINCIPALS
- Secretary Rusk
- Ambassador Lodge
- Secretary McNamara
- Ambassador Martin
- General Taylor
- Admiral Felt
- Asst Sec State Bundy
- Admiral Sharp
- Asst Sec Def McNaughton
- Lt General Westmoreland
- Mr. Forrestal
- Mr. Chadbourn2
- Mr. Sullivan
1. Assessment of Situation in SVN.
SecDef asked re situation in SVN: Is it deteriorating per evidence; weak planning at grass roots; shifting administrators.[Page 423]
SecState said he did not believe it was deteriorating rapidly; not going downward as bad as a year ago.
Lodge said if there is nothing new, SVN will probably jog along as is. Potential there to do better. External things could have effect. Khanh has done a lot; improved things in last 4 months.
SecDef said that GVN controls less, lower fighting will, fewer men to fight. This though better than would have been without Khanh.
SecState asked if there has been a downward trend since January.
Westmoreland said there is instability at SDC level because of coupe. Desertion rate is final, delayed, manifestation of coup impact. Recruiting was stopped administratively. He is not optimistic; but not pessimistic. Things have leveled off and there has been a slight rise. Generals are finally getting the concept of pacification, and we are keeping them at it. Some successful operations recently. Khanh is doing fairly well at getting good commanders. Hopefully, the desertion rate will be reduced. Psywar is moving in right direction. Plans now getting down to where we can get moving. Need a “victory” badly: e.g., battlefield; pacification; hitting panhandle, etc. Can’t pacify SVN completely as long as the panhandle is open. If no “victory” but Khanh is in power, we’ll move forward bit by bit-by first of year should see substantial progress. Not spectacular. Should at least double existing oil spots. We should see a leveling off and slight rise by the end of year.
Lodge anticipated some improvement if Khanh lives; jogging along. Hitting the North would be a shot in the arm. It would weaken the VC and lift the GVN. We should be in considerably better shape if Khanh remains in for a year. SecState reminded that we shouldn’t get ourselves hung on Khanh’s survival. If Khanh gone, USA must start again.
SecDef said we need plan to apply if Khanh gone. He is not happy with Kim.
Lodge said maybe we’ll have no government at all.
SecDef summarized that the opinion at the table is that there is no great pressure for drastic action at this time; SVN is not deteriorating rapidly.
McCone said that while deterioration may not be fast, a dramatic victory for the VC could be very negative; and what of the deteriorating morale of people themselves.
Westmoreland said that instability has just filtered down. Also, of course, there is war weariness.
Taylor reported that Buu said morale surprisingly good.
Sullivan said that Bob Thompson agreed.
Westmoreland added that the VC have their morale problems too.[Page 424]
2. Measures which might be taken in SVN.
Lodge said we should organize the police in the chosen bad provinces to kill off terrorism.
McCone remarked that Castro did it effectively in Cuba.
Westmoreland said that the Civil Defense Corps may have been designed with this task.
SecState pointed out that Saigon has something like this.
Felt repeated his offer of Civil Affairs military people who can help on this.
SecDef suggested that we consider this as one of recommendations, along with other actions, in the chosen provinces. He asked what else?
Westmoreland said, first we must designate the critical critical provinces and get GVN to accept the concept. Then we must infuse resources and cadres of GVN and US advisors, and create a task force to monitor, on a day-by-day basis, the operation. He suggested 8 provinces in “Phase I”; 1 in “Phase II”; and 1 in “Phase III.”3 He omitted Kien Hoa because it would be too much of an undertaking; not of sufficient strategic importance.
Felt dissented re Kien Hoa.
Westmoreland would move in troops, probably borrowed from Corps II. He would not abandon the lower half of Corps IV. It is politically unacceptable.
Taylor suggested that if we can’t do 8 provinces, do fewer. Also, he is bothered by the absence of centralized control of the program.
Westmoreland said that General Hon will take over the 5th Division (he worked with Cushman). Saigon will jump over Corps III and work directly with 5th and 7th Divisions. There would be an interdepartmental (US/GVN) task force. We would make Colonel Depuy the US representative. The task force would meet in Colonel Lake’s office (Ministry of Rural Life).
Lodge said that, when the point is raised, Khanh acts interested in it, but never does anything.
Westmoreland said that the troops would be under the command of the province chief (who must be good and have US advisors). Although the province chief would be under the division commander, troops couldn’t be removed by the division commander. There would be a team of 25 people (1/2 US, 1/2 VN) in a province. Extend down to district. If we say four districts per province, with 6 US and 6 VN per district, require 35–40 US military per province and 5 USOM. They would be a training team to work with counterparts at province and district level from 2–6 months—as long as needed. This over and [Page 425] above existing military and USOM there. Could call them a “Pacification Task Force.” They would pair off with GVN representatives. The division commander will hold back small reserve (companies); also there is a reserve in Saigon (battalions) to be called on. So no need to divert the province chief’s pacification forces. He reminded that sons of most families in bad areas are in the VC. Find only old folks, women and kids there. What happens if youth can’t come home? This is a problem that takes time.
SecDef said we should concentrate on the 8 provinces. Take the 500 men out of existing assets. We can’t do this in less than 90 days-6 months if we recruit. Shouldn’t wait. So we must drain off elsewhere in SVN to get going immediately. Can get military all right. As for USOM, we can transfer people from military to temporary duty with USOM for the time being.
Westmoreland said that the reorganization will free up some men.
SecDef asked if the first thing the team does is to lay out, with district chief, the pacification plan step by step in the district, and the allocation of resources (forces, cadres, etc.) and timing.
Westmoreland said that we are trying it out now in Go Cong.
SecDef asked if Westmoreland needed more men to provide “stiffening” for the GVN paramilitary.
Westmoreland said that that was already included. Also we should increase from one officer and one noncom to 2 plus 2 per battalion. We need 30 officers and 30 men per division-or, in 8 provinces, about 75 men. They would be battalion advisors. This is for the regular Army. For the CG and SDC, the 40 men per province already mentioned can take care of it.
Taylor asked if we need 4 men per district to do unit training of paramilitary and to plan operations.
Westmoreland said that his 6 + 6 at district level absorbs Taylor’s
Lodge said that then we must consolidate by police, to get the population [under?] control. SecDef asked what about curfews, identification, etc., in critical provinces.
Westmoreland said that we have tried a blockade of the Mekong (with limited success). Some curfews-left to local decision. Results have been disappointing.
SecState said that, re police, he was for on-the-job training.
Westmoreland said that we need 4 weeks at least to be sure the man is reliable. Also, though highly desirable to integrate police forces into the Phase I operations, there are not enough police now to do it until maybe Phase III.[Page 426]
SecDef said we should agree that the functions, by military (or paramilitary) will be in Phase I. He asked if we need anything else. Piasters? Information Program? We can supply radios in 2 or 3 weeks if we must. He said we should leave this with Bill Gaud. We could pay for the radios from MAP and deliver them by air.
SecState said maybe we should ask the Japanese to give the radios.
SecDef asked what about the “economic leg” of the 3-legged stool: Medicines, materials for schools, etc. He said we need a package.
SecState said we should use it as bait for pacification.
Westmoreland said we better pay for civil servants too.
SecState commented that it’s hard to escalate from business-as-usual to war-with-China just to jog folks a little.
Lodge suggested better population control, perhaps a curfew for all (not just US), declaration of some kind by Khanh, a night-shift war, promises of land to vets, promotions (rank to go with command). Re Americans, there is some business as usual. Re parties, we do want continued US–VN association. Could remove dependents.
SecDef said there are three things we could do: Stop inflow of dependents; encourage them to go home; order them home.
Lodge said he was now encouraging kids to go home for the summer (at own expense).
SecDef guessed that more would get out if we paid their transportation home and their tuition.
Westmoreland said that there are now 113 MACV authorized with families (cut by 40 recently). No dependents means a 1-year tour. But also, families sometimes pay their own way; 103 such cases now.
SecDef said this could be stopped.
SecState asked what resources we had, to make use of national emergency, to set aside peacetime regulations-e.g., accounting for the property, etc. Would let us tell agencies to get things done. We should get our lawyers at it.
Westmoreland said he could save people by streamlining certain procedures, but not save much time that way.
Lodge said he wants to stop the flow of dependents. Chadbourn remarked that it would be discriminatory. He said it would lift morale, but show a lack of confidence in the outcome.
Taylor said it would not lift military morale.
SecDef asked what about sending dependents to the Philippines. We could pay transportation and allow visits.
SecDef asked if further “encadrement” in the other provinces is wise. He distinguishes (1) for training, (2) for planning and (3) for stiffening.[Page 427]
Westmoreland said we are getting advisory experience in 13 districts now. Have 150 or so relevant districts (239 districts, 40 capitals of which are province capitals, and 40 of which are not usefully accessible). With 2 officers and 2 men in each, would assist in training paramilitary and supervising them. Problems are (1) interpreter shortage, (2) would probably triple U.S. casualties. On the plus side: The men (1) would be good as “agents” for MACV, (2) would be catalysts for action for MACV, and (3) could help in training and operations. Query as to net value. It would not divert many GVNs to protect the Americans. They would have to stay 6–9 months to do the job. He prefers to work on the 8 “damn critical” provinces. He can scrape up enough interpreters. (The GVN portion of 6-plus-6 Task Force would speak English).
[1 paragraph (3–1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]
SecState asked about possible use of third country assistance. He said it is important that we get these people out there soon, that they be distributed around country, and that their participation be coordinated with GVN before request and before arrival.
Gaud said that third countries could help with police.
SecDef said, re facilities to match up with third country medical, manpower contributions, we will provide the facilities.
SecDef then asked about the proposal to make the government one of “technicians”?
Lodge said it is better to work around the politicians like FDR did; the politicians are not getting in way; they have symbolic value; there should be no “purge”.
McCone asked if we can recruit able South Vietnamese in SVN and outside.
Lodge said Khanh doesn’t trust them and for good reasons.
Lodge remarked that Khanh may send Big Minh to USA as ambassador.
SecState, re “civil encadrement”, defined it as “an adviser in the next office”.
Lodge said he would favor this only if invited in urgently by Khanh.
Forrestal asked what about “joint operations committees”.
Lodge said he did this in the piaster settlement—an ad hoc thing. But if the idea were institutionalized, it would go against the GVN grain and look like “colonialism”.
Gaud asked if it couldn’t be done for the very critical provinces. and then expanded to the entire pacification program.
Westmoreland pointed out that, in the Directorate of Rural Life, there is such a thing. The principle, on ad hoc basis, is not so bad. Also, he favors fewer direct contacts by so many people with Khanh and more formal contacts when contacts are made.[Page 428]
SecState said that the Ambassador should coordinate all contacts with Khanh.
SecDef asked about the idea of co-location of headquarters.
Westmoreland said that the pacification effort should be integrated as he had described. He added that, now, we have a number of officers permanently at JGS and JOC combined. He opposed advisory representation at the company level, but he favored a beefing up of the battalion team. He would change if from 2 officers and 4 man to 2 plus 3. This would mean 377 more people. (This includes 29 officers—one with each artillery battalion, where we now have no officers.)
SecDef suggested that we address the information program and the offensive guerrilla force tomorrow.
SecState added intelligence operations across the border.
Westmoreland reported that we now have 4 6-man VN ranger paratrooper teams in training. They are for intelligence (looking) only. They will be dropped on 6/15 into the trees. They are to operate North and South of Rt. 9 (unaccompanied by Americans). On 7/15, double it to 8x6; on 8/15, 16x60. They are to stay there 30 days, be air supplied and removed by helicopter.
Taylor said that Westmoreland should look at what he would do if the limits were lifted.
Adjourned at 1815 until 0830, 2 June 1964.
- Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FRC 71 A 3470, Southeast Asian Strategy. Top Secret. The source text does not indicate who drafted this account of the meeting.↩
- Philip H. Chadbourn, Counselor of the Embassy in Vientiane.↩
- References are to the phases in the Chien Thang or National Pacification Plan; see Document 187.↩