189. Summary Record of Meetings1


  • Secretary Rusk
  • Secretary McNamara
  • General Taylor
  • Mr. McCone
  • Mr. Rowan
  • Mr. W. Bundy
  • Mr. McNaughton
  • Mr. Gaud
  • Mr. Forrestal
  • Mr. Sullivan
  • Ambassador Lodge
  • Ambassador Martin
  • Admiral Felt
  • Admiral Sharp
  • LtGen Westmoreland
  • Mr. Chadbourn
[Page 429]

McCone summarized his assessment of the situation in SVN. He sees the downward spiral as continuing; he views the internal dissension and business-as-usual as making value of “encadrement” doubtful; he saw a dramatic VC victory as demoralizing. He sees erosion of the will to resist. He does not see the situation as “unrecoupable” but grim.

Felt remarked that if we pulled troops out of Corps II it would leave Quang Ngai exposed. A dramatic VC attack could “fix the clock”.

[Here follow discussion primarily on Laos.]

Rowan gave Information Report. He said there was a good deal of unanimity. He addressed the press in particular and psychology in general. The press will continue to write pessimistically. Defeats will be defeats and lassitude will be lassitude. But we can improve our propaganda. It must be part and parcel of every step we take.

(1) Improve morale of South Vietnamese. Doubt that victory can be won without more support of SVN people. Since there is no inspired leadership, the job is to make Khanh and his government look inspired. E.g.:

Fireside chats on a regular basis (tape 3 or 4, 10 minutes long, with synchronized sound to interlock with film from field). We have film capacity. Khanh can’t do it all himself. To extent feasible, might bring in other governmental leaders. Some of this going on now.
Radios for rural areas. Ask Japan for 100,000 (as cheap as $1 each). Gaud says 10,000 are there; 25,000 are on the way, 65,000 no problem. McCone said let’s have 200,000 then.
With every military unit in field with US advisers, one should have no responsibility other than propaganda. He should be alert to VC atrocities and mistakes. He could interview bereaved widows; he could take pictures. Now have 42 US military in training for this role. Westmoreland says in Binh Duong there is an experiment with “Go teams”-one for this sort of thing. Felt says we never see any of this Rowan says they will be alert to heroism for newspapers and radios. This has overlapping effect (e.g., on US newsmen). Re the 42 military men, they won’t be out of school until November!
Courage is contagious. Recently, series of stories of heroism compiled. This should be continuous and for immediate exploitation. Maybe cash gift or piece of land.
Mission should press for land reform in Delta.
CIA has 200 Agitation-Propaganda teams doing word-of-mouth propaganda.
Explore role US youth might play in firing up SVN youth. Lodge is apprehensive since the idea seems not to be directed. Quality of people is important.
Also try to find US and third country exchange professors. Lodge agrees. Add 7 field service advisers, for the provinces.
Press the Minister of Info to call in their people for training.
Try to write a song for SVN.
Find a good story-teller in GVN units.

[Page 430]

(2) Propaganda directed to North. Many of the above ideas will apply. Begin in-service training program. USIA will take over White programming in Hue in September. Lodge said Reds use guitar-playing story-telling types to good effect. Could use US singer who memorized bit. Westmoreland said ARVN does a good deal of this. Lodge asked if we are advising VN to keep people’s minds full. Rowan said Minister of Info promised to do it. We are pressing.

(Rusk and McNamara returned at 1105)

(3) Program aimed at US and rest of the world. Must restore credibility of US. Military representatives said they had to lie too often. We have caused US newsmen to lie. We must make a new start to cure suspicion and cynicism. Recommend: (a) Fresh info directive (e.g., re Napalm, helicopters, jets, defoliants, Farmgate) giving discretion to Lodge and MACV. SecDef said should wipe off old directive, replace with new position; query if state publicly everything we are doing; against lying to press, but not against certain restrictions. Felt said “jets” should not be on the list; no question there; training operations.

Rowan continued: (b) More cohesive press program. Non U.S. newsmen don’t get full briefings. Non-resident US newsmen, more of which will be visiting, should be treated properly. Favor a “communications czar”-a civilian-heading up all of it. SecDef said could have a policy czar in embassy and operations in MACV. Westmoreland queried how it would work. Rowan said he envisioned a czar who would receive, say, visitors and make all contacts. Westmoreland asked if this merely raises the level of the press attache. Lodge said it could free military from this kind of worry. MACV publicity is “defensive” and “reactive”. We have lousy news stories. No one at MACV looking at it from “positive” viewpoint. SecDef said he would like a propaganda chief operating under Lodge. Sees that press gets to the right things to tell the story. It can’t be done from the US; must be done in SVN. Lodge says they are straightened out vis-a-vis the embassy, but not in MACV.

Rowan continued: The man’s status must be up. Colonel Baker hasn’t enough weight. Can’t ensure space on helicopters. (c) Bad stories are reports of gripe stories. But can minimize military sounding off. (d) PA officers are substandard—some with no experience, some resistance in D.C. Rule in USIA will be pick good men. Felt asked if we could get reservists to do it. SecDef queries if they would volunteer. He said we have enough PA officers in DOD; we can get them out there.

Lodge says any “czar” must be in on military discussions to see the angles. Westmoreland said the problem is how to keep the man in on everything. SecDef said the question is not lack of knowledge, but [Page 431] lack of proper orientation. Decided Westy should review competency of men and replace the incompetent. Felt said there had been transportation availability. Westmoreland said the whole thing has to be managed by MACV. Rowan said the “czar” could be high-ranking military. Westmoreland suggested Lt. Col. Breaulet. Rowan said the rank was too low.

Taylor asked about the problem in USA. SecDef said we need a “czar” there too, and it should be on our agenda in Washington. Manning distinguished the case needed internationally (Jordan-type case) and in US (SVN will to fight, etc.).

SecDef said that if create a “czar” in Saigon, need (1) positive approach and (2) quick response on bad stories. Though 63% of US not “concerned,” one half of remainder think will do a bad job (obsolete equipment, lack of will to fight, ruthless GVN, inefficient government, graft). Recommend that Zorthian’s job be enlarged to handle this job. McCone said we should not short-change the job inside SVN. SecDef agreed, but suggested larger staff. Rowan said that is partly why he picked Art Hanes (?) to be Zorthian’s deputy. SecDef said we should agree to leave it in Lodge’s hands to request what he needs.

McCone asked about radio broadcasting capability in SVN; which he considers more important than broadcasting to the North. He thinks we should do more with transmitters. Zorthian said the problems are programs and receivers.

(1150 adjourned for lunch)

Resumed 6/2/64—1415

Rusk asked whether there is a Joint Pacification Committee in Saigon. Westmoreland said that at the province level we have advisers. At division level we have GVN and U.S. staffs and a USOM adviser to the general. At Corps level, advisers. Get to Colonel Lak’s Directorate of New Rural Life. MACV and USOM participate by officers physically located there. Report to General Kim, executive agent for Pacification. Have Committee on U.S. side: J–3, Zorthian, Manfull, Brent, Nes. It is formally “unilateral”. Lodge said they shy away from the GVN-U.S. groups which meet regularly-institutionalized. SecDef says that he hopes there will be special meetings, almost regularly, for the very critical Provinces Program. Westmoreland said he had this in mind.

SecDef raised the question of a successor to Khanh if he were assassinated. Doubtful about Khiem. Lodge says it has been regularized. If all get assassinated, we probably would have to work with the most promising Colonel near Saigon. Westmoreland said his impression of Khiem is not bad; he cannot find a better one than Khiem. McCone said the contingency plan would depend on how Khanh [Page 432] disappeared from the scene. Lodge said we should think some about how we can exist in SVN if the government is hostile. Taylor said we couldn’t stay if armed forces are on the other side.

[Here follows a brief discussion on Thailand.]

Re the requirement of a joint resolution, SecDef said we would have to make major deployments, make guarantees, anticipate escalation, and call up some reserves. The political foundation is required.

Taylor said ChiComs could move air forces into NVN; VC could step up activity. These are not too troublesome. But NVN may use [move?] its 5 divisions into SVN and Laos, and Chinese could come in. They have their troubles, and we could be [have] 25–75% interdiction effectiveness. In dry season, with 50% reduction factor, they could maintain 13 divisions. Even in wet season, about half of that. To hold along Mekong, take someone’s 5–7 divisions Saigon-Burma. We could punish heavily by air. Query how long it would take to force them to desist. SecDef said this is why it is important to have solid political base. We must be prepared to respond to this even before selective strikes begun.

McCone says that the probabilities are such that it would be reckless to make any move against the North without the preparation: and, the preparations increase the probabilities.

Felt says they are capable of deploying 18 divisions against SEA. First, we hold with 5 U.S. divisions into SEA; then offensive by amphibious operation into North Vietnam.

SecDef said that this is a possible, not probable reaction. If we have controlled, selective strikes, probably there won’t be attacks against SVN. But they are possible, so must be prepared. [3 lines of source text not declassified]

SecState referred to Cuba II. We did not expect USSR to strike with nuclears, but risk so great that it had to be taken into account and faced. He then referred to Korea. MacArthur thought 2 divisions enough, then 4, then 7. He recommended crossing 38th parallel on ground China would not come in. China did come in and maintained 500,000 men despite our air superiority. In Laos, we may isolate U.S.S.R.; but re SVN, U.S.S.R. as better as China [sic]. Soviet might intrude via Berlin or elsewhere. We do what must be done, but this is a major decision requiring full national support. Other side won’t roll over and play dead. In 1953–54, France-U.K.-U.S. agreed when threat. If agreed to partition of VN, why not Laos, etc.? So President must face all this. And the nuclear part of it. Not impossible.

Taylor said if McCone’s and SecDef’s pessimistic view is right, we can err by inaction too. SecState agreed.

McCone suggested the resolution itself would be a deterrent. E.g., the Middle East resolution gotten long before needed. Lodge asked what the resolution might say. Sullivan read from draft (“to use all [Page 433] measures on request”). They come from Middle East resolutions. Lodge suggested that it be extended to “the independent nations of SEA”.

Lodge said VC could make Saigon uninhabitable, shooting from the nearby areas they control.

Chadbourn said Unger wants to know how far he can go talking to Lao. (1) Re extension of “our war” into Panhandle. Probably Souvanna less sensitive about that now. SecState said some things we may have to do without talking to Lao. Object of exercise is to make NVN desist. SecDef said if PL moved on, we might strike NVN. Rusk said it would be hard to get U.S. or Allies to support Siho2 if Souvanna backs out. A lot depends on Souvanna’s attitude.

Taylor remarked that the time factor is important. SecState said he saw nothing quickly unless PL move on. Will take some time to handle physical and political base. Taylor said it would be 8/64 before 3 squadrons of A1’s in (6 squadrons by 2/15); B–57’s in any time; Khanh says he needs a “firm base”-by end of the year; some trouble with U.S. 5–7 divisions (e.g. calling up some reserves and shipping requiring perhaps 2 months). Westmoreland would like to build up manpower, get pacification base, squeeze 12 battalions out for the Laos border, and rainy season. Taylor recommends being ready by middle of November. SecDef said we envision a resolution with perhaps a long wait. A month of preparation, public and private, required for a resolution. In meantime, we must head off hardening of opposition to our policy in SVN. SecState said large group strongly opposes U.S. boys in Asia.

[Here follows a brief discussion on Laos.]

(Meetings terminated at 1600.)

  1. 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 record of the meeting.
  2. General Siho Lamphouthacoul, head of paramilitary police in Laos, attempted unsuccessfully on April 19 to overthrow the government of Souvanna Phouma.