233. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

108. Dept pass to Director AID. For Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara.

I have just cleared a cable2 which should reach you shortly which raises the estimate of Viet Cong strength in South Vietnam to 23,000–34,000. This is not a sudden or dramatic increase but rather the acceptance of the existence of units suspected for two or three years for which confirmatory evidence has become available only in the last few months.

This increased estimate of enemy strength and recent upward trend in VC activity in the North should not occasion overconcern. We have been coping with this strength for some time without being accurately aware of its dimensions. As to the heightened tempo of operations in the North, there is considerable reason to believe that VC command thinks we are about to shift larger forces to Saigon area than modest transfer actually planned and that these are holding attacks to pin forces in North. However, taken in combination, both events are a reminder of the growing magnitude of our problems and the need to raise the level of the GVN/US effort.

With this need in mind, we are expediting the formulation of additional requirements to support our plans during the ensuing months. This morning I went over the military personnel requirements which Westmoreland is developing for the execution of the pacification plan for the area around Saigon (dubbed Pica I) and for subsequent operations up to about July, 1965. It appears likely that US military strength should increase to around 21,000 in the next six months to meet projected needs. This matter is being studied closely and will result shortly in a recommendation from General Westmoreland [Page 548] supported by detailed justification. I will comment at that time. USOM requirements are more complex and difficult to define but are taking form and will be forwarded by about August 1.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19 US–VIET S. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to JCS and CINCPAC. McGeorge Bundy sent a copy of this cable to the President on July 16, under cover of a memorandum that reads as follows:

    “This is a cable which I think Bob McNamara mentioned to you yesterday. The critical paragraph is the last one. I see some advantage in a careful build-up, carefully explained from every point of view, but we obviously cannot make decisions until we get more detailed accounts. Bob and I would expect this matter to be ready for discussion and decision sometime next week, but not before.” Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. XIV, Memos)

  2. Telegram 107 from Saigon, July 15. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)