391. Memorandum From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland) to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Taylor)1


  • U.S. Posture Toward the Emerging GVN
Over the last two weeks, considerable thought has been given to an effective modus operandi between the new GVN and the U.S. Mission. I firmly believe, U.S. policy permitting, that we should be tougher and more exacting about GVN performance. Unless we have a new and more hard-headed approach, success will probably be elusive. The point is that the Vietnamese officialdom are convinced that the U.S. is irrevocably committed, for political and strategic reasons, to a policy of assisting the GVN; and that, consequently, massive aid will continue to be forthcoming without quid pro quo. As a result, the GVN takes U.S. assistance and U.S. representatives for granted-as is demonstrated by repeated failure to consult with us prior to making political and military decisions of major impact on governmental operations and pacification. This behavior might be acceptable if the VN were operating effectively or, at the very minimum, gave evidence of a real desire to do what was required to win the war. The fact is, however, that the conduct of the government is characterized by inefficiency, corruption, disinterest and lack of motivation. The GVN is not winning the war; and thus, the U.S. would appear to have no other alternative than to lay things on the line.
It would therefore seem in order to enunciate to GVN leadership that U.S. support at current or expanded levels is contingent upon demonstrated GVN performance and/or specific reforms, plus assurance that the U.S. Mission will be consulted on all significant matters. For such a policy to succeed there must be disciplined acceptance thereof within the entire U.S. official community, in Washington and South Vietnam; there must be no further mention of “blank checks”; and there must be Washington agreement to relinquish greater control and manipulation of programs to the U.S. Mission. The remainder of the paper assumes that there is agreement on these basic propositions.
Lists of criteria to be met and/or deficiencies to be corrected by the new GVN are easy to prepare. The four basics you propose2 are fundamental; but they are so broadly stated as to be difficult to measure without further definition. We had refined these criteria, from a military standpoint, in Inclosure #1 (which bears a resemblance to my earlier submission, Inclosure #1a).3
To focus further in on the military sphere, we have compiled, at Inclosure #2, a list of specific deficiencies which, collectively, constitute the reasons why the pacification campaign is not advancing. While all deficiencies are not of equal importance, the extent of the list points up the obvious fact that dramatic improvement is not likely to be forthcoming immediately. By the same token, it is not likely that the new government will be able to meet the four basic criteria except over a period of time and then only in degree. Stated otherwise, the measurement of GVN performance will probably have to be based more on evaluation of its intent, attitude and effort than on the attainment of specific benchmarks.
Whatever the basis for assessment of GVN performance, the U.S. Mission should be in a position to exert leverage to call forth the kind of effort, attitude or action considered necessary. We probably have more sanctions available within the Mission as a whole than we realize. There are conspicuously effective sanctions available to USOM. While none are dramatic individually, there are quite a few available to my command. In the course of normal business with the GVN, at all levels, there are many occasions when it could be made clear that conditions attach to something the GVN might need or want from us. For example, the Commander, 2d Air Division, is in position to inform his counterpart that VNAF A1H squadrons must meet certain performance standards before he could support a jet replacement program. Our Corps and Division Advisors are in a position to insure that Army Aviation support is withheld from operations which are ill conceived, inefficiently organized or launched without adequate intelligence. [Page 863] Other advisors could be empowered to make clear that requests for increases in personnel or equipment would not be forwarded, with favorable recommendation, to Saigon unless and until administrative overhead were cut to an acceptable figure. As an illustrative type sanction, in the military area, see Inclosure #3. While the level at which application of sanctions should be authorized needs careful consideration, the real point is that many echelons within the U.S. Mission could combine to implement a new look in U.S. assistance-an evident tightening of the screws, an establishment of preconditions for assistance.
As the foregoing makes clear, we should be cautious about raising the level of U.S. commitments until the new GVN has demon” strafed reasonable stability, determination and the ability. These qualities are not likely to be discernible for several weeks. Nonetheless, the following are preliminary thoughts on the suggested categories of widened aid which have direct military implications:

Support for a Larger Military/Paramilitary/Police Structure (see Inclosure #4).

If there is a demonstrable requirement for more security forces, we must be prepared to support same.


Route 9 Development Project.

The staff has done a preliminary study of this grandiose concept. It is feasible from a construction standpoint but will require employment of a U.S. Corps, in addition to what our Asian allies can provide.


Token Jet Interceptor Force for VNAF.

You are up-to-date on our views as a result of the most recent briefing on this subject.

Joint Planning for External Operations (see Inclosure #5).
Improvement to the City and Port of Saigon.

The recommendations contained in the report of the Joint Strategic Construction Committee are believed to be the best approach to adopt.

W. C. Westmoreland
General, United States Army
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Coordinator’s Files: FRC 68 A 5612, Council Meetings. Top Secret.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. None of the enclosures is printed.