203. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1

Carl Rowan’s report to you of his mission (Tab 2)2 is a good document and it is possible that you will want to read it all the way through. But here is a summary:

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We need unified control and direction of psychological warfare under USIA.
We need a substantially increased effort which can be supported largely by other agencies, but will need additional money within USIA.
There will be a difficult and continuing problem of getting the Vietnamese to do their minimum necessary part of the job.

Within this general framework Rowan makes a number of sensible administrative recommendations and proposes increased personnel and equipment for propaganda in the field.

He also asks for:

  • a high priority on loud-speaker-equipped aircraft and helicopters;
  • an increased administrative role for his people in the field (there is doubt in other departments about his particular solution, but none about the need to improve matters);
  • increased broadcasting, both radio and television;
  • increased training of Vietnamese broadcasters;
  • increased GVN propaganda abroad;
  • a greatly improved program to encourage and use defectors from the Viet Cong;
  • increased Pentagon efforts in training psychological warfare officers;
  • and a start on a new Embassy building to prove that we are in Saigon to stay (this is really not a USIA matter, but Taylor agrees with Rowan).

Rowan is going to send you a separate memorandum reporting on the stiffness of existing relations between the United States and Vietnamese Governments at the top level.3 This is a problem which I think you already recognize.

I have checked with State and Defense and I find general support for Rowan’s approach and a readiness to encourage USIA in going forward. Kermit Gordon agrees that these things will need more money, but he is not yet prepared to accept Rowan’s suggestion of an FY-66 supplemental, since he thinks you may wish to have Rowan find the money elsewhere in his own budget. (That of course always dampens a man’s enthusiasm.)

I have drafted a memorandum from you to Rowan at Tab 14 which gives him a general order to get cracking on his program, while reserving the necessary rights and interests of yourself and others. In particular, I have reserved the question of control of the program for Viet Cong defectors because this extremely important and neglected matter may well be too big to go under Zorthian, good as he is.

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This is a first step in response to your general instruction at luncheon yesterday.5 It is designed to be consistent with additional recommendations that will come next week, and I think you may not want to lose seven days in capitalizing on Rowan’s good report and his readiness to act.

McG. B.

Memo to Rowan approved and signed——

Memo not approved and not signed——

Speak to me6——

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. IX. Secret.
  2. A copy of the attachment, Rowan’s memorandum to President Johnson, March 16, 1965, is ibid., Country File, Vietnam, Rowan Report.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. Not attached.
  5. See Document 200.
  6. There is no indication which course of action the President approved.