244. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1
3248. Together with Alex Johnson, I saw Quat alone afternoon April 6 and briefly reviewed with him matters arising out of my Washington visit. At outset, I strongly stressed Washington view that no amount of bombardment of DRV is going to convince Hanoi to call off its action down here without real progress in SVN against VC. Hanoi must be convinced that VC cannot win here. Thus our strategy in 1965 calls for a balanced program as between action against DRV and in-country action. Quat entirely agreed.
With respect Rolling Thunder, I said that we planned to continue along presently projected lines without radical change either up or down. Quat agreed.
I then outlined our view of the manpower gap, showing Quat a chart indicating that, if VC strength maintains present upward trend and GVN accomplished presently projected force goals, ratio of strength will be even less favorable at end of year. I then outlined Washington discussions [Page 542] and decisions including 21 point General Johnson program to improve effectiveness of existing programs, the proposed additional Marine battalions, and the RB-66 task force.2 I also mentioned the possibility of additional third country contributions, such as from Australia, New Zealand and Korea. I tied proposed Marine deployments to Quat’s previous remarks to Alex Johnson on desirability of enlarging Danang perimeter.3 I also referred to increased Navy surveillance program and the additional equipment for popular forces which has been approved.
With respect to manpower gap, Quat said that he has asked Thieu urgently to study this problem with senior officers, particularly with respect to more effective “political mobilization” throughout country. In passing, he said that he felt that the regional and popular force figures on those present for duty were padded and he very much felt this needed looking into. He also felt that a more aggressive spirit was much needed among many of the ARVN officers and that morale in the Army could be improved by better administration of present provisions for troop welfare, veterans’ benefits, etc. I gather that he has been discussing all these matters with Thieu.
He was entirely receptive to the addition of Marine deployments in the Danang area but wanted to discuss matter with Thieu and Minh before giving us a final answer or authorizing Westmoreland to undertake discussions at military level. With respect to these forces, as well as possible addition third country forces, he said that he was receptive and entirely understood and accepted our rationale but that he has a political problem of public presentation which required careful handling. He indicated that this involves what he termed a strongly nationalistic minority who could be expected to oppose introduction of foreign combat forces.
In discussing naval surveillance in the Gulf of Siam, he said he was anxious to find some way of improving relations with Cambodia and referred to a proposal that he had made when FonMin in Khanh’s govt for the establishment of a “no man’s land” or “free zone” some five kilometers in depth on the Vietnamese side of the border from which all friendly Vietnamese population would be removed. He said the numbers would not be very large. In the zone all civilians could be assumed to be hostile and subject to military or police action.
I also referred in broad terms to our plans for the construction of a new chancery, the “41 points”, and the Rowan program on public information. On the “41 points”, I sought to obtain from him the designation of a contact point within the govt. After some “thinking aloud” on [Page 543] the role of Tuyen, he finally came around to say that at this stage he wanted to handle it himself and that Killen and I should bring the matter to him.
In referring to our needs for office space here, particularly that of MACV, he said that he was considering the formation of some sort of a govt enterprise which would build space to our specifications, just as a private contractor or landlord, so that at such time as [US] no longer had need of the space, the govt would be in possession of some better buildings. I indicated our willingness to explore this with him further.
In response to my request, he agreed to look into the matter of trying to bring about a defector from the National Liberation Front who could be surfaced.
With respect to the Washington Embassy, he said they were considering Vu Van Thai as a replacement for Khiem and that they had a good man selected for Tokyo. See septel4 for report on subsequent meeting evening April 6 with Quat, Do, Thieu, Minh, Tuyen, Hiep, and Bui Diem.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received in the Department of State at 12:58 a.m.↩
- The RB-66 was a B-66 turbojet light bomber modified for reconnaissance.↩
- Quat’s suggestion to Johnson was reported in telegram 3154 from Saigon, March 31. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)↩
- Telegram 3249 from Saigon, April 7. (Ibid.)↩