256. Telegram From the Department of Defense to the Embassy in Vietnam1

DEF 9164. This is a joint State-Defense message. Highest authority believes the situation in South Vietnam has been deteriorating and that, in addition to actions against the North, something new must be added in the South to achieve victory. As experimental steps to that end, we believe the following actions should be undertaken:

Experimental encadrement by US forces of South Vietnamese ground troops both to stiffen and increase their effectiveness and also to add to their fire power. Westmoreland will be responsible for developing a detailed plan and submitting through CINCPAC to JCS for final approval. It is suggested he develop two approaches to be carried out concurrently, one involving integration of a substantial number of US combat personnel (e.g., 50) in each of several ARVN battalions (e.g., 10) and the other involving the combined operation of approximately 3 additional Army/Marine battalions with 3 or more South Vietnamese battalions for use in combat operations. (It is recognized that if the South Vietnamese battalions used for this purpose are transferred from a general reserve assignment, it may be necessary to replace them.)
Introduction of a brigade force into the Bien Hoa-Vung Tau area, both to act as a security force for our installations and also to participate in counter-insurgency combat operations. Westmoreland will develop and submit to CINCPAC and the JCS a plan for the use of these troops in such operations.

Introduction of battalion or multi-battalion forces into 2 or 3 additional locations along the coast, e.g, Qui Nhon. Westmoreland will submit proposals as to number of troops required and location for assignment. The purpose of these deployments will be to experiment further with US forces in a counter-insurgency role, in addition to providing security for the Base.

Items 1, 2 and 3 above are designed as initial steps to increase the effectiveness of the counter-guerrilla campaign. If these moves are successful, they should be followed promptly by requests for additional US forces.

A substantial expansion of Vietnamese recruiting campaign utilizing US recruiting experts, techniques, and procedures. Westmoreland [Page 562] will work out with the South Vietnamese new recruiting goals and detailed plans for accomplishing them.
An experimental program providing expanded medical services to the countryside utilizing mobile dispensaries. The Surgeon General of the Army is being directed to work with COMUSMACV to develop a detailed plan to accomplish this objective.
An experimental introduction into the provincial government structure of a team of US Army Civil Affairs personnel (or similarly qualified personnel) to assist in the establishment of stable government in the provinces and to initiate and direct the necessary political, economic and security programs. Initially teams should be introduced into 1 or 2 provinces. General Peers is being sent to work with COMUSMACV to develop a detailed plan to accomplish this objective.
An experimental plan for distribution of food directly to regular and paramilitary personnel and/or their families. General Timmes is being sent to work with COMUSMACV to develop a detailed plan for this purpose.

Ambassador Taylor should discuss above program urgently with Quat, and assuming favorable reaction, State and Defense will inform Congressional leaders of proposed actions before they are undertaken. Westmoreland should be prepared to discuss his plans for items 1, 2 and 3 with General Wheeler during their discussions in Honolulu next week.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. XXXII, Cables. Top Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by McNaughton; concurred in by McGeorge Bundy, Rusk, and McNamara; and repeated to CINCPAC and COMUSMACV. The message as received by Taylor was also identified by the date-time group, 152339Z. (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Box 52, Folder D)