337. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1

MAC JOO 19118. Subj: US troop deployment to SVN (S). Ref: A. COMUSMACV 041133Z notal; B. JCS 2343 564–7; C. COMUSMACV 260040Z May notal; D. USASCV USG 65–TS 101 311200Z May notal; E. CINCPAC 052249Z (PASEP); F. COMUSMACV 201207Z May 65.2

As indicated Ref A, a broad review of force requirements has been conducted in light of the changing situation in Southeast Asia and within RVN.
There are indications that the conflict in Southeast Asia is in the process of moving to a higher level. Some PAVN forces have entered SVN and more may well be on the way. Additional jet fighters and some jet light bombers have been deployed in the DRV.
Specifically, elements of the 325th PAVN division are in the northern zone of II Corps. It is quite possible that the major portion, if not all of the division is now deployed in the Kontum, Pleiku, Phu Bon area. Elements of the 304th PAVN division are suspected to be in the panhandle and, therefore, capable of following the 325th. The recent heavy actions in Phuoc Long and Quang Ngai, and VC initiatives in Pleiku, Kontum, Phu Bon and Thua Thien are demonstrations of VC strength and their apparent determination to employ their forces aggressively. Recent events as well as captured VC prisoners and documents suggest that a summer campaign is now underway to destroy government forces and concurrently, to first isolate and then attack district and province towns.
So far the VC have not employed their full capabilities in this campaign. Only two of the nine Viet Cong regiments have been heavily engaged (one in Phuoc Long and one in Quang Ngai), and probably only a similar proportion of their separate battalions has been committed. In most engagements, VC main force units have displayed improved training and discipline, heavier firepower from the new family of weapons with which most main force units have been equipped, and a willingness to take heavy losses in order to achieve objectives.
In pressing their campaign, the Viet Cong are capable of mounting regimental-size operations in all four ARVN Corps areas, and at least battalion-sized attacks in virtually all provinces. Known dispositions indicate major actions are likely in the near future in the Binh Duong-Phuoc Thanh-Phuoc Long area north of Saigon, in the Quang Ngai-Quang Tin area in Central Vietnam, and in Kontum, Pleiku, Phu Bon and Binh Dinh Provinces. Major attacks could occur also in other areas; the Viet Cong have shown that they are capable of concentrating in regimental strength with little or no warning. Whether or not the 304th Div is in, or moving toward SVN, the DRV has a “doorstep” capability to reinforce the VC with sizable forces.
ARVN forces on the other hand are already experiencing difficulty in coping with this increased VC capability. Desertion rates are inordinately high. Battle losses have been higher than expected; in fact, four ARVN battalions have been rendered ineffective by VC action in the I and II Corps zones. Therefore, effective fighting strength of many infantry and ranger battalions is unacceptably low. As a result, ARVN troops are beginning to show signs of reluctance to assume the offensive and in some cases their steadfastness under fire is coming into doubt. In order to bring existing battalions up to acceptable battlefield strength, it will be necessary to declare at least a temporary moratorium on the activation of new battalions. Thus, the GVN VC force ratios upon which we based our estimate of the situation in March have taken an adverse trend. You will recall that I recommended the deployment of a U.S. division in II Corps to cover the period of the RVNAF buildup and to weigh the force ratios in that important area. We assumed at that time that the ARVN battalions would be brought to full strength by now and that the force buildup would proceed on schedule. Neither of these assumptions has materialized.
The problem of low battlefield strength in ARVN has forced us to plan the use of personnel now training in 11 new battalions as fillers for old battalions. In effect, these 11 battalions will be deferred and during the period from mid-July to early November no new ARVN battalions will become available. Thus the gap to be filled is both deeper and wider.
In summary, the force ratios continue to change in favor of the VC. I believe that the DRV will commit whatever forces it deems necessary to tip the balance and that the GVN cannot stand up successfully to this kind of pressure without reinforcement. Even if DRV VC intentions are debatable, their capabilities must be acknowledged and faced. Additionally, it is prudent to consider possible enemy air action, leading to [Page 735] significant escalation and a broadening of the arena of conflict. We must be prepared to face such a contingency.3
In order to cope with the situation outlined above, I see no course of action open to us except to reinforce our efforts in SVN with additional U.S. or third country forces as rapidly as is practical during the critical weeks ahead. Additionally, studies must continue and plans developed to deploy even greater forces, if and when required, to attain our objectives or counter enemy initiatives. Ground forces deployed to selected areas along the coast and inland will be used both offensively and defensively. U.S. ground troops are gaining experience and thus far have performed well. Although they have not yet engaged the enemy in strength, I am convinced that U.S. troops with their energy, mobility, and firepower can successfully take the fight to the VC. The basic purpose of the additional deployments recommended below is to give us a substantial and hard hitting offensive capability on the ground to convince the VC that they cannot win.
In sub-paragraph “A” below, deployments and actions are recommended on which decisions should be made now. In subpara “B” we have identified further actions on which planning should start and on which separate recommendations will be forthcoming:
Actions recommended:
Deploy at once to I CTZ the remaining two BLTs of the 3d Mar Div and appropriate supporting division and air elements (approximately 8,000 personnel). Reconstitute the SLF as a floating reserve.
Deploy balance of increment 1 and all of increment 2 (as defined in Ref C) of army logistic and other support units in accordance with schedule set out in Ref D. (Approximately 8,000 personnel.)
Deploy the US Army Air Mobile Division (and logistic increment 3) through Qui Nhon to An Ke, Pleiku and Kontum (approximately 21,000 personnel). Qui Nhon will be ready to receive the division approximately 1 August, upon the closure of increment 2 forces.
Concurrently with the Air Mobile Division, deploy I Corps Headquarters (approximately 1,500 personnel).
Deploy the ROK Marine RCT to Cam Ranh Bay as soon after 1 July as the unit can be readied for movement (approximately 4,000 personnel). Deploy balance of the ROK Division force (approximately 14,500 personnel) plus US logistic increment 4 (1,500 personnel), starting 15 September to the general area of Qui Nhon. (This answers Ref E in part—separate message on F86F will follow.)4
Deploy additional tactical fighter squadrons to Cam Ranh Bay when expeditionary landing field complete at that location. Also provide naval aircraft carrier support of in-country operations as required; we believe this latter will engage one carrier full time.
Hold the 173d Airborne Brigade in-country until the Air Mobile Division has deployed and is ready for operations.
Continue air attacks against the DRV. (Ref F applies.)
Additional deployment that may be required and on which planning should begin:
Three U.S. Army Hawk battalions to TN Bien Hoa, Qui Nhon and Cam Ranh in that priority.
The remainder of the 1st Infantry Division or the 101st Airborne Division begining 1 October.
One additional MAB to reinforce the III MAF.
Tactical air units for support of increased U.S. force (additional airfields in SVN and Thailand may be required).
Required combat and logistic support forces to include helicopter units to support the foregoing.
Message has been discussed with Ambassadors Taylor and Johnson. Ambassador Taylor is prepared to comment thereon during current visit to Washington.5
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent to JCS personal for General Wheeler and sent to CINCPAC personal for Admiral Sharp. Repeated to CINCUSARPAC for General Waters, CINCPACAF for General Harris, CINCPACFLT for Admiral Johnson, and C G FMFPAC for General Krulak. Sent to JCS with a request to pass to Ambassador Taylor.
  2. None found.
  3. In telegram 2873 to Saigon, June 11, the Department of State noted that INR and CIA had assessed the military appraisal of the situation in South Vietnam provided in telegram 19118. While agreeing that it was serious, the intelligence analysts questioned the implication that there was a serious danger of complete military collapse within a relatively short period of time. This impression, the Department noted, was not supported by reporting from Saigon, and telegram 19118 did not reinforce the impression with reference to a dramatic or unexpected development in the military situation. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  4. Not found.
  5. Admiral Sharp added his comments on these proposals in CINCPAC telegrams 072325Z to JCS, June 7, and 112210Z to JCS, June 11. Sharp concurred in Westmoreland’s assessment of the deteriorating military situation in Vietnam and agreed on the necessity of expanded deployment of U.S. forces to meet the threat. He expressed apprehension, however, over the proposed deployment of the U.S. Air Mobile Division to the central highlands. Sharp argued that limited U.S. combat forces should be used to secure the more populous coastal areas of South Vietnam. (CINCPAC telegram 072325Z is in Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S; CINCPAC telegram 112210Z is in Washington National Records Center, RG 319, HQDA Message Center, Reel 12305)