157. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

1111. 1. I am glad to be able report that pacification has taken an encouraging new step forward.

2. Yesterday Prime Minister Ky asked Lansdale in his capacity as chairman of the US-Liaison Committee to the GVN Agency for Pacification to bring his committee members from MACV, USOM and JUSPAO and join him and some of his staff in a wide-ranging informal five-hour discussion (including lunch) of a revitalized pacification program.

3. Program has three main elements: (A) General Co will be appointed Deputy Prime Minister for “War and Peace” with overall charge of pacification. Le Van Tien will be appointed Minister of Pacification—an appointment he said he had thought about a great deal, and a man whom he considers very able. Tien has reputation as brilliant braintruster and idea man. A Catholic, he is said to “retain Buddhist tenets”. (B) Special pacification emphasis will be placed on three selected areas. (C) Cadres will be reorganized.

4. Ky also intends discuss his ideas with General Co and chiefs of certain selected provinces tomorrow. He asked that Lansdale’s group meet with him again on October 2 to give him benefit of U.S. views. Accordingly, I called special meeting of Mission Council this morning to discuss new program and to enable us to respond constructively.

5. Ky’s program calls for mounting major pacification effort in following selected areas: (A) Prime areas—Danang-Quang Nam area: Binh Dinh Province; Saigon-Cholon-Gia Dinh area; (B) Possible additions: Phu Yen area, Cai Son resettlement area (part of An Giang-Ken Giang Province), Phu Quoc island. Pacification efforts now under way other areas should continue.

6. Secondly, he intends to reorganize existing 25,000 cadres in such a way that they would be operationally responsible to Deputy PM for War and Peace to whom new Minister for Rural Construction (Pacification) would also report. Cadres would only receive technical guidance from other interested Ministries. Teams of perhaps 100, composed of 40 PATs and popular forces and 60 public admin, health, works, education, info technicians, would be tailored to needs of each district in Vietnam. Furthermore, he plans establish 4 training centers, [garble] per zone, and give cadres one month of motivational and basic military training. He also plans revitalize concept of national institute of administration and [Page 426] give selected cadres periods of training there, interspersed with periods of duty in districts.

7. Following emerged from U.S. Mission Council discussion:


Selected areas. While Council generally concurred in concept and location of 3 selected areas, believed that one area from IV Corps should be added to prime targets. Was noted that Danang-Quang Nam and Binh Dinh targets, while in contested areas, are places where increasing U.S. and allied presence will afford solid shield. It is presumed greater Saigon area will correspond roughly to Hop Tac area and that latter will probably be gradually dropped as a separate concept or operation.

In sum, Council endorsed idea of a few well-aimed rifle shots rather than buck-shot approach; first emphasis should be on worth and durability of programs in selected areas rather than on number of areas. Hopefully these successes would spread.

Cadre. Essential that cadres be drawn from local areas whenever possible in order inculcate local responsibility. Existing cadres should be used and reorganized rather than imposing yet another layer of officials. Employment in this cadre should be a substitute for army draft. Council endorsed idea of integrating PAT teams into 100-man teams. District-based mobile cadre should be broken down and assigned to villages. Although it is not clear how Ky sees role of province and district chiefs in this set up, Council believes it best to try use them as part of chain of command, thus helping get government apparatus reestablished in countryside. Relationship to these teams of U.S. military and civilians in field will have to be studied in order best weave together our joint efforts and put resources where they most needed.
General observations. Important that Ky put over this new program in statesmanlike manner, trying to ensure adhesion all important leadership groups. At same time, in light jaundiced press reaction to somewhat similar schemes that failed in past, publicity on this program should be handled with great caution until some tangible results are actually in hand. Advance notice of areas to be pacified should not be given. In general we all hope this [garble] an historical date for getting more lasting pacification accomplished while taking advantage of the presence of allied combat forces. Weaving all the strands together is complex.

8. Lansdale will present Ky with two papers along foregoing guidelines. After Ky returns from trip to Malaya on October 10 or 11, he plans convene meeting of province chiefs and one elected from each provincial council for discussion of these pacification plans.

9. Comment: These developments are encouraging and are responsive to our long standing desires. Ky has taken a sensible approach to this all-encompassing problem of pacification, notably his awareness of crucial psychological factor. His designation of a Deputy PM for War and Peace in overall charge of pacification, his concept of telescoping our [Page 427] joint efforts in a few areas (while normal pacification is continued elsewhere along present lines), and the consolidation of cadres with a more clearly defined line of authority to Saigon, are all steps in the right direction. Finally, we are pleased that Ky has seen fit to engage in this fruitful exchange of views and to seek our advice before his ideas jelled any further.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority. Received at 9:27 a.m. and passed to the White House, Department of Defense, and CIA.