29. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1
4422. When I called on General Ky afternoon June 28 to take up several minor matters, I found him with Generals Thieu, Chieu and Co, the latter having just reported to Saigon as new MinDef. They were all sober-faced and depressed, probably in wake of discussion by Co of military situation in II Corps.
Ky went straight to his principal point, need for additional US ground combat forces. He is sensing for first time difficulty which we have anticipated for some time of fielding sufficient combat-ready ARVN units to cope with growing number of VC units during next few months. He is impressed with need for injection of additional US (or other third country) forces to tide over monsoon offensive period and to take off VC pressure while mobilization measures are being taken and, to use his expression, “while rear is being cleaned up”. By latter term, he appears to mean actions needed to stimulate pacification, to energize public opinion, and to establish better security measures against VC terrorists. (With regard to latter, he indulged in some reflections on need for reprisal executions of VC prisoners in retaliation for atrocities like the My Canh bombing.)2
I told him that on US side we have long been conscious of growing shortage of trained military manpower. We had justified to our govt introduction of US combat forces as means to assist in alleviation of shortage. I reminded him of our announced intention to bring in six additional battalions which, I thought, represented our maximum effort between now and August.
What we might consider doing thereafter would depend upon requirements of situation as we might evaluate them. It appeared timely to me for General Co and General Westmoreland to undertake comprehensive review of military manpower requirements between now and end of calendar year, to establish goals for period in terms of year-end position to be sought and of means, particularly of personnel, required to reach it. In general terms, it seemed to me that our objective for period should be to hold population and territory presently under govt control, to blunt and bloody VC monsoon offensive and to make preparations for passage to offensive in early 1966.[Page 72]
Generals agreed to this thumbnail estimate of situation and agreed that Co and Westmoreland should undertake analysis required.
General Ky mentioned that press had questioned him with regard to command relationships in joint US/GVN ground operations. He had answered to effect that we have been accustomed to operating on basis of combat support with US helicopters and aviation and see no particular reason for drastic change. In any specific tactical situation, command would be worked out in accordance with good sense and sound military principles. He is obviously most anxious to play down issue, recognizing it is sensitive to both parties.
I took advantage of discussion of US ground forces to obtain his concurrence for landing of one Marine company at Qui Nhon to add to US defensive strength in this area pending arrival of US brigade next month. This approach was made at General Westmoreland's request.
With regard to current issues facing his govt, Ky said that he had just had satisfactory meeting with newspaper publishers whom he had threatened with closing on July 1. They have agreed to attempt to reduce their number to 20 by consolidations to be worked out among themselves. Those who cooperate will be allowed to continue to publish but recalcitrants will be put out of business. Ky has also given them pep talk on subject of loyalty to govt and its policies. Ky does not propose to apply censorship but those who do not show “self-control” can expect trouble from him.
From subject of press, we passed to that of better communications between govt and people. Ky says he is aware of inefficiency of govt radio operations and agrees to make new efforts to improve them. I told him that we on our side were prepared to talk television if his people can show improvement in radio field. I mentioned that Barry Zorthian is our contact point for TV discussions.
Since Chieu Hoi program is form of communication, I took occasion to plug for better attention to this activity. Ky indicated that it is being temporarily run out of Ministry for Psychological Warfare but eventually will be absorbed into Secretariat for Rural Reconstruction.
With regard to visit to Seventh Fleet carrier, Ky indicated he would like to make trip on Thursday, July 1, following trip to Hue-Danang on Wednesday. Because of involvements with Eugene Black visit on that date,3 I have arranged for General Westmoreland to accompany him to [Page 73]carrier and thereafter bring him back to Saigon in time to meet with Mr. Black and his party.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Received at 10:18 p.m. on June 28 and repeated to CINCPAC. Passed to the White House, the Department of Defense, and CIA.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 20.↩
- Documentation on Black's visit to Saigon is in Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S.↩