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

58. For the President. This has been a relatively quiet week of orientation and organization for the new government of Generals Thieu and Ky. We had our first substantive session with its principal members at the joint US/GVN Council meeting on Friday where we had a useful exchange of ideas on such subjects as desertion control, the mobilization of paramilitary forces and the rice situation.

With regard to the latter, the GVN has established a central supply committee with full powers to deal with the urgent logistical problems relating to the distribution of rice and other commodities to population centers, generally to the north of Saigon where shortages exist. In collaboration with our representatives, the committee is developing requirements for commodity transport and then arranging for the most efficient combination of coastal shipping, airlift and escorted truck convoys. The distribution problem is becoming increasingly difficult as the Viet Cong exert mounting pressure on communications by road and inland waterways as a part of the monsoon offensive.

In the course of this offensive, military action moved on at a slightly increased tempo over last week with a high level of losses on both sides. During the week ending July 3, our side lost 264 killed in action as against 881 Viet Cong killed. It is hard to believe that the Viet Cong can stand indefinitely the effect of such losses which, on our side, have made combat ineffective roughly the equivalent of two divisions. Government units in the II Corps have been particularly chewed up and are going to need an injection of new vitality which can only come from U.S. sources. I would expect General Westmoreland to seek early employment of our troops in a strike role now that both the Marines and Airborne Brigade have had time for acclimatization and experience in patrol contacts with the Viet Cong. We shall watch very closely the effect of U.S. forces committed to these first actions, expecting these early experiences to help us form some judgment as to their effectiveness and hence the extent of the requirement for additional U.S. ground forces.

We had a short but pleasant visit from Eugene Black and his party. Although the timing was not ideal because of the newness of the government, nevertheless it allowed him and his colleagues to form some impression of the Viet-Nam situation.

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Needless to say, we are looking forward to Bob McNamara’s visit and the opportunity to discuss directly with him the important problems which lie ahead.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis. The source text does not indicate a time of transmission; the telegram was received at 9:29 a.m.