66. Memorandum From the Ambassador-Designate to Vietnam (Lodge) to President Johnson1

Following are my present views concerning our future course as regards Viet-Nam:

I concur in the specific recommendations contained in Paragraph 5 of Secretary McNamara’s Report.2
Continue all activities against North Viet-Nam.
Make strong points of the great seaports, notably Danang, Cam Ranh, and Saigon and, possibly, some places in the interior which can be readily maintained.
From these strong points the Vietnamese, with our advice and help, should conduct their program of pacification by means of a true Revolution for a New Life, on which a start has been attempted in the Hop Tac area. With the ARVN and police providing security, this should be an affirmative, highly political oil spot procedure, never striving for flashy and misleading statistics, always seeking solid and durable gains, however small, however slowly achieved. My intended program of stationing a few carefully selected political coordinators in a few provinces, working directly under the Embassy, attempts to create such a procedure. Once we and the South Vietnamese learn how to do this, the oil spots will connect with each other and the Viet Cong military manpower pool will inevitably shrink. Neither bombing nor conventional ground warfare will reach the terrorist working as an individual and in small groups—and they are the backbone of Viet Cong recruiting.
If the opportunity offers, U.S. troops can fight the pitched battle with large units of the Viet Cong—as they attack our strong points, and possibly, in other places where they can be identified and where the circumstances are such that the outlook for destroying them is propitious. [Page 171] There may be good chances to open and secure roads. But U.S. troops should not be committed to prolonged “search sweeps” in the jungle or to being permanently stationed in the jungle.
No one can establish schedules or make predictions. As President Johnson has often well said of the American pioneers—from Plymouth Rock to the Far West—we must endure and, as we endure, we will learn and opportunities will come.
But our grandchildren will not live to see the day that a united China does not probe in Southeast Asia.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. XXXVII, Memos (B). Top Secret. Lodge apparently wrote this memorandum in Saigon and sent it to the White House upon his return from Vietnam.
  2. Document 67.