117. Telegram From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Vance) to President Johnson1

DEPSECDEF 1886–66. The principal conclusions which I reached as a result of my recent visit to South Vietnam are as follows:

We are doing well militarily and are continuing to impose heavy losses on both the VC and North Vietnamese. We are putting heavy pressure on their base areas and on the movement of men and supplies within South Vietnam. The campaign is going best in the 2nd and 3rd Corps areas.
The North Vietnamese are making a massive effort to move the maximum number of men and equipment into South Vietnam before the rainy season. They have even resorted to moving on the roads in North Vietnam during the daytime. We are taking a substantial toll, but the [Page 337] North Vietnamese will be able to move in more men and supplies than they require for the present level of operations.
The political situation is confused and chaotic. It is not clear whether Ky will survive. There is a division within the Directorate as to whether military force should be used in Danang. Both Co and Chuan are against using military force at this time, while Ky leans in favor of doing so. Thi continues to be a thorn in our side in the 1st Corps area, and I received varying reports from the Mission as to his power base and influence on the situation in that area. The political situation has not yet affected our military operations except unloading munitions at Danang, but may well do so in the future.
The civilian reconstruction program is lagging [behind] the military effort. South Vietnamese manpower is limited, and in my judgement priority on manpower should be given to the civil program. I was much impressed by the PAT program and feel that we must make sure that they get the required manpower, even if this means failing to meet the South Vietnamese military force goals.
The logistics situation is continuing to improve daily. Officers from the top down to the battalion level all told me that they had not been impeded in carrying out their mission in any way by the shortage of any item. There have been shortages of air munitions during the last four days due to Danang disturbances. Action is being taken to correct the situation. There are, of course, some internal distribution problems with respect to supplies, but these are being met by ingenuity and hard work. The situation will continue to improve as the new ports are completed and we begin to open up the roads.
The morale of our forces is magnificent. Even the men in the hospitals are in good spirits. They have a sense of dedication and display a professional competence which makes one proud to be an American. In addition, the morale and competence of our Korean, Australian and New Zealand allies are outstanding. They are proud to be fighting with us in the common cause.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, vol. L. Secret. The source text does not indicate where Vanceʼs telegram originated.