286. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland) to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler)1

MAC 9451. Subject: Manila Conference.

1.
Now that the Manila Conference is over and the President has completed his short visit to Vietnam, on which I reported separately,2 some comment on the events of the past few days are in order.
2.
On Sunday evening,3 the President asked Ambassador Lodge, Secretary Rusk, Walt Rostow and me to a meeting which started at 2000 hours. The President spoke briefly on his view of the Conference and his hope for unity of purpose at the meeting. In anticipation that I might be asked to comment on the general situation in Vietnam, I had drafted some remarks which I left with Walt Rostow.4 These were in extension and support of remarks to be made by Vien and Thang. The next morning the President told me that he had read my prepared remarks and fully approved them.
3.
At the same Sunday evening meeting, the President also asked my ideas on the bombing of North Vietnam. He requested that I write up my views and give them immediately to Walt Rostow.5 I did so on Monday following which I sent both of you copies TWX.6
4.
At 2115 hours on Sunday, Thieu and Ky came in and joined the meeting.7 The President discussed with them his concept of the Conference. There was some discussion as to the need for additional forces. When asked, I replied that such an increase was definitely needed and estimated about 35 percent above end year levels. I suggested that we urge the other nations to contribute their proportional share. The President tied the proportional share to percentage of population, a line which he subsequently followed in the closed sessions of the meeting.
5.
The first closed session started Monday morning, 24 October. Statements were made by Ky, Vien and Thang, following which I made my statement,8 a copy of which has been mailed to you. (Subsequently, the President asked that I make a videotape of my remarks which was done that afternoon.) I received a question from the Prime Minister of Australia asking about the impact of large numbers of foreign troops on Vietnam. In my reply, I admitted the political, psychological and economic risks, but explained how friction was minimized by careful orientation of the troops of all nations. Violations of standards are infrequent although one occurs from time to time. The Prime Minister of New Zealand asked about enemy activity in the DMZ. I replied with a detailed explanation. The Korean President asked if more troops would be needed, to which I gave an affirmative answer.
6.
Late Monday afternoon, at the request of the President, I held a back-grounder for about 30 members of the press at the Manila Hotel. Questions revolved around revolutionary development, the state of training and morale of the RVNAF and the concept of troop deployments. I made the point that the available leadership of the RVNAF was stretched to the elastic limit. For leadership, manpower and economic reasons, the strength of RVNAF would expand only marginally over what it now was. I stressed that quality must now be emphasized, mentioning the detailed and practical leadership training programs we had launched, in which the Vietnamese Government was taking renewed interest. I explained the need for education of officers and retraining of troops to shift emphasis from the needs of combat to the support of revolutionary development. To questions on the U.S. Mission organization to deal with RD, I replied with a historical account and some general philosophy rather than in practical terms to avoid speculation of friction within the U.S. Mission.
7.
The session on Tuesday, 25 October, was taken up primarily in waiting for the Foreign Ministers and Chiefs of State or Heads of Government to come up with a final report and communique. This gave me a chance to conduct further conversations with various delegations. I had ample time to talk with the Australian and New Zealand delegations and I believe we may get additional troop contributions after their elections next month. (I had had time for extensive talks with the Koreans while their President was here, and believe them receptive to a further contribution.) The attitude of the Philippine leadership is unclear, although I went out of my way to praise the quality of their contribution, both to individuals and to the press. The Australian and New Zealand delegates were interested in the question of the Cambodian sanctuary. At lunch, I [Page 789] had a long discussion with Ambassador Harriman on the same subject and believe I was able to cast some new light on the problem as seen from Washington.
8.
With respect to the six months withdrawal provision in the final communique, I was as surprised as most when this emerged in final version.
9.
As I have reported, when the final session ended on Tuesday, the President held me over to talk about his trip to Vietnam. I returned here early yesterday morning to make the necessary arrangements.
10.
Best regards.
  1. Source: Center of Military History, Westmoreland Papers, COMUSMACV Message Files. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Also sent to Admiral Sharp.
  2. In telegram 270440Z from COMUSMACV, October 27. (Ibid.) On October 26 the President flew from Manila to Cam Ranh Bay, arriving at 4:34 p.m. He reviewed the troops, awarded service decorations, spoke to the assemblage, visited the NCO Mess Hall, met with top commanders from all over Vietnam, and departed at 6:57 p.m. for Manila. (Johnson Library, Presidentʼs Daily Dairy)
  3. October 23.
  4. Not found.
  5. Attached to Document 282.
  6. In telegram 250532Z from COMUSMACV, October 2[Page 788]5. (Center of Military History, Westmoreland Papers, COMUSMACV Message Files)
  7. See Document 280.
  8. Text is in Department of State, S/S-International Conferences: Lot 67 D 586, Presidentʼs Asian Trip, Oct.–Nov. 1966—Documents, vol. IX.