119. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Komer) to President Johnson1


  • Guam and Aftermath

I decided to go right down to Saigon after Guam, to show that the new team was in action, to work out an optimum relationship with Westy, and to deal with other pressing business. It was my seventh trip in less than a year. I believe that the following matters are worth reporting to you; by now I have sufficiently intimate ties with all senior US and most senior GVN personalities that they are eager to confide in me.


The Real Impact of Guam. Leaving aside the press problem, Guam once again helped significantly to move forward the war. As at Honolulu and Manila,2 bidding the GVN to the conference table forced them to put best foot forward. Thus Guam, for example, expedited GVN “ratification of the Constitution.” Far few people realize the impact such conferences have along these lines.

As for the GVN/US reports to you at Guam, I don’t care how many press wizards call me a rosy optimist, but I believe that Ky/Thieu’s air of confidence more accurately reflects the real pace of events than Westy’s more prudent views.

I had long talks with key GVN Ministers Thang, Vien, and Hanh at Guam.3 We moved several items forward, especially on pacification.[Page 286]I played up economic facts and figures for the press as you requested, and even got a page 1 story in Tuesday’s NY Times.4


Making Pacification Move. To lose no time in getting the show on the road, I devoted top priority to working out my relationship with Westy. I am pleased to report that I think we have reached a good, workable meeting of minds. Westy and I can—and will—work together. He says he will use me as a manager to supervise all civil/military aspects of pacification—not just as an adviser.

I have already discussed the proposed arrangements briefly with Ellsworth Bunker, who concurs. He also expects me to work closely with him, which I will gladly do. Walt and I will clear the new scheme with Rusk and McNamara in the form of a NSAM and submit it to you soonest for final decision. I believe that we should act promptly to forestall further press speculation.

Personnel for the Bunker Team. Ellsworth deserves the strongest team we can field. Rostow says you’ve promised Ellsworth anyone he wants, and I’ll now produce the names:
A replacement for Roy Wehrle5 on the economic side is the most critical need. Gaud, Lodge, Porter, in fact everyone most strongly proposes my own economic deputy Chuck Cooper; he’s brilliant, highly knowledgeable, action-oriented, an ideal choice. Bunker concurs subject to meeting him. I’ve twisted his arm, and he’ll come provided he can bring his wife and infant. Since infants stay with their mothers full-time, this would not violate the no-children principle. There is no substitute for Cooper, except one guy at Yale who has five kids he won’t leave.
Bunker and I believe Lansdale should stay at least through the election, despite the fact that Lodge advises getting rid of him. Not least, the press would have a field day if Lansdale quit.
Zorthian should stay on a few months for a smooth transition, but I’m coming around to Len Marks’ view that he’s a mixed blessing. Ellsworth and I have a top-notch eventual successor in mind.
Abrams will be a great addition. However, Westy seems clearly nervous that Abrams is being sent out as his eventual replacement. Unless this is really the case, a little reassuring LBJ message for Westy would be helpful.

Sorting out my role vis-à-vis Abrams as Westy’s two deputies will be a problem, but Westy and I think it a manageable one. Westy wants me to supervise pacification—military as well as civilian—while Abrams focusses primarily on revamping the Vietnamese forces. This [Page 287] makes good sense. Lodge says that you told him Abrams would “run the military side of pacification,” but McNamara and Rostow say he is rather to be a general deputy. I hope the latter is indeed the case, because the whole rationale for putting me under Westy to run pacification is to unify civil/military management for better results.6 And if I don’t know more about how to get pacification rolling than anyone else on the new team, I’ll eat that Stetson you owe me.

I have much else to report, but will hold off in order to get the above to you pronto. As I hope McNamara and Rostow told you at Guam, I will cheerfully do my best to help bring home the bacon in any capacity you want. But my ability to produce—and you know I can—will inevitably depend on my being cast in a role where I can operate most effectively. If you approve the new arrangements, I will take off in two weeks—as the first of the new team to show up on the job.7

R. W. Komer8
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert Komer, White House Chronological, 1 January–1 May 1967. Secret.
  2. Conferences held in February and October 1966.
  3. Nguyen Duc Thang, Minister for Revolutionary Development; Cao Van Vien, Minister of National Security, and Nguyen Huu Hanh, Minister of Economy and Finance.
  4. See The New York Times, March 21, 1967.
  5. Economic officer at the Embassy in Saigon.
  6. Komer and Westmoreland met in Saigon during late March to work out organizational guidelines for CORDS. Komer would report directly to the MACV Commander and be in sole charge of pacification under the “single manager” concept. General Creighton W. Abrams would have the task of invigorating the ARVN. Their agreement is contained in Komer’s memorandum to McNamara, March 29; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Vietnam Files: FRC 77–0075, Vietnam (March and April 1967). Komer discussed the issues involved in the shifting of pacification responsibility in a March 27 memorandum to the President, to which was attached a draft NSAM. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert Komer, Memos to the President, January–May 1967) This draft NSAM later became NSAM No. 362, May 9, Document 167.
  7. In telegram 20988 from Saigon, March 22, Lodge laid out a scenario for the change-over of Embassy staff. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVIII) In telegram 21226 from Saigon, March 25, Lodge wrote: “MACV’s success (which means the success of the United States and all of us) will, therefore, willy-nilly, be judged not so much on the brilliant performance of the U.S. troops as on its success in getting ARVN, RF and PF quickly to function as a first-class counter-terror, counter-guerrilla force.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S)
  8. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.