150. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Komer) to President Johnson 1

Handling Shift in Pacification. Bunker has asked me to come out soonest and I’ve told him that I hoped to be out about 1 May if you approved. I’d like to fly out with Westy (leaving Saturday)2 or Abrams (leaving Monday).

Arrival of all members of the new team will revive press queries on the new set-up. With Bunker then on the ground a full week, he could cut this short by announcing the decisions. Having him announce them as his would emphasize that he is top dog in Saigon. I’d urge he do so at a press conference so that he could cover the issue by announcing other matters as well (e.g. announcing Cooper as Wehrle’s replacement).3

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Assuming you decide to go the MACV route, the big criticism to head off is that this means further militarization of the war. I think that this can be knocked down by Bunker himself using the following leads:

You have appointed him No. 1 American in Saigon and given him full latitude to organize the US effort in the way he thinks best.
As an old corporation executive, he believes that unity of management and a clear chain of command down to the cutting edge is sound management practice.
Bunker thinks with Lodge that pacification is the “heart of the matter”, and that the key prerequisite to pacification is security. This means our military should play a key role in the US advisory effort on pacification.
So Bunker does not regard pacification as a civil or military problem, but as a civil/military problem. Hence his solution is to have US civilians and military work together.
To achieve these twin goals (unified management of an integrated US civil/military advisory effort), Bunker has decided to put Ambassador Komer in to head it as a deputy to General Westmoreland. Komer will manage both civil and military aspects of US pacification role.
As senior US official in Saigon Bunker expects to personally oversee US pacification advisory effort as he will everything else. With Komer managing joint effort from within MACV civilian role will be greater, not less.
While single US line of authority down to province level is essential, integrity of new civilian agency (OCO) will be preserved. It will remain a separate entity under Komer doing those things which civilians more experienced at handling than military. Best senior people will be as senior pacification advisors at province and region regardless of whether civilian or military.
Bunker believes that net result will be greater efficiency and economy in this key endeavor. Would end by reminding everyone that pacification is primarily a GVN show. New organization does not mean more US troops in pacification. It means a unified US advisory and support role.

If Bunker will say the above we’ll draw enough of the short-term sting to minimize its impact. We can so instruct Bunker once you approve.

R. W. Komer 4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert Komer, Memos to the President, Jan-May 1967. Secret. The notation “L” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. In an earlier memorandum the same day, Komer underscored the need for the President to specifically request Westmoreland to improve the effectiveness of the ARVN. (Memorandum from Komer to the President, April 27; ibid.)
  2. April 29.
  3. Bunker discussed the Mission’s reorganization in a May 11 press conference. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 926–928. Among his announcements was that Charles Cooper, a deputy to Komer at the White House, would replace LeRoy Wehrle as Counselor for Economic Affairs in June.
  4. Komer added the following handwritten postscript: “You were great today telling Westy to jack up the GVN and ARVN.” Komer is referring to the President’s remarks in Document 149.