200. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1

28095. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my seventh weekly telegram:

A. General

General Westmoreland has submitted to me the report which I have requested on programs for reorientation of the mission of the Vietnamese [Page 507] armed forces and improvement in their quality and performance.2 The report together with his recommendations covering not only activities already underway but also proposals for further actions looking to both the immediate and longer term is comprehensive and thorough. It is worthy of and will require careful study and I hope that we shall have an opportunity to go over it in some detail during Secretary McNamara’s visit. Among the important matters treated in detail are:
Improving the leadership and enhancing the personnel effectiveness of the ARVN/RF/PF through such things as improvement in the awarding of commissions and promotions, selective procedures, training of officer candidates, the introduction of an effective personnel management and accounting system, tightening up on discipline, improvement in the treatment of veterans in order to clear the rolls of those incapable of further active duty and an expanded advisory effort to support properly the revolutionary development program;
To improve motivation and morale through more equitable pay scales, improvement in rations, and revitalization of the dependent housing program;
Improvement in the command structure and equipment of the regional popular forces and a revised motivation and indoctrination program to reflect the role of the PF soldier in revolutionary development;
A comprehensive training effort to improve intelligence and reconnaissance operations and to improve the combat effectiveness of battalions; training of ARVN/RF/PF for support of revolutionary development particularly in providing security and support to the civil population;
Experimentation with various forms of integrated US/RVNAF operations such as the combined action concept (CAC) initiated by the U.S. Marine Corps; a “buddy system” in which a U.S. Army battalion is paired off with an ARVN battalion all the way down to squad level; a system in which an ARVN company is attached to a U.S. Army battalion; and “combined lightning teams” in which a U.S. squad and an ARVN squad will pair with a popular force platoon. The intent of all these operations is to raise the level of training and effectiveness of the ARVN/RF/PF units and to practice the principle of economy of force for the U.S. units. As a result of these experiments it is contemplated that a basic concept for integrated operations will be prepared and put into effect.
Institution of quarterly reviews at which time progress is measured against objectives, problems discovered and decisions taken. First of these reviews was held last month.
I have mentioned only a very few highlights among literally hundreds of actions underway to improve the performance of ARVN/RF/PF bearing on both the immediate present and the longer term. While there is still a long way to go particularly with the regional and [Page 508] popular forces the payoff of these many improved programs is already being felt in many areas.
The number of desertions has dropped to a little over one-third of what it was a year ago.
The number of missing in action has dropped to one-half of what it was in early 1966.
The trend of weapons lost has been reversed. In early 1966 ARVN/RF/PF lost more than twice the number captured. The ratio is now the exact opposite.
In large unit operations ARVN is making more enemy contacts although fewer total operations are run.
In small unit operations the ARVN/RF/PF rate of enemy contacts has risen by thirty percent. These are encouraging signs although much remains to be done.
The Thieu-Ky situation is still unresolved in spite of the efforts of Ambassador Bui Diem and Foreign Minister Tran Van Do. Despite Ky’s assertion both to Ambassador Bui Diem and to me that he would talk with Thieu and endeavor to reach an understanding, he has made only half-hearted attempts to do so and the two have had no meaningful talks. I have appointments today to see both Thieu and Ky. I shall stress to both of them our continuing concern at the prospects of candidacies which could divide the military and threaten national unity as a whole. Although both have asserted in their talks with me that their two candidacies will not divide the military and that General Vien, the Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff, is determined to keep the armed forces aloof from politics and the Presidential campaign I do not accept these statements at face value. I shall press Ky to talk with Thieu promptly to see if a basis still exists for cooperation between them. I intend to indicate again to both, as I have previously, that U.S. national interests can not permit the vital constitutional development in Viet-Nam to be threatened by personal ambitions or rivalry, or by measures to undermine the electoral process. In connection with the electoral process there have been some disturbing developments in regard to the exercise of censorship and arbitrary press control. Equally disturbing are reports on some of General Loan’s activities which would require national police and national security chiefs in the provinces to support Ky actively in such a way as to assure his election. I intend to impress on Ky again the absolute importance, in his own interest as well as ours, of seeing to it that the elections are fair and free.

[Here follows discussion of Bui Diem’s efforts to mediate the Thieu-Ky rivalry, Ky’s campaign tactics, election laws, hamlet chief elections, VC repatriation, economic matters, Chieu Hoi, casualties, and the upcoming visit of Secretary of Defense McNamara and Under Secretary of State Katzenbach.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Received at 10:58 a.m. This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 45–51.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 192.