208. Memorandum From the Deputy for Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (Komer) to the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland)1



  • How to Get Our Case Across to McNamara
We must convince Washington that there is something more than stalemate in prospect. The most credible way is to demonstrate that we are already achieving substantial momentum, but that it could still take mighty long to achieve ultimate success unless we increase that momentum. In other words, we’re already on the right track but need added resources to increase the pressure. I frankly believe that we are succeeding better than we realize. The picture in this country is surely much better than it was a year ago, much less two years ago. This should be brought out more in the McNamara briefings.
A major reason why so many believe we face stalemate is that no matter how much we increase the kill ratio or favorable weapons ratio or defector ratio, enemy strength seems to remain the same. Thus Vietnam appears to be a never-ending war. I won’t contest the 6,500 infiltration rate, given the added NVA units showing up on O/B. But I seriously question the estimate of continued 7,000 VC in-country recruitment. Phil Davidson honestly says that this is only a best guess (and could be off by 15 percent as I recall). Yet if this is becoming increasingly an NVA war, VC strength must be going down. We must get a better fix on it. Perhaps my suggestion that the incident trend in II–IV Corps be separated out from that in I Corps would furnish a basis for showing that we are achieving greater success everyplace but I Corps. Perhaps we should also use a range of 3/5,000 for in-country recruitment if we can justify it.
To show my own estimate of the momentum I think we can achieve in pacification, I am adding to my wrap-up briefing for McNamara the attached prognosis chart. Since I did not display it at the pre-briefing, I would appreciate your reaction.
Perhaps a similar military prognosis by you, either at the beginning or at the end of the regular briefing, would be even more useful. You could cite the increasingly favorable kill ratio, weapons ratio, Chieu Hoi [Page 525] figures, evidence of declining VC morale and logistic difficulties, opening of LOC’s, etc., as basis for a judgment that we are gradually grinding down the VC/NVA. Then you could point out that if several added factors come into play—increased RVNAF size and effectiveness, ground interdiction of Laos LOC, varying increases in Free World Forces, etc.—you believe that we could achieve a clear upper hand in SVN by say mid-1968. Note that I say a “clear upper hand.” You obviously cannot predict that the war would be over by any specific date, but you could estimate that the pressure on Hanoi to fade away or negotiate would become overwhelming once it fully hoisted aboard that the war was inexorably being lost. I believe that the VC in the South already are coming to recognize this, but that Hanoi is hoping for some external factor such as U.S. impatience to save it from defeat by attrition. In any case, a clear-cut prognosis given by you would pull together the present set of disparate briefings and set a constructive tone.
R.W. Komer2



If we can achieve:

Successful creation of functioning, reasonably stable, popularly-based GVN.
Continued or increased momentum in anti-main forces campaign and opening of LOC’s.
Substantial add-on to RVNAF pacification security forces and some increase in RVNAF quality.
Doubling of RD Teams before and ’68 plus supplementary civil/military teams and locally-trained RD teams.
Increased Chieu Hoi rate from 1700 a month in 1966 to 3750 in 1968.
Success in new attack on VC infrastructure.
Continued thickening of US advisory structure.
Better pacification planning and management control.

Then we should see substantial, visible momentum in pacification over next 12–18 months. Since above sub-goals are probably realizable in large measure, I see chances of achieving demonstrable pacification progress during 1967–68 as at least 2–1.

  1. Source: Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, Westmoreland Memos—RWK 1967–68. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.