215. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

28493. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my eighth weekly telegram:


The second of the reports of top priority matters mentioned in my weekly telegram of May 31,2 i.e. action program for stepping up revolutionary development has been submitted to me by Ambassador [Page 544] Komer. I believe it represents the most complete and comprehensive study including definite and specific recommendations for action that we have had on revolutionary development. Ambassador Komer’s proposals have been approved by General Westmoreland and myself.
Based on a detailed assessment of where we stand today on pacification, the report develops an action program to give pacification a new thrust during the last half of 1967 and to plan for more rapid advances in 1968. We have given the program the name of Project Takeoff as an indication that we expect to make more rapid progress from here on out (I hope Walt Rostow will recognize the implied compliment). As soon as possible we want to get the GVN to adopt the principles of Project Takeoff and to subscribe to a set of action programs. One thing we want to guard against especially is that the pacification program should not slacken during the election period. Just the opposite should occur. Elections and movement toward responsible representative government is a fundamental part of pacification. Elections should support and foster other pacification efforts and vice versa.
In order to get moving rapidly we have limited ourselves to the selections of the most important and most pressing programs in order not to dilute our efforts or overtax the somewhat limited capacities of the GVN. They are the following eight action programs:
Improve 1968 pacification planning.
Accelerate the Chieu Hoi program.
Mount an intensified attack on the Viet Cong infrastructure.
Expand and improve support by the Vietnamese Armed Forces. We hope to add as soon as possible 50,000 RF/PF troops and another 50,000 in 1968, the bulk of which will be assigned to pacification.
Expand and supplement RD team effort and employ also substitute techniques to achieve a more rapid expansion of the pacification program. An example is the combined civil-military teams used in VI Corps by General Vinh Loc to carry on RD work in hamlets which RD teams because of lack of trained personnel are unable to cover.
Increased capability to handle refugees.
Improve and expand the National Police and the police field forces. We hope to bring the National Police up to the year end goal of 74,000 and to expand the police field forces to 17,000.
We plan to increase the advisory structure and increase the number of ARVN battalions in direct support of RD programs from 53 to 60 or more. We also plan to put greater stress on night patrolling, active defense instead of digging in, and rapid employment of mobile reaction forces.
As is so often the case, GVN performance remains the crucial factor. Nevertheless I believe by this programming technique, with direct program management on the U.S. side and the systematic evaluation of progress and problems, we cannot help but achieve some increase of effectiveness of the pacification effort. If certain other things happen concurrently, and I believe there is a good chance this will, such [Page 545] as the successful creation of a functioning, reasonably stable, popularly based government, increased momentum in the anti-main force campaign, a substantial increase in numbers and quality of the pacification security forces, an increase in the Chieu Hoi rate, success in our new plans for attacking VC infrastructure together with better pacification planning and management control, I believe we should see demonstrable and visible pacification progress during 1967–68.
The relative lull in military operations which I mentioned in my last message has continued. I believe this has been due to the splendidly executed offensive operations undertaken by General Westmoreland beginning in late April which I referred to in my June 7 message.3 The enemy has been badly hurt, has been kept off balance, and his time schedule has been disrupted. General Westmoreland’s strategy of anticipating enemy threats has paid off handsomely.
The enemy’s offensive thrust has been blunted but not eliminated. Enemy pressures (from two and possibly three divisions) continues along the DMZ. Infiltration through Laos continues steadily and the use of Laotian and Cambodian sanctuaries gives the enemy great and, to my mind, unwarranted advantages. It seems to me apparent therefore that the crux of our military problem is how to choke off NVN infiltration. If ways can be found to do this effectively, it should have at least following advantages:
It would drastically reduce the dimensions of our problem in South Vietnam. Militarily we would be dealing only with the Viet Cong whose problems of recruitment and supplies would be enormously multiplied lacking the assistance and reinforcements of North Vietnam. I believe the result would be that the Viet Cong would eventually wither on the vine.
After the infiltration is choked off, it should be possible to suspend bombings at least for a period and thereby determine whether there is substance to the statement in many quarters that Hanoi would then come to negotiations; we should at least call their bluff.
Tensions now existing between the U.S. and Vietnam on the one side and Cambodia on the other should be, over a period of time, relieved and our relations with Cambodia improved, even though initially Sihanouk might continue to allow the NVA/VC to use Cambodia as a haven and a source of certain supplies.

The means to be employed to achieve this objective, of course, present many difficult and delicate problems, both military and political. I have confidence, however, that with imagination and ingenuity these can be met. What is involved, of course, are operations within Laos but I do not believe this fact should present insuperable obstacles. The North Vietnamese Government is a signatory to the 1962 [Page 546] Geneva Accords but its forces have been in Laos both before and since the signing of the agreements. Is it now using Laos as the main route for infiltration into South Vietnam. Is it not logical and reasonable, therefore, that South Vietnamese troops should oppose and combat North Vietnamese offensive action by whatever method can be devised in order to prevent the invasion of their country?

Guarantees, of course, would have to be given to the Lao Government by the South Vietnamese, and I believe should be underwritten by us, that Vietnamese troops were on Lao territory for defensive purposes only and would be withdrawn immediately peace is secured. The operation, especially in its preparatory stages, should be carried out with as much security and secrecy as possible. I have made some recommendations as to methods we might use to achieve these objectives in my Top Secret Nodis message to Secretary Rusk (Saigon 28293),4 which you will have seen. This is a matter which I believe we should pursue with the utmost concentration.

[Here follows discussion of the Thieu-Ky rivalry, Senatorial candidates, the military situation in I Corps, economic matters, the Chieu Hoi program, and casualties.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis. In a June 22 covering note transmitting the telegram to the President, Rostow wrote: “Herewith Amb. Bunker’s eighth weekly telegram, full of plans and policy.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8B(1)[A] Bunker’s Weekly Report to the President) The notation “L” on the covering note indicates that the President saw the telegram. This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 52–59.
  2. See footnote 6, Document 186.
  3. Document 192.
  4. Not found.