314. Telegram From the Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs (Carver) to Director of Central Intelligence Helms1

CAS 1826. For Knight only from Funaro.2 Rybat Wren.

So far, our mission frustratingly unproductive since MACV stonewalling, obviously under orders. Unless or until I can persuade Westmoreland to amend those orders, serious discussion of evidence or substantive issues will be impossible.
Since root problems, as we all recognize, lie much more in political public relations realm than in substantive difference, I had hoped to get Sharp, Westmoreland, Komer and Bunker agreement on presentational packaging question before addressing evidence and specific figures. Variety of circumstances, however, torpedoed this plan. In Bangkok on 8 September Sharp’s morning obligations at SEATO and my 1415 plane made 1300–1330 only possible time for our meeting. As Sharp coming up Embassy stairs, he grabbed by Hannah who, when informed Sharp going to 1300 appointment with CAS Washington representative, stood stiffly on his prerogatives as DCM and swept Sharp into his office. Thus I missed Sharp, though I was able to give gist of Wofact position to Admiral Ready. When team arrived Saigon 8 September, we learned both Westmoreland and Komer had taken off for weekend of leave in, respectively, Manila and Bangkok. Thus working sessions had to commence without controlling policy questions resolved.
On 9 September, MACV J2 and staff devoted whole day to briefing us on revised MACV estimate, which widened rather than narrowed our differences. MACV now sticking on 119,000 main and local force figure, 29,000 admin services, 65,000 guerrillas and 85,000 political cadre for (by no coincidence) military and political or total of 298,000. MACV also adamant that no figure or quantified estimate be given for other elements VC organization such as self defense, secret self defense, assault youth, etc. (14.3 draft figures are 121,000 main and local force, 40–60,000 range on admin service, 60–100,000 range on guerrillas, 90,000 on political cadre, and 120,000 for others.)3
10 September devoted to systematic review of evidence and methodology on admin service and guerrillas. We did not argue 2,000 drop in main and local force (which probably defensible) or 5,000 drop in political cadre which, at the moment, was secondary issue. I attempted to clear atmosphere by opening session with strong pitch for careful look at data category by category, without considering ultimate total until analysis each separate category completed, and by outlining how presentational and public relations issue could be handled in fashion beneficial to MACV and US Government credibility wherever we come out. I also explained, in low key and with all possible tact, that National Estimates were DCI estimates; that other USIB members could dissent, but no one could tell the USIB Chairman4 what his estimate had to be. My remarks seemed well received but had no influence on the behavior of General Davidson5 or his subordinates.
14.3 case on admin service and guerrilla figures most ably presented by Messrs. Adams and Hyland.6 Though to discomfiture of our hosts this case patently stronger than MACV’s, it waved aside by General Davidson. Two examples convey the picture: estimate draft figures include 17,000 admin service at district level; MACV only accepts 5,000. Mr. Adams explained how our district level figure developed from admin to combat troop ratio extrapolated from documentary evidence covering 14 districts. General Davidson tore into this, saying 14 district base too slim for extrapolation of valid nationwide figure. Soon thereafter, however, officer who presented MACV case on this point had to admit (in response Davidson’s own questions) that MACV 5,000 figure based on only three districts and, even here, MACV had made downward adjustment in what documents actually said. No matter, Davidson would not budge. When challenging MACV’s adamant refusal to quantify estimate of irregulars (self defense, secret self defense), we pointed out 14.3 draft figures taken unchanged from July 1967 MACV study on irregulars. Again, no matter, no give. Even DIA team most irritated. After session, Mr. Fowler7 grumbled “We did not travel 8,000 miles to be insulted.”
Variety of circumstantial indicators—MACV juggling of figures its own analysts presented during August discussions in Washington, MACV behavior, and tacit or oblique lunchtime and corridor admissions by MACV officers, including Davidson—all point to inescapable conclusion that General Westmoreland (with Komer’s encouragement) [Page 774]has given instruction tantamount to direct order that VC strength total will not exceed 300,000 ceiling. Rationale seems to be that any higher figure would not be sufficiently optimistic and would generate unacceptable level of criticism from the press. This order obviously makes it impossible for MACV to engage in serious or meaningful discussion of evidence or our real substantive disagreements, which I strongly suspect are negligible.
I hope to see Komer and Westmoreland tomorrow (11 Sept) and will endeavor to loosen this straitjacket.8 Unless I can, we are wasting our time. To show, however, that we are willing to go even beyond the last mile, Messrs. Hyland, Moor and Adams are going to sit down with MACV’s working level analysts and review the evidence on admin service, guerrillas and political cadre document by document.
For cosmetic reasons, given the situation and the fact that Komer and Westmoreland will not arrive until 11 September, it would be a political error for us to leave on 12 September as planned.9 Thus we will have to remain an additional day or two for appearance’s sake if nothing else. If I can budge Westmoreland, this whole matter can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction in a few hours of serious discussion. If I cannot, no agreement is possible.
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] have both seen this message. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] left afternoon 10 September.
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80–R1720R, GAC Files, Folder 9, Misc. Documents—1967 to 1975. Secret; Priority Director. The telegram was an attachment to a memorandum from Carver to Helms, November 28, 1975. (Ibid.)
  2. Knight was Helms’ pseudonym; Funaro was Carver’s. Carver led a delegation of representatives from CIA, DIA, and INR to Saigon in order to resolve discrepancies between MACV and CIA regarding enemy order of battle estimates.
  3. This is a reference to NIE 14.3, which was being updated. See Document 397.
  4. Helms was Chairman of the U.S. Intelligence Board.
  5. General Phillip Davidson, Chief of MACV J–2 (Intelligence).
  6. Samuel Adams, an analyst in the CIA’s Office of Current Intelligence, and William Hyland, Chief of the CIA’s Office of National Estimates Far East Branch.
  7. George Fowler, principal DIA analyst for Vietnam.
  8. CIA telegram CAS 1926 from Saigon, September 12, reported on the next day’s unproductive meetings among Carver, Davidson, and Komer. In a position paper presented to the MACV representatives (sent to Helms as CIA telegram CAS 1925 from Saigon, September 12) Carver retreated on the quantification of irregulars, which had been the main obstacle to consensus on the part of MACV. He held firm, however, on the figures for the numbers of political cadre and those enemy personnel in the administrative services. (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80–R1720R, GAC Files, Folder 9, Misc. Documents—1967 to 1975)
  9. In CIA telegram 34454 to Saigon, September 11, Helms requested that the team not leave Saigon without his prior approval. (Ibid.)