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

22276. Literally eyes only for the Secretary from Bunker. No distribution outside the Department. Ref: State 131330.2

I am reasonably confident that I could convince Thieu to make a speech of the sort you have in mind before the middle of next week.
He has told me that he is eager to do whatever he can to help us in the present situation and I know that he appreciates the problems which the President faces in making decisions for the future relating to our effort in Viet-Nam. I have discussed this matter with General Westmoreland who agrees that there are quite a number of useful points which can be made regarding the new initiatives on the GVN side relating to the military situation, mobilization, and getting back into the countryside for resumption of the pacification effort.
As to the content of the speech, one of the major emphases would certainly be the foregoing complex of efforts to beef up their military capacity. Within this I believe quite a number of points can be covered regarding their intentions with respect to manpower mobilization and training, and the time frame which Thieu is considering. In terms of civilian programs, I think there are several useful points which can be made regarding reorganization of the civilian administration, replacement of province chiefs and their new channel of authority to the central government, and the plans for training new and qualified personnel for key positions in the future. The renewed efforts against corruption, outlined in detail in the Prime Minister’s March 14 speech,3 would be another useful point to meet criticism in the U.S. A section of the speech could be devoted to the very praiseworthy GVN efforts to move rapidly for the relief of more than 500,000 refugees, as well as the plans for housing reconstruction, which has already been started here and will soon be moving in Hue and other hard-hit areas in the provinces. I would also hope that he might describe some of the effort to unify the nation politically, including his relations with the assembly and perhaps some kind words about efforts to draw various groups and interests together in a national front.
In brief, I think there are enough positive elements which could go into speech to make it worthwhile, even though many of them have already been covered in public statements and speeches. One of the problems of course is the deliberateness with which Thieu approaches such matters as major speeches and this difficulty in preparing a text rapidly. Perhaps we can help him in this respect. If you conclude that such a speech is desired, please let me know promptly so that I can try to get to him on Monday to discuss the matter and give him some ideas.4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 7:28 a.m.
  2. Document 132.
  3. In this speech, Loc described punitive anti-corruption measures undertaken against 74 government officials and military officers. See The New York Times, March 15, 1968.
  4. In telegram 131731 to Saigon, March 16, the Department stressed that Thieu should avoid any reference to additional allied assistance since “the important thing is to present a picture of South Vietnamese determination to do everything possible to help themselves with the greatest energy and dedication.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S) The Department also wanted Thieu to emphasize the steps already taken on corruption and mobilization. (Telegram 131765 to Saigon, March 18; ibid.) In addition, he could mention the ARVN’s need for equipment but should not use lack of equipment as an excuse to avoid rapid military expansion. (Telegram 131744 to Saigon, March 17; ibid.) Thieu agreed to make the speech along the lines suggested to him by Bunker. (Telegram CAP 80693 from Rostow to the President, March 17; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 1 EE (3), 3/16–31/68, Post-Tet Political Activity) In the March 21 speech, which Bunker described as “the best and briefest he has made since taking office,” Thieu announced plans to increase the RVNAF by 135,000 men through an expanded draft, extensive recalls to active service, and other measures to rally and invigorate the Vietnamese people. (Telegram 23308 from Saigon, March 28; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S)