136. Telegram From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland)1

JCS 3024. Ref: MAC 03651.2

In the light of referenced message and earlier messages on the same subject, I wish to inform you of where we stand with regard to MACV force augmentation. As preliminaries there are four things you should know:
Due to leaks here in Washington and in Saigon, there has been created an extremely difficult political and public atmosphere regarding the deployment of any augmentation to SEA.
You are very busy and, therefore, perhaps do not realize the monetary crisis through which we are going at this very moment. This subject [Page 400] has many ramifications which I will not detail, but the situation is serious to the point that it impinges directly and heavily upon Congressional and public attitudes toward further sizable expenditures of money in FY 68 supplemental and in FY 69 for the purpose of reserve call-ups and further deployments to you.
It is fair to state that the combination of further troop deployments and the critical fiscal situation has placed the government in as difficult a situation as I have seen in the past five years.
All of these things have, I judge, together with the gloom and doom generated by the Tet offensive, affected heavily public support for our war effort. The latest polls show that 69 per cent of those interviewed favored a phased withdrawal of our forces from SEA. To put it succinctly and frankly, I am concerned by these developments, and I believe that you should be aware of them. However, I caution that you do not reveal to anyone that this is the situation as I see it and is as serious as I believe it is.
With the foregoing in mind, I have three bits of information which I believe you will welcome:
The 30,000-man package will very probably be approved along the lines of my message to you which proposed deletion of the Marine element and substitution of an Army infantry brigade therefor.
I think that there will be acceptance of your retaining the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, and being provided an Army brigade to replace the 27th Marine RLT.
In line with B. above, I think that you will be provided the 13,400 support package for the 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, and the 27th Marine RLT (or its replacement).
Now as to the referenced message: I suggest that you not forward a proposal to change the composition of the 30,000-man force at this time. We are far enough down the road that such a proposal on your part might well cause the whole package to come unglued. Moreover, there is a political problem involved. Much of the force you will be getting is drawn from the reserve; i.e., from Army and Air Force National Guard and reserve sources. The Army has had some difficult days in an attempt to restructure reserve units better to serve the needs of the Army as a whole. This has caused much bad feeling and much contention in the Congress and in reserve circles. I am sure that they are waiting to see if the Army calls up their separate brigades and immediately slaps a Regular Army division commander and staff on top of them to build them into a division. With all else that is going on, we don’t need that. Of course, at some later time you might be able, just as you did in the case of the Americal Division, to scrape up some spaces and parts within your forces and with a small augmentation from the CONUS (which is not in the cards today) form another division, if that is your goal.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History, William C. Westmoreland Papers, Eyes Only Message Files, 1 Mar-31 Mar 1968. Secret. Repeated to Admiral Sharp and General Johnson. In JCSM–159–68 to Clifford, March 15, Wheeler recommended obtaining authority to call up individual reservists, the retention of personnel currently on duty, and increases in end-strength. (Washington National Records Center, Department of Defense, OSD Files: FRC 330 72 A 1499, 320.2 Vietnam, 121–370.5 1968)
  2. In telegram MAC 3651 to Johnson, March 16, Westmoreland continued to insist upon the deployment of the full divisional structure and promised to send a troop list for the entire force package. (U.S. Army Center for Military History, William C. Westmoreland Papers, Eyes Only Message Files, 1 Mar-31 Mar 1968)