The Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War

Table of contents :
7580_Vietnam_FM......Page 1
7580_Part-I_1943-1952......Page 10
7580_Part-II_1953-1954......Page 66
7580_Part-III_1954-1960......Page 238
7580_Part-IV_1961-1963......Page 288
7580_Part-V_1964-1965......Page 384
7580_Part-VI_1966-1971......Page 492
7580_Part-VII_1972-1975......Page 592

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The Vietnam

War Nunn McGinty Reader Series

TheVietnamWar_title page_F.indd 1 7580_Vietnam_FM.indd

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contents

part i:

1943–1952

1

Roosevelt and Stalin Discuss the Future of French Rule in Indochina, Teheran Conference

3

Franklin Roosevelt Memorandum to Cordell Hull

5

Franklin Roosevelt on French Rule in Indochina, Press Conference

7

Abdication of Bao Dai, Emperor of Annam

9

Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam

11

Report by the National Security Council on the Position of the United States with Respect to Indochina

15

Memorandum from General Omar Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense on the Strategic Assessment of Southeast Asia

19

US, Department of State, Press Release on an Economic Aid Mission to Indochina

25

George Kennan, Memoirs

29

Memorandum of Conversation between Secretary of State Acheson and British Ambassador Oliver Franks

31

Statement of Policy by the National Security Council on United States Objectives and Courses of Action with Respect to Southeast Asia, NSC 124/2

33

Eisenhower on the Strategic Link between French Forces in Europe and Vietnam

43

President Eisenhower’s Remarks on the Importance of Indochina at the Governors’ Conference

45

iii

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iv  the vietnam war

NSC Staff Study on United States Objectives and Courses of Action with Respect to Communist Aggression in Southeast Asia

47

part ii:

57

1953–1954

Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the Navarre Concept for Operations in Indochina

59

Joint Franco-American Communique, Additional United States Aid for France and Indochina

63

US, National Security Council, NSC 5405, “United States Objectives and Courses of Action with Respect to Southeast Asia”

65

Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles to Dillon and Aldrich on Conversations with the French

79



President Eisenhower’s News Conference, February 10, 1954

81



President Eisenhower’s News Conference, April 7, 1954

83



President Eisenhower’s News Conference, May 12, 1954

85

US, National Security Council, Action No. 1074-a, on Possible US Intervention in Indochina

87



US, Army Position on NSC Action No. 1074-a

103

Report by Secretary of State Dulles on Geneva and Indochina, NSC 195th Meeting

105

Memorandum from Secretary of the Army, Robert T. Stevens, on Indochina

107

National Intelligence Estimate-91, “Probable Developments in Indochina Through 1954”

109

Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles to the Paris Delegation

129

US, Central Intelligence Agency, SNIE 10-4-54, “Communist Reactions to Certain Courses of Action with Respect to Indochina,”

131

Telegram from Smith in Moscow to Secretary of State Dulles on Molotov’s Views

143

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Contents  v

Minutes, Zhou Enlai’s Meeting with [Pierre] Mendes-France, 23 June, 1954

149



159

The Geneva Conference

Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles on the Need to Inform Diem About Negotiations

185

Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles with Text of a Letter to Mendes-France

187

Minutes of Zhou Enlai’s Meeting with [Pierre] Mendes-France, 17 July, 1954

191



195

U.S. Involvement in the Franco-Viet Minh War

part iii:

1954–1960

229

Memorandum for the President’s Special Committee, “Military Implications of the US Position on Indochina in Geneva”

231

Indochina: Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference on the Problem of Restoring Peace in Indo-China

237

Indochina: Statement by the Under Secretary of State at the Concluding Plenary Session of the Geneva Conference

241

Indochina: Unification of Viet-Nam Through Free Elections: Statement by the Secretary of State at a News Conference

243

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at the Conference on Vietnam Luncheon in the Hotel Willard, Washington, D.C.

245



253

Eisenhower’s Views on the Popularity of Ho Chi Minh

President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the Likelihood that Ho Chi Minh would Win a National Election in Vietnam in 1955

255



259

Memorandum for the Record

Memorandum of Discussion at the 246th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington

261

Le Duan, “Duong Loi Cach Mang Mien Nam,” [The Path of Revolution in the South]

265



271

Manifesto of the Eighteen, Saigon

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vi  the vietnam war part iv:

1961–1963

279

Letter from the Secretary of Defense’s Deputy Assistant for Special Operations (Lansdale) to President Diem

281



The Strategic Hamlet Program

285



Kennedy and McNamara Prepare for War

291

Talking Paper for the Chairman, JCS, for Meeting with the President of the United States on Current US Military Actions in South Vietnam

295

JCS Memorandum on the “Strategic Importance of the Southeast Mainland”

303

Response to a Question on American Involvement in South Vietnam, President Kennedy’s News Conference

311

Memorandum to President Kennedy from Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith on Vietnam

315

Memorandum to Secretary of Defense McNamara from L.L. Lemnitzer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Ambassador Galbraith’s Memorandum

319

President Kennedy’s News Conference, Response to a Question About Criticisms by Senator Mansfield on US Southeast Asian Policy

323

Michael V. Forrestal, Memorandum for the President, “A Report on South Vietnam”

325

US, Central Intelligence Agency, National Intelligence Estimate 53–63, “Prospects in South Vietnam”

337



339

The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem

Cable from US Department of State to Ambassador Lodge Supporting a Coup in South Vietnam

351



Lodge Cable to Secretary Rusk on U.S. Policy Toward a Coup

353



Memorandum of Conversation

355

Instructions for Ambassador Lodge on Dealing with Diem Regime Repression

361

Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, Memorandum for the President, “Vietnam Situation”

365



371

Was Kennedy Planning to Pull Out of Vietnam?

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Contents  vii

part v:

1964–1965

375

Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell

377

Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)

389



395

President’s Message to Congress

Text of Joint Resolution (The Tonkin Gulf Resolution), August 7, Department of State Bulletin

399

W.P. Bundy, Second Draft of “Next Courses of Action in Southeast Asia”

401



409

SNIE 53-2-64, The Situation in South Vietnam

Cable (Saigon 1129) from the Saigon Embassy to the Department of State on the Deteriorating Situation in South Vietnam

417

Personal Note from W.W. Rostow to Robert McNamara on “Military Dispositions and Political Signals”

419

Briefing by Ambassador Taylor on the Current Situation in South Vietnam

423



McNaughton’s Observations about South Vietnam

435



Hans Morgenthau, “We Are Deluding Ourselves in Vietnam”

437



Clare M. Clifford Letter to the President May 17, 1965

447

Memorandum for the President from George Ball, “A Compromise Solution in South Vietnam”

449



Nation: The Debate

457



Report by McNamara After Visit to Vietnam

461

Notes for Memorandum from McNamara to Lyndon Johnson, “Recommendations of Additional Deployments to Vietnam”

465



471

The Advisory Build-Up

part vi:

1966–1971

483

Telegram from the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff

485



493

Selected Press Reactions to the Honolulu Conference

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viii  the vietnam war

Statement by Secretary Rusk Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on May 9, 1966, “Background of U.S. Policy in Southeast Asia”

501



505

Moscow and the Vietnam Peace Talks

An Analysis of the Vietnamese Communists’ Strengths, Capabilities, and Will to Persist in Their Present Strategy in Vietnam

509



513

Memorandum for the Director, The Outlook in Vietnam

Intelligence Memorandum Pacification in the Wake of the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam

519

Memorandum of Conversation, Meeting of President-Elect Nixon with Henry Cabot Lodge, Statler Hilton Hotel, Washington, DC

525



527

Conversations between the Soviets and the Vietnamese, 1969

Meeting Between Presidential Assistant Kissinger and Ambassador Dobrynin

533



Memorandum of Conversation (USSR)

545



Ron Ridenhour Letter

553



Peers Report Directive for Investigation from General Westmoreland

559



Peers Report Summary

561

Address to the Nation on the Situation in Southeast Asia President Richard M. Nixon

575

part vii:

583

1972–1975

Meeting Between Presidential Assistant Kissinger and Ambassador Dobrynin

585

Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker’s Cable Concerning Corruption in South Vietnam

593



Excerpts from the Paris Accords

595



Ominous Developments in Vietnam

601



Assessment of General Fred C. Weyand’s Report on Vietnam

605



President Ford’s Speech on the Fall of Vietnam

611



President Minh’s Inaugural Address in Saigon Palace

613



“Lessons of Vietnam” by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger

617

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MEKONG R.

C

H

I

N

A

NANNING

TONKIN

O

U

HANOI

AN

HA

R.

DIEN BIEN PHU

R.

HAIPHONG

N

T AN

N CHIANG RAI

L

LUANG PRABANG

HAINAN CHIANG MAI

VINH

ATHAK

A

TI

EN

VI

LAMPANG

E AN

18°

H

DONG HOI

EX

LINON

N

MUANG LOEI

TAK

O TCHEPONE

SAVANNAKHET

A

I

L

A

N

D

N

H

G R.

UBON

SARAVANE

PAKSE

A

BAN TA KHLI

TOURANE

S

N KO

ME

T

17°

SENO

PHITSANULOK

KORAT

TOTALS

14° PLEIKU STUNG TRENG

Men........................612,500

TUY HOA

E

Combat battalions..........303

I AT

KR

C A M B O D I A

Combat battalions.........172

MEKONG R.

VIET MINH FORCES Men.......................335,000

M

FRENCH UNION FORCES

XHA TRANG

PHNOM PENH SAIGON

Viet Minh controlled areas

COCHINCHINA 0

40

80

120 160

MILES

Indochina, July 1954

ix

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Part I

1943–1952

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Roosevelt and Stalin Discuss the Future of French Rule in Indochina, Teheran Conference November 28, 1943

T

he President [FDR] said that Mr. Churchill was of the opinion that France would be very quickly reconstructed as a strong nation, but he did not personally share this view since he felt that many years of honest labor would be necessary before France would be re-established. He said the first necessity for the French, not only for the Government but the people as well, was to become honest citizens. Marshal [Josef] Stalin agreed and went on to say that he did not propose to have the Allies shed blood to restore Indochina, for example, to the old French colonial rule. He said that the recent events in the Lebanon [where the French ended their mandate] made public service the first step toward the independence of people who had formerly been colonial subjects. He said that in the war against Japan, in his opinion, that in addition to military missions, it was necessary to fight the Japanese in the political sphere as well, particularly in view of the fact that the Japanese had granted the least nominal independence to certain colonial areas. He repeated that France should not get back Indochina and that the French must pay for their criminal collaboration with Germany. The President said he was 100% in agreement with Marshal Stalin and remarked that after 100 years of French rule in Indochina, the inhabitants were worse off than they had been before. 3

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4  part i: 1943–1952

The President continued on the subject of colonial possessions, but he felt it would be better not to discuss the question of India with Mr. Churchill, since the latter had no solution of that question, and merely proposed to defer the entire question to the end of the war. Marshal Stalin agreed that this was a sore spot with the British.

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Franklin Roosevelt Memorandum to Cordell Hull January 24, 1944

I

saw Halifax [Lord Halifax, British ambassador to the United States] last week and told him quite frankly that it was perfectly true that I had, for over a year, expressed the opinion that Indo-China should not go back to France but that it should be administered by an international trusteeship. France has had the country-thirty million inhabitants for nearly one hundred years, and the people are worse off than they were at the beginning. As a matter of interest, I am wholeheartedly supported in this view by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek [of China] and by Marshal Stalin. I see no reason to play in with the British Foreign Office in this matter. The only reason they seem to oppose it is that they fear the effect it would have on their own possessions and those of the Dutch. They have never liked the idea of trusteeship because it is, in some instances, aimed at future independence. This is true in the case of IndoChina. Each case must, of course, stand on its own feet, but the case of IndoChina is perfectly clear. France has milked it for one hundred years. The people of IndoChina are entitled to something better than that.

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Franklin Roosevelt on French Rule in Indochina, Press Conference February 23, 1945

W

ith the Indo-Chinese, there is a feeling they ought to be independent but are not ready for it. I suggested at the time [19431, to Chiang, that Indo-China be set up under a trusteeship—have a Frenchman, one or two Indo-Chinese, and a Chinese and a Russian because they are on the coast, and maybe a Filipino and an American—to educate them for self-government. It took fifty years for us to do it in the Philippines. Stalin liked the idea. China liked the idea. The British don’t like it. It might bust up their empire, because if the Indo-Chinese were to work together and eventually get their independence, the Burmese might do the same thing to England. The French have talked about how they expect to recapture Indo-China, but they haven’t got any shipping to do it with. It would only get the British mad. Chiang would go along. Stalin would go along. As for the British, it would only make the British mad. Better to keep quiet just now.

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Abdication of Bao Dai, Emperor of Annam August, 1945

T

he happiness of the people of Vietnam!

The Independence of Vietnam! To achieve these ends, we have declared ourself ready for any sacrifice and we desire that our sacrifice be useful to the people. Considering that the unity of all our compatriots is at this time our country’s need, we recalled to our people on August 22: “In this decisive hour of our national history, union means life and division means death.” In view of the powerful democratic spirit growing in the north of our kingdom, we feared that conflict between north and south could be inevitable if we were to wait for a National Congress to decide us, and we know that this conflict, if it occurred, would plunge our people into suffering and would play the game of the invaders. We cannot but have a certain feeling of melancholy upon thinking of our glorious ancestors who fought without respite for 400 years to aggrandise our country from Thuan Hoa to Hatien. Despite this, and strong in our convictions, we have decided to abdicate and we transfer power to the democratic Republican Government. Upon leaving our throne, we have only three wishes to express:

l. We request that the new Government take care of the dynastic temples and royal tombs.

Source: La Republique [Hanoi], Issue no.1 (October 1, 1945), translated in Harold R. Isaacs (ed.), New Cycle in Asia (1947), pp. 161–162.

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10  part i: 1943–1952





2. We request the new Government to deal fraternally with all the parties and groups which have fought for the independence of our country even though they have not closely followed the popular movement; to do this in order to give them the opportunity to participate in the reconstruction of the country and to demonstrate that the new regime is built upon the absolute union of the entire population. 3. We invite all parties and groups, all classes of society, as well as the royal family, to solidarize in unreserved support of the democratic Government with a view to consolidating the national independence.

As for us, during twenty years’ reign, we have known much bitterness. Henceforth, we shall be happy to be a free citizen in an independent country. We shall allow no one to abuse our name or the name of the royal family in order to sow dissent among our compatriots. Long live the independence of Vietnam! Long live our Democratic Republic!

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DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF VIET-NAM September 2, 1945

A

ll men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free. The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: “All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.” Those are undeniable truths. Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice. In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty. They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, the Center, and the South of Viet-Nam in order to wreck our national unity and prevent our people from being united. 11

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12  part i: 1943–1952

They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots; they have drowned our uprisings in rivers of blood. They have fettered public opinion; they have practiced obscurantism against our people. To weaken our race they have forced us to use opium and alcohol. In the field of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people and devastated our land. They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials. They have monopolized the issuing of bank notes and the export trade. They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty. They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie; they have mercilessly exploited our workers. In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese fascists violated Indochina’s territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them. Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. Their sufferings and miseries increased. The result was that, from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri Province to the North of Viet-Nam, more than two million of our fellow citizens died from starvation. On March 9 [1945], the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese. The French colonialists either fled or surrendered, showing that not only were they incapable of “protecting” us, but that, in the span of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese. On several occasions before March 9, the Viet Minh League urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese. Instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists so intensified their terrorist activities against the Viet Minh members that before fleeing they massacred a great number of our political prisoners detained at Yen Bay and Cao Bang. Notwithstanding all this, our fellow citizens have always manifested toward the French a tolerant and humane attitude. Even after the Japanese Putsch of March, 1945, the Viet Minh League helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued some of them from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property.

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D e c l a r a t i o n o f I n d e p e n d e n c e , V i e t - N a m   13

From the autumn of 1940, our country had in fact ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession. After the Japanese had surrendered to the Allies, our whole people rose to regain our national sovereignty and to found the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam. The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese and not from the French. The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland. Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries. In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic. For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government, representing the whole Vietnamese people, declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; we repeal all the international obligation that France has so far subscribed to on behalf of Viet-Nam, and we abolish all the special rights the French have unlawfully acquired in our Fatherland. The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are determined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonialists to reconquer their country. We are convinced that the Allied nations, which at Teheran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Viet-Nam. A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eighty years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent. For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, solemnly declare to the world that Viet-Nam has the right to be a free and independent country—and in fact it is so already. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their independence and liberty.

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REPORT BY THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL ON THE POSITION OF THE UNITED STATES WITH RESPECT TO INDOCHINA 27 February 1950

THE PROBLEM



1. To undertake a determination of all practicable United States measures to protect its security in Indochina and to prevent the expansion of communist aggression in that area.

ANALYSIS



2. It is recognized that the threat of communist aggression against Indochina is only one phase of anticipated communist plans to seize all of Southeast Asia. It is understood that Burma is weak internally and could be invaded without strong opposition or even that the Government of Burma could be subverted. However, Indochina is the area most immediately threatened. It is also the only area adjacent to communist China which contains a large European army, which along with native troops is now in armed conflict with the forces of communist aggression. A decision to contain communist expansion at the border of Indochina must be 15

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7580_Part-I_1943-1952.indd

considered as a part of a wider study to prevent communist aggression into other parts of Southeast Asia. 3. A large segment of the Indochinese nationalist movement was seized in 1945 by Ho Chi Minh, a Vietnamese who under various aliases has served as a communist agent for thirty years. He has attracted non-communist as well as communist elements to his support. In 1946, he attempted, but failed to secure French agreement to his recognition as the head of a government of Vietnam. Since then he has directed a guerrilla army in raids against French installations and lines of communication. French forces which have been attempting to restore law and order found themselves pitted against a determined adversary who manufactures effective arms locally, who received supplies of arms from outside sources, who maintained no capital or permanent headquarters and who was, and is able, to disrupt and harass almost any area within Vietnam (Tonkin, Annam and Cochinchina) at will. 4. The United States has, since the Japanese surrender, pointed out to the French Government that the legitimate nationalist aspirations of the people of Indochina must be satisfied, and that a return to the prewar colonial rule is not possible. The Department of State has pointed out to the French Government that it was and is necessary to establish and support governments in Indochina particularly in Vietnam, under leaders who are capable of attracting to their causes the non-communist nationalist followers who had drifted to the Ho Chi Minh communist movement in the absence of any non-communist nationalist movement around which to plan their aspirations. 5. In an effort to establish stability by political means, where military measures had been unsuccessful, i.e., by attracting non-communist nationalists, now followers of Ho Chi Minh, to the support of anti-communist nationalist leaders, the French Government entered into agreements with the governments of the Kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia to elevate their status from protectorates to that of independent states within the French Union. The State of Vietnam was formed, with similar status, out of the former French protectorates of Tonkin, Annam and the former French Colony of Cochinchina. Each state received an increased degree of autonomy

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R e p o r t b y N S C o n t h e P o s i t i o n o f U S w i t h R e s p e c t t o I n d o c h i n a   17









and sovereignty. Further steps towards independence were indicated by the French. The agreements were ratified by the French Government on 2 February 1950. 6. The Governments of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were officially recognized by the United States and the United Kingdom on February 7, 1950. Other Western powers have, or are committed to do likewise. The United States has consistently brought to the attention of non-communist Asian countries the danger of communist aggression which threatens them if communist expansion in Indochina is unchecked. As this danger becomes more evident it is expected to overcome the reluctance that they have had to recognize and support the three new states. We are therefore continuing to press those countries to recognize the new states. On January 18, 1950, the Chinese Communist Government announced its recognition of the Ho Chi Minh movement as the legal Government of Vietnam, while on January 30, 1950, the Soviet Government, while maintaining diplomatic relations with France, similarly announced its recognition. 7. The newly formed States of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia do not as yet have sufficient political stability nor military power to prevent the infiltration into their areas of Ho Chi Minh’s forces. The French Armed Forces, while apparently effectively utilized at the present time, can do little more than to maintain the status quo. Their strength of some 140,000 does, however, represent an army in being and the only military bulwark in that area against the further expansion of communist aggression from either internal or external forces. 8. The presence of Chinese Communist troops along the border of Indochina makes it possible for arms, material and troops to move freely from Communist China to the northern Tonkin area now controlled by Ho Chi Minh. There is already evidence of movement of arms. 9. In the present state of affairs, it is doubtful that the combined native Indochinese and French troops can successfully contain Ho’s forces should they be strengthened by either Chinese Communist troops crossing the border, or Communist-supplied arms and material in quantity from outside Indochina strengthening Ho’s forces.

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CONCLUSIONS

10. It is important to United States security interests that all practicable measures be taken to prevent further communist expansion in Southeast Asia. Indochina is a key area of Southeast Asia and is under immediate threat. 11. The neighboring countries of Thailand and Burma could be expected to fall under Communist domination if Indochina were controlled by a Communist-dominated government. The balance of Southeast Asia would then be in grave hazard. 12. Accordingly, the Departments of State and Defense should prepare as a matter of priority a program of all practicable measures designed to protect United States security interests in Indochina.

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Memorandum from General Omar Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense on the Strategic Assessment of Southeast Asia 10 April 1950

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE SUBJECT: Strategic Assessment of Southeast Asia

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have studied your memorandum, dated 10 March 1950, with its enclosures, in which you requested their views regarding: a. The strategic importance, from the military point of view, of Southeast Asia; b. NSC 64, a report by the Department of State on the position of the United States with respect to Indochina, which is now before the National Security Council for consideration; c. The measures that, from the military point of view, might be taken to prevent Communist expansion into Southeast Asia; 19

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d. The order of magnitude and means of implementation of such measures; and e. A French aide-memoire on the subject of aid for Indochina, dated 16 February 1950.



1. In light of U.S. strategic concepts, the integrity of the offshore island chain from Japan to Indochina is of critical strategic importance to the United States. 2. The mainland states of Southeast Asia also are at present of critical strategic importance to the United States because: a. They are the major sources of certain strategic materials required for the completion of United States stock pile projects; b. The area is a crossroad of communications; c. Southeast Asia is a vital segment in the line of containment of communism stretching from Japan southward and around to the Indian Peninsula. The security of the three [Section missing]

forces are allied with them. In addition, the generally inadequate indigenous forces of the independent states are actively engaged in attempting to maintain internal security in the face of Communist aggression tactics. 5. It appears obvious from intelligence estimates that the situation in Southeast Asia has deteriorated and, without United States assistance, this deterioration will be accelerated. In general, the basic conditions of political and economic stability in this area, as well as the military and internal security conditions, are unsatisfactory. These factors are closely interrelated and it is probable that, from the long-term point of view, political and economic stability is the controlling factor. On the other hand, the military situation in some areas, particularly Indochina, is of pressing urgency. 6. With respect to the measures which, from the United States military point of view, might be taken to prevent Communist expansion in Southeast Asia, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend early implementation of military aid programs for Indochina, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Burma. Malaya might also be included provided the British by their actions in the areas in Asia

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where they have primary interest evince a determined effort to resist the expansion of communism and present sufficient military justification for aid. The effectiveness of these military aid programs would be greatly increased by appropriate public statements of United States policy in Southeast Asia. 7. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the military aid from funds already allocated by the President for the states of Southeast Asia be delivered at the earliest practicable date. They further recommend that the presently unallocated portion of the President’s emergency fund under Section 303 of Public Law 329 (81st Congress, 1st Session), be planned and programmed as a matter of urgency. 8. Precise determination of the amounts required for military aid, special covert operations, and concomitant economic and psychological programs in Southeast Asia cannot be made at this time since the financial requirements will, to a large extent, depend on the success of aid and other programs now in the process of implementation. In the light of the world situation, however, it would appear that military aid programs and other measures will be necessary in Southeast Asia at least during the next fiscal year and in at least the same general over-all order of magnitude. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, therefore, strongly recommend that appropriations for over-all use in the general area of Asia be sought for the next fiscal year in terms similar to those under Section 303 of Public Law 329 (8 1st Congress, 1St Session). It is believed that approximately $100,000,000 will be required for the military portion of this program. 9. In view of the history of military aid in China, the Joint Chiefs of Staff urge that these aid programs be subject, in any event, to the following conditions: a. That United States military aid not be granted unconditionally; rather, that it be carefully controlled and that the aid program be integrated with political and economic programs; and b. That requests for military equipment be screened first by an officer designated by the Department of Defense and on duty in the recipient state. These requests should be subject to his determination as to the feasibility and satisfactory coordination of specific military operations. It should be understood that military aid will only be considered in connection with such

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coordinated operational plans as are approved by the representative of the Department of Defense on duty in the recipient country. Further, in conformity with current procedures, the final approval of all programs for military materiel will be subject to the occurrence of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 10. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that a Southeast Asia Aid Committee be appointed with State, Defense and ECA representation which will be responsible for the development and implementation of the program for the general area of Southeast Asia. Requests for aid should be screened by the field representatives of the committee in consultation with the local authorities in the countries concerned. 11. Present arrangements for military aid to Indonesia through the military attaches and to the Philippines through the Joint United States Military Aid Group appear to be satisfactory and should be continued. 12. A small military aid group should be established in Thailand to operate in conformity with the requirements in paragraph 9 above. Arrangements for military aid should be made directly with the Thai Government. 13. In view of the very unsettled conditions in Burma, the program for military aid to that country should, for the time being at least, be modest. The arrangements should be made after consultation with the British, and could well be handled by the United States Armed Forces attaches to that country. Arrangements for military aid to Malaya, if and when authorized, should be handled similarly except that request should, in the first instance, originate with British authorities. 14. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recognize the political implications involved in military aid to Indochina. It must be appreciated, however, that French armed forces of approximately 140,000 men are in the field and that if these were to be withdrawn this year because of political considerations, the Bao Dai regime probably could not survive even with United States aid. If the United States were now to insist upon independence for Vietnam and a phased French withdrawal from that country, this might improve the political situation. The French could be expected to interpose objections to, and certainly delays in, such a program. Conditions in Indochina, however, are unstable and the situation is ­apparently

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deteriorating rapidly so that the urgent need for at least an initial increment of military and economic aid is psychologically overriding. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, therefore, recommend the provision of military aid to Indochina at the earliest practicable date under a program to implement the President’s action approving the allocation of 15 million dollars for Indochina and that corresponding increments of political and economic aid be programmed on an interim basis without prejudice to the pattern of the policy for additional military, political and economic aid that may be developed later. 15. In view of the considerations set forth in paragraph 14 above, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend the immediate establishment of a small United States military aid group in Indochina, to operate in conformity with the requirements in paragraph 9 above. The Joint Chiefs of Staff would expect the senior member of this group to sit in consultation with military representatives of France and Vietnam and possibly of Laos and Cambodia. In addition to screening requests for materiel, he would be expected to insure full coordination of military plans and efforts between the French and Vietnamese forces and to supervise the allocation of material. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe in the possibility of success of a prompt coordinated United States program of military, political, and economic aid to Southeast Asia and feel that such a success might well lead to the gaining of the initiative in the struggle in that general area. 16. China is the vital strategic area in Asia. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are firmly of the opinion that attainment of United States objectives in Asia can only be achieved by ultimate success in China. Resolution of the situation facing Southeast Asia would therefore, be facilitated if prompt and continuing measures were undertaken to reduce the pressure from Communist China. In this connection, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have noted the evidences of renewed vitality and apparent increased effectiveness of the Chinese Nationalist forces. 17. The Joint Chiefs of Staff suggest the following measures with military implications: a. An increased number of courtesy or “show the flag” visits to Southeast Asian states; b. Recognition of the “port closure” of Communist China seaports by the Nationalists as a de facto blockade so long as it is

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effective. Such action should remove some of the pressure, direct and indirect, upon Southeast Asia; should be of assistance to the anti-Communist forces engaged in interference with the lines of communication to China; and should aggravate the economic problems and general unrest in Communist China; c. A program of special covert operations designed to interfere with Communist activities in Southeast Asia; and d. Long-term measures to provide for Japan and the other offshore islands a secure source of food and other strategic materials from non-Communist held areas in the Far East. 18. Comments on the French aide-memoire of 16 February 1950, are contained in the substance of this memorandum. The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not concur in the French suggestion for conversations between the “French and American General Staffs” on the subject of Indochina since the desired ends will best be served through conferences in Indochina among the United States military aid group and military representatives of France, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are not unmindful of the need for collaboration and consultation with the British and French Governments on Southeast Asia matters and recommend, therefore, that military representatives participate in the forthcoming tripartite discussions on Southeast Asia to be held at the forthcoming meeting of the Foreign Ministers. FOR THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: /s/ OMAR N. BRADLEY Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

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US, Department of State, Press Release on an Economic Aid Mission to Indochina 25 May 1950

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

FOR THE PRESS May 25, 1950 No. 545 U.S. FORMALLY ANNOUNCES INTENT TO ESTABLISH AN ECONOMIC AID MISSION TO THE THREE ASSOCIATED STATES OF INDOCHINA On Wednesday, May 24, Charge d’Affaires Edmund Gullion delivered the following letter to the Chiefs of State of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia or their representatives at Saigon. Simultaneously, Ambassador Bruce delivered an identical letter to the President of the French Union in Paris. The text of the letter follows: I have the honor to inform you that the Government of the United States has decided to initiate a program of economic aid to the States of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. My Government has reached this

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­decision in order to assist Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam to restore stability and pursue their peaceful and democratic development. With these purposes in mind, the United States Government is establishing, with headquarters in Saigon and associated with United States Legation, a special economic mission to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. This mission will have the responsibility of working with the Governments of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and with the French High Commissioner in developing and carrying out a coordinated program of economic aid designed to assist the three countries in restoring their normal economic life. The members of the American economic mission will at all times be subject to the authority of the Government of the United States and will not become a part of the administrations of the Associated States. The Government of the United States recognizes that this American assistance will be complementary to the effort made by the three Associated States and France, without any intention of substitution. American aid is designed to reinforce the joint effort of France and the governments and peoples of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, on whom rests the primary responsibility for the restoration of security and stability. United States economic aid will be granted in accordance with separate bilateral agreements between each of the Associated States and the United states of America. The approval of these agreements will be subject to legal conventions existing between the Associated States and France. Initial economic aid operations, however, may begin prior to the conclusion of these agreements. The United States Government is of the opinion that it would be desirable for the three governments and the French High Commissioner to reach agreement among themselves for the coordination of those matters relating to the aid program that are of common interest. The American economic mission will maintain contact with the three Associated States, with the French High Commissioner in Indochina and, if desired, with any body which may be set up by the Associated States and France in connection with the aid program.

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P r e s s R e l e a s e o n a n E c o n o m i c A i d M i s s i o n t o I n d o c h i n a   27

Mr. Robert Blum has been appointed Chief of the United States special economic mission to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Identical letters are being addressed today to the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and the President of the French Union.

The letter of intent refers only to economic aid which will be based on the recommendations of the Griffin mission which recently made a survey trip to Southeast Asia and carried on consultations with the leaders and technicians of Indochina. Secretary of State Dean Acheson announced the policy of United States aid to Indochina at Paris on May 8 when he released this statement following an exchange of views with Foreign Minister Schuman of France: The Foreign Minister and I have just had an exchange of views on the situation in Indochina and are in general agreement both as to the urgency of the situation in that area and as to the necessity for remedial action. We have noted the fact that the problem of meeting the threat to the security of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos which now enjoy independence within the French Union is primarily the responsibility of France and the governments and peoples of Indochina. The United States recognizes that the solution of the Indochina problem depends both upon the restoration of security and upon the development of genuine nationalism and that United States assistance can and should contribute to these major objectives. The United States Government convinced that neither national independence nor democratic evolution exist in any area dominated by Soviet imperialism, considers the situation to be such as to warrant its according economic aid and military equipment to the Associated States of Indochina and to France in order to assist them in restoring stability and permitting these states to pursue their peaceful and democratic development.

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George Kennan, Memoirs, 1950-1963

T

here remains the question of Southeast Asia. This, too, was on our minds, even in 1950 and 1951 though primarily in connection with the question as to the amount of support, if any, that we should give to the French, who were then fighting much the same sort of fight, and against much the same adversary that we, in the years following 1964, found ourselves fighting. Here, at least, I agreed wholly and unreservedly with Walter Lippmann. We had, I felt, no business trying to play a role in the affairs of the mainland of Southeast Asia. The same went for the French. They had no prospects. They had better get out. “In Indo-China,” I complained to the Secretary of State in the memo of August 21, 1950, we are getting ourselves into the position of guaranteeing the French in an undertaking which neither they nor we, nor both of us together, can win. . . . We should let Schuman [Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister] know . . . that the closer view we have had of the problems of this area, in the course of our efforts of the past few months to support the French position there, has convinced us that that position is basically hopeless. We should say that we will do everything in our power to avoid embarrassing the French in their problems and to support them in any reasonable course they would like to adopt looking to its liquidation; but that we cannot honestly agree with them that there is any real hope of their remaining successfully in Indo-China, and we feel that

Source: Memoirs, 1950-1963 New York: Pantheon Books, 1972, pp. 58-60.

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rather than have their weakness demonstrated by a continued costly and unsuccessful effort to assert their will by force of arms, it would be preferable to permit the turbulent political currents of that country to find their own level, unimpeded by foreign troops or pressures, even at the probable cost of an eventual deal between Viet-Nam and Viet-Minh, and the spreading over the whole country of Viet-Minh authority, possibly in a somewhat modified form. We might suggest that the most promising line of withdrawal, from the standpoint of their prestige, would be to make the problem one of some Asian regional responsibility, in which the French exodus could be conveniently obscured.

This judgment with regard to the folly of a possible intervention in Vietnam rested, incidentally, not just on the specific aspects of that situation as we faced it in 1950, but on considerations of principle, as well. In a lecture delivered earlier that year (May 5) in Milwaukee, I had said—this time with reference to the pleas for American intervention in China: I wonder how many of you realize what that really means. I can conceive of no more ghastly and fateful mistake, and nothing more calculated to confuse the issues in this world today than for us to go into another great country and try to uphold by force of our own blood and treasures a regime which had clearly lost the confidence of its own people. Nothing could have pleased our enemies more. . . . Had our Government been carried away by these pressures, . . . I am confident that today the whole struggle against world communism in both Europe and Asia would have been hopelessly fouled up and compromised.

Little did I realize, in penning these passages, that I was defining, fifteen years before the event, my own position with relation to the Vietnam War.

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Memorandum of Conversation between Secretary of State Acheson and British Ambassador Oliver Franks 17 June 1952 DEPARTMENT OF STATE THE SECRETARY

Following his telephone conversation with Sir Oliver Franks today, which is reported separately, the Secretary saw General Bradley and Mr. Perkins. Later Sir Oliver dropped in at the office following a meeting in Mr. Jessup’s office. He asked if he could see the Secretary for a few minutes to get the further report on the matter of talks on Southeast Asia. He repeated what he told us earlier that he had had a second message from London following the report which the Embassy had sent of Mr. Perkin’s conversation with Mr. Steele. The Secretary said that he had talked about this matter with General Bradley this afternoon and that Friday was the only day which General Bradley could possibly meet and that was very inconvenient for Mr. Acheson. He said, therefore, he thought that any talks were impossible to arrange. He then said that he would be glad to talk to Sir Oliver right at that moment and see where we stood. The Secretary reviewed the situation and the talks which took place in Paris. He said that in the earlier meetings which had taken place on Southeast Asia, everyone had started from a different point and there had been little in the way of conclusion reached. He said that he felt what was needed now was political decisions. 31

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The Secretary then analyzed the situation as we saw it. He said that if the Chinese came into Indochina in force, we would have to do something. We could not remain passive. He said that none of the things we could do were very pleasant ones and we felt that a warning was highly desirable. He said that we felt we should not give a warning, however, if there had been no agreement on what we did in the event the Communists moved in anyway. He said this would make us look very silly and would weaken the effect of any other warnings. He said it was clear that it was futile and a mistake to defend Indochina in Indochina. He said we could not have another Korea. He said it was also true we could not put ground forces in Indochina. We do not have them and we could not afford to immobilize such forces as we had. He said we could take air and naval action, however, and had discussed whether this should be confined to approaches. He concluded that our only hope was of changing the Chinese mind. He said that we could strike where it hurts China or we could set up a blockade against trade. He said we had concluded that our mission would not be to destroy the Communist regime. He also said that we fully realized the danger of bringing the USSR into the show. The Secretary concluded that there was no point in getting our military people into any talks. He said we must get political decisions first. He said that if firm decisions could not be reached that we perhaps could reach tentative decisions. He said that it had been clear at Paris that he was somewhat “ahead of the play” while the French and the British had urged us to discuss these matters and had wanted discussions before decisions were made. When the question actually came up, they were not ready to talk. The Secretary remarked that Mr. Letourneau had said in Paris that the military talks had reached some decision as to how to evacuate the wounded, etc., in the event of difficulties. He said that our Navy had talked to Mr. Letourneau regarding port sizes, capacity of ships, etc., with regard to evacuation. Sir Oliver said he thought he understood the point, would report back to London and would let us know if there were anything further on it. Mr. Acheson said that if his analysis were wrong and the British Chiefs of Staff had any different one, he would be glad to hear of it. S: LDBattle

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Statement of Policy by the National Security Council on United States Objectives and Courses of Action with Respect to Southeast Asia, NSC 124/2 25 June 1952

June 25, 1952 NSC 124/2 NOTE BY THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY to the NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL on UNITED STATES OBJECTIVES AND COURSES OF ACTION WITH RESPECT TO SOUTHEAST ASIA References: A. NSC 124/1 B. NSC 124 and Annex to NSC 124 C. NSC Action Nos. 597, 614 and 655 D. Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated June 24 and June 25, 1952 E. Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject, “United States Objectives and Courses of Action With Respect to

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Communist Aggression in Southeast Asia,” dated March 4, April 15, April 30 and May 21, 1952 F. NSC 48/5 G. NSC 64 H. SE-22 and SE-27 At the 120th Council meeting with the President presiding, the National Security Council and the Acting Secretary of the Treasury adopted NSC 124/1, subject to changes in paragraphs 2-a, 3,5, 10-c-(2), 10-c-(3), 11-(1), 11-(3), and 12 thereof, as incorporated in the enclosure (NSC Action No. 655). In adopting NSC 124/1, as amended, the Council and the Acting Secretary of the Treasury noted the following statement by the Acting Secretary of Defense with respect to the views of the Joint Secretaries regarding NSC 124/1: In our opinion, if this policy is to be truly effective, it must be clearly recognized that the U.S. policy “to make it possible for the French to reduce the degree of their participation in the military, economic and political affairs of the Associated States” (par. 8-d) must be emphasized and reemphasized to the French at each and every political, economic or military negotiation which the U.S. Government enters into with the Government of France, especially those negotiations which deal with the providing of U.S. economic or military aid to France or to Indochina.

The report, as amended and adopted, was subsequently submitted to the President for consideration. The President has this date approved NSC 124/1, as amended and enclosed herewith, and directs its implementation by all appropriate executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government under the coordination of the Secretaries of State and Defense. Accordingly, NSC 64 and paragraph 14 of NSC 48/5 are superseded by the enclosed report. The enclosure does not supersede, but supplements the statement of the current objective with respect to Southeast Asia contained in paragraph 6-g of NSC 48/5.

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NSC on US Objecti ves and Courses of Action with Respect to Southeast Asia  35

It is requested that special security precautions be observed in the handling of the enclosure, and that access to it be restricted on a needto-know basis. James S. Lay, Jr. Executive Secretary cc: The Secretary of the Treasury The Acting Director of Defense Mobilization 25 June 1952 STATEMENT OF POLICY by the NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL on UNITED STATES OBJECTIVES AND COURSES OF ACTION WITH RESPECT TO SOUTHEAST ASIA* OBJECTIVE



1. To prevent the countries of Southeast Asia from passing into the communist orbit, and to assist them to develop the will and ability to resist communism from within and without and to contribute to the strengthening of the free world.

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS



2. Communist domination, by whatever means, of all Southeast Asia would seriously endanger in the short term, and critically endanger in the longer term, United States security interests. a. The loss of any of the countries of Southeast Asia to communist control as a consequence of overt or covert Chinese Communist aggression would have critical psychological, political and economic consequences. In the absence of effective and timely counteraction, the loss of any single country would probably lead to relatively swift submission to or an alignment with communism by the remaining countries of this group. Furthermore, an alignment with communism of the rest of Southeast Asia and India, and in the longer term, of the Middle East (with the

* Southeast Asia is used herein to mean the area embracing Burma, Thailand, Indochina, Malaya, and Indonesia.

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7580_Part-I_1943-1952.indd

probable exceptions of at least Pakistan and Turkey) would in all probability progressively follow. Such widespread alignment would endanger the stability and security of Europe. b. Communist control of all of Southeast Asia would render the U.S. position in the Pacific offshore island chain precarious and would seriously jeopardize fundamental U.S. security interests in the Far East. c. Southeast Asia, especially Malaya and Indonesia, is the principal world source of natural rubber and tin, and a producer of petroleum and other strategically important commodities. The rice exports of Burma and Thailand are critically important to Malaya, Ceylon and Hong Kong and are of considerable significance to Japan and India, all important areas of free Asia. d. The loss of Southeast Asia, especially of Malaya and Indonesia, could result in such economic and political pressures in Japan as to make it extremely difficult to prevent Japan’s eventual accommodation to communism. 3. It is therefore imperative that an overt attack on Southeast Asia by the Chinese Communists be vigorously opposed. In order to pursue the military courses of action envisaged in this paper to a favorable conclusion within a reasonable period, it will be necessary to divert military strength from other areas thus reducing our military capability in those areas, with the recognized increased risks involved therein, or to increase our military forces in being, or both. 4. The danger of an overt military attack against Southeast Asia is inherent in the existence of a hostile and aggressive Communist China, but such an attack is less probable than continued communist efforts to achieve domination through subversion. The primary threat to Southeast Asia accordingly arises from the possibility that the situation in Indochina may deteriorate as a result of the weakening of the resolve of, or as a result of the inability of the governments of France and of the Associated States to continue to oppose the Viet Minh rebellion, the military strength of which is being steadily increased by virtue of aid furnished by the Chinese Communist regime and its allies. 5. The successful defense of Tonkin is critical to the retention in nonCommunist hands of mainland Southeast Asia. However, should Burma come under communist domination, a communist military

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advance through Thailand might make Indochina, including Tonkin, militarily indefensible. The execution of the following U.S. courses of action with respect to individual countries of the area may vary depending upon the route of communist advance into Southeast Asia. 6. Actions designed to achieve our objections in Southeast Asia require sensitive selection and application, on the one hand to assure the optimum efficiency through coordination of measures for the general area, and on the other, to accommodate to the greatest practicable extent to the individual sensibilities of the several governments, social classes and minorities of the area.

COURSES OF ACTION Southeast Asia



7. With respect to Southeast Asia, the United States should: a. Strengthen propaganda and cultural activities, as appropriate, in relation to the area to foster increased alignment of the people with the free world. b. Continue, as appropriate, programs of economic and technical assistance designed to strengthen the indigenous non-communist governments of the area. c. Encourage the countries of Southeast Asia to restore and expand their commerce with each other and with the rest of the free world, and stimulate the flow of the raw material resources of the area to the free world. d. Seek agreement with other nations, including at least France, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, for a joint warning to Communist China regarding the grave consequences of Chinese aggression against Southeast Asia, the issuance of such a warning to be contingent upon the prior agreement of France and the UK to participate in the courses of action set forth in paragraphs l0c, 12, 14f (1) and (2), and 15c (1) and (2), and such others as are determined as a result of prior trilateral consultation, in the event such a warning is ignored. e. Seek UK and French agreement in principle that a naval blockade of Communist China should be included in the minimum courses of action set forth in paragraph 10c below.

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f. Continue to encourage and support closer cooperation among the countries of Southeast Asia, and between those countries and the United States, Great Britain, France, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, South Asia and Japan. g. Strengthen, as appropriate, covert operations designed to assist in the achievement of U.S. objectives in Southeast Asia. h. Continue activities and operations designed to encourage the overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia to organize and activate anti-communist groups and activities within their own communities, to resist the effects of parallel pro-communist groups and activities and, generally, to increase their orientation toward the free world. i. Take measures to promote the coordinated defense of the area, and encourage and support the spirit of resistance among the peoples of Southeast Asia to Chinese Communist aggression and to the encroachments of local communists. j. Make clear to the American people the importance of Southeast Asia to the security of the United States so that they may be prepared for any of the courses of action proposed herein. Indochina



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8. With respect to Indochina the United States should: a. Continue to promote international support for the three Associated States. b. Continue to assure the French that the U.S. regards the French effort in Indochina as one of great strategic importance in the general international interest rather than in the purely French interest, and as essential to the security of the free world, not only in the Far East but in the Middle East and Europe as well. c. Continue to assure the French that we are cognizant of the sacrifices entailed for France in carrying out her effort in Indochina and that, without overlooking the principle that France has the primary responsibility in Indochina, we will recommend to the Congress appropriate military, economic and financial aid to France and the Associated States.

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d. Continue to cultivate friendly and increasingly cooperative relations with the Governments of France and the Associated States at all levels with a view to maintaining and, if possible, increasing the degree of influence the U.S. can bring to bear on the policies and actions of the French and Indochinese authorities to the end of directing the course of events toward the objectives we seek. Our influence with the French and Associated States should be designed to further those constructive political, economic and social measures which will tend to increase the stability of the Associated States and thus make it possible for the French to reduce the degree of their participation in the military, economic and political affairs of the Associated States. e. Specifically we should use our influence with France and the Associated States to promote positive political, military, economic and social policies, among which the following are considered essential elements: (1) Continued recognition and carrying out by France of its primary responsibility for the defense of Indochina. (2) Further steps by France and the Associated States toward the evolutionary development of the Associated States. (3) Such reorganization of French administration and representation in Indochina as will be conducive to an increased feeling of responsibility on the part of the Associated States. (4) Intensive efforts to develop the armies of the Associated States, including independent logistical and administrative services. (5) The development of more effective and stable Governments in the Associated States. (6) Land reform, agrarian and industrial credit, sound rice marketing systems, labor development, foreign trade and capital formation. (7) An aggressive military, political, and psychological program to defeat or seriously reduce the Viet Minh forces. (8) US-French cooperation in publicizing progressive developments in the foregoing policies in Indochina.

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9. In the absence of large scale Chinese Communist intervention in Indochina, the United States should: a. Provide increased aid on a high priority basis for the French Union forces without relieving French authorities of their basic military responsibility for the defense of the Associated States in order to: (1) Assist in developing indigenous armed forces which will eventually be capable of maintaining internal security without assistance from French units. (2) Assist the French Union forces to maintain progress in the restoration of internal security against the Viet Minh. (3) Assist the forces of France and the Associated States to defend Indochina against Chinese Communist aggression. b. In view of the immediate urgency of the situation, involving possible large-scale Chinese Communist intervention, and in order that the United States may be prepared to take whatever action may be appropriate in such circumstances, make the plans necessary to carry out the courses of action indicated in paragraph 10 below. c. In the event that information and circumstances point to the conclusion that France is no longer prepared to carry the burden in Indochina, or if France presses for an increased sharing of the responsibility for IndoChina, whether in the UN or directly with the U.S. Government, oppose a French withdrawal and consult with the French and British concerning further measures to be taken to safeguard the area from communist domination. 10. In the event that it is determined, in consultation with France, that Chinese Communist forces (including volunteers) have overtly intervened in the conflict in Indochina, or are covertly participating to such an extent as to jeopardize retention of the Tonkin Delta area by French Union forces, the United States should take the following measures to assist these forces in preventing the loss of Indochina, to repel the aggression and to restore peace and security in Indochina. a. Support a request by France or the Associated States for immediate action by the United Nations which would include a UN resolution declaring that Communist China has committed an aggression, recommending that member states take

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whatever action may be necessary, without geographic limitation, to assist France and the Associated States in meeting the aggression. b. Whether or not UN action is immediately forthcoming, seek the maxin-ium possible international support for, and participation in, the minimum courses of military action agreed upon by the parties to the joint warning. These minimum courses of action are set forth in sub-paragraph c immediately below. c. Carry out the following minimum courses of military action, either under the auspices of the UN or in conjunction with France and the United Kingdom and any other friendly ­governments: (1) A resolute defense of Indochina itself to which the United States would provide such air and naval assistance as might be practicable. (2) Interdiction of Chinese Communist communication lines including those in China. (3) The United States would expect to provide the major forces for task (2) above; but would expect the UK and France to provide at least token forces therefor and to render such other assistance as is normal between allies, and France to carry the burden of providing, in conjunction with the Associated States, the ground forces for the defense of Indochina. 11. In addition to the courses of action set forth in paragraph 10 above, the Unitted States should take the following military actions as appropriate to the situation: a. If agreement is reached pursuant to paragraph 7-e, establishment in conjunction with the UK and France of a naval blockade of Communist China. b. Intensification of covert operations to aid anti-communist guerrilla forces operating against Communist China and to interfere with and disrupt Chinese Communist lines of communication and military supply areas. c. Utilization, as desirable and feasible, of anti-communist Chinese forces, including Chinese Nationalist forces in military operations in Southeast Asia, Korea, or China proper.

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d. Assistance to the British to cover an evacuation from Hong Kong, if required. e. Evacuation of French Union civil and military personnel from the Tonkin delta, if required. 12. If, subsequent to aggression against Indochina and execution of the minimum necessary courses of action listed in paragraph 10-c above, the United States determines jointly with the UK and France that expanded military action against Communist China is rendered necessary by the situation, the United States should take air and naval action in conjunction with at least France and the U.K. against all suitable military targets in China, avoiding insofar as practicable those targets in areas near the boundaries of the USSR in order not to increase the risk of direct Soviet involvement. 13. In the event the concurrence of the United Kingdom and France to expanded military action against Communist China is not obtained, the United States should consider taking unilateral action.

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Eisenhower on the Strategic Link between French Forces in Europe and Vietnam

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erious problems were plaguing our nation in Korea and Vietnam. In the former, indecisive and costly fighting still dragged on. In Vietnam the French had not yet convinced the world that the struggle was between those who stood for freedom on one side and Communist rebels, supported by the power of Red China, on the other. Consequently a considerable portion of world opinion viewed the war there as merely a French effort to continue their prewar domination in the region. Until this point was clarified, it was difficult for any Western nation, including our own, to offer or provide any help to the French and loyal Vietnamese. This was a matter that had troubled me greatly when I was serving as military commander of NATO in 1951-52. In that period the French government had found it necessary to deplete their NATO military contingent by a number of battalions so as to reinforce promptly French troops in Vietnam. In expressing my disappointment in that development I had strongly urged the government to interpret, publicly, their Far Eastern war effort in terms of freedom versus Communism. This could be done only through a French public commitment assuring to the Vietnamese, unequivocally, the right of determining their own political future. Such a pronouncement, I argued, would earn the approval of the Free World as well as its moral and greater material support.

Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change: 1953-1956 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1963), p. 109)

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During my service in NATO a considerable number of responsible officials in France had assured me of their complete agreement with this view. General de Lattre de Tassigny, who was then the commander of French forces in Vietnam, had come to the United States, at my urging, just a few months before his death and in a nationally televised speech in this country made just such a statement. But because his government did not follow with a public political pronouncement, the matter was still subject to misinterpretation and an American support for the French in that region could not achieve unanimous domestic approval. Nonetheless, recognizing the necessity of stopping Communist advances in that country, we started immediately after my inauguration to devise plans for strengthening the defenders politically and militarily within the proper limits.

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President Eisenhower’s Remarks on the Importance of Indochina at the Governors’ Conference August 4, 1953

*** could go on enumerating every kind of problem that comes before us daily. Let us take, though, for example, one simple problem in the foreign field. You have seen the war in Indochina described variously as an outgrowth of French colonialism and its French refusal to treat indigenous populations decently. You find it again described as a war between the communists and the other elements in southeast Asia. But you have a confused idea of where it is located—Laos, or Cambodia, or Siam, or any of the other countries that are involved. You don’t know, really, why we are so concerned with the far-off southeast corner of Asia. Why is it? Now, first of all, the last great population remaining in Asia that has not become dominated by the Kremlin, of course, is the ­sub-continent of India, including the Pakistan government. Here are 350 million people still free. Now let us assume that we lose Indochina. If Indochina goes, several things happen right away. The Malayan peninsula, the last little bit of the end hanging on down there, would be scarcely defensible—and tin and tungsten that we so greatly value from that area would cease coming. But all India would be outflanked. Burma would certainly, in its weakened condition, be no defense. Now, India is

I

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s­ urrounded on that side by the Communist empire. Iran on its left is in a weakened condition. I believe I read in the paper this morning that Mossadegh’s move toward getting rid of his parliament has been supported and of course he was in that move supported by the Tudeh, which is the Communist Party of Iran. All of that weakening position around there is very ominous for the United States, because finally if we lost all that, how would the free world hold the rich empire of Indonesia? So you see, somewhere along the line, this must be blocked. It must be blocked now. That is what the French are doing. So, when the United States votes $400 million to help that war, we are not voting for a giveaway program. We are voting for the cheapest way that we can to prevent the occurrence of something that would be of the most terrible significance for the United States of America—our security, our power and ability to get certain things we need from the riches of the Indonesian territory, and from southeast Asia. ***

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NSC STAFF STUDY on UNITED STATES OBJECTIVES AND COURSES OF ACTION WITH RESPECT TO COMMUNIST AGGRESSION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA* February 13, 1952

THE PROBLEM



1. To determine the policy of the United States toward the countries of Southeast Asia, and in particular, the courses of action which may be taken by the United States to strengthen and coordinate resistance to communism on the part of the governments and peoples of the area, to prevent Chinese Communist aggression, and to meet such aggression should it occur.

ANALYSIS I. Consequences to The United States of Communist Domination of Southeast Asia



2. Communist domination of Southeast Asia, whether by means of overt invasion, subversion, or accommodation on the part of the

* The term Southeast Asia is used herein to mean Indochina, Burma, Thailand, the Malay Peninsula, and Indonesia.

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indigenous governments, would be critical to United States ­security interests. Communist success in this area would spread doubt and fear among other threatened non-communist countries as to the ability of the United States and the United Nations to halt communist aggression elsewhere. It would strengthen the claim that the advance of communism is inexorable and encourage countries vulnerable to Soviet pressure to adopt policies of neutralism or accommodation. Successful overt Chinese Communist aggression in this area, especially if achieved without encountering more than token resistance on the part of the United States or the United Nations, would have critical psychological and political consequences which would probably include the relatively swift alignment of the rest of Asia and thereafter of the Middle East to communism, thereby endangering the stability and security of Europe. Such a communist success might nullify the psychological advantages accruing to the free world by reason of its response to the aggression in Korea. 3. The fall of Southeast Asia would underline the apparent economic advanes to Japan of association with the communist-dominated Asian sphere. Exsion of Japan from trade with Southeast Asia would seriously affect the panese economy, and increase Japan’s dependence on United States aid. In long run the loss of Southeast Asia, especially Malaya and Indonesia, could ilt in such economic and political pressures in Japan as to make it extremely ificult to prevent Japan’s eventual accommodation to the Soviet Bloc. 4. Southeast Asia, especially Malaya and Indonesia, is the principal world source of natural rubber and tin. Access to these materials by the Western Powers and their denial to the Soviet Bloc is important at all times and particularly in the event of global war. Communist control over the rice surpluses of the Southeast Asian mainland would provide the USSR with a powerful economic weapon in its relations with other countries of the Far East. Indonesia is a secondary source of petroleum whose importance would be enhanced by the denial to the Western Powers of petroleum sources in the Middle East. Malaya is the largest net dollar earner for the United Kingdom, and its loss would seriously aggravate the economic problems facing the UK. 5. Communist control of all of Southeast Asia would render the United States position in the Pacific offshore island chain ­precarious

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and would seriously jeopardize fundamental United States security interests in the Far East. The extension of communist power via Burma would augment the communist threat to India and Pakistan and strengthen the groups within those countries which favor accommodation. However, such an event would probably result in a stiffer attitude toward communism on the part of the Indian government. 6. Communist domination of mainland Southeast Asia would place unfriendly forces astride the most direct and best-developed sea and air routes between the Western Pacific and India and the Near East. In the event of global war, the development of Soviet submarine and air bases in mainland Southeast Asia might compel the detour of U.S. and allied shipping and air transportation in the Southeast Asia region via considerably longer alternate routes to the south. This extension of friendly lines of communication would hamper U.S. strategic movements in this region and tend to isolate the major non-communist bases in the Far East-the offshore island chain and Australia-from existing bases in East Africa and the Near and Middle East, as well as from potential bases on the Indian sub-continent. 7. Besides disrupting established lines of communication in the area, the denial of actual military facilities in mainland Southeast Asiain particular, the loss of the major naval operating bases at Singapore-would compel the utilization of less desirable peripheral bases. Soviet exploitation of the naval and air bases in mainland Southeast Asia probably would be limited by the difficulties of logistic support but would, nevertheless, increase the threat to existing lines of communication.

II. Regional Strategy



8. The continued integrity of the individual countries of Southeast Asia is to a large extent dependent upon a successful coordination of political and military measures for the entire area. The development of practical measures aimed at preventing the absorption of these countries into the Soviet orbit must therefore recognize this interdependence and must, in general, seek courses of action for the area as a whole.

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9. However, it must be recognized that the governments and peoples of Southeast Asia have little in common other than their geographic proximity and their newly awakened nationalism and anti-colonialism. For the most part, their economies are competitive rather than complementary. The countries are divided internally and from each other by language and ethnic differences. The several nationalities and tribal groups are the heirs of centuries of warfare, jealousy, and mutual distrust. In addition, their present governments are sharply divided in their attitudes toward the current East-West struggle. The governments of the three Associated States of Indochina are not recognized by any other Asian states except Nationalist China and Thailand. 10. In the strategic sense, the defense of Tonkin is important to the defense of mainland Southeast Asia. If Communist forces should succeed in driving the French Union forces from Tonkin, military action in the remainder of Indochina might have to be limited to delaying action and the perimeter defense of certain coastal areas pending reinforcement or evacuation. With the appearance of communist success, native support would probably swing increasingly to the Viet Minh. 11. Thailand has no common border with China and no strong internal communist element. It adjoins areas of Indochina now controlled by the Viet Minh, but the border areas are remote and difficult. Hence, communist seizure of Thailand is improbable except as a result of the prior loss of either Burma or Indochina. 12. Communist control of either Indochina or Burma would expose Thailand to infiltration and severe political pressures as well as to the threat of direct attack. Unless substantial outside aid were forthcoming, it is possible that in such a case, political pressure alone would be sufficient to bring about the accommodation of Thailand to international communism within a year. However, substantial aid, together with assurance of support by the United States and the UN might be sufficient to preserve a non-communist government in Thailand in spite of any form of pressure short of overt attack. 13. Thailand would be difficult to defend against an overt attack from the east by way of the traditional invasion route through Cambodia. Thailand is more defensible against attack from Burma owing to the mountainous terrain and poor communications of

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the Thai-Burmese border. In either case it might be possible to defend an area in southern Thailand centering on Bangkok. Since any attack on Thailand would necessarily be preceded by communist encroachment on Indochina or Burma, the defense of Thailand would probably be part of a broader pattern of hostilities. 14. If the loss of Thailand followed the loss of Burma, the defense of Indochina would be out-flanked; and any substantial communist forces based on Thailand would render the position of the French Union Forces in Indochina untenable in the long run. If the collapse of Thailand followed the loss of Indochina, the psychological and political consequences would accelerate the deterioration of Burma. However, the military consequences in such a case would be less immediate, owing to the difficult terrain of the Thai-Burmese border country. 15. Communist control of Thailand would aggravate the already serious security problem presented by the Thai-Malayan border and greatly increase the difficulties of the British security forces in Malaya. However, assuming control of the sea by the Western Powers, Malaya offers a defensible position against even a fullscale land attack. The Kra Isthmus of the Malayan Peninsula would afford the best secondary line of defense against total communist domination of Southeast Asia and the East Indies. Such a defense would effectively protect Indonesia against external communist pressure. By thus defending Malaya and Indonesia, the anti-communist forces would continue to hold the most important strategic material resources of the area, as well as strategic air and naval bases and lines of communication. 16. The strategic interdependence of the countries in Southeast Asia, and the cumulative effect of a successful communist penetration in any one area, point to the importance of action designed to forestall any aggression by the Chinese Communists. The most effective possible deterrent would be a joint warning by the United States and certain other governments regarding the grave consequences of Chinese aggression against Southeast Asia, and implying the threat of retaliation against Communist China itself. Such a warning should be issued in conjunction with other nations, including at least the United Kingdom, France, Australia and New Zealand. Participation in such a warning involves all the

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risks and disadvantages of a precommitment to take action in future and unknown circumstances. However, these disadvantages must be weighed against the alternative of a costly effort to repel Chinese invasion after it has actually occurred. A second, but probably less effective, means of attempting to deter such an invasion would be to focus world attention on the continuing threat of Chinese Communist aggression against Southeast Asia and to make clear to the Soviet and Chinese Communist Governments the fact that the United States views the situation in Southeast Asia with great concern. In fact, statements along these lines have already been made. Such means might also include a Peace Observation Commission, if desired and requested by the countries concerned, public addresses by U.S. officials, and “show the flag” visits by naval and air units. 17. The Chinese Nationalist forces represent considerable reserve upon which to draw in the event of military action against Communist China. The deficiency in equipment and training seriously limits the possible employment of these forces at present, however, continuation of our training and supply efforts should serve to alleviate these deficiencies. The manner of employment of these forces is beset not only with military but also with political difficulties. Hence the decision as to the best use of these forces cannot be made at this time. Nevertheless, we should be prepared to make the best practicable use of this military augmentation in light of the circumstances existing at the time. III. Indochina

18. In the long run, the security of Indochina against communism will depend upon the development of native governments able to command the support of the masses of the people and national armed forces capable of relieving the French of the major burden of maintaining internal security. Some progress is being made in the formation and development of national armies. However, the Vietnamese Government has been slow to assume its responsibilities and has continued to suffer from a lack of strong leadership. It has had to contend with: (a) lingering Vietnamese suspicion of any French-supported regime, combined with the apathetic and

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“fence sitting” attitude of the bulk of the people; (b) the difficulty, common to all new and inexperienced governments, of training the necessary personnel and building an efficient administration; and (c) the failure of factional and sectional groups to unite in a concerted national effort. 19. The U.S. economic aid program for Indochina has as its objectives to increase production and thereby offset the military drain on the economy of the Associated States; to increase popular support for the Government by improving the effectiveness of Government services; to make the Government and the people aware of America’s interest in their independence and welfare; and to use economic aid as a means of supporting the military effort. Because of their strained budgetary situation, the Associated States cannot meet the local currency costs of the projects; about 60 percent of the program funds is, therefore, devoted to importing needed commodities which are sold to generate counterpart. 20. The military situation in Indochina continues to be one of stalemate. Increased U.S. aid to the Franco-Vietnamese forces has been an essential factor in enabling them to withstand recent communist attacks. However, Chinese aid to the Viet Minh in the form of logistic support, training, and technical advisors is increasing at least at a comparable rate. The prospect is for a continuation of the present stalemate in the absence of intervention by important forces other than those presently engaged. 21. While it is unlikely under the present circumstances that the French will suffer a military defeat in Indochina, there is a distinct possibility that the French Government will soon conclude that France cannot continue indefinitely to carry the burden of her total military commitments. From the French point of view, the possible means of lessening the present burden include: (1) a settlement with the communists in Indochina; (2) an agreement to internationalize the action in Indochina; (3) reduction of the NATO obligations of France. 22. A settlement based on a military armistice would be more complicated in Indochina than in the case of Korea. Much of Indochina is not firmly under the control of either side, but subject to occasional forays from both. Areas controlled by the opposing sides are interspersed, and lines of contact are fluid. Because of the

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weakness of the native governments, the dubious attitudes of the population even in areas under French control, and the certainty of continued communist pressure, it is highly probable that any settlement based on a withdrawal of French forces would be tantamount to handing over Indochina to communism. The United States should therefore continue to oppose any negotiated settlement with the Viet Minh. 23. In the event that information and circumstances point to the conclusion that France is no longer prepared to carry the burden in Indochina, or if France presses for a sharing of the responsibility for Indochina, whether in the UN or directly with the U.S. Government, the United States should oppose a French withdrawal and consult with the French and British concerning further measures to be taken to safeguard the area from communist domination. In anticipation of these possibilities, the United States should urgently ­re-examine the situation with a view to determining: a. Whether U.S. participation in an international undertaking would be warranted. b. The general nature of the contributions which the United States, with other friendly governments, might be prepared to make. 24. A cessation of hostilities in Korea would greatly increase the logistical capability of the Chinese Communists to support military operations in Indochina. A Korean peace would have an even more decisive effect in increasing Chinese air capabilities in that area. Recent intelligence reports indicate increased Chinese Communist military activity in the Indochinese border area. If the Chinese Communists directly intervene with large forces over and above those introduced as individuals or in small units, the French would probably be driven back to a beachhead around Haiphong. The French should be able to hold this beachhead for only a limited time at best in the absence of timely and substantial outside support. 25. In view of the world-wide reaction to overt aggression in Korea, Communist China may prefer to repeat in Indochina the method of “volunteer” intervention. Inasmuch as the French do not control the border between China and Indochina nor large areas north of Hanoi, it may be difficult to detect the extent of preparation for such intervention. It is important to U.S. security interests to maintain the

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closest possible consultation with the French Government on the buildup of Chinese Communist intervention in Indochina. The Government of France has agreed to consult with the United States before it requests UN or other international action to oppose Chinese Communist aggression in Indochina in order that the two countries may jointly evaluate the extent of Chinese Communist intervention. 26. If it is thus determined that Chinese Communist forces (including volunteers) have overtly intervened in the conflict in Indochina, or are covertly participating to such an extent as to jeopardize retention of the Tonkin Delta by the French forces, the United States should support the French to the greatest extent possible, preferably under the auspices of the UN. It is by no means certain that an appropriate UN resolution could be obtained. Favorable action in the UN would depend upon a change in the attitude of those governments which view the present regime in Indochina as a continuation of French colonialism. A new communist aggression might bring about a reassessment of the situation on the part of these governments and an increased recognition of the danger. Accordingly, it is believed that a UN resolution to oppose the aggression could be passed in the General Assembly by a small margin. 27. Even if it is not possible to obtain a UN resolution in such a case, the United States should seek the maximum possible international support for and participation in any international collective action in support of France and the Associated States. The United States should take appropriate military action against Communist China as part of a UN collective action or in conjunction with France and the United Kingdom and other friendly governments. However, in the absence of such support, it is highly unlikely that the United States would act unilaterally. It is probable however, that the United States would find some support and token participation at least from the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. 28. The U.S. forces which would be committed, and the manner of their employment, as well as the military equipment which could be furnished to bolster the French Union forces, would be dependent upon certain factors which cannot now be predicted with accuracy. These include the extent of progress in U.S. rearmament, whether or not hostilities in Korea were continuing, and strategic developments in other parts of the world. It would be desirable to

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avoid the use of major U.S. ground forces in Indochina. Other effective means of opposing the aggression would include naval, air and logistical support of the French Union forces, naval blockade of Communist China, and attacks by land- and carrier-based aircraft on military targets in Communist China. The latter could be effective against the long, tenuous, and vulnerable supply lines by which Chinese operations in Indochina would have to be supported. In the event of a forced evacuation, U.S. forces might provide cover and assistance. United Kingdom participation in these measures might well result in the seizure of Hong Kong by the Chinese Communists. 29. It is recognized that the commitment of U.S. military forces against Commuinist China would: (a) increase the risk of general hostilities in the Far East, including Soviet participation under cover of the existing Sino-Soviet agreements; (b) involve U.S. military forces in another Asiatic peripheral action, thus detracting from U.S. capabilities to conduct a global war in the near future; (c) arouse public opposition to “another Korea”; and (d) imply willingness to use U.S. military forces in other critical areas subject to communist aggression. Nevertheless, by failing to take action, the United States would permit the communists to obtain, at little or no cost, a victory of major world consequence. 30. Informed public opinion might support use of U.S. forces in Indochina regardless of sentiment against “another Korea” on the basis that: (a) Indochina is of far greater strategic importance than Korea; (b) the confirmation of UN willingness to oppose aggression with force, demonstrated at such a high ost in Korea, might be nullified by the failure to commit UN forces in Indochina; and (c) a second instance of aggression by the Chinese Communists would justify measures not subject to the limitations imposed upon the UN iction in Korea. 31. The military action contemplated herein would constitute, in effect, a war against Communist China which would be limited only as to its objectives, but would not be subject to any geographic limitations. Employment of U.S. forces in a de facto war without a formal declaration would raise questions which would make it desirable to consult with key members of both parties in Congress in order to obtain their prior concurrence in the courses of action contemplated.

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Part II

1953–1954

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Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the Navarre Concept for Operations in Indochina 28 August 1953

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

Subject: The Navarre Concept for Operations in Indochina.

1. In a memorandum for you, dated 21 April 1953, subject: “Proposed French Strategic Plan for the Successful Conclusion of the War in Indochina,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff pointed out certain weaknesses in the LeTourneau-Allard plan, but felt that it was workable. During the visit of the U.S. Joint Military Mission to Indochina, Lieutenant General Navarre submitted in writing to Lieutenant General O’Daniel, Chief of the Mission, a paper entitled “Principles for the Conduct of the War in Indochina” appended hereto, which appears to correct these weaknesses and which presents a marked improvement in French military thinking concerning operations in Indochina. 59

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2. In his report Lieutenant General O’Daniel stated that, in his ­opinion, the new French command in Indochina will accomplish under the Navarre concept the decisive defeat of the Viet Minh by 1955 and that the addition of two or more French divisions from outside of Indochina would expedite this defeat. Additions other than in divisional organization would be in error since it is the divisional team, with its combat proven effectiveness, which is sorely needed in Indochina. Lieutenant General O’Daniel further reported that French military leaders were most cooperative with the mission, that several agreements were accomplished to improve the effectiveness of the proposed military operations, and that repeated invitations were extended to the U.S. mission to return in a few months to witness the progress the French will have made. 3. Based on past performances by the French, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have reservations in predicting actual results which can be expected pending additional proof by demonstration of continued French support and by further French performance in Indochina. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that a basic requirement for military success in Indochina is one of creating a political climate in that country which will provide the incentive for natives to support the French and supply them with adequate intelligence which is vital to the successful conduct of operations in Indochina. If this is accomplished and if the Navarre concept is vigorously pursued militarily in Indochina and given wholehearted political support in France, it does offer a promise of military success sufficient to warrant appropriate additional U.S. aid required to assist. U.S. support of the Navarre concept should be based on needs of the French Union Forces in Indochina for additional equipment necessary to implement the organization of the “Battle Corps” envisaged by the Navarre concept and necessary support of the planned expansion of indigenous forces, such needs to be screened by the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Indochina. In addition, to improve the chances of success, this support should include continued close liaison and coordination with French military authorities together with friendly but firm encouragement and advice where indicated. 4. In furtherance of the O’Daniel Mission the Joint Chiefs of Staff are receiving Progress Reports from Indochina. Information received

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from Indochina indicates the French are not pursuing agreements reached between General O’Daniel and General Navarre (including the Navarre concept) as vigorously as expected by General O’Daniel and as contemplated by him in his report. Progress reports state that (a) the French have “no plans for a general fall offensive beyond limited objective operations designed to keep the enemy off balance,” (b) reorganization into regiments and ­division-size units “is still in the planning stages,” (c) there is “no sense of urgency in the training of senior Vietnamese commanders and staff officers,” (d) the organization of a training command is  awaiting the solution of “political problems” and (e) the “­organization of the amphibious plan has not gone beyond the planning stages.” 5. In light of the apparent slowness of the French in following up the Navarre concept and other agreements reached between General Navarre and General O’Daniel, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that additional U.S. support should be conditioned upon continued implementation of French support, demonstration of French intent by actual performance in Indochina, and continued French willingness to receive and act upon U.S. military advice. Further, the French should be urged at all levels to support and vigorously prosecute the Navarre concept to the maximum extent of their capabilities. For The Joint Chiefs of Staff: ARTHUR RADFORD, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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Joint Franco-American Communique, Additional United States Aid for France and Indochina September 30, 1953

T

he forces of France and the Associated States in Indochina have for 8 years been engaged in a bitter struggle to prevent the engulfment of Southeast Asia by the forces of international communism. The heroic efforts and sacrifices of these French Union allies in assuring the liberty of the new and independent states of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam has earned the admiration and support of the free world. In recognition of the French Union effort the United States Government has in the past furnished aid of various kinds to the Governments of France and the Associated States to assist in bringing the long struggle to an early and victorious conclusion. The French Government is firmly resolved to carry out in full its declaration of July 3, 1953, by which is announced its intention of perfecting the independence of the three Associated States in Indochina, through negotiations with the Associated States. The Governments of France and the United States have now agreed that, in support of plans of the French Government for the intensified prosecution of the war against the Viet Minh, the United States will make available to the French Government prior to December 31, 1954 ­additional financial resources not to exceed $385 million. This aid is in addition to funds already earmarked by the United States for aid to France and the Associated States. 63

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The French Government is determined to make every effort to break up and destroy the regular enemy forces in Indochina. Toward this end the government intends to carry through, in close cooperation with the Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Governments, the plans for increasing the Associated States forces while increasing temporarily French forces to levels considered necessary to assure the success of existing military plans. The additional United States aid is designed to help make it possible to achieve these objectives with maximum speed and effectiveness. The increased French effort in Indochina will not entail any basic or permanent alteration of the French Government’s plans and programs for its NATO forces.

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US, National Security Council, NSC 5405, “United States Objectives and Courses of Action With Respect to Southeast Asia” 16 January 1954

NSC 5405 January 16, 1954 NOTE BY THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY to the NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL on UNITED STATES OBJECTIVES AND COURSES OF ACTION WITH RESPECT TO SOUTHEAST ASIA References: A. NSC 177 B. NSC Action Nos. 897, 1005 and 1011 C. Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated January 12, 1954 D. NSC 124/2 E. NSC 171/1 F. NIE-63/1 and SE-53 The National Security Council, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Director, Bureau of the Budget, at the 180th Council meeting on January 14, 1954 adopted the statement of policy contained in NSC 177, 65

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subject to the deletion of the last sentence of paragraph 1-a thereof and to the deletion of paragraph 46 (NSC Action No. 1011-a). In connection with this action the Council also agreed that the Director of Central Intelligence, in collaboration with other appropriate departments and agencies, should develop plans, as suggested by the Secretary of State, for certain contingencies in Indochina. The Council at its meeting on January 8, 1954, in connection with its preliminary consideration of NSC 177 also (NSC Action No. 1005-c and d):

a. Agreed that Lieutenant General John Wilson O’Daniel should be stationed continuously in Indochina, under appropriate liaison arrangements and with sufficient authority to expedite the flexible provision of U.S. assistance to the French Union forces. b. Requested the Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Central Intelligence Agency, urgently to study and report to the Council all feasible further steps, short of the overt use of U.S. forces in combat, which the United States might take to assist in achieving the success of the “Laniel-Navarre” Plan.

The President has this date approved the statement of policy contained in NSC 177, as amended and adopted by the Council and enclosed herewith as NSC 5405; directs its implementation by all appropriate executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government; and designates the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency. A financial appendix is enclosed for Council information. Accordingly those portions of NSC 124/2 not previously superseded by NSC 171/1 are superseded by the enclosed statement of policy. The enclosure does not supersede the current NSC policy on Indonesia contained in NSC 171/1. JAMES S. LAY, JR. Executive Secretary cc. The Secretary of the Treasury The Director, Bureau of the Budget The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff The Director of Central Intelligence

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STATEMENT OF POLICY by the NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL on UNITED STATES OBJECTIVES AND COURSES OF ACTION WITH RESPECT TO SOUTHEAST ASIA* I. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS



1. Communist domination, by whatever means, of all Southeast Asia would seriously endanger in the short term, and critically endanger in the longer term, United States security interests. a. In the conflict in Indochina, the Communist and non-Communist worlds clearly confront one another on the field of battle. The lost of the struggle in Indochina, in addition to its impact in Southeast Asia and in South Asia, would therefore have the most serious repercussions on U. S. and free world interests in Europe and elsewhere. b. Such is the interrelation of the countries of the area that effective counteraction would be immediately necessary to prevent the loss of any single country from leading to submission to or an alignment with communism by the remaining countries of Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Furthermore, in the event all of Southeast Asia falls under communism, an alignment with communism of India, and in the longer term, of the Middle East (with the probable exceptions of at least Pakistan and Turkey) could follow progressively. Such widespread alignment would seriously endanger the stability and security of Europe. c. Communist control of all of Southeast Asia and Indonesia would threaten the U.S. position in the Pacific offshore island chain and would seriously jeopardize fundamental U.S. security interests in the Far East. d. The loss of Southeast Asia would have serious economic consequences for many nations of the free world and conversely would add significant resources to the Soviet bloc. Southeast

* Southeast Asia is used herein to mean the area embracing Burma, Thailand, Indochina and Malaya. Indonesia is the subject of a separate paper (NSC 171/1).

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Asia, especially Malaya and Indonesia, is the principal world source of natural rubber and tin, and a producer of petroleum and other strategically important commodities. The rice exports of Burma, Indochina and Thailand are critically important to Malaya, Ceylon and Hong Kong and are of considerable significance to Japan and India, all important areas of free Asia. Furthermore, this area has an important potential as a market for the industrialized countries of the free world. e. The loss of Southeast Asia, especially of Malaya and Indonesia, could result in such economic and political pressures in Japan as to make it extremely difficult to prevent Japan’s eventual accommodation to communism. 2. The danger of an overt military attack against Southeast Asia is inherent in the existence of a hostile and aggressive Communist China. The use of U.S. forces to oppose such an attack would require diversion of military strength from other areas, thus reducing our military capability in those areas, as well as over-all, with the recognized military risks involved therein, or an increase in our military forces in being, or both. Toward deterring such an attack, the U.S. Government has engaged in consultations with France and the United Kingdom on the desirability of issuing to Communist China a joint warning as to the consequences to Communist China of aggression in Southeast Asia. Although these consultations have not achieved a full measure of agreement a warning to Communist China has in fact been issued, particularly as to Indochina, in a number of public statements. (See Annex A  for texts.) [Words illegible] Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand in military talks on measures which might be taken in the event of overt Chinese Communist aggression against Indochina. 3. However, overt Chinese Communist attack on any part of Southeast Asia is less probable than continued communist efforts to achieve domination through armed rebellion or subversion. By far the most urgent threat to Southeast Asia arises from the strong possibility that even without overt Chinese Communist intervention the situation in Indochina may deteriorate anew as a result of weakening of the resolve of France and the Associated States of Indochina to continue to oppose the Viet Minh rebellion, the military strength of which is increased by virtue of aid furnished

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by the Chinese Communist and Soviet regimes. Barring overt Chinese Communist intervention or further serious deterioration in Indochina, the outlook in Burma, Thailand, and Malaya offers opportunities for some improvement in internal stability and in the control of indigenous communist forces. 4. The successful defense of Tonkin is the keystone of the defense of mainland Southeast Asia except possibly Malaya. In addition to the profound political and psychological factors involved, the retention of Tonkin in friendly hands cuts off the most feasible routes for any massive southward advance towards central and Southern Indochina and Thailand. The execution of U.S. courses of action with respect to individual countries of the area may vary depending upon the route of communist advance into Southeast Asia. 5. Since 1951 the United States has greatly increased all forms of assistance to the French in Indochina, particularly military aid, and has consulted continuously with France with a view to assuring effective use of this aid. Partly as a result of these efforts, French resumption of the initiative under the “LanielNavarre Plan” has checked at least temporarily deterioration of the French will to continue the struggle. Concurrently the French have moved toward perfecting the independence of the Associated States within the French Union. In September 1953 the United States decided to extend an additional $385 million in aid, in return for a number of strong French assurances, including a commitment that the French would vigorously carry forward the “Laniel-Navarre Plan,” with the object of eliminating regular enemy forces in Indochina, and on the understanding that if the “Laniel-Navarre Plan” were not executed, the United States would retain the right to terminate this additional assistance. (See NSC Action No. 897, Annex B) 6. The French objective in these efforts is to terminate the war as soon as possible so as to reduce the drain of the Indochina war on France and permit the maintenance of a position for France in the Far East. By a combination of military victories and political concessions to the Associated States, France hopes to strengthen these States to the point where they will be able to maintain themselves against Communist pressures with greatly reduced French aid. In the absence of a change in basic French attitudes,

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the Laniel-Navarre Plan may be the last French major offensive effort in Indochina. There is not in sight any desirable alternative to the success of a Franco-Vietnamese effort along the lines of the “Laniel-Navarre” Plan. 7. Notwithstanding the commitment and intent of the Laniel Government to seek destruction of Viet Minh regular forces, a successor French Government might well accept an improvement in the military position short of this as a basis for serious negotiation within the next year. Political pressures in France prevent any French Government from rejecting the concept of negotiations. If the Laniel-Navarre Plan fails or appears doomed to failure, the French might seek to negotiate simply for the best possible terms, irrespective of whether these offered any assurance of preserving a non-Communist Indochina. With continued U.S. economic and material assistance, the Franco-Vietnamese forces are not in danger of being militarily defeated by the Viet Minh unless there is large-scale Chinese Communist intervention. In any event, apart from the possibility of bilateral negotiations with the Communists, the French will almost ­certainly continue to seek international discussion of the Indochina issue. 8. The Chinese Communists will almost certainly continue their present type of support for Viet Minh. They are unlikely to intervene with organized units even if the Viet Minh are threatened with defeat by the Franco-Vietnamese forces. In the event the United States participates in the fighting, there is a substantial risk that the Chinese Communists would intervene. The Communists may talk of peace negotiations for propaganda purposes and to divide the anti-Communists believing that any political negotiations and any settlement to which they would agree would increase their chances of eventually gaining control of Indochina. 9. Actions designed to achieve our objectives in Southeast Asia require sensitive selection and application, on the one hand to assure the optimum efficiency through coordination of measures for the general area, and on the other, to accommodate to the greatest practicable extent to the individual sensibilities of the several governments, social classes and minorities of the area.

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II. OBJECTIVE

10. To prevent the countries of Southeast Asia from passing into the communist orbit; to persuade them that their best interests lie in greater cooperation and stronger affiliations with the rest of the free world; and to assist them to develop toward stable, free governments with the will and ability to resist communism from within and without and to contribute to the strengthening of the free world. III. COURSES OF ACTION A. Southeast Asia in General

11. Demonstrate to the indigenous governments that their best interests lie in greater cooperation and closer affiliation with the nations of the free world. 12. Continue present programs of limited economic and technical assistance designed to strengthen the indigenous non-communist governments of the area and expand such programs according to the calculated advantage of such aid to the U.S. world position. 13. Encourage the countries of Southeast Asia to cooperate with, and restore and expand their commerce with, each other and the rest of the free world, particularly Japan, and stimulate the flow of raw material resources of the area to the free world. 14. Continue to make clear, to the extent possible in agreement with other nations including France, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, the grave consequences to Communist China of aggression against Southeast Asia and continue current military consultations to determine the military requirements for countering such Chinese Communist aggression. 15. Strengthen, as appropriate, covert operations designed to assist in the achievement of U.S. objectives in Southeast Asia. 16. Continue activities and operations designed to encourage the overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia: (a) to organize and activate anti-communist groups and activities within their own communities; (b) to resist the effects of parallel pro-communist groups and activities; (c) generally, to increase their orientation toward the free world; and, (d) consistent with their obligations and primary allegiance to their local governments, to extend

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s­ ympathy and support to the Chinese National Government as a symbol of Chinese political resistance and as a link in the defense against communist expansion in Asia. 17. Take measures to promote the coordinated defense of Southeast Asia, recognizing that the initiative in regional defense measures must come from the governments of the area. 18. Encourage and support the spirit of resistance among the peoples of Southeast Asia to Chinese Communist aggression, to indigenous Communist insurrection, subversion, infiltration, political manipulations, and propaganda. 19. Strengthen propaganda and cultural activities, as appropriate, in relation to the area to foster increaased alignment of the people with the free world. 20. Make clear to the American people the importance of Southeast Asia to the security of the United States so that they may be prepared for any of the courses of action proposed herein.

B. Indochina In the Absence of Chinese Communist Aggression

21. Without relieving France of its basic responsibility for the defense of the Associated States, expedite the provision of, and if necessary increase, aid to the French Union forces, under the terms of existing commitments, to assist them in: a. An aggressive military, political and psychological program, including covert operations, to eliminate organized Viet Minh forces by mid-1955. b. Developing indigenous armed forces, including independent logistical and administrative services, which will eventually be capable of maintaining internal security without assistance from French units. Toward this end, exert all feasible influence to improve the military capabilities of the French Union-Associated States forces, including improved training of local forces, effective command and intelligence arrangements, and the reposing of increased responsibility on local military leaders.

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22. Continue to assure France that: (1) the United States is aware that the French effort in Indochina is vital to the preservation of the French Union and of great strategic importance to the security of the free world; (2) the United States is fully aware of the sacrifices France is making; and (3) U.S. support will continue so long as France continues to carry out its primary responsibility in Indochina. 23. Encourage further steps by both France and the Associated States to produce a working relationship based on equal sovereignty within the general framework of the French Union. These steps should take into account France’s primary responsibility for the defense of Indochina. a. Support the development of more effective and stable governments in the Associated States, thus making possible the reduction of French participation in the affairs of the States. b. Urge the French to organize their administration and representation in Indochina with a view to increasing the feeling of responsibility on the part of the Associated States. c. Seek to persuade the Associated States that it is not in their best interest to undermine the French position by making untimely demands. d. Cooperate with the French and the Associated States in publicizing progress toward achieving the foregoing policies. 24. Continue to promote international recognition and support for the Associated States. 25. Employ every feasible means to influence the French government and people against any conclusion of the struggle on terms inconsistent with basic U.S. objectives. In doing so, the United States should make clear: a. The effect on the position of France itself in North Africa, in Europe, and as a world power. b. The free world stake in Indochina. c. The impact of the loss of Indochina upon the over-all strategy of France’s free world partners.

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548 304 333 287 2 * — — 88 42.5 46.0 45.0 — —

969.7 839.5 1,159.5 713.5 18.6 4.5 0.5 0.5 102.7 49.5 53.0 52.0 0.7 0.5

FY 1950-53

FY 1954 FY 1955 FY 1956 Burma FY 1950-53 FY 1954 FY 1955 FY 1956 Thailand FY 1950-53 FY 1954 FY 1955 FY 1956 Malaya FY 1950-53 FY 1954

Indochina

1 Total

— —

— — — —

— — — —

400-500 750-800 400-500

375

— —

13 7    7 fn5    7 fn5

16 4 — —

25 25 25

46

— —

1 — — —

— — — —

— — —



4 2 3 Technical and 5 MDAP and Financial SupEconomic Technical and Common-use port Through Assistance: Economic Programs fn1 France Grant Assistance: Loan

— — — — — — —

    0.7 fn3 0.5 1.0 1.0     p.7 fn3 0.5

fn4

fn4



— — —



7 Other fn2

0.6 0.5 0.5 0.5

0.5 1.5 1.5

0.7

6 Information Activities

FINANCIAL APPENDIX POLICY ALTERNATIVE: NO CHINESE COMMUNIST AGGRESSION Estimated Expenditures in Connection with US Courses of Action in Southeast Asia (millions of Dollars)

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75

— — 639 346 331 331

0.5 0.5 1,092.7 894.0 1,213.5 766.5

75 36 32 32

— — 1 — — —

— —

— — — — — —

0.5 0.5    2.7 fn3 2.0 3.5 3.5

1. MDAP and Common-use Programs (Col. 2) expenditures assume a) elimination of organized resistance by June 1955; b) a period of pacification extending for approximately another year; c) a continuance of US assistance for the duration of the major military operations at approximately the same rate as in FY 1954. 2. Financial Support through France (Col. 3) expenditures for FY 1950-53 reflect staff estimates of amounts of aid to France which is attributable to Indochina. 3. Economic Assistance (Col. 4) includes no specific estimates for rehabilitation on the assumption that such costs could be offset against reduced military expenditures. 4. Informational Activities (Col 5) are assumed to continue in FY 1956 at a relatively stable rate. 5. Other (see footnotes 2 and 3 to table).

375 400-500 750-800 400-500

— —

* Less than $500 thousand fn1. Represents value of end item shipments plus expenditures for packing, handling, ­crating and transportation, training and common-use items fn2. Estimated costs of covert-operations not available fn3. FY 1953 only fn4. Estimated Costs to the US of evacuation of Chinese troops from Burma not available fn5. Additional expenditures of approximately $2.0 million in 1955 and $3.0 million in 1956 might be generated by a proposed road program currently under consideration









Indochina

PERTINENT ASSUMPTIONS

FY 1955 FY 1956 Total FY 1950-53 FY 1954 FY 1955 FY 1956

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26. Reiterate to the French: a. That in the absence of a marked improvement in the military situation there is no basis for negotiation with any prospect for acceptable terms. b. That a nominally non-Communist coalition regime would eventually turn the country over to Ho Chi Minh with no opportunity for the replacement of the French by the United States or the United Kingdom. 27. Flatly oppose any idea of a cease-fire as a preliminary to negotiations, because such a cease-fire would result in an irretrievable deterioration of the Franco-Vietnamese military position in Indochina. 28. If it appears necessary, insist that the French consult the Vietnamese and obtain their approval of all actions related to any response to Viet Minh offers to negotiate. 29. If the French actually enter into negotiations with the communists, insist that the United States be consulted and seek to influence the course of the negotiations. 30. In view of the possibility of large-scale Chinese Communist intervention, and in order that the United States may be prepared to take whatever action may be appropriate in such circumstances, continue to keep current the plans necessary to carry out the courses of action indicated in paragraphs 31 and 32 below. In addition, seek UK and French advance agreement in principle that a naval blockade of Communist China should be included in the courses of military action set forth in paragraph 31 below. In the Event of Chinese Communist Intervention 31. If the United States, France and the Associated States determine that Chinese Communist forces (including volunteers) have overtly intervened in Indochina, or are covertly participating so as to jeopardize holding the Tonkin delta area, the United States (following consultation with France, the Associated States, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand) should take the following measures to assist French Union forces to repel the aggression, to hold Indochina and to restore its security and peace: a. Support a request by France or the Associated States that the United Nations take immediate actions, including a resolution

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that Communist China had committed an aggression and a recommendation that member states take whatever action may be necessary, without geographic limitation, to assist France and the Associated States to meet such aggression. b. Whether or not the United Nations so acts, seek the maximum international support for participation in military courses of action required by the situation. c. Carry out the following minimum courses of military action, either under UN auspices or as part of a joint effort with France, the UK, and any other friendly governments: (1) Provide, as may be practicable, air and naval assistance for a resolute defense of Indochina itself; calling upon France and the Associated States to provide ground forces. (2) Provide the major forces to interdict Chinese Communist communication lines, including those in China; calling upon the UK and France to provide token forces and such other assistance as is normal among allies. (3) Provide logistical support to other participating nations as may be necessary. d. Take the following additional actions, if appropriate to the situation: (1) If agreed pursuant to paragraph 30 above, establish jointly with the UK and France a naval blockade of Communist China. (2) Intensify covert operations to aid guerrilla forces against Communist China and to interfere with and disrupt Chinese Communist lines of communication. (3) Utilize, as desirable and feasible, Chinese National forces in military operations in Southeast Asia, Korea, or China proper. (4) Assist the British in Hong Kong, as desirable and feasible. (5) Evacuate French Union civil and military personnel from the Tonkin delta, if required. 32. a. If, after taking the actions outlined in paragraph 31-c above, the United States, the UK and France determine jointly that expanded military action against Communist China is necessary, the United States, in conjunction with at least France and the UK, should take air and naval action against all suitable

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military targets in China which directly contribute to the war in Indochina, avoiding insofar as practicable targets near the USSR boundaries. b. If the UK and France do not agree to such expanded military action, the United States should consider taking such action unilaterally. 33. If action is taken under paragraph 32, the United States should recognize that it may become involved in an all-out war with Communist China, and possibly with the USSR and the rest of the Soviet bloc, and should therefore proceed to take large-scale mobilization measures.

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Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles to Dillon and Aldrich on Conversations with the French 3 April 1954

SENT TO: AMEMBASSY PARIS 3476 AMEMBASSY LONDON 5175 EYES ONLY DILLON AND ALDRICH FYI Following are main points made by Secretary in long conversation with Bonnet this morning.



1) We see no prospect of negotiated settlement at Geneva which does not boil down to one of following alternatives: (a) Face-saving formula to cover surrender of French Union forces, or (b) Face-saving formula to cover surrender of Viet Minh. 2) Division of Indochina impractical. QUOTE Mixed UNQUOTE ­government would be beginning of disaster. Both would lead to (a). 3) In addition to consequences in Southeast Asia solution (a) would create gravest difficulties for France in Europe and North Africa. Future of France as great power is at stake. 79

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4) If we are strong and resolute enough to make Chinese Communists see clearly that their conquest of Southeast Asia will not be permitted without danger of extending war they may desist and accept (b). 5) This requires strong coalition of nations (U.S., France, Associated States, UK., Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Philippines) who will recognize threat to their vital interests in area and will be prepared to fight if necessary. This presupposes continuation of French military effort in Indochina. 6) If coalition established U.S. would play its full part. 7) Establishment and announcement of coalition should precede Geneva in order permit us to go there with position of strength. 8) Although UN action not excluded and UN would in any event need to be notified in some formal way, we probably could not count on it. (Soviet veto in SC and long drawn debate in Assembly.) 9) Formal approach to other governments will depend on French desires. 10) Bonnet said he would report immediately to his Government and seek their views. DULLES

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President Eisenhower’s News Conference February 10, 1954

*** Q. Daniel Shorr, CBS Radio: Mr. President, should your remarks on Indochina be construed as meaning that you are determined not to become involved or, perhaps, more deeply involved in the war in Indochina, regardless of how that war may go? THE PRESIDENT: Well, I am not going to try to predict the drift of world events now and the course of world events over the next months. I say that I cannot conceive of a greater tragedy for America than to get heavily involved now in an all-out war in any of those regions, particularly with large units. So what we are doing is supporting the Vietnamese and the French in their conduct of that war; because, as we see it, it is a case of ­independent and free nations operating against the encroachment of communism.

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President Eisenhower’s News Conference April 7, 1954

*** Q. Robert Richards, Copley Press: Mr. President, would you mind ­commenting on the strategic importance of Indochina to the free world? I think there has been, across the country, some lack of understanding on just what it means to us. THE PRESIDENT: You have, of course, both the specific and the general when you talk about such things. First of all, you have the specific value of a locality in its production of materials that the world needs. Then you have the possibility that many human beings pass under a dictatorship that is inimical to the free world. Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the ‘falling domino’ principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences. Now, with respect to the first one, two of the items from this particular area that the world uses are tin and tungsten. They are very important. There are others, of course, the rubber plantations and so on. Then with respect to more people passing under this domination, Asia, after all, has already lost some 450 million of its peoples to the Communist dictatorship, and we simply can’t afford greater losses. But when we come to the possible sequence of events, the loss of Indochina, of Burma, of Thailand, of the Peninsula, and Indonesia 83

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f­ ollowing, now you begin to talk about areas that not only multiply the disadvantages that you would suffer through loss of materials, sources of materials, but now you are talking really about millions and millions and millions of people. Finally, the geographical position achieved thereby does many things. It turns the so-called island defensive chain of Japan, Formosa, of the Philippines and to the southward; it moves in to threaten Australia and New Zealand. It takes away, in its economic aspects, that region that Japan must have as a trading area or Japan, in turn, will have only one place in the world to go- that is, toward the Communist areas in order to live. So, the possible consequences of the loss are just incalculable to the free world. *** Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, do you agree with Senator Kennedy that independence must be guaranteed the people of Indochina in order to justify an all-out effort there? THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t know, of course, exactly in what way a Senator was talking about this thing. I will say this: for many years, in talking to different countries, ­different governments, I have tried to insist on this principle: no outside country can come in and be really helpful unless it is doing something that the local people want. Now, let me call your attention to this independence theory. Senator Lodge, on my instructions, stood up in the United Nations and offered one country independence if they would just simply pass a resolution saying they wanted it, or at least said, ‘I would work for it.’ They didn’t accept it. So I can’t say that the associated states want independence in the sense that the United States is independent. I do not know what they want. “I do say this: the aspirations of those people must be met, otherwise there is in the long run no final answer to the problem. Q. Joseph Dear, Capital Times: Do you favor bringing this Indochina situation before the United Nations? THE PRESIDENT: I really can’t say. I wouldn’t want to comment at too great a length at this moment, but I do believe this: this is the kind of thing that must not be handled by one nation trying to act alone.

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President Eisenhower’s News Conference May 12, 1954

*** Q. George Herman, CBS Radio: Mr. President, since we seem to be going into the past, a few weeks ago you told us of your theory of dominoes about Indochina, the neck of the bottle— THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Q. Mr. Herman: Since the fall of Dien Bien Phu, there has been a certain amount of talk of doing without Indochina. Would you tell us your administration’s position; is it still indispensable to the defense of southeast Asia? THE PRESIDENT: Again I forget whether it was before this body I talked about the cork and the bottle. Well, it is very important, and the great idea of setting up an organism is so as to defeat the domino result. When, each standing alone, one falls, it has the effect on the next, and finally the whole row is down. You are trying, through a unifying influence, to build that row of dominoes so they can stand the fall of one, if necessary. Now, so far as I am concerned, I don’t think the free world ought to write off Indochina. I think we ought to all look at this thing with some optimism and some determination. I repeat that long faces and defeatism don’t win battles. ***

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US, National Security Council, Action No. 1074-a, on possible US intervention in Indochina 5 April 1954

SPECIAL SECURITY PRECAUTIONS

April 5, 1954 NSC ACTION NO. 1074-a (Revision of Report distributed April 3) Problem



1. To analyze the extent to which, and the circumstances and conditions under which, the United States would be willing to commit its resources in support of the effort to prevent the loss of Indochina to the Communists, in concert with the French or in concert with others or, if necessary, unilaterally.

Issues Involved



2. The answer to this problem involves four issues: a. Will Indochina be lost to the Communists unless the United States commits combat resources in some form? 87

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b. What are the risks, requirements and consequences of alternative forms of U.S. military intervention? c. Should the United States adopt one of these forms of intervention rather than allow Indochina to be lost to the Communists and if so which alternative should it choose? d. When and under what circumstances should this decision be taken and carried into effect? Prospect of Loss of Indochina



3. The first issue turns on whether the French Union can and will prevent the loss of Indochina and what further actions, if any, the United States can take to bolster or assist the French effort. Some of these questions were covered by the Report of the Special Committee of March 17, 1954. Others are matters of continuous intelligence estimates. At the present time there is clearly a possibility that a trend in the direction of the loss of Indochina to Communist control may become irreversible over the next year in the absence of greater U.S. participation. There is not, however, any certainty that the French have as yet reached the point of being willing to accept a settlement which is unacceptable to U.S. interests or to cease their military efforts. Moreover, regardless of the outcome of the fight at Dienbienphu, there is no indication that a military decision in Indochina is imminent. It is clear that the United States should undertake a maximum diplomatic effort to cause the French and Associated States to continue the fight to a successful conclusion.

Risks, Requirements, and Consequences of U.S. Intervention



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4. The attached Annex addresses itself to the second issue: The risks, requirements and consequences of certain alternative forms of U.S. military intervention. In order to permit analysis of military requirements and allied and hostile reactions, this annex assumes that there will be either: (1) a French and Associated States invitation to the United States to participate militarily; or (2) an Associated States invitation to the United States after a French

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decision to withdraw, and French willingness to cooperate in phasing out French forces as U.S. forces are phased in. If neither of these assumptions proved valid the feasibility of U.S. intervention would be vitiated. If the French, having decided on withdrawal and a negotiated settlement, should oppose U.S. intervention and should carry the Associated States with them in such opposition, U.S. intervention in Indochina would in effect be precluded. If, after a French decision to withdraw, the Associated States should appeal for U.S. military assistance but the French decided not to cooperate in the phasing in of U.S. forces, a successful U.S. intervention would be very difficult. Desirability and Form of U.S. Intervention



5. The third issue is whether the United States should intervene with combat forces rather than allow Indochina to be lost to the Communists, and which alternative it should select? a. U.S. commitment of combat forces would involve strain on the basic western coalition, increased risk of war with China and of general war, high costs in U.S. manpower and money, and possible adverse domestic political repercusions. Moreover, the United States would be undertaking a commitment which it would have to carry through to victory. In whatever form it might intervene, the U.S. would have to take steps at the outset to guard against the risks inherent in intervention. On the other hand, under the principles laid down in NSC 5405, it is essential to U.S. security that Indochina should not fall under Communist control. b. Of the alternative courses of action described in the Annex, Course A or B has these advantages over Course C. Neither Course A or B depends on the initial use of U.S. ground forces. For this reason alone, they obviously would be much more acceptable to the American public. For the same reason, they would initially create a less serious drain on existing U.S. military forces. But either Course A or B may turn out to be ineffective without the eventual commitment of U.S. ground forces.

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c. A political obstacle to Course A or Course B lies in the fact that the present French effort is considered by many in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world as essentially colonial or imperialist in character. If the United States joined its combat forces in the Indochina conflict, it would be most important to attempt to counteract or modify the present view of this struggle. This would also be essential in order to mobilize maximum support for the war within Indochina. d. An advantage of Course B over Course A lies in the association of the Asian States in the enterprise which would help to counteract the tendency to view Indochina as a colonial action. There would be advantages in Course B also in that U.S. ­opinion would be more favorable if the other free nations and the Asian nations were also taking part and bearing their fair share of the burden. e. As between UN and regional support it appears that regional grouping would be preferable to UN action, on the ground that UN support would be far more difficult to get and less likely to remain solid until the desired objective was reached. 6. In order to make feasible any regional grouping, it will be essential for the United States to define more clearly its own objectives with respect to any such action. In particular, it would be important to make perfectly clear that this action is not intended as a first step of action to destroy or overthrow Communist China. If the other members of a potential regional grouping thought that we had such a broad objective, they would doubtless be hesitant to join in it. The Western powers would not want to increase the risks of general war which would, in their opinion, flow from any such broad purpose. The Asian countries would be equally reluctant to engage in any such broad activity. Both groups would doubtless want to make very clear that we object essentially to the expansionist tendencies of Communist China and that, if those ceased, we would not go further in attempting to carry on military activities in the Far East. Furthermore, to attract the participation of Asian States in a regional grouping, the United States would undoubtedly have to undertake lasting commitments for their defense.

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Timing and Circumstances of Decision to Intervene with U.S. Combat Forces





7. The timing of the disclosure or implementation of any U.S. decision to intervene in Indochina would be of particular importance. a. In the absence of serious military deterioration in Indochina, it is unlikely that France will agree to the arrangements envisaged in Alternatives A, B, or C in light of the hopes widely held in France and elsewhere that an acceptable settlement can be achieved. b. On the other hand, inaction until after exhaustive discussions at Geneva, without any indication of U.S. intentions, would tend to increase the chance of the French government and people settling, or accepting the inevitability of settling, on unacceptable terms. Hints of possible U.S. participation would tend to  fortify French firmness, but might also tend to induce the Communists to put forward more acceptable terms. c. On balance, it appears that the United States should now reach a decision whether or not to intervene with combat forces, if that is necessary to save Indochina from Communist control, and, tentatively, the form and conditions of any such ­intervention. The timing for communication to the French of such decision, or for its implementation, should be decided in the light of future developments. 8. If the United States should now decide to intervene at some stage, the United States should now take these steps: a. Obtain Congressional approval of intervention. b. Initiate planning of the military and mobilization measures to enable intervention. c. Make publicized U.S. military moves designed to make the ­necessary U.S. air and naval forces readily available for use on short notice. d. Make maximum diplomatic efforts to make it clear, as rapidly as possible, that no acceptable settlement can be reached in the absence of far greater Communist concessions than are now envisaged. e. Explore with major U.S. allies—notably the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, and with as many Asian nations as possible, such

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as Thailand and the Philippines, and possibly Nationalist China, the Republic of Korea, and Burma—the formation of a regional grouping.* i. Exert maximum diplomatic efforts with France and the Associated States designed to (1) bring about full agreement between them, if possible prior to Geneva, on the future status of the Associated States; (2) prepare them to invite U.S. and if possible group participation in Indochina, if necessary. NSC Action # 1074a April 5, 1954

ANNEX I. GENERAL Scope of This Annex



1. This Annex seeks to assess the risks, requirements, and consequences of alternative forms of U.S. military intervention in Indochina.

Objective of U.S. Intervention in Indochina



2. The immediate objective of U.S. military intervention in any form would be the destruction of organized Vietminh forces by military action limited to the area of Indochina, in the absence of overt Chinese Communist intervention. However, whether or not the action can be limited to Indochina once U.S. forces and prestige have been committed, disengagement will not be possible short of victory.

* There is no f., g., or h. in the original text.

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Risk of Expanding the War





3. The increased risk of such Chinese Communist intervention is assessed under each alternative form of U.S. military intervention. U.S. action in the event that the Chinese Communists overtly intervene in Indochina is covered by existing policy (NSC 5405). 4. The implications of U.S. intervention go far beyond the commitment and support of the military requirements identified below under the several alternative courses. To meet the increased risk of Chinese Communist intervention and possibly of general war, measures must be taken inside the United States and in areas other than Indochina to improve the defense posture of the United States. Military measures would include the increased readiness of the existing forces and the re-positioning of U.S. forces outside the United States. Domestic measures would include those outlined below under “Mobilization Implications.” A reexamination and possibly complete revision of U.S. budgetary and fiscal policies would be required.

Availability of Military Forces



5. The military forces required to implement the various courses of action described in this paper are presently assigned missions in support of other U.S. objectives. A decision to implement any of these courses would necessitate a diversion of forces from present missions. It would also require the mobilization of additional forces to assume the functions of the diverted forces and to meet the increased risk of general war. The foregoing is particularly true with respect to U.S. ground forces.

Mobilization Implications



6. All the domestic consequences of U.S. intervention cannot be forecast, being dependent on such factors as the degree of opposition encountered, the duration of the conflict and the extent to which other countries may participate, but in varying degree some or all of the following steps may become necessary: a. Increase in force levels and draft quotas. b. Increase and acceleration of military production.

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c. Acceleration of stockpile programs. d. Reimposition of materials and stabilization controls. e. Speed-up of readiness measures for all continental defense ­programs. Whether or not general mobilization should be initiated, either at the outset or in the course of U.S. intervention, is a major question for determination. Use of Nuclear Weapons



7. Nuclear weapons will be available for use as required by the tactical situation and as approved by the President. The estimated forces initially to be supplied by the United States under the alternatives in this paper are based on the assumption of availability. If such weapons are not available, the force requirements may have to be modified. The political factors involved in the use of nuclear weapons are assessed under the various alternatives.**

Political Conditions



8. U.S. military intervention in concert with the French should be conditioned upon satisfactory political cooperation from the French and French agreement to grant independence to the Associated States in a form that will contribute to their maximum participation in the war. The Associated States undoubtedly would not invite U.S. or allied intervention without lasting guarantees of territorial integrity. U.S. contribution to a full-scale reconstruction and development program in Indochina must also be anticipated. (No paragraphs 9 and 10)

** State considers the military effect of use or non-use of nuclear weapons should be made clear in the estimates of military requirements to assist in making a decision.

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II. ALTERNATIVE FORMS OF COMMITMENT OF U.S. COMBAT FORCES FOR OPERATION IN INDOCHINA A. IN CONCERT WITH THE FRENCH Assumptions

11. The Associated States and France invite the military participation of the United States. 12. It is impracticable to organize a UN or regional military effort. 13. The military situation in Indochina is approximately as at present, i.e., stalemate with elements of deterioration. 14. France and the Associated States will carry forward the scale of military effort envisaged in the Laniel-Navarre Plan. Military Requirements

15. Estimated forces to be supplied by U.S. initially. a. Ground forces—(None, provided French Union forces afford adequate security for local defense of U.S. forces in Indochina.) b. Naval forces—(Total personnel strength of 35,000). (1) 1 carrier task group plus additional units consisting of: Amphibious lift for 1 RCT Minecraft Underway replenishment group VPRON’s c. Air Force forces—(Total personnel strength of 8,600) (1) 1 fighter wing (3 sqdns. with integral air defense capability) (2) 1 light bomber wing (3) 1 troop carrier wing (4) 1 tactical control sqdn. (5) 1 tactical recon. sqdn. 16. Command Arrangements: Theater Command a. This should be U.S., since this command must be a combined as well as a joint command and U.S. commanders have had considerably more experience in commanding combined and joint commands. Further, should it become necessary to introduce U.S. ground forces, it would be much better to have a U.S. commander already operating as theater commander rather than

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effect a change at the time U.S. ground forces become involved. All services of the United States, France, and the Associated States will have representatives at the combined headquarters. Similar representation will be necessary at the Joint Operations Center (JOC) to be established. b. Political considerations and the preponderance of French Union forces may dictate the assignment of theater command to the French, at least during the early phase of U.S. participation. 17. Logistic Requirements: This course of action can be logistically supported with the following effects: a. No delay to NATO deliveries. b. No drain on Army logistic reserves, negligible drain on Air Force logistic reserves, a partial drain on certain logistic reserves of the Navy, particularly aircraft and ammunition. c. Some Navy production schedule increases in aircraft and ammunition (depending on extent of operations), some increases in Air Force production schedule with emphasis on ammunition, no effect on Army production schedules. d. No additional facilities at bases in Indochina required. 18. The training of indigenous forces is crucial to the success of the operation. The United States should therefore insist on an understanding with the French which will insure the effective training of the necessary indigenous forces required including commanders and staff personnel at all levels. The United States must be prepared to make contributions of funds, materials, instructors and training devices as agreed with the French. A United States program for the development of indigenous forces would stress the organization of divisional size units. The battalion organization does not particularly well fit the approved concept for operations formulated by General Navarre, nor does it represent the best return in striking power for the manpower investment made. A reasonable, attainable goal in Associated States forces which the United States might develop and train is on the order of 330,000 (an increase of 100,000 over the present forces.) This would be accomplished by a re-organization of the presently formed battalions into divisions followed by further training stressing regimental and divisional exercises. New units would be developed as necessary to complete the program.

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Political Aspects

19. French Reaction: The French would expect U.S. military participation in Indochina: a. To relieve them from the prospect of defeat or failure in Indochina and to this extent they would welcome U.S. intervention. b. To highlight the inability of the French to handle the situation alone, with resultant weakening of the general international position of France. c. To lead to a strengthening of the position of the Associated States as against the French, and a weakening of the French Union concept. d. To tend to result in channeling U.S. support for the Indochina war directly to the theater of operations, thus reducing the financial benefits to metropolitan France. e. To increase the risk of Chinese Communist intervention and, through a series of actions and counteractions, to increase the risk of general war with the USSR. On balance, the French would prefer to find a solution of the Indochina problem which did not involve U.S. military participation, although such solution might in our opinion risk the ultimate loss of Indochina. In the event of U.S. military participation the French could be expected to attempt progressively to shift the military burden of the war to the United States, either by withdrawing their forces or failing to make good attrition. 20. Associated States Reaction: The Associated States would not be interested in U.S. intervention unless they were satisfied (1) such intervention would be on a scale which seemed adequate to assure defeat of the Vietminh organized military forces and to deter Chinese Communist aggression, and (2) the United States would assume lasting responsibility for their political independence and territorial integrity. On these terms non-Communist Indochinese leaders would welcome U.S. intervention, and would be unlikely to succumb to Communist peace proposals. The war-weary Indochinese people, however, might be less favorable, particularly if U.S. intervention came at a time when an end to the fighting seemed otherwise in sight. The Associated States would expect to

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profit from U.S. intervention in terms of increased independence from the French, and would constantly seek to enlist U.S. influence in bolstering their position vis-a-vis France. The Indochinese, however, would be worried over the possibility that U.S. intervention might invite Chinese Communist reaction and make Indochina a battleground of destruction on the Korean scale. Accordingly, they would be expected to oppose the use of nuclear weapons in Indochina. 21. Free World Reaction: The U.K., apprehensive of the possibility of war with Communist China, would approve a U.S. intervention in Indochina only if convinced that it was necessary for the prevention of further expansion of Communist power in Asia. Australia and New Zealand would fully support such a U.S. action, and Canada to a lesser extent. Nationalist China and the Republic of Korea would welcome U.S. intervention in Indochina, since both would hope that this would lead to general war between the United States and Communist China. President Rhee, in particular, might be tempted to believe that his chances of involving the United States in a renewal of Korean hostilities were greatly enhanced. Thailand, if assured of U.S. guarantees of adequate permanence would probably permit the use of Thai territory and facilities. The Philippines would support U.S. intervention. Japan would lend unenthusiastic diplomatic support. India and Indonesia strongly, and Ceylon and Burma to a lesser extent, would disapprove U.S. intervention. Other members of the Arab-Asian bloc would be unsympathetic especially because of seeming U.S. support for French colonialism. The NATO countries, other than those mentioned above, would generally support U.S. military action, but their support would be tempered by fear of expansion of the hostilities and the effect on the NATO build-up. The attitude of most of the Latin American countries would tend to be noncommittal. 22. Free World Reaction in the Event of U.S. Tactical Use of Nuclear Weapons: U.S. allies would almost certainly consider that use by the U.S. of nuclear weapons in Indochina (a) would remove the last hope that these weapons would not be used again in war, and (b) would substantially increase the risk of general war. Our allies would, therefore, doubt the wisdom of the use of nuclear weapons

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in Indochina and this doubt would develop into strong disapproval if nuclear weapons were used without their being consulted or against their wishes. On the other hand, France and, if consulted, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and possibly the Netherlands, might support such action but only if convinced by the U.S. that such action was essential to keep Southeast Asia from falling under Communist control and to preserve the principle of collective security. Other NATO governments, if similarly consulted would probably not publicly disapprove of such U.S. action, if they were persuaded during consultation that such action was essential to prevent collapse of the collective security system. Nationalist China and the Republic of Korea would probably approve such action in the hope that this would result in general war between the U.S. and Communist China. Japan would almost certainly publicly disapprove. Most Asian states and those of the Arab Bloc would probably object strongly to such U.S. action. Certain of these nations led by India, would almost certainly seek to have the UN censure the U.S. 23. Soviet Bloc Reaction: a. The Communist Bloc would almost certainly seek to create differences between the United States and the French, and for this purpose would probably put forward “plausible” peace offers to the greatest extent possible in the light of the Geneva Conference. It is unlikely, in the first instance, that the USSR would take any direct military action in response to U.S. participation in the Indochina war. The Soviet Union would, however, continue to furnish to the Chinese Communists military assistance for Vietminh utilization in Indochina. b. The Chinese Communists probably would not immediately intervene openly, either with regular or “volunteer” forces, but would substantially increase all other kinds of support. However, if confronted by impending Vietminh defeat, Communist China would tend toward intervention because of the prospect that Communist prestige throughout the world would suffer a severe blow, and that the area of U.S. military influence would be brought to the southern border of China. On the other hand, Communist China’s desire to concentrate on domestic problems, plus fear of what must appear to Peiping as the virtual

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certainty of U.S. counteraction against Communist China itself, would tend to deter overt intervention. The chances are about even that in this situation Communist China would decide upon overt intervention rather than accept the defeat of the Vietminh.*** c. Soviet Bloc Reaction in the Event of U.S. Tactical Use of Nuclear Weapons. Initial Communist military reactions would probably be substantially the same as in the case of no nuclear weapons. Politically, the Communists would intensify their world-wide campaign to brand the U.S. as an aggressor, with the expectation that considerable political capital could be realized out of the adverse world reactions to U.S. use of nuclear weapons. If U.S. use of nuclear weapons should lead to impending Vietminh defeat, there is a split of opinion within the Intelligence Advisory Committee as to whether the Chinese Communists would accept the risk involved and intervene overtly to save the Communist position in Indo China: three members believe the chances they would not openly intervene are greater than assessed in par. 23-b above; three members believe the chances are better than even they would openly intervene. 24. Foreign Aid Consideration: Military assistance to finance the French and Associated States military effort and to supply military hardware would continue at approximately current rates (FY 1954 = $800 million; FY 1955 = $1130 million). Expenditures for economic assistance in Indochina would be substantially increased over the present rate of expenditure ($25 million). These figures do not take into account the cost of U.S. military participation or the possible cost of post-war rehabilitation in Indochina. [material missing]

*** For fuller discussion of the split of opinion within the IAC on this question, see SE-53, “Probable Communist Reactions to Certain Possible U.S. Courses of Action in Indochina through 1954” (published December 18, 1953).

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C. IN THE EVENT OF A PROPOSED FRENCH WITHDRAWAL, THE UNITED STATES ACTING IN CONCERT WITH OTHERS OR ALONE Assumptions

37. France refuses to continue participation in the war in Indochina. 38. The Associated States invite the military participation of the United States with others or alone. 39. There has been no serious deterioration in the French Union military situation prior to U.S. take-over. 40. The French will so phase their withdrawal as to permit orderly replacement of their forces. 41. The Associated States will cooperate fully with the United States in developing indigenous forces. 42. It may be practicable to organize a UN or regional military effort. Military Requirements

43. a. Ground forces. (Total personnel strength of 605,000) (1) Indigenous forces of 330,000. (2) U.S. or allied forces of six infantry and one airborne division (each the equivalent of a U.S. division in strength and composition) plus necessary support personnel totaling 275,000. b. Air Force forces. (Total personnel strength of 12,000) 1 air defense fighter wing 1 light bomb wing

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US, Army Position on NSC Action No. 1074-A No Date Given











1. There are important military disadvantages to intervention in Indochina under the assumptions set forth in NSC Action No. 1074-a. 2. A military victory in Indochina cannot be assured by U.S. intervention with air and naval forces alone. 3. The use of atomic weapons in Indochina would not reduce the number of ground forces required to achieve a military victory in Indochina. 4. It is estimated that seven U.S. divisions or their equivalent, with appropriate naval and air support, would be required to win a victory in Indochina if the French withdraw and the Chinese Communists do not intervene. However, U.S. military intervention must take into consideration the capability of the Chinese Communists to intervene. 5. It is estimated that the equivalent of 12 U.S. divisions would be required to win a victory in Indochina, if the French withdraw and the Chinese Communists intervene. 6. The equivalent of 7 U.S. divisions would be required to win a ­victory in Indochina if the French remain and the Chinese Communists intervene. 7. Requirements for air and naval support for ground force operations are: a. Five hundred fighter-bomber sorties per day exclusive of interdiction and counter-air operations. b. An airlift capability of a one division drop. c. A division amphibious lift. 103

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8. One U.S. airborne regimental combat team can be placed in Indochina in 5 days, one additional division in 24 days, and the remaining divisions in the following 120 days. This could be accomplished partially by reducing U.S. ground strength in the Far East with the remaining units coming from the general reserve in the United States. Consequently, the U.S. ability to meet its NATO commitment would be seriously affected for a considerable period. The time required to place a total of 12 divisions in Indochina would depend upon the industrial and personnel mobilization measures taken by the government.

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Report by Secretary of State Dulles on Geneva and Indochina, NSC 195th Meeting 6 May 1954

ITEM 1 (For Discussion) REPORT BY MR. DULLES ON GENEVA AND INDO-CHINA





1. Secretary Dulles, who was rather pessimistic, in reporting to the President yesterday morning on the Geneva Conference, made the following points: (a) there is no responsible French Government with which to deal; (b) the British have declined to take a position regarding a Southeast Asia regional grouping until after the Geneva Conference; (c) the British however are willing to proceed with secret talks with us regarding the political and military scope of our plans for SEA; (d) the expected Communist proposal re Indo-China will call for evacuation of all foreign troops and elections to be supervised by a joint Vietminh-Vietnam Commission; (e) French have no particular form of settlement in mind; UK is still thinking in terms of partition. 2. It is not clear how the NSC discussion will develop, but it seems desirable that certain questions be clarified at the meeting. They are along this line: a. Should the U.S. resign itself to being unable to influence any further the French and U.K. positions at Geneva? (i.e., is it still  not possible to stiffen their spines by any conceivable 105

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means—Presidential talks, threats, sending Mr. Dulles back with a new mandate, etc.—so as to assure they will not accept a dangerous compromise.) b. Is or is not the U.S. prepared to commit its combat forces in the near future, in some form of regional effort if possible, to save the partition or loss of Indo-China? (A decision in principle seems necessary now. As the situation is at present we are saying we will consider this if the parliaments of Australia, New Zealand, etc. agree, but it is not clear whether we mean before or after Indo-China is lost.) c. Is the U.S. prepared to acquiesce in the clearly engineered Communist aggression in and taking over of Indo-China—with Red Chinese support—even though we evaluate this loss as very serious to the free world and even though we have the military means to redeem the situation? (The A-bomb) 3. The Joint Chiefs of Staff sent you a memorandum several days ago (see TAB A) recommending that you “secure governmental acceptance” of the following position: In the event of a cease fire in Indochina, the shipment of military end items under U.S. MDAP . . . will immediately be suspended, except for such spares and associated maintenance items necessary to the maintenance of equipment in operations. The entire question of U.S. aid to Indochina will be re-examined in the light of circumstances then existing.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA) has suggested you forward the memo to the NSC saying you concur, but you have not yet acted on the matter. You may wish to raise it during the discussion.

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Memorandum from Secretary of the Army, Robert T. Stevens, on Indochina 19 May 1954

MEMORANDUM FOR: THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

SUBJECT: Indo-China







1. I am becoming increasingly concerned over the frequency of statements by individuals of influence within and without the government that United States air and sea forces alone could solve our problems in Indo-China, and equally so over the very evident lack of appreciation of the logistics factors affecting operations in that area. 2. Indo-China is almost totally devoid of local resources which would be of use to our Armed Forces. It has a tropical, monsoon climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons and the disease and morale hazards are high for Caucasian troops. The population, when not hostile, is untrustworthy. However, the principal deficiency of IndoChina as a base for the support of large military operations lies in the inadequacy of its facilities for the movement of supplies. 3. The two principal ports are Saigon and Haiphong, with a combined daily capacity of 15,100 short tons. Both are inland river ports requiring considerable dredging before maximum potential can be obtained. There are nine secondary ports whose tonnage capacities vary from 100 to 1,400 tons. 4. Because of the inadequacies of the road, railroad, and waterway systems north from Saigon, this port would be of very little use for 107

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the support of operations in the Tonkin Delta. Haiphong could not be used without augmentation of its capacity including full use of secondary ports and all beaches. The tonnage capacity of the road and railroad system from Haiphong to Hanoi is even now less than the port capacity of Haiphong. 5. It would be necessary to make full use of the air for supply and evacuation as well as for tactical support. Much construction, to include lengthening and reinforcing of runways, of extreme difficulty during the rainy season, would be necessary. Only three airfields in Indo-China, Haiphong/Cat Bi, Tourane and Tan Sou Nhut (near Saigon) have runways over 7,500 feet long and have reported pavement strengths which could support B-45 bomber operations. Eight fields can handle transport planes as large as a C-119; an additional seven fields can accommodate C-46’s. Sustained operations could not be undertaken on most of these fields in the rainy season. Within the Delta itself, there are ten airfields of all types of which only one, Cat Bi, is currently being used by C-119’s or C-54’s. 6. Even were it decided to limit the employment of United States forces to naval and air, which in itself would be a basically faulty military decision, it would devolve upon the Army to perform the bulk of the logistical services and it is essential that the magnitude of the effort required be clearly understood. 7. The adverse conditions prevalent in this area combine all those which confronted United States forces in previous campaigns in the South and Southwest Pacific and Eastern Asia, with the additional grave complication of a large native population, in thousands of villages, most of which are about evenly divided between friendly and hostile. 8. The complex nature of these problems would require a major United States logistical effort. It explodes the myth that air and sea forces could solve the Indo-China problems. If United States landbased forces are projected any appreciable distance inland, as would be essential, they would require constant local security at their every location, and for their every activity. The Army would have to provide these forces, their total would be very large, and the time to provide them would be extensive. ROBERT T. STEVENS Secretary of the Army

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National Intelligence Estimate-91, “Probable Developments in Indochina through 1954” 4 June 1953

THE PROBLEM

To estimate French Union and Communist capabilities and probable courses of action with respect to Indochina and the internal situation throughout Indochina through mid-1954. ASSUMPTION

There is no major expansion of the Korean war. CONCLUSIONS





1. Unless there is a marked improvement in the French Union military position in Indochina, political stability in the Associated States and popular support of the French Union effort against the Viet Minh will decline. We believe that such marked improvement in the military situation is not likely, though a moderate improvement is possible. The over-all French Union position in Indochina therefore will probably deteriorate during the period of this estimate. 2. The lack of French Union military successes, continuing Indochinese distrust of ultimate French political intentions, and popular apathy 109

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will probably continue to prevent a significant increase in Indochinese will and ability to resist the Viet Minh. 3. We cannot estimate the impact of the new French military leadership. However, we believe that the Viet Minh will retain the military initiative and will continue to attack territory in the Tonkin delta and to make incursions into areas outside the delta. The Viet Minh will attempt to consolidate Communist controt in “Free Laos” and will build up supplies in northern Laos to support further penetrations and consolidation in that country. The Viet Minh will almost certainly intensify political warfare, including guerrilla activities, in Cambodia. 4. Viet Minh prestige has been increased by the military successes of the past year, and the organizational and administrative effectiveness of the regime will probably continue to grow. 5. The French Government will remain under strong and increasing domestic pressure to reduce the French military commitment in Indochina, and the possibility cannot be excluded that this pressure will be successful. However, we believe that the French will continue without enthusiasm to maintain their present levels of troop strength through mid-1954 and will support the planned development of the national armies of the Associated States. 6. We believe that the Chinese Communists will continue and possibly increase their present support of the Viet Minh. However, we believe that whether or not hostilities are concluded in Korea, the Chinese Communists will not invade Indochina during this period.1 The Chinese Communists will almost certainly retain the capability to intervene so forcefully in Indochina as to overrun most of the Tonkin delta area before effective assistance could be brought to bear. 7. We believe that the Communist objective to secure control of all Indochina will not be altered by an armistice in Korea or by Communist “peace” tactics. However, the Communists may decide that “peace” maneuvers in Indochina would contribute to  the attainment of Communist global objectives, and to the objective of the Viet Minh.











1. The

Deputy Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff, believes that the intelligence available is insufficient to permit a conclusion at this time that the Chinese Communists will or will not invade Indochina prior to mid-1954.

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8. If present trends in the Indochinese situation continue through mid-1954, the French Union political and military position may subsequently deteriorate very rapidly.

DISCUSSION The Current Situation

9. Military Situation.2 The Viet Minh occupation of the mountainous Thai country of northwestern Tonkin in late 1952 and the followup thrust into northern Laos in April 1953 demonstrate that the Viet Minh have retained the military initiative in Indochina. Although the Viet Minh did not defeat any large French Union forces in these operations, they did force the French to withdraw the bulk of their offensive striking power from the Tonkin delta and disperse it in isolated strong points, dependent on air transport for logistic support. At the same time, strong Viet Minh guerrilla elements plus two regular Viet Minh divisions sufficed to contain the 114,000 regular French Union forces remaining in the Tonkin delta. The Viet Minh now appear to have withdrawn the bulk of their regular forces from Laos. They probably have left behind political cadres, some regular forces, and well-supplied guerrilla units in the areas which they overran in order to consolidate Communist political and military control, to prepare bases for future operations, and to pin down French Union garrisons. 10. The invasion of Laos may have been undertaken as part of a longrange Communist design to develop unrest in Thailand and ultimately gain control of all Southeast Asia. Viewed solely in terms of the Viet Minh objective to win all of Indochina, however, the Viet Minh offensive in Laos is an extension of the 1952 winter’s offensive in northwestern Tonkin, and represents a shift in Viet Minh military tactics. This shift in tactics is probably largely explained by the inability to defeat the main French Union forces in the Tonkin delta by direct assault. Faced with this position of

2. See

Annex A for Estimated French Union Strengths and Dispositions; See Annex B for Estimated Viet Minh Strengths and Dispositions; See Annex C for French Far Eastern Air Force Strengths and Dispositions; and See Annex D for French Far Eastern Naval Strengths and Dispositions.

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strength, the Viet Minh began during 1952 to turn the bulk of their regular forces toward the conquest of northwestern Tonkin and northern Laos, areas lightly held by isolated French Union garrisons. 11. In this manner, the Viet Minh probably hope to retain the military and political initiative and, by dispersing French Union forces, to prevent either a clean-up by the French Union in the Tonkin delta or offensive operations by the French Union against Viet Minh troop concentrations and supply installations outside the delta. The Viet Minh may well believe that by gradually extending their base areas in lightly defended regions of Laos, Cambodia, and central Vietnam they can keep French Union forces dispersed and pinned down indefinitely. In time, they probably expect to sap the morale of the Vietnamese and the French and finally so alter the balance of power as to make possible successful Viet Minh attacks against the key areas of Tonkin and south Vietnam. 12. The deployment of four divisions into Laos by the Viet Minh and the fact that the French did not attack their long and exposed lines of communication typify the over-all situation in Indochina. French Union forces still outweigh the Viet Minh in numbers, firepower, and materiel. French ability to air lift troops and equipment, although strained at the present time, provides the French Union with tactical flexibility in planning defensive and offensive operations. The Viet Minh, however, by their skill in guerrilla war, their ability to move rapidly and to infiltrate and control areas under nominal French occupation, have caused the French to commit large forces throughout Indochina to static defense, thus seriously reducing French ability to take the offensive. 13. Viet Minh regular forces in northern Indochina have continued their gradual evolution from lightly armed guerrilla bands to a regularly organized military force. They have made noticeable advances in the development of field communications, and unit firepower has increased although they still possess only limited amounts of artillery. Viet Minh combat effectiveness is still limited by a lack of medical supplies and an inability to sustain major military operations. 14. Military aid from the US has enabled the French Union to equip adequately their regular ground forces. The French air forces, with

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US logistical support, and with no air opposition, have maintained a fair degree of effectiveness in paratroop operations, supply by air drops, and daylight attacks on enemy supply dumps. French naval forces have improved in combat effectiveness and have maintained control of the seacoasts and inland waterways. However, the Viet Minh have the continuing capability to threaten control of the inland waterways by a mining campaign. Some Vietnamese National Army units have performed creditably in combat, but desertion and “missing in action” figures remain high. For the most part, Vietnamese National Guard and other local security forces lack the firepower, discipline, and leadership to hold positions alone against regular Viet Minh units which infiltrate the Tonkin delta. 15. Although French Union military capabilities have improved slightly, the French Union military effort has been inhibited by considerations of domestic French politics, French security in Europe, and fear of involvement in a war with Communist China. These considerations have caused French commanders in Indochina to forego aggressive military operations that would entail heavy casualties and have prevented them from obtaining reinforcements on a scale that might make possible the defeat of the Viet Minh. 16. The development of the Vietnamese National Army, promised by the French in 1949, has been retarded by a shortage of officers and non-commissioned officers, by French lack of faith in the Vietnamese and by French fiscal problems. There has also been an unwillingness among many Vietnamese leaders, not including Premier Tam, to undertake a major mobilization effort until the French grant further political concessions and until the Vietnamese character of the new army is fully guaranteed. 17. Political. Some political progress has been made in Vietnam during the past year. Premier Tam’s administration has enlisted the cooperation of the strongly nationalist Dai Viet leader Nguyen Huu Tn, and nationalist concern over Tam’s francophilia has to some extent dissipated. Tam has also added to the political vitality of Vietnam by holding local elections in secure areas of Vietnam. Another Vietnamese program, undertaken with US economic assistance, which involves the relocation of scattered villages in the delta into centralized and defensible sites may be an

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important step toward the eventual “pacification” of heavily infiltrated areas. The decisions of March 1953 to increase the size of the Vietnamese National Army while expanding the area of Vietnamese strategic and operational responsibility, could also be of major political significance. 18. Despite these advances, Vietnam still lacks the degree of political strength essential for the mobilization of the country’s resources. Tam’s “action” program remains more shadow than substance. Elected local councils have no real power, promised land reform and other social and economic reforms which might generate popular support have not left the planning stage, and the Vietnamese government is handicapped by incompetent cabinet ministers and the lack of competent administrators. While Bao Dai refuses to assume active direction of the affairs of state, he remains hostile toward new leadership and democratic activities. 19. Of more basic importance in the failure of Vietnamese to rally to the Vietnamese government following the French grant of independence within the French Union in 1949 have been the following: a. Many Vietnamese doubt the ability of French Union forces to defeat the Viet Minh and prefer to remain apart from the struggle. b. The French Government has not dared to promise complete national independence at some future date, as demanded by the Vietnamese, because of the fear that the French national assembly would then refuse to support a war in a “lost” portion of the French Union. c. The Vietnamese, despite many evolutionary steps toward complete independence since 1949, are generally inclined to believe that the French intend to retain effective control over the affairs of Vietnam. d. The nationalist appeal and military prestige of the Viet Minh remains strong among significant numbers of the Vietnamese. 20. In Cambodia, internal political strife has weakened the government, dissident nationalist elements have continued to sap popular loyalty to the throne, and the King is demanding greater independence from the French in order to strengthen his political position at home. Meanwhile, the 9,000 Viet Minh combatants in Cambodia, while under fairly constant attack by French and Cambodian forces, are capable of exploiting disorders which may develop.

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21. Laotian stability has been upset by the recent Viet Minh incursion. The Laotians are generally hostile to the Viet Minh but are unable to contribute a great deal to the defense of their homeland. A small group of pro-Communist Laotians returned to Laos with the Viet Minh during the recent incursion. It is led by a disaffected Laotian nobleman, Prince Souphanouvong, and calls itself the “Free Government of Pathet Lao” (Laos). 22. Meanwhile, the Viet Minh leadership, with Chinese Communist material and advisory assistance since 1949, has demonstrated the necessary zeal, ruthlessness, and tenacity to exploit to the maximum the limited resources at their command. The Viet Minh have expanded the area under their complete control and their prestige has probably increased throughout Indochina as a result of military successes in northwest Tonkin and Laos. 23. In the areas of Viet Minh occupation, Viet Minh control is believed to be effective, and minimum food requirements are being met. The Viet Minh have taken on increasingly the conventional ­characteristics of a “Peoples Republic” and are now engaged in programs to confiscate and redistribute land and to eliminate “traitors” and “reactionaries.” Although this departure from national front tactics has increased realization that the Viet Minh are under complete Communist domination, the Viet Minh control many ­villages within areas of nominal French Union occupation through terror, compulsion, and their continued nationalist appeal. 24. The Viet Minh and the Chinese Communists continue to maintain close relations. It is estimated that there are less than a thousand Chinese Communist advisers and technicians with the Viet Minh in Indochina. The Chinese Communists are providing the Viet Minh with military supplies at an estimated average level of 400 to 500 tons per month, and some Viet Minh troops are sent to Communist China for training. Small Chinese Communist units reportedly have entered the mountainous northwest section of Tonkin on several occasions to assist the Viet Minh against French-supported native guerrillas, but no Chinese Communist troops have been identified in forward areas. There was some evidence during the past year that Viet Minh policy statements may be “cleared,” if not written, in Peiping. Close Viet Minh relations with Communist China are complemented, superficially at least,

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by equally warm relations with the Soviet Union, but we are unable to determine whether Peiping or Moscow has ultimate responsibility for Viet Minh policy. Probable Trends in French Union Capabilities and Courses of Action

25. French plans for dealing with the war in Indochina now revolve around the development of national armies in the Associated States, particularly in Vietnam. In March 1953, the FrancoVietiiamese High Military Council approved a new program calling for an increase in Vietnamese strength during the current year of 40,000 men, organized in 54 “commando” battalions.3 A further expansion of 57,000 men has been proposed for 1954 and will probably be undertaken if the initial reinforcement is successful and if equipment is made available by the US. With these ­additional Vietnamese forces, the French hope to undertake widespread clearing operations and subsequently to organize sufficient mobile groups to begin by early 1955 the destruction of the Viet Minh regular forces in Tonkin. 26. Progress has been made in carrying out the troop reinforcement program thus far, and the Vietnamese may have close to 40,000 reinforcements recruited, trained, and available for combat by early 1954. However, the Viet Minh invasion of Laos and the threat of similar operations will probably keep French mobile reserves deployed outside the Tonkin delta in isolated strong points. The addition of 40,000 untested and lightly armed Vietnamese will not offset the absence of these regular French forces, and effective clearing or offensive operations cannot be undertaken until French Union forces are regrouped. Moreover, the French military leadership has been so dominated by concepts of static defense as to be unable to conduct the planned operations with the vigor necessary for their success. How the new military leadership may alter this we cannot estimate. Finally, unless the French Union forces prove strong enough to provide security for 3. The

40,000 are to be recruited and will represent a net increase in French Union strength. Planned transfers of native units from the French Army to the Vietnamese Army will also strengthen the Vietnamese Army but will not represent any net increase in French Union strength.

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the Vietnamese population, it will not be possible to sweep the guerrillas out of the areas as planned. Not only will the populace fail generally to provide the intelligence required to rout the guerrillas but, as in the past, they will frequently give warning of the presence of the French Union forces, thus permitting the guerrillas to take cover and later to emerge when the danger is past. 27. The French are fearful that they cannot achieve a military decision in Indochina. Unless the French Union military plans achieve great success during the period of this estimate, the conviction will grow in France that the Indochina problem can only be solved through some over-all East-West settlement in the Far East. The difficulties of the French financial position impel the French to seek relief from the mounting costs of the Indochina war, and French apprehensions concerning eventual German rearmament not only make them reluctant to increase the military establishment in Indochina but impel them to seek the early return of French troops to Europe. The French Government will therefore remain under strong and increasing domestic pressure to reduce its military commitment in Indochina. On the other hand, the French Government is under strong pressure to maintain its position in Indochina. There is still considerable sentiment against abandoning the heavy investment which France has poured into Indochina. More important, there is great reluctance to accept the adverse effects on the cohesion of the French Union and on French prestige as a world power which would accompany the loss of France’s position in Indochina. In  these circumstances, we believe that the French will continue without enthusiasm to maintain their present levels of troop strength through mid-1954 and will support the planned development of the National Armies of the Associated States. At the same time, France will probably continue to seek maximum financial and material assistance for the French Union effort while resisting any measures which would impair French pre-eminence among the Associated States, including the making of any commitments concerning the eventual political status of the Associated States. 28. Political strength in Vietnam may grow slightly during 1953 as progress is made toward a stronger national army, as the Vietnamese assume increasing governmental responsibilities, and as Premier Tam’s social and political programs serve to decrease

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distrust of French intentions. There will probably also be a growing understanding, and fear, of the true Communist nature and purpose of the Viet Minh. However, these developments will not bring about a significant increase in Vietnamese will and ability to resist the Viet Minh during the period of this estimate because the Vietnam leadership cannot in this brief period overcome popular apathy and mobilize the energy and resources of the people. Moreover, if events should persuade Vietnam leaders that no progress toward national independence is possible under the French or that French Union forces cannot defeat the Viet Minh, it is probable that the political strength of Vietnam would decline rapidly. Substantial Viet Minh military victories in the Tonkin delta or elsewhere in Indochina would also produce such a decline. 29. In Cambodia, political stability is likely to decline as the result of tension between the monarchy, the politically divided people, and the French colonial administration. Even if French concessions to the King insure his adherence to the French Union, unrest in Cambodia or a Viet Minh penetration into southern Laos might force the deployment of strong French forces to Cambodia. 30. In Laos, political attitudes will be determined almost entirely by military developments. The Laotians will probably remain loyal to the French Union if they are defended aggressively. They will not, however, offer effective resistance to Communist efforts to consolidate political control if French Union forces retreat from the country or if the French Union forces defend only a few strong points. Probable Trends in Viet Minh and Chinese Communist Capabilities and Courses of Action

31. Viet Minh Capabilities and Probable Courses of Action. Barring serious Viet Minh military reverses, which could occur if Viet Minh forces should overextend themselves or make frontal attacks on French Union strong points, the Viet Minh regime will probably increase its total strength slightly during the period of this estimate. Viet Minh prestige will be increased by their recent gains in Laos. The organizational and administrative effectiveness of the regime will probably continue to increase with experience and Chinese Communist guidance. The program of expropriation and

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distribution of lands to tenants now being carried out probably weakens the Viet Minh appeal among some classes, but will probably strengthen Viet Minh controls at the village level and thus facilitate the collection of rice. 32. Militarily, the Viet Minh are unlikely to expand greatly their armed forces because they are already experiencing manpower difficulties. Their combat efficiency probably will increase, however, as the result of a modest augmentation of their unit firepower and a steady improvement in staff planning and coordination of forces. The Viet Minh probably will continue to receive a steady flow of material assistance from the Chinese Communists, and the amount may increase at any time. The Viet Minh do not have, and probably cannot develop within the period of this estimate, the capability to make such effective use of heavy equipment-artillery, armor, and aircraft-from the Chinese Communists as to permit successful attacks against strong concentrations of regular French forces. Over a longer period, however, a great increase in Viet Minh capabilities, including the development of an air force, is possible. 33. We believe that during the period of this estimate the Communists in Indochina will probably attempt to avoid combat except where they can achieve surprise or great superiority in numbers. They will attempt to consolidate Communist controls in “Free Laos” and will build up supplies in northern Laos to support further penetrations and consolidation in that country. If they reach the Thai border, they probably will attempt to organize guerrilla forces among the Vietnamese in northeastern Thailand, but we do not believe they will have the capability to provide much material assistance to such forces through mid-1954. The Viet Minh forces in Laos may hope to receive assistance from the Vietnamese population in Thailand. The Viet Minh will almost certainly intensify political warfare, including guerrilla activities in Cambodia. 34. We believe that neither the French Union nor the Viet Minh will be able to win a final military decision in Indochina through mid1954. The Viet Minh, with their principal striking forces operating from the Tonkin base area, will probably retain the initiative during the period of this estimate by maintaining attacks against lightly defended French Union territory. The French Union can hold key positions in Laos and may attempt by attacks against

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Viet Minh lines of communication, to prevent the Viet Minh from moving southward in force towards southern Laos and Cambodia. We believe, however, that Viet Minh guerrillas in southern Laos will develop sufficient strength to control much of the countryside and that guerrilla activities in Cambodia will be intensified. The French Union probably will reduce, but not eliminate, Viet Minh strength in south Vietnam. Viet Minh infiltration of the Tonkin delta will probably be maintained at a high level and the Viet Minh may undertake major attacks against the delta if they can weaken French defenses by drawing French strength elsewhere. 35. Unless there is a marked improvement in the French Union military position in Indochina, political stability in the Associated States and popular support of the French Union effort against the Viet Minh will decline. We believe that such marked improvement in the military situation is not likely, though a moderate improvement is possible. The over-all French Union position in Indochina therefore will probably deteriorate during the period of this estimate. 36. Chinese Communist Capabilities and Probable Courses of Action. The Chinese Communists will have the capability during the period of this estimate to improve airfields in south China, to train Viet Minh pilots, to continue improvement of transportation facilities, and to increase their present level of logistic support for the Viet Minh. The Chinese Communists will probably retain their present capability to commit and support logistically 150,000 Chinese Communist troops for an invasion of Indochina. The combat efficiency of this potential invasion force could probably be increased considerably by the use of combat-seasoned troops who have been rotated from Korea in the past year. The ability of Chinese Communist forces to sustain offensive operations in Indochina would probably be increased should logistic requirements in Korea remain at low levels for a prolonged period. 37. A Chinese Communist force of 150,000, added to Viet Minh forces, would probably be able to overrun the Tonkin delta area  before effective assistance could be brought to bear. The Chinese Communists now have, and will probably continue to have during  the period of this estimate, sufficient jet and piston aircraft, ­independent of operations in Korea, for small-scale but damaging attacks against French Union installations in Tonkin.

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With surprise, they probably could neutralize the French Air Forces in Tonkin. The Chinese Communist air forces do not appear, ­however, to possess the capability at present of conducting sustained air operations in Indochina because of a lack of improved airfields in south China and stockpiles of supplies. Such preparations would take several months. 38. We believe that whether or not hostilities are concluded in Korea, the Chinese Communists will not invade Indochina during the period of this estimate.4 Although they possess the capability, the following considerations militate against intervention by regular Chinese Communist forces or by large numbers of Chinese Communist “volunteers”: a. The Communists probably consider that their present strategy in Indochina promises success in a prolonged struggle and produces certain immediate advantages. It diverts badly needed French and US resources from Europe at relatively small cost to the Communists. It provides opportunities to advance international Communist interests while preserving the fiction of “autonomous” national liberation movements, and it provides an instrument, the Viet Minh, with which Communist China and the USSR can indirectly exert military and psychological pressures on the peoples and governments of Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. b. Communist leadership is aware that the West, and in particular the US, would probably retaliate against Communist China if Chinese Communist forces should invade Indochina. We believe that fear of such retaliation and of the major war which might result are important deterrents to open Chinese Communist intervention in Indochina. 39. We believe that the Communist objective to secure control of all Indochina will not be altered by an armistice in Korea or by Communist “peace” tactics. However, the Communists may decide that “peace” maneuvers in Indochina would contribute to the attainment of Communist global objectives, and to the objective of the Viet Minh. 4. The

Deputy Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff, believes that the intelligence available is insufficient to permit a conclusion at this time that the Chinese Communists will or will not invade Indochina prior to mid-1954.

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ANNEX A ESTIMATED GROUND FORCE STRENGTHS AND DISPOSITIONS AS OF 1 APRIL 1953* INDOCHINA A. FRENCH UNION FORCES

Component

Tonkin

Annam & Plateaux Cochinchina

Cambodia Laos

Total

Regulars** French Expeditionary Corps (CEF)

91,000

20,000

45,000

8,000

7,500

171,500***

Associated States Armies

27,000

33,000

20,000

8,500

8,000

96,500

Associated States National Guards

6,000

4,000

10,000

4,000

5,500

29,500

CEF Auxiliaries

23,000

6,500

18,000

3,300

2,400

53,200

Vietnam Auxiliaries

8,000

10,000

34,000

Other SemiMilitary

27,000

7,000

30,000

9,000

6,500

79,500

Totals

182,000

80,500

157,000

32,800

29,900

482,200

Semi-Military

52,000

   * These strengths and dispositions were effective before the Viet Minh invasion of Laso. Since that time French Expeditionary Corps (CEF) strength in Laos has been increased to 17,500 and CEF strength in Tonkin reduced to 81,000.   ** French Union regular forces are organized into a total of 118 CEF battalions and 95 Associated States battalions. The CEF has 83 infantry, 7 parachute, 8 armored, and 119 artillery battalions and 1 AAA battalion. The Assoicated States have 87 infantry and 4 artillery battalions and 4 parachute battalions. *** Does not include 6,000 French personnel detached for duty with the Assoicated States forces as cadres and advisers. Composition of the 172,000 is as follows: French—51,000; Foreign Legion—19,000; Africa—17,000; North African—30,000; native Indochinese—55,000.

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ANNEX B ESTIMATED VIET MINH GROUND FORCE STRENGTHS AND DISPOSITION AS OF 1 APRIL 1953* B. VIET MINH FORCES

Component

Tonkin

Annam & Plateaux Cochinchina Cambodia

Laos

Total

Regulars** Army

81,000

25,000

13,000

1,000

3,000

123,000

Regional Forces (Full-time)

35,000

14,5000

7,500

3,000

2,000

62,000

People’s Militia (Armed)

50,000

34,000

25,000

5,000

1,000

115,000

Totals

166,000

73,500

45,500

9,000 *** 6,000

300,000

Semi-Military

   * These strengths and dispositions changed during the Viet Minh incursion into Laos in April. An estimated 30,000 Viet Minh regulars moved from Tonkin into Laos and an estimated 10,000 moved from Annam. By mid-May, however, it is believed that all but 15,000 of the Viet Minh regulars had returned to their base areas in Tonkin and Annam.   ** The Viet Minh are organized into 6 infantry divisions, 1 artillery division, 14 independent regiments and 15 independent battalions. Regional forces are organized in 44 battalions. *** Some 3,000 dissident Khmer Issaraks are also active in Cambodia

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ANNEX C AIR ORDER OF BATTLE—FRENCH AIR FORCE AND NAVAL AIR ARM, FAR EAST

Airfield

No. and Type Aircraft Assigned

1st/8 Fighter Squadron

Bach Mai, Hanoi

18 F8F

2nd/8 Fighter Squadron

Cat Bi, Haiphong

20 F8F

Detachment, 1st/21 Fighter Squadron

Cat Bi, Haiphong

7 F8F

1st/25 Lt. Bomber Squadron

Cat Bi, Haiphong

15 B-26

Detachment, 1st/19 Lt. Bomber Squadron

Cat Bi, Haiphong

3 B-26, 1 RB-26

80th Photo Recon. Squadron

Bach Mai, Hanoi

11 F8F

Detachment, 2nd/62 Trans. Squadron

Bach Mai, Hanoi

12 C-47

Detachment, 1st/64 Trans. Squadron

Gia Lam, Hanoi

5 C-47, 3 JU-52

Detachment, 2nd/64 Trans. Squadron

Gia Lam, Hanoi

5 C-47

2nd/62 Trans. Squadron

Do Son, Haiphong

6 C-47

1st/21 Fighter Squadron

Tourane Afld., Tourane

12 F8F

Detachment 2nd/9 Fighter Squadron

Ban Me Thout Afld., Ban Me Thout

5 F8F

1st 19 Lt. Bomber Squadron

Tourane Afld., Tourane

16 B-26, 3 RB-26

Detachment, 1st/64 Trans Squadron

Tourane Afld., Tourane

2 JU-52

1st/64 Trans Squadron

Nhatrang Afld., Nhatrang

5 C-47, 6 JU-52

Tan Son Nhut, Saigon

8 F6F, 10 F8F

Unit Designation North Tactical Command

Center Tactical Command

South Tactical Command 2nd/9 Fighter Squadron

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2nd/64 Trans. Squadron

Tan Son Nhut, Saigon

16 C-47

Detachment, 1st/64 Trans Squadron

Tan Son Nhut, Saigon

4 JU-52

Miscellaneous light aircraft and helicopters (used throughout the three tactical commands for liaison, reconnaissance, medical evacuation and flight training

152

TOTAL: 345 Naval Air Arm Carrier based

22 F6F 12 SB2C-5

Miscellaneous other types

28 TOTAL: 62

Aircraft (all types) temporarily unoperational becuase of shartages in personnel and logistics

179

GRAND TOTAL: 586

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ANNEX D FRENCH NAVAL FORCES IN INDOCHINA Small Aircraft Carrier (CVL)*

1

Gunboat (PG)

2

Escort (PCE)

8

Submarine Chaser (PC)

11

Submarine Chaser (SC)

5

Motor Minesweeper (AMS)

6

Amphibious Vessels:   LST

4

  LSIL

13

  LSSL

6

  LCU

19

Miscellaneous small landing craft

211

Auxiliary Vessels:  ARL

1

 AG

1

 AGS

1

 AR

1

 AFDL

1

 AVP

2

 AO

1

Service Craft

54

French Navy Personnel Vietnam Navy Personnel

9,760 277

Mission Aircraft

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F6F-5**

22

SB2C-5**

12

PB4Y-2

8

JRF-5

11

S-51

2

Moraine 500 “0”

6

C-47A

1

  * The French have attempted to keep one of their two carriers in Indochina waters, subject to overhaul and repair schedules. The ARROMANCHES 9CVL) and the LAFAYETTE (CVL) departed for France in February and May 1953, respectively, for overhaul and repairs. ** Carrier-based aircraft

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Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles to the Paris Delegation 14 June 1954

SENT TO: Amembassy PARIS 4579 PRIORITY DULLES EYES ONLY FOR AMBASSADOR AND UNDER SECRETARY FROM SECRETARY FYI It is true that there is less disposition now than two months or one month ago to intervene in Indochina militarily. This is the inevitable result of the steady deterioration in Indochina which makes the problem of intervention and pacification more and more difficult. When united defense was first broached, the strength and morale of French and Vietnam forces were such that it seemed that the situation could be held without any great pouring-in of U.S. ground forces. Now all the evidence is that the morale of the Vietnamese Government, armed forces and civilians has deteriorated gravely; the French are forced to contemplate a fall-back which would leave virtually the entire Tonkin Delta population in hostile hands and the Saigon area is faced with political disintegration. What has happened has been what was forecast, as for example by my Embassy Paris 4117 TEDUL 78 of May 17. I there pointed out that probably the French did not really want intervention but wanted to have the possibility as a card to play at Geneva. I pointed out that the Geneva game would doubtless be a long game and that it could not be assumed 129

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that at the end the present U.S. position regarding intervention would necessarily exist after the Communists had succeeded in dragging out Geneva by winning military successes in Indochina. This telegram of mine will bear rereading. That point of view has been frequently ­repeated in subsequent cables. I deeply regret any sense of bitterness on Bidault’s part, but I do not see that he is justified in considering unreasonable the adaptation of U.S. views to events and the consequences of prolonged French and U.K. ­indecision. I do not yet exclude possibility U.S. intervention on terms outlined PARIS 402 and TEDUL 54. UK it seems is now more disposed to see movement in this direction but apparently the French are less than ever disposed to internationalizing the war. DULLES

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US, Central Intelligence Agency, SNIE 10-4-54, “Communist Reactions to Certain Courses of Action with Respect to Indochina” 15 June 1954

THE PROBLEM

To estimate Chinese Communist and Soviet reactions to the courses of action and consequent situations indicated below.1 THE ESTIMATE PART I ASSUMPTIONS

A. The treaties of independence between France and the Associated States will have been signed.

1. The

assumptions and estimative requirements stated herein were furnished to the intelligence community for the purposes of this estimate. We interpret the hypothetical action as occurring within the next twelve to eighteen months.

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B. A regional security grouping including at least the Associated States, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, France, and the United States, and possibly including also New Zealand and the United Kingdom, will have been formed. C. The Associated States will have publicly requested the direct military participation of members of the regional grouping in the war in Indochina. D. The French will have undertaken to continue at least the present level of their military commitment in Indochina. REQUIREMENT 1

To estimate the initial Chinese Communist and Soviet reactions to the participation of US air and naval forces with French Union forces and token Thai and Philippine forces in coordinated ground, naval, and air operations designed to destroy the Communist military forces in Indochina. Air operations would be limited to targets in Indochina. Nuclear weapons would be employed if their use were deemed militarily advantageous but nuclear attacks on the Indochinese civil population as a target system would be avoided. Chinese Communist Reaction



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1. The intervention of US and allied forces in Indochina probably would cause the Chinese Communists to believe that sooner or later they would have to decide whether to accept the defeat of the Viet Minh or to intervene in force in order to try to prevent such defeat. Their decision would probably rest mainly, though not exclusively, upon their weighing of the risks and disadvantages arising from the Viet Minh defeat against the likelihood of involvement in major war with the US and the probable consequences of such a war for Communist China. Available evidence gives no unmistakable indication of what the Chinese Communist decision would be. On balance, however, we believe that the chances are somewhat better than even that the Chinese Communist would decide to take whatever military action they thought required to

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prevent destruction of the Viet Minh, including when and if necessary, open use of Chinese Communist forces in Indochina.2, 3 2. The nature of the assumed US action is such that ample warning would almost certainly be given in advance of actual operations. The Chinese Communists have the capability now to intervene quickly and in such force as to drive French Union forces out of the Delta. The Chinese Communists might choose to exercise this capability before US intervention could be effected. 3. We believe it somewhat more likely, however, that even if the Chinese Communists had determined not to accept the defeat of the Viet Minh they would not intervene openly immediately following the assumed US intervention. They might estimate that US air and naval forces could not, in the absence of US ground forces, decisively alter the course of the war. They might therefore consider their intervention unnecessary at this point and might postpone final decision as to their course of action until they had observed the initial scale and success of the allied military operations and had estimated the probable nature and extent of US aims in the conflict. 4. In this connection, US use of nuclear weapons in Indochina would tend to hasten the ultimate Chinese Communist decision whether or not to intervene. It would probably convince the Chinese Communists of US determination to obtain a decisive military victory in Indochina at whatever risk and by whatever means, and of the consequent danger of nuclear attack on Communist China. Whether this conviction would precipitate or deter Chinese Communist intervention would depend on the military situation

2. The

Deputy Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff, recommends deletion of the last sentence of this paragraph and would substitute the following: “However, their decision would be largely determined by the Chinese estimate of the probable extent and effect of US initial action.” 3. The Director of Intelligence, USAF, believes that the last sentence of this paragraph should read as follows: “Communist China will probably not choose knowingly any course of action likely to expose its fundamental national strengths in war with a major power. However, we believe that Communist China’s strength for conducting various kinds of warfare is such, and the motives and judgment of its leaders are such as to make Communist China’s courses of action dangerously unpredictable under outside pressure of any appreciable magnitude.”

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in Indochina at the time, the observed military effect of the use of nuclear weapons, and the observed political and psychological effect of such use, particularly its effect on the coherence of the regional security grouping and the Atlantic alliance. 5. In any case, the Chinese Communists would almost certainly greatly increase their logistic support, delivery of arms and equipment, and technical assistance to the Viet Minh. The Chinese Communists would probably increase their deliveries of AA weapons and might send in Chinese AA gun crews. Moreover, the Chinese Communists would probably deploy ground and air units near the Indochina border in order: (a) to warn the US and its allies, and (b) to have forces ready either to intervene on behalf of the Viet Minh or to defend the southern border of China. 6. While maintaining a posture of military readiness, the Chinese Communists would intensify political and propaganda activities designed to exploit anti-Western and anticolonial feelings of the indigenous population of Indochina and the war-fears of neutralist Asian nations and of certain US allies. They would also seek to label the US as an aggressor. In the meantime and throughout the period of military operations, the Communists would almost certainly agitate and propagandize for a “cease-fire” and political settlement, which would preserve the Communist position and prospects.

Soviet Reaction



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7. In the assumed situation, the USSR probably would estimate that the US action, though limited to air and naval forces, would considerably increase the risks of unlimited war between the US and Communist China. The USSR would probably prefer that such a war not develop out of the Indochina situation. Nevertheless, the USSR would assure Communist China of continuing military assistance. The USSR would also give complete diplomatic and propaganda support to Communist China and the Viet Minh regime.

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REQUIREMENT 2

To estimate Chinese Communist and Soviet reactions to the success of the operations envisaged in the assumptions above (i.e., to the impending effective destruction of the Communist forces in Indochina).4 Chinese Communist Reaction



8. As stated in Paragraph 1, we believe that the chances are somewhat better than even that the Chinese Communist, in the assumed situation, would intervene militarily to prevent the destruction of the Viet Minh. If they decided to do so, we believe that the exact timing and nature of their action would depend on various factors, but principally on the scope and character of the US/allied operations they were seeking to counter.5, 6

Soviet Reaction



9. In this assumed situation, the USSR would probably continue to support the Chinese Communists. If the Chinese Communists intervened openly in support of the Viet Minh, the USSR would rapidly increase military assistance to Communist China. The Soviet diplomatic and propaganda campaigns against the US would continue full-scale, and the USSR might ask the UN to condemn

4. The

Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Department of the Army, believes that the results in this requirement could not be achieved by the unbalanced and insufficient forces envisaged. 5. The Director of Intelligence, USAF, believes that this paragraph should read as follows: “Communist China will probably not choose knowingly any course of action likely to expose its fundamental national strengths in war with a major power. However, we believe that Communist China’s strength for conducting various kinds of warfare is such, and the motives and judgment of its leaders are such as to make Communist China’s courses of action dangerously unpredictable under outside pressure of any appreciable magnitude.” 6. The Deputy Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff, believes that paragraph 8 should read as follows: “Communist China would conclude from the assumed impending destruction of Communist forces in Indochina, by limited forces employing nuclear and conventional weapons, that its open military intervention would invite an extension of similar action to Communist China, and would, therefore, probably not intervene militarily.”

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the US as an aggressor. Thinly veiled threats of Soviet involvement in the fighting and references to the Sino-Soviet Treaty of 1950 would multiply. PART II ASSUMPTIONS

A. The treaties of independence between France and the Associated States will have been signed. B. A regional security grouping including at least the Associated States, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, France, and the United States, and possibly including also New Zealand and the United Kingdom, will have been formed. C. The Associated States will have publicly requested the direct military participation of members of the regional grouping in the war in Indochina. D. The French will have undertaken to continue at least the present level of their military commitment in Indochina. E. The Chinese Communists will have openly intervened with military forces in Indochina in order to counter US direct participation as defined in Requirement 1. REQUIREMENT 3

To estimate Chinese Communist and Soviet reactions to an extension of allied offensive air operations to include military targets in Communist China directly supporting Communist military operations in Indochina or directly threatening the security of Allied forces in the area.7 Nuclear weapons would be employed in these operations if it were deemed militarily advantageous to do so, but nuclear attacks on the Chinese civil population as a target system would be avoided. Chinese Communist Reaction

10. We consider it probable that before intervening in Indochina the Chinese Communists would have accepted the likelihood of 7. In

this requirement we interpret targets “directly supporting” Communist military operations to be generally south of the Yangtze River and to consist primarily of transport lines, troop concentrations, and air fields in the area.

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US air attacks against military targets in China. Consequently, they would not feel compelled to withdraw their forces from Indochina solely as a result of the initiation of the air operations assumed above. At the same time, we believe that the Chinese Communists, in order to prevent further destruction to this area of China and particularly to avoid the spread of unlimited US attacks to the whole of China, would intensify efforts to induce the US to enter negotiations for a settlement which would preserve the Communist position and prospects in Indochina. 11. Meanwhile the Chinese Communists, to the full extent of their capabilities, would prosecute the war on the ground in Indochina and attack allied air bases, aircraft carriers, and other installations directly supporting allied operations in the area. They would, however, probably try to keep the war centered in Indochina and, as a consequence probably would confine their attacks to such directly supporting bases and installations. 12. The use of nuclear weapons under the restrictions given above would greatly increase Chinese Communist concern about US intentions but probably would not by itself cause them to adopt new courses of military action at this time. However, they would threaten nuclear retaliation. They would also exploit to the fullest resultant psychological opportunities and in particular would charge that the US was using weapons of mass destruction on the civilian population.8 8. The

Deputy Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff, believes this paragraph should read: “Nuclear weapon attacks on Communist China would undoubtedly result in a much greater Chinese Communist reaction than nuclear attacks on the Indochinese battleground. In addition, such attacks would probably indicate to the Chinese Communists a US willingness to exploit its superiority in nuclear weapons and delivery capability to force them out of Indochina. Since the nuclear attack contemplated in this requirement is of a limited nature, the Chinese Communist rulers would retain control of the government and country and, with the initial attacks, they would probably make urgent appeals to the USSR for nuclear weapons and additional military assistance. They might also increase the tempo of their military operations and would undoubtedly endeavor to induce the United States to enter negotiations in the hope of forestalling further attacks. A Chinese Communist decision to withdraw or not would be dependent primarily upon continued or increased US nuclear attacks and other US action as well as upon Soviet reaction. It is believed, however, that the Chinese Communists would be willing to withdraw from Indochina rather than be subjected to further destruction of their homeland.”

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13. The Chinese Communists would attempt by all means possible to convince other Asian nations that the US had undertaken to destroy the Chinese Communist regime in order to thwart its efforts on behalf of an indigenous independence movement. If the Chinese had not previously done so, they would probably appeal to the UN to brand US action as a threat to the peace. Soviet Reaction

14. In this assumed situation, the USSR would greatly increase its military assistance to Communist China, especially supplying modern aircraft and small naval vessels, possibly including submarines, with Soviet personnel to train and advise the Chinese and probably to participate in air defense operations. The USSR would probably not openly commit combat units of the Soviet armed forces and probably would not release nuclear weapons for Chinese Communist use. 15. The Kremlin would also continue its diplomatic and propaganda campaigns against the US, undertaking in the UN to brand the US as an aggressor if this had not previously been attempted. The USSR would support Chinese charges concerning the use of nuclear weapons against civilian populations. At the same time, the USSR would probably advise the Chinese Communists to negotiate for a cessation of hostilities on the basis of the status quo at the time and would try to establish a position as peacemaker. REQUIREMENT 4

To estimate Chinese Communist and Soviet reactions to the following additional allied courses of action, undertaken subsequently to those above: a. Extension of allied offensive air operations to additional selected military targets in Communist China, including the use of atomic weapons under the same conditions as above. b. Naval blockade of the China coast. c. Seizure or neutralization of Hainan. d. Chinese Nationalist operations against the Chinese mainland.

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Chinese Communist Reaction

16. As a consequence of this allied broadening of the war, the Chinese Communists would probably conclude that the US was prepared to wage unlimited war against them. They would continue to defend themselves to the limit of their capabilities and would probably make vigorous efforts to secure the full participation of the USSR. At the same time, they would intensify their efforts to end the war by negotiations, and might eventually indicate in some way their willingness to withdraw from Indochina in order to obtain a cease-fire.9 If unable to obtain a cease-fire agreement, the Chinese Communists would accept the fact of unlimited war with the US and would wage such war to the full extent of their remaining capabilities. Soviet Reaction

17. In this assumed situation, the USSR would continue to provide military assistance to Communist China as indicated above, but would probably refuse Chinese Communist demand for full Soviet participation in the war. The Kremlin would strongly urge the Chinese Communists to negotiate for a cessation of hostilities on the basis of withdrawing from Indochina.10 If the Chinese Communists could not obtain a cease-fire agreement, the USSR would provide Communist China with military assistance in every way short of openly committing combat units of the Soviet armed forces in operations against US and allied forces outside Communist-held territory. The USSR would provide military resources and equipment for Chinese Communist attacks on US bases or US forces anywhere in the Far East. At this stage of the

  9. The

Deputy Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff, and the Director of Intelligence, USAF, suggest that the words “might eventually” in this sentence should be replaced with “would probably.” 10. The Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Department of the Army, recommends the deletion of “on the basis of withdrawing from Indochina,” believing that at this state of the conflict the Kremlin would not willingly acquiesce in the surrender of any Communistheld territory in Indochina or elsewhere.

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conflict, the USSR might provide Communist China with nuclear weapons and the technical personnel required for their use.11, 12 18. The USSR would continue its diplomatic and propaganda campaigns against the US, insisting that the Soviet aim was purely the defense of China against outright aggression. The USSR would also begin at least partial mobilization of its own military forces on a war basis. It would issue thinly veiled threats of general war, suggesting attacks on Western Europe and on the continental US but would probably confine its operations to the defense of China so long as the US did not attack Soviet territory. REQUIREMENT 5

To estimate Chinese Communist and Soviet reactions to the success of the foregoing operations (i.e., to the impending effective destruction of  the Chinese Communist capability to conduct military operations ­outside the borders of Communist China).13 Chinese Communist Reaction

19. Unless the USSR was willing to make an unlimited commitment of Soviet forces to prevent the success of the assumed US and allied operations, we believe that the Communist Chinese, under the assumed circumstances, would accept any US terms for a settlement which preserved the integrity of China under the Chinese Communist regime.

11. U

The Deputy Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff, and Director of Intelligence, USAF, believe that this sentence should read: “We do not believe that the USSR would release nuclear weapons for Chinese Communist use.” 12. Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Department of the Army, substitutes for the last sentence: “It is also believed that the USSR would give serious consideration to making a substantially greater military contribution including nuclear weapons and the technical personnel required for their use.” 13. The Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Department of the Army, believes that the results assumed in this requirement could not be achieved by the unbalanced and insufficient force envisaged.

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Soviet Reaction

20. In this assumed situation, we believe the USSR would urge the Chinese Communists to accept any US terms for a settlement which preserved the integrity of China under the Chinese Communist regime.14 So long as the fighting continued, however, the USSR would continue its aid to China.

14. The

Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Department of the Army, would add “and retained a Communist foothold in Indochina.”

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Telegram from Smith in Moscow to Secretary of State Dulles on Molotov’s Views 19 June 1954

OUTGOING TELEGRAM 1426 June 19, 1954 Sent to: SECSTATE DULTE 202 RPTD INFO: Amembassy Moscow 138 EYES ONLY FOR AMBASSADOR I saw Molotov at his villa yesterday evening at my request to inform him of my departure, and because I felt time had come to sound a note of warning: Talk lasted more than hour and a half. Molotov asked what I thought would be best thing to do with Conference, to adjourn it temporarily or to keep it going. I replied as far as we concerned should be kept going while there was hope of reaching reasonable settlement, but that there was no use referring to “committees” matters of major policy which must be decided by the Conference as a whole. Before my departure I felt it would be desirable to exchange views, in order that mistakes of the past should not be repeated as the result of misunderstanding of our respective positions. With regard to Korean phase, I had only to say that in reserving our position re final Chinese proposal had not implied to exclude Communist China from future discussions on Korean 143

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­ uestion. As matter of fact, China was belligerent there against UN and q for practical reasons would have to be party to settlement. Regarding Indochinese phase Molotov said he had impression US avoided reaching solution and cited in this regard Robertson objection in yesterday’s restricted session to acceptance Chou’s proposal on Laos and Cambodia. I said that while proposal might be satisfactory in some respects it made no mention of Vietminh withdrawal or of adequate supervision. So long as regular Vietminh forces remained in Laos and Cambodia we could not help but view situation in very serious light. Molotov cited Pham Van Dong’s remarks regarding withdrawal Vietminh “volunteers” and emphasized importance of beginning direct negotiations regarding Laos and Cambodia of type now taking place regarding Vietnam. I regretted that I was not at all convinced that Pham Van Dong really meant what he said. His statements sounded well enough, but his written proposals did not bear them out. I said I wanted to make our position on Laos and Cambodia entirely clear. In addition to regular Vietminh forces in these countries, which I enumerated, there were some dissident elements in Laos and a much smaller number in Cambodia. If regular Vietminh forces were withdrawn, elections could be held, with guarantees that individuals would be discriminated against as regards their electoral rights for having supported either side. Dissidents would be able to vote for any candidates they chose, Communists included. However, while Vietminh forces remained in these countries, there could be no peace nor could free elections be held. In private conversations with Mr. Eden and others, Communist delegates, in particular Chou En-lai, had taken an apparently reasonable view on Laos and Cambodia, but that here again, when we came to the point of trying to get open agreement on specific points we were unable to do so. I specifically mentioned Chou En-lai’s statements to Eden in which he said that China would have no objections to recognizing the kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia or to these States having forces and arms sufficient to maintain security, or their remaining in French Union so long as they were not used as military bases by the United States. We could not disagree with any of this, although if we kept out the Chinese would have to keep out, and these small states would have to be allowed to join with their neighbors in whatever regional security arrangements would best protect their integrity without constituting a threat to any one

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else. Chou En-lai might be anxious about possibility of US bases in Laos and Cambodia. We wanted on our part to be sure that these countries were not handed over to the Chinese. Molotov said that while he did not know about what attitude Chinese might have on other questions in future, he could assure me that Chinese attitude on this particular question was not at all unreasonable, and that there was nothing in it which would give rise to conflicts. He added, however, that if we continued to take a one-sided view and insist on one-sided solutions, he must “in all frankness say that this would not succeed.” There were, he said, some differences of view between us on Laos and Cambodia, especially in regard to our refusal to recognize resistance movements; point he wanted to make, however, was that basis for reaching agreement was present and that agreement could be reached so long as neither side “adopted one-sided views or put forward extreme pretensions.” This, he said, could only lead to other side’s doing same. Resistance movements existed, in Laos and Cambodia, Molotov asserted. About 50% of the territory of Laos was not under the control of official government. It was true that much smaller resistance movement existed in Cambodia. He said that in fact conditions in all three Indochinese countries were different-large resistance movement controlling three-quarters of territory in Viet Nam, substantial movement in Laos controlling, as he had indicated, about half territory, and much smaller movement in Cambodia. I said, with regard to two latter counts solution was simple. Withdraw invading Vietminh forces and let dissident elements elect communist representatives to general assemblies if they wished. But the elections must be actually “free.” Regarding Viet Nam, I said we recognized relative strength of the Vietminh but they were demanding too much. It seems Vietminh demanded all Delta, including both Hanoi and Haiphong. The French were our allies, and we took grave view of this extreme pressure. Molotov said that if French were to have something in South and something in North, and probably in center as well, this would add up to three-quarters of country or better, which was wholly unreasonable. He said there was old Russian proverb that if you try to chase two rabbits at once you are apt to miss both of them, and added that in this case wanting something in North and in South was like chasing two rabbits. If French were to give way to Vietminh in North, they would gain territory probably greater in extent in South in recompense. I said appearance of “partition” was repugnant

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to US, and that as far as proverb about rabbits went I felt that Vietminh were chasing two rabbits in wanting both Hanoi and Haiphong. Vietminh demands for all the Delta, or efforts take it all by force prior to reaching political solution through elections, was serious matter in view of my Government. Molotov disagreed, stating that present French position in area was due only to Vietminh restraint, and that two cities did not even have normal communications between each other. In regard to US aversion to partition, he said that this problem could easily be solved by holding elections at once, which would decide “one way or the other.” He repeated that important thing in reaching agreement on any of these questions relating Indochina was to be realistic about actual facts, and to avoid putting out one-sided views or extreme pretensions. If French were encouraged to disregard actual situation and to ask for too much, he said, one could only expect conflict to continue. (He made it clear that he considered US as party likely to do the encouraging.) I replied that US was not one of principals to Indochinese dispute and did not cast deciding vote, to which Molotov remarked “maybe so, but you have veto, that word I hear you use so often,” and went on to say that among other delegations present at Conference there seemed to be real willingness to reach agreement. Agreement had in fact, he added, very nearly been reached, although he hoped I would realize this was not information for publication. (This remark, obviously, referred to private French-Vietminh military conversations which I have mentioned.) I said I must emphasize my Government held serious views on issues involved in Indochina situation, more serious, perhaps, than did some of other governments represented at Conference. I hope he would give consideration to this, and assist in overcoming some of the deep-rooted suspicions of Asiatic participants, which became apparent every time we tried to reconcile formal proposals. COMMENT:

Throughout conversation Molotov maintained friendly and mild tone evident in all informal conversations. He is completely sure of himself and of his position. What he had to say regarding Delta, Laos and Cambodia confirms Communist intentions to play all the cards they hold. His avoidance of endorsing Chou’s remarks to Eden concerning Laos and Cambodia indicated that simple withdrawal of Vietminh forces

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from these countries was not acceptable and that some form of de facto partition was intended in Laos, at least. His remarks seemed to indicate that Communists have eye on as much as half of country. This conversation, together with the inflexible position which Mob-toy took during his last conversation with me regarding the composition of a Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission for Indochina, as well as his speech on Tuesday, June 8, and all subsequent speeches on the Communist side, which took firm positions on points the Communists know to be unacceptable to Eden, Bidault and me, are highly significant. The recent emphasis by all three Communist spokesmen that France should carry on direct political as well as direct military negotiations with Vietminh show their interest in having a convenient way of holding out for greater gains in their direct negotiations with the French as well as within the framework of the Conference. Molotov in effect told France in his June 8 speech that her position and that of the Government she was supporting in Indochina were hopeless and that she had best face up to facts and capitulate in direct negotiations with the Vietminh. His speech, of course, was in large part intended to assist in the destruction of the French Government for the implications that that would have on the European as well as the Asiatic scene. Nevertheless, his harsh and even insulting language seemed to reflect the confident, nearly triumphant mood in which he has been lately. It would be misleading to ascribe the harder line which Mobotov brought back with him from Moscow entirely to Soviet tactical considerations in regard to the French Government crisis. While the Soviets may think that the blocking of EDC through the destruction of the French Government would reduce future threats to them in Europe, the fact remains that the Indochina conflict potentially involves a much more immediate threat of general war. It is probable that initial Soviet tactics were to forestall US intervention in the Delta by some kind of a compromise formula involving Hanoi and Haiphong if it appeared that such intervention were imminent. The recent raising of the ante in the negotiations here by the Communist side probably reflects an estimate on their part that our intervention is improbable and that they are safe to go ahead there, keeping, of course, a sharp eye out for indications of change in our attitude. While the Communist position on Laos and Cambodia remains more flexible than their position in regard to the Delta, they will get all they

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can in Laos now. In the whole are the determining factor for the Communists will continue to be their estimate of the likelihood of US or joint intervention and nothing short of a conviction on their part that this intervention will take place will stop them from going ahead with their plans for taking all of it eventually, through military conquest, French capitulation, or infiltration. Realize much of above is repetitious, but it will serve as final summary. SMITH

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Minutes, Zhou Enlai’s Meeting with [Pierre] Mendes-France 23 June 1954

Description:

Mendes-France and Zhou discuss the Indochina issue during their first meeting together. Both men feel they are in agreement with each other regarding several points (establishing a cease-fire before discussing political issues, that no US military bases should be established in Indochina, elections in Cambodia and Laos, cooperation between France and Vietnam and between the two sides in Vietnam). They end on a positive note, both certain that their few differences of opinion will be worked out. Time: 23 June 1954 Location: French Embassy, Bern Chinese participants: Premier Zhou Enlai, Vice Minister Li Kenong, [Chinese Embassy in Switzerland Minister] Feng Xian, Huan Xiang, Zhang Wenjin (secretary), and Dong Ningchuan (translator) French participants: Pierre Mendes-France, Ambassador [to Switzerland Jean] Chauvel, Luwin, Jacques Guillermaz, and one translator

Source: CFMA, Record No. 206-Y0007. Obtained by CWIHP and translated for CWIHP by Li Xiaobing.

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Mendes-France: It is said that [you,] Mr. Premier[,] postponed your trip to India for one day in order to come here. I really appreciate it. Zhou Enlai: We are so glad to meet Mr. Prime Minister and Foreign Minister before my brief return to China. Mendes-France: It is very good to make this meeting happen quickly. I am very glad about this. The reason is that I’d like to solve all of the problems concerning us quickly. Mr. Premier knows under what kind of circumstance our new national government was established. The French National Assembly has decided on a date and hopes that a settlement will be achieved before this date. This settlement of course must bring about peace. Zhou Enlai: It is for this reason that the leaders of our two countries have this early meeting to exchange our opinions. I believe this [will be] helpful in making conference progress from now on. Mendes-France: Mr. Premier has been attending all the meetings. I couldn’t participate in the conference before. But I had the information on your conversations with Mr. Bidault. I’d like to know more about Mr. Premier’s observation and opinion on what measures we should take in order to achieve peace in Indochina. Zhou Enlai: In the past meetings I have exchanged many opinions with Mr. Bidault and Mr. Chauvel. Nevertheless, I’d still like to talk to the new French prime minister and foreign minister now about the Chinese delegation’s opinion on the conference. The Chinese delegation’s purpose of coming and attending this Geneva Conference is to resume and realize peace in Indochina. This is our goal, and we do not ask for anything else. We oppose any enlargement or internationalization of the war. We oppose any use of threatening or provocative methods. They do not help negotiations. China, however, is not afraid of threats, as Mr. Prime Minister knows. We need to employ conciliatory methods to help both sides to arrive at an agreement. It is because of this common spirit, we’d like to address my opinions to Mr. Prime Minister. To solve any problem in Indochina, the first [requirement] is a ceasefire. Military issues are always related to political issues. The military issue is being discussed presently, and the political issue can be discussed later on. After an agreement is reached, the first [step] is to stop the war.

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As Mr. Prime Minister said, the French Parliament has expressed this kind of desire, because the people of France, Indochina, and the world all support this. The current situation in Indochina is that all three countries are involved in the war. They have a similar situation. All of the three countries need a cease-fire, and their people demand independence and national unification. The French government has shown its willingness to recognize the independence of the three countries and their national unification. China is willing to see they will stay in the French Union. Our country also intends to establish a friendly and peaceful relationship with France. The three countries, however, have different problems. Therefore, we should accept different ways in solving the problems in each country. Vietnam, for example, needs a general election for its national unification after the war, and then [the new national government] decides on the type of its political system. This will be determined by the Vietnamese people themselves. Regarding Laos and Cambodia, as long as the people in the two countries are still supportive of their current royal governments, our government will be very happy to see these two countries become part of the normal Southeast Asian countries, like India and Indonesia. I have expressed the same opinion to Mr. [Georges] Bidault. Of course, on the other hand, we don’t want to see that these three countries become military bases of the United States, or that the United States builds up a military pact with them. This is what we are against. If the United States establishes its military base there, we have to check it out, and we can’t just let it go without checking. I talked to the foreign ministers of Laos and Cambodia a few days ago. They all assured me that they don’t want any American military base in their countries. I said that was good and encouraged them to make friends with France, as long as France respects their independence. I also heard that [Minister of Foreign Affairs] Mr. Pham Van Dong, representative of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, talked to them and expressed that Vietnam will respect the independence and sovereignty of Laos and Cambodia, and assure a non-aggression between them and Vietnam. It was very good when I heard they were talking like this. Politically, the three countries face different situations. Currently, Vietnam has two governments. The military regrouping areas must be determined, but it doesn’t [require] a [political] division. During a period

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of time after the cease-fire, a free election will be held through negotiations between the two governments. This is their own domestic affair. We can show our support, even though we can’t intervene. Laos and Cambodia also need to achieve their unifications through elections. I think the Democratic Republic of Vietnam can agree on this point. The question is whether the two royal governments can recognize the resistance movements in their countries, and unite with the resistance governments in order to achieve their national unifications. The Bao Dai ­government should approach the Democratic Republic of Vietnam through discussions and negotiations, instead of opposing it. Unfortunately, his [Bao Dai’s] political proposal aims exactly at opposition, hegemony, and at inviting the United Nations to intervene. This is unacceptable. Militarily, the military representatives from both sides are negotiating the issue of Vietnam. We all hope that a settlement will be reached sooner. Laos and Cambodia have two situations. The first is that they have local resistance forces; it is small in Cambodia, and large in Laos. In Cambodia, the Royal government should talk directly to the resistance forces about cease-fire, neutral nation supervision, and political solutions there. So it should in Laos. In the meantime, the royal governments should also join France in the negotiations of both sides to determine the regrouping areas for the local forces. This will lead to their political unifications. The second situation is that all the foreign armed forces and military personnel should withdraw from these two countries. Vietnam had sent some volunteers over there. If it is still the case at the present, they may follow the resolution provided by the military staff meetings, requiring the withdrawal of all the foreign troops from all of Indochina. By now the representatives from both commands have reached an agreement in principle about the military meetings. They will meet and talk intensively in the next three weeks. Currently, the meetings of the belligerent states became the center of the conference. France and Vietnam are the most important parties from both sides. Our desire is a direct contact of both sides and a signed settlement [to be reached] soon. All the nations at the conference, including China, are willing to make contributions to genuine progress, and [are] firm to oppose any obstruction or destruction. These are the main points of my opinion.

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Mendes-France: The Premier’s points help me realize that the Premier’s thoughts on the issues are very clear. Of course, I can’t respond to every point, but some particular points should be discussed carefully. What made me glad is that our opinions are pretty close on the main points. I heard that the discussions on Laos and Cambodia have made some progress in the past several days. I also know that the progress was achieved mostly through the efforts by the delegation under the leadership of Premier Zhou. I believe that we don’t have any unsolvable problems between us over the issues of Laos and Cambodia. As the Premier mentioned, coping with the domestic problems in Laos and Cambodia also requires international supervision. Certainly, a solution requires some work, but I don’t think it is too difficult to find out. The problem in Vietnam is different. The Premier just said that it is tougher. And then the situation is not optimistic because the war has been [going on] in that country for so long. Moreover, as the Premier said, the two governments there have their own administrations and armies. The Vietnamese people are divided into two sides, and both sides have been fighting the war for many years. One of the points mentioned by the Premier needs to be noticed[:] that many problems can be solved through direct contact between both sides. If workable, we certainly welcome [direct contact]. In fact, however, it is difficult. Although it is difficult to contact and to obtain any result, we will make our vigorous effort to arrive at this goal. Nevertheless, we agree on this direction. The Premier also said that the goal in this region is unification, and that the methods and procedure can be considered differently. Vietnam is divided into two parts, it is difficult to reach any agreement in a short period of time. It is impossible to complete its national unification as soon as the cease-fire becomes effective. The time issue was just mentioned because the war has been there so long that peace would not be stalled immediately, and that procedure will not be that simple, for example, talking about an immediate election. In fact, if the Vietnamese people really want their unification, they have to cooperate and need certain procedures. Generally speaking, [our] goals are not much different in principle. There is one more final point. I am glad the Premier made such a suggestion: it is the best to go through two steps. This first is a cease-fire, and the second is a political settlement. I fully agree for the same reasons the Premier stated. For genuine progress, the first step is to concentrate our attention and energy on the cease-fire issue, including the determination

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of regrouping areas. This is a practical solution, it should be reached quickly. I’d like to ask the Premier if you agree that we have many points in common? There is another important point. The Premier raised a concern about establishing American military bases. I fully agree on this point. I want to make it clear that we don’t intend to establish any American bases in that region. We don’t have such a plan. Zhou Enlai: I’d like to explain regarding your points: You had a very good answer to my last point. France has no intention to establish any American bases. This is very good not only for the three countries, but also good for China, France, and Southeast Asia. All of us hope for a peaceful co-existence and for building a common foundation for the future. You also said that the military and political solutions in Laos and Cambodia needed international supervision. Our opinions are the same on this point. The situation in Vietnam is different and difficult. But I think the military and political principles can be reached first. The problem-solving should deal with the troop regrouping and cease-fire issues first, and then turn to the political settlement. It should be two steps, not one step. The length of each step depends on the effort of both sides, and requires discussions between the two sides. France bears more responsibilities for them to get closer, not confrontational. If the two sides refuse to make contact or refuse to talk to each other, it will slow down the cease-fire. I believe that you have found that the Chinese delegation is pushing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam to approach not only France, but also Bao Dai Vietnam. France may find it difficult to ask the Bao Dai government to make contact with the others. The Prime Minister knows where the difficulty comes from. That is the situation. Mr. Chauvel knows [it] even better. Of course, if we want to satisfy the reasonable requests made by Laos and Cambodia, we should meet the reasonable requests in Vietnam made by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Therefore, the military meetings between both sides may reach an agreement more easily. Mendes-France: I don’t have a whole package of opinions. We have the same opinion on some of the issues. Let me repeat this, it is a good thing if we can help to put the two Vietnamese governments together. The French government really wants to use its influence to facilitate

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their cooperation. It is, however, very difficult. We just talked about the long war, a long period of division, so that it is difficult for them to come together psychologically and politically. But [they] need to follow this guideline in order to achieve some settlements. It is better for them to set up some kind of foundation for implementing a cease-fire and troop regrouping. As you know, the negotiations between their military experts are still ongoing. Even though they do not seem to be having any major problems, the direction of their meetings is unclear. If we know what the foundation is and an agreement can be based on it, it would be much easier for us to push Vietnam. So far the French-Vietnamese meetings haven’t yet made any important progress. Mr. Pham Van Dong made contact with Mr. Chauvel yesterday. Currently, the focus of the conference is on military issues, but there is not much progress. I am returning to Paris tonight and will meet [French Commander in Chief and Commissioner General for Indochina] General [Paul] Ely. I will surely discuss this issue with him in order to further instruct our military representatives here and push the negotiations forward. And, if the Vietnamese government could do the same and give new instructions, it would be very good and easy to reach an agreement. Could [you, Mr.] Premier[,] use your influence over the Vietnamese government to do this like us and help us on this? Once the military experts have made progress in their discussions, arrived at an agreement, and created a foundation, it will be easy for diplomacy to proceed. I have one more point to make. If we go with the Vietnamese government’s proposal on 25 May suggesting to have two main regrouping areas, only the military experts can provide us a foundation for diplomatic discussions. Zhou Enlai: To avoid misunderstanding, I’d like to explain one thing. I said the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Bao Dai ­government should establish their “contact,” not “cooperation.” Since both sides have engaged in the war for many years, it is impossible to talk about any cooperation. Our expectation is that France could influence Bao Dai and make his government contact the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in order to reduce difficulties and leave no room for any external disruption. The negotiations on the troop regrouping should now enter the phase of discussing specific matters. My opinion is the same as Mr. Prime Minister regarding this issue. The current ­discussions should get into specific matters. We know that the military

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representatives of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam also intend to achieve early and positive results. I am very glad to hear that Mr. Mendes-France is going to meet General Ely, commander-in-chief of the French expeditionary forces in Indochina, after returning to Paris, and that General Ely will give specific instructions to the French military representatives at Geneva. The agreement on the main regrouping areas by both sides will lay the foundation for further diplomatic negotiations. I agree with Mr. Prime Minister at this point. Regarding the main regrouping areas, [I’d like to know] whether Mr. Prime Minister has any specific idea. If you have not decided on this point, [we] don’t have to talk about this issue right now. Mendes-France: To avoid any misunderstanding, I’d also like to give an explanation. When I said “cooperation,” I meant using “cooperative” methods to solve problems. I agree with Premier Zhou Enlai’s point. We really hope that the military staff meetings can move into practical phase quickly, and that the Vietnamese representatives will receive their new and clear instructions from their high command. The determination of the main regrouping areas can be used as the foundation for diplomatic negotiations. It seems that the main regrouping areas can be decided pretty soon. Regarding particular ideas on the main regrouping areas, I can’t make any suggestion right now, because I don’t know how the military staff negotiations are going. They are planning to draw a horizontal line from west to east. The line, however, proposed by the Vietnamese staff is much more to Pierre Mendes-France and Zhou Enlai at the Geneva Conference (courtesy PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archives) the south than the real situation [reflects]. Our experts, who know the field situation, have taken note of all the points proposed by the Vietnamese on 25 May. I think it is possible for them to provide a basis for further diplomatic negotiations. Another [piece of] evidence is that the negotiations on supervision currently are about practical methods. We think that, if the objectives of supervision are known in particular, the problem of supervision could be solved easily. Thus, we should push the negotiations on the regrouping forward and quickly in order to advance the discussions on supervisory issues. Zhou Enlai: That’s right. We should resolve the problem of the regrouping areas first. I have noticed Mr. Prime Minister’s stance on these

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issues. We believe that, after the military staff of both sides detail their discussions, the supervisory problem will be solved easily. I have exchanged my opinion on this issue with Mr. Eden. He agrees with my opinion. Our current efforts should help [the military staff of] both sides to reach an agreement soon, achieving a result within three weeks. This result will bring both belligerent sides their glorious peace, and realize the desires of the people of France, Vietnam, and the world. All the foreign ministers can return to Geneva earlier. Mendes-France: Three weeks should be the maximum time. During this period, as soon as the military representatives of both sides reach their agreement, they should inform their delegations. Thereby, there will be a few days for the foreign ministers to return to the conference. Zhou Enlai: The sooner, the better. After my departure, Mr. Li Kenong, our vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be in charge here. I hope that Mr. Chauvel will continue the communication with Mr. Li Kenong. I am very glad to meet Mr. Prime Minister. I really appreciate you are willing to spend time in Bern. Mendes-France: This is for our common task for peace. Zhou Enlai: Mr. Mendes-France said in the Parliament that everything is for peace and friendship. We fully agree with this point. Mendes-France: This is our first meeting. I hope we will have more contacts later on. I am really happy about this meeting. I’d like to express my appreciation here. Although I am very busy with many things since I have just organized my new cabinet, I really want to come here and meet you. I have another practical question, that is, what we are going to tell the reporters. What do you think about this? Zhou Enlai: Mr. Prime Minister can make a suggestion, please. Mendes-France: I agree with a news release draft suggested by Mr. Chauvel: “We had a frank conversation on the issue of peace in Indochina, not a negotiation. This conversation may lead to our desire that the Geneva Conference will achieve genuine progress.” It seems that not too much besides this can be said.

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Zhou Enlai: It is good not to say too much. Mendes-France: Hopefully, Mr. Li Kenong will contact Mr. Chauvel often later on. Zhou Enlai: I have a wish. Within the next three weeks, if Mr. Mendes-France comes to Geneva or has other opportunities, I hope you can make a contact with Mr. Pham Van Dong, head of the delegation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. We think such a direct contact beneficial. Mendes-France: Mr. Chauvel already met Mr. Pham Van Dong yesterday. Mr. Chauvel told Mr. Pham Van Dong that I’d like to meet him. But it is not clear when and where the meeting can take place. It may depend on the progress of the conference. I agree that this kind of the meeting is very important. I hope this meeting can happen. Zhou Enlai: I will be happy to pass on Mr. Prime Minister’s idea to Mr. Pham Van Dong. We hope that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and France can build a friendship on the foundation of peace. Mendes-France: This is also our hope. Mr. Zhou Enlai is a senior and experienced premier and foreign minister. I am a new and inexperienced prime minister and foreign minister. So there are too many things to be handled. But I will try my best to establish a friendly relationship between France and China, and between France and Vietnam.

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The Geneva Conference May-July, 1954

I. BACKGROUND TO THE CONFERENCE

On February 18, 1954, a joint communiqué from Berlin issued by the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and France announced that in late April the Big Four and other parties concerned would meet at Geneva to seek a peaceful solution of the eight-year-old war in Indochina. Between those dates, the Western allies engaged in a series of discussions centered around American proposals for direct intervention, while the Communist side-the USSR, Communist China (CPR), and the Viet Minhworked to ensure that they would enter the forthcoming Geneva Conference from a position of strength. The Eisenhower Administration found as much difficulty in persuading France and Great Britain that fundamental changes in the war were necessary before the start of the conference as in accepting the notion of a negotiated solution in Indochina. The troubles with France had begun in mid-1953 when the U.S. Government gave its conditional approval to the Navarre Plan, which provided for radically new French field tactics and a buildup of the Vietnamese National Army (VNA). American hopes that assistance in money and war materiel would elicit a French commitment to a program to attract native Indochinese into close military and political collaboration with the colonial governments, especially in Vietnam, were not fulfilled. Nor was France hospitable to American suggestions for greater involvement of the Military Advisory Assistance Group (MAAG) in French planning. As was to be the case almost throughout the Indochina crisis, France capitalized on American fears of National Assembly rejection of the European Defense Community (EDC) 159

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treaty and of a French pull-out from Indochina to gain U.S. aid without having to make commensurate concessions on Vietnamese independence or tactical planning. American attempts to tie aid to such concessions were never followed through, and whatever leverage on French ­policy­-making in Indochina the United States possessed was left largely unexploited. For the most part, France’s rejection of American conditions and suggestions was based on the Laniel government’s conviction, implemented zealously by French civil and military authorities in Indochina, that the United States would be intruding in France’s domain. A policy of systematic restrictions on American officials in the field prevented the United States from making independent evaluations of the war’s progress, with the result that the Government was for many months badly informed and unwarrantedly optimistic about the French Union army’s chances against the Viet Minh. In late March and April 1954, when it became clear to Washington that the Navarre Plan had failed and that (in Secretary of State Dulles’ words) “united action” was necessary to prevent Indochina from falling to the Communists, the French revealed that their distrust of American “interference” extended to any plans for overt American airnaval involvement. The Laniel government was perfectly amenable to localized American intervention at Dienbienphu to save the besieged French army from disaster; but it stood firmly opposed to Dulles’ concept of collective (Western-Asian) defense in a security organization that would, if necessary, intervene to prevent the “loss” of Indochina. France’s requests for assistance at Dienbienphu were entirely consistent with longstanding policy in Paris that looked to a negotiated settlement of the war on “honorable” terms at the same time as it hoped to be in the best possible military position at the time negotiations began. Opposition to “united action” was no less stubborn in London. The British, like the French, were suspicious of American intentions in calling for that alternative, though for different reasons. To the Churchill government, the United States, even while proclaiming a strong desire to avoid open conflict with Communist China, was tending precisely in that direction by insisting on the formation of a collective security pact prior to the start of the Geneva Conference. Eisenhower’s letter to Churchill on April 4, 1954, could only have reinforced those suspicions, for the President described united action as an attempt to make China stop supporting the Viet Minh rather than face the prospect of large-scale allied

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involvement in Vietnam. Although the British were not asked to make substantial ground troop commitments to a united action, they felt that their approval would ultimately condone a widening of the war that would risk bringing in the Chinese who, the British argued, could not possibly be expected to cease assistance they had been providing since 1950. London therefore told Dulles it would not approve united action and preferred to await the outcome of the negotiations before deciding whether the Indochina situation warranted resort to military alternatives. The British were perfectly willing to talk about regional defense in the Far East, but only after the results were in on the negotiations. Until then, they said, they would limit themselves to providing full diplomatic support to the French in search of a peaceful solution. Differences among the allies were therefore acute as the conference opened. The French had cleverly exploited the American assistance program without having brought in the Americans in full force, yet had also been unable to save Dienbienphu from being overrun on May 7. The British were felt in Washington to have been the primary obstacle to united action; they were accused of having been so blinded by their own self-interest in other areas of Southeast Asia that they failed to appreciate the vast strategic importance to the Free World of saving Indochina. Contrasting Communist unity on the eve of the conference was more a matter of Sino-Soviet agreement on the desirability of negotiations than of complete accord among the three parties. In the aftermath of Stalin’s death, Soviet foreign policy under Malenkov had altered considerably. Domestic priorities no doubt influenced the regime’s proclaimed hopes for a reduction in international tension. Peking, more intimately involved in the Viet Minh cause, stepped up its assistance to General Giap’s forces between February and April 1954, but also agreed with Moscow on the desirability of convening an international conference, which China would attend, to end the fighting. The limited available evidence suggests that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) alone among the three Communist parties considered the call for negotiations premature and urged that they be preceded by intensified military efforts. Ho’s much-publicized offer in late November 1953 to talk with the French was intended more to influence French domestic and official opinion and to demoralize Franco-Vietnamese troops than to evince sincere interest in arriving at an equitable settlement. In ensuing months, DRV broadcasts showed a far greater interest in first achieving a clear-cut military victory

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in the Tonkin Delta and parts of Laos than in engaging in discussions while French forces remained scattered throughout Indochina. These developments, in very broad outline, provided the backdrop to the Geneva Conference. Strength and weakness seemed to be the respective characteristics of the Communist and Western positions. Yet these terms are, as we shall see, not entirely accurate, for the interaction between and within the two sides was to make clear that the Geneva Conference would not be the setting for a victor’s peace. II. THE CONDUCT AND STRUCTURE OF DIPLOMACY

One of the first agreements reached at the Geneva Conference occurred in the course of a conversation between V. M. Molotov and Anthony Eden on May 5, when the Soviet foreign minister endorsed the foreign secretary’s assertion that this negotiation was the most difficult he had ever encountered. Indeed, it seems at first glance somewhat paradoxical that the Indochina phase of the Geneva Conference (May 8-July 21) should have resulted in a settlement within less than a dozen weeks, given the unusual difficulties facing the negotiators on both sides. Key issues were postponed until the eleventh hour while debate wore endlessly on over relatively insignificant matters; contact among the delegations was limited by ideological projudices and political antagonisms, forcing some delegates to act as mediators no less than as representatives of national interests; and major agreements were reached outside the special framework for discussions that the conferees had taken a month to build. *** III. THE DEVELOPMENT OF BARGAINING POSITIONS A. The United States and the Negotiations

In underwriting the Navarre Plan and proceeding with utmost caution in urging France to improve its relationship with the non-Communist Vietnamese nationalists, the United States hoped to influence Paris to postpone a commitment to negotiations until French forces were at least on the threshold of military victory. While aware of the strong pressures on the Laniel government from the National Assembly and the French public for a peaceful settlement, the United States, clearly influenced by the experience at Panmunjom, sought to persuade the premier not to let

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the clamor for peace drive him to the bargaining table. As late as December 1953 Laniel agreed that Washington’s aversion to premature negotiations was well-advised; but two months later, at Berlin, his government joined with the Soviet Union in calling for an international conference to end the Indochina conflict. The French government found it could no longer ignore anti-war sentiment at home without jeopardizing its survival, while the Americans, however strongly opposed to bringing the war to the conference table with victory nowhere in sight and with Communist China as a negotiating opponent, felt compelled to approve the Berlin decision if only to blunt the French threat of scuttling EDC. Forced to go along with French preference for negotiating with the Communists, the United States remained unalterably pessimistic about the probable results. This attitude was first set out fully by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in March 1954. [Doc. 23] The Chiefs examined the alternatives to military victory and found them all infeasible or unacceptable to the United States. A ceasefire prior to a political settlement, the JCS paper states, “would, in all probability, lead to a political stalemate attended by a concurrent and irretrievable deterioration of the FrancoVietnamese military position.” A coalition government would lead to Communist control by keeping any outside assistance from preventing a seizure of power from within. Partition, on the other hand, would mean recognizing Communist success by force of arms, ceding the key Tonkin Delta to the communists, and, even if confined to only one of the three Indochinese states, undercutting our containment policy in Asia. The Chiefs also commented at some length on the difficult question of elections in Vietnam. They took the position that even if elections could be held along democratic lines (which they doubted), a Communist victory would almost certainly result because of Communist territorial control, popular support, and superior tactics: Such factors as the prevalence of illiteracy, the lack of suitable educational media, and the absence of adequate communications in the outlying areas would render the holding of a truly representative plebiscite of doubtful feasibility. The Communists, by virtue of their superior capability in the field of propaganda, could readily pervert the issue as being a choice between national independence and French Colonial rule. Furthermore, it would be militarily infeasible to prevent widespread intimidation of voters by Communist partisans. While it is obviously

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impossible to make a dependable forecast as to the outcome of a free election, current intelligence leads the Joint Chiefs to the belief that a settlement based upon free elections would be attended by almost certain loss of the Associated States to Communist control.

The JCS views, together with the recommendation that the United States not associate itself with any settlement that “would fail to provide reasonably adequate assurance of the future political and territorial integrity of Indochina . . .,” were approved by the Secretary of Defense on March 23. The JCS position reflected Government policy, for in the remaining months before the Conference the United States privately stood opposed to any course of action other than full prosecution of the war. Dulles, speaking with French Ambassador Henri Bonnet on April 3, reasoned that a negotiated settlement would lead only to face-saving formulae for either a French or a Viet Minh surrender. The Secretary termed a division of Indochina “impractical” and a coalition government the “beginning of disaster”; neither arrangement could prevent a French surrender. [Doc. 27] The President himself echoed this either-or approach. Writing to Churchill April 4, Eisenhower proposed: “There is no negotiated solution of the Indochina problem which in essence would not be either a face-saving device to cover a French surrender or a face-saving device to cover a Communist retirement.” And, as already observed, it was precisely to bring about the latter-China’s “discreet disengagement” from support of the Viet Minh-that the President wanted British cooperation in united action. Concomitantly, the United States was concerned that a disaster at Dienbienphu would propel the French into acceptance of an immediate, unsupervised cease-fire even before the conference was to begin. Dulles obtained assurances from Bidault that the French would not agree to such a cease-fire. But the Secretary found the British less inflexible, with Eden doubting the American view that a sudden cease-fire would lead either to a massacre of the French by the native people or to large-scale infiltration of French-held terrain by Viet Minh forces. [Doc. 37] Thus assured by the French but mindful of both French and British preference for trying to bargain with the Communists before resorting to further military steps, Washington, in late April and early May, sought to develop guidelines for the American delegation. The National Security

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Council, less than a week before the opening conference session, ­carefully examined American alternatives. Disturbed by what it regarded as peaceat-any-price thinking in Paris, the NSC urged the President to decide not to join the Geneva deliberations without assurance from France that it was not preparing to negotiate the surrender of Indochina. Again, the Korean example was foremost: Communist tactics at Geneva, the NSC forecast, would likely resemble those at Panmunjom; a cease-fire might be announced that the Communists would not comply with for lack of effective supervision; the French would wilt before the Communists’ predictable dilatory tactics and end by accepting almost any terms. The NSC therefore decided that the French had to be pressured into adopting a strong posture in the face of probable Communist intransigence. The President was urged to inform Paris that French acquiescence in a Communist takeover of Indochina would bear not only on France’s future position in the Far East, but also on its status as one of the Big Three; that abandonment of Indochina would grievously affect both France’s position in North Africa and Franco-U.S. relations in that region; that U.S. aid to France would automatically cease upon Paris’ conclusion of an unsatisfactory settlement; and, finally, that Communist domination of Indochina would be of such serious strategic harm to U.S. interests as to produce “consequences in Europe as well as elsewhere [without] apparent limitation.” In addition, the NSC recomended that the United States determine immediately whether the Associated States should be approached with a view to continuing the anti-Viet Minh struggle in some other form, including unilateral American involvement “if necessary.” The NSC clearly viewed the Indochina situation with extreme anxiety, and its action program amounted to unprecedented proposals to threaten France with the serious repercussions of a sell-out in Southeast Asia. Pessimism over the prospects for any meaningful progress in talks with the Communists was shared by Secretary Dulles. In a background briefing for newsmen at Geneva, Dulles gave the first official indication for public consumption that the United States would dissociate itself from any settlement rather than be party to unacceptable terms. As to the acceptability of partition, the Secretary, in views that would change later, said he did not see how partition could be arranged with the fighting not confined to any single area. He as much as ruled out a territorial division when he commented that the United States would only agree to an

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arrangement in which all the Viet Minh troops would be placed in a small regroupment area out of harm’s way. But that arrangement “might not be acceptable to them,” Dulles said coyly. American opinions on the likely ramifications of a settlement were also made known, and with greater precision, in private. On May 7, for instance, Livingston Merchant of the State Department presented the American view to the Ministers of New Zealand and Australia. Predicting that the French would finally settle for part of Vietnam and manage to salvage Cambodia and Laos, Merchant said the United States could not accept such a surrender of territory. While we could not prevent the French from making concessions, neither did we have to associate ourselves with the results. Thus, both publicly and privately, Administration leaders indicated at the outset of the conference that the United States would divorce itself from any settlement that resulted in less than a complete French-Vietnamese victory. The first test of U.S. policy came May 5 when the French informed Washington of the proposals they intended to make in the opening round of the Geneva talks on May 8. The proposals included a separation of the “civil war” in Vietnam from the Communist aggressions in Cambodia and Laos; a cease-fire, supervised by a well-staffed international authority (but not the UN) and followed by political discussions leading to free elections; the regrouping of regular forces of the belligerents into defined zones (as Laniel had proposed in a speech on March 5) upon signature of a cease-fire agreement; the disarming of all irregular forces (i.e., the Viet Minh guerrillas); and a guarantee of the agreements by “the States participating in the Geneva Conference.” The JCS were first to react to the French plan. The Chiefs strongly felt that even if the Communists unexpectedly agreed to it, the likely outcomes would still be either rapid French capitulation in the wake of the cease-fire or virtual French surrender in the course of protracted political discussions. Once more, the Chiefs fell back on the Korean experience, which they said demonstrated the certainty that the Communists would violate any armistice controls, including those supervised by an international body. An agreement to refrain from new military activities during armistice negotiations would be a strong obstacle to Communist violations; but the Communists, the JCS concluded, would never agree to such an arrangement. On the contrary, they were far more likely to intensify military operations so as to enhance their bargaining position, precisely

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at the time the French would seek to reduce operations to avoid taking casualties. The Chiefs therefore urged that the United States not get trapped into backing a French armistice proposal that the Communists, by voicing approval, could use to bind us to a cease-fire while they themselves ignored it. The only way to get satisfactory results was through military success, and since the Navarre Plan was no longer tenable, the next best alternative was not to associate the United States with any cease-fire in advance of a satisfactory political settlement. The first step, the Chiefs believed, should be the conclusion of a settlement that would “reasonably assure the political and territorial integrity of the Associated States . . . ”; only thereafter should a cease-fire be entertained. As previously, the Joint Chiefs’ position became U.S. policy with only minor emendations. The President, reviewing the Chiefs’ paper, agreed that the Government could not back the French proposal with its call for a supervised cease-fire that the Communists would never respect. Eisenhower further concurred with the Chiefs’ insistence on priority to a political settlement, with the stipulation that French forces continue fighting while negotiations were in progress. He added that the United States would continue aiding the French during that period and would, in addition, work toward a coalition “for the purpose of preventing further expansion of Communist power in Southeast Asia.” These statements of position paved the way for a National Security Council meeting on May 8, which set forth the guidelines of U.S. policy on negotiations for the delegation at Geneva. The decision taken at the meeting simply underscored what the President and the Chiefs had already stated: The United States will not associate itself with any proposal from any source directed toward a cease-fire in advance of an acceptable armistice agreement, including international controls. The United States could concur in the initiation of negotiations for such an armistice agreement. During the course of such negotiations, the French and the Associated States should continue to oppose the forces of the Viet Minh with all the means at their disposal. In the meantime, as a means of strengthening the hands of the French and the Associated States during the course of such negotiations, the United States will continue its program of aid and its efforts to organize and promptly activate a Southeast Asian regional grouping for the purpose of preventing further expansion of Communist power in Southeast Asia.

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B. The Communist Proposals

Official American perspectives on the likely pattern of the Geneva negotiations were confirmed when the Viet Minh forwarded their first ­proposal “package” at the second plenary session on May 10. Pham Van Dong, then the DRV’s vice-minister for foreign affairs and already a seasoned negotiator with the French, introduced his case with the argument that the Viet Minh were the “stronger” force in “more than three-fourths of the country.” He went on to describe the successful administration of this territory by his government, which he said “represents the will of the entire Vietnamese nation The opposition, the Bao Dai regime, characterized as “the government of the temporarily occupied zone,” did not enjoy popular support and was merely the tool of the French. Pham Van Dong did not, however, demand that France concede ­control of all Vietnam to the DRY. Instead, Dong urged that France recognize “the sovereignty and independence of Vietnam throughout the territory of Vietnam,” a statement which amounted to a rejection of the Franco-Vietnamese treaties approved April 28 in Paris by Laniel and Premier Nguyen Trung Vinh. The main points of Dong’s proposal for a cease-fire and political settlement in Vietnam were as follows:







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(1) Conclusion of an agreement on the withdrawal of all “foreign” (i.e., French) troops from the Associated States, to be preceded by the relocation of those troops to regroupment areas (2) Convening of advisory conferences, to be composed of representatives of the “governments of both sides,” in each country of Indochina, with the objective of holding general elections leading to the establishment of unified governments (3) Supervision of elections by local commissions (4) Prior to the establishment of unified governments, the carrying out by the opposing parties of “the administrative functions in the districts which will be [temporarily] under their administration. (5) Cease-fire in all Indochina supervised by mixed commissions composed of the belligerents, the cease-fire to take effect upon ­implementation of all other measures. No new forces or military equipment to be introduced into Indochina during the armistice

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To placate the French, Dong asserted the DRV’s readiness “to examine the question of the entry of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam into the French Union. . .” The meaning of Dong’s proposal was clear. A political settlement would precede a military agreement to a cease-fire rather than the reverse, which the French preferred. Somewhat ironically, the Viet Minh position was in line with the American preference for giving priority to a political settlement; but the Viet Minh in effect proposed to stop fighting only when French troops had left Vietnam and a political process favorable to the Communists had been set up. By first getting rid of the French, and then substituting all-Vietnamese consultations for strict control and supervision of the cease-fire, the regroupment, and the general elections, the Viet Minh could legitimately expect a quick takeover of power from the relatively weak Vietnamese National Army, by then bereft of its French command structure. As Dong well knew, the relocation of French forces in the Tonkin Delta to a tighter perimeter was having, and would continue to have, major repercussions on VNA morale. Once the French could be persuaded to withdraw, the VNA would undoubtedly collapse under Viet Minh military pressure. Moreover, in as much as Dong’s plan made no allowance for the disarming, much less the regrouping, of indigenous forces on either side, the Viet Minh would be militarily in a virtually unassailable position to control any general election that might be held. Dong’s proposal, then, amounted to a request that the French abandon Vietnam to a certain fate. In the same speech, Dong made clear that the DRV’s concern ­extended beyond Vietnam to Cambodia and Laos. By 1954, Viet Minh coordination with the Pathet Lao and Free Khmer “resistance forces” had been going on for at least three years, or since the formal announcement on March 11, 1951, of formation of a Viet Minh-Free KhmerPathet Lao “National United Front.” Viet Minh soldiers and cadres were active participants in the fighting there, where they provided the hard core of the “resistance.” In addition, forces under General Vo Nguyen Giap had invaded Laos in April and December 1953, and Cambodia in April 1954 (a move which prompted a formal protest by the Royal Khmer Government to the Secretary General of the UN on April 23). Viet Minh battalions were still active in both countries during May and June, with greater priority given operations in Laos. Thus, Dong’s proposals on a settlement in Laos and Cambodia reflected not

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simply the DRV’s assumption of the role of spokesman for the unrepresented Free Khmer and Pathet Lao movements, but also direct Viet Minh interests in those neighboring kingdoms. Dong argued that the Pathet Lao and Free Khmer forces enjoyed widespread popular support and controlled most of the territory of their respective countries. With considerable distortion of history (­subsequently corrected by the Laotian and Cambodian delegates), Dong sought to demonstrate that the Pathet Lao and Free Khmer were de facto governments carrying out “democratic reforms” in the areas their armies had “liberated.” France was therefore advised to recognize the “sovereignty and independence” of those movements no less than of the DRY. French forces alone were to withdraw from Cambodia and Laos; the Pathet Lao and Free Khmer were not “foreign” troops. The same election procedure offered for Vietnam, without neutral or international supervision, would, Dong proposed, take place in Cambodia and Laos, thereby granting the Pathet Lao and Free Khmer a status equal to that of the lawful governments. And during the electoral process, Dong insisted on “conditions securing freedom of activity for patriotic parties, groups, and social organizations . . .” agreement to which would have permitted various Communist fronts to function with impunity. The inclusion of the Pathet Lao and Free Khmer in the DRV’s settlement plan-in particular, the demand that they merited political and territorial recognition-very ­quickly brought the conference to a standstill and, much later, compelled the Soviets and Chinese to work against Viet Minh ambitions. C. The American Reaction

Pham Van Dong’s opening gambit was clearly anathema to the Western delegations. Certainly, from the American standpoint, his proposals met none of the criteria for acceptability outlined by the National Security Council on May 8. Smith said as much at Geneva when he spoke on May 10 and again at the third plenary session May 12. Accordingly, Smith did not wholeheartedly embrace Bidault’s proposals, for despite giving a general endorsement of the French plan, he departed from it at two important junctures. First, he declined to commit the United States in advance to a guarantee of the settlement despite Bidault’s call for all the participants to make such a guarantee; second, he proposed that ­national elections in Vietnam be supervised specifically by an international

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c­ ommission “under United Nations auspices.” As his speeches made clear, the United States believed the UN should have two separate functions-overseeing not only the cease-fire but the elections as well. Both these points in Smith’s remarks were to remain cardinal elements of American policy throughout the negotiations despite French (and Communist) efforts to induce their alteration. Entirely in keeping with Smith’s position at the conference, as well as with the tenor of the Viet Minh proposals, Secretary Dulles, on May 12, sent Smith instructions intended to make the United States an influential, but unentangled and unobligated, participant. As Dulles phrased it, the United States was to be “an interested nation which, however, is neither a belligerent nor a principal in the negotiation.” Its primary aim would be to: help the nations of that area [Indochina] peacefully to enjoy territorial integrity and political independence under stable and free governments with the opportunity to expand their economies, to realize their legitimate national aspirations, and to develop security through individual and collective defense against aggression, from within and without. This implies that these people should not be amalgamated into the Communist bloc of imperialistic dictatorship.

Accordingly, Smith was told, the United States should not give its approval to any settlement or cease-fire “which would have the effect of subverting the existing lawful governments of the three aforementioned states or of permanently impairing their territorial integrity or of placing in jeopardy the forces of the French Union of Indochina, or which otherwise contravened the principles stated . . . above.” [Doc. 47] The NSC decision of May 8, Smith’s comments at the second and third plenary sessions, and Dulles’ instructions on May 12 reveal the rigidity of the American position on a Geneva settlement. The United States would not associate itself with any arrangement that failed to provide adequately for an internationally supervised cease-fire and national elections, that resulted in the partitioning of any of the Associated States, or that compromised the independence and territorial integrity of those States in any way. It would not interfere with French efforts to reach an agreement, but neither would it guarantee or other wise be placed in the position of seeming to support it if contrary to policy. Bedell Smith was left free, in fact, to withdraw from the conference or to restrict the

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American role to that of observer. [Doc. 47] The rationale for this approach was clear enough: the United States, foreseeing inevitable protraction of negotiations by the Communists in the manner of Korea, would not be party to a French cession of territory that would be the end result of the Communists’ waiting game already begun by Pham Van Dong. Rather than passively accept that result, the United States would withdraw from active involvement in the proceedings, thereby leaving it with at least the freedom to take steps to recapture the initiative (as by rolling back the Viet Minh at some future date) and the moral purity of having refused to condone the enslavement of more people behind the Iron Curtain. American policy toward negotiations at Geneva was therefore in perfect harmony with the Eisenhower-Dulles global approach to dealing with the Communist bloc. Gloomy American conclusions about the conference, and no doubt the extravagant opening Communist demands, were intimately connected with events on the battlefield. After the debacle at Dienbienphu on May 7, the French gradually shifted their forces from Laos and Cambodia into the Tonkin Delta, leaving behind weak Laotian and Cambodian national armies to cope with veteran Viet Minh battalions. As the French sought to consolidate in northern Vietnam, the Viet Minh pressed the attack, moving several battalions eastward from Dienbienphu. U.S. Army intelligence reported in late May, on the basis of French evaluations, that the Viet Minh were redeploying much faster than anticipated, to the point where of 35,000 troops originally in northwestern Tonkin only 2,000 remained. At the same time, two Viet Minh battalions stayed behind in Cambodia and another ten in Laos; and in both those countries, American intelligence concluded that the Viet Minh position was so strong as to jeopardize the political no less than the military stability of the royal governments. To thwart the Communist military threat in Vietnam, the French chief of staff, General Paul Ely, told General J. H. Trapnell, the MAAG chief (on May 30), that French forces were forming a new defensive perimeter along the HanoiHaiphong axis; but Ely made no effort to hide the touch-and-go nature of French defensive capabilities during the rainy season already underway. This precarious situation was confirmed by General Valluy of the French command staff. In a report in early June to U.S., British, Australian, and New Zealand chiefs of staff assembled in Washington, Valluy held that the Delta was in danger of

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falling to the Communists, that neither Frenchmen nor Vietnamese would fight on in the south in that eventuality, and that only prompt allied intervention could save the situation. [Doc. 53] American assessments merely echoed those provided by the French. A National Intelligence Estimate published June 15 determined that French Union forces, despite a numerical advantage, faced defections on a mounting scale that could become very large if the Viet Minh scored major victories or if the French were believed (and Vietnamese suspicions were rife on this score in Hanoi and Saigon) about to abandon Hanoi and portions of the Delta. In sum, the tenor of intelligence reports by French and American sources during this period (from early May through midJune) was that the Viet Minh armies were solidly entrenched in portions of Cambodia and Laos, were preparing for further advances in the Tonkin Delta, and, if the war were to continue beyond the rainy season, had the capability to destroy positions then being fortified by French Union forces throughout northern Vietnam. The upshot of this military deterioration throughout much of Indochina was to reinforce the American conviction that the Communists, while making proposals at Geneva they knew would be unacceptable to the West, would drive hard for important battlefield gains that would thoroughly demoralize French Union troops and set the stage for their withdrawal southward, perhaps precipitating a general crisis of confidence in Indochina and a Viet Minh takeover by default. More clearly than earlier in the year, American officials now saw just how desperate the French really were, in part because French field commanders were being far more sincere about and open with information on the actual military situation. But the thickening gloom in Indochina no less than at Geneva did not give way to counsels of despair in Washington. The Government concluded not that the goals it had set for a settlement were unrealistic, but rather that the only way to attain them, as the President and the JCS had been saying, was through decisive military victory in conformity with the original united action proposal of March 29. While therefore maintaining its delegation at Geneva throughout the indecisive sessions of May and June, the United States once again alerted France to the possibility of a military alternative to defeat under the pressure of Communist talk-fight tactics. ***

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V. THE MAJOR ISSUES AT THE CONFERENCE, MAY-JUNE

Washington’s sense that the conference had essentially gotten nowhere-a view which Smith and Dulles believed was shared by Eden, as already noted-was not entirely accurate; nor was it precisely the thinking of other delegations. Following the initial French and Viet Minh proposals of May 8 and 10, respectively, some progress had in fact been made, although certainly not of an order that could have led any of the chief negotiators to expect a quick settlement. As the conference moved ahead, three major areas of contention emerged: the separation of belligerent forces, the establishment of a framework for political settlements in the three Indochinese states, and provision for effective control and supervision of the cease-fire. *** C. Control and Supervision

Painstakingly slow progress toward cease-fires and political settlements for the Indochinese states also characterized the work of devising supervisory organs to oversee the implementation and preservation of the cease-fire. Yet here again, the Communist side was not so intransigent as to make agreement impossible. Three separate but interrelated issues dominated the discussions of control and supervision at this stage of the conference and afterward. First, there was sharp disagreement over the structure of the supervisory organ: Should it consist solely of joint commissions composed of the belligerents, or should it have superimposed above an international authority possessing decisionmaking power? Second, the composition of any supervisory organ other than the joint commissions was also hotly disputed: Given agreement to have “neutral” nations observe the truce, which nations might be considered “neutral”? Finally, if it were agreed that there should be a neutral control body, how would it discharge its duties? In the original Viet Minh proposals, implementation of the cease-fire was left to joint indigenous commissions, with no provision for higher, international supervision. Vehement French objections led to a second line of defense from the Communist side. At the fourth plenary session (May 14), Molotov suggested the setting up of a Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) such as existed in Korea, and said he

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did not foresee any insurmountable problem in reaching agreement on its membership. But Molotov’s revision left much to be determined and, from the Western standpoint, much to be desired too. Serious debate on the control and supervision problem did not get underway until early June. At that time, Molotov expressly rejected the American plan, ­supported by the Indochinese delegations and Great Britain, to have the United Nations supervise a cease-fire. He argued that the UN had nothing to do with the Geneva Conference, especially as most of the conferees were not UN members. Returning to his plan for an NNSC, Molotov reiterated his view that Communist countries could be as neutral as capitalist countries; hence, he said, the problem was simply one of choosing which countries should comprise the supervisory organ, and suggested that the yardstick be those having diplomatic and political relations with both France and the Viet Minh. As to that body’s relationship to the joint commissions, Molotov shied away from the Western proposal to make them subordinate to the neutral commission. “It would be in the interest of our work to recognize,” Molotov said, “that these commissions should act in coordination and in agreement between each other, but should not be subordinate to each other.” No such hierarchical relationship had existed in Korea, so why one in Indochina? Finally, the foreign minister saw no reason why an NNSC could not reach decisions by unanimous vote on “important” questions. Disputes among or within the commissions, Molotov concluded, would be referred to the states guaranteeing the settlement, which would, if necessary, take “collective measures” to resolve them. The Western position was stated succinctly by Bidault. Again insisting on having “an authority remote from the heat of the fighting and which would have a final word to say in disputes,” Bidault said the neutral control commission should have absolute responsibility for the armistice. It would have such functions as regrouping the regular forces, supervising any demilitarized zones, conducting the exchange of prisoners, and implementing measures for the non-introduction of war materiel into Indochina. While the joint commission would have an important role to play in these control processes, such as in working out agreement for the safe passage of opposing armies from one zone to another or for POW exchange, its functions would have to be subordinate to the undisputed authority of a neutral mechanism. Bidault did not specify which nations fitted his definition of “neutrality” and whether they would decide by

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majority or unanimous vote. These omissions were corrected by Eden a few days later when he suggested the Colombo Powers (India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma, and Indonesia), which he argued were all Asian, had all been actively discussing Indochina outside the conference, were five in number and hence impervious to obstruction by a two-to-two vote (as on the NNSC) or requirement for unanimity, and were truly impartial. The basis for agreement on the vital question of supervising a ceasefire seemed at this stage nonexistent. The Communists had revised their position by admitting the feasibility of a neutral nations’ control organ in addition to joint commissions of the belligerents. But they clearly hoped to duplicate in Indochina the ineffective machinery they had foisted on the United Nations command at Panmunjom, one in which effective peacekeeping action was basically proscribed by the built-in veto of a four-power authority evenly divided among Communist and non-Communist representatives. The West, on the other hand, absolutely refused to experiment again with an NNSC; a neutral organ was vital, but it could not include Communist representatives, who did not know the meaning of neutrality. If the United Nations was not acceptable to the Communists, the Colombo Powers should be. However remote these positions, various kinds of trade-offs must have been apparent to the negotiators. Despite differing standards of “neutrality” and “impartiality,” for instance, compromise on the membership problem seemed possible. The real dilemma was the authority of a neutral body. Unless superior to the joint commissions, it would never be able to resolve disputes, and unless it had the power to enforce its own decisions, it would never be more than an advisory organ. Whether some new formula could be found somewhere between the Communists’ insistence on parallel authority and the West’s preference for a hierarchical arrangement remained to be seen. On June 19 the Korea phase of the conference ended without reaching a political settlement. The conferees at that point agreed to a prolonged recess by the delegation leaders on the understanding that the military committees would continue to meet at Geneva and in the field. Eden wrote to the Asian Cornmonwealth prime ministers that “if the work of the committees is sufficiently advanced, the Heads of Delegations will come back.” Until that time, the work of the conference would go on in restricted session. Chauvel and Pham Van Dong remained at their posts; Molotov returned to Moscow; Chou En-lai, en route to Peking, made

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important stopovers in New Delhi, Rangoon, and Nanning that were to have important bearing on the conference. Smith remained in Geneva, but turned the delegation over to Johnson. It was questionable whether the Under Secretary would take over again; gloom was so thick in Washington over the perceived lack of progress in the talks and the conviction’ that the new Mendès-France government would reach a settlement as soon as the conference reconvened, that Dulles cabled Smith: “Our thinking at present is that our role at Geneva should soon be restricted to that of observer. . . .” [Doc. 65] As for Eden, he prepared to accompany Churchill on a trip to Washington for talks relating to the conference and prospects for a Southeast Asia defense pact. Vi. THE ANGLO-AMERICAN RAPPROCHEMENT

With its preconceptions of Communist negotiating strategy confirmed by the harshness of the first Viet Minh proposals, which Washington did not regard as significantly watered down by subsequent Sino-Soviet alterations, and with its military alternatives no longer considered relevant to the war, the United States began to move in the direction of becoming an influential actor at the negotiations. This move was not dictated by a sudden conviction that Western capacity for inducing concessions from the Communist side had increased; nor was the shift premised on the hope that we might be able to drive a wedge between the Viet Minh and their Soviet and Chinese friends. Rather, Washington believed that inasmuch as a settlement was certain to come about, and even though there was near-equal certainty it could not support the final terms, basic American and Western interests in Southeast Asia might still be preserved if France could be persuaded to toughen its stand. Were concessions still not forthcoming—were the Communists, in other words, to stiffen in response to French firmness—the Allies would be able to consult on their next moves with the confidence every reasonable effort to reestablish peace had been attempted. As already observed, the American decision to play a more decisive role at the conference depended on gaining British support. The changing war situation now made alignment with the British necessary for future regional defense, especially as Washington was informed of the probability that a partition settlement (which London had foreseen months before) would place all Indochina in or within reach of Communist

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hands. The questions remained how much territory the Communists could be granted without compromising non-Communist Indochina’s security, what measures were needed to guarantee that security, and what other military and political principles were vital to any settlement which the French would also be willing to adopt in the negotiations. When the chief ministers of the United States and Great Britain met in Washington in late June, these were the issues they had to confront. The British and American representatives-Eden, Churchill, Dulles, and Eisenhower-brought to the talks positions on partition and regional ­security that, for all the differences, left considerable room for a harmonization of viewpoints. The UK, as the Americans well knew, was never convinced either that Indochina’s security was inextricably linked to the security of all Asia, or that the Franco-Viet Minh war would ever bring into question the surrender of all Indochina to the Communists. London considered partition a feasible solution, but was already looking beyond that to some more basic East-West understanding that would have the effect of producing a laissez-faire coexistence between the Communist and Western powers in the region. As Eden recalled his thinking at the time, the best way of keeping Communism out of Southeast Asia while still providing the necessary security within which free societies might evolve was to build a belt of neutral states assisted by the West. The Communists might not see any advantage to this arrangement, he admitted. But: If we could bring about a situation where the Communists believed that there was a balance of advantage to them in arranging a girdle of neutral states, we might have the ingredients of a settlement.

Once the settlement was achieved, a system for guaranteeing the security of the neutral states thus formed would be required, Eden held. Collective defense, of the kind that would ensure action without unanimity among the contracting parties—a system “of the Locarno type”— seemed most reasonable to him. These points, in broad outline, were those presented by him and Churchill. The United States had from the beginning dismissed the viability of a partition solution. Dulles’ public position in his major speech of March 29 that Communist control even of part of Indochina would merely be the prelude to total domination was fully supported in private by both State and Defense. Nevertheiess, the Government early recognized the

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possibility that partition, however distasteful, might be agreed to among the French and Communist negotiators. As a result, on May 5, the Defense Department drew up a settlement plan that included provision for a territorial division. As little of Vietnam as possible should be ­yielded, Defense argued, with the demarcation line fixed in the north and “defined by some defensible geographic boundary (i.e., the Red or Black Rivers, or the Annamite Mountains) In accord with the French position that evolved from the meeting of Mendès-France’s cabinet on June 24, Defense urged provision for a Vietnamese enclave in the Hanoi-Haiphong area or, alternatively, internationalization of the port facilities there. Fairly well convinced, however, that partition would be fragile, Defense also called for “sanctions” against any form of Communist aggression in Laos, Cambodia, or Thailand, and for allied agreement to united action in the event the Communists violated a cease-fire by conducting subversive activities in the non-Communist area of Vietnam. The Defense proposal amounted to containing the Communist forces above the 20th parallel while denying them sovereign access to the sea. This position went much further than that of the French, who also favored a demarcation line geared to military requirements but were willing to settle on roughly the 18th parallel. Moreover, when the five-power military staff conference met in Washington in early June, it reported (on the 9th) that a line midway between the 17th and 18th parallels (from Thakhek in Laos westward to Dong Hoi on the north Vietnam seacoast) would be defensible in the event partition came about. [Doc. 61] Undercutting the Defense plan still further was the French disposition to yield on an enclave in the Hanoi-Haiphong area were the Viet Minh to  press for their own enclave in southern Vietnam. As Chauvel told U. Alexis Johnson, should the choice come to a trade-off of enclaves or a straight territorial division, the French preferred the latter. [Doc. 62] Thus, by mid-June, a combination of circumstances made it evident to the Administration that some more flexible position on the location of the partition line would have to be, and could be, adopted. American acceptance of partition as a workable arrangement put Washington and London on even terms. Similarly, on the matter of an overall security “umbrella” for Southeast Asia, the two allies also found common ground. While the United States found “Locarno” an unfortunate term, the Government did not dispute the need to establish a vigorous defense mechanism capable of acting despite objections by one or

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more members. It will be recalled that the NSC Planning Board, on May 19, had outlined three possible regional groupings dependent upon the nature and timing of a settlement at Geneva. Now, in late June, circumstances dictated the advisability of concentrating on the “Group 2” formula, in which the UK, the United States, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand would participate but not France (unless it was decided that the pact would apply to Indochina). The concerned states would exchange information, act as a united front against Communism, provide actual assistance to Asian members against external attack or “Communist insurrection,” and make use of Asian facilities and/or forces in their defense assistance program. American planning for what was to become SEATO evinced concern, however, about the commitment of American forces in cases of Communist infiltration and subversion. As the Planning Board’s paper notes, the role of the United States and other countries should be limited to support of the country requesting assistance; Asian member nations would be expected to “contribute facilities and, if possible, at least token military contingents.” The Board’s paper did not represent a final policy statement; but it did reflect American reluctance, particularly on the part of the President and the Joint Chiefs, to have American forces drawn into the kind of local conflict the Administration had steered clear of in Vietnam. On this question of limiting the Western commitment, the British, to judge from their hostility toward involvement against the Viet Minh, were also in general agreement. Aside from partition and regional security, a basis also existed for agreement to assisting the French in their diplomatic work by the device of some carefully worded warning to the Communists. The British, before as well as after Dienbienphu, were firmly against issuing threats to the Communists that involved military consequences. When united action had first been broached, London rejected raising the threat of a naval blockade and carrying it out if the Chinese continued to assist the Viet Minh. Again, when united action came up in private U.S.-French discussions during May, the British saw no useful purpose in seeking to influence discussions at Geneva by making it known to the Communists that united action would follow a breakdown in negotiations. The situation was different now. Instead of threatening direct military action, London and Washington apparently agreed, the West could profit from an open-ended warning tied to a lack of progress at Geneva. When Eden

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addressed the House of Commons on June 23 prior to emplaning for Washington, he said: “It should be clear to all that the hopes of ­agreement [at Geneva] would be jeopardized if active military operations in Indochina were to be intensified while negotiations for an armistice are proceeding at Geneva. If this reminder is needed, I hope that it may be heeded.” Eden was specifically thinking of a renewed Viet Minh offensive in the Delta, but was not saying what might happen once negotiations were placed in jeopardy. This type of warning was sounded again at the conclusion of the Anglo-American talks, and encouragement for it came from Paris. In the same aidememoire of June 26 in which the French Government had requested that the United States counsel Saigon against a violent reaction to partition, Washington was also urged to join with London in a declaration. The declaration would “state in some fashion or other that, if it is not possible to reach a reasonable settlement at the Geneva Conference, a serious aggravation of international relations would result [Doc. 66] The French suggestion was acted upon. Eisenhower and Churchill issued a statement on June 29 that “if at Geneva the French Government is confronted with demands which prevent an acceptable agreement regarding Indochina, the international situation will be seriously aggravated.” In retrospect, the statement may have had an important bearing on the Communists’ negotiating position—a point to which we shall return subsequently. The joint statement referred to “an acceptable agreement,” and indeed the ramifications of that phrase constituted the main subject of the U.S.UK talks. In an unpublicized agreement, the two governments concurred on a common set of principles which, if worked into the settlement terms, would enable both to “respect” the armistice. These principles, known subsequently as the Seven Points, were communicated to the French. As reported by Eden, they were:



(1) Preservation of the integrity and independence of Laos and Cambodia, and assurance of Viet Minh withdrawal from those countries (2) Preservation of at least the southern half of Vietnam, and if possible an enclave in the Delta, with the line of demarcation no further south than one running generally west from Dong Hoi (3) No restrictions on Laos, Cambodia, or retained Vietnam “materially impairing their capacity to maintain stable non-Communist

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regimes; and especially restrictions impairing their right to maintain adequate forces for internal security, to import arms and to employ foreign advisers” (4) No “political provisions which would risk loss of the retained area to Communist control” (5) No provision that would “exclude the possibility of the ultimate reunification of Vietnam by peaceful means” (6) Provision for “the peaceful and humane transfer, under international supervision, of those people desiring to be moved from one zone to another of Vietnam” (7) Provision for “effective machinery for international supervision of the agreement.”

The Seven Points represented something of an American diplomatic victory when viewed in the context of the changed Administration position on partition. While any loss of territory to the Communists predetermined the official American attitude toward the settlement—Eden was told the United States would almost certainly be unable to guarantee it— the terms agreed upon with the British were sufficiently hard that, if pushed through by the French, they would bring about a tolerable arrangement for Indochina. The sticking point for Washington lay not in the terms but in the unlikelihood that the British, any more than the French, would actually stand by them against the Communists. Thus, Dulles wrote: “. . . we have the distinct impression that the British look upon this [memorandum of the Seven Points] merely as an optimum solution and that they would not encourage the French to hold out for a solution as good as this.” The Secretary observed that the British, during the talks, were unhappy about finding Washington ready only to “respect” the final terms reached at Geneva. They had preferred a stronger word, yet they “wanted to express these 7 points merely as a ‘hope’ without any indication of firmuess on our part.” The United States, quite aside from what was said in the Seven Points, “would not want to be associated in any way with a settlement which fell materially short of the 7 point memorandum.” [Doc. 70] Thus, the seven points, while having finally bound the United States and Great Britain to a common position on the conference, did not allay Washington’s anxiety over British and French readiness to conclude a less-than-satisfactory settlement. The possibility of a unilateral American withdrawal from the conference was still

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being “given consideration,” Dulles reported, even as the Seven Points were agreed upon. Despite reservations about our Allies’ adherence to the Seven Points, the United States still hoped to get French approval of them. On July 6, Dillon telegraphed the French reaction as given him by Parodi, the ­secretary-general of the cabinet. With the exception of Point 5, denoting national elections, the French were in agreement. They were confused about an apparent conflict between the elections provision and Point 4, under which political provisions, which would include elections, were not to risk loss of retained Vietnam. In addition, they, too, felt American agreement merely to “respect” any agreement was too weak a term, and requested clarification of its meaning. Dulles responded the next day (July 7) to both matters. Points 4 and 5 were not in conflict, he said. It was quite possible that an agreement in line  with the Seven Points might still not prevent Indochina from going Communist. The important thing, therefore, was to arrange for national ­elections in a way that would give the South Vietnamese a liberal breathing spell: since undoubtedly true that elections might eventually mean unification Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh this makes it all more important they should be only held as long after cease-fire agreement as possible and in conditions free from intimidation to give democratic elements [in South Vietnam] best chance. We believe important that no date should be set now and especially that no conditions should be accepted by French which would have direct or indirect effect of preventing effective international supervision of agreement ensuring political as well as military guarantees.

And so far as “respect” of that agreement was concerned, the United States and Britain meant they “would not oppose a settlement which conformed to Seven Points. . . . It does not of course mean we would guarantee such settlement or that we would necessarily support it publicly. We consider ‘respect’ as strong a word as we can possibly employ in the circumstances. . . . ‘Respect’ would also mean that we would not seek directly or indirectly to upset settlement by force.” Dulles’ clarification of the American position on elections in Vietnam, together with his delimitation of the nation’s obligation towards a settlement, did not satisfy the French completely but served the important

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purpose of enlightening them as to American intentions. Placed beside the discussions with Eden and Churchill, the thrust of American diplomacy at this time clearly was to leave no question in the minds of our allies as to what we considered the elements in a reasonable Indochina settlement and what we would likely do once a settlement were achieved.

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Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles on the Need to Inform Diem About Negotiations 2 July 1954

SENT TO: Amembassy PARIS 39 RPTD INFO: Amembassy SAIGON 31 Amconsul GENEVA 9 REDEPTEL 4852, June 28; Saigon 2746; Geneva 489 It seems to me that new Vietnamese Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem, who has reputation of uncompromising nationalist, is quite in the dark about developments critically affecting country he is trying to lead. We fear that if results of French negotiations with Communists are revealed to him as a fait accompli, the very reaction French wish to avoid will result. You should therefore indicate our concern to the French and ascertain their own intentions with respect to consulting him or minimizing his resentment and their views with respect to plans and prospects for maintaining order in South Vietnam. DULLES 185

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Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles with Text of a Letter to Mendes-France 10 July 1954

NIACT

SENT TO: AMEMB PARIS 127 FOR AMBASSADOR FROM SECRETARY LIMIT DISTRIBUTION 7/10/54 Following is personal message from Secretary Dulles to Mendes-France which is to be delivered by Ambassador Dillon to Mendes-France in person as promptly as possible as instructed by separate cable. BEGIN TEXT: My dear Mr. President: President Eisenhower (who has been kept closely informed) and I have been greatly moved by your earnest request that I or General Bedell Smith should return next week to Geneva for what may be the conclusion of the Indochina phase of the Conference. I can assure you that our 187

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attitude in this respect is dictated by a desire to find the course which will best preserve the traditional friendship and cooperation of our countries and which will promote the goals of justice and human welfare and ­dignity to which our two nations have been traditionally dedicated. We also attach great value to preserving the united front of France, Great Britain and the United States which has during this postwar period so importantly served all three of us in our dealings with the Communists. What now concerns us is that we are very doubtful as to whether there is a united front in relation to Indochina, and we do not believe that the mere fact that the high representatives of the three nations physically reappear together at Geneva will serve as a substitute for a clear agreement on a joint position which includes agreement as to what will happen if that position is not accepted by the Communists. We fear that unless there is the reality of such a united front, the events at Geneva will expose differences under conditions which will only serve to accentuate them with consequent strain upon the relations between our two countries greater than if the US does not reappear at Geneva in the person of General Smith or myself. Beginning early last April the US worked intensively with the French Government and with that of Great Britain in an effort to create a common position of strength. This did not prove possible. The reasons were understandable, and derived from fundamental causes which still subsist and influence the possibility of achieving at the present time a genuine “united front.” During the talks of Prime Minister Churchill and Foreign Secretary Eden with President Eisenhower and me, an effort was made to find a common position which might be acceptable to the two of us and, we hoped, to the French Government. This was expressed in the seven-point memorandum of which you are aware. I believe that this represented a constructive contribution. However, I do not yet feel that there is a united position in the sense that the three of us’would be prepared to stand firmly on this as a minimum acceptable solution and to see the negotiations break off and the warfare resume if this position was not accepted by the Communist side. We doubt very much that the Communists will in fact accept this seven-point position unless they realize that the alternative is some common action upon which we have all agreed. So far, there is no such alternative.

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Under these circumstances, we greatly fear that the seven points which constitute a minimum as far as the US is concerned will constitute merely an optimum solution so far as your Government and perhaps the UK are concerned, and that an armistice might be concluded on terms substantially less favorable than those we could respect. We gather that there is already considerable French thinking in terms of the acceptability of departures from certain of the seven points. For example: Allowing Communist forces to remain in Northern Laos; accepting a Vietnam line of military demarcation considerably south of Donghoi; neutralizing and demilitarizing Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam so as to impair their capacity to maintain stable, non-Communist regimes; accepting elections so early and so ill-prepared and ill-supervised as to risk the loss of the entire area to Communism; accepting international supervision by a body which cannot be effective because it includes a Communist state which has veto power. These are but illustrations of a whittling-away process, each stroke of which may in itself seem unessential, but which cumulatively could produce a result quite different from that envisaged by the seven points. Also, of course, there is the danger that the same unacceptable result might come about through the Communist habit of using words in a double sense and destroying the significance of good principles with stultifying implementations. We do not for a moment question the right of the French Government to exercise its own judgment in all of these respects. Indeed, we recognize that the issues for France are so vital that the French Government has a duty to exercise its own judgment. I have from the beginning recognized the preponderant interest of your Government as representing the nation which has borne for so many years the burden of a cruel and costly war. However, my Government equally has the duty not to endorse a solution which would seem to us to impair seriously certain principles which the US believes must, as far as it is concerned, be kept unimpaired, if our own struggle against Communism is to be successfully pursued. At the same time, we do not wish to put ourselves in the position where we would seem to be passing moral judgment upon French action or disassociating ourselves from the settlement at a moment and under circumstances which might be unnecessarily dramatic. It is also to be considered that if our conduct creates a certain uncertainty in the minds of the Communists, this might strengthen your hand

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more than our presence at Geneva in a form which would expose probably to the world, and certainly to the Communists themselves, differences which the Communists would exploit to the discomfiture of all three of us. Under all these circumstances, it seems to us that the interests of both of our countries are best served by continuing for the time being the present type of US representation at Geneva. This consists of able and responsible persons who are in close contact with the President and me. If circumstances should alter so that it appeared that our common interests would be better served if higher ranking officials became our representatives, than we would be alert to act accordingly. It is because I am fully aware of the serious and solemn nature of the moment that I have gone into the matter at this considerable length. It is possible that by the first of the week, the Communist position will be sufficiently disclosed so that some of the answers to the foregoing queries can be foreseen. This might clarify in one sense or another the thinking of us all. In this connection, let me emphasize that it is our ardent hope that circumstances might become such that consistently with the foregoing either General Bedell Smith or I can personally come to Geneva and stand beside you. END TEXT DULLES

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Minutes of Zhou Enlai’s Meeting with [Pierre] Mendes-France 17 July 1954

Description:

Zhou Enlai and Mendes-France discuss the defense organization of Southeast Asia. Enlai expresses concern that the United States intends to organize this group, and that increasing U.S. influence and alliance will make restoration of peace in the region meaningless. Mendes-France responds that the Paris meeting did not consider this formation of this alliance and that he has no knowledge of U.S. intention to form this alliance. The men also briefly discuss resolution of two other issues: how to draw the demarcation line and when to hold elections. Time: Beginning at 4:45 p.m., 17 July 1954 Location: Mendes-France’s Mansion Chinese participants: Zhou Enlai, Li Kenong, Wang Bingnan, and Dong Ningchuan (translator) French participants: Pierre Mendes-France, Jean Chauvel, Jacques Guillermaz, and one translator

Source: CFMA. Obtained by CWIHP and translated for CWIHP by Li Xiaobing.

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Zhou Enlai: Our opinions are gradually getting closer now. We don’t have much time, and we should reach some solutions quickly. At the present, the two issues that have been most debated are how to draw the [demarcation] line and when to hold elections. I talked to Mr. Prime Minister during the last two meetings [and said that] that we wanted to push the conference forward for a settlement. [Passage excised by the Department of Archives of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs.] Now two problems remain. The three-person talks tonight and the meeting between Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. Pham Van Dong should find some solutions. However, I’d like now to discuss another problem, that is, the so-called Southeast Asia Defense Pact. After the Paris meeting, there is some recent propaganda that the United States intends to organize a Southeast Asian group, and that it also push the three countries in Indochina to participate in the organization. That is much different from what Mr. Mendes-France, Mr. Eden, and I have been talking about. This problem causes us concern. Our wish is that a restoration of peace will be realized in Indochina, and that Laos and Cambodia will become peaceful, independent, friendly, and neutral countries. If they join America’s alliance and establish American bases, then the restoration of peace becomes meaningless. It will increase America’s influence, and decrease the influence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. This is not beneficial for the Indochinese people or the French people. According to our conversations in the past meetings, I think it shouldn’t happen like this. But there are so many rumors out there, as if Paris has some kind of promise. Thus, I’d like to talk to Mr. Prime Minister directly and frankly. Mendes-France: I appreciate that Mr. Premier recalls our conversations in the past meetings and intends to maintain a consistent stance. I also want to maintain my previous position. After our two meetings, as Mr. Premier knows, there has been some development in the situation. Our deadline—I should say my deadline— is now coming soon. But we still face many difficulties. [Passage excised by the Department of Archives of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs.] Zhou Enlai: I can’t talk about this issue in detail. It should be dealt with directly by Mr. Pham Van Dong and Mr. Prime Minister.

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Mr. Prime Minister had said that the current problems are not only to draw the line, but also including the political problems. I have told this to Mr. Pham Van Dong and Mr. [Vyacheslav] Molotov. I guess that it may be easier to solve the two problems if we can connect them ­together. Tonight’s meeting may bring us some results. Mendes-France: I can now respond to Mr. Premier’s concerns about the Southeast Asia alliance. I think it unnecessary for Mr. Premier to worry about this. The Paris meeting did not consider any kind of Southeast Asia alliance to include the three countries of Indochina. As far as I know, the United States does not intend to establish any military bases in Indochina. Therefore we don’t need to worry about any change to our previous position in the past meetings. Certainly, if the war can’t be stopped, it will be a different story. If the cease-fire becomes a reality, some country may come up with its own separate statement to strengthen its original position. Nevertheless, I want to assure Mr. Premier that we do not consider any Southeast Asia alliance to include the three countries of Indochina. Please trust me, this is my word without any reservation. Zhou Enlai: Thank you for your explanation. What we hope to see is the expansion of a peaceful region. If the United States fixes a Southeast Asia pact, including the three countries of Indochina, then, all of our efforts to push these compromises will become fruitless. That is why I want to mention my concerns. Mendes-France: The best way to consolidate future peace is to solve the current problems reasonably. If Laos can be an example, we hope that Laos can join the French Union, and that it won’t sign any military pact with other countries. Following the regulations under the France-Laos agreements, no foreign military base can be established there. But Laos’ problems remain unresolved. The Vietnamese government put forward some unrealistic requests. They suggested their regrouping area stretch from north to south nearly 1,000 kilometers. It is difficult to accept. I hope Mr. Premier can give Mr. Pham Van Dong some advice as you did on many occasions and ask him to make more realistic considerations. Zhou Enlai: It is proper to discuss the Laos problems with Vietnam’s problems such as drawing the [demarcation] line and [when to hold] elections. We have read the draft of the second political statement of the French delegation. We think it should include these issues, such as

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non-establishment of foreign military bases and no military alliances with foreign countries. I have mentioned this in my speeches on 16 and 19 June. Otherwise, there won’t be any guarantee. It is said that French military representatives have drafted a cease-fire proposal for Laos. [The proposal] requests that, after foreign troops withdraw, local resistance forces should regroup at certain points. Vietnam, however, asks for some pre-determined areas for the regrouping of the resistance forces, instead of regrouping at [certain] points. I think that the military staff through their negotiations can solve this problem. Moreover, this also relates to the problem of drawing the [demarcation] line in Vietnam. My hope is that Mr. Mendes-France can talk directly to Mr. Pham Van Dong again. The three-person meeting tonight may also discuss this problem. Mendes-France: I have asked the staff of the French delegation to contact the staff of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Hopefully, there will be some progress. Of course, the meeting with the two presidents tonight is also very important for me. Mr. Chauvel said a little while ago that the French delegation staff had suggested to the staff of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s delegation [that France and the DRV should] work together and draft a political statement based on common ground. However, this task is somehow suspended right now. Hopefully, Mr. Pham Van Dong can give a push to this task. Zhou Enlai: Besides political issues, the discussions over the ceasefire should also identify some of the main common points that may produce an agreement. Otherwise, the whole package of the truce agreement can’t be put together overnight as a booklet. Mendes-France: I fully agree with such an idea. Zhou Enlai: Today is the 17th. It will be a success only if some agreements can be achieved on the major issues within the next two days. Mendes-France: I am very glad to hear this word. I fully agree.

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U.S. Involvement in the Franco-Viet Minh War 1950–1954

Foreword

This portion of the study treats U.S. policy towards the war in Indochina from the U.S. decision to recognize the Vietnamese Nationalist regime of the Emperor Bao Dai in February, 1950, through the U.S. deliberations on military intervention in late 1953 and early 1954. Summary

It has been argued that even as the U.S. began supporting the French in Indochina, the U.S. missed opportunities to bring peace, stability and independence to Vietnam. The issues arise from the belief on the part of some critics that (a) the U.S. made no attempt to seek out and support a democratic-nationalist alternative in Vietnam; and (b) the U.S. commanded, but did not use, leverage to move the French toward granting genuine Vietnamese independence. U.S. Policy and the Bao Dai Regime

The record shows that through 1953, the French pursued a policy which was based on military victory and excluded meaningful negotiations with Ho Chi Minh. The French did, however, recognize the requirement for an alternative focus for Vietnamese nationalist aspirations, and from 1947 forward, advanced the “Bao Dai solution.” The record shows that the 195

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U.S. was hesitant through 1949 to endorse the “Bao Dai solution” until Vietnam was in fact unified and granted autonomy and did consistently support the creation of a genuinely independent, noncommunist Vietnamese government to supplant French rule. Nonetheless, the fall of China and the deteriorating French military position in Indochina caused both France and the U.S. to press the “Bao Dai solution.” In early 1950, after French ratification of the Elysee Agreement granting “Vietnam’s independence,” the U.S. recognized Bao Dai and initiated military and economic aid, even before transfer of governmental power actually occurred. Thereafter, the French yielded control only pro forma, while the Emperor Bao Dai adopted a retiring, passive role, and turned his government over to discreditable politicians. The Bao Dai regime was neither popular nor efficient, and its army, dependent on French leadership, was powerless. The impotence of the Bao Dai regime, the lack of any perceptible alternatives (except for the communists), the fact of continued French authority and control over the GVN, the fact that the French alone seemed able to contain communism in Indochina—all these constrained U.S. promptings for a democratic-nationalist government in Vietnam. Leverage: France had More Than the United States

The U.S.-French ties in Europe (NATO, Marshall Plan, Mutual Defense Assistance Program) only marginally strengthened U.S. urgings that France make concessions to Vietnamese nationalism. Any leverage from these sources was severely limited by the broader considerations of U.S. policy for the containment of communism in Europe and Asia. NATO and the Marshall Plan were of themselves judged to be essential to our European interests. To threaten France with economic and military sanctions in Europe in order to have it alter its policy in Indochina was, therefore, not plausible. Similarly, to reduce the level of military ­assistance to the French effort in Indochina would have been counter-productive, since it would have led to a further deterioration in the French military position there. In other words, there was a basic incompatibility in the two strands of U.S. policy: (1) Washington wanted France to fight the anti-communist war and win, preferably with U.S. guidance and advice; and (2) Washington expected the French, when battlefield victory was assured, to magnanimously withdraw from Indochina. For France, which was probably fighting more a colonial than an anti-communist war, and

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which had to consider the effects of withdrawal on colonial holdings in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, magnanimous withdrawal was not too likely. France, having no such policy incompatibilities, could and did pursue a consistent course with the stronger bargaining hand. Thus, the French were able to resist pressures from Washington and through the MAAG in Saigon to create a truly Vietnamese army, to grant the Vietnamese more local autonomy and to wage the war more effectively. MAAG was relegated to a supply function and its occasional admonitions to the French were interpreted by them as interference in their internal affairs. Even though by 1954, the U.S. was financing 78% of the costs of the war, the French retained full control of the dispensation of military assistance and of the intelligence and planning aspects of the military struggle. The expectation of French victory over the Viet Minh encouraged the U.S. to “go along” with Paris until the conclusion of the war. Moreover, the U.S. was reluctant to antagonize the French because of the high priority given in Washington’s planning to French participation in the European Defense Community. France, therefore, had considerable leverage and, unless the U.S. supported Paris on its own terms, the French could, and indeed did, threaten not to join the EDC and to stop fighting in Indochina. Perceptions of the Communist Threat to Southeast Asia and to Basic U.S. Interests

American thinking and policy-making was dominated by the tendency to view communism in monolithic terms. The Viet Minh was, therefore, seen as part of the Southeast Asia manifestation of the world-wide communist expansionary movement. French resistance to Ho Chi Minh, in turn, was thought to be a crucial link in the containment of communism. This strategic perception of the communist threat was supported by the espousal of the domino principle: the loss of a single nation in Southeast Asia to communism would inexorably lead to the other nations of the area falling under communist control. The domino principle, which probably had its origin at the time of the Nationalist withdrawal from mainland China, was at the root of U.S. policy. Although elements of a domino-like theory could be found in NSC papers before the start of the Korean War, the Chinese intervention in Korea was thought to be an ominous confirmation of its validity. The possibility of a large-scale

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Chinese intervention in Indochina, similar to that in Korea, was feared, especially after the armistice in Korea. The Eisenhower Administration followed the basic policy of its predecessor, but also deepened the American commitment to containment in Asia. Secretary Dulles pursued a forthright, anti-communist policy and made it clear that he would not permit the “loss” of Indochina, in the manner the Democrats had allegedly allowed the “loss” of China. Dulles warned China not to intervene, and urged the French to drive toward a military victory. Dulles was opposed to a cease-fire and tried to dissuade the French from negotiations with the Viet Minh until they had markedly improved their bargaining position through action on the battlefield. The NSC in early 1954 was persuaded that a non-communist coalition regime would eventually turn the country over to the Viet Minh. In consequence of this more militant policy, the U.S. Government tended to focus on the military rather than the political aspects of the French-Viet Minh struggle. Among the more frequently cited misapprehensions concerning U.S.  policy in Vietnam is the view that the Eisenhower Administration flatly rejected intervention in the First Indochina War. The record shows plainly that the U.S. did seriously consider intervention, and advocated it to the U.K. and other allies. With the intensification of the French-Viet Minh war and the deterioration of the French military position, the United States was forced to take a position on: first, a possible U.S. military intervention in order to avert a Viet Minh victory; second, the increasingly likely contingency of negotiations between Paris and Ho Chi Minh to end the war through a political settlement. In order to avoid a French sell-out, and as an alternative to unilateral U.S. intervention, the U.S. proposed in 1954 to broaden the war by involving a number of allies in a collective defense effort through “united action.” The Interagency Debate Over U.S. Intervention In Indochina

The U.S. Government internal debate on the question of intervention centered essentially on the desirability and feasibility of U.S. military action. Indochina’s importance to U.S. security interests in the Far East was taken for granted. The Eisenhower Administration followed in general terms the rationale for American interest in Indochina that was expressed by the Truman Administration. With respect to intervention, the Truman

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Administration’s NSC 124 of February 1952 recognized that the U.S. might be forced to take some military action in order to prevent the subversion of Southeast Asia. In late 1953-early 1954, as the fall of Indochina seemed imminent, the question of intervention came to the fore. The Defense Department pressed for a determination by highest authority of the size and nature of the forces the U.S. was willing to commit in Indochina. Some in DOD questioned the then operating assumption that U.S. air and naval forces would suffice as aid for the French. The Army was particularly concerned about contingency planning that assumed that U.S. air and naval action alone could bring military victory, and argued for realistic estimates of requisite land forces, including the degree of mobilization that would be necessary. The State Department thought that Indochina was so critical from a foreign policy viewpoint that intervention might be necessary. But DOD and the JCS, estimating that air-naval action alone could not stem the surging Viet Minh, recommended that rather than intervening directly, the U.S. should concentrate on urging Paris to train an expanded indigenous army, and should exert all possible pressures-in Europe as well as in Asia-to motivate the French to fight hard for a military victory. Many in the U.S. Government (the Ridgway Report stands out in this group) were wary that U.S. intervention might provoke Chinese Communist intervention. In the latter case, even a considerable U.S. deployment of ground forces would not be able to stem the tide in Indochina. A number of special high-level studies were unable to bridge the evident disparity between those who held that vital U.S. interests were at stake in Indochina, and those who were unwilling to make a firm decision to intervene with U.S. ground forces to assure those interests. Consequently, when the French began pressing for U.S. intervention at Dien Bien Phu, the Eisenhower Administration took the position that the U.S. would not intervene unilaterally, but only in concert with a number of European and Far Eastern allies as part of a combined force. The Attempt to Organize “United Action”

This “united action” proposal, announced publicly by Secretary Dulles on March 29, 1954, was also designed to offer the French an alternative to surrender at the negotiating table. Negotiations for a political settlement of the Franco-Viet Minh war, however, were assured when the Big Four Foreign Ministers meeting in February at Berlin placed Indochina

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on the agenda of the impending Geneva Conference. Foreign Minister Bidault insisted upon this, over U.S. objections, because of the mounting pressure in France for an end to the seemingly interminable and costly war. The “peace faction” in Paris became stronger in proportion to the “peace feelers” let out by Ho Chi Minh, and the lack of French success on the battlefield. U.S. policy was to steer the French away from negotiations because of the fear that Indochina would thereby be handed over to the communist “empire.” Secretary Dulles envisaged a ten-nation collective defense force to take “united action” to prevent a French defeat-if necessary before the Geneva Conference. Dulles and Admiral Radford were, at first, inclined towards an early unilateral intervention at Dien Bien Phu, as requested by the French (the so-called “Operation Vulture”). But Congressional leaders indicated they would not support U.S. military action without active allied participation, and President Eisenhower decided that he would not intervene without Congressional approval. In addition to allied participation, Congressional approval was deemed dependent upon a public declaration by France that it was speeding up the timetable for independence for the Associated States. The U.S. was unable to gather much support for “united action” except in Thailand and the Philippines. The British response was one of hesitation in general, and flat opposition to undertaking military action before the Geneva Conference. Eden feared that it would lead to an expansion of the war with a high risk of Chinese intervention. Moreover, the British questioned both the U.S. domino principle, and the belief that Indochina would be totally lost at Dien Bien Phu and through negotiations at Geneva. As for the French, they were less interested in “united action” than in immediate U.S. military assistance at Dien Bien Phu. Paris feared that united action would lead to the internationalization of the war, and take control out of its hands. In addition, it would impede or delay the very negotiations leading towards a settlement which the French increasingly desired. But repeated French requests for direct U.S. intervention during the final agony of Dien Bien Phu failed to alter President Eisenhower’s conviction that it would be an error for the U.S. to act alone. Following the fall of Dien Bien Phu during the Geneva Conference, the “domino theory” underwent a reappraisal. On a May 11 press conference, Secretary Dulles observed that “Southeast Asia could be secured

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even without, perhaps, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.” In a further remark that was deleted from the official transcript, Dulles said that Laos and Cambodia were “important but by no means essential” because they were poor countries with meager populations. (End of Summary) I. U.S. POLICY AND THE BAO DAI REGIME A. The Bao Dai Solution 1. The French Predicament French perceptions of the conflict which broke out in December, 1946, between their forces in Indochina and the Viet Minh forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) began to alternate between boundless optimism and unbridled gloom. In May, 1947, Minister of War Coste-Floret announced in Paris that: “There is no military problem any longer in Indochina . . . the success of French arms is complete.” Within six months, though ambitious armored, amphibious, and airborne drives had plunged into the northern mountains and along the Annam coast, Viet Minh sabotage and raids along lines of communication had mounted steadily, and Paris had come to realize that France had lost the military initiative. In the meantime, the French launched political forays similarly ambitious and equally unproductive. Leon Pignon, political adviser to the French Commander in Indochina, and later High Commissioner, wrote in January, 1947, that: Our objective is clear: to transpose to the field of Vietnamese domestic politics the quarrel we have with the Viet Minh, and to involve ourselves as little as possible in the campaigns and reprisals which ought to be the work of the native adversaries of that party.

Within a month, an emissary journeyed into the jungle to deliver to Ho Chi Minh’s government demands tantamount to unconditional surrender. About the same time, French representatives approached Bao Dai, the former Emperor of Annam, with proposals that he undertake to form a Vietnamese government as an alternate to Ho Chi Minh’s. Being unable to force a military resolution, and having foreclosed meaningful

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negotiations with Ho, the French turned to Bao Dai as their sole prospect for extrication from the growing dilemma in Vietnam. 2. The Ha Long Bay Agreement, 1948 Bao Dai’s mandarinal court in Hue, Annam, had been little more than an instrument of French colonial policy, and-after the occupation by JapanOf Japanese policy. Bao Dai had become Emperor at the age of 12, in 1925, but did not actually ascend the throne until 1932, after education in France. In August, 1945, when the Viet Minh arrived in Hue, he abdicated in favor of Ho’s Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and accepted the post of “Supreme Adviser” to the new state. In 1946, he left Vietnam, and went to Hong Kong. There, he found himself solicited not only by French representatives, but by the DRV, who sought him to act on their behalf with the French. Bao Dai attempted at first to maintain a central position between the two protagonists, but was soon persuaded to decline the Viet Minh overtures by non-Communist nationalists. A group of these, including members of the Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, Dong Minh Hoi, Dai Vet, and the VNQDD formed a National Union, and declared support for Bao Dai. One authority termed the National Union “a fragile coalition of discredited collaborators, ambitious masters of intrigue, incompetent sectarians, and a smattering of honest leaders without a following.” Among the latter were Ngo Dinh Diem, who “for the first and only time, joined a party of which he was not the founder,” and pledged to back the Emperor so long as he pursued independence for Vietnam. Now, having eliminated the Viet Minh support option, Bao Dai became more compliant in his discussions with the French, and the French became correspondingly stiffer in their attitude toward the Viet Minh. Yet, little came of the talks. On December 7, 1947, aboard a French warship in Ha Long Bay, Bao Dai signed an accord with the French, committing the French to Vietnamese political independence so minimally that it was promptly condemned not only by Diem, but also by more opportunistic colleagues in the National Union. Bao Dai, in what might have been a political withdrawal, removed himself from the developing intrigue, and fled to European pleasure centers for a four month jaunt which earned him the sobriquet “night club emperor.” The French, despite lack of cooperation from their elusive Vietnamese principal, sent diplomats to pursue Bao Dai and publicized their resolve

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“to carry on, outside the Ho Chi Minh Government, all activities and negotiations necessary for the restoration of peace and freedom in the Vietnamese countries”—in effect, committing themselves to military victory and Bao Dai. French persistence eventually persuaded Bao Dai to return to Hong Kong, to endorse the formation of a Vietnamese national government prior to independence, and finally, to return to Vietnam as the Head of State. French negotiating pressures on him and the National Union included both spurious “leaks” of Franco-Viet Minh settlement talks, and further assurances of intentions to grant Vietnamese autonomy. On June 5, 1948, Bao Dai witnessed the signing of another Bay of Ha Long Agreement. Thereby, France publicly and “solemnly” recognized the independence of Vietnam-but specifically retained control over foreign relations and the Army, and deferred transfer of other governmental functions to future negotiations; no authority was in fact transferred to the Vietnamese. Again Bao Dai retired to Europe, while in Hanoi the French assembled a transparently impotent semblance of native government. A second summer of war passed in 1948 without dispelling the military miasma over Indochina, and without making the “Bao Dai solution” any less repugnant among Vietnamese patriots. Opposition to it began to mount among French Leftists. This disenchantment, combined with a spreading acceptance of the strategic view that the Franco-Viet Minh war was a key anti-Communist struggle, influenced French leaders to liberalize their approach to the “Bao Dai solution.” 3. Elysee Agreement, 1949 On March 8, 1949, after months of negotiations, French President Auriol, in an exchange of letters with Bao Dai, reconfirmed independence for Vietnam as an Associated State of the French Union and detailed procedures for unifying Vietnam and placing it under Vietnamese administration. Nonetheless, in the Elysee Agreement, France yielded control of neither Vietnam’s army nor its foreign relations, and again postponed arrangements for virtually all other aspects of autonomy. However, Bao Dai, apparently convinced that France was now sufficiently desperate in Indochina that it would have to honor the Agreements, declared that: . . . An era of reconstruction and renovation will open in Vietnam. The country will be given democratic institutions that will be called on ­primarily to approve the present agreement. . . . Profound economic and

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social reforms will be instituted to raise the general standard of living and to promote social justice, which is the condition and guarantee of order . . . [I look for] the union of all Vietnamese regardless of their political and religious tendencies, and the generous support of France on which I can count

His public stance notwithstanding, Bao Dai delayed his return to Vietnam until a Cochinchinese Assembly had been elected (albeit in a farce of an election), and did not proceed to Saigon until the French Assembly had approved Cochinchina’s joining the rest of Vietnam. In late June, 1949, Vietnam was legally united under Bao Dai, but the related alteration of administrative functions was slow, and usually only pro forma; no genuine power or authority was turned over to the Vietnamese. The State of Vietnam became a camouflage for continued French rule in Indochina. As Bao Dai himself characterized the situation in 1950, “What they call a Bao Dai solution turned out to be just a French solution. . . . The situation in Indochina is getting worse every day . . .” 4. Bao Dai’s Governments The unsavory elements of the coalition supporting Bao Dai dominated his regime. Ngo Dinh Diem and a few other upright nationalists refused high government posts, and withdrew their support from Bao Dai when their expectations of autonomy were disappointed. Diem’s public statement criticized the probity of those who did accept office: The national aspirations of the Vietnamese people will be satisfied only on the day when our nation obtains the same political regime which India and Pakistan enjoy . . . I believe it is only just to reserve the best posts in the new Vietnam for those who have deserved best of the country; I speak of those who resist .

However, far from looking to the “resistance,” Bao Dai chose his leaders from among men with strong identification with France, often men of great and dubious wealth, or with ties with the sub-worlds of French neo-mercantilism and Viet vice. None commanded a popular ­following. General Georges Revers, Chief of Staff of the French Army, who was sent to Vietnam to appraise the situation in May and June, 1949, wrote that:

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If Ho Chi Minh has been able to hold off French intervention for so long, it is because the Viet Minh leader has surrounded himself with a group of men of incontestable worth . . . [Bao Dai, by contrast, had] a government composed of twenty representatives of phantom parties, the best organized of which would have difficulty in rallying twenty-five adherents.

Bao Dai himself did next to nothing to make his government either more representative or more efficient. He divided his time among the pleasures of the resort towns of Dalat, Nha Trang, and Banmethuout, and for all practical purposes, remained outside the process of government. An American diplomat serving in Vietnam at the time who knew Bao Dai well, characterized him in these terms: Bao Dai, above all, was an intelligent man. Intellectually, he could discuss the complex details of the various agreements and of the whole involved relationship with France as well as or better than anyone I knew. But he was a man who was crippled by his French upbringing. His manner was too impassive. He allowed himself to be sold by the French on an erroneous instead of a valid evolutionary concept, and this suited his own termperament. He was too congenial, and he was almost pathologically shy, which was one reason he always liked to wear dark glasses. He would go through depressive cycles, and when he was depressed, he would dress himself in Vietnamese clothes instead of European ones, and would mince no words about the French. His ­policy, he said to me on one of these dour occasions, was one of “grignotage,” or “nibbling,” and he was painfully aware of it. The French, of course, were never happy that we Americans had good relations with Bao Dai, and they told him so. Unfortunately, they also had some blackmail on him, about his relationship with gambling enterprises in Saigon and his love of the fleshpots.

Whatever his virtues, Bao Dai was not a man who could earn the fealty of the Vietnamese peasants. He could not even hold the loyalty of honest nationalists, one of whom, for example, was Dr. Phan Quang Dan—a prominent and able non-Communist leader and early supporter of the “solution,” and a personal friend of Bao Dai-(Dr. Dan later was

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the opposition leader of the Diem era). Dr. Dan reported a touching conversation with Bao Dai’s mother in which she described her son at a loss to know whom to trust, and heartsick at the atmosphere of hostility which surrounded him. Yet Dr. Dan resigned as Bao Dai’s Minister of Information over the Elysee Agreement, and, though he remained close to the Emperor, would not reassume public office for him. Bao Dai himself furnished an apt description of his political philosophy which may explain why he failed to capture the hearts of either beleaguered farmers or serious political leaders—neither of whom could stomach “nibbling” when revolution was required. Said Bao Dai: To practice politics is like playing a game, and I have always considered life a game.

5. The Pau Negotiations, 1950 Yet Bao Dai did work at pressing the French. French officials in fact complained to an American writer that Bao Dai spent too much of his time on such pursuits: He has concentrated too much on getting what he can from us instead of building up his support among the people of the country . . . History will judge if he did right in putting so much stress on that . . .

From late June, 1950, until the end of November, Bao Dai stayed close to the series of conferences in Pau, France, designed to arrange the transfer to the Vietnamese of the services of immigration, communications, foreign trade, customs, and finances. The issue of the finance service was a particularly thorny one, involving as it did lucrative foreign exchange controls. While the French did eventually grant significant concessions to the Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians in each area discussed, they preserved “rights of observation” and “intervention” in matters that “concerned the French Union as a whole.” Indeed, the French assured themselves full access to government information, license to participate in all government decisions, and little reduction in economic benefits. Some French commentators viewed Pau as an unmitigated disaster and the assurance of an early French demise in Indochina. As one writer put it:

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By accepting the eventual restriction of trade within the French Union, by losing all effective authority over the issuance of money, by renouncing control over foreign trade, by permitting a system of controlled prices for exports and imports, we have given the Associated States all the power they need if they wish to assure the ruin of our enterprises and compel their withdrawal without in any way molesting our compatriots.

But a contemporary Vietnamese critic took a quite different view: All these conventions conserve in Indochina a privileged position for French capital, supported by the presence of a powerful fleet and army. Even if no one talks any more of an Indochinese Federation, it is still a federalism both administrative and economic (Monetary Union, Customs Union, Communications Union, etc.) which co-ordinates the various activities of the three Associated States. France always exercises control through the representatives she has in all the organs of planning or of federal surveillance, and through what is in effect the right of veto, because the president or the secretary general of these committees is always elected by joint decision of the four governments and, further, because most of the decisions of the committees are made by unanimous agreement.

Bao Dai’s delegates were, however, generally pleased with the outcome of Pau. His Prime Minister, Tran Van Huu declared as he signed the conventions that “our independence is now perfect.” But to the ordinary Vietnamese, to honest Frenchmen, and to the Americans, Tran Van Huu was proved dramatically wrong. B. U.S. Policy Towards Bao Dai 1. Qualified Approval, 1947–1950 The “Bao Dai solution” depended on American support. During the 1950 negotiations in Pau, France, Bao Dai’s Prime Minister Tran Van Huu was called back to Indochina by a series of French military reverses in Tonkin. Tran Van Huu seized the occasion to appeal to the United States “as the leading democratic nation,” and hoped that the U.S. would:

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. . . bring pressure to bear on France in order to achieve democratic freedom. We want the right to decide our own affairs for ourselves.

Tran demanded the Elysee Agreement be superseded by genuine autonomy for Vietnam: It is not necessary for young men to die so that a French engineer can be director of the port of Saigon. Many people are dying every day because Viet Nam is not given independence. If we had independence the people would have no more reason to fight.

Tran’s addressing the U.S. thus was realistic, if not judicious, for the U.S. had already become involved in Indochina as one part of a troubled triangle with France and Bao Dai’s regime. Indeed, there had been an American role in the “Bao Dai solution” from its inception. Just before the Ha Long Bay Agreements, the French initiative had received some support from a December, 1947, Life magazine article by William C. Bullitt, former U.S. Ambassador to France. Bullitt argued for a policy aimed at ending “the saddest war” by winning the majority of Vietnamese nationalists away from Ho Chi Minh and from the Communists through a movement built around Bao Dai. Bullitt’s views were widely accepted in France as a statement of U.S. policy, and a direct endorsement, and promise of U.S. aid, for Bao Dai. Bao Dai, whether he accepted the Bullitt canard or not, seemed to sense that the U.S. would inevitably be drawn into Southeast Asia, and apparently expected American involvement to be accompanied by U.S. pressure on France on behalf of Vietnamese nationalism. But the U.S., though it appreciated France’s dilemma, was reluctant initially to endorse the Bao Dai solution until it became a reality. The following State Department messages indicate the U.S. position: July 10, 1948 (Paris 3621 to State): . . . France is faced with alternatives of unequivocally and promptly approving principle [of] Viet independence within French union and [the] union [of the] three parts of Vietnam or losing Indochina.

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July 14, 1948 (State 2637 to Paris): . . . Once [Bay of Ha Long] Agreement together with change in status [of] Cochinchina [is] approved, Department would be disposed [to] consider lending its support to extent of publicly approving French Government’s action as forward looking step toward settlement of troubled situation [in] Indochina and toward realization of aspirations Vietnamese people. It appears to Department that above stated U.S. approval would materially assist in strengthening hands of nationalists as opposed to communists in Indochina August 30, 1948 (State 3368 to Paris): Department appreciates difficulties facing any French Government taking decisive action vis-a-vis Indochina, but can only see steadily deteriorating situation unless [there is] more positive approval [Bay of Ha Long] Agreement, enactment legislation or action permitting change Cochinchina status, and immediate commencement formal negotiations envisaged that Agreement. Department believes [that] nothing should be left undone which will strengthen truly nationalist groups [in] Indochina and induce present supporters [of the] Viet Minh [to] come to [the] side [of] that group. No such inducement possible unless that group can show concrete evidence [that] French [are] prepared [to] implement promptly creation Vietnamese free state [which is] associated [with the] French Union and with all attributes free state . . . January 17, 1949 (State 145 to Paris): While Department desirous French coming to terms with Bao Dai or any truly nationalist group which has reasonable chance winning over preponderance of Vietnamese, we cannot at this time irretrevably [sic] commit U.S. to support of native government which by failing develop appeal among Vietnamese might become virtually puppet government, separated from people, and existing only by presence French military forces . . .

The Elysee Agreement took place in March, 1949. At this juncture, the fall of China obtruded, and the U.S. began to view the “Bao Dai ­solution” with a greater sense of urgency:

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May 10, 1949 (State 77 to Saigon): Assumption . . . Department desires [the] success Bao Dai experiment entirely correct. Since [there] appears [to] be no other alternative to [established] Commie pattern [in] Vietnam, Department considers no effort should be spared by France, other Western powers, and nonCommie Asian nations to assure experiment best chance succeeding. At proper time and under proper circumstances Department will be prepared [to] do its part by extending recognition [to the] Bao Dai Government and by exploring [the] possibility of complying with any request by such a Government for U.S. arms and economic assistance. [It] must be understood, however, [that] aid program this nature would require Congressional approval. Since U.S. could scarcely afford backing [a] government which would have color [of], and be likely [to suffer the] fate of, [a] puppet regime, it must first be clear that France will offer all necessary concessions to make Bao Dai solution attractive to nationalists. This is [a] step of which French themselves must see urgency [and] necessity [in] view possibly short time remaining before Commie successes [in] China are felt [in] Indochina. Moreover, Bao Dai Government must through own efforts demonstrate capacity [to] organize and conduct affairs wisely so as to ensure maximum opportunity of obtaining requisite popular support, inasmuch as [any] government created in Indochina analogous [to the] Kuomintang would be foredoomed failure. Assuming essential French concessions are forthcoming, best chance [of] success [for] Bao Dai would appear to be in persuading Vietnamese nationalists:





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(1) their patriotic aims may be realized promptly through French- Bao Dai agreement (2) Bao Dai government will be truly representative even to the extent of including outstanding non-Commie leaders now supporting Ho, and (3) Bao Dai solution [is the] only means [of] safeguarding Vietnam from aggressive designs [of the] Commie Chinese.

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Through 1949, the southward march of Mao’s legions continued, and the Viet Minh were obviously preparing to establish relations with them. 2. Recognition, 1950 The Elysee Agreements were eleven months old before the U.S. considered that France had taken the concrete steps toward Vietnamese autonomy which the U.S. had set as conditions for recognizing Bao Dai. In late January, 1950, events moved swiftly. Ho Chi Minh announced that his was the “only legal government of the Vietnam people” and indicated DRV willingness to cooperate with any nation willing to recognize it on the basis of “equality and mutual respect of national sovereignty and territory.” Mao responded promptly with recognition, followed by Stalin. In France there was an acrimonious debate in the National Assembly between leftist advocates of immediate truce with the Viet Minh and government supporters of the Elysee Agreement to proceed with the Bao Dai solution. René Pleven, Minister of National Defense, declared that: It is necessary that the French people know that at the present time the only true enemy of peace in Viet Nam is the Communist Party. Because members of the Communist Party know that peace in Indochina will be established by the policy of independence that we are following. (“Peace with Viet Nam! Peace with Viet Nam!” shouted the Communists.)

Jean Letourneau arose to assert that: It is not at all a question of approving or disapproving a government; we are very far beyond the transitory life of a government in an affair of this gravity. It is necessary that, on the international level, the vote that takes place tonight reveals truly the major importance that this event should have in the eyes of the entire world.

Frédéric Dupont said: The Indochina war has always been a test of the French Union before international Communism. But since the arrival of the Chinese Communists on the frontier of Tonkin, Indochina has become the

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­frontier of Western civilization and the war in Indochina is integrated into the cold war.

Premier Georges Bidault was the last speaker: The choice is simple. Moreover there is no choice.

The National Assembly vote on January 29, 1950, was 396 to 193. From the extreme left there were cries of “Down with the war!” and Paul Coste-Floret replied: “Long live peace.” On February 2, 1950, France’s formal ratification of the independence of Vietnam was announced. The U.S. assessment of the situation, and its action, is indicated in the following: DEPARTMENT OF STATE Washington February 2, 1950

MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT Subject: U.S. Recognition of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia





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1. The French Assembly (Lower House) ratified on 29 January by a large majority (396 - 193) the bill which, in effect, established Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as autonomous states within the French Union. The opposition consisted of 181 Communist votes with only 12 joining in from other parties. The Council of the Republic (Senate) is expected to pass the bills by the same approximate majority on or about February 3. President Auriol’s signature is expected to follow shortly thereafter. 2. The French legislative and political steps thus taken will transform areas which were formerly governed as Protectorates or Colonies into states within the French Union, with considerably more freedom than they enjoyed under their prior status. The French Government has indicated that it hopes to grant greater degrees of independence to the three states as the security position in Indochina allows, and as the newly formed governments become more able to administer the areas following withdrawal of the French.

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3. Within Laos and Cambodia there are no powerful movements directed against the governments which are relatively stable. However, Vietnam has been the battleground since the end of World War II of conflicting political parties and military forces. Ho Chi Minh, who under various aliases, has been a communist agent in various parts of the world since 1925 and was able to take over the anti-French nationalist movement in 1945. After failing to reach agreement with the French regarding the establishment of an autonomous state of Vietnam, he withdrew his forces to the jungle and hill areas of Vietnam and has harassed the French ever since. His followers who are estimated at approximately 75,000 armed men, with probably the same number unarmed. His headquarters are unknown. The French counter efforts have included, on the military side, the deployment of approximately 130,000 troops, of whom the approximately 50,000 are local natives serving voluntarily, African colonials, and a hard core made up of French troops and Foreign Legion units. Ho Chi Minh’s guerrilla tactics have been aimed at denying the French control of Vietnam. On March 8, 1949 the French President signed an agreement with Bao Dai as the Head of State, granting independence within the French Union to the Government of Vietnam. Similar agreements were signed with the King of Laos and the King of Cambodia. Recent developments have included Chinese Communist victories bringing those troops to the Indochina border; recognition of Ho Chi Minh as the head of the legal Government of Vietnam by Communist China (18 January) and by Soviet Russia (30 January). 4. Recognition by the United States of the three legally constituted governments of Vietnam, Laos’ and Cambodia appears desirable and in accordance with United States foreign policy for several reasons. Among them are: encouragement to national aspirations under non-Communist leadership for peoples of colonial areas in Southeast Asia; the establishment of stable non-Communist governments in areas adjacent to Communist China; support to a friendly country which is also a signatory to the North Atlantic Treaty; and as a demonstration of displeasure with Communist tactics which are obviously aimed at eventual domination of Asia, working under the guise of indigenous nationalism.

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Subject to your approval, the Department of State recommends that the United States of America extend recognition to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, following ratification by the French Government. (signed) DEAN ACHESON Approved (signed) Harry S. Truman February 3, 1950 3. U.S. Aid to Indochina On February 16, 1950, France requested U.S. military and economic assistance in prosecuting the Indochina War. The Secretary of Defense in a Memorandum for the President on March 6 stated that: The choice confronting the United States is to support the legal governments in Indochina or to face the extension of Communism over the remainder of the continental area of Southeast Asia and possibly westward . . .

The same month, the State Department dispatched an aid survey mission under R. Allen Griffin to Indochina (and to Burma, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaya). The Griffin Mission proposed (inter alia) aid for the Bao Dai government, since the State of Vietnam was considered: . . . not secure against internal subversion, political infiltration, or ­military aggression. The objective of each program is to assist as much as possible in building strength, and in so doing . . . to assure the several peoples that ­support of their governments and resistance to communist subversion will bring them direct and tangible benefits and well-founded hope for an increase in living standards. Accordingly, the programs are of two main types: (1) technical and material aid to essential services and (2) economic rehabilitation and development, focused primarily on the provision of technical assistance and material aid in developing agricultural and industrial output. . . . These activities are to be carried on in a way best calculated to demonstrate that the local national govern-

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ments are able to bring benefits to their own people and thereby build political support, especially among the rural population . . . The aims of economic assistance to Southeast Asia . . . are to reinforce the non-Communist national governments in that region by quickly strengthening and expanding the economic life of the area, improve the conditions under which its people live, and demonstrate concretely the genuine interest of the United States in the welfare of the people of Southeast Asia.

In a strategic assessment of Southeast Asia in April, 1950, the JCS recommended military assistance for Indochina, provided: . . . that United States military aid not be granted unconditionally; rather that it be carefully controlled and that the aid program be integrated with political and economic programs . . . [Doc. 3]

On May 1, 1950, President Truman approved $10 million for ­urgently needed military assistance items for Indochina. The President’s decision was taken in the context of the successful amphibious invasion of Nationalist-defended Hainan by a Communist Chinese army under General Lin Piao-with obvious implications for Indochina, and for Taiwan. One week later, on May 8, the Secretary of State announced U.S. aid for “the Associated States of Indochina and to France in order to assist them in restoring stability and permitting these states to pursue their peaceful and democratic development.” Sixteen days later, Bao Dai’s government and France were notified on May 24 of the U.S. intention to establish an economic aid mission to the Associated States. [­Doc. 6] As the North Korean Army moved southward on June 27, 1950, President Truman announced that he had directed “acceleration in the furnishing of military assistance to the forces of France and the Associated States in Indochina . . .” [Doc. 8] The crucial issue presented by the American decision to provide aid to Indochina was who should be the recipient-Bâo Dai or France-and, hence, whose policies would U.S. aid support? 4. French Intransigence While the U.S. was deliberating over whether to provide economic and military assistance to Indochina in early 1950, negotiations opened at

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Pau, France, among France and the Associated States to set the timing and extent of granting autonomy. Had these talks led to genuine independence for Bao Dai’s regime, the subsequent U.S.-French relationship would probably have been much less complex and significantly less acerbic. As it was, however, the Pau accords led to little more independence than had the Ha Long Bay or Elysee Agreements. Moreover, France’s reluctance to yield political or economic authority to Bao Dai was reinforced by its proclivity to field strong-willed commanders, suspicious of the U.S., determined on a military victory, and scornful of the Bao Dai solution. General Marcel Carpentier, Commander in Chief when the French applied for aid, was quoted in the New York Times on March 9, 1950, as follows: I will never agree to equipment being given directly to the Vietnamese. If this should be done I would resign within twenty-four hours. The Vietnamese have no generals, no colonels, no military organization that could effectively utilize the equipment. It would be wasted, and in China, the United States has had enough of that.

a. 1950–1951: De Lattre and “Dynamisme” Carpentier’s successor, High Commissioner-Commander in Chief General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, arrived in December, 1950, following the severe setback of the autumn. De Lattre electrified the discouraged French forces like General Ridgway later enheartened U.S. forces in Korea. De Lattre saw himself as leading an anti-communist crusade. He calculated that he could win a decisive victory within fifteen months in Vietnam, and “save it from Peking and Moscow.” He deprecated the idea that the French were still motivated by colonialism, and even told one U.S. newsman that France fought for the West alone: We have no more interest here . . . We have abandoned all our colonial positions completely. There is little rubber or coal or rice we can any longer obtain. And what does it amount to compared to the blood of our sons we are losing and the three hundred and fifty million francs we spend a day in Indochina? The work we are doing is for the salvation of the Vietnamese people. And the propaganda you Americans make that we are still colonialists is doing us tremendous harm, all of us-the Vietnamese, yourselves, and us.

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Moreover, De Lattre was convinced that the Vietnamese had to be brought into the fight. In a speech—“A Call to Vietnamese Youth”—he declared: This war, whether you like it or not, is the war of Vietnam for Vietnam. And France will carry it on for you only if you carry it on with her . . . Certain people pretend that Vietnam cannot be independent because it is part of the French Union. Not true! In our universe, and especially in our world of today, there can be no nations absolutely independent. There are only fruitful interdependencies and harmful dependencies. . . . Young men of Vietnam, to whom I feel as close as I do to the youth of my native land, the moment has come for you to defend your country.

Yet, General De Lattre regarded U.S. policy vis-a-vis Bao Dai with grave misgivings. Americans, he held, afflicted with “missionary zeal,” were “fanning the fires of extreme nationalism . . . French traditionalism is vital here. You cannot, you must not destroy it. No one can simply make a new nation overnight by giving out economic aid and arms alone.” As adamantly as Carpentier, De Lattre opposed direct U.S. aid for Vietnamese forces, and allowed the Vietnamese military little real independence. Edmund A. Gullion, U.S. Minister Counselor in Saigon from 1950 on, faulted De Lattre on his inability to stimulate in the Vietnamese National Army either the elan vital or dynamisme he communicated to the rest of the French Expeditionary Corps: . . . It remained difficult to inculcate nationalist ardor in a native army whose officers and non-corns were primarily white Frenchmen . . . The Vietnamese units that went into action were rarely unsupported by the French. American contact with them was mainly through the French, who retained exclusive responsibility for their training. We felt we needed much more documentation than we had to assess the army’s true potential. We needed battalion-by-battalion reports on the performance of the Vietnamese in training as well as in battle and a close contact with intelligence and command echelons, and we never got this. Perhaps the most significant and saddest manifestation of the French failure to create a really independent Vietnamese Army that would fight in the

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way de Lattre meant was the absence, at Dienbienphu, of any Vietnamese fighting elements. It was a French show.

Gullion is not altogether correct with respect to Dien Bien Phu; nonetheless, statistics on the ethnic composition of the defending garrison do reveal the nature of the problem. The 5th Vietnamese Parachute Battalion was dropped to reinforce the garrison so that as of May 6, 1954, the troops at Dien Bien Phu included: GARRISON OF DIEN BIEN PHU Officers NCO’s EM’s

Totals

Vietnamese

11

270

5,119

5,480

Total

393

1,666

13,026 15,105

16.2

39.2

Viet % of Total 2.8

36.2

Thus, the Vietnamese comprised more than a third of the fighting forces (and nearly 40% of the enlisted troops); but among the leaders, they provided one-sixth of the non-commissioned officers and less than 3% of the officers. The paucity of Viet officers at Dien Bien Phu reflected the general condition of the National Army: as of 1953, there were 2,600 native officers, of whom only a handful held rank above major, compared to 7,000 French officers in a force of 150,000 Vietnamese troops. b. 1951–1953: Letourneau and “Dictatorship” De Lattre’s successor as High Commissioner, Jean Letourneau, was also the French Cabinet Minister for the Associated States. Letourneau was sent to Indochina to assume the same power and privilege in the “independent” State of Vietnam that any of France’s Governor Generals had ever exercised from Saigon’s Norodom Palace. In May, 1953, a French Parliamentary Mission of Inquiry accused the Minister-High Commissioner of “veritable dictatorship, without limitation or control”: The artificial life of Saigon, the temptations of power without control, the security of a judgment which disdains realities, have isolated the Minister and his entourage and have made them insensible to the daily tragedy of the war . . .

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It is no longer up to us to govern, but to advise. The big thing was not to draw up plans irresponsibly, but to carry on daily a subtle diplomacy. In Saigon our representatives have allowed themselves to be inveigled into the tempting game of power and intrigue. Instead of seeing the most important things and acting on them, instead of making on the spot investigations, of looking for inspiration in the village and in the ricefield, instead of informing themselves and winning the confidence of the most humble people, in order to deprive the rebels of their best weapon, the Norodom Palace clique has allowed itself the luxury of administering a la francaise and of reigning over a country where revolution is smouldering . . . The press has not the right of criticism. To tell the truth, it has become official, and the principal newspaper in Saigon is at the disposition of the High Commissariat. Letters are censored. Propaganda seems to be issued just to defend the High Commissariat. Such a regime cannot last, unless we are to appear as people who are determined not to keep their promises.

The Parliamentary Mission described Saigon: “where gambling, depravity, love of money and of power finish by corrupting the morale and destroying willpower . . .”; and the Vietnamese government: “The Ministers [of the Bao Dai regime] appear in the eyes of their compatriots to be French officials . . .” The report did not hesitate to blame the French for Vietnamese corruption: It is grave that after eight years of laisser-aller and of anarchy, the presence in Indochina of a resident Minister has not been able to put an end to these daily scandals in the life in regard to the granting of licenses, the transfer of piastres, war damages, or commercial transactions. Even if our administration is not entirely responsible for these abuses, it is deplorable that one can affirm that it either ignores them or tolerates them.

Commenting on this report, an influential French editor blamed the “natural tendency of the military proconsulate to perpetuate itself” and “certain French political groups who have found in the war a principal

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source of their revenues . . . through exchange operations, supplies to the expeditionary corps and war damages . . . He concluded that: The generally accepted theory is that the prolongation of the war in Indochina is a fatality imposed by events, one of those dramas in history which has no solution. The theory of the skeptics is that the impotence or the errors of the men responsible for our policy in Indochina have prevented us from finding a way out of this catastrophic enterprise. The truth is that the facts now known seem to add up to a lucid plan worked out step by step to eliminate any possibility of negotiation in Indochina in order to assure the prolongation without limit of the hostilities and of the military occupation.

5. Bao Dai, Attentiste Despite U.S. recognition of the grave imperfections of the French administration in Vietnam, the U.S. was constrained to deal with the Indochina situation through France both by the overriding importance of its European policy and by the impotence and ineptitude of the Bao Dai regime. The U.S. attempted to persuade Bao Dai to exercise more vigorous leadership, but the Emperor chose differently. For example, immediately after the Pau negotiations, the Department of State sent these instructions to Edmund Gullion:

OUTGOING TELEGRAM DEPARTMENT OF STATE OCT 18 1950 PRIORITY AMLEGATION SAIGON 384 DEPT wishes to have FOL MSG delivered to Bao Dai personally by MIN IMMED after Chief of State’s arrival in Saigon. It SHLD be delivered informally without submission written text with sufficient emphasis to

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leave no doubt in Emperor’s mind that it represents DEPTS studied opinion in matter now receiving ATTN highest auths US GOVT. Begin MSG: Bao Dai will arrive in Saigon at moment when Vietnam is facing grave crisis outcome of which may decide whether country will be permitted develop independence status or pass in near future to one of Sino-Soviet dominated satellite, a new form of colony immeasurably worse than the old from which Vietnam has so recently separated herself. The US GOVT is at present moment taking steps to increase the AMT of aid to FR Union and ASSOC States in their effort to defend the territorial integrity of IC and prevent the incorporation of the ASSOC States within the COMMIE-dominated bloc of slave states but even the resources of US are strained by our present UN commitments in Korea, the need for aid in the defense of Western Europe and our own rearmament program. We sometimes find it impossible to furnish aid as we WLD wish in a given AMT at a given time and in a given place. Leadership of Vietnam GOVT during this crucial period is a factor of preponderant importance in deciding ultimate outcome. GOVT must display unusually aggressive leadership and courage before a discouraged people, distraught and floundering in the wake of years of civil war. Lesser considerations concerning the modalities of relations between the States of the FR Union and the REP of FR must, for instance, be at least temporarily laid aside in face of serious threat to very existence of Vietnam as autonomous state, within FR Union or otherwise. We are aware (as in Bao Dai) that present Vietnamese GOVT is so linked with person of Chief of State that leadership and example provided by latter takes on extraordinary importance in determining degree of efficiency in functioning of GOVT. Through circumstances of absence in FR of Bao Dai and other Vietnamese leaders for prolonged period, opportunity for progress in assumption of responsibilities from FR and extension authority and influence of GOVT with people was neglected. Many people, including great number AMERS, have been unable understand reasons for Emperor’s GTE prolonged holiday UNQTE on Riviera and have misinterpreted it as an indication of lack of patriotic attachment to his role of Chief of State. DEPT is at least of opinion that his absence did not enhance the authority and prestige of his GOVT at home. Therefore, DEPT considers it imperative Bao Dai give Vietnamese people evidence his determination personally take up reins of state and lead his country into IMMED and energetic opposition COMMIE

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­ enace. Specifically he SHLD embark upon IMMED program of visits m to all parts Vietnam making numerous speeches and public appearances in the process. Chief of State SHLD declare his determination plunge into job of rallying people to support of GOVT and opposition to VM IMMED upon arrival Saigon. He SHLD announce US, FR support for formation NATL armies and his own intention assume role Commander in Chief. He SHLD take full advantage of FR official declaration of intention to form NATL armies (confirmed yesterday by MIN ASSC States Letourneau) and set up precise plan for such formation IMMED. Finally, it SHLD be tactfully suggested that any further display procrastination in facing realities in the form prolonged periods of seclusion at Dalat or otherwise WLD confirm impressions of those not as convinced of Emperor’s seriousness of purpose as DEPT and LEG are and raise questions of the wisdom of continuing to support a Vietnamese GOVT which proves itself incapable of exercising the autonomy acquired by it at such a high price. End of MSG. Endeavor obtain private interview soonest possible after arrival for DEPT regards timing as of prime importance. Simultaneously or IMMED FOL inform Letourneau and Pignon of action. Saigon advise Paris in advance to synchronize informing FONOFF ACHESON Whatever Bao Dai’s response—probably polite and obscure—he did not act on the U.S. advice. He subsequently told Dr. Phan Quang Dan, aboard his imperial yacht, that his successive governments had been of little use, and added that it would be dangerous to expand the Vietnamese Army because it might defect en masse and go to the Viet Minh: I could not inspire the troops with the necessary enthusiasm and fighting spirit, nor could Prime Minister Huu . . . Even if we had an able man, the present political conditions would make it impossible for him to convince the people and the troops that they have something worth while to fight for . . .

Dr. Dan agreed that the effectiveness of the National Army was a ­central issue; he pointed out that there were but three Viet generals, non of whom had ever held operational command, and neither they nor the

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20  colonels or lieutenant colonels could exercise initiative of any sort. Dr. Dan held that: “The Vietnamese Army is without responsible Vietnamese leaders, without ideology, without objective, without enthusiasm, without fighting spirit, and without popular backing.” But it was very clear that Bao Dai did not propose to alter the conditions of his army except by the long, slow process of “nibbling” at French military prerogative. On other vital issues Bao Dai was no more aggressive. For all practical purposes, the Emperor, in his own fashion, like Dr. Dan and Ngo Dinh Diem, assumed the posture of the attentiste—a spectator as the French and Americans tested their strength against each other, and against the Viet Minh. 6. The American Predicament Among the American leaders who understood the vacuity of the Bao Dai solution, and recognized the pitfalls in French intransigence on genuine independence was the then Senator John F. Kennedy. Kennedy visited Vietnam in 1951 and evidently weighed Gullion’s views heavily. In November, 1951, Kennedy declared that: In Indochina we have allied ourselves to the desperate effort of the French regime to hang on to the remnants of an empire. There is no broad general support of the native Vietnam Government among the people of that area.

In a speech to the U.S. Senate in June, 1953, he pointed out that: Genuine independence as we understand it is lacking in Indochina local government is circumscribed in its functions . . . the government of Vietnam, the state which is of the greatest importance in this area, lacks popular support, that the degree of military, civil, political, and ­economic control maintained by the French goes well beyond what is necessary to fight a war . . . It is because we want the war to be brought to a successful conclusion that we should insist on genuine independence . . . Regardless of our united effort, it is a truism that the war can never be successful unless large numbers of the people of Vietnam are won over from their sullen neutrality and open hostility to it and fully support its successful conclusion.

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. . . I strongly believe that the French cannot succeed in Indochina without giving concessions necessary to make the native army a reliable and crusading force.

Later, Kennedy criticized the French: Every year we are given three sets of assurances: first, that the independence of the Associated States is now complete; second, that the independence of the Associated States will soon be completed under steps “now” being taken; and third, that military victory for the French Union forces is assured, or is just around the corner.

Another American knowledgeable concerning the U.S.-French difficulties and with the Bao Dai solution was Robert Blum, who headed the economic aid program extended to the Bao Dai regime in 1950. General De Lattre viewed U.S. economic aid as especially pernicious, and told Blum that: “Mr. Blum, you are the most dangerous man in Indochina.” De Lattre resented the American intrusion. “As a student of history, I can understand it, but as a Frenchman I don’t like it.” In 1952, Blum analyzed the Bao Dai-French-American triangle as follows: The attitude of the French is difficult to define. On the one hand are the repeated official affirmations that France has no selfish interests in Indochina and desires only to promote the independence of the Associated States and be relieved of the terrible drain of France’s resources. On the other hand are the numerous examples of the deliberate continuation of French controls, the interference in major policy matters, the profiteering and the constant bickering and ill-feeling over the transfer of powers and the issues of independence . . . There is unquestionably a contradiction in French actions between the natural desire to be rid of this unpopular, costly and apparently fruitless war and the determination to see it through with honor while satisfying French pride and defending interests in the process. This distinction is typified by the sharp difference between the attitude toward General de Lattre in Indochina, where he is heralded as the political genius and military savior . . . and in France, where he is suspected as a person who for personal glory is drawing off France’s resources on a perilous adventure. . .

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It is difficult to measure what have been the results of almost two years of active American participation in the affairs of Indochina. Although we embarked upon a course of uneasy association with the “colonialist”tainted but indispensable French, on the one hand, and the indigenous, weak and divided Vietnamese, on the other hand, we have not been able fully to reconcile these two allies in the interest of a single-minded fight against Communism. Of the purposes which we hoped to serve by our actions in Indochina, the one that has been most successful has been the strengthening of the French military position. On the other hand, the Vietnamese, many of whom thought that magical solutions to their advantage would result from our appearance on the scene, are chastened but disappointed at the evidence that America is not omnipotent and not prepared to make an undiluted effort to support their point of view . . . Our direct influence on political and economic matters has not been great. We have been reluctant to become directly embroiled and, though the degree of our contribution has been steadily increasing, we have been content, if not eager, to have the French continue to have primary responsibility, and to give little, if any, advice.

Blum concluded that: The situation in Indochina is not satisfactory and shows no substantial prospect of improving, that no decisive military victory can be achieved, that the Bao Dai government gives little promise of developing competence and winning the loyalty of the population . . . and that the attainment of American objectives is remote.

Shortly before his death in 1965, Blum held that a clash of French and U.S. interests was inevitable: We wanted to strengthen the ability of the French to protect the area against Communist infiltration and invasion, and we wanted to capture the nationalist movement from the Communists by encouraging the national aspirations of the local populations and increasing popular support of their governments. We knew that the French were unpopular, that the war that had been going on since 1946 was not only a national-

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ist revolt against them but was an example of the awakening self-consciousness of the peoples of Asia who were trying to break loose from domination by the Western world. We recognized right away that twopronged policy was beset with great difficulties. Because of the prevailing anti-French feeling, we knew that any bolstering by us of the French position would be resented by the local people. And because of the traditional French position, and French sensitivity at seeing any increase of American influence, we know they would look with suspicion upon the development of direct American relations with local administrations and peoples. Nevertheless, we were determined that our aid program would not be used as a means of forcing co-ordination upon unwilling governments, and we were equally determined that our emphasis would be on types of aid that would appeal to the masses of the population and not on aid that, while economically more sophisticated, would be less readily understood. Ours was a political program that worked with the people and it would obviously have lost most of its effectiveness if it had been reduced to a role of French-protected anonymity . . . [The program was] greatly handicapped and its beneficial psychological results were largely negated because the United States at the same time was pursuing a program of [military] support to the French . . . on balance, we came to be looked upon more as a supporter of colonialism than as a friend of the new nation.

In 1965, Edmund Gullion, who was also very close to the Bao Dai problem, took this retrospect: We really should have pushed the French right after the Elysee agreements of March, 1949. We did not consider the exchange of letters carefully enough at the time. It was understandable. We obviously felt it was going to be a continuing process, and we hoped to be able to have some influence over it. But then we got involved in Korea, and since the French were in trouble in Indochina, we pulled our punches . . . The French could have said unequivocally, as we did with regard to the Philippines, that in such-and-such a number of years Vietnam would be totally free, and that it could thereupon join the French Union or stay out, as it desired . . . An evolutionary solution was the obvious one, and

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it should have been confronted openly and honestly without all the impossible, protracted preliminary negotiations involving efforts to bring the three Associated States together, to get them to agree among each other, and with France, separately and collectively. The French, in arguing against any kind of bilateral agreements, claimed that their attempt at federation in Indochina was like our effort to build some sort of federated system in Europe. But their involvement and interest in Indochina was obviously different, and they used the formula they devised to avoid any real agreement on Vietnam. The problem grew more complex as the military and political aspects of the situation became unavoidably tied together, and the Korean War, of course, complicated it further. From the outset, the French sought to regard the war in Korea and the war in Indochina as related parts of one big fight against Communism, but it wasn’t that simple. Actually, what the Korean War did do was make it more difficult for us to urge an evolutionary settlement in Vietnam. By 1951, it may have been too late for us to do anything about this, but we could still have tried much harder than we did. The trouble was the world by then had begun to close in on us. The E.D.C. formula in Europe was being rejected by the French, just as in 1965 they were rejecting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization concept. Our degree of leverage was being drastically reduced.

Had Bao Dai been willing or capable of more effective leadership, the U.S. role in the war might not have fallen into what Edmund Gullion called the “pattern of prediction and disappointment”: It can be timed almost to the month to coincide with the rainy season and the campaign season. Thus, in May or June, we usually get French estimates of success in the coming campaign season, based partly on an assessment of losses the Vietminh are supposed to have suffered in the preceding fall, which are typically claimed as the bright spot in an otherwise gloomy fighting season. The new set of estimates soon proves equally disappointing; by October, French Union troops are found bottled up in mountain defiles far from their bases . . . There are rumblings about late or lacking American aid and lack of American understanding. Some time around the first of the new year, special high-level

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United States-French conferences are called. We ask some questions about the military situation but only a few about the political situation. There is widespread speculation that the French may pull out of Indochina if we press them for explanations of their political and economic program. We promise the French more aid. The French make a stand: they claim great casualties inflicted on the enemy. They give us new estimates for the following campaign season-and the round begins once more.

In that bleak pattern, Bao Dai played only a passive role; the “Bao Dai solution” ultimately solved nothing. The outcome rested rather on France’s military struggle with the Viet Minh, and its contest of leverage with the United States.

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Part III

1954–1960

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Memorandum for the President’s Special Committee, “Military Implications of the US Position on Indochina in Geneva” 17 March 1954

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE, NSC Subject: Military Implications of the U.S. Position on Indochina in Geneva







1. The attached analysis and recommendations concerning the U.S. position in Geneva have been developed by a Subcommittee consisting of representatives of the Department of Defense, JCS, State, and CIA. 2. This paper reflects the conclusions of the Department of Defense and the JCS and has been collaborated with the State Department representatives who have reserved their position thereon. 3. In brief, this paper concludes that from the point of view of the U.S. strategic position in Asia, and indeed throughout the world, no solution to the Indochina problem short of victory is acceptable. It recommends that this be the basis for the U.S. negotiating position prior to and at the Geneva Conference. 231

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4. It also notes that, aside from the improvement of the present military situation in Indochina, none of the courses of action considered provide a satisfactory solution to the Indochina war. 5. The paper notes that the implications of this position are such as to merit consideration by the NSC and the President. 6. I recommend that the Special Committee note and approve this report and forward it with the official Department of State views to the NSC. G. B. Erskine General, USMC (Ret) Chairman, Sub-committee President’s Special Committee Military Implication of U.S. Negotiations on Indochina at Geneva

I. PROBLEM

To develop a U.S. position with reference to the Geneva Conference as it relates to Indochina, encompassing the military implications of certain alternatives which might arise in connection with that conference. II. MAJOR CONSIDERATIONS

A. The Department of Defense and the JCS have reviewed NSC 5405 in the light of developments since that policy was approved from a military point of view and in the light of certain possible courses of action as they affect the Geneva Conference. These are: 1.  Maintenance of the status quo in Indochina. 2. Imposition of a cease-fire in Indochina. 3. Establishment of a coalition government. 4.  Partition of the country. 5. Self-determination through free elections. B. The Department of Defense and the JCS have also considered the impact of the possible future status of Indochina on the remainder of Southeast Asia and Japan and have considered the effect which any substantial concessions to the Communists on the part of

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France and the Associated States would have with respect to Asian peoples as a whole and U.S. objectives in Europe. C. Indochina is the area in which the Communist and non-Communist worlds confront one another actively on the field of battle. The loss of this battle by whatever means would have the most serious repercussions on U.S. and free world interests, not only in Asia but in Europe and elsewhere. D. French withdrawal or defeat in Indochina would have most serious consequences on the French position in the world; the free world position in Asia; and in the U.S. on the domestic attitude vis-a-vis the French. It would, furthermore, constitute a de facto failure on the part of France to abide by its commitment in U.N. to repel aggression. E. Unless the free world maintains its position in Indochina, the Communists will be in a position to exploit what will be widely regarded in Asia as a Communist victory. Should Indochina be lost to the Communists, and in the absence of immediate and effective counteraction by the free world (which would of necessity be on a much greater scale than that required to be decisive in Indochina), the conquest of the remainder of Southeast Asia would inevitably follow. Thereafter, longer term results, probably forcing Japan into an accommodation with the Communist bloc, and threatening the stability and security of Europe, could be expected to ensue. F. As a measure of U.S. participation in the Indochinese war it is noted that the U.S. has since 1950 programmed in excess of $2.4 billion dollars in support of the French-Associated States operations in Indochina. France is estimated to have expended during the period 1946-1953 the equivalent of some $5.4 billion. This investment, in addition to the heavy casualties sustained by the French and Vietnamese, to say nothing of the great moral and political involvement of the U.S. and French, will have been fruitless for the anti-Communist cause if control of all or a portion of Indochina should now be ceded to the Communists. III. FACTS BEARING ON THE PROBLEM

A. NSC 5405, approved January 16, 1954, states U.S. policy with respect to Indochina.

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B. The French desire for peace in Indochina almost at any cost represents our greatest vulnerability in the Geneva talks.

IV. DISCUSSION

For the views of the JCS see Tab A. V. CONCLUSIONS

A. Loss of Indochina to the Communists would constitute a political and  military setback of the most serious consequences and would almost certainly lead to the ultimate Communist domination of all of Southeast Asia. B. The U.S. policy and objectives with respect to Southeast Asia as reflected in NSC 5405 remain entirely valid in the light of developments since that policy was approved. C. With respect to possible alternative courses of action enumerated in paragraph IIA above, the Department of Defense has reached the ­following conclusions: 1. Maintenance of status quo in Indochina. It is highly improbable  that a Communist agreement could be obtained to any ­negotiated settlement which would be consistent with basic U.S. objectives in Southeast Asia in the absence of a very substantial improvement in the French Union military situation. This could best be accomplished by the aggressive prosecution of military operations. 2. Imposition of a cease-fire. The acceptance of a cease-fire in advance of a satisfactory settlement would in all probability lead to a political stalemate attended by a concurrent and ­irretrievable deterioration of the Franco-Vietnamese military position. 3. Establishment of a coalition government. The acceptance of a  settlement based upon this course of action would open the way for the ultimate seizure of control by the Communists under conditions which would almost certainly preclude ­timely  and effective external assistance designed to prevent such seizure. 4. Partition of the country. The acceptance of this course of action would represent at the least a partial victory for the Viet Minh and would constitute a retrogressive step in the attainment of

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U.S. policy and would compromise the achievement of that policy in Southeast Asia. 5. Self-determination through free elections. Many factors render the holding of a truly representative plebiscite infeasible and such a course of action would, in any case, lead to the loss of the Associated States to Communist control.

VI. RECOMMENDATIONS

A. That the U.S. and U.K. and France reach an agreement with respect to Indochina which rejects all of the courses enumerated above (except No. 1 on the assumption that the status quo can be altered to result in a military victory) prior to the initiation of discussions on Indochina at Geneva. Failing this, the U.S. should actively oppose each of these solutions, should not entertain discussion of Indochina at Geneva, or having entertained it, should ensure that no agreements are reached. B. If, despite all U.S. efforts to the contrary, the French Government elects to accept a negotiated settlement which fails to provide reasonably adequate assurance of the future political and territorial integrity of Indochina, the U.S. should decline to associate itself with such a settlement and should pursue, directly with the governments of the Associated States and with other Allies (notably the U.K.), ways and means of ­continuing the struggle against the Viet Minh in Indochina without participation of the French. C. The Special Committee has reviewed the findings and recommendations of the Department of Defense and considers that the implications of this position are such as to warrant their review at the highest levels and by the National Security Council, after which they become the basis of the U.S. position with respect to Indochina at Geneva. The Special Committee recognizes moreover that certain supplementary and alternative courses of action designed to ensure a favorable resolution of the situation in Indochina merit consideration by the NSC. These, and the Special Committee recommendations with respect thereto, are: 1. The political steps to be taken to ensure an agreed U.S.-U.K.— French position concerning Indochina at Geneva. That the NSC review the proposed political action designed to achieve this

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objective with particular attention to possible pressure against the French position in North Africa, and in NATO, and to the fact that discussions concerning implementation of course 2 and 3 hereunder will be contingent upon the success or failure of this course of action. 2. Overt U.S. involvement in Indochina. That the NSC determine the extent of U.S. willingness, over and above the contingencies listed in NSC 5405, to commit U.S. air, naval and ultimately ground forces to the direct resolution of the war in Indochina with or without French support and in the event of failure in course I above. That in this connection the NSC take cognizance of present domestic and international climate of opinion with respect to U.S. involvement and consider the initiation of such steps as may be necessary to ensure worldwide recognition of the significance of such steps in Indochina as a part of the struggle against ­communist aggression. 3. The development of a substitute base of operations. That the NSC consider whether this course of action is acceptable as a substitute for 1 and 2 above and recognizing that the hope of implementation thereof would be one of major expenditure and long-term potential only.

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Indochina: Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference on the Problem of Restoring Peace in Indo-China July 21, 1954

F

inal declaration, dated the 21st July, 1954, of the Geneva Conference on the problem of restoring peace in Indo-China, in which the representatives of Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of ­Viet-Nam, France, Laos, the People’s Republic of China, the State of Viet-Nam, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America took part.



1. The Conference takes note of the agreements ending hostilities in Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam and organizing international control and the supervision of the execution of the provisions of these agreements. 2. The Conference expresses satisfaction at the ending of hostilities in Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam; the Conference expresses its conviction that the execution of the provisions set out in the ­present declaration and in the agreements on the cessation of

Source: Geneva Conference doc. IC/43/Rev. 2; reprinted in Report on Indochina: Report of Senator Mike Mansfield on a Study Mission to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Oct. 15, 1954 (Senate Foreign Relations Committee print, 83d Cong., 2d sess.), pp. 26-27.

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­ ostilities will permit Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam henceforth h to play their part, in full independence and sovereignty, in the peaceful community of nations. 3. The Conference takes note of the declarations made by the Governments of Cambodia1 and of Laos2 of their intention to adopt measures permitting all citizens to take their place in the national community, in particular by participating in the next ­general elections, which, in conformity with the constitution of each of these countries, shall take place in the course of the year 1955, by secret ballot and in conditions of respect for fundamental freedoms. 4. The Conference takes note of the clauses in the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Viet-Nam prohibiting the introduction into Viet-Nam of foreign troops and military personnel as well as of all kinds of arms and munitions. The Conference also takes note of the declarations made by the Governments of Cambodia3 and Laos4 of their resolution not to request foreign aid, whether in war material, in personnel or in instructors except for the purpose of the effective defence of their territory and, in the case of Laos, to the extent defined by the agreements on the cessation of hostilities in Laos. 5. The Conference takes note of the clauses in the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Viet-Nam to the effect that no military base under the control of a foreign State may be established in the regrouping zones of the two parties, the latter having the obligation to see that the zones allotted to them shall not constitute part of any military alliance and shall not be utilized for the resumption of hostilities or in the service of an aggressive policy. The Conference also takes note of the declarations of the Governments of Cambodia5 and Laos6 to the effect that they will not join in any agreement with other States if this agreement includes the obligation to participate in a military alliance not in conformity with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations or, in the case of Laos, with the principles of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Laos or, so long as their security is not threatened, the obligation to establish bases on Cambodian or Laotian territory for the military forces of foreign Powers. 6. The Conference recognizes that the essential purpose of the agreement relating to Viet-Nam is to settle military questions with a view to ending hostilities and that the military demarcation line is

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provisional and should not in any way be interpreted as constituting a political or territorial boundary. The Conference expresses its conviction that the execution of the provisions set out in the present declaration and in the agreement on the cessation of hostilities creates the necessary basis for the achievement in the near future of a political settlement in Viet-Nam. 7. The Conference declares that, so far as Viet-Nam is concerned, the settlement of political problems, effected on the basis of respect for the principles of independence, unity and territorial integrity, shall permit the Viet-Namese people to enjoy the fundamental freedoms, guaranteed by democratic institutions established as a result of free general elections by secret ballot. In order to ensure that sufficient progress in the restoration of peace has been made, and that all the necessary conditions obtain for free expression of the national will, general elections shall be held in July 1956, under the supervision of an international commission composed of representatives of the Member States of the International Supervisory Commission,7 referred to in the agreement on the cessation of hostilities. Consultations will be held on this subject between the competent representative authorities of the two zones from 20 July 1955 onwards. 8. The provisions of the agreements on the cessation of hostilities intended to ensure the protection of individuals and of property must be most strictly applied and must, in particular, allow everyone in Viet-Nam to decide freely in which zone he wishes to live. 9. The competent representative authorities of the Northern and Southern zones of Viet-Nam, as well as the authorities of Laos and Cambodia, must not permit any individual or collective reprisals against persons who have collaborated in any way with one of the parties during the war, or against members of such persons’ families. 10. The Conference takes note of the declaration of the Government of the French Republic8 to the effect that it is ready to withdraw its troops from the territory of Cambodia, Intros and Viet-Nam, at the request of the governments concerned and within periods which shall be fixed by agreement between the parties except in the cases where, by agreement between the two parties, a certain number of French troops shall remain at specified points and for a specified time. 11. The Conference takes note of the declaration of the French Government9 to the effect that for the settlement of all the problems

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connected with the re-establishment and consolidation of peace in Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam, the French Government will ­proceed from the principle of respect for the independence and sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam. 12. In their relations with Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam, each member of the Geneva Conference undertakes to respect the sovereignty, the independence, the unity and the territorial integrity of the above-mentioned states, and to refrain from any interference in their internal affairs. 13. The members of the Conference agree to consult one another on any question which may be referred to them by the International Supervisory Commission, in order to study such measures as may prove necessary to ensure that the agreements on the cessation of hostilities in Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam are respected. notes 1. Doc. IC/44/Rev. 1; ibid., p. 27. 2. Doc. IC/45/Rev. 1; ibid., p. 28. 3. Doc. IC/46/Rev. 2; ibid., p. 28. 4. Doc. IC/47/Rev. 1; ibid., pp. 28-29. 5. Doc. IC/46/Rev. 2; ibid., p. 28. 6. Doc. IC/47/Rev. 1; ibid., pp. 28-29. 7. The member states are Canada, India, and Poland. 8. Doc. IC/48/Rev. 1; Report on Indochina, p. 29. 9. Doc. IC/49/Rev. 1; ibid., p. 29.

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Indochina: Statement by the Under Secretary of State1 at the Concluding Plenary Session of the Geneva Conference July 21, 19542

As I stated on July 18, my Government is not prepared to join in a declaration by the Conference such as is submitted. However, the United States makes this unilateral declaration of its position in these matters:

Declaration

The Government of the United States being resolved to devote its efforts to the strengthening of peace in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations takes note of the agreements concluded at Geneva on July 20 and 21, 1954 between (a) the Franco-Laotian Command and the Command of the Peoples Army of Viet-Nam; (b) the Royal Khmer Army Command and the Command of the Peoples Army of Viet-Nam; (c) Franco-Vietnamese Command and the Command of the Peoples Army of Viet-Nam and of paragraphs 1 to 12 inclusive of the declaration presented to the Geneva Conference on July 21, 1954 declares

1 

Walter Bedell Smith. of State Bulletin, Aug. 2, 1954, pp. 162–163.

2 Department

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with regard to the aforesaid agreements and paragraphs that (i) it will refrain from the threat or the use of force to disturb them, in accordance with Article 2 (4) of the Charter of the United Nations dealing with the obligation of members to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force; and (ii) it would view any renewal of the aggression in violation of the aforesaid agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security. In connection with the statement in the declaration concerning free elections in Viet-Nam my Government wishes to make clear its position which it has expressed in a declaration made in Washington on June 29, 1954,3 as follows: In the case of nations now divided against their will, we shall continue to seek to achieve unity through free elections supervised by the United Nations to insure that they are conducted fairly.

With respect to the statement made by the representative of the State of Viet-Nam,4 the United States reiterates its traditional position that peoples are entitled to determine their own future and that it will not join in an arrangement which would hinder this. Nothing in its declaration just made is intended to or does indicate any departure from this traditional position. We share the hope that the agreements will permit Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam to play their part, in full independence and sovereignty, in the peaceful community of nations, and will enable the peoples of that area to determine their own future.

3 Infra,

p. 1707. made July 21, 1954, at the closing session of the Geneva Conference; for  an English-language text, see Documents on American Foreign Relations, 1964 (New York, 1955), pp. 315–316.

4 Statement

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Indochina: Unification of Viet-Nam Through Free Elections: Statement by the Secretary of State at a News Conference June 28, 19551

A

t his news conference on June 28, Secretary Dulles was asked the position of the United States with respect to elections in Viet-Nam. The Secretary replied: Neither the United States Government nor the Government of ­Viet-Nam is, of course, a party to the Geneva armistice agreements. We did not sign them, and the Government of Viet-Nam did not sign them and, indeed, protested against them. On the other hand, the United States believes, broadly speaking, in the unification of countries which have a historic unity, where the people are akin. We also believe that, if there are conditions of really free elections, there is no serious risk that the Communists would win. The Communists have never yet won any free election. I don’t think they ever will. Therefore, we are not afraid at all of elections, provided

1 Department

of State Bulletin, July 11, 1955, p. 50.

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they are held under conditions of genuine freedom which the Geneva armistice agreement calls for. If those conditions can be provided we would be in favor of elections, because we believe that they would bring about the unification of the country under free government auspices.

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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at the Conference on Vietnam Luncheon in the Hotel Willard, Washington, D.C. June 1, 1956

This is a redaction of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. Two copies of the speech exist in the Senate Speech file of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers here at the John F. Kennedy Library. One copy is a draft with handwritten notations and the second copy is a press release. The redaction is based on the press release. Links to page images of the two copies are given at the bottom of this page.

I

t is a genuine pleasure to be here today at this vital Conference on the future of Vietnam, and America’s stake in that new nation, sponsored by the American Friends of Vietnam, an organization of which I am proud to be a member. Your meeting today at a time when political events concerning Vietnam are approaching a climax, both in that country and in our own Congress, is most timely. Your topic and deliberations, which emphasize the promise of the future more than the failures of the past, are most constructive. I can assure you that the Congress of the United States will give considerable weight to your findings and recommendations; and I extend to all of you who have made the effort to participate in this Conference my congratulations and best wishes. 245

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It is an ironic and tragic fact that this Conference is being held at a time when the news about Vietnam has virtually disappeared from the front pages of the American press, and the American people have all but forgotten the tiny nation for which we are in large measure responsible. This decline in public attention is due, I believe, to three factors:





(1) First, it is due in part to the amazing success of President Diem in meeting firmly and with determination the major political and economic crises which had heretofore continually plagued Vietnam. (I shall say more about this point later, for it deserves more consideration from all Americans interested in the future of Asia). (2) Secondly, it is due in part to the traditional role of American journalism, including readers as well as writers, to be more interested in crises than in accomplishments, to give more space to the threat of wars than the need for works, and to write larger headlines on the sensational omissions of the past than the creative missions of the future. (3) Third and finally, our neglect of Vietnam is the result of one of the most serious weaknesses that has hampered the long-range effectiveness of American foreign policy over the past several years—and that is the over emphasis upon our role as “volunteer fire department” for the world. Whenever and wherever fire breaks out—in IndoChina, in the Middle East, in Guatemala, in Cyprus, in the Formosan Straits - our firemen rush in, wheeling up all their heavy equipment, and resorting to every known method of containing and extinguishing the blaze. The crowd gathers—the usually successful efforts of our able volunteers are heartily applauded—and then the firemen rush off to the next conflagration, leaving the grateful but still stunned inhabitants to clean up the rubble, pick up the pieces and rebuild their homes with whatever resources are available.

The role, to be sure, is a necessary one; but it is not the only role to be played, and the others cannot be ignored. A volunteer fire department halts, but rarely prevents, fires. It repels but rarely rebuilds; it meets the problems of the present but not of the future. And while we are devoting our attention to the Communist arson in Korea, there is smoldering in Indo-China; we turn our efforts to Indo-China until the alarm sounds in Algeria—and so it goes.

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Of course Vietnam is not completely forgotten by our policy-makers today—I could not in honesty make such a charge and the facts would easily refute it—but the unfortunate truth of the matter is that, in my opinion, Vietnam would in all likelihood be receiving more attention from our Congress and Administration, and greater assistance under our aid programs, if it were in imminent danger of Communist invasion or revolution. Like those peoples of Latin America and Africa whom we have very nearly overlooked in the past decade, the Vietnamese may find that their devotion to the cause of democracy, and their success in reducing the strength of local Communist groups, have had the ironic effect of reducing American support. Yet the need for that support has in no way been reduced. (I hope it will not be necessary for the Diem Government— or this organization—to subsidize the growth of the South Vietnam Communist Party in order to focus American attention on that nation’s critical needs!) No one contends that we should now rush all our firefighting equipment to Vietnam, ignoring the Middle East or any other part of the world. But neither should we conclude that the cessation of hostilities in Indo-China removed that area from the list of important areas of United States foreign policy. Let us briefly consider exactly what is “America’s Stake in Vietnam”:

1. First, Vietnam represents the cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia, the keystone to the arch, the finger in the dike. Burma, Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines and obviously Laos and Cambodia are among those whose security would be threatened if the Red Tide of Communism overflowed into Vietnam. In the past, our policy-makers have sometimes issued contradictory statements on this point—but the long history of Chinese invasions of Southeast Asia being stopped by Vietnamese warriors should have removed all doubt on this subject.   Moreover, the independence of a Free Vietnam is crucial to the free world in fields other than the military. Her economy is essential to the economy of Southeast Asia; and her political liberty is an inspiration to those seeking to obtain or maintain their liberty in all parts of Asia—and indeed the world. The fundamental tenets of this nation’s foreign policy, in short, depend in considerable measure upon a strong and free Vietnamese nation.

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2. Secondly, Vietnam represents a proving ground of democracy in Asia. However we may choose to ignore it or deprecate it, the rising prestige and influence of Communist China in Asia are unchallengable facts. Vietnam represents the alternative to Communist dictatorship. If this democratic experiment fails, if some one million refugees have fled the totalitarianism of the North only to find neither freedom nor security in the South, then weakness, not strength, will characterize the meaning of democracy in the minds of still more Asians. The United States is directly responsible for this experiment—it is playing an important role in the laboratory where it is being conducted. We cannot afford to permit that experiment to fail. 3. Third and in somewhat similar fashion, Vietnam represents a test of American responsibility and determination in Asia. If we are not the parents of little Vietnam, then surely we are the godparents. We presided at its birth, we gave assistance to its life, we have helped to shape its future. As French influence in the political, economic and military spheres has declined in Vietnam, American influence has steadily grown. This is our offspring—we cannot abandon it, we cannot ignore its needs. And if it falls victim to any of the perils that threaten its existence—Communism, political anarchy, poverty and the rest—then the United States, with some justification, will be held responsible; and our prestige in Asia will sink to a new low. 4. Fourth and finally, America’s stake in Vietnam, in her strength and in her security, is a very selfish one—for it can be measured, in the last analysis, in terms of American lives and American dollars. It is now well known that we were at one time on the brink of war in Indo-china—a war which could well have been more costly, more exhausting and less conclusive than any war we have ever known. The threat to such war is not now altogether removed form the horizon. Military weakness, political instability or economic failure in the new state of Vietnam could change almost overnight the apparent security which has increasingly characterized that area under the leadership of Premier Diem. And the key position of Vietnam in Southeast Asia, as already discussed, makes inevitable the involvement of this nation’s security in any new outbreak of trouble.

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It is these four points, in my opinion, that represent America’s stake in Vietnamese security. And before we look to the future, let us stop to review what the Diem Government has already accomplished by way of increasing that security. Most striking of all, perhaps, has been the rehabilitation of more than ¾ of a million refugees from the North. For these courageous people dedicated to the free way of life, approximately 45,000 houses have been constructed, 2,500 wells dug, 100 schools established and dozens of medical centers and maternity homes provided. Equally impressive has been the increased solidarity and stability of the Government, the elimination of rebellious sects and the taking of the first vital steps toward true democracy. Where once colonialism and Communism struggled for supremacy, a free and independent republic has been proclaimed, recognized by over 40 countries of the free world. Where once a playboy emperor ruled from a distant shore, a constituent assembly has been elected. Social and economic reforms have likewise been remarkable. The living conditions of the peasants have been vastly improved, the wastelands have been cultivated, and a wider ownership of the land is gradually being encouraged. Farm cooperatives and farmer loans have modernized an outmoded agricultural economy; and a tremendous dam in the center of the country has made possible the irrigation of a vast area previously uncultivated. Legislation for better labor relations, health protection, working conditions and wages has been completed under the leadership of President Diem. Finally, the Vietnamese army—now fighting for its own homeland and not its colonial masters—has increased tremendously in both quality and quantity. General O’Daniel can tell you more about these accomplishments. But the responsibility of the United States for Vietnam does not ­conclude, obviously, with a review of what has been accomplished thus far with our help. Much more needs to be done; much more, in fact, than we have been doing up to now. Military alliances in Southeast Asia are necessary but not enough. Atomic superiority and the development of new ultimate weapons are not enough. Informational and propaganda activities, warning of the evils of Communism and the blessings of the American way of life, are not enough in a country where concepts of free enterprise and capitalism are meaningless, where poverty and hunger are

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not enemies across the 17th parallel but enemies within their midst. As Ambassador Chuong has recently said: “People cannot be expected to fight for the Free World unless they have their own freedom to defend, their freedom from foreign domination as well ass freedom from misery, oppression, corruption.” I shall not attempt to set forth the details of the type of aid program this nation should offer the Vietnamese—for it is not the details of that program that are as important as the spirit with which it is offered and the objectives it seeks to accomplish. We should not attempt to buy the friendship of the Vietnamese. Nor can we win their hearts by making them dependent upon our handouts. What we must offer them is a revolution—a political, economic and social revolution far superior to anything the Communists can offer—far more peaceful, far more democratic and far more locally controlled. Such a Revolution will require much from the United States and much from Vietnam. We must supply capital to replace that drained by the centuries of colonial exploitation; technicians to train those handicapped by deliberate policies of illiteracy; guidance to assist a nation taking those first feeble steps toward the complexities of a republican form of government. We must assist the inspiring growth of Vietnamese democracy and economy, including the complete integration of those refugees who gave up their homes and their belongings to seek freedom. We must provide military assistance to rebuild the new Vietnamese Army, which every day faces the growing peril of Vietminh Armies across the border. And finally, in the councils of the world, we must never permit any diplomatic action adverse to this, one of the youngest members of the family of nations—and I include in that injunction a plea that the United States never give its approval to the early nationwide elections called for by the Geneva Agreement of 1954. Neither the United States nor Free Vietnam was a party to that agreement—and neither the United States nor Free Vietnam is ever going to be a party to an election obviously stacked and subverted in advance, urged upon us by those who have already broken their own pledges under the Agreement they now seek to enforce. All this and more we can offer Free Vietnam, as it passes through the present period of transition on its way to a new era—an era of pride and independence, and era of democratic and economic growth—an ear which, when contrasted with the long years of colonial oppression, will truly represent a political, social and economic revolution.

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This is the revolution we can, we should, we must offer to the people of Vietnam—not as charity, not as a business proposition, not as a political maneuver, nor simply to enlist them as soldiers against Communism or as chattels of American foreign policy—but a revolution of their own making, for their own welfare, and for the security of freedom everywhere. The Communists offer them another kind of revolution, glittering and seductive in its superficial appeal. The choice between the two can be made only by the Vietnamese people themselves. But in these times of trial and burden, true friendships stand out. As Premier Diem recently wrote a great friend of Vietnam, Senator Mansfield, “It is only in winter that you can tell which trees are evergreen.” And I am confident that if this nation demonstrates that it has not forgotten the people of Vietnam, the people of Vietnam will demonstrate that they have not forgotten us.

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Eisenhower’s Views on the Popularity of Ho Chi Minh

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am convinced that the French could not win the war because the internal political situation in Vietnam, weak and confused, badly weakened their military position. I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader rather than Chief of State Bao Dai. Indeed, the lack of leadership and drive on the part of Bao Dai was a factor in the feeling prevalent among Vietnamese that they had nothing to fight for. As one Frenchman said to me, “What Vietnam needs is another Syngman Rhee, regardless of all the difficulties the presence of such a personality would entail.”

Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 1953-56 (Garden City, NY: ­Doubleday & Compnay, Inc., 1963), p. 372

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the ­likelihood that Ho Chi Minh would win a national election in Vietnam in 1955

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y the time I entered the Presidency the French nation had become weary of the war, and their government-at least in official circles, if not publicly-was promising eventual self-rule and even independence to Indochina. Undoubtedly the conflict was coming to be recognized as ­having global significance, but what the French political leaders said semi-publicly about fighting against Communism and what the Army and the population in Vietnam believed about the character of the war were quite different. The forces of the French Union fighting in Vietnam comprised approximately 200,000 French and 200,000 natives from the Associated States of Indochina. Patriotic Frenchmen fighting there naturally ­expected to see their sacrifices accrue to the good of France. But Frenchmen, ­initially told that they were fighting in Indochina for France and the ­preservation of her empire, might react adversely to an announcement and a series of actions that would inevitably lead to a breakaway of the Associated States from France. Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 1953-1956 ( Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co, Inc, 1963), pp. 337-38

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This was a time in history when France, along with other old colonial powers, did not necessarily want to continue maintaining-expensively in more than a few cases-its colonies. Initially their troops had been sent to preserve the status quo, but the cause, not the meaning of the war, was changing. This put the French on the horns of a dilemma. Delay or equivocation in implementing complete independence could only serve to bolster the Communist claim that this was in reality a war to preserve colonialism. To American ears the first French pronouncements, soon made to the world, were a distinct step forward, but it was almost impossible to make the average Vietnamese peasant realize that the French, under whose rule his people had lived for some eighty years, were really fighting in the cause of freedom, while the Vietminh, people of their own ethnic origins, were fighting on the side of slavery. It was generally conceded that had an election been held, Ho Chi Minh would have been elected Premier. Unhappily, the situation was exacerbated by the almost total lack of leadership displayed by the Vietnamese Chief of State, Bao Dai, who, while nominally the head of that nation, chose to spend the bulk of his time in the spas of Europe rather than in his own land leading his armies against those of Communism. Toward the end of 1953, the effect of the termination of hostilities in Korea began to be felt in Indochina. Overt Red Chinese aggression was not anticipated—that government had been adequately warned by the United States—but the Chinese Communists now were able to spare greatly increased quantities of materiel in the form of guns and ammunition (largely supplied by the Soviets) for use on the Indochinese battle front. More advisers were being sent in and the Chinese were making available to the Vietminh logistical experience they had gained in the Korean War. To combat this, General Navarre, who had succeeded to the French military command in Indochina, proposed in 1953 an over-all scheme under which, hopefully, he would end the war successfully. Under the Navarre Plan the French were to send nine more battalions of troops and  supporting units to Indochina, increasing the size of the French Expeditionary Forces in that region to 250,000. In addition, the French  would train enough native troops to raise the strength of the Vietnamese Army to 300,000 during the following year. Thus, the planned strength of the French Union should be 550,000 troops by

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the end of 1954. Since the estimated strength of the Vietminh was not more than 400,000, it appeared that if the French Union could then lure them into open battle, they might be able to knock out the regular Vietminh forces by the end of the 1955 fighting season, reducing the fighting in Indochina to mop-up operations which could be conducted for the most part by native troops. In order to make this plan possible, the United States agreed on September 30, 1953, to grant France, in addition to the aid already earmarked, another $385 million to be available by the end of that calendar year; these funds were to supply and equip additional French and native forces during the build-up phase. In this light the military situation was not alarming, but it was, at times, confusing. In October the French Union forces launched a fairly successful offensive against the Communist forces in central Vietnam, and on November 7 the French command reported a victorious conclusion of the battle. On November 20, French Union forces moved west from the Red River Delta in Tonkin and occupied an area ten miles from the border of Laos. This place was later to become a household word throughout the Free World: Dien Bien Phu.

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Memorandum for the Record April 27, 1955

SUMMARY OF REMARKS OF GENERAL LAWTON COLLINS

General Collins reviewed the situation in south Viet Nam. He said that after months of attempting to work with Ngo Dinh Diem he had reached the conclusion that the Premier did not have the executive ability to handle “strong-willed men”, that he concerns himself with minor matter[s] and has not originated a single constructive idea since he came to power. Able men in the cabinet had been alienated by Diem’s habit of going over their heads, according to General Collins, and he paid little attention to their views, preferring instead to rely on two brothers and a number of “yes men”[.] There was no questioning according to Collins of Diem’s honesty, anti-communism and anti-colonialism, but he is so completely uncompromising, acetic [ascetic] and monastic that he cannot deal with realities like the Binh Xuyen and the Cao Dai. Diem has incurred the undying enmity of Bay Vien for the manner in which he closed the gambling houses in Saigon. Between [French Commissioner-General Paul] Ely and himself, General Collins believes there is a chance to rescue the situation. It requires an able Premier . . .

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Memorandum of Discussion at the 246th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington April 28, 1955

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irector of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles explained that last night serious street fighting had broken out in the city of Saigon. A mortar shell had landed on the Presidential Palace, the residence of Prime Minister [Ngo Dinh] Diem, at 1:15 p.m. After two further shells had landed in the Palace grounds, Diem had telephoned [French Commissioner-General Paul] Ely and stated that he was ordering ­counterfire by the Vietnamese national forces. Eleven rounds of such counterfire had been counted by three o’clock in the afternoon. While there had since been rumors that a cease-fire had been arranged, Mr. Dulles doubted the validity of these reports, and said it seemed that Prime Minister Diem had ordered all-out action against the Binh Xuyen [sect]. In other words, Diem was proposing to force a showdown. It was not easy, continued Mr. Dulles, to say which side had actually been responsible for precipitating last night’s events, but the real trouble had begun on April 26, when Prime Minister Diem had ordered the removal of the Chief of Police of Saigon, who was a member of the Binh Xuyen gangster group. In a showdown fight, continued Mr. Dulles, and if the Vietnamese National Army remains loyal to the Prime Minister, there was little doubt that the Army could drive the Binh Xuyen forces out of Saigon. . . . 261

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At this point Mr. Dillon Anderson reminded the Council of the decision with respect to U.S. policy toward South Vietnam which the Council had made in January of this year. While he was doing so, the Executive Secretary handed out a draft record of action prepared in the Department of State, which State suggested should be adopted in lieu of the ­earlier Council action of January. Secretary Dulles pointed out that the  chief difference was that the earlier action had pinpointed Prime Minister Diem as the individual whose government the United States should ­support. Secretary [of State John Foster] Dulles said that he would like to ­comment in general on the situation in which we found ourselves respecting South Vietnam. In his view, the present difficulties had two fundamental causes. First, the limitations of Prime Minister Diem as the head of a government. While Diem’s good qualities were well known and need not be elaborated, it was a fact that he came from the northern part of the country and was not very trustful of other people, perhaps for good reason. Furthermore, he was not very good at delegating authority. Despite these shortcomings, Diem might have proved adequate to the situation if it had not been for the second fundamental limitation–namely, the lack of solid support from the French. While the top leaders of the French Government, such as [French Prime Minister Pierre] Mendes-France, [Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Edgar] Faure and General Ely, have gone along with Diem reluctantly, French colonial officials on the scene in Vietnam have done their best to sabotage him. These two fundamental limitations in conjunction have brought about a situation that has finally induced General Collins to conclude that we must now look for a replacement for Diem. As a matter of fact, continued Secretary Dulles, we have been telling the French for a considerable period that we would be prepared to consider an alternative to Diem if they could come up with one. They haven’t yet done so. . . . Late yesterday afternoon, however, we in the State Department dispatched a complicated series of cables to Saigon outlining ways and means of replacing Diem and his government. However, in view of the developments and the outbreak of last night, we have instructed our people in Saigon to hold up action on our plan for replacing Diem. The developments of last night could either lead to Diem’s utter overthrow or to his emergence from the disorder as a major hero. Accordingly, we are pausing to await the results before

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t­ rying to settle on [Pham Huy] Quat or Defense Minister [sic] Do as possible replacements. Secretary Dulles confessed that he was not much impressed with the Defense Minister. On the other hand, unless something occurs in the Saigon disorders out of which Diem will emerge as the hero, we will have to have a change. This is the view both of General Collins and General Ely, and Ely has played an honest game with us in the whole affair.

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Le Duan, “Duong Loi Cach Mang Mien Nam,” [The Path of Revolution in the South] circa 1956

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he situation forces bellicose states such as the U.S. and Britain to recognize that if they adventurously start a world war, they themselves will be the first to be destroyed, and thus the movement to demand peace in those imperialist countries is also developing strongly. Recently, in the U.S Presidential election, the present Republican administration, in order to buy the people’s esteem, put forward the ­slogan “Peace and Prosperity,” which showed that even the people of an imperialist warlike country like the U.S. want peace. The general situation shows us that the forces of peace and democracy in the world have tipped the balance toward the camp of peace and democracy. Therefore we can conclude that the world at present can maintain long-term peace. On the other hand, however, we can also conclude that as long as the capitalist economy survives, it will always scheme to provoke war, and there will still remain the danger of war. Based on the above the world situation, the Twentieth Congress of  the Communist Party of the Soviet Union produced two important judgments:

1. All conflicts in the world at present can be resolved by means of peaceful negotiations. 265

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2. The revolutionary movement in many countries at present can develop peacefully. Naturally in the countries in which the ruling class has a powerful military-police apparatus and is using fascist policies to repress the movement, the revolutionary parties in those countries must look clearly at their concrete situation to have the appropriate methods of struggle.

Based on the general situation and that judgment, we conclude that, if all conflicts can be resolved by means of peaceful negotiations, peace can be achieved. Because the interest and aspiration of peaceful reunification of our country are the common interest and aspiration of all the people of the Northern and Southern zones, the people of the two zones did not have any reason to provoke war, nor to prolong the division of the country. On the contrary the people of the two zones are more and more determined to oppose the U.S.-Diem scheme of division and war provocation in order to create favorable conditions for negotiations between the two zones for peaceful unification of the country. The present situation of division is created solely by the arbitrary ­U.S.-Diem regime, so the fundamental problem is how to smash the ­U.S.-Diem scheme of division and war-provocation. As observed above, if they want to oppose the U.S-Diem regime, there is no other path for the people of the South but the path of revolution. What, then, is the line and struggle method of the revolutionary movement in the South? If the world situation can maintain peace due to a change in the relationship of forces in the world in favor of the camp of peace and democracy, the revolutionary movement can develop following a peaceful line, and the revolutionary movement in the South can also develop following a peaceful line. First of all, we must determine what it means for a revolutionary movement to struggle according to a peaceful line. A revolutionary movement struggling according to a peaceful line takes the political forces of the people as the base rather than using people’s armed forces to struggle with the existing government to achieve their revolutionary objective. A revolutionary movement struggling according to a peaceful line is also different from a reformist movement in that a reformist movement relies fundamentally on the law and constitution to struggle, while a revolutionary movement relies on the revolutionary political forces

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of the masses as the base. And another difference is that a revolutionary movement struggles for revolutionary objectives, while a reformist movement struggles for reformist goals. With an imperialist, feudalist, dictatorial, fascist government like the U.S.-Diem, is it possible for a peaceful political struggle line to achieve its objectives? We must recognize that all accomplishments in every country are due to the people. That is a definite law: it cannot be otherwise. Therefore the line of the revolutionary movement must be in accord with the inclinations and aspirations of the people. Only in that way can a revolutionary movement be mobilized and succeed. The ardent aspiration of the Southern people is to maintain peace and achieve national unification. We must clearly recognize this longing for  peace: the revolutionary movement in the South can mobilize and advance to success on the basis of grasping the flag of peace, in harmony with popular feelings. On the contrary, U.S.-Diem is using fascist violence to provoke war, contrary to the will of the people and therefore must certainly be defeated. Can the U.S.-Diem regime, by using a clumsy policy of fascist violence, create a strong force to oppose and destroy the revolutionary movement? Definitely not, because the U.S.-Diem regime has no political strength in the country worth mentioning to rely on. On the contrary, nearly all strata of the people oppose them. Therefore the U.S.-Diem government is not a strong government it is only a vile and brutal government. Its vile and brutal character means that it not only has no mass base in the country but is on the way to being isolated internationally. Its cruelty definitely cannot shake the revolutionary movement, and it cannot survive for long. The proof is that in the past two years, everywhere in the countryside, the sound of the gunfire of U.S.-Diem repression never ceased; not a day went by when they did not kill patriots, but the revolutionary spirit is still firm, and the revolutionary base of the people still has not been shaken. Once the entire people have become determined to protect the revolution, there is no cruel force that can shake it. But why has the revolutionary movement not yet developed strongly? This is also due to certain objective and subjective factors. Objectively, we see that, after nine years of waging strong armed struggle, the people’s movement generally speaking

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now has a temporarily peaceful character that is a factor in the change of the movement for violent forms of struggle to peaceful forms. It has the correct character of rebuilding to advance later. With the cruel repression and exploitation of the U.S.-Diem, the people’s revolutionary movement definitely will rise up. The people of the South have known the blood and fire of nine years of resistance war, but the cruelty of the U.S.-Diem cannot extinguish the struggle spirit of the people. On the other hand, subjectively, we must admit that a large number of cadres, those have responsibility for guiding the revolutionary movement, because of the change in the method of struggle and the work situation from public to secret, have not yet firmly grasped the political line of the party, have not yet firmly grasped the method of political struggle, and have not yet followed correctly the mass line, and therefore have greatly reduced the movement’s possibilities for development. At present, therefore, the political struggle movement has not yet developed equally among the people, and a primary reason is that a number of cadres and masses are not yet aware that the strength of political forces of the people can defeat the cruelty, oppression and exploitation of the U.S.-Diem, and therefore they have a half-way attitude and don’t believe in the strength of their political forces. We must admit that any revolutionary movement has times when it falls and times when it rises; any revolutionary movement has times that are favorable for development and times that are unfavorable. The basic thing is that the cadres must see clearly the character of the movement’s development to lead the mass struggle to the correct degree, and find a way for the vast determined masses to participate in the movement. If they are determined to struggle from the bottom to the top, no force can resist the determination of the great masses. In the past two years, the political struggle movement in the countryside and in the cities, either by one form or another, has shown that the masses have much capacity for political struggle with the U.S.-Diem. In those struggles, if we grasp more firmly the struggle line and method, the movement can develop further, to the advantage of the revolution. The cruel policy of U.S.-Diem clearly cannot break the movement, or the people’s will to struggle. There are those who think that the U.S.-Diem’s use of violence is now aimed fundamentally at killing the leaders of the revolutionary

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movement to destroy the Communist Party, and that if the Communist Party is worn away to the point that it doesn’t have the capacity to lead  the revolution, the political struggle movement of the masses ­cannot develop. This judgment is incorrect. Those who lead the revolutionary movement are determined to mingle with the masses, to protect and serve the interest of the masses and to pursue correctly the mass line. Between the masses and communists there is no distinction any more. So how can the U.S.-Diem destroy the leaders of the revolutionary movement, since they cannot destroy the masses? Therefore they cannot annihilate the cadres leading the mass movement.

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Manifesto of the Eighteen, Saigon April 1960

The President of the Republic of Viet-Nam Saigon

Mr. President: We the undersigned, representing a group of eminent citizens and personalities, intellectuals of all tendencies, and men of good will, recognize in the face of the gravity of the present political situation that we can no longer remain indifferent to the realities of life in our country. Therefore, we officially address to you today an appeal with the aim of exposing to you the whole truth in the hope that the government will accord it all the attention necessary so as to urgently modify its policies, so as to remedy the present situation and lead the people out of danger. Let us look toward the past, at the time when you were abroad. For eight or nine years, the Vietnamese people suffered many trials due to the war: They passed from French domination to Japanese occupation, from revolution to resistance, from the nationalist imposture behind which hid communism to a pseudo-independence covering up for colonialism; from terror to terror, from sacrifice to sacrifice-in short, from promise to promise, until finally hope ended in bitter disillusion. Thus, when you were on the point of returning to the country, the people as a whole entertained the hope that it would find again under your guidance the peace that is necessary to give meaning to existence, to reconstruct the destroyed homes, put to the plow again the abandoned 271

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lands. The people hoped no longer to be compelled to pay homage to one regime in the morning and to another at night, not to be the prey of the cruelties and oppression of one faction; no longer to be treated as coolies; no longer to be at the mercy of the monopolies; no longer to have to endure the depredations of corrupt and despotic civil servants. In one word, the people hoped to live in security at last, under a regime which would give them a little bit of justice and liberty. The whole people thought that you would be the man of the situation and that you would implement its hopes. That is the way it was when you returned. The Geneva Accords of 1954 put an end to combat and to the devastations of war. The French Expeditionary Corps was progressively withdrawn, and total independence of South Viet Nam had become a reality. Furthermore, the country had benefited from moral encouragement and a substantial increase of foreign aid from the free world. With so many favorable political factors, in addition to the blessed geographic conditions of a fertile and rich soil yielding agricultural, forestry, and fishing surpluses, South Viet Nam should have been able to begin a definitive victory in the historical competition with the North, so as to carry out the will of the people and to lead the country on the way to hope, liberty, and happiness. Today, six years later, having benefited from so many undeniable advantages, what has the government been able to do? Where has it led South Viet Nam? What parts of the popular aspirations have been implemented? Let us try to draw an objective balance of the situation, without ­flattery or false accusations, strictly following a constructive line which you yourself have so often indicated, in the hope that the government shall modify its policies so as to extricate itself from a situation that is extremely dangerous to the very existence of the nation. Policies

In spite of the fact that the bastard regime created and protected by colonialism has been overthrown and that many of the feudal organizations of factions and parties which oppress the population were destroyed, the people do not know a better life or more freedom under the republican regime which you have created. A constitution has been established in form only; a National Assembly exists whose deliberations always fall into line with the government; antidemocratic elections—all those are methods

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and “comedies” copied from the dictatorial Communist regimes, which obviously cannot serve as terms of comparison with North Viet Nam. Continuous arrests fill the jails and prisons to the rafters, as at this precise moment; public opinion and the press are reduced to silence. The same applies to the popular will as translated in certain open elections, in which it is insulted and trampled (as was the case, for example, during the recent elections for the Second Legislature). All these have provoked the discouragement and resentment of the people. Political parties and religious sects have been eliminated. “Groups” or “movements” have replaced them. But this substitution has only brought about new oppressions against the population without protecting it for that matter against Communist enterprises. Here is one ­example: the fiefs of religious sects, which hitherto were deadly for the Communists, now not only provide no security whatever but have become favored highways for Viet Minh guerrillas, as is, by the way, the case of the rest of the country. This is proof that the religious sects, though futile, nevertheless constitute effective anti-Communist elements. Their elimination has opened the way to the Viet Cong and unintentionally has prepared the way for the enemy, whereas a more realistic and more flexible policy could have amalgamated them all with a view to reinforcing the anti-Communist front. Today the people want freedom. You should, Mr. President, liberalize the regime, promote democracy, guarantee minimum civil rights, ­recognize the opposition so as to permit the citizens to express themselves without fear, thus removing grievances and resentments, opposition to which now constitutes for the people their sole reason for existence. When this occurs, the people of South Viet Nam, in comparing their position with that of the North, will appreciate the value of true liberty and of authentic democracy. It is only at that time that the people will make all the necessary efforts and sacrifices to defend that liberty and democracy. Administration

The size of the territory has shrunk, but the number of civil servants has increased, and still the work doesn’t get done. This is because the government, like the Communists, lets the political parties control the population, separate the elite from the lower echelons, and sow distrust between those individuals who are “affiliated with the movement” and those who are “outside the group.” Effective power, no longer in the hands of those

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who are usually responsible, is concentrated in fact in the hands of an irresponsible member of the “family,” from whom emanates all orders; this slows down the administrative machinery, paralyzes all initiative, discourages good will. At the same time, not a month goes by without the press being full of stories about graft impossible to hide; this becomes an endless parade of illegal transactions involving millions of piastres. The administrative machinery, already slowed down, is about to become completely paralyzed. It is in urgent need of reorganization. Competent people should be put back in the proper jobs; discipline must be re-established from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy; authority must go hand in hand with responsibility; efficiency, initiative, honesty, and the economy should be the criteria for promotion; professional qualifications should be respected. Favoritism based on family or party connections should be banished; the selling of influence, corruption and abuse of power must be punished. Thus, everything still can be saved, human dignity can be reestablished; faith in an honest and just government can be restored. Army

The French Expeditionary Corps has left the country, and a republican army has been constituted, thanks to American aid, which has equipped it with modern materiel. Nevertheless, even in a group of the proud elite of the youth such as the Vietnamese Army-where the sense of honor should be cultivated, whose blood and arms should be devoted to the defense of the country, where there should be no place for clannishness and factions-the spirit of the “national revolutionary movement” or of the “personalist body” divides the men of one and the same unit, sows distrust between friends of the same rank, and uses as a criterion for promotion fidelity toward the party in blind submission to its leaders. This creates extremely dangerous situations, such as the recent incident of Tay~Ninh.* The purpose of the army, pillar of the defense of the country, is to stop foreign invasions and to eliminate rebel movements. It is at the service of the country only and should not lend itself to the exploitation of any faction or party. Its total reorganization is necessary. Clannishness and * This refers to the penetration of the compound of the 32d ARVN Regiment in January, 1960, when communist forces killed 23 soldiers and captured hundreds of weapons.

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party obedience should be eliminated; its moral base strengthened; a noble tradition of national pride created; and fighting spirit, professional conscience, and bravery should become criteria for promotion. The troops should be encouraged to respect their officers, and the officers should be encouraged to love their men. Distrust, jealousy, rancor among colleagues of the same rank should be eliminated. Then in case of danger, the nation will have at its disposal a valiant army animated by a single spirit and a single aspiration: to defend the most precious possession-our country, Viet Nam. Economic and Social Affairs

A rich and fertile country enjoying food surpluses; a budget which does not have to face military expenditures,** important war reparations; substantial profits from Treasury bonds; a colossal foreign-aid program; a developing market capable of receiving foreign capital investmentsthose are the many favorable conditions which could make Viet Nam a productive and prosperous nation. However, at the present time many people are out of work, have no roof over their heads, and no money. Rice is abundant but does not sell; shop windows are well-stocked but the goods do not move. Sources of revenue are in the hands of speculators-who use the [government] party and group to mask monopolies operating for certain private interests. At the same time, thousands of persons are mobilized for exhausting work, compelled to leave their own jobs, homes and families, to participate in the construction of magnificent but useless “agrovilles” which weary them and provoke their ­disaffection, thus aggravating popular resentment and creating an ideal terrain for enemy propaganda. The economy is the very foundation of society, and public opinion ensures the survival of the regime. The government must destroy all the obstacles standing in the way of economic development; must abolish all forms of monopoly and speculation; must create a favorable environment for investments coming from foreign friends as well as from our own citizens; must encourage commercial enterprises, develop industry, and create jobs to reduce unemployment. At the same time, it should put an end to all forms of human exploitation in the work camps of the agrovilles. ** The military expenditures of the Vietnamese budget are paid out of U.S. economic and military aid.

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Then only the economy will flourish again; the citizen will find again a peaceful life and will enjoy his condition; society will be reconstructed in an atmosphere of freedom and democracy. Mr. President, this is perhaps the first time that you have heard such severe and disagreeable criticism—so contrary to your own desires. Nevertheless, sir, these words are strictly the truth, a truth that is bitter and hard, that you have never been able to know because, whether this is intended or not, a void has been created around you, and by the very fact of your high position, no one permits you to perceive the critical point at which truth shall burst forth in irresistible waves of hatred on the part of a people subjected for a long time to terrible suffering and a people who shall rise to break the bonds which hold it down. It shall sweep away the ignominy and all the injustices which surround and oppress it. As we do not wish, in all sincerity, that our Fatherland should have to live through these perilous days, we—without taking into consideration the consequences which our attitude may bring upon us—are ringing today the alarm bell, in view of the imminent danger which threatens the government. Until now, we have kept silent and preferred to let the Executive act as it wished. But now time is of the essence; we feel that it is our duty-and in the case of a nation in turmoil even the most humble people have their share of responsibility—to speak the truth, to awaken public opinion, to alert the people, and to unify the opposition so as to point the way. We beseech the government to urgently modify its policies so as to remedy the situation, to defend the republican regime, and to safeguard the existence of the nation. We hold firm hope that the Vietnamese people shall know a brilliant future in which it will enjoy peace and prosperity in freedom and progress. Yours respectfully, 1. TRAN VAN VAN, Diploma of Higher Commercial Studies, former Minister of Economy and Planning 2. PHAN KHAC SUU, Agricultural Engineer, former Minister of Agriculture, former Minister of Labor 3. TRAN VAN HUONG, Professor of Secondary Education, former Prefect of Saigon-Cholon

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4. NGUYEN, LUU VIEN, M.D., former Professor at the Medical School, former High Commissioner of Refugees 5. HUYNH-KIM HUU, M.D., former Minister of Public Health 6. PHAN HUY QUAT, M.D., former Minister of National Education, former Minister of Defense 7. TRAN VAN LY, former Governor of Central Viet-Nam 8. NGUYEN TIEN HY, M.D. 9. TRAN VAN DO, M.D., former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chairman of Vietnamese Delegation to the 1954 Geneva Conference 10. LE NGOC CHAN, Attorney at Law, former Secretary of State for National Defense 11. LE QUANG LUAT, Attorney at Law, former Government Delegate for North Viet-Nam, former Minister of Information and Propaganda 12. LUONG TRONG TUONG, Public Works Engineer, former Secretary of State for National Economy 13. NGUYEN TANG NGUYEN, M.D., former Minister of Labor and Youth 14. PHAM HUU CHUONG, M.D., former Minister of Public Health and Social Action 15. TRAN VAN TUYEN, Attorney at Law, former Secretary of State for Information and Propaganda 16. TA CHUONG PHUNG, former Provincial Governor for ­Binh-Dinh 17. TRAN LE CHAT, Laureate of the Triennial Mandarin Competition of 1903 18. HO VAN VUI, Reverend, former Parish Priest of Saigon, at ­present Parish Priest of Tha-La, Province of Tay-Ninh

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Part IV

1961–1963

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Letter From the Secretary of Defense’s Deputy Assistant for Special Operations (Lansdale) to President Diem 30 January 1961

Dear Friend: Your thoughtful kindness made the trip to Vietnam a most interesting and memorable one for me. I was happy to see you looking so well, despite the many problems you face every day, and it was a real pleasure to have had visits with you. So, thank you for all your help, for letting Nguyen Dinh Thuan go along on the 5th Military Region trip, and for the sandwiches you sent along! I know that Joe Redick would want to join me in expressing appreciation, too. On the way home, I stopped in Hawaii for a visit at CINCPAC. I had good talks with Admiral Felt and his staff. I called attention to the grave dangers of the current Viet Cong threat and the need for some extra attention by the U.S. He was extremely interested and, although understandably engaged with urgent duties concerning Laos, put some of his staff to work promptly on your problems. I understand that he sent General Thiemer out for a visit. In Washington, Secretary Gates and Deputy Secretary Douglas of Defense were most receptive to my report. Douglas in particular called it to the attention of our top people at the White House and State

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Department. When the new Administration took office, Douglas went to considerable lengths to make our new leaders aware of the situation. He is a very staunch friend. Allen Dulles, also, has been most helpful. General Lemnitzer and Admiral Burke had been instrumental in getting me out on the trip and have taken great interest in what I reported. The new Defense leaders (Secretary McNamara, Deputy Secretary Gilpatric, and Paul Nitze the new Assistant Secretary for ISA) all had me in for talks with them about your problems. Then, last Saturday, President Kennedy had me in for a long talk on the subject. He was warmly interested and asked many questions. I am sure that you can count upon him as an understanding friend and that you will be hearing further about this. It would have “warmed your heart” to have heard this conversation. So, you see, you do have some sincere friends in Washington. However, there will be some here who will point out that much of the danger of your present situation comes about from your own actions. They say that you try to do too many things yourself, that you refuse to give real responsibility to others and keep interfering with what they do, that you feel you are infallible personally, and that too many of your organizations like the Republican Youth Corps and the Can Lao Party are actually formed by coercion—that is, people join because they are afraid not to—rather than being genuine organizations rooted in the hearts of the Vietnamese people. I believe there will be many of these criticisms voiced in private talks here as word gets around about favorable reactions to my report. The best answer to these criticisms would be actions by you in Vietnam. The critics would then have to close their mouths in the face of your actions. One action would be for you to announce your reorganization of the government very soon. Also, you could make your Security Council become alive and dynamic. Please remember my suggestion: call the military commanders and province chiefs in from the 1st and 5th Military Regions—to meet with the Security Council. You could make a talk to this group, and broadcast it all over Vietnam to all of the people of Vietnam. Your country needs you to rouse spirits right now, the way Winston Churchill did for Britain at a dark hour. Your countrymen need to be told that Vietnam is in grave danger from the Communists, that the help of every citizen is welcomed by the government, and that Vietnam must and will be kept free and independent.

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After your talk to this group, it would be smart to turn the meeting over to Vice President Tho or Secretary Thuan. The meeting should be a secret one. I believe that each province chief, each responsible military commander, and the regional delegues, should report openly and frankly on the problems they have in their own areas. You did this once before, in February 1955, and it was a very wise and healthy action. You will hear many things, not only bad problems but also good ideas. So will all of those at such a meeting. It would help you very much if you could include some of the Americans who are trying to help you—let them attend this meeting and take notes. You can invite those you believe to be sincere. They, too, would learn a lot and would become more realistic in their work in Vietnam. I would include McGarr and Colby. Now, the political opposition to you worries me greatly. I have thought about it for many hours and days since leaving Vietnam. There is much ugly talk and bad feeling among many people in Saigon. It is so ugly and bad that I am afraid it will prompt some thoughtless persons to attempt another coup. You are one of the great leaders of the Free World and a friend for whom I have deep affection. So, please take my words in the friendship with which they are offered. Simply suppressing this political feeling of opposition by arresting people or closing down newspapers will only turn the talk into deep emotions of hatred and generate the formation of more clandestine organizations and plots to oppose you. This is so far from your real nature and your gifted talents of leadership that I know you are seeking a better solution. An idea suggests itself for your consideration of this problem of the political opposition. If you could get most of the oppositionists working on a program of specific ideas to save the nation, and to work on this program freely among themselves outside of the government, you would turn the major share of their political energies into constructive work. They would argue among themselves over their ideas, trying to get each other to accept these ideas, rather than spend their political energies attacking you. How do you do this? Perhaps you yourself cannot. But, you are the only person who can set the proper political climate for such an action. It needs you to tell the people, including the oppositionists, that Vietnam is in grave danger. It needs you to remove the lurking fear of secret arrest at night as punishment for political activity; whether such fears are based

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on fact or falsehood, the point is that many people believe that special police under Dr. Tuyen make political arrests at night, with the knowledge of your brother Nhu. Perhaps the wisest move would be to call in the younger people among the opposition. It would be best if you talked to them personally. You might tell them that Vietnam stands to lose its freedom, that all Vietnamese must go to work now to save that freedom, that you know the oppositionists have not agreed with all your programs but that running a government which is under savage Communist attack is not as simple as critics apparently think. You want people not to merely criticize their government. If they believe they have good ideas, they should write these down and agree to a program they believe would save the country. Not a Communist program, but a program by Free Vietnamese. If they go to work to write and agree upon such a program, you can assure them that you won’t stand in their way—even if it means the formation of a strong, single opposition party. You might talk to them, too, the way you did to me in 1955 and 1956—that your dream for Vietnam was to have two strong political parties. You might point out that you called the younger people in from the opposition groups because they are the ones who have to build the future. They will live in it. Too many of the older politicians are living in the past or are selfishly looking for power for themselves. Well, this became a very long letter. My suggestions were prompted by the fact that many people in Washington, just like many people in Asia, are watching you right now to see what you will do next. I am sure that whatever you do, you will do it resolutely and with wisdom. I will help to the extent that an American official can. With warmest and best personal wishes, as always. Sincerely Edward G. Lansdale Brigadier General, USAF

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The Strategic Hamlet Program 1961–1963

Summary and Analysis

A specific strategy by which the U.S. and GVN would attempt to end the insurgency in South Vietnam had never been agreed upon at the time that the U.S. decided, late in 1961, to increase materially its assistance to GVN and to expand its advisory effort into one which would implement a “limited partnership.” By early 1962, however, there was apparent consensus among the principal participants that the Strategic Hamlet Program, as it came to be called, represented the unifying concept for a strategy designed to pacify rural Vietnam (the Viet Cong’s chosen battleground) and to develop support among the peasants for the central government. The Strategic Hamlet Program was much broader than the construction of strategic hamlets per se. It envisioned sequential phases which, beginning with clearing the insurgents from an area and protecting the rural populace, progressed through the establishment of GVN infrastructure and thence to the provision of services which would lead the peasants to identify with their government. The strategic hamlet program was, in short, an attempt to translate the newly articulated theory of counter-insurgency into operational reality. The objective was political though the means to its realization were a mixture of military, social, psychological, economic and political measures. The effect of these sequential steps to pacification was to make it very difficult to make intermediate assessments of progress. One could not really be sure how one was doing until one was done. Physical security by 285

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itself (the so-called “clear and hold” initial step) was a necessary condition for pacification, not a sufficient one. The establishment of governmental functions was not, by itself, necessarily conducive to a successful effort; the quality of those functions and their responsiveness to locally felt needs was critical. This inherent difficulty in assessing progress did not simply mean that it was difficult to identify problems and to make improvements as one went along—which it was. It also meant that it was quite possible to conclude that the program as a whole was progressing well (or badly) according to evidence relating only to a single phase or a part of a phase. A related problem arose from the uniqueness of this program in American experience-pacification by proxy. The theory of sequential phases could be variously interpreted. This is not the problem of the three blind men describing the elephant; it is the problem of men with different perspectives each moulding his own conception of a proper body to the same skeleton. If the final product were to have some semblance of coherence and mutual satisfaction it was necessary that the shapers came to agreement on substance and operational procedure, not just that they agree on the proper skeleton upon which to work. The problem with the apparent consensus which emerged early in 1962 was that the principal participants did view it with different perspectives and expectations. On the U.S. side, military advisors had a set of preferences which affected their approach to the Strategic Hamlet Program. They wanted to make RVNAF more mobile, more aggressive, and better organized to take the offensive against the Viet Cong. They were, consequently, extremely leery of proposals which might lead it to be tied down in strategic defenses (“holding” after “clearing” had been completed) or diverted too much to military civic action undertakings. The American political leadership, insofar as a generalization may be attempted, may be said to have been most concerned with the later phases of the program—those in which GVN services were provided, local governments established, and the economy bolstered. Military clearing operations were, to them, a distasteful, expensive, but necessary precondition to the really critical and important phases of the effort. Both of these U.S. groups had perspectives different from those of the Diem administration. In the U.S. view the insurgents were only one of Diem’s enemies; he himself was the other. In this view the process of pacification could proceed successfully only if Diem reformed his own government. It was precisely to achieve these goals simultaneously that

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the U.S. agreed to enter a “limited partnership” with GVN in the ­counter-insurgent effort. The Strategic Hamlet Program became the operational symbol of this effort. President Diem—unsurprisingly—had a very different view. His need, as he saw it, was to get the U.S. committed to South Vietnam (and to his administration) without surrendering his independence. He knew that his nation would fall without U.S. support; he feared that his government would fall if he either appeared to toady to U.S. wishes or allowed any single group too much potential power-particularly coercive power. The Strategic Hamlet Program offered a vehicle by which he could direct the counterinsurgent effort as he thought it should be directed and without giving up either his prerogatives to the U.S. or his mantle to his restless generals. The program, in the form of a plan for pacification of the Delta, was formally proposed to Diem in November 1961 by R. G. K. Thompson, head of the newly arrived British Advisory Mission. U.S. military advisors favored at that time an ARVN penetration of the VC redoubt in War Zone D prior to any operations aimed specifically at pacification. But U.S. political desires to start some local operation which could achieve concrete gains combined with Diem’s preference for a pacification effort in an area of strategic importance led to the initial effort in March 1962, “Operation SUNRISE,” in Binh Duong Province north of Saigon. This was a heavily VC-influltrated area rather than one of mini-mat penetration, as Thompson had urged. But planning—as distinct from operations—continued on the  Delta plan and strategic hamlets were constructed in a variegated, uncoordinated pattern throughout the spring and early summer. The U.S. had little or no influence over these activities; the primary impetus was traceable directly to the President’s brother and political counsellor, Ngo Dinh Nhu. In August 1962, GVN produced its long awaited national pacification plan with four priority areas and specified priorities within each area. At the same time, however, it indicated that over 2,500 strategic hamlets had already been completed and that work was already underway on more than 2,500 more. Although it was not until October 1962, that GVN explicitly announced the Strategic Hamlet Program to be the unifying concept of its pacification and counterinsurgent effort it was clear earlier that the program had assumed this central position. Three important implications of this early progress (or, more precisely, reported progress) are also clear in retrospect. These implications seem

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not to have impressed themselves acutely upon U.S. observers at the time. First, the program was truly one of GVN initiative rather than one embodying priorities and time phasing recommended by the U.S. Diem was running with his own ball in programmatic terms, no matter who articulated the theory of the approach. The geographic dispersion of hamlets already reported to be completed indicated that there was, in fact, a conscious effort to implement this phase almost simultaneously throughout the entire nation rather than to build slowly as Diem’s foreign advisors (both U.S. and British) recommended. Finally, the physical aspects of Diem’s program were similar if not identical to earlier population resettlement and control efforts practiced by the French and by Diem. The long history of these efforts was marked by consistency in resuits as well as in techniques: all failed dismally because they ran into resentment if not active resistance on the part of the peasants at whose control and safety, then loyalty, they were aimed. U.S. desires to begin an effective process of pacification had fastened onto security as a necessary precondition and slighted the historic record of rural resistance to resettlement. President Diem and his brother, for their part, had decided to emphasize control of the rural population as the precondition to winning loyalty. The record is inconclusive with respect to their weighing the record of the past but it appears that they, too, paid it scant attention. Thus the early operational efforts indicated a danger of peasant resistance, on one hand, and of divergent approaches between, in the initial steps, the U.S. (focused on security measures) and Diem (concerned more with control measures). Since the physical actions to achieve security and those to impose control are in many respects the same, there was generated yet another area in which assessments of progress would be inconclusive and difficult to make. U.S. attention, once an apparent consensus had been forged concentrated on program management efforts in two categories: to convince GVN to proceed at a more measured, coherent pace with a qualitative improvement in the physical construction of strategic hamlets; and to schedule material assistance (fortification materials, etc.) and training for local defense forces to match the rate of desired hamlet construction. U.S. assessments, at the same time, concentrated on the physical aspects of the program and on VC activity in areas where strategic hamlets had been constructed. Assessments tended to be favorable from a security (or control) viewpoint and uneven with respect to political

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­ evelopment. The general conclusion was almost always one of cautious d optimism when security (control) was emphasized, one of hopeful pessimism when political follow-up was stressed. The impression in Washington was typically slanted toward the more optimistic appraisals if for no other reason than that hamlet construction and security arrangements were the first chronological steps in the long process to pacification. Was it not, after all, “progress” to have moved from doing nothing to doing something even though the something was being done imperfectly? These U.S. assessments changed only marginally throughout the life of the program. By the time, in 1963, that the hopeful pessimist voices were clearer, it was also much clearer that the Ngo brothers had made the Strategic Hamlet Program into one closely identified with their regime and with Diem’s rather esoterically phrased “personalist revolution.” Fears grew that Diem was attempting to impose loyalty from the top through control rather than to build it from the bottom by deeds. These fears were not limited to the Strategic Hamlet Program, however; they extended to urban as weB as rural phases of South Vietnamese life and were subsumed, as the Buddhist question moved to the fore, by the general issue of the viability of Diem’s regime. President Diem grew increasingly unwilling to meet U.S. demands for reform. He believed that to do so would cause his government to fail. U.S. observers held that failure to do so would cause the nation, not just the government to fall. In the event the government fell and the nation’s counterinsurgent program took a definite turn for the worse, but the nation did not fall. The Strategic Hamlet Program did. Closely identified with the Ngo brothers, it was almost bound to suffer their fortunes; when they died it died, too. The new government of generals, presumably realizing the extent of peasant displeasure with resettlement and control measures, did nothing to save it. A number of contributory reasons can be cited for the failure of the Strategic Hamlet Program. Over-expansion of construction and poor quality of defenses forms one category. This reason concentrates only on the initial phase of the program, however. While valid, it does little to explain why the entire program collapsed rather than only some hamlets within it. Rural antagonisms which identified the program with its sponsors in the central government are more suggestive of the basis for the complete collapse as Diem and Nhu departed the scene. The reasons why

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they departed are traceable in part to the different expectations which combined in the apparent consensus at the program’s beginning: to Diem’s insistence on material assistance and independence, to U.S. willingness to provide assistance only if its advice was heeded, and to the failure to resolve this question either by persuasion or leverage. Having said this, it does not automatically follow that the program would have succeeded even if Diem had met U.S. demands for change. To point to the causes of failure is one thing; to assume that changes of style would have led to success is quite another. It may well be that the program was doomed from the outset because of peasant resistance to measures which changed the pattern of rural life—whether aimed at security or control. It might have been possible, on the other hand, for a well-executed program eventually to have achieved some measure of success. The early demise of the program does not permit a conclusive evaluation. The weight of evidence suggests that the Strategic Hamlet Program was fatally flawed in its conception by the unintended consequence of alienating many of those whose loyalty it aimed to win. This inconclusive finding, in turn, suggests that the sequential phases embodied in the doctrine of counterinsurgency may slight some very important problem areas. The evidence is not sufficient for an indictment; still less is one able to validate the counterinsurgent doctrine with reference to a program that failed. The only verdict that may be given at this time with respect to the validity of the doctrine is that used by Scots courts—“case not proved.”

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Kennedy And McNamara Prepare for War

As the Vietnam situation heats up, the National Security Council discusses how to fight a war in that country. It discusses diplomatic matters (contacts with the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference and with Khrushchev). It also examines military considerations—some as specific as the performance of American assault rifles. Note that Kennedy suggests “a group specially trained for guerrilla warfare.”

Memorandum From the President [Kennedy] to the Secretary of State [Rusk] and the Secretary of Defense [McNamara] Top Secret

Washington, 11–14–61 [NOTE: The source text bears the following handwritten notation by Bundy: “used by President as talking paper 11–14 before NSC. MGB”] I think we should get our ducks in a row for tomorrow morning’s meeting. I believe we should make more precise our requests for action. In the papers which I have seen our requests have been of a general nature.

1. I would like to have you consider the proposals made by Governor Harriman.1 I am wondering if he should return, perhaps on Friday [11–17] to discuss the matter further with Pushkin.

1 Apparently

a reference to Harriman’s draft memo which he transmitted to the President under cover of a letter of 11–12, 239 file.

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2. In the meantime what action should be taken toward South Vietnam pending the arrival of Harriman. 3. I would like a letter to be written to the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference to call a meeting of the conference to consider immediately South Viet Nam as a breach of the accord. As we will be breaching the Geneva accords ourselves it is important that we lay the groundwork. The Jorden report will do some of this. Has anyone examined the political implications in their efforts. 4. Should I address a statement today to Khrushchev concerning South Viet Nam stating how dangerous we thought the situation was. 5. If we are going to send a military man as a Commanding Officer at the 4-star level for South Viet Nam, perhaps we could name a younger general and give him a star or do you know someone who already has the stars who can handle the situation. 6. I gather you felt that we should have a general military command set up. We want to make sure that someone like George McGhee heads it, in fact, it might be well to send McGhee. 7. I would like to have someone look into what we did in Greece. How much money and men were involved. How much money was used for guerilla warfare? Should we have not done it at the company level rather than at the battalion level? It is proposed by the military that we should operate from the battalion level or even before this. Are we prepared to send in hundreds and hundreds of men and dozens and dozens of ships? If we would just show up with 4 or 5 ships this will not do much good. Or am I misinformed? I think there should be a group specially trained for guerrilla warfare. I understand that the guns that have been used have been too heavy. Would carbines be better? Wonder if someone could make sure we are moving ahead to improve this.2 2 In

a memo of 12-14 to Lemnitzer, the White House Defense Liaison Office, Major General CV Clifton, wrote that he briefed the President regarding the Armalite rifle using a briefing paper prepared by the Dept of the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics dated 12-5, which was attached. Clifton also reported that the President wanted to be informed of the Joint Chiefs’ decision in response to CINCPAC’s recommendation that additional Armalite rifles be sent to Vietnam. Clifton informed Lemnitzer: “I also had the Army bring an M-1 rifle, an M-14 carbine, an Armalite 1 and a carbine to the President. In response to his question, the Army is trying to find out how many of the 1,327,310 unserviceable carbines can be made serviceable. Also the President expressed the opinion that we should be sending as many carbines to South Vietnam as they can use because this seems to be a good weapon.”

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Perhaps we should issue some sort of a statement on what we propose to do. Our actions should be positive rather than negative. As I said on Saturday concerning Laos—we took actions which made no difference at all. Our actions should be substantial otherwise we will give the wrong impression. 8. We should watch Laos very carefully for any fighting that might break out again even though we decide not to intervene.

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Talking Paper for the Chairman, JCS, for meeting with the President of the United States on Current US Military Actions in South Vietnam 9 January 1962

Subject: Current US Military Actions in South Vietnam

Background—Today Communist China and North Vietnam are suffering from the effects of failure of their communes to produce adequate amounts of food to feed their peoples. Recently, large quantities of wheat were purchased by Red China from Canada and Australia to overcome this failure. Southeast Asia, primarily South Vietnam and Thailand, is a food surplus area in normal times. Because of this and the standard Marxist-Leninist concept of peripheral aggression and pressure, the main communist threat in the Western Pacific appears to be directed at Southeast Asia. Of principal concern for the purpose of this briefing is the situation in South Vietnam, the US national objectives there and the military actions that have been implemented since October in support of our objectives.

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The Current Situation in South Vietnam

The Viet Cong have heavily infiltrated, organized and now effectively control the colored areas on this chart. To achieve their purposes the Viet Cong have divided the country into two major geographical areas, Intersector V with headquarters in the high plateau region north and west of Kontum, and the Nambo sector in the south with headquarters northeast of Saigon. Each major area is subdivided into interprovincial commands-four in Intersector V and three in Nambo, with a special zone for Saigon. Each interprovincial area is further organized into provinces which are further subdivided into districts, villages, and hamlets. Methods of VC Operation

The 16,500-man Viet Cong military establishment is divided into two operational groups—regular and regional-local forces. Regular battalions and companies, numbering about 8,500 personnel, constitute the offensive element of the “Liberation Army” and operate throughout their respective interprovincial zone. The 8,000 regional and local forces, which correspond functionally to the Self Defense Forces of SVN, are essentially security troops recruited and organized on district levels for limited operations and to provide security for command headquarters, conferences, and political rallies. Regional units are also used to provide semi-trained personnel as replacements in regular battalions and as fillers for newly activated units. Under regional unit control guerrilla platoons made up of daytime farmers sabotage, terrorize, assassinate, kidnap, disseminate propaganda, and attempt to subvert their neighbors. Availability of weapons appears to be a continuing problem for Viet Cong forces, particularly in regional units in which less than half of the men are armed. The primary source of arms for all VC forces appears to be those captured from South Vietnamese security forces. Most officers and key NCOs, as well as political and propaganda specialists, are former South Vietnamese who went north with the Communists in 1955, or who have since been recruited and sent to North Vietnam. These southerners are given special training and are then infiltrated back into South Vietnam through Laos (or by junks) to cadre regular and regional forces.

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Training of regional troops and the activation of new regular battalions have been stepped up since the first of the year. In recent anti-guerrilla operations South Vietnamese troops uncovered several major Viet Cong training areas, one of which had barracks space for more than a battalion, 200 dummy rifles and tons of food. In Communist-controlled areas, the Viet Cong have ordered villagers to dig trenches and prepare combat villages. The Viet Cong are collecting money from the peasants and plantation owners to finance the war against the government, and have implemented a rice tax to build up supplies for future operations. Pitched battles are avoided wherever possible, unless they are essential to a given plan, or the military advantages are at least four to one. The campaign to assassinate all who try to implement the Government of Vietnam’s policies in the countryside is being intensified. All indications point to the Viet Cong maintaining the current high level of guerrilla action in the south, and increasing activity in the high plateau area in efforts to build the decreed semi-permanent bases. Routes of Infiltration and Supply

Prisoner of war interrogation recently conducted by the South Vietnamese Intelligence Service has shed additional light on the means employed by Communist North Vietnam to assist the Viet Cong in the latter’s military and psychological campaigns against the Government of South Vietnam. North Vietnam maintains a training camp for Special Troops in the vicinity of Vinh, where pro-Viet Cong South Vietnamese receive an 18-month military course interspersed with intensive Communist political indoctrination. Two 600-man battalions already have completed training, and another two battalions began training in May 1961. Personnel are assigned to units within the battalion according to their respective regions of origin in South Vietnam. Upon completion of training, Viet Cong volunteers reenter South Vietnam by taking a circuitous route through territory in neighboring Laos controlled by Communist Pathet Lao forces. In addition to land infiltration, some Viet Cong guerrillas and cadres are infiltrated by sea using junks and small craft to land at various points on the long South Vietnam coastline. It is estimated that no more than 20% of the total infiltrees use the sea route.

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Relative Strengths

The current strength of the Viet Cong is 16,500 with the possible infiltration of 1,000 per month. The increase in strength by infiltration is offset by the estimated Viet Cong casualties which average over 1,000 a month according to South Vietnam official figures. A recent refinement in intelligence reporting indicates that the official estimate of Viet Cong strength may be raised to about 20,000 in the near future. The current actual strength of the South Vietnamese forces are as ­follows: Army: 163,696 Navy: 4,207 Air Force: 5,314 Marines: 3,135 In addition paramilitary forces total 65,000 in the Civil Guard and 45,000 Self Defense Corps. The regular Army forces are organized and assigned to three corps areas with major command headquarters and units located as shown on the chart. Current US Military Actions

The President on 22 November 1961 authorized the Secretary of State to instruct the US Ambassador to Vietnam to inform President Diem that the US Government was prepared to join the GVN in a sharply increased effort to avoid a further deterioration of the situation in SVN. On its part the US would immediately



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a. Provide increased airlift to the GVN in the form of helicopters, light aviation and transport aircraft. b. Provide required equipment and US personnel for aerial reconnaissance, instruction in and execution of air-ground support and special intelligence. c. Augment the Vietnamese Navy operationally with small craft. d. Provide expedited training and equipping of the Civil Guard and Self-Defense Corps.

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e. Provide necessary equipment and personnel to improve the ­military-political intelligence system. f. Provide such new terms of reference, reorganization, and additional personnel for US military forces as are required for increased US military assistance.

Discussion—As a result of the decision to accelerate US support of the GVN, the following US military units are in place or enroute as shown on this chart: (Overlay No. 1)











a. Two Army Light Helicopter Companies are operating in support of the RVNAF from Tan Son Nhut and Qui Nhon. The third company is enroute to Da Nang with an ETA of 15 January and an operational readiness date of 1 February. This will provide one company of 20 H-21 and two H-13 in support of each of three RVNAF Corps areas. b. The US Army has alerted the 18th Fixed Wing Aircraft Company equipped with 16 U1A (Otter) aircraft to be ready for deployment by 15 January. c. The 346th USAF Troop Carrier Squadron with 16 C-123 aircraft has four aircraft at Clark and four operating from Tan Son Nhut. The remaining eight aircraft are in the Pacific Theatre enroute to Clark with an ETA of 10 January. This unit will rotate aircraft into SVN from Clark to support RVNAF operations as required. d. Four RP-l01 aircraft and a small photo processing element operated by the USAF are in place at Den Muang Airfield, Thailand, fulfilling aerial photo requirements in SVN. e. The USAF JUNGLE JIM unit at Bien Hoa with eight T-23, four RB-26 and four SC-47 aircraft, is instructing the Vietnamese Air Force in combat air support tactics and techniques. The Pacific Air Force is deploying personnel and equipment to SVN to establish a joint US/GVN Tactical Air Control System (TACS). This system will permit positive control of all air operations and rapid response to requests for air-ground support. f. The 3rd Radio Reconnaissance Unit at Tan Son Nhut is being augmented. The additional 279 personnel will be on board by 14 January.

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g. Six C-i 23 spray equipped aircraft for support of defoliant operations have received diplomatic clearance to enter SVN. h. US Navy Mine Division 73 with a tender and five mine sweepers is operating from Tourane Harbor in conjunction with the Vietnamese Navy conducting maritime surveillance patrols south of the 17th parallel. i. Air surveillance flights 30 miles seaward from the SVN coast (17th parallel) to 50 miles beyond the Paracel Islands are conducted every other day by Seventh Fleet patrol aircraft.

In addition to deployment of organized US military units to SVN and increased personnel strength for the MAAG, accelerated delivery of MAP equipment has already begun. Nine additional L-20 light observation aircraft are en-route to SVN for use by the Vietnamese Air Force. Also, 15 T-28C aircraft have been delivered to augment the Vietnamese airground support capability. These were provided on an interim, loan basis until 30 T-28B (NOMAD) with a greater ordnance delivery capability could complete modification and be delivered to SVN, early in March. Department of the Army is also providing an additional 12 H-34 helicopters from active Army units to the USAF on a reimbursable basis for accelerated MAP delivery to the RVNAF early in March. [words missing] Advisory Group in Vietnam was 841, present strength is 1204 and projected strength as of 30 June 1962 is 2394. The total personnel strength of US units and elements, other than the MAAG, was 1442 as of 2 January 1962 and projected strength as of 30 June 1962 is 3182. The total US personnel in South Vietnam is now 2646 and projected strength as of 30 June 1962 is 5576. The MAAG is extending its advisory teams to battalion level within the RVNAF MA Military establishment and beginning to participate more directly in advising Vietnamese unit commanders in the planning and execution of military operations plans. Since delivery of MAP equipment has been accelerated and RVNAF military operations are increasing, the MAAG training activities have been expanded. This training includes operations, planning, logistics, intelligence, communications and electronics as they apply to each service within the RVNAF. They are also accelerating the training of the Vietnamese Civil Guard and Self-Defense Corps.

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Shown on the chart are the approved and funded construction projects in South Vietnam. These include: a. Improvement of the Pleiku Airfield. b. Improvements at Tan Son Nhut Airfield which included installations of: (1) Pierced steel planking parking apron. (2) POL hydrant system. (3) POL pipeline to Nha Be. (4) Ammunition storage facility (5) Concrete parking apron [line missing] d. Improvement of the Bien Hoa Airfield. —Communications and electronics improvements include the ­following: a. An improved intelligence communications network. Net control station to be located in Saigon and to extend down to battalion and provincial level. b. An improved Gate Way Station communications facilities at Saigon. c. Three mobile navigational aid packages in the Pacific Theatre are approved for deployment to SVN as directed by CINCPAC. The Future Outlook

The foremost national objective today of the Diem government in South Vietnam is survival against the incursions of Communist forces; cadred, supplied, and directed from North Vietnam. Secondary, but nonetheless extremely important objectives include: (1) improvement of the national economy with emphasis on agrarian reform; (2) enhancement of South Vietnam’s economic, cultural, and prestige position among Southeast Asian nations; (3) the creation of an armed force capable of defending the country from potential invaders; (4) and the preservation of a proWestern orientation. Policies directed toward the achievement of these objectives suffer from the concentration of power in the hands of the President, Ngo Dinh Diem, and a small clique headed by his extremely influential and powerful

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brother. Ngo Dinh Nhu. Continued receipt of US military, economic and technical aid, application of Catholic philosophies, and the repulsion of the Viet Cong guerrillas are additional major policy considerations. Planned courses of action include: (1) the building up of the armed forces with US aid and assistance; (2) defeat of the Viet Cong forces; and (3) the implementation of a series of reforms and measures to correct imbalances in the power hier- [words illegible] Certainly some of the projects we are implementing are outright R&D efforts such as the defoliation project and bear all the earmarks of gimmicks that cannot and will not win the war in South Vietnam. However, the commitment of US units to support the RVNAF and additional personnel to train, equip and advise them in conjunction with increased economic and administrative aid, should make it obvious to the Vietnamese and the rest of the world that the United States is committed to preventing Communist domination of South Vietnam and Southeast Asia. All of the recent actions we have taken may still not be sufficient to stiffen the will of the government and the people of SVN sufficiently to resist Communist pressure and win the war without the US committing combat forces. Whether we will have to take this decision within the coming year depends to a great [conclusion missing].

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JCS Memorandum on the “Strategic Importance of the Southeast Mainland” 27 January 1962

MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have asked that the attached memorandum, stating their views concerning the strategic importance may be required if the situation continues to deteriorate, be brought to your attention. The memorandum requires no action by you at this time. I am not prepared to endorse the experience with our present program in South Vietnam. Robert S. McNamara cc: Sec. Rusk THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF

Washington 25, D.C. JCSM-33-62 13 Jan 1962 MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

SUBJECT: The Strategic Importance of the Southeast Asia Mainland

1. The United States has clearly stated and demonstrated that one of its unalterable objectives is the prevention of South Vietnam 303

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f­ alling to communist aggression and the subsequent loss of the remainder of the Southeast Asian mainland. The military objective, therefore, must be to take expeditiously all actions necessary to defeat communist aggression in South Vietnam. The immediate strategic importance of Southeast Asia lies in the political value that can accrue to the Free World through a successful stand in that area. Of equal importance is the psychological impact that a firm position by the United States will have on the countries of the world-both free and communist. On the negative side, a United States political and/or military withdrawal from the Southeast Asian area would have an adverse psychological impact of even greater proportion, and one from which recovery would be both difficult and costly. 2. It must be recognized that the fall of South Vietnam to communist control would mean the eventual communist domination of all of the Southeast Asian mainland. There is little doubt that the next major target would be Thailand. Cadres are now being established in that country and “land reform” or “capitalist dictatorship” pioys may prove fertile exploitation fields for the communists. Thailand is bordered by a “pink” Burma and a vacillating Cambodia, either of which will easily fall under communist pressure. Thailand would almost certainly then seek closer accommodation with the Sino-Soviet Bloc. SEATO would probably cease to exist. The only determined opposition to a communist drive would then be Malaya and Singapore. While the people of Malaya have the will to fight and might have the backing of the United Kingdom, the country itself would be isolated and hard pressed. The communist element in Singapore is strong. Short of direct military intervention by the United States, it is questionable whether Malaya and Singapore could be prevented from eventually coming under communist domination or control. 3. Military Considerations. (The Appendix contains a more detailed appraisal of these military considerations.) a. Early Eventualities—Loss of the Southeast Asian Mainland would have an adverse impact on our military strategy and would markedly reduce our ability in limited war by denying us air, land and sea bases, by forcing greater intelligence effort with lesser results, by com­plicating military lines of communication and by the introduc-

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tion of more formidable enemy forces in the area. Air access and access to 5300 miles of mainland coastline would be lost to us, our Allies and neutral India would be outflanked, the last significant United Kingdom military strength in Asia would be eliminated with the loss of Singapore and Malaya and US military influence in that area, short of war, would be difficult to exert. b. Possible Eventualities—Of equal importance to the immediate losses are the eventualities which could follow the loss of the Southeast Asian mainland. All of the Indonesian archipelago could come under the domination and control of the USSR and would become a communist base posing a threat against Australia and New Zealand. The Sino-Soviet Bloc would have control of the eastern access to the Indian Ocean. The Philippines and Japan could be pressured to assume at best, a neutralist role, thus eliminating two of our major bases of defense in the Western Pacific. Our lines of defense then would be pulled north to Korea, Okinawa and Taiwan resulting in the subsequent overtaxing of our lines of communications in a limited war. India’s ability to remain neutral would be jeopardized and, as the Bloc meets success, its concurrent stepped-up activities to move into and control Africa can be expected. 4. Political Considerations. The Joint Chiefs of Staff wish to reaffirm their position that the United States must prevent the loss of South Vietnam to either communist insurgency or aggression, must prevent the communist control or domination of the Southeast Asia mainland and must extend its influence in that area in such a manner as to negate the possibility of any future communist encroachment. It is recognized that the military and political effort of Communist China in South Vietnam and the political and psychological thrust by the USSR into the Indonesian archipelago are not brushfire tactics nor merely a campaign for control of the mainland area. More important, it is part of a major campaign to extend communist control beyond the periphery of the SinoSoviet Bloc and overseas to both island and continental areas in the Free World, through a most natural and comparatively soft outlet, the Southeast Asian Peninsula. It is, in fact, a planned phase in the communist timetable for world domination. Whereas, control of Cuba has opened for the Sino-Soviet Bloc more ready access to countries of

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South and Central America, control of Southeast Asia will open access to the remainder of Asia and to Africa and Australia. 5. In consideration of the formidable threat to the Free World which is represented in the current actions in South Vietnam, the need for US and GVN success in that area cannot be overemphasized. In this connection, reference is made to the staff level document entitled “Summary of Suggested Courses of Action” prepared for General Taylor for reference in his mission to South Vietnam. On 21 October 1961, this document circulated comments and recommendations on 20 courses of action that could be taken in South Vietnam short of the direct utilization of US combat forces. The Joint Chiefs of Staff note that, in keeping with the President’s decision that we must advise and support South Vietnam but not at this time engage unilaterally in combat, all of the courses of action recommended with few exceptions have either been implemented or authorized for implementation. In this connection, it is noted that the Vietnamese Government has specifically requested further assistance from the United States. 6. Reference is also made to the agreement made between the Government of Vietnam and the United States on 4 December 1961 wherein the Government of Vietnam agreed to take several major steps to increase its efficiency. 7. In response to President Diem’s request for assistance and the agreement between the governments, men, money, materials and advice are being provided to South Vietnam. Unfortunately, our contributions are not being properly employed by the South Vietnamese Government and major portions of the agreement have either not been carried out or are being delayed by Diem. 8. For a combined US/Vietnam effort to be successful, there must be combined participation in the decision making process. To date efforts made on both the military and diplomatic level have failed to motivate Diem to agree to act forthrightly on our advice and properly utilize the resources placed at his disposal. He has been slow to accept the plans and proposals of Admiral Felt and General McGarr and he has in many instances disregarded the advice of Ambassador Nolting. The reason for Diem’s negative reaction to proposals to save South Vietnam while he maintains a positive position that it must be saved may be found in CINCPAC’s appraisal of his character—an

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uncompromising inflexibility and his doubts concerning the judgment, ability and individual loyalty of his military leaders. Recent intelligence reports of coup d’etat plotting involving senior Vietnamese military officers and the possibility that high Vietnamese officers have approached US officials tend to confirm Diem’s doubts concerning the loyalty of some of his military leaders. 9. In this regard, should a successful coup overturn Diem, we might discover that many of Diem’s difficult characteristics are national rather than personal. The Vietnamese are tough, tenacious, agile, proud, and extraordinarily self confident. Their recent political tradition is one of the multiplicity of parties and groups inclining toward conspiratorial and violent methods. The disappearance of a strong leader who can dampen and control these tendencies could well mean reversion to a condition of political chaos exploitable by the strongly led and well disciplined communists. If Diem goes, we can be sure of losing his strengths but we cannot be sure of remedying his weaknesses. Achievement of US objectives could be more difficult without Diem than with him. Therefore, it must be made clear to Diem that the United States is prepared and willing to bolster his regime and discourage internal factions which may seek to overthrow him. 10. In consideration of the foregoing, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that there is an immediate requirement for making a strong approach to Diem on a Government-to-Government level. If we are to effectively assist South Vietnam, we must convince Diem that (a) there is no alternative to the establishment of a sound basis upon which both he and the United States Government can work and (b) he has an urgent requirement for advice, as well as assistance, in military, political and economic matters. 11. Accordingly, it is recommended that you propose to the President and to the Secretary of State that: a. Upon his return to Saigon, Ambassador Nolting meet with President Diem and advise him that, since the United States considers it essential and fundamental that South Vietnam not fall to communist forces: (1) The United States is prepared and willing to bolster his regime and discourage internal factions which may seek to overthrow him.

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(2) S uitable military plans have been developed and jointly approved. Diem must permit his military commanders to implement these approved plans to defeat the Viet Cong. (3) There must be established an adequate basis for the reception and utilization of US advice and assistance by all appropriate echelons of the GVN. (4) There must be no further procrastination. (5) Should it be found impossible to establish such a satisfactory basis for cooperation, the United States foresees failure of our joint efforts to save Vietnam from communist conquest. 12. Vigorous prosecution of the campaign with present and planned assets could reverse the current trend. If, with Diem’s full [words missing] forces, the Viet Cong is not brought under control, the Joint Chiefs of Staff see no alternative to the introduction of US military combat forces along with those of the free Asian nations that can be persuaded to participate. 13. Three salient factors are of the greatest importance if the eventual introduction of US forces is required. a. Any war in the Southeast Asian Mainland will be a peninsula and island-type of campaign-a mode of warfare in which all elements of the Armed Forces of the United States have gained a wealth of experience and in which we have excelled both in World War II and Korea. b. Study of the problem clearly indicates that the communists are limited in the forces they can sustain in war in that area because of natural logistic and transportation problems. c. Our present world military posture is such that we now have effective forces capable of implementing existing contingency plans for Southeast Asia without affecting to an unacceptable degree our capability to conduct planned operations in Europe relating to Berlin or otherwise. 14. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that in any consideration of further action which may be required because of possible unacceptable results obtained despite Diem’s full cooperation and the effective employment of South Vietnam armed forces, you again consider the recommendation provided you by JCSM320-61, dated 10 May 1961, that a decision be made to deploy US forces to South Vietnam sufficient to accomplish the following:

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a. Provide a visible deterrent to potential North Vietnam and/or Chinese Communist action; b. Release Vietnamese forces from advanced and static defense positions to permit their future commitment to counterinsurgency actions; c. Assist in training the Vietnamese forces; d. Provide a nucleus for the support of any additional US or SEATO military operations in Southeast Asia; and e. Indicate the firmness of our intent to all Asian nations.

We are of the opinion that failure to do so under such circumstances will merely extend the date when such action must be taken and will make our ultimate task proportionately more difficult. FOR THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: L. L. Lemnitzer Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

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Response to a Question on American Involvement in South Vietnam, President Kennedy’s News Conference February 14, 1962

Q. Mr. President, the Republican National Committee publication has said that you have been less than candid with the American people as to how deeply we are involved in Vietnam. Could you throw any more light on that? THE PRESIDENT: Yes, as you know, the United States for more than a decade has been assisting the government, the people of Vietnam, to maintain their independence. Way back on Dec. 23, 1950, we signed a military assistance agreement with France and with Indo-China which at that time included Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. We also signed in December of 1951 an agreement directly with Vietnam. Now, in 1954, the Geneva agreements were signed, and while we did not sign those agreements, nevertheless Under Secretary Bedell Smith stated that he would view any renewal of aggression in Vietnam in violation of the aforesaid agreements with grave concern, and as seriously threatening international peace and security. At the time that the SEATO Pact was signed in 1954, Sept. 8, Vietnam was not a signatory, it was a protocol state, and, therefore, this pact which was approved by the Senate with only, I think, two against it, under Article 4, stated that the 311

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United States recognized that aggression by means of armed attack against Vietnam would threaten our own peace and security. So since that time the United States has been assisting the government of Vietnam to maintain its independence. It has had a military training mission there and extensive economic assistance. As you know, in the last two years the war has increased. The Vice President visited there last spring. The war became more intense every month; in fact, every week. The attack on the government by the Communist forces with assistance from the north became of greater and greater concern to the government of Vietnam and the Government of the United States. We sent—I sent General Taylor there to make a review of the situation. The President of Vietnam asked us for additional assistance. We issued, as you remember, a white paper which detailed the support which the Viet Minh in the north were giving to this Communist insurgent movement and we have increased our assistance there. And we are supplying logistic assistance, transportation assistance, training, and we have a number of Americans who are taking part in that effort. We have discussed this matter—we discussed it with the leadership of the Republicans and Democrats when we met in early January and informed them of what we were doing in Vietnam. We—Mr. Rusk has discussed it with the House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. McNamara has discussed it with the Armed Services Committee. The leadership on both sides, Republicans and Democrats—we have explained to them our concern about what is happening there, and they have been responsive, I think, to evidence their concern. So that there is a long history of our efforts to prevent Vietnam from falling under control of the Communists. That is what we are now attempting to do. And as the war has increased in scope, our assistance has increased as a result of the request of the government. So that I think we should—as it is a matter of great importance, a matter of great sensitivity—my view has always been that the headquarters of both of our parties should really attempt to leave these matters to be discussed by responsible leaders on both sides. In my opinion, we have had a very strong bi-partisan consensus up to now, and I am hopeful that it will continue in regard to the action that we are taking. Q. Mr. President, do you feel that you have told the American people as much as can be told, because of the sensitivity of the subject? Is that right?

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P r e s i d e n t   K e n n e d y ’ s N e w s   C o n f e r e n c e   313

THE PRESIDENT: I think I have just indicated what our role is. We have increased our assistance to the government, its logistics, and we have not sent combat troops there, although the training missions that we have there have been instructed that if they are fired upon they are, of course, to fire back, to protect themselves, but we have not sent combat troops, in the generally understood sense of the word. We have increased our training mission, and we have increased our logistics support, and we are attempting to prevent a Communist take-over of Vietnam, which is in accordance with a policy which our Government has followed for the last—certainly since 1954, and even before then as I have indicated. We are attempting to make all of the information available that we can, consistent with our security needs in the area. So I feel that we are being as frank as we can be, and I think what I have said to you is a description of our activity there. ***

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Memorandum to President Kennedy from Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith on Vietnam 4 April 1962

THE WHITE HOUSE

Washington April 7, 1962 The Honorable Robert S. McNamara Secretary of Defense Washington, D.C. Dear Mr. Secretary: The President has asked me to transmit to you for your comments the enclosed memorandum on the subject of Viet-Nam to the President from Ambassador J. K. Gaibraith dated April 4, 1962. Sincerely Michael V. Forrestal Encl: Memo to Pres. from Amb. Gaibraith

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April 4, 1962 MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT

SUBJECT: Viet-Nam The following considerations influence our thinking on Viet-Nam:







1. We have a growing military commitment. This could expand step by step into a major, long-drawn out indecisive military involvement. 2. We are backing a weak and, on the record, ineffectual government and a leader who as a politician may be beyond the point of no return. 3. There is consequent danger we shall replace the French as the colonial force in the area and bleed as the French did. 4. The political effects of some of the measures which pacification requires or is believed to require, including the concentration of population, relocation of villages, and the burning of old villages, may be damaging to those and especially to Westerners associated with it. 5. We fear that at some point in the involvement there will be a major political outburst about the new Korea and the new war into which the Democrats as so often before have precipitated us. 6. It seems at least possible that the Soviets are not particularly desirous of trouble in this part of the world and that our military reaction with the need to fall back on Chinese protection may be causing concern in Hanoi.

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1. That it be our policy to keep open the door for political solution. We should welcome as a solution any broadly based non-Communist government that is free from external interference. It should have the requisites for internal law and order. We should not require that it be militarily identified with the United States. 2. We shall find it useful in achieving this result if we seize any good opportunity to involve other countries and world opinion in settlement and its guarantee. This is a useful exposure and pressure on the Communist bloc countries and a useful antidote for the ­argument that this is a private American military adventure.

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3. We should measurably reduce our commitment to the particular present leadership of the government of South Viet-Nam.

To accomplish the foregoing, we recommend the following specific steps:





1. In the next fortnight or so the ICC will present a report which we are confidentially advised will accuse North Viet-Nam of subversion and the Government of Viet-Nam in conjunction with the United States of not notifying the introduction of men and materiel as prescribed by the Geneva accords. We should respond by asking the co-chairmen to initiate steps to re-establish compliance with the Geneva accords. Pending specific recommendations, which might at some stage include a conference of signatories, we should demand a suspension of Viet Cong activity and agree to a standstill on an introduction of men and materiel. 2. Additionally, Governor Harriman should be instructed to approach the Russians to express our concern about the increasingly dangerous situation that the Viet Cong is forcing in Southeast Asia. They should be told of our determination not to let the Viet Cong overthrow the present government while at the same time to look without relish on the dangers that this military build-up is causing in the area. The Soviets should be asked to ascertain whether Hanoi can and will call off the Viet Cong activity in return for phased American withdrawal, liberalization in the trade relations between the two parts of the country and general and non-specific agreement to talk about reunification after some period of tranquillity. 3. Alternatively, the Indians should be asked to make such an approach to Hanoi under the same terms of reference. 4. It must be recognized that our long-run position cannot involve an unconditional commitment to Diem. Our support is to nonCommunist and progressively democratic government not to individuals. We cannot ourselves replace Diem. But we should be clear in our mind that almost any non-Communist change would probably be beneficial and this should be the guiding rule for our diplomatic representation in the area.

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In the meantime policy should continue to be guided by the following:



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1. We should resist all steps which commit American troops to combat action and impress upon all concerned the importance of keeping American forces out of actual combat commitment. 2. We should disassociate ourselves from action, however necessary, which seems to be directed at the villagers, such as the new concentration program. If the action is one that is peculiarly identified with Americans, such as defoliation, it should not be undertaken in the absence of most compelling reasons. Americans in their various roles should be as invisible as the situation permits.

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Memorandum to Secretary of Defense McNamara from L.L. Lemnitzer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Ambassador Galbraith’s memorandum 13 April 1962

JSCM-282-62 13 APR 1962 MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

SUBJECT: US Policy Toward Vietnam



1. Reference is made to a memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA) dated 10 April 1962, requesting comments on a memorandum to the President by the Honorable J. K. Galbraith, US Ambassador to India, wherein he proposes changes to the present US policy toward Vietnam and the government of President Diem. 2. The burden of Mr. Galbraith’s proposals appears to be that present US policy toward Vietnam should be revised in order to seek a political solution to the problem of communist penetration in the area. The effect of these proposals is to put the United States in a position of initiating negotiations with the communists to seek 319

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disengagement from what is by now a well-known commitment to take a forthright stand against Communism in Southeast Asia. 3. The President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense both have recently and publicly affirmed the intention of the US Government to support the government of President Diem and the people of South Vietnam to whatever extent may be necessary to eliminate the Viet Cong threat. In his letter of 14 December 1961 to President Diem, President Kennedy said: Your (President Diem’s) letter underlines what our own information has convincingly shown-that the campaign of force and terror now being waged against your people and your Government is supported and directed from the outside by the authorities at Hanoi. They have thus violated the provisions of the Geneva Accords designed to ensure peace in Vietnam and to which they bound themselves in 1954. At that time, the United States, although not a party to the Accords, declared that it would view any renewal of the aggression in violation of the agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security. We continue to maintain that view. In accordance with that declaration, and in response to your request, we are prepared to help the Republic of Vietnam to protect its people and to preserve its independence.





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4. The various measures approved for implementation by the United States in support of our objectives in South Vietnam have not yet been underway long enough to demonstrate their full effectiveness. Any reversal of US policy could have disastrous effects, not only upon our relationship with South Vietnam, but with the rest of our Asian and other allies as well. 5. The problems raised by Mr. Gaibraith with regard to our present policy have been considered in the coordinated development of that policy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are aware of the deficiencies of the present government of South Vietnam. However, the

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President’s policy of supporting the Diem regime while applying pressure for reform appears to be the only practicable alternative at this time. In this regard, the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as expressed in JCSM-33-62 are reaffirmed. 6. It is the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the present US policy toward South Vietnam, as announced by the President, should be pursued vigorously to a successful conclusion.

FOR THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: L. L. Lemnitzer Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

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President Kennedy’s News Conference, Response to a Question About Criticisms by Senator Mansfield on US Southeast Asian Policy June 14, 1962

Q: Mr. President, Senator Mansfield a few days ago suggested a review of Far Eastern policies because he said they seem to him either marking time, or at least on a collision course. Do you think such a review is necessary? THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have been reviewing. As you know, we have been attempting in the case of Laos to work out a policy which would prevent either one of those situations, whether we shall be successful or not, only time will tell. I know that we have put large sums of money, and the situation there is still hazardous, what is true there of course is true all around the world. This is a period of great tension and change. But if the United States had not played a part in Southeast Asia for many years, I think the whole map of Southeast Asia would be different. I am delighted, as you know, I have the highest regard for Senator Mansfield, and I think that we should constantly review, and I think that he suggested we should make judgments between what is essential to our interest and what is marginal. We have been attempting with great difficulty to carry out a policy with Laos which would permit a neutral and 323

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independent government there, and in Senator Mansfield’s speech he used the examples of Burma and Cambodia. Those were the examples that were also used at the Vienna meeting by Chairman Khrushchev and myself in which we stated the kind of government that we both said we hoped would emerge in Laos. That is the commitment that was made by the Soviet Union, and by the United States. Now we have moved to a different plateau, and we are going to see whether that commitment can be maintained. But on the other hand, I am sure and I know Senator Mansfield would not think we should withdraw, because withdrawal in the case of Vietnam and in the case of Thailand might mean a collapse of the entire area.

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Michael V. Forrestal, Memorandum for the President, “A Report on South Vietnam” February 1963

T

he war in South Vietnam is clearly going better than it was a year ago. The government claims to have built more than 4,000 Strategic Hamlets, and although many of these are nothing more than a bamboo fence, a certain proportion have enough weapons to keep out at least small Viet Cong patrols and the rudiments of the kind of social and political program needed to enlist the villagers’ support. The program to arm and train the Montagnards, which should go far toward choking off the infiltration routes, has also made progress. There are 29 U.S. Special Forces teams training Montagnards (as well as certain minority groups in the Delta), with eleven more teams on the way. By mid-autumn training camps had been set up in all the provinces bordering Laos, and a system of regular patrolling started that hopefully will one day cover the entire network of trails in the mountain regions. Under this program over 35,000 Montagnards have been trained, armed, and assisted in setting up their village defenses, the eventual goal being one hundred thousand. In both the mountain regions and the heavily populated lowlands, the areas through which one can travel without escort have been enlarged. In contested areas, the government is beginning to probe out, gradually repairing the roads and bridges cut by the Viet Cong as they go. In some of the moderately populated areas fringing the Delta and the coastal 325

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plain, as for example Binh Duong province, isolated villages have been bodily moved to positions along the roads where they can be more easily defended. As of December 1, the Vietnamese government controlled 951 villages containing about 51% of the rural population—a gain of 92 villages and 500,000 people in six months. The Viet Cong control 445 villages with 8% of the rural population—a loss of 9 villages and 231,000 people in six months. The impact of previously authorized U.S. aid programs is also beginning to be felt. On the military side, U.S. advisors, helicopters, air support, and arms have given the Vietnamese military new confidence which they are showing by increased aggressiveness. For the first time since the war began in 1959, for example, the government forces began in September to capture more weapons than they lost. From January to August, government forces captured 2,728 weapons but lost 3,661. But in September and October, they captured 908 weapons and lost only 765. On the Strategic Hamlet and civilian programs, U.S. aid is just coming in. Strategic Hamlet “kits” are now arriving, a U.S. military advisor has been stationed with each province chief, and twenty of the forty-one provinces will soon have a U.S. Rural Development advisor as well. Finally, there is considerably more optimism among Vietnamese officials than there was a year ago, although it is probably based more on the visible flow of U.S. aid than on an objective analysis of actual progress. The Viet Cong, in sum, are being hurt—they have somewhat less freedom of movement than they had a year ago, they apparently suffer acutely from lack of medicines, and in some very isolated areas they seem to be having trouble getting food. Qualifications

Even so, the negative side of the ledger is still awesome. The Viet Cong continue to be aggressive and are extremely effective. In the last few weeks, for example, they fought stubbornly and with telling results at Ap Bac, near My Tho. They completely escaped an elaborate trap in Tay Ninh province. They fought their way inside the perimeter of a U.S. Special Forces training camp at Plei Mrong, killing 39 of the trainee defenders and capturing 114 weapons. And they completely overran a

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strategic hamlet in Phu Yen province that was defended by a civil guard company in addition to the village militia, killing 24 of the defenders and capturing 35 weapons. Probably even more significant are the figures on Viet Cong strength. Intelligence estimates credit the Viet Cong with actually increasing their regular forces from 18,000 to 23,000 over this past year in spite of having suffered what the government claims were losses of 20,000 killed in action and 4,000 wounded. Part of this increase may result from nothing more than better intelligence, but even so it is ominous that in the face of greatly increased government pressure and U.S. support the Viet Cong can still field 23,000 regular forces and 100,000 militia, supported by unknown thousands of sympathizers. What these figures suggest is that the Viet Cong are still able to obtain an adequate supply of recruits and the large quantities of food and other supplies they need from the villagers of South Vietnam itself. Infiltration by sea has been effectively blocked since early in 1962. As for infiltration by land, captured documents, POW interrogation, evidence gathered by patrolling, and other intelligence indicates that 3,000 to 4,000 Viet Cong at the most have come over the so-called Ho Chi Minh trails since January, 1962. As to supplies, there seems to be no doubt that the trails have so far been used only for specialized equipment, such as radios; for medicines; and perhaps for a few automatic weapons, although no weapons have yet been captured which could be proved to have been brought in after 1954. Thus the conclusion seems inescapable that the Viet Cong could continue the war effort at the present level, or perhaps increase it, even if the infiltration routes were completely closed. Villagers’ Attitudes

The question that this conclusion raises-and the basic question of the whole war-is again the attitude of the villagers. It is difficult, if not impossible, to assess how the villagers really feel and the only straws in the wind point in different directions. The village defenders in many of the strategic hamlets that have been attacked have resisted bravely. But in an unknown, but probably large number of strategic hamlets, the villagers have merely let the Viet Cong in or supplied what they wanted without reporting the incident to the authorities. There is apparently some resentment against the Viet Cong about the “taxes” they collect and suspicion

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based on the stories the villagers hear about what is going on in the North. But there may be just as much resentment and suspicion directed towards the government. No one really knows, for example, how many of the 20,000 “Viet Cong” killed last year were only innocent, or at least persuadable villagers, whether the Strategic Hamlet program is providing enough government services to counteract the sacrifices it requires, or how the mute mass of the villagers react to the charges against Diem of dictatorship and nepotism. At the very least, the figures on Viet Cong strength imply a continuing flow of recruits and supplies from these same villages and indicate that a substantial proportion of the population is still cooperating with the enemy, although it is impossible to tell how much of this cooperation stems from fear and how much from conviction. Thus on the vital question of villagers’ attitudes, the net impression is one of some encouragement at the progress in building strategic hamlets and the number that resist when attacked, but encouragement overlaid by a shadow of uneasiness. Conclusion

Our overall judgment, in sum, is that we are probably winning, but certainly more slowly than we had hoped. At the rate it is now going the war will last longer than we would like, cost more in terms of both lives and money than we anticipated, and prolong the period in which a sudden and dramatic event could upset the gains already made. The question is where improvements can be made—whether in our basic approach to fighting a guerrilla war, or in the implementation of that approach. The Strategic Concept

We feel that the basis strategic concept developed last year is still valid. As mentioned above, the Viet Cong have gotten trained cadre and specialized equipment from the North, but the vast bulk of both recruits and supplies come from inside South Vietnam itself. Thus the strategic objectives of the war in South Vietnam, as in most guerrilla wars, are basically political-not simply to kill Viet Cong, but to win the people. Although the strategic concept has never been spelled out in any one document, the consensus seems to be that it consists of the following objectives: (1) to

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create the incentive for resistance in the basic population by providing for a flow upward of information on villagers’ needs and a flow downward of government services, and by knitting them into the fabric of community decision-making; (2) to provide the basic population with the means and training for resistance; and (3) to cut the guerrillas’ access to the villagers, their true line of communications, by essentially police-type measures for controlling the movement of goods and people. In this context, the military objectives are also threefold: (1) to protect installations vital to the economy and government; (2) to provide rapid reinforcement for villages under heavy attacks; and (3) to keep the regular guerrilla units off balance and prevent them from concentrating by aggressive but highly discriminating and selective offensive military operations. This combination of civilian and military measures is designed to reduce the guerrillas to their die-hard nucleus and isolate them in areas remote from the basic population. Only when this is done does the task finally become one of killing Viet Cong, of simple elimination. As we say, this concept seems sound. For, even though it is difficult to assess the attitudes of the villager, two assumptions seem reasonable. The first is that the villagers will be prudently cooperative with the Viet Cong if they are not given physical security, both in the military sense of security from attacks on their village and in the police sense of security from individual acts of terror and retaliation. The second is that if the villagers are in fact politically apathetic, as they seem to be, they are likely to remain so or even become pro-Communist if the government does not show concern for their welfare in the way it conducts the war and in the effort it makes to provide at least simple government services. It may be that these measures will not be enough to create popular support for the government and the incentive to resist, but it seems obvious that support could neither be created nor long maintained without them. Implementing the Concept

Thus it is in the implementation of the strategic concept that there seems to be the greatest room for improvement. Success requires, first, full understanding of the strategy at all levels of the government and armed forces, and, second, the skills and organization for effective coordination of military activities with civilian activities. Some parts of the Vietnamese government do understand the strategy, but in other parts the understanding

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is  imperfect at best. The same is true of the necessary skills and organization. Specific areas in particular need of improvement are listed in the paragraphs below, which discuss both programs and continuing issues and conclude with a proposal as to how the United States might increase its leverage on the Vietnamese government so as to bring the improvements about. Lack of an Overall Plan

The most serious lack in South Vietnam is that of an overall plan, keyed to the strategic concept described above, through which priorities can be set and the coordination of military and civilian activities accomplished. In spite of U.S. urgings there is still no single country-wide plan worthy of the name but only a variety of regional and provincial plans, some good and some not so good. There are, for example, a number of special plans—the Delta Plan, Operation Sunrise, Operation Sea Swallow, Waves of Love—; several plans developed by the commanders of the Corps and Divisional areas; and an unknown number of plans developed by each of the forty-one province chiefs. Regional and provincial plans are, of course, necessary, but they should be elements of a country-wide plan rather than a substitute for it. As it is, the impression is strong that many of these plans are both inconsistent and competitive. Strategic Hamlets

One result of the lack of an overall plan is the proliferation of strategic hamlets that are inadequately equipped and defended, or that are built prematurely in exposed areas. Gaps: The Police Program

The second result is that essential aspects of the strategy are neglected. The police program is an example. An effective police system is vital to guard against Communists remaining inside strategic hamlets, and to man the check points and patrols that are essential in controlling the movements of goods and people. The present police system is clearly inadequate, and although the Public Safety Division of U.S. AID has put forward a proposal for expansion, no action has yet been taken.

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Multiple Armies

A third result is what appears to be an extremely uneconomic use of manpower. There is in South Vietnam a confusing multiplicity of separate armies. In addition to the regular forces (the ARVN), there are under arms the Civil Guard, the Self Defense Corps, the Civilian Irregular Defense Groups (CIDG), the Hamlet Militia, the Montagnard Commandoes, the Force Populaire, the Republican Youth, the Catholic Youth, several independent groups under parish priests, such as Father Hoa’s Sea Swallows, and even one small army trained, armed, and commanded by a private businessman to protect his properties in Cap St. Jaques. All these forces add up to almost half a million men under arms, a number which if so organized would come to the astounding total of 51 divisions. This multiplicity of separate armies results not only in an uneconomic use of manpower, but also difficulties in coordination and confusion as to function. One also suspects that it is a misallocation of manpower as well, with too much emphasis on military activities and not enough on civilian, such as government services to the villages and police work. So many armed men with different loyalties will also create problems in the transition to a peace-time economy if victory is in fact won, as well as the obvious danger that one or another chief will use the forces under his command for political purposes. South Vietnam does not need any more armed men, but it does need to reorganize what it has. Coordination of Military and Civilian Activities

Still another result of the lack of an overall plan are the difficulties in coordinating military and civilian activities. One example is the proportion of “clear and hold” as opposed to “hit and withdraw” operations. There are no statistics available, but a number of American military advisors feel that the proportion of “clear and hold” operations, in which troops clear an area and then remain to protect the civic action teams and villagers while they build strategic hamlets, is too low in proportion to the “hit and withdraw” operations designed to destroy regular Viet Cong units. The latter type of operation is essential to keep the Viet Cong off balance and to prevent their concentrating for large-scale attacks, but it should be subordinate to the systematic expansion of secure areas.

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Amnesty Program

A final result of the lack of an overall plan, or perhaps of imperfect understanding of an effective counter-guerrilla strategy, is the Vietnamese reluctance to embark on a meaningful amnesty program. After much U.S. urging, the Vietnamese have finally developed a plan, but it is far from satisfactory. The basic trouble is revealed by the Vietnamese insistence that what they want is not an “amnesty” policy but a “surrender” policy. Civil Programs

The inadequacies in the police program, the tendency to build strategic hamlets in exposed places with inadequate arms and equipment, and the reluctance to develop a meaningful amnesty program have already been discussed. Other inadequacies in civilian programs are discussed below. One continuing problem is the failure of the Vietnamese government to organize its economy on an emergency basis. A resistance to deficit spending and stricter controls has permitted too large a part of the country’s internal and external resources to go to non-essential purposes, especially in the Saigon area. There should be more planning for what the Vietnamese economy will be like after the shooting has ended. There is almost none of this kind of planning now, and some of the things being done today might make sensible planning in the future very difficult. An obvious example is the rise of consumption levels, especially in nonessential imports which Vietnam could not buy without U.S. aid. At some point, and probably soon, the U.S. should undertake a long-range economic study of the country’s future development. Military Operations with Political Aspects

The opinion of some American military advisors that the proportion of “clear and hold” offensive operations is too low in relation to “hit and withdraw” operations designed to keep the Viet Cong off balance has already been mentioned. Another aspect of military operations that may have political consequences is the tactics used in the offensive operations needed to keep the Viet Cong off balance. Some American military advisors feel that the Vietnamese have a bias toward elaborate, set-piece operations. These large-scale operations provide insurance against defeat,

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but they are expensive, cumbersome, and difficult to keep secret. From the political point of view they have the additional disadvantages for the Vietnamese of maximizing the chances of killing civilians and from the American point of view of requiring a very heavy use of helicopters. An alternative, and apparently effective way of keeping the regular Viet Cong off balance is long-range patrolling by small units, such as Ranger companies. In this tactic, the patrols, resupplied by air, stay out in the field for extended periods of time, never sleeping two nights in the same place, ambushing, and in general using guerrilla tactics to fight the guerrilla. The remaining forces are kept in reserve for rapid reinforcement and sealing off an area when the patrol encounters resistance. Although American military advisors in South Vietnam have worked hard to overcome Vietnamese reluctance to operate for extended periods in the field and at night, which would permit greater use of this tactic, they have had only partial success. (Paradoxically, President Diem spent a substantial part of his four and a half hour lecture to us praising a province chief who has used the long-range patrol tactic to very good effect recently in Zone D.) Use of Air Power

On use of air power, and the danger of adverse political effects, our impression is that the controls over air strikes and the procedures for checking intelligence against all possible sources are excellent. In spite of this, however, it is difficult to be sure that air power is being used in a way that minimizes the adverse political effects. U.S. Air Force advisors tell us that the demand for air strikes from the South Vietnamese has gone up enormously. There are now 1,000 strikes per month, and there would be considerably more if the air power were available. During November, thirty-two per cent of these 1,000 strikes were so-called “interdiction”— that is, attacks on installations located in air photos and identified as Viet Cong by intelligence. Fifty-three per cent of the air strikes during November were in direct support-that is, bombing and strafing in advance of an attack on a location intelligence indicated as being occupied by Viet Cong or in response to a request by a ground unit in contact with the enemy. Fifteen percent were other kinds of mission, such as reconnaissance. There is no doubt that the Viet Cong fear air attacks and that some interdiction is necessary and useful. On the other hand, it is impossible to assess how much resentment among persuadable villagers is engendered

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by the inevitable accidents. In general, the final judgment probably lies in the answer to the questions raised above about the relative emphasis on “clear and hold” and long-range patrolling versus “hit and withdraw” of the more elaborate type. If the proportion is correct between extending control and the necessary offensive operations to keep the Viet Cong off balance, then the killing of civilians is probably at an unavoidable minimum. If the proportion of “hit and withdraw” is too high in relation to “clear and hold,” on the other hand, then air power, too, is probably being overused in ways that have adverse political consequences. Reinforcement of Strategic Hamlets

One final point on the political aspects of military operations concerns quicker reinforcement for strategic hamlets under attack. Some American military advisors feel that more attention should be paid to ways of providing quicker reinforcement for the hamlets, including air support, although in the case of air support there are formidable problems of communications and in providing airfields close enough to threatened villages. Foreign Policy

In its complete concentration on the civil war and on the means and ideology for winning it, the government of South Vietnam has a naivete in foreign affairs which is dangerous for both Vietnam and for the U.S. There has been massive resistance to U.S. suggestions on policies for cooperation in other problems in the area, i.e. Laos and Cambodia. To some extent this is unavoidable in view of Diem’s rather simple view of the Communist threat. But U.S. interests are so heavily involved in the country that our voice should carry more weight. Vietnamese Domestic Politics

The Diem government is frequently criticized for being a dictatorship. This is true, but we doubt that the lack of parliamentary democracy bothers the villagers of Vietnam or much affects their attitudes toward the war. The real question is whether the concentration of power in the hands of Diem and his family, especially Brother Nhu and his wife, and Diem’s reluctance to delegate is alienating the middle and higher level

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officials on whom the government must depend to carry out its policies. Our judgment is that the United States does not really have as much information on this subject as it should. All that can be said at the moment is that it is the feeling of Americans in contact with these officials that they are encouraged by U.S. aid and apparently getting on with the job. Both the American and British missions, for example, feel that Brother Nhu’s energetic support for the Strategic Hamlet program has given it an important push. The only evidence to contradict these judgments that we found was in a conversation with Buu, the head of the Vietnamese labor movement and, paradoxically, one of the co-founders with Diem and Nhu of Diem’s political party. Diem’s Press Relations

The American press in South Vietnam now has good relations with the Embassy and MACV and generally are grateful for the help that they have received. But their attitude toward Diem and the government of South Vietnam is the complete opposite, and with much justice. Diem wants only adulation and is completely insensitive to the desires of the foreign press for factual information. He is equally insensitive to his own image, the political consequences of the activities of Madame Nhu and the other members of his family, and his own tendencies of arbitrariness, failure to delegate, and general pettiness. After much effort, Ambassador Nolting persuaded Diem to let the Defense Ministry give regular military briefings. True to form, however, the content of the briefings is deplorable. One of these briefings, for example, the transcript of which we examined, contained little more than a saccharine eulogy of President Diem. It would be nice if we could say that Diem’s image in the foreign press was only his affair, but it seriously affects the U.S. and its ability to help South Vietnam. The American press representatives are bitter and will seize on anything that goes wrong and blow it up as much as possible. The My Tho operation, for example, contained some mistakes, but it was not nearly the botched up disaster that the press made it appear to be. Action for the United States

By way of summary, then, we feel that the United States should push the Diem government harder on the need for an overall plan, on a reduction

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in the number of different military organizations, on foreign policy questions in which the United States has an interest, on an effective police program, for a greater emphasis on military operations in extending and securing government control as opposed to large-scale offensives and air interdiction, on a meaningful amnesty program, on planning for the postwar economy, and on a realistic effort to get a more favorable press. On many of these issues, of course, the United States has already been pressing. Thus in one sense the question is how to increase our leverage in the face of Diem’s biases and general resistance to advice. Actually, the United States is in a much better position to see that its advice is taken than it was a year ago. At that time Diem and officials at the national level were practically the only point of contact the U.S. had with either civil or military programs. Today, however, the U.S. has military advisors not only at the lower levels of the Army but with each province chief and steps are being taken to put U.S. AID advisors in at least 20 of the 41 provinces. It therefore is becoming possible to accomplish much of what we want at the local level without going through the vastly inefficient national bureaucracy. An example is the work of the special forces teams. They work at the village level, and at a number of places have done wonders not only in training and supervising the erection of village defenses but also in medical aid, school construction, and even in agriculture and marketing. In general, it is our judgment that an effort should be made to increase this influence at the local level even more by putting additional U.S. AID people with province chiefs and, where it is indicated, even at selected places further down in the civilian hierarchy. In addition, having gotten past the first year of increased U.S. support and demonstrated our sincerity, the time has probably come when we can press our views on Diem more vigorously and occasionally even publicly. One final recommendation for U.S. action concerns our dealings with the press here in Washington. In our judgment a systematic campaign to get more of the facts into the press and T.V. should be mounted. Although our report, for example, is not rosily optimistic, it certainly contains the factual basis (e.g., the first few paragraphs) for a much more hopeful view than the pessimistic (and factually inaccurate) picture conveyed in the press. Michael V. Forrestal

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US, Central Intelligence Agency, National Intelligence Estimate 53–63, “Prospects in South Vietnam” 17 April 1963

THE PROBLEM

To assess the situation and prospects in South Vietnam, with special emphasis upon the military and political factors most likely to affect the counterinsurgency effort. CONCLUSIONS

A. We believe that Communist progress has been blunted and that the situation is improving. Strengthened South Vietnamese capabilities and effectiveness, and particularly US involvement, are causing the Viet Cong increased difficulty, although there are as yet no persuasive indications that the Communists have been grievously hurt. (Paras. 27–28) B. We believe the Communists will continue to wage a war of attrition, hoping for some break in the situation which will lead to victory. They evidently hope that a combination of military pressure and political deterioration will in time create favorable circumstances either for delivering a coup de grace or for a political 337

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settlement which will enable them to continue the struggle on more favorable terms. We believe it unlikely, especially in view of the open US commitment, that the North Vietnamese regime will either resort to overt military attack or introduce acknowledged North Vietnamese military units into the south in an effort to win a quick victory. (Paras. 29–31) C. Assuming no great increase in external support to the Viet Cong, changes and improvements which have occurred during the past year now indicate that the Viet Cong can be contained militarily and that further progress can be made in expanding the area of government control and in creating greater security in the countryside. However, we do not believe that it is possible at this time to project the future course of the war with any confidence. Decisive campaigns have yet to be fought and no quick and easy end to the war is in sight. Despite South Vietnamese progress, the situation remains fragile. (Para. 32) D. Developments during the last year or two also show some promise of resolving the political weaknesses, particularly that of insecurity in the countryside, upon which the insurgency has fed. However, the government’s capacity to embark upon the broader measures required to translate military success into lasting political stability is questionable. (Paras. 33–35)

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The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem May–November, 1963

Summary and Analysis

The Diem coup was one of those critical events in the history of U.S. policy that could have altered our commitment. The choices were there: (1) continue to plod along in a limited fashion with Diem—despite his and Nhu’s growing unpopularity; (2) encourage or tacitly support the overthrow of Diem, taking the risk that the GVN might crumble and/or acommodate to the VC; and (3) grasp the opportunity—with the obvious risks—of the political instability in South Vietnam to disengage. The first option was rejected because of the belief that we could not win with Diem-Nhu. The third was very seriously considered a policy alternative because of the assumption that an independent, non-communist SVN was too important a strategic interest to abandon-and because the situation was not sufficiently drastic to call into question so basic an assumption. The second course was chosen mainly for the reasons the first was rejected-Vietnam was thought too important; we wanted to win; and the rebellious generals seemed to offer that prospect. In making the choice to do nothing to prevent the coup and to tacitly support it, the U.S. inadvertently deepened its involvement. The inadvertence is the key factor. It was a situation without good alternatives. While Diem’s government offered some semblance of stability and authority, its repressive actions against the Buddhists had permanently alientated popular support, with a high probability of victory for the Viet Cong. As efficient as the military coup leaders appeared, they were without a ­manageable base of political support. When they came to power and 339

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when the lid was taken off the Diem-Nhu reporting system, the GVN position was revealed as weak and deteriorating. And, by virtue of its interference in internal Vietnamese affairs, the U.S. had assumed a significant responsibility for the new regime, a responsibility which heightened our commitment and deepened our involvement. The catalytic event that precipitated the protracted crisis which ended in the downfall of the Diem regime was a badly handled Buddhist religious protest in Hue on May 8, 1963. In and of itself the incident was hardly something to shake the foundations of power of most modern rulers, but the manner in which Diem responded to it, and the subsequent protests which it generated, was precisely the one most likely to aggravate not alleviate the situation. At stake, of course, was far more than a religious issue. The Buddhist protest had a profoundly political character from the beginning. It sprang and fed upon the feelings of political frustration and repression Diem’s autocratic rule had engendered. The beginning of the end for Diem can, then, be traced through events to the regime’s violent suppression of a Buddhist protest demonstration in Hue on Buddha’s birthday, May 8, in which nine people were killed and another fourteen injured. Although Buddhists had theretofore been wholly quiescent politically, in subsequent weeks, a full-blown Buddhist “struggle” movement demonstrated a sophisticated command of public protest techniques by a cohesive and disciplined organization, somewhat belying the notion that the movement was an outraged, spontaneous response to religious repression and discrimination. Nonetheless, by June it was clear that the regime was confronted not with a dissident religious minority, but with a grave crisis of public confidence. The Buddhist protest had become a vehicle for mobilizing the widespread popular resentment of an arbitrary and often oppressive rule. It had become the focal point of political opposition to Diem. Under strong U.S. pressure and in the face of an outraged world opinion, the regime reached ostensible agreement with the Buddhists on June 16. But the agreement merely papered over the crisis, without any serious concessions by Diem. This intransigence was reinforced by Diem’s brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, and his wife, who bitterly attacked the Buddhists throughout the summer. By mid-August the crisis was reaching a breaking point. The Buddhists’ demonstrations and protest created a crisis for American policy as well. The U.S. policy of support for South Vietnam’s struggle against the Hanoi-supported Viet Cong insurgency was founded

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on unequivocal support of Diem, whom the U.S. had long regarded as the only national leader capable of unifying his people for their internal war. When the Buddhist protest revealed widespread public disaffection, the U.S. made repeated attempts to persuade Diem to redress the Buddhist grievances, to repair his public image, and to win back public support. But the Ngos were unwilling to bend. Diem, in true mandarin style, was preoccupied with questions of face and survival-not popular support. He did not understand the profound changes his country had experienced under stress, nor did he understand the requirement for popular support that the new sense of nationalism had created. The U.S. Ambassador, Frederick Nolting, had conducted a low-key diplomacy toward Diem, designed to bring him to the American way of thinking through reason and persuasion. He approached the regime during the first weeks of the Buddhist crisis in the same manner, but got no results. When he left on vacation at the end of May, his DCM, William Truehart, abandoned the soft sell for a tough line. He took U.S. views to Diem not as expressions of opinion, but as demands for action. Diem, however, remained as obdurate and evasive as ever. Not even the U.S. threat to dissociate itself from GVN actions in the Buddhist crisis brought movement. In late June, with Nolting still on leave, President Kennedy announced the appointment of Henry Cabot Lodge as Ambassador to Vietnam to replace Nolting in September. In the policy deliberations then taking place in Washington, consideration was being given for the first time to what effect a coup against Diem would have. But Nolting returned, first to Washington and then to Saigon, to argue that the only alternative to Diem was chaos. The U.S. military too, convinced that the war effort was going well, felt that nothing should be done to upset the apple cart. So Nolting was given another chance to talk Diem into conciliating the Buddhists. The Ambassador worked assiduously at the task through July and the first part of August, but Diem would agree only to gestures and half-measures that could not stop the grave deterioration of the political situation. Nolting left Vietnam permanently in mid-August with vague assurances from Diem that he would seek to improve the climate of relations with the Buddhists. Less than a week later, Nolting was betrayed by Nhu’s dramatic August 21 midnight raids on Buddhist pagodas throughout Vietnam. One of the important lessons of the American involvement in South Vietnam in support of Diem was that a policy of unreserved commitment to a particular leadership placed us in a weak and manipulable position

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on important internal issues. The view that there were “no alternatives” to Diem greatly limited the extent of our influence over the regime and ruled out over the years a number of kinds of leverage that we might usefully have employed or threatened to employ. Furthermore, it placed the U.S. in the unfortunate role of suitor to a fickle lover. Aware of our fundamental commitment to him, Diem could with relative impunity ignore our wishes. It reversed the real power relationship between the two countries. Coupled with Diem’s persistent and ruthless elimination of all potential political opposition, it left us with rather stark alternatives indeed when a crisis on which we could not allow delay and equivocation finally occurred. For better or worse, the August 12 pagoda raids decided the issue for us. The raids, themselves, were carefully timed by Nhu to be carried out when the U.S. was without an Ambassador, and only after a decree placing the country under military martial law had been issued. They were conducted by combat police and special forces units taking orders directly from Nhu, not through the Army chain of command. The sweeping attacks resulted in the wounding of about 30 monks, the arrest of over 1,400 Buddhists and the closing of the pagodas (after they had been damaged and looted in the raids). In their brutality and their blunt repudiation of Diem’s solemn word to Nolting, they were a direct, impudent slap in the face for the U.S. Nhu expected that in crushing the Buddhists he could confront the new U.S. Ambassador with a fait accompli in which the U.S. would complainingly acquiesce, as we had in so many of the regime’s actions which we opposed. Moreover, he attempted to fix blame for the raids on the senior Army generals. Getting word of the attacks in Honolulu, where he was conferring with Nolting and Hilsman, Lodge flew directly to Saigon. He immediately let it be known that the U.S. completely dissociated itself from the raids and could not tolerate such behavior. In Washington the morning after, while much confusion reigned about who was responsible for the raids, a statement repudiating them was promptly released. Only after several days did the U.S. finally establish Nhu’s culpability in the attacks and publicly exonerate the Army. On August 23, the first contact with a U.S. representative was made by generals who had begun to plan a coup against Diem. The generals wanted a clear indication of where the U.S. stood. State in its subsequently controversial reply, drafted and cleared on a weekend when several of the principal Presidential advisors were absent from Washington,

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affirmed that Nhu’s continuation in a power position within the regime was intolerable (words missing) and did not, “then, we must face the possibility that Diem himself cannot be preserved.” This message was to be communicated to the generals, and Diem was to be warned that Nhu must go. Lodge agreed with the approach to the generals, but felt it was futile to present Diem with an ultimatum he would only ignore and one that might tip off the palace to the coup plans. Lodge proceeded to inform only the generals. They were told that the U.S. could no longer support a regime which included Nhu, but that keeping Diem was entirely up to them. This was communicated to the generals on August 27. The President and some of his advisors, however, had begun to have second thoughts abought switching horses so suddenly, and with so little information on whether the coup could succeed, and if it did, what kind of government it would bring to power. As it turned out, Washington’s anxiety was for naught, the plot was premature, and after several uncertain days, its demise was finally recognized on August 31. Thus by the end of August, we found ourselves without a leadership to support and without a policy to follow in our relations with the GVN. In this context a month-long policy review took place in Washington and in Vietnam. It was fundamentally a search for alternatives. In both places the issue was joined between those who saw no realistic alternatives to Diem and felt that his policies were having only a marginal effect on the war effort, which they wanted to get on with by renewing our support and communication with Diem; and those who felt that the war against the VC would not possibly be won with Diem in power and preferred therefore to push for a coup of some kind. The first view was primarily supported by the military and the CIA both in Saigon and in Washington, while the latter was held by the U.S. Mission, the State Department and members of the White House staff. In the end, a third alternative was selected, namely to use pressure on Diem to get him to remove Nhu from the scene and to end his repressive policies. Through September, however, the debate continued with growing intensity. Tactical considerations, such as another Lodge approach to Diem about removing the Nhus and the effect of Senator Church’s resolution calling for an aid suspension, focused the discussion at times, but the issue of whether to renew our support for Diem remained. The decision hinged on the assessment of how seriously the political deterioration was affecting the war effort.

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In the course of these policy debates, several participants pursued the logical but painful conclusion that if the war could not be won with Diem, and if his removal would lead to political chaos and also jeopardize the war effort, then the war was probably unwinnable. If that were the case, the argument went, then the U.S. should really be facing a more basic decision on either an orderly disengagement from an irretrievable situation, or a major escalation of the U.S. involvement, including the use of U.S. combat troops. These prophetic minority voices were, however, raising an unpleasant prospect that the Administration was unprepared to face at that time. In hindsight, however, it is clear that this was one of the times in the history of our Vietnam involvement when we were making fundamental choices. The option to disengage honorably at that time now appears an attractively low-cost one. But for the Kennedy Administration then, the costs no doubt appeared much higher. In any event, it proved to be unwilling to accept the implications of predictions for a bleak future. The Administration hewed to the belief that if the U.S. be but willing to exercise its power, it could ultimately always have its way in world affairs. Nonetheless, in view of the widely divergent views of the principals in Saigon, the Administration sought independent judgments with two successive fact-finding missions. The first of these whirlwind inspections, by General Victor Krulak, JCS SACSA, and a State Department Vietnam expert, Joseph Mendenhall, from September 7-10, resulted in diametrically opposing reports to the President on the conditions and situation and was, as a result, futile. The Krulak-Mendenhall divergence was significant because it typifies the deficient analysis of both the U.S. civilian and military missions in Vietnam with respect to the overall political situation in the country. The U.S. civilian observers, for their part, failed to fully appreciate the impact Diem had had in preventing the emergence of any other political forces. The Buddhists, while a cohesive and effective minority protest movement, lacked a program or the means to achieve power. The labor unions were entirely urban-based and appealed to only a small segment of the population. The clandestine political parties were small, urban, and usually elitist. The religious sects had a narrow appeal and were based on ethnic minorities. Only the Viet Cong had any real support and influence on a broad base in the countryside. The only real alternative source of political power was the Army since it had a large, disciplined organization spanning the country, with an independent communications and transportation system and a strong superiority to

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any other group in coercive power. In its reports on the Army, however, General Harkins and the U.S. military had failed to appreciate the deeply corrosive effect on internal allegiance and discipline in the Army that Diem’s loyalty based promotion and assignment policies had had. They did not foresee that in the wake of a coup senior officers would lack the cohesiveness to hang together and that the temptations of power would promote a devisive internal competition among ambitious men at the expense of the war against the Viet Cong. Two weeks after the fruitless Krulak-Mendenhall mission, with the Washington discussions still stalemated, it was the turn of Secretary McNamara and General Taylor, the Chairman of the JCS, to assess the problem. They left for Vietnam on September 23 with the Presidential instruction to appraise the condition of the war effort and the impact on it of the Buddhist political turmoil and to recommend a course of action for the GVN and the U.S. They returned to Washington on October 2. Their report was a somewhat contradictory compromise between the views of the civilian and military staffs. It affirmed that the war was being won, and that it would be successfully concluded in the first three corps areas by the end of 1964, and in the Delta by 1965, thereby permitting the withdrawal of American advisors, although it noted that the political tensions were starting to have an adverse effect on it. But, more importantly, it recommended a series of measures to coerce Diem into compliance with American wishes that included a selective suspension of U.S. economic aid, an end to aid for the special forces units used in the August 21 raids unless they were subordinated to the Joint General Staff, and the continuation of Lodge’s cool official aloofness from the regime. It recommended the public announcement of the U.S. intention to withdraw 1,000 troops by the end of the year, but suggested that the aid suspensions not be announced in order to give Diem a chance to respond without a public loss of face. It concluded by recommending against active U.S. encouragement of a coup, in spite of the fact that an aid suspension was the one step the generals had asked for in August as a sign of U.S. condemnation of Diem and support for a change of government. The report was quickly adopted by Kennedy in the NSC and a brief, and subsequently much rued, statement was released to the press on October 2, announcing the planned withdrawal of 1,000 troops by year’s end. The McNamara-Taylor mission, like the Krulak-Mendenhall mission before and the Honolulu Conference in November after the coup, points

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up the great difficulty encountered by high level fact-finding missions and conferences in getting at the “facts” of a complex policy problem like Vietnam in a short time. It is hard to believe that hasty visits by harried high level officials with overloaded itineraries really add much in the way of additional data or lucid insight. And because they become a focal point of worldwide press coverage, they often raise public expectations or anxieties that may only create additional problems for the President. There were many such high level conferences over Vietnam. Of the recommendations of the McNamara-Taylor mission, the proposal for selective suspension of economic aid, in particular the suspension of the commercial import program, was the most significant both in terms of its effect, as an example of the adroit use or denial of American assistance to achieve foreign policy objectives. In this instance economic sanctions, in the form selected aid suspensions in those programs to which the regime would be most sensitive but that would have no immediate adverse effect on the war effort, were used constructively to influence events rather than negatively to punish those who had violated our wishes, our usual reaction to coups in Latin America. The proposal itself had been under consideration since the abortive coup plot of August. At that time, Lodge had been authorized to suspend aid if he thought it would enhance the likelihood of the success of a coup. Later in September he was again given specific control over the delay or suspension of any of the pending aid programs. On both occasions, however, he had expressed doubt about the utility of such a step. In fact, renewal of the commercial import program had been pending since early in September, so that the adoption of the McNamara-Taylor proposal merely formalized the existing situation into policy. As might have been expected (although the record leaves ambiguous whether this was a conscious aim of the Administration), the Vietnamese generals interpreted the suspension as a green light to proceed with a coup. While this policy was being applied in October, Lodge shunned all contact with the regime that did not come at Diem’s initiative. He wanted it clearly understood that they must come to him prepared to adopt our advice before he would recommend to Washington a change in U.S. policy. Lodge performed with great skill, but inevitably frictions developed within the Mission as different viewpoints and proposals came forward. In particular, Lodge’s disagreements and disputes with General Harkins during October when the coup plot was maturing and later were

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to be of considerable embarrassment to Washington when they leaked to the press. Lodge had carefully cultivated the press, and when the stories of friction appeared, it was invariably Harkins or Richardson or someone else who was the villian. No sooner had the McNamara-Taylor mission returned to Washington and reported its recommendations than the generals reopened contact with the Mission indicating that once again they were preparing to strike against the regime. Washington’s immediate reaction on October 5 was to reiterate the decision of the NSC on the McNamara-Taylor report, i.e., no U.S. encouragement of a coup. Lodge was instructed, however, to maintain contact with the generals and to monitor their plans as they emerged. These periodic contacts continued and by October 25, Lodge had come to believe that Diem was unlikely to respond to our pressure and that we should therefore not thwart the coup forces. Harkins disagreed, believing that we still had not given Diem a real chance to rid himself of Nhu and that we should present him with such an ultimatum and test his response before going ahead with a coup. He, furthermore, had reservations about the strength of the coup forces when compared with those likely to remain loyal to the regime. All this left Washington anxious and doubtful. Lodge was cautioned to seek fuller information on the coup plot, including a line-up of forces and the proposed plan of action. The U.S. could not base its policy on support for a coup attempt that did not offer a strong prospect of success. Lodge was counseled to consider ways of delaying or preventing the coup if he doubted its prospects for success. By this juncture, however, Lodge felt committed and, furthermore, felt the matter was no longer in our hands. The generals were taking the action on their own initiative and we could only prevent it now by denouncing them to Diem. While this debate was still going on, the generals struck. Shortly after Ambassador Lodge and Admiral Felt had called on Diem on November 1, the generals made their move, culminating a summer and fall of complex intrigue. The coup was led by General Minh, the most respected of the senior generals, together with Generals Don, Kim and Khiem. They convoked a meeting of all but a few senior officers at JGS headquarters at noon on the day of the coup, announced their plans and got the support of their compatriots. The coup itself was executed with skill and swiftness. They had devoted special attention to ensuring that the major potentially loyal forces were isolated and their

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leaders neutralized at the outset of the operation. By the late afternoon of November 1, only the palace guard remained to defend the two brothers. At 4:30 p.m., Diem called Lodge to ask where the U.S. stood. Lodge was noncommital and confined himself to concern for Diem’s physical safety. The conversation ended inconclusively. The generals made repeated calls to the palace offering the brothers safe conduct out of the country if they surrendered, but the two held out hope until the very end. Sometime that evening they secretly slipped out of the palace through an underground escape passage and went to a hide-away in Cholon. There they were captured the following morning after their whereabouts was learned when the palace fell. Shortly the two brothers were murdered in the back of an armored personnel carrier en route to JGS headquarters. Having successfully carried off their coup, the generals began to make arrangements for a civilian government. Vice President Tho was named to head a largely civilian cabinet, but General Minh became President and Chairman of the shadow Military Revolutionary Council. After having delayed an appropriate period, the U.S. recognized the new government on November 8. As the euphoria of the first days of liberation from the heavy hand of the Diem regime wore off, however, the real gravity of the economic situation and the lack of expertise in the new government became apparent to both Vietnamese and American officials. The deterioration of the military situation and the strategic hamlet program also came more and more clearly into perspective. These topics dominated the discussions at the Honolulu Conference on November 20 when Lodge and the country team met with Rusk, McNamara, Taylor, Bell, and Bundy. But the meeting ended inconclusively. After Lodge had conferred with the President a few days later in Washington, the White House tried to pull together some conclusions and offer some guidance for our continuing and now deeper involvement in Vietnam. The instructions contained in NSAM 273, however, did not reflect the truly dire situation as it was to come to light in succeeding weeks. The reappraisals forced by the new information would swiftly make it irrelevant as it was “overtaken by events.” For the military coup d’etat against Ngo Dinh Diem, the U.S. must accept its full share of responsibility. Beginning in August of 1963 we variously authorized, sanctioned and encouraged the coup efforts of the Vietnamese generals and offered full support for a successor government.

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In October we cut off aid to Diem in a direct rebuff, giving a green light to the generals. We maintained clandestine contact with them throughout the planning and execution of the coup and sought to review their operational plans and proposed new government. Thus, as the nine-year rule of Diem came to a bloody end, our complicity in his overthrow heightened our responsibilities and our commitment in an essentially leaderless Vietnam.

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Cable from US Department of State to Ambassador Lodge Supporting a Coup in South Vietnam 29 August 1963

STATE 272 STATE TO LODGE AND HARKINS





1. Highest level meeting noon today reviewed your 375 and reaffirmed basic course. Specific decisions follow: 2. In response to your recommendation, General Harkins is hereby authorized to repeat to such Generals as you indicate the messages previously transmitted by CAS officers. He should stress that the USG supports the movement to eliminate the Nhus from the government, but that before arriving at specific understandings with the Generals, General Harkins must know who are involved, resources available to them and overall plan for coup. The USG will support a coup which has good chance of succeeding but plans no direct involvement of U.S. armed forces. Harkins should state that he is prepared to establish liaison with the coup planners and to review plans, but will not engage directly in joint coup planning. 3. Question of last approach to Diem remains undecided and separate personal message from Secretary to you develops our concern and asks your comment. 351

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4. On movement of U.S. forces, we do not expect to make any announcement or leak at present and believe that any later decision to publicize such movements should be closely connected to developing events on your side. We cannot of course prevent unauthorized disclosures or speculation, but we will in any event knock down any reports of evacuation. 5. You are hereby authorized to announce suspension of aid through Diem government at a time and under conditions of your choice. In deciding upon the use of this authority, you should consider importance of timing and managing announcement so as to minimize appearance of collusion with Generals and also to minimize danger of unpredictable and disruptive reaction by existing government. We also assume that you will not in fact use this authority unless you think it essential, and we see it as possible that Harkins’ approach and increasing process of cooperation may provide assurance Generals desire. Our own view is that it will be best to hold this authority for use in close conjunction with coup, and not for present encouragement of Generals, but decision is yours.

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Lodge Cable to Secretary Rusk on U.S. Policy Toward a Coup 29 August 1963

W

e are launched on a course from which there is no respectable turning back: the overthrow of the Diem government. There is no turning back in part because U.S. prestige is already publicly committed to this end in large measure and will become more so as the facts leak out. In a more fundamental sense, there is no turning back because there is no possibility, in my view, that the war can be won under a Diem administration, still less that Diem or any member of the family can govern the country in a way to gain the support of the people who count, i.e., the educated class in and out of government service, civil and military-not to mention the American people. In the last few months (and especially days) they have in fact positively alienated these people to an incalculable degree. So that I am personally in full agreement with the policy which I was instructed to carry out by last Sunday’s telegram. 2. The chance of bringing off a Generals’ coup depends on them to some extent; but it depends at least as much on us. 3. We should proceed to make all-out effort to get Generals to move promptly. To do so we should have authority to do following: (a) That Gen. Harkins repeat to Generals personally message previously transmitted by CAS officers. This should establish their authenticity. Gen. Harkins should have order on this. (b) If nevertheless Generals insist on public statement that all U.S. aid to VN through Diem regime has been stopped, we would agree, on express understanding that Generals will have started 353

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at same time. (We would seek persuade Generals that it would be better to hold this card for use in event of stalemate. We hope it will not be necessary to do this at all.) (c) VNese Generals doubt that we have the will power, courage, and determination to see this thing through. They are haunted by the idea that we will run out on them even though we have told them pursuant to instructions, that the game had started. 5. We must press on for many reasons. Some of these are: (a) Explosiveness of the present situation which may well lead to riots and violence if issue of discontent with regime is not met. Out of this could come a pro-Communist or at best a neutralist set of politicians. (b) The fact that war cannot be won with the present regime. (c) Our own reputation for steadfastness and our unwillingness to stultify ourselves. (d) If proposed action is suspended, I believe a body blow will be dealt to respect for us by VNese Generals. Also, all those who expect U.S. to straighten out this situation will feel let down. Our help to the regime in past years inescapably gives a responsibility which we cannot avoid. 6. I realize that this course involves a very substantial risk of losing VN. It also involves some additional risk to American lives. I would never propose it if I felt there was a reasonable chance of holding VN with Diem. [Point 7 unavailable.]





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8. . . . Gen. Harkins thinks that I should ask Diem to get rid of the Nhus before starting the Generals’ action. But I believe that such a step has no chance of getting the desired result and would have the very serious effect of being regarded by the Generals as a sign of American indecision and delay. I believe this is a risk which we should not run. The Generals distrust us too much already. Another point is that Diem would certainly ask for time to consider such a far-reaching request. This would give the ball to Nhu. 9. With the exception of par. 8 above Gen. Harkins concurs in this telegram.

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Memorandum of Conversation August 29, 1963

SUBJECT:

Viet-Nam

PARTICIPANTS: White House Defense Department The President Secretary McNamara McGeorge Bundy Mr. Gilpatric Mr. Forrestal Gen. Maxwell Taylor Maj. Gen. Krulak COPIES TO: State Department CIA The Secretary Gen. Carter Governor Harriman Mr. Helms Mr. Hilsman Secretary of Treasury Dillon Amb. Nolting USIA-Mr. Edward Murrow The Vice President

The secretary of State said that we have now had the replies from Lodge and Harkins. Both are agreed that the war cannot be won with a Diem-Nhu regime. The only point of disagreement was that Harkins thought we should make one last effort with Diem to get rid of Nhu and that Lodge felt that going to Diem would be useless and dangers for the Generals. Ambassador Nolting expressed himself as in favor of one last try with Diem.

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Mr. Hilsman expressed his opinion that going to Diem would be fruitless and cited Kattenburg’s conversation with Diem as supporting evidence. The President asked that the group focus on the principal questions. The first was the desire of the generals for reassurances that the US would support them. Mr. Helms said that we have in effect already done this to a certain extent citing the cable reporting Rufus Phillips’ conversation with General Kim. Mr. Helms also pointed out that a meeting was scheduled for 8:15 Washington time tonight. If there was any doubt of our going ahead this meeting should be stopped immediately. The Secretary said that although we had a need to know the adequacy of the plan, we should not get directly into planning. Mr. Hilsman asked if the Secretary was making a distinction between participating in coup planning and further reassurances to the Generals. The Secretary said that this was precisely the distinction he was making. Ambassador Nolting intervened and asked if we intended to get so deep into engineering a coup against Diem as to, for example, use American helicopters to transport the forces of the coup Generals to Saigon. The President said that he wanted to get back to the basic question. In the light of the cables from Lodge and Harkins, was there anyone in the EXCOM who wished to withdraw from the operation? And, secondly, what was the feeling of the EXCOM about the issue of an approach to Diem? The Secretary of Defense said that on the first question he thought we should proceed with the operation. On the second question he agreed with Harkins that one last approach should be made to Diem. However, he thought that the approach should not be made until everything was ready for a coup attempt. Otherwise Diem might react violently and we would have no alternative. We were several days before that point. Mr. Gilpatric agreed with the Secretary of Defense. He felt that Harkins ought to accompany Lodge in the last approach to Diem. He agreed that the attempt should be made at the very last moment. The Secretary of Defense said that he favored one last approach to Diem because he doubted whether anyone other than Diem could run this country. The President asked who runs it now; that it seemed to him that it was not being run very well.

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Ambassador Nolting said that Diem runs the country; that Nhu is Diem’s idea man; and that Thuan is a big help as chief of staff; but that Diem runs the country. The Secretary of State said that Diem was facing a desperate situation— the end of his regime, possibly the end of his life and the end of his family. Diem might do something completely irrational and desperate if he was presented with an ultimatum. He might, for example, appeal to communist North Vietnam to intervene with their divisions to help expel the Americans. If it seemed wise to make a last attempt with Diem he felt the Generals themselves might be a better vehicle, with the timing just before the coup attempt. He doubted that Lodge would succeed and an attempt by Lodge might set in train grave actions against the US and Americans. The Secretary of Defense said the question was whether we should try to save Diem. He felt we should. The question was one of Tactics. The Secretary of State said it was hard to separate them and cited the Kattenburg cable. In any case, an attempt should not be made until the coup was ready. McGeorge Bundy said that the US posture would be better if the Generals made this attempt. Ambassador Nolting said that the sanction is US support and that we were under a moral obligation to tell the Chief of State this. The President asked whether we would really pull out of South VietNam in any event. The Secretary of State said that we must have an alternative when we present that ultimatum. General Taylor said that we should have a good coup plan first; that he would welcome the opportunity for Harkins to get into the planning process; that we needed to know the people and their objectives. The Secretary of State said that getting into the planning depended on how it was done. We do need to know how much they expect form us but we ought not to be too involved in the detailed planning. The President asked about signals to the Generals and fence-sitters. Mr. Hilsman felt that it was important that Harkins and his colleagues give the Generals the reassurances they desired since it was the military advisers who had the highest prestige. In addition, he felt that Lodge and Harkins ought to consider whether Harkins should not make even more discreet hints to the fence-sitters as to the American views on the situation.

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The next subject for discussion was Lodge’s request for permission to announce a cut-off of aid. The Secretary of State felt there was some merit in making such an announcement only after the Generals announced the formation of a new government. There was a discussion of the various aspects of the question with no clear-cut decision. General Taylor reported on Seventh Fleet strength and steps being taken to provide necessary forces to protect Americans in Viet-Nam should they be needed. The CIA reported on “possible jamming of Diem’s radio and the provision to the Generals of radio facilities.” The President decided that we should authorize Harkins’ approach to the Generals; that we should authorize Lodge to make a decision about a cut-off of aid with certain qualifications; that there should be no deliberate leak on the Seventh Fleet movements; that there should be no hint to the fence-sitting Generals on Seventh Fleet movements at this time. The Secretary of State said that the President should understand that we could not assure him of a peaceful operation; that some Americans may have to do some shooting, if only in self-defense; and that some Americans would probably be killed in the process. The President again raised the question of the approach to Diem. The Secretary of State proposed a separate message to Lodge from the Secretary of State to discuss the question more thoroughly. The President thought that without a sanction it would be just more frustration, more words and more opportunity for Diem to delay. Ambassador Nolting said that there had been no real substantive talk with Diem; that there should be a cards-on-the-table approach to him. He felt that before we went any further on a coup d’etat we should level with Diem—after all, we have made commitments to him. These have been altered by GVN actions, but we ought to say that GVN actions have altered the situation and say that we wanted a new deal. This action would risk the lives of the Generals; but it was the Generals who approached us not the other way around. He felt we must talk to Diem for doing so was the only way of getting the best government available. Mr. Bundy expressed himself as being against this approach. Mr. Hilsman said that we had talked to Diem—as witness both Lodge’s and Kattenburg’s talks—and that prospects were not hopeful.

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Mr. Bundy and Mr. Hilsman agreed, however, that the discussions that had so far taken place were a rather thin discourse. Ambassador Nolting said that we should tell Diem that we would not support the alienation of the people and the military. The Secretary of State said that this was all right provided it was done one hour before somebody moved. Otherwise Diem might take violent and unpredictable action against Americans and the Vietnamese people. Ambassador Nolting said that he was forced to grant this possibility to the Secretary of State, but pointed out that Harkins feels such an approach should be made. The President asked what effect this would have on the Generals; would they not regard it as a doublecross? He felt that the views of the Generals should be considered. Do they want to keep Diem and remove only Nhu? Ambassador Nolthing said that the evidence was unclear. The Generals may well want to retain Diem. Mr. Hilsman recalled that our approach to the Generals specified that the decision on whether or not Diem should be retained was up to them. The Secretary of State said that he felt that the Nhus were the main target, but that the decision on an approach to Diem was further down the track and this could be a subject of further discourse with the field. At that the meeting broke up with two cables No. 272 and 279 being sent as a result.

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Instructions for Ambassador Lodge on Dealing With Diem Regime Repression August 31, 1963 American policy in Vietnam had to face not only the challenge of a Communist insurgency directed and controlled from North Vietnam, but of a government in the South that was repressive, apparently unpopular, and apparently unable to properly prosecute the war against the Communists. The following telegram, written by Secretary of State Dean Rusk and read and approved by President Kennedy, instructs American Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge on how to bring pressure to bear on President Diem. Repressive actions on the part of the South Vietnamese government would have provided a perfect cover for U.S. withdrawal, had Kennedy wanted to withdraw. Instead he pressured Diem to reform, and noted that the U.S. “will support Vietnamese effort to change government.” All this is consistent with the statement that “our primary objective remains winning the war.”

ACTION: Amembassy SAIGON Emergency 294 INFO: CINCPAC POLAD-Exclusive for Admiral Felt EYES ONLY FOR AMBASSADOR LODGE Re your 391, agree your conclusion favoring direct effort on GVN. US cannot abandon Viet-nam and while it will support Vietnamese effort to

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change government that has good prospects success US should not and would not mount and operate one. To use your metaphor, when the spaghetti was pushed, it curled; now we must try pulling. In the meantime, our primary objective remains winning the war and we concur your suggestion that we should now reopen communications with Diem. Decision on exact course awaits your recommendations and consideration by highest authority. What follows is thinking of interdepartmental meeting chaired by Secretary today. As to general posture, it seems desirable to maintain both publically and in our private talks with GVN the leverage of US discontent with repression which has eroded war effort within Viet-nam as well as support of Congress, US public, and world. Impression should be, both privately and publically, that US is engaged in candid and critical discussion to improve government not overthrow it. Decision on changing government is Vietnamese. In your talk with Diem, our thought is you should first stress common interest in defeating Viet Cong. Then in frank but tough line point out that daily juxtaposition of continuing American casualties and massive US aid with repressive measures contrary deepest American convictions will make it difficult for Executive and Congress to continue support. But time is rather short. President Kennedy may well be obliged at next press conference to express US disapproval of repressive measures. Should we find it impossible to reach an agreement with GVN on a program to undo the damage caused by recent GVN actions, then suspension of aid might soon be forced upon us. Specific policies and actions should be designed to develop political support within Viet-nam necessary to win the war and also to restore damaged image abroad. Our feeling is that your list of specifics should begin with blunt warning, if required, not to arrest Generals who are so badly needed in war effort, and with strong demand Madame Nhu leave country on extended holiday. (Question of future role of Nhu could be left to later discussions.) In the intermediate discussion the most important is relations with the Buddhists. Our feeling is that you should frankly say that negotiations with puppet bonzes will not accomplish purpose. We recognize that the other side of this coin is that we must assure Diem that we will make every effort to persuade the Buddhist leaders to throw themselves fully into the common effort for the independence and security of Viet-nam.

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D e a l i n g W i t h D i e m R e g i m e R e p r e s s i o n   363

Other points might be:

1. Repeal of Decree 10 by immediate executive action or by special session of the National Assembly. 2. Restoration of damaged pagodas. 3. Release of students and reopening of closed universities. 4. Removal of press censorship.

At some stage, you will wish to talk about future relationships between American advisers et al and free scope to them in helping to carry on the war effort at all appropriate governmental levels. (In this respect we fully agree with Harkin’s decision to refrain from giving assurances in light of statements made to him. He and all military advisers should now concentrate on reestablishing normal relationships at all levels GVN to get on with the war.) Also would you think it useful if we tried to get Vatican to summon Archbishop Thuc to Rome for lengthy consultations? If initial discussions go well, at some stage you may want to urge some form of reorganization of the government introducing the Generals and perhaps other civilian leaders into ministerial posts. It may be important at a fairly early stage to raise the subject of the GVN improving its relations with its neighbors and especially to avoid interfering with Cambodian traffic on the Mekong. The above is not an instruction but intended only for your comments. We will appreciate your views on it and on any additional actions we should require of the GVN in order to get on with the task. President has reviewed this message and approves it in general. He suggests you should also plan your response to probable Diem claim that all this trouble comes from irresponsible press. He thinks you should say we hold no brief for press but Diem has been playing into their hands. Fact is that actions of GVN have now created a situation which is very difficult indeed for USG. For example, large cut in aid program in House largely due to sense of disillusionment in whole effort in Viet-nam. There are reports that still further cuts may be pressed on same ground, and in such a case USG simply would not have resources to sustain massive present level of support. So we need very quick and substantial response to your demarche. You should add that President will be commenting on situation in SVN in TV interview to be taped Monday a.n. at Hyannis

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and broadcast Monday evening. While in this interview he will be as restrained as possible, if asked it will be impossible to avoid some expression of concern. This expression, however, will be mild in comparison to what may have to be said soon unless there is major improvement. GP-1 End RUSK

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Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, Memorandum for the President, “Vietnam Situation” 21 December 1963

MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT

SUBJECT: Vietnam Situation In accordance with your request this morning, this is a summary of my conclusions after my visit to Vietnam on December 19–20.



1. Summary. The situation is very disturbing. Current trends, unless reversed in the next 2-3 months, will lead to neutralization at best and more likely to a Communist-controlled state. 2. The new government is the greatest source of concern. It is indecisive and drifting. Although Minh states that he, rather than the Committee of Generals, is making decisions, it is not clear that this is actually so. In any event, neither he nor the Committee are experienced in political administration and so far they show little talent for it. There is no clear concept on how to re-shape or conduct the strategic hamlet program; the Province Chiefs, most of whom are new and inexperienced, are receiving little or no direction; military operations, too, are not being effectively directed because the ­generals are so preoccupied with essentially political affairs. 365

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A specific example of the present situation is that General Dinh is spending little or no time commanding III Corps, which is in the vital zone around Saigon and needs full-time direction. I made these points as strongly as possible to Minh, Don, Kim, and Tho. 3. The Country Team is the second major weakness. It lacks leadership, has been poorly informed, and is not working to a common plan. A recent example of confusion has been conflicting USOM and military recommendations both to the Government of Vietnam and to Washington on the size of the military budget. Above all, Lodge has virtually no official contact with Harkins. Lodge sends in reports with major military implications without showing them to Harkins, and does not show Harkins important incoming traffic. My impression is that Lodge simply does not know how to conduct a coordinated administration. This has of course been stressed to him both by Dean Rusk and myself (and also by John McCone), and I do not think he is consciously rejecting our advice; he has just operated as a loner all his life and cannot readily change now. Lodge’s newly-designated deputy, Davis Nes, was with us and seems a highly competent team player. I have stated the situation frankly to him and he has said he would do all he could to constitute what would in effect be an executive committee operating below the level of the Ambassador. As to the grave reporting weakness, both Defense and CIA must take major steps to improve this. John McCone and I have discussed it and are acting vigorously in our respective spheres. 4. Viet Cong progress has been great during the period since the coup, with my best guess being that the situation has in fact been deteriorating in the countryside since July to a far greater extent than we realized because of our undue dependence on distorted Vietnamese reporting. The Viet Cong now control very high proportions of the people in certain key provinces, particularly those directly south and west of Saigon. The Strategic Hamlet Program was seriously over-extended in these provinces, and the Viet Cong has been able to destroy many hamlets, while others have been abandoned or in some cases betrayed or pillaged by the government’s own Self Defense Corps. In these key provinces, the Viet Cong have destroyed almost all major roads, and are collecting taxes at will.

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As remedial measures, we must get the government to re-allocate its military forces so that its effective strength in these provinces is essentially doubled. We also need to have major increases in both military and USOM staffs, to sizes that will give us a reliable, independent U.S. appraisal of the status of operations. Thirdly, realistic pacification plans must be prepared, allocating adequate time to secure the remaining government-controlled areas and work out from there. This gloomy picture prevails predominantly in the provinces around the capital and in the Delta. Action to accomplish each of these objectives was started while we were in Saigon. The situation in the northern and central areas is considerably better, and does not seem to have deteriorated substantially in recent months. General Harkins still hopes these areas may be made reasonably secure by the latter half of next year. In the gloomy southern picture, an exception to the trend of Viet Cong success may be provided by the possible adherence to the government of the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao sects, which total three million people and control key areas along the Cambodian border. The Hoa Hao have already made some sort of agreement, and the Cao Dai are expected to do so at the end of this month. However, it is not clear that their influence will be more than neutralized by these agreements, or that they will in fact really pitch in on the government’s side. 5. Infiltration of men and equipment from North Vietnam continues using (a) land corridors through Laos and Cambodia; (b) the Mekong River waterways from Cambodia; (c) some possible entry from the sea and the tip of the Delta. The best guess is that 1000-1500 Viet Cong cadres entered South Vietnam from Laos in the first nine months of 1963. The Mekong route (and also the possible sea entry) is apparently used for heavier weapons and ammunition and raw materials which have been turning up in increasing numbers in the south and of which we have captured a few shipments. To counter this infiltration, we reviewed in Saigon various plans providing for cross-border operations into Laos. On the scale proposed, I am quite clear that these would not be politically acceptable or even militarily effective. Our first need would

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be immediate U-2 mapping of the whole Laos and Cambodian border, and this we are preparing on an urgent basis. One other step we can take is to expand the existing limited but remarkably effective operations on the Laos side, the so-called Operation HARDNOSE, so that it at least provides reasonable intelligence on movements all the way along the Laos corridor; plans to expand this will be prepared and presented for approval in about two weeks. As to the waterways, the military plans presented in Saigon were unsatisfactory, and a special naval team is being sent at once from Honolulu to determine what more can be done. The whole waterway system is so vast, however, that effective policing may be impossible. In general, the infiltration problem, while serious and annoying, is a lower priority than the key problems discussed earlier. However, we should do what we can to reduce it. 6. Plans for Covert Action into North Vietnam were prepared as we had requested and were an excellent job. They present a wide variety of sabotage and psychological operations against North Vietnam from which I believe we should aim to select those that provide maximum pressure with minimum risk. In accordance with your direction at the meeting, General Krulak of the JCS is chairing a group that will lay out a program in the next ten days for your consideration. 7. Possible neutralization of Vietnam is strongly opposed by Minh, and our attitude is somewhat suspect because of editorials by the New York Times and mention by Walter Lippmann and others. We reassured them as strongly as possible on this-and in somewhat more general terms on the neutralization of Cambodia. I recommend that you convey to Minh a Presidential message for the New Year that would repeat our position in the strongest possible terms and would also be a vehicle to stress the necessity of strong central direction by the government and specifically by Minh himself. 8. U.S. resources and personnel cannot usefully be substantially increased. I have directed a modest artillery supplement, and also the provision of uniforms for the Self Defense Corps, which is the most exposed force and suffers from low morale. Of greater

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potential significance, I have directed the Military Departments to review urgently the quality of the people we are sending to Vietnam. It seems to have fallen off considerably from the high standards applied in the original selections in 1962, and the JCS fully agree with me that we must have our best men there. Conclusion. My appraisal may be overly pessimistic. Lodge, Harkins, and Minh would probably agree with me on specific points, but feel that January should see significant improvement. We should watch the situation very carefully, running scared, hoping for the best, but preparing for more forceful moves if the situation does not show early signs of improvement. Robert S. McNamara

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Was Kennedy Planning to Pull Out of Vietnam? April 30, 1964

Robert Kennedy was not merely John Kennedy’s brother, he was his closest political ally and closest confidant. So what Bobby said about John’s view of the war in Vietnam is not merely speculation or opinion. The following is a passage from an oral history interview done with Bobby in April, 1964 by the John F. Kennedy Library.

Third Oral History Interview with ROBERT F. KENNEDY

April 30, 1964 New York, New York By John Bartlow Martin For the John F. Kennedy Library [BEGIN TAPE V, REEL 1] [snipping earlier portion of interview] Martin: All right. Now, Vietnam began in the first—on the 3rd of January started appearing rather prominently in the papers and, of course, still is, and was all through ’63. Do you want to talk about it now? Do you want to wait till we come and pick up the coup later? In, on, in January, the Vietnamese killed three Americans and shot down five helicopters.

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Kennedy: Viet Cong, you mean. Martin: That’s right. That’s what I mean, I’m sorry, Viet Cong. A little later Mansfield said that we were, this thing was turning into an American war and wasn’t justified by our national interest; we hadn’t any business going in so deep, but we kept going in deeper. The president sent Maxwell Taylor and McNamara out there. And then, and Lodge, he appointed Lodge as the ambassador—and you remember the hassle between the CIA and Lodge. The president brought the CIA fellow back, and, in the end, there was the coup against the Diem brothers. Do you want to discuss the whole thing now? You must have been in on a good deal of this. Kennedy: Yes. Well, yeah, what do you want to start with? Martin: All right. At the beginning we seemed to have our lines crossed. I mean, the majority leader in the Senate, Mansfield, was saying this was not an American war, and he didn’t think it was—that our—it should be—not, not—should not be an American war. He didn’t think our heavy commitment there was justified. How’d you feel about it; how’d the president feel about it; and at what point did we get our lines straightened out? Kennedy: Well, I don’t think that . . . Martin: Did I make myself clear? Kennedy: No, I don’t think that fact, Senator Mansfield or somebody in the Senate takes a position, necessarily means . . . Martin: Well, he was majority leader. Kennedy: Yeah, but, you know, he’s frequently taken that, those, that line or that position on some of these matters. I don’t think that the fact he has an independent view from the executive branch of the government, particularly in Southeast Asia, indicates that the lines aren’t straight. I, no, I just, I think every. . . . I, the president felt that the. . . . He had a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war in Vietnam. Martin: What was the overwhelming reason? Kennedy: Just the loss of all of Southeast Asia if you lost Vietnam. I think everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall. Martin: What if it did?

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W a s K e n n e d y P l a n n i n g t o P u l l O u t o f V i e t n a m ?   373

Kennedy: Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world. Also, it would affect what happened in India, of course, which in turn has an effect on the Middle East. Just, it would have, everybody felt, a very adverse effect. It would have an effect on Indonesia, hundred million population. All of these countries would be affected by the fall of Vietnam to the Communists, particularly as we had made such a fuss in the United States both under President Eisenhower and President Kennedy about the preservation of the integrity of Vietnam. Martin: There was never any consideration given to pulling out? Kennedy: No. Martin: But the same time, no disposition to go in all . . . Kennedy: No . . . Martin: . . . in an all out way as we went into Korea. We were trying to avoid a Korea, is that correct? Kennedy: Yes, because I, everybody including General MacArthur felt that land conflict between our troops, white troops and Asian, would only lead to, end in disaster. So it was. . . . We went in as advisers, but to try to get the Vietnamese to fight themselves, because we couldn’t win the war for them. They had to win the war for themselves. Martin: It’s generally true all over the world, whether it’s in a shooting war or a different kind of a war. But the president was convinced that we had to keep, had to stay in there . . . Kennedy: Yes. Martin: . . . and couldn’t lose it. Kennedy: Yes. Martin: And if Vietnamese were about to lose it, would he propose to go in on land if he had to? Kennedy: Well, we’d face that when we came to it. Martin: Mm hm. Or go with air strikes, or—direct from carriers, I mean, something like that? Kennedy: But without. . . . It didn’t have to be faced at that time. In the first place, we were winning the war in 1962 and 1963, up until

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May or so of 1963. The situation was getting progressively better. And then I . . . Martin: But then it got progre— started going downhill, didn’t it? Kennedy: Yes, and then we had all the problems with the Buddhists and the . . . Martin: Yeah. Kennedy: And, uh . . . Martin: Why did they go down, why did they get bad, Bob? Kennedy: Well, I just think he was just, Diem wouldn’t make even the slightest concessions. He was difficult to reason with, well, with the. . . . And then it was built up tremendously in an adverse fashion here in the United States and that was played back in Vietnam, and . . . . And I think just the people themselves became concerned about it. And so, it began to, the situation began to deteriorate in the spring of 1962, uh, spring of 1963. I think David Halberstam, from the New York Times’ articles, had a strong effect on molding public opinion: the fact that the situation was unsatisfactory. Our problem was that thinking of Halberstam sort of as the Ma—what Matthews [unidentified] did in Cuba, that Batista [Fulgencio R. Batista] was not very satisfactory, but the important thing was to try to get somebody who could replace him and somebody who could keep, continue the war and keep the country united, and that was far more difficult. So that was what was of great concern to all of us during this period of time. Nobody liked Diem particularly, but how to get rid of him and get somebody that would continue the war, not split the country in two, and therefore lose not only the war but the country. That was the great problem. So would Kennedy have fallen into the Vietnam quagmire just as Johnson did? No one can be sure, and Kennedy supporters can certainly believe that he would have avoided Johnson’s massive committment—even though he had the same advisors as Johnson and the same desire to prevent a Communist takeover. However, the Oliver Stone version of the Kennedy assassination, as expressed in the movie JFK, holds that Kennedy had already decided to pull out of Vietnam, and was killed for that reason. That’s just not so.

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Part V

1964–1965

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Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell May 27, 1964, 10:55 p.m.

Senator Russell: Pretty Good. How are you Mr. President? President Johnson: Oh, I’ve got lots of trouble. I want to see what you . . . Russell: Well, we all have those. Johnson: What do you think about this Vietnam thing? I’d like to hear you talk a little bit. Russell: Well, frankly, Mr. President, if you were to tell me that I was authorized to settle as I saw fit, I would respectfully decline to undertake it. It’s the damn worse mess that I ever saw, and I don’t like to brag and I never have been right many times in my life, but I knew that we were gone to get into this sort of mess when we went in there. And I don’t see how we’re ever going to get out of it without fighting a major war with the Chinese and all of them down there in those rice paddies and jungles. I just don’t see it. I just don’t know what to do. Johnson: Well, that’s the way I have been feeling for six months. Russell: Our position is deteriorating and it looks like the more we try to do for them, the less they are willing to do for themselves. It’s just a sad situation. There is no sense of responsibility there on the part of any of 377

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their leaders apparently. It is all just through generations or even centuries that they have just thought about the individual and glorified the individual. That’s the only utilization of power, just to glorify the individual and not to save the state or help other people. And they just can’t shed themselves of that complex. It’s a hell of a situation. It is a mess, and it’s going to get worse, and I don’t know how or what to do. I don’t think the American people are quite ready for us to send our troops in there to do the fighting. If it came down to an option of just sending the Americans in there to do the fighting, which will, of course, eventually end in a ground war and a conventional war with China, and we do them a favor every time we kill a coolie, whereas when one of our people got killed it would be a loss to us, and if it got down to that—of just pulling out—I’d get out. But then I don’t know. There is undoubtedly some middle ground somewhere. If I was going to get out, I’d get the same crowd that got rid of old Diem to get rid of these people and to get some fellow in there that said we wish to hell we would get out. That would give us a good excuse for getting out. I see no terminal date, boy oh boy, any part of that in there. Johnson: How important is it to us? Russell: It isn’t important a damn bit for all this new missile stuff. Johnson: I guess it is important. Russell: From a psychological standpoint. Johnson: I mean, yes, and from the standpoint that we are a party to a treaty. And if we don’t pay any attention to this treaty I don’t guess that they think paying attention to any of them. Russell: Yeah, but we are the only ones paying attention to it. Johnson: Yeah, I think that is right. Russell: You see the other people are just as bound to that treaty as we are. Johnson: Yes, that’s right. Russell: I think there are some twelve or fourteen other countries. Johnson: That’s right. Yeah, there are fourteen of them. Russell: I don’t know much about the foreign policy but it seems to me that there were several of them that were parties to it. And other than the question of our word and saving face, that’s the reason that I said that

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I  don’t think that anybody would expect us to stay in there. Some old freebooter down in there, I’ve forgotten his name, I haven’t heard about him lately, but he is still there, sort of a hellraiser and he don’t know exactly what he wants, but I think he is the most dangerous thing to the present regime. I think that if he were to take over, he would ask us to get out. And, of course, if he did, with our theory of standing by selfdetermination of people, I don’t think how we could say we not going to go if he is in charge of the government. It’s going to be a headache to anybody that tries to fool with it. You’ve got all the brains in the country, Mr. President, you better get a hold of them. I don’t know what to do about this. I saw it all coming on, but that don’t do any good now, that’s water over the dam and under the bridge. And we are there. Johnson: Well, you’ve got. . . Russell: Well, you got McNamara over there. He was up here yesterday testifying before the committee. I didn’t want to have him up here, but Howard Cannon and some of them wanted to have him up here. So I set up the hearing for 8:30 before I started the Appropriations hearings. He’s got, well, rather kicked around so I’m not sure he is objective as he ought to be in surveying the conditions out there. He feels like it is sort of up to him personally to see that the thing goes through, and he’s a can-do-fellow, but I’m not too sure that he understands the history and background of those people out there as fully as he should. But even from his picture, the damn thing ain’t getting any better, it is just getting worse, putting more and more in there and it’s taking more and more away from the people we’re trying to help, that we give them. I don’t know, you ­better get some brains from somewhere to apply to this thing up. Because I don’t know what to do with it. Johnson: Well, I spend all my days with Rusk and McNamara and Bundy and Harriman and Vance, and all those folks that are dealing with it and I would say that it pretty well adds up to them now that we have got show some power and some force and that they do not—they are kind of like MacArthur in Korea—they don’t believe that the Chinese Communists will come into this thing. But they don’t know, and nobody can really be sure, but their feeling is that they won’t, and in any event, we haven’t got much choice. That we are treaty bound, that we are there, this will be a domino that will kick off a whole list of others, and that we

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have just got to prepare for the worst. Now I have avoided that for a few days. I don’t think the American people are for it. I don’t agree with Morse and all that he says, but . . . Russell: Neither do I, but he is voicing the sentiment of a hell of a lot of people. Johnson: I’m afraid that’s right. I’m afraid that’s right. I don’t think the people of this country know much about Vietnam, and I don’t think that they care a hell of a lot less. Russell: Yeah, I know, but you go sending a whole lot of our boys out there they’ll care something about it. Johnson: Yeah, that’s exactly right. That’s what I’m talking about. You get a few killed. We had 35 killed. Hell, we got enough of them killed— over 35 this year. Russell: There is more than that been killed in Atlanta, Georgia, in automobile accidents. Johnson: Yeah, that’s right, and 83 went down in one crash on a 707 in one day, but that doesn’t make any difference. Russell: That’s the way these folks under stand it, they don’t understand that thing over there now. Johnson: The Republicans going to make a political issue out of it, every one of them, even Dirksen. Russell: It’s the only issue they’ve got. Johnson: I talked to Dirksen the other day, Friday, and he suggested that I have three of Armed Services, three from Appropriations, and all of them from Foreign Relations down. So I told him all right and invited them. And yesterday before they came he gave out a big statement that we had to get us a program and go after them. And Hickenlooper said that they just had to stand and show our force and put our men in there and let come what may come, and nobody disagreed with him. Now Mansfield, he just wants to pull up and get out, and Morse wants to get out, and Gruening wants to get out. And that’s about where it stops. I don’t know. Russell: And there’s others here that want to get out, but they haven’t said much about it, but Frank Church told me two or three times that he

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doesn’t want to make a speech on it, but he just wished to God that we could get out of there. I don’t know whether he has told you that or not? Johnson: No, I haven’t talked to him. Russell: But I just use that as an illustration cause he has mentioned it to me more than once. Johnson: Who are the best people that we have, that you know of, to talk about this thing? I don’t want to do anything on the basis of just the information that I have got now. Russell: I don’t know who, Mr. President. Ah. Johnson: I talked to Eisenhower a little bit. Russell: I think that the people that you have named have all formed a hard opinion on it, I think. Johnson: Rusk has tried to pull back, he has tried to hold back on everything, but he has about come to the conclusion now that Laos is crumbling and Vietnam is wobbly. Russell: Laos, Laos, hell, it ain’t worth a damn! They’ve been talking about all these battles down there, and I tried to get the best information I could from the CIA and from Defense both about all this fierce fighting on the Plain of Jars and all, and the highest estimate to the casualties is 150. That Laotian thing is absolutely impossible, it’s a whole lot worse than Vietnam. There are some of these Vietnamese after they beat them over the head they will go in there and fight, but Laos is an impossible situation. That’s just a rathole there. I don’t know, but before I took any drastic action, I think I would get somebody like old Omar Bradley and one or two, perhaps senior people who had had government experience, not necessarily the military. If he wasn’t scared to death of McNamara, this fellow Adams who is the head of Strike [Strike Command] would be a top flight man to send out there with them. Let them go out there, fool around for a few days and smell the air and get the atmosphere, and then come back in a few days and tell you what they think, cause they are new in it and would not have a great many preconceived ideas in approaching it. Johnson: One of our big problems there, Dick, the biggest, between us and I don’t want this repeated to anybody, is Lodge. Russell: I know it.

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Johnson: He ain’t worth a damn. Russell: Why, of course. Johnson: And he can’t work with anybody. He won’t let anybody else work. We get the best USIA man to put all on all the radios and try to get them to be loyal to the government and to be fighting and quit deserting. Russell: He thinks he’s the emperor out there. Johnson: And he calls in USIA and says: “I handle the newspapers and the magazines and radio myself, so hell with you.” So that knocks that guy out. So then we send out the best CIA man we’ve got and he says, “I handle intelligence, to hell with you.” Then he wants a new Deputy Chief of Mission and we get him to give us some names, and we pick one, the best one we’ve got, send him out there to run the damn war, and he gets where he [Lodge] won’t speak to the Deputy Chief of Mission. Then we get General Harkins out there, we thought he was a pretty good man, and he gets where he can’t work with him. So we send Westmoreland out there. It’s just a hell of a mess. You can’t do anything with Lodge, and that is where McNamara gets so frustrated. They go out and get agreements and issue orders, and sends his stuff in there, and then Lodge takes charge of it himself, and he is not a take-charge man. And he just gets stacked up. Russell: He never has followed anything through to a conclusion since I’ve known him, and I’ve known him for 20 odd years. He never has. I went out with him around the world in ’43, the only committee that went out during the war, we went everywhere. And Lodge was on there, he’s a bright fellow, intelligent fellow, but he is not a man that persists. And he thinks he is dealing with barbarian tribes out there, and that he’s the emperor, and he is going to tell them what to do. And there isn’t any doubt in my mind that he had old Diem killed out there, himself, so he could. Johnson: That was a tragic mistake. Russell: Oh, it was horrible, awful. Johnson: And we’ve lost ever since. Russell: You have to go get someone that’s more pliant than Lodge, that would do exactly as he said right quick. He’s living up on cloud nine, it’s a bad mistake. I don’t know but the best thing you could do is ask Lodge if he don’t think it’s about time that he coming home?

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Johnson: Well, he’d be home campaigning against us on this issue every day. Russell: Well, God Almighty, he’s goin’ to come back anyway, when time comes. I’d give him a reason for doing it. He is going to come back. If you bring him back now, everybody going to say, “hell, he’s coming back cause Johnson removed him from out there.” MacArthur with all his power couldn’t hurt Truman because everybody would said, well, hell, he just mad cause he got removed, though millions sympathized with him in it. And you needn’t worry. Lodge will be in here, in my judgment, he’ll be on that ticket some way. I don’t think they’ll nominate him for President, but they may put him on there for Vice President. But whether they do or don’t, he’ll be back here campaigning before that campaign’s over. I don’t know, I best take that back. This thing is so hopeless for the Republicans. He has certainly got enough critical sense to know that and not get his head chopped off. It would be foolish. Johnson: Has Clay got any judgment on a thing like this? Russell: Yeah, he has, even though he inclined . . . Johnson: He’s off in another part of the world, mostly, isn’t he. Russell: I think Clay knows. I’d take his judgment on most anything if he separates himself from his predilections. And he don’t have any out there in that part of the world. I think that people generally have a good deal of respect for Clay’s judgment too. And there’s a great deal of affection and respect for old man Bradley, he’s not in his dotage yet by a hell of a lot. I had him up here the other day getting some advice on some matters and I found him very alert. He’s so humble, I don’t know, he could tend to be a doormat for Lodge out there. But he’s an intelligent man. Now Clay wouldn’t. Clay would stand up to anybody if he felt he had support from high up places. I just don’t know, it’s a tragic situation, it’s one of those places were you just can’t win. Anything you do is wrong. Johnson: Well, think about it and call me. Russell: All right, sir. I have thought about it and worried about it and prayed about it. Johnson: I don’t believe that we can do anything that— Russell: I have religiously because it’s something that frightens me cause it’s my country that is involved over there and if we get in there on any

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considerable scale, there is no doubt in my mind that what the Chinese will be in there and we will be fightin’ a dang conventional war against our secondary potential threat. And it’ll be Korea on a much bigger scale. And on a worse scale because of the peculiar physical configuration of Korea made extensive guerrilla fighting virtually impossible, but that’s not true over in there. You go from Laos and Cambodia, into Vietnam, and bring North Vietnam into it too, it’s the damnedest mess on earth. The French lost 250,000 men and spent a couple billion of their money and two billion of ours down in there. Just got the hell whipped out of them. And they got the best troops they had. In fact, they had a crack division of German troopers who were serving and the French Foreign Legion went down there. Johnson: You don’t have any doubt but if we go in there and get them up against the wall, the Chinese Communists is going to come in? Russell: No doubt at all. Johnson: That’s my judgment, and my people don’t think so. Russell: There’s no doubt in my mind about it. You’ll find Chinese volunteers in there as soon as, very shortly, after we have active combat units engaged. Johnson: Now Mike writes me a memo and all he says is that we continue to support the Vietnamese, and that’s number one, and “end to the reflex of pique and face saving of every essay of DeGaulle’s.” Well, we’re not piqued, we just asked DeGaulle to give us a blueprint, and he don’t have it, he just says neutralization. But there ain’t nobody wants to agree to neutralization. We ask him who would agree to go with old Ben Milam,1 we’re ready, but he just says, well, we have to continue to maintain our strength and get in a position. But he’s got no blueprint. “Three, realistic facing of the fact that we are in this situation without reliable military allies.” Well, hell, I know that. “Four, an exploration of the possibility of the United Nations or some other arrangement.” Well. Russell: Who is this? Johnson: This is Mike Mansfield. They [the United Nations] won’t do a damn thing even on the Cambodian border, and hell, we can’t get a majority vote in the Security Council. “Our willingness to entertain any

1 

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reasonable proposals for international conferences.” Well, we are ready to confer with anybody, anytime, but, that conferences ain’t going to do a damn bit of good. They ain’t going to take back and behave. We tell them every week, we tell Khrushchev, send China, Hanoi, and all of them word that we would get out of there and stay out of there if they just quit raiding their neighbors, and they just say, screw you. Russell: That’s right. Johnson: So the conferences won’t do it. Now the whole question as I see it, do we, is it more dangerous for us to let things go as they are going now, deteriorating every day? Russell: I don’t think we can let it go, Mr. President, indefinitely. Johnson: Than it would be for us to move in? Russell: Well, either we move in or move out. Johnson: That’s about what it is. Russell: You can make a tremendous case for moving out, but a good for moving in? Johnson: Well, now Nixon and Rockefeller. Russell: But it would be more consistent with their attitude of the American people and their general reactions to go in. They could understand it. But getting out, even after we go in, getting bogged down with the war with China, and it’s going to be a hell of a mess, it be worse than the one now to some extent, and that’s what makes it so difficult. And don’t forget that old Ben Milam was the only man that got killed. Old Ben was a hell of a hero, but he got killed. Johnson: That’s right. Russell: And old Ben was killed. And so if they start off with Ben Milam, which they ain’t going to do with any inside degree, they’ll get out and Ben will be killed. It’s just a hell of a come on. I don’t know, I don’t know how much Russia—they want to cause us all the trouble as they can. But, ah, if there is any truth in the theory that they are really at odds with China, and really is a cleavage there? Johnson: They are, but they would go with them as soon as the fighting started. They wouldn’t forsake that China, that Communist bloc.

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Russell: I was talking about that. We might get them to take an active part in getting the thing straightened out. Johnson: We are doing all that we can on that, but she doesn’t show any signs of contributing. Russell: Well, they’d be foolish to one extent because we just continue to pour money in there and get nothing back out of it. We don’t even get good will back out of that. I don’t know, I don’t know where to go for advice, I just don’t know where to go for it. McNamara is the smartest fellow any of us know, but he is opinionated as hell and he’s made up his mind on this. I don’t think it . . . Johnson: Well, I’ll tell you, Dick, what he has done. I think he is a pretty flexible fellow. He has gone out there and got Khanh to agree that we cannot launch a counter offensive or hit the North until he gets more stabilized and better set in the South. And thought he was buying us time and we could get by until November. But these politicians got to raising hell, and Scripps Howard writing these stories, and all the Senators, and Nixon, and Rockefeller, and Goldwater all saying let’s move, let’s go in the North. Russell: That was a devastating piece that Lucas had in that little old paper. Johnson: That’s right. Russell: That paper don’t cover much of the country, but if it got out everywhere, that would raise a lot of hell. Johnson: That’s right, and they can always get an isolated example of bad things McNamara says, but that’s not generally true that they had too many damn people being killed every day. And that they are flying the sorties and they even get some result and they’re killing thousands of their people, but we’re losing more, I mean we’re losing ground. And he was hoping that we could avoid moving into the North, and thereby provoking the Chinese, for a few months. Russell: Hell, you know we tried that from an infiltration guerrilla war standpoint with disastrous results. Johnson: Lodge, Nixon, Rockefeller, Goldwater all say move. Eisenhower—

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Russell: Well, and bomb the North, get a whole mess of women and children killed and infuriate everybody? Johnson: No, no, they say pick out an oil plant or pick out a refinery, or something like that, take selected targets, watch this trail they’re coming down, and try to bomb them out when they’re coming in. Russell: Oh, hell, it ain’t worth it a hoot. That’s just impossible. Johnson: McNamara said yesterday that in Korea LeMay and all of them were going to stop all of those tanks, and there were 90 of them coming through, and they turned the Air Force loose on them and they got one. Eighty-nine came on through. Russell: We tried it in Korea. We even got out a lot of old B-29s to increase the bombing load, and sent them over there and just dropped millions and millions of pounds of bombs day and night. And in the morning, we’d knock out the road at night, in the morning the damn people be back traveling over it. That’s true on that railroad over there on the north coast. We used the Navy with these 14 inch rifles [guns] and knocked a mountain down on it, shelled it, and knocked down this mountain and covered up the railroad tracks. And everybody said, “by God, we’ve got them now.” And in the next morning, the trains were running like the devil right over that track. We shot up several million dollars worth of shells thinking we had closed it. We never could actually interdict all their lines of communication in Korea even though we had absolute control of the seas and the air. And we never did stop them. And you ain’t going to stop these people either. Johnson: Well, they’d impeach a president, though, that would run out, wouldn’t they? Russell: I don’t think they would. Johnson: I just don’t believe that outside of Morse, everybody that I’ve talked to says that you got to go in, including Hickenlooper, including all the Republicans, nobody disagreed with him yesterday when he made the statement that we had to stand. And I don’t know how in hell you’re going to get out, unless they tell you to get out. Russell: If we had a man over there running the government, that we told to get out, we could should do it. Johnson: That’s right, but you can’t do that.

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Russell: I don’t know if we could get somebody else. I don’t remember that fellow’s name, some sort of a maverick, that’s got a bit of a following in below Saigon and then all our people hate him because he’s always against the government. And he’s not fighting them and all, but he’s a very powerful man in Vietnam, and everybody who takes over the government gives him as an excuse for their repressions and suppressions. And if he were to get and say, “now you damn Yankees get out of here, I’m running the government now.” Johnson: Wouldn’t that pretty well fix us in the eyes of the world and make us look mighty bad? Russell: Well, I don’t know, we don’t look too good right now. And course, you’d look pretty good, I guess, going in there with all the troops, sending them all in there, but I’ll tell you it’ll be the most expensive adventure this country ever went into. Johnson: I’ve got a little old sergeant that works for me over at the house and he’s got six children. And I just put him up as the United States Army and Air Force and Navy every time I think about making this decision. I think about sending that father of those six kids in there, and what the hell are we going to get out of his doing in? It just makes the chills run up my back. Russell: It does me. Johnson: I haven’t the nerve to do it, but I don’t see any other way out of it. Russell: It doesn’t make much sense to do it. It’s one of these things, heads I win, tails you lose. Johnson: Well, think about it, and I’ll talk to you again. I hate to bother you. Russell: I feel for you, God knows I do. It’s a terrific quandary that we’re in over there. We’re in the quicksands up to our very neck, and I just don’t know what the hell the best way to do about it. Johnson: I love you, and I’ll be calling you. Russell: I’ll see you, sir.

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Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) Washington, May 27, 1964, 11:24 a.m.

Here follows discussion of the Seaborn mission to Hanoi and plans for Ambassador Stevenson to meet with the President.

Johnson: I will tell you the more, I just stayed awake last night thinking of this thing, and the more that I think of it I don’t know what in the hell, it looks like to me that we’re getting into another Korea. It just worries the hell out of me. I don’t see what we can ever hope to get out of there with once we’re committed. I believe the Chinese Communists are coming into it. I don’t think that we can fight them 10,000 miles away from home and ever get anywhere in that area. I don’t think it’s worth fighting for and I don’t think we can get out. And it’s just the biggest damn mess that I ever saw. Bundy: It is an awful mess. Johnson: And we just got to think about it. I’m looking at this Sergeant of mine this morning and he’s got 6 little old kids over there, and he’s getting out my things, and bringing me in my night reading, and all that 389

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kind of stuff, and I just thought about ordering all those kids in there. And what in the hell am I ordering them out there for? What in the hell is Vietnam worth to me? What is Laos worth to me? What is it worth to this country? We’ve got a treaty but hell, everybody else has got a treaty out there, and they’re not doing a thing about it. Bundy: Yeah, yeah. Johnson: Of course, if you start running from the Communists, they may just chase you right into your own kitchen. Bundy: Yeah, that’s the trouble. And that is what the rest of that half of the world is going to think if this thing comes apart on us. That’s the dilemma, that’s exactly the dilemma. Johnson: But everybody that I talk to that’s got any sense now they just says Oh, my God, please give us thought. Of course I was reading Mansfield’s stuff this morning, and it is just Milquetoast as it can be. He’s got no spine at all. Bundy: Yeah. Johnson: But this is a terrible thing that we’re getting ready to do. Bundy: Mr. President, I just think it figure it is really the only big decision in one sense, this is the one that we have to either reach up and get it, or we let it go by. And I’m not telling you today what I’d do in your position. I just think that the most that we have to do with it is pray with it for another while. Johnson: Anybody else that we got that can advise with, that might have any judgement on this question, that might be fresh, that might have some new approach. Would Bradley be any good? Would Clay be any good? Bundy: No, Bradley would be no good. I do not think Clay would add. I think you’re constantly searching, if I understand you correctly, for some means of stiffening this thing that does not have this escalating aspect to it, and I’ve been up and down this with Bob McNamara, and I have up and down it again with Mike Forrestal. And I think that there are some marginal things that we can do, . . . but I think, also, Mr. President, you can do, what I think Kennedy did at least once which is to make the threat without having made your own internal decision that you would actually carry it through. Now I think that the risk in

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that is that we have, at least, it seemed to do it about once or twice before. And there’s another dilemma in here, which is the difficulty your own people have in. I’m not talking about Dean Rusk or Bob McNamara or me, but people who are at second removed, who just find it very hard to be firm, if they’re not absolutely clear what your decision is. And yet you must safeguard that decision and keep your . . . Johnson: What does Bill think that we ought to do? Bundy: He’s in favor of touching things up, but you ought to talk to him about it. I’ve got an extremely good memorandum from Forrestal1 that I’m just getting ready for you that shows what he thinks about it. Johnson: What does he think? Bundy: He thinks that we ought to be ready to move a little bit, a little bit. And mainly the Vietnamese. On the other hand, a readiness to do more. He believes really that’s the best way of galvanizing the South, that if they feel that we are prepared to take a little action against the center of this infection, that that’s the best way . . . Johnson: What action do we take, though? Bundy: Well, I think that we really do need to do some target fodder work, Mr. President, that shows precisely what we do and don’t mean here. The main object is to kill as few people as possible, while creating an environment in which the incentive to react is as low as possible. But I can’t say to you that this is a small matter. There’s one other thing that I’ve thought about, I’ve only just thought overnight, and it’s on this same matter of saying to a guy, you go to Korea, or you go to Vietnam, and you fight in the rice paddies. I would love to know what happened if we were to say in this same speech, and from now on, nobody goes on this task who doesn’t volunteer. I think that we might turn around the atmosphere of our own people out there, if it were a volunteer enterprise. I suspect that the Joints Chiefs won’t agree to that, but I’d like to know what would happen. If we really dramatized this as Americans against terror and Americans keeping their commitment, and Americans who have only peace as their object, and only Americans who want to go have to go, you might change the temper of it some. 1 Apparent

reference to a memorandum from Forrestal to Bundy, May 26, printed in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. I, Document 178.

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Johnson: Well, you wouldn’t have a Corporals’ Guard would you? Bundy: I just don’t know, I just don’t know. If that’s true, then I’m not sure that we’re the country to do this job. Johnson: I don’t think that it’s just Morse and Russell, and Gruening, I think it’s . . . Bundy: I know it isn’t. I know it Mr. President, it is 90% of the people that don’t want any part of it. Johnson: Did you see the poll this morning? 65% of them don’t know anything about it, and of those that do, the majority think that we’re mishandling it. But they don’t know what to do, that Gallup. Bundy: Yeah, yeah. Johnson: It’s damn easy to get into a war, but if it’s going to be awful hard to ever extricate yourself if you get in. Bundy: Very easy. I’m very sensitive to the fact that the people who are having trouble with the intransigent problem find it very easy to come and say to the President of the United States, go and be tough. Johnson: What does Lippmann think that you ought to do? Bundy: Well, I’m going to talk with him at greater length, but what he really thinks is that you should provide a diplomatic structure within which the thing can go under the control of Hanoi, and walk away from it. I don’t think that’s an unfair statement, but I will ask him. Johnson: You mean that he thinks that Hanoi ought to take South Vietnam? Bundy: Yes sir, diplomatically. Johnson: Uh, huh. Bundy: Maybe by calling it a neutralization and removing American force and letting it slip away the way that Laos did, would if we didn’t do anything, and will if we don’t do anything. We would guarantee the neutrality in some sort of a treaty that we would write. I think, I’m sorry, I’m not sure that I’m the best person to describe Lippmann’s views, because I don’t agree with them. Johnson: Who, who, who, who has he been talking to besides you? Has he talked to Rusk on any of this? Has he talked to McNamara?

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Bundy: He’s talked to George Ball. And he’s talked to, I don’t think that he’s talked to Rusk, and I don’t think he’s talked to McNamara. Johnson: Wouldn’t it be good for he and McNamara to sit down? Bundy: I think that it would be very good, but I don’t think, I think, I had planned to have lunch with Walter on Monday, because I couldn’t find a workable time before for that, but I can do it sooner, if you’d like me to. Johnson: I wish you would. Bundy: I will. Johnson: I’d try to get his ideas a little more concrete before I leave here. And I’d like to have him talk to McNamara. I might, I might just have the three of you in this afternoon sometime. Bundy: All right. Johnson: Walter, McNamara and him [Ball?]. I’d like to hear Walter and McNamara debate. Bundy: Debate it?2 Johnson: Yeah.

2 According to the President’s Daily Diary, the President met with McNamara, McGeorge

Bundy, Ball, and Lippmann from 4:30 p.m. to approximately 5 p.m. (Johnson Library) Ball wrote Rusk an account of the meeting, noting that Lippmann “made his usual argument for neutralization.” Ball reported that when he pressed, Lippmann admitted that he assumed Southeast Asia was “destined inevitably to become a zone of Chinese Communist control” and the best U.S. course was to slow that expansionism and “make it less brutal.” Ball did not think the President “bought Lippmann’s thesis,” but Johnson was impressed with Lippmann’s view that the United States was losing the battle of international public relations. After the President left, the group debated Southeast Asia and Vietnam for another hour. (Letter from Ball to Rusk, May 31; Department of State, Ball Files: Lot 74 D 272, Vietnam (Ball’s Memos))

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE TO CONGRESS August 5, 1964

To the Congress of the United States:

Last night I announced to the American people that the North Vietnamese regime had conducted further deliberate attacks against U.S. naval vessels operating in international waters, and therefore directed air action against gunboats and supporting facilities used in these hostile operations. This air action has now been carried out with substantial damage to the boats and facilities. Two U.S. aircraft were lost in the action. After consultation with the leaders of both parties in the Congress, I  further announced a decision to ask the Congress for a resolution expressing the unity and determination of the United States in supporting freedom and in protecting peace in southeast Asia. These latest actions of the North Vietnamese regime have given’ a new and grave turn to the already serious situation in southeast Asia. Our commitments in that area are well known to the Congress. They were first made in 1954 by President Eisenhower. They were further defined in the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty approved by the Senate in February 1955. This treaty with its accompanying protocol obligates the United States and other members to act in accordance with their constitutional processes to meet Communist aggression against any of the parties or protocol states.

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Our policy in southeast Asia has been consistent and unchanged since 1954. I summarized it on June 2 in four simple propositions:

1. America keeps her word. Here as elsewhere, we must and shall honor our commitments. 2. The issue is the future of southeast Asia as a whole. A threat to any nation in that region is a threat to all, and a threat to us. 3. Our purpose is peace. We have no military, political, or territorial ambitions in the area. 4. This is not just a jungle war, but a struggle for freedom on every front of human activity. Our military and economic assistance to South Vietnam and Laos in particular has the purpose of helping these countries to repel aggression and strengthen their independence.

The threat to the three nations of southeast Asia has long been clear. The North Vietnamese regime has constantly sought to take over South Vietnam and Laos. This Communist regime has violated the Geneva accords for Vietnam. It has systematically conducted a campaign of subversion, which includes the direction, training, and supply of personnel and arms for the conduct of guerrilla warfare in South Vietnamese territory. In Laos, the North Vietnamese regime has maintained military forces, used Laotian territory for infiltration into South Vietnam, and most recently carried out combat operations—all in direct violation of the Geneva agreements of 1962. In recent months, the actions of the North Vietnamese regime have become steadily more threatening. In May, following new acts of Communist aggression in Laos, the United States undertook reconnaissance flights over Laotian territory, at the request of the Government of Laos. These flights had the essential mission of determining the situation in territory where Communist forces were preventing inspection by the International Control Commission. When the Communists attacked these aircraft, I responded by furnishing escort fighters with instructions to fire when fired upon. Thus, these latest North Vietnamese attacks on our naval vessels are not the first direct attack on armed forces of the United States. As President of the United States I have concluded that I should now ask the Congress on its part, to join in affirming the national determination

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that all such attack swill be met, and that the United States will continue in its basic policy of assisting the free nations of the area to defend their freedom. As I have repeatedly made clear, the United States intends no rashness, and seeks no wider war. We must make it clear to all that the United States is united in its determination to bring about the end of Communist subversion and aggression in the area. We seek the full and effective restoration of the international agreements signed in Geneva in 1954, with respect to South Vietnam, and again in Geneva in 1962, with respect to Laos. I recommend a resolution expressing the support of the Congress for all necessary action to protect our Armed Forces and to assist nations covered by the SEATO Treaty. At the same time, I assure the Congress that we shall continue readily to explore any avenues of political solution that will effectively guarantee the removal of Communist subversion and the preservation of the independence of the nations of the area. The resolution could well be based upon similar resolutions enacted by the Congress in the past-to meet the threat to Formosa in 1955, to meet the threat to the Middle East in 1957, and to meet the threat in Cuba in 1962. It could state in the simplest terms the resolve and support of the Congress for action to deal appropriately with attacks against our Armed Forces and to defend freedom and preserve peace in southeast Asia in accordance with the obligations of the United States under the Southeast Asia Treaty. I urge the Congress to enact such a resolution promptly and thus to give convincing evidence to the aggressive Communist nations, and to the world as a whole, that our policy in southeast Asia will be carried forward—and that the peace and security of the area will be preserved. The events of this week would in any event have made the passage of a congressional resolution essential. But there is an additional reason for doing so at a time when we are entering on 3 months of political campaigning. Hostile nations must understand that in such a period the United States will continue to protect its national interests, and that in these matters there is no division among us.

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Text of Joint Resolution (The Tonkin Gulf Resolution), August 7, Department of State Bulletin 24 August 1964

T

o promote the maintenance of international peace and security in Southeast Asia. Whereas naval units of the communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United States naval vessels lawfully present in international waters, and have thereby created a serious threat to international peace; and Whereas these attacks are part of a deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression that the communist regime in North Vietnam has been waging against its neighbors and the nations joined with them in the collective defense of their freedom; and Whereas the United States is assisting the peoples of Southeast Asia to protect their freedom and has no territorial, military or political ambitions in that area, but desires only that these peoples should be left in peace to work out their own destinies in their own way: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression. 399

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Sec. 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in Southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom. Sec. 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress. ***

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W.P. Bundy, Second Draft of “Next Courses of Action in Southeast Asia” 11 August 1964

SECOND DRAFT W. P. Bundy August 11, 1964 NEXT COURSES OF ACTION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA I. INTRODUCTION

This memorandum examines the courses of action the US might pursue, commencing in about two weeks, assuming that the Communist side does not react further to the events of last week. We have agreed that the intervening period will be in effect a short holding phase, in which we would avoid actions that would in any way take the onus off the Communist side for escalation. We will not send the DESOTO patrol back; will hold up on new 34A operations (continuing only essential re-supply of airdropped missions, plus relatively safe leaflet drops); continue intensive reconnaissance of the DRV and the Panhandle (PDJ if necessary) but hold up on U-2s over Communist China at least until we can use Chinat polots and unless we have evidence suggesting major military moves. Within Laos, the attempt to secure Phou Kout would continue, as would consolidation of the Triangle gains, but nothing further would be done or indicated. 401

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We are not yet sure what the Communist side may do in this period. They have introduced aircraft into North Vietnam, and may well send in at least token ground forces. VC activity should step up markedly at any moment. Although the volume of Chicom propaganda and demonstrations is ominous, it does not yet clearly suggest any further moves; if they were made, we would act accordingly. This memorandum assumes the Communist side does not go beyond the above. II. ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS IN THE SITUATION

A. South Vietnam is not going well. The Mission’s monthly report (Saigon 877) expresses the hope that there can be significant gains by the end of the year. But it also says Khanh’s chances of staying in power are only 50-50, that the leadership (though not so much the people or the army) has symptoms of defeatism and hates the prospect of slugging it out within the country, that there will be mounting pressures for wider action which, if resisted, will create frictions and irritations which could lead local politicians to serious consideration of a negotiated solution or local soldiers to a military adventure without US “consent.” In other words, even if the situation in our own view does go a bit better, we have a major problem of maintaining morale. Our actions of last week lifted that morale temporarily, but it could easily sag back again if the VC have some successes and we do nothing further. B. Laos, on the other hand has righted itself remarkably—so much so that a Communist retaliatory move is a real possibility. If Phou Kout can be secured, the present military areas of control are if anything better for Souvanna than the line of last April. T-28 operations have been a major factor, and really hurt PL morale. Souvanna’s internal position is also stronger, though the rightwing generals could make fools of themselves again at any time. C. Laos negotiations may well start to move in the near future whatever we do. Souvanna has agreed to a tripartite meeting in Paris, and has suggested August 24th. With his gains in hand, he has already indicated he is likely not to insist on his previous precondition of Communist withdrawal from the PDJ before agreeing to a 14-nation conference. The USSR, India, and France—and the UK and Canada only slightly less so—are pressing for a conference or

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at least clear motion toward one. While it is not yet clear that Souphanouvang will accept the tripartite as proposed by Souvanna, we must recognize that if he does it will be a real step toward an eventual conference. We can and will urge Souvanna to go slow, but our control will be limited. D. As of now, Hanoi and Peiping are certainly not persuaded that they must abandon their efforts in South Vietnam and Laos. The US response to the Vietnamese naval attacks has undoubtedly convinced the Communist side that we will act strongly where US force units are directly involved—as they have previously seen in our handling of Laos reconnaissance. But in other respects the Communist side may not be so persuaded that we are prepared to take stronger actions, either in response to infiltration into South Vietnam or VC activity. The Communists probably believe that we might counter air action in Laos quite firmly, but that we would not wish to be drawn into ground action there.

III. ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF US POLICY

A. South Vietnam is still the main theater. Morale and momentum there must be maintained. This means: 1. We must devise means of action that get maximum results for minimum risks. 2. We must continue to oppose any Viet-Nam conference and must play the prospect of a Laos conference very carefully. We must particularly avoid any impression of rushing to a Laos conference, and must show a posture of general firmness into which an eventual Laos conference would fit without serious loss. 3. We particularly need to keep our hands free for at least limited measures against the Laos infiltration areas. B. Laos. It is our interest to stabilize the Laos situation as between the Government forces and the PL/VM, and to reduce the chances of a Communist escalating move on this front. (If such a move comes, we must meet it firmly, of course. We should also be stepping up Thai support to deter and prevent any Communist ­nibbles.) However, Souvanna should not give up his strong cards, particularly T-28 operations, without getting a full price for them

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in terms of acceptance of his position and a really satisfactory military status. Moreover, we must seek to reduce as much as possible the inhibiting effect of any Laos talks on actions against the Panhandle. C. Solution. Basically, a solution in both South Viet-Nam and Laos will require a combination of military pressure and some form of communication under which Hanoi (and Peiping) eventually accept the idea of getting out.* Negotiation without continued pressure, indeed without continued military action, will not achieve our objectives in the foreseeable future. But military pressure could be accompanied by attempts to communicate with Hanoi and perhaps Peiping-through third-country channels, through side conversations around a Laos conference of any sort—provided always that we make it clear both to the Communists and to South VietNam that the pressure will continue until we have achieved our objectives. After, but only after, we have established a clear pattern of pressure, we could accept a conference broadened to include the Viet-Nam issue. (The UN now looks to be out as a communication forum, though this could conceivably change.)

TIMING AND SEQUENCE OF ACTIONS

A. PHASE ONE-“Military Silence” (through August) [see Sec. I] PHASE TWO-Limited Pressures (September through December)   There are a number of limited actions we could take that would tend to maintain the initiative and the morale of the GVN and Khanh, but that would not involve major risks of escalation. Such actions could be such as to foreshadow stronger measures to come, though they would not in themselves go far to change Hanoi’s basic actions. 1. 34A operations could be overtly acknowledged and justified by the GVN. Marine operations could be strongly defended on the basis of continued DRV sea infiltration, and successes could be publicized. Leaflet operations could also be admitted and *  We have never defined precisely what we mean by “getting out”—what actions, what proofs, and what future guarantees we would accept. A small group should work on this over the next months.

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defended, again on the grounds of meeting DRV efforts in the South, and their impunity (we hope) would tend to have its own morale value in both Vietnams. Air-drop operations are more doubtful; their justification is good but less clear than the other operations, and their successes have been few. With the others admitted, they could be left to speak for themselves-and of course security would forbid any mention of specific operations before they succeeded. 2. Joint planning* between the US and the GVN already covers possible actions against the DRV and also against the Panhandle. It can be used in itself to maintain morale of the GVN leadership as well as to control and inhibit any unilateral GVN moves. With 34A surfaced, it could be put right into the same framework. We would not ourselves publicize this planning, but it could be leaked (as it probably would anyway) with desirable effects in Hanoi and elsewhere. 3. Stepped-up training of Vietnamese on jet aircraft should now be undertaken in any event in light of the presence of MIG’s in North Vietnam. The JCS are preparing a plan, and the existence of training could be publicized both for its morale effect in the GVN and as a signal to Hanoi of possible future action. 4. Cross-border operations into the Panhandle could be conducted on a limited scale. To be successful, ground operations would have to be so large in scale as to be beyond what the GVN can spare, and we should not at this time consider major US or Thai ground action from the Thai side. But on the air side, there are at least a few worthwhile targets in the infiltration areas, and these could be hit by US and/or GVN air. Probably we should use both; probably we should avoid publicity so as not to embarrass Souvanna; the Communist side might squawk, but in the past they have been silent on this area. The strikes should probably be timed and plotted on the map to bring them to the borders of North Vietnam at the end of December. 5. DESOTO patrols could be reintroduced at some point. Both for present purposes and to maintain the credibility of our account of the events of last week, they must be clearly dissociated from *  This is in Phase One also.

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34A operations both in fact and in physical appearance. In terms of course patterns, we should probably avoid penetrations of 11 miles or so and stay at least 30 miles off; whatever the importance of asserting our view of territorial waters, it is less than the international drawbacks of appearing to provoke attack unduly. 6. Specific tit-for-tat actions could be undertaken for any VC or DRV activity suited to the treatment. These would be “actions of opportunity.” As Saigon 877 points out, the VC have “unused dirty tricks” such as mining (or attacks) in the Saigon River, sabotage of major POL stocks, and terrorist attacks on US dependents. The first two, at least, would land themselves to prompt and precise reprisal, e.g., by mining the Haiphong channel and attacking the Haiphong POL storage. Terrorism against US dependents would be harder to find the right reprisal target, and reprisal has some disadvantages in that it could be asked why this was different from the regular pattern of terrorism.

C. PHASE THREE-More Serious Pressures (January 1965 and following).   All the above actions would be foreshadowing systematic military action against the DRV, and we might at some point conclude that such action was required either because of incidents arising from the above actions or because of deterioration in the situation in South Vietnam, particularly if there were to be clear evidence of greatly increased infiltration from the north. However, in the absence of such major new developments, we should probably be thinking of a contingency date, as suggested by Ambassador Taylor, of 1 January 1965. Possible categories of action beginning at about that time, are: 1. Action against infiltration routes and facilities is probably the best opening gambit. It would follow logically the actions in the Sept.-Dec. Phase Two. It could be strongly justified by evidence that infiltration was continuing and, in all probability, increasing. The family of infiltration-related targets starts with clear military installations near the borders. It can be extended almost at will northward, to inflict progressive damage that would have a meaningful cumulative effect, and would always be keyed to one rationale.

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2. Action in the DRV against selected military-related targets would appear to be the next upward move. POL installations and the mining of Haiphong Harbor (to prevent POL import as its rationale) would be spectacular actions, as would action against key bridges and railroads. All of these could probably be designed so as to avoid major civilian casualties. 3. Beyond these points it is probably not useful to think at the ­present time. D. Handling of Laos Negotiations. 1. We would wish to slow down any progress toward a conference and to hold Souvanna to the firmest possible position. Unger’s suggestion of tripartite administration for the PDJ is one possibility that would be both advantageous and a useful delaying gambit. Insistence on full recognition of Souvanna’s position is another point on which he should insist, and there would also be play in the hand on the question of free ICC operations. As to a cease-fire, we would certainly not want this to be agreed to at the tripartite stage, since it would remove Souvanna’s powerful T-28 lever. But since Souvanna has always made a cease-fire one of his preconditions, we must reckon that the other side might insist on it before a conference were convened—which we would hope would not be until January in any case. 2. If, despite our best efforts, Souvanna on his own, or in response to third-country pressures, started to move rapidly toward a conference, we would have a very difficult problem. If the timing of the Laos conference, in relation to the degree of pressures we had then set in motion against the DRV, was such that our attending or accepting the conference would have major morale drawbacks in South Viet-Nam, we might well have to refuse to attend ourselves and to accept the disadvantages of having no direct participation. In the last analysis, GVN morale would have to be the deciding factor.

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SNIE 53-2-64, The Situation in South Vietnam 1 October 1964

The Problem

To examine the situation as it has developed since early September, and to assess its implications for the US. Conclusions

A. Since our estimate of 8 September 19641 the situation in South Vietnam has continued to deteriorate. A coup by disgruntled South Vietnam military figures could occur at any time. In any case, we believe that the conditions favor a further decay of GVN will and effectiveness. The likely pattern of this decay will be increasing defeatism, paralysis of leadership, friction with Americans, exploration of possible lines of political accommodation with the other side, and a general petering out of the war effort. It is possible that the civilian government promised for the end of October could improve GVN esprit and effectiveness, but on the basis of present indications, this is unlikely. B. We do not believe that the Viet Cong will make any early effort to seize power by force of arms; indeed, we doubt that they have the capability for such a takeover. They will continue to exploit and encourage the trend toward anarchy, looking for the emergence of a neutralist coalition government which they can dominate. 1 

SNIE 53-64, “Chances for a Stable Government in South Vietnam,” dated 8 September 1964, Secret. [Footnote in the source text. SNIE 53-64 is printed as Document 341.]

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Discussion The GVN







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1. Continued Political Deterioration. Political conditions in South Vietnam have continued to deteriorate since our estimate of early September. Despite efforts by Prime Minister Nguyen Khanh to stabilize the situation, he has been faced with an attempted coup, rioting and demonstrations in the northern provinces, a massive labor strike in Saigon, and an armed revolt by Montagnard elements among the Special Forces. Khanh’s authority, already weakened by the Buddhist-student crisis in August, has been further diminished, and the degree of his support within the military establishment is increasingly in question. Most of the non-Communist power elements appear to be marking time, pending their assessment of the civilian government which Khanh has promised will be formed by the end of October. 2. The Picture in Saigon. South Vietnam is almost leaderless at the present time. General Khanh has retained his position by making concessions to various interest groups—political, religious, students, military, and labor—which have pressed their demands upon him. In turn, these groups still seem bent on pursuing self interest and factional quarrels almost to the point of anarchy. A lack of sense of purpose and an absence of direction from above have seriously affected morale and created passiveness and apathy within the civil law enforcement agencies. Government ministries in Saigon are close to a standstill, with only the most routine operations going on. Cabinet ministers, as well as second-level bureaucrats, freely express their pessimism, and even though US and GVN officials are again meeting on pacification and other joint planning, these meetings are not being followed by action from the Vietnamese side. 3. GVN Military Morale and Effectiveness. The continuing disarray of the Saigon government, power struggles within the military leadership, and the activities of self-seeking politicians and religious leaders have adversely affected morale within the military establishment. However, the existing level of effectiveness of combat operations does not seem to have been seriously affected as yet. Nevertheless, continuing political instability would almost

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certainly aggravate such long-standing deficiencies in the Vietnamese military effort as inadequate motivation, initiative, and aggressiveness. A continuing lack of firm direction, and further squabbling among senior officers in particular, could depress the morale of the troops and junior officers to the critical point. Although the GVN armed forces have long had a high rate of desertion by individuals, there have been no important unit desertions or defections. If military morale continues to decline, ­however, desertion and defections within both the military and paramilitary services may occur on a larger scale, perhaps even by organized units. 4. Signs of Defeatism in GVN Leadership. High-ranking ARVN officers have confessed to US officers deep discouragement at the lack of leadership and direction. The J-3 of the Joint General Staff has indicated that he feels little reason even to discuss further pacification planning; various high-ranking field commanders have expressed similar pessimism; and General Khanh himself has shown signs of being overwhelmed by his responsibilities. 5. The Situation in the Countryside. The near paralysis of government initiative in Saigon appears to be spreading rapidly to ­outlying areas. Although the southern areas still appear relatively unaffected by the crises of the past several weeks, governmental authority has declined seriously in the northern coastal provinces where provincial and police officials are apparently receiving little guidance from Saigon. In such urban centers as Hue, Danang, Qui Nhon, and Nha Trang, Vietnamese commanders have repeatedly failed to intervene in civil disturbances and rioting on the grounds they lacked precise orders; in some instances, actual authority has passed by default to extremist “vigilante” groups, such as the “People’s Salvation (or Revolutionary) Council” (PRC). The nature of the provincial bureaucracy is such that it can rock along for considerable time, carrying out existing programs despite political deterioration in Saigon. Nevertheless, continued confusion and inaction in Saigon, or another coup, could rapidly produce a critical deterioration in government in the countryside. A slippage in morale and in programs among provincial administrations, at least in the central provinces, has already begun.

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6. The People’s Revolutionary Council (PRC). The PRC has established local councils in many coastal cities and may seek to form a chapter in Saigon, where two PRC leaders have recently been named to the new 17-man High National Council. The aims of the PRC are not clear, but the local councils seem vulnerable to Viet Cong penetration, and the fact that they have assumed government powers in some provincial cities tends to undermine Saigon’s control and to damage the morale of civil servants. 7. The Montagnard Problem. The Rhade revolt of 20 September and the continuing possibility of further and more general uprisings by the Montagnards pose an immediate and very serious problem for the GVN. The Montagnards have a violent dislike for and distrust of the lowland Vietnamese, and have sought autonomy for years. The Vietnamese on their part look down on the Montagnards; until recently, the GVN has usually acted in a manner which has widened rather then lessened the breach between the two. The problem has been further compounded by constant and rather intensive Viet Cong political and psychological agitation among the Montagnards, playing on their aspirations and their dislike of the ethnic Vietnamese. Resentment over the killing of some 70 Vietnamese by tribesmen during their revolt will make it ­extremely difficult for the GVN to offer settlement terms acceptable to the Montagnards. Thus, there will probably be continuing disorders in the Highland areas, diminishing cooperation with the GVN, and increasing Viet Cong influence. 8. Offsetting Considerations. Although the signs of deterioration are many and clear, there are offsetting considerations that reduce the likelihood of sudden collapse and afford some very slim hope that the trend can be arrested. The Vietnamese people have a long record of resilience in the face of adversity; the ability of the peasants and even of urban elements to continue normal patterns of life despite political disorder makes for some degree of basic stability. The routine functions of government still work fairly normally; business does go on; and the streets are not places of constant terror. Discouragement over the absence of leadership and the progress of the war has not yet led to calls for ending the fighting. Few if any of the many groups now seeking to enlarge their powers regard an accommodation with the Communists as consistent with

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their interests. Finally, the military instrumentalities of pacification still exist and retain significant capabilities. 9. Tensions in US-GVN Relations. In the last month or so, there has been a disturbing increase in anti-American sentiment at various levels of Vietnamese society. Recent demonstrations in Hue, Da Nang, Qui Nhon, and Nha Trang have had definite anti-American overtones. These were probably attributable in part to Viet Cong agitation and incitement, but in some measure they seem also to have reflected a genuine irritation at the Americans for various reasons having no direct connection with Viet Cong activity. For its part, the Buddhist leadership, whether anti-Communist or not, is imbued with intense nationalism which has at times manifested itself in opposition to US policies and actions. Suspicion of US motives and concern over US involvement in internal policy is growing among the top echelons of the GVN, and, most importantly, on the part of Khanh himself. 10. GVN Contacts with the Communists. The principal GVN leaders have not to our knowledge been in recent contact with the Communists, but there has been at least one instance of informal contact between a lesser governmental official and members of the “National Liberation Front,” which is a creation of Hanoi. Moreover, there are numerous potential channels of communication between the present GVN leadership and the DRV authorities, and these could very likely be used without US knowledge. 11. Coup Possibilities. Although no definite coup plans are known to be afoot at the moment, we believe that further coup attempts are likely, given the ambitions, discouragement, and bitterness prevalent among certain key South Vietnamese military and civilian figures—and the comparative ease of mounting a coup attempt in the present deteriorating scene. 12. Alternatives to Present GVN Leadership. Present plans call for the establishment of a new, broadly-based, and predominantly civilian government by the end of October. Such a government might do better than the present one, but the odds are against its having the cohesion and effectiveness necessary to arrest the current decline. No visible alternative seems any more promising. Indeed, we cannot presently see any likely source of real leadership; no Magsaysay has yet appeared. None of the military personalities and factions

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seems capable of commanding a sufficiently broad spectrum of support. Of nonmilitary figures, the Buddhist leader Tri Quang is the strongest political personality and has demonstrated talents for leadership and organization. But he apparently desires to avoid such responsibility, and a Tri Quang government would face strong opposition from militant Catholics, some of the military, and certain other groups. Not least, it would be a difficult government for the US to work with, and some of its major policies would almost certainly not be consonant with US interests.

The Viet Cong

13. Viet Cong Policy. There are numerous signs that Viet Cong agents have played a role in helping sustain the level of civil disorder which has recently prevailed in the cities of South Vietnam; they have also affected the tone and direction taken by some recent protest demonstrations. Their hand was evident in the recent riots in the capital of Binh Dinh Province, and they may have already penetrated the PRC. Viet Cong propaganda throughout September has increasingly called upon the people to take advantage of the government’s confusion by pressing on all fronts. This capitalizing on unrest is an old policy; what is new is the rich opportunity presented by the collapsing of GVN authority. The Viet Cong have apparently decided that heightened efforts on their part will reduce the country to near anarchy and the government to impotence, bringing an early victory in the form of a negotiated truce and a “neutralist” government dominated by their National Liberation Front. Although these heightened efforts may include some battalion-sized, or larger attacks, we do not believe that the Viet Cong are trying to force a military decision at this stage. Rather, they will continue stressing small-scale terrorist activity aimed at furthering the breakdown of administration and the decline of faith in the government. 14. Viet Cong Capabilities in the Cities. Viet Cong strength in the cities has almost certainly increased substantially in recent months We base this conclusion on our general reading of the present situation rather than on specific knowledge of current Viet Cong assets. In the closing days of the Diem regime, Vietnamese police

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and security agencies had a fairly good reading on the nature and extent of the Viet Cong apparatus in the capital area, and it did not constitute a serious threat at that time. Immediately following the November 1963 coup, however, Colonel Tran Ba Thanh became Deputy Director of National Police. There are strong grounds for believing that Tranh may be a Communist agent; in any event he released some key Viet Cong prisoners, destroyed Viet Cong dossiers in police archives, and placed at least one known Viet Cong agent in a key position within the police structure. Although Thanh was ousted when Khanh seized power, the Saigon police and security services have not recovered their antiCommunist capabilities. The fact that Communist agitation still remains under careful cover, however, suggests that the Viet Cong intend still to husband these assets and not risk them in a premature takeover attempt.

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Cable (Saigon 1129) from the Siagon Embassy to the Department of State on the Deteriorating Situation in South Vietnam 14 October 1964

FM: SAIGON 1129 TO: STATE REF: Embtel 1046 My impressions this week are colored by the receipt of the monthly reports from the field for September. That month and October thus far have seen little or no progress in the overall situation (except possibly in the work of the High National Council) and some deterioration, particularly in the northern provinces. It has been a period characterized by government instability, civil disorders (now quieting down), indications of increased infiltration from the north, and a high level of military activity both on the part of the Viet Cong and the Government Forces. During the past week, our attention and efforts have been focused primarily on the activities of the High National Council and its efforts to lay the foundation of a strong provisional government. We have been trying hard to influence it in the right direction and to bring about some understanding between the council and the military. I have been encouraged by the seriousness of purpose of the council and the evidence of having made considerable progress. We expect momentarily the ­announcement 417

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of a provisional charter which will provide for a Chief of State, a Prime Minister and eventually for a national assembly chosen at least in part by elections. It remains to be seen what kind of a reception the charter will receive from the public and interested minorities. According to our contacts with members of the council, General Minh is the leading candidate for Chief of State, but there is no consensus as to the Prime Minister who, it is hoped, will be a strong civilian. The council members are worried about General Khanh’s attitude toward their plans. They want him in the government but are afraid he will not take a reduction from Prime Minister to Minister of Defense or Commander-in-Chief as they would prefer. My talks with Khanh lead me to hope they are wrong in their misgivings and that both Minh and Khanh will undertake appropriate roles in the new government. There remains the unanswered questions of the selection of the civilian Prime Minister. Probably the principal obstacle now in the path of the new government. On the military front, the Viet Cong appear to be holding down the number of attacks on military forces and concentrating on acts of sabotage and terrorism directed at impressing the civilian population. One reason for this emphasis is undoubtedly the heavy losses they have recently been taking in engagements with government forces. The cumulative effect of these losses must be creating manpower problems for them and probably explains the definite step-up in infiltration from North Vietnam, particularly in the northern provinces of South Vietnam. A recent analysis suggests that if the present rate of infiltration is maintained the annual figure for 1964 will be of the order of 10,000. Furthermore, as has probably been called to your attention, we are finding more and more “bona fide” North Vietnamese soldiers among the infiltrees. I feel sure that we must soon adopt new and drastic methods to reduce and eventually end such infiltration if we are ever to succeed in South Vietnam. Pacification activities were sluggish during the week except in the Hop Tac area around Saigon where some progress is being made. In particular, the Hop Tac police are being somewhat more effective in controlling the movement of contraband intended for the use of the Viet Cong. The psychological climate seems to be about the same, with some nervousness in Saigon over the outcome of the work of the High National Council. There are rumors Khanh may encourage demonstrations to maintain himself in office. I am inclined to doubt this but Khanh could be playing a deeper game than we presently think.

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Personal Note from W.W. Rostow to Robert McNamara on “Military Dispositions and Political Signals” 16 November 1964

PERSONAL TO: Secretary McNamara FROM: W. W. Rostow SUBJECT: Military Dispositions and Political Signals Following on our conversation of last night I am concerned that too much thought is being given to the actual damage we do in the North, not enpugh thought to the signal we wish to send. The signal consists of three parts:

a) damage to the North is now to be inflicted because they are violating the 1954 and 1962 Accords; b) we are ready and able to go much further than our initial act of damage; c) We are ready and able to meet any level of escalation they might mount in response; if they are so minded.

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Four points follow.





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1. I am convinced that we should not go forward into the next stage without a US ground force commitment of some kind: a. The withdrawal of those ground forces could be a critically important part of our diplomatic bargaining position. Ground forces can sit during a conference more easily than we can maintain a series of mounting air and naval pressures. b. We must make clear that counter escalation by the Communists will run directly into US strength on the ground; and, therefore, the possibility of radically extending their position on the ground at the cost of air and naval damage alone, is ruled out. c. There is a marginal possibility that in attacking the airfield they were thinking two moves ahead; namely, they may be planning a pre-emptive ground force response to an expected US retaliation for the Bien Hoa attack. 2. The first critical military action against North Vietnam should be designed merely to install the principle that they will, from the present forward, be vulnerable to retaliatory attack in the north for continued violations for the 1954 and 1962 Accords. In other words, we would signal a shift from the principle involved in the Tonkin Gulf response. This means that the initial use of force in the north should be as limited and as unsanguinary as possible. It is the installation of the principle that we are initially interested in, not tit for tat. 3. But our force dispositions to accompany an initial retaliatory move against the north should send three further signals lucidly: a. that we are putting in place a capacity subsequently to step up direct and naval pressure on the north, if that should be required; b. that we are prepared to face down any form of escalation North Vietnam might mount on the ground; and c. that we are putting forces into place to exact retaliation ­directly against Communist China, if Peiping should join in an escalatory response from Hanoi. The latter could take the form of increased aircraft on Formosa plus, perhaps, a carrier force sitting off China as distinguished from the force in the South China Sea.

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4. The launching of this track, almost certainly, will require the President to explain to our own people and to the world our intentions and objectives. This will also be perhaps the most persuasive form of communication with Ho and Mao. In addition, I am inclined to think the most direct communication we can mount (perhaps via Vientiane and Warsaw) is desirable, as opposed to the use of cut-outs. They should feel they now confront an LBJ who has made up his mind. Contrary to an anxiety expressed at an earlier stage, I believe it quite possible to communicate the limits as well as the seriousness of our intentions without raising seriously the fear in Hanoi that we intend at our initiative to land immediately in the Red River Delta, in China, or seek any other objective than the re-installation of the 1954 and 1962 Accords.

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Briefing by Ambassador Taylor on the Current Situation in South Vietnam 27 November 1964

Subject: The Current Situation in South Vietnam-November 1964

After a year of changing and ineffective government, the counter-­ insurgency program country-wide is bogged down and will require heroic treatment to assure revival. Even in the Saigon area, in spite of the planning and the special treatment accorded the Hop Tac plan, this area also is lagging. The northern provinces of South Vietnam which a year ago were considered almost free of Viet Cong are now in deep trouble. In the Quang Ngai-Binh Dinh area, the gains of the Viet Cong have been so serious that once more we are threatened with a partition of the country by a Viet-Cong salient driven to the sea. The pressure on this area has been accompanied by continuous sabotage of the railroad and of Highway 1 which in combination threaten an economic strangulation of the northern provinces. This deterioration of the pacification program has taken place in spite of the very heavy losses inflicted almost daily on the Viet-Cong and the increase in strength and professional competence of the Armed Forces of South Vietnam. Not only have the Vietcong apparently made good their losses, but of late, have demonstrated three new or newly expanded tactics: The use of stand-off mortar fire against important targets, as in the attack on the Bien Hoa airfield; economic strangulation on limited areas; finally, the stepped-up infiltration of DRV military personnel moving from the north. These new or improved tactics employed against the 423

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background of general deterioration offer a serious threat to the pacification program in general and to the safety of important bases and installations in particular. Perhaps more serious than the downward trend in the pacification situation, because it is the prime cause, is the continued weakness of the central government. Although the Huong government has been installed after executing faithfully and successfully the program laid out by the Khanh government for its own replacement, the chances for the long life and effective performance of the new line-up appear small. Indeed, in view of the factionalism existing in Saigon and elsewhere throughout the country, it is impossible to foresee a stable and effective government under any name in anything like the near future. Nonetheless, we do draw some encouragement from the character and seriousness of purpose of Prime Minister Huong and his cabinet and the apparent intention of General Khanh to keep the Army out of politics, at least for the time being. As our programs plod along or mark time, we sense the mounting feeling of war weariness and hopelessness which pervade South Vietnam, particularly in the urban areas. Although the provinces for the most part appear steadfast, undoubtedly there is chronic discouragement there as well as in the cities. Although the military leaders have not talked ­recently with much conviction about the need for “marching North,” assuredly, many of them are convinced that some new and drastic action must be taken to reverse the present trends and to offer hope of ending the insurgency in some finite time. The causes for the present unsatisfactory situation are not hard to find. It stems from two primary causes, both already mentioned above, the continued ineffectiveness of the central government, the increasing strength and effectiveness of the Vietcong and their ability to replace losses. While in view of the historical record of South Vietnam, it is not surprising to have these governmental difficulties, this chronic weakness is a critical liability to future plans. Without an effective central government with which to mesh the US effort, the latter is a spinning wheel unable to transmit impulsion to the machinery of the GVN. While the most critical governmental weaknesses are in Saigon, they are duplicated to a degree in the provinces. It is most difficult to find adequate provincial chiefs and supporting administrative personnel to carry forward the complex programs which are required in the field for successful pacification. It is true that when one regards the

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limited background of the provincial chiefs and their associates, one should perhaps be surprised by the results which they have accomplished, but unfortunately, these results are generally not adequate for the complex task at hand or for the time schedule which we would like to establish. As the past history of this country shows, there seems to be a ­national attribute which makes for factionalism and limits the development of a truly national spirit. Whether this tendency is innate or a development growing out of the conditions of political suppression under which successive generations have lived is hard to determine. But it is an inescapable fact that there is no national tendency toward team play or mutual loyalty to be found among many of the leaders and political groups within South Vietnam. Given time, many of these conditions will undoubtedly change for the better, but we are unfortunately pressed for time and unhappily perceive no short-term solution for the establishment of stable and sound government. The ability of the Vietcong continuously to rebuild their units and to make good their losses is one of the mysteries of this guerrilla war. We are aware of the recruiting methods by which local boys are induced or compelled to join the Viet Cong ranks and have some general appreciation of the amount of infiltration of personnel from the outside. Yet taking both of these sources into account, we still find no plausible explanation of the continued strength of the Vietcong if our data on Viet Cong losses are even approximately correct. Not only do the Viet Cong units have the recuperative powers of the phoenix, but they have an amazing ability to maintain morale. Only in rare cases have we found evidences of bad morale among Viet Cong prisoners or recorded in captured Viet Cong documents. Undoubtedly one cause for the growing strength of the VietCong is the increased direction and support of their campaign by the government of North Vietnam. This direction and support take the form of endless radioed orders and instructions, and the continuous dispatch to South Vietnam of trained cadre and military equipment, over infiltration routes by land and by water. While in the aggregate, this contribution to the guerrilla campaign over the years must represent a serious drain on the resources of the DRV, that government shows no sign of relaxing its support of the Viet Cong. In fact, the evidence points to an increased contribution over the last year, a plausible development, since one would expect the DRV to press hard to exploit the obvious internal weaknesses in the south.

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If, as the evidence shows, we are playing a losing game in South Vietnam, it is high time we change and find a better way. To change the situation, it is quite clear that we need to do three things: first, establish an adequate government in SVN; second, improve the conduct of the counter insurgency campaign; and, finally, persuade or force the DRV to stop its aid to the Viet Cong and to use its directive powers to make the Viet Cong desist from their efforts to overthrow the government of South Vietnam. With regard to the first objective, it is hard to decide what is the minimum government which is necessary to permit reasonable hope for the success of our efforts. We would certainly like to have a government which is capable of maintaining law and order, of making and executing timely decisions, of carrying out approved programs, and generally of leading its people and gearing its efforts effectively with those of the United States. As indicated above, however, it seems highly unlikely that we will see such a government of South Vietnam in the time frame available to us to reverse the downward trend of events. It seems quite probable that we will be obliged to settle for something considerably less. However, it is hard to visualize our being willing to make added outlays of resources and to run increasing political risks without an allied government which, at least, can speak for and to its people, can maintain law and order in the principal cities, can provide local protection for the vital military bases and installations, can raise and support Armed Forces, and can gear its efforts to those of the United States. Anything less than this would hardly be a government at all, and under such circumstances, the United States Government might do better to carry forward the war on a purely unilateral basis. The objective of an improved counter insurgency program will depend for its feasibility upon the capacity of the South Vietnamese government. We cannot do much better than what we are doing at present until the government improves. However, we need to have our plans and means organized on the assumption that some improvement will occur and will permit intensified efforts toward the pacification of the country. In any case, we feel sure that even after establishing some reasonably satisfactory government and effecting some improvement in the counterinsurgency program, we will not succeed in the end unless we drive the DRV out of its reinforcing role and obtain its cooperation in bringing an end to the Viet Cong insurgency.

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To attain these three objectives, we must consider what are the possible courses of action which are open to us. To improve the government we will, of course, continue to aid, advise and encourage it much as we are doing at the present time. We will try to restrain, insofar as we can, the minority groups bent upon its overthrow. We will indicate clearly the desire of the United States Government to see an end to the succession of weak and transitory governments and we will throw all of our influence on the side of stabilizing programs both for organizations and for personnel. As these efforts in themselves will probably be inadequate, we should also consider ways and means to raise the morale and restore the confidence both of the government and of the South Vietnamese people. One way to accomplish this lift of morale would be to increase the covert operations against North Vietnam by sea and air and the counter-infiltration attacks within the Laotian corridor. While the former would be covert in the sense of being disavowed, nonetheless the knowledge of their occurrence could be made known in such a way as to give the morale lift which is desired. Additionally, we could engage in reprisal bombings, to repay outrageous acts of the Vietcong in South Vietnam, such as the attack on Bien Hoa. All these actions, however, may not be sufficient to hold the present government upright. If it fails, we are going to be in deep trouble, with limited resources for subsequent actions. It is true that we could try again with another civilian government but the odds against it would be even higher than those which have confronted the Huong government. We might try in a second civilian government to take over operational control by US officials if indeed the GVN would agree to this change. However, there are more objections to this form of US intervention than there are arguments in favor of it. Another alternative would be to invite back a military dictatorship on the model of that headed of late by General Khanh. However, Khanh did very poorly when he was on the spot and we have little reason to believe that a successor military government could be more effective. Finally, we always have the option of withdrawing, leaving the internal situation to the Vietnamese, and limiting our contribution to military action directed at North Vietnam. Such action, while assuring that North Vietnam would pay a price for its misdeeds in the South, would probably not save South Vietnam from eventual loss to the Viet Cong.

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There is little to say about the ways and means of intensifying the in-country counterinsurgency program except to recognize again that this program depends entirely upon the government. If we can solve the governmental problem, we can improve the in-country program. In bringing military pressure to bear on North Vietnam, there are a number of variations which are possible. At the bottom of the ladder of escalation, we have the initiation of intensified covert operations, antiinfiltration attacks in Laos, and reprisal bombings mentioned above as a means for stiffening South Vietnamese morale. From this level of operations, we could begin to escalate progressively by attacking appropriate targets in North Vietnam. If we justified our action primarily upon the need to reduce infiltration, it would be natural to direct these attacks on infiltration-related targets such as staging areas, training facilities, communications centers and the like. The tempo and weight of the attacks could be varied according to the effects sought. In its final forms, this kind of attack could extend to the destruction of all important fixed targets in North Vietnam and to the interdiction of movement on all lines of communication. Before making a final decision on any of the courses of action, it will be necessary to have a heart-to-heart talk with Prime Minister Huong and General Khanh to find out their reaction to the alternatives which we are considering. They will be taking on risks as great or greater than ours so that they have a right to a serious hearing. We should make every effort to get them to ask our help in expanding the war. If they decline, we shall have to rethink the whole situation. If, as is likely, they urge us with enthusiasm, we should take advantage of the opportunity to nail down certain important points such as:



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a. The GVN undertakes (1) to maintain the strength of its military and police forces; (2) to replace incompetent military commanders and province chiefs and to leave the competent ones in place for an indefinite period; (3) to suppress disorders and demonstrations; (4) to establish effective resources control; and (5) to obtain US concurrence for all military operations outside of South Vietnam. b. The US undertakes responsibility for the air and maritime defense of South Vietnam. c. The GVN takes responsibility for the land defense of South Vietnam to include the protection of all US nationals and installations.

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d. The GVN accepts the US statement (to be prepared) of war aims and circumstances for negotiations.

Shortly after initiating an escalation program it will be important to communicate with the DRV and the CHICOMS to establish certain essential points in the minds of their leaders. The first is that under no circumstances will the United States let the DRV go unscathed and reap the benefits of its nefarious actions in South Vietnam without paying a heavy price. Furthermore, we will not accept any statement from the DRV to the effect that it is not responsible for the Viet Cong insurgency and that it cannot control the Viet Cong actions. We know better and will act accordingly. However, the enemy should know that the United States objectives are limited. We are not seeking to unify North and South Vietnam; we are seeking no permanent military presence in Southeast Asia. But on the other hand, we do insist that the DRV let its neighbors, South Vietnam and Laos, strictly alone. Furthermore, we are not trying to change the nature of the government in Hanoi. If the North Vietnamese prefer a Communist government, that is their choice to make. If the DRV remain aloof from the CHICOMS in a Tito-like state, we would not be adverse to aiding such a government provided it conducted itself decently with its neighbors. But with all, we are tired of standing by and seeing the unabashed efforts of the DRV to absorb South Vietnam into the Communist orbit against its will. We know that Hanoi is responsible and that we are going to punish it until it desists from this behavior. Just how and when such a communication should be transmitted should be a subject of careful study. But, some such transmission is required to assure that the Communists in the North know exactly what is taking place and will continue to take place. We can be reasonably sure that the DRV, and Viet Cong will not take such offensive actions on our part without a reaction. Already the Viet Cong, assisted from Hanoi, are doing many things to hamper and harass the central and local governments of South Vietnam, to encourage minorities to resist Saigon and to foster the spirit of neutralism and defeatism everywhere. They are quite capable of intensifying such actions, of raising the level of harassments of people and officials, of mounting mortar attacks on the model of Bien Hoa, and of continuing to try to effect the economic strangulation of many areas within South Vietnam.

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There are several courses of action which they could adopt which are presently not on their program. They can call for international intervention to force us to desist from our pressures. They can engage in limited air and ground attacks in South Vietnam using formed units of the armies of North Vietnam and perhaps volunteers from Red China. It is quite likely that they will invite some CHICOM military forces into the DRV if only to reinforce its air defense. Furthermore, they have some limited seaborne capability for raids against the South Vietnamese coast. If their counter actions failed and our pressures became unbearable, the DRV might feign submission and undertake to lie low for a time. They would probably, however, insist that they do not have the capability of compelling the Viet Cong to lay down their arms and become lawabiding citizens. Any temporary reduction of their support of the Viet Cong could, of course, be resumed at any time after the United States had been cajoled into leaving the scene of action. In view of the foregoing considerations, we reach the point where a decision must be taken as to what course or courses of action we should undertake to change the tide which is running against us. It seems perfectly clear that we must work to the maximum to make something out of the present Huong government or any successor thereto. While doing so, we must be thinking constantly of what we would do if our efforts are unsuccessful and the government collapses. Concurrently, we should stay on the present in-country program, intensifying it as possible in proportion to the current capabilities of the government. To bolster the local morale and restrain the Viet Cong during this period, we should step up the 34-A operations, engage in bombing attacks and armed recce in the Laotion corridor and undertake reprisal bombing as required. It will be important that United States forces take part in the Laotian operations in order to demonstrate to South Vietnam our willingness to share in the risks of attacking the North. If this course of action is inadequate, and the government falls, then we must start over again or try a new approach. At this moment, it is premature to say exactly what these new measures should be. In any case, we should be prepared for emergency military action against the North if only to shore up a collapsing situation. If, on the other hand as we hope, the government maintains and proves itself, then we should be prepared to embark on a methodical program of mounting air attacks in order to accomplish our pressure

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objectives vis-a-vis the DRV and at the same time do our best to improve in-country pacification program. We will leave negotiation initiatives to Hanoi. Throughout this period, our guard must be up in the Western Pacific, ready for any reaction by the DRV or of Red China. Annex I suggests the train of events which we might set in motion. Whatever the course of events, we should adhere to three principles:

a. Do not enter into negotiations until the DRV is hurting. b. Never let the DRV gain a victory in South Vietnam without having paid a disproportionate price. c. Keep the GVN in the forefront of the combat and the negotiations. Maxwell D. Taylor ANNEX I

SUGGESTED SCENARiO FOR CONTROLLED ESCALATION

(The following suggests a sequence of events without at this time attempting to establish precise time intervals. It assumes that 34-A operations and corridor strikes including armed reconnaissance in Laos have been continuing for some period prior to initiating scenario. It also assumes that background briefing on infiltration has been given in both Saigon and Washington.)





1. Definitive discussions with GVN to obtain firm GVN request for joint action against DRV and to reach agreement on the framework of demands to be made on the DRV as well as on general negotiating procedures. (See 15 below) 2. Initiate discussions with Thai Government. 3. Initiate discussions with other selected friendly governments. 4. Quietly initiate necessary preparatory military moves that have thus far not been taken. (Preparatory military moves should have included or include stationing of Hawk battalion and F-lOS’s at Danang, a MEB afloat off Danang and the alerting of the 173rd ABG). 5. Initiate discussions with RLG.

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6. Cease travel to Vietnam of additional dependents, but take no action to evacuate dependents already in Vietnam pending further developments. 7. An appropriate intermediary tells Hanoi nothing has been heard from the US; he is concerned over the situation; and does Hanoi have anything to pass on to the US? 8. Yankee Team strikes Route Seven targets in Laos. 9. RLAF attack on DRV side of Mua Gia Pass with US air CAP. 10. A single VNAF air strike against an infiltration target in DRV just north of DMZ. 11. A significant MAROP supported by US air cover. 12. GVN-US air strike on an infiltration target just north of DMZ. 13. Continue limited military actions in the foregoing categories sequentially with not more than a few days gap between each, while being prepared promptly to make higher level responses to attacks from MIGs or V-C spectaculars in SVN. 14. Throughout the foregoing, in absence of public statements by DRV, initiate no public statement or publicity by ourselves or GVN. If DRV does make public statements, confine ourselves and GVN to statements that GVN is exercising right of self-defense and we are assisting. 15. In light of developments, disclose to selected allies, and possibly USSR, US/GVN terms for cessation of attacks as follows: (It will be important to assure that one of these channels undertakes accurately and fully to communicate these terms to both Hanoi and Peking)

A. Demands: 1. DRV return to strict observance of 1954 Accords with respect to SVN-that is, stop infiltration and bring about a cessation of VC armed insurgency. (Query—should demand include DRV observance of 1962 accords with respect to Laos and how should such demand be framed so as to give ICC Laos effective role in monitoring infiltration through Laos?) B. In return: 1. US will return to 1954 Accords with respect to military personnel in GVN and GVN would be willing to enter into trade talks looking toward normalization of economic relations between DRV and GVN.

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2. Subject to faithful compliance by DRV with 1954 Accords, US and GVN would give assurances that they would not use force or support the use of force by any other party to upset the Accords with respect to the DRV. 3. Within the framework of the 1954 Accords, the GVN would permit VC desiring to do so to return to the DRV without their arms or would grant amnesty to those peacefully laying down their arms and desiring to remain in SVN. C. If and when Hanoi indicates its acceptance of foregoing conditions, careful considerations must be given to immediate subsequent procedures which will avoid dangers of (a) becoming involved in a cease fire vis-a-vis the DRV and/or the VC accompanied by strung-out negotiations; (b) making conditions so stringent as to be unworkable from practical point of view. Probably best procedure would be to have the GVN and DRV meet in the DMZ under ICC auspices with US observers to reach agreement on mechanics of carrying out understanding while action against the VC and DRV continues, at least in principle.

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McNaughton’s Observations about South Vietnam 4 January 1965

DRAFT: January 4, 1965-Observations Re South Vietnam-JTM









1) (Scarcely needs to be said: Pique should not be allowed to make policy.) [This is a comment on Max Taylor’s attitude toward Khanh and his dissolution of the high national council.] [Author of bracketed material not known.] 2) Our stakes in South Vietnam are: (a) Buffer real estate near Thailand and Malaysia and (b) Our reputation. The latter is more important than the former; the latter is sensitive to how, as well as whether, the area is lost. 3) The best present estimate is that South Vietnam is being “lost.” From the point of view of the real estate this means that a government not unfriendly to the DRV will probably emerge within two years; from the point of view of our reputation, it will suffer least if we continue to support South Vietnam and if Khanh and company continue to behave like children if the game is lost. 4) The situation could change for the better over night, however. This happened in the Philippines. This is another reason for d - - - - - perseverance. 5) We should continue to try to do better inside South Vietnam. (“The people do not support the government; their indication is that the GVN treats prisoners badly; etc.”) 435

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6) Essentials of U.S. conduct: (a) continue to take risks on behalf of South Vietnam. A reprisal should be carried out soon. (Dependents could be removed at that time.) [This attitude reflected my own arguments, for better or worse.]; (b) keep slugging away. Keep help flowing but do not increase the number of U.S. men in South Vietnam. (Additional U.S. soldiers are as likely to be counterproductive as productive.) [MACV and the JCS were pushing for a logistic command and increased logistic support troops in Vietnam; McNaughton withholding the line on total U.S. troops at this time.] (c) do not appear to lead in any negotiations. Chances of reversing the tide will be better and, if we don’t reverse the tide, our reputation will emerge in better condition; (d) if we leave, be sure it is a departure of the kind which would put everyone on our side, wondering how we stuck it and took it so long. 7) If things slip, have, plans to shore up Thailand and Malaysia.

Note from a McNaughton Draft in 1964: There has been no decision taken putting on the same value scale (a) desirability of various outcomes, (b) undesirability of various efforts and (c) undesirability of having tried and failed. For example:

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(1) Is a collapse at a 75,000 level worse than an inclusive situation at a 200,000-400,000+ level? Probably yes; (2) Is a 60 percent chance of a compromise better than a 40 percent chance of winning? Probably yes if the compromise is tolerable; (3) Is a 40 percent chance of compromise in 1966 better than a 40 percent chance of winning in 1967? Query.

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Hans Morgenthau, We Are Deluding Ourselves in Vietnam 18 April 1965

T

he address President Johnson delivered on AprIl 7, 1965 at Johns Hopkins University is important for two reasons. On the one hand, the President has shown for the first time a way out of the impasse in which we find ourselves in Vietnam. By agreeing to negotiations without preconditions he has opened the door to negotiations which those preconditions had made impossible from the outset. By proposing a project for the economic development of Southeast Asia—with North Vietnam a beneficiary and the Soviet Union a supporter— he has implicitly recognized the variety of national interests in the communist world and the need for varied American responses tailored to those interests. By asking “that the people of South Vietnam be allowed to guide their own coun¬try in their own way.” he has left all possibilities open for future evolution of relations between North and South Vietnam. On the other hand, the President reiterated the intellectual assumptions and policy proposals which brought us to an impasse and which make it impossible to extricate ourselves. The President has linked our involvement in Vietnam with our war of independence and has proclaimed the freedom of all nations as the goal of our foreign policy. He has started from the assumption that there are two Vietnamese nations, one of which has attacked the other, and he sees that attack as an integral

Source: Hans Morgenthau, New York Times Megazine, April 18, 1965

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part of unlimited Chinese aggression. Consistent with this assumption, the President is willing to negotiate with China and North Vietnam but not with the Viet Cong. Yet we cannot have it both ways. We cannot at the same time embrace these false assumptions and pursue new sound policies. Thus we are faced with a real dilemma. This dilemma is by no means of the President’s making. We are militarily engaged in Vietnam by virtue of a basic principle of our foreign policy that was implicit in the Truman Doctrine of 1947 and was put into practice by John Foster Dulies from 1954 onward. This principle is the military containment of Communism. Containment had its origins in Europe; Dulles applied it to the Middle East and Asia through a series of bilateral and multilateral alliances. Yet what was an outstanding success In Europe turned out to be a dismal failure elsewhere. The reasons for that failure are twofold. First, the threat that faced the nations of Western Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War was primarily military. It was the threat of the Red Army marching westward. Behind the line of military demarcation of 1945 which the policy of containment declared to be the westernmost limits of the Soviet empire there was an ancient civilization, only temporarily weak and able to maintain itself against the threat of Communist subversion. The situation is different in the Middle East and Asia. The threat there is not primarily military but political in nature. Weak governments and societies provide opportunities for Communist subversion. Military containment is irrelevant to that threat and may even be counter-productive. Thus the Baghdad Pact did not protect Egypt from Soviet influence and SEATO has had no bearing on Chinese influence in Indonesia and Pakistan. Second and more important, even If China were threatening her neighbors primarily by military means, it would be impossible to contain her by erecting a military wall at the periphery of her empire. For China is, even in her present underdeveloped state, the dominant power in Asia. She is this by virtue of the quality and quantity of her population, her geographic position, her civilization, her past power remembered and her future power anticipated. Anybody who has traveled in Asia with his eyes and ears open must have been impressed by the enormous impact which the resurgence of China has made upon all manner of men, regardless of class and political conviction, from Japan to Pakistan.

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The issue China poses is politicaI and cultural predominance. The United States can no more contain Chinese influence in Asia by arming South Vietnam and Thailand than China could contain American influence in the Western Hemisphere by arming, say, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. If we are convinced that we cannot live with a China predominant on the mainland of Asia, then we must strike at the heart of Chinese power— that is, rather than try to contain the power of China, we must try to destroy that power itself. Thus there is logic on the side of that small group of Americans who are convinced that war between the United States and China is inevitable and that the earlier it comes the better will be the chances for the United States to win it. Yet, while logic is on their side, practical judgment is against them. For while China is obviously no match for the United States in overall power, China is largely immune to the specific types of power in which the superiority of the United States consists— that is, nuclear, air and naval power. Certainly, the United States has the power to destroy the nuclear installations and the major industrial and population centers of China, but this destruction would not defeat China; it would only set her development back. To be defeated, China has to be conquered. Physical conquest would require the deployment of millions of American soldiers on the mainland of Asia. No American military leader has ever advocated a course of action so fraught with incalculable risks, so uncertain of outcome, requiring sacrifices so out of proportion to the interests at stake and the benefits to be expected. President Eisenhower declared on February 10, 1954, that he “could conceive of no greater tragedy than for the United States to become involved in an all-out war in Indochina.” General MacArthur, in the Congressional hearings concerning his dismissal and in personal conversation with President Kennedy, emphatically warned against sending American foot soldiers to the Asian mainland to fight China. If we do not want to set ourselves goals which cannot be attained with the means we are willing to employ, we must learn to accommodate ourselves to the predominance of China on the Asian mainland. It is instructive to note that those Asian nations which have done so—such as Burma and Cambodia—live peacefully in the shadow of the Chinese giant. This modus vivendi, composed of legal independence and various degrees of actual dependence, has indeed been for more than a millennium the persistent pattern of Chinese predominance in Southeast Asia.

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The military conquest of Tibet is the sole exception to that pattern. The military operations at the Indian border do not diverge from it, since their purpose was the establishment of a frontier disputed by both sides. On the other hand, those Asian nations which have allowed themselves to be transformed into outposts of American military power—such as Laos a few years ago, South Vietnam and Thailand—have become the actual or prospective victims of Communist aggression and subversion. Thus it appears that peripheral military containment is counterproductive. Challenged at its periphery by American military power at its weakest—that is, by the proxy of client-states—China or its proxies respond with locally superior military and political power. In specific terms, accommodation means four things: (1) recognition of the political and cultural predominance of China on the mainland of Asia as a fact of life; (2) liquidation of the peripheral military containment of China; (3) strengthening of the uncommitted nations of Asia by nonmilitary means; (4) assessment of Communist governments in Asta In terms not of Communist doctcine but of their relation to the interests and power of the United States. In the light of these principles, the alternative to our present policies in Vietnam would be this: a face-saving agreement which would allow us to disengage ourselves militarily in stages spaced in time; restoration of the status quo of the Geneva Agreement of 1954. with special emphasis upon all-Vietnamese elections; cooperation with the Soviet Union in support of a Titoist all-vietnamese Government, which would be likely to emerge from such elections. This last point is crucial, for our present policies not only drive Hanoi into the waiting arms of Peking, but also make it very difficult for Moscow to pursue an independent policy. Our interests In Southeast Asia are identical with those of the Soviet Union: to prevent the expansion of the military power of China. But while our present policies invite that expansion, they make it impossible for the Soviet Union to join us in preventing it. If we were to reconcile ourselves to the establishment of a Titoist government in all of Vietnam, the Soviet Union could successfully compete with China in claiming credit for it and surreptitiously cooperate with us in maintaining it. Testing the President’s proposals by these standards, one realizes how far they go in meeting them. These proposals do not preclude a return to

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the Geneva agreement and even assume the existence of a Titoist government in North Vietnam. Nor do they preclude the establishment of a Titoist government for all of Vietnam, provided the people of South Vietnam have freely agreed to it. They also envision the active participation of the Soviet Union in establishing and maintaining a new balance of power in Southeast Asia. On the other hand, the President has flatly rejected a withdrawal “under the cloak of meaningless agreement.” The controlling word is obviously “meaningless,” and only the future can tell whether we shall consider any face-saving agreement as “meaningless” regardless of its political context. However, we are under a psychological compulsion to continue our military presence in South Vietnam as part of the peripheral military containment of China. We have been emboldened in this course of action by the identification of the enemy as “Communist,” seeing in every Communist party and regime an extension of hostile Russian or Chinese power. This identification was justified 15 to 20 years ago when Communism still had a monolithic character. Here, as elsewhere, our modes of thought and action have been rendered obsolete by new developments. It is ironic that this simple juxtaposition of Communism and “free world” was erected by John Foster Dulles’s crusading moralism into the guiding principle of American foreign policy at a time when the national Communism of Yugoslavia, the neutralism of the third world and the incipient split between the Soviet Union and China were rendering that juxtaposition invalid. Today, it is belaboring the obvious to say that we are faced not with one monolithic Communism whose uniform hostility must be countered with equally uniform hostility, but with a number of different Communisms whose hostility, determined by different national interests, varies. In fact, the United States encounters today less hostility from Tito, who is a Communist, than from de Gaulle, who is not. We can today distinguish four different types of Communism in view of the kind and degree of hostility to the United States they represent: a Communism identified with the Soviet Union—e.g., Poland; a Communism identified with China—e.g., Albania; a Communism that straddles the fence between the Soviet Union and China—e.g., Rumania; and independent Communism—e.g.. Yugoslavia. Each of these Communisms must be dealt with in terms of the bearing its foreign policy has upon the interests of the United States in a concrete instance.

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It would, of course, be absurd to suggest that the officials responsible for the conduct of American foreign policy are unaware of these distinctions and of the demands they make for discriminating subtlety. Yet it is an obvious fact of experience that these officials are incapable of living up to these demands when they deal with Vietnam. Thus they maneuver themselves into a position which is anti-revolutionary per so and which requires military opposition to revolution wherever it is found in Asia, regardless of how it affects the interests— and how susceptible it is to the power—of the United States. There is a historic precedent for this kind of policy: Metternich’s military opposition to liberalism after the Napoleonic Wars, which collapsed in 1848. For better or for worse, we live again in an age of revolution. It is the task of statesmanship not to oppose what cannot be opposed without a chance of success, but to bend it to one’s own interests. This is what the President is trying to do with his proposal for the economic development of Southeast Asia. Why do we support the Saigon Government in the Civil War against the Viet Cong? Because the Saigon Government is “free” and the Viet Cong are “Communist.” By containing Vietnamese Communism, we assume that we are really containing the Communism of China. Yet this assumption is at odds with the historic experience of a millennium and is unsupported by contemporary evidence. China is the hereditary enemy of Vietnam, and Ho Chi Minh will become the leader of a Chinese satellite only if the United States forces him to become one. Furthermore, Ho Chi MInh, like Tito and unlike the Communist governments of the other states of Eastern Europe, came to power not by courtesy of another Communist nation’s victorious army but at the head of a victorious army of his own. He is, then, a natural candidate to become an Asian Tito, and the question we must answer is: How adversely would a Titoist Ho Chi Minh, governing all of Vietnam, affect the interests of the United States? The answer can only be: not at all. One can even maintain the proposition that, far from affecting adversely the interests of the United States, It would be in the interest of the United States if the western periphery of China were ringed by a chain of independent states, though they would, of course, in their policies take due account of the predominance of their powerful neighbor. The roots of the Vietnamese civil war go back to the very beginning of South Vietnam as an independent state. When President Ngo Dinh

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Diem took office in 1954, he presided not over a state but over one-half of a country arbitrarily and, in the intentions of all concerned, temporarily severed from the other half. He was generally regarded as a caretaker who would establish the rudiments of an administration until the country was united by nationwide elections to be held in 1956 in accordance with the Geneva accords. Diem was confronted at home with a number of private armies which were politically, religiously or criminally oriented. To the general surprise, he subdued one after another and created what looked like a viable government. Yet in the process of creating it, he also laid the foundations to the present civil war. He ruthlessly suppressed all opposition, established concentration camps, organized a brutal secret police, closed newspapers and rigged elections. These policies inevitably led to a polarization of the policies of South Vietnam—on one side, Diem’s family, surrounded by a Pretorian guard; on the other, the Vietnamese people, backed by the Communists, declaring themselves liberators from foreign domination and internal oppression. Thus, the possibility of civil war was inherent in the very nature of the Diem regime. It became inevitable after Diem refused to agree to all-Vietnamese elections and, in the face of mounting popular alienation, accentuated the tyrannical aspects of his regime. The South Vietnamese who cherished freedom could not help but oppose him. Threatened by the secret police, they went either abroad or underground where the Communists were waiting for them. Until the end of last February [1965], the Government of the United States started from the assumption that the war in South Vietnam was a civil war, aided and abetted—but not created from abroad, and spokesmen for the Government have made time and again the point that the key to winning the war was political and not military and was to be found in South Vietnam itself. It was supposed to lie in transforming the indifference or hostility of the great mass of the South Vietnamese people into positive loyalty to the Government. To that end, a new theory of warfare called “counterinsurgency” was put into practice. Strategic hamlets were established, massive propaganda campaigns were embarked upon, social and economic measures were at least sporadically taken. But all was to no avail. The mass of the population remained indifferent, if not hostile, and large units of the army ran away or went over to the enemy.

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The reasons for this failure are of general significance, for they stem from a deeply ingrained habit of the American mind, We like to think of social problems as technically self-sufficient and susceptible of simple, clear-cut solutions. We tend to think of foreign aid as a kind of self-­ sufficient, economic enterprise subject to the laws of economics and divorced from politics, and of war as a similarly self-sufficient, technical enterprise, to be won as quickly, as cheaply. as thoroughly as possible and divorced from the foreign policy that preceded and is to follow it. Thus our military theoreticians and practitioners conceive of counterinsurgency as though it were just another branch of warfare, to be taught in special schools and applied with technical proficiency wherever the occasion arises. This view derives of course from a complete misconception of the nature of civil war. People fight and die in civil wars because they have a faith which appears to them worth fighting and dying for, and they can be opposed with a chance of success only by people who have at least as strong a faith. Magsaysay could subdue the Huk rebellion in the Philippines because his charisma, proven in action, aroused a faith superior to that of his opponents. In South Vietnam there is nothing to oppose the faith of the Viet Cong and, In consequence, the Saigon Government and we are losing the civil war. A guerrilla war cannot be won without the active support of the indigenous population, short of the physical extermination of that population. Germany was at least consistent when, during the Second World War, faced with unmanageable guerrilla warfare throughout occupied Europe, she tried to master the situation through a deliberate policy of extermination. The French tried “counterinsurgency” in Algeria and failed; 400,000 French troops fought the guerrillas in Indochina for nine years and failed. The United States has recognized that it is falling in SouthVietnam. But it has drawn from this recognition of failure a most astounding conclusion. The United States has decided to change the character of the war by unilateral declaration from a South Vietnamese civil war to a war of “foreign aggression.” “Aggression from the North: The Record of North Vietnam’s Campaign to Conquer South Vietnam” is the title of a white paper published by the Department of State on the last day of February,

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1965. While normally foreign and military policy is based upon intelligence—that is, the objective assessment of the facts—the process is here reversed: a new policy has been decided upon, and intelligence must ­provide the facts to justify it. The United States, stymied in South Vietnam and on the verge of defeat, decided to carry the war to North Vietnam not so much in order to retrieve the fortunes of war as to lay the groundwork for “negotiations from strength.” In order to justify that new policy, it was necessary to prove that North Vietnam is the real enemy. It is the white paper’s ­purpose to present that proof. Let it be said right away that the white paper is a dismal failure. The discrepancy between its assertions and the factual evidence adduced to support them borders on the grotesque. It does nothing to disprove, and tends even to confirm, what until the end of February had been official American doctrine: that the main body of the Viet Cong is composed of South Vietnamese and that 80 per cent to 90 per cent of their weapons are of American origin. This document is most disturbing in that it provides a particularly glaring instance of the tendency to conduct foreign and military policy not on their own merits, but as exercises in public relations. The Government fashions an imaginary world that pleases it, and then comes to believe in the reality of that world and acts as though it were real. It is for this reason that public officials are so resentful of the reporters assigned to Vietnam and have tried to shut them off from the sources of news and even to silence them. They resent the confrontation of their policies with the facts. Yet the facts are what they are, and they take ­terrible vengeance on those who disregard them. However, the white paper is but the latest instance of a delusionary tendency which has led American policy in Vietnam astray in other respects: We call the American troops in Vietnam “advisers” and have assigned them by and large to advisory functions, and we have limited the activities of the Marines who have now landed in Vietnam to guarding American installations. We have done this for reasons of public relations, in order to spare ourselves the odium of open belligerency. There is an ominous similarity between this technique and that applied to the expedition in the Bay of Pigs, We wanted to overthrow Castro, but for reasons of public relations we did not want to do it ourselves. So it

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was not done at all, and our prestige was damaged far beyond what It would have suffered had we worked openly and single-mindedly for the goal we had set ourselves. Our very presence in Vietnam is in a sense dictated by considerations of public relations; we are afraid lest our prestige would suffer were we to retreat from an untenable position. One may ask whether we have gained prestige by being involved in a civil war on the mainland of Asia and by being unable to win it. Would we gain more by being unable to extricate ourselves from it, and by expanding it unilaterally into an international war? Is French prestige lower today than it was 11 years ago when France was fighting in Indochina, or five years ago when France was fighting in Algeria? Does not a great power gain prestige by mustering the wisdom and courage necessary to liquidate a losing enterprise? In other words, is it not the mark of greatness, in circumstances such as these, to be able to afford to be indifferent to one’s prestige? The peripheral military containment of China, the indiscriminate crusade against Communism, counterinsurgency as a technically selfsufficient new branch of warfare, the conception of foreign and military policy as a branch of public relations—they are-all misconceptions that conjure up terrible dangers for those who base their policies on them. One can only hope and pray that the vaunted pragmatism and common sense of the American mind—of which the President’s new proposals may well be a manifestation—will act as a corrective upon those misconceptions before they lead us from the blind alley in which we find ourselves today to the rim of the abyss. Beyond the present crisis, however, one must hope that the confrontation between these misconceptions and reality will teach us a long-overdue lesson—to rid ourselves of these misconceptions altogether.

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Clare M. Clifford Letter to the President May 17, 1965

Clare M. Clifford 615 Connecticut Avenue Washington D. C. 20000 May 17, 1965 The President The White House Dear Mr. President: I am returning herewith the letter of the Director of Central Intelligence, dated May 8, 1965, together with enclosures. I wish to make one major point. I believe our ground forces in South Vietnam should be kept to a minimum, consistent with the protection of our installations and property in that country. My concern is that a substantial buildup of U. S. ground troops would be construed by the communists, and by the world, as a determination on our part to win the war on the ground. I do not think the situation is comparable to Korea. The political posture of the parties involved, and the physical conditions, including terrain, are entirely different. 447

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This could be a quagmire. It could turn into an open end commitment on our part that would take more and more ground troops, without a realistic hope of ultimate victory. I continue to believe that the constant probing of every avenue leading to a possible settlement will ultimately be fruitful. It won’t be what we want, but we can learn to live with it. Respectfully yours, Clare

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Memorandum for the President from George Ball, “A Compromise Solution in South Vietnam” 1 July 1965

A COMPROMISE SOLUTION IN SOUTH VIETNAM



(1) A Losing War: The South Vietnamese are losing the war to the Viet Cong. No one can assure you that we can beat the Viet Cong or even force them to the conference table on our terms, no matter how many hundred thousand white, foreign (U.S.) troops we deploy. No one has demonstrated that a white ground force of whatever size can win a guerrilla war—which is at the same time a civil war between Asians—in jungle terrain in the midst of a population that refuses cooperation to the white forces (and the South Vietnamese) and thus provides a great intelligence advantage to the other side. Three recent incidents vividly illustrate this point: (a) the sneak attack on the Da Nang Air Base which involved penetration of a defense parameter guarded by 9,000 Marines. This raid was possible only because of the cooperation of the local inhabitants; (b) the B-52 raid that failed to hit the Viet Cong who had obviously been tipped off; (c) the search and destroy mission of the 173rd Air Borne Brigade which spent three days looking for the Viet Cong, suffered 23 casualties, and never made contact with the enemy who had obviously gotten advance word of their assignment. 449

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(2) The Question to Decide: Should we limit our liabilities in South Vietnam and try to find a way out with minimal long-term costs? The alternative—no matter what we may wish it to be—is almost certainly a protracted war involving an open-ended commitment of U.S. forces, mounting U.S. casualties, no assurance of a satisfactory solution, and a serious danger of escalation at the end of the road. (3) Need for a Decision Now: So long as our forces are restricted to advising and assisting the South Vietnamese, the struggle will remain a civil war between Asian peoples. Once we deploy substantial numbers of troops in combat it will become a war between the U.S. and a large part of the population of South Vietnam, organized and directed from North Vietnam and backed by the resources of both Moscow and Peiping. The decision you face now, therefore, is crucial. Once large numbers of U.S. troops are committed to direct combat, they will begin to take heavy casualties in a war they are ill-equipped to fight in a non-cooperative if not downright hostile countryside. Once we suffer large casualties, we will have started a well-nigh irreversible process. Our involvement will be so great that we cannot-without national humiliation-stop short of achieving our complete objectives. 0/the two possibilities I think humiliation would be more likely than the achievement of our objectives-even after we have paid terrible costs. (4) Compromise Solution: Should we commit U.S. manpower and prestige to a terrain so unfavorable as to give a very large advantage to the enemy—or should we seek a compromise settlement which achieves less than our stated objectives and thus cut our losses while we still have the freedom of maneuver to do so. (5) Costs of a Compromise Solution: The answer involves a judgment as to the cost to the U.S. of such a compromise settlement in terms of our relations with the countries in the area of South Vietnam, the credibility of our commitments, and our prestige around the world. In my judgment, if we act before we commit a substantial U.S. truce to combat in South Vietnam we can, by accepting some short-term costs, avoid what may well be a long-term catastrophe. I believe we attended grossly to exaggerate the costs involved in a compromise settlement. An appreciation of probable costs is contained in the attached memorandum.

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(6) With these considerations in mind, I strongly urge the following program: (a) Military Program (1) Complete all deployments already announced—15 battalions—but decide not to go beyond a total of 72,000 men represented by this figure. (2) Restrict the combat role of the American forces to the June 19 announcement, making it clear to General Westmoreland that this announcement is to be strictly construed. (3) Continue bombing in the North but avoid the HanoiHaiphong area and any targets nearer to the Chinese border than those already struck. (b) Political Program (1) In any political approaches so far, we have been the prisoners of whatever South Vietnamese government that was momentarily in power. If we are ever to move toward a settlement, it will probably be because the South Vietnamese government pulls the rug out from under us and makes its own deal or because we go forward quietly without advance prearrangement with Saigon. (2) So far we have not given the other side a reason to believe there is any flexibility in our negotiating approach. And the other side has been unwilling to accept what in their terms is complete capitulation. (3) Now is the time to start some serious diplomatic feelers looking towards a solution based on some application of a self-determination principle. (4) I would recommend approaching Hanoi rather’than any of the other probable parties, the NLF, or Peiping. Hanoi is the only one that has given any signs of interest in discussion. Peiping has been rigidly opposed. Moscow has recommended that we negotiate with Hanoi. The NLF has been silent. (5) There are several channels to the North Vietnamese, but I think the best one is through their representative in Paris, Mai van Bo. Initial feelers of Bo should be directed toward a discussion both of the four points we have put forward and

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the four points put forward by Hanoi as a basis for negotiation. We can accept all but one of Hanoi’s four points, and hopefully we should be able to agree on some ground rules for serious negotiations—including no preconditions. (6) If the initial feelers lead to further secret, exploratory talks, we can inject the concept of self-determination that would permit the Viet Cong some hope of achieving some of their political objectives through local elections or some other device. (7) The contact on our side should be handled through a nongovernmental cutout (possibly a reliable newspaper man who can be repudiated). (8) If progress can be made at this level a basis can be laid for a multinational conference. At some point, obviously, the government of South Vietnam will have to be brought on board, but I would postpone this step until after a substantial feeling out of Hanoi. (7) Before moving to any formal conference we should be prepared to agree once the conference is started: (a) The U.S. will stand down its bombing of the North (b) The South Vietnamese will initiate no offensive operations in the South, and (c) The DRV will stop terrorism and other aggressive action against the South. (8) The negotiations at the conference should aim at incorporating our understanding with Hanoi in the form of a multinational agreement guaranteed by the U.S., the Soviet Union and possibly other parties, and providing for an international mechanism to supervise its execution.

Probable Reactions to the Cutting o/ Our Losses in South Vietnam

We have tended to exaggerate the losses involved in a compromise settlement in South Vietnam. There are three aspects to the problem that should be considered. First, the local effect of our action on nations in or near Southeast Asia. Second, the effect of our action on the credibility of our commitments around the world. Third, the effect on our position of world leadership.

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A. Free Asian reactions to a compromise settlement in South Vietnam would be highly parochial, With each country interpreting the event primarily in terms of (a) its own immediate interest, (b) its sense of vulnerability to Communist invasion or insurgency, and (c) its confidence in the integrity of our commitment to its own security based on evidence other than that provided by our actions in South Vietnam. Within this framework the following groupings emerge: (1) The Republic of China and Thailand staunch allies whose preference for extreme U.S. actions including a risk of war with Communist China sets them apart from all other Asian nations; (2) The Republic of Korea and the Philippines equally staunch allies whose support for strong U.S. action short of a war with Communist China would make post-settlement reassurance a pressing U.S. need; (3) Japan;—it would prefer wisdom to valor in an area remote from its own interests where escalation could involve its Chinese or Eurasian neighbors or both; (4) Laos—A friendly neutral dependent on a strong Thai-U.S. guarantee of support in the face of increased Vietnamese—and Laos pressures. (5) Burma and Cambodia, suspicious neutrals whose fear of antagonizing Communist China would increase their leaning toward Peiping in a conviction that the U.S. presence is not long for Southeast Asia; and (6) Indonesia whose opportunistic marriage of convenience of both Hanoi and Peiping would carry it further in its overt aggression against Malaysia, convinced that foreign imperialism is a fast fading entity in the region. Japan

Government cooperation was the essential in making the following points to the Japanese people:

(1) U.S. support was given in full measure as shown by our casualties, our expenditures and our risk taking;

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(2) The U.S. record in Korea shows the credibility of our commitment so far as Japan is concerned.

The government as such supports our strong posture in Vietnam but stops short of the idea of a war between the U.S. and China. Thailand

Thai commitments to the struggle within Laos and South Vietnam are based upon a careful evaluation of the regional threat to Thailand’s security. The Thais are confident they can contain any threats from Indochina alone. They know, however, they cannot withstand the massive power of Communist China without foreign assistance. Unfortunately, the Thai view of the war has seriously erred in fundamental respects. They believe American power can do anything, both militarily and in terms of showing up the Saigon regime. They now assume that we really could take over in Saigon and win the war if we felt we had to. If we should fail to do so, the Thais would initially see it as a failure of U.S. will. Yet time is on our side providing we employ it effectively. Thailand is an independent nation with a long national history, and unlike South Vietnam, an acute national consciousness. It has few domestic Communists and none of the instability that plague its neighbors, Burma and Malaysia. Its one danger area in the northeast is well in hand so far as preventive measures against insurgency are concerned. Securing the Mekong Valley will be critical in any long-run solution, whether by the partition of Laos with Thai-U.S. forces occupying the western half or by some cover arrangement. Providing we are willing to make the effort, Thailand can be a foundation of rock and not a bed of sand in which to base our political/ military commitment to Southeast Asia. —With the exception of the nations in Southeast Asia, a compromise settlement in South Vietnam should not have a major impact on the credibility of our commitments around the world. . . . Chancellor Erhard has told us privately that the people of Berlin would be concerned by a compromise settlement of South Vietnam. But this was hardly an original thought, and I suspect he was telling us what he believed we would like to hear. After all, the confidence of the West Berliners will depend more on what they see on the spot than on news or events halfway around the world. In my observation, the principal anxiety of our NATO Allies is that we have become too preoccupied with an area which seems to them an

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irrelevance and may be tempted in neglect to our NATO responsibilities. Moreover, they have a vested interest and easier relationship between Washington and Moscow. By and large, therefore, they will be inclined to regard a compromise solution in South Vietnam more as new evidence in American maturity and judgment and of American loss of face. . . . On balance, I believe we would more seriously undermine the effectiveness of our world leadership by continuing the war and deepening our involvement than by pursuing a carefully plotted course toward a compromise solution. In spite of the number of powers that have—in response to our pleading—given verbal support from feelings of loyalty and dependence, we cannot ignore the fact that the war is vastly unpopular and that our role in it is perceptively eroding the respect and confidence with which other nations regard us. We have not persuaded either our friends or allies that our further involvement is essential to the defense of freedom in the cold war. Moreover, the more men we deploy in the jungles of South Vietnam, the more we contribute to a growing world anxiety and mistrust. In the short run, of course, we could expect some catcalls from the sidelines and some vindictive pleasure on the part of Europeans jealous of American power. But that would, in my view, be a transient phenomenon with which we could live without sustained anguish. Elsewhere around the world I would see few unhappy implications for the credibility of our commitments. No doubt the Communists will try to gain propaganda value in Africa, but I cannot seriously believe that the Africans care too much about what happens in Southeast Asia. Australia and New Zealand are, of course, special cases since they feel lonely in the far reaches of the Pacific. Yet even their concern is far greater with Malaysia than with South Vietnam, and the degree of their anxiety would be conditioned largely by expressions of our support for Malaysia. Earlier—Quite possibly, President de Gaulle will make propaganda about perfidious Washington, yet even he will be inhibited by his muchheralded disapproval of our activities in South Vietnam. South Korea—As for the rest of the Far East the only serious point of concern might be South Korean. But if we stop pressing the Koreans for more troops to Vietnam (the Vietnamese show no desire for additional Asian forces since it affronts their sense of pride) we may be able to ­cushion Korean reactions to a compromise in South Vietnam by the provision of greater military and economic assistance. In this regard, Japan can  play a pivotal role now that it has achieved normal relations with South Korea.

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Nation: The Debate Friday, Jul. 02, 1965

T

he crayoned sign on the door of Georgetown University’s glass-andconcrete Hall of Nations in Washington announced a coming event: SOCIAL MIXER—BEER, PEOPLE, DANCING. But what went on inside the hall one night last week was hardly a mixer. It was the televised debate between Special Presidential Assistant McGeorge Bundy and critics of the Administration’s firm Viet Nam policies, originally scheduled for May but postponed when the President ordered Bundy to the Dominican Republic. Risks & Costs. Supporting Bundy were Polishborn Zbigniew K. Brzezinski, director of Columbia’s Research Institute on Communist Affairs, and the Rand Corp.’s expert on Asia, Guy J. Pauker. On the critics’ side were the University of Chicago’s Germanborn Political Scientist Hans J. Morgenthau; ex-Foreign Service Office Edmund O. Clubb, chairman of Columbia’s Seminar on Modern Asia; and Michigan State University Anthropologist John D. Donoghue, who recently spent two years in South Viet Nam’s villages. Moderator Eric Sevareid started the hour-long debate by saying: “The cost and risk of fighting this war have to be measured against the risks and costs of not fighting it.” As five TV cameras rolled, the Government’s critics explained why they thought the risks were too grave and the costs too high. The war, said Clubb, cannot be won “without virtually annihilating the Vietnamese people,” and besides, it is “alienating both Asian and other world sympathies.” Morgentau could not think of a single justification for it. “I am opposed to our present policies in Viet Nam,” he said, “on moral, military, political and general intellectual grounds.”

Source: Time Magazine, July 2, 1965.

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Said Donoghue: “I view this as a civil war, with most peasants against the government that we support.” Bundy & Co. took heated exception. “The policy which the United States is now following is the best policy in a difficult and dangerous situation,” said Bundy. “We have a commitment matured through time, made for good reasons and sustained for the same reasons.” One of the reasons, offered Brzezinski, is to keep Red China from gaining supremacy in Asia. “A great many Asian nations,” he said, “see a major interest for themselves in an American continued presence in Viet Nam asa bulwark.” As for the notion that the Viet Nam war is a civil war, Pauker said: “This is aggression from North Viet Nam, but carefully staged so as to make Communist revolution ary way appear as a spontaneous grassroots revolt.” When Morgenthau argued that the U.S. attempt to contain Communism was “eminently successful in Europe against the Soviet Union,” but “is bound to fail in Asia against China,” Brzezinski said caustically: “I would like to suggest, respectfully, that Professor Morgenthau is wrong.” Were the U.S. to pull out of Asia, Brzezinski added, “the Chinese will have been proven right, and this would be a highly destabilizing condition for world peace.” Later, when Morgenthau began to cite foreign magazine articles (from France’s L’Express and Britain’s Economist) and figures on South Vietnamese desertion rates, Bundy, his voice edged with sarcasm, cut him short. “I’ll simply have to break in, if I may, Mr. Sevareid, and say that I think Professor Morgenthau is wrong on his facts as to the desertion rates, wrong in his summary of the Express articles, wrong in his view of what the Economist says, and, I’m sorry to say, giving vent to his congenital pessimism.” As an example of this pessimism, Bundy quoted a 1961 article in which Morgenthau wrote that “the Communist domination of Laos is virtually a foregone conclusion” and that “the Administration has reconciled itself to the loss of Laos.” Said Bundy flatly, “Neither of those things is true.” Morgenthau smiled weakly. “I might have been dead wrong on Laos, but that doesn’t prove that I’m dead wrong on Viet Nam,” he said. Apocalyptic Predictions. What alternatives, Sevareid asked, does the U.S. have to its present policy? Brzezinski noted that one alternative is to cross the 17th parallel, but immediately rejected it. “We’re not trying to overthrow the North Vietnamese government,” he said. “There is no effort here to roll back the Communist world. “What the U.S. must do, he added,

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is “to make it very clear that the we ourselves are not going to be thrown out of South Viet Nam. And I believe we can do this in spite of the apocalyptic predictions by some people that this will lead to a world war with China or with the Soviet Union or to a homogenous Communist World.” Bundy also noted—and rejected—the alternative of carrying the war “ever further northward without regards to cities or population or boundaries or what country you are choosing to attack.” That, he said, “is not the policy of the Administration.” Its position, he went on, “is that we should stay there, that we should do our part as may become necessary, do only what is necessary, and seek constantly, as we have for months and months and months, to find a way to get this dangerous and difficult business to the conference room.” Morgenthau, admitting that his position “must come as a surprise to some listeners here,” did not call for an immediate U.S. pullout. Instead he suggested that the U.S. try to hold a few coastal enclaves to show the Viet Cong that they cannot win a complete military victory. “I think our aim must be to get out of Viet Nam,” he said, “but to get out of it with honour.” As soon as the debate went off the air, students and teachers swarmed around Bundy, trying to keep the argument going. “What about the napalm?” American University Government Professor Daniel Berman kept demanding. “I’ve answered you now three times, politely,” said Bundy. “Oh, you have, have you?” snapped Berman. “Yes,” said Bundy warily, “I have.”

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Report by Mcnamara After Visit to Vietnam 30 November 1965

30 November 1965: (after visit to VN, 28-29 Nov 65)

. . . . the Ky “government of generals” is surviving, but not acquiring wide support or generating actions; pacification is thoroughly stalled, with no guarantee that security anywhere is permanent and no indications that able and willing leadership will emerge in the absence of that permanent security. (Prime Minister Ky estimates that his government controls only 25% of the population today and reports that his pacification chief hopes to increase that to 50% two years from now.) The dramatic recent changes in the situation are on the military side. They are the increased infiltration from the North and the increased willingness of the Communist forces to stand and fight, even in large-scale engagements. The Ia Drang River Campaign of early November is an example. The Communists appear to have decided to increase their forces in SVN both by heavy recruitment in the South (especially in the Delta) and by infiltration of regular NVN forces from the North. . . . the enemy can be expected to enlarge his present strength of 110 battalion equivalents to more than 150 battalion equivalents by the end of calendar 1966, when hopefully his losses can be made to equal his input. As for the Communist ability to supply this force, it is estimated that, even taking account of interdiction of routes by air and sea, more than 200 tons of supplies a day can be infiltrated—more than enough, allowing for the extent to which the enemy lives off the land, to support the likely PAVN/VC force at the likely level of operations. 461

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To meet this possible—and in my view likely—Communist buildup, the presently contemplated Phase I forces will not be enough (approx 220,000 Americans, almost all in place by end of 1965). Bearing in mind the nature of the war, the expected weighted combat force ratio of less than 2-to-i will not be good enough. Nor will the originally contemplated Phase II addition of 28 more US battalions (112,000 men) be enough; the combat force ratio, even with 32 new SVNese battalions, would still be little better than 2-to-i at the end of 1966. The initiative which we have held since August would pass to the enemy; we would fall far short of what we expected to achieve in terms of population control and disruption of enemy bases and lines of communications. Indeed, it is estimated that with the contemplated Phase II addition of 28 US battalions, we would be able only to hold our present geographical positions.





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2. We have but two options, it seems to me. One is to go now for a compromise solution (something substantially less than the “favorable outcome” I described in my memo of Nov 3) and hold further deployments to a minimum. The other is to stick with our stated objectives and with the war, and provide what it takes in men and materiel. If it is decided not to move now toward a compromise, I recommend that the US both send a substantial number of additional troops and very gradually intensify the bombing of NVN. Amb. Lodge, Wheeler, Sharp and Westmoreland concur in this prolonged course of action, although Wheeler and Sharp would intensify the bombing of the North more quickly. (recommend up to 74 battalions by end-66: total to approx 400,000 by end-66. And it should be understood that further deployments (perhaps exceeding 200,000) may be needed in 1967.) 3. Bombing of NVN. . . . over a period of the next six months we gradually enlarge the target system in the northeast (HanoiHaiphong) quadrant until, at the end of the period, it includes “controlled” reconnaissance of lines of communication throughout the area, bombing of petroleum storage facilities and power plants, and mining of the harbors. (Left unstruck would be population targets, industrial plants, locks and dams). 4. Pause in bombing NVN. It is my belief that there should be a three- or four-week pause in the program of bombing the North before we either greatly increase our troop deployments to VN or

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intensify our strikes against the North. (My recommendation for a “pause” is not concurred in by Lodge, Wheeler, or Sharp.) The reasons for this belief are, first, that we must lay a foundation in the mind of the American public and in world opinion for such an enlarged phase of the war and, second, we should give NVN a face-saving chance to stop the aggression. I am not seriously concerned about the risk of alienating the SVNese, misleading Hanoi, or being “trapped” in a pause; if we take reasonable precautions, we can avoid these pitfalls. I am seriously concerned about embarking on a markedly higher level of war in VN without having tried, through a pause, to end the war or at least having made it clear to our people that we did our best to end it. 5. Evaluation. We should be aware that deployments of the kind I have recommended will not guarantee success. US killed-in-action can be expected to reach 1000 a month, and the odds are even that we will be faced in early 1967 with a “no-decision” at an even higher level. My overall evaluation, nevertheless, is that the best chance of achieving our stated objectives lies in a pause followed, if it fails, by the deployments mentioned above.

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Notes for Memorandum from McNamara to Lyndon Johnson, “Recommendations of Additional Deployments to Vietnam” 20 July 1965

Recommendations of additional deployments to VN





1. Our object in VN is to create conditions for a favorable outcome by demonstrating to the VC/DRV that the odds are against their winning. We want to create these conditions, if possible, without causing the war to expand into one with China or the Soviet Union and in a way which preserves support of the American people and, hopefully, of our allies and friends. 2. In my view a “favorable outcome” has nine fundamental elements: a. VC stop attacks and drastically reduce incidents of terror and sabotage. b. DRV reduces infiltration to a trickle, with some reasonably reliable method of our obtaining confirmation of this fact. c. US/GVN stop bombing of NVN. d. GVN stays independent (hopefully pro-US, but possibly genuinely neutral). 465

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e. GVN exercises governmental functions over substantially all of SVN. f. Communists remain quiescent in Laos and Thailand. g. DRV withdraws PAVN forces and other NVNese infiltrators (not regroupees) from SVN. h. VC/NLF transform from a military to a purely political ­organization. i. US combat forces (not advisors or AID) withdraw. . . . . more likely to evolve without an express agreement than with one. 3. Estimate: The situation in SVN is worse than a year ago (when it was worse than a year before that). After a few months of stalemate, the tempo of the war has quickened. . . . The central highlands could well be lost to the NLF during this monsoon season. Since June 1, the GVN has been forced to abandon six district capitals; only one has been retaken. US combat troop deployments and US/VNAF strikes against the North have put to rest most SVNese fears that the US will forsake them, and US/VNAF air strikes in-country have probably shaken VC morale somewhat. Yet the government is able to provide security to fewer and fewer people in less and less territory as terrorism increases. . . . . The odds are less than even that the Ky government will last out the year. Ky is “executive agent” for a directorate of generals. . . . . The Govt-to-VC ratio overall is now only a little better than 3-to-1, and in combat battalions little better than 1.5-to-1 . . . . Nor have our air attacks in NVN produced tangible evidence of willingness on the part of Hanoi to come to the conference table in a reasonable mood. The DRV/VC seem to believe that SVN is on the run and near collapse; they show no signs of settling for less than complete takeover. 4. Options open to us: a. Cut our losses and withdraw under the best conditions that can be arranged—almost certainly conditions humiliating the US and very damaging to our future effectiveness on the world scene. b. Continue at about the present level, with the US forces limited to say 75,000, holding on and playing for the breaks—a course of action which, because our position would grow weaker, almost certainly would confront us later with a choice between

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withdrawal and an emergency expansion of forces, perhaps too late to do any good. c. Expand promptly and substantially the US military pressure against the VC in the South and maintain the military pressure against the NVNese in the North while launching a vigorous effort on the political side to lay the groundwork for a favorable outcome by clarifying our objectives and establishing ­channels of communication. (Amb. Lodge states “any further initiative by us now—before we are strong—would simply harden the Communist resolve not to stop fighting.” Ambs. Taylor and Johnson would maintain discreet contacts with the Soviets, but otherwise agree with Amb. Lodge.) This alternative would stave off defeat in the short run and offer a good chance of producing a favorable settlement in the longer run; at the same time, it would imply a commitment to see a fighting war clear through at considerable cost in casualties and materiel and would make any later decision to withdraw even more difficult and even more costly than would be the case today. My recommendations in par. 5 below are based on the choice of the third alternative as the course of action involving the best odds of the best outcome with the most acceptable cost to the US.

5. There are now 15 US (and 1 Australian) combat battalions in VN; they together with other combat and non-combat personnel, bring the total US personnel in VN to approx. 15,000. a. Increase by October to 34 maneuver battalions; plus other reinforcements, up to approx. 175,000. . . . It should be understood that the deployment of more men (perhaps 100,000) may be necessary in early 1966, and that the deployment of additional forces therefore is possible but will depend on developments. (Ask Congress to authorize call up of 235,000 men in Reserve and National Guard; increase regular forces by 375,000 men. By mid-66 US would have 600,000 additional men as protection against contingencies.) ((VNese have asked for forces: for 53 bns.)) . . . . The DRV, on the other hand, may well send up to several divisions of regular forces in SVN to assist the VC if they see

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the tide turning and victory, once so near, being snatched away. This possible DRV action is the most ominous one, since it would lead to increased pressures on us to “counter-invade” NVN and to extend air strikes to population targets in the North; acceding to these pressures could bring the Sovs and the Chinese in. . . . . The success of the program from the military point of view turns on whether the VNese hold their own in terms of numbers and fighting spirit, and on whether the US forces can be effective in a quick-reaction reserve role, a role in which they are only now being tested. The number of US troops is too small to make a significant difference in the traditional 10-to-1 government-guerrilla formula, but it is not too small to make a significant difference in the kind of war which seems to be evolving in Vietnam—a “Third Stage” or conventional war in which it is easier to identify, locate and attack the enemy. . . . . The SVNese under one government or another will probably see the thing through (Amb Lodge points out that we may face a neutralist government at some time in the future and that in those circumstances the US should be prepared to carry on alone) and the US public will support the course of action because it is a sensible and courageous military-political program designed and likely to bring about a success in Vietnam. It should be recognized, however, that success against the larger, more conventional, VC/PAVN forces could merely drive the VC back into the trees and back to their 1960-64 pattern— a pattern against which US troops and aircraft would be of limited value but with which the GVN, with our help, could cope. The questions here would be whether the VC could maintain morale after such a setback, and whether the SVNese would have the will to hang on through another cycle. It should be recognized also that even in “success” it is not obvious how we will be able to disengage our forces from Vietnam. It is unlikely that a formal agreement good enough for the purpose could possibly be negotiated—because the arrangement can reflect little more than the power situation. A fairly large number of US (or perhaps international) forces may be required to stay in Vietnam.

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The overall evaluation is that the course of action recommended in this memo . . . stands a good chance of achieving an acceptable outcome within a reasonable time in Vietnam.

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The Advisory Build-Up 1961–1967

Summary and Analysis

The United States decided, shortly after the Geneva Accords and during the period of French withdrawal from Indo-China, to give military assistance and advice to the newly proclaimed Republic of Vietnam. It might as easily have decided not to undertake this effort to prevent South Vietnam from falling to communism. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were pessimistic. The creation of a Vietnamese Army, they said, might not even lead to internal political stability, much less assure the capability to protect South Vietnam from external aggression. The JCS also believed that the limitations imposed by the Geneva agreements on the number of U.S. military personnel would make it impractical to attempt to train a new Army-particularly given the paucity of experienced leaders which was the legacy of French colonialism. The President’s military advisors did not wish to assume the responsibility for failure without the resources and influence which would offer a better chance for success. The American Gamble

The available record does not indicate any rebuttal of the JCS’s appraisal of the situation. What it does indicate is that the U.S. decided to gamble with very limited resources because the potential gains seemed well worth a limited risk. “I cannot guarantee that Vietnam will remain free, even with our aid,” General J. Lawton Collins reported to the National Security Council, “But I know that without our aid Vietnam will surely be lost to Communism.” 471

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Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was instrumental in deciding for political reasons to undertake a modest program of military advice aimed at producing political stability. Once launched, however, the program of advice and assistance came to be dominated by conventional military conceptions. Insuring internal stability is a “lesser included capability” of armed force, the reasoning went; the principal purpose of such a force is to protect the territorial integrity of the nation. It was such a conventional force that the small USMAAG attempted to produce from 1955 until about 1960. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was made to “mirror image” the U.S. Army to the extent permitted by differences in equipment and locale. The number of U.S. advisors (approximately doubled by “The Equipment Recovery Mission”-a thinly veiled device to increase the number of Americans in Vietnam) remained stable throughout this period. ARVN developed into a multi-divisional force oriented primarily toward conventional defense. The later transition to a force designed for counterinsurgent warfare was thereby made more difficult. It seemed for a while that the gamble against long odds had succeeded. The Viet Minh were quiescent; the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) were markedly better armed and trained than they were when the U.S. effort began (at which time they were unarmed and untrained), and President Ngo Dinh Diem showed a remarkable ability to put down factions threatening GVN stability and to maintain himself in office. This period of apparent stability disappeared, however, in the events of 1959/61 as the Viet Minh (relabelled Viet Cong—a contraction for Vietnamese Communist) stepped up terrorism, sabotage, and military action by increasingly large units. By mid-1961, the prospect for South Vietnam’s independence was at least as dark as it had been six years earlier. But the U.S. military advisors in Vietnam had learned—or at least thought tney had learned—during this period of gradual disintegration the true nature of the battle in which they were engaged by proxy. This was an unconventional, internal war of counterinsurgency rather than a conventional struggle against an external foe. It was a battle for the “hearts and minds” of the indigenous (and especially the rural) population rather than a contest to win and hold key terrain features. It was an intermeshed political-economic-military war rather than one in which political and economic issues were settled by military victory.

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U.S. advisors in Vietnam—and U.S. military and civilian theorists in other places, as well—formulated during this period a rudimentary doctrine of counterinsurgent warfare. In response to Premier Khrushchev’s endorsement of “wars of national liberation” they proposed to help free world nations save themselves from communism by a series of sequential actions that dealt with the symptoms of social revolution (the insurgency) as well as its causes (the frustration of expectations for social justice). Thus, at almost the same time that the U.S. began its advisory buildup in South Vietnam in late 1961, military and civilian practitioners found themselves in possession of a simple, apparently logical, outline sketch of a method by which to counter the communist-captured insurgency. Physical security from the acts of the insurgents was a necessary but not a sufficient condition for success. In addition to security the Vietnamese government had to establish the services which would link it in classic terms of legitimacy to its subjects. We would fight fire with fire and we would fight it with water, too. The Limited Partnership

The decisions made by the Kennedy Administration from mid-1961 onward, culminating in the expansion of the U.S. advisory effort following General Maxwell D. Taylor’s mission to Saigon in October, did not simply set out to explain this newly-articulated counterinsurgency theory and doctrine to the GVN. They attempted to induce the GVN to reform itself so that identification with its populace would be possible. Beyond this, they chose to attempt to help the Vietnamese, in Taylor’s words, “as friends and partners—not as arms-length advisors—[and] show them how the job might be done—not tell them or do it them.” The “limited partnership” which General Taylor proposed—and which President Kennedy accepted—was designed to place U.S. advisors at many levels within the RVNAF and GVN structure rather than merely at the top. An earlier proposal, to concentrate on advisors at the top with wide discretionary authority and to count on influence as the product of the demonstrated commitment of a carefully selected handful of men, was rejected in favor of many advisors at many levels, each serving normally only for a twelve month period, and with the advisory manpower furnished through normal personnel selection and assignment processes within the military services.

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The expectation among U.S. policymakers—recorded in NSAM 111— was that the GVN and U.S. would mutually agree upon necessary steps to end the insurgency. The U.S., for its part, would underwrite an increase in RVNAF and provide advisors throughout the military structure down to battalion level and in each provincial capital. The GVN would rationalize its lines of authority and begin reform measures to bring it closer to the Vietnamese people. This was, of course, a U.S. expectation, not an agreed quid pro quo. Diem was unwilling to permit the U.S. to share in his formulation of plans. He was even afraid to discuss the U.S. expectations candidly with his own cabinet ministers. It is a matter of record that he did not reform his government. (“He will not reform because he cannot,” J. Kenneth Gaibraith cabled President Kennedy.) What remains in issue is whether he could have done so. If he could not, the U.S. plan to end the insurgency was foredoomed from its inception, for it depended on Vietnamese initiatives to solve a Vietnamese problem. Commitment and Expectation

Thus the U.S. overall plan to end the insurgency was on shaky ground on the GVN side. Diem needed the U.S. and the U.S. needed a reformed Diem. As U.S. advisors began deploying to Vietnam for service with tactical units in the field, the gamble of the mid-50’s was transferred into a broad commitment. President Kennedy and his advisors were determined to save Vietnam from communism by helping the Vietnamese to save themselves. One side of the dual U.S. thrust (GVN reform) was already in trouble. What of the “friends and partners” who were to share the dangers and tasks of RVNAF in the field? What was expected of them? What advantages would accrue from their presence in Vietnam? The available record is almost totally devoid of any explication (much less any debate) on these questions. General Taylor’s report of his mission to Saigon implies an unambiguous convergence of interests between the advisors and the advised. All that was needed was greater competence. More U.S. advisors at more places working on problems of Vietnamese training and operations could not but have an overall beneficial effect. It is necessary to surmise the expectations in the policymakers minds of just how this would come about. First, they seem to have expected the increased U.S. advisory presence to lead directly to increased RVNAF competence in technical and tactical areas. Basic military skills-how to

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move, shoot, and communicate-could be improved and the improvements sustained by a continuing U.S. presence at many operational levels. Second, the U.S. policymakers could receive reports from an omnipresent U.S. “network” which would permit them to become better informed about what was really taking place in Vietnam, not only with respect to VC activity but with reference to ARVN plans, operations, and problems as well. Finally, the U.S. expected to realize increased influence within RVNAF from the presence of advisors. (and it expected, as NSAM 111 made clear, to realize increased influence with GVN in exchange for increasing its visible commitment to South Vietnamese independence.) Increased influence can, of course, be gained in many ways. U.S. advisors could, by example, promote more aggressive Vietnamese leadership and improved standards of conduct. A well-coordinated advisory network could exert persuasive pressure throughout RVNAF to adopt certain policies or practices. And the U.S. providers of the material resources could, if they wished, keep a tight hand on the spigot and control the flow. They could exert influence negatively. The U.S. was anxious to avoid this last mentioned approach to increased influence. “Leverage,” as it is now commonly known, was a subject rarely discussed, much less practiced. The “limited partnership“ finessed the whole issue of sanctions by assuming (or hoping or pretending, one cannot know which) that no problem existed. Pacification and Strategic Hamlets

The process of countering insurgency, most commonly called pacification, received a great amount of attention and publicity at the same time the U.S. was increasing its field advisors with ARVN from a handful to over 3,000. Earlier, in 1960, the USMAAG had pressed upon the GVN a national Counterinsurgency Plan for Vietnam (CIP) which was really an organizational blueprint for reordering the GVN-RVNAF lines of command to permit effective action. The nub of the problem was that the political leaders in rural areas (Province and District Chiefs-almost all military officers) were responsible to Saigon directly while RVNAF had a separate chain of command. In 1961, the MAAG presented its complementary Geographically Phased Plan which specified the relative priority for clearing out the VC, holding, then building GVN at the “rice roots.” The object, as the U.S. advisors saw it, was to have a workable national plan upon which to base the entire US-GVN effort.

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The Strategic Hamlet Program soon became the unifying vehicle to express the pacification process. The theory was that of physical security first, then government programs to develop popular allegiance. The fact was over-expansion, counter-productive coercion in some areas, widespread mismanagement, and dishonesty. U.S. policymakers were not, however, aware of how badly things were going until they became much worse. Optimism dominated official thinking. No need was perceived for new departures. Throughout the period of the Strategic Hamlet Program— that is, until Diem’s regime was toppled in late 1963—the number of U.S. advisors remained relatively stable at its new (1962) plateau. The expectation that more U.S. advisors would mean better information for U.S. policymakers was not realized. One cannot judge accurately the reasons why U.S. leaders in Vietnam and Washington thought the counterinsurgent effort was making headway, but the fact that it was not is crystal clear in retrospect. The expectation that GVN and U.S. interests were sufficiently parallel to permit greater U.S. influence solely as a result of a larger U.S. presence foundered on the personalities and the felt necessities of the Ngo brothers. The extent to which RVNAF technical-tactical competence was increased during this period remains a subject of disagreement but it was not increased sufficiently to “turn the tide” of the war. That much is indisputable. Another Round of Increases

After Diem’s fall there was a brief period of optimism based on the expectation that the new military regime in Saigon would be more receptive to U.S. advice than its predecessor had been. By the summer of 1964, when the decision was made to expand the advisory effort again, this optimistic hope had foundered on the fact of continued VC victories and instability within the GVN. NSAM 288 had, in March 1964, stated U.S. objectives in Vietnam in the most unambiguous and sweeping terms. If there had been doubt that the limited risk gamble undertaken by Eisenhower had been transformed into an unlimited commitment under Kennedy, that doubt should have been dispelled internally by NSAM 288’s statement of objectives: We seek an independent non-Communist South Vietnam. We do not require that it serve as a Western base or as a member of a Western

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Alliance. South Vietnam must be free, however, to accept outside assistance as required to maintain its security. This assistance should be able to take the form not only of economic and social measures but also police and military help to root out and control insurgent elements.

If we cannot save South Vietnam, the NSAM continued in a classic statement of the “domino theory,” all of Southeast Asia will probably fall and all of the Western Pacific and South Asian nations will come under increased pressure. There were at this time several steps which the U.S. could have taken to increase its assistance to the GVN. Carrying the war to Hanoi was one; introducing U.S. combat forces was another. Neither appealed much, however, in terms of helping the South Vietnamese to win their war. Both were anathema in the midst of Presidential election year politics. Bombing was discussed and plans laid, but no action taken. Troop commitments were not even discussed- at least in the written record of proposals and decisions. Rather, a number of palliative measures to help the GVN economy and RVNAF were adopted and the advisory effort was expanded. The 1964 expansion of the advisory effort consisted of the beefing-up of the battalion advisory teams and the establishment of district (subsector) teams. Thus, a new dimension of American presence was added and the density of U.S. advisors in operational units was increased. There is nothing in the available record to suggest either a challenge to the old, unstated assumption that more U.S. advisors would lead to increased performance or any change in the assumed expectations of U.S. policymakers had changed. The determination remained to advise rather than to command, to develop Vietnamese leadership rather than to supplant it, and to induce the GVN to take the steps necessary to pacify its own dissident elements. Advisors Temporarily Forgotten

The expansion to district level placed U.S. military advisors throughout almost the entire RVNAF hierarchy (from JGS to battalion, with enough men at the lower level to advise companies on a “when needed” basis) and the political hierarchy as well (sector/province and sub-sector/district). U.S. advisors were not present in large numbers with the old Civil

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Guard and Self-Defense Corps- now relabelled the Regional Forces and Popular Forces under province and district control respectively-but they advised the military men in political positions who controlled these paramilitary forces. Still the situation continued to deteriorate. Political instability within the GVN had by 1965 become a perennial rather than a transitory problem. The U.S. had initiated a continuing series of military air war measures to dissuade North Vietnam from support of the war in the South. The results were obviously inadequate; they may even have been opposite to those expected. Then ARVN suffered a series of disastrous defeats late in the spring of 1965 which led knowledgeable observers to fear an imminent GVN collapse. U.S. combat units—a few of which were already in-country with restrictive missions— began to be deployed to South Vietnam in earnest. When the build-up of U.S. combat forces got underway the build-up of U.S. advisors had already been essentially completed. Being an advisor in the field had been the most challenging assignment a U.S. soldier could seek; being with a U.S. unit in combat now became the aim of most. The advisory effort sank into relative obscurity as the attention of policymakers (and of the press and public) focused on the U.S. force deployments, on building the base complexes from which U.S. military might could project itself into the countryside, and in exploring the new relationships and new opportunities occasioned by the commitment of U.S. land forces to the Asian mainland. A number of measures which would have changed materially the U.S. advisors relationship to their Vietnamese counterparts were examined briefly in mid-1965. Each was dropped. The encadrement of U.S. and ARVN units was favored by President Johnson. General Westmoreland opposed it-apparently because of language problems and the difficult logistic support problem it would create-and the issue quickly died, except for the experimental Combined Action Platoons (CAPs) formed by the Marines. The subject of a combined U.S.-RVNAF command was brought up. Secretary McNamara was more favorably disposed toward achieving “unity of command” than were his senior military advisors and the U.S. Mission representatives in Saigon. They were keenly aware of GVN sensitivity to any measures which would explicitly finger the increasing Americanization of the war effort. So combined command was shelved, too. The GVN even opposed a joint US-JGS staff to coordinate the war effort. The staff was never formed.

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Pacification Reemphasized

As the build-up of U.S. combat forces reached a level permitting offensive forays against the VC (and North Vietnamese Army) forces, there gradually evolved a division of responsibilities between U.S. and Vietnamese forces in which the former were to concentrate on defeating the main forces of the VC/NVA and the latter were to give primary emphasis to the pacification program. Half of ARVN was to operate in support of pacification. This division of effort threw most U.S. advisors into pacification— with ARVN units as well as in the province and district advisory teams. It also threw the U.S. military advisors into closer contact—and competition and conflict—with the growing number of advisors on civil functions (many of whom were U.S. military men on “loan”) representing the CIA, AID, and USIA. The question was raised of the optimal internal U.S. organization to support the Vietnamese pacification program. The result of a drawn-out, occasionally acrimonious debate on this question was an intermixed civil-military organization embracing the entire pacification effort, headed by a civilian of ambassadorial rank under COMUSMACV’s direction. Called Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS), it replaced a bilinear system in which military advisors were controlled through a military chain of command and all civilian advisors were controlled (at least in theory) through an Office of Civil Operations (OCO). The creation of CORDS was hailed as a victory for the “single manager” concept even though some very substantial U.S. programs were defined as outside the pacification program and, hence, beyond CORDS’ competence. RF/PF Advisors

The creation of CORDS affected only the organizational context of U.S. advice to the South Vietnamese. It did nothing to change the relationship between advisor and advised. U.S. expectations continued in the wellworn furrows in which they had travelled from the beginning: better information, more U.S. influence over Vietnamese plans and actions, and improved GVN (including RVNAF) performance were the hoped for products of the advisory effort. This pattern was repeated in 1967 when an increase of over 2,000 military advisors was proposed by MACV to assist the Regional and Popular Forces- whose security missions were almost exclusively devoted

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to support of the pacification program. The RF and PF were, at that time, the only RVNAF components without a sizeable U.S. advisory complement. When the question of improving their effectiveness was addressed the old assumption that more U.S. advisors would equate to improved effectiveness again went unchallenged. The question debated was whether this new dimension of the U.S. advisory effort should be structured to give continuing advice to RF companies and PF platoons or should be constituted on a mobile training basis. The decision was to form mobile teams for both tactical and logistical support training. Advisors were detached from their parent U.S. combat units and detailed to these duties pending the manpower accounting change which would transfer these individuals to MACV advisory control and replace them in U.S. units with newly deployed fillers. Avoided Issues

This was the situation when the VC/NVA launched a massive series of attacks against urban population centers and surrounding pacification program forces during the 1968 lunar new year (Tet) offensive. In the confused aftermath of this radical change in VC/NVA strategy the U.S. announced in Washington its intention to give renewed attention to modernizing RVNAF so that a larger share of the war effort could be turned back to the Vietnamese. This policy decision, following as it did an unprecedented six-year period of U.S. attempts to wage counterinsurgent war by proxy, constituted an adequate reason to reexamine the experience of the past and to explore more fully some difficult questions which have been consistently avoided in the desire to assist South Vietnam. The most basic of these questions is whether the U.S. can in any way serve as a makeweight sufficient to change the continuing unfavorable trend of the war in South Vietnam? Can it, that is, overcome the apparent fact that the Viet Cong have “captured” the Vietnamese nationalist movement while the GVN has become the refuge of Vietnamese who were allied with the French in the battle against the independence of their nation? Attempts to answer this question are complicated, of course, by the difficult issue of Viet Cong allegiance to and control by Communist China. But this is the nature of the situation. The issue of whether the U.S. can energize the GVN has been too long submerged by repeated assertions that it must do so.

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A part of any tentative answer to this fundamental question will turn on the issue of how the U.S. might better promote a more adequate pace of GVN reform and improved RVNAF effectiveness to cope with the VC/ NVA threat. (A related question, of course, is whether reform and increased effectiveness can proceed simultaneously.) Asking this question would open for examination two aspects of the advisory program that have come to be treated by reflexive response: where are advisors needed and what should be the relationship of the advisor to the advised? The continuing U.S. unstated assumption has been that more advisors somehow equate to better performance. This can be traced in the successive expansions of the military advisory effort-first to the provinces and down to battalion level within ARVN, then to the districts, and most recently to the paramilitary forces within RVNAF. It may be that large numbers of advisors are, in fact, the best way to influence events but one cannot reach such a conclusion validly without first asking the question. The relationship of advisor to advised has gone through recurrent changes relative to judging an advisor’s performance according to the performance of his counterpart. It has almost never deviated, however, from the belief that the conscious and continuing use of leverage at many levels would undercut Vietnamese sovereignty and stultify the development of Vietnamese leadership. Given the results of this policy over a number of years it is fair to ask whether the stick ought not to be more routinely used in combination with the carrot. Again, the answer is not obvious but it is obvious that there can be no sound answer in the absence of inquiry. Finally, and closely related to any examination of the leverage issue, there is the question of the adequacy of counterinsurgent theory and doctrine. The progression from physical security through the establishment of socially oriented programs (political and economic) to the objective of earning and winning popular allegiance seems both simple and logical. It may also be simplistic, for its transformation into operational reality bumps head-on into some very difficult questions. Is security a precondition to loyalty, for instance, or must some degree of loyalty be realized as a precondition to intelligence information adequate to make security feasible? This chicken-and-egg argument has been debated for years without leading to any noticeable consensus on guides to operational action.

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Seeking answers to any of these questions is a difficult, frustrating business. There exists no “control” by which laboratory comparisons of alternative courses can be made. There is almost surely no hard choice which will not carry with it very real liabilities along with its advantages. But if the lives and effort expended in the U.S. military advisory effort in South Vietnam in the 1960’s are to be justified, a substantial portion of that justification will consist of a closer examination of past assumptions in order better to guide future policy.

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Part VI

1966–1971

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Telegram From the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Honolulu, January 12, 1966, 0205Z.

JCS 46895. The Relationship of Military Operations Against NVN to the Overall Strategy of the War in SVN (U).







1. One of the key elements of the strategy in Vietnam has been the application of steadily increasing military pressure against North Vietnam to force cessation of support to the VC, and to bring NVN to the negotiating table. Surely a negotiated solution to the problem of peace and security for SVN is infinitely preferable to a long, bitter and costly war. We recognize that the effectiveness of military pressure depends partly on a significant combination of moves toward negotiation which clearly indicates to the DRV our continuing readiness to negotiate. The current pause is such a move, and it is to be hoped that it will be quickly successful. 2. Based on reactions so far, however, Hanoi has shown no inclination to negotiate and may continue to spurn all our efforts unless forced to take some other course. We should plan now to resume effective operations against NVN, as indeed we must if negotiations do not bring an early cease fire. 3. It is essential, therefore, that the vital relationship of military operations against NVN to a coherent overall strategy for Vietnam 485

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be recognized. This overall strategy is based on three undertakings. These are: A. To deny to the Communists in SVN the effective direction and assistance from NVN so vital to their war making capability. B. To assist the RVN in providing protection of the South Vietnamese people from Communist subversion and oppression, to liberate areas dominated by the VC, and to assist in the establishment of a stable economy and the continuation of an independent non-Communist government. C. To defeat the VC and PAVN forces and destroy their base areas in the RVN. Germane to the interdependent nature of these three elements of strategy is the necessity that success be achieved in each and that each of the three undertakings be subject to a simultaneous application of appropriate military force.



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4. When we resume operations against NVN, the air campaign should be conducted in the most effective manner to accomplish sub para 3.A. above. This will require operations quite different from the pre-cease fire pattern. The vital external assistance to NVN required to sustain effective internal military operations and external aggression must be denied. Resources already in NVN most needed to support aggression should be destroyed in depth. All known military material and facilities should be destroyed and military activities and movements should be continuously harassed and disrupted. 5. It appears that the very foundation of the enemy’s morale and resultant tenacity stands squarely on the belief that our patience will run out before his. Hanoi has publicly stated that the enormous costs of long lines of communications and the casualties they intend to inflict on U.S. forces will cause us to negotiate on their terms. We should consider the consequences of NVN secure from attack, supported by both Russia and China, infiltrating into SVN troops equipped with the latest weapons, fully trained, and continuously supplied. Of even greater importance would be the freedom of Hanoi to exercise unhampered direction of operations in SVN and the concomitant beneficial morale effects upon the

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PAVN/VC forces. Vietnam Communist history and doctrine and current experience lead only to the conclusion that they are willing to expend lives at a rate which we would consider unacceptable to achieve their objectives. Therefore, we must accept as reality that an exorbitant expenditure of lives by the enemy in SVN over a long period of time would be endured as long as success appeared possible. The implications of this fact are enormous. Viewed in this context then, Hanoi may not have been idly boasting when they claimed that Operation Starlite,1 near Chu Lai, and the battle of Ia Drang2 were actually victories for their side. Unfortunately, this could be true in a strategic sense unless our strategy makes full use of our superior air power to reduce casualties and foreshorten the time required to achieve our limited objectives. 6. Again, as they did in one phase of the war against the French when faced with superior regular military forces, the Communists are currently avoiding costly engagements at our initiative in SVN and are concentrating on terrorism and destructive attacks on small outposts and garrisons. This technique can be used any time success seems to elude them temporarily. A PAVN/VC force using this strategy and supported as visualized can extend the time period before we gain any real military successes or reconstruction progress. A long stand-down in air attacks against NVN while NVN continues to support PAVN/VC intensive operations in SVN would vitiate U.S. strategy for bringing the war in Vietnam to an acceptable conclusion. For political, economic and psychological reasons of great importance in both the U.S. and SVN there is an urgent need to make rapid progress toward security for the SVN people and the destruction of PAVN/VC forces and base areas. The adverse consequences, both in the U.S. and SVN of very slow progress in the war, could be incalculable. 7. The Communists have a total disregard for the human values held by the Western world. By our standards, they will endure staggering losses of human lives to achieve their objectives. They are





1 In

Operation Starlite, August 1965, U.S. Marines trapped a major portion of the 1st Viet Cong Regiment on a peninsula near Chu Lai, 100 kilometers southeast of Da Nang.

2 The

Battle of Ia Drang took place in November 1965 in the Ia Drang Valley of South Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

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keenly aware of our attitudes and have announced that U.S. troop casualties, rather than victory in battle, will govern their strategy in SVN. At the same time, they know that we would choose to exploit full use of air power as a technological alternative to human loss. To prevent this, they have staged a remarkable world-wide political and propaganda campaign. They anticipate that the VC, fully supported by NVN, can inflict sufficient casualties to generate internal U.S. pressures to end the war far short of the objectives we seek. They have correctly determined that a crucial battle of the war is the political battle. They are not fighting to attain a permanent stand-down. We must not permit them to win it. 8. With these thoughts in mind, a review of the changed situation since RT operations began is in order. We began RT with very limited objectives, at a time when PAVN infiltration was of less significance than it is now. Our build up in SVN was visualized as a moderate and sustainable assist to the ARVN in maintaining effective mobile reserve forces and in gaining and maintaining security for reconstruction. It was visualized that such assistance was politically and economically supportable for an indefinite period while the GVN made the required progress. 9. When RT began, there was considerable hope of causing Hanoi to cease aggression through an increasing pressure brought to bear through carefully timed destruction of selected resources, accompanied by threat of greater losses. Presumably this would cause Hanoi to decide to cease support of the VC. But in Feb of last year CINCPAC stated a view substantially as follows: We must face the fact that punitive attacks and the threat of destruction of the capital resources in NVN probably will not bring Hanoi to the conference table. Ho Chi Minh has never doubted ultimate victory. We said that from his point of view the prospect of eventual defeat in SVN would be the unacceptable threat to his long term objectives. Therefore, in order to win in SVN, the immediate objective of RT should be to make it as difficult and as costly as possible for NVN to continue effective support of the VC and Pathet Lao, thereby contributing directly to our ultimate objective of winning in SVN. 10. However, Rolling Thunder has been conducted with the primary objective of increasing pressure to cause Hanoi to “decide” to

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cease support of the VC and Pathet Lao and the objective of making it difficult to export aggression has been pursued in a very limited manner. On the credit side, there has been significant disruption upon which we can capitalize when operations are resumed. NVN has had to expend great effort to repair roads and bridges and to prepare defense of urban areas for possible attack. Necessary internal operations have been severely disrupted and military support to the VC and Pathet Lao has been somewhat slowed but not slowed enough. Reconstruction of communication links has been designated as a number one strategic problem and large numbers of people have been organized into repair gangs. The Army has been given supervision of reconstruction in Zone IV, no doubt detracting from their military duties. And as a reflection of the pressure the Vietnam news agency in Hanoi has been increasing the tempo of propaganda relating to U.S. air attacks. These facts and others indicate that Hanoi has felt the pressure and that we were presenting the government with growing internal problems. In light of the limited objectives of the air campaign, RT has done quite well. 11. On the other hand, RT operations have not been conducted in such a manner as to increase the pressure on Hanoi in recent months. Targets vital to effective military operations have not been struck in significant numbers; military and civilian activities have accommodated to the limited operations; and, in fact, the psychological pressure has decreased. But regardless of how RT has been conducted, the important fact now is that the nature of the war has changed since the air campaign began. RT has not forced Hanoi to the decision which we sought. There is now every indication that Ho Chi Minh intends to continue support of the VC until he is denied the capability to do so. He has the unstinting support of the ChiComs which has increased his obligation to that regime. This, together with the pressure from that direction to continue support probably leaves him little alternative. This resolve has caused a significant change in the complexion of NVN support to the VC, while U.S. commitments have dramatically increased. In the light of these greatly increased commitments and the factors already discussed, and with due regard to political realities and current resources, we must do all that we can to make it as difficult and costly as possible

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for Hanoi to continue direction and support of aggression. In good conscience, we should not long delay resumption of an RT program designed to meet the changed nature of the war. 12. In consonance with the overall concept, military operations against NVN should: A. Deny to NVN assistance from external sources. B. Destroy in depth those resources already in NVN that contribute most to the support of aggression; destroy or deny use of all known permanent military facilities; and harass and disrupt dispersed military operations. C. Harass, disrupt, and impede movement of men and materials through Southern DRV into Laos and SVN. Denial of external assistance requires interdiction of land LOC’s from China and closing of the ports. Occasional attacks against bridges on the LOC’s in the northeast quadrant has had only limited success in disrupting the flow. This area must be opened up for armed recce with authority to attack LOC targets as necessary. In initiating action to close the ports, particularly Haiphong, Hon Gay and Cam Pha, it is recognized that political considerations are involved. Highly selective strikes and political action on the international scene to indicate our intentions to continue to deny use of the ports should be undertaken. Reaction of ChiComs while the program gets underway should provide indications of their actual intentions. Nevertheless, if we are to realize our aims, we must take these steps, bold as they may seem. Destruction of resources within NVN should begin with POL. Every known POL facility and distribution activity should be destroyed and harassed until the war is concluded. Denial of electric power facilities should begin at an early date and continue until all plants are out of action. Complete destruction is not required. All large military facilities should be destroyed in Northern NVN as they have been in the Southern area. 13. We should mount an intensified armed reconnaissance program without sortie restriction, to harass, disrupt and attrit the dispersed and hidden military facilities and activities south of 20 deg

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which have been identified and are continuing to be identified as a result of detailed intelligence analysis. We should concentrate on LOC centers, attacking trans-shipment points, vehicle/boat concentrations, and LOC exits into Laos on a nite and day basis. The initial effort should be followed by sustained armed recce surveillance and attack against known and predicted traffic flow areas in order to maintain the harassment and disruption desired. 14. Paralleling an increased tempo of RT operations CINCPAC will maintain intensified photo reconnaissance with all available assets. Previous RT operations have forced the enemy to hide, disperse, and camouflage his military support base, and to take maximum advantage of darkness to move personnel, supplies and equipment over the infiltration routes. All available exploitation resources will be applied to detailed readout and analysis of the frequent coverage that must be obtained, but more may be required. When RT operations are resumed, security of our forces should be given the attention required. We must neither accept losses that could be prevented nor interference with operational flexibility. Plans have been drawn up for constant surveillance of the airfields and their destruction when required. Soon they should be authorized for attack. It will be far too costly to an intensive air campaign to permit the enemy to maintain a SAM capability. Operational commanders will require authority to deal with this threat wherever it jeopardizes operations. 15. In summary, we strongly believe that air operations against NVN should be resumed as one of the three main elements of our strategy in Vietnam. We should use all available force, with due regard to the President’s intention at this time not to destroy the NVN people and nation, to eliminate Hanoi’s capability to support the VC. The complementary course in SVN is to employ the combined in-country military force to better protect the South Vietnamese people, liberate areas dominated by the Viet Cong, institute and maintain a pacification rural construction program, destroy enemy base areas, and defeat regular enemy military forces. Success in all three elements of this strategy promises the most rapid progress toward achieving our objectives. Viewing this prospect from both

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sides, and in consideration of factors discussed, these three tasks well done will bring the enemy to the conference table or cause the insurgency to wither from lack of support.3 The alternative appears to be a long and costly counterinsurgency—costly in U.S. and SVN lives and material resources.4

3 In

a 12-page paper, “Viet Nam Prospects,” also dated January 12, Goldberg sought to convince the President that the “limited though considerable escalation now contemplated” would “probably achieve no significant results except to escalate casualties, destruction, costs, and political liabilities.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Vietnam Files: FRC 77-0075, Vietnam, 1966) 4 William Bundy responded to Admiral Sharp on January 14, concurring “on the importance of combining political moves toward negotiation with military pressures” but noting that “the key question which always faces us is that of timing.” As for denying assistance from the North to the enemy in the South, Bundy felt that the problem was “to find exactly the right combination of military measures and political initiatives to accomplish this result.” (Department of State, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, WPB Chron)

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Selected Press Reactions to the Honolulu Conference February 1966

EDITORIAL: The New York Herald Tribune, February 8: The meeting presents the prospect of our resuming the war in more favorable circumstances. The meeting of the heads of the American and South Vietnamese governments is a fresh and stronger demonstration of mutual confidence. On this basis they can now proceed to mount measures for dealing with the equally important military and civilian aspects of the war. The two are intimately related . . . the loyalty and support of the peasants in the interior are essential. President Johnson is bidding for them by offering some of the benefits of his Great Society program to the South Vietnamese. It will not be easy, in time of war, . . . but . . . they must be pursued with the same vigor as we press the war on the battlefield. EDITORIAL: The Washington Evening Star, February 7: It is particularly significant that the American delegation included HEW Secretary Gardner and Orville Freeman, Secretary of Agriculture. Their presence certainly means that a greater “pacification” effort will be made as the fighting goes on . . .” COLUMNIST: Marquis Childs, February 9 (from Honolulu) This conference called by President Johnson is a large blue chip put on the survival value of the wiry, exuberant Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, and the generals who rule with him. It is expected that Ky will not only survive but that with massive economic help from the U.S. the  national leadership committee will eventually win the support of 493

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the peasant in the countryside . . . Any sensible bookmaker would quote long odds against the bet paying off. But after so many false starts this seems to be the right direction—a determined drive to raise the level of living in the countryside and close the gap of indifference and hostility between the peasant and the sophisticated city dweller . . . Over and over we have been told that only by winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people will we achieve a victory that has meaning beyond the grim choice of pulverization of American occupation into the indefinite future This is the reason teams of American specialists in agriculture, health, and education are going to Vietnam. . . . EDITORIAL: The New York Herald Tribune, February 9: Perhaps the most constructive part of the Honolulu conference was the emphasis it placed on this hitherto badly neglected aspect of the Viet Nam war [Pacification]. It is unfortunate that Chief of State Thieu diverted attention from it by heaping more fuel on the controversy over whether the Viet Cong should or should not sit at a peace conference table. . . . EDITORIAL: The New York Times, February 9 and 13: The Honolulu conference has followed the classic pattern of Summit meetings that are hastily called without thorough preparation in advance; it has left confusion in its wake, with more questions raised than answered. . . . . The one important area of agreement at Honolulu, apart from continuation of the military efforts, was on an expanded program of “rural construction.” The prospective doubling of American economic aid, however, will be futile unless it is accompanied by a veritable social revolution, including vigorous land reform. Premier Ky cast some doubt in his emphasis on moving slowly. His Minister of Rural Pacification envisages action in only 1,900 of South Vietnam’s 15,000 hamlets this year. Vice President Humphrey evidently has his work cut out for him in his follow-up visit to Saigon. Unless some way can be found to give more momentum to this effort, the new economic aid program may go down the same drain as all previous programs of this kind. It would be a cruel deception for Americans to get the idea that social reforms carried out by the Ky government with American money are going to make any perceptible difference in the near future to the Vietnamese people or to the course of the war.

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COLUMNIST: Ted Lewis, New York Daily News, February 10 (from Washington): Why, all of a sudden, has President Johnson begun to come to grips with  the “other war” in South Vietnam? . . . Johnson, with his typical oratorical flourishes, has given the impression that he launched something totally new at Honolulu . . . . The fact is that for several years this problem of the “other war” has been recognized as vital by the State Department, the Pentagon and even by the White House. But nobody did much about it, except in an offhand way Johnson is a master of timing. He has definitely gained a political advantage over his Viet policy critics by stressing right now the need of win-fling over the peasants. . . . . [Senator Robert] Kennedy complained in a Senate speech just ten days ago that there were ‘many indications that we have not yet even begun to develop a program. . . . It is absolutely urgent,” the Senator said, “that we now act to institute new programs of education, land reform, public health, political participation. . . . . .” NEWS ANALYSIS: Richard Critchfield in The Washington Evening Star, February 9 (from Saigon): President Johnson’s historic decision at Honolulu backing an Americansponsored brand of social revolution as an alternative to communism in South Vietnam was warmly hailed today by veteran political observers. The Honolulu declaration was viewed as ending postwar era of American foreign policy aimed at stabilizing the status quo in Asia. The key phrase, in the view of many diplomats here, was the offer of full American “support to measures of social revolution, including land reform based upon the principle of building upward from the hopes and purposes of all the people of Vietnam.” . . . . . Johnson’s decisions to put political remedies on a par with military action are also regarded here as a major personal triumph for Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and his top aide, Major General Edward G. Lansdale, the two main advocates of “social revolution” in South Vietnam. . . . . The Honolulu declaration appears to signify a major shift away from the policy of primarily military support established by President Kennedy in 1961 and closely identified with General Maxwell Taylor, Defense Secretary McNamara, and Secretary of State Rusk. . . . The Lodge-Lansdale formula was a striking departure in that it saw the eventual solution not so much in Hanoi’s capitulation as in successful

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pacification in South Vietnam . . . The Honolulu declaration amounts to almost a point by point acceptance of this formula and both its phraseology and philosophy bear Lansdale’s unmistakable imprint. . . . . EDITORIAL: The Baltimore Sun, February 10: Unless there was more substance to the Honolulu Conference than meets the eye, it could be summed up as much ado-not much ado about nothing but simply much ado . . . It was all spectacular and diverting but so far as we can see the problem of the war is where it was before the burst of activity began . . . It is probably worthwhile to have a reiteration of the social and economic measures needed in South Vietnam . . . It is essential to underscore the political nature of the war, along with the continuing military operations. But these matters were generally understood before the Honolulu meetings. Perhaps events to come will make the purpose of the meeting clearer. EDITORIAL: The New York Post, February 9: The Hawaii meetings were advertised as the beginning of a vast new movement of economic and social reform in Vietnam, President Johnson, we were told, went to Honolulu to launch the new approach with maximum drama. Instead, the session inadvertently underscored the lack of interest of the junta in Saigon in anything but military conquest of the Viet Cong, to be carried out by stepped up U.S. armed efforts. . . . NEWS STORY: AP, February 10 (from Honolulu): Vice President Humphrey left for Saigon today with South Vietnam’s top leaders to spur action on programs attacking hunger, disease, and ignorance in that war-torn country. . . . NEWS ANALYSIS: Charles Mohr, The New York Times, February 10 (from Saigon): In the atmosphere of Honolulu, there was much emphasis on form, so much that in some ways it may have obscured substance. The Americans appeared so delighted with Marshal Ky’s “style”—with his showing as a politically salable young man with the right instincts rather than as a young warlord—that there seemed to be almost no emphasis on the important differences between the Governments . . . What Marshal Ky told President Johnson was something he had often said before: South

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Vietnamese society is still riddled with social injustices and political weaknesses; there is not one political party worthy of the name . . . The South Vietnamese leaders believe that they could not survive a “peaceful settlement” that left the VC political structure in place, even if the VC guerrilla units were disbanded. Therefore, the South Vietnamese feel that “rural pacification,” of which much was said at Honolulu, is necessary not only to help them achieve military victory but also to prevent a political reversal of that victory . . . As the Vietnamese see pacification, its core is not merely “helping the people to a better life,” the aspect on which many American speakers dwelled, it is rather the destruction of the clandestine VC political structure and the creation of an ironlike ­system of government political control over the population. . . . But the two governments have never been closer than they are in the aftermath of Honolulu, and the atmosphere of good feeling seems genuine. . . . NEWS ANALYSIS: Roscoe Drummond, February 14 (from Washington): . . . . . The decisions taken at Honolulu by President Johnson and Premier Ky go to the heart of winning. They were primarily social, economic, and political decisions. They come at a malleable and perhaps decisive turn in the war. . . . NEWS ANALYSIS: Tom Wicker in The New York Times, February 13 (from Saigon): Vice President Humphrey . . . has left Saigon reverberating with what he said was the “single message” he had come to deliver. The message was that the war in Vietnam was a war to bring social justice and economic and political progress to the Vietnamese people . . . Humphrey said at a news conference here: “Social and economic revolution does not belong to the V.C. Non-communist forces are the ones forwarding the revolution.” The emphasis on social reform could also quiet critics who contend that Washington has concentrated too much on the military problem and not enough on civic action to win the loyalty of the Vietnamese people. . . . NEWS ANALYSIS: Charles Mohr, The New York Times, February 13 (from Saigon): By giving enormous emphasis and publicity to it, an impression was left that pacification is something new. In a sense, there was some truth in

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this. The men running the program, both Vietnamese and American, are new. And the 1966 plan itself is a new one in many respects. Pacification is vitally important to success in the guerrilla war in South Vietnam. Without it, purely military success becomes empty even if all the battles are “won.” NEWS ANALYSIS: Joseph Alsop, February 14 (from Saigon): CART BEFORE HORSE . . . All that really mattered at Honolulu was a Presidential decision to provide the forces needed to keep the pressure on the enemy here in Vietnam. The odds are heavy that the President, who seems to prefer doing good by stealth, actually took this decision behind the electorate smokescreen of talk about other matters. The question remains whether the needed forces will be provided soon enough. One must wait and see. But at the risk of sounding captious, and for the sake of honesty and realism, it must be noted that there was a big Madison Avenue element in all the talk about “pacification” during the Hawaii meeting and Vice President Humphrey’s subsequent visit to Vietnam. This does not mean that pacification of the Vietnamese countryside is an unimportant and/or secondary problem. On the contrary, it will eventually be all-important and primary. But one need only glance at the list of priority areas marked for pacification now, to see the adman’s touch in the present commotion. There are: An Giang Province, which belongs to the Hoa Hao sect and has been long since pacified by the Hoa Hao; the Hop Tac region near Saigon, where General Harkins experimented unhappily with the so-called oil spot technique; parts of Binh Dinh Province along the northsouth highway; and the fringes of the Marine enclave at Da Nang. Each area differs from the others. In the case of the nine villages on the fringes of the Marines’ Da Nang enclave, for instance, pacification is needed to insure airfield security from mortar fire. Most of these villages have been Viet Cong strongholds for over 20 years, and they could be dangerous. . . . . . Pacification by the Marines looks very fine . . . But it takes far too many Marines to do the job. Nonetheless, the real objections to making a big-immediate show of pacification are quite different. The Hop Tac experience tells the story. Here a great effort was made by the Vietnamese authorities with the

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strong support of General Harkins. A good deal was initially accomplished. Boasts began to be heard. Whereat the enemy sailed forth from the nearest redoubt area, knocked down everything that had been built up, murdered all the villagers who had worked with the government, and left things much worse than they had been before . . . An attempt to make a big immediate show of pacification needs to be warned against, because of the Washington pressure to do just that. A large element of the U.S. Mission was called home a month or so ago. And in effect, these men were commanded to produce a plan for making a show as soon as possible. Fortunately, they had the courage to point out that the cart was being put before the horse once again. Fortunately, Ambassador Lodge is well aware of the dangers of putting the cart before the horse. The pressure for something showy may continue, but it is likely to be resisted. If so, the pressure will not be altogether useless. The Vietnamese and the Americans here are getting ready for pacification on a big scale and in an imaginative way, partly because of that pressure. It is vital to have everything in readiness to do the job of pacification as soon as favorable circumstances arise. But it is also vital to bear in mind that really favorable circumstances cannot arise until the enemy’s backbone of regular units is at last very close to the breaking point, if not actually beginning to break. EDITORIAL: Christian Science Monitor, February 11: If Saigon and Washington fight South Vietnam’s economic and social war as vigorously as they fight its military war, the Communist thrust against that country will fail. Yet this is the biggest “if” of the war. Over and over lip-service has been paid to the inescapable need of winning over the peasantry. But time and again this has come to naught. We are cautiously encouraged by the latest steps being taken. The strong emphasis laid in the Honolulu Declaration on civic reforms is a commitment in the right direction. The sending of Vice-President Humphrey to study South Vietnamese reform programs on the spot is an even stronger earnest of American’s intention not to let this program slip back into another do-nothing doldrum. . . . .

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Statement by Secretary Rusk Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on May 9, 1966, “Background of U.S. Policy in Southeast Asia” Department of State Bulletin, May 30, 1966

*** I was myself in Government during the Truman administration and well recall the discussions which were held at the highest levels of Government in the National Security Council as well as the strategic problems considered by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If the committee will search its own and the public records on this matter during that period and since, they could surely have no doubt that it was the judgment that the security of Southeast Asia was extremely important to the security interests of the United States. This was because of the more than 200 million people in Southeast Asia, the geography of that area, the important natural resources of the countries involved, the relationship of Southeast Asia to the total world situation, and the effect upon the prospects of a durable peace. “I emphasize the last point because the overriding security interest of the United States is in organizing a stable peace. The sacrifices of World War II and the almost unimaginable losses of a world war III underline this central objective of American policy. 501

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There was also involved the problem of the phenomenon of aggression. We had found ourselves in the catastrophe of World War II because aggressions in Asia, in Africa, and in Europe had demonstrated that the aggressor would not stop until compelled to do so. It was the determination of the United States to learn the lessons of that experience by moving in the U.N. and otherwise to try to build an enduring international peace. *** LEGALITY OF U.S. EFFORTS IN SOUTH VIET-NAM

Very briefly, on the second question, Mr. Chairman, the matter was raised with respect to the legal issues surrounding our efforts in South Viet-Nam. We have made available to the committee an extensive legal memorandum on these matters, and the law officers of the Government are available to discuss this in whatever detail the committee may wish. In this brief statement today I shall merely outline the essence of our view. Military actions of the United States in support of South Viet-Nam, including air attacks on military targets in North Viet-Nam, are authorized under international law by the well-established right of collective self-defense against armed attack. South Viet-Nam is the victim of armed attack from the North through the infiltration of armed personnel, military equipment, and regular combat units. This armed attack preceded our strikes at military targets in North Viet-Nam. “The fact that South Viet-Nam is not a member of the United Nations, because of the Soviet Union’s veto, does not affect the lawfulness of collective self-defense of South Viet-Nam. The United Nations Charter was not designed to, and does not, limit the right of self-defense to United Nations members. Nor does South Viet-Nam’s status under the Geneva accords of 1954, as one zone of a temporarily divided state, impair the lawfulness of the defense against attack from the other zone. As in Germany and Korea, the demarcation line is established by an international agreement, and international law requires that it be respected by each zone. Moreover, South Viet-Nam has been recognized as an

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B a c k g r o u n d o f U . S . P o l i c y i n S o u t h e a s t A s i a   503

i­ndependent entity by more than 60 governments around the world and admitted to membership in a number of the specialized agencies of the U.N. Nothing in the U.N. Charter purports to restrict the exercise of the right of collective self-defense to regional organizations such as the OAS [Organization of American States]. As required by the U.N. Charter, the United States has reported to the Security Council the actions it has taken in exercising the right of collective self-defense in Viet-Nam. It has indeed requested the Council to seek a peaceful settlement on the basis of the Geneva accords, but the Council has not been able to act. There is no requirement in international law for a declaration of war before the right of individual or collective self-defense can be exercised. South Viet-Nam did not violate the Geneva accords of 1954 by refusing to engage in consultations with the North Vietnamese in 1955 with a view to holding general elections in 1956, as provided for in those accords. Even assuming that the election provisions were binding on South Viet-Nam, which did not agree to them, conditions in the North clearly made impossible the free expression of the national will contemplated by the accords. In these circumstances, at least, South Viet-Nam was justified in declining to participate in planning for a nationwide election. The introduction of U.S. military personnel and equipment in South VietNam is not a violation of the accords. Until late 1961 U.S. military personnel and equipment in South Viet-Nam were restricted to replacements for French military personnel and equipment in 1954. Such replacement was expressly permitted by the accords. North Viet-Nam, however, had from the beginning violated the accords by leaving forces and supplies in the South and using its zone for aggression against the South. In response to mounting armed infiltration from the North, the United States, beginning in late 1961, substantially increased its contribution to the South’s defense. This was fully justified by the established principle of international law that a material breach of an agreement by one party entitles another party at least to withhold compliance with a related provision. The United States has commitments to assist South Viet-Nam in defending itself against Communist aggression: In the SEATO treatywhich I have already mentioned and which is similar in form to our

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defense commitments to South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and the Republic of China-and even earlier in the Geneva conference we had declared that we would regard a renewal of Communist aggression in Viet-Nam with ‘grave concern.’ Since 1954 three Presidents have reaffirmed our commitments to the defense of South Viet-Nam. Finally, the President of the United States has full authority to commit U.S. forces in the collective defense of South Viet-Nam. This authority stems from the constitutional powers of the President as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive, with responsibilities as well for the conduct of foreign relations. However, it is not necessary to rely upon the Constitution alone as the source of the President’s authority. The SEATO treaty, which forms part of the law of the land, sets forth a United States commitment to defend South Viet-Nam against armed attack, and the Congress, in a joint resolution of August 1964 and in authorization and appropriation acts in support of the military effort in Viet-Nam, has given its approval and support to the President’s action. The Constitution does not require a declaration of war for U.S. actions in Viet-Nam taken by the President and approved by the Congress. A long line of precedents, beginning with the undeclared war with France in 1798-1800 and including actions in Korea and Lebanon, supports the use of U.S. armed forces abroad in the absence of a congressional declaration of war. ***

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Moscow and the Vietnam Peace Talks

T

he following documents confirm Western analyses of the Soviet Union’s role in negotiations to end the Vietnam War. From June to December 1966, Januscz Lewandowski, the Polish representative to the International Control Commission, launched a diplomatic initiative called “Marigold.” Lewandowski served as an intermediary between North Vietnam (Democratic Republic of Vietnam, or DRV) and U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge in an attempt to discover terms that might provide a basis for negotiations. Although the initiative broke down in December when the United States resumed its bombings of the North, the Poles claimed to have extracted a commitment from the DRV to bilateral negotiations with the United States. According to George C. Herring, the Soviet Union supported, and perhaps even directed, the Polish initiative. [Herring, ed., The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War: The Negotiating Volumes of the Pentagon Papers (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1983), 227.] Colonel Fitzgerald’s reported claim therefore that the USSR “is to blame for the fact that the war drags on” is overstated and inaccurate. The Soviets had refused to serve as an active mediator of negotiations on several occasions. But, as the Zorin document indicates, the Soviets played a key role in secret deliberations. Zorin, the USSR ambassador to France, summarizes a meeting he had in Paris in February 1969 with representatives of the DRV and National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLFSV). His conversation confirms the Viets’ commitment to their respective Four and Five Point plans for peace. What is new and exciting about Zorin’s memorandum, however, is the Viet position that “the time for discussion of military questions,” with the United States, “hadn’t come yet.” Shortly after the Tet Offensive of 1968, the negotiations in 505

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Paris opened with the DRV and NLFSV adopting the strategy of vua danh, vua dam [fighting while negotiating]. Zorin’s note tells us much about the Communist side’s military strength in early 1969. Through these investigations in the Soviet archives, a complicated and ill-balanced history may be made clearer and fuller. If only to confirm the previous work of Western scholars, the Soviet documents are important. Perhaps, further research will reveal some new insights into the Second Indochina War. Introduction by Robert K. Brigham, History Dept., University of Kentucky; translations by Mark H. Doctoroff, Harriman Institute, Columbia University. ***** Secret Copy No. 1CC CPSU (For the [General] department CC CPSU ) Colonel Ch.G. Fitzgerald, the military attache at the USA Embassy in the USSR, has lately, in his talks with the officers of the Foreign Affairs department of the Ministry of Defense, been methodically and insistently maintaining the idea of the important role the USSR could play in settling the Vietnam conflict, as the initiator and an active mediator of negotiations. In this respect he considers that the USSR “is to blame” for the fact that the war drags on and on: “When two forces meet head on—in this case the U.S. and the Vietnamese communists—a third force is needed, which could help them come to an agreement. Only the Soviet Union could be this third power.” In his speculations about the ways the Vietnamese conflict could be settled, Colonel Ch. Fitzgerald made the following points: — Peace in Vietnam can be achieved through negotiations, between the USA, North Vietnam, the Vietcong, and the government of South Vietnam. The main obstacle to organizing the negotiations is the government of North Vietnam, though in the present situation negotiations would be most beneficial to North Vietnam. At the same time we understand that the war in Vietnam is profitable for the USSR, because it attracts the attention of the Chinese, otherwise you would have had a lot of trouble and unpleasantries with them on frontier questions and other issues.

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M o s c o w a n d t h e V i e t n a m P e a c e T a l k s   507

— The main goal of the USA in the situation as it has developed is to maintain its prestige—to leave Vietnam “beautifully” [krasivo]. That’s why the American government is persistently looking for ways to organize the negotiations. This was the mission of the senator Mike Mansfield when he came to the USSR, but unfortunately he failed to find understanding from the Soviet representatives. Not long ago the President appointed A. Harriman as his special assistant, with his task being to find paths to negotiations. He has been appointed to use every tiniest possibility to achieve this goal. — The President’s declaration during his press conference in Texas after his meeting with the Commander [of] American troops [Gen. William] Westmoreland, that the American people must know that there will be no quick victory, is just an assertion of his former position. This is not new for us, we are used to it. Colonel Ch. Fitzgerald expresses his personal attitude to the American aggression in Vietnam evasively: “I’m a soldier and am therefore obliged to maintain the policy of my government and follow the directions of my command, but as a man I may sometimes be ashamed for the undermined prestige of the USA.” (signed) P. Ivashutin“23” August 1966 No. 46722

Source: SCCD, F. 5, Op. 58, D. 262, LI. 237-38.

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An Analysis of the Vietnamese Communists’ strengths, Capabilities, and Will to Persist in Their Present Strategy in Vietnam* 26 August 1966

VIII. Alternate communist Strategic Options

39. Should the Vietnamese communists decide at this point that continuation of their insurgency along current lines would not be profitable, they would have three basic policy options. They could: (1) convert the struggle into a major war by inviting massive Chinese Communist military intervention; (2) relax Communist pressure and withdraw some North Vietnamese troops, in the hope that the appearance of tranquility would eventually impel the US to disengage the better part of its forces without any formal commitments from the communists in return; or (3) enter into some form of negotiations. * This

memorandum has been produced by the Directorate of Intelligence of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was jointly prepared by the Office of Current Intelligence, the Office of Research and Reports, the Office of National Estimates, and the Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs in the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence.

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40. We believe Option (1) is the option the Vietnamese Communists would consider least in their long-term interests. Option (2), despite some advantages, would entail major problems for the communists. It carries no guarantee that the U.S. would in fact disengage, and puts the Communists in a position of bidding by successive increments to bring this about. It would engender serious morale problems for the Communists during a protracted stand-down without simultaneous U.S. response. It would be hard to explain as anything but acknowledgement of a serious reverse for long-range Communist objectives. 41. In our view, the Vietnamese Communists would be most likely to try some variant of Option (3)—negotiation. They would hope initially to achieve a reduction of allied offensive pressure, including a suspension of bombing in the North.* They would probably work to keep the talks going in order to prolong such a respite. During the course of the negotiations, they would probably determine whether they would seriously explore the possibilities of an acceptable political solution, or examine the alternative courses still open to them. PRINCIPAL FINDING





1. So long as the U.S. air offensive remains at present levels, it is unlikely to diminish North Vietnam’s continued ability to provide material support to the war in the south. North Vietnam is taking punishment on its own territory, but at a price it can afford and one it probably considers acceptable in light of the political objectives it hopes to achieve. 2. The Viet Cong have borne the brunt of Communist personnel losses in South Vietnam and have also had to compensate for losses of North Vietnamese personnel. We believe that the Viet Cong capability to recruit and train manpower is adequate to cover losses estimated for 1966 but will probably be inadequate to compensate for casualties and losses in 1967. During 1967 the North Vietnamese will have to assume most of the burden of expanding force levels, and an increasing role in replacing losses. These manpower requirements can almost certainly be met from

* Communist behavior in periods of negotiation is examined in Annex XII.

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North Vietnamese resources, but they will impose additional strains on North Vietnam’s limited supply of skilled personnel and leadership cadre. 3. The Communists’ present strategy is costly in both human and economic terms and is taxing Communist resources in some areas, particularly within South Vietnam itself. Allied actions are complicating Communist efforts and raising the costs of their execution. However, neither internal resource shortages nor allied actions within present political parameters are likely to render the Vietnamese Communists physically incapable of persisting in their present strategy. 4. In absolute numerical terms the Communists cannot hope to match present and projected Allied force commitments. However, if present estimates of Allied and Communist force projections are accurate, by mid-1967 the Communists will have a slight advantage in maneuver battalion—i.e., tactical combat troops available for commitment to offensive ground operations. 5. Nevertheless, if they are objective, the Communists must acknowledge that during the past year their insurgent campaign has lost momentum in both the military and political fields. Although they may not be losing the war at the present time, they are certainly not winning it. The Communists are far from being defeated; but they are faced with problems greater that any they have had to contend with before in this struggle. Furthermore, Communist forces have at least temporarily lost the aura of invincibility which was one of their most potent political assets. 6. Morale within Communist military forces and the political apparatus in South Vietnam has declined since mid-1965 but not to a point presently sufficient to force any major revision in basic Communist strategy. 7. The Communists must be disappointed in comparing the present situation with that which existed in the spring of 1965. At least indirectly, they have acknowledged that the infusion of U.S. and Allied combat forces has created new problems which must be overcome before victory can be won. Yet Communist realism is presently tinged more with defiance that pessimism; the Communists may be disappointed, but they do not yet seem to be discouraged.

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8. Consideration of world popular opposition to U.S. policy would certainly enter into any eventual Vietnamese Communist decision on whether to revise present strategy but would most certainly not be a decisive factor. 9. The Vietnamese Communists pay close attention to evidence of opposition to current U.S. policy arising within the United States itself. The outcome of their previous struggle with the French almost certainly predisposes them to draw invalid parallels to French domestic opposition in the Indochina war and to look for sign of American domestic political pressures capable of forcing policy changes on Washington. 10. The timing of any Vietnamese Communist decision on altering basic strategy—and the nature of such a decision—will be greatly affected by a variety of considerations, including those outlined in this paper. We estimate that none of the pressures upon the Communists which we can now identify is severe enough to force a major change in Communist strategy over the next eight to nine months. The Communists would be even less inclined to alter their strategy if they should find political and military developments during this period running in their favor—for example, serious political deterioration in South Vietnam, a series of major Viet Cong military successes, or what they construe as a significant rise of anti-war sentiment in the United States. If on the other hand pressures on them are maintained and the course of events gives them no grounds for encouragement, by late spring of 1967 they will probably feel compelled to take stock and consider a change in their basic strategy.

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Memorandum for the Director, The Outlook in Vietnam 26 February 1968

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY OFFICE OF NATIONAL ESTIMATES 26 February 1968 MEMORANDUM FOR THE DIRECTOR

SUBJECT: The Outlook in Vietnam



1. This Memorandum does not seek to explore all aspects of the situation in Vietnam, or its probable development over a long term. It is addressed only to the specific question put to us, i.e., whether developments in Vietnam are apt to involve a continuation of combat into the indefinite future at a level comparable or higher than current levels, or whether it is more probable that either the VC or the GVN will be unable to sustain such a level beyond a few months. 2. The current phase of combat will have a critical bearing on the further course of the war and may even prove to be decisive. We cannot be sure how long this phase will last, but it seems likely that by early summer the immediate results and the longer term implications will be fairly clear to Hanoi, Saigon, and Washington. 513

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At present, the key question concern: (1) the capabilities of the Communist forces to sustain their current challenge, and whether they can continue the fighting thereafter, and (2) the capabilities of the South Vietnamese political and military establishment to cope with the tasks imposed by the present Communist offensive. Communist Plans and Prospects







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3. Hanoi’s aims in the present offensive phase are: to register significant military successes against US and especially ARVN forces, and to inflict such heavy losses, physical destruction and disorganization on the GVN as to produce a total situation favorable to a negotiated settlement on Communist terms. The Communists are not likely to have a rigid timetable, but they probably hope to achieve decisive results during the course of the summer. The high importance which Hanoi now attaches to forcing the issue is evident from the risks and costs of the enterprise. 4. The toll on Communist forces has been considerable, even if reported casualties are greatly inflated by inclusion of low level recruits and impressed civilians. To some extent these losses have been offset by measures already taken. Heavy infiltration of both new units and replacements from the North is continuing. A strenuous, last minute recruitment effort was made prior to the Tet attacks. A significant part of the guerrilla and Main forces could still be committed. And, at present, the Communists enjoy fuller access to the rural areas, where they are recruiting heavily. They will probably be able to recoup their recent losses, though at some sacrifice in quality. 5. In any case, the communists probably will maintain their offensive for the next several months and be prepared to accept the high losses their entails. They cannot accept such losses indefinitely, however, and they probably will not be capable soon again of launching repeated mass attacks of the magnitude and widespread scale of 30-31 January. But they are almost certainly capable of sustaining a high level of combat, including major battles with US forces, assaults on selected cities, and rocket and mortar attacks on urban areas and military installations.

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6. It is possible that the Communists regard the present campaign as so critical to the outcome of the war that they will commit their full resources to a maximum effort in the near term. On balance, however, we think it likely that even if their present push falls short they will wish to be able a sustain a protracted struggle. Hence they will probably not exercise their capabilities in such a profligate manner as to deny themselves the possibility of continuing the struggle should the present phase fail to produce a decisive result.

GVN/ARVN Prospects



7. The will and capability of the GVN and its armed forces remain the keys to the eventual outcome. 8. In the main, the ARVN has acquitted itself fairly well since 30 January, though the record is uneven. Morale has held up on the whole, and we known of no unit defections. However, the ARVN is showing signs of fatigue and in many areas it has now lapsed into a static defensive posture. Security in the country-side has been sharply reduced. A long and costly effort would have to be undertaken to regain the pre-Tet position. It is highly unlikely that the ARVN will be inspired enough or strong enough to make such an effort—certainly not in the near future. 9. The GVN also performed adequately in the immediate emergency, particularly in the Saigon area. There now appears to be a greater recognition of the need to push forward with additional measures, but the Communist challenge has not yet proved a catalyst in stimulating an urgent sense of national unity and purpose. 10. The overall position of the government has been weakened. Its prestige has suffered from the shock of the Tet offensive; its control over the countryside has been greatly reduced. Popular attitudes are confused and contradictory; the Viet Cong received virtually no popular support, but neither was there a rallying to the government side. Passivity is likely to continue as the dominant attitude in most of the population, but further military defeats could cause a sudden swing away from the government. While the central authority in Saigon is unlikely to collapse, its

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ability to provide energetic leadership throughout the country and all levels is in serious doubt. It is possible that over the next few months certain provinces, especially in I and IV Corps, will be lost to Saigon’s effective authority. 11. The psychological factor is now critical or South Vietnam’s whole political-military apparatus. The widespread rumors that he US conspired with the Communists are symptomatic of popular anxieties over the future course of the war and US attitudes toward a political settlement. As yet, however, there are no signs of a crisis of confidence within the government. 12. If major military reverses occur, the political and military apparatus could degenerate into general ineffectualness. If, on the other hand, US and ARVN regain the initiative and inflict some conspicuous setbacks on the Communists and the general offensive appears to be contained, then the GVN might manifest new energy and confidence and draw new support to itself. On balance, we judge that the chances are no better than even that the GVN/ ARVN will emerge from the present phase without being still further weakened. Alternative Outcomes of Present Phase

13. We believe that the Communists will sustain a high level of military activity for at least the next two or three months. It is difficult to forecast the situation which will then obtain, given the number of unknowable factors which will figure. Our best estimate is as follows: a. The least likely outcome of the present phase is that the Communist side expend its resources to such an extent as to be incapable thereafter of preventing steady advances by the US/GVN. b. Also unlikely, though considerably less so, is that the GVN/ RVN will be so critically weak ened that it can play no further significant part in the military and political prosecution of the struggle.

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c. More likely than either of the above is that the present push will be generally contained, but with severe losses to both the GVN and Communist forces, and that a period will set in during which neither will be capable of registering decisive gains.

FOR THE BOARD OF NATIONAL ESTIMATES: ABBOT SMITH Chariman

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Intelligence Memorandum, Pacification in the Wake of the Tet offensive in South Vietnam 19 March 1968

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence 19 March 1968

INTELLIGENCE MEMORANDUM Pacification in the Wake of the Test Offensive in South Vietnam

Although the evidence is still incomplete, the evidence that is now available indicates that the pacification program has received a serve setback in the majority of South Vietnam’s 44 provinces as a result of enemy activities since the initiation of the Test Offensive on 30 January. In some areas, many of the gains made by the allies since 1965 were apparently negated. Areas where only a slight to moderate setback occurred appear to be those of least significance from the standpoint of population density and strategic location. It is probable, moreover, that as the gaps in information are filled, the extent of personnel and material losses will grow. In the long run, the most damaging aspect of the offensive may well prove to be its adverse impact on popular attitudes toward pacification. Evidence already indicates that the enemy action has greatly increased the apathy and passivity of many rural residents toward government ­programs and personnel.

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The Pre-Tet Situation





1. The blow to pacification caused by the Tet offensive did not come on the heels of steady, all around progress in the program. Rather, it was an additional, heavier setback in a rural security situation that had been gradually deteriorating in many areas since at least August 1967. The decline began to accelerate as the Communists’ winter-spring campaign moved into high gear in October. Thus, for several months prior to Tet, the enemy has maintained continuous pressure on many rural areas, reducing the effectiveness of the GVN presence and improving his own political and military posture. 2. In the initial phases of the Tet assaults, pacification areas and personnel assets generally were not Communist targets. As a result of Viet Cong military action in the months before the offensive and the absence of government personnel for the Tet holiday, the forces involved in pacification in most places were easily bypassed or presented no effective opposition to the enemy’s military forces. Since the offensive, however, as the enemy has attempted to consolidate his grasp on the countryside, those military units and Revolutionary Development (RD) teams that either remained in their assigned areas or are again operating in them have in most cases been subjected to a considerable increase in enemy pressure.

Present Status of Personnel



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3. The Status of the personnel assets of the related pacification programs—the bulk of whom, some 45,000 persons, are Revolutionary Development and other cadres—is still only partially known. Those provinces reporting casualties usually have only partial statistics available. There have, more–over, been few reports of cadre missing or deserting, although it is apparent that this has occurred to some degree. On 1 January, 555 Vietnamese RD teams with a field strength of about 26,120 had reportedly been formed. The Truong Son, or montagnard, RD teams ­numbered 108 with a field strength of approximately 6,770. The Static Census Grievance (SCG) cadres stood at around 5,500 and the members of the Provincial Reconnaissance units (PRU) totaled some 3,780. During January, and additional 2,500 Vietnamese RD cadres finished training. Considering probable attrition in January, the RD cadres probably went into the Tet period numbering around 29,200.

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4. As of 12 March, US officials in Vietnam reported that 321 Vietnamese RD teams—totaling approximately 13,800 cadres— were working in assigned RD hamlets. In addition, 93 Truong Son teams with about 5,900 men were in field positions. Of these, US officials have stated that about half were in planned 1968 locations. Although these teams are accounted for in the sense that they have been reported at a given locale, there is very little information available on their activities. Their personnel strength, moreover, appears to be an approximation at best. 5. Considering the extent of Viet Cong influence reported in the countryside and the drift of the fragmentary reports on current RD activities, it seems likely that the teams which have returned to the field are still largely involved in defensive activities. It is also doubtful that in the near future most of the teams can perform an effective mission among the people. 6. The condition of the Static Census Grievance program in the wake of the Tet offensive varies widely from province of province. In some cases, the SCG cadres performed effectively during the attack period and have been a major source of information on enemy activities in the countryside. In others, the personnel assets and effectiveness of the SCG have been seriously degraded or no cadre reporting has been received from the rural areas. 7. With few exceptions, however, the Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRU) are reported to have performed admirably, both during the attacks at Tet and subsequently. In a few cases, the PRU provided the only effective government military defense in urban areas and the units appear to have moved rapidly to the offensive as enemy troops withdrew. The effectiveness of the PRU is almost certainly the result of their disciplined military character and the fact that they are directly under US rather than South Vietnamese Government direction. The units, however, took heavy casualties in some instances and it remains questionable whether they could sustain their punch under renewed assaults such as occurred at Tet.

Military Support for Pacification



8. As of 16 March, MACV reported that 20 of the 51 RD support battalions were not in their assigned areas. These battalions, for

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the most part, are still drawn off for security duty in and around urban centers. Most of the battalions now in place on pacification duty still appear to be deployed in defensive positions on are operating in RD areas only during daylight hours. 9. The status of the military forces most relied upon for pacification support—the Regional and Popular Forces (RF and PF)––remains unclear. Based upon initial reports, the 150,000 PF soldiers appear to have suffered heavily, particularly in the wake of the urban offensive, as the Communists focused their attention on the rural areas. At least 360 militia outposts, primarily manned by the PF, have been overrun or abandoned in the delta alone. A number of the RF and PF units throughout the country were, like the ARVN, withdrawn in early February from the rural areas and brought to the provincial and district towns to augment defensive forces. Many of these forces have apparently not returned to the countryside.

The 1968 Plan

10. Generally speaking, the government’s overall 1968 pacification plan is being held in abeyance until security improves and the situation in the rural areas is fully determined. Although efforts are under way by the Vietnamese Government to assess the present status of pacification and to get the program moving again, officials seem to be working at cross-purposes to some extent. The government has formulated several new concepts and has issued several seemingly conflicting directives without agreeing on a single plan. New pacification guidelines thus far formulated by US authorities have not been coordinated with the South Vietnamese Government. Some of the Vietnamese officials apparently believe that the US plans go beyond the government’s present capabilities. 11. It will be several weeks, at least, before the US Mission and the GVN have an agreed concept, and it may be the middle of May before the revised provincial pacification plans are approved, re-funded, and acted upon by a majority of the provinces. This assumes that the GVN will be capable of resuming an offensive stance in the countryside.

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Prospects

12. It does not yet appear that most provincial governments are ­capable, on the one hand, of providing continuing security and handling the plethora of greatly compounded socioeconomic problems and, on the other, of restoring and maintaining the momentum of pacification activities. Government movement back to the countryside from the cities and towns has so far been very slow. This has been due in part to continued harassment of the urban areas by the Viet Cong and to the need for extensive diversion of personnel resources to reconstruction tasks in the cities. 13. It also appears, however, that the delay in the government’s return to the countryside is due in part to the pervasive fear of enemy reprisal and to uncertainly about the political future of the government among provincial and district civil and military officials. The psychological impact of the recent fighting on this echelon of the government leadership and on many of the individuals directly involved in executing the specific pacification programs is bound to be significant and may be far-reaching. The loss of life among district and provincial officials, as well as the destruction of pacification facilities and records, was severe in a number of provinces. 14. Since pacification stands or falls on the confidence and enthusiasm of these individuals—and on the receptiveness of the rural populace— the extent of future support and participation in pacification by local Vietnamese remains in question. The past commitment of many of these officials to pacification has often been less than adequate, and in the aftermath of recent events, considerable foot-dragging can be anticipated. In the final analysis, however, the most significant effect of the enemy offensive may have been its revelation of the over-all vulnerability and relative shallowness of the pacification gains made during past years, despite the heavy cost and effort applied to achieve them. 15. Summaries of the situation by Corps are contained in the attached annex, along with detailed assessments of each province.

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Memorandum of Conversation, Meeting of President-elect Nixon with Henry Cabot Lodge, Statler Hilton Hotel, Washington, DC January 19, 1969, 5:30 p.m.

P

resident-elect Nixon said that Lodge could assure the South Vietnamese of his strong support but that they should understand that American public opinion was in a highly critical condition. They discussed the question of a cease-fire and the difficulty of explaining the dangers of a cease-fire to the public. Lodge suggested that it might be expedient for the US to preempt the field with a proposal whereby a cease-fire would be tied in with a withdrawal. Kissinger seemed to think this idea had merit. Mr. Nixon said for Lodge not to be concerned about adverse press in the immediate future. He said he was willing to tolerate an adverse press rather than give up a matter of importance in the negotiations. Mr. Nixon believed that some of the outgoing administration’s statements with regard to the Vietnamese were unduly harsh, and in view of the high regard with which the South Vietnamese hold him, he wanted Lodge to make it clear to them on a personal basis that Mr. Nixon has

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great sympathy with them and will not let them down. Mr. Lodge should explain to them that public opinion in the United Stateswith respect to the South Vietnamese was at a low point and that they should not be concerned.

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Conversations between the Soviets and the Vietnamese, 1969

FROM THE DAYBOOK OF ZORIN, V.A. Secret, Copy # 2 “28” February 1969

Initial #203 MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION with the head of the DRV delegation Comrade Xuan Thuy and the head of the NLFSV delegation Comrade Tran Buu Kiem at the Paris negotiations 21 February 1969 Today I visited the residence of the DRV delegation, where a talk with Comrades Xuan Thuy and Tran Buu Kiem took place.

1. I briefly informed the Vietnamese comrades about the latest statements of the American representative, C. Vance, during the conversation with the Advisor-Envoy of the Embassy Comrade Oberemko, V.I. on February 15 of this year and about French perceptions, expressed by the acting head of the Asia department of the French Foreign Ministry, Delayer (sic) (without direct reference to him) during a talk with Comrade Utkin, the counselor at the Embassy, on February 18 of this year, about questions related to a settlement in Vietnam. The Vietnamese comrades thanked me for this information, which they received with great interest.

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2. Referring to the fact that within the next few days I plan to pay a return visit to C. Lodge, the head of the USA delegation at the Paris negotiations, I tried to find out if my interlocutors thought we should, before President Nixon’s arrival to Paris, ask C. Lodge some questions which would be interesting to the Vietnamese comrades, in order to push the U.S. toward a political settlement. I also asked if the Vietnamese comrades had any questions for the French, taking into consideration that De Gaulle is likely to discuss the Vietnamese question with R. Nixon.

In response to this, my interlocutor made the following observations:



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a) Having remarked that the U.S. does not now want to consider serious issues at the negotiations, Comrade Tran Buu Kiem said that Richard Nixon is trying to strengthen the Saigon regime and its army and only then to work toward the resolution of essential questions. But the situation in South Vietnam will change and the U.S. will not realize its goals. Now the USA is taking measures to provide security in the cities. The Americans have to face new difficulties now, caused by the growth of the movement of various strata of the urban population. This movement has not only a nationalist character, but appears to be broader, with its main aim being the restoration of peace in the country, the dismissal of Nguyen van Thieu, Nguyen Cao Ky, and Tran van Huong from power, and the creation of a “Cabinet of Peace.” The delegations of the NLFSV and the DRV, he went on, have already put forward the proposals which are necessary to discuss in order to come to a political resolution of the problems, and had clearly expressed their positions on political and military issues, but the USA is trying first of all to solve military questions, to improve its position in South Vietnam in order to conduct the negotiations from a position of strength. b) Comrade Xuan Thuy, having agreed with the ideas expressed by Comrade Tran Buu Kiem, stressed that R. Nixon, like Johnson, wants to solve the Vietnamese problem from a position of strength, and that the U.S. is continuing to strengthen the puppet regime, intending to stay in Vietnam even after its troops are

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withdrawn in order to carry out its neo-colonial policy, using the puppets. The Americans don’t yet have a concrete plan for settling the Vietnamese problem. The concrete suggestions which they put forward during the first meetings (I mean C. Lodge’s proposal to start discussing problems connected with the demilitarized zone, withdrawal of foreign troops and exchange of prisoners of war) are aimed at talking, not at actually solving the problem, at putting off its decision. The Americans understand that if the questions which they have put forward are not resolved, they will have a chance to strengthen the Saigon regime. The USA is forcing consideration of military questions in order to put pressure on the DRV and NLFSV. As for the position of France on the Vietnam question; the French, according to Comrade Xuan Thuy, want the USA to leave South Vietnam and France to return there, but not in the same role which it played before. Obviously the French, during their negotiations with R. Nixon, will somehow push him in this direction. Then Comrade Xuan Thuy said that the following could be said in the talk with C. Lodge: — The DRV and NLFSV want to solve the Vietnam problem on the basis of the achievement of true independence, not on the basis on which the U.S. wants to solve it. — Should the U.S. continue to act from a position of strength, the Vietnamese people will not agree with this, and will go on struggling against U.S. aggression. — If the U.S. wants to solve the Vietnam problem, it has to start talking with the NLFSV. If it doesn’t happen the Vietnam problem will not be solved. So far the USA and Saigon speak only with the DRV at the negotiations, and don’t want to talk with NLFSV. — If the USA doesn’t agree to a complete and unconditional withdrawal of its troops from South Vietnam and continues the war, it will suffer even greater military losses. As for concrete questions and approaches to their decision, in the opinion of Comrades Xuan Thuy and Tran Buu Kiem the proper time to discuss them with the Americans still hasn’t arrived.

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3. During an exchange of opinions on certain aspects of the Vietnam problem, some questions were raised on our initiative (to find out the position of the Vietnamese comrades). These included “the Peace Cabinet,” the gradual withdrawal of American troops, the  elimination of American bases and the cessation of military operations.

In this respect the Vietnamese comrades expressed the following ideas:



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a) Comrade Tran Buu Kiem explained that participants in the opposition movement to the Saigon regime treat the Thieu-Ky-Huong government as a war government, capable only of serving the war. This movement and its demands confirm the NLFSV idea about the creation of the “Cabinet of Peace;” therefore the NLFSV supports this movement. The NLFSV also supports people whom this movement puts forward as candidates to be included in the “Cabinet of Peace.” These candidates are worthy people and among them there are some who formerly were connected with the Americans, but who now maintain progressive positions. b) Comrade Xuan Thuy added that the present-day Saigon government doesn’t want peace and continues the policy of support for the aggressive American war. That’s why the population of Saigon and other cities, and districts occupied by the Americans, demand  the overthrow of Thieu, Ky, and Huong. This is not the demand of the DRV and NLFSV but a demand of the people, a demand coming from below, and the DRV and the NLFSV support it. The DRV and NLFSV do not have concrete proposals regarding the creation of the “Cabinet of Peace,” he went on, but we will welcome all people who will join a new government and who express the desire to conduct negotiations with the NLFSV. It would be very good if the population of South Vietnam demands that the government include NLFSV members. But if the readiness to conduct negotiations with the NLFSV is expressed, rather that a wish for the NLFSV to be represented in the “Cabinet of Peace,” the DRV and NLFSV will accept it. The main task is for a ­national union of different strata of the population to be created in this “Cabinet of Peace,” for it to include representatives of the “Union of National, Democratic and Peace-loving forces.” Later, when a

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“Cabinet of Peace” like that has already been created, a temporary government may be created on the basis of the NLFSV political program. c) In connection with my remark, that in order to solve military questions it might be reasonable for the DRV and NLFSV to put forward some concrete proposals—for example, on the limitation of the scale of military operations in some districts, or on the gradual withdrawal of American troops and liquidation of American bases within definite periods of time, Comrade Xuan Thuy said that the time for discussion of military questions hadn’t come yet. The Americans want to conduct negotiations from a position of strength and want to use this strength. The DRV and NLFSV demand a quick, and complete—not gradual—and unconditional withdrawal of American troops. The Americans think that the power of the NLFSV and DRV has trickled away, and that they are incapable of effective actions. That’s why, if the DRV and NLFSV would put forward some concrete proposals now—for example on the limitation of military actions—the Americans will interpret it as a revelation of DRV and NLFSV weakness. In this connection Comrade Tran Buu Kiem added that “we’ll fight the Americans eagerly and we believe in our strength.” Having said that this question shouldn’t be mentioned in talks with Americans, Comrade Xuan Thuy said that the DRV and NLFSV delegations will discuss it and then have an exchange of opinions with the Embassy. d) In the course of the discussion I suggested to the Vietnamese comrades that, to make the Americans talk with the NLFSV, the NLFSV delegation to the Paris negotiations could propose a concrete program—which could be supported by the DRV—based on the four and five points. The Vietnamese comrades treated this idea with interest, and Comrade Xuan Thuy said that this suggestion will be considered by the delegations. DRV delegation members Comrades Ha van Lau, Mai Van Bo; a member of NLFSV delegation Nguyen van Tien; Comrade Nguyen Ngoc Thuong, a colleague of the NLFSV delegation; Embassy Counselor Comrade Zelentsov, V.A.; the Second Secretary of the Embassy Goritskii, V.A. were present at the talk.

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The talk was translated by Counselor Comrade Zelentsov, V.A.; the talk was recorded by the second secretary Goritskii, V.A. The USSR Ambassador in France (signed) V. Zorin 6 copies sent to:1—Comrade Kozyrev, S.P. 2—General department of CC CPSU 3—I EO 4—OUVA 5—UOMP 6—To the file No. 256, February 24, 1969

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Meeting Between Presidential Assistant Kissinger and Ambassador Dobrynin February 21, 1969

Memorandum of Conversation (uSSR) 1

I met one-on-one with Henry Kissinger over lunch at our Embassy on February 21. He said that President Nixon had carefully studied the views expressed to him by the Soviet Ambassador on instructions from the Soviet Government and in that connection he, Kissinger, was authorized to present some of President Nixon’s views in response. (He then took out of his pocket an English translation of the text of our views and presented the President’s views, checking from time to time against our text, in the margins of which he had notes for the conversation with me.) The Middle East. Kissinger said that the President regards a bilateral exchange of views with the Soviet Government on the issue of the Middle East as important and he is prepared for such an exchange. I told Kissinger that, as far as I know, there has not been much progress made as yet in New York with respect to the exchange of views on

1 Source:

AVP RF, f. 0129, op. 53, p. 399, d. 5, l. 75–86. Secret. From Dobrynin’s Journal. No American record of the conversation has been found.

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the substance of a Middle East settlement, and that the U.S. position there, unfortunately, boils down to introducing a brief declaration by the four powers concerning the Middle East. To be frank, such a declaration is of little use, and Ambassador Yost for some reason is obviously unprepared to discuss specific issues relating to the settlement. In that connection, referring to what Kissinger had just said, I asked if the U.S. Government was prepared for bilateral exchanges of views with the Soviet side, apart from the current type of “consultations” in New York. Kissinger said that, yes, they are prepared for confidential bilateral exchanges of views with us on the substance of the issues, they regard that as important, and in this connection they would like to know the Soviet side’s opinion on where they could best be held—in Moscow, Washington, or New York. He added that this question of theirs also stems in part from the fact that I, the Soviet Ambassador, had mentioned Moscow as one of the possibilities, in a conversation with Secretary of State Rogers. Therefore, they would like to clarify the opinion of the Soviet Government on this matter. I said that the main thing is to begin a serious exchange of views on the substance of the settlement, provided that the United Stat