30. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam
(Westmoreland) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff
7, 1965, 11:35 a.m.
MAC JOO 19118.
Subj: US troop deployment to SVN (S). Ref: A. COMUSMACV 041133Z
notal; B. JCS 2343 564-7; C. COMUSMACV 260040Z May notal; D. USASCV
USG 65-TS 101 311200Z May notal; E.CINCPAC 052249Z (PASEP); F.
COMUSMACV 201207Z May
1. As indicated
Ref A, a broad review of force requirements has been conducted
in light of the changing situation in Southeast Asia and within
2. There are
indications that the conflict in Southeast Asia is in the process
of moving to a higher level. Some PAVN forces have entered SVN
and more may well be on the way. Additional jet fighters and some
jet light bombers have been deployed in the DRV.
elements of the 325th PAVN division are in the northern zone of
II Corps. It is quite possible that the major portion, if not
all of the division is now deployed in the Kontum, Pleiku, Phu
Bon area. Elements of the 304th PAVN division are suspected to
be in the panhandle and, therefore, capable of following the 325th.
The recent heavy actions in Phuoc Long and Quang Ngai, and VC
initiatives in Pleiku, Kontum, Phu Bon and Thua Thien are demonstrations
of VC strength and their apparent determination to employ their
forces aggressively. Recent events as well as captured VC prisoners
and documents suggest that a summer campaign is now underway to
destroy government forces and concurrently, to first isolate and
then attack district and province towns.
4. So far
the VC have not employed their full capabilities in this campaign.
Only two of the nine Viet Cong regiments have been heavily engaged
(one in Phuoc Long and one in Quang Ngai), and probably only a
similar proportion of their separate battalions has been committed.
In most engagements, VC main force units have displayed improved
training and discipline, heavier firepower from the new family
of weapons with which most main force units have been equipped,
and a willingness to take heavy losses in order to achieve objectives.
5. In pressing
their campaign, the Viet Cong are capable of mounting regimental-size
operations in all four ARVN Corps areas, and at least battalion-sized
attacks in virtually all provinces. Known dispositions indicate
major actions are likely in the near future in the Binh Duong-Phuoc
Thanh-Phuoc Long area north of Saigon, in the Quang Ngai-Quang
Tin area in Central Vietnam, and in Kontum, Pleiku, Phu Bon and
Binh Dinh Provinces. Major attacks could occur also in other areas;
the Viet Cong have shown that they are capable of concentrating
in regimental strength with little or no warning. Whether or not
the 304th Div is in, or moving toward SVN, the DRV has a "doorstep"
capability to reinforce the VC with sizable forces.
6. ARVN forces
on the other hand are already experiencing difficulty in coping
with this increased VC capability. Desertion rates are inordinately
high. Battle losses have been higher than expected; in fact, four
ARVN battalions have been rendered ineffective by VC action in
the I and II Corps zones . Therefore, effective fighting strength
of many infantry and ranger battalions is unacceptably low. As
a result, ARVN troops are beginning to show signs of reluctance
to assume the offensive and in some cases their steadfastness
under fire is coming into doubt. In order to bring existing battalions
up to acceptable battlefield strength, it will be necessary to
declare at least a temporary moratorium on the activation of new
battalions. Thus, the GVN VC force ratios upon which we based
our estimate of the situation in March have taken an adverse trend.
You will recall that I recommended the deployment of a U.S. division
in II Corps to cover the period of the RVNAF buildup and to weigh
the force ratios in that important area. We assumed at that time
that the ARVN battalions would be brought to full strength by
now and that the force buildup would proceed on schedule. Neither
assumptions has materialized.
7. The problem
of low battlefield strength in ARVN has forced us to plan the
use of personnel now training in 11 new battalions as fillers
for old battalions. In effect, these 11 battalions will be deferred
and during the period from mid-July to early November no new ARVN
battalions will become available. Thus the gap to be filled is
both deeper and wider.
8. In summary,
the force ratios continue to change in favor of the VC. I believe
that the DRV will commit whatever forces it deems necessary to
tip the balance and that the GVN cannot stand up successfully
to this kind of pressure without reinforcement. Even if DRV VC
intentions are debatable, their capabilities must be acknowledged
and faced. Additionally, it is prudent to consider possible enemy
air action, leading to significant escalation and a broadening
of the arena of conflict. We must be prepared to face such a contingency.
9. In order
to cope with the situation outlined above, I see no course of
action open to us except to reinforce our efforts in SVN with
additional U.S. or third country forces as rapidly as is practical
during the critical weeks ahead. Additionally, studies must continue
and plans developed to deploy even greater forces, if and when
required, to attain our objectives or counter enemy initiatives.
Ground forces deployed to selected areas along the coast and inland
will be used both offensively and defensively. U.S. ground troops
are gaining experience and thus far have performed well. Although
not yet engaged the enemy in strength, I am convinced that U.S.
troops with their energy, mobility, and firepower can successfully
take the fight to the VC. The basic purpose of the additional
deployments recommended below is to give us a substantial and
hard hitting offensive capability on the ground to convince the
VC that they cannot win.
10. In sub-paragraph
"A" below, deployments and actions are recommended on
which decisions should be made now. In subpara "B" we
have identified further actions on which planning should start
and on which separate recommendations will be forthcoming:
Deploy at once to I CTZ the remaining two BLTs of the 3d Mar
Div and appropriate supporting division and air elements (approximately
8,000 personnel). Reconstitute the SLF as a floating reserve.
Deploy balance of increment 1 and all of increment 2 (as defined
in Ref C) of army logistic and other support units in accordance
with schedule set
out in Ref D. (Approximately 8,000 personnel.)
Deploy the US Army Air Mobile Division (and logistic increment
3) through Qui Nhon to An Ke, Pleiku and Kontum (approximately
21,000 personnel). Qui Nhon will be ready to receive the division
approximately 1 August, upon the closure of increment 2 forces.
Concurrently with the Air Mobile Division, deploy I Corps Headquarters
(approximately 1,500 personnel).
Deploy the ROK Marine RCT to Cam Ranh Bay as soon after 1 July
as the unit can be readied for movement (approximately 4,000
personnel). Deploy balance of the ROK Division force (approximately
14,500 personnel) plus US logistic increment 4 (1,500 personnel),
starting 15 September to the general area of Qui Nhon. (This
answers Ref E in part--separate message on F86F will follow.)
Deploy additional tactical fighter squadrons to Cam Ranh Bay
when expeditionary landing field complete at that location.
Also provide naval aircraft carrier support of in-country operations
as required; we believe this latter will engage one carrier
Hold the 173d Airborne Brigade in-country until the Air Mobile
Division has deployed and is ready for operations.
Continue air attacks against the DRV. (Ref F applies.)
deployment that may be required and on which planning should begin:
Three U.S. Army Hawk battalions to TN Bien Hoa, Qui Nhon and
Cam Ranh in that priority.
The remainder of the 1st Infantry Division or the 101st Airborne
Division begriming 1 October.
One additional MAB to reinforce the III MAF.
Tactical air units for support of increased U.S. force (additional
airfields in SVN and Thailand may be required).
Required combat and logistic support forces to include helicopter
units to support the foregoing.
has been discussed with Ambassadors Taylor and Johnson. Ambassador
Taylor is prepared to comment thereon during current visit to
Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top
Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent to JCS personal for General Wheeler
and sent to CINCPAC personal for Admiral Sharp. Repeated to CINCUSARPAC
for General Waters, CINCPACAF for General Harris, CINCPACFLT for
Admiral Johnson, and C G FMFPAC for General Krulak. Sent to JCS
with a request to pass to Ambassador Taylor.
In telegram 2873 to Saigon, June 11, the Department of State noted
that INR and CIA had assessed the military appraisal of the situation
in South Vietnam provided in telegram 19118. While agreeing that
it was serious, the intelligence analysts questioned the implication
that there was a serious danger of complete military collapse
within a relatively short period of time. This impression, the
Department noted, was not supported by reporting from Saigon,
and telegram 19118 did not reinforce the impression with reference
to a dramatic or unexpected development in the military situation.
(Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
Sharp added his comments on these proposals in CINCPAC telegrams
072325Z to JCS, June 7, and 112210Z to JCS, June 11. Sharp concurred
in Westmoreland's assessment of the deteriorating military situation
in Vietnam and agreed on the necessity of expanded deployment
of U.S. forces to meet the threat. He expressed apprehension,
however, over the proposed deployment of the U.S. Air Mobile Division
to the central highlands. Sharp argued that limited U.S. combat
forces should be used to secure the more populous coastal areas
of South Vietnam. (CINCPAC telegram 072325Z is in Department of
State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S; CINCPAC telegram 112210Z
is in Washington National Records
Center, RG 319, HQDA Message Center, Reel 12305)