Episode 1

1962-1963: Distortions of Intelligence

The struggle in South Vietnam at best will be protracted and costly [because] very great weaknesses remain and will be difficult to surmount. Among these are lack of aggressive and firm leadership at all levels of command, poor morale among the troops, lack of trust between peasant and soldier, poor tactical use of available forces, a very inadequate intelligence system, and obvious Communist penetration of the South Vietnamese military organization.

      From the draft of NIE 53-63, "Prospects in South Vietnam" submitted by the Intelligence Community's representatives to the United States Intelligence Board, 25 February 1963 (1)


We believe that Communist progress has been blunted and that the situation is improving. . . . 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.

      From that NIE's final version, 17 April 1963


Throughout 1961 President Kennedy had been under mounting pressure from his military and political chiefs to send US troops to Laos and South Vietnam to stem a floodtide of Communist military successes and shore up the faltering Government of South Vietnam (GVN). Finally, late in the year, Kennedy had gambled that a substantial increase in the allocations of US advisers, trainers, and equipment to the South Vietnam armed forces would stiffen South Vietnamese resistance and reverse the tide.

By early November 1963, however, two years after his decision to expand the US commitment in Vietnam, it had become clear that the situation there had gone from bad to worse, and that his gamble had gone awry: his administration had sanctioned the overthrow of Saigon's president, Ngo Dinh Diem, who had been murdered, and the first in a series of coups and even less effective Saigon regimes had been ushered in. Contributing to that result had been distortions of US intelligence reporting from the field, and of intelligence analysis in Washington.

During the two-year period following President Kennedy's decision in late 1961 to up the ante in Vietnam, much of the reporting from the military and political missions in Saigon continued in the overly optimistic vein that marked most of the French and American experience in Indochina from 1945 to 1975. (2) In 1962-63, the period examined in this study's first episode, senior US decisionmakers came to believe that American military participation in Vietnam might be completed by the end of 1965 and that, as a first step, some 1,000 US military personnel could be withdrawn by the end of 1963. It did not quite work out that way.

In Washington, a significant distortion was, paradoxically, contributed by the Director of Central Intelligence himself, John A. McCone, who had not been notably optimistic about the initial results of President Kennedy's venture. As we will see, in February 1963 he sharply criticized the pessimistic conclusions of his Board of National Estimates, even though it had already diluted the even-darker working-level judgments of the Office of National Estimates (O/NE) staff and the Intelligence Community's representatives. McCone remanded their draft National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and directed them to seek out the views of senior policymakers in a revised NIE. The revisions made to the final version of that Estimate conveyed a markedly more optimistic forecast of the effectiveness of US and Vietnamese efforts, so described by McCone himself when he later told President Kennedy that the NIE had "indicated we could win."(3)

That reworking of intelligence exacted a steep price. By so altering the tone of the NIE's judgments and producing an authoritative but misleading Estimate, McCone's Office of National Estimates, supposedly above the fray of policy dispute, confirmed the expectations of progress that senior policymakers had long entertained but would soon have to abandon. As the authors of The Pentagon Papers later concluded, "The intelligence and reporting problems during this period cannot be explained away. . . . In retrospect [the estimators] were not only wrong, but more importantly, they were influential. "(4)


The Effort To Begin Withdrawing US Military Personnel From Vietnam

At the Honolulu conference in July 1962 Defense Secretary McNamara once again asked MACV [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam] commander General Paul Harkins how long it would take before the Viet Cong could be expected to be eliminated as a significant force. In reply [the MACV commander] estimated about one year from the time Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) and other forces became fully operational and began to press the VC in all areas. . . . The Secretary said that a conservative view had to be taken and to assume it would take three years instead of one, that is, by the latter part of 1965.

The Pentagon Papers(5)

The hubris that marked much of President Kennedy's entourage was never more evident than in their approach to Vietnam during 1962 and early 1963. Apparently believing that they had solved the difficult problem of whether and how to expand the American commitment there, having finessed a negotiated settlement in Laos, and having become entranced with the cure-all of "counterinsurgency," many of the Kennedy team members at the outset of 1962 were confident that their managerial know-how could produce victory in South Vietnam. Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC), and McGeorge Bundy--all the king's men--were so convinced there was sufficient "light at the end of the tunnel" that in mid-1962 they began fashioning plans to start phasing out most of the 10,000 or so US military advisory personnel then in Vietnam.

Such optimism was by no means new; it had characterized numerous pronouncements by senior US officials since at least 1953.(6) The confidence of the Kennedy team prevailed through the early months of 1963--even after South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) units, supported by US helicopters, had failed to destroy a far smaller Viet Cong force in the ARVN's first pitched battle, 3 January 1963, at Ap Bac.(7)

With one notable exception, the prevailing view at senior levels during these months was one of optimism. For example, in May 1962, on one of his many visits to Vietnam, Secretary of Defense McNamara assured newsman Neil Sheehan that "Every quantitative measure we have shows we're winning this war."(8) Two months later, drawing on a study provided him by MACV, McNamara told high-level officials at a Honolulu conference that "conservatively speaking," the Viet Cong would be eliminated as a significant force "by the latter part of 1965."(9) In his 1963 State of the Union speech, four weeks after Ap Bac, President Kennedy assured the nation that "the spearpoint of aggression has been blunted in South Vietnam."(10) Two weeks later, CINCPAC Adm. Harry Felt predicted that South Vietnam would win the war within three years.(11) In April, Secretary of State Rusk told a New York audience that morale in the South Vietnamese countryside had begun to rise and that the Viet Cong looked "less and less like winners."(12) In May, according to participant William E. Colby (then Chief of the CIA Operations Directorate's Far East Division--C/FE), MACV chief Gen. Paul Harkins assured yet another Honolulu conference that, militarily speaking, the Viet Cong would have its back broken within another year.(13) And even as late as October 1963, amid riots in South Vietnam (and just one month before President Diem's overthrow and murder), JCS Chairman Gen. Maxwell Taylor told President Kennedy that the Viet Cong insurgency in the northern and central areas of South Vietnam could be "reduced to little more than sporadic incidents by the end of 1964."(14)

A senior dissenter to such optimism in 1962 had been DCI John McCone. In June, upon returning from his first trip to Vietnam, he gave Secretary McNamara a pessimistic estimate of its future. According to Richard Helms, who was CIA's Deputy Director for Plans (now Operations) at the time and who was present at their meeting, the Director told McNamara that "he was not optimistic about the success of the whole United States program. . . . He said he did not think that [the various American efforts] would succeed over the long run, pointing out that we were merely chipping away at the toe of the glacier from the North."(15) Two days later McCone warned Washington's Special Group (Counterinsurgency) that Viet Cong forces were developing new techniques, including larger units with heavier weapons, which might overwhelm South Vietnamese strategic villages before ARVN troops could respond.(16) Given his pessimism, one of the most intriguing events in John McCone's tenure as DCI, discussed below, occurred some eight months later when he insisted that the Intelligence Community's sober draft estimate of Vietnam's future was too pessimistic.

Meanwhile, considerations other than optimism about the course of events in Vietnam supported the Kennedy White House's desire to begin phasing out US military personnel there. Primary were the demands of crises elsewhere in the world and the administration's reluctance to commit US forces to a land war in Asia. Secretary McNamara summed up such concerns in March 1962 when he told Congress that US strategy was to assist indigenous forces in Third World crises rather than commit US forces to combat there. Avoiding direct participation in the Vietnam war, he said, would not only release US forces for use elsewhere, but would be the most effective way to combat Communist subversion and covert aggression in Vietnam: "To introduce white [sic] forces, US forces, in large numbers there today, while it might have an initial favorable military impact would almost certainly lead to adverse political and in the long run adverse military consequences."(17)

Planning for the phasing out of US military personnel from Vietnam began in mid-1962 with a Presidential request that Secretary McNamara reexamine the situation there and address himself to its future. McNamara quickly convened a full-dress conference at CINCPAC Headquarters in Honolulu on 23 July--the same day, incidentally, that the 14-nation neutralization agreement on Laos was being formally signed at Geneva. Proceeding from optimistic views of Vietnam voiced by McNamara and MACV chief General Harkins, the Honolulu conference charged CINCPAC Adm. Harry Felt with overseeing development of plans for the gradual scaling down of USMACV over the next three years, eliminating US units and detachments as Vietnamese were trained to perform their functions. (When reintroduced under President Nixon, such a policy was specifically stressed as "Vietnamization.") Admiral Felt gave General Harkins the assignment to draw up such a plan, based on the assumption that "The insurrection will be under control at the end of three years (end of CY 65)."(18) The authors of The Pentagon Papers later termed this withdrawal planning "absurd" and "almost Micawberesque."(19)

In May 1963, following almost a year of phaseout planning, McNamara called another conference at CINCPAC Headquarters. Upon returning from that meeting he instructed the Defense Department's International Security Affairs bureau (DoD/ISA), together with the Joint Staff, to finish plans for replacing US forces "as rapidly as possible," withdrawing the first element of "1,000 troops by the end of 1963." It should be noted that the date of that McNamara directive was 8 May 1963, the very day that antigovernment riots in Hue signaled the start of the slide of events which culminated so tragically in November.

The planning for the phased withdrawal of US military personnel limped on into the autumn of 1963, even though Communist attacks and civil instability in South Vietnam had reached crisis proportions by that time, and coup plotters against President Diem had received quiet indications of US approval. Some 1,000 US military personnel would actually be pulled out in December 1963, the last bloom of the Kennedy administration's desire to cut back the US troop commitment in Vietnam.


Distortions of Intelligence

From my earliest associations with Vietnam (1951) I have been concerned about US handling of information from that area. . . . This included deliberate and reflexive manipulation of information, restrictions on collection and censorship of reporting. The net result was that decisionmakers were denied the opportunity to get a complete form of information, determine its validity for themselves, and make decisions ...

      Lt. Col. Henry A. Shockley, Former Chief, Collection and Liaison, Defense Attache Office, Saigon, 1975(20)


Army Chief of Staff General Wheeler was also asked to comment on the estimate's judgment: "There is a serious lack of firm and aggressive leadership at all levels of [ARVN] command." ...  This judgment was overstated, he felt, and must be heavily qualified. The US advisory team was very sensitive on this topic.
      O/NE Memorandum for the Record, "Meeting with Gen. Earle G. Wheeler [on NIE 53-63 draft],"27 March 1963(21)


It is abundantly clear that statistics received over the past year or more from the GVN officials and reported by the US mission on which we gauged the trend of the war were grossly in error.
      DCI John McCone, 21 December 1963(22)


In the Field

From the outset of America's post-World War II engagement in Indochina, consistently overoptimistic reporting from the field denied Washington's decisionmakers an accurate picture of developments there. As this study and its annex spell out, there were countless examples of such reporting over the years, especially so on the part of US military commands and the US Mission. Reporting by CIA's Saigon Station was in the main somewhat more objective because successive Chiefs of Station imposed stricter requirements on sourcing and accuracy.

Distortions took many forms and were variously motivated. The almost always rosier judgments dictated by senior military and civilian mission officers doubtless resulted simply from their own more optimistic perceptions of "the big picture." But the record is replete with instances where supervisors and field commanders, the men charged with demonstrating operational progress in the programs assigned to them, overrode their subordinates' negative facts and judgments. In many cases supervisors did not send information and intelligence reports directly to Washington intelligence agencies from their J-2 or embassy political offices, but filtered them through J-3 (military operations) or the Ambassador's front office. Dissenting junior officers were urged to "get on the team," and on occasion were frozen out or moved out by their superiors.

Reporting from outside the chain of command was dealt with in other ways. Special targets for official pressure were outspoken members of the press in Saigon, especially Homer Bigart, Neil Sheehan, Malcolm Browne, David Halberstam, and Peter Arnett. For example, according to Arnett, some six weeks after Ap Bac, Ambassador Nolting publicly rebuked the Saigon press corps in these terms: "[they should put an end] to idle criticism, from snide remarks and unnecessary comments and from spreading allegations and rumors which either originate from Communist sources or play directly into Communist hands."(23) These newsmen's appraisals proved in the end to have been more accurate than those of successive Ambassadors and MACV chiefs, largely because they were receptive to the first-hand observations and views of lower-level US military and mission officers frustrated by the proclivity of their supervisors to quash or water down their reports and assessments.

Complaints against official managing of information became so marked that subcommittees of the House of Representatives investigated this situation in the spring of 1963. The Report of the House Committee on Government Operations highlighted an exemplary press guidance cable that Carl Rowan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, had sent out in early 1962. It instructed the field that newsmen there should be advised that "trifling or thoughtless criticism of the Diem government" would make it difficult to maintain cooperation between the United States and the GVN, and that newsmen "should not be transported on military activities of the type that are likely to result in undesirable stories."(24) Some years later, former National Security Council (NSC) staff officer Chester L. Cooper characterized the situation in 1962-63 as having been one where the administration was confronted with "two undeclared wars, one with the Viet Cong, the other with the American press, while in Saigon [Diem's controversial sister-in-law] Madame Nhu was calling American newsmen there 'worse than Communists.'"(25)

The longstanding skepticism in CIA's Office of National Estimates about claimed progress in Vietnam was heavily influenced by its officers' awareness of slanted official reporting. For example, commenting in February 1963 on an earlier (1961) NIE on Vietnam, O/NE held that much of the reporting from the field seemed designed to convey the most encouraging picture possible: "Progress is highlighted and difficulties are often depreciated." Information from opponents or critics of the GVN "is frequently prefaced by comments denigrating its source." Summary introductions to lengthy studies from the field "reflect an optimism not supported by the details in the accompanying text." A clearer view of what is happening in South Vietnam could be derived, said O/NE, "if the field would let the facts in intelligence reports speak for themselves--whether or not they speak in consonance with present US policies and objectives."(26) O/NE officers were not alone. In May 1963, for example, several working-level Pentagon intelligence officers told them that they, too, were disturbed over the field's reporting. Secretary McNamara had recently ordered that MACV henceforth was to send in only finished intelligence reports to Washington; therefore, confided these Pentagon officers, MACV's appreciations and estimates "are becoming unassailable, since no one in Washington has access to the raw facts on which they are based."(27)

There were many reasons why senior US (and, earlier, French) officers did not share such concerns on the part of their subordinates. A basic factor always at work was operational enthusiasm, the natural tendency to get caught up in the progress of a given operation or policy, once that course has been set. Another concern was regard for one's position in the chain of command, which inhibited courageous reporting and induced efforts to stay on "the team." Another propensity in the field was that of soft-pedaling evidence of South Vietnamese lack of progress, for fear Washington superiors would feel that field commanders were not doing their training jobs successfully. Also, much of the reporting passed upward originated with South Vietnamese officials, many of whom fabricated intelligence or put the best face on matters. Then, too, pride also contributed to clouded reporting: the certainty felt by many US officials that American know-how must and would carry the day.

Yet another prime source of unfounded expectations was a generally widespread American ignorance about Vietnam and the Vietnamese. Many decisionmakers did not have a good appreciation of what had gone before in Indochina, and of why the various Vietnamese players behaved as they did.(28) As characterized by a later study commissioned by the US Army's Historical Office, there was a "massive and all-encompassing" ignorance of Vietnamese history and society.(29) For the most part, US policymakers greatly underestimated the enemy's skill, staying power, resourcefulness, and pervasive political and intelligence assets throughout the South. Not least, because of crisis situations elsewhere in the world in 1962, especially Cuba, Berlin, and Laos, US decisionmakers were not focusing their attentions on Vietnam to the degree they were soon to do. Nor, except for conducting clandestine operations in Vietnam, were DCI McCone and the Agency.

Driving the many pressures on senior military and administration figures to paint Vietnam developments in positive terms was the knowledge that their presidents were personally committed to American success in Southeast Asia, were convinced that other "dominoes" would fall there if South Vietnam did, and feared the political consequences of "losing" Vietnam to the Communists. Hence, senior officers of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations brushed aside and at times demeaned those few prominent officials--Mike Mansfield, Chester Bowles, George Ball, J. William Fulbright, Wayne Morse, and John Kenneth Galbraith--who in 1962 and early 1963 openly doubted the wisdom of US actions in South Vietnam and questioned the accuracy of ever-optimistic reporting.

There was yet another cause of the upbeat reporting from Vietnam in 1962: the fact that some military progress was actually being registered at the time, the result of the ARVN's receipt of improved US weapons and training and, especially, of the effective commitment of large numbers of US-piloted combat helicopters to direct-support roles. But the ARVN debacle at Ap Bac in January 1963--where five US helicopters were destroyed and nine were damaged--punctured the illusions of ARVN improvement held by some officers, even though many of their superiors continued to cling to their visions of steady progress and to report them as if they were real.

These misinterpretations of reality are important to this study because they proved instrumental in helping produce a definitive but inaccurate National Intelligence Estimate in April 1963. This might not have mattered so much if, as on so many occasions, officers high in the chains of command had paid scant attention to the NIE; the distorting problem this time would be that top policymakers did embrace NIE 53-63's flawed judgments because they so validated their own certainties.


In Washington

DCI John McCone's sudden, surprising overturning of the estimative process on Vietnam occurred when the finished draft of NIE 53-63, "Prospects in Vietnam," came before the United States Intelligence Board (USIB, now NFIB--the National Foreign Intelligence Board) for deliberation. The representatives of the various agencies who approved the draft had differed for the most part over mere shadings; the Department of State stood alone in the view that the estimate was overly pessimistic. At the USIB meeting on 27 February 1963, before a room packed with Intelligence Community principals and staffers, DCI McCone upbraided O/NE Director Sherman Kent and his officers for having prepared an NIE whose judgments differed so widely from those of "the people who know Vietnam best." McCone named a number of such officials (almost all of them senior policy advisers), and directed O/NE to see that their views were considered in a new, revised NIE.(30)

O/NE had long held fairly pessimistic views of prospects in Vietnam. As far back as March 1952, for example, two years before the climactic French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, O/NE had produced an NIE which held that the probable outlook in Indochina for the coming year was one of "gradual deterioration of the Franco-Vietnamese military position," and that, unless present trends were reversed, the long-term prospect included possible French withdrawal from Indochina.(31) Over the years, O/NE's officers voiced doubts about the domino thesis, emphasized the lack of indigenous strength and cohesion in South Vietnam, and questioned whether US or other external military assistance could produce a viable society there. And in June 1962, in its most recent views on Vietnam prior to NIE 53-63, the Board of National Estimates had disagreed with Director McCone as to the basic source of South Vietnam's troubles. To the DCI, that source was China: writing Secretary McNamara on 18 June, he told him that US efforts in Vietnam were "merely chipping away at the toe of the glacier from the North." To Sherman Kent, writing McCone that same day, it was "incorrect to describe US policy in South Vietnam as merely nibbling at the edges of the real threat. The real threat, and the heart of the battle, is in the villages and jungles of Vietnam and Laos." Said Kent:

    That battle can be won only by the will, energy, and political acumen of the resisting governments themselves. US power can supplement and enlarge their power but it cannot be substituted. Even if the US could defeat the Communists militarily by a massive injection of its own forces, the odds are that what it would win would be, not a political victory which created a stable and independent government, but an uneasy and costly colony.(32)


These differences of view went to the heart of the matter and of the US dilemma over Vietnam, differences which continued for some years to divide decisionmakers from many of Washington's intelligence officers. As of 1963, McCone shared the view of Secretary Rusk and many top policymakers that the Communist threat in Indochina was an integral part of the expansionist aims of the USSR and Communist China, whereas O/NE--and many of the Intelligence Community's working-level officers--argued that the chief villain was Hanoi, not Moscow or Beijing, and that the struggle for Vietnam was essentially a military and political civil war.

The NIE 53-63 story began in September 1962 when the O/NE Staff, convinced that behind the signs of some outward improvement lay profound adverse trends, persuaded a reluctant Board of National Estimates to undertake a new NIE on Vietnam.(33) Even though the Board of National Estimates somewhat softened the pessimism of the Staff's initial drafts, the coordinated text that went to USIB in late February 1963 voiced definite alarm about the situation in Vietnam. Following McCone's rejection of that text, and responsive to his remanding directive, O/NE officers proceeded to seek the views of the officials McCone had termed the "people who know Vietnam best." These included the Army's Chief of Staff, Gen. Earle Wheeler; CINCPAC Adm. Harry Felt; MACV's Gen. Paul Harkins; the American Ambassador in Saigon, Frederick Nolting; Defense's Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities, Maj. Gen. Victor Krulak (US Marine Corps); State's Director of Intelligence and Research (INR), Roger Hilsman; and NSC staffer Michael Forrestal.(34)

These "people who knew Vietnam best" were universally critical of the draft NIE. In their view, it was simply wrong in judging that the Viet Cong had not yet been badly hurt. It dwelt too much on South Vietnam's military and political shortcomings and did not sufficiently stress examples of progress. It emphasized frictions between South Vietnamese and American advisers rather than acknowledging that marked improvements were being made. Nor did the draft NIE recognize the progress being reported in the GVN's keystone defensive effort, the strategic hamlet program. All in all, the NIE's assessments were much too bleak.

According to O/NE files, MACV's General Harkins wanted the draft to acknowledge that the GVN was making "steady and notable progress." It was gaining more support from the population at large. The strategic hamlet program was going well. In his view, barring an increase in support to the enemy from outside, the coming year would "see a reduction in the VC's capabilities and a further separation of the people from the VC." Now, two months after the ARVN's defeat at Ap Bac, Harkins assured O/NE that an aggressive South Vietnamese attitude was "becoming more apparent," and that ARVN offensive operations had "shown a marked increase in scope, tempo, and intensity; armed VC attacks are diminishing."(35)

O/NE files record that General Krulak told the Board of National Estimates that, although the number of Viet Cong-initiated incidents had increased over the past few weeks, they remained "well below 1962 levels," and that South Vietnamese military capabilities had "increased markedly," whereas those of the Viet Cong had "probably not increased correspondingly."(36)

General Wheeler gave O/NE an assessment a senior Joint Chiefs' team had made, shortly after Ap Bac. In part it read, "The team wishes particularly to emphasize that, in sum, the preparations of 1962 have led to the development of the human and material infrastructure necessary for the successful prosecution of the war," and that barring Viet Cong escalation, "the principal ingredients for eventual success have been assembled in South Vietnam."(37)

The DCI's special detailee to Saigon, Chester Cooper, felt that the Estimate took too pessimistic a view of the strategic hamlet program, which he held was making "very good" progress. With US help at approximately existing levels and barring a deterioration along the frontiers of South Vietnam, Cooper believed that "the GVN can probably defeat the Viet Cong militarily"; except in certain portions of the Delta, this would "probably take place within about three years."(38) Cooper later revised his views markedly. After transferring to the NSC Staff and witnessing further deterioration in Vietnam, he became a doubter, later acknowledging that as of 1962-early 1963 "the fact was that the war was not going well, the Vietnamese Army was not taking kindly to American advice, and Diem was not following through on his promises to liberalize his regime or increase its effectiveness."(39)

What most bothered these critics of the NIE, however, was its criticisms of the ARVN, particularly its detailing of ARVN depredations among the rural population and their undermining effects on South Vietnam's war effort. O/NE files record General Wheeler as saying that he "had received no such reports; neither had General Harkins." Further, as noted above, Wheeler said the NIE's assertion that there was "a serious lack of firm and aggressive leadership at all levels of ARVN command" was "overstated" and "must be heavily qualified. The US advisory team was very sensitive on this topic."(40) For his part, General Krulak explained that in East Asia it was to be expected that "the soldier will kick the peasant as he goes by." Krulak had no doubt such offenses were being committed, "but South Vietnam was not 14th and F Streets"; also, he argued, brutality accepted by Asians "would naturally make an impression on inexperienced and youthful American officers."(41) The cruelest cut of all, however, was levelled at the draft NIE by CINCPAC Admiral Felt: "Charges of [ARVN] rape, pillage and outright brutality are made by Radio Hanoi. We should not parlay them."(42) Two months previously, Felt had publicly stated (four weeks after Ap Bac) that South Vietnam would defeat the Viet Cong "within three years."(43)

The O/NE Staff stuck to its guns despite these attacks on the NIE by senior officers. Of especial note is a defense of the draft that O/NE staffer George Carver gave Sherman Kent on 7 March 1963. According to Carver, the Staff's position on the question of ARVN depredations was supported by the private observations of recent visitors to Vietnam who had talked with US officers in the field. And in Washington, the working-level military intelligence representatives, those officers who had coordinated on the draft estimate, "advise that our judgments [are shared] . . . by practically every field-grade returnee they have had occasion to interview though, of course, the observations of such officers on this topic are seldom reflected in official correspondence from MACV."(44)

In the end, however, the views of O/NE's staff members did not prevail. Over their objections the Board of National Estimates bowed to the pressure of the DCI and the draft's policymaking critics. On 17 April the Board produced a revised, final version of the Estimate whose first sentence flagged the change in tone which McCone's remanding had accomplished: "We believe that Communist progress has been blunted and that the situation is improving."

Some months later, the situation in South Vietnam having gone from bad to worse, McCone admitted he had been wrong; he apologized to Kent for having had senior program officers impose on a draft NIE optimistic judgments about their own operational progress, and he promised he would not do it again.(45) But why had McCone insisted that a more optimistic Estimate be produced in early 1963, when just seven months earlier he had given President Kennedy some decidedly pessimistic personal judgments concerning South Vietnam's prospects? Several factors no doubt contributed to his turnabout.

First and foremost was the fact that in the interim, between McCone's mid-1962 trip to Vietnam and his sharp criticism of the draft NIE at USIB the following February, O/NE had produced a flawed estimate of historic consequence. Examining the evidence then available concerning the possible emplacement of Soviet offensive missiles in Cuba and finding it lacking, the Board had judged that Soviet practice argued against Moscow's taking such a step.(46) Almost certainly, McCone's later torpedoing of the draft NIE on Vietnam was directly related to the heavy fire he was taking at the time from the White House, and particularly from the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), for having released so mistaken an NIE the preceding September on a subject so crucial for US security interests. McCone had almost certainly lost some confidence in his Board of National Estimates, and now, in the spring of 1963, it was asking him to issue a definitive NIE on Vietnam that differed sharply from the views of the leading Presidential advisers and their staffs. Going against so many senior decisionmakers without taking a second look would certainly not endear him to the White House or impress a skeptical PFIAB.(47)

Also, McCone was an intimate of many of the senior critics, Gen. Victor Krulak in particular. At the time Krulak was the Pentagon's chief counterinsurgency officer and an outstanding officer who many observers believed would shortly become USMC Commandant; he was close to President Kennedy and, not least, a fast friend of John McCone. The DCI and Krulak often golfed together, and McCone also was deeply engaged at the time in the activities of the Special Group (Counterinsurgency), the White House's senior planning body for covert activities, in which Krulak was a primary participant. Krulak was a true believer that progress was being registered in Vietnam. He continued to hold this view as late as 10 September 1963 when, amid a rapidly deteriorating situation there, he is reported to have assured President Kennedy that "the shooting war is still going ahead at an impressive pace."(48) On that same occasion, Foreign Service Officer Joseph Mendenhall, who like Krulak had just returned from a trip to Vietnam, gave the President a far more pessimistic appraisal, prompting Kennedy to ask, "You two did visit the same country, didn't you?"(49)

Another reason McCone remanded the draft NIE almost certainly was his respect for the views of his close friend, former President Dwight Eisenhower. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson having designated McCone as an official liaison with Ike, the DCI visited him fairly often during 1962-64, in Gettysburg and elsewhere. The former President believed that progress was being made in Vietnam and that, in any case, a strong US course there was necessary to avoid a larger disaster. McCone recorded that on 10 May 1962, for instance, Eisenhower warned him that the consequences would be dire if South Vietnam were lost: "Nothing would stop the southward movement of Communism through Indonesia and this would have the effect of cutting the world in half."(50)

Just three weeks after the revised NIE 53-63 was published, its judgments were called into question by the outbreak of serious antigovernment riots at Hue and the rapid spread of open disaffection in much of South Vietnam. These events produced sharply differing reactions among the senior policymakers whose optimism had been reflected in the Estimate. As this study's next episode discusses in detail, some of them shifted to despair and came quickly to believe that President Diem's regime must be replaced if South Vietnam was to survive. By contrast, other senior US officials continued to cling to their earlier optimism. Admiral Felt, for example, reported on 23 July that MACV commander General Harkins was talking about a "white Christmas" in the belief that by that time "the entire country would be brought to a 'white' or controlled situation."(51) On 10 September General Krulak gave President Kennedy his report of "impressive" progress in the war. On 2 October the President announced that "most" of the 14,000 US military personnel then in South Vietnam could be withdrawn "by the end of 1965," and that 1,000 men "might be able to leave" by the end of 1963.(52) At a Honolulu policy conference on 6 November, a few days following the overthrow and murder of Diem, McCone recorded that General Harkins was still insisting that the military situation was going fairly well.(53)

Inevitably, NIE 53-63's relative optimism helped bolster the mistaken confidence of its consumers, especially since its judgments were at the time widely accepted as authoritative. The Pentagon Papers later recorded that Secretary McNamara had been told in 1962 that "tremendous progress" had been achieved during the preceding six months, and that "this theme was re-echoed in April of 1963 by [the MACV commander] and an NIE"; and that in retrospect, the intelligence evaluators and assessors "were not only wrong, but more importantly, they were influential."(54)



[The situation in Vietnam since early 1962] was watched carefully by our CIA Station. . . . A number of estimates and a great number of reports and appraisals were issued, each one warning that the deterioration of the regime's popularity gave rise to serious questions concerning the future trend of the war. . . . A review of our reporting over 18 months and resulting estimates bears out that the Agency consistently warned of the deteriorating situation and the possible consequences.

  From a review of CIA's intelligence performance issued by DCI McCone, 21 September 1963(55)

    Clearly, CIA did not perform well in the NIE 53-63 episode. Neither the DCI nor the Board of National Estimates covered themselves with glory, with McCone inviting policy managers to press their judgments on the Board, and the Board bowing to those pressures and issuing an NIE that did not accurately reflect existing evidence. Moreover, the Board continued to defend the NIE for some weeks thereafter, assuring McCone on 6 June that "the current [post-Hue] Buddhist difficulties do not render invalid the judgments of NIE 53-63."(56) A month later O/NE and McCone did approve an update of NIE 53-63 which predicted that disorders in South Vietnam would increase and judged that the chances of a coup or of assassination attempts against President Diem would "become better than even." But the revised Estimate also held that the Communists would not necessarily profit if Diem were overthrown, and that, given continued US support, a successor regime "could provide reasonably effective leadership for the government and the war effort."(57)

    By September, however, the situation had so deteriorated in South Vietnam that McCone began to despair of the prospects there. In a 10 September meeting with President Kennedy, the DCI stated that "victory is doubtful if not impossible."(58) A little later, according to Clark Clifford (at the time Chairman of Kennedy's PFIAB), "the normally cautious and conservative" McCone told his board that the situation had become so bad in Vietnam "that we might have to pull out altogether."(59) And in an Eyes Only letter to Ambassador Lodge, the DCI noted that "I am more disturbed over the situation which has developed in South Vietnam than any recent crisis which has confronted this government."(60) On 21 November, three weeks after Diem had been overthrown, McCone was quoted as having told another Honolulu policy conference that he was returning "more discouraged about South Vietnam than ever in the past, and that he sensed that McNamara and [McGeorge] Bundy have the same impression."(61) And on 6 December McCone told the intelligence subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that he was extremely worried about the situation in South Vietnam: "The war effort had not been improved by the new government, and Viet Cong activities had increased."(62)

    Further, on 21 December, on the occasion of introducing CIA's new Station Chief (Peer DeSilva) to Ambassador Lodge in Saigon, McCone told the Ambassador there was "no excuse for the kind of reporting" that had been received on difficulties in Long An Province.(63) That same day, en route home from Vietnam, McCone wrote: "It is abundantly clear that statistics received over the past year or more from the GVN officials and reported by the US Mission on which we gauged the trend of the war were grossly in error" and that "the future of the war remains in doubt."(64) Immediately thereafter, back in Washington, McCone joined Secretary McNamara in briefing President Johnson on the situation in Vietnam. The DCI and McNamara agreed that there had been a "complete failure of reporting," McCone adding that, while he might not be quite as pessimistic as McNamara, he did foresee "more reasons for concern as to the outcome than not."(65)

    By late 1963, then, the complexities of the Vietnam situation had profoundly impressed themselves on McCone. Even so, as reflected in his memorandum of 21 December quoted above, McCone confined the blame for the intelligence failure to America's heavy dependence on Vietnamese reporting. He was not alone in this blame-fixing; on the same day, according to CIA files, Secretary McNamara wrote President Johnson that, "since July," the situation in the South Vietnamese countryside had been deteriorating "to a far greater extent than we realized because of our undue dependence on distorted Vietnamese reporting."(66)

    Similarly, three weeks later, one of McGeorge Bundy's NSC officers aptly summed up the damage distorted intelligence had done:

    As you are aware, the great difficulties we had to live through last August and September resulted largely from a nearly complete breakdown of the Government's ability to get accurate assessments of the situation in the Vietnamese countryside. The more we learn about the situation today, the more obvious it becomes that the excessively mechanical system of statistical reporting which had been devised in Washington and applied in Saigon was giving us a grotesquely inaccurate picture. Once again it is the old problem of having people who are responsible for operations also responsible for evaluating the results. (Emphasis added.)

    The author was Michael Forrestal, who 11 months before had been one of the principal critics of the pessimistic assessments the Intelligence Community's working-level officers had made in their February draft of NIE 53-63.(67)

    Looking back on these events a decade later, CIA author Anthony Marc Lewis termed the NIE 53-63 episode a "lesson" in how senior CIA officers adjusted to the perceptions of their superiors: "The system by which national intelligence at the highest level is produced led to rejection of some O/NE staffers' perceptions that had been remarkably accurate." Lewis added, "One may easily speculate that those perceptions, had they been reflected in the published Estimate, might have aroused serious second thoughts among American policymakers on Vietnam in mid-1963."(68) A nice tribute, if overstated.

    The NIE 53-63 episode should have provided a valuable lesson in some of the many ways intelligence can be distorted. Yet these experiences of 1962-63 did not lead to any significant improvements in the estimative processes or in military and mission reporting from the field. Distortions of reality, some wishful, some more deliberate, persisted until the expulsion of the American presence in Vietnam 12 years later--and definitely contributed to that outcome.



    (1) Matthias, Willard, "How Three Estimates Went Wrong," Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 12, Winter 1968, p. 27.

    (2) See examples in Annex I, "Expectations," and in Annex II, "Distortions of Intelligence."

    (3) McCone, Memorandum for the Record, "Meeting with the President, 10 September 1963." CIA Inspector General's report, November 1964 (TS). CIA files, Job No. 73-B-567, DCI - Inspector General, Box 2, "Surveys," document 185214, p.15 (Hereafter CIA/IG Report). Also cited by Walter Elder (McCone's former Executive Assistant) in "John A. McCone as Director of Central Intelligence," manuscript history, revised edition, 1973, p. 631 (S). CIA files, Job No. 8701032R (Box 4). There are several versions of Elder's history: (1) the one cited above, (2) a 1983 version, and (3) a 1986 version revised by Dr. Mary S. McAuliffe. All are in CIA files, Job No. 8701032R, and all are classified Secret.

    (4) Department of Defense, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, (The Pentagon Papers) Book 3, IV-B-4, "Phased Withdrawal of U.S. Forces in Vietnam, 1962-1964," p. vii. (Hereafter Pentagon Papers [DoD ed.])

    (5) Gravel edition, Boston: (Beacon Press, 1971) Vol. II, pp. 164, 175. (Hereafter Pentagon Papers [Gravel ed.])

    (6) See examples at Annex I: "Expectations."

    (7) This was the first major engagement in which US attack helicopters were employed on a significant scale. Observers agree that at Ap Bac the ARVN also enjoyed an enormous numerical advantage, but their estimates vary widely: from four to ten times as many troops as the Viet Cong had. See Col. Dave Richard Palmer, Summons of the Trumpet: US-Vietnam in Perspective (San Francisco, Presidio Press, 1978), pp. 27ff.; Chester L. Cooper, The Lost Crusade: America in Vietnam (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1970), pp. 199-201; Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History (New York: Viking Press, 1983), pp. 259-262; Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (New York: Random House, 1988), pp. 269-283; and Peter Arnett, Live From the Battlefield (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1994), pp. 96-98. According to Arnett, Lt. Col. Vann told newsmen shortly after the Ap Bac battle that it had been a debacle, "a damn shame," whereas MACV chief Gen. Paul Harkins told them that "We've got them [the enemy] in a trap and we're going to spring it in half an hour." Arnett, p. 97.

    (8) Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie, p. 290. Arthur Schlesinger also cites this remark of McNamara's: A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1965), p. 549.

    (9) Pentagon Papers (Gravel ed.), Vol. II, p. 175.

    (10) The New York Times, 15 January 1963.

    (11) The New York Times, 31 January 1963.

    (12) As cited in Schlesinger, A Thousand Days, p. 986.

    (13) Colby, Memorandum for the Record, "Secretary of Defense Conference on Vietnam, 8 May 1963." (S) CIA/DDP files, Job No. 78-597, DDO/ISS, Box 1, Folder 8.

    (14) Pentagon Papers (DoD ed.), Book 3, "Phased Withdrawal of U.S. Forces," p. 20.

    (15) Helms, Memorandum for the Record, "Director's Meeting with the Secretary of Defense," 18 June 1962 (S). CIA/DCI files, Job No. 80B01285A, "DCI/McCone," Folder 2. Such pessimism as existed at the time among policymakers was confined for the most part to certain State Department officers. For example, these remarks were attributed to Sterling J. Cottrell, Director of State's Vietnam Task Force, 3 May 1962: "Mr. Cottrell summed up the situation by stating that in his opinion, we have reached bottom in South Vietnam, and that he is not sure whether we have made the upturn yet." Meeting of Special Group (Counterinsurgency), Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Vol. II, Vietnam, p. 373. (Hereafter cited as FRUS). Also, Joseph Mendenhall, former Political Counselor, Embassy Vietnam, 16 May 1962: ". . . we cannot win the war with the Diem-Nhu methods, and we cannot change those methods no matter how much pressure we put on them." Mendenhall, Memorandum for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs [Rice], FRUS, p. 598.

    (16) DDP officer's Memorandum for the Record, "Minutes of Meeting of Special Group (CI), 19 June 1962," 29 June 1962 (S). CIA/FE/VCL files, Job No. 72-233R, Box 1, Folder 6, "Switchback Main Folder."

    (17) As cited in Pentagon Papers (DoD ed.), Book 3, "Phased Withdrawal of U.S. Forces," pp. 1-2.

    (18) As above, p. 12.

    (19) (DoD ed.), Book 3, "Phased Withdrawal," p. v.

    (20) Shockley, memorandum given to the House Select Committee on Intelligence, 1975, attachment to George Carver, Memorandum for the Director, "Lt. Col. Shockley's Critique of Intelligence on the ARVN," 29 November 1975 (S). CIA files, Job No. 80R01720R, O/D/NFAC, Box 1, Folder 9. See fuller account of Col. Shockley's remarks at Annex, Section II, "Distortions."

    (21) CIA/ONE files, Job No. 79R01012A, O/D/NFAC, Box 240, "NIE 63-63 through NIE 53-2-63," Folder 2.

    (22) McCone, "Memorandum of Conversations Held in Saigon, 18-20 December 1963," 21 December 1963. CIA/IG Report, p. 43.

    (23) Arnett, Live From the Battlefield, p. 98. Arnett later commented, "The authorities wanted to fight the war in private and we wouldn't let them." p. 98.

    (24) United States Information Problems in Vietnam, Eleventh Report of the Committee on Government Operations, House of Representatives, 88th Congress, 1st Session, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1963), pp. 2-3.

    (25) Cooper, The Lost Crusade: America in Vietnam, pp. 196-197.

    (26) O/NE memorandum, "Postmortem on NIE 43-61, 'Prospects in South Vietnam,'" 14 February 1963, (S). CIA files, Job No. 79R01012A, O/D/NFAC, Box 240, Folder 1.

    (27) O/NE Memorandum for the Record, "Meeting with General Earle G. Wheeler, [14 March 1963]," 27 March 1963, (S). CIA files as above, Folder 2. According to then Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer George Allen, DIA directed its analysts simply to publish MACV's reports, without adding any DIA interpretation. Allen, comment to author, December 1995.

    (28) This was one reason Secretary Robert McNamara later commissioned the compilation of what became known as The Pentagon Papers.

    (29) Ronald H. Spector, Advice and Support: The Early Years of the United States Army in Vietnam, 1941-1960, rev. ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1985), pp. x, xi. Spector's fuller statement deserves notice: "Added to this propensity to try to make something out of nothing was an American ignorance of Vietnamese history and society so massive and all-encompassing that two decades of federally funded fellowships, crash language programs, television specials, and campus teach-ins made hardly a dent. . . . If there is any lesson to be drawn from the unhappy tale of American involvement in Vietnam in the 1940s and 1950s, it is that before the United States sets out to make something out of nothing in some other corner of the globe, American leaders might consider the historical and social factors involved."

    (30) In 1962-1963, the author of the present History Staff study was chief of O/NE's Far East Staff. He initiated NIE 53-63, wrote its first drafts (together with then O/NE staffer George Carver), and was a participant at the 27 February 1963 USIB meeting. Also, see Willard C. Matthias (who had been the Board of National Estimates Chairman for NIE 53-63), "How Three Estimates Went Wrong," Studies in Intelligence, Vol. XII, No. 1 (Winter 1968), pp. 31-35. Also, Matthias, to author, 12 February 1990; George Carver, to author, 8 January 1990; and Sherman Kent, to author, 3 May 1990. CIA files, Job No. 90B00336R, Box 4, Folder 4, "Harold P. Ford Interviews."

    (31) NIE 35/1, "Probable Developments in Indochina Through Mid-1953," 3 March 1952. FRUS, 1952-1954, Vol. XIII, part 2, Indochina, pp. 54-55. At the time this NIE was produced, its views gathered considerable support in the Pentagon. See DoD draft Memorandum, "A Cold War Pro-gram to Save Southeast Asia for the Free World," 3 April 1952: "As pointed out in NIE 35/1, [France's difficulties in supporting simultaneous major efforts in Europe and East Asia] will adversely influence France's will to continue resistance in Indochina. It is even more probable that, in the long run, the rising tide of Asian nationalism will make it impossible or too costly to preserve Indochina as a conspicuous remnant of western colonialism in the Far East." FRUS, p. 119. Note also this FRUS footnote statement, "This memorandum apparently represented the views of the Secretaries of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force." FRUS, p. 119. Why the thinking of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Vietnam changed so radically between the early 1950s and a decade later is a question that still demands close historical scrutiny.

    (32) These documents are in CIA Files Job No. 79R00904A, O/D/NFAC, Box 8, Folder 2.

    (33) The author's personal experience. Also, Carver, to author, 3 January 1990; Matthias, to author, 13 February 1990; and Sherman Kent, to author, May 1990.

    (34) McCone directed Kent to solicit responses also from William Colby (Chief of CIA's Far East Operations) and his chief of station (COS) in Saigon, and he sent O/NE officer Chester Cooper to Saigon to look the situation over personally for him. O/NE officers met directly with Wheeler, Krulak, Hilsman, Forrestal, and Colby and obtained the views of the others by cable. Kent, Memorandum for the Director, "NIE 53-63, Prospects in South Vietnam," 15 April 1963 (S). CIA/DDI files, Job No. 79R01012R, O/D/NFAC, Box 240, Folder 3.

    (35) CINCPAC cable to DIA, 200426Z, 20 March 1963; appended as Annex to Sherman Kent, Memorandum for the Director, "CINCPAC's Response to the DIA Request for Comments on the Draft NIE re South Vietnam" 25 April 1963 (S). CIA/DDI files, Job No. 79R00904A, O/D/NFAC, Box 9, Folder 2.

    (36) O/NE Memorandum for the Record, "Meeting with Major General Victor H. Krulak, USMC, on South Vietnam," 8 March 1963 (S). CIA/DDI files, Job No. 79R01012R, O/D/NFAC, Box 240, Folder 3.

    (37) O/NE Memorandum for the Record, "Meeting with General Earle G. Wheeler, Chief of Staff, US Army, on South Vietnam," 27 March 1963 (S). CIA/DDI files as above.

    (38) Cooper, dispatch, Saigon to DCI, "Comments on Draft NIE 53-63: 'Prospects in South Vietnam,'" 29 March 1963 (S). CIA/DDI files, Job No. 79T01148A, NFAC, Box 9, Folder marked "Policy: GLC: Oct '62-Dec '64.".

    (39) Cooper, The Lost Crusade: America in Vietnam, p. 196. (Emphasis in the original).

    (40) O/NE Memorandum for the Record, "Meeting with General Earle G. Wheeler, Chief of Staff, US Army, on South Vietnam," 27 March 1963. CIA/DDI files, Job No. 79R01012A, O/D/NFAC, Box 240, Folder 2.

    (41) O/NE Memorandum for the Record, "Meeting with General Victor H. Krulak, USMC, on South Vietnam," 8 March 1963, (S). CIA/DDI files as above.

    (42) CINCPAC cable to DIA, commenting on draft NIE 53-63, 12 March 1963, appended as Annex to Sherman Kent, "Memorandum for the Director, "CINCPAC's Response to the DIA Request for Comments on the Draft NIE re South Vietnam," 25 April 1963 (S). CIA/DCI files, Job No. 79R0090A, Box 9 Folder 2. CIA was not the only recipient of strong Pentagon pressures on its analysts to shape up. According to the authors of The Pentagon Papers, when State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research published a study on 22 October 1963, detailing downward military trends in Vietnam, this "occasioned controversy and no little recrimination. . . . The outcome was a personal memorandum from the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense on 8 November, amounting to an apology for the incident. The Secretary of State stated ' . . . it is not the policy of the State Department to issue military appraisals without seeking the views of the Defense Department. I have requested that any memoranda given inter-departmental circulation which include military appraisals be coordinated with your Department.'" (DoD ed.), Book 3-IV-B-4: "Phased Withdrawal of U.S. Forces." p. 24. That episode has also been treated by former INR Director Thomas Hughes, "Experiencing McNamara," Foreign Policy, Vol. 100 (Fall 1995) pp.155-171; and by former INR officer Louis Harris in a letter to the editor,"McNamara's War and Mine," The New York Times, 5 September 1995. Both were commenting on the then recently published book by Robert S. McNamara (with Brian VanDeMark), In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (New York: Times Books, 1995).

    (43) The New York Times, 31 January 1963.

    (44) Carver, Memorandum for Kent, "Consultation with General Krulak on South Vietnam in Connection with NIE 53-63" (S). CIA/DDI files, Job No. 79R01012A, O/D/NFAC, Box 240, Folder 3.

    (45) The author's personal knowledge. Also, Sherman Kent, to author, 3 May 1990; George Carver, to author, 8 January 1990; Willard Matthias, to author, 12 February 1990; and Matthias, "How Three Estimates Went Wrong," passim.

    (46) It was subsequent U-2 aerial photography that revealed that Soviet offensive missiles had in fact been deployed in Cuba.

    (47) A carefully researched CIA study of DCI McCone's tenure by another History Staff author reaches similar conclusions on McCone's thinking in early 1963.

    (48) CIA/IG Report, p.15. Journalist Neal Sheehan considers Krulak to have been "a genius," even though Sheehan criticizes him for distorting reality: "Despite the warning flares of Ap Bac, [Krulak] clung to his preconceptions and helped to implant them in the other members of the Joint Chiefs' mission [which had been sent out to investigate the Ap Bac battle]." Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie, p. 293. Several authors observe that Krulak disdained civilian experts, claiming they had no right to make judgments on military matters. Among such critics is CIA's George Allen, who states that in 1963 he was directed to prepare a military map of Vietnam at Krulak's request; Krulak thought the map was great until he learned that Allen was a civilian, whereupon he trashed the map. Allen, "The Indochina Wars," pp. 208-210.

    (49) Pentagon Papers (Gravel ed.), Vol. II, p. 244.

    (50) McCone, Memorandum for the Record, 10 May 1962 (S). CIA/DCI files, Job No. 80B01285A, DCI/McCone, Box 2, Folder 2.

    (51) Felt, statement to McCone as cited in Elder manuscript, CIA History Staff files.

    (52) The New York Times, 3 October 1963.

    (53) McCone, present at that conference, recorded that Harkins's remarks had made a "poor impression." CIA/IG Report, pp. 38-40.

    (54) (DoD ed.), Book 3, "Phased Withdrawal of U.S. Forces, " pp. vi, vii.

    (55) As cited in Walter Elder manuscript, pp. 680-681. CIA/DCI files, Job No. 8701032R, Box 4. There is no mention in CIA executive files of McCone's involvement in NIE 53-63 or his changing attitudes toward it.

    (56) Sherman Kent, Memorandum for the Director, "NIE 53-63, Prospects in South Vietnam in Light of the Current Buddhist Crisis" (S) CIA/DDI files, Job No. 79R00904A, O/D/NFAC, Box 9, Folder 3.

    (57) SNIE 53-2-63, "The Situation in South Vietnam," 10 July 1963 (S).

    (58) Memorandum for the Record by William Colby, who was present at that White House meeting. CIA/IG Report, p. 15.

    (59) Clark Clifford and Richard Holbrooke, "Annals of Government, The Vietnam Years," Part I, The New Yorker, 6 May 1991, p. 45.

    (60) Elder manuscript, p. 672. CIA History Staff files, Job No. 8701032R, Box 4.

    (61) Memorandum by CIA officer E. Henry Knoche, 21 November 1963. CIA/IG Report, p. 38.

    (62) CIA/IG Report, p. 39.

    (63) CIA/IG Report, p. 42.

    (64) CIA/IG Report, p. 43.

    (65) CIA/IG Report, pp. 43-44.

    (66) McNamara, Memorandum for the President, "Vietnam Situation," 21 December 1963, as cited in CIA/IG Report, pp. 43-44.

    (67) Forrestal memo to Bundy, "Reporting on the Situation in South Vietnam," 8 January 1964, FRUS, 1964-1968, Volume I, Vietnam 1964, p. 7.

    (68) Lewis, "Re-examining Our Perceptions on Vietnam," Studies in Intelligence, Vol. XVII, No. 4 (Winter 1973) p. 51.



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