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General Harkins Departs Vietnam

June 20, 1964 - General Paul Harkins (left) departed Vietnam today after 2½ crucial and story years as head of the U.S. effort in the war against the Communist Viet Cong insurgents.

He was succeeded as commander by Lieutenant General William Westmoreland, 50 years old, who is to be promoted to full general on the retirement of Harkins, who is 60.

The new commander called in all senior American officers to outline his program for future military and civic action to counter the Viet Cong by advances from hamlet to hamlet.

Westmoreland made no innovations in the pacification concept approved by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, but he promised an energetic response from Saigon and assistance to the needs of the countryside.

Speeches today by U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and the Vietnamese Commander in Chief, General Tran Thien Khiem, reflected the more critical nature of the Vietnamese war now as compared with February 1962, when Harkins arrived.

What was then viewed as basically a training mission to bolster the logistics and confidence of a national army in quelling a rebellion has become a military problem for the U.S. itself in which the Viet Cong are viewed as agents for Chinese Communist expansionism.

“The tools you forged will, if we but persist, enable Vietnam to achieve and maintain independence from foreign domination,” Lodge told Harkins in an address at the departure ceremony.

On Thursday, Harkins gave a confident and optimistic assessment of the military outlook in South Vietnam. His view contrasted sharply with that of a senior American adviser, otherwise unidentified, who said there was a “lack of dedicated leadership” in the South Vietnamese armed forces and that the American advisory team was not doing enough to force necessary but unpopular decisions on the Saigon Government.

The critical officer, who is ending a three-year tour in South Vietnam, said the country was afflicted by “politics, corruption, and nepotism.”

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