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McNamara Headed to Saigon Again

Mar. 5, 1964 - Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, seeking to emphasize U.S. intentions to stand firm in South Vietnam, said today he will seek ways to improve American support in Saigon conferences this weekend.

Describing the situation in South Vietnam as “grave,” he disclosed that the Communist North Vietnamese have increased the flow of better weapons to the Viet Cong guerrillas during the last six months. The Viet Cong have been found to be equipped with larger-bore weapons, 75-mm. recoilless rifles, heavy machine guns, “more sophisticated” mines that could be planted in water as well as on land, and sabotage devices with advanced timing mechanisms. These weapons, he repeated a few times, were “obviously of Chinese Communist manufacture.”

He is scheduled to depart for Saigon tonight at midnight. He will be accompanied by General Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a delegation from the State Department headed by William Bundy, newly appointed Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs. The group will be joined in Honolulu by CIA director John McCone.

Secretary McNamara was asked today whether he thought there could be “a military solution” to the problem in South Vietnam “under the present ground rules.” The reference to “ground rules” was intended to draw Mr. McNamara out on the possibility of a change in policy permitting offensive operations against North Vietnam.

He did not respond to that, but he stressed in his reply that the “problem in South Vietnam is very clearly a political-economic-military problem.”

In Saigon this afternoon, a U.S. military spokesman announced that Communist guerrillas had killed a U.S. Army officer during a combat patrol in the jungle highlands 230 miles north of Saigon. The American officer was the fourth to die in South Vietnam since Monday.


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