Mendenhall-Krulak mission

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As part of the 1963 United States policy development on the Vietnam War, President John F. Kennedy, on September 6, Major General Victor Krulak, Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Joseph Mendenhall, a Foreign Service Officer, with him. [1] their report on their return generated a legendary response from the President.

They returned five days later, and briefed the NSC. The perspectives were sufficiently different that John F. Kennedy inquired

You two did visit the same country, didn't you?[2]

Quips aside, the military and civilian views differed. Mendenhall brought back the United States Information Agency (called U.S. Information Service in foreign countries) country director John Mecklin, and Agency for International Development Rufus Phillips, who headed the rural foreign aid program. Mecklin said the situation would be salvageable only with U.S. combat troops, while Phillips said fifty strategic hamlets in the Mekong Delta had been overrun, and more were at risk. Krulak, based on figures given him by MACV, there was 300 percent growth in the number of strategic hamlets, while only 0.2% had been overrun. It should be observed that Mecklin and Phillips had been working in the field, while Krulak took his information from the military headquarters. Mendenhall, a Foreign Service Officer and later Acting Assistant Administrator for Vietnam for the Agency for International Development (AID} was pessimistic. [3]

The mixed results from this mission led Kennedy to send the higher-level McNamara-Taylor mission.


  1. , Chapter 4, "The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, May-November, 1963," Section 2,pp. 201-232, The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2
  2. Reeves, Richard (September 1993), "The Lines of Control Have Been Cut", American Heritage 44 (5), p. 87
  3. Karnow, Stanley (1983), Vietnam, a History, Viking Press, pp. 293