PPS files, lot 64 D 563

Memorandum by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Nitze)1

top secret


That loss of Southeast Asia would present an unacceptable threat to position of U.S., both in Far East and world-wide.
That most likely threat to Southeast Asia is from a continuation of present deterioration of Western position in area without overt communist intervention.
That threat of overt communist intervention is a present and continuing threat requiring a prompt decision as to the lines of action to be followed to counter this threat.
That in event of overt communist intervention, Southeast Asia can probably not be held by action in Southeast Asia alone and that action against China itself will be required.
That it is an overriding objective of U.S. policy to avoid U.S. engagement with China alone, without allies, and with the loss of our NATO arrangements.
In the light of the above, the NSC is prepared to consider courses of action involving the following:
A build-up of our own strength beyond that now contemplated;
Increased assistance to French in Indochina and a more effective program for strengthening forces on Formosa;
Some diversions from presently contemplated programs of aid to Europe to increase our capabilities in the Far East;
Diplomatic action to cause French and British to accept the following:
That if we are to help them in Southeast Asia they must face up to what flows from the risks we would take, i.e., blockade Hong Kong, etc.; and give us backing, if the action spreads, beyond that point.
Reinforcement of their ground forces in Southeast Asia in the event of overt communist aggression.
In order to achieve (d) above, agree to coordinate in some manner military actions in Far East short of a combined command structure and give non-military assistance in Southeast Asia.
The NSC requests:
The JCS to indicate (1) the military courses of action, (2) the military requirements of such courses of action, and (3) the probable effectiveness of such courses in meeting U.S. objectives as outlined above.
The State Department to formulate recommended diplomatic courses of action and to estimate their probable success.
State and Defense to coordinate their studies as appropriate.
  1. The editors have been unable to determine whether this memorandum was prepared before or after the State-JCS meeting of Mar. 5; memorandum supra.

    This memorandum bears two unsigned notations. One reads: “(Used at NSC briefing in Secy’s office on 3/5/52.)” The other follows: “Used to brief Secretary for NSC mtg. 3/5 and was used by Sec. at the NSC mtg. NSC accepted this draft & directed Senior Staff to revise in light of NSC discussion.”

    Another briefing memorandum prepared for this NSC meeting is printed in Department of Defense, United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, Book 8, pp. 502–507. Internal evidence indicates that this unaddressed, unsigned memorandum was prepared in the Defense Department for the Secretary of Defense.