149. Memorandum From the Chief of Naval Operations (Anderson) to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)1


  • Naval Patrol of South Vietnamese Coastal Waters


  • (a) ASD (ISA) Memorandum I-16883/61 of 5 October 19612
In response to the questions posed in reference (a), the following answers are provided:
If the U.S. assisted in patrolling the South Vietnamese coastal waters at the request of the Government of South Vietnam, there would be no legal restrictions that would hinder us notwithstanding the implications of the Geneva Accord of 1954. Our case would be based on South Vietnam’s inherent right of self defense. Any measures taken at her request within her territorial waters (3 mile limit) would be justified by her sovereignty. The preponderance of traffic is carried in small boats close inshore in territorial waters under cover of darkness. If it is necessary to interdict such traffic in international waters, this can be justified under the same right of self-defense. Since this is an accepted, well established right, no undesirable precedent would be established.
Naval patrols could effectively help to control infiltration by sea. The radar search capability of such patrols would enhance the probability of detecting boats carrying Viet Cong infiltrators from North Vietnam. The details of carrying out an air-sea barrier should be left to the unified commander. He would probably wish to augment the South Vietnamese junk force with suitable U.S. forces.
The assignment of destroyers or patrol aircraft from the Seventh Fleet for patrol action of this type would divert them from the principal threat which they are designed to counter, namely, that of the Soviet submarines in the Western Pacific. However, they are available for any purpose.
Current information from the Chief of the Military Assistance and Advisory Group at Viet-Nam indicates that Viet Cong infiltration is mainly overland through Laos. Since the fall of Tchepone, Communist forces have had free access to the Viet-Nam border by this secure and well concealed route. He believes that the sea route is not used to any great extent to infiltrate military personnel or supplies but may be used to introduce agents, couriers and medical supplies. [Page 330] The bulk of the weapons, ammunition and material is brought in by infiltrators overland.
GW Anderson
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5411/10-961. Secret. A copy was also sent to the Secretary of the Navy. The source text was an attachment to a covering memorandum of the same date from Nitze to Rusk.
  2. Document 146.