155. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1


I. Present Situation

[Here follow Sections A and B on the political and military situation in Laos.]

[Page 338]

C. South VietNam—Political

According to Saigon country team, Diem Government has not significantly improved its political position among people or substantially furthered national unity.
Also, according to country team, Diem has still not delegated sufficient authority to field command and country team does not feel that “September saw progress toward attainment task force goals of creating viable and increasingly democratic society.”2

D. South VietNam—Military

Although GVN military capabilities have increased, Viet Cong capabilities are increasing at more rapid rate and Viet Cong attacks have increased in size.
Viet Cong “regular” forces have increased from about 7,000 at beginning of year to approximately 17,000.
Viet Cong have moved from stage of small bands to large units. During September Viet Cong mounted three attacks with over 1,000 men in each. Viet Cong strategy may be directed at “liberating” an area in which a “government” could be installed.
Although vast majority of Viet Cong troops are of local origin, the infiltration of Viet Cong cadres from North Viet-Nam via Laos, the demilitarized zone, and by sea appears to be increasing. However, there is little evidence of major supplies from outside sources, most arms apparently being captured or stolen from GVN forces or from the French during the Indo-China war.

[Here follow Sections E, F, and G on the political situation in Thailand and Cambodia and the military situation in Cambodia.]

II. Additional Courses of Action

[Here follow Sections A and B on the political and military situation in Laos.]

C. South VietNam—Political

Upon determination that material warrants, urgently publish “white paper” now in course of preparation on DRV aggression against South VietNam.
Undertake, in consultation with Government of South VietNam, action in the UN to obtain UN observers in South Viet-Nam with a mandate to “report the facts” and help deter further infiltrations. [Page 339] (Details various types of UN action that could be set forth in the attached “Concept for Intervention in VietNam” (Tab B).)

D. South VietNam—Military

After determining its feasibility by investigation on the spot, and suitable preparations with our allies and the UN, undertake the introduction of SEATO forces into South Viet-Nam in accordance with the attached plan (Tab C). This plan can be undertaken whether or not “SEATO Plan 5 Plus” is undertaken in Laos and whether or not a political settlement is reached in Laos. However, it would be politically somewhat more difficult to undertake in the latter event. Also, as noted above, “SEATO Plan 5 Plus” should not be undertaken in Laos without also undertaking this plan in South VietNam.
Whether or not foregoing plan for military intervention in South Viet-Nam is implemented, immediately undertake the following actions:
Subject to agreement with GVN now being sought, dispatch “Jungle Jim” air unit to South Viet-Nam initially on training mission.
Assist the GVN in strengthening its action against DRV infiltration by sea.
Encourage, including U.S. advisers, guerrilla action against Communist aerial resupply missions in Tchepone area, including introduction of special indigenous units in specific interdiction missions with ground anti-aircraft weapons.

[Here follow Sections E and F on the political and military situation in Thailand.]

III. Decisions Required at This Time

Whether to continue exploration with our allies and in SEATO, as well as detailed military planning on “SEATO Plan 5 Plus”.
Whether immediately to send to South Viet-Nam a very high-level military figure to explore with country team, Diem, and CINCPAC, as well as on the ground, feasibility and desirability from both a political and military standpoint, of the proposed plan for SEATO intervention into South VietNam. Such a person could also make recommendations for additional immediate action short of intervention which might be taken in the present situation.
If GVN agreement is received, whether immediately to dispatch “Jungle Jim” Air Force unit to South VietNam.
Whether to approve guerrilla ground action, including use of U.S. advisers, against Communist aerial resupply missions in Tchepone area.
Whether to approve exploration with key members Foreign Relations Committee change in SEATO voting formula.
Whether to authorize Ambassador Harriman, in his discretion and at time of his choosing, to explore with Pushkin principle of movement of Meos from Xieng Khouang area to south Laos-South VietNamese border area as quid pro quo for movement of Pathet Lao from southern Laos during regroupment period.

[Tab B]

Paper Prepared by the Viet-Nam Task Force3



This paper presents a concept for the introduction of SEATO forces into South VietNam, under a UN umbrella if possible, in an effort to arrest and hopefully to reverse the deteriorating situation in that country. It is closely related to and compatible with the plan for military intervention into Laos if the necessity for intervention into that country should arise.

If there is continued delay in reaching a satisfactory political settlement in Laos and the present ambiguous situation there continues, consideration should be given to prompt implementation of this plan with respect to South Viet-Nam in order to assist in protecting that country from the large scale Viet Minh infiltration now going on through Laos and otherwise to assist South VietNam. (Enemy knowledge that a plan such as this is being considered and the preliminary moves that would be made in the UN also might have a favorable effect on expediting a settlement in Laos.)

If there is a breakdown in the negotiations in Laos and renewal of Communist offensive action there, this could be met in Laos only by SEATO Plan 5 Plus. However, it would take some considerable time before that plan alone could offer material protection to the borders of South VietNam. Therefore, in this eventuality, the implementation of both SEATO Plan 5 Plus and this plan with respect to South Viet-Nam should be undertaken.

While a satisfactory political settlement in Laos would considerably reduce Viet Minh infiltration through Laos into South VietNam, it would not entirely eliminate it. While such a reduction [Page 341] would materially assist the GVN in meeting the Viet Cong threat, there is no assurance that, even under these circumstances, the GVN will in the foreseeable future be able to defeat the Viet Cong. Under these circumstances, although the need of South Viet-Nam for outside assistance such as proposed in this plan would probably still be very strong, it would be much more difficult to find a satisfactory political base upon which to implement this plan.

The visibility of this plan would be dependent upon the degree to which it could and would also result in the GVN accelerating political and military action in its own defense. A judgment on this can only be reached after thorough exploration on the spot with the country team and the GVN.

The paper also discusses a number of lesser actions that might be ordered at once and that would be of some help in arresting the deteriorating situation in VietNam.

The Concept

Political Objective

To prevent South Viet-Nam from being destroyed by Communist guerrilla activity inspired, directed and supported from North VietNam.

United Nations Action

Assuming that the situation in South Viet-Nam has deteriorated seriously, due to continuing Vietminh infiltrations and harassments, there are two possibilities with respect to UN action: (1) Recourse to the Security Council and the regular General Assembly prior to any SEATO intervention with a view to seeking UN observers, and failing this to at least help rationalize politically a subsequent SEATO move into South VietNam; and/or (2) a simultaneous move in the UN and SEATO designed primarily to justify SEATO intervention.


Recourse to UN prior to SEATO Intervention in South VietNam

Diem could request the UN to send observers with the mandate to “report the facts” and help deter by their presence further infiltrations, those from Laos and those moving south across the 17th parallel. In such circumstances, the U.S. could have the Security Council convened in the first instance. A Soviet veto in the Council is likely since, as in Laos, the USSR and Communist China can be expected to oppose supplanting the ICC mechanism with UN observation. Assuming a veto, the next move might be to place the item [Page 342] on the agenda of the Sixteenth General Assembly which will be in session at least until December 20.

Whether the required two-thirds majority could be mustered in the Assembly will depend on a number of considerations including: whether direct military intervention is imminent; how good a public case we can make documenting Communist intervention from the outside; whether the prospect of Communist takeover is immediate; and what the attitude is of key states in the area, and in particular India, Ceylon, Burma and Cambodia.

The thrust in the General Assembly will probably be a disinclination to have the UN intervene (the three main principals are non-UN members-Communist China, South and North VietNam) in favor of an exhortation to the ICC to look into the problem and perhaps the calling of a conference, as was the case in Laos.


Recourse to UN at Same Time as SEATO Moves Into South VietNam

If SEATO action in Viet-Nam is decided upon, we must make the assumption in our contingency planning that inevitably the Viet-Nam case will be brought to the UN by a third party. We would be in a better position politically if, on the Lebanese pattern, we took the initiative by coupling a move by SEATO with a move to the SC. Our objective would be to get the UN to send a small group of observers. We would adopt the public posture in the SC that SEATO need stay in South Viet-Nam only and until such time as the UN could deter effectively further infiltrations and help maintain the independence of South VietNam. As in the previous contingency, recourse to the General Assembly would probably prove necessary.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Regional Security Series, Southeast Asia General. Top Secret. The source text and three attached papers were sent to McGeorge Bundy under cover of a memorandum of October 11, signed by W.G. Brubeck of the Department of State’s Executive Secretariat on behalf of Executive Secretary Lucius D. Battle, explaining that the papers were to be discussed at the meeting on Southeast Asia at 10:45 a.m. that day. The paper entitled “Concept for Intervention in Laos” (SEATO Plan 5 Plus) (Tab A) is not printed. Tab C, Plan for Intervention in Vietnam, is printed in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pp. 300-311.
  2. The quotation is from telegram 414 from Saigon, September 28. (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5-MSP/9-2861) An extract from this telegram is printed in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, vol. 11, p. 71.
  3. Top Secret.