120. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

1200. COM USMACV 210531Z.2 Reference message reports joint US-GVN radar sightings unidentified aircraft in numbers Pleiku area night of 19-20 March.

Similar reports for night 20-21 March being checked. If confirmed, and evidence strong for night 19-20 March, these sightings almost certainly involve aircraft dropping supplies and/or reinforce meets [Page 255]to VC. Defense Minister Thuan telephoned me this morning indicating grave concern and stressing need to take “precautionary measures”. Thuan subsequently relayed to General Weede request from Diem that US interceptors be introduced SVN.

I strongly recommend that aircraft with night-fighter capability be dispatched Saigon immediately with mission of confirming any future radar contacts and shooting down any unfriendly aircraft detected over SVN. This seems to me correct response from US standpoint to Communist effort reinforce VC by air. It is minimum response expected by GVN.

If aircraft are sent, I recommend they remain at least through present full moon period and that they be represented publicly as “in transit”.

General Weede is commenting separately to General Harkins.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.5/3-2162. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Received in the Department of State at 6:07 a.m. on March 21. Repeated to Bangkok for Harriman; CINCPAC for Polad, Nolting, and Harkins; and Clark Air Force Base. Nolting and Harkins were in Honolulu for the March Secretary of Defenseʼs Conference. The message also requested that the Department of State pass it to the Department of Defense.
  2. Not found.