126. Memorandum on the Substance of Discussion at a Department of State-Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, Pentagon, Washington, March 23, 1962, 11:30 a.m.1

[Here follow a list of participants and discussion of items I-IV.]

V. ICC Implications of U.S. Force Buildup in Vietnam

Mr. Johnson said that State had placed this item on the agenda in order to cite the concern of Indian and Canadian ICC representatives over the open introduction of unconcealed military equipment into Saigon. They have asked that we reduce this activity insofar as practicable. They have stated that they know what we are doing and desire to be helpful. However, it would be advantageous to all if we could avoid flaunting our deliveries to Saigon. Mr. Johnson said that we realize Saigon is the only good port and that we must continue to use it. He asked if it would be possible to fly in the Marine helicopter squadron which is due to be delivered by April 15. This would be far less conspicuous than ship delivery to Saigon. General LeMay said [Page 264]that we can take some actions, but not a whole lot, to avoid the problem. He added that people appear to be much more sensitive to our actions than they do to those of the Soviet side.

Mr. Johnson said that the President had taken a positive decision on our position on the ICC. This matter was discussed thoroughly and he had decided that we would recognize the ICC and we would not renounce the accords. We would just act in the face of them and this causes problems like the present one. … Mr. Johnson then said that he would like to have JCS agreement to the following paragraph in a proposed message to Ottawa, New Delhi and Saigon. “We will henceforth avoid open and flagrant introduction of personnel and equipment such as unloading unconcealable military equipment in Saigon which have not been notified to ICC so as to avoid charges of violations of Agreement. In this regard we understand fourth helicopter squadron can fly into Vietnam and need not be unloaded in Saigon.”2 Admiral Ricketts said that this was a good objective and the JCS would do their best to meet it. However, no specific commitments could be made. He added that the only dock in Saigon was situated just in front of the Imperial Hotel.

Mr. Cottrell indicated that most of the objectionable heavy equipment had already been delivered and that the remaining immediate project which could cause trouble was the Marine helicopter squadron. General Shoup said that this squadron was in the Philippines and that if it is the one to go to Vietnam it can be flown in from as far out at sea as fuel capacity will permit. Admiral Riley said that the language of the proposed cable must be altered since it would tie the hands of the military. General Decker said that the JCS would ask Admiral Felt to act to meet our objectives in the delivery program to Vietnam. Mr. Johnson agreed with General Deckerʼs observation that the ICC was spending too much time in Saigon and not enough time in Hanoi.

Mr. Nitze asked if the group would like to spend a moment discussing rules of engagement3 for the four F-102 aircraft being deployed to Vietnam for possible employment against intruder aircraft. General LeMay said that the proposed rules were such that if any intruders were shot down it would be a sheer accident. He pointed out that the identification procedures were impossible to comply with at night. General Decker said that the rules were drafted by CINCPAC and the JCS would have to work out the problem with that Hq. Mr. Johnson asked if the F-102 could actually shoot down the slow-moving, low-flying intruders and General LeMay said that they could. Mr. Johnson [Page 265]said that we must not attack commercial aircraft. Mr. Nitze said that the F-102s could not be employed against the intruders without reference back to the President.

[Here follows a short paragraph on another matter.]

  1. Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 69 D 121, State-JCS Minutes. Top Secret. The meeting was held at the Pentagon. A note on the source text reads: “Department of State draft, not cleared with DOD.” U. Alexis Johnson led the Department of State delegation; Mr. Amory represented the CIA; Messrs. Nitze and Bundy, DOD; and Bromley Smith the NSC.
  2. The original draft of telegram 1137 to Saigon ( Document 130) included this statement as paragraph 2. (Briefing material for Under Secretary Johnson, March 22, Department of State, State-JCS Meetings: Lot 65 D 172)
  3. Not found.