3. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Gilpatric) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Lemnitzer)1


  • Public Affairs and Security Aspects of Operations in Vietnam
Improved planning and implementation of the public affairs and security aspects of our military operations and programs in Vietnam is required. The security and public affairs policy for U.S. military progress in Vietnam is governed primarily by the policy of the United [Page 5] States toward observance of the Geneva Accords.2 That policy is currently that the United States and the Government of Vietnam have a good, legally sound position to take publicly in response to challenges of increased U.S. assistance to Vietnam. It provides a firm political case for whatever actions may later be judged necessary. This position is as follows: GVN is committing sets of aggression in flagrant violation of the Geneva Accords, and the GVN has consequently requested the United States to provide additional support in men and materiel. These measures are being taken as requirements of legitimate self-defense necessitated by North Vietnamese breaches of the Accords. As soon as the North Vietnamese end their aggressive acts and resume their observance of the Geneva Accords, these measures of support can be terminated.
… In response to queries U.S. representative will respond as follows: “The United States has acceded to GVNʼs request for expanded aid in men and materiel and is determined to help preserve its independence. This is the sole objective of the United States. The United States will terminate these measures as soon as North Vietnam ends its acts of aggression.”
To ensure that public affairs aspects of operations in Vietnam are consistent with the above policy, adequately planned and effectively implemented, the following procedures should be followed:
When an action or program with significant public affairs or security implications is planned, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, in coordination with the Secretaries of the Services providing personnel or logistic support for the operation, will recommend a suitable cover story, or stories, a public explanation, a statement of no comment or an appropriate combination thereof, for approval by the Secretary of Defense. This recommendation will cover the initial call up and movement of forces or material concerned to the area of operations and their subsequent employment. The Service Secretaries will be responsible for coordinating on that portion of the operation which will take place under their authority.
The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) shall advise the Departments and the Joint Chiefs of Staff of current public affairs policy for Vietnam to guide them in the development of proposed cover stories and public explanations.
The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) shall evaluate the proposed cover stories or public explanations to insure that they are in consonance with overall policy guidelines developed in coordination with the Department of State.
Roswell L. Gilpatric 3
Deputy Secretary of Defense
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 71 A 6489 Sensitive 7-61. Secret. Drafted by Colonel Kent. Also sent to the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
  2. For text of the Geneva Accords of 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, vol. XVI, pp. 15051520.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.