309. Telegram From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor) to the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins)1

JCS 3368-63. Reference State to Saigon 256 Aug 27.2

1. Important White House meeting on subject message scheduled for 1200 28 August EDT,3 your views urgently needed on reference message and on overall feasibility of operation contemplated in [document number not declassified].4

FYI State to Saigon 243 was prepared without DOD or JCS participation. Authorities are now having second thoughts.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/63-8/31/63, Defense Cables. Secret; Eyes Only. The source text indicates that copies were to be sent to Bundy at the White House; to Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman at the Department of State; and to each of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hilsman refers to this cable as a back-channel message in To Move a Nation, p. 492, and recalls that he never saw it. (Department of State, Office of the Historian, Vietnam Interviews, Roger Hilsman, May 15, 1984) Michael V. Forrestal also remembers it as a back-channel message, but does recall seeing it. (Ibid., Michael V. Forrestal, May 16, 1984) Harriman saw a copy of it and subsequently complained to General Carter of the CIA that this was the first occasion he could recall of the military backing off their commitments. Harriman maintained to Carter that Taylor had cleared telegram 243 to Saigon, Document 281. (Memorandum for the record by Krulak, August 28; National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Vietnam, chap. XXIII) On the morning of August 29, Hilsman called Krulak about clearance of telegram 243 to Saigon. According to Krulak’s record of the conversation, Hilsman admitted “that he was probably wrong to say that Taylor was involved [with clearance], but that Defense concurrence originated with Mr. Gilpatric.” (Memorandum for the record by Krulak, August 29; Ibid.)
  2. Document 305.
  3. A memorandum of this conference with President Kennedy is printed in Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. IV, Document 1.
  4. Document 299.