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79. Memorandum From the Ambassador to India (Galbraith) to the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Ball)0

I am addressing the three of you on a matter which requires your immediate and urgent attention. The issue, which is one on which my ideas are conclusively formed, involves the continuation of a series of adventures launched under the past Administration [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]. It keeps going an activity started by the last Administration but about which that Administration had manifested sufficient uneasiness to halt. The reasons for the operation, which in my view were never sufficient, have diminished in value and now depend in part, as in the case of Cuba, on the fact that men have been trained, action is under way and now must be continued and in part on intelligence yield.


The history of the operation extends back over several years. At the time of the ChiCom takeover in Tibet, refugees came out which included quite a few able-bodied men. A group of these were taken to a special establishment [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] where they were trained in guerrilla tactics. [5-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] The stated purpose was to prevent the consolidation of the hold of the Chinese on Tibet, draw off Chinese resources into the insurrection there and keep in the public eye the image of Chinese aggression in the area.

At the time of the U-2 attempt in the summer of 1960 President Eisenhower became aware or conscious of the operation [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]. The number east of Lhasa was built up to the neighborhood of about 1000. Pressure to supply them developed. I became aware of plans [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] last spring shortly before coming to India. By that time the political and economic return could only be defended in the most modest terms. [2 lines of source text not declassified] The operation had been strongly opposed by my predecessor, Ellsworth Bunker. Richard Bissell described it as of marginal yield. It seemed particularly unfortunate in the light of the then unsettled state of the Laos situation. I raised the matter with the President one morning at breakfast, [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified].

[1 paragraph (8 lines of source text) not declassified]1

[Page 171]

Meanwhile, training continued. The [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] groups have come under the leadership of the people trained [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and they are regarded as being much more competent than those eliminated west of Lhasa. Forays into Tibet have occurred. And pressure to supply them has built up. Under Alexis Johnson as Deputy Under Secretary it has had a measure of success. Two or three days ago I had a peculiarly insulting telegram from Johnson saying [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that my objections were known and had been rejected.2 This was presumed to take care of the promised consultation. I immediately cabled Bundy and the President through intelligence channels3 and I may add sent some homely truths to Johnson. These have assuaged my anger but have not left me any easier in my mind as to the operation. The objections, which are in all circumstances numerous and compelling, [8-1/2 lines of source text not declassified].

[4 paragraphs (34 lines of source text) not declassified]

Against these overwhelming objections the gains are negligible. [2 lines of source text not declassified] This hope has of course disappeared. It was once thought that the operations would keep the Chinese from consolidating their hold on Tibet. Of this there is no chance. The operations cover a few square miles of an incredibly vast area. Finally, it is argued that by keeping alive the resistance, the Chinese aggression in Tibet is kept before world opinion. Again, the fact that this is confined to a few acres destroys this case. And it is further destroyed because little news leaks out even of these operations. Finally, it must be urged that there is intelligence yield. [5 lines of source text not declassified]

The truth is that the operation continues because it got started. [4 lines of source text not declassified]

This argument holds in effect that we must inherit and carry out faithfully the mistakes of the previous Administration. (Rather more faithfully than Eisenhower in fact because he canceled the support operations after the U-2.) [3-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

[1 paragraph (6 lines of source text) not declassified]4

I should be sorry about this for my relations with CIA in this matter have been wholly satisfactory. They have discussed it candidly and at all levels and, while arguing for their own objectives, have not asserted the [Page 172]priority of these over the larger political considerations which it is our task to consider and which have not been considered.

Yours faithfully,


I am very serious abut this. Do get it under control.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 691C.93B3/11-3061. Secret; Eyes Only for Under Secretary Ball. Also sent to Harriman and McGhee.
  2. Galbraith urged in telegram 2518 from New Delhi, April 28, directed to Kennedy, Rusk, Bowles, and Bundy, that the operation should be abandoned, [text not declassified], and any U.S. connection with the force in Nepal should be severed and the latter encouraged to disperse. (Ibid., 793B.00/4-2861) Bowles replied in a letter of May 12 [text not declassified], Galbraith would be fully consulted. (Ibid.)
  3. A copy of the message from Johnson to Galbraith, undated, is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Tibet.
  4. A copy of the message, from Galbraith to Bundy for the President, dated November 27, is ibid. Galbraith sent a copy of his November 30 memorandum to Bundy with a covering letter of December 2, noting, “My intention is to deter but I do not wish to overkill.” (Ibid.)
  5. The text of the letter, which Kennedy sent to all U.S. Ambassadors on May 29, is printed in Department of State Bulletin, December 11, 1961, pp. 993-994.
  6. The postscript was handwritten by Galbraith. Telegram 1913 to New Delhi, December 5, from Bundy to Galbraith, reported that Kennedy had decided the [text not declassified] should continue. (Department of State, Central Files, 793B.00/12-561) A December 9 memorandum from Bundy to Kennedy recommended [text not declassified]. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Tibet) DCIJohn McCone discussed Tibet with Kennedy on January 7, and according to his memorandum of the meeting, [text not declassified] preliminary discussions were underway. (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80-B01285A, Meetings with the Presidennote)