16. Editorial Note

On January 27, 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara bring to the attention of President Kennedy a memorandum they had prepared for McNamara on January 13, JCSM–33–62, “The Strategic Importance of Mainland Southeast Asia,” with an appendix, “Military Appraisal of the Strategic Importance [Page 37] of Southeast Asia.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 926, 092 SE Asia 62) The memorandum as sent to McNamara but without the appendix is printed in United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, Book 12, pages 448–454. In it, the Joint Chiefs of Staff argued strongly for the strategic importance of Vietnam in relation to Southeast Asia and suggested that the loss of South Vietnam would have a widespread and disastrous effect on U.S. policy in the rest of Southeast Asia.

On January 27, McNamara sent the memorandum without the appendix to the President, explaining the Joint Chiefs’ wishes but noting that he was “not prepared to endorse the views of the Chiefs until we have had more experience with our present program in Vietnam.” McNamara also noted that the memorandum called for no action by the President for the time being, but was merely meant to alert him to a deteriorating situation. As retyped and sent to the President, this memorandum had two omissions from the version sent to McNamara on January 13: one eliminated a reference to the appendix and the other took out a sharp criticism of the Diem government’s use of U.S. support and its unwillingness to make reforms. (Memorandum from McNamara to Kennedy and attached memorandum, January 27; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Regional Security Series, Southeast Asia, General, 1/62–12/62)