167. Memorandum From the President’s Military Representative’s Naval Aide (Bagley) to the President’s Military Representative (Taylor)0


  • Southeast Asia Planning
The concept as presented at the Task Force meeting Wednesday1 evening involves the implementation of ascending levels of pressure in Laos, initially to influence the Geneva negotiations and subsequently to assure, as a minimum, a partition of Laos.
Ambassador Harriman2 made the following comments:
This type of operation will not assist him in his job at Geneva. In its present form and present time schedule, it will probably result in a complete breakdown of negotiations.
He supports the premise that we should be prepared militarily to defend our position in Laos. He recommends that the time table be slipped so that, in effect, we will respond to what he considers an inevitable provocation, rather than initiate that provocation ourselves and be branded as aggressors.
He feels that the British should be consulted before exploratory negotiations to prepare this plan, not after the plan has taken form.
He maintains that we should clearly state to the Soviet Union our resolve in Laos, rather than their seeing our intent by prior positioning of forces.
He considers a Communist violation of the cease-fire inevitable as soon as the ground is dry. That is the time to act militarily with the support of international sympathy.
He suggests using Laos as the weather gauge for military action, not Geneva.
Ambassador Harriman indicated that the scheduled preparatory actions to establishing a headquarters in Thailand, the positioning of a Carrier Task Force in the South China Sea, and movement of forces into Thailand would be provocative. He did not seem to object to immediate action to introduce U.S. and Thai cadres into FAL units.
Since the concept was based on supporting Geneva and therefore by maintaining the initiative, rather than reacting to clear Communist aggression, Ambassador Harriman’s argument will require an [Page 382] altered concept. It was not clear last night to what extent Mr. Johnson intended to accede to Ambassador Harriman’s ideas, except that he stated definite objections to prior consultations with the British. There is a Task Force meeting scheduled for 1:30 this afternoon to review the next draft.
Ambassador Harriman did not conjecture on the possibility that Pathet Lao operations commencing with the dry season conceivably could be so ambiguous that we would delay response until our two ports of egress—Savannakhet and Vientiane—were overrun.
  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Southeast Asia, National Planning, No. 2. Secret.
  2. August 23.
  3. Harriman had returned from Geneva for discussions in Washington.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.