465. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara0


  • Military Options to Stabilize the Situation in Laos (C)


The Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered a variety of military options that might be utilized in order to bring about stability in Laos. As pointed out in earlier comments, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that all political actions should be taken prior to any military commitment. Military intervention in Laos, per se, will not solve the ultimate problem since the main source of the problem is Viet Minh generated. However, prior to the use of military forces in the area, strong representation should be made through political channels to dissuade all parties from continuing aggressive actions. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider it particularly important that diplomatic channels be utilized to inform the Government of North Viet Nam of United States interest in Southeast Asia.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasize that intervention of US forces in support of Laos can be undertaken only with full appreciation of the probable need for and willingness to commit additional forces in event of subsequent communist escalation.
Military measures in order of priority that should be considered are as follows:
Fleet exercises, maneuvers and demonstrations off South Viet Nam, initially below the 17th parallel. (See Options 2–10, Tab B, Appendix A.)1
Air reinforcement to Thailand. (See Option 1, Tab B, Appendix A.)
High level reconnaissance. (See Appendix B.)
North Vietnam
South China, Hainan Island
Low level reconnaissance (See Appendix B.)
North Vietnam
South China and Hainan Island (if warranted)
The above list of actions represents a number of military options that could be utilized to demonstrate US intent without direct use of [Page 1000] force. If at this point, the desired results have not been obtained, consideration must be given to overt actions to further demonstrate US will. This action would include air attacks on selected targets in Laos and North Vietnam. Examples of targets that might be attacked are ports, bridges, airfields, POL storage areas, and industrial plants. (Specific illustrations are contained in Appendix A.)
  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, SEA, National Planning, #4. Top Secret.
  2. Neither Appendix A nor B has been found.