475. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy0


The military situation in the Plain of Jars continues to deteriorate slowly. A recent move by Pathet Lao and Viet Minh forces in the southern part of the Plain looks as if it may be intended to turn the flank of the neutralist forces situated near Muong Phanh, Kong Le’s headquarters.

The objective of the PL/VN may be to cut the Plain of Jars in half on an east-west line by extending their control of Route Number 7 which runs from North Vietnamese border on the east to Luang Prabang, the royal capital on the west. This would have the effect of dividing Kong Le’s forces and would make his position less tenable.

In the central part of Laos near Tchepone Kong Le forces have withdrawn from Muong Phine and Mahaxay. This withdrawal resulted from PL threats rather than from enemy action. At this point it seems most likely that the PL/VN will attempt to eliminate Kong Le by a process of division and attrition rather than by means of frontal attack. Such a process makes it diplomatically more difficult for us, even with Souvanna Phouma’s help, to react dramatically.

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At the moment approximately 36 T–28 aircraft, given by the Thais to the Lao Government and piloted by Lao, are ready to move across the river and conduct harassing flights against the PL in the Plain of Jars if Unger recommends and Washington approves.1 Besides this and our continuing supply to Kong Le by means which have already been described to you, we do not have any developed plans for reacting to PL pressure other than the JCS version of SEATO Plan 5.

Over this weekend State and Defense are having a series of meetings in an attempt to develop some additional courses of action; but it will probably require a request from you to get the military to come forward with some new thinking.2

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos: General, 6/1/63–6/15/63. Secret. Drafted by Forrestal. A note on the source text indicates it was taken from the President’s weekend reading of June 7.
  2. The negotiations with the Thai and Lao Governments for the transfer of these aircraft, originally provided to Thailand by the United States, were reported in Department of State cables to and from Bangkok and Vientiane, primarily in Department of State, Central Files, DEF 12 Laos.
  3. The issue of planning for Laos was discussed at the White House daily staff meeting on June 7. Bundy asked Forrestal if Laos would “hold together over the weekend.” Forrestal thought the situation would hold, but just barely. Bundy and Forrestal then discussed the lack of imagination in military planning for Laos. The problem was to discover if it was possible to devise a military course of action as a means of making the Pathet Lao and their allies think twice before going any further. (Memorandum by Smith, June 7; National Defense University, Taylor Papers, White House Daily Meetings, Staff Memos, February to June 1963, T–208–69)