139. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Vietnam

This is to remind you that I have delayed execution of the Secretary of State’s suggestion that aircraft from the carrier “Kittyhawk” overfly a region of South Vietnam around the city of Hue and the area between that city and the 17th Parallel. The Secretary proposed that this be done in connection with the move of the carrier and its escorting vessels to a point off Hue which would enable its aircraft to patrol a circle which would extend from the South Vietnam coast to a point approximately 30 miles off Hainan Island.

You may wish to raise this at the meeting tomorrow2 in the event that no one else does. Lodge does not think that this sort of action will accomplish much, and it is technically a violation of the 54 Geneva Accords, which generally provide that no outside power will introduce military forces into North or South Vietnam. I don’t see any particular objection to our planes overflying international waters, even so close to Hainan Island, although again I worry about the kind of signal this represents to Peiping.

A related subject is the proposal which emanates from Lodge and is concurred in by the Secretary of State (Saigon’s 2101)3 that we [Page 291] construct a naval installation in Cam Ranh Bay, about midway up the coast of South Vietnam. Lodge’s arguments are set forth in the attached cable. I think this is an idiotic notion.

Such a base would serve no useful military purpose and would only provide another tempting focus for Viet Cong attacks against U.S. installations. It would have to be defended, and I am very much afraid that we might be forced out of there before we could give it up gracefully.

I probed the Sullivan Committee this afternoon on the proposition, and no one is in favor of it. I also understand that the JCS doesn’t particularly like the idea. You don’t have to do anything about it until it comes to the President’s attention, and I will make sure that in one way or another it does.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country Series, Vol. XIII. Secret. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1979, 107B.
  2. Reference is to a meeting of the NSC Executive Committee on May 6 in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Vietnam was one of four topics on the agenda. The meeting lasted from 5:45 to 6:21 p.m. Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary; and agenda, May 6; ibid., National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. V111)
  3. Document 135.