163. Memorandum From William Y. Smith of the National Security Council Staff to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)1


  • Briefing for Mr. Bundy on Southeast Asia Plans
From 0930 to 1045 today Mr. McGeorge Bundy received briefings on OPLAN 34A,2 and OPLANs 373 and 994 by Capt Bowell (SACSA) and Col Kidd J–3). Capt Eggeman of SACSA accompanied Capt Bowell.
Capt Bowell described the origin and the scope of operations envisaged in OPLAN 34A. Mr. Bundy seemed particularly interested in the capabilities of the VNAF to carry out the more difficult operations called for in the plan. He was assured this was primarily a problem of training and could be handled. Bundy also was interested in the aerial mine-laying operations and the desirability of such operations.
Col Kidd then described the three categories of operations of OPLAN 37. He identified some of the more important targets that would be attacked in the various categories; he also covered the US forces that would be alerted when Category 1, 2, and 3 operations began. He noted that the 12 day reaction time for category 3 operations stemmed in large measure from the desirability of getting US forces moving into position so that they could both help deter escalation and be prepared to meet it, should it occur.
In the discussion of the target systems in OPLAN 37, Mr. Bundy, when POL bulk storage was mentioned as one option, asked about the strategic importance of oil and oil storage. He asked if we had any method of measuring the effects of destroying the DRV bulk storage facilities. With respect to possible attacks on rail lines, he asked if our intelligence could provide us with any indications of the degree of reliance the DRV placed on railways as opposed to seaways and truck movements. Finally, he asked about the difficulty of amphibious (maritime) operations. It was agreed they would be more difficult to [Page 343] mount but it was also pointed out that even if they were not completely successful, they did force the DRV to divert resources they might otherwise apply against the GVN.
Emphasizing the need to minimize any adverse political consequences, Mr. Bundy asked if we could warn the North Vietnamese populace of impending attacks. He had in mind possible leaflet drops to warn civilians that the area in which they were might be attacked. Col Kidd informed him that he felt certain that such warnings could be made. There then followed a brief discussion of our ability to produce the leaflets, and Capt Bowell assured Mr. Bundy that the problem could be handled.
Mr. Bundy also showed interest in the degree of public notice attendant to the various categories of actions in OPLAN 37. He said he believed that a major factor in the 1962 Cuba crisis had been the major movements of US forces in Southeast US. Moscow knew something was coming. He wanted to know if any such visible signs would accompany the alerting actions in OPLAN 37, or if they would not, was the plan flexible enough to permit them to do so. He was told that some of the alerting steps would surely attract public notice and others could be made to.
After completing the discussion of OPLAN 37, Col Kidd briefly explained that OPLAN 99 was very similar in that the same types of actions would be undertaken against the same target systems, but that US forces would be overtly involved rather than covertly as in the case ;of OPLAN 37.
Mr. Bundy seemed very well satisfied with the briefing, and commented that he certainly had learned a lot from the discussion.

Recommendation: I recommend that General Burchinal, by a copy of this memorandum, be asked to look into the principal matters raised by Mr. Bundy. Specifically, these questions should be looked into:

Can we develop any yardstick concerning the importance of POL and POL storage facilities to the DRV?

What degree of reliance does the DRV place on rail versus sea or truck lines of communication?

What capabilities exist to warn populations in selected target areas that an attack may soon be forthcoming? Is it a good idea to provide advance warning in some cases?

Which measures alerting US forces in OPLAN 37 will become public notice? What steps could be taken if it were desired to increase the public awareness of US alerting and movement actions?

W.Y. Smith5
  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T–248–87. Top Secret. Drafted by Smith.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 4.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 149.
  4. OPLAN 99, as described in this memorandum, was similar to OPLAN 37, except that U.S. Forces would be involved overtly rather than covertly.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.