166. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

2049. Literally eyes only for Ambassador from Secretary.

Many thanks for your thoughtful 2284.2 We are continuing to review carefully just what more we may be able to do within South Vietnam and also the question of possible action against the North.
In connection with the latter, we have of course cranked in your proposal for use of a Canadian intermediary and have been examining your other proposal that substantial initial attacks be carried out without acknowledgment by either the GVN or ourselves. On the Canadian matter, in light of present Canadian attitudes we tend to see real difficulty in approaching Canadians at this time with any message as specific as you suggest, i.e., that Hanoi be told by the Canadians “that they will be punished.” But we are keeping this in mind and will see whether we can go further when we consult them next week than the more general type of message stated in my 1821.3 As you can see, the more specific message might lead us into a very difficult dialogue with the Canadians as to just what our plans really were.4
On the other question, whether initial substantial attacks could be left without acknowledgment, it is our present view here that this would simply not be feasible. Even if Hanoi itself did not publicize them, there are enough ICC and other observers in North Vietnam who might pick them up and there is also the major possibility of leakage at the South Vietnam end. Thus, publicity seems almost inevitable to us here for any attack that did significant damage. Once such publicity occurred, I think you can see that the finger would point straight at us and that the President would then be put in perhaps a far more difficult position toward the American public and the Congress.
Thus, we are using a GVN- or US-acknowledged enterprise as part of our main planning track at the present time, although we do recognize that something a little stronger than the present OPLAN 34–A might be carried on on the basis you propose.
One final note. We have had some press inquiries here based on a report from some source that you were planning a speech in the United States on June 22. Both for press guidance and for wider reasons, would you let us know if you do have any thoughts in this direction? As I have indicated above, we may be entering a considerably more intensive phase in the whole area.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret: Priority; Nodis. Drafted by William Bundy, cleared by Sullivan, and approved by Rusk.
  2. Document 165.
  3. Document 134.
  4. In telegram 2318 from Saigon, May 26, Lodge provided Rusk with the following additional thoughts:

    “1. Upon reflection let me add that the scheme which I propose involves the use of Vietnamese planes and pilots. Also, the Canadian interlocutor does not need to tell North Viet Nam that the bomb is about to come. What I propose, if a proper opportunity offers, is that the bomb does come just prior to his arrival in Hanoi. There is no question whatsoever of consulting the Canadian.

    “2. I am coming to the conclusion that we cannot reasonably and prudently expect a much better performance out of the GVN than that which we are now getting unless something new of this kind is brought into the picture. I am, of course pressing vigorously on all facets of our program and good breaks may occur.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)