226. Memorandum From the Secretary of State to the President1


  • Legal Basis for Sending American Forces to Viet-Nam

The enclosed memorandum2 is submitted in response to your request of June 22 for a consideration of the legal basis for sending American forces to Viet-Nam.3 The conclusions of the memorandum may be summarized as follows:

The sending of American military personnel to serve in an advisory, non-combatant role rests on specific authority contained in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and on a Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with Viet-Nam.
The assignment of United States military personnel to duty in Viet-Nam involving participation in combat rests on the constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, as Chief Executive, and in precedents in history for the use of these powers to send American forces abroad, including various situations involving their participation in hostilities. In the case of Viet-Nam, the President’s action is additionally supported by the fact that South Viet-Nam has been designated to receive protection under Article IV of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty; both the Treaty and the Protocol covering Viet-Nam received the advice and consent of the Senate.

Dean Rusk4
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19 US–VIET S. Secret. Drafted by Leonard C. Meeker and Carl F. Salans of L, cleared by Norb Schlie of the Department of Justice and by William Bundy. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1983, 002145.
  2. Not printed here; published ibid.
  3. Apparently the request was oral. (Memorandum from Meeker to Rusk, June 26; Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19 US–VIET S)
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.