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

253. State-Defense message. Ref: Embtels 213, 214,2 215.3

Analysis your 213 most helpful and persuasive. We note particularly your judgment that sense of frustration and desire for some action particularly strong among generals but perhaps not widespread in people as a whole.
Proposal your 215 for announcement personnel increase fully approved. Please let us know soonest what you propose to say in backgrounder so that we can keep backgrounding here fully in tune. As stated our 235,4 we do not propose announcement here.
Re proposal your 214, our objective should be to provide channel for frustrations of Khanh and generals without committing USG to action and with minimum risk of disruptive leaks that might add to picture of US/GVN disagreement, cause wrong signal to Hanoi and Peking, and above all impair our freedom of action and public policy posture. We have impression that Khanh’s meetings in Dalat will have been concerned with the pressures he is under from Khiem on the one hand and with reference to Minh’s position on the other. Thus, you should first draw him out on results Dalat meetings and on his present position and state of mind. If this part of conversation confirms analysis your 213 and 214 that major pressures and frustrations do exist and that it essential to Khanh’s position and our relationship with him to go forward, you are authorized to make following points:
USG has of course made careful study of problems involved in action against DRV and believes it would be useful pursue this subject in more concrete manner in small and select joint group.
Vital that such discussions be conducted so that they do not leak in any way. Military security alone dictates this, but you should also emphasize to Khanh that leaks can only lead to same problems of clarifying statements and apparent disunity that we have already had in last week, and that these will if anything make it more difficult USG pursue additional courses of action if and when these become necessary.
Accordingly, Khanh for such discussions should bring in only very few most needed and trusted GVN officers chosen personally by him for their loyalty and security.
While we do not believe you should table any written statement or terms of reference as proposed your 214, you should make these points orally and particularly underscore that USG assuming no commitment to carry out such plans.
FYI: We concur completely that resulting discussions should highlight need for completing preliminary actions, which may take some time to accomplish. You should be prepared to stress particularly such concrete items as the need for additional A1H aircraft and trained pilots, and Khanh himself may suggest importance air defense measures. However, arguments of under-strength ARVN units and need for greater degree of control over VC may encounter response that these aspects are not going to get any better. Hence importance of stress on military essentials for attack itself. End FYI.
JCS considering urgently what additional external measures might be taken, short of attack on DRV itself, that would provide maximum military benefit with minimum risks of escalation or international complications. Request your judgment as to actions you would recommend under this heading. If you think it useful, you could tell Khanh Monday5 that you have asked your government to consider such actions and that these could be discussed in same group. Khanh’s reaction might produce some suggestion this area that would help to meet basic problem of channel for frustrations.
We remain deeply concerned that even with these restrictions and caveats Khanh’s position and attitudes of key generals now such that he or they will feel strong temptation publicize existence such planning exercise perhaps in some tendentious form and with implication USG committed at least in some degree. Our line here in such case would be that USG has not changed policy but has repeatedly made it clear that wider action not excluded. Hence natural that US and GVN should be giving careful study this subject, and such contingency discussions have been underway long period.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Flash; Exdis. Drafted by William Bundy and cleared by Forrestal, Manning, McGeorge Bundy, and Ball. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1979, 91C.
  2. Documents 242 and 243.
  3. In telegram 215, July 25, Taylor requested permission to allow Khanh to make a formal announcement that the United States was increasing its troop levels in Vietnam. Taylor would follow the announcement with a background press briefing. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  4. Document 241.
  5. July 27.