251. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

236. Ref: A) Deptel 89 to Vientiane rptd Saigon 261.2 B) Vientiane 170 to Dept rptd Saigon 106.3

We are grateful here for positive action under consideration to assist in building GVN morale and thereby divert local attention from proposals to strike NVN. While matter is still in discussion phase I would like to advance the following comments from point of view Saigon.
In the first place I do not feel any great urgency to get action started against Panhandle targets by early August. It is likely that Khanh will reopen shortly the question of joint contingency planning and upon becoming engaged therein will remain satisfied at least for a time. In the course of this joint planning, we would give consideration to an attack of Panhandle targets along lines proposed in ref (A) or as [Page 583] discussed in pare 3 below. If indeed we decide to execute such a plan, it is highly preferable from point of view Saigon that it should be a product of our joint planning activities.
Noting some of the cogent objections raised by Ambassador Unger, I would suggest considering as a variant to plan in ref (A) the attack on Panhandle targets as an outgrowth of US armed reconnaissance in Laos. In course of flying reconnaissance missions of Plaine des Jarres and of other locations of interest to Souvanna Phouma there would be ample opportunity and excuse to destroy targets such as those contained in ref (A) on basis they represent threats to our recce missions. Timing could be related as desired either to requirements of Laotian situation and/or to those of SVN.
In conclusion I recommend that no decision be taken on this matter at this time but that I be authorized to develop a joint plan for the attack of Panhandle targets following initiation of joint planning with Khanh. As matter of priority on the US side, we should now examine the proposed target list to see whether it is the most suitable for intended purpose and consider the relative advantages of concept of operations outlined in ref (A), of that suggested in pare 3 above, or of some other concept. Once the preferred one is determined it would be used in our planning with Khanh.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Vientiane.
  2. Document 248.
  3. Document 250.