254. Memorandum From the Secretary of State 1s Special Assistant for Vietnam (Forrestal) to the Secretary of State1
I thought you might like a paragraph or two on the status of our planning effort with the Vietnamese and possible actions outside South Vietnam.
As you remember, Ambassador Taylor told us on Monday that he was not in a great rush to initiate any of the proposed actions in the Laos Panhandle, but that he would wish to begin an orderly process of planning both for such actions and actions against the North with General Khanh and a small group of Khanh’s trusted colleagues.2[Page 588]
We have authorized him to commence such planning, but it is not expected to begin until next week. In the meantime, the Joint Chiefs have responded to the President’s request for actions which would involve the minimum of escalation with the maximum of political effect. In a memorandum (JCSM 639–64)3 the Chiefs have listed a number of possible air actions against infiltration targets in the Panhandle and in North Vietnam. They have also proposed armed reconnaissance across the Laos border in units up to battalion strength, accompanied by U.S. advisors. A copy of this memorandum has been sent to Ambassador Taylor for his personal use in preparing for the planning exercise.
The Chiefs’ memorandum represents, in my opinion, a very significant step forward, since it gives their tentative approval to the very limited kinds of actions which we may want to use in the event Hanoi steps things up, or in the event we need a low key military accompaniment to our diplomatic activities concerning Laos.