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

1357. VC attack on Bien Hoa2 is a deliberate act of escalation and a change of the ground rules under which they have operated up to now. It should be met promptly by an appropriate act of reprisal against DRV target, preferably an airfield. Since both US and GVN have been victims of this attack and since ultimate objective should be convince Hanoi to cease aid to VC (and not merely to lay off US), the retaliatory action should be made by a combined US/VNAF effort. Immediate objective would be to reduce probability of similar attacks on other crowded US facilities such as Danang and Tan Son Nhut and to offset the depressive effect of this action on the new government to which this attack is an affront on its national day.

We are considering targets to recommend. Phuc Yen is clearly the most attractive but we are looking at lesser alternatives. Attack should be launched preferably within 24 hours, at latest within 48 hours.

I request authority to contact Huong and Khanh to get agreement on principle of combined reprisal.

See no need now for further statement in Washington beyond MACV No. 1, 1 Nov to NMCC.3 Also we should not move dependents at this time or take any overt action which might suggest this intention.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Flash; Limdis. Repeated to CIA, JCS, the Secretary of Defense, the White House, and CINCPAC. According to another copy, this telegram was drafted by Taylor. (Ibid., Saigon Embassy Files: Lot 68 F 8) Received at 10:07 p.m., October 31.
  2. Shortly after midnight, October 31, Bien Hoa airfield came under a mortar attack which killed 4 U.S. servicemen, wounded 30, and destroyed or damaged 27 aircraft.
  3. This cable transmitted the text of a brief statement given by Westmoreland on the attack at Bien Hoa. (Washington National Records Center, RG 319. HQDA Message Center, Reel 12011)