395. Telegram From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp)1

1451. Personal for Admiral Sharp, General Westmoreland and Ambassador Taylor from CJCS.

Highest level meeting to discuss courses of action related to Bien Hoa attack tentatively scheduled for 1300 hours Washington time 2 November.
At preliminary meeting same subject this date,2 concern was expressed that proposed US retaliatory/punitive actions could trigger North Vietnamese/ChiCom air and ground retaliatory acts. Highest authority desires to consider in conjunction with US military actions, increased security measures and precautionary moves of US air and ground units to protect US dependents, units and installations against North Vietnamese/ChiCom retaliation.
JCS are considering the following in connection with proposed US punitive actions against the DRV:3 [Page 876]
Outshipment of US dependents prior to or simultaneous with initiation of US air strikes.
Movement of SLF afloat to Da Nang airbase and two Army or Marine battalions by air to Saigon area to provide local security to US personnel and installations.
Movement one Marine Hawk battalion from 29 Palms, California to SVN.
Movement of [or?] augmentation land-based and carrier-based air required to optimize execution of course of action IA CINCPAC Frag Order 3.4
Forward movement from CONUS or within PACOM of around, sea, and air units to WESTPAC and alert of additional units in CONUS as might be required to implement appropriate portions of CINCPAC OPLAN 32–64 and/or CINCPAC OPLAN 39–65.5
In addition to above, JCS are considering military utility of employing US aircraft in South Vietnam in country to augment VNAF and Farmgate.
Request comments of addressees ASAP.6
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 7425, 381 Vietnam. Top Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated to COMUSMACV, Saigon, CIA, the White House, and the Department of State. Also printed in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, vol. III, p. 587.
  2. The meeting took place at the White House at approximately 12:30 p.m. with the President, Rusk, McNamara, McGeorge and William Bundy, and Ball in attendance. (Johnson Library, Johnson Daily Diary and Rusk Appointment Book) No record of the meeting has been found.
  3. On November 1, presumably before the meeting at the White House, the loins Chiefs of Staff made oral recommendations to McNamara concerning the response to Bien Hoa. They felt that Taylor’s “tit-for-tat” was unduly restrictive and limited U.S. initiative, nor did they espouse joint action with South Vietnam. They proposed instead a series of specific actions to be taken in the next 3 days which included air strikes, landing of U.S. forces, and evacuation of dependents. These recommendations were formalized in JCSM–933–64, November 4. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 7425, 381 Vietnam)
  4. Transmitted in CINCPAC telegram 280210Z, October 28, CINCPAC Frag Order No. 3, “Punitive and Crippling Reprisal Actions on Targets in North Vietnam,” provided a list of responses in the event that the DeSoto patrol was attacked. Option IA listed airfields, POL, and port facilities to be attacked on the first day. (Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 72 D 219, DeSoto September)
  5. Copies of CINCPAC Operations Plan 32–64, November 6, 1963, entitled “Defense of Mainland Southeast Asia,” and CINCPAC Operations Plan 39–65, September 5, which dealt with responses to Chinese aggression, were attached to Document 411.
  6. Sharp replied in telegram 020400Z, November 2, concurring in items 3c-e and 4, noting that the action in item 3b had been started, and deferring comment on 3a to COMUSMACV and the Embassy in Saigon. Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol XXI, Cables)