4. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the President 1

Defense and CIA have together prepared a plan for covert operations against North Vietnam2 which has been reviewed by Rusk, McNamara, McCone and myself, and we are united in recommending that you approve it. In essence, the proposed program would involve the following:

Expansion of intelligence collection by U–2 and by communications/electronics intelligence missions.
Expansion of psychological operations by leaflet drops and phantom covert operations and increased black and white radio broadcasts from South Vietnam.
Intensified sabotage operations in North Vietnam by Vietnamese personnel.

Sabotage and propaganda operations in North Vietnam in the last year and a half have been most disappointing. The operators now believe that substantial improvements can be achieved, and the policy officers are all in favor of trying.

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Specific views are as follows: McNamara is highly enthusiastic. McCone thinks you should understand that no great results are likely from this kind of effort. Rusk is favorable; while he believes 98% of the problem is in South Vietnam and not in cross-border operations, he thinks that an increase in such operations will help to persuade Hanoi that we have no intention of quitting, and may help also to put muscle behind our argument that the trouble comes from the north and that when that trouble stops, our presence in South Vietnam can become unnecessary.

I myself recommend that you approve this general program for detailed development of operational plans in the field, these plans in turn to be reviewed as usual within the Government by the Special Group which monitors all covert programs. You may recall that this group consists of McCone, Gilpatric, Alexis Johnson and myself.

McG. B.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security file, Memos to the President, Vol. I, McGeorge Bundy. Top Secret; Sensitive. A note on the source text in Bundy’s hand reads: “Read by the P[resident] Jan. 13.”
  2. The joint draft plan, the basis for Operations Plan (OPLAN) 34A–64, January 3, was outlined in a 3-page covering memorandum to the President to be signed by McCone, McNamara, and Rusk. The program of operations had as its premise that North Vietnam directed and supported the Viet Cong in South Vietnam through a radio network and through infiltration of cadres, weapons, and materiel from Laos and Cambodia. To demonstrate to North Vietnam the risk it ran in supporting the insurgency in the South, an interdepartmental committee under Krulak recommended a 4-month program of covert operations against North Vietnam beginning on February 1. The program was designed primarily to convince the North Vietnamese that it was in their economic self-interest to desist from aggression in South Vietnam. Attached to the covering memorandum were a 3-page annotated target list and a map. (Ibid.)