433. Paper Prepared by the Executive Committee1
POSITION PAPER ON SOUTHEAST ASIA
- US objectives in South Vietnam (SVN) are unchanged. They are to:
- Get Hanoi and North Vietnam (DRY) support and direction removed from South Vietnam, and, to the extent possible, obtain DRV cooperation in ending Viet Cong (VC) operations in SVN.
- Re-establish an independent and secure South Vietnam with appropriate international safeguards, including the freedom to accept US and other external assistance as required.
- Maintain the security of other non-Communist nations in Southeast Asia including specifically the maintenance and observance of the Geneva Accords of 1962 in Laos.
- We will continue to press the South Vietnamese Government (GVN) in every possible way to make the government itself more effective and to push forward with the pacification program. We will also press upon leaders and members of all groups in that country the overriding need for national unity.
- We will join at once with the South Vietnamese and Lao Governments in a determined action program aimed at DRV activities in both countries and designed to help GVN morale and to increase the costs and strain on Hanoi, foreshadowing still greater pressures to come. Under this program the first phase actions within the next thirty days will be intensified forms of action already under way, plus possibly U.S. air protection of Lao aircraft making strikes in the Corridor, US armed air reconnaissance and air strikes against infiltration routes in Laos, and GVN and possibly US air strikes against the DRV as reprisal against any major or spectacular Viet Cong action in the south, whether against US personnel and installations or not. We would be prepared to stop the flow of dependents to Vietnam at the same time as US strikes in Laos were conducted.
- Beyond the thirty-day period, first phase actions may be continued without change. Alternatively, additional military measures may be taken, including deployment of a large number of US aircraft to the area, low-level reconnaissance of infiltration targets in the DRV near the borders, and the possible initiation of strikes a short distance across the border against the infiltration routes from the DRV. At this time, we would be prepared to remove US dependents. In the alternative case these actions would become a transitional phase.
- Thereafter, if the GVN improves its effectiveness to an acceptable degree and Hanoi does not yield on acceptable terms, the US is prepared—at a time to be determined—to enter into a second phase program, in support of the GVN and RLG, of graduated military pressures directed systematically against the DRV. Such a program would consist principally of progressively more serious air strikes, of a weight and tempo adjusted to the situation as it develops (possibly running from two to six months) and of appropriate US deployments to handle any contingency. Targets in the DRV would start with infiltration targets south of the 19th parallel and work up to targets north of that point. This could eventually lead to such measures as air strikes on all major military-related targets, aerial mining of DRV ports, and a US naval blockade of the DRV. The whole sequence of military actions would be designed to give the impression of a steady, deliberate approach, and to give the US the option at any time (subject to enemy reaction) to proceed or not, to escalate or not, and to quicken the pace or not. Concurrently, the US would be alert to any sign of yielding by Hanoi, and would be prepared to explore negotiated solutions that attain US objectives in an acceptable manner.
Tabs D–H2 to this paper contain a more detailed presentation of the precise actions contemplated under this concept. Tab D gives the actions proposed in the first, transitional, and second stages. Tab E spells out illustrative occasions that might be used for reprisals and reprisal targets. Tab F deals with possible major Communist actions and the US/allied counter moves that would then be indicated. Tab G is the Communist order of battle in Southeast Asia, and Tab H is the US order of battle and reinforcement capabilities.
II. Thirty-Day Action Program
- A White House statement will be issued following the meeting with Ambassador Taylor, with the text as in Tab A, attached.3
- Ambassador Taylor will consult with the GVN promptly on his return, making a general presentation and pressing for the adoption of specific measures in accordance with the instructions in Tab B, attached.4
Laos and Thailand
The US Ambassadors in these countries will inform the government in general terms of the concept we propose to follow and of specific actions requiring their concurrence or participation. In the case of Laos, we will obtain RLG approval of an intensified program of US armed reconnaissance and air strikes both in the Panhandle area of Laos and along the key infiltration routes in central Laos. These actions will not be publicized except to the degree approved by the RLG. It is important, however, for purposes of morale in SVN, that their existence be generally known.
Thailand will be asked to support our program fully, to intensify its own efforts in the north and northeast, and to give further support to operations in Laos, such as additional pilots and possibly artillery teams.
We will consult immediately with the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
- UK. The President will explain the concept and proposed actions fully to Prime Minister Wilson, seeking full British support.
- Australia and New Zealand will be told the concept and will be pressed not only for support but for additional contributions in South Vietnam. We will also discuss the possibility of small military unit contributions if and when E of the concept is carried out.
- The Philippines will not be told the concept but will be pressed for additional contributions along the lines of the program for approximately 1800 men already submitted to President Macapagal.5
- We will press generally and strongly for more third country aid, stressing the gravity of the situation and our deepening concern. A summary of existing third country aid is in Tab C, attached.6
- Communist Countries
- We will convey to Hanoi our unchanged determination and objectives, and that we have a growing concern at the DRV role, to see if there is any sign of change in Hanoi’s position.
- We will make no special approaches to Communist China in this period.
- We will convey our determination and grave concern to the Soviets, not in the expectation of any change in their position but in effect to warn them to stay out, and with some hope they will pass on the message to Hanoi and Peiping.
- Other Countries
- We will convey our grave concern to key interested governments such as Canada, India, and France, but avoid spelling out the concept.
- In the event of a reprisal action, we will explain and defend our action in the UN as at the time of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. We do not plan to raise the issue otherwise in the UN. (The Lao Government may stress the DRV infiltration in Laos in its speech, and we should support this and spread the information.)
- Intensified Military Actions (See Tab D)
- GVN maritime operations (MAROPS) will be intensified.
- Lao air operations will be intensified, especially in the corridor areas and close to the DRV border. US air cover and flak suppression may be supplied where needed.
- US high-level reconnaissance over the DRV will be stepped up.
- US armed air reconnaissance and air strikes will be carried out in Laos, first against the corridor area and within a short time against Route 7 and other infiltration routes. (These actions will be subject to RLG concurrence and publicized only to the degree agreed with Souvanna.)
Reprisal Actions (See Tab E)
For any VC provocation similar to the following, a reprisal will be undertaken, preferably within 24 hours, against one or more selected targets in the DRV. GVN forces will be used to the maximum extent, supplemented as necessary by US forces. The exact reprisal will be decided at the time, in accordance with a quick-reaction procedure which will be worked out.
The following may be appropriate occasions for reprisals, but we should be alert for any appropriate occasion:
- Attacks on airfields.
- Attack on Saigon.
- Attacks on provincial or district capitals.
- Major attacks on US citizens.
- Attacks on major POL facilities.
- Attacks on bridges and railroad lines after the presently damaged facilities have been restored and warning given.
- Other “spectaculars” such as earlier attack on a US transport carrier at a pier in Saigon.
In these or similar cases, the reprisal action would be linked as directly as possible to DRV infiltration, so that we have a common thread of justification. VC attacks on transportation facilities, in addition to being related to DRV infiltration, would provide the occasion for attacks on DRV communications on a parallel basis.
A flexible list of reprisal targets has been prepared running from infiltration targets in the southern part of the DRV up to airfields. ports, and naval bases also located south of the 19th parallel.7
- US/GVN joint planning will be initiated immediately both for reprisal actions and for possible later air strikes across the border into the DRV.
- Dependents. We would be prepared to stop the flow of dependents concurrently with the initiation of intensified US air operations in Laos under paragraph H.4. above.
Deferred Actions (see Tab D)
The following actions will not be taken within the thirty-day period, but will be considered for adoption in the transitional phase of the program:
- Major air deployments to the area.
- Furnishing US air cover for GVN MAROPS.
- Resuming destroyer patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin. If attacked, these would be an alternative basis for reprisals, and should be considered primarily in this light.
- US low-level reconnaissance into the DRV.
- GVN/Lao air strikes across the border; initially against the infiltration routes and installations and then against targets south of the 19th parallel.
- Evacuation of US dependents. We would be prepared to carry this out concurrently with 4 and 5 above.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Aides File, McGeorge Bundy, Memos to the President. Top Secret. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1978, 130B. The Executive Committee met at 4:30 p.m. on December 2 to revise the previous draft of this paper (see Document 431) in light of the discussion with the President on December 1. It was approved by the President on December 3 (see Document 434) and formally transmitted to Rusk, McNamara, and McCone as Tab 1 to Document 440.↩
- Not attached to the source text. Copies of these tabs, drafted by McNaughton on November 30, are in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Aides File, McGeorge Bundy, Memos to the President.↩
- Not found. For the comments Taylor made to the press following his meeting with the President on December 3, see The New York Times, December 4, 1964, p. 18.↩
- Not attached, but printed as Document 435.↩
- On October 3, the JCS had suggested to the Secretary of Defense the outlines of a proposed Philippine contribution. Following discussions at Manila, October 28–29, the two countries agreed on a tri-service Philippine contribution of 1,800 men. A report on the discussions was transmitted in telegram 806 from Manila, October 30. (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19 PHIL–VIET S)↩
- Not attached to the source text. A copy of this 3-page summary is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IV, SE Asia Cables.↩
- Presumably the 94-target list.↩