82. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)1



  • Draft Memorandum for the President, Subject: “South Vietnam”2

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the subject memorandum and concur with the recommendations subject to the following comments:3

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The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not believe that the recommended program in itself will be sufficient to turn the tide against the Viet Cong in South Vietnam without positive action being taken against the Hanoi Government at an early date. They have in mind the conduct of the kind of program designed to bring about cessation of DRV support for operations in South Vietnam and Laos outlined in JCSM–174–64, subject: “Vietnam,” dated 2 March 1964.4 Such a program would not only deter the aggressive actions of the DRV but would be a source of encouragement to South Vietnam which should significantly facilitate the counterinsurgency program in that country. To increase our readiness for such actions, the US Government should establish at once the political and military bases in the United States and South Vietnam for offensive actions against the North and across the Laotian and Cambodian borders, including measures for the control of contraband traffic on the Mekong.
In view of the current attitude of the Sihanouk Government in Cambodia, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend authorizing now hot pursuit into that country.
With regard to the reaction times contained in recommendation 12 of the subject memorandum, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the time of reaction for border control and retaliatory actions against North Vietnam should be reduced to 24 hours and the time for the initiation of the program of “graduated overt military pressures” reduced to 72 hours. These times are considered feasible as soon as an aerial mining capability has been established in the VNAF.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Maxwell D. Taylor
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 7425, Vietnam 381. Top Secret. A note on the source text indicates that McNamara saw this memorandum on April 2.
  2. Reference is to a March 13 draft of Document 84.
  3. Within the JCS, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Greene and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General LeMay were critical of McNamara’s draft report. Greene wrote that the 12 recommendations “offer little more than a continuation of present programs of action in Vietnam,” and reiterated the view that if the United States was to stay and win in Vietnam, then that objective should be pursued with the full concentrated power of the United States. Greene stated, “half measures won’t win in South Vietnam.”

    General LeMay agreed with McNamara’s recommendations to support and stabilize the Khanh government, but took exception with the view that the “military tools of the GVN/US effort” were sound and adequate. LeMay felt that to do the job in Vietnam, the Viet Cong had to be attacked in their Cambodian sanctuaries and North Vietnam’s supply and reinforcement lines through Laos could not be left unmolested. General Greene’s comments are in JCS 2343/346–1, March 17, and General LeMay’s are in CSAFM–263–64 to JCS, March 14; both in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Files, JMF 9155.3/3100 (13 Mar 64), as quoted in Historical Division, Joint Secretariat, JCS, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam, 1960–1968, Part 1, Chapter 9, pp. 18 and 19)

  4. Document 66.