208. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1


  • Deployment of US/Allied Combat Forces to Vietnam


This memorandum presents the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for deployment of US forces to the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) for combat missions, as one among several measures required by the present grave situation in that area.
The basis for these recommendations is that during the past four to six months there has been a marked deterioration in the military situation in Vietnam in relation to that of the preceding period. In the period immediately following the removal of Diem, there were serious political problems in Saigon, but the armed forces remained relatively unaffected, and capable of substantial military accomplishments. The principal problems were political: how to achieve governmental stability, avoid [Page 466]disruptive coups, and extend governmental control throughout the provinces. More recently a major military problem has arisen. The Viet Cong have grown substantially stronger, and have achieved increasing military successes. Moreover,RVN military effectiveness appears to have declined as a result of the political involvements and maneuverings of key military figures. It is the view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the military situation has become critical, and that, if present trends are not reversed, the counterinsurgency campaign in South Vietnam will be lost. Also, it is their view that such a loss would be a US defeat, which we cannot afford and which would be recognized world-wide as such.
The needs of the military situation have become primary, and direct US military action appears to be imperative if defeat is to be avoided. The type of military action envisaged will open a new phase of combat and will require substantial shifts in the methods of conducting the war, including a change in the form and scope of US operations, and modifications to US policies and programs which have provided the basis for US support of the RVN.
Certain recommendations toward arresting the present trend have already been submitted to you, and further proposals in addition to those in this memorandum are being prepared on an urgent basis. They have included and will include proposed actions both within and outside the country. It is the view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that more forceful application of military pressures against both the Viet Cong and the DRV is necessary, including the deployment of forces to deter ChiCom aggression and to provide the capability to increase the intensity and severity of air attacks against the DRV. The recommendations herein for actions within the RVN are considered an essential component of the broader program.
It has become apparent that the RVN urgently needs substantial increases in effective combat forces in order to withstand the Viet Cong. The requirement is not simply to withstand the Viet Cong, however, but to gain effective operational superiority and assume the offensive. To turn the tide of the war requires an objective of destroying the Viet Cong, not merely trying to keep pace with them, or slow down the rate of their advance. Although measures are being taken which will ultimately result in the provision of increased RVN forces, the time required does not permit reliance upon these measures alone. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that US land forces should be introduced in a combatant role, in such strengths as to achieve an effective margin of combat power, and provide a clear indication that the United States intends to support SouthVietnam and intends to achieve its objectives. Participation by forces of the Republic of Korea, and of other allies if subsequently offered, would provide valuable force increases in addition to a favorable psychological effect. Outline concepts for force introductions, [Page 467]including strengths and command arrangements, are set forth in the Annex2 to this memorandum. The forces thus provided would conduct active operations against the Viet Cong, provide security for important installations, free ARVN forces for offensive operations, and assist in containing infiltration.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff therefore recommend that US and allied forces be deployed for combat missions in South Vietnam as indicated (Additional details of concepts and force requirements are in the Annex.)
Expand mission of Marine elements at Da Nang to include counterinsurgency combat operations. Deploy remainder of the III Marine Expeditionary Force to the Da Nang area as requested by CINCPAC, with the same mission.
Deploy, as soon as proper logistic support is ensured, a US Army division with necessary supporting forces from the continental United States for employment in the central plateau, centered on the Pleiku area, for counterinsurgency combat operations.
Deploy, as soon as practicable, a Republic of Korea Army division force to South Vietnam for counterinsurgency and base security operations.
Deploy, as requested by CINCPAC, four of the nine Air Force squadrons previously recommended in JCSM–149–65.3
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Earle G. Wheeler
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 70 A 1265, Vietnam 370. Top Secret. The source text indicates that it was seen by both Vance and McNamara.
  2. Attached, but not printed.
  3. Not found.