242. National Security Action Memorandum No. 3281

MEMORANDUM FOR

  • The Secretary of State
  • The Secretary of Defense
  • The Director of Central Intelligence

On Thursday, April 1,2 the President made the following decisions with respect to Vietnam:

1.
Subject to modifications in the light of experience, and to coordination and direction both in Saigon and in Washington, the President [Page 538]approved the 41-point program of non-military actions submitted by Ambassador Taylor in a memorandum dated March 31, 1965.3
2.
The President gave general approval to the recommendations submitted by Mr. Rowan in his report dated March 16,4 with the exception that the President withheld approval of any request for supplemental funds at this time—it is his decision that this program is to be energetically supported by all agencies and departments and by the reprogramming of available funds as necessary within USIA.
3.
The President approved the urgent exploration of the 12 suggestions for covert and other actions submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence under date of March 31.5
4.
The President repeated his earlier approval of the 21-point program of military actions submitted by General Harold K. Johnson under date of March 146 and re-emphasized his desire that aircraft and helicopter reinforcements under this program be accelerated.
5.
The President approved an 18–20,000 man increase in U.S. military support forces to fill out existing units and supply needed logistic personnel.
6.
The President approved the deployment of two additional Marine Battalions and one Marine Air Squadron and associated headquarters and support elements.
7.
The President approved a change of mission for all Marine Battalions deployed to Vietnam to permit their more active use under conditions to be established and approved by the Secretary of Defense in consultation with the Secretary of State.
8.
The President approved the urgent exploration, with the Korean, Australian,7 and New Zealand Governments, of the possibility of rapid deployment of significant combat elements from their armed forces in parallel with the additional Marine deployment approved in paragraph 6.
9.

Subject to continuing review, the President approved the following general framework of continuing action against North Vietnam and Laos:

We should continue roughly the present slowly ascending tempo of Rolling Thunder operations, being prepared to add strikes in response to [Page 539]a higher rate of VC operations, or conceivably to slow the pace in the unlikely event VC slacked off sharply for what appeared to be more than a temporary operational lull.

The target systems should continue to avoid the effective GCI range of MIGs. We should continue to vary the types of targets, stepping up attacks on lines of communication in the near future, and possibly moving in a few weeks to attacks on the rail lines north and northeast of Hanoi.

Leaflet operations should be expanded to obtain maximum practicable psychological effect on the North Vietnamese population.

Blockade or aerial mining of North Vietnamese ports need further study and should be considered for future operations. It would have major political complications, especially in relation to the Soviets and other third countries, but also offers many advantages.

Air operation in Laos, particularly route blocking operations in the Panhandle area, should be stepped up to the maximum remunerative rate.

10.
Ambassador Taylor will promptly seek the reactions of the South Vietnamese Government to appropriate sections of this program and their approval as necessary, and in the event of disapproval or difficulty at that end, these decisions will be appropriately reconsidered. In any event, no action into Vietnam under paragraphs 6 and 7 above should take place without GVN approval or further Presidential authorization.
11.
The President desires that with respect to the actions in paragraphs 5 through 7, premature publicity be avoided by all possible precautions. The actions themselves should be taken as rapidly as practicable, but in ways that should minimize any appearance of sudden changes in policy, and official statements on these troop movements will be made only with the direct approval of the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State. The President’s desire is that these movements and changes should be understood as being gradual and wholly consistent with existing policy.

McGeorge Bundy
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSAM’s. Top Secret. Signed by Bundy. Printed also in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, vol. III, pp. 702–703.
  2. See Documents 229 and 230.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 228.
  4. For a summary, see Document 203.
  5. See the attachment to Document 222.
  6. See Document 197.
  7. The possibility of Australia sending combat troops to Vietnam was discussed by Rusk with Australian Ambassador Waller on April 2 and April 13. A memorandum of the former conversation is in Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 5612, POL VIET. A memorandum of the latter conversation is in Department of State, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, WPB Chron.