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25. Memorandum From Chester L. Cooper of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1

SUBJECT

  • Reply to Taylor’s Telegram2

Bill Bundy, McNaughton, Unger and I met late yesterday afternoon and agreed on the following.

With respect to Evacuation: We are inclined to feel that Taylor makes a great deal of sense on the undesirability of a prior announcement either through a background statement or directly. We are taking the following line:

1.
Arrangements for evacuation should be re-examined so that the 7–10 day period referred to by Taylor can be telescoped into, say, 2 or 3 days. (There are, altogether, slightly more than 1600 U.S. dependents in South Vietnam, of whom only about 100 are outside Saigon. We think that, if necessary, we can move some ships from the Seventh Fleet into Saigon harbor and get everybody out in one fell swoop.)
2.
We feel that there should be a direct relationship between evacuation and a major reprisal against a VC spectacular. Thus:
a.
At the moment approval is given to Saigon to undertake reprisal, dependents should be alerted (if this is leaked, we should indicate in background briefings that ordinary prudence requires such preparation).
b.
Actual evacuation should occur upon the initiation of reprisal action.
c.
Immediately after the reprisal targets are hit, the President should issue a statement to the effect that we have responded to the latest VC atrocity, our planes have carried out their mission, are on the way back to their bases, and that U.S. dependents are in the process of being evacuated. The announcement should be put in terms of our readiness to respond to further VC provocations, and our desire to relieve both GVN and U.S. forces of diversionary efforts to protect dependents’ schools, homes, etc.

With respect to Phase II: We are recommending that we inform Ambassador Taylor that we can provide no guidance beyond that given to him in early December. The decision on the timing and scale of Phase II operations will have to be made at the Presidential level.

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Note: There are some sticky details on evacuation that have not been dealt with: What to do about working wives, older children, etc? What to do about British and other foreign dependents (for whom I think we have expressed some responsibility—they number about 1000)? Whether we evacuate them all directly back to the U.S.?

I have been brooding about another approach to evacuation. Briefly—Send mothers and school children under 12 home and not recruit any one with young children. Send older kids to boarding school in HK or elsewhere in SEA (there are some good ones) and permit mothers to stay on at own risk (parents can visit kids, but not vice versa). Raise medical and psychological requirements for all civilians. Comme ca.

Chester L. Cooper3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. XXVI, Memos. Top Secret.
  2. Document 22.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.