6. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Meeting of the Principals on Vietnam
  • 5 January 1965


  • Defense: Secretary Vance, Assistant Secretary McNaughton, General Wheeler
  • State: Assistant Secretary Bundy, Ambassador Unger, Mr. Forrestal
  • White House: Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Mr. Cooper
  • CIA: Mr. McCone, Mr. Colby
Laos Action Program: Mission against Ban Trim was approved. Mission against Ban Ken was suspended until the 9 January meeting because it would involve a considerable stepup in scale. JCS recommendations will be obtained before the 9 January meeting.
OPLAN 34–A: Approval was given to the attached cable2 authorizing air cover to maritime operations between the 18th and 17th parallels in order to permit maritime operations to be mounted against targets further north than hitherto. Mr. William Bundy, however, declined for the time being to authorize SAR operations by U.S. forces north of the 17th parallel.
DeSoto Patrol: Mr. Forrestal said that this question would be suspended until the 9 January meeting for a review in connection with the overall scale of operations. General Wheeler commented that he expected considerable trouble from Congress if we were to send destroyers into the Gulf of Tonkin on a regular basis. He said JCS will come up with some alternate thoughts. In this connection, it was pointed out that the intelligence from DeSoto Patrols is useful but not compelling and it would only require one patrol every six months or so.
It was suggested that a general checklist of increases in the scale of operations against North Vietnam be worked up preparatory to the 9 January meeting, to include such matters as Barrel Roll, 34–A, DeSoto and reprisals. General Wheeler commented that the signal Hanoi is receiving may not be the one we intend. Mr. William Bundy made the point that the basic signal Hanoi seems to have received is that the U.S. decided not to go north after Ambassador Taylor’s trip to the United States.
Cooper Report on Infiltration: 3 It was agreed that this should be suspended during the current political crisis in Saigon.
Third Country Aid: The attached memorandum4 was circulated on the status of this program. Mr. Cooper and Mr. Forrestal questioned whether Saigon was ready to receive substantial third country contingents, especially on the civilian side. Mr. Cooper also suggested the desirability of an orientation program for third country representatives coming to Vietnam, to be mounted by the GVN with U.S. support. Mr. Forrestal will look into this.
Binh Gia: General Wheeler gave a detailed rundown of the Binh Gia operation5 commenting that the piece-meal commitment of GVN forces seemed to be the main cause for the results. He said the action did not necessarily indicate any move to a new stage of Viet Cong combat, although there were indications of uniformed and steelhelmeted Viet Cong troops. The DCI commented that the attached analysis6 did not indicate a move to Stage III. There was then an inconclusive discussion on the effectiveness of GVN operations and intelligence on the enemy, it being stated that both have reasonably improved. However, there is considerable leakage of operational information to Viet Cong intelligence, both through their special intelligence and ordinary intelligence operations. The DCI suggested that a review be made of the ARVN desertion [Page 10] rate in recent weeks and the causes for this increase. Secretary Vance and General Wheeler indicated some surprise and will look into this matter. The DCI again suggested attention to the effectiveness of the psychological effort on the South Vietnamese people and commented that Mr. Zorthian, the PAO, seemed to be unduly tied down by his U.S. press briefing responsibilities. Mr. Forrestal will look into this matter.
In parting, Mr. McGeorge Bundy commented that he hoped that the Mission in Saigon would not push Huong into a vigorous fight with the Young Turk Generals. It was agreed that this would be unfortunate and that the cautioning notes given the Embassy on this should be continued.
WE Colby
Chief, Far East Division
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80 BO 1285A, Vietnam, January 1965. Secret. Prepared by Colby on January 8. The meeting was scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Department of State. Forrestal prepared an agenda for the participants, January 4. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. XXV)
  2. Not attached and not further identified.
  3. See Document 171.
  4. Not attached and not further identified.
  5. In the Binh Gia engagement near Saigon early in January 1965 the Viet Cong killed nearly 200 South Vietnamese soldiers.
  6. Memorandum from Carver to the Deputy Director for Intelligence, January 5, on “The Significance of Binh Gia in Light of Giap’s Three-Stage Doctrine,” attached but not printed.