8. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler)1

A. JCS 5485–642 eyes only.

Your 5485–64 year end wrap up of Washington view on Vietnam was very helpful, especially the reasons why our recommendations for action get turned down.
I have always deferred to Westy and Amb Taylor’s views on retaining dependents in Vietnam because I felt they were best judge of danger to dependents and advantages of keeping them in country. Your message introduces a new factor into this problem.
If we are still operating under policy of NSAM 3143 and if presence of dependents is a block on decision for action, then I think we should move dependents out ASAP. Realize there are other factors which influence decision makers even if dependents moved, but other factors you mention are less of a positive block. Decision to move dependents should include all, not just military. Since movement of dependents takes considerable time, we cannot wait until we are ready to take offensive action before initiating dependents withdrawal.
Brink bombing4 once again demonstrates that VC have capability to attack dependents any time. Seems entirely possible Saigon could lapse into state of lawlessness under current lack of government control. So, movement dependents justified for other reasons than to facilitate decision for U.S. action.
Announcement of removal dependents should be carefully worded and timed to get most political mileage. Might mention continued unstable political conditions; let them wonder if all U.S. personnel would soon depart.
As you know, we are ready to take reprisal action on short notice, if that is required. I recommend against including VNAF in the first strike. They can follow on after Westy gets them cranked up, but they should not be allowed to hold up our forces.
On another subject. I concur completely with DIA’s assessment of how Barrel Roll is influencing the DRV given in his memo to you of 31 Dec,5 which was passed to us. We will have to make a good sized strike on a reasonably important target before the DRV will know that we are doing anything different.
  1. Source: Center of Military History, Westmoreland Papers, History Backup, #12. Secret. Repeated to General Westmoreland.
  2. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. I, Document 479.
  3. For text, see ibid., pp. 758–760.
  4. See footnote 11, Document 9.
  5. Not further identified.