13. Telegram From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland)1

JCS 2331-65. 1. I urgently need your personal views for upcoming discussions of courses of action available to us in Vietnam. The problem can be phrased as follows. What additional military actions can we take in South Vietnam and in the DRV, short of destroying North Vietnamese economic and population targets, which will apply additional pressures on the VC and on the DRV?

2. Please note the word “additional” because it is key to the problem I must address. In other words, I require your assessment of need for additional U.S. forces, their locations and missions, and an assessment of what they could accomplish in South Vietnam. As to actions against the DRV, I require your views as to targets, modes of delivery (B-52's as opposed to fighter bombers) and collateral actions such as mining Haiphong harbor.

3. The subject is regarded here as one of great sensitivity; therefore, I solicit your personal views and not a staff study. In particular, no one other than U.S. military should be consulted or apprised of my request.

4. As additional background you should know that thought here in some areas is to the effect that introduction of U.S. troop units over 10,000 (some 20,000 fewer than already requested) will convert the war into a second Vietnamese/French war in which we would play the role of the French. That is, Communist propaganda and the inherent xenophobic tendencies of the Vietnamese would surely convert the VNAF and loyal South Vietnamese into our enemies rather than the fact that the VNAF leaders have their necks on the chopping block. In sum, regardless of what happens the United States will survive; South Vietnam and its leaders will not. However, I would like your assessment of this point.

5. As stated earlier I need your views urgently. In the interest of speed you may have to omit rationale, but provide me as much as you can.2 Regards.

  1. Source: Center of Military History, Westmoreland Papers, COMUSMACV Message Files. Top Secret. Also sent to Admiral Sharp.
  2. For Westmoreland's response, see Document 17.