242. Editorial Note

In telegram 1744 to Saigon, December 22, 1965, the Departments of State and Defense instructed General Westmoreland to announce in Saigon that U.S. commanders had given instructions to U.S. forces not to fire except in self-defense between 6 p.m. on December 24 and midnight on December 25, local time. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S) At President Johnson’s urging, the Departments of State and Defense also informed the Embassy in Saigon, the Commander in Chief, Pacific, and the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, in telegram 1786 to Saigon, December 24, that the Christmas truce should not end by U.S. acts of force, but by a renewal of Viet Cong violence. Therefore, until confirmed and public evidence of significant Viet Cong violence was available, the restrictions prohibiting firing except in self-defense, suspending operations against North Vietnam and North Vietnamese troops in Laos, and halting B-52 operations would remain in force. Washington fully expected the Viet Cong to break the truce within a day or so. (Ibid.)

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Wheeler, who was in Bangkok at the time, expressed “grave concern at the military hazards inherent in the directives,” which he believed created a “de facto in-place [Page 692] cease-fire for US/GVN forces while permitting VC/PAVN forces complete freedom of movement.” Wheeler feared that the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces would capitalize on U.S. restraint and not renew hostilities. (Telegram BNK 1876 from Wheeler to McNamara, December 25; Johnson Library, Papers of William C. Westmoreland, Top Secret, Eyes Only Message File) General Westmoreland added his opinion that the military advantages of the Christmas cease-fire were outweighed by military disadvantages and hoped that it would not be repeated during Tet. (COMUSMACV telegram 260936Z, December 26; ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. XLIV, Cables) Admiral Sharp, Commander in Chief, Pacific, informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he agreed completely with Westmoreland. (CINCPAC telegram 262159Z, December 26; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Pentagon Papers Files: FRC 77 A 62, SecDef Cable Files, binder 45)

In a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense (JCSM 907-65), December 27, the Joint Chiefs reviewed the results of the Christmas cease-fire and concluded that “from a military standpoint, no advantages accrued to the US/GVN from the ceasefire,” and there were considerable military disadvantages. For these reasons, the Joint Chiefs opposed a similar cease-fire during the Tet holiday (January 21-22, 1966). (Ibid.,OSD/ADMIN Files: FRC 70 A 1265, Vietnam 380)