106. Action Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Unger) to Secretary of State Rusk 1


  • Increased Military Pressures Against North Viet-Nam

1. You mentioned the possibility that a policy decision may be taken calling for our exerting heavier military pressure on North Viet-Nam. The purpose of the present memorandum is to provide you with our recommendations as to what would be the preferable actions and which actions should be avoided if it is decided that an intensification of activity is required.

2. In general, we believe that our air activity against North Viet-Nam should continue to be directed primarily at interdicting the infiltration routes (hitting convoys, roads, bridges) and striking the facilities which support the infiltration (POL storage, depots, repair facilities, etc.). This would speak for a continuation of the armed recce activity now under way, including action in the Laos panhandle, with intensification where lucrative targets are available.

3. Action against new kinds of targets is something which should be undertaken on a selective and individual basis since any significant innovation has great impact in itself quite aside from its military effects. Our objective continues to be to persuade the powers that be in Hanoi to abandon their efforts against the south and for a time at least, when we are striking a new kind of target which poses a threat to a part of their economy or infrastructure hitherto considered immune, we can influence their calculations by one strike practically as much as by 10.

4. Having these considerations in mind and taking as a point of departure the present pattern of operations against North Viet-Nam we would recommend the following list of targets, all of which are understood on the basis of SNIE 10–1–662 to have a military value. Entry on to even the first target on this list is, of course, premised on a decision having been taken that overall policy considerations require an intensification of our activity. (Our view on that point will be covered in a separate memorandum.)3 This decision in turn presupposes a readiness to [Page 311] increase the risks of Chinese and possibly Soviet responses up to the point of some measure of direct participation. We would of course wish to keep those risks as low as possible for as long as possible, and with that as the central criterion, the target list is arranged in roughly ascending order of risk.

Destruction of Hai Duong highway-rail bridges between Hanoi and Haiphong. (Already struck pre-pause)
Interdiction of railway and highway routes leading toward the Nanning area of China. (Such activity was already underway prior to the pause beginning December 1965)
Extension of armed recce, on basis now operating elsewhere in NVN, to Northeast quadrant, excluding Hanoi and Haiphong circles and Chinese border areas.
Restrike Uong Bi and other power plants.
POL complex at Haiphong.
Kep airfield and other jet capable fields except Phuc Yen and Hanoi Gia Lam.
Phuc Yen airfield. (Only if MIGs begin to hamper operations)

5. We believe that we should be prepared to accept the introduction of B–52ʼs to carry out strikes in North Viet-Nam, but only if such strikes are authorized through the same procedures as followed today for Arc Light strikes in Laos. B–52 strikes would not be objectionable in remote, sparsely inhabited areas (e.g. the Vietnamese side of the Mu Gia Pass) but would raise serious problems if proposed for densely inhabited areas.

6. We continue to feel that the mining of Haiphong harbor is undesirable for the reasons set forth in my memorandum to Ambassador Johnson of March 10, copy at Tab A.4 Likewise we continue to feel targets should be avoided, whatever their nature, which lie directly within heavily populated areas in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas or other urban areas and where there would probably be large numbers of civilian casualties.

7. Vietnamese Ambassador Vu Van Thai and Foreign Minister Tran Van Do have raised at various times two other proposals for military action against the north:

A bombing of dikes and/or watergates early in the season of rising river levels (i.e. the spring) as a means of warning Hanoi of our capability to wreak considerable havoc without in fact seriously endangering life at this time, and
A feint by Vietnamese craft against the north which would cause Hanoi to immobilize substantial numbers of soldiers on its coast and would also have an unnerving psychological effect.

The second of these proposals seems to us dangerous in terms of possible provocation of the Chinese and also out of keeping with our stated [Page 312] policy of not threatening the regime in North Viet-Nam. The first proposal might, if we must continue to intensify still further, have some utility, and a discussion of this possibility is appended at Tab B.5

8. You will recall that the Joint Chiefs have under consideration some MACV target and operation proposals regarding NVN on which CINCPAC has not commented fully or definitively. I mention this since those proposals, which are summarized at Tab C,6 may come into any discussion of intensified action against NVN.

Recommendation 7

9. That targets be selected, if intensification is desired, from the list set forth above in paragraph 4, approximately in the order listed. No increased measures should, however, be undertaken prior to the conclusion of the Communist Party meeting now under way in Moscow.



Suggest following modifications in priority list proposed above

  1. Source: Department of State, EA/VN-Vietnam Working Group: Lot 72 D 219, Rolling Thunder Memos, 1966. Top Secret. The source text is marked with an indication that Rusk saw the memorandum.
  2. Document 66.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. “Strikes Against Flood Control Dikes in North Viet-Nam,” undated; attached but not printed.
  6. “Summary of MACVʼs Intelligence Assessment and Recommendations for Counter-actions and CINCPAC Comments,” undated; attached but not printed.
  7. Rusk did not indicate a recommendation on the source text.