324. Editorial Note

On December 2, 4, 13, and 14, 1966, U.S. aircraft carried out strikes on two targets in the Hanoi area that had been authorized on November 10 as part of Rolling Thunder 52 (see footnote 4, Document 299) but had not been previously struck. The Van Dien vehicle depot, located 5 nautical miles south of the center of Hanoi, was a military transportation center for trucks and other vehicles moving men and materiel to the war in South Vietnam. The Yen Vien railroad yards, located 5 nautical miles northeast of the center of Hanoi, controlled North Vietnamʼs railroad traffic north of Hanoi. Both targets were outside Hanoiʼs city limits. (Telegram 103849, December 16; Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S) The Van Dien vehicle depot was struck on December 2, 13, and 14 by a total of 66 strike aircraft. The Yen Vien railroad yards were struck on December 4, 13, and 14 by a total of 58 strike aircraft. (Memorandum from Major General John McPherson to Admiral David McDonald, December 15; Department of Defense, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rolling Thunder 52, 9155 (18 Feb. 65) Section 13)

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On December 3, following the December 2 strike, the North Vietnamese Government filed a protest with the International Control Commission, stating that U.S. aircraft had “bombed and strafed a populated area in the southern suburb of Hanoi and attacked two residential quarters inside the city.” On December 14, following the December 13 and 14 attacks, the North Vietnamese Government issued a statement claiming that U.S. aircraft had attacked “a number of places in Hanoi, including the foreign embassy quarter and the suburbs of the town, killing or wounding over 100 people.” (American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pages 883, 885–886)

U.S. officials responded in public statements that the attacks were against the same kinds of military targets that had been under air attack for more than a year and did not represent an intensification of the bombing. A spokesman for the Department of State did indicate at a December 22 news conference, however, that the possibility of an accident could not be ruled out completely. (Ibid., pages 884, 886, 890–891) The Department of State provided information explaining and defending the air strikes to all diplomatic posts on December 16 and to British Foreign Secretary George Brown on December 30. (Telegram 103849; Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S; and Material to be passed to Mr. George Brown; ibid., Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, WPB Chron) Much the same information was used by Ambassador Gronouski in his meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Rapacki on December 19 (see Document 345).