98. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Smith) to President Johnson1


  • General Westmorelandʼs Recommendation on Air Operations in Vietnam

General Westmoreland has sent to Admiral Sharp and General Wheeler for their consideration a proposed reallocation of existing military resources which he believes will more effectively counter the larger scale warfare which he believes the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong are now preparing.2

The status of his recommendation is as follows:

Admiral Sharp, in a telegram not yet decoded,3 raises certain objections to General Westmorelandʼs concept and asks for an explanation [Page 291] of some of the points not clear in Honolulu. One suggestion is that Westmoreland meet with Admiral Sharp and Admiral Moorer at CINCPAC to clarify the details of the general concept.
The Joint Staff is at work assembling their views on the recommendations.
Secretary Vance will meet with the Chiefs for preliminary consideration of the recommendations on Monday. He and Secretary McNamara will meet with the Chiefs on Wednesday to arrive at conclusions which they will want to discuss with you.

The view in Washington is that even if the recommendations were approved, as they stand, they could be implemented by using aircraft now in the Vietnam Theater. Basically, Westmorelandʼs plan alters the bombing pattern now being followed in the Rolling Thunder Program. Some of the authority Westmoreland requests, he already has.

The timing factor in his recommendations consists of how to use the next month and a half to destroy the maximum of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops, which his intelligence officers believe are being moved down during the present dry season.

General Westmoreland makes certain suggestions which he feels will retard the forward movement of enemy personnel from North Vietnam:

Heavier attacks on fixed targets in Northern North Vietnam, such as: petroleum storage facilities, power plants, dams and locks, affecting inland waterways, airfields, and selected ports, including Haiphong.
Greater flexibility in the number of planes he is allowed to use against specific targets (Westmoreland apparently has this already, but that point is being clarified).
Greater freedom to attack targets in the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Vietnam.
Use of napalm in the area, including Laos, under certain circumstances against trucks and armored personnel carriers, supply and storage areas, anti-aircraft batteries and air control facilities.
Use of B–52ʼs in Laos.

Bromley Smith
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 2EE, Primarily McNamara Recommendations re Strategic Actions. Secret. Attached to the memorandum is a note indicating that the President told his secretary at 11:30 a.m. on March 19: “Tell Brom Smith to try to prepare a memorandum giving a careful survey and/or study of how to best use the next 60 days to make the maximum effort with bombs, troops, and everything else against infiltration before the rainy season, and we ought to provide any extra planes, bombs, etc., and find out how best to use napalm. I want it to be a good report showing everything and every way being explored … very comprehensive study.”
  2. Telegram 171037Z from COMUSMACV, March 17. (Ibid., Box 260, Gen. Taylor)
  3. Presumably a reference to telegram 190452Z from Sharp to Westmoreland, March 19, which has not been found. In telegram 190500Z to Westmoreland, March 19, Sharp agreed that there was “pressing need to intensify the scope and pressure of our air campaign against NVN” as proposed by Westmoreland in telegram 171037Z. (Ibid., Westmoreland Papers, COMUSMACV Message Files)