139. Editorial Note

On April 20, 1967, U.S. planes attacked targets in the previously restricted area of Haiphong. The objective of the strikes was to destroy two additional thermal power plants which generated electricity used by key military installations in the Hanoi-Haiphong area. However, the administration was quick to point out that the new round of bombings was not an expansion of the war. (Telegram 178696 to London, Tokyo, Manila, Seoul, Canberra, Wellington, and Bangkok, April 20; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S) These strikes had been postponed twice during the President’s absence from Washington: first, April 10–14, when he was attending the Organization of American States conference in Punta del Este, Uruguay, and second, April 14–18, when he was vacationing at the LBJ Ranch in Texas. In telegram 175129 to Secretary Rusk, Tosec 137, April 14, William Bundy and Nicholas Katzenbach unsuccessfully argued that the attacks should be further delayed as such military action would make the upcoming SEATO meeting and a conference of the troop-contributing nations appear to be “war councils.” They also believed that the strikes would push the British still further toward a less supportive position on Vietnam. (Ibid.)

Expanded strikes against North Vietnamese military targets quickly followed the attack on the power plants. These bombings, approved by the President on April 22, began on April 24 as the RT 55 strikes during which two key enemy airfields (at Hoa Lac and Kep) were attacked for the first time in order to reduce the enemy’s air defense capability. See Joint Chiefs of Staff, Vietnam, 1960–1968, Part III, pages 41–5–41–8.