181. Editorial Note

In a series of intelligence reports of May 23 and 26, 1967, the Central Intelligence Agency predicted the probable consequences of an expanded military effort in Indochina. In Intelligence Memorandum No. 0646/67, entitled “Reactions to Various US Courses of Action,” May 23, the CIA examined combinations of approaches that could be taken and assessed what result might occur from each. It concluded that the only action that would seem to have a moderating impact on Hanoi would be a restriction of the bombing south of the 20th parallel, which [Page 443] correspondingly would generate a reduction in domestic criticism in the United States. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 200, CIA Intelligence Memorandums—The Status of NVN)

CIA analysts also focused on the lack of deterrent impact of the bombing campaign, in spite of extensive destruction, on the continued resolution of the North Vietnamese to pursue the war. In Intelligence Memorandum No. 0649/67, “Consequences of Mining the Seaports and Water Approaches to North Vietnam and Bombing the Northern Railroads and Roads,” May 23, the CIA concluded that an expanded effort against North Vietnam would have “serious economic consequences, but it would not be likely to weaken the military establishment seriously or to prevent Hanoi from continuing its aggression in the south.” (Ibid.) In Intelligence Memorandum No. 0647/67, “The Reaction of the North Vietnamese to the Stepped-up Air Attacks,” May 23, the CIA described a psychologically “very tough” North Vietnamese people whose capacity to endure the war had been actually strengthened by the raids. (Ibid., CIA Intelligence Memorandums—Rxn NVNese—5/23/67) Intelligence Memorandum No. 0648/67, “The Effectiveness of the Rolling Thunder Program,” May 23, confirmed suspicions that the bombing campaign had not lived up to expectations:

“Despite the increased tempo of the air war during the last 10 weeks, the Rolling Thunder program has made only limited progress in meeting two of its current objectives: to limit or raise the cost of sending men and supplies to South Vietnam and to make North Vietnam pay a price for its aggression against the South. The damage to economic and military targets has not degraded North Vietnam’s ability to support the war sufficiently to affect current levels of combat in the South. There are no signs that the determination of the regime to persist in its aggression has abated and despite increasing hardships, the morale of the populace has not eroded to a point where widespread apathy and war weariness are threatening the control of the Hanoi regime. The recent expansion of the bombing program has, however, badly damaged the modern sector of the North Vietnamese economy and has increased the disruption of orderly economic activity.” (Ibid., CIA Intelligence Memorandums—The Status of NVN)

On May 25 President Johnson asked McNamara for an appraisal of the damage to key North Vietnamese supply sectors. In response to a request from McNamara, the CIA prepared two memoranda subsequently sent to the President. No. 0651/67, “The Status of North Vietnam’s Electric Power Industry as of 25 May 1967,” May 26, stated that in fact 87 percent of the country’s power generating capacity already had been lost due to the bombing campaign, and No. 0650/67, “The Status of North Vietnam’s Petroleum Storage Facilities as of 25 May 1967,” May 26, stated that 85 percent of North Vietnam’s major storage capacity had likewise been destroyed. This major destruction had [Page 444] not impaired Hanoi’s military capability. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXXII)