187. Editorial Note

The response of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Draft Presidential Memorandum (DPM) of May 19 (Document 177) served to justify the conclusions reached in JCSM 286–67 and JCSM 288–67, May 20, 1967, in which the JCS on strategic grounds called for an extensive force build-up in order to improve the operational capability of the military forces in Vietnam. With this additional capability, the JCS proposed an offensive strategy against North Vietnam much wider in scope than those posed in the DPM. (Johnson Library, Papers of Paul C. Warnke, McNaughton Files, McNTN XIII—Memos 1967 (1))

In CM–2377–67, May 24, JCS Chairman General Earle Wheeler told Secretary of Defense McNamara that a call-up of reserves would be necessary. He pointed out the military could not maintain the momentum of recent offensives, respond to contingencies of enemy threat in particular areas, or expand pacification given the current force levels. In any case, the air and naval attacks against North Vietnam could not be curtailed without giving a significant advantage to the North Vietnamese. Even strengthening the effectiveness of the South Vietnamese troops would not minimize the need for the additional deployment of U.S. forces. (Ibid.)

In JCSM-307–67, June 1, the Joint Chiefs took issue with the characterization of their position in “Course A” of the DPM. This option [Page 459] was “an extrapolation of a number of proposals which were recommended separately but not in combination or as interpreted in the DPM.” However, the Joint Chiefs were adamantly opposed to the recommendations of the DPM embodied by “Course B” and its inherent “pessimism.” The strategy would not permit an early termination of the war and could encourage a “redoubling” of enemy efforts to pursue a military solution. Furthermore, the DPM suggested “a major realignment of US objectives and intentions in Southeast Asia without regard for the long-term consequences.” They recommended that the DPM not be sent to the President. (Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 911/300 (19 May 67) IR 1393)

In JCSM-312–67, June 2, the JCS considered McNamara’s alternatives (a curtailment of air operations above the funnel or attacks throughout North Vietnam limited to major airfields that would include either closing the ports or leaving them open) but recommended their own proposal that involved attacking essential war-supporting fixed targets and lines of communication, neutralizing airfields, and closing the ports. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FRC 71 A 3470, Service and JCS Recommendations re Bombing of DRV) As for the service chiefs, Secretary of the Navy Paul H. Nitze supported the recommendations of the DPM, but Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown advocated the expanded campaign of the JCS since in his view a restriction of bombing to below the 20th parallel would allow an increased southward infiltration. (Memoranda from Nitze and Brown to McNamara, June 2 and June 3, respectively; Johnson Library, Papers of Paul C. Warnke, McNaughton Files, McNTN XIII, Memos 1967 (3))