188. Editorial Note
On June 2, 1967, U.S. aircraft attacked an anti-aircraft battery at Cam Pha, 50 miles north of Haiphong in North Vietnam. Some of the ordnance struck the Soviet freighter Turkestan, which had been moored near Cam Pha. Damage to the ship was extensive and one crew member died. The Soviet Union issued an immediate protest of the incident which it termed “a crying violation of the freedom of navigation, an act of banditry which may have far-reaching consequences.” On June 3 the U.S. Government responded that the attacks by two flights of aircraft had taken place but “only against legitimate military targets” and that it was North Vietnamese anti-aircraft fire which had struck the Soviet vessel. An apology from the U.S. Government was transmitted for [Page 460]delivery to the Soviet Government in telegram 207926 to Moscow, June 3. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S) After further investigation, a note delivered to the Soviet Embassy in Washington on June 20 acknowledged that a third flight of American planes had struck the ship.
On June 29 another SoVIET Ship, the Mikhail Frunze, was damaged near Haiphong during a similar attack. Citing the failure to live up to its promise to avoid such incidents, the Soviets warned that the U.S. Government would “bear all the responsibility for the dangerous consequences of aggressive acts by U.S. aviation.” On July 13 the United States admitted the possibility that the Mikhail Frunze could have been hit by its aircraft but labeled any damage sustained by the vessel as “inadvertent.” For these public statements, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 939–941, 945. On the same day State Department Legal Adviser Leonard Meeker sent to Executive Secretary Benjamin Read a memorandum outlining steps to be taken in order to minimize similar incidents in the future. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S) Further documentation on these episodes is ibid., OS 12 USSR and POL 33–6 US-USSR.