439. Editorial Note

On December 15, 1967, the JASON Division of the Institute of Defense Analysis, a Washington-based policy analysis center closely associated with the Pentagon, submitted to Secretary of Defense McNamara an assessment of the effectiveness of the bombing campaign in the war effort. In a highly critical account, the JASON report argued that the impact of the bombing campaign upon the enemy’s ability to wage war in South Vietnam was negligible. The bombing had mixed results in terms of meeting the three objectives previously outlined by McNamara: the interdiction of men and arms flowing southward, boosting the morale of the South Vietnamese Government, and compelling Hanoi to pay a high price to continue its military struggle. The study’s conclusions relating to the first objective read:

“As of October 1967, the U.S. bombing has had no measurable effect upon Hanoi’s ability to mount and support military operations in the South. North Vietnam supports operations in the South mainly by functioning as a logistical funnel and providing a source of manpower, from an economy in which manpower has been widely under-utilized. Most of the essential military supplies that the VC/NVA forces in the South require from external sources are provided by the USSR, Eastern Europe, and Communist China. Furthermore, the volume of such supplies is so low that only a small fraction of the capacity of North Vietnam is required to maintain that flow.”

The study added that although the North Vietnamese economy was heavily damaged, infiltration southward had increased during the years of the bombing campaign. While virtually all targets of military and economic significance had been attacked, the North Vietnamese had managed to build a stronger military force and to continue economic activity at sufficient levels.

Nor had the other two objectives been met successfully, the reported asserted. While South Vietnamese morale had been bolstered initially by the bombing, this effect declined as the bombing became more routine. On the third objective, the JASON study offered a similarly pessimistic analysis:

“The bombing campaign against NVN has not discernibly weakened the determination of the North Vietnamese leaders to continue to direct and support the insurgency in the South. Shortages of food and clothing, travel restrictions, separations of families, lack of adequate medical and educational facilities, and heavy work loads have tended to affect adversely civilian morale. However, there are few if any reliable reports on a breakdown of the commitment of the people to support the war. Unlike the situation in the South, there are no reports of marked increases of absenteeism, draft dodging, black market operations or prostitution. There is no evidence that possible war weariness among the people has shaken the leadership’s belief that they can continue to endure [Page 1117] the bombing and outlast the U.S. and SVN in a protracted war of attrition.”

Although the study examined nine different ways to improve the effectiveness of air power, its authors could determine no way in which to reduce North Vietnamese infiltration into South Vietnam. The final version of the report was revised and submitted to McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Commander in Chief of Pacific Forces on January 3, 1968. The JASON study is excerpted in U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Armed Services, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, Book 6, Volume II, pages 122–127.