103. Draft Memorandum for President Johnson1

General Westmoreland has requested an additional 205,000 troops (beyond the 525,000 personnel now authorized). He asks for the deployment in three packages, by May 1, September 1 and December 31.

General Wheeler believes we should prepare ourselves to meet the request for an additional 205,000 personnel and should act to increase and improve our strategic reserve in the United States. An initial staff examination of requirements indicates that to achieve both will require:

A call-up of reserve units and individuals totaling approximately 262,000 (194,000 in units, 68,000 as individuals).
Increased draft calls.
Extension of terms of service. These actions would produce a total increase in end strength in the Armed Forces of approximately 511,000 by June 30, 1969. (The staff examination referred to above included spaces to add 31,500 troops in South Korea and a US naval proposal to add two cruisers and fifteen destroyers to the naval forces in Southeast Asia. If these proposals are disapproved in their entirety, the figures above will be decreased to approximately 242,000 and 454,000 respectively.)

A build-up of roughly these dimensions would enable us to meet the Westmoreland request and, in any event, would reconstitute the strategic reserve in the United States.

We recommend:

An immediate decision to deploy to Vietnam an estimated total of 22,000 additional personnel (approximately 60% of which would be combat). An immediate decision to deploy the three tactical fighter squadrons deferred from Program 5 (about 1,000 men). This would be over and above the four battalions (about 3,700 men) already planned for deployment in April which in themselves would bring us slightly above the 525,000 authorized level. The argument for this immediate action, and detailed schedules of availability is contained in Tab A.2
Either through Ambassador Bunker or through an early visit by Secretary Clifford, a highly forceful approach to the GVN (Thieu and Ky) to get certain key commitments for improvement, tied to our own [Page 315] increased effort and to increased US support for the ARVN. Details are in Tab B.3
Early approval of a Reserve call-up and an increased end strength adequate to meet the balance of the Westmoreland request and to restore a strategic reserve in the United States, adequate for possible contingencies world-wide. Supporting discussion and details are in Tab C.4
Reservation of the decision to meet the Westmoreland request in full. While we would be putting ourselves in a position to make these additional deployments, the future decision to do so would be contingent upon:
Reexamination on a week-by-week basis of the desirability of further deployments as the situation develops;
Improved political performance by the GVN and increased contribution in effective military action by the ARVN;
The results of a study in depth, to be initiated immediately, of possible new political and strategic guidance for the conduct of US operations in South Vietnam, and of our Vietnamese policy in the context of our world-wide politico-military strategy. Supporting discussion is in Tab D.5
No new peace initiative on Vietnam. Re-statement of our terms for peace and certain limited diplomatic actions to dramatize Laos and to focus attention on the total threat to Southeast Asia. Details in Tab E.6
A general decision on bombing policy, not excluding future change, but adequate to form a basis for discussion with the Congress on this key aspect. Here your advisers are divided:
General Wheeler and others would advocate a substantial extension of targets and authority in and near Hanoi and Haiphong, mining of Haiphong, and naval gunfire up to a Chinese Buffer Zone;
Others would advocate a seasonal step-up through the spring, but without these added elements.

The opposing arguments are in Tab F.7

In proposing this course of action, we recognize that there are certain difficulties and negative factors, outlined in Tab G. Additional problems we can anticipate in US public opinion are at Tab H.8 Nevertheless, we believe that this course of action, in its essential outline at least, is urgently required to meet the immediate situation in Vietnam as well as wider possible contingencies there and elsewhere.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Draft Memorandum for the President [3/14/68 re VN]. Top Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by the Clifford Task Force. Portions of this memorandum and the attached tabs are printed in The Pentagon Papers: The Senator Gravel Edition, pp. 575–584.
  2. None of the tabs is printed. In the paper attached at Tab A, the group noted that an immediate injection of forces would influence variables, such as the degree to which the Communist forces kept pressing their attacks, the ability of the VC to extend its control in the countryside, and the ability of the GVN to improve its performance and win popular support.
  3. In Tab B the group noted that such an effort would demonstrate U.S. commitment to the GVN, although it was possible that the South Vietnamese might “relax behind the refuge of American power.” The specific actions required of the GVN included stepped-up mobilization, greater unity among its top leadership, getting back into the countryside, attacking the VC infrastructure, creation of some arrangement approaching a joint command, reform of the GVN, replacement of the current Prime Minister, formation of a united front group of anti-Communist organizations, steps to prevent inflation and counteract the balance-of-payments deficit faced by the United States as a result of having more troops in South Vietnam, and efficient resource allocation.
  4. The paper at Tab C argued that even if all the additional forces were not deployed to Vietnam, these measures would still be warranted due to the depletion of the strategic reserve.
  5. As expressed in Tab D, the view of the Clifford group was that “there can be no assurance that this very substantial additional deployment would leave us a year from today in any more favorable military position.” Since the war posed a danger to U.S. interests and commitments worldwide, and since the enemy’s recent tactics had proven that “there can be no prospect of a quick military solution,” a major interagency study on strategic guidance involving Westmoreland and Bunker had to be undertaken in the near future. Nitze wrote two memoranda on strategic guidance, both dated March 3, which dealt separately with short-term recovery and longer-range strategy. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Nitze Papers, Vietnam War-Miscellaneous Materials, 1968)
  6. Tab E contained the text of a February 29 memorandum prepared by Bundy which listed three negotiating alternatives: “stand pat on the San Antonio formula,” undertake a new initiative modifying the San Antonio formula (which the paper concluded would be “unwise” since the San Antonio formula was “rock bottom”), or “pitching” for negotiations following a countering of the enemy offensive.
  7. The paper at Tab F detailed further discussion of how to intensify the bombing of North Vietnam.
  8. The papers at Tabs G and H emphasized the domestic difficulties faced by the President in increasing the troop commitment to Vietnam and in calling up the reserves.