248. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Possible Changes in our Bombing Pattern

Paris 14694,2 just received, seems to me to make excellent sense. It suggests we initiate selected bombing between the 19th and 20th about next Wednesday,3 to give a chance for us to convey a general warning message before then. I would add that I think we would make considerable gains in Saigon if we authorized Bunker to consult with Thieu before we actually took the step. Thieu would certainly agree, and this could be a safety valve on his general concerns.

On the question of resuming bombing north of the 20th, at any point, we have under way the project described in Tab A attached, and will have submissions Monday—on which we will try to base a decent summary analysis. In essence, it seems to all of us at this moment that resumption north of the 20th is not now an imminent issue. The difficult contingency would be a major attack in the Highlands and particularly a major attack on Da Nang or Hue. We should be getting our thoughts in order against these contingencies, and particularly looking at the one-shot option.

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For your background, you might be interested in reading Tab B—an Agency draft evaluation of the whole situation—and Tab C, which is my own assessment of where we stand and my suggestion of how we might play the next 3–4 weeks in Paris.4 The latter was pouched to Habib last night, and seems to be pretty generally agreed at staff levels here.

Tab A



Terms of Reference

Assumed Situation

The first assumption is that Hanoi continues to be totally inflexible in Paris and in particular to reject any form of reciprocal restraint in return for our stopping the bombing. This is a fixed assumption.

A second assumption—which may vary in degree—is that the North Vietnamese continue a high level of military action in the South. This might simply be scattered attacks all over the country, but there are indications that it may include a major offensive in the Highlands, an attack on Da Nang or Hue, and other such specific and identifiable major surges in offensive action.

Basic Question

A basic issue to be examined under the project is what course of action we should adopt in the face of such an assumed situation. The project should also examine timing factors that could affect when we undertook any of the possible courses of action.

The courses of action we are asked to examine are as follows:

  • Option A: Going on roughly as we are in Paris and other diplomatic channels registering only generalized indications that we cannot continue indefinitely to apply present restraints, and not changing our bombing pattern in the North.5
  • Option B: Resuming bombing and other military action between the 19th and 20th parallels.
  • Option C: Hitting selected targets in Hanoi and Haiphong, on past patterns.
  • Option D: Hitting targets in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas, plus additional targets not previously struck in these areas and elsewhere north of the 20th.
  • Option E: In the event of a major enemy offensive action in the South, carrying out a one-time strike north of the 20th, directed at a major target or targets not previously struck.

For Options B–E, there is the clear question of how and to what degree we should progressively signal our impatience so that the change in pattern does not come as a total surprise.

In the succeeding individual pages, the key questions are listed, with assignments for initial draft contributions to be received not later than Monday noon.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET. Top Secret; Nodis; Harvan; Limdis. Rusk’s initials appear on the first page. A copy was sent to Katzenbach.
  2. In telegram 14694 from Paris, May 25, Harriman and Vance noted: “We believe we should not renew bombing north of 20 degrees but suggest for your consideration desirability of attacking a few carefully selected targets between 19 and 20 degrees. We believe we should make clear to DRV through third party here that their failure to show restraint in response to our limiting of bombing cannot be maintained indefinitely, and that not only have they shown no restraint, but in fact have been escalating through increased infiltration and attacks against allied military forces and cities. It is possible that this course of action might move DRV from their present position, although it is unlikely. As long as we stay south of 20 degrees and hit a few selected targets, however, we believe we should be able to handle the press and world opinion.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. II) In a May 25 note transmitting a copy of this telegram to the President, Rostow wrote: “Herewith Harriman and Vance evaluate Hanoi’s intentions. Suggest ‘few carefully selected targets between 19th and 20th … not before Wednesday’” (Ibid.) An evaluation of alternatives to full bombing resumption is in CIA intelligence memorandum SC 07073/68, May 22. (Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Subject Files, Job 80–R01284R, Rolling Thunder Program)
  3. May 29.
  4. Tabs B and C are attached but not printed. Tab B is a May 24 draft of Document 263. Tab C is a draft joint State-Defense-CIA assessment, written by Bundy on May 23, which described the current strategy as “effective” and made recommendations for the near term.
  5. A memorandum from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense to Clifford, May 28, noted: “The CIA favors maintenance of the current situation (Option A).” (Johnson Library, Clark Clifford Papers, Southeast Asia: [Material on Bombing, May 1968]) The CIA’s commentary on the options was attached to this memorandum and is summarized in footnote 3, Document 255.