311. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Helms to Secretary of State Rusk 1


  • Hanoi’s Intentions and the Lull in Combat
You will recall that Ambassador Vance, in a message to you last week, asked for a paper dealing with Hanoi’s intentions in the light of the current lull in the fighting in South Vietnam.2 The attached is that paper.
The completion of this paper was somewhat delayed because of important differences of view, among the highly restricted number of individuals in the Agency cleared to read the relevant materials, on the issues involved. All are agreed that Hanoi wants an early end to the conflict but there is disagreement on future tactics and on the price which Hanoi may be willing to pay for peace. There are those who feel that Hanoi may forgo further major military action, considering that its best prospects lay in opening political discussion which would expose a brittle situation in Saigon and in the United States. Others believe that Hanoi will be unwilling to rely on these means entirely and fully expect the Communists to again apply intensive military pressures.
On peace terms, some feel that whatever Hanoi’s tactics, the Communists are still striving for an outcome clearly and decisively favorable to them in South Vietnam. In this view, Hanoi attaches great importance to securing a unilateral halt to the bombing, because it would greatly unsettle the GVN and open the path for further political exploitation. Others feel that Hanoi’s moves, particularly since early June, indicate considerable flexibility with respect to the terms of a settlement and a willingness to move away from many of their long-standing positions.
While the attached paper does not go to either extreme, its tone with respect to the prospects of a negotiated settlement in the near term is, in my personal view, too sanguine.
Richard Helms 3
[Page 911]


Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency4



Recent Communist moves suggest more flexibility in North Vietnam’s negotiating position than has been evident in the past. Hanoi may be preparing for a negotiated settlement which stops short of full Communist control, but which assures them opportunities to obtain a dominant role for the Communists in South Vietnam.

Nevertheless, in the absence of substantial US concessions, we do not believe that the Communists are yet prepared to agree to measures restricting their future military actions. The current military lull may have been designed in part for political effect, but it also is being used to prepare another round of Communist attacks.

If the Communists are prepared to scale down their demands for a settlement, they are unlikely to give any clear indication of this until the results of further military efforts are known.

[Omitted here are five pages comprising the body of the paper.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80–B01285A, DCI (Helms) Chrono, Jan-Jul. 1968, 01 Jan-31 Jul 1968. Top Secret. A copy was sent to Clifford.
  2. The request was transmitted in telegram 18337/Delto 491 from Paris, July 23. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-July 1968)
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Helms signed the original.
  4. Top Secret; Nodis; Harvan; Plus.