268. National Security Action Memorandum No. 3391


  • The Secretary of Agriculture


  • Critical Indian Food Situation

I am deeply concerned on humanitarian grounds with the near famine conditions which are developing in India, and which may require a dramatic rescue operation on the part of those nations able to assist. As you know, I have already announced that the United States would participate in such an effort.

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I further understand from my discussion with you that the key bottleneck may be less the availability of sufficient foodgrains from abroad than lack of available shipping, inadequate Indian port facilities, and inefficient food distribution facilities within India. These factors could critically hamper any international effort to get enough food to India’s hungry.

Therefore, I request that you establish a special committee, including representation from the Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, the Agency for International Development, and such other Departments and Agencies as you deem necessary, to examine urgently how to cope with the looming Indian famine problem. I want you to regard all available resources of the U.S. Government as being at your disposal in planning for such an effort. After assessing the likely dimensions of the crisis and what would be required to meet it, you and your group should recommend whatever imaginative emergency techniques and devices which may be necessary to help prevent mass starvation in India.

I would like personally to review your recommendations as soon as they can be made available, before deciding what action I will take along with other interested governments.2

Lyndon B. Johnson
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSAMs, NSAM 339, Critical Indian Food Situation. Secret. Copies were sent to the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Commerce, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, the Administrator of the Agency for International Development, and the Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology.
  2. Komer and Bundy recommended the text of NSAM No. 339 to the President on December 16, noting that it “puts the bee on Freeman to mastermind any famine rescue effort,” drawing on the government’s resources as necessary. (Ibid.) On December 27 Freeman sent a memorandum to the heads of the Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, the Agency for International Development, the Bureau of the Budget, and to Presidential Assistant Donald F. Hornig reporting on progress in response to NSAM No. 339. He noted that two inter-agency task forces had been established in response to the crisis in India. A food shipment operations task force was chaired by C.R. Eskildsen, Deputy Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA, and an agricultural productivity task force was chaired by Walter G. Farr, Jr., Deputy Assistant Administrator (NESA/AID). In addition, Freeman appointed Dorothy Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for International Affairs, to chair an executive committee to monitor progress, consider policy questions, and issue progress reports. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 70 A 1266, India 1966)