164. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • US/GVN Action Against VC/PAVN Forces in Cambodia


During the recent Silver Bayonet Operation, Ambassador Lodge requested (Tab A)2 authority for actions in self-defense in Cambodia. In response to that request authority was granted for the duration of that operation to return fire across the border and to maneuver across the border when necessary in self-defense against enemy units in continuing engagement with US/GVN forces (Tab B).3
The Department of Defense has asked for State concurrence in a draft JCS message (Tab C)4 which would authorize US and GVN forces in general to take extensive counteraction against VC/PAVN forces in Cambodia. This draft message would grant authority to strike “known or suspected” troops, lines of communication, and bases inside Cambodia by ground forces, including close air support, and by air attacks using B–52ʼs. The Defense Department informs us that this draft message resulted from a decision by Secretary McNamara to provide all necessary authority for operations involving Cambodian territory.


The proposed JCS draft goes considerably beyond the authority requested by Ambassador Lodgeʼs telegram and the authority granted [Page 365] for Operation Silver Bayonet. It also exceeds greatly existing or requested authority for operations in Laos. In view of the lack of convincing evidence that Cambodian territory is being used as a major base or major infiltration route, the requested authority would be difficult to justify. This is particularly true since the actions envisaged include, in effect, acts of war against Cambodia.
We believe that authorization for actions in Cambodia should be limited to major operations in which it is clear that the US/GVN armed forces involved require such authority for their adequate self-defense. We believe that it is preferable that decisions to confer such authority be taken in Washington, at least under present circumstances, rather than to delegate authority to the field. We would wish, in any case, to limit such grants of authority to actions similar to those authorized for Operation Silver Bayonet. The GVN would be urged to follow a similarly cautious policy and to coordinate closely with the US.


That you approve the draft message at Tab D which would summarize the authority which we would be prepared to grant in appropriate situations and would keep final authorization in Washington. We would propose to DOD that this message be substituted for the JCS proposed message at Tab C.
An alternative proposal would be to delegate final authorization to COMUSMACV if you consider that military requirements of the situation are such that it would not be feasible to retain this in Washington. A draft message which would adopt this alternative is placed at Tab E: para. 4 contains the alternative language.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 CAMB. Top Secret. Drafted by George H. Aldrich of L/FE and Ewing.
  2. Attached, but not printed; see footnote 2, Document 160.
  3. Not attached and not identified.
  4. Tabs C, D, and E are attached, but not printed.
  5. There is no indication on the source text which recommendation Rusk approved, but see Document 166.