177. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of State McNamara 1



  • Measures to Decrease Infiltration into South Vietnam from Cambodia via Sea LOCs and Mekong and Bassac Waterways (C)
(TS) Reference is made to your memorandum, dated 29 December 1965, subject: “U.S. Policy and Actions to Deal with Cambodian Support of the Viet Cong (S),”2 in which you expressed the desire that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in coordination with the Department of State, take the necessary action to improve surveillance of sea lines of communication (LOCs) between the RVN and Cambodia and to intensify and make more effective controls on the Mekong and Bassac waterways without violating the Cambodian border, territorial waters, or legitimate rights to navigation.
(S) The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the problem of water-borne infiltration from Cambodia into South Vietnam and recognize that the development of feasible courses of action to deny the use of Cambodia for infiltration by the Viet Cong is limited by lack of adequate intelligence. However, pending the results of current efforts to expand and improve our intelligence on this problem being undertaken at your request by the US Intelligence Board, certain measures, as discussed below, are warranted.
(S) The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that:
The planned increase in shallow-draft vessels for Market Time operations will increase capabilities to interdict infiltration along the coastal areas. CINCPAC is also studying the feasibility of extending GVN control over localities such as Phu Quoc. Upon arrival of the additional US personnel (approximately 560) required, forces will be adequate to initiate the US Navy portion of major river patrols by Operation Game Warden.
Legal authority exists for the GVN to impose more stringent measures to increase control over the Mekong and Bassac international waterways.
Select Vietnamese military personnel should be put aboard international shipping on the Mekong and Bassac Rivers while in SVN to assist customs officials, who have been generally ineffective, inspect cargoes [Page 386] en route, guard against unauthorized offloading, function as a cross-check on the performance of other GVN representatives, and obtain intelligence.
The GVN should be urged to announce intent to search ships during transit of the Mekong and Bassac Rivers.
To be properly integrated, plans for tightening controls on international shipping on the Mekong and Bassac waterways should be made in Saigon.
If future intelligence verifies Cambodian support to the Viet Cong, the US Government should announce that US Government-financed cargoes shall not be shipped on foreign flag vessels that have called at a Cambodian port subsequent to a specific date. This measure would be similar to the provisions of National Security Action Memorandum 340 dealing with NVN commerce.
(TS) In conclusion, the measures outlined in paragraph 3, above, will, under current political restrictions imposed, increase somewhat the effectiveness of countermeasures applied against Cambodian support of the Viet Cong via sea LOCs and the Mekong and Bassac Rivers. As additional intelligence develops, other recommendations which address the total infiltration problem will be forwarded. Immediate action is required to insure that the enforcement of current waterway controls is improved.
(TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the joint State/ Defense message in Appendix A hereto be dispatched.3 Upon dispatch of the message in Appendix A, the Joint Chiefs of Staff will provide appropriate direction to CINCPAC (Appendix B hereto).
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
John C. Meyer 4
Major General, USAF
Deputy Director, Joint Staff
  1. Source: Department of Defense, JCS Official Records, 9155.1 (14 Oct 65). Top Secret.
  2. See footnote 6, Document 171.
  3. The appendices are attached, but not printed.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Meyer signed the original.