264. Editorial Note

On February 15, 1964, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Roger Hilsman began a campaign to win support for sending U.S. Marine forces to Thailand. Hilsman suggested such a move as a signal to North Vietnam and China of U.S. willingness to defend its positions in Southeast Asia in light of Pathet Lao/North Vietnamese advances in Laos and the deteriorating situation in South Vietnam. Secretary of State Dean Rusk approved interagency discussion of possible courses of action. See memorandum from Hilsman to Rusk, February 15, printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXVIII, Document 3. For accounts of the interagency discussion, in which Department of Defense officials stated that “there was no credibility left in the idea of deploying military forces to Thailand,” see memorandum for the record, February 24, and memorandum from Hilsman to Rusk, February 25, ibid., Documents 4 and 6. Attached to Hilsmanʼs February 25 memorandum is a draft memorandum to the President, which recommended deferring for further deliberation the idea of sending U.S. forces to Thailand except for 6 U.S. F–100 jets, their pilots, and crews. On February 26 Johnson administration officials met without the President to discuss Southeast Asia and Laos. The general consensus, according to Hilsman, was that although U.S. military posture in Thailand needed to be strengthened, the situation in Laos did not make the decision one of urgency. See editorial note, ibid., Document 8. On February 28 Hilsman suggested to Rusk that recent Pathet Lao-North Vietnamese military successes in Laos made the sending of U.S. forces to Laos a matter of urgency. Hilsman recommended that a full battle group need not be sent, a force half that size would be adequate. See memorandum from Hilsman to Rusk, February 28, ibid., Document 9.