269. Letter From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Solbert) to Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff1


Dear Mike:

I had the attached paper prepared on receipt of my copy of your memorandum of May 1 to Bill Bundy on Laos and the possibility of moving some forces into Thailand as a signal to the Pathet Lao and to Hanoi.2

As our review indicates, a mere “show of force” in Thailand without a specific objective would not appear to have the proper effect on the Communists, but would reduce reaction time if those forces were to be employed.


Peter Solbert 3


Memorandum From the Director, Far East Region (Blouin) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Solbert)4



  • Alternatives for Movement of U.S. Forces to Thailand

In response to your note concerning Mr. Forrestalʼs memorandum of May 1, alternatives for the possible movement of some forces into Thailand have been reviewed.

[Page 580]

U.S. plans provide for detailed actions for such contingencies. These plans, on which you have been briefed, provide for phased actions by U.S. forces. Actions range from deployment from forward areas into the most important strategic areas of Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, to the deployment of major units from the Pacific and CONUS to defeat external aggression by North Vietnam or by Communist China.

As in the past, actions can be taken to signal the Pathet Lao and Hanoi against resorting to military aggression. The actions planned in the event of insurgency in Laos would satisfy the maximum requirement for stabilization. The forces listed in this phase of the plans could equally well be positioned at locations on the Thai side (Ubon and Udorn), as in their planned positions.

An outline of the forces readily available is provided in the enclosure. If more detailed proposals are desired, we should prepare a memorandum for the Chairman, seeking additional JCS views.

A review of fairly recent actions of a “signal” nature may assist in visualizing an outline of possible moves. In 1962, an Infantry Battle Group (minus) (now referred to as a “Brigade Task Force”) of some 2,000 men was engaged in training exercises in Thailand following exercise “Air Cobra.” On the fall of Nam Tha, Laos, these units were left in Thailand and additional forces were moved in. The additional forces included a Tactical Fighter Squadron of four F–100ʼs for an operational visit, a Marine Air Wing, the offloading of the Amphibious Ready Group in Bangkok and airlifting them to Odorn, and elements of the Ninth Logistic Command. About 6,400 personnel were involved. These forces remained in Thailand until the Laos situation had been normalized sufficiently to warrant their withdrawal. It should be particularly noted that a delay of about one full week was experienced in obtaining Thai agreement for these forces to go in.

In 1963, consideration was given to an early movement into Thailand of those forces earmarked for SEATO exercise “DHANARAJATA”. The forces under consideration were an Infantry Battle Group, an Airborne Battle Group, one Tactical Fighter Squadron, a reconnaissance squadron and supporting logistic elements, totalling about 5,000 men. Although reluctant to agree, Dawee conceded to their coming in about ten days early and remaining for two or three weeks after the exercise, provided a big show was not made of it. His reluctance was attributed to the known resistance of Thanom and Thanat to U.S. forces there. Movement of the forces commenced two weeks early and major units were in place by the starting date of the exercise.

Upon the conclusion of the exercise, 1700 troops including an Infantry Battle Group with artillery and engineer units remained for three weeks as a show of force, participating in three route reconnaissance marches in the vicinity of the Laos border. There were no incidents.

[Page 581]

In early 1963 a joint US/Thai amphibious exercise “Jungle Drum” was conducted in the Sattahip area.

As a matter of interest and possible use in planning, time and cost estimates for the movement of a Battle Group from Hawaii to Thailand, worked up in 1963 were as follows:

  • Air (MATS), 23 sorties by C–135 aircraft—6 days. Using 12 C–135 aircraft, the move could be made in three days at a cost of $622,135.
  • Sea (MSTS), 13 to 15 days from availability of shipping in Hawaii—$448,000. The latter figure includes an estimate of costs for diversion of other cargo.

In light of the history of prior actions of a similar nature, it would appear that this tactic has been used too many times in the past to be of further effectiveness. In this regard, we are inclined to agree with the Ambassador that a deployment into Thailand merely as a show of force without an operation convincingly designed to halt the Communists would be of doubtful effect. Informal liaison indicates that the JCS may also consider such movement to be of little value without a specific further objective. There is no question but that deployment of forces into Thailand would shorten reaction times.

F.J. Blouin 5
Rear Admiral, USN
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 A 4023, 320.2 Thailand. Top Secret. Drafted by P.R. Knaur of DOD/ISA. Copies sent to Harriman, McGeorge Bundy, and William Bundy.
  2. In this memorandum, which was attached, Forrestal recalled that, “Roger [Hilsman] tried to reactivate plans for moving some forces into Thailand on the west bank of the Mekong just before he left.” Forrestal suggested that, “in view of the extreme difficulty of getting a consensus in this town on any response to flare-ups in Laos, it would be prudent to start organizing now.”
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Solbert signed the original.
  4. Drafted by Captain J.B. Drachnik of OASD/ISA/FER on May 13. Enclosed but not printed was a list of “Forces Readily Available.”
  5. Printed from a copy that indicates Blouin signed the original.