174. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Laos1

809. Ref: JCS 7484.2 In connection with intensification of air operations pursuant to para 9 of ref, separate program of US air operations in Panhandle against routes and targets associated with infiltration through Laos into SVN under active consideration here.3 Nickname for new program would be Steel Tiger. Other US air operation in northern [Page 353] Laos, except for Trojan Horse and Yankee Team, will continue to be conducted under Barrel Roll program.

It is envisaged that Steel Tiger operations (which would begin April 3) would be carried on at considerably greater intensity than present operations in Panhandle. Separate JCS message will define program more precisely,4 but broadly speaking it would be theoretically possible to have in any 24-hour period a re-seeding mission, one or more route recce missions, plus a special strike mission. Procedure for coordinating these missions with you would remain as at present. Present boundary between US and RLAF operations in Panhandle would not be affected.

New Barrel Roll program (also to commence April 3) would be solely responsive to RLG requirements as defined by you. Thus, for example, choke point/re-seeding program in Sam Neua province and on Route 7 could be stepped up or slowed down as you and RLG consider desirable. Although Steel Tiger will have first call on US assets, Department understands latter not expected to be limiting factor on any foreseeable Barrel Roll program.

This new arrangement is designed primarily to meet requirements laid down by high authority here to make maximum effort shut off infiltration into SVN through Laos. At same time it gives due recognition to fact that RLG has primary interest in other Barrel Roll missions.

Request your views soonest, after such consultation as you consider necessary with Souvanna.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Priority; Limdis. Drafted by Trueheart, cleared in substance with Hamilton of OSD/ISA, and approved by Unger. Repeated to Saigon, Bangkok, and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Not found.
  3. In a March 16 briefing memorandum from McGeorge Bundy to the President, for a luncheon meeting later that day, Bundy informed Johnson that “State and DOD are coordinating closely on a program which is intended to be more effective and more visible (at least to Hanoi). This program will imply daily route reconnaissance and 3 or 4 operations for attacking or reseeding choke points each week.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. XXXI, Memos) This extension of Barrel Roll operations was just one of four military actions (the other three related solely to South Vietnam) under consideration. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. II, pp. 446449. The President met with McNamara, Rusk, and McGeorge Bundy from 1:34 to 3 p.m. on March 16. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) No other record of this meeting has been found.
  4. Apparent reference to JCS 9314, April 17, guidance for planning for Barrel Roll/Steel Tiger. (Department of Defense, OSD Historical Office, Secretary of Defense’s Cable File, Laos, Apr-Dec, 1965)