186. Telegram From the Embassy in Laos to the Department of State1

1899. On eve Souvanna’s departure for brief vacation in Thailand, I had fairly detailed discussion with him re future of our bombing program in Laos. I told him that our military men felt that great deal of dam [Page 370] age could be done to PL/VC if we could make systematic attacks against their depots and storage areas. I then gave him a map which we have worked up locally showing our estimate of depot locations throughout PL/VC territory.

Souvanna, said that, in principle, he was agreed to program of destroying logistics depots and wished to push ahead with planning for such action. Problem, as he saw it, was fact that PL/VC very often used civilian population centers as their principal warehouse areas, deliberately seeking the protection of innocent villagers as a deterrent against air raids. He said that he and members of General Staff had discussed this specific problem in meeting they held day before yesterday with RLAF General Ma at Savannakhet. They were examining ways of flushing out civilians before action began.

However, if we could (by infra-red or other means) spot areas which were clearly military concentration points away from civilian population centers, he would be willing see them subjected to systematic strikes. He asked that I have my people discuss these matters in detail with General Ma and General Staff. He would instruct his people accordingly.

I then turned to our evaluation of probable heavy use of river transportation by enemy on Nam Hou and Se Kong Rivers, and asked his views re strikes against waterborne traffic. He said it was impossible from the air to distinguish between a native boat and a PL/VC boat. In fact, most boats used by PL/VC were merely local native boats dragooned into service. He therefore could not authorize strikes against river craft. He asked that we stick to land traffic portaging goods up to river embarkation points.

We will follow up on this conversation in military channels locally. Would welcome comments or suggestions from addressees.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 LAOS. Top Secret; Limdis. Repeated to Bangkok, Saigon, CINCPAC, and JCS.