288. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp)1

MAC 4866. Ref: AmEmb Vientiane msg to SecState, DTG 151245Z May 67.2

The reference was read with mixed emotions. The fact that Souvanna Phouma has accepted readily the idea of an anti-infiltration system [Page 579] in Laos is extremely gratifying. Moreover, the manner in which his approval was given, as described in the reference, leads me to believe that Souvanna would be amenable to further excursions on the part of the U.S. to operate in Laos against the NVA.
Ambassador Sullivan’s statement that he does not intend to approach Souvanna on the subject of Prairie Fire operating in connection with the air supported anti-infiltration system is disappointing to me. I have always considered Prairie Fire support of Practice Nine absolutely necessary if the program is to succeed, and recommend that Souvanna be informed of the use of ground teams in the area as soon as possible. Additionally, I believe that Phase III of Prairie Fire should be surfaced with Souvanna at this time and presented as a necessary adjunct to the anti-infiltration system, and as a logical extension of present Prairie Fire operations.
[3 lines of source text not declassified] He refers to this as a “contingency plan” whereas it is an elemental facet of Practice Nine. During a period of five months of the year, November thru March, the launching of Prairie Fire teams into the Practice Nine area from RVN will be severely limited due to the influence of the northeast monsoons. The use of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] during that period is essential if the anti-infiltration system is to be supported adequately by Prairie Fire operations.
Even though no single program is the panacea to the NVA infiltration problem, the combination of the Practice Nine program in Laos, Phase III Prairie Fire, and programmed increases in current Prairie Fire operations would seriously degrade the NVA capability to move troops and supplies through Laos.
I believe that an excellent opportunity still exists to present the entire program to Souvanna if it is tied properly to his current interest. I strongly recommend that actions be taken by SecState to implement this approach as soon as possible.
  1. Source: Center of Military History, Westmoreland Papers, Message Files, COMUSMACV, 1 Apr-30 June 1967. Top Secret; Limited Distribution. Repeated to Wheeler.
  2. In telegram 7071 from Vientiane, May 15, Sullivan reported that he briefed Souvanna on Practice Nine, an air delivered anti-vehicle and anti-personnel system (later known as Illinois City and then Dye Marker). Souvanna knew about and was receptive to the idea. Sullivan also reported that he did not discuss, nor did he intend to raise, the issue of Prairie Fire forces’ role in Practice Nine. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Cables, Vol. XVII, 2/67–12/67)