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

207815. Subject: MSQ-77. For Ambassador from Kohler.

We have carefully reviewed JCS request for MSQ-77 installation at Phu Thi (Site 85),2 in light your judgment of political risks and liabilities for us and Souvanna, expressed in previous correspondence and during your consultations, and of renewed DOD affirmation of need and [Page 582] urgency to achieve maximum effectiveness in air operations over North Vietnam.
Unless you perceive new factors not previously taken into account, I would like you to discuss this matter with Souvanna at earliest time you judge opportune. To minimize possibility of damage to our essential relationship with him, you should present proposal as an idea we are considering—with view to obtaining his acquiescence but short of making direct request for authority. You should note that basic function of this installation—like others on SEA mainland—would be precise navigational control of aircraft; that MSQ-77 is a quantum jump beyond TACAN facilities already emplaced within Laos; and that USAF has necessary equipment and personnel for immediate installation. Such a facility may have appeal to Souvanna with respect to US operations in Laos (though we are aware that you believe tactical changes would in fact be minimal at least initially). You will, of course, have to acknowledge capability of system to direct air strikes against North Vietnam. In other words, you should avoid both exclusive concentration on offensive use against North Vietnam of ground installation in Laos and dissimulation that would jeopardize our relationship of candor and trust in event we decide to approve emplacement and installation should ultimately be exposed.3
If Souvanna does not object and you can now agree to positioning of MSQ-77 at Site 85, you may wish to provide your judgment as to whether USAF personnel need be under shallow cover and on any necessary restriction on pattern of crew rotation by helo.
I plan to review this proposal with the Secretary on basis of your report.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 15 LAOS–US. Top Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Hamilton; cleared by Aldrich, Habib, and Steadman; and approved by Kohler. Repeated to JCS, CINCPAC, and COMUSMACV.
  2. As reported in telegram 194052 to Vientiane, May 13. (Ibid., POL 27 LAOS)
  3. In telegram 7712 from Vientiane, June 14, Sullivan reported he had discussed hypothetically the question of MSQ-77 with Souvanna the morning of June 14. Souvanna’s reaction was “cautious, but generally positive.” If the unit were to be installed, Souvanna suggested that it must be done without his knowledge. Technicians servicing the site would have to be civilians or military personnel with civilian documentation. The site would need to be camouflaged both physically and electronically, and would need demolition units attached for emergency use. (Ibid., DEF 15 LAOS–US)