4. Memorandum for the Record1

SUBJECT

  • Meeting on Proposed Action Paper for Laos

PARTICIPANTS

  • Assistant Secretary Hilsman, Mr. Green, Mr. Neubert, Mr. Barbis, Mr. Hannah—State
  • Mr. Solbert, Colonel McCrea, Colonel Jackson, General Clay—Defense
  • Mr. Forrestal—White House
  • Mr. MyersCIA

Summary

It was agreed to revamp the objectives of the State Department draft2 on what the movement of U.S. forces to northeast Thailand was [Page 9]expected to accomplish so that the JCS could decide what was required. This new paper, attached also contains recommended action inside Laos for CIA action.

1.
Mr. Solbert opened the discussion by saying that he was confused by the State Department paper and wanted to know from Secretary Hilsman what he really wanted to do in Laos. Secretary Hilsman said that there were several objectives: (a) cause the Communists to pause in their aggressive actions; (b) worry them more about North Vietnam. There was no intention of moving U.S. forces into Thailand to actually get them involved in the Mekong valley. The move was a political one for the purposes of being a deterrent and to increase American capability in South- east Asia at a time when the U.S. was thinking about more strenuous action in North Vietnam.
2.
This type of response did not satisfy the DOD representatives. General Clay was insistent that these were only words and there was no credibility left in the idea of deploying military forces to Thailand. Further, if such forces were deployed they were of no use in Thakhek. Secretary Hilsman and Marshall Green both tried in vain to explain to General Clay the political advantages of such deployment as a move against the Communists and in favor of the Thais. It was also suggested that U.S. forces in Thailand might have a very positive effect on Sihanouk. General Clay still thought this would accomplish nothing in Laos. Mr. Myers mentioned that the arrival of the U.S. forces in Thailand as a political gesture combined with the actions to be taken inside Laos could have some effect. They would strengthen Laotian forces in being so that the nibbling tactics of the Communists might be stopped and so that a more positive political program might get under way inside Laos to serve as a motivating force for the Lao Army as well as for the population at large.
3.
Mr. Forrestal agreed with this point but felt that the military complaint about the actual objective of the U.S. military role had to be clarified so that the JCS could make a determination of what steps could be taken. Secretary Hilsman mumbled something about we would at least buy some time. General Clay accepted this as an improvement in clarifying the objective; that it was only to bide time and not to do anything serious. Hilsman went on to explain that he was concerned about how we did these moves, because they should add to our general capability in Southeast Asia and make it possible to initiate measures in North Vietnam. He feared, however, that if we began to carry out attacks in North Vietnam prior to some victories in the Delta, that the North Vietnam program would come under Congressional attack by Senator Mansfield and others and that there would be an up-surge in Congressional support for the DeGaulle position for Vietnam. Mr. Hilsman explained, apropos of nothing, that he was much more in favor of doing more about North Vietnam, contrary to what some people may think. (He was obviously referring [Page 10]to the Stewart Alsop column in the Saturday Evening Post, which said Hilsman did not favor attacks on North Vietnam, to prove that he was really a red-blooded fellow.)
4.
There was some general thrashing around over the business of what guise would be required to withdraw U.S. forces from Thailand once they were there. Nothing of any importance was decided. It was now almost 11:00 a.m. and it was agreed that the next step was to revise the State paper which should be done in the afternoon. The DOD representatives, Mr. Green, Mr. Neubert and Mr. Myers went to Mr. Green’s office for a few minutes to get into some more of the specifics of the changes in the draft. Before anything was said, however, Mr. Hilsman burst in the room, emphasizing again his interest in North Vietnam operations, and said that since the situation was changed, his view had also changed. “If the Communists lunge, we hit them in North Vietnam.” With a cheery goodbye he left the room.
5.
The conference in Mr. Green’s office went nowhere as the General and two Colonels made loud noises about the value of the old July 1963 Phase I, II, and III plan for Laos,3 which they thought was more of the point and which gave the military more room. This discussion was adjourned around 12:15 p.m. and Mr. Neubert and Mr. Myers carried on the conversation for a few more minutes. It was agreed that the part of the paper that had to be approved by JCS should merely outline the military action and that the part inside Laos, which would essentially have to be carried out through CIA operations and defended hamlets, should not get mixed up in what the JCS had to approve. Mr. Neubert was in agreement with this point. It was agreed that others would begin drafting the paper at 1:30 and Mr. Blaufarb arrived to participate in the afternoon drafting session.
6.
The new draft,4 attached, is an improvement, except that it leaves aside the question of Lao village security, which FE will raise at the 24 February meeting.5
WE Colby

Chief, Far East Division
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80–B01285A, Vietnam, 01 Feb-27 Feb, 1964. Secret. Drafted by Colby, who apparently also attended the meeting.
  2. Reference is to a previous draft of attachment 1 to Document 6.
  3. For the plan as described to the President, July 29, 1963, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XXIV, pp. 10331040.
  4. Apparent reference to attachment 1 to Document 6.
  5. Not further identified.