22. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara 1



  • Alternative US Courses of Action in Korea Under Certain Contingencies (U)
In view of the possibility of a coup d’etat in the Republic of Korea (ROK) and its impact on the operational control of the Korean Armed Forces exercised by the United States through the Commander in Chief, United Nations Command (CINCUNC), the Joint Chiefs of Staff have given consideration to appropriate courses of action available to CINCUNC.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the success of a coup may well be determined in the course of a few hours and that decisions as to the release of ROK troops and the nature of US involvement may have to be made by CINCUNC on short notice. CINCUNC should be provided appropriate guidance concerning approved courses of action available to him.
After considering the factors affecting the stability of the ROK Government and the nature of US involvement discussed in Appendix B hereto,2 the Joint Chiefs of Staff have concluded that:
An attempted coup d’etat in the ROK is possible. The most likely source of successful action to unseat the present regime is the military.
A successful procommunist coup is unlikely due to the presence of strong United Nations and South Korean Armed Forces, effective internal security, and the anticommunist orientation of the people.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that:
The following alternative courses of action be approved and coordinated with the Secretary of State: [Page 48]
The US forces remain neutral in any power struggle by noncommunist factions, strive to avoid bloodshed, and maintain responsiveness within the ROK Armed Forces to the United Nations Command.
Through the Military Assistance Program, continue current US support for pro-Western ROK Armed Forces and Government. Through the country team, support the Ambassador, as appropriate, to accelerate social and economic reforms and to eliminate corruption and illegal measures.
In the event of a coup or uprising instigated by communist or other anti-US elements, the United States support the recognized government and/or those elements of the ROK Armed Forces who are unquestionably pro-US.
In the event that the recognized government of the ROK requests release of ROK troops to suppress a coup or uprising, CINCUNC should comply provided it does not, in his judgment, unduly weaken his over-all military posture in Korea.
On the other hand, should anti-Government leaders, even though pro-US and anticommunist, request release of ROK troops from CINCUNC control to aid in the overthrow of the ROK Government, the proposal will be referred to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
If necessary, CINCUNC as COMUS, Korea, in concert with the country team, should temporarily suspend POL and other items of the Military Assistance Program as the situation warrants.
In carrying out any of the above courses of action, US support must not include the involvement of US military action without prior approval of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, except as authorized by CINCPAC OPLAN 85–63 which has been approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.3
Approved US military action in support of US unilateral policy should be carried out under COMUS, Korea.
A memorandum substantially as contained in Appendix A hereto be forwarded to the Secretary of State.4
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Earle G. Wheeler 5

Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD/OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 A 4023, 381 Korea. Top Secret.
  2. Appendix B, “Korean Coup Analysis,” discussed the widespread social discontent and political dissent pervading Korea stemming from economic adversity and political instability. A particular threat to the ROK Government noted in the analysis was Pak’s continued support of Kim Chong-il, whose return from exile had the potential to “divide the military leaders and seriously jeopardize the stability of the regime.”
  3. Appendix B explains that “CINCPAC OPLAN No. 85–63 provides for US military operations under COMUS, Korea, as a last resort, in concert with ROK forces to prevent seizure of the ROK Government in the event a coup were to be instigated by communists.”
  4. Appendix A, “Alternative U.S. Courses of Action in Korea Under Certain Contingencies,” attached but not printed. William Bundy, who received a copy for review and comment, raised two objections to JCS recommendations 5 and 6 of this memorandum. Bundy believed CINCUNC and the Ambassador should retain authority to release ROK troops without channeling the request through the JCS, and he noted that, since Korea had its own refinery, a suspension of POL would be ineffective as a means to exert pressure on the ROK Government in the event of a crisis. (Letter from Bundy to Solbert, November 20; Washington National Records Center, RG 330,OSD/OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 A 4023, 381 Korea) McNamara, the Department of State, and the Embassy in Seoul approved the proposal with slight modifications on July 1, 1965. (Memorandum from McNamara to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 1, 1965; ibid.: FRC 70 A 5127, 381 Korea)
  5. Printed from a copy that indicates Wheeler signed the original.