289. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State 1

8690. Subject: Measures to Obtain Release of the Mayaguez. Ref: Bangkok 8684.2

As the Department is aware, I had absolutely no advance word that military action was to be taken by U.S. aircraft based in Thailand to obtain the release of the Mayaguez. At 1730 hours Bangkok time an information copy of a JCS message addressed to our Defense Attaché (131017Z May 75)3 first revealed to me that something was going on. By tracking back, I have now learned that U.S. aircraft were launched from bases in Thailand at about 1330 hours Bangkok time. This is an hour and a half before I met the Prime Minister at his request to discuss this matter.
I cannot stress too strongly the damage to U.S.–Thai interests which is likely to result from this unilateral action. Had I known what was contemplated I could have taken steps to contain the damage. When the Thai learn that U.S. aircraft had already been launched before I saw the Prime Minister and, of course, made no mention of it, they will assume that this is a deliberate, heavy-handed U.S. effort to cut them out, not that it results from an unbelievable lack of coordination and foresight in failing to keep me informed.
I have just told Prime Minister Khukrit by telephone that a number of aircraft have been launched from Thai bases to keep the Mayaguez under surveillance. I have told him, and I hope I am correct, that no ordnance has been expended. The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for this information (my guess would be he already knew something was afoot because of activity at the bases). The Prime Minister urged that we keep absolutely silent about any involvement of Thai bases in this operation. If we can do so, he believes we may get by, otherwise he anticipates a great deal of trouble from political parties, students and others. The way Khukrit has played this, he is in the clear. He has publicly announced that he told us not to use Thai bases. We are the ones on the hot seat.
I understand further moves are contemplated involving the arrival at U-Tapao tonight of a battalion of Marines and their movement into action tomorrow morning. This will involve Thailand even more directly in the confrontation between the U.S. and the Cambodians. And, of course, this again is not being coordinated with the RTG. It is, of course, up to the policymakers in Washington to decide on our response to this act of piracy, but I must point out that these further steps are likely to be very costly for U.S.–Thai relations at a time when the Thai are already moving rapidly to reassess their foreign policy. I trust we have factored these costs into our decision making.
May I know what is going on?4
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC East Asian and Pacific Affairs Staff Files, Box 29, Department of State, Telegrams and Cables (1). Secret; Nodis; Flash.
  2. Document 288.
  3. Not found.
  4. Telegram 110792 to Bangkok, May 13, instructed Masters: “Regret fast moving situation here has made it impossible to keep you fully informed as we would otherwise intend. Matters you raise are currently under discussion and we hope to have word for you soon. Meantime, please do not, repeat not, raise this matter further with Thais.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC East Asian and Pacific Affairs Staff Files, Box 29, Department of State, Telegrams and Cables, 1)