7. Paper Prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

Analysis of Courses of Action

The following courses of action must be analyzed in the light of the issues involved and our objectives in this incident2 in order to select that course of action best supporting issues and objectives. With these criteria, possible courses of action are set forth in an order of desirability in the attached spread sheet.3 This order is based on precedents established in the Pueblo incident,4 and would have to be adjusted if a more positive approach is desired for this incident.
Two fundamental issues are the basics at stake in this incident; the principle of freedom of international air space and the right to gain redress of the wrong against a US aircraft and its crew. These are further influenced by the results to date in the Pueblo incident and current activities in the DMZ, particularly with regard to MDL markers.
Our objectives in any action taken as a result of this incident are:
To receive appropriate redress for the illegal destruction of the aircraft and probable death of the crew.
To react to the extent required to prevent further incidents such as the Pueblo seizure, MDL marker repair incidents and this aircraft destruction.
Within limitations imposed by accomplishment of objectives a and b, above, to prevent escalation of this incident into a larger conflict.
To cause minimum disruption on other military operations worldwide.
US Forces are in a position at the present time to implement courses of action 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7.5 Courses of action 4, 5, 8, and 106 would require repositioning of forces and would probably involve withdrawing some naval forces from the SEA area. These latter courses of action would require a period of time for movement of forces and detailed planning. A combination of courses 1, 2, 3, and 7 could be implemented now and would be considered an appropriate initial response.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 436, Korea:EC–121 Shootdown, North Korean Shootdown of US Reconnaissance Aircraft 4/19/69. Top Secret. Attached as Tab B to an April 15 memorandum from Pursley to Kissinger. Pursley’s memorandum listed four questions that Haig asked the Office of the Secretary of Defense to consider regarding the shootdown of the U.S. aircraft: “1) what options do we have for ‘retaliation’?; 2) what measures can and/or should be taken to prevent the North Koreans from picking up the survivors?; 3) how quickly could we execute an escorted reconnaisance flight like the one that is now missing?; 4) what North Korean assets are available worldwide against which we could take some retaliation?” (Ibid.)
  2. At approximately 0447Z on April 14, a North Korean aircraft shot down a U.S. Navy EC–121 of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One over the Sea of Japan. The North Koreans claimed that the U.S. plane had violated its air space, had attempted to escape, and was then shot down approximately 80 miles at sea.
  3. The attached spread sheet with advantages and disadvantages of each course of action is not printed.
  4. The USS Pueblo was a U.S. Navy vessel sent on an intelligence mission off the coast of North Korea. On January 23, 1968, North Korean naval vessels and MiG jets attacked it, killing one man and wounding several. The surviving crew were captured and held prisoner for 11 months. Although considered, no military action or reprisals were taken by the United States against North Korea. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXIX, part 1, Korea, Documents 212331.
  5. These courses of action were: diplomatic demands for appropriate redress; conducting high altitude/high speed reconnaissance operations over North Korea; conducting escorted reconnaissance flights in same area with same type of reconnaissance aircraft; requesting the Soviets to make representations to the North Koreans; and destroying North Korean aircraft off the coast of North Korea.
  6. These courses of action were: a show of force; feints against North Korean air defenses; selective air strikes; and blockade of North Korean ports.