87. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to Secretary of Defense Laird 1

CM–4654–69
  • SUBJECT
    • Movement of Carrier Task Force on Yankee Station Into Gulf of Tonkin in Connection With Test of Increased Readiness Posture (S)
(1)
(U) The attached proposed memorandum to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs provides the recommended response to his request2 for comments on subject.
2.
(U) Recommend a response substantially the same as the attached be forwarded.
Earle G. Wheeler
[Page 289]

Attachment

Draft Memorandum to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)3

  • SUBJECT
    • Movement of Carrier Task Force from Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin In Connection With Test of Increased Readiness Posture (S)
1.
(TS) Reference is made to your verbal request pertaining to the movement of the Carrier Task Force farther north in the Tonkin Gulf in connection with tests of increased readiness posture.
2.
(C) At the present time the USS Oriskany and the USS Hancock are operating approximately 70 nautical miles southwest of Hainan Island in support of combat operations in Southeast Asia. Current operating stations are shown on the attached map.4
3.
(TS) In March 1969, elements of Task Force 77 were directed to move farther north in the Gulf of Tonkin as an “indicator action” against North Vietnam. The forces in Task Force 77 which moved farther north consisted of the search and rescue (SAR) destroyers, and positive identification radar advisory zone (PIRAZ) ships. These units were ordered to proceed to the northern stations, remain for a short period, and repeat at frequent but irregular intervals. There was no unusual or significant reaction by North Vietnam which could be interpreted as having been in response to the northward positioning of Task Force 77 units.
4.
(TS) It is recommended that Task Force 77 not be redeployed farther north in the Gulf of Tonkin for the following reasons:
a.
Loss of tactical capability in support of combat operations in Southeast Asia due to the reduction of ordnance carried and/or time on target, necessitated by the increase in distance to the targets in Laos and South Vietnam hence increase in aircraft fuel required.
b.
The northern redeployment would not be to our tactical advantage in the support of manned reconnaissance flights in the Pan-handle of North Vietnam.
c.
In the event it becomes necessary to launch CVA air strikes against North Vietnam, this can be done from current CVA locations. After initial strikes are launched the carriers could move north to optimum launch positions. Thus North Vietnam would not be alerted by carrier movements prior to first launch.
d.
Though the redeployment would be evident to the enemy, it is unlikely that a significant response would be forthcoming.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Records of the Chairman, General Wheeler, Box 111, 381, World-Wide Increased Readiness Posture (Oct. 69). Top Secret.
  2. No other record of Kissinger’s request was found.
  3. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. Nels C. Johnson, Director, Joint Staff, JCS sent it to Wheeler for his consideration under a covering memorandum dated October 20. (National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Records of the Chairman, General Wheeler, Box 111, 381, World-Wide Increased Readiness Posture (Oct. 1969)) There is no indication that it was sent to Kissinger.
  4. A map of Southeast Asia is attached, but not printed.