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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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IV.C Evolution of the War (26 Vols.) 
Direct Action: The Johnson Commitments, 1964-1968 

(16 Vols.) 

2. Military Pressures Against NVN (3 Vols.) 

b. July - October 1964 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 









Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 

TV. fl. 2. (h) 



Military Pressures A g ainst Eorth Vietna m 

July - October 196^ 


Sec Def Cunt ttr. 2r~ 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 





Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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During the spring and summer of ±96h, there was disquiet about 
the situation in South Vietnam and disillusion with on-going U.S. actions 
to right that situation. During the third quarter of 196k, a consensus 
developed within the Johnson Administration that some form of continual 
overt pressures mounting in severity against North Vietnam soon would be 
required. The purpose of these pressures was twofold: (l) to effect DRV 
will and capabilities in order to persuade and force the leadership in 
Hanoi to halt their support and direction of the war in the South; and 
(2) to induce negotiations at some future point in time on our terms after 
North Vietnam had been hurt and convinced of our resolve. This consensus 
was in an early formative stage -- it had become an idea, not a program 
for action; it was a belief, not as yet fully staffed and considered. 
Because of this and because of important tactical considerations (the 
impending U.S. elections, the instability of the GVN, and the need to 
produce further evidence of VC infiltration into the South) implementation 
of such a policy was deferred. Nevertheless, the groundwork was being 
laid. The Tonkin Gulf reprisal constituted an important firebreak, and 
the Tonkin Gulf Resolution set U.S. public support for virtually any action. 

Since the fall of Diem in November 1963, i^e political situation in 
South Vietnam had been deteriorating. The Khanh Government had succeeded ^ 
Minh in January 1964, but had demonstrated only greater capacity for surviv- 
ability, not more capacity for reversing the trend toward collapse. In 
the wake of the Tonkin Gulf reprisals, when South Vietnamese morale was 
still temporarily inflated, Khanh made a bold bid to consolidate his personal 
power and impose semi-dictatorial rule. He was brought to heel, however, in 
less than a month by the military junta which continued to operate behind 
the scenes. By September, the most salient aspect of the confused political 
situation in South Vietnam was the likelihood that it would continue its 
downward slide into the foreseeable future. 

In this setting, a program of covert military pressures against North 
Vietnam already had been set in process. These were basically of three^ 
kinds: (l) low level recce with armed escort over Laos; (2) De Soto patrols 
within k n.m. of the NVN coast to acquire visual, electronic, and photo- ^ 
graphic intelligence; and (3) Oplan 3^-A which included a variety of anti- 
infiltration, sabotage, and psywar measures. The portent of these actions 
was being conveyed to the North Vietnamese through private and public 
channels. A Canadian, Blair Seaborn, was sent to Hanoi to state that U.S. 
objectives were limited but that our commitment was deep, and that m the 
event of escalation the greatest devastation would of course result for the 
DRW itself." 

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Neither the situation in SVN nor the failure of Hanoi to acquiesce 
to our threats diminished the basic U.S. commitment. NSAM 288 expounding 
. the need to do what was necessary to preserve an "independent non-communist 
South Vietnam" was the guiding policy document. At no time in this period 
was the NSAM 288 commitment brought into question. Rather, American con- 
cern was focused on how the U.S. could retrieve the situation. The usual 
palliatives -- more aid, more advice, more pressure on the GVN to reform, 
and more verbal threats to Hanoi — were no longer seen as satisfactory. 
Nor did it appear to U.S. decision-makers that we faced a stark choice 
between complete U.S. withdrawal from the struggle or a large scale intro- 
duction of U.S. ground forces. Nor did the leadership in Washington believe 
that a massive bombing campaign against the North need be seriously con- 
sidered --'although such a program was proposed by the JCS. With all these 
alternatives implicitly ruled out at this time, the choice was both obvious 
and inevitable. Although it did not take the form of decision, it was agreed 
that the U.S. should at an unspecified. date in the future begin an incre- 
mental series of gradually mounting strikes against North Vietnam. The only 
real questions were precisely what actions should be taken and when? None 
of these early fall discussions in Washington really confronted the hard 
issues of what a bombing campaign would buy and what it would cost. These 
hard-headed discussions, to some extent, took place in the last few months 
of 196^. 

The key events in this period were the Tonkin Gulf incidents of 
August 2nd and 4th and the U.S. reprisal on North Vietnam PT boats and 
bases on August 5th. The explanation for the DRV attack on U.S. ships 
remains puzzling (perhaps it was simply a way of warning and warding off 
U.S. patrols close to North Vietnam borders). The swift U.S. reaction was 
to be expected. While there was some momentary uncertainty about the 
actuality of the second attack on August 4th, confirming evidence of the 
attack was received before the U.S. reprisal was launched. The U.S. reprisal 
represented the carrying out of recommendations made to the President by his 
J principal advisers earlier that summer and subsequently placed on the shelf. 

I The existence of these previous recommendations with planning down to 

i detailed targeting made possible the immediate U.S. reaction when the crisis 

came . 

( At the same time as U.S. reprisals were taken, President Johnson decided 

to act on another recommendation that had been under consideration since at 
1 least May -- a Congressional resolution of support for U.S. policy. Whereas 

| in the earlier discussions, such a resolution had been proposed as a vehicle 

for mobilizing Congressional and public support behind an escalating campaign 
of pressures against the North, the President, in the midst of an election 
campaign, now felt impelled to use it to solidify support for his overall 
Vietnam policy. On August 5th he sent a message to Congress on the Tonkin 
incidents and asked for passage of a joint resolution endorsing his policy. 
The resolution itself was one prepared by the Administration and introduced 
on its- behalf by the Chairmen of the Foreign Affairs Committees in the two 
Houses. It was passed with near unanimous support 'on August 7th. 

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The net effect of the swift U.S. reprisals and the Congressional 
Resolution was to dramatically demonstrate, publicly state and formally 
record the commitments to South Vietnam and within Southeast Asia that had 
been made internal U.S. policy by NSAM 288 in March 1964. They were also 
conceived and intended as a clear communication to Hanoi of what it could 
expect if it continued to pursue its current course of action. They were 
portents of the future designed to demonstrate the firmness of U.S. resolve 
and the direction its policy was tending. The psychological impact of the 
raids on the Administration and the American public is also significant. 
They marked the crossing of an important threshold in the war, and it ^ was 
accomplished with virtually no domestic criticism, indeed, with an evident 
increase in public support for the Administration. The precedent^ for strikes 
against the North was" thus established and at very little apparent cost. 
There was a real cost, however. The number of unused measures short of direct 
military action against the North had been depleted. Greater visible commit- 
ment was purchased at the price of reduced flexibility. 

But, a worried Administration went to some lengths to insure that the 
strikes did not bind or commit it to any future policies or actions and to 
have it understood that the strikes, had been pure and simple reprisals of 
the one of a kind variety. Yet, for all these reasons, when a decision to 
strike the North was faced again, it was much easier to take. 

The Tonkin reprisals were widely regarded within the Administration as 
an effective, although limited demonstration of the firmness of American 
resolve. However, they also served to stiffen that resolve and to deepen 
the commitment. Several officials within the Administration, including ^ 
Ambassador Taylor, felt that to have any lasting impact this demonstration 
of resolve would have to be followed up by other continuing actions, in an^ 
increasing tempo. The positive short-term effect of the -reprisals in raising 
South Vietnamese morale was noted as an important by-product of the strikes 
and offered as one justification for continuing pressures against the North. 
Also figuring importantly in calculations of resolve and intent was the 
appreciable improvement in our position in Laos as a result of the vigorous 
spring offensive by Laotian Government forces . This improvement had led us 
to oppose a l4-nation conference on Laos for fear of placing the new gams 
in jeopardy, and convinced many that only military measures were unambiguously 
understood by Hanoi's communist rulers. This, however, was tempered by a 
countervailing concern not to provoke by U.S. action any communist military 
escalation in Laos. 

Quite another set of arguments for strikes against the North ^ were 
advanced by Walt Eostow, then Counselor of the State Department, in a paper 
that circulated widely through the Administration in August 196k. The 
"Rostow Thesis" argued thai externally supported insurgencies could only 
be successfully dealt with by striking at their sources of support and 
neutralizing them. The objective of such attacks would be psychological 
rather than purely military. They would be designed to alter the aggressor's 
calculation of interests in supporting the insurgency through the fear of 


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further military and economic damage, the fear of involvement in a wider 
conflict, the fear of internal political upheaval and the fear of greater 
dependence on a major communist power. Any incidental improvement in morale 
in the country ' troubled by insurgency or improvement in bargaining leverage 
were to be regarled as bonuses. To achieve the desired effect, a care- 
fully orchestrated series of escalating military measures, coupled with 
simultaneous political, economic and psychological pressures was called for. 
The "thesis" was articulated in general terms, but the immediate case in 
everyone's mind was, of course, Southeast Asia. 

A thorough critique of Rostow ! s paper was prepared in OSD/lSA with 
inputs from State's Policy Planning Council. This analysis argued that 
the validity of the "thesis" would depend on two variables: (l) the extent 
of the commitment of the nation supporting the insurgency; and (2) the 
degree to which vital U.S. interests were at stake in the conflict. The 
latter question having been settled with respect to South Vietnam by 
NSAM 288, the remaining problem was whether the kinds of actions Rostow 
recommended could succeed given the level of determined commitment of the 
North Vietnamese. For the Rostow approach to succeed, the DRV would have 
to be persuaded that: (l) the U.S. was taking limited action to achieve 
limited goals; (2) the U.S. commitment was total; and (3) the U.S. had estab- 
lished a sufficient domestic consensus to see the policy through. If the 
DRV was not so convinced, the approach would fail unless there were a major 
U.S. military involvement in the war. The critique concluded that the 
public opinion problems of such- an approach, both domestic and international, 
would be very great, and that in view of the inherent problems of imple- 
menting and managing such a discriminating policy, it had poor chances of 
success. These reservations notwithstanding, the outlook embodied in the 
"Rostow thesis" came to dominate a good deal of Administration thinking on 
the question of pressures against the North in the months ahead. 

All of the pressures-against-the-North thinking came to a head in 
the strategy meeting of the principals on September 7th. It appears that 
a rather narrow range of proposals was up for consideration. One program 
proposal came from the JCS. It was a repeat of the 9^-target list program 
which the JCS had recommended on August 26th. The JCS called for deliberate 
attempts to provoke the DRV into taking acts which could then be answered 
by a systematic U.S. air campaign. The JCS argued that such actions were 
now essential to preventing complete collapse of the U.S. position in the 
RVN and SEA, r because "continuation of present or foreseeable programs 
limited to the RVN will not produce the desired result." The Chiefs were 
supported by ISA in their provocation approach. For ISA, ASD McNaughton 
argued that our .acts and the DRV response "should be likely to provide 
good grounds for us to escalate if we wished." McNaughton 1 s approach was 
for a "gradual squeeze," not simply a tit-for-tat contingency and unlike 
the quick,, all-out proposals of the JCS. 

The principal conferees at this September meeting did not believe that 
deliberate acts of provocation should be undertaken "In the immediate future 
while the GVN is still struggling to its feet." However, they apparently 
reached a consensus that they might recommend such actions -- "depending on 
GVN progress and communist reaction in the meantime" -- by early October. 


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This deferral decision was strongly supported by Mr. McCone of the CIA. 
and Ambassador Taylor. Ambassador Taylor, revising his previous position, 
believed that the conflict should not be escalated to a level beyond South 
Vietnamese capacities to manage it. He opposed overt actions against 
North Vietnam as too risky and urged instead that further measures to 
strengthen the GVN be taken first. Similarly, Secretary McNamara affirmed 
his understanding that "we are not acting more strongly because there is 
a clear hope of strengthening the GVN." McNamara went on to urge, however, 
that the way be kept open for stronger actions even if the GVN did not 
improve or in the event the war were widened by the communists . In notes 
taken at this meeting the President asked: "Can we really strengthen the 

It is important to differentiate the consensus of the principals at 
this September meeting from the views which they had urged on the President 
in the preceding spring. In the spring the use of force had been clearly 
contingent upon a major reversal -~ principally in Laos -- and had been 
advanced with the apparent assumption that military actions hopefully would 
not be required. Now, however, their views were advanced with a sense that 
such actions were inevitable. 

The results of the September meeting were recorded in HfSAM 31 1 !. The 
actions that were approved against the DRV for the next three month period 
were highly limited and marginal in character. They included resumption 
of the off-shore U.S. naval patrols, resumption of covert GVN coastal opera- 
tions against the North, limited air and ground operations in the Laotian 
corridor, and a preparedness to respond to any further DRV attacks on a 
tit-for-tat basis. 

From the September meeting forward, there was little basic disagreement 
among the principals on the need for military actions against the North. 
What prevented action for the time being was a set of tactical considerations 
The President was in the midst of an election campaign in which he was 
presenting himself as the candidate of reason and restraint as opposed to 
the quixotic Barry Goldwater. Other concerns were the aforementioned shaki- 
ness of the GVN, the uncertainty as to China's response to an escalation, 
the desire not to upset the delicate Laotian equation, the need to design 
whatever actions were taken so as to achieve the maximum public and Con- 
gressional support, and the implicit belief that overt actions at this time 
might bring pressure for premature negotiations—that is, negotiations before 
the DRV was hurting. In summary, the period saw the development of the 
consensus on military pressures against the North and the decision to defer 
them for temporary reasons of tactics. 

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m o 

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July-October 1955 





• Table of Contents end Outline 



The First Incident • o ....... • 

The Second Incident • • • • » . . . o ... • ....<> ..... . 

The Response in Washington ............ o .......... • 

Broadening the Impact ©.•.••©..« 


l^iiGizHivis m Laos .. •«e.o..o.«.c©..«...oo. • •«<»«•«««. 

Concern over Pressures for Negotiations. •© 

Concern over Tonkin Reprisal Signals 

Eeassertion of the Eostovr Thesis •............*•..• 

Accompanying Pause in Pressures. ©.©..©•••. ....©... 

JNjlAJ. UUU^Ko&S OF ACTION • •©©.©©. ©©....•••.•.•©•°. •.«•••© 

Strategy Meeting in September ..................... 

Implementing Actions ..o ........... 

N \" &l Operations .................. to. ......... 

Actions in L-s,os ............................... 

Negotiating Posture Re Laos ....................... 

Anticipation of "Wider Action. ..................... 

Csnor&l Scheme ...»...o.o...q....»..o. ......... 

Re servati on s ........... »• ....... •©••©•©©••••••• 





















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Differing Agency Policy Views ••••<>• • • o 37 

JCS views . o . . . • o • • e * o o o o ♦ • o o 37 

Saigon Embassy views. . o «<>• ••<• • o..*. 39 

OSD ViWS • 0. o o . . ♦ • o o o ♦ o • o ♦ . o kO 

StatC ViCWS . . . . c * * c . « o . . . . o . o . . o . c « « e . . . . o o . . o . ^1 

CIA views o . • o c la 

FOOtnOtOS ••«««e«oo«eoeooo«oooooo*ooo«ooooo«oooooooo 43 

TAB A - Text of Original Congressional Resolution, 
Co May 196^ 

TAB B « Secretary McNazaara f s Prepared Testimony, 
20 Febr :y 1968 

TAB C - Text of Congressional Resolution, 
7 August 196^ 


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17 Jul 1964 

30 Jul 1964 

31 Jul 1964 

1 Aug 1964 

2 Aug 1964 


DESOTO naval patrols 
off North Vietnam re 

Covert GVE attack on 
North Vietnam 

USS MADDOX resumes 
patrol off North 

British seek meeting 

of three Laotian princes 

China urges USSR not 
to resign Geneva co- 

DRV PT boats attack 


Authority was given to resume the 
DESOTO destroyer patrols off North 
Vietnam. They had been suspended 
since March. 

The night before the USS MADDOX 
is to resume her patrols off the 
North Vietnamese coast, South Viet- 
namese commandos raid two North 
Vietnamese islands. 

After a six month suspension, the 
USS MADDOX resumed the DESOTO patrols 
off the coast of North Vietnam. 

Acting on Souvanna Phouma's request, 
the British government urged the 
ICC members to arrange a meeting 
among the three Laotian political 
factions as represented by the three 
rival princes . 

The Chinese Communists urged the 
USSR not to carry out its threat 
to abandon its co-chairman role in 
the Geneva settlements, apparently- 
viewing such a development as jeo- 
pardizing the possibilities of a 
Geneva settlement of the current 
Laotian crisis. 

Apparently mistaking the MADDOX 
for South Vietnamese, three DRV 
patro?. boats launched a torpedo 
and machine gun attack on her. 
Responding immediately to the at- 
tack, and with the help of air 
support from the nearby ca.rrier 
TIC0NDER0GA, the MADDOX destroyed 


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3 Aug 1964 

U.S. protest through 

DESOTO patrol resumed 

3 Aug 1964 

GVN again attacks 
North Vietnam 

4 Aug 1964 

Second DRV naval attack 
on DESOTO patrol 

Reprisal alerts 

NSC meeting 

one of the attacking boats and 
damaged the other two. The MADDOX, 
under 7th Fleet orders , retired 
to South Vietnamese waters where 
she is joined by the C. TURNER JOY. 

A. stiff U.S. protest of the attack 
on the MADDOX is dispatched to 
Hanoi through the ICC. It warns 
that TT grave consequences" will re- 
sult from any future attacks on 
U.S. forces. 

The JCS approved a CINCPAC request 
to resume the DESOTO patrol at 
1350 hours 5 ordered the C. TURNER 
JOY to be added to it and author- 
ized active defensive measures for 
the destroyers and their support- 
ing aircraft. The President announced 
the action later that day. 

The Rhon River estuary and the 
Vinh Sonh radar installation were 
bombarded under cover of darkness. 

At about 2l40 hours, after several 
hours of shadowing, a second PT 
boat attack on the augmented DESOTO 
task force was launched. This en- 
gagement in the dark lasted about 
three hours and resulted in two 
patrol boats destroyed. 

At 0030 hours (5 Aug 1964 Vietnam 
time), "alert orders" for possi- 
ble reprisal air strikes were given 
to the TICONDEROGA and a second 
carrier, the CONSTELLATION, that 
had been steaming toward the area 
from Hong Kong since Aug 3. 

At 1230, Washington time, the NSC 
convened after a brief meeting 
of the JCS with the President. 
The JCS, McNamara and others recom- 
mended reprisals against the patrol 
craft and their bases. This the 
President approved. 

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2nd NSC meeting 

Congressional briefing 


Aug 196U 

6 Aug 196 k 

7 Aug 1964 

U Thant calls for lu- 
nation conference on 

Presidential message 
to Congress 

Tonkin Gulf Resolu- 
tions discussed in 

Force deployments 

Tonkin Gulf Re-solu- 
tion passes Congress 

After a confusing afternoon in 

which the attacks were double- checked 

and verified , the NSC met again 

at 17°0> confirmed the reprisal 

order, and discussed incremental 

force deployments to the Western 


At 18^5 the President met with 
16 Congressional leaders, briefed 
them on the proposed attacks 
and informed them of his inten- 
tion to ask for a joint Congres- 
sional resolution of support. 
None raised objections. 

In an unrelated development, 
UN Secretary General U Thant 
called for the rescheduling 
of the 1^- nation conference 
to deal with the Laotian situa- 

In a formal message to both 
houses of Congress, the Presi- 
dent requested passage of a 
joint resolution of support 
for U.S. policy in Southeast 
Asia. Concurrently, identical 
draft resolutions prepared by 
the executive branch were intro- 
duced in the Senate by Senator 
Eulbright, and in the House, 
by Representative Morgan. 

Both houses heard top Adminis- 
tration officials, including 
Secretary McNamara, testify 
in behalf of the pending reso- 
lutions . 

The additional forces deploy- 
ments, particularly air forces, 
begin to move to the theatre. 

'O - 

The Tonkin Gulf resolution 
was passed in both houses by 
near unanimous vote . 


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9 Aug 1964 

10 Aug 1964 

11 Aug 1964 


Khanh proclaims himself 

State message 136, 
Rusk to Vientiane 
and others 

Embassy Saigon message 
363 , Taylor to Rusk 

U.S. message to Hanoi 
through Canadian ICC 

William Bundy memo to 
SecDef, "Next Courses 
of Action in Southeast 


Declaring a state of emergency, 
General Khanh proclaimed him- 
self President of South Viet- 
nam a, id claims virtual dicta- 
torial powers . 

Concern over not provoking a 
communist military escalation 
in Laos, particularly in view 
of the Tonkin Gulf reprisals, 
prompted State to defer tempo- 
rarily approval of air and 
ground initiatives in the 
Laotian panhandle . 

Taylor opposes a l4-nation 
Geneva Conference as likely 
to undermine the little stability 
the fragile GVN still has. 
He further states that the 
reprisals, while effective in 
the short run, do not deal with 
the continuing problem of DRV 
infiltration which must be 
confronted. He felt there 
was need for follow-up action 
to demonstrate to the DRV that 
the rules of the game had 

Through the Canadian representa- 
tive on the ICC, the U.S. com- 
municated its uncertainty about 
DRV motives in the Aug k Tonkin- 
Gulf raids, that additional 
.air power deployed to SKA was 
precautionary, that U.S. offi- 
cial and public patience was 
wearing thin, that the Congres- 
sional resolution demonstrated 
U.S. determination in SEA, 
and that if the DRV pursued its 
present course, it could expect 
to suffer the consequences. 

Assistant Secretary of State 
Bundy felt that only a continu- 
ous combination of military 
pressure and communication 


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Ik Aug 1964 

15 Aug 1964 

16 Aug 196U 

17 Aug 196U 

CJCS memo to SecDef , 
"Next Courses of Action 
in Southeast Asia" 

State message 439 
to Vientiane , Saigon, 
CINCPAC, "Southeast Asia, 
August 1964" 

JCS message 7947 to 
CINCPAC, "Rules of 

COMUSMACV message to 
CINCPAC, "Cross- 
Border Operations" 

CINCPAC message to JCS, 
"Next Courses of Action 
in Southeast Asia" 

would convince Hanoi that they 
were facing a determined foe 
and that they should get out 
of South Vietnam and Laos . 

Positive assessment of the 
impact of the reprisal actions 
was given and a continuation 
of strikes against the North 
was recommended. 

In opposing "both a new 14- 
nation Geneva, Conference on 
Southeast Asia, and U.S. air 
operations against the North, 
State stressed the shakiness 
of the GVN and the need to 
shore it up internally "before 
any such actions were started. 
For planning purposes, the 
message suggested that Ambassa- 
dor Taylor T s suggested date 
of January 1, 19&5 9 ^ e used 
for any sustained U.S. air 
campaign against the North. 

U.S. forces were authorized 
to attack any vessels or air- 
craft that attack or give 
positive indication of intent 
to attack, and to pursue such 
attackers into territorial 
waters or air space of all 
Southeast Asian countries, 
including North Vietnam. 

MACV requested authority to 
begin the Phase I of the covert 
cross-border operations into 
Laos and North Vietnam. 

The positive impact of the 
reprisals on South Vietnamese 
morale is noted , and a strong 
argument made for continuing 
actions against the North to 
make clear to Hanoi and Peking 
the cost of their aggression. 

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k8 Aug 1964 

Embassy Saigon message 

21 Aug 1964 

Henry Rowen memo to 
JCS, et al, TI The 
Rostow Thesis" 

26 Aug 1964 JCSM-746-64 

The momentum of the Aug 5 
raids must not be lost or the 
benefits of the initial attacks 
will disappear. 

Taylor reiterates his belief 
that the reprisals must be 
followed up with other actions 
against the North. 

Initially presented in Dec 1963> 
the "Rostow Thesis" was recir- 
culated within the Administra- 
tion in mid-August. Its funda- 
mental argument was that military 
pressure against the external 
sources of an insurgency would 
bring the aggressor to an appre- 
ciation of the costs of his 
interference and he would reduce 
or eliminate his support for 
the insurgents. The exercise 
was primarily psychological > 
not necessarily strategic. 
The measures should greatly 
increase his uncertainty about 
the consequences of continued 
support of the insurgency. 
Rowen 1 s critique raised serious 
questions about the general 
validity of the thesis 5 point- 
ing out the requirement for solid 
public and political support 
for such actions 5 and doubting 
that anywhere but in Southeast 
Asia U.S. interests were so 
critically at stake. Even in 
that area 5 it doubted the effec- 
tiveness of the proposal. 

In response to State's Aug 14 
analysis, the J.CS. proposed a 
continuous and escalating air 
campaign against the North 
designed to both the physical 
resources and the psychological 
will to support the insurgency 
in the South. It called for 


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27 Aug 1964 

31 Aug I96U 

3 Sep 196 k 

7 Sep 1964 

Three Laotian Princes 

CINCPAC message to JCS, 
"immediate Actions to 
be taken in South 

McNaughton paper , "Plan 
of Action for South 

Khanh reverts to 

JCS Talking Paper for 
CJCS, "Next Courses of 
Action for RVN" 

White House strategy- 
meeting; decisions in 
William Bundy memo to 
SecDef , et al, "Courses 
of Action for South 
Vietnam," 8 Sep 196^ 

deliberate attempts to provoke 
the DRV into actions which 
could then be answered by 
a systematic air campaign. 

The three Laotian Princes 
met in Paris as a result of 
the British initiative to 
begin discussions on the cur- 
rent crisis. 

CINCPAC reiterates the request 
for approval of covert cross- 
border operations . 

In anticipation of the 7 Septem- 
ber strategy meeting, McNaughton 
prepared a paper calling for 
actions that would provoke 
a DRV response that could 
be used as grounds for a U.S. 

His bid for dictatorial power 
having been rebuffed by the 
Army with popular support, 
Khanh reverted to his former 
tital of Premier with greatly 
reduced power. Minh is to 
play a larger role. 

The JCS repeated its recommenda- 
tions of 26 Aug and detailed 
it with a list of $k targets 
for air strikes . 

With Ambassador Taylor returned 
from Saigon, a full dress strategy 
review of actions against the 
North is held at the White Plouse. 
The Pentagon spokesmen, both 
military and civilian, favored 
immediate initiation of an 
escalatory air campaign against 
the North. But this was rejected 
on the grounds that the GVN 
was too weak to sustain the 


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10 Sep 196U NSAM 311*. 

11 Sep 1964 

Saigon meeting on 

cross-border opera ■ 

12 Sep 19ok 

DESOTO patrols 

18 Sep 1964 

3rd Tonkin Gul 


expected intensification of 
the war in the South it would 
evoke. This was the view of 
CIA, State and the White House . 
But a decision was made to 
resume the DESOTO patrols, 
the covert GVN coastal opera- 
tions against the North, and 
to authorize limited cross- 
border operations into Laos 
when Souvanna approved. It 
was further agreed that we 
would respond to any future 
DRV attacks on U.S. units on 
a tit-for-tat basis. These 
latter measures were to bolster 
GVN morale. 

Formal approval of the 7 Septem- 
ber decision was given in 

NSAM 31^- 

At a Saigon meeting of representa- 
tives of the U.S. missions in 
Laos, Thailand > and Vietnam, 
it was agreed that the air 
operations in Southern Laos 
would be carried out by RIAF 
aircraft for the present. As 
to ground operations, while 
their desirability was recog- 
nized, they were disapproved 
because of the flagrant viola- 
tion of the Geneva Accords they 
would constitute. This objection 
by Vientiane was subsequently 
removed and company-size opera- 
tions up to 20 kilometers into 
Laos were approved. 

The destroyers USS MORTON and 
patrols off North Vietnam. 

On the night of the l8th, the 
third incident in the DESOTO 
patrols occurred. The two 
destroyers fired on radar identi- 
fied att ackers and apparently 

. 8 

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30 Sep 196k 

1 Oct 196^ 

k Oct 1964 

6 Oct 1964 

CJCS memo to SecDef 3 
"Cross-Border Opera- 

SNIE 53-2-64 

Covert GVN coastal 
operations against 
DRV again authorized 

Joint State/Defense 
message 313 to 

scored a number of hits. No 
return fire was received from 
the "attackers . " Later on the 
18th the President suspended 
the DESOTO patrols which were 
not to be resumed until Febru- 
ary 1965- 

The CJCS endorsed the proposals 
of the mission representatives 
and requested immediate authority 
to implement air operations 
in the Laotian panhandle with 
RIAF T-28s and U.S. aircraft 
for suppressive fire and attack- 
ing heavily defended targets . 
Authority for GVN ground intelli- 
gence acquisition patrols in the 
Laotian corridor was also sought. 

The deterioration of GVN morale 
and effectiveness continued 
unabated and this intelligence 
estimate did not think that the 
hoped for civilian government 
would be able to reverse it. 
The VC were not, however , ex- 
pected to make an overt military 
effort to capture the govern- 
ment . " 

The President authorized reacti- 
vation of the covert coa.stal 
strikes by the GVN against the 
DRV, under very tight controls 
with each action to be cleared 
in advance by OSD, State and 
the White House. 

The Embassy is authorized to 
urge the Laotian Government 
to begin T-28 strikes as soon 
as possible against a 22- tar get 
list which excluded the Mu Gia 
pass . Some of the targets 
were designed for U.S. YANKEE 
TEAM strikes. 

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9 Oct 1964 


SNIE 10-3-64 

Embassy Saigon 
message 1068, 
Taylor to Rusk 


13 Oct 1964 

Embassy Vientiane 
message 609, Unger 
to Rusk and McNamara 

Washington approves 
only combat air 

14 Oct 1964 

R1AF makes intial U.S 
supported attacks 


In the evaluation of the likely 
North Vietnamese reactions to 
the actions approved in the 
September 7 meeting, CIA con- 
cluded that these would probably 
be limited to defensive and 
propaganda measures with possi- 
bly some scaling down of opera- 
tions in the South. China 
was not expected to enter the 
war as a result of even a 
systematic U.S. air campaign 
against the North. 

Taylor reported that the ARVN 
would be unable to conduct 
ground operations in the Laotian 
corridor in the foreseeable 
future and therefore U.S. air 
operations are urged. At a 
minimum, combat air patrols 
supporting RIAF strike missions 
were requested. 


U.S. air strikes against 
defended targets are requested 
to accompany RIAF T-28 strikes 
in the northern panhandle. 

Washington, responding to Unger f s 
request, authorized only U.S. 
combat air patrols in support 
of the RIAF operations, not the 
U.S. strikes. U.S. air strikes 
against communist LOCs in the 
panhandle are not authorized 
until much later . 

The RIAF, with U.S. aircraft 
in combat air patrol support, 
make the first strikes against 
the communist LOCs in the pan- 
handle . 


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Several forms of pressure were already being applied against 
North Vietnam by July of 196&. Moreover, contingency plans for 
other forms -- should political and military circumstances warrant 
a' decision to use them ~ were continually being adjusted and modi- 
fied as the situation in Southeast Asia developed. 

The best known of these pressures was being applied in Laos. 
Since 21 May, U.S. aircraft had flown low-level reconnaissance missions 
over communist-occupied areas, l/ In early June Premier Souvanna 
Phouma both gave and reaffirmed his permission for armed escort of 
these missions, which included the right to retaliate against hostile 
fire from the ground. 2/ This effort was supplemented at the end 
of the month when the United States decided to conduct transport and 
night reconnaissance operations and furnish additional T-28 aircraft 
and munitions to support a Royal Laotian counteroffensive near Muong 
Soui. This decision came in response to Souvanna* s request, in which 
he equated the protection of Muong Soui with the survival of the Laotian 
neutralist army. 3/ Air strikes conducted by the Royal Lao Air Force, 
with^T-28s obtained from the United States, were later credited with 
playing a major role in the success of the RLG's operations. 

Other actions obviously designed to forestall communist aggressive 
intentions were taken in different parts of Southeast Asia. In June, 
following the Honolulu strategy conference, State and Defense Depart- 
ment sources made repeated leaks to the press affirming U.S. intentions 
to support its allies and uphold its treaty commitments in Southeast 
Asia, kj U.S. contingency ground-force stockages in Thailand were 
augmented and publicly acknowledged. 5/ Revelations were made that 
USAF aircraft were operating out of a newly constructed air base at 
Da Wang. Moreover, the base was characterized as part of a network 
of new air bases and operational facilities being developed in South 
Vietnam and Thailand. 6/ On 10 July, the Da Nang base was the site 
. of a well-publicized Air Force Day display of allied airpower, including 
aircraft from a B~57 wing recently acknowledged to have been permanently 
deployed to the Philippines from Japan. 7/ 

Less known were parallel actions taken within the Government. 
U.S. resolve to resist aggression in Southeast Asia was communicated 
directly to North Vietnam by the newly appointed Canadian member of 
the International Control Commission, Blair Seaborn. Stressing that 
U.S. ambitions were limited and its intentions were "essentially peace- 
ful, " Seaborn told Pham Van Bong that the patience of the U.S. Govern- 
ment was not limitless. He explained that the United States was 
fully aware of the degreee to which Hanoi controlled the Viet 

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Cong insurgency and the Pathet Lao and might be obliged to carry 
the war to the North if DRV-assisted pressures against South Vietnam 
continued. He further cautioned that U.S. stakes in resisting a 
North Vietnamese victory were high, since the United States saw the 
conflict in Southeast Asia as part of a general confrontation with 
guerrilla subversion in other parts of the world, and that "in the 
event of escalation the greatest devastation would of course result 
for the DRVN itself." 8/ 

Also underway were efforts directed toward educating the American 
public regarding our national interests in Southeast Asia and the 
extent of the U.S. commitment there. In reporting to the President, 
Administration officials who participated in the Honolulu Conference 
stressed the need for a domestic information effort to "get at the 
basic doubts" of the importance of the U.S. stake in Southeast Asia. 
The program was to be focused both on key members of the Congress and 
on the public. 9/ Thereafter, work was begun under State Department 
guidance to assemble information in answer to" some of the prevalent 
public questions on the U.S. involvement. Of special concern was a 
recent Gallup poll showing only 37 percent of the public to have some 
interest in our Southeast Asian policies. Administration officials 
viewed this group as consisting primarily of either those desiring our 
withdrawal or those urging our striking at North Vietnam. A general 
program was proposed with the avowed aims of eroding public support for 
these polar positions and solidifying a large "center" behind the thrust 
of current Administration policies. These aims were to be accomplished 
by directing public comment into discussions of the precise alternatives 
available to the United States, greater exposure to which it was believed 
would alienate both "hawk" and "dove" supporters. 10 / Less than a 
week after this proposal was submitted; the White House published a 
NSAM, naming its proponent, Robert Manning, as coordinator of all public 
information activities for Southeast Asia and directing all agencies to 
cooperate in furthering the Administration's information objectives, ll/ 
One of the principal foci of the subsequent information program was 
the compilation of a public pamphlet of questions raised by critics of 
Administration policy together with answers furnished and coordinated by 
several interested Government agencies. 

Unknown to more than a limited number of Government officials were 
a variety of covert military or quasi-military operations being con- 
ducted at the expense of North Vietnam. U.S. naval forces had undertaken 
intermittent patrol operations in the Gulf of Tonkin designed to acquire 
visual, electronic and photographic intelligence on infiltration activi- 
ties and coastal navigation from North Vietnam to the South. To carry 
out these missions, destroyers were assigned to tracks between fixed 
points and according to stipulated schedules. Designated DE SOTO Patrols, 
the first such operation of l$6k occurred during the period 28 February- 
10 March. On this patrol the U.S.S. Craig was authorized to approach 
to within h n.m. of the North Vietnamese mainland, 15 n.m. of the Chinese 
mainland and 12 n.m. of Chinese-held islands. No incidents were reported 

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as resulting from this action. The next DE SOTO Patrol did not occur until 
31 July, on which the U.S.S. Maddox was restricted to a track not closer 
than 8 n.m. off the North Vietnamese mainland. 12 / Its primary mission, 
assigned on 17 July, was "to determine DRV coastal activity along the 
full extent of the patrol track." Other specific intelligence require- 
ments were assigned as follows: 

n (a) location and identification of all radar transmitters, 
and estimate of range capabilities; (b) navigational and hydro 
information along the routes traversed and particular naviga- 
tional lights characteristics, landmarks, buoys, currents and 
tidal information, river mouths and channel accessibility, (c) 
monitoring a junk force with density of surface traffic pattern, 

(d) sampling electronic environment radars and navigation aids, 

(e) photography of opportunities in support of above " 

Separate coastal patrol operations were being conducted by South 
Vietnamese naval forces. These were designed to uncover and interdict 
efforts to smuggle personnel and supplies into the South in support of 
the^VC insurgency. This operation had first been organized with U.S. 
assistance in December 196l; to support it a fleet of motorized junks 
was^built, partially financed with U.S. military assistance funds. 
During 1964 these vessels operated almost continually in attempts to 
intercept communist seaborne logistical operations. As Secretary 
McNamara told Senate committees: 

"in the first seven months of this year JJsQ£J , they 
have searched 1^9,000 junks, some 570,000 people. This is 
a tremendous operation endeavoring to close the seacoasts 
of over 900 miles. In the process of that action, as the 
junk patrol has increased in strength they /sic/ have moved 
farther and farther north endeavoring to find the source of 
the infiltration." 14/ ' ; 

In addition to these acknowledged activities, the GOT was also 
conducting a number of operations against North Vietnam to which it 
did not publicly admit. Covert operations were carried out by South 
Vietnamese or hired personnel and supported by U.S. training and logis- 
tical efforts. Outlined within 0PLAN 3^'A, these operations had been 
underway theoretically since February but had experienced what the JCS 
called a "slow beginning." Despite an ultimate objective of helping 
Convince the North Vietnamese leadership that it is in its own self- 
interest to desist from its aggressive policies," few operations designed 
to harass the enemy were carried out successfully during the February-May 
period. Nevertheless, citing DRV reactions tending "to substantiate the 
premise that Hanoi is expending substantial resources in defensive measures, " 
the JCS concluded that the potential of the 0FIAN 3^A program remained 
high and urged its continuation through Phase II ( June-September) • 15/ 
Operations including air-infiltration of sabotage teams, underwater demo- 
lition, and seizures of communist junks were approved for the period, and ■ 
a few were carried by specially trained GVN forces during June and July. 16/ 

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In the process of combined GVN-U.S. planning, but not yet 
approved for execution, were cross-border operations against VC-North 
Vietnamese logistical routes in Laos. This planning provided for both 
air attacks by the VNAE and "ground operations up to battalion size" in 
the Iaotian Panhandle. Preparations for such actions had been approved 
in principle since March but since then little further interest had been 
shown in them. Toward the end of July, the air force portion was examined 
seriously by Administration officials as a means not only to damage the 
Communist logistical effort but also "primarily for reasons of morale in 
South Vietnam and to divert GVN attention from fkj proposal to strike 
North Vietnam." 17/ 

In addition to both the open and covert operations already under- 
way, a number of other actions intended to bring pressure against North 
Vietnam had been recommended to the White House. Receiving considerable 
attention among Administration officials during May and June was a pro- 
posed request for a Congressional Resolution; reaffirming support by the 
legislators for Presidential action to resist Communist advances in 
Southeast Asia during an election year /Tab A./- In some respects paral- 
leling this domestic initiative, the President was urged to present to the 
United Nations the detailed case assembled by the Government supporting 
the charges of DRV aggression against South Vietnam and Laos. He was 
also urged to authorize periodic deployments of additional forces toward 
Southeast Asia as a means of demonstrating U.S. resolve to undertake 
whatever measures were required to resist aggression in that region. 
Moreover, in OPLAN 37-6^-, there was fully developed a listing of forces to 
be deployed as a deterrent to communist escalation in reaction to U.S./GVN 
actions against North Vietnam. Finally, it was recommended that the 
President make the decision to use "selected and carefully graduated mili- 
tary force against North Vietnam" if necessary to improve non-Communist 
prospects in South Vietnam and Laos. 18/ 

The source documents available to this writer are not clear on the 
exact decisions made in response to each of these recommendations, or 
indeed on the precise form or context in which the recommendations were 
presented. It is evident that the proposal to seek a Congressional 
Resolution was not favorably received, but as subsequent events indicate 
neither was it rejected out-of-hancl. It proved very useful in largely the 
same language just two months later. Less certain are the decisions made 
about the other proposals. Certainly they were not approved for immedi- 
ate implementation. However, it is not clear whether they were (l) flatly 
disapproved, (2) merely postponed, or (3) approved in principle, subject 
to gradual implementation. At the Honolulu Conference, where many of the 
proposed actions were discussed with U.S. officials from the theatre, many 
practical considerations were aired which showed that delayed implementa- 
tion would be a reasonable course of action. 19 / But such factors would 
have provided equally valid reasons for either deciding against the pro- 
posals or for merely deferring a decision until a later, more appropriate 
time. The most significant point, for an understanding of the events and 
decisions of the second half of 19ft, is that these options remained "on 
the shelf" for possible implementation should favorable circumstances 


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Several of the pressuring measures recommended to the White House 
in May or June were implemented in conjunction with or in the immediate 
aftermath of naval action in the Tonkin Gulf. It is this fact and the 
rapidity with which these measures were taken that has led^critics to 
doubt some aspects of the public account of the Tonkin incidents. It is 
also this fact, together with later Administration assessments ^of the 
Tonkin Gulf experience, that give the incidents greater significance 
than the particular events seemed at first to warrant. 


What happened in the C-ulf? As noted earlier, U.S.S. MADDOX com- 
menced the second DE SOTO Patrol on 31 July. On the prior night South 
Vietnamese coastal patrol forces made a midnight attack; including an 
amphibious "commando" raid, on Hon Me and Hon Nieu Islands, about 19 N. 
latitude. At the time of this attack, U.S.S. MADDOX was 120-130 miles 
away just heading into waters off North Vietnam. On 2 August, having 
reached the northernmost point on its patrol track and having headea 
South, the destroyer was intercepted by three North Vietnamese patrol 
boats. Apparently, these boats and a fleet of junks had moved into the 
area near the island to search for the attacking force and had mistaken 
Maddox for a South Vietnamese escort vessel. (Approximately eleven hours 
earlier, while on a northerly heading, Maddox had altered course to avoid 
the junk concentration shown on her radar; about six hours after that -- 
now headed South — Maddox had altered her course to the southeast to 
avoid the junks a second time.) When the PT boats began their high-speed 
run at her, at a distance of approximately 10 miles, the destroyer was 
28 miles from the coast and heading farther into international waters. 
Two of the boats closed to within 5.000 yards, launching one torpedo ^ each. 
As they approached, Maddox fired on the boats with her 5-Inch batteries 
and altered course to avoid the torpedoes, which were observed passing 
the starboard side at a distance of 100 to 200 yards. The^third boat 
moved up abeam of the destroyer and took a direct 5-inch hit; it managed 
to launch a torpedo which failed to run. All three PT boats fired 50- 
caliber machine guns at Maddox as they made their firing runs, and a bullet 
fragment was recovered from the destroyer's superstructure. The attacks 
occurred in mid-afternoon, and photographs were taken of the torpedo boats 
as they attacked. 20/ 

Upon first report of the PT boats' apparently hostile intent, four 
F-8E aircraft were* launched from the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga , many 
miles to the South, with instructions to provide air cover btrt not to 
fire unless they or Maddox were fired upon. As Maddox continued in a 
southerly direction, Ticonderoga 's aircraft attacked the two boats that 
had initiated the action. Both were damaged with Zuni rockets and 20mm 
gunfire. The third boat, struck by the destroyer's 5-inch, was already 

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dead in the water. After about eight minutes, the aircraft broke off 
their attacks. In the meantime, Maddox had been directed by the 7th 
Fleet Commander to retire from the area to avoid hostile fire. Following 
their attacks on the PT's, the aircraft joined Maddox and escorted her back 
toward South Vietnamese waters where she joined a second destroyer, 
C. Turner Joy . The two ships continued to patrol in international waters. 
Approximately two hours after the action, in early evening, reconnaissance 
aircraft from Ticonderoga located the damaged PT's and obtained two photo- 
graphs. The third boat was last seen burning and presumed sunk. 2l/ 

On 3 August a note of protest was dispatched to the Hanoi Government, 
reportedly through the International Control Commission for Indo-China. 
Directed by the President, the note stressed the unprovoked nature of the 
North Vietnamese attack and closed with the following warning: 

"The U.S. Government expects that the authorities of the 
regime in North Vietnam will be under no misapprehension as to 
the grave consequences which would Inevitably result from any 
further unprovoked offensive military action against U.S. forces." 

On that same day, measures were taken to increase the security of the 
DE SOTO Patrol, the approved schedule of which still had two days to run. 
At 1325 hours (Washington time) the JCS approved a CINCPAC request to 
resume the patrol at a distance of 11 n.m. from the North Vietnamese 
coast. 22/ Later in the day, President Johnson announced that he had 
approved .doubling the patrolling force and authorized active defensive 
measures on the part of both the destroyers and their escorting aircraft. 
His press statement included the following: 

I have instructed the Navy: 

1. To continue the patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin off the 
coast of North Vietnam. 

2. To double the force by adding an additional destroyer to 
the one already on patrol. 

3* To provide a combat air patrol over the destroyers, and 

h. To issue orders to the commanders of the combat aircraft 
and the two destroyers; (a) to attack any force which attacks them 
in international waters, and (b) to attack with the objective not 
only of driving off the force but of destroying it. 23/ 


- ■ — 1 . - , 

late the following evening the destroyers, Maddox and C. Tur ner Joy, 
were involved in a second encounter with hostile patrol boats. Like the 
first incident, this occurred following a South Vietnamese attack on North 

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; Vietnamese coastal targets — this time the Khon River estuary and 

the Vinh Sonh radar installation, which were bombarded on the night 
of 3 August. The more controversial of the two, this incident occurred 
under cover of darkness and seems to have been both triggered and des- 

] cribed largely by radar and sonar images, After the action had been 

[ joined, however, both visual sightings and intercepted North Vietnamese 

communications confirmed that an attack by hostile patrol craft was in 

j progress. 24/ 

i At 19^0 hours, 4 August 1964 (Tonkin Gulf time), while "proceeding 

S.E. at best speed," Task Group 72.1 ( Maddox and Turner Joy ) radioed 
"RCVD INFO indicating attack by PGM P-4 imminent." Evidently this was 
based on an intercepted communication, later identified as "an intelli- 
gence source, " indicating that "North Vietnamese naval forces had been 
ordered to attack the patrol." At the time, radar contacts evaluated 
I as "probable torpedo boats" were observed about 36 miles to the northeast. 

j Accordingly, the Task Group Commander altered course and increased speed 

I to avoid what he evaluated as a trap. At approximately 2035 hours, while 

[ west of Hainan Island, the destroyers reported radar sightings of three 

unidentified aircraft and two unidentified vessels in the patrol area. 
On receiving the report, Ticonderoga immediately launched F-8s and A-4Ds 
to provide a combat air patrol over the destroyers. Within minutes, the 
unidentified aircraft disappeared from the radar screen, while the vessels 
maintained a distance of about 27 miles. Actually, surface contacts on 
a parallel course had been shadowing the destroyers with radar for more 
than three hours. ECM contacts maintained by the C . Turner Joy indicated 
that the' radar was that carried aboard DRV patrol boats. 25J 

New unidentified surface contacts 13 miles distant were reported 
at 2134 hours. These vessels were closing at approximately 30 knots on 
the beam and were evaluated as "hostile". Six minutes later (21*i0) 
Maddox opened fire, and at 1242, by which time two of the new contacts 
had closed to a distance of 11 miles, aircraft from Ticonderoga *s CAP 
began their attacks. Just before this, one of the PT boats launched 
a torpedo, which was later reported as seen passing about 300 feet off 
the port beam, from aft to forward, of the C. Turner Joy . A searchlight 
beam was observed to swing in an arc toward the C. Turner Joy by all of 
the destroyer ! s signal bridge personnel. It was extinguished before it 
illuminated the ship, presumably upon detection of the approaching air- 
. craft. Aboard the Maddox, Marine gunners saw what were believed to be 
cockpit lights of one or more small boats pass up the port side of the 
ship and down the other. After approximately an hour's action, the 
destroyers reported two enemy boats sunk and no damage or casualties 
suffered. 26/ ' 

In the meantime, two patrol craft from the initial surface contact 
had closed to join the action, and the engagement was described for higher 
headquarters — largely on the basis of the destroyers T radar and sonar 
indications and on radio Intercept information. In successive messages to 
CINCPACFLT, beginning about 21^0 hours, the Commander of Task Group 72. 1 
radioed that he was "under continuous torpedo attack" — that at least 
six and later ten torpedoes had been successfully evaded. Eventually, 


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the ^ count reached 22 torpedoes, a total which caused the Commanding 
Officer, once the engagement had ended, to question the validity of 
his report and communicate these doubts to his superiors: 

Review of action makes many recorded contacts and 
torpedoes fired appear doubtful. Freak weather effects and 
overeager sonarman may have accounted for many reports." 

In addition to sonar readings, however, the Task Group had also reported 
intercepting communications from North Vietnamese naval craft indicating 
that they were involved in an attack on U.S. ("enemy") ships and that 
they had "sacrificed" two vessels in the engagement. 2jj 


Sometime prior to the reported termination of the engagement, at 
0030^ hours, 5 August (Tonkin Gulf time), "alert orders" to prepare for 
possible reprisal raids were sent out by naval authorities to Ticonderoga 
and to a second aircraft carrier, Constellation , which started heading 
South from Hong Kong late on 3 August. Such raids were actually ordered 
and carried out later in the day. "Defense officials disclosed /in public 
testimony, 9 January 1968/ that, when the first word was received of the 
second attack 'immediate consideration was given to retaliation. 1 " That 
apparently began shortly after 0920 hours (Washington time), when the 
task group message that a North Vietnamese naval attack was imminent was 
first relayed to Washington. From this time on, amid a sequence of mes- 
sages describing the attack, Secretary McNamara held "a series of meetings 
with /his/ chief civilian and military advisers" concerning the engage- 
ment and possible U.S. retaliatory actions. As he testified before the 
Fulbright Committee: 

We identified and refined various options for a response to 
the attack, to be presented to the President. Among these options 
was the air strike against the attacking boats and their associated 
bases, which option was eventually selected. As the options were 
identified preliminary messages were sent to appropriate operational 
commanders alerting them to the several possibilities so that Initial 
planning steps could be undertaken." 28/ 

At 1230, the President met with the National Security Council. 
Having just come from a brief meeting with the JCS, attended also by 
Secretary Rusk and Mc George Bundy, Secretary McNamara briefed the NSC 
on the reported details of the attack and the possibilities for reprisal. 
Shortly thereafter (presumably during a working lunch with the President, 
Secretary Rusk and Bundy) and after receiving by telephone the advice of 
the JCS, McNamara and the others recommended specific reprisal actions. 
It was at this point that the President approved "a response consisting 
of an air strike on the PT and SWATOW boat bases and their associated 
facilities." 29/ 


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Returning from this session shortly after 1500, Secretary McNamara, 
along with Deputy Secretary Vance, joined with the JCS to review all the 
evidence relating to the engagement. Included. in this review was the 
communications intelligence information which the Secretary reported, 
containing North Vietnamese reports that (l) their vessels were engaging 
the destroyers, and (2) they had lost two craft in the fight. In the 
meantime, however, messages had been relayed to the Joint Staff indicating 
considerable confusion over the details of the attack. The DE SOTO Patrol 
Commander's message, expressing doubts about earlier evidence of a large- • 
scale torpedo attack, arrived sometime after 1330 hours. Considerably 
later (it was not sent to CINCPACFLT until ' lkk-7 EDT), another message 
arrived to the effect that while details of the action were still confusing, 
the commander of Task Group 72. 1 was certain that the ambush was genuine. 
He had interviewed the personnel who sighted the boat's cockpit lights 
passing near the Maddox , and he had obtained a report from the C. Turner 
J°y "that two torpedoes were observed passing nearby. Accordingly, these 
reports were discussed by telephone with CINCPAC, and he was instructed 
by Secretary McNamara to make a careful check of the evidence and ascertain 
whether there was' any doubt concerning the occurrence of an attack. CINCPAC 
called the JCS at least twice more, at 1723 and again at 1807 hours, to state 
that he was convinced on the basis of "additional information" that the 
attacks had taken place. 30/ At the time of the earlier call Secretary 
McNamara and the JCS were discussing possible force deployments to follow 
any reprisals. On the occasion of the first call, the Secretary was at 
the White House attending the day's second NSC meeting. Upon being informed 
of CINCPAC 's call, he reports: 

"I spoke to the Director of the Joint Staff and asked him 
to make certain that the Commander in Chief, Pacific was willing 
to state that the attack had taken place, and therefore that he 
was free to release the Executive Order because earlier in the 
afternoon I had told him that under no circumstances would retali- 
atory action take place until we were, to use my words, 'damned 
sure that the attacks had taken place. '" 31/ 

At the meeting of the. National Security Council, proposals to deploy 
certain increments of OPLAN 37-0J- forces to the Western Pacific were dis- 
cussed, and the order to retaliate against North Vietnamese patrol craft 
and their associated facilities was confirmed. Following this meeting, 
at 1845^ the President met with l6 Congressional leaders from both parties 
for a period of Qo minutes. Reportedly, he described the second Incident 
in the Gulf, explained his decisions to order reprisals, and informed the 
legislators of his intention to request a formal statement of Congressional 
support for these decisions. On the morning following the meeting, The 
Washington Post carried a report that none of the Congressional leaders 
present at the meeting had raised objections to the course of action 
planned. Their only question, the report stated, "had to do with how 
Congress could show its agreement and concern In the crisis." 32/ 

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In many ways the attacks on U.S. ships in the Tonkin Gulf provided 
the Administration with an opportunity to do a number of things that had 
been urged on it. Certainly it offered a politically acceptable way of 
exerting direct punitive pressure on North Vietnam. In South Vietnam, the 
U.S. response served to satisfy for a time the growing desire for some 
action to carry the war to the North. Relative to the election campaign, 
it provided a means of eliminating any doubts about President Johnson's 
decisiveness that may have been encouraged by his preferred candidate's 
image as the restrained man of peace. The obvious convenience and the ways 
in which it was exploited have been at the root of much of the suspicion 
with which critics of Administration policy have viewed the incident. 

The documents available to this writer are not conclusive on this 
point, but the evidence indicates that the occurrence of a DRV provocation 
at this time resulted from events over which the U.S. Government exercised 
little control. It has been suggested that the incidents were related 
in some way to pressure coming from the GV^l for U.S. action against North 
Vietnam. However, the patrol was authorized on or prior to 17 July, and 
General Khanh's oft-cited "Go North" appeal wasn't made until 19 July. 
The first attack almost certainly was a case of mistaken judgment on the 
part of the local Vietnamese commander. His probable association of U.S.S. 
Maddox with the South Vietnamese raiding force is indicated by the circum- 
stances preceding the event, the brief duration and character of it, and 
the long-delayed (not until 5 August) and rather subdued DRV public com- 
ment. Moreover, there is little reason to see anything more than coinci- 
dence in the close conjunction between the GVIT's maritime operations against 
the North Vietnamese coast and the scheduling of the DE SOTO Patrol. The 
two operations were scheduled and monitored from different authorities 
and through separate channels of communication and command. Higher U.S. 
naval commands were informed of the operations against the two islands 
by COMUSjMACV, but the task group commander had no knowledge of where or 
when the specific operations had taken place. As Secretary McNamara 
told Senator Morse, in response to charges that U.S. naval forces were 
supporting the GVN operation, 

"Our ships had absolutely no knowledge of it, were not 
connected with it; in no sense of the word can be considered 
to have backstopped the effort." 

In addition, there was no reason on the basis of earlier DE SOTO Patrol 
experience to even suspect that patrol activity might precipitate hostile 
action by North Vietnam. 33/ 

Although the events of the second attack were less clear-cut, the 
evidence does not support beliefs (which have been expressed) that the 
incident was staged. On the contrary, the evidence leads readily to 
other explanations, which 'are at least equally as plausible. 

DRV motivations for the second attack are unclear, but several 
possibilities provide rational explanations for a deliberate DRV decision. 
Those given credence at the time — that the DRV or China wanted to 

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increase pressures for an international conference or that the DRV 
was testing U.S. reactions to a contemplated general offensive 34/ -- 
have lost some credibility. Subsequent events and DRV actions have 
appeared to lack any consistent relationship with such motives. Perhaps 
closer to the mark is the narrow purpose of prompt retaliation for an 
embarrassing and well-publicized rebuff by a much-maligned enemy. Inex- 
perienced in modern naval operations, DRV leaders may have believed that 
under cover of darkness it would be possible to even the score or to pro- 
vide at least a psychological victory by severely damaging a U.S. ship. 
Unlike the first incident, the DRV was ready (5 August) with a propaganda 
blast denying its own provocation and claiming the destruction of U.S. 
aircraft. Still, regardless of motive, there is little question but that 
the attack on the destroyers was deliberate. Having followed the destroyers 
for hours, their course was well known to the North Vietnamese naval force, 
and its advance units were laying ahead to make an ambushing beam attack 
fully 60 miles from shore. . . 

The reality of a North Vietnamese attack on h August has been corro- 
borated by both visual and technical evidence. That it may have been 
deliberately provoked by the United States is belied to a considerable 
degree by circumstantial evidence. Operating restrictions for the DE SOTO 
Patrol were made more stringent following the first attack. The 11 n.m., 
rather than 8 n.m., off-shore patrolling track indicates an intention to 
avoid -- not provoke -- further contact. On h February the rules of engage- 
ment were modified to restrict "hot pursuit" by the U.S. ships to no 
closer than 11 n.m. from the North Vietnamese coast; aircraft were to 
pursue no closer than 3 n.m. 35/ Given the first attack, the President's 
augmentation of the patrol force was a normal- precaution, particularly 
since both Ticonderoga and C. Turner Joy were already deployed in the 
immediate vicinity as supporting elements. Moreover, since the augmenta- 
tion was coupled with a clear statement of intent to continue the patrols 
and a firm warning to the DRV that repetition would bring dire consequences, 
their addition to the patrol could be expected to serve more as a deterrent 
than a provocation. 

The often alleged "poised" condition of the U.S. reprisal forces was 
anything but extraordinary. U.S.S. Constellation was well out of the 
immediate operating area as the patrol was resumed on 3 August. In fact, 
one reason for delaying the launching of retaliatory air strikes (nearly 
1100 hours, 5 August -- Tonkin Gulf time) was to permit Constellation to 
approach within reasonable range of the targets. Target lists from which to 
make appropriate selections were already available as a result of routine 
contingency planning accomplished in June and July. In preparation for 
the resumed DE SOTO Patrol' of 3~5 August, the patrol track was moved farther 
north to make clearer the separation between it and the 3^-A operations. 35/ 
The ways in which the events of the second Tonkin Gulf incident came about 
give little indication of a deliberate provocation to provide opportunity 
for reprisals. 


There is no question, however, that the second incident was promptly 
exploited by the Administration. The 'event was seized upon as an opportunity 

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to take several measures that had been recommended earlier and which were 
now seen a s^ useful means of turning an essentially unique and localized 
incident -into an event with broader strategic impact. The extent to which 
the strategic utility of these actions was perceived during the two days 
between the incidents is not clear. .Certainly the disposition of U.S.S. 
Constellation does not suggest a picture of intensive preparation for a 
planned series of new military and political pressures against North 
yietnam. Moreover, there is no record in the usual sources of the series 

staff ^ meetings, task assignments and memoranda that typically accompany 
preparations for coordinated political and military initiatives. What- 
ever was contemplated between 2 and k August, the deliberations immediately 
preceding the reprisal decision seem to have been largely ad hoc , both 
within DOD and among the President's principal advisers. 

The^most reasonable explanation for the actions which accompanied 
the reprisals, and for the rapidity of their implementation, is the fact 
that each of them had been proposed and staffed in detail months before. 

e8e _, on " tile shelf" options had been recommended unanimously by the 
principal officials responsible for security matters in Southeast Asia. 
The fact that they were implemented in August indicates that the President 
10. not disapprove of them, but rather that the domestic and international 
political environments had probably been judged inappropriate earlier in 

e summer. The measures apparently had been considered either too costly 
or too risky (perhaps politically or perhaps in terms of communist reactions), 
g il en , th ? Presi ^ent ! s election strategy and his policy theme of "maximum 
ellect with minimum escalation". The kind of circumstances created by the 
lonkin^Gulf affair enabled them to be carried out at lower cost and with 
less risk. The promptness with which these actions were to be taken now 
is perhaps as much a direct result of the President's well-known political 
astuteness and keen sense of timing as any other single factor. 

^ One of the first actions taken was to deploy additional U.S. mili- 
ary forces to the Western Pacific. This was done in part as a measure 
x> deter any hostile responses by Hanoi or Peking to the reprisal raids. 
It also enabled making a stronger signal of U.S. resolve to defend its 
interests throughout Southeast Asia, as recommended at the end of May. 
Orders directing the deployment of selected 37-64 forces and the alerting 
ot others ^ were dispatched from the Pentagon shortly after the President's 
meeting ^ with Congressional leaders on the evening of k August. Shortly 
alter midnight, on 5 August, and again later in the day, Secretary McNaraara 
announced the specific measures by which U,S. military capabilities around 
boutheast Asia were being augmented: 

Fin;t, an attack carrier group ha-, been transferred from 
the First Fleet on the Pacific coast to the Western Pacific. 
Secondly, interceptor and fighter bomber aircraft have been 
moved into South Vietnam. Thirdly, fighter bomber aircraft have 
been moved into Thailand. Fourthly, interceptor and fighter 

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bomber squadrons have been transferred from the United States 
into advance bases in the Pacific. Fifthly, an antisubmarine 
task force group has been moved into the South China Sea. 37/ 

It is significant, relative to the broader purpose of the deploy- 
ments, that few of these additional units were removed from the Western 
Pacific when the immediate crisis subsided. In late September the fourth 
attack aircraft carrier was authorized to resume its normal station in 
the Eastern Pacific as soon as the regularly assigned carrier completed 
repairs. The other forces remained in the vicinity of their August deploy- 
ment. 38/ 

Other actions taken by the Administration in the wake of Tonkin 
Gulf were intended to communicate to various audiences the depth and 
sincerity of the U.S. commitment. On the evening of h August, in con- ' 
junction with his testing of Congressional opinion regarding reprisal 
action, President Johnson disclosed his intention to request a resolution 
in support of U.S. Southeast Asian policy. This he did through a formal 
message to both houses on 5 August. Concurrently, identical draft 
resolutions, the language of which had been prepared by executive agencies, 
. were introduced in the Senate by J. William Fulbright (D., Ark.) and in 
the House by Thomas E. Morgan (D., Pa.) and co-sponsored by bi-partisan 
leadership. 39/ Discussed in committee on 6 August, in response to 
/> testimony by leading Administration officials, the resolution was passed 

the following day --by votes of 88 to 2 in the Senate and 1+1 6 to in 
the House /Tab cj . 

Despite the nearly unanimous votes of support for the Resolution, 
Congressional opinions varied as to the policy implications and the 
meaning of such support. The central belief seemed to be that the 
occasion necessitated demonstrating the nation 1 s unity and collective 
will in support of the President's action and affirming U.S. determination 
to oppose further aggression. However, beyond that theme, there was a 
considerable variety of opinion. For example, in the House, expressions 
of support varied from Congressman Laird T s argument, that while the 
retaliation in the Gulf was appropriate such actions still left a policy 
to be developed with respect to the land war in Southeast Asia, to the 
more reticent viewpoint of Congressman Alger. The latter characterized 
his support as being primarily for purposes of showing unity and expressed 
concern over the danger of being dragged into war by "other nations 
seeking our help." Several spokesmen stressed that the Resolution did 
not constitute a declaration of war, did not abdicate Congressional 
responsibility for determining national policy commitments, and did not 
give the President carte blanche to involve the nation in a major Asian 
war . ko / 

Similar expressions were voiced in the senior chamber. For example, 
Senator Nelson sought assurances that the Resolution would not be exploited 
^ to commit the United States further in the direction of a large land war 

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in Asia without an .expression of specific Congressional approval. In 
response, Senator Fulbright stated that he did not believe that the Resolu- 
tion changed in any way the Administration's concept of keeping the 
conflict in Vietnam as limited as possible. He identified the purposes 
of the Resolution as being only (l) "to make it clear that the Congress 
approves the action taken by the President to meet the attack on U.S. 
forces...." and (2) to declare support for the resolute policy enunciated 
by the President in order to prevent further aggression, or to retaliate 
with suitable measures should such aggression take place." kl / However, 
in subsequent discussion it was made clear .that preventing or retaliating 
against further aggression was interpreted rather broadly at the time: 

"(Mr. Cooper) ...are we now giving the President advance 
authority to take whatever action he may deem necessary res- 
pecting South Vietnam and its defense, or with respect to the 
defense of any other country included in the /SKATO/ treaty? 

"(Mr. Fulbright) I think that is correct. 

"(Mr. Cooper) Then, looking ahead, if the President 
decided that it was necessary to use such force as could lead 
into war, we will give that authority by this resolution? 

"(Mr. Fulbright) That is the way I would interpret it. 
If a situation later developed in which we thought the approval 
should be withdrawn it 'could be withdrawn by concurrent resolu- 
tion." k2/ 

The Congressional Resolution had several intended audiences. First, 
it was aimed at the communist powers who might not believe the President 
would risk legislative debate over strong military actions in an election 
year. Second, it was Intended to reassure our allies, particularly in 
Asia, who might doubt the ability of the President to rally the necessaiy 
public resolve should stronger military measures be needed. Finally it 
was directed at the U.S. public, whose appreciation of national interests 
in Southeast Asia might be strengthened through observation of combined 
executive-legislative and bipartisan political support, h^f 

The United Nations was the target of a separate statement, on 
5 August, as Ambassador Stevenson described the events in the Gulf for 
members of the Security Council and specifically related the DRV provoca- 
tion to the wider campaign of terror and infiltration occurring in South 
Vietnam and Laos. hk_/ This address was designed to establish the 
legitimacy of our actions in the Gulf under provisions of the UN Charter 
and to reaffirm that U.S. policy in Southeast Asia had limited aims and 
\ias based on upholding provisions of existing international agreements. 

The third communication was directed specifically to Hanoi, on 
10 August, through the Canadian I.C.C. representative and was intended 
to strengthen the warning which he conveyed on his initial visit. In 


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addition to repeating points made earlier, Seaborn r s second message 
conveyed the U.S. Government's uncertainty over DRV intentions in 
the k August attack and explained that subsequent U.S. deployments of 
additional airpower to South Vietnam and Thailand were "precautionary." 
In addition, the new message stressed: (l) that the Tonkin Gulf events 
demonstrated that "U.S. public and official patience" was wearing thin; (2) 
that the Congressional Resolution reaffirmed U.S. determination "to con- 
tinue to oppose firmly, by all necessary means, DRV efforts to subvert 
and conquer South Vietnam and Laos"; and (3) that "if the DRV persists 
in its present course, it can expect to suffer the consequences." k$/ 

Thus, in the immediate aftermath of the provocation handed' the U.S. 
Government in the Tonkin Gulf, the Administration was able to carry out 
most of the actions recommended by its principal officials early in the 
summer. By the same token, it was reducing the number of unused measures 
short of direct military action that had been conceived as available for 
exerting effective pressure on the DRV. In effect, as it made its com- 
mitments in Southeast Asia clearer it also deepened them, and in the 
process it denied itself access to some of the uncommitting options which 
it had perceived earlier as .offering policy flexibility. 46/ Meanwhile, 
other events were also having the effect of denying options which had 
been considered useful alternatives to strikes against the North. 

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The Tonkin Gulf incidents were important not only because of 
what they enabled the United States to do in response -- but also 
because of the way what was done began to be regarded by policy- 
makers. The fact that U.S. forces had responded to hostile acts by 
making direct attacks on North Vietnam, albeit limited ones under 
unique circumstances., had rather significant impacts on the Adminis- 
tration's policy judgments. These impacts appeared as it became 
increasingly evident that the United States actually had fewer options 
than it once believed available. 


One of the areas where the Administration first saw its freedom 
of action being impaired was Laos. 

Prior to the events in Tonkin Gulf, the situation in Laos had 
become increasingly complex, thus making U.S. policy choices increasingly 
delicate. Since the end of May, U.S. hopes for a stabilized Laos had 
been based largely on a Polish proposal to convene a preliminary con- 
ference among six nations. hj_/ particularly promising was the Soviet 
Union s willingness to support the proposal. Toward the end of June, 
as the Laotian government warned of the imminent threat of a major 
communist offensive near Muong Soui, the Soviet Union asked Great 
Britain to postpone efforts toward such a conference, and the Poles 
seemed to back away from their original initiative. On 25 July the 
Soviet Union announced her return to the l4- Nat ion formula, and threatened 
to resign her co-chairman role if a conference were not called. 48/ The 
Soviet threat to withdraw from the international machinery that is basic 
to the neutralist Laotian government's claim to legitimacy was a matter 
of considerable mutual concern in Vientiane and Washington. h^/ 

One of the major reasons for U.S. support of the Polish 6-Nation 
preliminary conference was its value In forestalling pressure for a 
Geneva-type meeting. It was hoped that such a conference could be pro- 
longed well into the autumn to give the political and military situation 
in South Vietnam time to be improved, and to build a more favorable 
political climate for an eventual l4-Nation conference on Laos. The 
latter could be accomplished, It was hoped, by: (l) demonstrating the 
extent of communist responsibility for Laotian Instability; (2) getting 
the I.C.C. to function more effectively; (3) strengthening international 
backing for Souvanna's position; and (h) thereby obtaining support for 
his insistence on Pathet Lao withdrawal from the Plaine des Jarres as a 
precondition for a new Geneva settlement. 50/ Insofar as Laos was 
concerned, the United States recognized that a new conference was probably 
desirable, as long as it did not occur too soon. However., it also recog- 
nized the suspicion with which the GVN would regard any kind of negotiations 

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over Southeast Asia and the likelihood that back-corridor discussions 
of the Vietnamese problem would be an almost inevitable by-product • 
In time such a procedure might be useful, but for the balance of 1964 
it was to be avoided in order to promote GVN stability and encourage 
a more vigorous GVN war effort, 51/ 

The pressure for a Geneva-type conference had been building ever 
since the resumption of fighting in Laos in May. The chief protagonist 
in the quest for negotiations was France, who first proposed reconvening 
the l4-Nation Conference to deal with the crisis on 20 May. What made 
French policy so dangerous to U.S. interests, however, was that its 
interest in a Geneva solution applied to Vietnam as well. On 12 June, 
DeGaulle publicly repeated his neutralization theme for all Indo-China 
and called for an end to all foreign intervention there; on 23 July he 
proposed reconvening the 195^ Geneva Conference to deal with the problems 
of Vietnam. 

The Soviet Union's return to the l4- Nat ion formula in July (it 
had endorsed the original French proposal before indicating willingness 
to support the 6-Nation approach) indicated solidarity in the communist 
camp. The call was endorsed by North Vietnam on the following day. 
Communist China first announced support for a l4-Nation Conference (on 
Laos) on 9 June, repeating this through notes to the co-chairman calling 
on the 13th for an "emergency meeting." On 2 August, the Chinese urged 
the USSR not to carry out its threat to abandon its co-chairman role, 
apparently viewing such a development as jeopardizing the possibilities 
• for a Geneva settlement. 52/ 

Great Britain also urged the Russians to stay on, and during the 
last days of July it attempted to make arrangements in Moscow to con- 
vene a 1^-- Nat ion assembly on Laos. The negotiations failed because 
Britian insisted on Souvanna's prerequisite that the communists withdraw 
from positions taken in May and was unable to gain Soviet acquiescence. 
However, U.S. leaders were aware that Britain's support on this point 
could not be counted on indefinitely in the face of increasing pressure 
in the direction of Geneva. 53/ 

In the meantime, however, Laotian military efforts to counter the 
communist threat to key routes and control points west of the Plaine 
des Jarres were showing great success. As a result of a counter off ensive 
(Operation Triangle), government forces gained control of a considerable 
amount of territory that gave promise of assuring access between the 
two capitals (Vientiane and Luang Prabang) for the first time in three 
years. 5k/ 

In effect, the government's newly won control of territory and 
• communication routes in Central Laos created a new and more favorable 
balance of power in that country, which in the perceptions of the Admin- 
istration should not be jeopardized. A threat to this balance from 
either (l) communist reactions to additional pressure; or (2) Laotian 
insistence on extending their offensive into the Plaine des Jarres, was 
cited to discourage proposals near the end of July to permit the VNAF to 

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bomb infiltration routes in the Laotian Panhandle. 55/ This "don't 
rock the boat" policy was given added encouragement when,, on 1 August, 
Great Britain initiated a promising effort toward a new diplomatic 
solution. Acting on Souvanna Phouma T s request; the British government 
urged the I.C.J, members to arrange a meeting among the three Laotian 
political factions. 56/ 

Concern over not provoking a communist military escalation that 
would upset the relatively stabilized situation in Laos figured promi- 
nently in a tentative analysis of U.S. strategy for Southeast Asia made 
and circulated for comment by the State Department in mid-August. It 
had a significant impact on the Administration's assessment of its options 
in the post-Tonkin period. Among other effects, this concern caused it 
to withhold for several weeks its approval of continuing proposals for 
air and ground initiatives in the Panhandle as means to improve the 
situation in South Vietnam. 57/ 


One of the Tonkin Gulf impacts which was perceived within the 
Administration served to exacerbate its policy dilemmas regarding Laos. 
Administration officials were apprehensive that the international crisis 
precipitated by incidents in the Gulf might intensify the kind of Geneva 
conference pressures generated previously. 58/ Administration concern 
was apparently well founded. On 5 August UN~Secretary General U Thant 
stated that the 14- Nat ion assembly should be reconvened to deal with the 
Tonkin Gulf debate then being urged on the UN Security Council. (He 
had earlier urged reconvening the 195^ Conference to negotiate a Vietnam 
settlement.) Two days later, during the debate, the French delegation 
urged the calling of a conference for the pacification of all of Indo- 
China. Reports appeared on 10 August that the Chinese People's Daily 
published an editorial arguing that a Geneva settlement was the only 
effective way to solve the problem of South Vietnam. On the 19th, in 
a note rejecting potential UN Security Council findings regarding 
responsibility for the Tonkin Gulf incidents, North Vietnam declared 
its insistence on a Geneva conference. 59/ 

Such was the Administration's concern in the immediate aftermath 
of the crisis, that it contemplated a diplomatic initiative relating to 
Laos that was designed to counteract the expected pressure. Reflecting 
a point of view reportedly also becoming attractive to Souvanna Phouma, 
the State Department sought reactions to a policy direction that would 
no longer insist. on Pathet Lao withdrawal from the Plaine des Jarres as 
a precondition to an international conference. The gains recently 
achieved through "Operation Triangle" were so significant, it reasoned, 
that they more than offset communist control of the Plaine. And it was 
clear that any negotiations by which a communist withdrawal might be 
arranged would include reciprocal demands for the government to relinquish 
its recently won gains. 60/ Moreover, passage of the Congressional 
Resolution and the strong DRV naval attacks had accomplished the exact 
kind of actions believed to be necessary earlier to demonstrate U.S. 

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firmness in the event negotiating pressure should become compelling. 6l/ 

Reactions to this tentative policy change were unfavorable '. It 
was seen as likely to have a demoralizing impact on the GVN. It was 
also seen as possibly eroding the impression of strong U.S. resolve , 
which the reprisal air strikes were believed to have created. For 
example,, Ambassador Taylor cabled: 

•..rush to conference table would serve to confirm to . 
CHICQMS that U.S. retaliation for destroyer attacks was 
transient phenomenon and that firm CHICOM response in form of 
commitment to defend WN has given U.S. "Paper tiger" second 
' thoughts. . . . 

T In Vietnam sudden backdown from previpusly strongly held 
U.S. position on /Plaine des Jarres/ withdrawal prior to con- 
ference on Laos would have potentially disastrous effect. 
Morale and will to fight and particular willingness to push 
ahead with arduous pacification task. . .would be undermined by 
what would look like evidence that U.S. seeking to take advantage of 
any slight improvement in non-Communist position as excuse for 
extricating itself from Indo-China via /conference/ route 

Under circumstances, we see very little hope that results 
of such a conference would be advantageous to us. Moreover, 
prospects of limiting it to consideration of only Laotian 
problem appear at this time juncture to be dimmer than ever...." 62/ 


Contained in Ambassador Taylor's views was yet another of the 
Administration's reflections on the impact of the Tonkin Gulf incidents. 
Officials developed mixed feelings regarding the effect of the Tonkin 
reprisals for signaling firm U.S. commitments in Southeast Asia. On 
one hand, it was conceded that the reprisals and the actions which accom- 
panied them represented the most forceful expression of U.S. resolve to 
date. Improvements were perceived in South Vietnamese morale, and the 
combination of force and restraint demonstrated was believed effective 
in interrupting communist momentum and forcing a reassessment of U.S. 
intentions. 63/ On the other hand, they reflected concern that these 
effects might not last and that the larger aspects of U.S. determination 
might still be unclear. 

Several officials and agencies indicated that our actions in the 
.Tonkin Gulf represented only one step along a continually demanding 
route for the United States. They expressed relief that if a persuasive 
impression of firmness were to be created relative to the general security 
of Southeast Asia, we could not rest on our laurels. Ambassador Taylor 
expressed the limited impact of the Tonkin Gulf action as follows: 

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"it should be remembered that our retaliatory action 
in Gulf of Tonkin is in effect an isolated U.S. -DRV incident. 
Although this has relation . . .to /the/ larger problem of DRV 
aggression by subversion in Viet-Nam and Laos, we have not 
(repeat not) yet come to grips in a for :eful. way with DRV 
over the issue of this larger and much more complex problem. 6k/ 

Later, he described a need for subsequent actions that would convey 
to Hanoi that "the operational rules with respect to the DRV are 
changing. " 65/ Assistant Secretary of State Bundy believed that Hanoi 
and Peking had probably been convinced only "that we will act strongly 
where U.S. force units are directly involved. . ./that/ in other respects 
the communist side may not be so persuaded that we are prepared to take 

stronger action " He saw the need for a continuous "combination of 

military pressure and some form of communication" to cause Hanoi to 
accept the idea of "getting out" of South Vietnam and Laos. 66/ CINCPAC 
stated that "what we have not done and must do is make plain to Hanoi 
and Peiping the cost of pursuing their current objectives and impeding 
ours.... Our actions of August 5 have created a momentum which can lead 
to the attainment of our objectives in S.E. Asia.... It is most important 
that we not lose this momentum." 67/ The JCS urged actions to "sustain 
the U.S. advantage /recently/ gained," and later cautioned: "Failure to 
resume and maintain a program of pressure through military actions... 
could signal a lack of resolve." 68 / 

What these advisors had in mind by way of actions varied somewhat 
but only in the extent to which they were willing to go in the immedi- 
ate future. Bundy stressed that policy commitments must be such that 
U.S. and GVN hands could be kept free for military actions against DRV 
infiltration routes in Laos. Ambassador Taylor, CINCPAC and the JCS 
urged prompt air and ground operations across the Laotian border to 
interrupt the current (though modest) southward flow of men and supplies. 
Both Taylor and CINCPAC indicated the necessity of building up our 
"readiness posture" to undertake stronger actions -- through additional 
deployments of forces and logistical support elements and strengthening 
of the GVN political base. 

The mood and attitudes reflected in these viewpoints were concrete 
and dramatic expressions of the increased U.S. commitment stemming from 
the Tonkin Gulf incidents. They were candidly summed up by CINCPAC in 
his statement: 

. . .pressures against the other side once instituted should 
not be relaxed by any actions or lack of them which would destroy 
the benefits of the rewarding steps previously taken " 69/ 

Increasingly voiced by officials from many quarters of the Admin- 
istration and from the professional agencies were arguments which said, 
in effect, now that we have gone this far we cannot afford to stop and 
go no farther; our original signal must continually be reinforced. What 

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was not stated — - at least not in documentary form — were estimates 
of how long the process might have to continue or to what extent the 
actions might have to be carried. 


Soon after the Tonkin Gulf incidents State Department Counselor 
Walt Rostow reformulated and circulated his earlier thesis that insurgencies 
supported by external powers must be dealt with through measures to 
neutralize the sources of that support. First presented to President 
Johnson in December 19 63, variations on this theme had been proposed by 
Rostow at various times throughout I9&1-, the most recent occasion being 
'in June, right after the Honolulu Conference. 70/ Now in mid-August, 
his newly articulated arguments were passed to the White House, Depart- 
ment of State, Department of Defense and the JCS. 

The "Rostow thesis" was generalized — not explicitly dealing with 
a particular insurgency — but it was evident that considerations of the 
U.S. dilemmas in Southeast Asia affected its formulation. It started with 
a proposition: 

"By applying limited, graduated military actions reinforced 
by political and economic pressures on a nation providing 
external support for insurgency, we should be able to cause 
that nation to decide to reduce greatly or eliminate altogether 
support for the insurgency. The objective of these pressures 
is not necessarily to attack his ability to provide support, 
although economic and certain military actions would in fact 
do just that". Rather, the objective is to affect his calculation 
of interests. Therefore, the threat that is implicit in initial 
U.S. actions would be more Jmportant than the military effect of 
the actions themselves." 71/ 

In Rostow T s view, the target government's "calculation of interests" 
could be affected by a number of factors, none of which would preclude, 
however, the need for effective count erinsurgency programs within the 
country already under attack. The factors included: (l) loss, and fear 
of further loss, of military and economic facilities; (2) fear of involve- • 
ment in a much larger conflict; (3) fear of increased dependence upon, 
' and loss of independent action to, a major communist country; and (4) fear 
of internal political upheaval and loss of power. The coercive impacts 
of . the pressures were to be their principal objectives. Significant (in 
view of currently espoused rationale for- increased pressures on North 
Vietnam) was the explicit caution that improved morale in the country 
troubled by insurgency and "improved U.S. bargaining leverage in any 
international conference on the conflict" were to be considered merely 
as "bonus effects." 

The coercive pressure was to result from "damaging military actions" 
coupled with concurrent political, economic and psychological pressures. 
The former could include selective or full naval blockade and "surgical" 

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destruction of specific targets by aerial bombardment or naval gunfire. 
They could be supported by such non-destructive military actions as 
aerial reconnaissance, harassment of civil aviation and maritime com- 
merce, mock air- attacks, and timely concentrations of U.S. or allied 
forces at sea or near land borders. Following a line of reasoning 
prevalent in the Government during the early 60's, Rostov/- observed 
that a target government might well reduce its insurgency supporting 
role m the face of such pressures because of the communists T proverbial 
tactical flexibility." 72/ 

The thesis was subjected to a rather thorough analysis in OSD/lSA 
and coordinated with the Department of State. The nature of this review 
will be discussed on later pages and in a different context. 


The foregoing policy assessments were conducted in an atmosphere 
relatively free of even those pressure measures that preceded the 
Tonkin Gulf crisis. Since the force deployments of 6 August, little 
military activity had been directed at the DRV. U-2 flights over North 
Vietnam and reconnaissance of the Laotian Panhandle were continued. 
Military operations within Laos were limited to the consolidation of 
gams achieved in Operation Triangle. A deliberate stand-down was 
adopted for all other activities -- including DE SOTO Patrols and the 
GW B covert harassing operations. The purpose of this "holding phase/' 
as it was called, was to "avoid actions that would in any way take. the 
onus off the Communist side for /the Tonkin/ escalation." 73/ 

However, during the "holding phase" some of the administrative 
impediments to wider military action were cleared away. One measure 
that was taken was to relax the operating restrictions and the rules 
of engagement for U.S. forces in Southeast Asia. This was accomplished 
in response to JCS urging that attacking forces not be permitted sanctuaries 
from which to regroup and perhaps repeat their hostile acts, jk/ Prior 
rules had^not permitted pursuit of hostile aircraft outside South Vietnam 
or authorized intercept of intruders over Thailand. 75./ Under the revised 
rules of 15 August 1964, U.S. forces were authorized to attack and destroy 
any vessel or aircraft "which attacks, or gives positive indication of 
mten.o to attack" U.S. forces operating in or over international waters 
and in Laos, to include hot pursuit into the territorial waters or air 
space of ^ North Vietnam and into the air space over other countries of 
Southeast Asia. "Hostile aircraft over South Vietnam and Thailand" could 
be engaged as well and pursued into North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. 76/ 

Another prerequisite to wider military action that was accomplished 
was the combined GVN-U.S. planning for cross-border ground operations. 
By lb August, this had proceeded to such an extent that COMUSMACV believed 
re necessary to seek approval of the concept and appropriate to urge that 
Phase I of the program get underway. Significant for understanding the 
pressure for wider actions increasingly being brought to bear on the 

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Administration was the fact that MACV made the request despite explicit 
comment that the concept was "an overly ambitious scheme." 77/ Presum- 
ably he considered it likely to be ineffective militarily, but perhaps 
important in stimulating more vigorous GVN efforts. Whatever his particu- 
lar reasons at the time, MACV repeated the recommendations later in the 
month as part of several measures to be taken inside and outside South 
Vietnam. These were designed "to give the VC a bloody nose/' to steady 
S e t ? eWly reforRled South Vietnamese government, and to raise the morale 
ot the population. 78/ However, the earlier MACV cable had already 

acknowledged what must have been one of the Administration's key inhi 
against. nn^^v»-t-~i,.? . , .. „ _,_. „_. 

*o inuoG nave Deen one or the Administration's key inhibitions 
against undertaking cross-border actions: General Westmoreland stated, 

it should be recognized that once this operation is initiated by the GVN, 
U.S. controls may be marginal." 

The period of the "holding phase" was also a period of significant 
aevelopments within South Vietnam. Ambassador Taylor T s initial report 
UO August; made clear that the political situation was already precarious, 
giving Khanh only a 50-50 chance of staying in power and characterizing 

he GVDJ as ineffective and fraught with conflicting purposes. In Taylor T s 
view, the leadership in Saigon showed symptoms of "defeatism" and a hesi- 
tancy to prosecute the pacification campaign within South Vietnam. Mean- 
wnle, however, its popular support in the countryside seemed to be directly 
proportional to the degree of protection which the government provided. 79/ 
JJi view of this shaky political base, General Khanh seized upon the occasion 
o post-Tonkin euphoria -- apparently with Ambassador Taylor's encouragement 

o acquire additional executive authority. On 7 August, announcing the 
necessity for certain "emergency" powers to cope with any heightened VC 
activity, he proclaimed himself President and promulgated the Vung Tau 
e ^- This action, which gave him virtually dictatorial power over 
several aspects of South Vietnamese life, met with hostile reactions. In 
late^August, Khanh 1 s authority was challenged in the streets of Saigon, 
hue and Da Nang, during several days of student protest demonstrations 
and clashes^between Buddhist and Catholic groups. In response to student 
and Buddhist pressures primarily, he resigned his recently assumed post 
as President and promised that a" national assemblage would be called to 
torm a more popularly based government. On 3 September, Khanh returned 
to assume the premiership, but clearly with weaker and more conditional 
authority than before the government crisis. 

Meanwhile, as the GVN's lack of cohesion and stability was being 
demonstrated, the infiltration of communist forces into South Vietnam may 
nave been on the increase. At least, belief in an increase in the rate of 
his infiltration apparently gained currency in various U.S. agencies at 
nis tame. The documents available to this writer from the period neither 
relute nor substantiate the increase, but several of them contained. 
( references to this perception. For example, a State Department memo- 
randum, dated 24 August, acknowledged a "rise and change in the nature 
ot infiltration in recent months." 80/ Later analyses confirmed that 
increases ^had taken place, but the precise period when they began was 
not identified. 81/ Hence, unless there were other intelligence data 
to confirm them, any implications regarding North Vietnamese policy deci- 
sions were largely speculative. 

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Possibly influencing the judgments of August was the fact that 
increased communist movement of men and supplies to the South was 
expected, resulting in part from a DIA assessment (7 August) of the 
most likely DRV reactions to the Tonkin reprisals. 82 / Moreover, the 
State Department's analysis of next courses of action in Southeast Asia 
had made "clear evidence of greatly increased infiltration from the 
Worth" an explicit condition for any policy judgment that "systematic 
military action against DRV" was required during the balance of 1964. 83/ 
And leading officials from several agencies were beginning to feel that 
such action might be inevitable. 

The combined effects of the signs of increased VC infiltration and 
of continuing upheaval in Saigon caused great concern in Washington. 
The central perception was one of impending chaos and possible failure 
in South Vietnam. Among several agencies, the emerging mood was that 
some kind of action was urgently needed -- even if it had the effect merely 
of improving the U.S. image prior to pulling out. It was this mood that 
prevailed as the period of "pause" drew to a close. 


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By early September a general consensus had developed among high- 
level Administration officials that some form of additional and con- 
tinuous pressure should be exerted against North Vietnam. Though Laos 
was relatively stabilized, the situation there was recognized as dependent 
ultimately on the degree of success achieved in solving the problems of 
Vietnam. Pacification efforts within South Vietnam were regarded as 
insufficient by themselves to reverse the deteriorating trends in that 
country. As a result, officials from both civilian and military agencies 
were anxious to resume and to extend the program of military actions against 
communist forces outside its borders. 


How to go about this was a problem of great concern to top-level 
officials (the President, Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara, General 
Wheeler, Ambassador Taylor, CIA Director McCone) as they assembled in 
Washington on 7 September. The main purpose of the meeting was to dis- 
cuss with Ambassador Taylor future courses of U.S. and GVN action, 
particularly as related to the implications of the recent political up- 
heaval in Saigon. 

The alternatives presented for discussion were based largely on 
responses to the tentative analysis circulated by the State Department 
in mid-August. Replies from CINCPAC and the Saigon and Vientiane embassies 
had been circulated, and they provided the basis for a number of questions 
which Ambassador Taylor 1 s party was asked to be ready to discuss. 84/ JCS 
reactions to the analysis and to the earlier replies were submitted to the 
Secretary of Defense with the specific intent that they be considered at 
the meeting and presumably were passed to other participating agencies. 85/ 
OSD/lSA views were prepared by Assistant Secretary Mc Naught on on 3 September 
and were known at least to Assistant Secretary of State Bundy. 86/ 

Just prior to the meeting, the JCS urged that General Wheeler, their 
Chairman, propose a course of action involving air strikes against targets 
in North Vietnam appearing on the JCS-approved, ^-target list. 90/ This 
kind of action had been recommended before — most recently on 2£T~August, 
in response to the Department of State analysis — as a means of "destroying 
the DRV will and capabilities, as necessary, to continue to support the 
insurgencies in South Vietnam and Laos." What made this proposal particu- 
larly significant was that it called for deliberate attempts to provoke the 
DRV into taking actions which could then be answered by a systematic U.S. 
air campaign. According to the JCS scheme, the campaign "would be continuous 
and in ascending severity, " with its tempo and intensity varied as required 
hy enemy reactions. Targets would eventually include airfields, bridges, 
railroads, military installations, industrial facilities and armed route 
reconnaissance along the LOC's. The JCS argued that such actions were now 
"essential to prevent a complete collapse of the U.S. position in the 
r Republic of Vietnam and Southeast Asi§, " because "continuation of present 
or foreseeable programs limited to the RVN will not produce the desired 

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result." 88 / Quite similar language also appeared in the 26 August 

Whether or not or in what form General Wheeler presented this pro- 
posal to the assembled officials on 7 September is not indicated in the 
documentary sources available. The JCS belief in the necessity of bombing 
North Vietnam was discussed, as was some of their rationale. Made explicit, 
for example, was their argument that there was no reason to delay the 
bombing since (in their view) the situation in South Vietnam would only 
become worse. 89/ That the idea of deliberately provoking a DRV reaction 
was discussed in some form is indicated in a record of the consensus arrived 
at in the discussions. 90/ However, the JCS were not the only officials 
who favored such an idea. Assistant Secretary McNaughton's "Plan of Action" 
(3 September 1904- ) also called for actions that "should be likely at some 
point to provoke a military DRV response." The latter, in turn, "should be 
likely to provide good grounds for us to escalate if we wished." 91/ 

The principal confereees did not believe that deliberately provocative 
actions should be undertaken "in the immediate future while the GVN is still 
struggling to its feet." However, they apparently reached a consensus 
that they might recommend such actions — "depending on GVN progress and 
Communist reaction in the meantime" -~ by early October. 92/ 

The reasons cited for their opposition to provocative acts were also 
applied in rejecting proposals for an immediate bombing campaign. The 
GVN was expected to be too weak for the United States to assume the "delib- 
erate risks of escalation that would involve a major role for, or threat 
to, South Vietnam." 93/ In the discussion, Mr. McCone observed that 
undertaking a sustained attack on the DRV would be very dangerous, due to 
the weakness and unpredictability of the political base in South Vietnam. 
Secretary Rusk stated the view that every means short of bombing must be 
exhausted. Secretary McNamara affirmed his understanding that "we are not 
acting more strongly because there is a clear hope of strengthening the 
GVN. But he went on to urge that the way be kept open for stronger actions 
even if the GVN did not improve or in the event the war were widened by 
the communists. It is interesting to note that the President asked speci- 
fically, "Can we really strengthen the GVN?" 9V 

Even though the principals did not accept the JCS proposal and appar- 
ently did not agree with their assessment of the chances for improvement 
in South Vietnam, they did indicate accord with the JCS sense of the 
gravity of the U.S. predicament. In response to General Wheeler r s state- 
ments that "if the United States loses in South Vietnam, it will lose all 
of Southeast Asia" and that its position throughout all of Asia would be 
damaged, both McCone and Rusk indicated agreement. Ambassador Taylor 
♦ stated the view that the United States could not afford to let Ho Chi Minh " 
win in South Vietnam. Secretary Rusk added the consideration that the 
whole world doubted our ability to pull it off. 95/ 

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The meeting resulted in consensus among the principals on certain 
courses of prompt action to put additional pressure on Worth Vietnam. 
The following measures were recommended to the President for his decision: 

tf l. U.S. naval patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin should be 
resumed immediately (about September 12). They should operate 
initially beyond the 12-mile limit and be clearly dissociated 
from 3^-A maritime operations. ... 

2. 3^A operations by the GVN should be resumed immediately 
thereafter (next week). The maritime operations are by far the 
most important .... 

3» Limited GVN air and ground operations into the corridor 
areas of Laos should be undertaken in the near future, together 
with Lao air strikes as soon as we can get Souvanna's permission. 
These operations will have only limited effect; however. 

! 4. We should be prepared to respond on a tit-for-tat basis 
against the DRV /against specific and related target s/ in the event 
of any attack on U.S. units or any special DRV/VC action against SVN."96/ 

The purposes for these measures were conceived as: (l) TT to assist morale 
in SVN, ' (2) to "show the Communists we still mean business," and (3)"to 
keep the risks low and under our control at each stage." 


These recommendations (and presumably the purposes) were approved 
by the President and became the basis for a program of limited (though 
not continuous) pressures exerted against North Vietnam from mid-September 
to mid-December 1964. On 10 September, the White House issued a National 
Security Action Memorandum which authorized immediate resumption of the 
DE SOTO Patrols and prompt discussions with the Government of Laos to 
develop plans for cross-border operations. It also authorized resumption 
of 3^A operations following completion of the DE SOTO Patrol, with the 
additional guidance that "we should have the GVN ready to admit that they 
are taking place and to justify and legitimize them on the basis of the 
facts of VC infiltration by sea." 97/ It is significant that although 
this order, in effect, authorized the initiation of Phase III (October 
through December) of the covert operations under OPLAN 3^A, it specified 
contrary to the provisions of Phase III that "we should not consider air 
strikes under «3^A for the present." 

Naval Operation s^ The resumption of naval patrol and covert 
maritime operations off the coast of North Vietnam did not proceed exactly * 
as planned. The destroyers U.S.S. Morton and U.S.S. Edwards embarked on 
the third DE SOTO Patrol on 12 September. On the night of the l8th, while 
on a southeasterly heading, the ships made a surface radar contact which 
was observed to split into two images, increase speed and close rapidly. 

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Approximately 40 minutes after first contact and after firing a warning 
shot., Morton and Edwards opened fire, both scoring hits. Subsequently, 
on two separate occasions after the target images had disappeared from 
the radar, new contacts appeared and were fired on at a range of approxi- 
mately 8,500 yards, hits again being indicated for both vessels. In all, 
Morton fired 56 five- inch and 128 three- inch rounds; Edwards fired 152 

ive-mch and 6 three-inch rounds. There were no rounds or torpedoes 
reported coming from the radar contacts. 98/ Later on the l8th (Washington 
time;, President Johnson suspended the DE SOTO Patrols; they were not to 
be resumed until February 1965. 

^"the aftermath of the third destroyer incident in the Tonkin 
bull, covert GVN maritime operations were not resumed until October. 
President Johnson authorized reactivation of this program on the Vth, under 
very tight ^ controls. 99/ The proposed schedule of maritime operations had 

o e submitted at the beginning of each month for approval. Each opera- 
tion was approved in advance by OSD (Mr. Vance), State (Mr. L. Thompson 
or Mr. Porrestal) and the White House (Mr. McGeorge Bundy) . 100 / During 
ctober, these included two probes, an attempted junk capture, and ship- 
o-shore bombardment of North Vietnamese radar sites. Later, they included 
theDp 6 ^ 1, demolition team assaults on bridges along coastal LOC's. Unlike 

oOTO Patrols, these unacknowledged operations continued throughout 
the year. ° 

. Agji jgns In Laos . Operations in the Laotian Panhandle took shape 
W J 7 h er ^Predictable developments. On 11 September, representatives 
o the U.S. missions in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam met in Saigon to dis- 
cuss implementation of the NSAM 3l4 provisions for cross-border air and 
ground operations. Regarding air operations, they agreed that if their 
primary objective was military in nature, "sharp, heavy" and concentrated 
attacks would be needed and that U.S. and/or VNAF/fARMGATE forces would be 
required. If their impact was intended to be primarily psychological 
(.presumably affecting both communists and the GVN), they believed that the 
operations could be more widely spaced, relying primarily on Laotian T-28s 

some U.S. strikes on harder targets. In view of Souvanna Phouma's 
reported opposition to VNAF strikes in the Panhandle, the representatives 
conceded that the slower paced operation with RLAF aircraft offered the 
best course. 101/ However, they saw a joint Lao, Thai, RVN and U.S. 
opera cion as particularly desirable, were it not for the time required 
arrange it. As one means of symbolizing four power support for the 
operation, they recommended that the Thai Government be approached regarding 
use of the Korat base by participating U.S. aircraft. 102 / 

Regarding cross-border ground operations, the representatives 
agreed that the southern and central Panhandle offered terrain and targets - 
consistent with the available GVN assets. Although it was recognized that 
accompanying U.S. advisors might be necessary to assure the success of the 
operations, the planners acceded to Vientiane's objections that such a 

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flagrant violation of the Geneva Accords would endanger the credibility 
of our political stance in Laos. 103 / Subsequent to the meeting, the 
Vientiane Embassy removed a reservation expressed earlier and cleared 
the way for company-size penetrations of up to 20 km along Route 9, near 
Tchepone. 104/ At the conference this operation was considered of high 
priority with respect to infiltration traffic into South Vietnam. 

The mission representatives agreed that, once the operations 
began, they should not be acknowledged publicly. In effect, then, they 
would supplement the other covert pressures being exerted against North 
Vietnam. Moreover, while the Lao Government would of course know about 
the operations of their T-28s, Souvanna was not to be informed of the 
GVN/U.S. operations. The unacknowledged nature of these operations would 
thus be easier to maintain. Accordingly, the representatives recommended 
to Washington that Vientiane be authorized to approach the Laotian Govern- 
ment regarding initiation of T-28 operations. On the other hand, the 
Administration was asked to approve ground operations in three specified 
areas of the Panhandle. 105/ 

Over two weeks passed before these recommendations were acted on. 
In the meantime, the JCS also submitted proposals for implementing NSAM 3l4, 
requesting immediate authority to implement air operations in the Panhandle. 
Endorsing the main theme of the mission representatives, they called for 
combined action by RLAP T-28s and U.S. aircraft which would provide "sup- 
pressive fire" and attack heavily defended bridges. The JCS also sought 
authority to initiate GVN ground intelligence collection and target recon- 
naissance patrols in the Laotian corridor. 10 6 / 

On 6 October, authority was given the Vientiane Embassy to urge 
the Laotian Government to begin T-28 air strikes "as soon as possible." 
The RLAF targets were to be selected from a previously coordinated 22- 
target list, a few of which were designed for U.S. YANKEE TEAM strikes, 
but they were to exclude Mu Gia Pass. The latter mission was known to 
require U.S. escort and suppressive fire, and a decision on whether to 
authorize such U.S. operations had not yet been made in Washington. More- 
over, neither had the Administration authorized YANKEE TEAM strike missions 
against the tougher Panhandle targets. 107/ 

Administration rationale on the issue of U.S. participation in 
the Panhandle air strikes is not clear from the sources available to this 
writer. Contemporary intelligence estimates indicated the communist 
responses were likely to be limited to (l) increases in antiaircraft deploy- 
ments in the area, (2) propaganda attacks and (3) possible sabotage of U.S./ 
GVN supporting bases. 103/ However, Washington's viewpoint on another 
Laotian request for air support may be significant. With respect to air 
strikes against targets along Route 7, in support of the RLG campaign to 
consolidate its holdings west of the Plaine des Jarres, Administration 
rationale was as follows: 


oince we wish to avoid the impression that we are 
taking /the/ first step in escalation, we /are/ inclined 

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/to/ defer decision on Route 7 strikes until we have strong 
evidence /of/ Hanoi 1 s preparation for new attack in /the 
Plaine des Jarres/, some of which might come from RLAF opera- 
tions over the Route." 10 9 / 

On 13 October, one day before the initial RLAF attacks, UoS. 
strikes were again requested on four defended targets near Nape and 
Tchepone. They were to accompany T-28 strikes on communist military 
installations and supply points in the northern part of the Panhandle. 110 / 
The significance of these operations, and U.S. participation in them, was 
indicated a few days earlier in another meeting among representatives of 
the three missions. It was reported at this time that it was probable 
"that ARVN will be unable /to/ afford detachment /of/ any significant 
ground capability for /the Laotian/ Corridor in /the/ foreseeable future." 
Therefore, air operations would offer the only dependable means of com- 
batting VC infiltration through Laos. The participants recorded "unanimous 
agreement that U.S. participation in air operations in /the/ corridor is 
essential if such operations are to have desired military and psychological 
impact." Emphasizing that the initiative for these operations came from 
the United States Government, they pointed out that failure to participate 
could result in loss of control over them and could even jeopardize their 
continuation. At minimum the group recommended that U.S. aircraft fly 
CAP (combat air patrol) over the RLAF aircraft, as requested by the 
Laotian Government and as permitted by a "relatively minor extension" 
of existing U.S. rules of engagement. Ill/ 

CAP missions were approved, but U.S. air strikes against com- 
munist LOCs in the Laotian Panhandle were not authorized until much later 
in the year. 112 / Cross-border ground operations did not receive auth- 
orization at any time during the period covered in this study. 


One reason for the delay in requesting Laotian air strikes in the 
Panhandle was the need to await the uncertain outcome of discussions in 
Paris among leaders of the three Laotian political factions. Since 27 August, 
when they first met, the three Princes (Souvanna Phouma, Souphanouvang, 
and Boun Oum) had reached an impasse on conditions to accompany a cease- 
fire. Souvanna Phouma insisted on communist withdrawal from positions 
won in the May offensive and had proposed neutralization of the Plaine des 
Jarres under I.C.C. supervision. 113 / On 15 September, when it seemed 
that further negotiations had become fruitless, Prince Souphanouvang 
offered to withdraw communist forces from the Plaine in return for dis- 
cussions leading to a new 1*1- Nation Conference. The following day, Souvanna 
countered with a proposal that a cease-fire Degin on 1 October and attempted 
t to verify and make more explicit the mutual concessions. The pro-communist 
leader balked over stipulated guarantees, such as I.C.C. supervision, that 
pro-communist forces would' in fact withdraw and be replaced by neutralists. 
However, on the 21st, the leaders arrived at agreement for continued meetings 
at the ministerial level, based on an agenda which included a cease-fire 


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and preliminary conditions for reconvening a Geneva conference. 114 / 

The narrow margin by which the cease-fire agreement failed to come 
about dramatized the delicate nature of the Administration's diplomatic 
position in Laos. Having agreed to support the tripartite discussions 
prior to the Tonkin Gulf incidents and prior to the political upheaval 
in Saigon, it felt constrained to go along with them -- particularly 
if they served to forestall movement toward a Geneva-type negotiation. 
However, a Laotian cease-fire was not compatible with current perceptions 
of U.So interest even if it resulted in communist withdrawal from the 
Plaine. des Jarres. Ambassador Unger pointed out the contradictory nature 
of our position in his reply to the State Department's mid-August analysis 
of future U.S. courses of action. 115/ Ambassador Taylor emphasized the 
need to maintain the option of operations in the Panhandle in his reply 
also, and the September discussions in Washington confirmed that his view 
was shared by most of the President's advisors.' One could conclude that 
the United States was fortunate that Prince Souphanouvang was so intransi- 
gent on the issue of I.C.C. supervision. It is also possible that in 
insisting on this provision to the leftist prince Souvanna Phouma "knew 
his man" — perhaps reflecting perceptive American advice. 

Certainly the course of the tripartite discussions followed a 
pattern commensurate with prior U.S. calculation. In an assessment of 
future courses of action used as the basis for the policy analysis cabled 
to affected interested embassies and CINCPAC by the State Department, 
Assistant Secretary Bundy characterized U.S. strategy with the statement, 
"We would wish to slow down any progress toward a conference...." He then 
referred to a specific negotiating position proposed by Ambassador Unger 
(a proposal for tripartite administration of the Plaine des Jarres) as 
"a useful delaying gambit." 116 / Significantly, this' proposal was 
advanced at Paris by Souvanna Phouma on 1 September — illustrating the fact 
that Souvanna was carefully advised by U.S. diplomats both prior to and 
during the Paris meetings. 117 / Other features of Souvanna r s negotiating 
posture which apparently were encouraged as likely to have the effect of 
drawing out the discussions were insistence on communist acceptance of 
(l) Souvanna r s political status as Premier and (2) unhampered operations 
by the I C.C. 11.8 / It will be recalled that the latter point was the 
issue on which progress toward a cease-fire became stalled. 

It is important to note here that the State Department recognized 
that Souvanna Phouma might well act on his own and feel compelled to 
move toward a conference, even at the price of a cease-fire. In such 
an event, our position was to be dependent on conditions in South Vietnam: 

"If the timing of the Laos Conference, In relation to 
the degree of pressures we had then set in motion against the 
DRV, was such that our attending or accepting the conference 
would have major morale drawbacks in South Viet -Nam, we might 
well have to refuse to attend ourselves and to accept the dis- 
advantage of having no direct participation. In the last analysis, 
GVN morale would have to be the deciding factor." 119/ 

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It is apparent from this and other documents that GVN stability and 
morale were perceived by the Administration as the principal pacing 
elements for Southeast Asian policy in the post-Tonkin period. # 





Through most of the strategy discussions of early autumn. South 
Vietnam was the main focus of attention. However, with increasing fre- 
quency its political and military conditions were referred to in a new 
way. More and more it was being evaluated in terms of its suitability 
as a base for wider action. Ambassador Taylor cautioned that "we should 
not get involved militarily with North Vietnam and possibly with Red China 
if our base in South Viet Nam is insecure and Khanh's army is tied down 
everywhere by the VC insurgency." 120/ At the September meeting, Mr. 
McCone criticized the actions recommended by the JCS as being very dangerous 
because of the current weakness of the C-VN base.. On 23 September, Walt 
Rostow wrote to Ambassador Taylor of the need for building a more viable 
political system in South Vietnam "which will provide us with an adequate 
base for what we may later have to do." 12l/ 


General Scheme . The kind of operations for which "an adequate 
base" was~increa singly considered essential is evident in a number of 
strategy discussions of the period. Moreover, it is clear that several 
officials shared the expectation that these operations would begin early 
in the new year. It will be recalled that the series of actions recom- 
mended to President Johnson by his top advisors at the end of May -- most 
of which had been completed within a few days of the Tonkin Gulb incidents -• 
were intended to culminate, if necessary, in a strike against North Vietnam 
accompanied by an active diplomatic offensive that included agreement to a 
negotiated settlement. 122/ Further, Phase III of the approved contingency 
OPLAN 37-6^, developed in response to NSAM 288, provided for the application 
of overt graduated pressures against North Vietnam -- primarily air strikes. 
These were to be carried out by the GVN^ but which would also include opera- 
tions by U.S. air and naval forces. Deployments of additional forces to 
Southeast Asia in early summer and in the immediate aftermath of the Tonkin 
Gulf incidents were based on force requirements identified to support this 
plan. Its perceived significance during the post-Tonkin period was indi- 
cated when Ambassador Taylor reported that the objectives of the U.S. 
Mission in Saigon included preparation to implement OPLAN 37~&i- "with opti- 
mum readiness by January 1, 1965." 123/ 

Subsequent strategy discussions reflected the extent to which 
'the new year was anticipated as the occasion for beginning overt military 
operations against North Vietnam. Both the State Department's mid-August 
strategy analysis and the working paper on which it was based indicated 
•that the "limited pressures" (subsequently authorized by NSAM 31*0 would 
extend "tentatively through December." However, these actions were per- 
ceived as "foreshadowing systematic military action against the DRV, " which 
"we might at some point conclude. . .was required."- (Noteworthy is the point 
of view that these actions might be ordered "either because of incidents 
arising from /the limited pressures/ or because of deterioration in the 

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situation in South Vietnam, particularly if there were to be clear evi- 
dence of greatly increased infiltration from the north.") Should 
specific provocations not occur, a contingency target date of 1 January 
1965 was indicated: 12^ / 

" /they absence of such major new developments 
/incidents or increased infiltration/; we should probably 
be thinking of a contingency date for planning purposes, as 
suggested by .Ambassador Taylor, of 1 January 1965." 12$ / 

The working paper elaborated more fully than the cable the kind 
of preliminary actions considered necessary to set the stage. Some of 
this elaboration was provided in suggested language changes penciled- in by 
OSD prior to an inter-agency meeting called to discuss its contents. Refer- 
ring to air strikes in the Panhandle (proposed to begin in September), a 
suggested OSD addition stated: "The strikes should probably be timed and 
plotted on the map to bring them to the borders of North Vietnam at the 
end of December." The main body of the text suggested that the January 
operations include "action against infiltration routes and facilities" as 
"probably the best opening gambit." It explained that "the family of 
infiltration-related targets starts with clear military installations 
near the borders /and/ can be extended almost at will northward." The 

next upward move' was suggested to include action against "military-related 
targets, " such, as "POL installations and the mining of Haiphong Harbor" and 

key bridges and railroads." The purpose perceived for these operations 
was to inflict progressive damage that would have a meaningful cumulative 
effect." 126/ 

." 1. 

Ambassador Taylor viewed 1 January 1965 as a "target D-Day" before 
which the U.S. Mission and the GVN should develop "a posture of maximum 
readiness for a deliberate escalation of pressure against North Viet Nam." 
The nature of this escalation was perceived as "a carefully orchestrated 
bombing attack on NVN, directed primarily at infiltration and other mili- 
tary targets." It would consist of 

"U.S. reconnaissance planes, VNLAF/eARMGATE air- 
craft against those targets which could be attacked 
safely in spite of the presence of the MIGs, and addi- 
tional U.S. combat aircraft if necessary for the effective 
execution of the bombing programs." 

He qualified this assessment with the observation, "We must always recog- 
nize, however, that events nay force /the/ U.S. to advance D-Day to a 
considerably earlier date." The reason for this qualification was Taylor f s 
concern that the GVN might not be able to sustain its authority until 
.January. Thus, in order to "avoid the possible consequences of a collapse 
of national morale" it would be necessary, he felt, "to open the campaign 
against the DRV without delay." The nature of the air campaign "would be 
essentially the same" as under the January scheme, except that it would 
rely "almost exclusively on U.S. military means." 127 / 

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Similar assessments of timing in relation to more vigorous, 
military action against North Vietnam were made in OSD/lSA. The immed- 
iate measures proposed in McNaughton's draft "Plan of Action for South 
Vietnam" (3 September) were conceived not only as means to provoke Worth 
Vietnam into responses justifying U.S. punitive actions. They were also 
believed to make possible the postponement "probably until November or 
December ' of a decision regarding the more serious escalation. In 
McNaughton's terminology the latter were referred to as "a crescendo of 
GVN-U.S. military actions against the DRV," but they included a variety 
of possibilities: 

"The escalating actions might be naval pressures 
or mining of harbors; or they might be made up of air 
strikes against North Vietnam moving from southern to 
northern targets, from targets associated with infiltration 
and by-then-disclosed DRV-VC radio command nets to targets 
of military then industrial importance, and from missions 
which could be handled by the VNAF alone to those which 
could be carried out only by the U.S." 128 / 

It is clear, however, that what was contemplated was a pattern of gradu- 
ally mounting pressures intended to Impress the DRV with the increasing 
gravity of its situation. 

Records of the September conference do not indicate that a 
decision was made relative to an explicit January contingency date. In 
several respects they do make clear that the possibility of escalation 
at the end of the - year was considered. For example, hope was expressed 
that the GVN would grow stronger over the following two to three months -- 
by implication, strong enough to permit "major deliberate risks of 
escalation" or "deliberately provocative" U.S. actions. 129/ Directly 
related to this hope was the intention of having the GVN admit publicly 
to its conduct of maritime operations against North Vietnamese coastal 
installations and communications. The aim was "to justify and legitimize 
them on the basis of the facts of VC infiltration by sea." 130/ It was 
believed that this step would be useful in establishing a climate of 
opinion more receptive to expanded (air) operations against North Vietnam 
when they should become necessary. 13l/ 

Reservations . By October 19&I-, therefore, there was a general 
belief among the President's top advisors that it would probably be 
necessary eventually to subject North Vietnam to overt military pressure. 
Many were convinced, however reluctantly, that it would not be possible 
to obtain an effective solution to the problem of DRV sponsorship of the 
insurgency in South Vietnam or a permanent solution to the political strife 
in Laos without such direct pressure on the instigator of these problems. 
Significantly, these views were dissimilar in character to the interest 
in graduated pressures shown in the Spring and to the determination "to 
use force if necessary" urged on the President at the end of May. For 

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most of the principal advisors, the earlier views had been clearly- 
contingent upon a major reversal — principally in Laos--and had "been 
advanced with the apparent assumption that military actions hopefully 
would not be required. Now, however, their views were advanced* with 
a sense that such actions were inevitable. Moreover, they were advanced 
despite the perspective afforded by a number of critical evaluations -of 
the use of military pressure. In addition to the studies made during 
the first half of 1964, all of the principal advisory agencies had reviewed 
a detailed critique of the so-called "Rostow thesis" just prior to the 
September strategy conference. 

The critique was accomplished in OSD/lSA with inputs and coordina- 
tion from State's Policy Planning Council. The assigned task was to make 

a thorough analysis of and report on the Rostow thesis that covert 
aggression justifies and must be fought by attacks on the source of the 
aggression.*' Copies were distributed to the Washington recipients of the 
Rostow paper, including the White House, Department of State, Department 
of Defense, the JCS and each of the services. 

In their summary analysis of the thesis the critiquers emphasized 
two variables which would determine its utility: (l) the extent of the 
commitment of the nation furnishing external support and (2) the extent 
to which the insurgency affected vital U.S. interests. With regard to 
the former variable, they described "three fundamental conditions" which 
would have to exist to achieve success "in cases where the external opponent 
is committed to the extent of the North Vietnamese." The- opponents would 
have to be persuaded that: (l) the United States was "taking limited 
actions to achieve limited objectives;" (2) "the commitment of the military 
power of the United States to the limited objective is a total commitment -- 
as total as our commitment to get the missiles out of Cuba in October 1962;" 
(3) the United States has "established a sufficient consensus to see 
through this course of action both at home and on the world scene." Fur- 
ther, unless such an opponent were so persuaded, "the approach might well' 
fail to be effective short of a major U.S. military involvement." 132 / 

Essential to creating the necessary conviction of U.S. intent 
on the part of the opposing government, the analysis argued, was a firm 
image that the President and the U.S. public were in agreement that vital 
national interests were at stake. Unless vital interests were clearly 
at stake, 

"the limited military actions envisaged would 
not only involve much greater political costs at home and 
abroad... but there would be much greater risk that the 
program would not be effective except at high levels of 
involvement and risk, and that it might be allowed to fall 
short of such levels." 

In the analysts 1 view, "this requirement of vital. interest would sharply 
limit the application of the thesis" among the world areas currently 
threatened. It observed that "Laos- Vietnam seems the only one in which 
a strong, but not necessarily conclusive, case can be made that this 
condition holds." 133/ 

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Assuming that vital U.S. interests were assessed as being 
at stake by an Administration in some unspecified case, the critiquers 
went on to outline some additional "conditions for success.' 1 First, 
an Administration would have to present a solid case to the U.S. 
Congress and public and to our allies that the external support pro- 
vided by the target nation was instrumental in sustaining the insurgency. 
In the interest of making its public case conclusive, "the U.S. would 
have to^be prepared to expose intelligence data." Second, it would have 
to identify enemy targets "such that limited attacks and the threat of 
further attacks would bring great pressure on him to comply." Third, 
the U.S. Government would have to be able to communicate its case to 
the garget nation "including the high degree of U.S. commitment and the 
limited nature of our objective." This would involve controlling both 
the U.S. and its ally's actions "to convey limited objectives, minimizing 
incentives to comply." Finally, it would have to be capable of deter- 
mining enemy compliance with our demands. 13V 

The critiquers 7 analysis included an assessment of the costs 
and risks to be incurred in applying the thesis and cautioned against 
its adoption as a general declaratory policy: 

"Given present attitudes, application of the 
Rostow approach risks domestic and international opposi- 
tion ranging from anxiety and protest to condemnation, 
efforts to disassociate from U.S. policies or alliances, 
or even strong count ermeasures . . . . 

"Currently, then, it is the Rostow approach, rather 
than the measures it counters that would be seen generally 
as an "unstabilizing" change in the rules of the game, an 
escalation of conflict, an increasing of shared, interna- 
tional risks, and quite possibly, as an open aggression 
demanding condemnation. . .particularly In general terms or 
in abstraction from a specific, immediately challenging 

'On the other hand, the controlled, limited mili- 
tary actions implied in the Rostow approach would be far 
more acceptable to the extent that they were seen to 
follow from Presidential conviction of vital national 
necessity in a specific context; and even more to the 
extent that this conviction were shared by Congress and the 
U.S. public. 

An attempt to legitimize such actions in general 
terms, and in advance of an emergency situation, would 
not only be likely to fail, but. might well evoke public 
expressions of domestic and" allied opposition and denunci- 
auions, warnings, count erthreats and binding commitments 

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from opponents that would make it much more difficult 
for the President to contemplate this approach when 
an occasion actually arose 


• • » • 

They went on to point out that accepting the Rostow thesis as a principle 
of U.S. declaratory policy would require making it public before applying 
it. The need to be assured of "Congressional and other public support 
in carrying through the thesis in a given case 1 ' would require this. 
Therefore, the analysts concluded, "It would be exceedingly unwise to 
make the Rostow thesis a declaratory policy unless the U.S. were prepared 
to act on it' — but then only if we were assured of the public commit- 
ment and the capability to achieve success. 135/ 

With regard to the applicability of the thesis to the contemporary 
situation in Southeast Asia, the critiquers summarized their views as 
follows : 

• ■ 

"...the situation in Vietnam and Laos is the only 
one in which a strong case can be made that the two major 
indications for the Rostow approach are made: the ineffective- 
ness of alternatives and vital U.S. interests. Even in this 
case the degee of UoS. interest, the degree and acceptability 
of the risks, and the potential effectiveness of this approach 
are subject to question. In particular, the likelihood and 
the political costs of failure of the approach, and the 
pressures for U.S. escalation if early moves should fail, ■ 
require serious examination." 13 6/ 


In describing the evolution of Administration strategy this account 
has previously emphasized the points of general agreement among the 
President's advisors. Its purpose has been to describe the existence and 
sense of a policy consensus that had emerged by mid-October. However, 
significant differences of opinion existed among the various advisory 
agencies regarding what actions should be taken and how soon they should 
be initiated. These differences can be discerned with respect to five 
issues: (l) whether and how soon the GVN maritime operations should be 
acknowledged; (2) the desirability of tit-for-tat reprisals; (3) how 
best to cope with enemy reactions to increased pressures on the DRV; 
(h) the degree of GVN/u.S. readiness required before increasing the 
pressures; and (5) the relationship perceived between increased pressures 
and negotiatiors . 

JCS views. Senior military officials differed among themselves 
on the first three issues. CINCPAC apparently perceived difficulties 
resulting from official acknowledgements of GVN maritime operations and 
suggested that press leaks would achieve the desired effects on SVN morale. 
General Wheeler saw official acknowledgement as a means to legitimize the 

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operations and thereby enable their scope and effectiveness to be 
increased. However, he was not supported by the service chiefs. They 
opposed surfacing the GVN operations until they could become associated 
with the DE SOTO Patrols "or until the United States is prepared openly 
to support MAROPS militarily." 137 / All of these officials agreed that 
it was necessary to undertake reprisals for a variety of hostile VC or 
DRV actions. In particular they wanted U.S. responses to be greater 
in degree, not necessarily matching in kind, than the provocations. 
Where they came to differ was on the desirability of deliberately pro- 
voking DRV actions to which we could then respond. After the September 
White House meeting only the Air Force Chief of Staff and the Marine 
Commandant favored this approach. 138/ 

Differences with respect to preparation for coping with enemy 
reactions to harsher pressures centered around the issue of committing 
greater numbers of U.S. ground forces to South Vietnam. CINCPAC, sup- 
porting General Westmoreland's request, urged provision for deployment 
of Marine and Army units to provide security for U.S./CVN operating 
bases. The JCS disagreed and disapproved a request to make such adjust- 
ments ^in OPLAN 37-64, on grounds that since VC capabilities were still 
questionable it was preferable not to precornmit U.S. forces in the manner 
urged. At issue concurrently was an Air Force proposal to reduce the 
number of ground forces provided for in the event of a large scale DRV/ 
CHICOM intervention in Southeast Asia and to rely more heavily on tactical 
air capabilities. The other chiefs disagreed, but the controversy con- 
cerning the relative emphasis on ground and air forces for the defense of 
Southeast Asia was to occupy JCS attention for several months to come. 139/ 

Regarding the issue of readiness to increase pressures on North 
Vietnam and the role of negotiations, the military chiefs were in agree- 
ment throughout the period. Soon after the Tonkin Gulf incidents they 
urged prompt implementation of more serious pressures using U.S. air 
capabilities. They opposed B~57 training for the VNAF, citing its limited 
pilot and supporting technical resources which would be needed for counter- 
insurgency missions. In response to warnings that we should not get 
deeply involved in a conflict in Southeast Asia until we were surer of 
the GVN|s commitment, they replied that "the United States is already 
deeply involved." They went on to recommend preparations for deploying 
the remaining OPLAN 37-64 forces needed for mounting a U.S. air strike 
program against North Vietnam. l4o / While the JCS did not address the 
subject of negotiations explicitly during this period, their statements 
implied a lack of interest in a negotiated solution to the Vietnam prob- 
lem. At every opportunity- they reiterated their recommendation that we 
should attack North Vietnamese will and capabilities as necessary to 
force a DRV decision to halt its support and direction of the insurgency. 

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Saigon Embassy views . Ambassador Taylor opposed the views 
of his former military colleagues on most issues. Prior to the Sep- 
tember meeting, he expressed objections to the idea of surfacing or 
leaking to the press the nature of GVN maritime operations. He also 
opposed tit-for-tat retaliation bombing for the reason that it was 

likely to release a new order of military reaction from both sides, 
the outcome of which is impossible to predict." He saw enemy ground 
assaults as a greater threat to U.S. bases in South Vietnam than enemy 
air attacks and supported the deployment of U.S. ground force units 
for base security purposes. This was to occur after the beginning of 
GVN/U.S. ground and air cross-border operations into Laos. However, 
not unlike the Chiefs, one of the criteria he employed in shaping his 

recommendation was the avoidance of a major U.S. ground force commit- 
ment. 141 / 

Ambassador Taylor's views were apparently based on an under- 
lying rationale that actions to counter the VC/DRV aggression should not 
outstrip the GVN and that if it could be avoided, the conflict should not 
be escalated to a level beyond South Vietnamese capacities to manage it. 
Although believing firmly that the United States would have to apply 
direct pressure against North Vietnam eventually, to force her to 
abandon her objectives, he felt that the major burden of this effort 
should be borne by the GVN. Thus, his support for U.S. base security 
deployments was based in part on concern lest ARVN units be tied down 
in such^roles and, thus, unavailable for more free-ranging combat. Simi- 
larly, in August, the Embassy favored immediate initiation of B-57 
training for the VNAE to enable it to play a substantial role in the 
overt air attacks envisioned for 1965. 

Thxs training -- like Saigon T s discouragement of U.S. eagerness 
to negotiate in Laos -- was also advocated for its value in bolstering 
the GVN's morale and determination to continue fighting against its 
communist enemies. This same consideration was at the root of the 
Ambassador's belief that any negotiations which affected South Vietnam 
should be avoided until North Vietnam was subjected to more forceful 
military pressures. He also felt that communication with Hanoi should 
be preceded by a thorough discussion and understanding of our limited 
war aims with the GVN. 1^.-2/ 

The Ambassador's basic concern that the GVN be capable of 
and committed to supporting the evolving levels of war effort against 
the communists was indicated in his response to the political upheaval 
in Sa.igon. Earlier, his recommendations had included the option of 
opening "the /air/ campaign against the DRV without delay," in the event 
of threatened collapse of the Khahn Government. The objective was to 
have been "to avoid the 'possible consequences of a collapse of national 
morale-. At the September meeting and subsequently, however, after 
Khahn ^ had already been forced to step down from GVN leadership once 
and his new government was even shakier than two months earlier, the 
Ambassador opposed overt action against North Vietnam as too risky and 
urged instead that further measures to strengthen the GVN be taken first. 1U3/ 


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- OSD views . OSD and OSD/lSA views were clearer on some 
issues than on others. For example., the source documents indicate 
their consistent support for surfacing the GVN maritime operations, ikk / 
Similarly^ it is clear that OSD continually regarded negotiations as a 
necessary process for terminating the insurgency in South Vietnam and 
a program of increased pressures against the DRV as a means of improving 
the U.S. bargaining position. Like other agencies, it saw negotiations 
as something that should not be entered into until the pressures were 
hurting North Vietnam, but it emphasized that the pattern of pressures 
should make clear our limited aims. lk^ / 

Equally consistent but less explicit were OSD views on GVN/u.S. 
readiness to mount overt attacks on North Vietnam. Secretary McNamara 
was concerned that too early initiation of air action against North 
Vietnam might find the United States unprepared to cope with the con- 
sequences. At the end of August he directed the JCS to study and report 
on POL and ordnance stocks available to carry out approved contingency 
plans to combat a large-scale communist intervention after the expenditures 
required for the pattern of attacks which they proposed against North 
Vietnam. He also asked for specific recommendations on next steps to be 
taken in the event destruction of the proposed JCS targets did not destroy 
the DRV will and capability to continue. Mr. McNaughton's "Plan of Action" 
was intended to make unnecessary any decision concerning larger operations 
until late in the autumn. Moreover, it was designed explicitly "to create 
as little risk as possible of the kind of military action which would be 
difficult to justify to the American public and to preserve where possible 
the option to have no U.S. military action at all." In September, OSD/lSA 
was on record as favoring the initiation of bombing against North Vietnam -• 
after suitable provocation by Hanoi. But by mid-October the OSD view 
was apparently that overt actions against the North should be held off 
at least until the new year. 146/ 

With respect to the other issues the most consistent aspect of 
OSD views was their prudence. Its attitudes toward tit-for-tat reprisals 
are not really clear. Soon after Tonkin Gulf OSD notified the JCS that 
the events there precluded any further need for their work on retaliation 
scenarios in support of NSAM 288. Then, just three weeks later, the 
McNaughton "Plan of Action" proposed deliberate provocation of DRV actions 
to permit U.S. retaliation — but as a means to begin a gradual squeeze 
on North Vietnam, not merely tit-for-tat reprisals. Mr. McNamara T s own 
views do not appear except by implication, in that he did not indicate 
any opposition to them when shown William Bundy's draft summation of the 
September meeting consensus. lV[/ Prudence was again the dominant feature 
of OSD views on preparations to cope with possible enemy reactions to the 
harsher pressures. For example, "on several occasions" Secretary McNamara 
expressed to the JCS his interest in the possibility of countering a 
massive Chinese intervention in Southeast Asia without the need to intro- 
duce large numbers of U.S. ground forces. The OSD appraisal of the USAF 

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proposal to reduce provisional ground force levels for Southeast 
Asian defense concluded that the issue remained "open." It was crit- 
ical of that particular study because of its methodology and assump- 
tions. Later, however, Mr.McNamara supported the JCS in their 
disapproval of the MACV request for allocation of additional ground 
force units for base security purposes. 1^8 / 

State views . Various documents make it clear that there were 
several different points of view prevalent within the State Department 
during the period in question. Reflected here are those channeled 
through the Secretary of State or communicated to the Department of 
Defense, usually through the Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs. 
With few exceptions, the courses of action followed by the Administration 
were those advocated by State. Its proposal for B-57 training for the 
VNAF was apparently overruled on the basis of JCS recommendations, but 
otherwise its support for measures to further strengthen the GVN and for 
. pressuring actions other than overt military attacks throughout l$6k 
prevailed, Iks/ Its support for the acknowledgement of GVN maritime 
operations failed to materialize only because of objections on the part 
of the GVN itself. 150/ 

State Department views on the other issues, likewise, were 
reflected in U.S. policy positions. Reprisals for VC acts that could 
be matched with fitting responses were favored in principle but were not 
necessarily to be carried out in all instances. Escalation through such 
responses was seen as useful for purposes of assisting GVN morale, but 
State did not believe that steps should be taken to bring about such 
situations just yet. It did, however, acknowledge that deliberate 
provocations might be useful in the future. Negotiation of a Vietnam 
solution through an international conference was viewed as inevitable, 
but it should be permitted only after hurting North Vietnam and convincing 
South Vietnam of U.S. resolve to achieve its objectives. Moreover, 
Secretary Rusk, Assistant Secretary Bundy and Counselor Rostow were each 
known to view avoidance of a commitment of U.S. ground forces to Southeast 
Asia as an important element In policy. 151/ 

CIA views . With the exception of Mr. McCone's opinions rendered- 
in the September strategy meeting/ available CIA documents provide no 
policy recommendations. However, they do contain assessments bearing 
directly on the policy issues discussed previously — particularly with 
respect to enemy reactions to the measures contemplated. For example, 
Intelligence estimates indicated little likelihood that intensified 
maritime operations would result in retaliation against GVN naval bases. 
Similarly, they predicted few serious consequences in response to U.S. 
limited tit-for-tat reprisal strikes. Rather, the CIA believed that 
•communist responses would be limited to' defensive measures, increased 
propaganda, and additional .logistical assistance from China. In the 
event our reprisal actions were "heavier and sustained, " the DRV was 
expected first to attempt to dissuade the United States through inter- 
national political moves, apparent concessions, and efforts to underline 
communist solidarity and determination. They would probably also curb 
the VC from r making new provocative attacks "and might direct them to 
reduce temporarily the tempo and- size of their attacks." 152/ 

kl TOP SECRET - Sensitive 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

CIA estimates of communist reaction to systematic U.S./GVN 
air attacks on North Vietnam were less certain. While acknowledging 
substantial danger" that the DRV might decide to send its own armed 
forces on a large scale to Laos and South Vietnam, 

("Hanoi might assume that United States would 
be unwilling to undertake a major ground war, or that 
if it was, it could ultimately be defeated by the 
methods which were successful against the French.") 

they thought it more likely that Hanoi would choose a more conservative 
course. They reasoned that "the DRV might calculate that it would be 
better to stop VC activity temporarily than risk loss of its military 
facilities and industry, " but that they would make no meaningful con- 
cessions "such as agreeing to effective international inspection of 
infiltration routes." 153/ in any event, the CIA did not believe that 
Chinese intervention was likely unless the United States should strike 
the Chinese mainland or unless U.S. /GVN forces should attempt to "occupy 
areas of the DRV or communist-held territory in Northern Laos." 15k / It 
indicated that both North Vietnam and Communist China wished to avoid 
direct conflict with the United States and would probably "avoid actions 
that would in their view unduly increase the chances of a major U.S. 
response" against them. 

Rather than outright military victory in South Vietnam, CIA 
estimates indicated belief that the communists expected to gain control 
through a "neutralist coalition government dominated by pro-Communist 
elements" that would come about "soon." This concern over the threat of 
neutralism had been voiced at the September meeting by Mr. McCone and 
was quite prevalent among intelligence discussions of the period. Alto- 
gether, it created a rather gloomy impression of GVN readiness to support 
sustained overt operations against North Vietnam and absorb likely VC 
countermeasures. In October°the picture became even gloomier as a result 
of an intelligence assessment which described continuing deterioration 
of the South Vietnamese political situation and predicted even more: 

"...we believe that the conditions favor a further 
decay of GVN will and effectiveness. The likely pattern 
of this decay will be increasing defeatism, paralysis of 
leadership, friction with Americans, exploration of possible 
lines of political accommodation with the other side, and 
a general petering, out of the war effort." 155/ 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


• . • 


• > 





25 May l$&i 


Whereas the signatories of the Geneva Accords of 1954, 

including the Soviet Union/ the Communist regime in China, • 

and Viet Nam agreed to respect the independence and terri- 

torial integrity of South Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia; and 

the United States, although not a signatory of the Accords, 

declared that it would view any renewal of aggression in 


violation of the Accords with grave concern and as seriously 
threatening international peace and security; 


Whereas the Communist regime in North Viet Nam, with 
the aid and support of the Comrriunist regime in China, has 
systematically flouted its obligations under these Accords 
and has engaged in agression asainst the independence and 
territorial integrity of South Viet Nam by carrying out a 


systematic plan for the subversion of the Government of 
South Viet >Tam, by furnishing direction, training, personnel 

• - 

and arms for the conduct of guerrilla warfare within South 

_ • 

Viet Nam, and by the ruthless use of terror against the 

peaceful population of' that country; 

Where a 




•i .' • 




Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 


~ 2 ~ 

Whereas in the face of this Communist aggression and 

subversion the Government and people of South Viet Nam have 
' bravely undertaken the defense of their independence and 
territorial integrity, and at the request of that Government 
the United States has, in accordance with its Declaration of 

■ « - 

; 1954, provided military advice, economic aid and military 
equipment; : - • • 

Whereas in the Geneva Agreements of 1962 the United 

• • • • 

States, the Soviet Union-, the Communist regime in China, 
North Viet Nam and others solemnly undertook to respect the 

• ■ 

sovereignty, independence, neutrality, unity and' territorial . 
integrity of the Kingdom of Laos; ... 

Whereas in violation of these undertakings the Communist 
regime in North Viet Nam, with the aid and support of the ' 
• Communist regime in China, has engaged in aggression against 
the independence, unity. and territorial integrity of Laos by 
maintaining forces on Laotian territory, by the use of that 

• • • 

territory for the infiltration of arms and equipment into' 
. South Viet Nam, and by providing direction, men and equipment 

• • . * * 

for persistent armed attacks against the Government of 


. '.■: National Unification of the Kingdom of Laos; 

' : : '■■''. .-. - • ■ ■•-.". ■ • ;■'"'' •■■ . • :■ 


■ . . 



• ■ 

. .' : . • ••.'.•'. • .•■,-•. . . . • •"-.-. • . . . • • •'.••■': 

•g . . .. 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

i • 


1 - 3 - 

Whereas in the face of this Communist agression the 


Government of National Unification and the non-Communist 

• ■ 

elements in Laos have striven to maintain the conditions 
of unity, independence and neutrality envisioned for their 
country in the Geneva Agreements of 1962; 

Whereas the United States has no territorial, military 
or political ambitions in Southeast Asia,, but desires only 
that the peoples of South Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia 
should be left in peace by their neighbors to work out their 
own destinies in their own way, and, therefore, its objective 
• is that the status established for these countries in the 
•Geneva Accords of 1954 and the Geneva Agreements of 1962 
should be restored with effective means of enforcement; 

Whereas it is essential that the world fully understand 
that the American pe±ople are united in their determination to 
take all steps that may be necessary to assist the peoples 

of South Viet Nam and Laos to maintain their independence 


and political integrity. 

Now, therefore > be it resolved by the Senate and House 

of Representatives of the United States of America in Coneress 





— < 7- 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


t*Y] . • 

•"* Zj. — 

That the United States regards the preservation o 

the independence and integrity of the nations of South Viet 

■ ■ 

. Nam and Laos as vital to its national interest and to world 


Sec. 2. To this end, if the President determines the 

■ ■ 

necessity thereof, the United States is prepared, upon the 

request of the Government of South Viet Nam or the Govern- 
merit of Laos, to use all measures* including the commitment 
of armed forces to assist that government in the defense of 

its independence and territorial integrity against aggression 
or subversion supported* controlled or directed from any 
Communist country. * 

Sec. 3. (a) The President is hereby authorized to 
use for assistance under this joint resolution not to ex- 


ceed $ during the fiscal year 1964, and not to 

. ... - - 

• ., - • 

exceed $ during the fiscal year 1965, from any ap- 

propriations made available for carrying out the provisions 

of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961* as amended > in ac- 

■ • • 

cordance v?ith the provisions of that Act, except as other- 


wise provided in this joint resolution. This authorization 


. ■ .. • . • - • ■ 

• •. • • : • 

..•.:'/,;.••• TOP SECRET 

/ ..«'... 

'• . 

• • . • I ■-.■■■ 

* • • 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


— ^ 

■ ... 5 _ 

is m addition to other existing authorizations with respect 
to the use of such appropriations. 

(b) Obligations incurred in carrying cut . the pro- 

• • 

visions or this joint resolution may be paid either out of 

■ * 

appropriations for military assistance or appropriations 
for other than military assistance, except that- appropria-* 

■ ■ 

tions made available for Titles I, III, and VI of Chapter" 2, 
Part Ij of the Foreign Assistance Act of .'1961, as amended, 
snail not be available i;or payment of such obligations. 

(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of the 
Foreign Assistance Act. of 1961 , as amended, when the Presi- 
dent determines it to be important to the security of the 
United' States and in furtherance of the purposes of this 
joint resolution, he may authorize the use of up to $ 

of funds available under subsection (a) in each of the fiscal 
• • • • - . «... 

years 1964 and 1965 under the authority of section 614(a) of ' 
the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, and is 

m fl 

authorized to use up to £ of such funds in each 

such year pursuant to his certification that it is inadvisable 



to specify the nature of the use of such funds , which certifi- 
cation shall be deemed to be a sufficient voucher for such 

amounts. . * - * • 

• • . * • " (d) Upon 

"' ■•' '. j ' • . . ' \ TO? SECRET ' 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

W-~ m ' 

. • 





. • 


- 6 - 

•' • ' -(^) Upon determination by the head of any agency 
making personnel available under authority of section 627 

■ ■ * 

of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, or other- 


under tnat Act, for purposes of assistance under this 

• • 

joint resolution, any officer or employee so made available- 
may be provided compensation and allowances at rates other 

than those provided by the Foreien Service Act of 1946, as 
amended, the Career Compensation Act of 1949, as amended, 
and the Overseas Differentials and Allowances Act, to the e 

tent necessary to carry out the purposes of this joint 
resolution. The President shall prescribe regulations 

unoer wnich such rates of compensation and allowances may 
be provided. In addition, the President may utilize such 

provisions of the Foreign Service Act. of 1946, as amended, 

as he deems appropriate to apply to 'personnel of any agency : 


carrying out functions under this "joint resolution 



Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 

/ «*--■ 

In any evont, the interest of the Committee is not in a discussion of the staff 
study, but in your testimony of August 6, 1904, and Ambassador Stevenson's 
statement to tin United Nations of August 5 in light of anv information vour 
ottice may have acquired since the incidents in the Gulf of Tonkin. 

Therefore, in the interest of a thorough discussion on February 20, the Com- 
mittee will make available to your office a copy of the transcript of the testi- 
mony ot August G, 19G-1, (Ambassador Stevenson's presentation is, of course, a 
matter of public record.) I would hope that you will be able to review this 
transcript and bring the Committee up to date on what we now know of the 
incidents in the Gulf of Tonkin. The Committee is particularly interested in dis- 
cussing what lessons have been learned about the problems of analyzing in- 
formation in the midst of a crisis situation. 

Finally, as I mentioned to you daring our conversation, I would like to renew 
my request of January 8th that the Department of Defense provide the Com- 
mittee at the earliest possible date with a report done bv the Weapons System 
evaluation Group on the subject "Command and Control of the Tonkin Gulf 
Incident. 4-."3 August 100-1." 

I look forward to seeing you on February 20. 
Sincerely yours, 

J. W, Fur.BKiGHT, Chairman. 
J- he CiiAiRvrAx. Mr. Secretary, my owi.i view is that this statement 
of yours should, not be made public until after the committee has had 
an opportunity to go through the hearings, and also to decide what it 
does about its own staff report and the hearings. This is an executive 
meeting- and 1 hope that you will be willing to retain that. I realize 
there will be pressures upon you, as there are upon the committee, for 
release of these documents, but I would think it is premature to do so. 


secretary McXamara. Mr. Chairman, I very much appreciate your 
personal kind wishes and compliments. It has been a most satisfying 
i years to me, made more so by the courtesy with which I have been 
treated by this committee on my numerous occasions before it. 

I might also say I share T. g. Eliot's belief that history may be 
freedom, and I look forward to the development of our discussions 
here today in a way that will make it freedom and not servitude. 

I do have a statement which I would like to present to the committee 
at this time, I have not released it to the press. I told my associates 
that we should not do so. "We have submitted to the committee some 
200 copies of it so they may release it. I doubt very much that we will 
be able to withstand the pressures of the press today without releasing 
it. AVe have been deluged by requests for it. 


Senator Can I only say, Mr. Chairman, on a procedural 
matter, I quite agree with the Secretary. I do not think we ought in 
any way to place any restrictions on the Secretary in regard to releas- 
ing anything he wants to release. I know you did not so imply. But I 
think the judgment of the Secretary should prevail in regarcfto what 
the Department of Defense releases, and I think the judgment of the 
committee should prevail in regard to what we should release. 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



___ xny 

.. . -— . 

.-•.■j.:r»,/ ,i, ^„^. 

. The Chairman. The only thing I was suggesting 

Senator Morse. It is in keeping with the division of powers doctrine. 
The Chairman. I thought it would be much fairer if we could ar- 
range to release them simultaneously. For example, the staff report- 
would present only one side of the picture, as would the Secretary's 
Statement I think it would be too bad if this goes out and nothing 
else. That is a matter for the committee to determine, I grant. 
Senator Mqkse. I still would not want to— I would personally not 
£ P ar ^y t° placing any restriction on the Secretary. 
• 7 Chaiioiax. j v he point I am trying to make is 'that much of the 
information which we have is confidential and cannot be released. 


picture to release onlj 

Senator Mouse. It is one-sided only if the committee leaves it that 

The Chairman. I grant that. But it is only a matter of time. We 
have not had a chance to read the Secretary^ statement. We only 
received this statement an hour ago and it is a matter of timing. 

Senator Morse. I understand. 
t The Chairman. Does the Senator object for the committee to have 
time to consider the statement? 

Senator Mokse. I would only object as to placing any restrictions on 
the Secretary at all. 

The Chairman. I do not consider it placing restrictions. It is a 
matter for us to arrive at an understanding as to when we do it. 

Senator Gore. Mr. Chairman. 
. The Chairman. Yes? 

Senator Gore. There is a quest ion here. We are having an execuiiv 
session. Could we not defer judgment on this until we have had a 
chance to read it? 

The Chairman. That is what Ave normally do. That is what I was 
suggesting, until we receive it; the committee makes up its own mind 
usually afterward, this afternoon, for example. 

Senator Gore. The point I was attempting to raise, I find a great 
deal of appeal in what Senator Morse has said, but I think it must be 
interpreted hi the light of the fact that we are dealing here with class- 
ified materials and having an executive hearing. The release of a 
statement in executive hearing, used in an executive hearing, has not, 
so far as I can recall, been done except by permission of the committee. 

I remember one time when I was chairman of a subcommittee, Sec- 
retary Eusk was appearing, and the question of releasing his statement 
was submitted to the committee, and the committee voted unanimously 
to approve its release. I dare say it might do so — we might do so, after 
hearing this, but I would like todefer judgment on it. 
The Chaiioiax. That is all right. 


Senator Morse. Can I take 30 seconds more? I do not want to be a 
stickler or make a tempest in a teapot, but I do think, gentlemen, you 
are dealing here with a procedural matter that you should not set a 
precedent on. I do not think that at any time a committee of the Con- 
gress has the right to call into executive session a Cabinet officer or any- 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

7 -/ 


says in Liicu executive session in respect to nis rigni to raaive any com- 
ment after the meeting is over or release any statement lie wants to 
make after the meeting is over. 

Speaking hypothetical!};, although the Secretary has made very 
Clear lus willingness to oblige you, I am not talking about his willing- 
ness, to oblige but I am talking about what I consider to be a very, 
very important basic procedural right of the administration witness 

under the separation powers doctrine. I have never transgressed upon 
it knowi o-nri ™ _-x . ,i 


if — ' ? L - ,llluv v,u ougiiL io cieai wnn eacn orner on me oasis mat 
we know what these respective rights are and seel: to place no restric- 
tion on each other. That is my point. 

1 took the same position, you will recall, in the MaeArthur hearings 
wiien tnere was an attempt, in my judgment, on the part of the com- 
mittee then to infringe the rights of the administration under the doc- 
trine there I take the same position this mornin 

senator JJickexloopku. Mr. Chairman. 

me Uiahoiax. Senator Hickenlooper. 



Senator IIickexloopek. I think we have a rather complicated situ- 
ation here which is not necessarily one under the control of the Secre- 
tary or of the committee. It may be more under the control of the 
committee than of the Secretary. 

w ould say that the Secretary has no right whatsoever under our 
procedure to release a transcript of this record where members ques- 
tion the becretary and answers come in. On the other hand, I would say 
tnis that the responsibility of releasing a statement on the sole respon- 
sibility of tbe Secretary or any other administrative official is the 
responsibility of that official of that department. I am not so sure we 
can control it. "We can control what we release. I think it is a matter of 
some kind of an understanding. 

1 am thoroughly sympathetic with what you have said, Mr. Chair- 
man, about piecemeal releases of these things. I hate to read about 
them even though they have not boon released— I hate to read about 
them m Time magazine or the Xew York Times or other papers of that 
kind, where we have to get some of our information from there. That 
makes us quite restless but apparently there is nothing we can do about 
it, and sometimes what goes on in this committee at least seems to be 

approximative in some of those news releases of certain columnists 
and so on. 

So it is a problem that has its various facets. But so far as a straight 
statement of the Secretary, I would say that we have no authority to 
inhibit him from a straight statement he wants to make to the public 
on his own responsibility without regard to questions or answers or 
what anyone else has said, because when that occurs, then there is a 
dual responsibility there, not only on the questioner but the Secretary, 
and I hope we can control that. 

But I do not know; it is a very difficult thing, and I am thoroughly 
sympathetic with the piecemeal-- * 

- - ~ ■ "" ~— ~ r— r-, ^-..^ry^ 

— > -;■■« «*»- - -> jv- 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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j 71- ■«. i it -■- i • ■ ■ ... " .- ■ 


.-.,-. ■ ,.■— • —-■. — ' - ... _ . 


■ak— — V > I . i n 

-.' X-hr.. 


The Chair.max. I was not asserting any right to control it. It was 
merely a suggestion if there was seme comity 

Senator Hickexlooper. If it is a question of comity, we can arrive 
at it. 

The Chairman. He can keep it within his control. 
Go ahead, Mr. Secretary. 


Senator Lausciie. Mr. Chairman, having listened to what Senator 
Hickenlooper has just said, I feel obliged to make a statement that this 
body, vested with secret information of the most intimate character, 
dealing with the security of the United States, has^ been brought 
scandalously into disrepute by the frequency with which reports are- 
carried in the newspapers of what is supposed to be done under closed 
executive meetings, and I do not feel content that we can wink at 
these leaks that are coming out of this committee. I am not satisfied 
with the statement that there is nothing we can do about it. Somebody 
is leaking things, whether it is a member. Members of the Senate, or 
whether it 5s members of the staff. I do not know who it is, but it is a' 
terrible mistake that this body, related most intimately to matters 
that deal with the security of the United States, finds itself with 
newspapers reporting what" takes place under confidential discussions. 

It cannot be denied that these reports are being carried outside 
of the meeting. How do they get out? I think we ought to make an 
investigation. We ought to find out whether it is from the staff or 
where it emerges. " - 

The whole world can laugh at us at what happened. It seems you 
do not need spies, all you have to do is look at the papers and fully 
you will find revealed what takes place confidentially in this room. 

The Chairzmax. I wonder if we could get on with the testimony. 

Senator Atkex. I would like to observe that sometimes the leaks 
appear 2 or 3 days after they come out in the newspapers, which can 
hardly be in the category of a leak. 

The Chairmax. Let us ^ct on. 

Senator Lausciie. The chairman wants to get on with this matter, 
and I can understand why he would want to get on, but I will say 
to you with what you are trying to get on is not as significant as what 
I am trying to search out. Something is wrong with this committee. 

Senator Morse. Mr. Chairman. 

The Chaiemax. I wonder if we could proceed. 

Senator Clark. Let us go ahead. 


m Senator Morse. "We are not going to leave this record in this condi- 
tion so far as the Senator from Oregon is concerned. I do not think we 
ought to take up the Secretary's time with quarrels of the committee, 
but, Frank, you were not here and you are not aware of what Senator 
Hickenlooper was talking about.' We are not talking about what you 
are talking about. That was not raised. I had risen to the defense of 
what I think is a very important doctrine that always ought to prevail 
at our hearings when we have a Cabinet officer or anyone else from 
the administration here: namely, we should make no attempt to place 

■V - — - i t — .yy ~T- — "n-TT--"~ 

'..' fl W"«" 

■-*—,. - ■■■ f -»»■ . — ,— ' 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 

any restriction on the spokesman of the administration regarding 
what he says to the press afterward and what he releases. The only 
'■o-estion was a very helpful intention by the chairman suggesting; 

sug fo 

that the Secretary of Defense hold any statement when he goes out of 
this meeting such as releasing the testimony he is about to give us 
until we will have the whole record considered. # 

I only raised a point there, under-standing the motivation of the 

about the problem that you are raising, and I do not think we ought 
to be taking the time of the Secretary to be talking about that now, 
That is for us to handle in our own executive session. 

The Chairman. Mr. Secretary, will you go ahead. I think we ought 
to proceed. 

Senator Lausciie. I want to make this statement, and then I will 

In the report that was filed by the staff, :ther£ was an addendum, 
and in the addendum there was stated that X contacted the staff and 
told about the truth that there were no missiles seen fired at our ships. 
Y spoke to the stall. Well, as a member of the bench for 10 years, when 
you begin offering that type of proof to establish a fact, I simply 
cannot accept it. 

The Ciiatrmax. Proceed, Mr. Secretary. 



Secretary McXa^iara. Mr. Chairman, I have sought in my state- 
ment to be'as responsive as I can to what I believe tobe are the ques- 
tions in the mind of the committee regarding the Tonkin Gulf incident. 
I have not had the advantage, however, or the privilege of exposure 
to the staff study that I know has been completed and circulated among 
you. I asked for that several weeks ago but was denied access toit, 
and I may, therefore, not entirely respond to all of the information 
that you wish to query me about, I will be very happy to take ques- 
tions concerning the statement. 

Senator Maxsfifld. Do I understand the Secretary requested a 
copy of the stud}^ and was denied? 

The Ch ahoeax. That is correct. I also requested their command and 
control documents and it was denied. 

Senator Maxsfikld. I was thinking of those in juxtaposition. 

The Chairman. That is correct. ' 

Senator Gore. Perhaps we can exchange those' now. That might- 
solve it, . ' ., 

The Chairman. I think we ought to go on. 

Go on, Mr. Secretary. 
..Secretary McXamara. Let me comment, Mr. Chairman. These are 
not to be equated. You can have any raw material we have. We tried to 
supply all of it to you. Some of it "is very highly classified, and. we as- 
sume you will treat it with the care thatits classification deserves. We 
also are quite willing to let you have evaluation reports, but only after 
we have ascertained that the authors of those reports had access to all 
the appropriate information. It turns out that the author of this par- 
ticular study vou mentioned did not have access. I never heard of the 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

■ v.. ■ - . . _. 

—■'-.-•- - - . 

» -~- 


~-nv V .» nut i uli iir^uesiea it. v; 

author did not query General Wheeler or me about the actions we took 

today, or the act ions of the Joi 

study when you requested it. General Wheeler wis not aware of it. The 

Wheeler or me about the actions we took 
nt Chiefs, the National Security Council, 
or those the President took. 
t I do not think you want evaluative reports sent over here that are 
incomplete. Any report we have, you have access to, but only after it 
has been properly reviewed as to its reliability." 

^ our stall" study is quite a different matter. I consider it a very seri- 
ous handicap to me in appearing before you today to address these 
issues that have been reviewed and addressed and considered in your 
stall study, evidence of which is examined in your staff study, which 
evidence has never even been brought to my attention, but if you are 
. willing to go ahead with the hearing on that basis, I am. 

Ihe Ciiairmax. All of the staff was based upon material that came 
from your office, all of it. We gave you a complete list of every docu- 
ment and everything we had received, and it is available to you as it 
was to us. 


Secretary McNamara. Senator Lausche has just stated it had an 
addendum to it that included information that was not available to me. 

The Chairman. That was not used in the preparation of the staff 
• study and it was purelv an addendum of things that had happened out- 
side or the documents which came from the Pentagon. 

Senator Lauscuk. Let me say, Mr. Chairman, that the addendum 
recited a number of contacts made by a staffman with persons un- 
known. Now it was offered as an addendum supposedly having an in- 
significant importance, but it is there. Three or four men who were 
supposed to have been in the Tonkin Bay are alleged to have said that 
there were no missiles fired. Who are the men? How did they contact 
them I 

Senator Cooper. What weight was given to it '? 

Senator Mansfield. Mr. Chairman, I apologize for the interruption 
but I have to be up here on the floor. 

The Chairman*. I would hope the Secretary would be allowed to 

Mr. Secretary? 


Secretary McNamara. Mr. Chairman, on August 6, 1964, 1 appeared 
before this committee and testified concerning the attacks in the Ton- 
kin. Gulf on the destroyers U.S.S. Maddox and I7.S.S. Turner Joy, 
and our response to those attacks. 

Over 3V2 years have passed since that time. However, even with the 
advantage, of hindshight, I find that the essential facts of the two 
attacks appear today as they did then, when they were fully explored 
with this committee and other Members of Congress. 
m The relevant- events, and their significance, were the subject of inten- 
sive debate in the House and Senate. Both my testimony and that of 
other officials of the Government, reported the evidence that established 
conclusively the occurrence of these attacks on U.S. naval vessels op- 
aerating in international wafers. This evidence was available to us at 
the time of the decision to make a carefully tailored response to the 

->— — — - « — r - 

, r ... ,. ... -»r^r 

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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

. ~~~ 

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---~. — 2 


attacks. In my testimony. I noted that, while sonar and radar read- 
ings ma}* be subject to interpretation and argume it because of sea and 
atmospheric conditions, we had intelligence reports of a highly classi- 
fied and unimpeachable nature which established, without question, 
that the attacks took place on both August 2 and August 4. 


Also fully explored at the time was the question whether the attacks 
on the Maadox and Turner Joy were in any way provoked by or re- 
lated to certain South Vietnamese naval activity which occurred in the 
period from July 30 to August 4. As I stated then, and repeat now, 
our naval vessels played absolutely no part in, and were not associated 
with, this activity. There was than, and there is now, no question but 
that the U.S. Government knew, and that I knew personally, the gen- 
eral nature of some countcrmeasures being taken by the South Viet- 
namese in response to North Vietnam's aggression. As I informed 
Congress, the boats utilized by the South Vietnamese were financed by 
the United States. But I said then, and I repeat today, that the Maddox 
and the Turner Joy did not participate in the South Vietnamese 
activities, that they had no knowledge of the details of these opera- 
tions, and that in no sense of the word could they be considered to 
have backstopped the effort. 

As the chairman noted in the Senate debates, he was informed that 
our boats did not convoy or support or back up any South Vietnamese 
naval vessels" and that they were "entirely unconnected or unasso- 
ciated with any coastal forays the South Vietnamese themselves may 
have conducted." He was so informed and the information was com- 
pletely accurate. When the South Vietnamese conducted the first of 
their two naval operations against North Vietnamese targets during 
this period, tho 31 add ox patrol had not even begun and the ship was 
at least 130 miles to the southeast. The attack on the 31 add ox on 
August 2 took place 63 hours after completion of this South Viet- 
namese naval operation. When the South Vietnamese boats conducted 
their second foray, the Maddox and the Turner Joy were at least 70 
nautical miles to the northeast. 

Senator Case. I wonder if you could go a little more slowly. It is a 
little hard to understand. " 

Secretary McXamara. Yes. 

The attack made against them on August 4 was almost a full day 
after this second South Vietnamese operation. 

The facts thus show today, as they showed 3*4 years ago, that at- 
tacks occurred against our ships both on August 2 and August 4, 
that we had available to us incontrovertible evidence of these attacks 
when the decision was made to make our limited and measured re- 
sponse, and that these attacks were in no sense provoked or justified 
by any participation or association of our ships with South Vietnamese 
naval operations. I would like briefly to review these facts with you. 


On the 2d of August 1961, the U.S.S. Maddox was engaged in a 
patrol in international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin. At no time dur- 
ing the conduct of her patrol did Maddox depart from international 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



, j 

i &fttiattfetii h ■ i& i Wi .i MfTf . tta -^-— -— -_^^^_, 


waters, or engage in any hostile act. Yet, while she was 25 miles from 
the coast of Xorth Vietnam, on a course away from the coast, Maddox 
was attacked by three Xorth Vietnamese torpedo boats. At least three 
torpedoes were directed by the boats at the Maddox. as well as 
machiiiegun fire. The Maddox avoided all torpedoes and, together 
with aircraft arriving on the scene from the U.S.S. Ticonderoga, re- 
pelled the attack and sank or damaged the attacking craft. 

The attack on Maddox took place in daylight. Xorth Vietnamese 
reports of their plans had previously been "obtained from an intelli- 
gence source. The attacking craft were clearly seen by Maddox per- 
sonnel and were photographed. The launching of the torpedoes by 
these PT boats was also observed as were the torpedo wakes passing 
near Maddox. Maehinegun fire from the attackers was also observed 
and, indeed, one bullet was recovered — it is in our possession and I 
'have it here this morning if you wisli to inspect it. 

.' This was an unprovoked attack on a ship of the United States on 
the high seas. Xevertheless, no reprisal by the United States was 
undertaken. The Maddox, fortunately, had avoided significant dam- 
age itself, and inflicted damage on the attackers. Since no rational 
motive for the attack was apparent, we believed it possible that it had 
resulted from a miscalculation or an impulsive act of a local com- 
mander. After the second attack, the chairman commented in Sen- 
ate debate that I had stated, after the first attack on the Maddox, 
that I did not expect it to be repeated. He also noted that this showed 
how wrong I was. 

On August 3, the day following, a note of protest was dispatched 
to the Xorth Vietnam regime at the direction of the President. It- 
concluded with the words^: "The U.S. Government expects that the 
authorities of the regime in Xorth Vietnam will be under no mis- 
apprehension as to the grave consequences which would inevitably 
resnltfronnny further unprovoked offensive military action against 
U.S. forces." At the same time, the President made public his instruc- 
tions to the Xavy to continue and to add another destrover to its 
patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin. 

m It was within this context that we received, at about 9:20 "Wash- 
ington time on the morning of August 4, information from an intel- 
ligence source that Xorth Vietnamese naval forces had been ordered 
to attack the patrol. 

Soon thereafter reports from the Maddox were received that the 
patrol was being approached by high speed surface radar contacts 
and that an attack appeared imminent. Other amplifying messages 
quickly followed and by about 11 a.m., we received a flash report that 
our destroyers, then located some 60 to Go miles from the coast of Xorth 
Vietnam, were actually under attack. During this same time, intelli- 
gence sources reported that Xorth Vietnamese vessels stated they had 
our ships under attack. Throughout the remainder of the mornin" 
and early afternoon, flash message reports of the engagement, some 
ambiguous and some conflicting, continued to pour in. Frequent 
telephone contact was maintained with the commander in clvef of 
thQ I acific Fleet, Hawaii. The President was kept informed of the* 




1 * k, ■■ w ■ ■ i i r ■ ■ r* — » * i ■ ■ ■ ■■■ y 1 ■■ .— !' * - 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



-■■- '■ -. ,. 


--**- -**■•*-£'■* f-*- m ~-j— T A . 


During this period, I had a series of meetings with my; chief civil- 
ian and military advisers in which the apparent ambiguities and con- 
tradictions in the reports were examined and reconciled to our satis- 
faction. "We identified and refined various options for a response to 
the attack, to be presented to the President. Among these options 
was the air strike against the attacking boats and their associated 
bases, which option was eventually selected. As the options were iden- 
tified, preliminary messages were sent to appropriate operational com- 
manders alerting them to the several possibilities so that initial plan- 
ning steps could be undertaken. 

ident, and he approved, a response consisting of an air strike on the 
PT and Swatow boat bases and 

reports. 1 discussed tins message by teiepnone v»uu me tum- 
r in chief, Pacific, and informed him that, although we would 
le with the preparations, the reprisal strike would not be 

their associated facilities. Daring all 

of this time, the message reports of the engagement from the ships, 
plus other information of a very highly classified nature received dur- 
ing the attack, were being reviewed to eliminate any doubt that an 
attack on the destroyers in fact occurect. 

For example, I saw a message from the onscene task group com- 
mander which expressed doubts as to the validity of many of the 
sonar reports. I discussed this message by telephone with the com- 

executed until we we're absolutely positive of the attack. He of course 
agreed and in a later telephone call informed me that he was satisfied, 
from all the reports he had on hand, that an attack on our ships had 
taken place. 

Finally, at about G :30 p.m., Washington time, the message to 
execute the strike was transmitted by the commander in chief, Pacific. 

Those are the essential details. To recapitulate, on August 2, one 
of our destroyers was attacked by Xorth Vietnamese naval forces 
without provocation while on patrol on the high seas. Since the de- 
stroyer had suffered no damage and had repulsed and damaged her 
attackers, and since the possibility seemed to exist that the incident 
was an isolated act, no further military response was made. Xorth 
Vietnam was warned the next day, however, of the "grave conse- 
quences which would inevitably follow" another such attack. Further- 
more, the President announced that the patrol would continue and 
would consist of two destroyers. The next night, the two destroyers 
were also attacked without provocation on the high seas by Xorth 
Vietnamese naval forces. 

When these facts were established to the 'complete satisfaction of 
all responsible authorities, we responded with an air strike on the 
facilities whi -h supported the attacking vessels. 

90-1S7— cs 2 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


< . 




— •._ 

— ^M 

: -~.~-.-.i»^._^... 

— "'•«- ---—-■ ■■.,.. •.... ■_ 

-■--■ - , ._ 

* -_ 




Now, three and a half years later, there again seems to be debate 
about, the essential accuracy of the above account. The questions that 
appear now to be raised are the same as those considered and settled 
at the time : 

Was the patrol in fact for legitimate purposes? " 
Were the attacks unprovoked '? 
Was there indeed a second attack? 

If there was a second attack, was there sufficient evidence available 
at the time of our response to support this conclusion ? 
I would like to address these questions. 


First, was the patrol in fact for legitimate purposes? 
Patrols of the nature of those carried on bv Machlocc and Turner 
Joy were initiated In the western Pacific in 1962. Thev were carried 
out in international waters along the coastlines of Communist coun- 
tries in that area. They were open patrols and no hostile actions were 
ever taken by the U-S. forces involved. Provocative actions were 
avoided^ The purpose was to learn what we could of military activity 
and environmental conditions in these parts of the world, operating 
in waters where we had every legal right to be. The primary purpose 
of the Maddox was to observe "Xorth Vietnamese naval activity in 
those waters, in view of the evidence we had of infiltration by sea by 
-North \ ietnam into South Vietnam. Other secondary purposes were 
area familiarization and observation by visual and electronic means of 
any other activity of military interest. We had the undisputed right 
to do this. In view of our assistance to South Vietnam, such observa- 
tions were needed. 

The suggestion has appeared incidentally that because Maddo;c, 
prior to commencement of its patrol, took abroad certain communica- 
tions equipment, with personnel to operate this equipment, its patrol 
had some different and presumably more sinister purpose than others 
which had preceded it. This is simply not true. The mission of observa- 
tion whichl have outlined was to be fulfilled with the regularly in- 
stalled equipment of the ships. The extra equipment brought abroad 
Maddox consisted in essence of standard shipboard radio receivers 
added to the ship's normal complement of such receivers in order to 
give an added capability for detecting indications of a possible hostile 
attack on the patrol. 

m The Congress, at the time of the debates on the Tonkin Gulf resolu- 
tion, was aware that visual and electronic surveillance of the area was 
one of the purposes served by the De Soto patrol. Any suggestion 
now that the installation of passive radio receiving equipment changed 
the essential nature of the patrol is unwarranted. 

I might add that virtually all of the De Soto patrols, since their 
commencement in 1962, had been outfitted with similar equipment for 
the same primarily defensive purposes. ' 


Second, were the attacks unprovoked? 

Senator Muxdt. Are you defining the De Soto patrol? 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


r rf -_.•_ *■ - 



Secretary McNa^iara. The term as I am using it here refers to the 
patrols in the Tonkin Gulf of which this was the fourth, one having 
occurred in 1962, one in 1963, and the third in the early part of 196-1, 
and the fourth in August 1961. Actually it is a generic term covering 
a broader range of patrols in the western Pacific but as used in this 
paper it refers to the four patrols in the Tonkin Gulf. 

Second, were the attacks unprovoked? 

I have heard it suggested that the patrol provoked the attacks by 
intruding into the territorial waters of North Vietnam. The facts, I 
think, are these. 

Prior to the first attack, on August 2, the Maddox had been engaged 
on its patrol since July 31. At no time during the conduct of this patrol 
did the Maddox depart from international waters. It had been in- 
structed to approach the North Vietnamese coastline no closer than S 
nautical miles and any offshore island no closer than 4- nautical miles. 
Maddox adhered scrupulously to these instructions. When the patrol 
resumed with Maddox and Turner Joy, the ships were instructed to 
remain at least 11 miles from the coast. These instructions also were 
followed. The United States recognizes no claim of a territorial sea 
in excess of 3 miles. This consistent position of t\\Q United States was 
reemphasized at the close of the 1960 Convention on Law of the Sea 
in Geneva. 

There have, however, been statements reported in the press that the 
Maddox entered into waters claimed by Xorth Vietnam as territorial. 
Such statements have no basis in fact. At no time prior to the August 
1964 Tonkin Gulf incidents "did the Xorth Vietnamese Government 
claim a width of territorial sea in excess of 3 miles. The Xorth Viet- 
namese Government succeeded the French Government, which adhered 
to -the 3-mile limit. Under the rules of international law, no claim by 
North Vietnam in excess of 3 miles would be assumed unless specifically 
made and published. It should be noted that Cambodia, a sister suc- 

^lcunibo nines, ine iirst statement ot ^ortn \ leuuuu vuuut "rii; ^ww* w 
a claim in excess of 3 miles occurred well after the attacks on Septem- 
ber 1, 196-1, in the form of a broadcast from Radio Hanoi in which it 
was stated, "The Democratic Republic of Vietnam declared that the 
territorial sea is 12 miles.'' No official documentary confirmation of the 
claim asserted in this broadcast is known to exist. 

In short, at not time during the patrol did either of the destroyers 
leave the high seas and enter areas claimed by the Xorth ^\ ietnamese 
or recognized by the United States as national waters. 

The question might be asked, however : Should not we as^a practical 
matter have assumed a claim of 12 miles since this is the uniform posi- 
tion of the Communist countries? The simple answer is that Com- 
munist countries do not have such a uniform position: Cuba and 
Poland each adhere to the traditional 3-mile limit, while Yugoslavia 
and Albania claim 10 miles. 



Another point relating to " provocation" was discussed and disposed 
of during the debates on the Tonkin Gulf resolution and the hearings 
prior thereto, but, of late, it seems to have been resurrected. It is th° 


y^.'»'.«--." . r. ■■_ 



Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

~— .v^i. j v—^.^i^. — _^_._ -. -.. -.. .' J _i m.rrj" . I --■ - . . ^ au.^ 1 — Si3iS : — : .. . := U. w ,i r»V . 


suggestion that our patrol was in some way connected with certain 
reconnaissance and bombardment activities of South Vietnamese pa- 
trol craft against North Vietnamese. 

1 informed members of this committee of these activities of the 
South Vietnamese in an informal meeting on August 8, 1964, after the 
attack on the Macldox. The subject was again raised in lesser detail in 
• my testimony before this committee on August G, 1964. I pointed out 
that these raids were a legitimate attempt by the South Vietnamese to 
counter and retaliate against the systematic infiltration of their coun- 
try by sea which had been carried out by North Vietnam for the previ- 
ous two and a half years. I described the scope of that infiltration; 
that is, 140 known incidents between July and December 1981, an esti- 
mated 1,400 infiltrators having been lancled in South Vietnam during 
that time. 

Yv ith respect to the legitimacy of those South Vietnamese operations, 
you, Mr. Chairman, stated during the Tonkin Gulf floor debates: 

- The boats that may have struck at the coastal areas of North Vietnam may 
na\e been supplied by us. We have been helping South Vietnam arm itself. I do 
not Know about the specific boats. •• ••? 

I personally think this is a perfectly legitimate and proper way to defend 
oneseli from the kind of aggression South Vietnam has been subjected to for 

senator Morse, at the hearing on August G, specifically raised the 
question of a connection between our patrol and the South Vietnamese 
bombardment of two Xorth Vietnamese islands which had occurred 
some two and a half days prior to the attack on Maddox, and I re- 
sponded that there was no connection. The two operations were sep- 
arate and distinct. I informed you that our destroyers took no part 
whatsoever in the South Vietnamese operation. They did not convoy, 
support, or back up the South Vietnamese boats in any way. As I 
stated durum; the hearing 

* * 

as I reported to you earlier this week, we understand that the South 
Y C u i m ? i0 soa foroe carr ted out patrol action around these islands and actually 
sneilcd the points they felt were associated with this infiltration. 

Our ships had absolutely no knowledge of it, were not connected with it ; in no 
sense of the word can he considered to have backstopped the eilort. 

That statement remains entirely accurate. I can confirm today that 
neither the ship commanders nor the embarked task group commander 
had any knowledge of the South Vietnamese action against the two 
islands or of any other specific South Vietnamese operations against 
the Xorth. Higher naval commands were made aware of the opera- 
tions by Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, 
in order to avoid mutual interference or confusion between our patrols 
and those operations. .- : 


Throughout the patrol conducted first by the Madclox alone and 
later by the Made] ox and the Turner JVy/tho U.S. destroyers were 
directed to remain in waters which would keep them from becoming 
operationally involved with the South Vietnamese activity. The re^ 
sanctions this imposed on the patrol were such that, at one time, con- 
sideration was given to its abandonment. The task group commander 
knew only that certain South Vietnamese naval operations were 
periodically carried on in the area. He had no detailed knowledge 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 


of their type, or of where or when they would be conducted. Indeed, 
his hick of knowledge was such that he mistakenly identified the 
South Vietnamese craft returning from their operation oi July 61 

as Soviet P-6 class boats. ' , ,, 

■ In point of fact, our patrols and the shore bombardments by bout h 
Vietnamese forces were separated in both time and space. V, hen bourn 
Vietnamese PTF's bombarded the islands of Hon Xieu ana lion Me 
on the night of July 30-31. the Maddox had not. even commenced her 
patrol, and was at least 130 miles to the southeast of the nearest ot 
those islands. At the time of the attack -on the Maddoa, on_ August 
•2, the South Vietnamese boats had been back at their base m Da i\ang 

for almost- 53 hours. nr . ,-, . 

I learned subsequent to my testimony of August 6, 1961, tnat an- 
other South Vietnamese bombardment took place on the night ot 
August 3-4. At the time of that action, the Maddox and Turner Joy 
were at least 70 miles to the northeast. The North Vietnamese at- 
tack on Maddox and Turner Joy on the night of August 4 occurred 

I think it important, too, in dealing with this issue, to recall that 
the President had announced publicly on August, 3 that our patrol 
would continue and consist of two destroyers. It is difticult to be- 
lieve, in the face of that announcement, and its obvious purpose o 
asserting our right to freedom of the seas, that even the £ortn \ iet- 
namese could connect the patrol of the Maddox and turner Joy 
with a South Vietnamese action taking place some TO miles away. 



Now, thirdly, was there indeed a second attack 1 - 

I know of no claim that the attack on Maddox on August 2 did not 
occur. As for the second attack, the incident occurred on a very claik, 
moonless, overcast night. As would be expected under these conditions, 
some uncertainty existed, and to this day exists, about some ot the 
precise details of the attack. Put there should be no uncertainty about 
the fact that an attack took place. Tbc evidence pertaining to the 
incident is reviewed in the foil owing paragraphs. . 

On the evening of August 4, 1904, Task Group 72.1 consisting ot 
U.S.S. Maddox and U.S.S. Turner Joy, with COMDESDH 102 em- 
barked in Maddox and acting as CTG 72.1, was proceeding on an 
easterly course in the Gulf of Tonkin at a speed of 20 knots At about 
7:40 p.m., Tonkin Gulf time. 1 the task group commander, Lapt. J. J. 
Herrick, USX, observed on the surface search radar at least live com 


rieirick, uo.\, ooserveu on uie siuitiue seww i " — -- , , , .->. 
tacts, which he evaluated as probable torpedo boats, located about ot 
miles to the northeast of the two ships. At 7:46 p.m Maddox and 
Turner Joy changed course to 130 and increased speed to 28 knots to 
avoid what the task sroup commander had evaluated as a trap. _ 

Shortly after 9 p.m., both ships' radars held contacts approximately 
14 miles to the east. These contacts were on course 160. speed oO fcnotS. 
At chat time the two U.S. ships were approximately 60 miles from the 
North Vietnamese coast, . , . 

At about 9 :39 p.m.. both Maddox and Turner Joy opened fire on the 
approaching craft when it was evident from their maneuvers that they 

* To convert local Tonkin Gulf time to e.d.t. subtract 12 hours. 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 633 J 6. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

* "" 


t ■tA-aK-t.- ., 


'-•— .-^ 

fc n* it ' i i M faVr > *-■ — • . - ■ ■ . ■. a ' -'*^ - 

— .____*_ 


were pressing i n f or attack positions. At about this time, the boats were 
at a range of 0,000 yards from Maddox when the radar tracking indi- 
cated that the contact had turned away and begun to open in range. 
Torpedo noises were then heard by the Maddosrs sonar. A report of 
the torpedo noise was immediately passed to the Turner Joy by inter- 
ship radio and both ships took evasive action to avoid the torpedo. 


A torpedo wake was then sighted passing abeam Turner Joy from 
aft to forward, approximately 300 feet to port on the same bearing 
as that reported by Maddox. This sighting was made by at least four 
of Turner Joy's topside personnel : The forward gun director officer, 
■kt. (jg.) John J. Barry, USXR; the port lookout, Edwin E. Senfel, 
SK", USX; by a seaman who was in the forward gun director with the 
director officer, Larry O. Litton, SX, USX; and by a seaman who 
was operator of the after gun director, Roger X. Bergland, SX, USX. 
^ At about 10 :24 p.m., one target was taken under fire by Turner Joy. 
Numerous hits were observed on this target and it disappeared from all 
radars. The commanding officer and other Turner Joy personnel ob- 
served a thick column of black smoke from this target- 
Later, 10:47 p.m., during the attack a searchlight was observed by 
all signal bridge and maneuvering bridge personnel including the 
commanding officer of U.S.S. Turner j y m The beam of the searchlight 
did not touch the ship, but was seen to swing in an arc toward Turner 
Joy and was immediately extinguished when aircraft from the combat 
air patrol orbiting above tlfe ships approached the vicinity of the 
searchlight. (Walter L. Shishim, QMCS. USX; Richard B. Johnson, 
SMI, USX; Richard D. Nooks, QM 3, USX; Richard M. Bacino, SM2, 
USX; and Gary D. Carroll, SM3, USX, stationed on the Turner Joy's 
signal bridge all made written statements that they sighted the 

The Silhouette of an attacking boat was seen by at least four Turner 
Joy personnel when the boat came between the flares dropped by an 
aircraft and the ship. When these four men were asked to sketch what 
they had seen, they accurately sketched P— i-type boats. (Xone of the 
four had ever seen a picture of a P-4 boat before). (Donald V. Shar- 
key, BM3, USX ; Kenneth E. Garrison. SX. USX ; Delner Jones, GMG 
SX, USX, and Arthur B. Anderson, FT SX, USX, are the four per- 
sonnel from the Turner Joy who sighted the boat.) 

In addition to the above, a gunner's mate second class stationed 
aft of the signal bridge aboard U.S.S. Maddox saw the outline of a 
boat which -was silhouetted bv the light of a burst from the 3-inch 
projectile fired at it, (Jose R. San Augustin GMG2, USX".) 
"The commanding officer of Attack Squadron 52 from the Ticon- 
dcroga (Comdr. G. H. Edmondson, USX) and his wingman (Lt. J. A. 
Burton), while flying at altitudes of between TOO and 1,500 feet in the 
vicinity of the two destroyers at the time of the torpedo attack both 
sighted gun flashes on the surface of the water as well as light antiair- 
craft bursts at their approximate altitude. On 02ie pass over the two 
destroyers, both pilots positively sighted a "snakey" high speed wake 
V/ 2 miles ahead of the lead destroyer, U.S.S. Maddox. 

Two U.S. Marine Corps personnel who were manning machineguns 
on U.S.S. Maddox saw lights pass up the port side of the ship, go out 


"v^" . - ' -*v-— 

— •— -. T- r 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



ahead, and pass down the starboard side. Their written statement as- 
serts their belief that this was one or more small boats at high speed. 

1 /£S? "^£5 M atthew B. Allasre, SGT, USMC, and David A. Proutv, 
-Lf/CrJj, LSaTC.) 


In addition to the above, intelligence reports received from a highly 
classified and unimpeachable sonrce reported that North Vietnam was 
making preparations to attack our destroyers with two Swatow boats' 
and with one Fr boat if the PT could-be made ready in time. The same 
source reported, while the engagement was in progress on August 4, 
that the attack was underway. Immediately after the attack ended, the 
source reported that the North Vietnamese lost two ships in the 

_ Xo one within the Department of Defense has reviewed all of this 
information without arriving at the unqualified conclusion that a deter- 
mined attack was made on the Uaddox and Turner Joy in the Tonkin 
Uruit on the night of August 4, 196-1, Vice Adm. Pov L. Johnson, 
UbA, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet at the time.' stated in his 
review of the combined chronology and track charts submitted bv the 
task group commander: 

Tm-n?r 1 T 1IKlor ' Sevonth Fleet, is convinced beyond any doubt that Maddos and 
of 4 Au~uVlf r°< Subj ' octed t0 an Unprovoked surface torpedo attack on the night 

Adm. T H. Moorer, then commander in chief, Pacific Fleet, con- 
curred m that appraisal. 

In "N ashington, the Director of the Joint Staff, Lt, Gen. David A. 

lucinnai UbAF, analyzed the incoming information from message 
tramc with the assistance of the Joint Staff. He then gave his evalua- 
tion to the Secretary of Defense: "The actuality of the attack is 

In the face of this evidence, I can only conclude that many of 
tno persistent questions as to whether or not an attack took place must 
nave arisen from confusion between the August 4 attack and an- 
otner incident which occurred on the 18th of September 10G-1 : that is, 
aoout 4o days later. At that time, the U.S. destrovers Morton and 
^awards were patrolling, at night, in the Gulf of Tonkin, and initially 
reporteel themselves under attack. While the ensuing situation reports 
indicated the probability of hostile craft in the area of the patrol, 
it ^as decided at both the Washington and field command levels 
mat. no credible evidence of an attack existed. It should be noted that 
tne intelligence source that confirmed the attacks of August 2 and 4 
piouded no evidence of any enemy action on September IS. In view 
or our unresolved doubts,* no retaliatory action was taken. Many 
"*"""". ?, *?? v \ ei '° uot aware of all of the facts about all three 

.ade the 

negative findings on September lS.'thev ha ve mistakenlv assumed that 
uiere is serious doubt as to whether the "second" Tonkin Gulf attack- 
in fact took place. 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


-•__ . ,l..f r -_ 


' is 


As a final point on tins issue. U.S. naval forces in the Zy 2 years which 
have elapsed since, the August 1961 incidents have captured several 
North Vietnamese naval personnel. These personnel were extensively 

interrogated. One of these, captured in July 1966, stated he had taken 
part in the August 2, 196-1, attack on the Sloddox, and his account of 
that attack coincided with our observations. He professed no knowl- 
edge of the August 4 attack and said that he believed that PT boats 
were not involved in that attack. He stated that Swatows could have 
beenused for that attack. His disclaimer of PT participation is con- 
tradicted by information received from a later captive. A North Viet- 
namese naval officer captured in July 1007 provided the name of the 
commander of a PT squadron. In intelligence reports received imme- 
diately after the August -1 attack, this commander and his squadron 
were identified by name and number as participants. 


Now, finally, if there was a second attack, was there sufficient evi- 
dence available at the time of our response to support this conclusion? 

Some of the details cited above, particularly the statements of eye- 
witnesses, although gathered immediately after the attack, had not 
reached Washington at the time that the reprisal air strikes were 
ordered executed." Sufficient informationn was in the hands of te Presi- 
dent, however, to establish beyond any doubt then or now that an 
attack had taken place. Allow ine to repeat again that information: 

An intelligence report of a highly classified and unimpeachable na- 
ture received shortly before the engagement, stating that North Viet- 
namese naval forces' intended to attack the Maddox and Turner Joy. 

Reports from the ships that their radars indicated they were being 
shadowed by high speed surface vessels. 

Reports from the ships that they were being approached by the 
high speed vessels and an attack appeared imminent. 

Reports from the ships that they were under attack. 

A report from the ships that searchlight illumination had been 
utilized by the attacking craft and that gunfire against the patrol had 
been observed. 

A report that two torpedoes had passed close to the Turner Joy and 
that there had been positive visual sightings of what appeared to be 
cockpit lights of patrol craft passing near the Maddox. 

An intelligence report stating that North Vietnamese naval forces 
had reported that they were involved in an engagement. 

Reports from the IIS. ships that they had sunk two and possibly 
three of the attacking craft. 

• An intelligence report stating that North Vietnamese naval forces 
had reported losing two ships in the engagement. 

A report from the onscene task group commander that he was cer- 
tain that the ambush had taken place, although precise details of the 
engagement were still not known. 

A report from the commander in chief, Pacific, that he had no doubt 
that an attack had occurred. 

All of this information was available prior to the time the Executive 
order was issued. 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



As a final point, I must address the suggestion that, in some way, 
the government of the United States induced the incident on August 
4 with the intent of providing an excuse to take the retaliatory action 
■vwiich we in fact took. I can only characterize such insinuations as 

The effective repulsion of the August 2 attack on the Sfaddox with 
relatively high cost to the small North Vietnamese Xavy, coupled with 
cur protest which clearly and unequivocally warned of the serious con- 
sequences of a recurrence, made us confident that another attack was 
unlikely. The published order of the President that the destroyers 
s r ™ ,cl c ontmue to assert the right of the freedom of the seas in the 
bull or Tonkin, and setting forth the composition of the patrol, should 
nave served to avoid any further misunderstanding. As the patrol re- 
sinned the ships were ordered to remain 11 miles from the coastline in 
lieu ot the 8 miles ordered on the previous patrols, hardly indicative 
pi an intent to induce another attack. As a matter of fact, on their own 
initiative the two ships approached the coastline no closer than 10 

V ! UUU1 <-wuci suspect the existence of a conspiracy which would in- 
clude almost, if not all, the entire chain of military command in the 
, acihe, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Stall'; the Joint Chiefs, 
tne Secretary of Defense, and his chief civilian assistants, the Secre- 

5? r? ta - te? aml the Presi <*ent of the United States. 

A-r. Chairman, that concludes my statement, and I will be very hap- 
py to try to answer any questions. 

1 he Car aiiixax. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. 

1 would like to have a few preliminary questions with regard to 
t lie situation under which this whole affair took place. I don 1 ! think 
they are very difficult to answer. 


Mr. Secretary, is it true that the government of General Khanh 
which overthrew the Minh junta in January 1964 was in serious trou- 
ble by the spring and early summer of 196-1 ? " 

secretary McXamara, I think there was considerable dissension 
among the members of the government, Mr. Chairman, and there was 
then and later a series of changes in the government as a result of that 
dissension. ° 

T Tll f C l^ IIOIAX * Did y° u not sav recently on "Meet the Press," and 
J- quote : Three and a half years ago the South Vietnamese forces were 
on the verge of defeat. The North Vietnamese and Vietconnr forces 
were on the verge of victory." 

Is that accurate? 

Secretary McNamaba. Mr. Chairman, if I said that, I misestimated 
toe date. What I was talking about— I think later in that same broad- 
cast 1 specifically referred to it. was July 1965. I should have said two 
andL a half years ago. That was the reference I was making. 

Uiz Ciiaiemax. That is a quote from just 2 weeks ago. 

secretary McNahaka. It may be, Mr. Chairman. I would have to 
Have th^ full transcript of what I said. I believe I mentally deducted 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 




Whereas naval units of the Communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of 
the principles of the Charter of the United nations and of international 
law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United States naval 
vessels lawfully present in international waters, and have thereby created 
a -serious threat to international peace; and 

Whereas these attacks are part of a deliberate and systematic campaign 
of aggression that the Communist regime in North Vietnam has been waging . 
against its neighbors and the nations joined with them in the collective . 
defense of their freedom; and 

Whereas the United States, is assisting the peoples of southeast Asia to 
protect their freedom and has no territorial, military or political 
ambitions in that area, but desires only that 'these peoples should be 
left in peace to work out their own destinies in their own way: Now, 
therefore, be it- 
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States 

of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approve and support 

the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all 

necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the 

United States and to prevent further aggression. 

Sec. 2. The United States regards as vital to its national, interest and 
to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in 
southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and 
the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with it obligations 
under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, 
therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary 
steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol 
state of t;:.? Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance 
in defense, of its freedom. . ' . * '- 

Sec, 3. This resolution shall expire .when the President shall determine 
that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by 
international conditions created by action of the United Nations or 
otherwise, except - that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent 
resolution of the Congress 

1/ Text of Public Law 88~>;08 /"lI.J. Res. 11^5 7, 78 Stat. 3^i, approved 

Aug. io, 1964. 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 




52itimore__Sra >? 22 May l$6k. 

On 6 and 7 June two U.S. Navy reconnaissance aircraft were shot 

down over Laos by communist ground-fire. The United States requested 

and received permission to furnish armed escort reconnaissance 

lignts, and on 9 June, U.S. aircraft struck Pathet Lao gun posi- 
tions and damaged a Pathet Lao headquarters. Souvanna Phouma 

emporarily withdrew his permission for armed escort in response 
to vigorous DRV and Chinese protests, but renewed it on 12 June. 
^ ee BaltijnoreSm 7, 9 10, 13 June 1964. Also, New York Times, 
y> 10 Junel^TT" 

3. State/Defense message to Vientiane and Bangkok Embassies, 29 June 
1964 (In Vietnam 38I: II-30 June 1964 file) (SECRET). 

?®s BaTtimoreSun, 3 June 1964; New York Times, 7, 20, 23, 24 June 
1964 . " 

5. Kewjfork^imes, 21 June 1964. 

6. Nevjfc£kJTimes, 22 June 1964; Washington Post , 23 June 1964. 

7- New_York_Tlmes, 11 July 1964; New York Her ald Tribune and Washington 
Star, 9 June 1964. ~ 

Canadian delegation (Saigon) message to U.S. Department of State, 
20 June 1964 (in Vietnam 38I: 11-30 June 1964) (TOP SECRET). 

See Bundy memorandum to Secretary Rusk, "Highlights of Honolulu 
Conference," 3 June 1964 (in State Department Materials, Vol. I) 

lof CRE1 'V See als ° discusslon ±n United States -Vietnam Relations, 
i2z5^196_7, IV. C. 5, "Military Pressures Against North Vietnam: Action 
and Debate, Peb-Jun 1964," pp. 34-35 (TOP SECRET). 

Robert Manning memorandum to President Johnson, "information Program 
for Southeast Asia," 16 June 19ft (in Vietnam 38I: 11- 30 June 1964) 






NSAM 308, 22 June 1964 (SECRET). 

From ^Pertinent Historical Background, Rules of Engagement— Southeast 
Asia, (Undated) 1966, notes compiled by Assistant Secretary of 
Defense (ISA) McNaughton (in McNaughton VIII) (TOP SECRET). 

Secretary McNamara, before Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 
20 February 1968, Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations , 
Hi§i_Sgnate £ _M netieth Co ngre ss, Second Session, with the Honorable 
^2 b _g£i__S 1 _McTfe mara, Secretary' of Defense on February 20, 1968 
(Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 196b), p. 26. 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

14. Secretary McNamara, before Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services 
Committees, 6 August 1964 (in McNaughton VIIl) (TOP SECRET). 

15* CJCS memorandum to SecDef, "North Vietnam Operations (s),"*19 May 
1964 (JCSM 426-64) (TOP SECRET). 

16. SACSA memoranda to SecDef, "Operations Against North Vietnam/ 1 

13 June 1964; 1 July 1964; 28 July 1964 (in Vietnam 38I: Sensitive 
File) (TOP SECRSL 1 ). 

IT- Rusk message to Vientiane Embassy, 26 July 1964 (State 89) (in 

"Southeast Asia, June-July 1964," CF 15) (TOP SECRET). See also, 
CJCS memorandum to SecDef, "U.S./GVN Combined Planning," 24 June 
1964 (in Vietnam 38I: 11- 30 June 1964) (TOP SECRET). The internal 
policy of controversy on cross-border operations during the first 
half of 1964 is described to some extent in United States-V ietnam 
Re lations, IV. C. 5 . (TOP SECRET). 

lo. The specific recommendations appear in a Mc George Bundy memorandum 

to Secretary Rusk, et. al., "Draft Basic Recommendation and Projected 
Course of Action on Southeast Asia," 25 May 1964 (w/Attacbment) (in 
State Department Material, Vol. i) (TOP SECRET 1 ). The. disposition of 
these recommendations is discussed in United States-Vietnam Relations , 
IV. C. 5 . , pp. 22-40 (TOP SECRET). 

19- Proceedings of the Honolulu Conference, dealing with the question 

of pressures against North Vietnam, are discussed in United States- 
Vi etnam Relations, IV, c. $ ., pp. 28-34 (TOP SECRET). 

20. Secretary McNamara, op. cit., 20 February 1968, pp. 9, 10, 15, 28. 
See also Ted Sell in the Washington Post , 8 August 1964. 

21. Ibid, pp. 31^ 32. Assistant Secretary McNaughton, • before the Senate 
Foreign Relations Committee, "Tonkin Gulf Incident, August 2 and 4, 
1964," 23 May 1966 (in McNaughton VIIl) (TOP SECRET). See also U.S. 
Navy chronology in New York Times , 4 August 1964 and officially 
released accounts in the New York Times , ^ and 10 January 1968. 

22. McNamara, op. cit ., 20 February 1963, pp. 10, 13; McNaughton, 
op. cit. , Edwin L. Dale, Jr., New York Times , 4 August 1964. 

23. In New_Yo rk Times , 4 August 1964. 

24. McNamara, op. cit ., 20 February I.968, pp. IT, 18, 28. 

• 25. From "Proof of Attack," notes compiled by Assistant Secretary 

McNaughton (in McNaughton VIIl) (TOP SECRET) and McNamara, op. cit ., 
20 February 1968, pp. 10, 15, 17, 35-37- 

44 TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

26. Ibid . See also public accounts in New York Times and Baltimore 
Sun, 5 August 19ft, in New York Herald Tribune , ^ August 1964, 
and in ~Ne^ York Times , 4 February 1968. 

27. McNamara, op. cit ., 20 February 1968, pp. IT, 18, 57, 66, 92. See 
also CTG 72.1 to CINCPACFLT, 04l452Z, 04l515Zj 041542Z and 041727Z 
August 1964 (SECRET). 

28. McNamara, op. cit ., 20 February 1968, pp. 10, 11, 48: see also 
chronology of the Tonkin crisis in New York Herald Tribune , 9 August 
1964. Quotation from Finney, op. cit. , 10 January 1963. 

29. Ibid. , pp.. 11, 89. 

30. Ibid., pp. 58-60, passim . See also CTG 72.1 to CINCPACFLT 041727Z, 
04l848z August 1964; JCS to CINCPAC, 042U9Z August 1964 (JCS 7720) 

31. Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 20 February 1968. 

32. See accounts in the New York Tames and The Washington Post , 5 August 
1964; also the Chronology, New York Herald Tribune , 9 August 190+ . 

33* Quotations from Secretary McNamara r s testimony before Congressional 
Committees, 6 August 1964 (TOP SECRET). See also McNamara, op. cit., 
20 February 1968, pp. l4, 15, 26, 29-31. 

3^- • See Paul W. Ward, Baltimore Sun , 6 August 1964 and James Reston, 
NevJ[orkjrimes, 6 August~1964 . 

35- McNamara, pp. cit ., 20 February 1968, pp. 32 (The date given in the 
testimony is in error). 

36. Ibid. 

37. McNamara news conference, 5 August 19ft, in New York Times, 6 August 
1964. See also JCS to CINCS, 050043Z 4 August 1964 (JCS 7729) (SECRET). 

38. See Solbert memorandum to SecDef, "Alert Posture for Southeast Asia," 
26 September 1964, approved by Secretary McNamara on that date (in 
Vietnam 38I; September file) (TOP SECRET). See also JCS to CINCPAC 
and CBtfCSTRIKE/ciNCMEAFSA, 24l630Z October 1964 (JCS 1177) (SECRET). 

39. ghejjashing ton Post , 6 August 1964. 

!-0. Cong^_siona^Record, House of Representatives, 7 August 1964, pp. 


41. Committee on Foreign Relations Report, "Promoting the Maintenance of 
International Peace and Security in Southeast Asia," U.S. Senate, 
80th Cong- ess, 2nd Session, 6 August 1964. 

^ 5 : • TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


TOP SECRET - Sens itive 

h-2. Floor debate on proposed Joint Congressional Resolution, U.S. 
Senate, 6 August 1964. 

I*-3- See United States -Vietnam Relations, _]jM ^5 JL , £ p# 26 ' 31 > 38-^0, 
for a discussion of the rationale behind the initially proposed 
Congressional Resolution. 

hk. Text in New York Times , 6 August 1964. 

45- Verbatim text of message handed directly to Canadian Embassy, 

Washington, D.C., for transmittal to Mr. Seaborn. State Depart- 
ment Drafting Office copy, 8 August 1964 (in State Department 
Materials, Vol I.) (TOP SECRET). 

46. See account of U.S. calculations and policy decision in early 

June 1964 in United States-Vietnam Relatlo ns^^g^C^, pp. 25-27, 
34-40, (TOP SECRET ) . ~ ~ 

47- Great Britain and the Soviet Union (Geneva Co-Chairmen); Canada, 

India and Poland (Members of the Geneva-appointed I.C.C.J; and the 
tripartite Laotian government. See Ibid ., p. ef. 

48. Henry Tanner, New York Times , 27 July 1964. 

k$. Unger message to Secretary Rusk, 27 July 1964 (Vientiane 170) 
(in CF 15) (TOP SECRET). 

50. William Bundy, "Memorandum on the Southeast Asia Situation," 
12 June 196*1- (in State Department Materials, Vol. I) (SECRET). 

51. This viewpoint reflected in Department of State message to 
Vientiane, Saigon embassies and CINCPAC, 14 August 1964 (State 439 ) 
(in "Southeast Asia, August 1964," CF l6)(T0P SECRET). 

52. The foregoing is available through public sources. See New York 
Times for the respective dates. 

53- Bundy memorandum, 12 June 1964 (SECRET). 

54. See Jack Langguth, New York Times , 31 July 1964.- 

55. Unger to Rusk, 27 July 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

56. Henry Tanner, New York Times , 2 August 1964. 

57. Department of State message to many addressees, l4 August 1964 (TOP 
SECRET). See also, Rusk message to Vientiane and other embassies, 

7 August 1964 (State 136) (in "Southeast Asia, August 196)1," CF 16) 
(SECRET). . • 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

58. Risk to Vientiane, et. al ., 7 August 19& (SECRM 1 ). 

59« See New York Times , 9 and 21 August 196k; Christian Science . 
Monitor, 10 August 1964. 

60. Rusk to Vientiene, et. al ., 7 August 1964 (SECRET). 

61. Compare last paragraph in Ibid , with arguments in Bundy memorandum, 
12 June 1964 (SECRET). 

62. Taylor message to Secretary Rusk, 9 August (Saigon 363) (in CF 16) 

63- See Ibid; Rusk message to Vientiane, et. al., 7 August 1964; CJCS 
memorandum to SecDef , "Next Courses of Action in Southeast Asia, " 
14 August 1964 (jCSM-701-64) (in Vietnam 38I: August file); CINCPAC 
message to JCS, "Next Courses of Action in Southeast Asia, " 17 August 
196k (in CG 16) (TOP SECRET). 

64. Taylor to Rusk, 9 August 1964 (SECRET). 

65. U.S. Mission message to Department of State, 18 August 1964 
(Saigon 465) (in CF 16) (TOP SECRET). 

66. William Bundy memorandum to SecDef, et. al ., "Next Courses of Action 
in Southeast Asia," 11 August 19& (in Vietnam 38I: August file) 
(SECRET). These views were later expressed in a Department of State 
message to several addressees, requesting comments. 

67. CINCPAC to JCS, 17 August 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

63. CJCS memorandum to SecDef, "Recommended Courses of Action - Southeast 
Asia," 26 August 1964 (jCSM-746-64) (TOP SECRET). See also JCSM-701-64 

69. CINCPAC to JCS, 17 August 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

70- See Un ited States- Viet nam Relations, IV. C 5. , pp. 35-36 (TOP SECRET). 

71. Excerpts from the Rostow thesis in "Analysis of the Rostow Thesis," 
attachment to Rowen memorandum to JCS, et. al ., "The Rostow Thesis," 

. 21 August 1964 (1-27278/64) (SECRET). 

72. Ibid., p . 2 (SECRET). 

•73- Department of State to several addressees, l4 August 1964 (TOP SECRET).' 

74. McNaughton letter to Assistant Secretary of State Bundy, 11 August 
1964 (in Vietnam 38I: August file) (TOP SECRET). 

47 TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

75- CINCPAC message to JCS, "Rules of Engagement/' 5 August 1964 
(in Vietnam 38I: August file) (TOP SECRET). 

76. JCS message to CINCPAC;, "Rules of Engagement, " 15 August 19$+ 
(JCS 79^7) (in Vietnam 38I: August file) (TOP SECRET). 

77 • COMUSMACV message to CINCPAC, "Cross-Border Operations/' 16 August 
1964 (in CF 16) (TOP SECRET). 

78. CINCPAC message to JCS, "immediate Actions to be taken in South 

Vietnam," 31 August 1964 (in Vietnam 38I: August file) (TOP SECRET). 

79- "Ambassador Taylor's Situation Report on the RVN, " attachment to 
SACSA memorandum to Colonel Alfred J. Moody, Military Assistant 
to SecDef, 14 August 1964 (in Vietnam 38I: August file) (SECRET). 
See also Department of State to several addressees, it August 1964 

oO. Bureau of Intelligence and Research memorandum. Department of State, 
24 August 1964 (in Department of State Materials,' "Working Papers") 

81. Taylor message to Department of State, Ik October 1964 (Saigon 1129) 
(in "Southeast Asia -- October 1964," CF l8) (TOP SECRET). The data 
reflected in this cable may have been assembled for "Infiltration 
Study, Viet Cong Forces, Republic of Viet Nam, " attachment to MACV 
(Asst C/S, Intelligence) letter to JCS, "Viet Cong Infiltration, " 

31 October 1964 (JCS 2343/49O, 13 November 1964) (SECRET). 

82. Reported in JCSM-746-64 (TOP SECRET). 

83. Department of State to several addressees, l4 August 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

84. Joint State/Defense message to Saigon Embassy, 20 August 1964 
(in CF 16) (SECRET). 

85. JCSM-746-64, 26 August 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

86. Assistant Secretary Mc Naught on, "Plan of Action for South Vietnam" 
(2nd Draft), 3 September 1964 (in State Department Materials, Vol. II) 


87. JCS Talking Paper for CJCS, "Next Courses of Action for RVN," 

7 September 1964 (in Vietnam 38I: Sensitive files) (TOP SECRET). 

f 88. Ibid., (TOP SECRET). ' 

89. Handwritten notes of the White House meeting, 7 September 1964 (SECRET). 

^ 8 TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

SO. William Bundy memorandum to SecDef, et . aL ; "Courses of Action 
of Action for South Vietnam/' 8 September 1964 (in Vietnam 38I: 
August file) (SECRET). 

91. McNaughton, "Plan of Action for South Vietnam," (TOP SECRET). 

92. Bundy memo, 8 September 1964 (SECRET). 

93. Ibid., (SECRET). 

94. Handwritten notes (SECRET). 
95- Ibid . 

96. Bundy memo, 8 September 196k (SECRET). 

97- White House memorandum to Sec State and SecDef, "National Security 
Action Memorandum No. 3l4, " 10 September 1964 (NSAM 3l4) (in 
Vietnam 38I: September file) (TOP SECRET). 

98. CTU 77-6/6 message to COMUSMACV, "Amplifying Report on DE SOTO 

181327Z SITREP, " 18 September 1964 (in McNaughton VIII ) (SECRET). 

99- NSC Working Group Working Paper, Part VIII, "Immediate Actions in 

the Period Prior to Decision," 7 November 1964 (in State Department 
Materials, Vol II) (TOP SECRET). 

100. Vance memorandum to Assistant Secretary McNaughton, 30 September 
1964. See also L. Thompson letter to Deputy Secretary Vance, 

25 September 1964 (Both in Vietnam 38I: September file) (SECRET). 

101. Taylor message to SecState, Section One, 19 September 1964 (Saigon 
913) (in Vietnam 38I: September file) (TOP SECRET). 

102. Taylor to SecState, Section Two, 19 September 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

103. Ibid. 

10h. Vientiane Embassy message to SecState (Vientiane hk8)/ described 
in Section One, 19 September 19&- (TOP SECRET). 

105. Section Two, 19 September 196ft (TOP SECRET). 

106. CJCS memorandum to SecDef, "Cross-Border Operations," 30 September 

1964 (jcsm-835-64) (top secret). 

107. Joint State/Defense message to Vientiane Enbassy, 6 October 1964 
(State 313) (in "Southeast Asia, September 1964," CF 17) (TOP SECRET) 

108. SN3E 10-3-64, "Probable Communist Reactions to Certain Possible 
U.S./GVN Courses of Action," 9 October 1964, p. 6 (TOP SECRET). 

>9 ' TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

109. State/Defense to Vientiane, 6 October 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

110. Unger message to Secretary Rusk and McNamara, 13 October 1964 
(Vientiane 609) (in Vietnam 38I: October file) (TOP SECRET). 

111. Taylor message to Secretary Rusk, 9 October 1964 (Saigon 10 68) 
(in "Southeast Asia - October 1964," CF 18) TOP SECRET). 

112. NSC Working Group Working Paper, Part VIII, 7 November 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

113. Henry Kamm, New York Times , 3 and 8 September 1964. 

114. Drew Middleton, New York Times , l6, 17, 18 and 22 September 1964. 

115. Unger message to Department of State, 17 August 1964 (Vientiane 
310) (in CF 16) (TOP SECRET). 

116. Bundy memo to SecDef et. al ., 11 August 1964 (SECRET). 

For evidence of recognition by the Vientiane Embassy of the intent 
of U.S. policies, see Unger to Department of State, 17 August 1964 

117. Ambassador Unger, in interview with the writer, 6 March I967 

118. Bundy memo, 11 August 1964 (SECRET). 

119. Ibid, 

120. U.S. Mission (Saigon) to Department of State, 18 August 1964 (TOP SECRET) 

121. Rostow letter to Ambassador Taylor, 23 September 1964, attachment 
to a Rostow memorandum to Secretary McNamara, 23 September 1964 
(in Vietnam 38I: September file) (SECRET). 

122 • See United States - Vietnam Relations, IV. C. 5 -, PP- 25-26 (TOP SECRET). 

123- Taylor message to White House, 10 August 1964 ( Saigon 364) (in CF 16) 
• (TOP SECRET). See also Rusk message to Saigon Embassy, 20 August 1964 
(State 481) (in CF 16) (SECRET). 

124. Bundy memo to SecDef, et. al ., 11 August 1964; Department of State 
to several addressees', 14 August 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

125. Department of State to several addressees, l4 August 1964 (TOP SECRET). 
The working paper omitted the phrase, "for planning purposes." 

126. Bundy to SecDef, et. al., 11 August 1964 (SECRET). 

50 TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

127. U.S. Mission (Saigon) to Department of State, 18 August 1964 

128. McNaughton, "Plan of Action for South Vietnam/ 1 (TOP SECRET). 

129. Bundy memo, 8 September 19a (SECRET). 

130. Ibid.; see also NSAM 3l4, 10 September 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

131. See Joint State/Defense message to Ambassador Taylor, 29 October 
19$+ (State 937) (in CF l8) (TOP SECRET). 

132. "Summary" in "Analysis of the Rostow Thesis," pp. 2-3 (SECRET). 

133. Ibid ., p. 2 (SECRET). 

134. Ibid,, pp. 3-4 (SECRET). 

135. "Analysis of the Rostow Thesis," pp. 13~l4, 24, 25, (SECRET). 

136. "Summary" in Ibid., p. 5. 

137- CJCS memorandum to SecDef, "Courses of Action for South Vietnam," 

9 September 1964 (CM-124-64) (in Vietnam 38I: September file). See 
also, CINCPAC to JCS, 17 August 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

138. JCSM-746-64, 26 August' 1964; CJCS Talking Paper, 7 September 1964; 
CM-124-64; CM-124-64, 9 September 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

139- Mc Naught on memorandum to Secretary McNamara, "Air Force Study on 

Tactical Air Capability in Southeast Asia," 8 August 1964 (in Vietnam 
38l : August file); MACV 1501232 and CINCPAC l823l4z , in William 
Bundy memorandum, "issues Concerning Next Courses of Action, " 
25 August 196k, Items G and H (in State Department Materials, Book i); 
CINCPAC to JCS, 17 August 1964; CJCS memorandum to SecDef, "improve- 
ment of U.S. Security Posture in South Vietnam," 2k August 1964 (JCSM- 
731-64); CJCS memorandum to SecDef, "Air Force Tactical Air Relation- 
. ships Study (Southeast Asia)," 4 September 1964 (JCSM-7o3~64) (TOP 

140. JCSM-701-64, 14 August 19ft; CINCPAC to JCS, 17 August 1964; JCSM- 
746-01, 26 August 1964; CJCS Talking Paper, 7 September 1964 (TOP 

141. Saigon 4^7 and Saigon 538 cited in Bundy memo, 25 August 1964; 
U.S. Mission ( Saigon) to Department of State, 18 August 1964 

242. U.S Mission to Department of State, 18 August 1964; Bundy memo, 

25 August 1964; Handwritten notes, 7 September 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

5 1 TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

1^3. UoS. Mission to Department of State, 28 August 1964; Handwritten 
notes/ 7 September 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

144. Bundy memo, 25 August 1964; Mc Naught on draft, "Aims and Options in 
Southeast Asia/ 1 13 October 1964 (in "Drafts 1965/' McNaughton II) 

1^5 • Penciled notes on Bundy memo to SecDef, et . al ., 11 August 1964; 

McNaughton, op. cit .; McNaughton, "Plan of Action for South Vietnam," 
3 September 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

146. McNamara memorandum to CJCS, "JCSM-729-64: Target Study - North 
Vietnam (SECRET)," 31 August 1964 (in Vietnam 38I: August file); 
McNaughton, "Plan of Action for South Vietnam, " 3 September 1964; 
McNaughton draft, 13 October 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

147. Roche memorandum to JCS, "Draft Scenarios for Recommendation 12 

(NSAM 288)," 14 August 1964 (in Vietnam 38I: August file); McNaughton, 
"Plan of Action for South Vietnam, " 3 September 1964; Bundy draft 
memorandum "Courses of Action for South Vietnam,". (undated, with 
penciled notations) (in Vietnam 38I: September file) (TOP SECRET). 

148. McNaughton to McNamara, 8 August 1964; Hitch memorandum to Secretary 
McNamara, "Review of USAF Study: Relationships of Tactical Air 
to Ground Forces, SEA, 1964 and 1969 (u), M 24 August 1964 (in Vietnam 
38l : August file); McNamara memorandum to CJCS, "Improvement of U.S. 
Security Posture in South Vietnam," 31 August 1964 (in Vietnam 38I: 
August file) (TOP SECRET). 

149 • Department of State to several addressees, l4 August 1964; Bundy 

memo, 25 August 1964; Handwritten notes, 7 September 1964 (TOP SECRET). 

150. NSAM 314, 10 September 1964; Joint State/Defense to Taylor, 29 October 
1964 (TOP SECRET). 

151. See McNaughton to McNamara, 8 August 1964; also, Department of State 
to several addressees, l4 August 1964; Bundy memo, 8 September 1964, 
particularly in comparison with Bundy draft memo (undated, with 
pencil notes) (SECRET). 

152. SNIE 10-3-64, 9 October 1964, pp. 5, 6 (TOP SECRET). 

153. Ibid. , pp. 9-11 ( T 0P SECRET). 

154. Ibid., pp. U-12 (TOP SECRET). 

155- Ibid., p. 2; Handwritten notes, J September 1964; SNIE 53-2-64, 

"The Situation in South Vietnam," 1 October 1964, p. 1 (TOP SECRET). 

52 TOP SECRET - Sensitive