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

IV.C Evolution of the War (26 Vols.) 
Direct Action: The Johnson Commitments, 1964-1968 

(16 Vols.) 
3. ROLLING THUNDER Program Begins: January - 

June 1965 

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



1945 - 1967 








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

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iv. C. 3* 



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See Def Cont Hr. Xr. 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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The United States decisions, in the early months of 19^5 , "to 
launch a program of reprisal air strikes against North Vietnam, ^ 
evolving progressively into a sustained bombing campaign of rising 
intensity, were made against a background of anguished concern over 
the threat of imminent collapse of the Government of South Vietnam 
and of its military effort against the Viet Cong. The air war 
against the North was launched in the hope that it would strengthen 
GVN confidence and cohesion, and that it would deter or restrain 
the DRV from continuing its support of the revolutionary war in the 
South. There was hope also that a quite modest bombing effort would 
be sufficient; that the demonstration of US determination and the 
potential risks and costs to the North implicit in the early air 
strikes would provide the US with substantial bargaining leverage; 
and that it would redress the "equation of advantage" so that a 
political settlement might be negotiated on acceptable terms. 

Once set in motion, however, the bombing effort seemed to 
stiffen rather than soften Hanoi T s backbone, as well as to lessen 
the willingness of Hanoi ! s allies, particularly the Soviet Union, 
to work toward compromise. Moreover, compromise was ruled out: m 
any event, since the negotiating terms that the US proposed were 
not "compromise" terms, but more akin to a "cease arid desist order 
that, from the DRV/VC point of view, was tantamount to a demand for 
their surrender. 

As Hanoi remained intractable in the face of a mere token 
demonstration of U.S. capability and resolve, U.S. policy shifted 
to a more deliberate combination of intensified military pressures 
and modest diplomatic enticements. The carrot was added to the 
stick in the form of an economic development gesture, but the coercive 
element remained by far the more tangible and visible component of 
U.S. policy. To the slowly but relentlessly rising air pressures 
against the North was added the deployment of US combat forces to 
the South. In response to public pressures, a major diplomatic 
opportunity was provided Hanoi for a quiet backdown through a 
brief bombing pause called in mid -May, but the pause seemed to be 
aimed more at clearing the decks for a subsequent intensified 
resumption than it was at evoking a reciprocal act of de-escalation 
by Hanoi. The U.S. initiative, in any event, was unmistakably 
rebuffed by North Vietnam and ~by its Communist allies, and the 
opposing positions were more hopelessly deadlocked than ever before. 

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It is the purpose of this study to reconstruct the immediate 
circumstances that led up to the U.S. reprisal decision of February 
1965, to retrace the changes in rationale that progressively trans- 
formed the reprisal concept into a sustained graduated bombing 
effort, and to chronicle the relationship between that effort and 
the military-political moves to shore up Saigon and the military- 
diplomatic signals t*o dissuade Hanoi, during the crucial early 
months of February through May of 19&5- 

# ■* ■* *• #• # * 

Background to Pleiku . The growing realization, throughout 196k, 
that the final consolidation of VC power in South Vietnam was a distinct 
possibility, had led to a protracted US policy reassessment and a 
determined search for forceful military alternatives in the Worth that 
might help salvage the deteriorating situation in the South. The 
proposed program of graduated military pressures against North Vietnam 
that emerged from this reassessment in late 196^ had three major 
objectives: (l) to signal to the Communist enemy the firmness of U.S. 
resolve, (2) to boost the sagging morale of the GVN in the South, and 
(3) to impose increased costs and strains upon the DRV in the^North. 
Underlying the rationale of the program was the hope that it might 
restore some equilibrium to the balance of forces, hopefully increasing 
the moment of US/GVN bargaining leverage sufficiently to permit an 
approach to a negotiated solution on something other than surrender 
terms . 

Throughout the planning process, (and even after the initiation 
of the program) the President's principal advisors differed widely in 
their views as to the intensity of the bombing effort that would be 
desirable or required, and as to its likely effectiveness in influencing 
Hanoi T s will to continue its aggression. The JCS, for example, con- 
sistently argued that only a most dramatic and forceful application 
of military power would exert significant pressure on North Vietnam, 
but firmly believed that such application could and would affect the 
enemy T s will. Most civilian officials in State, OSD, and the White 
House, on the other hand, tended to favor a more gradual, restrained 
approach, "progressively mounting in scope and intensity," in which 
the prospect of greater pressure to come was at least as important 
as any damage actually inflicted. But these officials also tended, 
for the most part, to have much less confidence that such pressures 
would have much impact on- Hanoi T s course, making such equivocal 
assessments as:- "on balance we believe that such action would have 
some faint hopo of really improving the Vietnamese situation." 

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Reprisal Planning . In spite of these rather hesitant judgments, • 
the graduated approach was adopted and a program of relatively mild 
military actions aimed at Worth Vietnam was set in motion beginning 
in December 196h. At the same time, detailed preparations were made 
to carry out bombing strikes against targets in North Vietnam in 
reprisal for any future attacks on U.S. forces. These preparations 
were made chiefly in connection with the occasional DESOTO Patrols 
that the US Navy conducted in the Gulf of Tonkin which had been 
fired upon or menaced by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on several 
previous occasions during 1964. In order to be prepared for an 
attack on any future patrol, a pre-packaged set of reprisal targets 
was worked up by CINCPAC on instructions from the JCS, and pre- 
assigned forces were maintained in a high state of readiness to 
strike these targets in accordance with a detailed strike plan that 
provided a range of retaliatory options. 

In late January, a DESOTO Patrol was authorized to begin on 
Feb. 3 (later postponed to Feb. 7) and Operation Order FLAMING DART 
was issued by CINCPAC, providing for a number of alternative US air 
strike reprisal actions in the eventuality that the DESOTO Patrol 
were to be attacked or that any other provocation were to occur, 
such as a spectacular VC incident in South Vietnam. At the last 
moment, however, the Patrol was called off in deference to Soviet 
Premier Kosygin T s imminent visit to Hanoi. U.S. officials hoped 
that the USSR might find it in its interest to act as an agent of 
moderation vis a vis Hanoi in the Vietnam conflict, and wished to 
avoid any act that might be interpreted as deliberately provocative. 
Nevertheless, it was precisely at the beginning of the Kosygin visit, 
during the early morning hours of February 7; "tile the VC launched 
their spectacular attack on US installations at Pleiku, thus triggering 
FLAMING DART I, the first of the new carefully programmed US/GVN ■ 
reprisal strikes . 

Imperceptible Transition . By contrast with the earlier Tonkin 
strikes of August, 1964 which had been presented as a one-time 
demonstration that North Vietnam could not flagrantly attack US 
forces with impunity, the February 1965 raids were explicitly 
linked with the "larger pattern of aggression" by North Vietnam, 
and were a reprisal against North Vietnam for an offense committed 
by the VC in South Vietnam. "When the VC staged another dramatic 
attack on Qui Nnon on Feb. 10, the combined US/GVN response, named 
FLAMING DART II, was not characterized as an event-associated 
reprisal but as a generalized response to "continued acts of aggression." 
The new terminology reflected a conscious U.S. decision to broaden 
the reprisal concept as gradually and imperceptibly as possible to 
•accommodate a much wider policy of sustained, steadily intensifying 
air attacks against North Vietnam, at a rate and on a scale to be 
determined by the U.S. Although discussed publicly in very muted 

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tones , the second FLAMING DART operation constituted a sharp break 
with past US policy and set the stage for the continuing bombing 
program that was now to be launched in earnest. 

Differences in Adv ocacy. "While all but one or two of the 
President's principal Vietnam advisors favored the initiation of a 
sustained bombing program, there were significant differences among 
them. McGeorge Bundy and Ambassador Maxwell Taylor, for example, 
both advocated a measured, controlled sequence of raids, carried 
out jointly with the GVN and directed solely against DRV military 
targets and infiltration routes. In their view, the intensity of 
the attacks was to be varied with the level of VC outrages in SVN 
or might be progressively raised. But whereas McGeorge Bundy T s 

(objective was to influence the course of the struggle in the South 
(boosting GVN morale, improving US bargaining power with the GVN, 
exerting a depressing effect on VC cadre), Ambassador Taylor f s 
principal aim was tL to bring increasing pressure on the DRV to cease 
its intervention." It was coercion of the North, rather than a 
rededication of the GVN to the struggle in the South that Taylor 
regarded as the real benefit of a reprisal policy. CINCPAC, on 
the other hand, insisted that the program would have to be a very 
forceful one -- a "graduated pressures" rather than a "graduated 
reprisal" philosophy --if the DRV were to be persuaded to acceed 
to a cessation on U.S. terms. The Joint Chiefs, in turn, (and 
especially Air Force Chief of Staff General McConnell) believed 
that the much heavier air strike recommendations repeatedly made 
by the JCS during the preceding six months were more appropriate 
than the mild actions proposed by Taylor and Bundy. 

Initiating ROLLING THUNDER . A firm decision to adopt "a pro- 
gram of measured and limited air action jointly with the GVN against 
selected military targets in the DRV" was made by the President on 
February 13, and communicated to Ambassador Taylor in Saigon. Details 
of the program were deliberately left vague, as the President wished 
to preserve maximum flexibility. The first strike was set for February 
20 and Taylor was directed to obtain GVN concurrence. A semi-coup 
in Saigon, however, compelled postponement and cancellation of this 
and several subsequent strikes. Political clearance was not given 
until the turbulence was calmed with the departure of General Nguyen 
Khanh from Vietnam on Feb 25- U.S. reluctance to launch air attacks 
during this time was further reinforced by a UK-USSR diplomatic 
initiative to reactivate the Cochairmanship of the 195^- Geneva Con- 
ference with a view to involving the members of that conference in 
a consideration of the Vietnam crisis. Air strikes executed at that 
moment, it was feared, might sabotage that diplomatic gambit, which 
• Washington looked upon not as a potential negotiating opportunity, 
but as a convenient vehicle for public expression of a tough U.S. 


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position. The Co- Chairmen gambit, however, languished -- and 
eventually came to naught. The first ROLLING THUNDER strike was 
finally rescheduled for Feb 26. This time adverse weather forced 
its cancellation and it was not until March 2 that the first of 
the new program strikes, dubbed ROLLING THUNDER V, was actually 
carried out. 

In the closing* days of February and during early March, the 
Administration undertook publicly and privately to defend and pro- 
pound its rationale for the air strikes, stressing its determination 
to stand by the GVTNT, but reaffirming the limited nature of its 
objectives toward North Vietnam. Secretary Rusk conducted a 
marathon public information campaign to signal a seemingly reason- 
able but in fact quite tough US position on negotiations, demanding 
that Hanoi "stop doing what it is doing against its neighbors" 
before any negotiations could prove fruitful. Rusk ! s disinterest 
in negotiations at this time was in concert with the view of virtually 
all the President's key advisors, that the path to peace was not then 
open. Hanoi held sway over more than half of South Vietnam and could 
see the Saigon Government crumbling before her very eyes. The balance 
of power at this time simply did not furnish the U.S. with a basis for 
bargaining and Hanoi had no reason to acceed to the hard terms the 
U.S. had in mind. Until military pressures on North Vietnam could 
tilt the balance of forces the other way, talk of negotiation could 
be little more than a hollow exercise. 

Evolving a Continuing Program . Immediately after the launching 
of the first ROLLING THUNDER strike, efforts were set in motion to 
increase the effectiveness, forcefulness and regularity of the program. 
US aircraft loss rates came under McNamara T s scrutiny, with the result 
that many restrictions on the use of U.S. aircraft and' special ordnance 
were lifted, and the air strike technology improved. Sharp annoyance 
was expressed by Ambassador Taylor over what he considered an unneces- 
sarily timid and ambivalent US stance regarding the frequency and 
weight of U.S. air attacks. He called for a more dynamic schedule 
of strikes, a several week program, relentlessly marching North, to 
break the will of the DRV. Army Chief of Staff General Johnson, 
returning from a Presidential survey mission to Vietnam in mid-March, 
supported Taylor T s view and recommended increasing the scope and 
tempo of the air strikes as well as their effectiveness. The President 
accepted these recommendations and, beginning with ROLLING THUNDER VII 
(March 19), air action against the North was transformed from a 
sporadic, halting effort into a regular and determined program. 

Shift to Interdiction . In the initial U.S. reprisal strikes • 
and the first ROLLING THUNDER actions, target selection had been 
'completely dominated by political and psychological considerations. 
With the gradual acceptance, beginning in March, of the need for a 
militarily more significant sustained bombing program, a refocusing 

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of target emphasis occurred , stressing interdiction of the DRV ! s 
lines of communication (L0C ! s) -- the visible manifestations of 
North Vietnamese aggression. The JCS had called the SecDef f s 
attention to this infiltration target complex as early as mid- 
February, and an integrated counter- infiltration attack plan 
against LOC targets south of the 20th parallel began to be 
developed by CINCPAC, culminating at the end of March in the 
submission of the JCS 12-week bombing program. This program 
was built around the "LOC- cut" concept developed by the Pacific 
Command and was strongly endorsed by General Westmoreland and 
Ambassador Taylor. The JCS recommended that only the first phase 
(third through fifth weeks) of the 12-week program be adopted, as 
they had not reached agreement on the later phases. The JCS sub- 
mission, however, was not accepted as a program, although it 
strongly influenced the new interdiction-oriented focus of the 
attacks that were to follow. But neither the SecDef nor the 
President was willing to approve a multi-week program in advance. 
They preferred to retain continual personal control over attack 
concepts and individual target selection and to communicate their 
decisions through weekly guidance provided by the SecDef T s ROLLING 
THUNDER planning messages. 

April 1 Reassessment . By the end of March, in Saigon T s view, 
the situation in South Vietnam appeared to have rebounded somewhat. 
Morale seemed to have been boosted, at least temporarily, by the air 
strikes, and Vietnamese forces had not recently suffered any major 
defeats. " Washington, on the other hand, continued to regard the^ 
situation as "bad and deteriorating," and could see no signs of 
on the part of Hanoi. None of the several diplomatic initiatives 
that had been launched looked promising, and VC terrorism continued 
unabated, with the March 29 bombing of the US embassy in Saigon 
being by far the boldest provocation. 

Ambassador Taylor returned to Washington to participate in a 
Presidential policy review on April 1 and 2, in which a wide range 
of possible military and non-military actions in South and North 
Vietnam were examined. The discussions, however, did not deal 
principally with the air war, but focused mainly on the prospect 
of major deployments of US and Third Country combat forces to South 
Vietnam. As a result of the discussions, the far-reaching decision 
was made, at least conceptually, to permit US troops to engage in 
offensive ground operations against Asian insurgents. With respect 
to future air pressures policy,, the actions adopted amounted to 
little more than a continuation of "roughly the present slowly 
ascending tempo of ROLLING THUNDER operations," directed mainly 
at the LOC targets that were then beginning to be struck. The 
•Director of Central Intelligence John McCone demurred, arguing 
that a change in the US ground force role in the South 'also demanded 
comparably more forceful action against the North. He felt that 
the ground force decision was correct only "if our air strikes 
against the North are sufficiently heavy and damaging really to 
hurt the North Vietnamese." 

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9 TT 


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A "Carrot" at Johns Hopkins . Although devoting much effort to 
public explanation and private persuasion, the President could not 
quiet his critics. Condemnation of the bombing spread and the 
President was being pressed from many directions to make a major 
public statement welcoming negotiations. He found an opportunity 
to dramatize his peaceful intent in his renowned Johns Hopkins 
address of April 7, in which he (l) accepted the spirit of the 
17-nation Appeal of March 15 to start negotiations "without posing 
any preconditions/' <2) offered the vision of a "billion dollar 
American investment" in a regional Mekong River basin development 
effort in which North Vietnam might also participate, and (3) 
appointed the illustrious Eugene Black to head up the effort and to 
lend it credibility and prestige. The President's speech evoked 
much favorable public reaction throughout the world, but it failed 
to silence the Peace Bloc and it failed to move Hanoi. Premier 
Pham Van Dong responded to the President's speech by proposing his 
famous Four Points as the only correct way to resolve the Vietnam 
problem and, two days later, denounced the President's proposal as 
simply a "carrot" offered to offset the "stick" of aggression and 
to allay public criticism of his Vietnam policy. But this is as 
far as the President was willing to go in his concessions to the 
Peace Bloc. To the clamor for a bombing pause at this time, the 
Administration responded with a resounding "Wo." 

Consensus at Honolulu . By mid- April, communication between 
Washington and Saigon had become badly strained as a result of 
Ambassador Taylor's resentment of what he regarded as Washington's 
excessive eagerness to introduce US combat forces into South Vietnam, 
far beyond anything that had been approved in the April 1-2 review. 
To iron out differences, a conference was convened by Secretary 
McNamara at Honolulu on April 20. Its main concern was to reach 
specific agreement on troop deployments, but it also sought to 
reaffirm the existing scope and tempo of ROLLING THUNDER. 'The 
conferees agreed that sufficient pressure was provided by repetition 
and continuation of the strikes, and that it was important not to 
"kill the hostage" by destroying the valuable assets inside the 
"Hanoi do-not." Their strategy for victory was "to break the will 
of the DRV/VC by denying them victory." Honolulu apparently 
succeeded in restoring consensus between Washington and Saigon. 
It also marked the relative downgrading of pressures against the 
North, in favor of more intensive activity in the South. The 
decision, at this point, was to "plateau" the air strikes more 
or less at the prevailing level, rather than to pursue the relent- 
less dynamic course ardently advocated by Ambassador Taylor and 
Admiral Sharp in February and March, or the massive destruction of 
the North Viet lamese target complex consistently pressed by the 
Joint Chiefs. 

Following Honolulu, it was decided to publicize the fact that 
"interdiction" was now the major objective of the bombing, and 
Secretary McNamara devoted a special Pentagon briefing for the 
press corps to that issue. 


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« ■ 1 1 ■ ' ■ ■ * * « 

First Bombing Pause . Pressure for some form of bombing halt 
had mounted steadily throughout April and early May and, although 
the President did not believe that such a gesture would evoke any 
response from Hanoi he did order a brief halt effective May 13, to 
begin 11 as he expressed it "to clear a path either toward restoration^ 
of peace or toward increased military action, depending on the reaction 
of the Communists." The political purpose of the pause -- to test 
Hanoi T s reaction -- was kept under very tight wraps, and the project 
was given the code name MAYFLOWER. A great effort was made to inform 
Hanoi of the fact of the pause and of its political intent. Soviet 
Ambassador Dobrynin was given an oral explanation by Secretary Rusk, 
confirmed by a tough written statement, reasserting Rusk T s public 
position that the cessation of the DRV T s attacks upon South Vietnam 
ms the only road to peace and that the US would be watchful, during 
the pause, for any signs of a reduction in such attacks. A similar 
statement was sent to U.S. Ambassador Kohler in Moscow, for personal 
transmittal to the DRV Ambassador there. Kohler, however, met vith 
refusal both from the DRV Ambassador to receive, and from the Soviet 
Foreign Office to transmit, the message. A written note, sent to the 
DRV embassy, was returned ostensibly unopened. . Nevertheless, it is 
quite clear that Hanoi was more than adequately advised of the 
contents of the U.S. message through the various diplomatic channels 
that were involved. 

Given the "rather strenuous nature" of the U.S. note to Hanoi 
and the briefness of the pause, it is hardly surprising that the 
initiative encountered no receptivity from the Soviet government 
and evoked no positive response from Hanoi. The latter denounced 
the bombing halt as "a worn out trick of deceit and threat ... 
and the former, in the person of Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko 
in a conversation with Rusk in Vienna, branded the U.S. note to 
Hanoi as "insulting". 

Having thus been unmistakably rebuffed, the President ordered 
the resumption of the bombing raids effective May 18. The entire 
pause was handled with a minimum of public information, and no 
announcement was made of the suspension or of the resumption. But 
prime ministers or chiefs of state of a half dozen key friendly 
governments were briefed fully after the event. A still somewhat 
ambiguous diplomatic move was made "by Hanoi in Paris on May 18, a 
few hours after the bombing had been resumed, in which ^Mai Van Bo, 
the DRV economic delegate there seemed to imply a significant ^ ^ ^ 
softening of Hanoi's position on the Four Points as "prior conditions. 
But subsequent attempts at clarification left that issue as -ambiguous 
as it had been before. 

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IV. C 

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6 Jan 1965 

8 Jan 1965 

27 Jan 1965 

28 Jan 1965 

29 Jan 1965 

h Feb 1965 


William Bundy Memo- 
randum for Rusk 

2 , 000 Korean troops 
arrive in SVN 

Huong Government 

McNaughton Memorandum 
for Secretary of 

JCS- message k2kk to 


CJCS massage 1+6 12 to 


Taking note of the continued politi- 
cal deterioration in SVN, Bundy con- 
cludes that, even though it will get 
worse, the US should probably pro- 
ceed with Phase II of the December 
pressures plan, the escalating air 
strikes against the North. 

South Korea sends 2,000 military 
advisors to SVN, the first such non- 
US support. 

General Khanh ousts the civilian 
government headed by Huong and 
assumes powers of government himself. 

McNaughton is as pessimistic as 
William Bundy about prospects in the 
South. He feels the US should evacu- 
ate dependents and respond promptly 
at the ne:rt reprisal opportunity. 
McNamara T s oencilled notes reveal 
more optimism about the results of 
air strikes than McNaughton. 

A resumption of the DESOTO Patrols 
on or about 3 February is authorized. 

The JCS urge again that a strong 
reprisal action be taken immediately 
after the next DRV/VC provocation. 
In particular, they propose targets 
and readiness to strike should the 
forthcoming resumption of the DESOTO 
Patrols be challenged. 

In view of Kosygin's impending visit 
to Hanoi, authority for the DESOTO 
Patrol is cancelled. 


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h Feb 1965 

6 Feb 1965 

7 Feb 1965 

IE 53-65 "Short 
Term Prospects in 
South Vietnam" 

Kosygin arrives in 

VC attack US base at 

President decides to 

McGeorge Bundy Memo- 
randum to the 
President: "The 
Situation in South 

8 Feb 1965 



The intelligence community does not 
see the conditions of political in- 
stability in SVN improving in the 
months ahead. The political base 
for counter insurgency will remain 

Soviet Premier Kosygin arrives in 
Hanoi for a state visit that will 
deepen Soviet commitment to the DRV, 
and expand Soviet economic and mili- 
tary assistance. 

Well-coordinated VC attacks hit the 
US advisors' barracks at Pleiku and 
the helicopter base at Camp Holloway. 

The NSC is convened in the evening 
(6 Feb. Washington time) and with 
, the recommendation of McGeorge Bundy, 
Ambassador Taylor and General West- 
moreland from Saigon, decides on a 
reprisal strike against the North in 
spite of Kosygin's presence in Hanoi. 

Completing a fact -gathering trip to 
SVN on the very day of the Pleiku 
attack, Bundy acknowledges the bad 
state of the GVN both politically 
and militarily, but nevertheless 
recommends that the US adopt a policy 
of "sustained reprisal" against the 
North and that we evacuate US depen- 
dents from Saigon. The reprisal 
policy should begin from specific VC 
attacks but gradually escalate into 
sustained attacks as a form of pres- 
sure on the DRV to end its support 
of the VC and/or come to terms with 
the US. 

k9 US Navy jets conduct the first 
FLAMING DART reprisal- attack on the 
Dong Hoi army barracks; a scheduled 
VNAF attack is cancelled because of 
bad weather. 

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9 Feb 1965 

10 Feb 1965 

11 Feb 1965 



VNAF strikes North 

Embassy Saigon 
message 2kk$ 

VC attack US billet 
in Qui Nhon 


Embassy Saigon 
message 2^-95 


12 Feb 1965 

Embassy Saigon 
message 2536 


The previously aborted VNAF strike 
is carried out against the Vu Con 
Barracks with US aircraft flying 
cover • 

Taylor cables his support of the 
McGeorge Bundy proposal but lays, his 
stress en the- sustained air campaign 
as a means of pressuring the DRV to 
"cease its intervention/ 1 rather than 
as a means of strengthening the 
allied position in the South. 

In an act of defiance, the VC bomb 
a US enlisted men T s billet in Qui 
Nhon, killing 23 Americans. 

Within 2k hours of the VC attack, 
the US retaliates in an air attack 
on the Chap Le and Chanh Hoa Army 
Barracks. The attack is not linked 
specifically by the White House to 
Qui Khon but to a list of VC inci- 

Taylor outlines tough terms for any 
end to the bombing. The DRV must 
cease its intervention, the VC end 
the insurgency, both return to the 
195U and 1962 accords. 

Responding to a McNamara request and 
within his limitations, the JCS 
recommend an 8-week air campaign 
against the North confined mostly to 
panhandle targets and with targets 
to be attacked in the order of ascen- 
ding risk. General McConnell did not 
feel the proposal was adequate. To 
carry out the program, additional 
deployments are requested. 

Taylor further spells out his "gradu- 
ated reprisal" concept, giving as its 
objectives in the order of their 
importance: (l) to affect the will of 
Hanoi; (2) to bolster GVN morale; and 
(3) to physically damage the DRV and 
thereby reduce its ability to support 
the VC. 


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13 Feb 1965 

17 Feb 1965 

18 Feb 1965 

19 Feb 1965 

B-52s sent to area 

approved by President; 
DEPTEL to Saigon 1718 

CINCPAC message 
170217 February to 

UK reports Soviet 
interest in Geneva 

President schedules 

SNIE 10-3/1-65 

Thao "semi-coup" 

Embassy Saigon 
message 2665 


Approval is given for the dispatch 
' of 30 B-52s to Guam and 30 KC-135s 
to Okinawa for contingency 'use in 

The President decides to inaugurate 
ROLLING THUNDER sustained bombing 
of the North under strict limitations 
with programs approved on a week-by- 
week basis. 

Admiral Sharp urges that the strikes 
be conceived as "pressures" not 
"reprisals" and that any premature 
discussions or negotiations with the 
DRV be avoided. We must convince them 
that the cost of their aggression is 

The UK Ambassador j Lord Harlech, in- 
forms Rusk that the Soviets have 
approached the UK about reactivating 
the 195^ Geneva Conference in the 
current Vietnam crisis. After an 
initial US interest, the Soviets back 
off and the matter dies. 

President Johnson sets February 20 as 
the date for the beginning of ROLLING 
THUNDER and informs US Ambassadors in 

The intelligence community gives its 
view that sustained attacks on the 
DRV would probably cause it to seek 
a respite rather than to intensify 
the struggle in the South. 

Colonel Thao, a longtime conspirator, 
launches a "semi-coup" against Khanh, 
designed to remove him but not the 
Armed Forces Council. He is quickly 
defeated but the AFC decides to use 
the incident to remove Khanh itself. 
The events drag on for several days. 

Taylor recommends urgently that the 
ROLLING THUNDER strike be cancelled 
until the political situation in Sai- 
gon has clarified. The President agrees 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

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

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 


19 Feb 1965 

21 Feb 1965 

2k Feb 1965 

27 Feb 1965 

28 Feb I965 

2 Mar 1965 



Khanh resigns 

U.S. reassures 

State Dept. issues 
"White Paper" on DRV 




In a memo to McNamara, Wheeler 
proposes a systematic attack on the 
DRV rail system as the most vulner- 
able link in the transportation 
system. Military as opposed to 
psychological value of targets is 
already beginning to enter discus- 

Unable to rally support in the Armed 
Forces Council, Khanh resigns. 

In a meeting in Warsaw the Chinese 
are informed that while the U.S. 
will continue to take those actions 
required to defend itself and South 
Vietnam, it has no aggressive in- 
tentions toward the DRV. 

The State Department issues a "White 
Paper" detailing its charges of ag- 
gression against North Vietnam. 

UoS and G"VN make simultaneous an- 
nouncement of decision to open a 
continuous limited air campaign 
against the North in order to bring 
about a negotiated settlement on 
favorable terms. 

1(A USAF planes attack Xom Bang ammo 
depot and 19 WAF aircraft hit the 
Quang Khe Naval Base in the first 
attacks of ROLLING THUNDER. 

3 Mar 1965 

President decides to 
send CSA, H.K. Johnson, 
to Vietnam 

Tito letter to Johnson 

The President decides to send Army 
Chief of Staff, Gen. H.K. Johnson, 
to Saigon to explore with Taylor and 
Westmoreland what additional efforts 
can be made to improve the situation 
in the South, complementarily to the 
strikes against the North. 

Yugoslav President Tito, in a letter 
to Johnson, urges immediate negotia- 
tion on Vietnam without conditions 
on either side. 

• • • 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

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


5-12 Mar 1965 

6 Mar 1965 

8 Mar 1965 

9 Mar 1965 

10 Mar 1965 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 


Gen. Johnson trip 
to Vietnam 

Marines sent to 

Marines land at 
Da Nang 

Embassy Saigon msgs 
2888, and 2889 

U Thant proposes big 
power conference 

U.S. rejects Thant 

Some bombing restric 
tions lifted 

CJCS memo to SecDef 


Army Chief of Staff, Gen. H.K. 
Johnson, tours Vietnam on a mis- 
sion for the President. 

Two Marine Battalion Landing Teams 
are ordered to Da Nang by the Presi- 
dent to take up base security func- 
tions in the Da Nang perimeter. 

The two Marine battalions land at 
Da Nang and set up defensive posi- 

Taylor expresses sharp annoyance at 
what seemsto him an unnecessarily 
timid and ambivalent U.S. stance on 
air strikes. The long delay between 
strikes, the marginal weight of the 
attacks, and the great ado about 
diplomatic feelers were weakening 
our signal to the North. He calls 
for a more dynamic schedule of 
strikes, a multiple week program re- 
lentlessly marching North to break 
Hanoi f s will. 

U Thant proposes a conference of the 
big powers with North and South 
Vietnam to start preliminary nego- 

The U.S. rejects Thant T s proposal 
until the DRV stops its aggression. 

The President lifts the restriction 
on the use of napalm in strikes on 
the North, and eliminates the re- 
quirement for Vietnamese co-pilots 
in FARMGATE missions. 

In a memo to SecDef with preliminary- 
reports on U.S. aircraft losses in 
hostile action, "Wheeler requests 
better ordnance, more recce, and 
greater field command flexibility in 
alternate target selection for 
weather problems. 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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12 Mar 1965 _ State msg. 1975 to 


President replies 
to Tito 

13 Mar 1965 

Embassy Saigon msg 

13-18 Mar 1965 

Conference of non- 
aligned nations in 

14-15 Mar 1965 ROLLING THUNDER VI 

Ik Mar 1965 

Gen. Johnson submits 
his report to SecDef 

15 Mar 1965 

President approves 
most of Johnson 

19 Mar 1965 




ROLLING THUNDER VI is authorized for 
the next day; it is subsequently de- 
layed until the l^th because of 

In his reply to Tito the President 
indicates the only bar to peace is 
DRV aggression which must stop 
before talks can begin. 

Taylor complains about the postpone- 
ment of RT VI, stating that too much 
attention is being paid to the speci- 
fic target, any target will do since 
the important thing is to keep up the 
momentum of the attacks. 

Tito calls a meeting of 15 non- 
aligned nations in Belgrade. The 
declaration calls for negotiations 
and blames "foreign intervention" 
for the aggravation of the situation. 

The delayed RT VI is carried out and 
is the heaviest attack thus far with 
over 100 U.S. aircraft and 2h VNAP 
planes hitting two targets. 

Gen. Johnson submits a 21-recommenda- 
tion report including a request that 
the scope and tempo of strikes against 
the North be increased and that many 
of the restrictions on the strikes be 

Having reviewed the Johnson report, 
the President approves most of his 
recommendations including those for 
expanding and regularizing the cam- 
paign against the North. The new 
guidelines apply to RT VII on 19 Mar. 

The first week's program of sustained 
bombing undjr the name ROLLING 
THUNDER VII begins. 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

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20 Mar 1965 



21 Mar 1965 

CINCPAC msg. to JCS 
210525 Marc 

2k Mar 1965 

McNaughton memo "Plan 
of Action for South 

27 Mar 1965 


29 Mar I965 

VC bomb US Embassy 


Acting on a CINCPAC recommendation the 
Administration had approved the separa- 
tion of the ant i- infiltration bombing 
in the Laotian panhandle from the 
BARRELL ROITj strikes in support of 
Laotian forces* The former are now 
called STEEL TIGER. 

In a long cable, CINCPAC proposes a 
program for cutting, in depth, the DRV 
logistical network, especially below 
the 20th parallel o The plan calls for 
initial intensive strikes to cut the 
system and then regular armed recce to 
eliminate any residual capacity, or 
repair efforts 

McNaughton concludes that the situation 
in SVN probably cannot be improved 
without extreme measures against the DRV 
and/or the intervention of US ground 
forces o He gives a thorough treatment 
to the alternatives and 'risks with par- 
ticular attention to the strong air 
campaign on the North, He takes note of 
the various escalation points and tries 
to assess the risks at each level. He 
evaluates the introduction of US troops 
and a negotiations alternative in the 
same manner. 

The JCS formally propose to SecDef a 
plan already discussed with him for an 
escalating 12 -week air campaign against 
the North with a primarily military-* 
physical destruction orientation. 
Interdiction is the objective rather 
than will -breaking. 

In a daring bomb attack on the US Em- . 
bassy, the VC kill many 'Americans and 
Vietnamese and cause extensive damage. 
Taylor leaves almost simultaneously for 
talks in Washington. 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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31 iMar 1965 


CINCPAC msg. to JCS 
310407 Mar. 


CINCPAC recommends a spectacular attack 
against the North to retaliate for the 
bombing of the Embassy. The President 
rejects the idea. 

NSC meeting with Taylor The President meets with Taylor and the 

NSC to begin a major policy review. 

1 Apr 1965 

McGeorge Bundy memo 

NSC meeting 

Rostow memo to SecState 

2 Apr 1965 

NSC meeting 

McCone dissents from 
Presidential decision 

Canadian Prime Minister 
suggests pause 

5 Apr 1965 


Bundy recommends little more than a con- 
tinuation of the ongoing modest RT pro- 
gram, gradually hitting the LOC choke 
points. He does, however, recommend re- 
moving the restriction on the Marines to 
static defense. Focus is on winning in 

The White House policy review continued 
with another meeting of the principals. 

In a memo to Rusk, Walt Rostow proposes 
knocking out the DRV electric power grid 
as a means of bringing her whole urban 
industrial sector to a halt. 

At the NSC meeting the President approves 
the Bundy recommendations including the 
proposal to allow US troops in Vietnam a 
combat role. 

CIA director McCone circulates a memo 
dissenting from the Presidential decision 
to have US troops take part in active 
combat. He feels that such action is not 
justified and wise unless the air attacks 
on the North are increased sufficiently to 
really be physically damaging to the DRV 
and to put real pressure on her. 

Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson in 
a speech In Philadelphia suggests that the 
US call a halt to the bombing in the in- 
terests of getting negotiations started. 

The JCS report confirmation of the con- 
struction of a SAM missile site near Hanoi 
and request authority to strike it before 
It becomes operational. Their request is 
not acted on at the time. 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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6 Apr I965 

NSAM 328 

7 Apr I965 

President's Johns 
Hopkins Speech 

8 Apr 1965 

Pham van Dong's "Four 

17 Apr 1965 

Presidential press 

Rusk press conference 

18 Apr 1965 

Taylor opposes the 
ground build-up 

19 Apr 1965 

20 Apr 1965 

Hanoi rejects 17- 
nation appeal 

Honolulu Conference 


The Presidential decisions of April 2 are 
promulgated using the verbatim language 
of the Bundy memo. 

In a major speech at Johns Hopkins Univ- 
ersity,, the President outlines his hope 
for a peaceful^ negotiated settlement 
in Vietnam o He names Eugene Black as the 
US negotiator and offers to assist both 
North and South Vietnam on a regional 
basis to the tune of $1 billion in the 
post-war reconstruction and economic de- 
velopment of SEA. 

Rejecting to the President's initiative, 
the DRV Foreign Minister, Pham van Dong 
announces his famous "Four Points" for 
the settlement of the war. Each side 
sees settlement in the caputulation of the- 
other. Peking denounces the President's 
speech also. 

In a press conference the President ack- 
nowledges the failure of his most recent 
peace overtures 

Secretary Rusk rejects suggestions from 
Canada and others to suspend the bombing 
in order to get peace talks started He 
reiterates the President's view that 
Hanoi does not want peace. 

Having been bombarded with cables from 
Washington about a build-up in ground 
forces to carry out NSAM 328, Taylor re- 
acts opposing the idea in a cable to 
McGeorge Bundy. 

Hanoi rejects the proposal of the 17 non- 
aligned nations for a peace conference 
without pre-conditions by either side. 

Secretary McNamara meets with Taylor, 
Westmoreland, Sharp, Wm. Bundy, and 
McNaughton in Honolulu to review the im- 
plementation and interpretation of NSAM. 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

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21 Apr 1965 

SecDef memo to the 

22 Apr 1965 

Intelligence assessment 
TS #l858^3-c 

23 Apr I965 

Rusk Speech 

2k Apr 1965 

U Thant calls for pause 

25 Apr 1965 

McGeorge Bundy memo 

26 Apr 1965 

McNamara press briefing 

28 Apr 1965 

McCone resigns and 
submits last memo 


3280 A plateau on air strikes, more ef- 
fort in the South, and the specifics of 
force deployments are agreed to. 

Secretary McNamara reports the results of 
the Honolulu Conference to the President 
and indicates that harmony has been res- 
tored among the views of the various 

The intelligence community indicates that 
without either a massive increase in the 
air campaign or the introduction of US 
combat troops, the DRV would stick to its 
goal of military victory. 

In a speech before the American Society 
of International Law, Rusk makes first 
public mention of interdiction and pun- 
ishment as" the purposes of the US bombing 
rather than breaking Hanoi 1 s will. 

U Thant asks the US to suspend the bombing 
for three months in an effort to get ne- 
gotiations. The proposal is rejected in 

In an effort to clarify internal govern- 
ment thinking about negotiations, Bundy 
outlines his view of US goals. His expo- 
sition is a maximum US position whose 
acceptance would amount to surrender by 
the other side. 

In a special briefing for the press com- 
plete with maps and charts, McNamara goes 
into considerable depth in explaining the 
interdiction purposes of the US strikes 
against the North. 

McCone who is leaving his post as CIA Dir- 
ector (tb be replaced by Admiral Raborn) 
submits a last memo to the President op- 
posing the build-up of ground forces in 
the absence of a greatly intensified cam- 
paign against the North. 


TOP-SECRET - Sensitive 

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

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 


k May 1965 


President denies DRV 
willingness to nego- 

Embassy Saigon msg. 

6 May I965 

CIA Director Raborn 


10 May 1965 

State Department msg c 

11 May 1965 

Embassy Saigon msg. 

State Department msg 


In a speech at the White House, the Presi- 
dent indicates that the DRV has turned 
back all peace initiatives , either from j 
the US or from neutral parties. 

Taylor confirms the President's view about 
the DRV by noting that in Hanoi's esti- j 
mates they are still expecting to , 
achieve a clear-cut victory and see no 
reason to negotiate. 

Commenting,, at the President's request, I 
on McCone's parting memo on Vietnam, Ra- ! 
born agrees with the assessment that the I 
bombing had thus far not hurt the North I 
and that much more would be needed to 
force them to the negotiating table « He . 
suggests a pause to test DRV intentions j 
and gain support of world opinion before 
beginning the intensive air campaign that 
he believes will be required. 

The Chairman of the JCS recommends to the 
Secretary that the SAM. sites already iden- 
tified be attacked o j 

The President informs Taylor of his inten- 
tion to call a temporary halt to the bomb- 
ing and asks Taylor to get PM Quat's con- 
currence. The purpose of the pause Is to 
gain flexibility either to negotiate if j 
the DRV shows interest, or to intensify j 
the air strikes if they do not. He does 
not intend to announce the pause but 
rather to communicate it privately to 
Moscow and Hanoi and await a reply. 

Taylor reports Quat's agreement but pre- ■ 
ference not to have the pause linked to 
Buddha's birthday. 

State confirms the decision, agrees to 
avoid reference to the Buddhist holiday, 
and indicates that the pause will begin 
on May 13 and last for 5-7 clays. 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

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

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Department of State 
msg. 3101 

12 May 1965 

Embassy Moscow msg 

13 May 1965 

Presidential speech 


Kohler .in Moscow is instructed to contact 
the DRV Ambassador urgently and convey a 
message announcing the paus6. Simul- 
taneously^ Rusk was transmitting the mes- 
sage to the Soviet Ambassador in Washing- 

In Moscow, the DRV Ambassador refuses to 
see Kohler or receive the message „ A 
subsequent attempt to transmit the message 
through the Soviet Foreign Office also 
fails when the Soviets decline their 

The President avoids reference to the 
pause in a major public speech, but does ; 
call on Hanoi to consider a "political 
solution" of the war. 

Ik May 1965 

Embassy Moscow msg 

British Consul-Hanoi 
transmits the pause msg 

MACV msg 16006 

15 May 1965 

Rusk-Gromyko meet in 

16 May I965 

Embassy Saigon msg 

Kohler suggests that the language of the 
message be softened before -it is trans- 
mitted to Hanoi via the British. Consul in 
the DRV capitalo 

Having rejected Kohler 1 s suggestion, State 
has the British Consul in Hanoi transmit 
the message • The DRV refuses to accept 

it. i 

Westmoreland, with Taylor* s concurrence, 
recommends the use of B-52s for patterned 
saturation bombing of VC headquarters and 
other area targets in South Vietnam, : 

In a meeting between the two men in 
Vienna, Gromyko informs Rusk that the ! 
Soviet Union will give firm and full sup- 
port to the DRV as a "fraternal socialist 
state." j 

Taylor suggests that the DRV T s cold re- . 
sponse -to our Initiative warrants a re- 
sumption of the bombing o The level should 
be linked directly to the intensity of VC 
activity in the South during the pause. \ 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

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

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 


<LJ May 1965 

18 May 1965 

20 May 1965 

21 May 1965 

2 Jun 1965 

3 Jun 1965 


President decides to 
resume bombing 

Allies informed of im- 
pending r^umption 

Bombing resumes 

Hanoi denounces the 

Hanoi's Paris demarche 

Rostow memo "Victory 

and Defeat in Guerilla 

Peking denounces 
the pause 

SWIE IO-6-65 

ICC Commissioner 
Seaborn sees Fham Van 


The President decides that Hanoi 1 s re- 
ponse can be regarded as negative and 
orders the bombing to resume on May 18. 

US Asian and European allies are fore- 
warned of the impending resumption of 
bombing. In a separate msgo the President 
authorizes the radar recce by B-52s of 
potential SKA. targets*. 

After five days of "pause" the bombing 
resumes in the Worth. 

On the evening of the resumption, the DRV 
Foreign Ministry issues a statement de- 
scribing the pause as a "deceitful man- 
euver" to pave the way for further US 
acts of war. 

Somewhat belatedly the DRV representative 
in Paris, Mai Van Bo discusses the "four 
points" with the Quai somewhat softening 
their interpretation and indicating that 
they are not necessarily preliminary con- 
ditions to negotiations. 

In a memo for the Secretary of State 
Rostow argues that a clear-cut US victory 
in SVN" is possible. It requires mainly 
more pressure on the North and effective 
conduct of the battle in the South. I 

Declaring its support for the DRV, Peking 
denounces the President's bombing pause 
as a fraud. 

The intelligence community gives a pessi- 
mistic analysis of the likelihood that 
Hanoi will seek a respite from the bomb- 
ing through negotiation. 

In a meeting in Hanoi with DRV Foreign 
Minister Fham Van Dong, ICC Commissioner 
Seaborn (Cantda) confirms Hanoi's rejec- : 
tion of current US peace initiatives. 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 


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

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12 Jun 1965 

15 Jun 1965 


SVN Premier Quat 

oecDef memo to JCS 

2k Jun 1965 

Ky assumes power 


SW Premier Quat hands his resignation 
to the Armed Forces Council. 

McNamara disapproves the JCS recommenda- 
tion for air strikes against the SAM 
sites and IL 28s at DRV air bases since 
these might directly challenge the Soviet 

Brig. Gen. Nguyen Cao Ky assumes power 
and decrees new measures to strengthen 
GVN prosecution of the war. 



TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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FEBRUARY - JUTE, 1965 * 

ROLLING THUNDER 1 was scheduled on 20 February 19^5 as a one -day reprisal 
strike by UoSo and VNAF forces, against Quang Khe Naval Base and Vu Con 
Barracks o Two barracks and an airfield were authorized as weather alternates . 
ROLLING THUNDER 1 was cancelled because of a coup in Saigon and diplomatic 
moves between London and Moscow. ROLLING THUNDER 2, 3j a ^d k were planned as 
reprisal actions, but subsequently cancelled because of continued political 
instability in Saigon, during which VNAF forces were on "coup alert " Joint 
participation with VNAF was desired for political reasons. 

The first actual ROLLING THUNDER strike was ROLLING THUNDER 5j a one -day, no 
recycle strike on 2 March 1965* Targets were one ammo depot and one naval 
base as primary U.S. and VNAF targets Four barracks were authorized* as 
weather alternates. VNAF participation was mandatory. The approved effort 
for the week was substantially below the level recommended by the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff. 


ROLLING THUNDER 6 (l4-15 March) was a far more foreceful one-day fixed- 
target program representing a week's weight of attack. Napalm was authorized 
for the first time, but aircraft recycle was prohibited. 

' ROLLING THUNDER 7 ( 19-25 March) relaxed the mandatory one -day strike 
execution to a week's period, with precise timing being left to field com- 
manders. It Included five primary targets with weather alternates. The re- 
quirement for concurrent timing of U.S. and VNAF strikes was removed. One 
U.S. and two VNAF armed recce missions were authorized during the seven-day 
period. Specified route segments were selected in southern North Vietnam 
authority was given to strike three fixed radar sites located one 01 cctch^ 
route. The strikes were no longer to be specifically related to VC atroci- 
ties and publicity on them was to be progressively reduced. 

ROLLING THUNDER 8 (26 March - 1 April) included nine radar sites for 
U.S. strike, and a barracks for VNAF. The radar targets reflected primarily 
policy-level interest in additional purely military targets in southern NVN. 
Three armed recce missions were again authorized, against specified route 
segments with U.S. armed recce conducted against NVN patrol craft, along the 
coast from Tiger Island north to 20° and authority granted to restrike opera- 
tional radar sites. VNAF armed recce was conducted along Route 12 from Ha 
Tinh to two miles east of Mu Gia Pass. 

ROLLING THUNDER 9 (2-8 April) inaugurated a planned LOC interdiction 
campaign against NVN south of latitude 20°. The Dong Phuong (JCS 

*Based on information in JCS compilations and ROLLING THUNDER 
execute messages. 

xxiv TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

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; TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

1 target "No. 18.8) and Thanh Hoa bridges (JCS target No a Ik) were the northern- 

i most fixed-target strikes in this campaign to be followed by additional armed 

reconnaissance strikes to sustain the interdiction. ROLLING THUNDER 9 
(2-8 April) through ROLLING THUNDER 12 (23-29 April) completed the fixed- 
target strikes against 26 bridges and seven ferries. 

a fl ROLLING THUNDER 9 permitted three armed recce missions on specified 
route segments. Sorties were increased to not more than 24 armed recce 
strike sorties per 24-hour period in ROLLING THUNDER 10 through ROLLING 
THUNDER 12 • This effort was still far short of the level considered by the 
JCS to be "required for significant effectiveness D " 

• bo Prior to ROLLING THUNDER 10, armed recce targets were limited to 
locomotives , rolling stock, vehicles, and hostile NVN craft • For ROLLING 
THUNDER 10 through ROLLING THUNDER 12 the rules were changed to provide day 
and night armed recce missions to obtain a high level of damage to military 
movement facilities, ferries, radar sites, secondary bridges, and railroad 
rolling stock. It also included interdiction of the IDC by cratering, re- 
striking and seeding choke-points as necessary., 

c. From the beginning, armed recce geographical coverage was ^ limited 
to specified segment's of designated routes . By ROLLING THUNDER 9 It had 
increased to one-time coverage of Routes 1 (DMZ to 19-58-3™), 7; Oj 15, 101, 
and lateral roads between these routes <, 

■ d. The dropping of unexpended ordnance on Tiger Island was authorized 
in this period. Prior to this time, ordnance was jettisoned in the sea. 

ROLLING THUNDER 13 (30 April - May 1965) through ROLLING THUNDER l8 
(11-17 June) continued U.S. and VNAF strikes against 52 fixed military 
targets (five restrikes) as follows: six ammo depots, five supply- depots, 
21 barracks, two airfields, two POL storages, two radio facilities, seven 
bridges, two naval bases, one railroad yard, two thermal power plants, one 
' port facility, and one ferry. It was argued by the JCS that, as some bar- 
racks and depots had been vacated, political .insistence on hitting only 
military targets south of latitude 20° was "constraining the program sub- 
stantially short of optimum military effectiveness •" 

' a. During this six-week period armed recce sorties were expanded to 
a maximum allowable rate of kO per day and a maximum of 200 per week (60 
additional armed recce sorties were authorized for ROLLING THUNDER 17)°, 
Although this period saw a significant increase in armed recce, the new 
'level was well below existing capabilities and, so the JCS argued, "the 
increase was authorized too late to achieve tactical surprise. 

b. With ROLLING THUNDER 13 armed recce authorizations changed from 
stated routes, etc., to more broadly defined geographical areas, in this 

case the area south- of 20° o 

xxv TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

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• Co "Air strikes against fixed targets and armed recce were suspended 
over NVN during the five-day and twenty-hour bombing pause of 13-17 May<> 

d. Authority was requested to strike the first SAM site during the 
ROLLING THUNDER 15 period (immediately following the bombing pause) but 
it was denied. 

e. Armed recce targets were expanded during this six-week period to 
include railroad rolling stock, trucks, ferries, lighters, barges, radar 
sites, secondary bridges, road repair equipment, NW naval craft, bivouac 
and maintenance areas Emphasis was placed on armed recce of routes 
emanating from Vinh in order to restrict traffic in and out of this important 
LOC hubo ROLLING THUNDER 18 added the provision that authorized day armed 
route recce sorties could include selected missions to conduct small precise 
attacks against prebriefed military targets not in the JCS target list, and 
thereafter conduct armed route recce with residual capability o 

f o ROLLING THUNDER 1^ added authority for returning aircraft to use 
unexpended ordnance on Hon Nieu Island Radar Site, Hon Matt Island Radar 
Site, Dong Hoi Barracks, or rail and highway I£>C T s targets, in addition to 
Tiger Island previously authorized for this purpose. 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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I. INTROrUCTION--Pleiku Pulls The Trigger 1 


II. THE LONG ROAD TO PLEHCU--A Retrospective View 2 

A. 196k: Year of Political and Military Decline 2 

B. Evolution of a New Policy 2 

C. Signals to Hanoi • 6 

D. Ominous Developments in Saigon 8 

E. More Agonizing over Additional Pressures 11 


D. JCS Eignt-Week Program 

-, r 



A. The First Reprisal 23 

B. Timing of Pleiku and the Kosygin Visit 23 

C. The Reprisal Rationale and its Public Handling 2k 

D. An Act of Defiance 27 

E. Reactions at Home and Abroad 29 


A. Yae McGeorge Bundy Recommendation 31 

B. The Taylor Conception of "Graduated Reprisals'- 39 

C. . CBfCPAC's "Graduated Pressures" Philosophy ^3 




A. The Presidential Decision and Taylor's Response ^8 

B. ROLLING THUNDER I is La-id On--and Cancelled 52 

C. The UK/USSR Co -Chairmen Gambit 53 

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D. Efforts at Public Justification and Persuasion 59 


A. McNamara's Concern Over Cost -Ineffectiveness 

of Strikes 6k 

B. Taylor's Concern Over Feehle, Irresolute Action 66 

C. President's Concern Over Insufficient Pressure 

in South Vietnam 69 

D. Rolling Thunder VH— Enter "Regularity" and 
"Determination" 71 



A. The Situation in South Vietnam 8l 

B. International Diplomatic Moves 83 

C. An End to "Reprisal" 5h 

D. NSAM 3^8- -Issues Posed and Decisions Made. 85 

E. The Director of Central Intelligence Demurs 90 


A. Mounting Public Criticism 9^ 

B. Ingredients for Johns Hopkins 95 

C. Hanoi and Peking "Close the Door" * 96 

D. President's Reprise: Tragedy, Disappointment — 

But No Bombing Pause 97 


A. Background and Conclusions of Conference . 99 


B. Interdiction is Surfaced " 101 

C. Political Objectives are Reviewed 102 


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A. The Background 106 

B. Setting the Stage ' HO 

C. Transmitting the Message H6 

D. Awaiting a Response 122 

E. Resuming the Bombing 12o 

F. The Aftermath 128 

CONTIFJES ' • 131 

A. The Rostov "Victory" Thesis 131 

B. "ARC LIGHT" Comes to South Vietnam- -Attacks on 

the North Edge Upward 133 

C. McNamara Reviews the Program 135 


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I. INTRODUCTION— Pleiku Palls the Trigger 

At 2:00 a.m. on the morning of February 7, 1965, at the end of five 
days of Tet celebrations and only hours after Kosygin had told a cheering 
crowd in Hanoi that the Soviet Union would "not remain indifferent" if 
"acts of war" were committed against North Vietnam, Viet Cong guerrillas 
carried out well-coordinated raids upon a U.S. advisers' barracks in Pleiku 
and upon a U.S. helicopter base at Camp Holloway, some four miles away. 
Of the 137 American soldiers hit in the two attacks , nine eventually died 
and 76 had to be evacuated; the losses in equipment were also severe: 16 
helicopters damaged or destroyed and six fixed-wing aircraft damaged , making g 
this the heaviest communist assault up to that time against American installa- 
tions in South Vietnam. 


The first flash from Saigon about the assault came on the ticker at 
the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon at 2:38 p.m. Saturday, 
February 6, Washington time. It triggered a swift , though long- contemplated 
Presidential decision to give an "appropriate and fitting" response. Within 
less than Ik hours, by U:00 p.m. Sunday, Vietnam time, 49 U.S. Navy jets — 
A-k Skyhawks and F-8 Crusaders from the Seventh Fleet carriers USS Coral Sea 
and USS Hancock — had penetrated a heavy layer of .monsoon clouds to deliver 
their bombs and rockets upon North Vietnamese barracks and staging areas at 
Dong Hoi, a guerrilla training garrison kO miles north of the 17th parallel. 
On the following afternoon, a flight of 2k VNAF A-1H Skyraiders, cancelled 
the previous day because of poor weather, followed up the attack by striking . 
a military communications center in the Vinh Linh area just north of the 

Though conceived and executed as a limited one-shot tit-for-tat reprisal, 
the dramatic U.S. action, long on the military planners 1 drawing boards 
under the operational code name FLAMING DART, precipitated a rapidly moving 
sequence of events that transformed the character of the Vietnam war and the 
U.S. role in it. It was also the opening move in what soon developed into 
an entirely new phase of that war: the sustained U.S. bombing effort against 
North Vietnam. It is the purpose of this paper to reconstruct the immediate 
circumstances that led up to the FLAMING DART decision, to retrace the changes 
in rationale that progressively transformed the reprisal concept into a sus- . 
tained graduate c bombing effort, and to chronicle the relationship between 
that effort and the military-political moves to shore up Saigon and the 
military-diplomatic signals to dissuade Hanoi, during the crucial early 
months of February through May of 1965. 

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II. THE LONG ROAD TO PLEIKU--A Retrospective View 

■ ■ m i ■ ■ i i h i ■ i i ■ i ■ ■ ■ ■ i r*~ - -- — 

A. 1964: Year of Political and Military Declin e 

The year 1964 was marked by a gradual American awakening to the 
fact that the Viet Cong were winning the war in South Vietnam. Almost ^ . 
uninterrupted political upheaval in Saigon was spawning progressive mili- 
tary dissolution in the countryside. Constant changes within the Vietnamese 
leadership were bringing GVN civil administration into a state of disarray 
and GVN military activities to a near- standstill. ARVN forces were becoming 
more and more defensive and demoralized. At the same time, the communists 
were visibly strengthening their support base in Laos, stepping up the rate 
of infiltration of men and supplies into South Vietnam, and mounting larger 
and more aggressive attacks. The GVN was still predominant, though not 
unchallenged, in the urban population centers; there were also a few areas 
where traditional local power structures (the Hoa Hao, the Cao Dai, etc.) 
continued to exercise effective authority. But the rest of the country 
was slipping, largely by default, under VC control. By the end of 1964, 
all evidence pointed to a situation in which a final collapse of ^ the GVN 
appeared probable and a victorious consolidation of VC power a distinct 

Ironically, it was left to Senator Fulbright to state the harsh 
realities in terms which set the tone for much of Administration thinking 
as it was to emerge in the months to come -- though his views then were 
hardly consistent with the opposition role he was increasingly to take later 
on. As early as March 1964, in a celebrated speech entitled "Old Myths and 
New Realities" he observed that "the hard fact of the matter is that our 
bargaining position is at present a weak one; and until the equation of 
advantage between the two sides has been substantially altered in our favor, 
there can be little prospect of a negotiated settlement." 

B. Evolution of a New Policy 

With the growing realization that the ally on whose behalf the 
United States had steadily deepened its commitment in Southeast Asia was 
in a near state of dissolution, Washington launched a protracted reassess- 
ment of the future American role in the war and began a determined search 
for new pressures to be mounted against the communist enemy, both within and 
outside of South Vietnam. High level deliberations on alternative U.S. 
courses of action in Southeast Asia were started as early as March 1964, 
and a military planning process was set in motion in which much attention 
was given to the possibility of implementing some sort of pressures or 
reprisal policy against North Vietnam. 

The first of these planning efforts, authorized by the President 
on 17 March 1964 (NSAM 288), led to the development of CINCPAC OPIAN 37-64, 
a three-phase plan covering operations against VC infiltration routes in 
Laos and Cambodia and against targets in North Vietnam. Phase I provided 
for air and ground strikes against selected targets in Laos, together with 

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hot pursuit actions into Laotian and Cambodian border areas. Phase II 
provided for Tr tit-for-tat" air strikes, airborne/amphibious raids , and 
aerial mining operations against targets in North Vietnam. Phase III pro- 
vided for increasingly severe air strikes and other actions against North 
Vietnam, going beyond the Tr tit-for-tat" concept. According to the plan, 
air strikes would be conducted primarily by GVN forces, assisted by U.S. 
aircraft . 

As part of OPLAN 37-64, a detailed list of specific targets for 
air attack in North Vietnam was drawn up, selected on the basis of three 
criteria: (a) reducing North Vietnamese support of communist operations 
in Laos and South Vietnam, (b) limiting North Vietnamese capabilities to 
take direct action against Laos and South Vietnam, and finally (c) impairing 
North Vietnam's capacity to continue as an industrially viable state. 
Detailed characteristics were provided for each target, together with damage 
effects that could be achieved by various scales of attack against them. 
This target list, informally called the "94 Target List," became the basic 
reference for much of the subsequent planning for air strikes against North 
Vietnam, when target selection was involved, l/ 

The Tonkin Gulf incident of 4-5 August, which precipitated the 
first U.S. reprisal action against North Vietnam, had enabled the Adminis- 
tration to obtain a broad Congressional Resolution of support and had brought 
with it a prompt and substantial forward deployment of U.S. military forces 
in Southeast Asia, to deter or deal with possible communist reactions to 
the U.S. reprisal strike. Encouraged somewhat by the fact that no such 
reaction occurred, U.S. officials began to look more hopefully toward force- 
ful military alternatives that might help salvage the deteriorating situation 
in South Vietnam. A new wave of disorders and governmental eruptions in 
Saigon gave added impetus to a succession of JCS proposals for intensified 
harassing and other punitive operations against North Vietnam. Their recom- 
mendations included retaliatory actions for stepped up VC incidents, should 
they occur, and initiation of continuing air strikes by GVN and U.S. forces „ 
against North Vietnamese targets. 2, 

A Presidential decision was issued on 10 September.* Besides some 
modest additional pressures in the Lao panhandle and covert actions against 
North Vietnam, it authorized only preparations for retaliatory actions 
against. North Vietnam in the event of any attack on U.S. units or any extra- 
ordinary North Vietnamese/vC" action against South Vietnam. The forward 
deployments that had been carried out in connection with the Tonkin incident 
and in accordance with OPLAN 37-64 were kept in place, but the forces 
involved were precluded from action in South Vietnam and no decision was 
made to utilize them in operations in Laos or North Vietnam. 

Throughout September and October, the JCS continued to urge 
stronger U.S. action not only in North Vietnam, but also "in Laos, where 
infiltration was clearly on the increase, and in South Vietnam, where 
GVN survival was becoming precarious and time seemed to be running out. 

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These urgings reached a crescendo on 1 November 1964 when, just 
three days prior to the U.S. Presidential elections, the VC executed a 
daring and dramatic mortar attack on the U.S. air base at Bien Hoa, killing 
five Americans, wounding 76, and damaging or destroying 27 of the 30 B-57's 
that had been deployed to South Vietnam to serve notice upon Hanoi that 
the United States had. readily at hand the capacity to deliver a crushing 
air attack on the North. The attack was the most spectacular anti-American 
incident to date and was viewed by the JCS as warranting a severe punitive 
response. Their recommendation, accordingly, went far beyond a mere 
reprisal action. It called for an initial 24-36 hour period of air strikes 
in Laos and low-level air reconnaissance south of the 19th parallel in North 
Vietnam, designed to provide a cover for the introduction of U.S. security 
forces to protect key U.S. installations, and for the evacuation of U.S. 
dependents from Saigon. This would be followed, in the next three days, 
by a B-52 strike against Phuc Yen, the principal airfield near Hanoi, and 
by strikes against other airfields and major POL facilities in the Hanoi/ 
Haiphong area; and subsequently by armed reconnaissance against infiltration 
routes in Laos, air strikes against infiltration routes and targets in North 
Vietnam, and progressive PACOM. and SAC strikes against remaining military 
and industrial targets in the 9k Target List. 3/ 

That the JCS recommendations were not accepted is hardly sur- 
prising, considering the magnitude and radical nature of the proposed 
actions and the fact that these actions would have had to be initiated on 
the eve of the election by a President who in his campaign had plainly 
made manifest his disinclination to lead the United States into a wider 
war in Vietnam, repeatedly employing the slogan "we are not going North." 
In any event, as subsequent developments indicate, the President was not 
ready to approve a program of air strikes against North Vietnam, at least 
until the available alternatives could be carefully and thoroughly re- 

Such a re -examination was initiated immediately following the 
election, under the aegis of a NSC interagency working group chaired by 
Assistant Secretary of State William Bundy. After a month of intensive 
study of various options, ranging from an intensification of existing 
programs to the initiation of large-scale hostilities against North Vietnam, 
the working group recommended a graduated program of controlled military 
pressures designed to signal U.S. determination, to boost morale in the 
South and to increase the costs and strains upon the North. A basic aim 
of the program was to build a stronger bargaining position, to restore an 
"equilibrium" in the balance of forces, looking toward a negotiated settle- 

The recommended program was in two phases: Phase I, which was to 
last about 30 days, consisted of little more than an intensification of 
earlier "signals" to Hanoi that it should cease supporting the insurgency 
in the South or face progressively higher costs and. penalties . Thus the 
program upped several of the military pressures already being applied, and 
added armed aerial reconnaissance missions against infiltration routes and 
facilities in Laos; it also provided for' possible individual reprisals for 

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future VC provocations similar to the attack on Bien Hoa. Coupled with 
these military measures was to be a continuous declaratory policy com- 
municating our willingness to negotiate on the basis of the Geneva accords. 
It was recommended that successive actions would be undertaken only after 
waiting to discern Hanoi 1 s reactions to previous actions, with the commit- 
ment to later stages, such as initiation of air strikes against infiltration 
targets across the 17th parallel, kept unspecific and dependent upon enemy 
reactions . 

The recommended program also included a Phase II, a continuous 
program of progressively more serious air strikes possibly running from 
two to six months. The attacks would at first be limited to infiltration 
targets south of the 19th parallel, but would gradually work northward, 
and could eventually encompass all major military-related targets, aerial 
mining of ports, and a naval blockade, with the weight and tempo of the 
action being adjusted to the situation as it developed. The approach would 
be steady and deliberate, "progressively mounting in scope and intensity," 
with the U.S. retaining the option to proceed or not, escalate or not, or 
quicken the pace or not, at any time. It was agreed, however, that this 
second phase would not be considered for implementation until after the GVN 
had demonstrated considerable stability and effectiveness. 

As part of this "progressive squeeze," the working group recom- 
mended that the U.S. be willing to pause to explore negotiated solutions, 
should North Vietnam show any signs of yielding, while maintaining a credible 
threat of still further pressures. In the view of the working group, the 
prospect of greater pressures to come was at least as important as any damage 
actually inflicted, since the real target was the will of the North Viet- 
namese government to continue the aggression in the South rather than its 
capability to do so. Even if it retained the capability, North Vietnam 
might" elect to discontinue the aggression if it anticipated future costs 
and risks greater than it had bargained for. kj 

The JCS dissented from the working group's program on the grounds 
that it did not clearly provide for the kinds and forms of military pressures 
that might achieve U.S. objectives. They recommended instead a more accel- 
erated program of intensive air strikes from the outset, along lines similar 
to the actions they had urged in response to the Bien Hoa incident. Their 
program was in consonance with the consistent JCS view that the way to exert 
significant military pressure on North Vietnam was to bring to bear the 
maximum practicable conventional military power in a short time. 5/ 

The working group's proposals for a graduated approach were ham- 
mered out in a series of policy conferences with Ambassador Taylor, who 
had returned to Washington for this purpose at the end of November, and 
were then presented to the President, who approved them conditionally on 
1 December, without, however, setting a timetable or specifying precise 
implementing actions. Allies had to be brought in line, and certain other 

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diplomatic preliminaries had to be arranged , before the program could. 
be launched. More important, it was feared that possible enemy reactions 
to the program might subject the GVN to severe counter-pressures which, 
in its then enfeebled state, might be more thai- it could bear. Thus 
securing some GVN leadership commitment to improved performance was made 
a prerequisite to mounting the more intensive actions contemplated. In 
fact, Ambassador Taylor returned to Saigon with instructions to hold out 
the prospect of these more intensive actions as an incentive to the GVN 
to "pull itself together" and, indeed, as a quid pro quo , for achieving, 
in some manner, greater stability and effectiveness. The instructions, 
however, contained no reference to U.S. intentions with respect to negoti- 
ations. Any mention of U.S. interest in a negotiated settlement before 
the initiation of military operations against North Vietnam was regarded 
as likely to have the opposite effect from the desired bolstering of GVN 
morale and stamina, as well as being premature in terms of the hoped-for 
improvement in the U.S. bargaining position vis-a-vis Hanoi that might 
result from the actions . 

The President's 1 December decisions were extremely closely held 
during the ensuing months. The draft NSAM that had been prepared by the 
working group was never issued and the decisions were only informally 
communicated. Ambassador Taylor, upon returning to Saigon, began his dis- 
cussions of the proposed actions with the GVN, and received certain assurances. 
Several allies, including the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, were 
given a fairly complete description of U.S. intentions. Others, such^as 
Thailand and Laos, were informed about Phase I only. Still others, like 
Nationalist China, Korea, and the Philippines, were simply given a vague 
outline of the projected course of action. 6/ 

The first intensified military pressures in the program— more high 
level reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam, more extensive 3^A mari- 
time operations with VNAF cover south of the l8th parallel, and RLAF air 
strikes against PL/NVA forces in Laos— were begun on ik December, along 
with a new program of limited USAF-Navy armed reconnaissance missions against 
infiltration routes and facilities in Northern Laos under the code name 
BARREL ROLL. The strikes were not publicized and were not expected to have 
a significant military interdiction effect. They were considered useful 
primarily for their political value as another of a long series of signals 
to Hanoi to the effect that the U.S. was prepared to use much greater force 
to frustrate a communist take-over in South Vietnam. 

C. Signals to Hanoi 

Throughout 196k 9 a basic U.S. policy in Vietnam was to severely 
restrain any expansion of the direct U.S. combat involvement, but to carry 
out an essentially psychological campaign to convince Hanoi that the United 
States meant business. The campaign included repeated reaffirmations of 
the U.S. commitment to the defense of Southeast Asia, made both in public 
and in diplomatic channels; hints and warnings that the U.S. might expand 

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the war with countermeasures against North Vietnam, such as guerrilla 
raids, air attacks , naval blockade , or even land invasion, if the aggres- 
sion persisted; and a number of overt military actions of a precautionary 
nature j intended more to demonstrate U.S. resolve than to affect the mili- 
tary situation. Taken together, however, the signals were somewhat 

Among the more important military-political actions, carried out 
with considerable publicity, were the accelerated military construction 
effort in Thailand and South Vietnam, the prepositioning of contingency 
stockpiles in Thailand and the Philippines, the forward deployment of a 
carrier task force and land-based tactical aircraft within close striking 
distance of relevant enemy targets, and the assignment of an unprecedentedly 
high-level "first team" to man the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Saigon. These 
measures were intended both to convince Hanoi and to reassure the GVN of 
the seriousness and durability of the U.S. commitment. 

In addition, the U.S. undertook a number of unpublicized and more 
provocative actions, primarily as low-key indications to the enemy of the 
U.S. willingness and capability to employ increased force if necessary. 
Chief among these were the occasional DE SOTO Patrols (U.S. destroyer patrols 
conducted deep into the Gulf of Tonkin along the coast of North Vietnam), 
both as a "show of strength" and as an intelligence gathering device; 
Laotian air strikes and limited GVN cross-border operations against VC 
infiltration routes in Laos; GVN maritime raids and other harassing actions 
against North Vietnam; YANKEE TEAM, low-level photo reconnaissance missions 
over Laos, conducted by U.S. jet aircraft with fighter escorts for suppres- 
sive or retaliatory action against enemy ground fire; and finally, the 
initiation at the very end of 196^ of BARREL ROLL, armed reconnaissance 
missions by U.S. jet fighters against VC infiltration routes and facilities 
in Laos . 

The fact that these actions were not publicized- -although most of 
tbem eventually became public knowledge — stemmed in part from a desire to 
communicate an implicit threat of "more to come" for Hanoi's benefit, with- 
out arousing undue anxieties domestically in the United States in a Presi- 
dential election year in which escalation of the war became a significant 
campaign issue. 7/ 

Within this general pattern of subtle and ngt-so-subtle warning 
signals, the- U.S. reprisal strike, following the controversial Gulf of 
Tonkin incident of k-5 August, stands out as a single forceful U.S. reaction, 
the portent of which could hardly have escaped Hanoi, its effect, however, 
may have been gradually diluted, first by the care that was taken to allay 
public fears that it represented anything more than an isolated event, and 
subsequently by the failure of the U.S. to react to the November 1 attack 
at Bien Hoa or to the Christmas Eve bombing of the Brink BOQ. 8/ Even 
this signal, therefore, may not have been, in Hanoi's reading, entirely 

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For Hanoi , the U.S. public declaratory -policy during most of 
196^ must have been a major source of confusion. Presidential statements 
alternated between hawk-like cries and dove-like coos. Thus, in February 
I96U, in a University of California speech, the President issued the 
thinly veiled threat that "those engaged in external direction and supply 
would do well to be reminded and to remember that this type of aggression 
is a deeply dangerous game." But for the rest of the year and particularly 
during the election campaign, the President was saying, emphatically and 
repeatedly, that he did not intend to lead the United States into a wider 
war in Vietnam. He ridiculed the pugnacious chauvinism of Barry Goldwater 
and contrasted it with his own restraint. "There are those that say I 
ought to go north and drop bombs, to try to wipe out the supply lines, and 
they think that would escalate the war," he said in a speech on September 25. 
"But we don't want to get involved in a nation with seven hundred million 
people and get tied down in a land war in Asia." 

But if there' was reason for confusion in Hanoi's reading of the 
public declaratory signals, there was no shortage of opportunities for 
transmitting more unequivocal signals through quiet diplomatic channels. 
The clearest explanations of U.S. policy, and warnings of U.S. intent, 
were communicated to Hanoi on June 18, 196^, by the Canadian International 
Control Commissioner Seaborn. In a long" meeting with Premier Pham Van Dong, 
. Seaborn presented a carefully prepared statement of U.S. views and intentions 
to the North Vietnamese Premier, clearly warning him of the destructive con- 
sequences for the DRV of a continuation of its present course. Pham Van 
Dong fully understood the seriousness and import of the warning conveyed 
by Seaborn. But in this, as in a subsequent meeting with Seaborn on August 15, 
Pham Van Dong showed himself utterly unintimidated and calmly resolved to 
pursue the course upon which the DRV was embarked to what he confidently 
expected would be its successful conclusion. 

On balance, while U.S. words and actions were not always ^ in con- 
sonance, while public and private declarations were much in conflict, and 
while U.S. reactions fluctuated between the' unexpectedly forceful and the 
mystifyingly hesitant, the action- signals were sufficiently numerous and 
the warnings sufficiently explicit to have given Hanoi a fair awareness^ that 
the U.S. was likely to respond to the deteriorating situation by intensifying 
the conflict. How far this intensification would go, neither Hanoi nor the 
U.S. could have foreseen. 

D. Ominous Developments in Saigon . , 

The first of the new military pressures against the North- - 
BARREL ROLL air strikes in Laos --authorized in the 1 December decision,^ 
went into effect on Ik December. The hoped-for improvement in GVN stability, 
however, did not materialize. To the contrary, on 20 December the erratic 
SVN Premier Lt. Gen. Nguyen Khanh abruptly dissolved the High National 
Council which the U.S. Mission had been supporting as a device for encour- 
aging a transition from military to civilian rule. As a result, U.S. -GVN 
relations were placed under extreme strain including, among other things, 
♦ an open personal rift between General Khanh and Ambassador Taylor. 

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The crisis of confidence that developed was one reason for the 
lack of a U.S. response to the bombing of the Brink BOQ in Saigon- on 
Christmas Eve. As pointed out earlier, it was the kind of incident which 
had been contemplated in the approved Phase I guidelines as warranting a 
U.S. reprisal action, and the JCS did recommend such an action. They pro- 
posed an immediate air strike against Vit Thu Lu army barracks just north 
of the 17th parallel, employing up to 40 aircraft sorties, with Vietnamese 
participation if feasible. It was to be a one-day strike, on a much smaller 
scale than those recommended by the JCS on earlier occasions. 9/ However, 
both because of the unsettled situation in Vietnam and because of the 
Christmas Season—which caught the President and the Secretary of Defense 
out of town and Congress in recess—Washington was hesitant and reluctant 
to press for a prompt reaction. By the time the issue was discussed with 
the President on 29 December, it seemed too late for an event-associated 
reprisal and the decision was negative. 

In the meantime, GVN forces had experienced major reverses. ARVN 
as well as the Regional and Popular Forces had been seriously weakened by 
defeat and desertions in the last few months of I96U. A highly visible 
setback occurred from 26 December to 2 January 1965 at Binh Gia, where the 
VC virtually destroyed two Vietnamese Marine battalions. Viet Cong strength, 
augmented by infiltrating combat forces from Worth Vietnam, increased, and 
their hit-and-run tactics were increasingly successful. 

The government of Tran Van Huong came to an abrupt end on 27 Janu- 
ary 1965 when the Vietnamese Armed Forces Council ousted him, leaving only a 
facade of civilian government. The continuing power struggle clearly 
impeded military operations. Large elements of VHA.F, for example, were 
maintained on constant "coup alert." 10/ 

Washington reacted to these developments with considerable anguish. 
"I think we must accept that Saigon morale in all quarters is now very shaky 
indeed...." wrote Assistant Secretary of State William P. Bundy on Janu- 
ary 6, and he continued: 

We have not yet been able to assess the overall impact of 
the continuing political crisis and of the Binh Gia military 
defeat, but there are already ample indications that they have 
had a sharp discouraging effect just in the last two weeks. By 
the same token, it is apparent that Hanoi is extremely confident, 
and that the Soviets are being somewhat tougher and the' Chinese 
Communists are consolidating their ties with Hanoi... they see 
Vietnam falling into their laps in the fairly near future .... The 
sum total of the above seems to us to point... to a prognosis that 
the situation in Vietnam is now likeJy to come apart more rapidly 
than we had anticipated * in November, ll/ 

A similarly gloomy view "was taken by Assistant Secretary of Defense 
John McNaughton. In a February I965 memorandum (no exact date), 12/ he 
characterized the situation as "deteriorating": 

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"Bien Hoas" cannot be prevented; the new government will 
probably be unstable and ineffectual , and the VC will probably 
continue to extend their hold over the population and territory. 
It can be expected that soon (6 months? two years?) (a) govern- 
ment officials at all levels will adjust their behavior to an 
eventual VC take-over , (b) defections of significant military 
forces will take place, (c) whole integrated regions of the 
country will be totally denied to the GVN, (d) neutral and/or 
left-wing elements will enter the government, (e) a popular- 
front regime will emerge which will invite the US out, and 
(f) fundamental concessions to the VC and accommodations to 
the DRV will put South Vietnam behind the Curtain. 

These views were fully consistent with USIB-approved national intel- 
ligence estimates which, as early as October 196U, predicted: 

...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.... 13/ 

By February 1965, the intelligence community saw "the present polit- 
ical arrangements in Saigon /as/ avowedly temporary" and detected no more 
than "a faint chance that the scenario announced for the ensuing weeks 
/would/ hold promise for improved political ^stability in SVN." It judged 
the odds as "considerably less than even. . ./that/ the spring and summer 
might see the evolution of a stronger base for prosecuting the counter- 
insurgency effort than has heretofore existed." lV 

These views were most authoritatively endorsed by the President's 
highest national security staff advisor, McGeorge Bundy, who undertook 
an urgent fact-finding trip to South Vietnam at the beginning of February. 
In a pivotal memorandum to the President 15/ (which will be referred to 
in greater detail subsequently) he characterized the general situation as 
follows : 

For the last year — and perhaps for longer--the overall 
situation in Vietnam has been deteriorating. The Communists 
have been gaining and the anti- Communist forces have been losing. 
As a result there is now great uncertainty among Vietnamese as 
well as Americans as to whether Communist victory can be prevented. 
There is nervousness about the determination of the U.S. Govern- 
ment. There is recrimination and fear among Vietnamese political 
leaders. There is an appearance of weariness, among some military 
leaders. There is a worrisome lassitude among the Vietnamese 
generally. There is a distressing absence of positive commit- 
ment to any serious social or political purpose. Outside 
observers are ready to write the patient off. All of this tends 
to bring latent anti -Americanism dangerously near to the surface. 

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To be an American in Saigon today is to have a gnawing 
feeling that time is against us . Junior officers in all 
services are able, zealous and effective within the limits of 
their means. Their morale is sustained by the fact that they 
know that they are doing their jobs well and that they will 
not have to accept the responsibility for defeat. But near 
the top , where responsibility is heavy and accountability real, 
one can sense the inner doubts of men whose outward behavior 
remains, determined. 

Interestingly, McGeorge Bundy saw the military situation as moder- 
ately encouraging and the Vietnamese people still remarkably tough and 
resilient, though the social and political fabric was stretched thin. 
"Nevertheless," he warned, "...extremely unpleasant surprises are 
increasingly possible—both political and military." 

E. More Agonizing over Additional Pressures 

In the face of these uniformly discouraging appraisals, both 
Saigon and Washington continued their long debate over ways and means of 
mounting new or more intensive pressures against the enemy- -and most 
notably over the desirability and likely effectiveness of reprisal strikes 
and "Phase II operations" against the DRV. But enthusiasm for these 
operations was far from boundless. 

The' intelligence community, for example, had expressed, ever 
since May of l$6k, very little confidence that such added pressures would 
have much impact on Hanoi's course. The 9 October I96U national estimate 
considered probable communist reactions to "a systematic program of gradu- 
ally intensifying US/GVN /air/ attacks against targets in the DRV...." 
The' estimate tended only very hesitantly to the judgment that such a program 
of air attacks, if protracted, might "on balance" cause the DRV to stop its 
military attacks in SVN, to press for a negotiated cease-fire in the South, 
and to try to promote an international conference to pursue their ends, 
expecting, however, to fight another day. State dissented from even this 
ambivalent judgment, believing that the DRV would carry on the fight regard- 
less of air attacks. 16/ 

In February 1965* they reiterated this hesitant view, again with 
State dissenting: • 

If the United States vigorously continued in its attacks 
and damaged some important economic or military assets, the 
DRV. . .might decide to intensify the struggle, but... it seems 
to us somewhat more likely that they would decide to make some 
effort to secure a respite from US attack. . . . 17/ 

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Parenthetically , even this equivocal judgment was reversed in 
effect, though not explicitly, in a June, 1965 estimate, this time with 
USAF ACS/l dissenting: 

Our present estimate is that the odds are against the 
postulated US attacks leading the DRV to make conciliatory 
gestures to secure a respite from the "bombing; rather, we 
believe that the DRV would persevere in supporting the insur- 
gency in the South. 18/ 

On top of these by no means reassuring estimates, Ambassador Taylor's 
hopes for a more stable GVN had been badly shaken by his abrasive experi- 
ences with General Khanh during the late-December episode. The Ambassador- 
Premier relationship was now ruptured beyond repair, and highest-level 
contacts between the USG and the GVN" had to be carried on through Deputy 
Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson. For the first time Maxwell Taylor talked 
seriously of possible U.S. disengagement, and even suggested a new role 
for air attacks on the North in such a context. 

In a year-end joint Taylor -Johns on cable to the Secretary of 
State, 19/ the Mission leadership actually suggested, as one possible 
alternative, "disengaging from the present intimacy of relationship with 
the GVN, withdrawing the bulk of our advisers. . .while continuing sufficient 
economic and MP aid to keep the GVN going." In such a situation, they 
would shrink MACV to the status of a MAAG and USOM to that of an economic- 
r~ budgetary advisory group, but. continue to accept responsibility for air 

and maritime defense of South Vietnam against the DRV. The danger in such 
a course, however, would be that "panicked by what would be interpreted as 
abandonment , the Jgyn/ leaders here would rush to compete with each other 
in making deals with the NLF." Taylor and Johnson, however, believed that 
this danger could be offset by an energetic U.S. program of reprisal attacks 
and Phase II operations against the DRV. 

Thus, in the Taylor /Johns on view, there were now three conditions 
in which reprisal attacks and Phase II operations might be conducted: 

(i) In association with the GVN after the latter had proven 
a reasonably stable government "able to control its armed forces" -- the 
condition originally laid down in the President's 1 December decision, 
but which now appeared unlikely to be attained. 

(ii) Under the prevailing acutely unstable conditions "as an 
emergency stimulant hopefully to create unity at home and restore failing 
morale . " 

(iii) As a unilateral U.S. action "to compensate for reduced 
in- country U.S. presence," if such reduction were to be undertaken. 

A similarly unprepossessing view of "stronger action" alternatives 
was probably presented to the President by Rusk. The files contain no 

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direct record of the Secretary's presentation to the President during this 
period , .but a set of notes 20/ put together in preparation for a Rusk • 
meeting with the President on January 6 by Assistant Secretary William Bundy, 
Special Assistant Michael Forrestal and Deputy Assistant Secretary Leonard 
Unger, laid out tne alternatives in some detail. Recognizing that a 
"coming apart" of the GVN would most likely take the form of covert nego- 
tiations by key governmental groups with the NLF, leading eventually to 
the U.S. being invited out, Rusk's principal Vietnam advisers argued that 
this was one possible "Vietnamese solution," but hardly a desirable one: 

It would still be virtually certain that Laos would then 
become untenable and that Cambodia would accommodate in some way. 
Most seriously, there is grave question whether the Thai in these 
circumstances would retain any confidence at all in our continued 
support. In short, the outcome would be regarded in Asia, and 
particularly among our friends, as just as humiliating a defeat 
as any other form. As events have developed, the American public 
•would probably not be too sharply critical, but the real question 
would be whether Thailand and other nations were weakened and taken 
over thereafter. 

The alternative of stronger action obviously has grave diffi- 
culties. It commits the US more deeply, at a time when the picture 
of South Vietnamese will is extremely weak. To the extent that it 
included actions against Worth Vietnam, it would be vigorously 
attacked by many nations and disapproved initially even by such 
nations as Japan and India, on present indications. Most basically, 
its stiffening effect on the Saigon political situation would not 
be at all sure 'to bring about a more effective government, nor 
would limited actions against the southern DRV in fact sharply 
reduce infiltration or, in present circumstances, be at all likely 
to induce Hanoi to call it off. 

'Nonetheless, on balance we believe that such action would have 
some faint hope of really improving the Vietnamese situation, and, 
above all, would put us in a much stronger position to hold the next 
line of defense, namely Thailand. Accepting the present situation-- 
or any negotiation on the basis of it- -would be far weaker from this 

; latter key standpoint. If we moved into stronger actions, we should 

have in mind that negotiations would be likely to emerge from some 

; t quarter in any event, and that under existing circumstances, even 

with the additional element of pressure, we could not expect to get 
an outcome that would really secure an independent South Vietnam. 
Yet even on an outcome that produced a progressive deterioration 
in South Vietnam and an eventual Communist takeover, we would still 
have appeared to Asians to have done a lot more about it." 


Turning then to specific alternatives, Bundy and his colleagues 
envisioned five proposals: 

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a. An early occasion for reprisal action against the DRV. 

b. Possibly beginning low-level reconnaissance of the DRV 
at once. 

c. Concurrently with a or b, an early orderly withdrawal of 
our dependents. We all think this would be a grave mistake in the 
absence of stronger action, and if taken in isolation would tre- 
mendously increase the pace of deterioration in Saigon. If we are 
to clear our decks in this way- -and we are more and more inclined 
to think we should — it simply must be, for this reason alone, in 
the context of some stronger action. 

d. Intensified air operations in Laos may have some use, but 
they will not meet the problem of Saigon morale and, if continued 
at a high level, may raise significant possibilities of Communist 
intervention on a substantial scale in Laos with some plausible 
justification. We have gone about as far as we can go in Laos by the 
existing limiting actions, and, apart from cutting Route 7? we would . 
not be accomplishing much militarily by intensifying US air actions 
there. This form of action thus has little further to gain in the 
Laos context, and has no real bearing at this point on the South 
Vietnamese context. 

'e. Introduction of limited US ground forces into the northern 
area of South Vietnajn still has great appeal to many of us, con- 
currently with the first air attacks into the DRV. It would have 
a real stiffening effect in Saigon, and a strong signal effect to 
Hanoi. On the disadvantage side, such forces would be possible 
attrition targets for the Viet Cong. For your information, the 
Australians have clearly indicated (most recently yesterday) that 
they might be disposed to participate in such an operation. The 
New Zealanders are more negative and a proposal for Philippine 
participation would be an interesting test." 

Whether and how these alternatives were posed for the President is 
not recorded, but at least two of the actions --getting the U.S. dependents 
out of Vietnam and reacting promptly and firmly to the next reprisal oppor- 
tunity—were also recommended to another top presidential advisor, namely 
to Secretary McNamara, by Assistant Secretary John McNaughton, in a 
McNaughton memorandum 21/ that he discussed with McNamara on January 27. 
The memorandum contains McNaughton' s pencil notations of McNamara 1 s com- 
ments on various points, which suggest that the Secretary of Defense was 
dissatisfied with the way U.S. Vietnam policy was "drifting" and seemed 
a good deal less dubious tha,n was McNaughton about the potential benefits 
to be derived from initiating air strikes against the DRV. 

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In the meantime, a 7 January 1965 conference of SEACORD (the 
coordinating mechanism of the U.S. ambassadors and military commanders 
in Southeast Asia) had reviewed the accomplishments of the first few 
weeks of Phase I— the 30-day program of mild BARREL ROLL, YANKEE TEAM 
and other operations --and had concluded that the results were militarily 
negligible. SEACORD recommended an extension: of the operations for 
another 30 days, and their intensification as "an effective tonic /for 
the GVN7, particularly if accompanied by serious joint preparations and 
timely initiation of retaliatory and Phase II operations against the 
DRV." 22/ 


The most forceful restatement of the reprisal policy, however, 
came from the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the end of January, in the form 
of a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense 23/ reviewing earlier JCS 
recommendations on reprisals and noting that the "continued lack of a U.S. 
response to major enemy provocations risked inviting more such actions. 
They urged that the next significant provocation be met with a "positive, 
timely, and appropriate response .. .undertaken preferably within twenty- four 
hours, against selected target's in the DRV." 2kJ They appended to their, 
memorandum a resume of possible reprisal actions of varying intensities, 
for which plans were available and the strike forces at hand to carry out 
these actions. The most intensive preparations had already been made, 
particularly in connection with the forthcoming resumption of the DESOTO 
Patrols, to which a reprisal operation was explicitly linked as a contin- 
gency option, under the code name FLAMING DART. These preparations and 
the evolution of the readiness posture associated with this and other 
potential, reprisal actions is reviewed briefly in the next section. 

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Detailed and specific reprisal preparations had been under way for 
many months prior to February 1965, most prominently in connection with . 
the periodic DESOTO Patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin, The patrols were 
suspended after the August 2 and k 9 I96U incidents , when the destroyer 
patrol group had been fired upon, giving rise to the first U.S. retalia- 
tory strikes. They were resumed on 12 September, and at that time were 
believed to have been again attacked, or at least "menaced," by unfriendly- 
vessels on the night of 18 September. That incident, however, was ^con- 
sidered as too ambiguous by Washington officials to justify a reprisal 
action. The patrol was once more suspended on 20 September. 

In order to be properly prepared for an attack on any future patrol, 
military authorities began to work up a pre-packaged set of reprisal 
targets that might be politically acceptable, with pre-assigned forces 
that would be in a high state of readiness to strike these tar-gets, and 
with a detailed strike plan that would provide a range of retaliatory 
options. Accordingly, CINCPAC, on instructions from the JCS, developed 
appropriate plans and issued a series of Fragmentary Operations Orders 
under the colorful caption, "Punitive and Crippling Reprisal Actions on 
Targets in HVBf." 25/ The orders provided for air strikes to be conducted 
against selected targets in Horth Vietnam in retaliation for DRV attacks 
against the DESOTO Patrol, if the patrol were resumed and attacked. ^ T-o 
levels of retaliation response were prescribed, with two target options 
each (all located" south of the 19th parallel), with the various options 
scaled to the extent and severity of damage inflicted upon the patrol „ 
A high alert posture was to be maintained during the days the patrol was 
in progress, such that the strikes could be launched within one hour 
after receipt of the execution order. The retaliatory forces were to be 
carefully prepositioned and rules of engagement were meticulously spelled 
outo 26/ ' 

While these preparations were initially associated exclusively with 
the DESOTO Patrol, it was recognized that reprisals might also be called 
for in retaliation for any type of serious provocation which could occur 
without warning, could be caused by the DRV or by the VC, and might be- 
directed against US or GVN forces. But the high alert status ordered 
in connection with the DESOTO Patrols could be maintained for only short 
periods of time. A more sustained capability was also needed, and the JCS 
prepared an outline plan for further elaboration by CINCPAC, calling for 
a more limited reprisal action that could be launched with the least 
i possible delay with forces in place and with a readiness posture normally 

! maintained. 27/ The forces expected to be available for such strikes were 

I ' one CVA air wing, two squadrons of B-57, two squadrons of F-105, three 
! squadrons of F-100, and approximately one squadron of VBAF A-lHj and the 

targets considered most suitable were: 

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Target No. 33 - Dong Hoi Barracks 

• 36 - Vit Thu Lu Army Barracks 
39 - Chap Le Army Barracks 
' 52 - Vinh Army Supply Depot E 
71 - Ben Thuy Port Facilities 

All of these preparations came to a head at the end of January, when 
a tentative decision had evidently been reached in Washington to authorise 
resumption of the DESOTO Patrols on or about 3 February. A JCS directive 
to that effect vent out to CIKCPAC on 28 January, 28/ requesting CINCPAC 
to issue the necessary Operational Plan, covering a two destroyer Patrol 
Group with on-line Crypto HATT and Star Shell illumination capabilities. 
Interestingly, the instructions were explicit to the effect that the^ 
"Patrol track shall not be provocative, with the Patrol Group remaining 
30 nautical miles from both HVN mainland and Hainan Island and South of ^ 
20 degrees North latitude." The Patrol was to be continued for a period 
of three days, during which time SP-2 aircraft with searchlight and flare 
capability were to support the Patrol Group during hours of darkness^ by 
• assisting in contact Investigation and clarification, and a Combat Air 
Patrol was to be airborne in the vicinity of the Patrol during daylight 
and to be on immediate call during darkness." Instructions also called 
for carefully dissociating the Patrol from OPIAli 3 L 'rA operations in and 
over the Gulf of Tonkin kQ hours before, during, and k8 hours following 
completion of the Patrol. 

| . Rules of engagement, in the event of attack, were as follows: 

i a. The Patrol ships and aircraft are authorized to attack 

with the objective of insuring destruction of any vessel or 
aircraft which attacks, or gives positive indication of intent 
to attack, US forces operating in international waters or air- 
space over international waters. 

ho In event of hostile attack, the Patrol ships and aircraft 
are directed to fire upon the hostile attacker with the objective 
of insuring destruction. Ships are authorized to pursue ^the 
j • enemy to the recognized three mile territorial limit o Aircraft 

I ' are authorized hot pursuit inside territorial waters (three miles) 
; against surface vessels and into hostile air space (includes DRV, 

; Hainan Island and Mainland China) against attack aircraft when 

! necessary to achieve destruction of identified .attack forces . 

Ships and aircraft will confine their actions to the attacking 
ships and/or aircraft. 

In the days following, attention centered on plans for the reprisal 
strike. A number of last-minute changes were made in the targets that 
had been recommended by CINCPAC and the JCS, in order to reduce the risk 
of aircraft losses and to reduce sortie requirements. The launcmng 
date for the DESOTO Patrol was postponed from the 3rd to the 7th of 
February, and the JCS. asked CIKCPAC 29/ to re-order its reprisal targets 

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into three attack options, consisting respectively of three, five, and 
seven specified targets, and to plan to conduct the air strikes against 
them, as directed, by option or by target, in any combination. The 
options and targets, together with estimated sorties, were as follows: 

Strike Flak CAP TOTAL 

Option One 

Tffts 33 

Dong Hoi Barracks 






Vit Thu Lu Barracks 






Chap Le Barracks 





Total. . . . 





Option Two 










Tgts 33, 36, 39 of Option One, plus: 

2k Chanh Hoa Barracks 28 

32 Vu Con Barracks 10 

Total 126 

Option Three 

^ . 

Tgts 33, 36, 39, 2k, 32 of Option Two, plus: 

Ik Thanh Hoa Bridge 32 12 k kQ 

7k Quang Khe Naval Base 22 k 2 28 

* * Total 180 6k 38 282 

Of these seven targets, six were south of the 19th parallel, and on the 
November working group T s reprisal target list: one, the Thanh Hoa Bridge, 
Target -lk in Option Three, was north of the 19th parallel. 

The strikes against these targets were to employ the US forces then 
in mainland Southeast Asia in their alerted and augmented state (with an 
additional F105 squadron from the Philippines at Da Nang), plus up to 
3 CVAs; but they would also provide for strikes from a non-alert status, 
i.e., with US forces normally in-country, plus CVA normally on station. 
Strikes from a non-alert status, if ordered, would be simultaneous, 
launched within the minimum feasible reaction time, and as near as prac- 
ticable to first light following the reprisal incident. CINCPAC was also 
asked to make "preliminary provisions" for a strike at Target 32-- Vu Con 
Barracks in Option Two above — to be conducted by VNAF, with assistance 
from US flak suppression, CAP, pathfinder, and SAR. These provisions were 
not to be revealed to the GVK at that time, since the inclusion of this 
WAF strike might or might not be ordered, depending on the circumstances <, 30 

CINCPAC responded the following day by issuing Operation Order 
FIMUNG DART, directing its Air Force and Navy Component Commands to be 
prepared to conduct air strikes when directed, against the above targets 
by option, or against any combination of the above targets within or 
between options, in retaliation for attacks on the DESOTO Patrolo 

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CINCPACFLT was assigned Targets 33 and 36 of Option One, 2k of Option Two, 
and 7^ of Option Three. CINCPACAF was assigned Targets 39 of Option One, 
32 of Option Two, and Ik of Option Three. Aircraft would be armed with 
optimum conventional ordnance for the target to be attacked, excluding 
napalm. 31/ 

Operation Order FLAMING DART placed the US in a highly flexible 
position. It provided a vehicle for a quick reprisal decision in the 
eventuality of an attack on the DESOTO Patrol or of any other provocation, 
such as a dramatic VC incident in South Vietnam. The particular targets 
involved had been briefed to the principal decision-makers , had the virtue 
of being known and understood by them, and even had their tentative appro- 
val. Moreover, nearly all the targets were in the far south of North 
Vietnam and all could be associated with infiltration, which were two of 
the conditions laid down in the guidelines for retaliating against the 
North for spectacular incidents in the South. The Operation Order there- 
fore, served well as a generalized pre-planned reprisal target package, 
offering a wide spectrum of choices. 

To gain an impression of the alert posture of the strike forces 
poised for action, the table below sets forth the varying weight of 
attack that could be brought to bear at different reaction times: 

(CHART, page 20) 

The DESOTO Patrol, however, which had been the major focus for the 
reprisal planning, was never to carry out its assigned role. On k Febru- 
ary, three days before the Patrol was to begin its operation, the Chair- 
man of the JCS informed CBICPAC and all interested posts and commands . 
that authority to execute DESOTO was cancelled, in view of Soviet Premier 
Kosygin 1 s Imminent four-day visit to Hanoi that was to begin on 6 February.' 
"DESOTO patrol concurrent with Kosygin visit or immediately thereafter," 
wrote the CJCS, "could be interpreted as reaction to visit, thereby im- 
pairing ard complicating US-Soviet relations." 33 / 

The decision to call off the Patrol in deference to Kosygin' s visit, 
reflected a growing feeling in some parts of the Administration that the 
renewed involvement of the Soviet Union in Southeast Asia, after its 
hands-off policy of almost three years 1 standing, might, on balance, be 
a good thing for the U.S. While some American experts interpreted 
Moscow's November, l$6k pledge of military assistance to Hanoi and 
Kosygin 1 s visit in February 1965 as a sure sign that the Soviet Union 
saw the collapse of the US venture in SVN as imminent and wanted merely 
to stake its claim in apposition to Peking before it was too late, others 
Relieved that the USSR might well find it in its interest to act as an 
agent of moderation and compromise, providing the U.S. with an avenue of 
graceful retreat from a seemingly irretrievable situation. 


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■ LAOS AMD NORTH VIETNAM (as of 29 Jan 6$) ■*>£/ 

" • 






12 3/ 




! 72 


Patrol ) 

B-57 :'28-Bien Hoa. 

F-100* 36-Da Nang , 
jl8-Takhli j 

F-105 4 l8-Da Nang 



| 28-Bien Hoa 

Same as 
48 far. 


plus fol- 
lowing j 
ments : 


5-Bien Hoa : 
12 -Da Nans 
2-6-Da Nan 


36-Da Wang 
18 -Da Nan 



! to Clark ; 
' l8-Conus j 
to Clark 






A- 3 

























kl-Da. Wang' 







NOTES: 32/ "( Keyed -to reprisal actions described in Appendix 5 to 

JCa-1 .70-65/29 Jan 65, TOP SECRET) 
* l/. DeSoto Patrol reprisal forces.. Only case in which forces are 

prepositioned, held in alert status and prepared to conduct 

reprisal attacks without delay. 
2/ Forces immediately available under normal conditions. 
3/ USAF fully deployed. Only one carrier available. 
%/ Could conduct all strikes in CINCPAC FRAG ORDER #3. 60 VNAF 
. sorties available .each day at expense of pacification program. 

By 31 Jan 65 , 75 VNAF sorties available. 

• • 20 

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This view was certainly held by some State Department experts , par- 
ticularly in the Office of Asian Communist Affairs (ACA) and in the 
Office of Intelligence and Research (HvR). In an interesting memorandum 
of February 5, 19&5 to William Bundy, Lindsay Grant of ACA saw the impli- 
cations for American policy of the Kosygin visit to Hanoi as "enormous," 

It is possible to hypothesize that the Soviet initiative 
may be intended to present the United States with an acceptable, 
. albeit difficult, choice. They may presume that the situation 
in the South would deteriorate to the point where we could 
foresee ourselves confronted with the possibility of: 

1) a series of defeats on the ground and/or total collapse 
of authority in Saigon, or 

2) a rapid movement in the direction of neutralism, lead- 
ing to our being invited out, or 

3) some kind of negotiated settlement which would permit 
us to reduce our commitment to the bare bones, and thereby at 
least minimize a generally distasteful loss. The last prospect , 
which would represent the best of a bad choice, could possibly 
result from an increased Soviet presence in North Viet-Nam. 

Thus , the Soviets might find it in their own interest to ' • 
• propose to Hanoi a solution of the war in Viet-Nam along the 
following lines: 

1) North Viet-Nam would remain untouched, with the Soviet 
Union guaranteeing to provide major economic and other help; 

2) South Viet-Nam would be neutralized, with some sort of 
paper guarantee offered by outside powers, including the Soviet 

3) The National Front for the Liberation of South Viet -Nam 
would participate in a neutralist coalition government. 

(The Soviet Union would, presumably, give North Viet-Nam 
private assurances that it would not stand in the way of further 
Front and Viet Cong efforts to gain a complete political victory 
in the South. ) 

The author of the memorandum, of course, recognized that it would be 
only \inder the prospect of a collapse of the GVN or of being requested to 
leave that the U.S. would be willing to accede to the solutions suggested 
But he stressed, as the major benefit of this course, that: 

. . .the Soviet presence would represent a major deflection 
of the rising Chinese Communist tide in Southeast Asia in par- 
ticular, and in its world-wide efforts at subversion in generalo 

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A somewhat similar view was echoed subsequently in a SEACORD con- 
ference, the sense of which was reported in a Saigon message to the . 
Secretary of State. 3h/ The relevant arguments were to the effect 
that: ' 

(1) The DRV is almost entirely dependent both economically 
and militarily upon the Chinese Communists who see great value 
in having the DRV continue this exclusive dependence; 

(2) The Soviet Union is the only alternative source of 
economic and military support to Hanoi which would enable the 
DRV to remain viable if it decided to cease its aggression; 

(3) It is therefore important that the Soviets receive 
accurate indications that we would not oppose a continuing Soviet 
role in the DRV, although this is not a matter on which the U.S. 
can take an initiative. 

Subsequent events on the negotiating front, and the role we believed 
the USSR could play on that front, also lend support to the view that, at 
least in the early part of I965, there was a fairly widespread belief 
among U.S. policy-makers that the Soviet Union could and probably would 
exert a benign influence upon Hanoi. 

There is, indeed, some evidence that the USSR itself had some such 
thought in. mind in connection with Kosygin f s February visit. Peking, 
at least, has charged that Kosygin had tried at that time to persuade 
both Hanoi and Peking to negotiate some kind of settlement with the 
United States, reportedly involving a "face-saving" U.S. withdrawal. 35/ 

In any event, there seems little doubt that the decision to forego 
the DESOTO Patrol was inspired by the hope, if not expectation, that 
Kosygin would, from the US point of view, weigh in constructively in 
the Vietnam stru^sle. 

• 1 * 

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A. The First Reprisal 

The lorg months of contingency planning, hesitation, and agonized 
debate were suddenly cut short on February 7th, when the VC struck the 
American installations at Pleiku and Camp Holloway. This time the ^Presi- 
dent showed the same decisiveness and swift reaction that he had displayed 
six months earlier in the Gulf of Tonkin. The decision to strike back was 
reached in a 75 minute meeting of the National Security Council on the 
evening of February 6 (Washington time) in the Cabinet Room of the White 
House, and in the presence of Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and 
House Speaker John McCormack. McGeorge Bundy, on his mission to Saigon 
at the time, had joined Ambassador Taylor and General Westmoreland in 
recommending prompt retaliation in telecoms with the President from the 
communications center in Saigon. 

The strike, carried out during the early morning hours of the 7th 
(Washington time) was, at least militarily, something of a fizzle. The 
mildest of the three attack options was selected for the strike, but when - 
the executive order was flashed, only one of the three CVA's (USS Ranger) 
was "on station at Point Yankee. The other two (Hancock and Coral Sea) 
had been stood down to a 96-hour alert after the cancellation of the 
DESOTO Patrol and were enroute to assignments elsewhere. They were 
urgently recalled by CINCPAC to participate in the strike, which had to ' 
be delayed until the CVA f s returned to points from which their aircraft 
could reach the assigned targets. The weather, however, was very adverse, 
causing a large number of sorties to abort, with the result that only one 
of the three assigned targets was struck in force. 36/ In order to 
stiffen the reprisal and to make it clearly a joint US-GVN response, the 
target was restruck the following day (February 8) by the US carrier 
aircraft that had aborted the previous day, and a VNAF strike by 2k A-lH's 
supported liy USAF pathfinder, flak suppression and CAP aircraft, was 
carried out against target 32 (Vu Con Barracks) concurrently. 37/ 

B. Timing of Pleiku and the Kosygin Visit 

As was indicated earlier, the U.S. had put off the DESOTO Patrol 
that had been scheduled for February 7 so as to avoid any appearance of 
provocativeness vis -a- vis Kosygin, who was to arrive in Hanoi on February 6. 
And yet it was precisely then, at the very beginning of the Kosygin visit, 
that the VC launched their spectacular attack on the US installations. 
This had led many to conjecture that the raid was deliberately organized 
and timed by the hardliners in Hanoi so as to nip in the bud any possible 
Soviet peace initiative or in other ways to put Kosygin on the spot. 

Whether Hanoi specifically ordered the Pleiku attack or whether 
the VC merely received Hanoi's blessing for the attack remains speculative. 
■ There can be little doubt, however, that Hanoi was fully informed and had 
ample reason to favor the action. Robert Shaplen argues that, from Hanoi's 
point of view, 

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it had more to gain than lose by having the attack take 
place while Kosygin -was present , even though it might embarrass 
him, as it very likely did. If the Americans failed to respond, 
the North Vietnamese could argue that the United States was 
. indeed a paper tiger , and that all that was needed for the war 
to be brought to a successful conclusion in the south was some 
additional military assistance. If the United States did 
respond, the North Vietnamese could claim that more aid was 
necessary to prosecute the war under more difficult circum- 
stances , and they could then reasonably. ask for planes and de- 
fensive missiles with which to protect their own cities, too. 
Since Kosygin was wooing North Vietnam for Russia T s own purposes 
as much as Hanoi was wooing him to help it regain some balance 
between Moscow and Peking, the Russian Premier was hardly in a 
position- to leave Hanoi in a huff, which besides would have made 
him look foolish. 38/ 

Although the onset of the bombing no doubt took the Russians by 
surprise, they probably viewed it as a futile last-ditch effort by 
Washington to strengthen its bargaining position rather than as a prelude 
to new escalation. In any event, Kosygin 1 s reaction in Hanoi was re- 
strained. He pointed out that the situation was "fraught with serious 
complications" and seemed to be favoring a negotiated termination. 39/ 
In any event, in keeping with the view held in several influential 
Administration quarters that the USSR might be a valuable moderating 
influence upon Hanoi, Washington took pains to assure Moscow that 
Kosygin T s presence in Hanoi during the US reprisal strikes of February 
7-8 was an unfortunate coincidence and no affront to the Soviet Union 
was intended. 

C. The Reprisal Rationale and Its Public .Handling 

On the morning after the reprisal order had been issued -(Febru- 
ary 7) , a second NSC meeting was convened at the White House to agree on 
an appropriate text for the White House statement and to discuss the 
content of a McNamara press briefing at the Pentagon, called for that 
afternoon. The public handling of the raids was of crucial importance 
in conveying to Hanoi some inkling of what the implications of the 
reprisal action were for future U.S. responses and for the future U.S. 
role in the Vietnamese war, without at the same time arousing undue 
anxieties at home and in the rest of the world. 

It is worth noting that there were important differences between 
the February 7-3 raids and the earlier strikes in the Gulf of Tonkin 
incident. The August Tonkin strikes had clearly been presented as a one- 
time retaliatory action in response to a North Vietnamese attack on US 
naval power in international waters. In more or less tit-for-tat fashion, 
the strikes had been carried out by US Navy aircraft and had been directed 
primarily against the offending NVN patrol boats in their bases. As an 
extra punitive measure, POL storage tanks associated with one of the 

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patrol boat "bases were also hit, but no attempt was made to destroy base 
facilities, and the entire operation was a unilateral U. So action. 

Publicly, the Tonkin strikes had been depicted as a "positive 
reply" — one which was "limited but fitting" — to an unprovoked attack 
on US vessels operating within their rights on the high seas. The 
"one-shot" nature of 'the strikes was stressed, and it was explicitly 
stated that, provided there were no further enemy attacks, the US con- 
sidered the incident closed. Together with declarations that the US 
strikes were not intended to expand or escalate the guerrilla war in 
Southeast Asia, this tended to make the strikes appear as an isolated 
action, bearing only incidental relationship to the war itself. The war 
continued to be officially pictured as one being fought by the South 
Vietnamese, with the US in a strictly limited supporting role. It is 
that stiff warnings were sent to Hanoi through discrete diplomatic 
channels (ICC Commissioner Seaborne T s August visit), stressing that US 
patience was wearing thin and that the DRV could expect to suffer the 
consequences if it persisted in its aggressive course, but U.S. public 
statements made it clear that the strikes were not intended to change 
the basic ground rules of the conflict at that time. The strikes were 
intended primarily to demonstrate that North Vietnam could not flagrantly 
attack U.S. forces with impunity; but nothing was said publicly to imply 
that the North could not continue its activities in the South without 
fear that its own territory would be placed in jeopardy. 

By contrast with the Tonkin strikes , the February 1965 raids , 
while also initiated as reprisals, were intended to be explicitly linked 
with the "larger pattern of aggression" by North Vietnam, and were 
designed to signal a change in the ground rules of the conflict in the 
South c By retaliating against North Vietnam for a VC incident in the 
South, the US consciously made its first open break with self-imposed 
ground rules which had permitted the North to direct and support the war 
in the South, but which had precluded direct US countermeasures against 
the North's territory. The strikes thus were to serve clear notice upon 
all concerned that the US would not abide by such rules in the future. 

But the change in ground rules also posed serious public infor- 
mation and stage managing problems for the President. Until the February 
raids, and especially throughout the election campaign of I96U, the case 
had regularly been made that the insurrection in the South was essentially 
a home-grown affair and largely self-supporting; now the argument had to 
be turned around and public opinion persuaded that there really wouldn't 
be much difficulty cleaning up the South if infiltrators from the North 
would just go home and "leave their neighbors alone." 

In the White House press release immediately following the re- 
prisal, therefore, major emphasis was placed on Hanoi's role in the South: 

...these attacks were only made possible by the continuing 
infiltration of personnel and equipment from North Vietnam. This 


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infiltration markedly increased during I96U and continues to 
increase." ... "The key to the situation remains the cessation 
- of infiltration from North Vietnam and the clear indication 
that it is prepared to cease aggression against its neighbors. hOJ 

Another major new departure of the 7-8 February strikes was 
that they were intended to be at least a first step in more directly and 
actively associating the US with the South Vietnamese in "their" -war. 
Thus while the retaliation was precipitated by the Pleiku incident, it 
was considered essential to justify it in broader terms — not merely 
as a response to a single outrage committed against Americans, but as 
a response to a series of outrages, committed against South Vietnamese 
as well as Americans. 

Thus, the White House press release and, even more explicitly, 
the McNamara press briefing of February 7 4l/ spoke of three VC attacks, 
all "ordered and directed by the Hanoi regime," but only one of these 
was the Pleiku-Camp Holloway raid against U.S. installation. The two 
others cited in justification of the reprisal were attacks on Viet- 
namese villages in which, it was carefully pointed out, -no American 
^ casualties were sustained. 

I This effort to link the reprisal to VC offenses against both 

j parties was reinforced by having the reprisal strikes conducted by both 

South Vietnamese and US forces. McNamara's. statement heavily stressed 
the fact that "elements of the U.S. and South Vietnamese Air Forces 
j were directed to launch joint retaliatory attacks..." 

j By demonstrating that the US was prepared to join with the 

: South. Vietnamese in military reprisals against North Vietnam for actions 

committed against either or both parties in the South, the strikes tended 
; to weaken the policy line, assiduously adhered to up to that time, that 

the war was essentially a Vietnamese war with US involvement confined to 
i advice and support. Once the US began participating in such military 

I reprisals on a regular basis, it would unavoidably begin to appear as 

j more of a co-belligerent, along with South Vietnam, against the VC and 

j their sponsors in North Vietnam. 

j The practical significance, of this point is obvious. As long 

! as the U.S. maintained the policy line that it was not really directly 

engaged in the war, it had to deny its forces many proposed military 
actions in Southeast Asia, and had to impose on itself severe political 
constraints in its military operations. The abandonment of this policy 
! line as a result of reprisal actions like FLA^UNG DAJRT would open the 

! .way to a much wider range of politically acceptable US military options 

In Vietnam. 

The 7-8 February strikes, however, were only a limited and 
tentative first step, aaad far from an irrevocable commitment to the 
broader course of action they foreshadowed. The governing concept 

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was still "tit-for-tat". The White House statement stressed the phrase 
"appropriate reprisal action" and, likening it to the Gulf of Tonkin 
incident , characterized the response as similarly "appropriate ajid 

j?' 4-4- 4 „ _ tt 



The idea of equivalent punishment was conveyed "by confining the 
strikes to a quite limited number of targets plausibly associated with 
infiltration. Thus the possibility was left open that these reprisals 
were strictly one-shot operations that would be carried out only in the ( 
event of spectacular enemy actions. But the public language was both 
ominous and ambiguous: "As the U.S. Government has frequently stated, 
we seek no wider war. Whether or not this course can be maintained lies 
with the North Vietnamese aggressors." In fact, however, there was little 
expectation, that the North Vietnamese would "cease their agression," 
and every expectation that the U.S. would go beyond a policy of event- 
associated reprisals. For immediately following. the first press release, 
the White House issued another significant presidential statement, order- 
ing what had long been recommended: 

i " 

...I have directed the orderly withdrawal of American 

: dependents from South Vietnam. . .We have no choice now but to 

clear the decks and make absolutely clear our continued de- 

! termination to back South Vietnam..." h2/ 

And. as further indication that much more than a mere occasional reprisal 
was in the offing, McNamara met with the JCS on the following day to 
request that they prepare and submit to him their recommendations for 
an eight-week air strike camuaim against infiltration-associated tar- 
gets in the lower portion of North Vietnam as a sustained reply to any 
further provocations. {43/ 

D. An Act of Defiance 

The flashing red warning signals -- if that is what they were -- 
were not heeded n oy Hanoi. On the contrary, in what was regarded by some 
observers as a calculated act of defiance, the VC staged another dramatic 
attack on 10 February, this one against a US enlisted men f s billet in 
Qui fthon, inflicting the heaviest single loss of American personnel yet. 
Within 2k hours, US and South Vietnamese aircraft executed the largest 
retaliatory air strike of the war up to that time. Named FLAMING DART II, 
28 VNAF A-lH T s and 20 USAF F-100's hit Chap Le. Simultaneously, Navy 
aircraft struck Chanh Hoa not far from Dong Hoi, just north of the DMZ. 

This time, significantly, the strikes were not characterized as 
a reprisal linked to the immediate incident. Instead, the White House 
release of February 11,. kk/ listed a long series of VC incidents and 
attacks that had occurred since February 8, most of which were not 
"spectacular" but quite normal features of the Vietnam war. The state- 
ments moreover characterised the US air strikes as -a more generalized 

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response to these "further direct provocations by the Hanoi regime," and 
to these "continued acts of aggression." The words "retaliation" and 
"reprisal" were carefully avoided and the joint US/GVN statement ^released 
in Saigon the same day actually characterized the air attack action for 
the first time as "air operations." 

The change in terminology from "retaliation" or "reprisal" to 
"response-," from a specific set of incidents to "continued aggression," 
and from a single attack to "air operations" was clearly deliberate. 
A strict reprisal policy, although permitting the US to strike the North, 
would have left the initiative in the enemy 1 s hands and would have re- 
stricted the US to the kinds of responses that could he represented as 
equivalent or "fitting." But, more important, the new terminology re- 
flected a conscious U.S e decision to broaden the reprisal concept as 
gradually and as imperceptibly as possible to accommodate a much wider 
policy of sustained, steadily intensifying air attacks against North 
Vietnam, at a rate and on a scale to be determined hj the U. S As will 
be discussed further in the next section, that decision was being force- 
fully pressed upon the President by his principal advisers immediately 
after FLAMING DART 1 (February . 7) . Whether the President had tacitly or 
explicitly accepted this course before FLAMING DART II (February 11) , is 
not recorded. But it would have been important to him politically in 
any event to play it with a minimum of drama and to preserve maximum • 
flexibility. It seemed sensible to make it all appear as a logical 
sequence of almost unavoidable steps, to avoid portraying any single 
move as a watershed or any single decision as irreversible. The 
February 11 strikes did constitute a much sharper break with past policy 
than any previous US action in Vietnam: they set the stage for the con- 
tinuing bombing program that was now to be launched in earnest; but they 
were presented and discussed publicly in very muted tones. 

Some of the President's private comments on the attacks are 
reported by one of his more perceptive biographers, Philip Geyelin, 
in the following terms: 

His discussion of the first two retaliatory attacks, follow- 
ing Pleiku and Qui Nhon, was almost offhand. To one visitor, he 
lampooned the 'crisis 1 tones of the television broadcasters, the 
. long faces, and the grim talk of big, black limousines assembled 
for weight ly policy-making. 

They woke us up in the middle of the night, and we woke 
them up in the middle 'of the night. Then they did it again, 
and we did it again, was the way he described it. If he sus- 
pected he was on the front edge of a major plunge into a fair- 
sized ground war in Asia, he hid his concern masterfully, dis- 
missing all the excitement as the sort of thing that happens 

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Geyelin gives the President very high narks for his performance: 

• ..his handling of Vietnam in the early months of 1965 was 
more than just skillful, it was a triumph of international and 
domestic politics. For if one accepts the need to right the 
'equilibrium, ■ -yien it cannot he denied that Lyndon Johnson 
moved to do so with a bare minimum of dissent at home and less 
foreign opposition than might have been expected. And he did 
it, at least for a good many months, without giving the Coimu- 
nist Chinese or the Russians provocation in such intolerable 
degree that they felt obliged to move in any drastic way to the 
defense of Hanoi. Kp/ 

E. Reactions at Home and Abroad 

Official and public reactions to the retaliatory strikes were 
fairly predictable. In the U.S. , as Newsweek put it, the decision 
"touched off -a wave of national concern and international jitters 
unequalled since the US-Soviet confrontation over the Cuban missile 
build-up'." k6/ Much of the US press expressed serious doubts about 
where the US was heading in Vietnam. A great majority of the nation's 
newspapers regarded the strikes as necessary and justified and the 
notion that Pleiku was a deliberate VC provocation was widely accepted. 
But many admitted to confusion as to just what U.S. policy in Vietnam 
was; (e.g., Kansas City Star : "Do we have a specific, unwavering policy 
or are we improvising from crisis to crisis?" St. Louis Post -Dispatch : 
"A strike for strike strategy. . .without any ultimate objective except to 
hang on in Vietnam, is not much of a policy." New York Times ( James 
Reston): "We do not know what the President has in mind... For the moment 
we seem to be standing mute in Washington, paralysed before a great ^ 
issue and merely digging our thought deeper into the accustomed military 

In Western Europe reactions were less uniform. To the dismay 
of leftist members of his own Labor Party, the U.K. f s Harold Wilson 
phoned a message of solid support to President Johnson. Moreover, the 
London Economist saw the bombing as part of a drama acted out for the 
benefit of Mr. Kosygin as a warning to all communist countries "that 
there are limits beyond which the Viet Cong cannot push things in the 
South without bringing down' American reprisals on the North. There is 
no call to specify exactly what these limits are: but to make it clear 
that they exist, the shot across Mr. Kosygin 1 s bow was essential." WjJ 
By contrast, de 'Gaulle issued a cool statement that the Southeast Asia 
crisis "cannot be settled by force of arms" and called again for a new 
Geneva conference to end the war — ■ a recommendation that was echoed by 
India's Prime Minister Shastri and U.N. Secretary General U Thant. 

The pro-Western nations in Sou theast Asia that live in the 
shadow' of Communist China -- Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Australia -- 

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were visibly cheered, kQ / In South Vietnam, General Nguyen Khanh pro- 
claimed that the VNAF reprisal strike after Pleiku marked "the happiest 
day of my life . " . " 

The most interesting reactions, of course, were those of the 
Bloc countries . As predicted in CIA f s October I96U estimate, h$/ the 
reactions of the three principal Communist powers to the limited US repri- 
sal strikes were relatively restrained, with both Moscow and Peking promptly 
and publicly pledging unspecified support and assistance to Hanoi. Beneath 
the verbiage of condemnation of the U.S. "provocation," however, there was 
a measure of caution in both pledges. Neither raised the specter of a broad 
conflict or portrayed the U.S. actions as a threat to "world" peace. 
Peking T s propaganda, though full of bellicosity and bluster, and publiciz- 
ing huge anti-U.S. rallies organized in China's major cities, carefully 
avoided. threatening any direct Chinese intervention. Thus it warned that, 
if the U.S. spread the flames of war to the DRV, "the Vietnamese people 
will, most assuredly, destroy the U.S. aggressors lock, stock, and barrel 
on their own soil." 50/ The propaganda line also suggested that only 
actual U.S. invasion of North Vietnam would precipitate direct Chinese 
intervention in the war. 

Moscow's response was even more restrained. "In the face of U.S. 
actions" the Soviet statement said, the USSR "will be forced, together with 
its allies and friends, to take further measures to safeguard the security 
and strengthen the defense capability of the DRV." And it added that "no 
one should doubt that the Soviet people will fulfill its international 
duty to the fraternal socialist country." Like Peking, however, it derided 
U.S. statements that the air strikes were retaliatory, and Soviet media 
widely publicized international expressions of indignation and popular, 
protests in the USSR. While indicating that "DRV defenses" would be strength- 
ened, some Moscow broadcasts took note of growing interest in the United 
States and elsewhere for a negotiated settlement in Vietnam. 51/ 

Hanoi f s voluble, heated propaganda reaction to the air strikes 
pictured the incident as a sequel to previous air and naval "provocations" 
against the DRV rather than as a move which essentially altered either 
America's or North Vietnam's positions in the conflict. DRV propaganda 
hailed the "heroic exploit" of the antiaircraft units and claimed that, 
in the first raid, 12 planes were downed. . , 

Officially, Hanoi responded in a more carefully worded fashion. 
A Defense Ministry statement on the 7th warned that the United States 
must "bear the responsibility" for the "consequences" of its "aggression" 
and demanded an $nd to "provocative and war-seeking acts against the DRV 
and the aggressive war in South Vietnam." Implying that the air raids 
would not deter future rebel aggression in the South, the DRV Government 
declared that "the Vietnamese people will never shrink before any threat 
of the United States" and will "further increase their forces and step 
up their struggle." The Viet Cong's Liberation Radio on the 8th pro- 
tested the air raids and said they had "heightened the determination of 
our people throughout the country to fight and win." 52/ 

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A. The McGeorge Bundy Recommendation 

Pleiku, and the first FLAMQTG DART reprisal, caught the McGeorge 
Bundy group (which also included Assistant Secretary of Defense John 
McNaughton, White HotiSe Aide Chester Cooper, and Chairman of the Vietnam 
Coordinating Group Leonard linger) in the midst of intensive discussions 
with the US Mission in Saigon. These discussions covered the whole range 
of US-Vietnam policy options , particularly the complex issue of future 
pressures on the Horth. Immediately following the reprisal decision of 
February 7? the group returned to Washington via Air Force One. Enroute 
and airborne, they drafted a memorandum to the President which was intended 
to reflect in some degree the consensus reached among the Bundy group and 
with the U.S. Mission in Saigon. 53/ But in an unmistakable way, the memo- 
randum also represents a highly personal Bundy assessment and point of 
view. For this reason, and because of its unique articulation of a 
rationale for the ROLLING THUNDER policy, it is reproduced here in con- 
siderable detail. 

The Summary Conclusions, presented at the very outset of the 
memorandum, set the tone of the more detailed elaboration that is to 

The situation in Vietnam is deteriorating, and without new 
U.S. action defeat appears inevitable -- probably not in a 
matter of weeks or perhaps even months, but within the next 
year or so. There is still time to turn it around, but not 



The stakes in Vietnam are extremely high. The American 
investment is very large, and American responsibility is a 
fact of life which is palpable in the atmosphere of Asia, and 
even elsewhere. The international prestige of the United 
States, and a substantial part of our influence, are directly 
at risk in Vietnam. There is no way of unloading the burden 
on the Vietnamese themselves, and there is no way of negotiat- 
ing ourselves out of Vietnam which offers any serious promise 
at present. It is possible that at some future time a neutral 
non- Communist force may emerge, perhaps under Buddhist leader- 
ship, but no such force currently exists, and any negotiated 
U.S. withdrawal today would mean surrender on the installment 

The policy of graduated and continuing reprisal outlined 
in Annex A is the most promising course available, in my 
judgment. That judgment is shared hy all who accompanied me 
from Washington/ and I think by all members of the country 

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The events of the last twenty- four hours have produced a 
practicable point of departure for this policy of reprisal, 
and for the removal of U.S. dependents.. They may also have 
catalyzed the formation of a new Vietnamese government. If so, 
the situation may he at a turning point. 

There is much that can and should "be done to support and^ 
to supplement our present effort, while adding sustained repri- 
* sals. But I want to stress one important general conclusion which 
. again is shared by all members of my party: the U.S. mission is 
composed of outstanding men, and U e S. policy within Vietnam is 
mainly right and well directed. None of the special solutions 
or criticisms put forward with zeal by individual reformers in 
government or in the press is of major importance, and many of 
them are flatly wrong. Wo man is perfect, and not every tactical 
step of recent months has been perfectly chosen, but when you / 
described the Americans in Vietnam as your first team, you were 
right . 

After a brief description of the general situation in Vietnam as 
the Bundy group found it, the memorandum explains the crucial question of 
whether and to what degree a stable government is a necessity for the 
successful prosecution, of U.S. policy in Vietnam. It is well to bear in 
mind that the achievement of considerable government stability had been 
made, in all previous "pressure guidance," a sine qua non of any transi- 
tion to Phase II action against the North. And yet GVN stability con- 
tinued to be a most elusive goal. Bundy now seemed to be arguing that 
the U.S. may have been insisting on a more perfect government than was 
really necessary, at least in the short run: 

For immediate purposes -- and especially for the initia- 
tion of reprisal policy, we believe that the government need 
be no stronger than it is today with General Khanh as the focus 
of raw power while a weak caretaker government goes through the 
motions. Such a government can execute military decisions and 
it can give formal political support to joint US/GVN policy. 
That is about all it can do. 


In the longer run, it is necessary that a government be 
established which will in one way or another be able to main- 
tain its political authority against all challenges over a 
longer time than the governments of the last year and a half. 

The composition and direction of such a government is a 
most difficult problem, and we do not wholly agree with the 
mission in our estimate of its nature. 

The mood of the mission with respect to the prospect of 
obtaining such a government is one of pessimism and frustra- 
tion. This is only natural in terns of the events of the past 
many weeks. . 8 . 

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'Specifically, we believe that General Khanh, with all his 
faults, is by long odds the outstanding military man currently 
in sight — and the most impressive personality generally. We . 
do not share the conclusion of Ambassador Taylor that he must 
somehow be removed from the military and political scene. 

There are strong reasons for the Ambassador's total lack 
of confidence in Kharih. At least twice Khanh has acted in ways 
that directly spoiled Ambassador Taylor's high hopes for Decem- 
ber. When he abolished the High National Council he undercut^ 
the prospect of the stable government needed for Phase II action 
against the North. In January he overthrew Huong just when the 
latter, in the Embassy's view, was about to succeed in putting 
the bonzes in their place... 

• . . 

...our principal reasons for opposing any sharp break with N 
Khanh is that we see no one else in sight with anything like his 
ability to combine military authority with some sense of politics. 

Bundy also differed from the Embassy on the necessity of "facing 
down" the Buddhist leaders, believing instead that they should be 
"incorporated" into GVN affairs rather than being "confronted." He 
stressed the significance of these differences, but then generously en- 
dorsed the Mission's overall relationship to and handling of the GVN. 

Having registered these two immediate and important differ- 
ences of emphasis, we should add that in our judgment the mission 
has acted at about the right level of general involvement in the 
• problem of Vietnamese government -making. American advice is sought 
by all elements, and all try to bend it to their own ends. The 
mission attempts to keep before all elements the importance of 
stable government, and it quietly presses the value of those who 
are known to be good, solid, able ministerial timber... 

...It is important that the mission maintain a constant and 
active concern with the politics of government -making. This it 
is doing. 

Bundy then went on to pay obeisance to the need for a stronger 
pacification program and for greater recognition that the Vietnamese need 
"a sense of positive hope": 

If we suppose that new hopes are raised — at least tem- 
porarily -- r by a reprisal program, and we support further 
that a government somewhat better than the bare minimum is 
established, the most urgent order of business will then be 
the improvement and broadening of the pacification program, 
especially in its non-military elements... 

...Vietnamese talk is full of the need for 'revolution.' 
f>s Vietnamese practice is empty of action to match the talk — 


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so much so that the word 'revolution 1 sometimes seems to have 
no real meaning. Yet in fact there is plainly a deep and 
strong yearning among the young and the unprivileged^ for a • 
new and "better social order. This is what the Buddhist 
leaders are groping toward; this is what the students and 
young Turk generals are seeking. This yearning does not find 
an adequate response in American policy as Vietnamese see it. 
This is one cause of latent ant i -American feeling. We only 
perceived this problem toward the end of our visit. We think 
it needs urgent further attention. We make no present recom- 
mendations. We do believe that over the long pull our military 
and political firmness must be matched by our political and eco- 
nomic support for the hopes that are embodied to Vietnamese in 
the word 'revolution. x 

Bundy harbored no illusions concerning the enemy's ability .and 

The prospect in Vietnam is grim. The energy and persis- 
tence of the Viet Cong are astonishing. They can appear 
anywhere -- and at almost any time. They have accepted extra- 
ordinary losses and they come back for more. They show skill 
in their sneak attacks and ferocity when cornered. Yet the 
weary country does not want them to win. 

There are a host of things the Vietnamese need to do 
better and areas in which we need to help them. The pla.ce 
where we can help most is in the clarity and firmness of our 
own commitment to what is in fact as well as in rhetoric a 
common cause. 

Finally, Bundy explained the central rationale of his recommen- 
dations: . 

There is one grave weakness in our posture in Vietnam 
which is within our own power to fix -- and that is a wide- 
spread belief that we do not have the will and force and 
patience an determination to take the necessary action and 
stay the course. 

This is the overriding reason for our present recommen- 
dation of a policy of sustained reprisal. Once such a policy 
is put in force, we shall be able to speak in Vietnam^on many 
topics and in many ways, with growing force and effectiveness. 

One final word. At its very best the struggle in Vietnam 
will be long. It seems- to us important that this fundamental 
fact be made clear and our understanding of it be made clear 

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to our own people and to the people of Vietnam. Too often in 
the past we have conveyed the impression that we expect an 
early solution when those who live with this war know that no 
early solution, is possible. It is our own belief that the 
people of ^he United States have the necessary will to accept 
and to execute a policy that rests upon the reality that there 
is no short cut *to success in South Vietnam." 


Appended to the Bundy memorandum as Annex A is a detailed, care- 
fully formulated explanation of his "sustained reprisal" policy , including 
specific action recommendations. Because of its explicitness and clarity, 
it is reproduced in full: 


"i . Introductory 

"We believe that the best available way of increasing our chance of . 
success in Vietnam is the development and execution of a policy of 
• sustained reprisal against North Vietnam --a policy in which air and 
naval action against the North is justified by and related to the whole 
Viet Cong campaign of violence and terror in the South. 

"While we believe that the risks of such a policy are acceptable , we 
emphasize that its costs are real. It implies significant U.S. air losses 
. even if no full air war is joined , and it seems likely that it would 
eventually require an extensive and costly effort against the whole air 
defense system of North Vietnam. U.S. casualties would be higher -- and 
more visible to American feelings — than those sustained in the struggle 
in South Vietnam. 

"Yet measured against the costs of defeat in Vietnam, this program 
seems cheap. And even if it fails to turn the tide -- as it may -- the 
value of the effort seems to us to exceed its cost. 

"II. Outline of the Policy 

■ ■■'■ • 

"l. In partnership with the Government of Vietnam, we should develop 
and exercise the option to retaliate against any VC act of violence to 
persons or property. 

"2. In practice, we may wish at the outset to relate our reprisals 
to those acts of relatively high visibility such as the Pleiku incident. 
Later, we might retaliate against the assassination of a province chief, 
but not necessarily the murder of a hamlet official: we might retaliate 
against a grenade thrown into a crowded cafe in Saigon, but not neces- 
sarily to a shot fired in a small shop in the countryside. 

"3. Once a program of reprisals is clearly "underway, it should not 
be necessary to connect each specific act against Eorth Vietnam to a 

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particular outrage in the South. It should "be possible, for example , 
to 'publish weekly lists of outrages in the South and to have it clearly 
understood that these outrages are the cause of such action against the 
North as may be occurring in the current period. Such a more generalized 
pattern of reprisal would remove much of the difficulty involved in find- 
ing precisely matching targets in response to specific atrocities. Even 
in such a more general pattern, however, it would be important to insure 
that the general level of reprisal" action remained in close correspondence 
with the level of outrages in the South. We must keep it clear at every 
stage both to Hanoi and to the world, that our reprisals will be reduced 
or stopped when outrages in the South are reduced or stopped — and that 
we are not attempting to destroy or conquer North Vietnam. 

"U. In the early stages of such a course, we should take the appro- 
priate occasion to make clear our firm intent to undertake reprisals on 
any further acts, major or minor, that appear to us and the GVN as 
indicating Hanoi's support. We would announce that our two governments 
have been patient and forebear ing in the hope that Hanoi would come to 
its senses without the necessity of our having to take further action; 
but the outrages continue and now we must react against those who are 
responsible; we will not provoke; we will not use our force indiscrimi- 
nately; but we can no longer sit by in the face of repeated acts of terror 

and violence for which the DRV is responsible. 


"5. Having once made this announcement, we should execute our re- 
prisal policy with as low a level of public noise as possible. It is to 
our interest that our acts should be seen -- but we do not wish to boast 
about them in ways that make it hard for Hanoi to shift its ground. We 
should instead direct maximum attention to the continuing acts of violence 
which are the cause of our continuing reprisals. 

"6. This reprisal policy should begin at a low level. Its level of 
force and pressure should be increased only gradually -- and as indicated 
above it should be decreased if VC terror visibly decreases. The object 
would not be to "win" an air war against Hanoi, but rather to influence 
the course of the struggle in the South. 

"7» At the same time it should be recognized that in order to main- 
tain the power of reprisal without risk of excessive loss, an. "air war" 
| may in fact be necessary. We should therefore be ready to develop a 

separate justification for energetic flak suppression and if necessary 
I for the destruction of Communist air power. The essence of such an 

I * explanation should be that these actions are intended solely to insure 
■; the effectiveness of a policy of reprisal, and in no sense represent 

j any intent to wage offensive war against the North. These distinctions 

I should not be difficult to develop. 

"8. It remains quite possible, however, that this reprisal policy 
would get us quickly into the level of military activity contemplated in 
the so-called Phase II of our December planning. It may even get us 

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"beyond this level with Hanoi and Peiping, if there is a Communist counter- 
action. We and the GVN should also be prepared for a spurt of VC terror- 
ism.., especially in urban areas, that would dwarf anything yet experienced. 
These are the risks of any action. They should be carefully reviewed — 
but we believe them to be acceptable. 

"9. We are convinced that the political values of reprisal require 
a continuous operation. Episodic responses geared on a one-for-one basis 
to "spectacular 7 ' outrages would lack the persuasive force of sustained 
pressure. More important still, they would leave it- open to the Communists 
to avoid reprisals entirely by giving up only a small element of their 
own program. The Gulf of Tonkin affair produced a sharp upturn in morale 
in South Vietnam. When it remained an isolated episode, however, there 
was a severe relapse. It is the great merit of the proposed scheme that 
to stop it the Communists would have to stop enough of their activity in 
the South to permit the probable success of a determined pacification 
effort . 

"III. Expected Effect of Sustained Reprisal Policy * 

"1. We emphasize that our primary target in advocating a reprisal 
policy is the improvement of the situation in South Vietnam. Action 
against the forth is usually urged as a means of affecting the will of 
Hanoi to direct and support the VC. We consider this an important but 
longer-range purpose. The immediate and critical targets are in the 
South --in the minds of the South Vietnamese and in the minds of the 
Viet Cong cadres. 

I "2. Predictions of the effect of any given course of action upon 

the states of mind of people are difficult. It seems very clear that 
if the United States and the Government of Vietnam join in a policy of 
reprisal, there will be a sharp immediate increase in optimism in the 
South, among nearly all articulate groups. The Mission believes and our 
own conversations confirm -- that in all sectors of Vietnamese opinion 
there is a strong belief that the United States could do much mere if it 
would, and that they are suspicious of our failure to use more of our 
obviously enormous power • At least in the short run, the reaction to 
reprisal policy would be very favorable. 

"3. This favor abl reaction should offer opportunity for increased 
American influence in pressing for a more effective, government -- at 
least in the short run. Joint reprisals would imply military planning 
in which the American role would necessarily be controlling, and this 
I ' " new relation should add to our bargaining power in other military efforts 
1 — and conceivably on a wider plane as well if a more stable government 

is formed. We have the whip hand in reprisals as we do not in other 

ft k* The Vietnamese increase in hope could well increase the readi- 
ness of Vietnamese factions themselves to join together in forming a 
more effective government. 

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n 5« We think it plausible that effective and sustained reprisals, 
even in a low key, would have a substantial depressing effect upon the 
morale of Viet Cong cadres in South Vietnam. This is the strong 
opinion of CIA Saigon* It is based upon reliable reports of the .initial 
Viet Cong reaction to the Gulf of Tonkin episode, and also upon the 
solid general assessment that the determination of Hanoi and the apparent 
timidity of the mighty United States are both major items in Viet Cong 

"6. The long-run effect of reprisals in the South is far less clear. 
It may be that like other stimulants , the value of this one would decline 
over time. Indeed the risk of this result is large enough so that we 
ourselves believe that a very major effort all along the line should be 
made in South Vietnam to take full advantage of the immediate stimulus of 
reprisal policy in its early stages. Our object should be to use this 
new policy to effect a visible upward turn in pacification, in govern- 
mental effect iveness, in operations against the Viet Cong, and in the 
whole US/gVN relationship. It is changes in these areas that can have 
enduring long-term effects. . * 

"7» While emphasizing the- importance of reprisals in the South, we 
do not exclude the impact on Hanoi. We believe, indeed, that it is of 
great importance that the level of reprisal be adjusted rapidly and 
visibly to both upward and downward shifts in the level of Viet Cong 
offenses. We want to keep before Hanoi the carrot of our desisting as 
well as the stick of continued pressure. We also need to conduct the 
application of the force so that there is always a prospect of worse to 
come . ^ 

"8. We cannot assert that a policy of sustained reprisal will succeed 
in changing the course of the contest in Vietnam. It may fail, and we 
cannot estimate the odds of success with any accuracy — they may be 
somewhere between 25/£ and 79$* What we can say is that even if it fails, 
the policy will be worth it. At a minimum it will damp down the charge 
that we did not do all that we could have done, and this charge will be . 
important in many countries, including our own. Beyond that, a reprisal 
policy — to the extent that it demonstrates U.S. willingness to employ 
this new norm in counter-insurgency — will set a higher price for the 
future upon all adventures of guerrilla warfare, and it should therefore 
somewhat increase our ability to deter such adventures. We must recognize, 
however, that that ability will be gravely weakened if there is failure 
for any reason in Vietnam. 


"IV. Present Action Recommendations 

"1. This general recommendation was developed in intensive discus- 
sions in the days just before the attacks on Pleiku. These attacks and 
cur reaction to them have created an ideal opportunity for the prompt 
development and execution of sustained reprisals. Conversely, if no such 

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policy is now developed, we face the grave danger that Pleiku, like the 
Gulf of Tonkin, may be a short-run stimulant and a long-term depressant. 
We therefore recommend that the necessary preparations "be made for con- 
tinuing reprisals. The major necessary steps to "be taken appear to us 
to be the following: 

n (l) We should complete the evacuation of dependents. 

"(2) We should quietly start the necessary westward deploy- 
ments of back-up contingency forces. 


"(3) We should develop and refine a running catalogue of Viet 
Cong offenses which can be published regularly and related clearly to 
our own reprisals. Such a catalogue should perhaps build on the founda- 
tion of an initial White Paper. 

n (k) We -should initiate joint planning with the GVK on both the 
civil and military level. Specifically, we should give a clear and 
strong signal to those now forming a government that we will be ready 
for this policy when they are. , A 

TT (5) We should develop the necessary public and diplomatic state- 
ments to accompany the initiation and continuation of this program. 

"(6) We should insure that a reprisal program is matched by 
renewed public commitment to our family of programs in the South, so 
that the central importance of the southern straggle may never be neg- 

"(7) We should plan quiet diplomatic communications of the 
precise meaning of what we are and are not doing, to Hanoi, to Peking 
and to Moscow. 

"(8) We should be prepared to defend and to justify this new 
policy by concentrating attention in every forum upon its cause -- the 
aggression in the South. 


(9) We should accept discussion on these terms in any forum, 
but we should not now accept the idea of negotiations of any sort except 
on the basis of a stand down of Viet Cong violence. A program of sus- . 
tained reprisal, with its direct link to Hanoi's continuing aggressive 
actions in the South will not involve us in nearly the level of inter- 
national recrimination which would be precipitated by a go-North program 
which was not so "connected. For this reason the international pressures 
for negotiation should be quite manageable." 

B. The Taylor Conception of "Graduated Reprisals" 


At about the same time that the McGeorge Bundy memorandum was 
being submitted to the President, Ambassador Taylor, in a cable from 

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Saigon, ^h/ conveyed his own views concerning a future reprisal program 
to Washington. Not surprisingly, (since they had exchanged ideas ex- 
tensively in Saigon) Taylor's concept closely paralleled Bundy 's in many 
of its features. But in at least one significant respect it diverged 
•sharply. Whereas Bundy ? s main objective was to influence the course of 
the struggle in the South (providing a boost to GVN morale and cohesion, 
affording an opportunity for increased American influence upon and bar- 

» gaining power with the GVN, and exerting a depressing effect upon VC 

cadres), Taylor's principal aim was "to bring increasing pressure on the 
DRV to cease its intervention." 

The areas of agreement between Taylor and Bundy were considerable. 
Like Bundy, he recommended ,T a measured, controlled sequence of actions 
against the DRV taken in reprisal for DRV-inspired actions in South 
Vietnam... ...carried out jointly with the GVN and ... directed solely 

against DRV military targets and infiltration routes..." The reprisals 
could be "initiated on the basis of a general catalogue or package of 
VC outrages, no one particularly grave itself...! 1 and could be varied 
"with the general level of VC outrages in SW or, if we so desired, 
progressively raised.... Thus it would be tantamount to the so-called 

Phase II escalation, but justified on the basis of retaliation." Like 
Bundy, he believed "that we should limit US/GVN publicity to the bare 
minimum..." and he also cautioned that "we should attempt to avoid in 
the present situation a general letdown in morale and spirit which 
followed our action in the Tonkin Gulf." 

But Taylor's concept was much more directly aimed at bringing pres- 
sures to bear against the DRV, to give them "serious doubts as to their 
chances for ultimate success" and to cause them to cease their aggression 
and to accede to a rigorously enforced 195^/1962 Geneva-type settlement. 55/ 
It was this focus on the North , rather than a rededication of the GVN to 
the struggle in the South , that Taylor considered to be the real benefit 
• of a reprisal policy. Integrating the Vietnamese in a program against 
the DRV, he believed, would, have an exhilarating effect which, if exploited 
early "could lead to a greater sense of purpose and direction both in the 
government *nd the military and awaken new hope for eventual victory on 
the part of the Vietnamese people." 

In a subsequent cable, 56/ Taylor spelled out his "graduated reprisal" 

concept in a more orderly fashion: 


In review of the rationale for concept of graduated repris- 
als we are of the opinion that, in order of importance, it should 
have the following objectives: 

(a) The will of Hanoi leaders; 

(b) GVN morale; and 

(c) Physical damage to installations having some bearing on 
the DRV ability to support VC. 

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Of these three, first appears to us "by far the most important , 
since our effectiveness in influencing Hanoi leadership will, 
in the long run, determine the success or failure of our 
efforts in both North and South Vietnam, Second objective, 
effect on GFVH morale, is also important md fortunately the 
requirements for building morale in the South are roughly the 
same as those for impressing Hanoi leaders with the rising 
costs of their support of the VC. In this case, -what is bad 
for Hanoi is generally good for Saigon. 

| Effect of the physical destruction of material objects and 

infliction of casualties will not, in our judgment, have a 
decisive bearing upon the ability of DRV to support VC. However, 

j degree of damage and number of casualties inflicted gauge the 

j impact of our operations on Hanoi leadership and hence are im- 

* portant as a measure of their discomfort. 

...We should keep our response actions controllable and 
optional to maximum degree possible so that we can act or 
withhold action when and as we choose. This need for flexi- 
bility argues strongly for vagueness in defining criteria for 
situations justifying retaliation and for retention of freedom 
of action to make ad hoc decisions in light of our interests at 
the moment. But in any case, complete flexibility will not be 

« • 

Assuming that we have achieved control and flexibility, we 
will then need to think of the tempo which we wish to communi- 
cate to the retaliatory program, with primary consideration 
given to effect of the program on Hanoi leadership. It seems 
clear to us that there should be a gradual, orchestrated accele- 
ration of tempo measured in terms of frequency, size, number 
and/or geographical location of the reprisal strikes and of 
related activities such as BARREL ROLL and 3^-A. An upward 
trend in any or all of these forms of intensity will convey 
signals which, in combination, should present to the DRV leaders 
a vision of inevitable, ultimate destruction if they do not change 
their ways. The exact rate of acceleration is a matter of judg- 
ment but we consider, roughly speaking, that each successive week 
should include some new act on our part to increase pressure on 
Hanoi ... 

We do not believe that our reprisal program will lead the 
GVN to believe that we have taken over their war and that they 
can reduce their anti-VC activities. We hope that the opposite 
will be the effect and the retaliatory actions in the North will 
give impulsion to the defensive efforts in the South. However, 
the Dept's fear can certainly not be ruled out and we shall watch 
closely the GVL reaction to the program as it unfolds." 

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One of Ambassador Taylor's major concerns was that, if a graduated 
reprisals program were adopted, it would be necessary to begin discus- 
sions with the GW to seek agreement on mutually acceptable terms for 
the ultimate settlement of the conflict. Taylor thought of this 'as a 
•process of education by which he would guide the GW towards formulat- 
ing a "framework of demands to be made on the DRV as well as the general 
negotiating procedure^." He outlined his proposed "terms for cessation 
of our reprisal attacks" as follows: 57/ 

A* Demands 

1. DRV return to strict observance of I95H accords 
with respect SW and the 1962 agreement with respect to Laos 
— that is, stop infiltration, and bring about a cessation of 
VC armed insurgency. (With respect to Laos strictly observe 
the 1962 accords with respect to Laos, including the with- 
drawal of all Viet Minh forces and personnel from Laos and 
recognize that the freedom of movement granted therein in Laos 
■ under those accords is not subject to veto or interference by 
any of the parties in Laos.) 

B. In return and subject in each instance to a judgment 
that DRV is complying faithfully and effectively: 

1. U.S. will return to 195^- accords with respect to ' 
military personnel in SW and GW would be willing to enter 
into trade talks looking toward normalization of economic 
relations between DRV and GW. 

2. Subject to faithful compliances by DRV with 195I+ 
accords, U.S. and GW would give assurances that they would not 
use force or support the use of force by any other party to 
upset the accords with respect to the DRV. 

3. Within the framework of the 195*4- accords, the GW 
would permit VC desiring to do so to return to the DRV without 
their arms and would grant amnesty to those peacefully laying 
down their arms and desiring to remain in SW. 

C. If and when Hanoi indicates its acceptance of foregoing 
conditions, careful consideration must be given to immediate 
subsequent procedures which will avoid danger of: (a) becoming 
involved in a cease fire vis-a-vis the DRV and/or the VC 
accompanied by strung-out negotiations; fb) making conditions 
so stringent as to be unworkable from practical point of view. 
Probably best procedure would be to have the GW and DRV meet 
in the DMZ at the military level under ICC auspices with U.S. 
observers to reach agreement mechanics of carrying out under- 
standing while action against the VC and DRV cc>ntinues, at 

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least in principle. RLG would have to be associated with these 
negotiations at some point. 

It is evident from these and similar tough settlement terms and 
cessation "demands" that were "being discussed "between Saigon and Washing- 
ton at that time that there was a real expectation that the kinds of 
reprisal pressures contemplated would inflict such pain or threat of pain 
upon the DRV that it would be compelled to order a stand-down of Viet 
Cong violence and accept conditions that, from their point of view, were 
tantamount to surrender. Such a view is even more clearly implicit in 
the comments and proposals on reprisal programs emanating from the U.S 
military leadership. 

C. CINCPAC's "Graduated Pressures" Philosophy 

Admiral Sharp, commenting on Ambassador Taylor's reprisal and 
negotiating concepts, called attention to the need to make the reprisal 
program a very forceful one, if the DRV was to be persuaded to accede to 
a cessation on US terms: 

While it may be politically desirable to speak publicly in 
terms of a "graduated reprisal" program, I would hope that we 
are thinking, and will act, in terms of a "graduated pressures" 
philosophy which has more of a connotation of steady, relentless 
. movement toward our objective of convincing Hanoi and Peiping of 
the prohibitive cost of them of their program of subversion, 
insurgency and aggression in SEAsia. 

If a firm decision is made to embark upon a graduated 
pressures program, the recommendation contained in ^Taylor's 
Feb 11 message/ to undertake discussions with the RVN refer- 
ence joint US/GVN military actions is most necessary. Failure 
to develop firm arrangements concerning roles and responsibili- 
ties could result in over reliance on the U.S. contribution 
to the war effort, and perhaps GW resorting to rash military 
actions from which we would have to bail them out. 

There is no question of the desirability of concurrently 
educating the GVTT, as also proposed in Ref b, toward formula- 
tion of war objectives, demands and negotiating procedures to 
be employed against the DRV. I believe that sueh an educational 
process, combined with a graduated military pressures program 
will further contribute to GVS stability. 

We must be certain that we are dealing from a posture of 
strength before we sit down at the bargaining table. Success- 
ful direct increasing military pressures against KVN must be 
complemented by a reversal of the trend toward VC success 
within RVN. We must also exhibit- complete confidence in our 


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ability to win in Vietnam and so indicate by our "willingness 
to rely on our military superiority if need be. 

We must not be driven to premature discussions with the 
DRV in our eagerness to find a solution to the Southeast 
Asian problem. We should continue our military pressures, 

making (our) general objectives publicly known, while awaiting ! 

some sign that the DRV is ready to negotiate towards achieve- 
ment of those objectives... 

. * 

• ..Finally, any political program which is designed to 
formulate terms and procedures for reaching agreement on 
cessation of a graduated military pressures program, will be 
successful in proportion to the effectiveness of the military 
pressures program itself. 58 y 


D. JCS Eight -Week Program 

As these discussions continued, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, re-* 
sponding to a McNamara request of 8 February, sent to the Secretary of 
Defense their recommendations 59/ for an initial program of military 
actions against the DRV, extending over a period of eight weeks. In 
accordance with McNamara ! s instructions, the program was to be confined 
generally to targets along Route 7 and south of the 19th parallel, was 
to employ both RVK and US forces, and was to be primarily a plan for air 
strikes. Since it was so constrained, the JCS program does not fully 
reflect the preferences of the Joint Chiefs. But it does reveal some- 
thing of their thinking. The context in which the program would be 
undertaken is described as follows: 

It is visualized that the initial overt air strikes of this 
program will have been undertaken as a retaliation in response 
to a provocative act by Viet Cong or DRV forces against US or 
RVM personnel or installations. Successive overt operations to 
provide sustained pressures and progressive destruction will be 
continued on the plausible justification of further provocations, 
which on the basis of recent past experience seem quite likely to 
exist. As this program continues the realistic need for precise 
event -association in this reprisal context will progressively 
diminish. A wide range of activities are within the scope of 
what may be stated to be provocations justifying reprisal* 


The program called for two to four US-TOAF strikes per week, ini- 
tially against targets along Route 7 south of the 19th parallel and near 
the Laos border. Specifically, the program was conceived as follows: 


The air attacks are scheduled for the first eight weeks at 

. the rate of four fixed targets a week... These initial targets 
are located South of the 19th parallel with the exception of 

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Target 89, an Armed Route Reconnaissance of Route 7> in the 
DRV close to the Laos border. BARREL ROLL missions in Laos- 
will "be coordinated with air strikes in the DRV near the Laos 
border to ensure maximum effectiveness. 

a. The targets are attacked in the order of ascending 
risk to attacking forces and are attacked at a frequency that 
assures that continuous and regular pressure is maintained 
against the DRV. Authority should be delegated to CBTCPAC to 
select alternate weather targets from the list of previously 
approved targets for the eight weeks program. Subsequent 
weekly operations would be adjusted as appropriate when alter- 
nate targets are attacked. 

b. Airfields north of the 19th parallel are not 
scheduled for attack in the first eight weeks. However, if, 
during the scheduled attacks in this program, DRV or CKCOM 
aircraft attempt intercept of US/EVH forces, the communist air 
threat involved should be eliminated. The program of gradu- 
ated pressures would then have reached a higher scale of esca- 
lation and would require reorientation. 

• 4 

The program also provided for naval gunfire bombardment and for con- 
tinuation of already ongoing activity, including 3^A operations, resump- 
tion of DESOTO Patrols, and authorization for ground cross border 

To carry out this program, the JCS wished to deploy about 325 more 
aircraft to the Western Pacific to deter or cope with any escalation 
that might result. " This would include dispatch of 30 B-52 T s to Guam, 
deployment of 9 more USAF tactical fighter squadrons and a fourth air- 
craft carrier'. Some Marine and Army units would go to Thailand, and other 
units would be alerted. 

As for the risks of escalation, the JCS considered these as manage- 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the DRV, Communist 
China, and the Soviet Union will make every effort through pro- 
paganda and diplomatic moves to halt the US attacks. The DRV 
also will take all actions to defend itself, and open, overt 
aggression in South Vietnam and Laos by the DRV might occur. 
In addition, the mere initiation of the new US policy almost 
certainly would not lead Hanoi to restrain the Viet Cong; 
Hanoi would probably elect to maintain the very intense levels 
of activity of the past few days. However, if the United States 
persevered in the face of threats and international pressures, 
and as the degree of damage inflicted on North Vietnam increased, 
the chances of a reduction in Viet Cong activity would rise. 

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They further "believe that the Chinese communists would "be reluc- 
tant to become directly involved in the fighting in Southeast 
Asia; however, as the number and severity of US attacks against 
. the DRV increase , they probably would feel an increased compul- 
sion to take some dramatic action to counter the impact of US 
pressures. There is a fair chance that Peiping would introduce 
limited numbers of Chinese ground forces as "volunteers" into 
North Vietnam, and/or northern Laos, intending to raise the 

• spector of further escalation, to underline its commitment to 
assist the North Vietnamese, and to challenge the Soviets to • 
extend corresponding support. They also' believe that the probable 
Soviet response to these US courses of action would consist both 
of a vigorous diplomatic and propaganda effort to bring the United 
States to the conference table and the provision of military sup- 
port to North Vietnam. While the extent and nature of the latter 
are difficult to predict, it almost certainly would include anti- 
aircraft artillery and radars. In order to provide a more effec- 
tive defense against the US air attacks, North Vietnam would 
probably press for surface-to-air missiles. The chances are about 
even that the Soviets would agree to provide some SA-2 defenses, 
but they would do so in ways calculated to minimize the initial 
risks to them. By providing the necessary Soviet personnel in 
the guise of 'technicians, 7 the USSR could preserve the option of 
ignoring any Soviet casualties. In the event the DRV and Com- 
munist Chinese openly undertake aggressive actions, the United 
States and its allies can deal with them adequately.... 

It is the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the 
program herein proposed will demonstrate to the DRV that con- 
tinuation of its direction and support of insurgencies will lead 
progressively to more serious punishment. If the insurgency con- 
tinues with active DRV support, strikes against the DRV will be 

• extended with intensified efforts against targets north of the 
19th parallel. 

While the Joint Chiefs recommended approval of the recommendations, 
not all considered them adequate. General McConnell, Air Force Chief of 
Staff, believed that the much heavier air strike recommendations, made by 
the JCS in late I96H were more appropriate than the mild actions now 
proposed. 60 / General Wheeler backed deployment of more USAF and other 
air units but pressed for an integrated air program against the North 1 s 
transportation system, especially railroads. He also believed, along 
with General Harold K. Johnson, Army Chief of Staff, that three U.S. 
ground divisions might have to be sent to Southeast Asia. The JCS 
chairman directed the Joint Staff to examine the possibility of placing 
one or two of these divisions in northeast Thailand and a third, aug- 
mented n oy allied personnel, south of the demilitarized zone in South 

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Some of these JCS recommendations were quickly accepted, particu- 
larly those having to do with Air Force deployments. Thus the Adminis- 
tration approved the dispatch, from 11 to 13 February, of 30 B-52 f s to 
Guam and 30 KC-135 f s to Okinawa. Designated Arc Light, these bombers 
and tankers of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) initially were earmarked- 
(though never used) for high-altitude, ail-weather bombing of important 
targets in the North .* 6l/ 

The particular JCS air strike program, on the other ha$d, was. never 
adopted. The detailed JCS' target proposals did figure prominently in 
the intensive highest-level reprisal and pressures planning that con- 
tinued during the succeeding weeks and months, but that planning was 
conducted essentially on an ad hoc basis, strike by strike, and did not 
at this stage embrace a multi-week program^ 

«• • 

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A. The Presidential Decision and Taylor y s Response 

The fonal Presidential decision to inaugurate what eventually 
emerged as the ROLLING THUNDER program' was made on Sunday , February 13. 
It was reported to Ambassador Taylor in a NODIS cable 62 / drafted in 
the White House and transmitted to Saigon late that afternoon. The full 
text of the message follows: 

The President today approved the following program for 
immediate future actions in follow-up decision he reported to 
you in Deptel 1653* ,/The first FLAMING DART reprisal decision//" 

1. We will intensify by all available means the program of 
pacification within SVN. 

2. We will execute a program of measured and limited air 
action jointly with GVN against selected military targets in 
DRV remaining south of 19th parallel until further notice, 

FYI. Our current expectation is that these attacks might come 
about once or twice a week and involve two or three targets on 
each day of operation. END FYI. 

3. We will announce this policy of measured action in 
general terms and at the same time, we will go to UN Security 
Council to maJke clear case that aggressor is Hanoi. We will 
arlso make it plain that we are ready and eager for 'talks' to 
bring aggression to an end. 

k. We believe this 3-part program must be concerted with 
GVN, and we currently expect to announce it by Presidential 
statement directly after next .authorized air action. We believe 
this action should take place as early as possible next week. 

5. You are accordingly instructed to seek immediate GVN 
agreement on this program. You are authorised to emphasize our * 
conviction that announcement of readiness to talk is stronger 
diplomatic position than awaiting inevitable summons to Security 
Council by third parties. We would hope to have appropriate GVN 
concurrence by Monday jjel> l^th/ if possible here. 

In presenting above to GVN, you should draw fully, as you 
see fit, on following arguments: 

a. We are determined to continue with military actions 
regardless of Security Council deliberations and any 'talks T or 
negotiations that may ensue, unless and. until Hanoi has brought 

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its aggression to an end. Our demand would be that they cease 
infiltration and all forms of support and also the activity 
they are directing in the south. 

b. We consider the UN Security Council initiative, 
following another strike, essential if we are to avoid being 
faced with really damaging initiatives by the USSR or perhaps 
by such powers as India, France, or even the UN. 

c. At an early point in the UN Security Council initia- 
tive, we- would expect to see calls for the DRV to appear in the 
UN. If they failed to appear, as in August, this will make 
doubly clear that it is they who are refusing to desist, and 
our position in pursuing military actions against the DRV would 
be strengthened. For same reason we would now hope GVN itself 
would appear at UN and work closely with US. 

d. With or without Hanoi, we have every expectation that 
any f talks' that may result from our Security Council initiative 
would in fact go on for many weeks or perhaps months and would 
above all focus constantly on the cessation of Hanoi's aggression 
as the precondition to any cessation of military action against 
the DRV. We further anticipate that any detailed discussions 
about any possible eventual form of agreement returning to the 
essentials of the I95U Accords would be postponed and would be 
subordinated to the central issue. 

For your private guidance, the following draft language is 
under consideration for Presidential announcement: 


The aggression has continued. It has continued against the 
Vietnamese, and it has continued against Americans. In support 
of the independence of Vietnam, in the service of our nation, 
and in fulfillment of the solemn public obligation of our nation, 
and in our individual and collective self-defense, the Govern- 
ment of the United States, with the Government of Vietnam, has 
now decided that further action must be taken. 

The actions we have agreed upon are three: 

First and most important, we will continue and will intensify 
still further our campaign against terror and violence in South 
Vietnam itself. The establishment of civil peace and the disarm- 
ing of the Communist forces are the first order of business for 
both our Governments. Our military and police actions will be 
increasingly energetic and effective. We will also strengthen 
and enlarge our efforts to move forward with the peaceful de- 
velopment of a society set free from fear. We will never make 

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the mistake of assuming that there is any substitute for victory 
against aggression "where it shows its open face — inside the 
borders of South Vietnam itself. 

Second -- and at the same time -- we will carry out measured 
but effective actions against military targets in North Vietnam. 
These actions will be reported to the United Nations' Security 
Council under the Provisions of Article 51 of the United Nations 
Charter — and each such report will include a full account of 
the continuing acts of aggression which make our actions neces- 
sary. These actions will stop when the aggression stops. 

Third, we will press with urgency for talks designed to bring 
an end to the aggression and its threat to peace. I have today 
instructed Ambassador Stevenson to seek such action urgently, in 
the Security Council of the United Nations, and if that body 
should be hamstrung by any veto, we shall then press for. talks 
in another appropriate forum. We believe that in any such talks 
the first object must be an end of aggression, and we believe 
that the government in Hanoi must be brought to the conference 
room. Our common purpose — and our only purpose — is to 
restore the peace and domestic tranquility which others have so 
savagely attacked. END QUOTE 

Several aspects of the. message are of interest. First, it features- 
intensified pacification as the first order of business and as a major 
point in the contemplated Presidential announcement. This stress on 
action in the South reflected a serious concern at high levels in the 
White House and the State Department at that time, that a growing pre- 
occupation with action against the North would be likely to cause the 
US Mission and the CVN leadership to neglect the all- import ant struggle 
within the borders of South Vietnam. Second, the description of the air 
strike program in the message is extremely cursory, suggesting that the 
President at this time still wished to preserve as much flexibility as r 
possible concerning the future scope and character of the program. And 
third, the message reveals the Presidents intention, as of that date, to 
take the DRV aggression issue and the US bombing response promptly before 
the UN Security Council — an intention that was dropped several days . 
later in favor of a quite different approach, namely the UK/USSR 
Co-Chairmen initiative recounted below. In actuality, instead of mount- 
ing a major UN approach, the President contented himself initially with 
a brief public statement 63 / of US objectives in Vietnam, which formed 
the keynote of the official line, and was to be frequently quoted by 
Administration officials in subsequent weeks: 

• As I have said so many, many times, and other Presidents 
ahead of me have said, our purpose, our objective there is 
clear. That purpose and that objective is to join in the de- 
fense and protection of freedom of a brave people who are 
under attack that is controlled and that is directed from 
outside their country. 

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We have no ambition there for ourselves. We seek no 
dominion. We seek no conquest. We seek no wider war. But 
we must all understand that we will persist in the defense 
of freedom and our continuing actions will be those which 
are justified and those that are made necessary by the con- 
tinuing aggression of others. 

These actions will be measured and fitting and adequate. 
Our stamina and the stamina of the American people is equal 
to the task. 

Ambassador Taylor received the news of the President's new program 
with enthusiasm. In his response, however, he explained the difficulties 
he faced in obtaining authentic GW concurrence "in the condition of 
virtual non-government" which existed in Saigon at that moment. The 
Vietnamese Armed Forces Council had arrogated unto itself the authority 
of appointing the Chief of State and the Premier, and had left him to 
his own devices in trying to form a cabinet. Any GW concurrence that 
Taylor could obtain would have to be a consensus of a lame-duck acting 
prime minister, a widely mistrusted military commander-in-chief, a prime- 
minister -de sign ate with uncertain prospects, and assorted other power 
figures in a foundering caretaker government. This Alice -in -Wonder land 
atmosphere notwithstanding, Taylor was undaunted: 

It will be interesting to observe the effect of our pro- 
posal on the internal political situation here. I will use 
the occasion to emphasize that a dramatic change is occurring 
in U.S. policy, one highly favorable to GW interests but de- 
manding a parallel dramatic change of attitude on the part of 
the GTO. Now is the time to install the best possible govern- 
ment as we are clearly approaching a climax in the next few 
months. The U.S. Mission and the GW will have serious prob- 
lems to work out together, many of them complicated matters in 
the field of foreign affairs where the GW must strengthen its 
professional representation. We need the first team and we 
need it fast. 

There is just a chance that the vision of possible victory 
may decide Khanh to take over the government at this juncture. 
Alternately, it may create some measure of national unity which 
will facilitate the task of Quat or of any other Prime Minister 
who succeeds in forming a new government. Gh/ 

Quat's charces for creating national uni+y -- even with the assist 
of an imminent "dramatic change in US policy" — were slim indeed. Quat's 
government was the ninth attempt to form a viable structure since the 
overthrow of Diem. It was obvious from the outset that it would be under 
the domination of the Armed Forces Council which had publicly declared 
that it would "act as a mediator until the government is popularly elected. 

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The mediator himself, however, was to be rent asunder within days of 
Quat's assumption of office in one of those explosions that had become 
so typical in Vietnam since Diem's demise. That political explos.ion 
was particularly unfortunate in its timing in relation to the "dramatic" 
new ROLLING THUHDER program just then set to get under way. 

B. ROLLING THUNDER I is Laid On- -and Cancelled 

A refinement of the February 13 decision on ROLLING THUHDER, 
including determination of the timing and character of the first air 
strike, was evidently made by the President on February 18. A NODIS 
cable 65/ of that date informed nine American posts in the Far East of 
the decisions in the following words: 

Policy on Viet-Nam adopted today calls for following: 

1. Joint program with GW of continuing air and naval 
action against North Viet-Nam whenever and wherever necessary. 
Such action to be against selected military targets and to be 
limited and fitting and adequate as response to continuous 
aggression in South Viet-Nam directed in Hanoi. Air strikes 
will be jointly planned and agreed with GVN and carried out 
on joint basis. 

2. Intensification by all available means of pacification 
program within South Viet-Kam, including every possible step to 
find and attack VC concentrations and headquarters within SVN by 
all conventional means available to GVN and US. 

3* Early detailed presentation to nations of world and to 
public of documented case against DRV as aggressor. Forum and 
form this presentation not yet decided, but we do not repeat 
not expect to touch upon readiness for talks or negotiations at 
this time. We are considering reaffirmation our objectives in 
some form in near future. 


h. Careful public statements of USG, combined with fact of 
continuing air action, are expected to make it clear that mili- 
tary action will continue while aggression continues. But 
focus of public attention will be kept as far as possible on 
DRV aggression, not on joint evil/US military operations. There 
will be no comment of any sort on future actions except that all 
such actions will be adequate' and measured and fitting to aggres- 
sion. (You will have noted President's statement of yesterday, 
which we will probably allow to stand.) 

Addressees should inform head of government or State (as 
• appropriate) of above in strictest confidence and report re- 
actions. In the case of Canberra and Wellington you may indicate 
we would be prepared respond to questions through embassies here 

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ion may indicate that we will seek to keep governments 
infomed, subject to security considerations, of each opera- 
tion as it occurs } as we did with respect to operations of 
February 7 and 11, 66/ 

Although the cable does not indicate it, the first air action under 
the new program was set for February 20th. Dubbed ROLLING THUM)ER I, it 
called for US strikes* against Quang Khe Naval Base and concurrent VNAF 
strikes against Vu Con Barracks, with appropriate weather alternates pro- 
vided. The above cable was sent from Washington at 8:00 p.m. on February 
18th. Five hours later, at 1:00 p.m., February 19 (Saigon time), Colonel • 
Pham Ngoc Thao, a conspiratorial revolutionary figure who had been active 
in the coup against Diem, began his infamous semi-coup to oust General 
Khanh -- but not to overthrow the Armed Forces Council. Aided by General 
Phat, his forces succeeded in occupying the ARVN military headquarters 
and other key government buildings in Saigon, including the radio station. 
Until the coup was defeated and Khanh 1 s reslgna/tion submitted some ^-0 hours 
later, pandemonium reigned in Saigon. Ambassador Taylor promptly recom- 
mended cancellation of the February 20 air strike and his recommendation 
was equally promptly accepted.' In a FLASH message to all recipients of 
the cable quoted above, Washington rescinded the instructions to notify 
respective heads of state until further notice "in view of the disturbed * 
situation in Saigon."" 67/ 

The "disturbed situation" was not to settle down completely for 
almost a week. Even though the semi-coup failed quickly and the Aimed 
Forces Council reasserted its full authority, the AFC continued the anti- 
Khanh momentum of the coup-plotters by adopting a "vote of no confidence" 
in Khanh. The latter made frantic but unsuccessful efforts to rally his 
supporters. Literally running out of gas in Nha Trang shortly before 
dawn on February 21, he submitted his resignation, claiming that a "foreign 
hand" was behind the coup. Ho one, however, could be ouite certain that 
Khanh might not "re-coup" once again, unless he were physically removed 
from the scene. This took three more days to accomplish. On the after- 
noon of February 25, after some mock farewell performances designed to 
enable Khanh to save face, he left Vietnam to become an Ambassador-at- 
Large. At the airport to see him off and to make sure that he was safely 
dispatched from the country, was Ambassador Taylor, glassily polite. It 
was only then that Taylor was able to issue, and Washington would accept, 
clearance for the long postponed and frequently rescheduled first ROLLING 
THUNDER strike. - 

C. The UK/USSR Co-Chairmen Gambit 


Political turbulence in Saigon was net the only reason for delay- 
ing the air action. Even before the semi-coup broke out, forcing can- 
cellation of the February 20 strike, a diplomatic initiative was taken by 
the Soviet Foreign Office in Moscow, that was eagerly picked up by London 
and Washington,, and that quickly drew attention to- the adverse consequences 
that might flow from an air strike executed at that very moment, concurrently 
with the diplomatic initiative in question. 

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On February 17, the UK Ambassador to Washington, Lord Harlech, in- - 
formed Secretary Rusk that the Soviet Foreign Office had approached the 
British with the suggestion that the UK-USSR Co-Chairmanship of the 
■ 195^ Geneva Conference might be reactivated in connection with the ! 

current Vietnam crisis. Secretary Rusk described the possibilities of 
such a gambit in a message 68/ to Ambassador Taylor as follows: 

British apparently expect that next Soviet step might j 

be to propose a joint statement by two Co-Chairmen on bomb- 
ings in North Viet-Nam as reported to Co-Chairmen by regime 
in Hanoi. Interest of Soviet Government in co- chairmanship, 
though not yet confirmed, might also reflect some relief for 
Moscow regarding dilemma in which they may find themselves 
in dealing with Hanoi, Peiping and Southeast Asia issues. It 
may prove desirable for us to provide, to UK and USSR full 
statement of facts as we' see them, US purposes in Southeast 
Asia and our concept of necessary solution. . .We would stop 
short of ourselves proposing formal systematic negotiations 
but assumption of 195^- co-chairmanship by two governments 
would imply that they might themselves explore with in- 
terested governments possibilities of solution, which we 
could encourage or otherwise as we see fit. If message is . , 

made to two Co-Chairmen, which would be made public, it may 
mean that better procedure would be to present full documen- 
tation on North Viet-Namese aggression to /U N. Secretary 
General/ in writing for circulation to members rather than 
make oral presentation in meeting of Security Council which 
might require Soviets to act as defense counsel for Hanoi. 


"Obviously, this has bearing on timing of next strike. 
Hope to be in touch with you within next several hours on 
our further reflection on this problem. Do not believe a 
Thursday /February 18/ strike therefore feasible because of 
this time factor and because these possibilities have not been 
explored here at highest level. * 

With encouragement from Rusk, the British Foreign Office showed itself 
eager to pick up the Soviet hint. London proposed to make a formal ap- 
proach to the Soviet Government ? through UK Ambassador Trevelyan in Moscow. 
Specifically, they wished to instruct the Ambassador to propose to the 
Soviet Government that the Co-Chairmen of the 195^- Geneva Conference re- 
i ' quest the Governments which were members of that Conference and those 

I ' represented on the International Control Commission "to furnish the 

Co-Chairmen without delay with a statement of their views on the situa- 
tion in Viet-Nam and, in particular, on the circumstances in which they 
cpnsider that a peaceful settlement could be reached. 

. In a further discussion with Lord Harlech on February 19, §9/ Secre 
tary Rusk agreed to the proposed British action and. Ambassador Trevelyan 
was duly instructed to approach the Soviet Foreign Office in Moscow on 
February 20. 

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What were US expectations with respect to this initiative, and how 
did it rebate to the new policy of pressures against the DRV? An excel- 
lent indication of State Department thinking on these matters at that 
moment is contained in an unfinished draft memorandum dated February 18, 
prepared by William P. Bundy and entitled "Where Are We Heading?" Because 
it is addressed to the relevant issues of that moment and surveys the 
political-diplomatic scene, it is reproduced here in full: 

This memorandum examines possible developments and prob- 
lems if the US pursues the following policy with respect to 
South Viet -Ham: 

a. Intensified pacification within South Vietnam. To 
meet the security problem, this might include a significant 
increase in present US force strength. 

b. A program of measured, limited, and spaced air attacks, 
jointly with the GVN, against the infiltration complex in the 
DRV. Such attacks would take place at the rate of about one a 
week, unless spectacular Viet Cong action dictated an immediate 
response out of sequence. The normal pattern of such attacks 
would comprise one GVH and one US strike on each occasion, 
confined to targets south of the 19th parallel, with variations 
in severity depending on the tempo of VC action, but with. a slow 
upward trend in severity as the weeks went hy* 

•c. That the US itself would take no initiative for talks,, 
but would agree to cooperate in consultations -- not a confer- 
ence -- undertaken by the UK and USSR as Co-Chairmen of the 
Geneva Conferences. As an opening move, the British would 
request an expression of our views, and we would use this oc- 
casion to spell out our position fully, including our purposes 
and what we regard as essential to the restoration of peace. 
We would further present our case against the DRV in the form 
of a long written document to be sent to the President of the 
• United Nations Security Council and to .be circulated to members 
of the UN. 


1. Communist responses 

a. t Hanoi would almost certainly not feel itself under 
pressure at' any early point to enter into fruitful negotiations 
or to call off. its activity in any way. They would denounce the 
continued air attacks and seek to whip up maximum world opposi- 
tion to them. Within South Viet-Nam/they might avoid spectacular 
actions, but would certainly continue a substantial 'pattern of 
activity along past lines, probably with emphasis on the kind of 

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incidents we have seen this week, in which Communist agents 
stirred up a village protest against .government air attacks, 
and against the US. Basically, they would see the situation ■ 
in South Viet -Nam as likely to deteriorate further (crumble 
as they havs put it), and would be expecting that at some point 
someone in the GW will start secret talks with them behind 
our backs. * 

b. Communist China might supply additional air defense 
equipment to the DRV, but we do not believe they would engage 
in air operations from Communist China, at least up to the 
point where the MIGs in the DRV were engaged and we had found 
it necessary to attack Fukien or possibly --if the MIGs had 
been moved there -- Vinh. 


c. The Soviets would supply air defense equipment to 
the DRV and would continue to protest our air attacks in strong 
terms. However, we do not believe they would make any new 
commitment at this stage, and they would probably not do so even 
if the Chicams became even more deeply involved -- provided that 
we were not ourselves attacking Communist China. At that point, 
the heat might get awfully great on them, and they would be in a 
very difficult position to continue actively working as Co- 
Chairman. However, their approach to the British on the Co- 
Chairmanship certainly suggests that they would find some relief 
in starting to act in that role, and might use it as a hedge 
against further involvement, perhaps pointing out to Hanoi that • 
the Co-Chairman exercise serves to prevent us from taking extreme 
action and that Hanoi will get the same result in the end if a 
political track is operating and if, in fact, South Viet-Nam 
keeps crumbling. They might also argue to Hanoi that the exis- 
tence of the political track tends to reduce the chances of the 
Chicoms having to become deeply involved -- which we believe 
Hanoi does not want unless it is compelled to accept it. • 

2* Within South Viet -IT am the new government is a somewhat 
better one, /Note : this was written one day before the semi- 
coup/ but the cohesive effects of the strikes to date have at 
most helped things a bit. The latest MACV report indicates a 
deteriorating situation except in the extreme south, and it is 
unlikely that this can be arrested in any short period of time 
even if the government does hold together well and the military 
go about their business. We shall be very lucky to see a level- 
ing off, mrch less any significant improvement, in the next two 
months. In short, we may have to hang on quite a long time 
before we can hope to see an improving situation in South Viet- 
nam — and this, in turn is really the key to any negotiating 
position we could have at any time. 


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3. On the political track we believe the British will under- 
take their role with vigor , and that the Soviets will be more 
reserved. The Soviets can hardly hope to influence Hanoi much at 
this point, and they certainly have no leverage with Communist 
China. In the opening rounds, the Soviets will probably fire 
off some fairly sharp statements that the real key to the situa- 
tion is for us to get out and to stop our attacks, and the 
opposing positions are so far apart that it is hard to see any- 
useful movement for some time to come. We might well find the 
Soviets -- or even the Canadians -- sounding us out on whether 
we would stop our attacks in return for some moderation in VC 
activity. This is clearly unacceptable, and the very least we 
should hold out on is a verified cessation of infiltration (and 
radio silence) before we stop our attacks. Our stress on the 
cessation of infiltration may conceivably lead to the Indians 
coming forward to offer policing forces --a suggestion they have 
made before -- and this would be a constructive move we could 
pick up. But, as noted above, Hanoi is most unlikely to trade 
on this basis for 

a long time to come. 

k. In sum -- the most likely prospect is for a prolonged 
period without major risks of escalation but equally without 
any give by Hanoi . " 

In retrospect, Bundy's expectations appear appropriately sober and 
realistic in comparison with more euphoric views held by some of his ^con- 
temporaries. Particularly with respect to the Co-Chairmen gambit, his 
predictions were strikingly close to the mark. The British did in f act . ^ 
"undertake their role with vigor" and, as it turned out, the Soviets were 
indeed "more reserved." So much so, that the Co-Chairmen initiative 
eventually came to naught. * 

At this point in time, however, (in the days following February 20th) 
the Co-Chairman proposal was in orbit and real hopes were held- out for it. 
Trevelyan had approached Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Lapin with the 
proposal and the Soviet officials had agreed to take it under advisement, 
warning Trevelyan that absolute secrecy was essential. U.S. Ambassador 
to Moscow Foy Kohler, upon learning of the UK/Soviet undertaking, ex- 
pressed his concern that the air strikes on the DRV planned for February 
20 would put the Soviets on the spot, and frould cause them to reject the 
British proposal. 70 / r ' 

Washington reassured Kohler by advising him that the scheduled strikes 
were being postponed and also informed him th?t, when rescheduled, the 
strikes would be tied to a major DRV aggressive act which had just come 
to light. 71/ It appears that, on February l6, an armed ocean-going 
North Vietnamese vessel, carrying large quantities of arms and ammunition, 
was intercepted and captured as it was infiltrating into Vung Ro Bay in 
South Vietnam, to deliver its cargo to the VC. It was thought that, by 


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pegging the strikes primarily to that boat incident , and by directing the 
strikes in part against a DRV naval base, the risk of an adverse Soviet 
reaction would be minimized. 

During the next several days, Washington was in almost continuous 
communication (l) with Taylor in Saigon -- to ascertain whether the 
political situation had stabilized sufficiently to permit rescheduling 
the postponed air strikes; (2) with Kohler in Moscow — to feel the pulse 
of the Soviet government and its likely reaction to the upcoming air 
operation; and (3) with Ambassador Bruce in London — to monitor the 
progress of the Trevelyan approach to the Soviet Foreign Office concern- 
ing the Co-Chairman process. Throughout this time, Secretary Rusk was 
visibly torn on the question of whether or not to proceed with the air 
strikes. He wanted very much to push ahead immediately, in order to 
exploit promptly the DRV arms ship incident which seemed to beg for some 
response. But he hesitated to launch a strike on behalf of and in con- 
cert with a government that was teetering and whose Commander-in-Chief 
was in the process of being deposed; he also wished to avoid angering the 
Soviets, thus possibly sabotaging their Co-Chairmen effort. On the other 
hand, he wanted to make it clear that the U.S. would not indefinitely 
accept a "unilateral ceasefire" while the Co-Chairman effort dragged on. 

It is important to note that the Co-Chairmen gambit was not viewed 
by anyone involved on -the US side as a negotiating initiative. On the 
j contrary, every effort was made to avoid giving such an impression. 

Instead, the gambit was intended to provide a vehicle for the public ex-' 
pression of a tough U.S. position. This was clearly implied in Washing- 
ton messages to Saigon and London on this issue, as, for example, in a 
cable from Unger to Taylor: 72/ 

You should not reveal possibility this UK/USSR gambit to 
GTO for time being. We naturally wish have it appear entirely 
as their initiative, so that our reply would not be any kind 
of initiative on our part and would, in its content, make 
clear how stiff our views are. 

. Finally, by February 2^th, since no reply had as yet been received 
from Moscow and the situation in Saigon had begun to settle down, Secre- 
tary Rusk felt he could hold off no longer. In a message to Bruce in 
London, he wrote: * 

'We have decided that we must go ahead with next operation 
Feb. 26 unless there should be further political difficulties 
in Saigon. Taylor will be seeking political clearance after- 
noon Feb. 25 Saigon time once Khanh is off the scene. 

We told Harlech this decision today stating that while we 
recognized British concern and possibility some Soviet reaction 
we cannot even by implication get into position of withholding 

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continuation of program. We may hear further from London 
following his report "but would now expect to maintain decision 
and indeed Taylor would probably have gone ahead on political 
side. If matter comes up you may of course note that we have 
held off five days "but that British have not had any indication 
of Soviet response so that further delay now appeared unwise. 
We continue of course attach major importance to UK/Soviet 
gambit. . . 73/ 

Confidence that the Co-Chairman initiative would pay off was beginning 
to wane , and the air strikes were indeed being rescheduled for February 26 • 
A continuous readiness to launch had in fact been maintained every since 
February 20, by simply postponing the strikes for 2k hours at a time and 
laying on new strikes whenever a change in targets or in operating rules 
had been decided upon. The February 26 operation was the fourth repro- 
gramming of the strikes and thus went by the code, designation ROLLING 
THUNDER IV, even though RT's I through III had been scratched, jh/ 

Fully expecting that the February 26 air operation would go off - 
as planned, State sent out a cable 75/ to thirteen posts, quoting the 
probable text of a joint GVN/US announcement that was to be made at about 
2:00 a.m. Washington time on February 26, and instructing all addressees 
to contact their respective host governments as soon as FLASH notification 
was received that the mission had in fact been executed. The execution 
messages however, never came. Weather over the entire target area in 
North Vietnam had closed in, forcing another postponement and, ultimately, 
cancellation of the strikes. The weather remained adverse for four more 
days. It was not until March 2 that the first of the new program strikes, 
dubbed ROLLING THUNDER V was actually carried out. 


D. Efforts at Public Justification and Persuasion 

The need to communicate the new policy promptly and persuasively 
to the public had been recognized throughout the I96U planning process as 
an essential ingredient of any graduated pressures campaign. Now the time 
had come to put the information and education plans into effect. 

Over the weekend of February 12, serious work was begun in the 
State Department on the preparation of a "White Paper" on the infiltra- . 
tion of men and supplies from the North. Sueh a public report was con- 
sidered essential to justifying any program of U.S. military operations 
against North Vietnam. The compilers of the. exhibits for the public 
record were handicapped however s by the fact that the most persuasive 
evidence on DRV infiltration and support was derived from Special Intelli- 
gence sources which could not be revealed without embarrassment and detri- 
ment to other U.S. security interests. The White Paper that was submitted 
to the U.S. public and to the. United Nations on February 27. therefore, 
did not make as strong a case as it might have of the extent and nature of 
DRV involvement in the war in the South. It did serve, however, to put the 
U.S. case in the public record and to affirm the limited nature of U.S« 
objectives toward North Vietnam. 76/ 

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Concurrently, the Administration undertook to communicate to "both 
foreign and domestic audiences its determination to prevent Communist 
destruction of the Government of South Vietnam and to underline the 
limited character of its objectives in Southeast Asia. A series of 
"leaked" press analyses suggested that the most recent and the antici- 
pated air strikes constituted a clear threat of extensive future destruc- 
tion of North Vietnamls military assets and economic investments. They 
inferred that such consequences could be avoided if Hanoi would agree to 
cease its direct support of the insurgency in the South, 

At the same time, privately the State Department asked the Canadian 
ICC representative Blair Seaborn again to act as a discreet intermediary 
with Hanoi , conveying to the DRV leadership the same statement on Viet- 
nam that had been handed by U.S. Ambassador Cabot to Chicom Ambassador 
Wang Kuo-chuan in Warsaw on February 2k 9 reaffirming that the United 
States had no designs on the territory of North Vietnam, nor any desire 
to destroy the DRV. On his March visit to Hanoi, Seaborn sought an 
appointment with Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, but was obliged to settle 
for a meeting with the chief of the North Vietnamese Army T s Liaison 
Section, to whom he read the statement. This officer commented that it 
contained nothing new and that the North Vietnamese had already received 
a briefing on the Warsaw meeting from the Chi corns. The Canadian Govern- 
ment publicly noted in April that Seaborn had two important conversations 
with DRV officials in recent months, but did not go into details. 

In the closing days of February and continuing through the first 
week of March, Secretary Rusk conducted a marathon public information 
campaign to explain and justify the new U.S. policy and to signal a 
seemingly reasonable but in fact quite tough U.S. position on negotia- 
tions. In part, the Rusk campaign was precipitated by a press confer- 
ence comment by U Thant at the United Nations on February 2k , implyin 


that the U.S. had perhaps not been as zealous in its quest for peace as 
it might have been. Thant went so far as to assert that "the great 
American people, if they only knew the true facts and the background to 
the developments in South Vietnam, will agree with me that further blood- 
shed is unnecessary." The suggestion that the U.S Government wasn't 
leveling with the U.S. public produced a sharp retort from Secretary Rusk; 

We have talked over the past 2 years informally and on a 
number of occasions with the Secretary-General. . .as well as 
with many governments in various parts of the world... But the 
proposals that I know about thus far have been procedural in 
nature. The missing piece continues to be the absence of any 
indication that Hanoi is prepared to stop doing what it is 
doing against its neighbors. ...This question of calling a 
conference, under what circumstances -- these are procedural 
matters. What we are interested in, what is needed to re- 
store peace to Southeast Asia, is substance, content', and 
indication that peace is possible in terms of the appetites 
and the attitudes of the other side. 77/ 


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This and similar themes were endlessly reiterated in the ensuing 
days:- . 

The key to peace in Southeast Asia is the readiness of 
all in that area to live at peace and to leave their neigh- 
bors alone.... A negotiation aimed at the confirmation of 
aggression is no.t possible. And a negotiation which simply 
ends in "bitterness and hostility merely adds to the danger. 78 / 

South Viet-Nam is being subjected to an aggression from 
the North, an aggression which is organized and directed and 
supplied with key personnel and equipment by Hanoi. The hard 
core of the Viet Cong were trained in the North and have been 
reinforced hy North Vietnamese from the North Vietnamese army 
... Our troops would come home tomorrow if the aggressors would 
go north - go back home, and stay at home... The missing, piece 
is the lack of an indication that Hanoi is prepared to stop 
doing what it is doing, and what it knows that it is doing, to 

its neighbors. 79/ 


But when asked under what circumstances the U.S. might sit down to 
talk to Hanoi, Rusk was clearly as yet unwilling to appear publicly 

I am not getting into the details of what are called ' . 
preconditions, because we are not at that point - we are 
not at that point. Almost every postwar negotiation that 
has managed to settle in some fashion some difficult and 
'dangerous question has been preceded by some private indi- 
, cation behind the scenes that such a negotiation might be 
possible. That is missing here -- that is missing here. 30/ 

Rusk's disinterest in negotiation -- except on "absolutist" terms — 
was, of course, in concert with the view of virtually all the President's 
key advisors, that the path to peace was not open." Hanoi, at about that 
time, held sway over more than half of her southern neighbor and could 
see the Saigon Government crumbling before her very eyes. The balance 
of power in South Vietnam simply did not furnish the United States with . 
a reasonable basis for bargaining and the signals from Hanoi and Moscow 
— or lack thereof — did not encourage Optimism about the sort of hard 
settlement the U.S. had in mind. All this pointed directly to military 
pressures on North Vietnam and to other, urgent measures to tilt the 
balance of forces the other way. Until these measures could have seme 
visible and tangible effect, talk of negotiation could be little more 
than a- hollow exercise. 


At the same time, while neither Moscow nor Hanoi seemed in the least 

•interested in U.S. style "conciliation," the likelihood of explosive 

escalation also seemed remote. So far there was no visible sign of 

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ominous enemy countermoves. An assessment of probable Soviet responses 
to the evolving U.S. f 'pressures" policy, cabled to the Department by. 
Foy Kohler in Moscow, 8l/ was moderately reassuring and indeed quite 

1. Soviets will make noises but not take decisive action 
1 'in response to specific retaliatory strikes in southern areas 

DRV, probably including -- after publication "White Paper" — 
strike against DRV sealrft capabilities in this area. Indeed, 
Soviets, likely to read our failure to continue carry out such 
strikes as confirmation their estimates re weakness our basic 
position in SW. 


2. Soviet military aid program in DRV is probably defen- 
sive in nature and Soviets would wish to keep it that way. 
However, if attacks on DRV become general, particularly if 
they are extended to industrial or urban target s_ and areas 

• beyond border zone. Soviets will reassess our intent as well 
as basic politico-military situation. If reassessment leads 
them to see U.S. aim as ending existence of DRV as socialist 
state, Soviets will not only step up defensive aid but supply 
means of counterattack, e.g., aircraft for raids on SVH cities 

. and heavy ground equipment. While aware of risk that this 
might bring Peiping actively into picture, Soviets will not 
hold back if existence of DRV seems threatened. 

3* There seems no possibility of change in present hard 
Soviet posture at least until after March 1 CP meeting and its 
aftermath or until they somehow convinced of real danger of 
major escalation and direct confrontation. 

k. Major factor underlying Soviet position is conviction 
. that in Vietnam situation, unlike Cuban crisis, we are almost 
alone among allies and even U.S. public opinion seriously 
divided; any real and publicized improvement in this picture 
would correspondingly influence Soviet policy. 

5. Apart their estimate as to our relative isolation, 
Soviet failure move toward negotiations on any basis con- 
ceivably acceptable to USC- also reflects DRV and CPR posture 
and Moscow's unwillingness or inability to impel DRV to call 
off activities in SW or yield control of territory they now 
hold. To extent Soviets can influence communist attitude 
toward negotiations, they might in face cf increasingly 
dangerous situation decide to work toward settlement based 
on coalition Govt in SW, convincing own allies that this 
only temporary situation. 

6. Major Soviet Dilemma - Imperatives of commitment and 
position in communist world vs. interest in developing rela- 
tions with US and West - will -oersist during Vietnam crisis. 

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If they consider necessary to protect position in own camp 5 
Soviets are probably prepared to see relations vrith US suffer 
for indefinite period. 

With the immediate fear of escalation thus somewhat allayed and the 
public concern temporarily pacified^ attention began to shift toward de- 
veloping ROLLING THUNDER into a more forceful continuous program. 

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A. McNamara T s Concern Over Cost-Ineffectiveness of Strikes 

As has "been indicated, ROLLING THUNDER was finally inaugurated, 
after much delay and postponement, on March 2. On that day, 10U USAF 
aircraft (B-52 T s, F-100 ! s, F-105 ! s, and refueling KC-135 T s) struck the 
Xom Bang Ammo Depot, while 19 VNAF A.-lH T s hit the Quang Khe Naval Base. 82/ 
This was the first strike on the North in which USAF aircraft played the 
dominant role. Although the attack was officially proclaimed "very suc- 
cessful," the loss of four USAF aircraft, three to antiaircraft fire, in- 
tensified earlier OSD concern over the effectiveness of the strikes and 
over the vulnerability of US aircraft. 

Shortly after the first two February reprisal raids, the Secre- 
tary of Defense had received some disturbing bomb damage assessment 
reports that indicated that, 

...with a total of 267 sorties (including flak suppression, 
etc.) directed against U91 buildings, we destroyed ^7 buildings 
and damaged 22. 

The reports caused McNamara to fire off a rather blunt memoran- 
dum to the CJCS, dated 17 February 1965, which stated in part: 

Although the four missions left the operations at the 
targets relatively unimpaired, I am quite satisfied with the 
results. Our primary objective, of course, was to communi- 
cate our political resolve. This I believe we did. Future 
communications of resolve, however, will carry a hollow ring 
unless we accomplish more military damage than we have to 
'date. Can we not better meet our military objectives by 
choosing different types of targets, directing different 
weights of effort against them, or changing the composition 
of the force? Surely we cannot continue for months accom- 
plishing no more with 267 sorties than we did on these four 

The Chairman of the JCS promptly asked his staff to look into 
the matter and reported back a few days J_ater on seme initial points of 

(1) We do not have sufficient or timely information 
about the results of the strikes; 

(2) In light of prior detailed study of the targets 
(9U Target Study), the weight of effort expended against 
at least two of them is open to question; 

(3) The weaponeering against the directed targets is 
. open to question. 

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In view of these deficiencies, the CJCS continued, 

...I intend to ask the Joint Staff, in drafting its 
proposals for future strikes, to insure that the critical 
elements of target selection and weight of effort are 
evaluated as carefully as possible against specific and 
■ realistic military objectives. At the same time, I believe 
the commander of the operating force should have a degree 
of flexibility with respect to the weaponeering of the 
strikes and their timing. My concern here is that the 
operational commander be given adequate latitude to take 
advantage of his first-hand knowledge of the target and 
its defenses as well as of the changing conditions of 
weather and light. 

'2. I am also asking the Director, DIA, to propose a 
standardized and streamlined system of after-action re- 
porting so that prompt and responsive analysis of strike 
results can be made available to those who require it. 83 / 

Immediately after the first ROLLING THUNDER strike on March 2, 
Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus R. Vance convened a meeting attended 
by Air Force Secretary Eugene M. Zuckert and other USAF officials to 
consider using the high-flying B-52 T s for pattern bombing in either 
North or South Vietnam to avoid Communist ground fire. The Air Staff 
and SAC recommended reserving B~52 f s for use against major targets in 
the North. ' The idea of B-52 pattern bombing was not again seriously 
considered until April. On the same date (March 2) Secretary McNamara 
asked that the Joint Staff prepare as soon as possible an analysis of 
US aircraft losses to hostile action in Southeast Asia. Qk / An expe- 
dited review and analysis of this subject was promptly undertaken, 
covering the experience in YANKEE TEAM (Reconnaissance), BARREL ROLL 
(Armed Reconnaissance/interdiction) , BLUE TREE (Photo Reconnaissance), 
operations. The results were reported to the Secretary of Defense on 
March 10, 85/ and, aside from presenting some early and not too reveal- 
' ing statistical findings, the report urged that consideration be given 
to several measures that, the Chairman felt, might help minimize loss 

(1) Authorize use of NAPALM. * - r 

(2) Provide "optimum" strike ordnance not yet available 
in the theater. 

(3) Allow the operational commander flexibility in strike 
timing and selection of alternate targets so as to minimize 
weather degradations and operational interferences &t target. 


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(h) Conduct random and frequent weather reconnaissance, 
and medium and low-level photo reconnaissance, over prospec- 
tive strike areas of North Vietnam to reduce the likelihood 
of signaling our intentions . 


(5) Improve security and cover and deception measures 
at US/VNAF air base 

au uo/ vrirvr cxjlX uuocS. 

These and other measures were explored in greater depth in a EFSAP 
Study Team effort launched on March 15 and reported on in late May. 86/ 
Many of the recommendations to lift restrictions and improve air strike 
technology were "being acted upon during this period and in subsequent 
days and weeks. For example, the restrictions on the use of FARMGATE 
and PACOM aircraft were lifted, permitting their use in combat opera- 
tions in South Vietnam with USAF markings and without VNAF personnel 
aboard, effective 9 March; 87/ and use of napalm against North Viet- 
namese targets was approved by the President on the same date. 88 / 

B . Taylor's Concern Over F e eble, Irresolute Action 

Sharp annoyance over what seemed to him an unnecessarily timid 
and ambivalent US stance on air strikes was expressed by Ambassador 
Taylor. The long delays between strikes, the marginal weight of the 
attacks, and the great ado about behind-the-scenes diplomatic feelers, 
led Taylor to complain: 

I am concerned from standpoint our overall posture 
vis-a-vis Hanoi and communist bloc that current feverish 
diplomatic activity particularly by French and British 
tends to undercut our ability to convey a meaningful signal 
to Hanoi of USG determination to stick it out here and pro- 
gressively turn the screws on DRV. Seaborn' s estimate of 
mood of confidence characterizing DRV leadership despite our 
joint air strikes to date almost identical our estimate. . .It 
appears to me evident that to date DRV leaders believe air 
strikes at present levels on their territory are meaningless 
and that we are more susceptible to international pressure 
for negotiations than are they. Their estimate may be based 
in part on activities of "our friends" to which we seem to 
be active party. , ' * 

In my view current developments strongly suggest that we 
follow simultaneously two courses of action: (l) attempt to 
apply brakes to British and others in their headlong dash to 
conference table and leave no doubt in their minds that we 
do not intend to go to conference table until there is clear 
evidence Hanoi (and Peking) prepared to leave neighbors alone; 
and (2) step up tempo and intensity of our air strikes in 
southern part of DRV in order convince Hanoi authorities they 

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face prospect of progressively severe punishment. I fear that 
to date ROLLING THUKDER in their eyes has been merely a few 
isolated thunder claps. 

(The sam3 general considerations apply re our urging British 
to undertake further early soundings re Article 19 Laos Accords 
as Ambassador Martin so cogently states in his EXDIS 1278 to 
Dept. fin which Martin expresses concern over the risks of 
moving to the conference table too soon/. Many of the problems 
which worry him are also applicable to Vietnamese here and I 
share his reasoning and concern. 

It seems to me that we may be in for a tough period ahead 
but I would hope we will continue to do whatever is required 
and that we try to keep fundamental objectives vis-a-vis Hanoi 
clear and simple. 89/ 

In a separate cable of the same date, 90/ Taylor , with General 
Westmoreland's explicit concurrence, offered his specific recommenda- 
tions for increasing the tempo and intensity of the air strikes. In 
effect, he called for a more dynamic schedule of strikes, a several 
week program relentlessly marching North to break: the will of the DRV 

We have a sense of urgent need for an agreed program for 
the measured and limited air action against military targets 
in DRV previously/ announced. The rate of once or twice a 
week for attacks involving two or three targets on each day 
appears to us reasonable as to frequency, and leaves open the 
possibility of. increasing the effect on Hanoi by adding to 
the weight of the strikes (in types of ordnance and sorties 
per target) and by moving northward up the target system. 
What seems to be lacking is an agreed program covering 
several weeks which will combine the factors, frequency, 
weight and location of attack into a rational pattern which 
will convince the leaders in Hanoi that we are on a dynamic 
schedule which will not remain static in a narrow zone far 
removed from them and the sources of their power but which 
is a moving growing threat which cannot be ignored. 

I have seen the JCS proposed eight-week program which 
has much to recommend it but, I believe, remains too long 
South of the 19th parallel, fit IsJ Seaborn T s opinion that 
Hanoi has the impression that our air strikes are a limited 
attempt to improve our bargaining position and hence are no 
great cause for immediate concern. Our objective should be 
to induce in DRV leadership an attitude favorable to US 
objectives in as short a time as possible in order to avoid 
a build-up of international pressures to negotiate. ' But our 
efforts to date are falling far short of achieving the 

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necessary impact. In formulating a more effective program of 
future attacks , I would be inclined to keep the rate as indi- 
cated , maintain the weight on target as for recent strikes, 
• but begin at once a progression of US strikes North of 19th 
parallel ir a slow but steadily ascendinf movement. The tar- 
gets in the area South thereof could be reserved largely for 
VKAF and FAPIIGATE. It is true that the KEG threat will grow 
as we move North but we have the means to take care of it. 
If we tarry too long in the South, we will give Hanoi a weak 
and misleading signal which will work against our ultimate 
purpose. • • 

General Westmoreland Concurs. 

Taylor ! s dissatisfaction with the tempo of the air campaign was by 
no means mitigated by the decision to launch the next scheduled attack, 
ROLLING THUNDER VI on March 13, as another isolated, stage-managed joint 
US/GVN operation. Notification of the decision to strike came to him 
in the following FLASH message; 91/ 

Decision has been taken here to execute ROLLING THUNDER VI 
during daylight hours Saturday 13 March Saigon time. If weather 
precludes effective strike Phu Qui ammo depot (Target Uo) on this 
date, US portion of ROLLING THUNDER VI will be postponed until 
Ik March Saigon time or earliest date weather will permit effec- 
tive US strike of Target - 1+0. However if US strike weathered out, 
VNAF strike (with US support) on its own primary or alternate 
targets is still authorized to go. Request you solicit Quat's 
agreement this arrangement. 

If joint US/GVN strike goes .. .would expect GW/US press 
announcement be made in Saigon. NMCC has furnished time of 
launch in past and this has proven eminently satisfactory. 
Will continue this arrangement. ' - ■ 

If US strike weathered out and GVN strike goes, reconmiend 
that GVN make brief unilateral press statement which would not 
detract from already agreed US / GVN statement, which we would 
probably wish use at time Qt US strike against Target 1+0. GVN 
unilateral press announcement should indicate strike made by 
GVN aircraft supported by US aircraft. Would hope that announce- 
ment, although brief, could also mention target, identifying it 
as military installation associated with infiltration. 

Request reply by flash cable. 

Washington's anticipation that the strike might be weathered out 
proved correct, and Taylor's pique at the further delay is reflected in 
his reply: 

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As reported through military channels , VNAF is. unable to 
fly today. Hence, there will be no ROLLING THUNDER Mission and. 
no present need to see Quat. I am assured that VNAF will be 
ready to go tomorrow, Ik March. 

With regard to the delays of ROLLING THUNDER VI, I have the 
impression that ;we may be attaching too much importance to 
striking target lj-0 because of its intrinsic military value as 
a target. If we support the thesis (as I do) that the really 
important target is the will of the leaders in Hanoi, virtually 
any target North of the 19th parallel will convey the necessary 
message at this juncture as well as target kO. Meanwhile, through 
repeated delays we are failing to give the mounting crescendo to 
. ROLLING THUNDER which is necessary to get the desired results. <g/ 

When the strike finally came off, however, on March Ik and 15, it 
was the most forceful attack on the North launched to date. 2k VNAF 
Al-H's supported by US flak, CAP and pathfinder aircraft, struck weapon 
installations, depots, and barracks on "Tiger Island, 20 miles off the 
North Vietnamese coast, and more than 100 US aircraft (two-thirds Navy, 
one-third USAF) hit the ammunition depot near Phu Qui, only 100 miles 
southwest of Hanoi. Some of the earlier hesitancy about bombing the 
North was beginning to wear off. '"*■." 

C . President's Concern Over Insufficient Pressure in South Vietnam 

While attention was being increasingly focused on pressures, 
against the North, disturbing assessments continued to come to the 
President's attention concerning developments in the South. One such 
estimate was Westmoreland's analysis, dated February 25, of the military 
situation in the four corps areas. It was essentially in agreement with 
a grave CIA appraisal issued the same day. Observing that the pacifica- 
tion effort had virtually halted, Westmoreland foresaw in six months a 
Saigon government holding only islands of strength around provincial and 
district capitals that were clogged with refugees and beset with "end the 
war" groups asking for a negotiated settlement. The current trend pre- 
saged a Viet Cong take-over in 12 months, although major towns and bases, 
with U.S. help, could hold out for years. To "buy time/' permit pressure 
on North Vietnam to takie effect, and reverse the decline, he proposed 
adding three Army helicopter companies, flying more close support and 
reconnaissance missions,, opening a "land line" from Pleiku in the high- 
lands to the. coast, and changing U.S. policy on the use of combat troops. 
93/ There was now real concern at the highest Administration level that 
the Vietnamese military effort might collapse in the South before pres- 
sures on the North could have any significant impact. On March 2, there- 
fore, the President decided to dispatch Army Chief of Staff General 
Harold K. Johnson to Saigon with a high-ranking team. In an exclusive 
message for Ambassador Taylor, Secretary McNamara described General 
Johnson's mission as follows: 


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After meeting "with the President this morning, we believe 
it wise for General Johnson to go to Saigon to meet with you 
and General Westmoreland. . .Purpose of trip is to examine with 
you and General Westmoreland what more can be done within 
South Vietnam. He will bring with hija a list of additional 
actions which has been developed for your consideration. # 
Would appreciate* your developing a similar list for discussion 
with him. In developing list, you may, of course, assume no 
limitation on funds, equipment or personnel. We will be pre- 
pared to act immediately and favorably on any recommendations 
you and General Johnson may make. The President is continuing 
to support such action against North as is now in progress but 
does not consider such actions a substitute for additional 
action within South Vietnam. The President wants us to examine 
all possible additional actions -- political, military, and 
economic -- to see what more can be done in South Vietnam. . . 94/ 

General Johnson returned from his survey mission on March 14 with a 
21-point program which he submitted to the JCS and the Secretary of 
Defense and which was reviewed by the President on March 15 . General 
Johnson's recommendations included but went beyond- Westmoreland ! s pre- 
scriptions. With respect to the use of air power in South Vietnam, he 
proposed more helicopters and 0-1 aircraft, possibly more USAF fighter- 
bombers (after further MACV evaluation), better targeting, and acceler- 
ated airfield expansion. These proposals were in keeping with recom- 
mendations that had been made previously by COMUSMACV, and especially 
insistently by CDICPAC, to expand the use of US airpower in SVIi. For 
example, on February 26, in an exclusive message to General Wheeler, 
Admiral Sharp had written: "...the single most important thing we can 
do to improve the security situation in South Vietnam is to make full 
use of our airpower. 95/ 

For Laos, General Johnson favored reorienting BARREL POLL operations 
to allow air strikes on infiltration routes .in the Lao Panhandle to be 
conducted as a separate program from those directed against the Pathet Lao 
and Eorth Vietnamese units. This program was subsequently authorized 
under the nickname STEEL TIGER (see below, p. 76). 

With respect to air action against the north, the Army ^ Chief of Staff 
made two recommendations (designated as points 5 an( i 6 in his 21-point 
program) : 

•> . 

\ 5. Increase the scope and tempo of US air strikes against 

the DRV. This action could tend to broaden and escalate the 
war. However, it could accomplish the US objective of causing 
the DRV to cease its support and direction of the Viet Cong 
aggression. To date, the tempo of punitive air strikes has 

I been inadequate to convey a clear sense of US purpose to the 

! DRV. 

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6. Remove self-imposed restrictions on the conduct of air 
strikes against North Vietnam which have severely reduced their 
effectiveness and made it impossible to approach the goal of h 
missions per week. Restrictions which should be lift-ed are; 

•a. Requirement that a US' strike be conducted concurrently 
with a VNAF strike. 


b. Requirement that US aircraft strike the primary target 

c. Ban on use of classified munitions. 

d. Harrow geographical limitations imposed on target 
selection. v 

e. Requirement to obtain specific approval from Washing- 
ton before striking alternate targets when required by adverse 
weather conditions or other local conditions. 9§/ 

After reviewing these recommendations, the President approved most of 
General Johnson f s program. In regard to the air strikes against the North, 
the President authorized important new actions, as subsequently described 
by the JCS: 97/ 

Action (paras 5 & 6) : The scope and tempo of air strikes 
against HVH is being increased in current plans. Depots, LOCs, . 
and air defense ground environment facilities will be stressed 
in operations in the near future. The requirement for concur- 
rent US-VNAE strikes has been removed. Only prime targets will 
be designated as primary or alternates for US aircraft, thus 
lifting restriction in 6b above.. Greater timing flexibility will 
• be provided for weather and other delays. Tactical reconnaissance 
has been authorized at ■ medium level for targets south of the 20th 
parallel to support the expanded program. Specific recommendations 
on para 6c, quoted above, are requested. Restrictions in 6d and e, 
quoted above, have been lifted in ROLLING THUEDER SEVEN and will 
so remain in subsequent programs. 

The Presidential decision marked a major turning point in the 
ROLLING THUNDER operation. Air action against the North was being trans- 
formed from a sporadic, halting effort into a regular and determined 


D. ROLLING THUNDER VII — Enter "Regularity" and "Determination" 

The March 15 Presidential guidelines were clearly reflected in 
the instructions that Washington sent to Saigon describing the new 
character of ROLLING THUNDER to begin with RT VII on March 19 . The in- 
structions contain at least six novel features: 

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(i) The strikes "were to "be packaged in a week's program at 
a time; 

(2) precise timing of the strikes -were to be left to field 

(3) the requirement for US -WAP simultaneity was to "be 

(k) the strikes were no longer to be specifically related 
to VC atrocities; 

• (5) publicity on the strikes was to be progressively reduced; 
and • 

(6) the impression henceforth to be given was one of regularity 
and determination. 

Here is the full text of the Secretary of State's message to Ambassa- 
dor Taylor, describing the new program: 98 / 

Having in mind considerations raised your reftel ^/Taylor's 
Saigon 2889 of March 8th, quoted on pp. 66-6fJ and recommenda- 
tions of General Johnson following his return, longer range 
program of action against North Viet Nam has been given pri- 
ority consideration here and program for first week for 
ROLLING THUNDER VII, has been" decided, for execution this 
week. Details this program which includes one US and one 
VNAF strike together with one US and two VNAF route armed 
recce is subject of instructions being sent through military 
channels. You will note these instructions leave to military 
commands in field decisions as to specific timing within period 
covered. Execution of first action under ROLLING THUNDER VII 
may take place anytime from daylight March 19 Saigon time. 
Although program contains full measure' VNAF participation, 
requirement that US and VNAF operations proceed simultaneously 
is dropped. 

You are requested to see Pri Min ASAP in order to outline 
to him this further program we have in mind and to solicit GVN 
participation as specified therein. You should convey to PriMin 
that proposed program, on which you will be providing him with 
further information in successive weeks, is designed to maintain 
pressure on Hanoi and persuade North Vietnamese regime that 
costs of continuing their aggression becoming unacceptably high. 
At same time Quat should understand we continue seek no enlarge- 
ment of struggle and have carefully selected targets with view 
to avoiding undesirable provocation. Further objective is to 
continue reassure Government and people South Viet Nam we are 

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and will continue fight by their side and we expect they will 
also be making maximum efforts in South Viet Nam where a real 
setback: to Viet Cong would do more than perhaps anything else 
to persuade Hanoi stop its aggression. 

With initiation ROLLING THUNDER VII we believe publicity 
given US and VNAE strikes should be progressively reduced, 
although in its place there should be picture of GVN and US 
pursuing with regularity and determination program against the 
North to enable South restore its independence and integrity 
and defend itself from aggression from North. Larger strikes 
(ROLLING THUNDER VII A and VII B) be announced as before but 
suggest in future that such announcements' not contain references 
to Viet Cong atrocities, etc. Instead, these matters, which 
should get full attention, might be subject of separate and 
perhaps regular press briefings by GVN with full US support. 

As regards route recce, we question whether we should take 
initiative to announce these missions since this could contri- 
bute to impression of substantial increase in activity. At 
■ same time we presume reporters will get wind of these missions, 
Hanoi will report them and WAP may not wish maintain silence. 
Therefore seems difficult avoid replying to inevitable press 
questions. Request PIO meeting opening tomorrow Honolulu to 
look into this one and give us and Saigon its recommendations; 
possibility it should consider passing off all route recce 
missions in low key replies to queries as "routine recce.". 

ROLLING THUNDER had thus graduated to the status of a regular and 
continuing program. What now remained to be more carefully re-examined 
— though hardly resolved -- was the problem of target emphasis. 

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Late February and early March* 1965 saw a significant refocusing of 
target emphasis. Up to that time --in the initial U.S. reprisal* strides 
and the first ROLLING THUNDER' actions -- target selection had been com- 
pletely dominated by political and psychological considerations. Para-' 
mount in the Administration's target choices were such complex and often 
conflicting objectives as boosting the GVJVs morale, evidencing the firm- 
ness of UoS. resolve , demonstrating the potential for inflicting pain upon 
the DRV, providing a legal rationale for our actions, and so forth. 
Relatively little weight was given to the purely physical or more directly 
military and economic implications of whatever target destruction might be 

With the gradual acceptance, beginning in March, of the need for a 
militarily more significant, sustained bombing program, serious attention 
began to be paid to the development of a target system or systems that 
would have a more tangible .and coherent military rationale. The first 
and most obvious candidate for such a target concept was that of inter- 
dicting the flow of men and supplies into South Vietnam by striking the 
lines of communication (lOC 's)' of the DRV. Since North Vietnamese 
"aggression 1 ' was the principal legal Justification for U.S. bombing raids 
upon the DRV, attacking and impeding the visible manifestations of this 
aggression — the infiltration — also seemed logical and attractive from 
this international legality -point of view. 

The Secretary of Defense's attention was called to this target con- 
cept as early as 13 February, when the Joint Chiefs briefed McNamara in 
the Chairman's office on an analysis of the southern portion of the North 
Vietnamese railway system. It was pointed out in the briefing that South 
of the 20th parallel there exists about 115 miles of operable rail systems 
and that the vulnerable points on this southern portion of the system are 
five bridges of 300 feet or greater length and the railway classification 
yards at Vinh. It was argued that the bridges were very lightly defended 
and that only the rail yards at Vinh would pose any serious anti-aircraft 
defense problem. -The CJCS felt that: 

There is no doubt but that the six targets mentioned com- 
prise an attractive, vulnerable and remunerative target system 
which would hurt the North Vietnamese psychologically, econo- 
mically and militarily. As regards the latter, the destruction 
. of the southern bridge system would hamper and delay the move- 
ment of DRV/CHICOM ground forces to the south and, likewise, 
would place a stricture on the quantities of materiel and per- 
sonnel which can be infiltrated through Laos and South Vietnam. 
A minimum of 201 strike sorties would be required to attack 
with a high degree of assurance the six targets simultaneously 
which would be militarily the most desirable timing of attack. 


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In a follow-up memorandum, 99/ the CJCS forwarded to the Secretary 
of Defense a DIA analysis of VC attacks on the South Vietnamese railway 
system during 1963 and I96U, and indicated his concurrence with Ambassa- 
dor Taylor that these attacks justified US/GVE strikes against the rail 
system* in North Vietnam. The CJCS then added the following recommenda- 

As discussed with you on 13 February, while I strongly 
' recommend that we attack the Korth Vietnamese rail system as 
soon as possible, I would recommend against first striking 
the southern elements thereof. Should we do so I would anti- 
cipate that the DRV would take both passive and active defense 
measures to protect rolling stock and bridges and, probably, 
would start work on train ferries or truck by-passes in order 
to ameliorate the effects of our strike. As pointed out 
. earlier I would advocate militarily that the entire southern 
. ".. segment of the rail system be struck simultaneously. Should 
this be politically objectionable, I would recommend that the 
two northern targets -- Dong Phuong rail/highway bridge and 
Thanh Hoa bridge (prestige bridge) -- be the first targets 
attacked in order to trap the maximum quantity of rolling 
stock south of the 20th parallel where we could destroy it 
at least. 

. The. Secretary of Defense responded to this recommendation by invit- 
ing the JCS to develop a detailed" plan for an integrated attack on the 
DRV rail system south of the 20th parallel, with the option of attackinr 
the targets individually on an incremental basis rather than all at 
once. 100 / This request set in motion a planning effort by the Joint 
Staff and by U.S. military commands in the Pacific area, and gave rise 
to spirited discussions and recommendations that culminated at the end 
of March in the submission of the JCS 12 -week bombing program, essentially 
built around the LOC interdiction concept. 

General Westmoreland, with Ambassador Taylor's concurrence, strongly 
endorsed the interdiction rationale in mid-March. In a LH-IDIS cable to 
Admiral Sharp and General Wheeler, 101 / he called attention to the ■ 
mounting VC attacks on transportation targets in South Vietnam, and 
argued that: 

The Viet Cong ! s intensive efforts against lines of communi- 
cations would mate strikes against DRV LOC's highly appropriate 
at this time. In view heavy traffic recently reported moving 
south, such strikes would also be military desirable. Moreover, 
these attacks by interrupting the flow of consumer goods ^ to 
southern DRV would carry to the NVXT man in the street, with 
minimum loss of civilian life, the message of U.S. determination. 
Accordingly, early initiation of ROLLING THUHDER strikes and 
armed reconnaissance is recommended against DRV lines of communi- 
cation with initial emphasis on railroad and highway bridges 
south of 19 degrees north. 

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Counter- infiltration operations also received a "boost from the 
recommendation in General Johnson's report to the effect that BARREL 
ROLL "be re-oriented to increase its military effectiveness against 
. Lao Panhandle infiltration routes into South Vietnam. Acting upon 
•that recommendation and upon a Presidential directive to make a maxi- 
mum effort to shut off infiltration into SW, a new program, nicknamed 
STEEL TIGER, was developed, for the conduct of greatly intensified air 
operations against routes and targets in Laos associated with infiltra- 
tion. 102/ 

At about the same time, a Pacific Command study group developed - 
a more comprehensive concept of air operations "to attrit, harass, and 
interdict the DRV south of 20 degrees." In a lengthy cable to the Joint 
Chiefs excerpted below, Admiral ShariD described the concept as follows: 

The program calls for an integrated strike, armed recce 
and recce program designed to cut, in depth, the KW logistic 
network south of 20 degrees, and to continually attrit and 
harass. by-pass and repair reconstitution efforts. . 

This program provides for primary bridge/ferry cuts and 
highway blockage/take out cuts on major long-haul road and 
rail routes. It additionally cuts the full road network in- 
cluding all feeder and by-pass routes which develop into k 
main entry/funnels to Laos and SW. All targets selected -are 
extremely difficult or impossible to by-pass. The program 
also provides for concurrent disruption of the sea-carry to 
SW with strikes against suspect coastal staging points 
supporting end-running shipping into the area, as well as SVN. 

L0C network cutting in this depth will degrade tonnage 
arrivals at the main "funnels" and will develop a broad series 
of new targets such as backed-up convoys, off-loaded materiel 
. dumps, and personnel staging areas at one or both sides of 
cuts. Coupling these strikes with seeding and re-seeding 
missions to hamper repa.irs, wide ranging armed recce missions 
against "developed" targets, and coastal harass and attrit 
missions against coastal staging facilities, may force major 
DRV -log flow to sea-carry and into surveillance and attack by. 
our SW coastal sanitization forces... 

In summary: recommend concerted attacks against L0C 
targets recommended herein be initiated concurrently with 
interdiction targets programmed for ROLLING THIHDER 9-13* 
Preferentially, recommend a compressed "L0C cut program" 
.similar to my proposal for a "Radar Busting Day." This 
should be followed by completion of attacks on other than 

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LOG targets in ROLLING THUiDER 10-13, Phase II armed recce would 
"be conducted concurrently with these actions and would be con- 
tinued indefinitely to make DRY support to the VC in SVN and 
PL/VM in Laos as difficult and costly as possible. 

As these recommendations reached the JCS, the Joint Chiefs were 
intensely pre-occupied with an inter service division over the issue of 
the nature and extent of proposed large-scale U.S. troop deployments to 
South Vietnam, requiring adjudication among at least 10 separate pro- 
posals, and among widely differing views of the several Service Chiefs. 
There were also substantial differences over the future character of the 
bombing program. On this latter issue, Air Force Chief of Staff General 
McConnell took a maverick position, opting for a 23-day air program 
against North Vietnam to destroy all targets on the ok-t&rget list. He 
proposed beginning the air strikes in the southern part of Korth Vietnam 
and continuing at two- to six-day intervals until Hanoi itself was 
attacked. "While I support appropriate deployment of ground forces in 
South Vietnam," McConnell wrote, "it must be done in concert with /an/ 
overall plan to eliminate the source of /the/ insurgency." McConnell 
believed that his proposal was consistent with previous JCS views on 
action against the Korth and would be a strong deterrent against open 
Chinese intervention. 10U/ 

General McConnell withdrew his 28-day proposal from JCS considera- 
tion when it became apparent that the Joint Chiefs were inclined to 
accept much of the CIRCPAC recommendation for a "LOC-cut program" as 
summarized above, and to incorporate some of McConnell 1 s concepts in a 
12-week air strike program that the Joint Staff was preparing in response 
to the Secretary of Defense's request and in accordance with his guidance 
The JCS 12 -week program was briefed to the Secretary of Defense con- 
ceptually on March 22 and submitted to him formally on March 27 under 
cover of a JCS memorandum of that date. 105 / 

The- program is described in a detailed Annex to the memorandum as 
follows : 

I. Conce pt. The concept, simply stated, is to conduct an 
air strike- program during the remaining 10 weeks of a 12 -week 
program which increases in intensity and severity of damage 
over the period. The program can be considered in four phases. 

a. The initial phase consists of a three -week inter- 
diction campaign against the vulnerable Democratic Republic of 
Vietnam (DPV) LOCs south of the 20th parallel. The concept of 
this campaign is to conduct strikes against a number of inter- 
related but separated choke points which will disrupt the flow 
of military supplies and equipment and tax the DRV capability 
. to restore these facilities. Essential to the success of this 
phase is the initial attacks on targets No. lU. and 18.8 /Thanh 

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Hoa and Dong Phuong RR/Highway bridges/. The dropping of at 
least one span in either and preferably both of these bridges 
will sever the main north-south railroad and highway routes 
in sufficient depth for an effective follow-on program. This 
initial action would be accompanied by an intense armed recon- 
naissance mission to destroy the isolated transport equipment. 
Subsequent strikes against choke points throughout the isolated 
area are designed to make the program effective and to compli- 
cate the DRV recovery program. Day and night aimed reconnais- 
sance would be conducted at random intervals to harass these 
recovery efforts and to sustain the interdiction, including 
armed reconnaissance against junk traffic over sea LOCs. This 
initial program should bring home to the population the effects 
of air strikes since consumer good will be competing with mili- 
tary supplies for the limited transport. An effective inter- 
diction in this area will also impede the DRV capability to mass 
sizeable military, forces and to deploy air defense resources. 
The remaining few installation targets in this area would be 
left for later strikes by VKAF. Also, the interdiction in this 
area would be sustained by VTTAE as US strikes moved to the north. 

b. The second phase, the launching of the interdiction 
campaign north of the 20th parallel, introduces a consideration 
which was not a major factor in the campaign in the southern DRV; 
i.e., the possibility of LUG intervention as strikes are made 
against targets progressively closer to the Hanoi-Haiphong area. 
In order to reduce this possibility to a minimum, the first week 
of air operations north of the 20th parallel includes strikes 
against the radar net in the delta area to blind or minimise 

DRV early warning and intercept capability. Following these 
preparatory attacks, operations against the LOCs north of the 
20th parallel are scheduled with the primary objective of 
isolating the DRV from external overland sources; i.e., rail 
and highway supply routes from Communist China. Subsequent to 
cutting these primary LOCs, the initial phase of the interdic- 
tion campaign would be completed by striking LOC targets in 
depth throughout the area of the DRV north of the 20th parallel. 

c. Having completed the primary interdiction program 
in the delta, area, a substantially lower effort should maintain 
its effectiveness. With his overland LOC cut, blocked, and 
harassed, the enemy can be expected to turn more and more to 
his port facilities and sea LOC. The ninth week air strikes 
will include attacks against these port facilities and the 
mining of seaward approaches to block the enemy from relieving 
his resupply problems over the sea LOC. Strikes will be initi- 
ated during the tenth week against ammunition and supply dumps 
to destroy on-hand stores of supplies and equipment to further 
aggravate his logistic problems. 

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d. In the wind-up phase of the 12 -week program (during 
the eleventh and twelfth week) , strikes against on-hand supplies., 
equipment , and military facilities will be continued, attacking 
remaining worth-while targets throughout the DRV. As a part of 
this phase, industrial targets outside of population areas will 
be struck, leading up to a situation where the enemy must realize 
that the Hanoi and Haiphong areas will be the next logical tar- 
gets in our continued air campaign. 

2. /The program includes/ an anti-MIC- strike package ; how- 
ever, as provided in the policy guidance furnished the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff, this mission will not be executed unless the 
DRV MIG aircraft are able to impair the effectiveness of the 
strike forces. Combat air patrol aircraft, in sufficient num- 
bers to deter MIG attack, will accompany all missions and will 
engage these DRV aircraft as required to protect the force. 
Strike forces and armed reconnaissance aircraft may persist in 
their missions but other reconnaissance missions will break off 
mission to avoid contact with LUG aircraft if feasible. Heavily 
populated areas will be avoided by both strike and armed recon- 
naissance missions. 

3. Strike sorties for the next ten weeks would total ap- 
proximately 3,000 or roughly 300 per week. CINCPAC has reported 
a capability to conduct approximately 1,600 strike sorties per 
week on a sustained basis. This leaves ample margin for US air 
support within South Vietnam and Laos and substantial armed 
reconnaissance to sustain the L0C interdiction. . . 

Interestingly, the Joint Chiefs did not endorse the entire air strike 
program they submitted to the Secretary of Defense. They recommended that 
only the first phase (third, fourth, and fifth weeks of the program) be 
approved for execution. They had evidently failed to reach agreement on 
the later phases (weeks six through twelve), and indicated to the Secre- 
tary of Defense that they were still in the process of "considering 
alternatives for a follow-on program of air strikes beginning with the 
sixth week. They will advise you further in this regard, taking account ( 
of the developing situation, the current policy considerations, and mili- 
tary measures available to us." 

As matters developed, however, even the three-week program endorsed 
by the JCS was not approved by the Secretary of Defense, T though it 
strongly influenced the new interdiction-oriented focus of the attacks 
that were to follow, as well as the particular targets that were selected. 
But neither the Secretary of Defense nor the President was willing to 
approve a multi-week program in advance. They clearly preferred to 
retain continual personal control over attack concepts and individual 
target selection. Consequently, although the Joint Chiefs strongly urged 

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that "the field commander be a"ble to detect and exploit targets of oppor- 
tunity.. . " 5 action in the air war against the DRV continued to be directed 
at the highest level and conmunicated through weekly guidance provided 
by the Secretary of Defense's ROLLING THULDER planning messages. 

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A* The Situation in South Vietnam 

A curious phenomenon concerning the period of late March and 
early April 1965 was the great divergence among views that were being 
expressed about the then prevailing state of affairs in South Vietnam, 
Some quite favorable assessments emanated from Saigon. For example, 
MACV's Monthly Evaluations for March and April were most reassuring: 

March , 1965: Events in March were encouraging. . .RVMF 
ground operations were highlighted by renewed operational 
effort... VC activity was considerably below the norm of the 
preceding six months and indications were that the enemy was 
engaged in the re-supply and re-positioning of units possibly 
in preparation for a new offensive... In summary, March has 
given rise to some cautious optimism. The current government 
appears to be taking control of the situation and, if the 
present state of popular morale can be sustained and strength- 
ened, the GTO, with continued U.S. support, should be able to 
counter future VC offensives successfully. 

April, 196$: Friendly forces retained the initiative 
during April and a review of events reinforces the feeling 
of optimism generated last month... In summary, current trends . 
are highly encouraging and the GVN may have actually turned the 
tide at long last . However, there are some disquieting factors 
which indicate a need to avoid overconf Idence . A test of these 
trends should be forthcoming in the next few months if the VC 
launch their expected counter-offensive and the period may well 
be one of the most important of the war. 

Similarly encouraging comments were contained in Ambassador Taylor's 
KODIS weeklies to the President — e.g., in Saigon 2908, March 11, 19°5: 

The most encouraging phenomenon of the past week has been 
the rise in Vietnamese morale occasioned by the air strikes 
against Horth Vietnam on March 2, the announcement of our in- 
tention to utilize U.S. jet aircraft within South Vietnam, and 
the landing of the Marines at Danang which is still going on. 
The press and the public have reacted most favorably to all 
three of these events. 

And in Saigon 2991, March 17, 1965: 

With the growing pressure on North Vietnam, the psycho- 
logical atmosphere continues to be favorable. What ■ is still 
missing in this new atmosphere is the image of a Vietnamese 
Government giving direction and purpose to its people. 

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Gn the other hand, a much more sobering assessment was contained 
in General Westmoreland T s Commander f s Estimate of the Situation in 
South Vietnam , dated 26 March 1965, which bluntly asserted that 3VKAF 
would not "be able to build up their strength rapidly and effectively 
enough to blunt the coming VC summer offensive or to seize the initia- 
tive from them. The document also estimated that the program of air 
activity against the North, while it might ultimately succeed in caus- 
ing the DRV to cease its support of the war, would not in the short run < 
have any major effect on the situation in the South. 

The view from Washington was even less hopeful. Assistant Secretary 
of Defense John UcKaughton summed ud the situation in the following words: 

The situation in general is bad and deteriorating. The 
VC have the initiative. Defeatism is gaining among the rural 
population, somewhat in the cities, and even among' the soldiers 
-- especially those with relatives in rural areas. The Hop Tac 
area around Saigon is making little progress; the Delta stays 
bad; the country has been severed in the north. GW. control 
is shrinking to enclaves, some burdened with refugees. In 
Saigon we have a remission: Quat is giving hope on the civilian 
side, the Buddhists have calmed, and the split generals are in 
uneasy equilibrium. 

A more complete and balanced' overview was prepared by McGeorge Bundy 
in a memorandum outlining "Key Elements for Discussion" for an April 1 
meeting with the President: 

Morale has improved in South Vietnam. The government has 
not really settled down, but seems to be hopeful both in its 
capacity and in its sense of political forces. The armed . . 
forces continue in reasonably good shape, though top leader- 
ship is not really effective and the ratio of armed forces to 
the VC build-up is not good enough. 

The situation in many areas of the countryside continues 
to go in favor of the VC, although there is now a temporary 
lull. The threat is particularly serious in the central 
provinces, and the VC forces may be regrouping for major 
efforts there in the near future. 

Hanoi has shown no signs of give, and Peiping has stiffened 
its position within the last week. We still believe that attacks 
near Hanoi might substantially raise the odds of Peiping coming 
in with air. Meanwhile, we expect Hanoi to continue and step 
ud its infiltration both bv land through Laos and by sea. There 
are clear indications of different viewpoints in Hanoi, Peiping, 
and Moscow (and even in the so-called Liberation Front), and 

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continued sharp friction "between Moscow and Peiping. However, 
neither such frictions nor the pressure of our present slowly- 
ascending pace of air attack on North Vietnam can he expected 
to produce a real change in Hanoi T s position for some time, 
probably 2-3 months, at best. 

A key question for Hanoi is whether they continue to make 
real headway in the south, or whether the conflict there starts 
to move against them or at least appear increasingly tough. If 
the former, even a major step-up in our air attacks would 
probably not cause them to become much more reasonable; if the 
latter, the situation might begin to move on a political track 
— but again in not less than 2-3 months, in our present 

B. International Diplomatic Moves 

On the diplomatic front, there had been no indication of any 
desire for talks from Hanoi, Peking, or Moscow. The British Co-Chairmen 
initiative had been turned down oj the Soviet Government, which first 
floated a totally unacceptable counterproposal -- in the form of a 
statement condemning the U.S. "gross violation of the Geneva Accords" 
and calling on the U.S. "to immediately cease their aggressive acts 
against the DRV and to withdraw their troops..." -- and then totally 
rejected the British proposal. By March lo, when Gromyko met with UK 
Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart in London, it had become quite clear 
that the two Geneva Co -Chairmen would not be able to agree on a message 
sufficiently objective to be mutually acceptable to other members of 
• the Conference. 107-/ Gromyko had made a public statement after the 
meeting in London to the effect that the United States would have to 
deal directly with Hanoi on the Vietnam situation, to which Secretary 
Rusk had replied. 108/ 

I agree with Mr. Gromyko that Hanoi is the key to peace 
in Southeast Asia. If Hanoi stops molesting its neighbors, 
then peace can be restored promptly and U.S. forces can come 
home. I regret that the Soviet Union, which was a signatory 
of the 195^ and 1962 accords, appears disinclined to put its 
full weight behind those agreements. 

A second initiative had been launched by President Tito of Yugoslavia 
in early March. Tito had '-written to President Johnson on March 3, urging 
immediate negotiations on Vietnam without either side imposing conditions. 
The President had replied on March 12, describing the background of our 
involvement in Vietnam and stating that there would be no bajr to a 
peaceful settlement if Hanoi ceased "aggression against South Vietnam. r ' 

Tito T s concern prompted him to convene a conference' of 15 nonaligned 
nations which met in Belgrade from March 13 to 18 and issued an appeal, 
ultimately signed by 17 nations. (Afghanistan, Algeria, Cyprus, Ceylon, 

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Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iraq, Kenya, Nepal, Syria, Tunisia, UAH, 
Uganda, Yugoslavia, and Zambia,) The declaration blamed "foreign inter- 
vention in various forms r? for the aggravation of the Vietnam situation 
and repeated Tito's call for negotiations without preconditions. 

Yet another third-party peace initiative came from U.K. Secretary 
General U Thant. U Thant proposed a three-month period in which there 
would be "a temporary cessation of all hostile military activity, whether 
overt or covert, across the 17th parallel in Vietnam." 

McGeorge Bundy commented on these propositions in his April 1 "Key 
Elements for Discussion" Memorandum in a manner suggesting that he had 
very little expectation that any of these initiatives would lead to an 
early conference: 

We think the U Thant proposal should be turned off. 
(Bunche tells us U Thant will not float it publicly if we 
reject it privately). It is not clear that the trade-off 
would be to our advantage, even if it could be arranged, 
and in any case, we prefer to use U Tha.nt for private 
feelers rather than public proposals. We can tell U Thant 
that we have no objection on his sounding out Hanoi on this 
same point, however, and that if he gets a response, we 
would be glad to comment on it. 

The 17 nation proposal is more attractive. We are in- 
clined to propose to Quat that both South Vietnam and the 
U.S. should accept it with a covering statement of our good, 
firm, clear objectives in any such negotiation. The Presi- 
dent has already made it clear that he will go anywhere to 
tali with anyone, and we think the 17 nation proposal is 
one to which we can make a pretty clear response. Tactically, 
it will probably not lead to any early conference, because the 
position of Hanoi and Peking will be that they will not attend 
any meeting until our bombings stop. The Secretary of State 
will elaborate on these propositions. 

C. An End to "Reprisal" 

In mid-morning of March 29, VC terrorists exploded a bomb out- 
side the U.S. embassy in Saigon, killing and wounding many Americans and 
Vietnamese. It was the boldest and most direct Communist action against 
the U.S. since the attacks at Pleiku and Qui l T hon which had precipitated 
the FLAMIHG DART reprisals. Almost simultaneously, Ambassador Taylor 
enplaned for talis in Washington- -and both cities were instantly abuzz 
with speculation that the war" had entered a new and perhaps critical 

Indeed, Admiral Sharp promptly urged the JCS to recommend a 
forceful reply to the VC outrage, in the form of an out-of-turn 

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spectacular bombing attack upon a significant target in the DRV outside 
of the framework of R0LLU7C THUNDER • 109/ The plea, however, did not 
, fall on responsive ears. At this point/ the President preferred to 

. maneuver quietly to help the nation get used to living with the Vietnam 
crisis. He played down any drama intrinsic in Taylor r s arrival by hav- 
ing him attend briefings at the Pentagon and the State Department before 
calling at the White House; and he let it be known that the U.S. had no 
intention of conducting any further specific reprisal raids against Korth 
Vietnam in reply to the bombing of the embassy. Instead, he confined 
himself to a public statement: 

jL'he terrorist outrage aimed at the American Embassy in 
Saigon shows us once again what the struggle in Viet -Nam is 
about. This wanton act of ruthlessness has brought death 
and serious injury to innocent Vietnamese citizens in the 
street as well as to American and Vietnamese personnel on 
duty." He added that the Embassy was "already back in 
business," and that he would "at once request the Congress 
for authority and funds for the immediate construction of 
a new chancery. • 

After his first meeting with Taylor and other officials on March 31* 
the President responded to press inquiries concerning dramatic new 
developments by saying, "I know of no far-reaching strategy that is being 
suggested or promulgated." 

But the President was being less than candid. The proposals that 
were at that moment being promulgated, and on which he reached signifi- 
cant decisions the following day, did involve a far-reaching strategy 
change: acceptance of the concept of U.S. troops engaged in offensive 
ground operations against Asian insurgents. This issue greatly over- 
shadowed all other Vietnam questions then being reconsidered. 

D. N SAM 3^8 -- Issues Posed and Decisions Made 

The underlying question that was being posed for the President 
. at this time was well formulated by Assistant Defense Secretary John 
McIIaughton in a draft memorandum of March 2k 5 entitled "Plan of Action 
for South Vietnam." The key question, McNaughton thought, was: 

'Can the situation inside SVH be bottomed out (a) without 

• extreme measures against the DRV and/or (b) without deploy- 
ment of large numbers of US (and other) combat troops inside 
SVH?" And the answer, he believed,, was "perhaps -- but 
probably no. - 


• To get closer to an answer, McKaughton began n oy restating U.S. ob- 
jectives in Vietnam, and by attempting to weigh these objectives by 
their relative importance: 

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7<ty - To avoid a humiliating US defeat (to our reputation 
as a guarantor) . 

20$ - To keep 3VN (and then adjacent) territory from 
Chinese hands. 

10$ - To permit the people of SVK to enjoy a better, 
freer way of life. 

ALSO - To emerge from crisis without unacceptable taint 
from methods used. 

.NOT - To "help a friend," although it would be hard to 
stay in if asked out. 

McNaughton then proceeded to enumerate some twenty-odd ways in which the 
GVTi might collapse, and noted that in spite — or perhaps precisely 
because — of the imminence of this collapse and the unpromising nature 
of remedial action, U.S. policy had been drifting. As he saw it, the 
trilemma of U.S. policy was that the three possible remedies to GVH 
collapse -- (a) heavy will-breaking air attacks on the DRV, (b) large 
U.S. troops deployments to SVK, and (c) exit ^oy negotiations -- were all 
beset with difficulties and uncertainties. Strikes against the North, 
he felt, were balked "(l) by flash-point limits, (2) by doubts that the 
DRV will cave and (3) by doubts that the VC will obey a caving DRV. 
(Leaving strikes only a political and anti-infiltration nuisance.)" 
Deployment of combat forces, he believed, was blocked "by French-defeat 
and Korea snydromes, and Quat is queasy. (Troops could be net negatives, 
and be besieged.)" And negotiations he saw as "tainted by the humiliation 
likely to follow." 

McNaughton then proceeded to review in detail the purposes, alterna- 
tives, and risks of the bombing program as it then stood, treating the 
issue more comprehensively and systematically than it has been considered 
elsewhere. His schematic exposition is, therefore, reproduced here in 

Strides on the ITorth (program of progressive military pressure ) 

. a. Purposes: (l) Reduce BRV/VC activities by affecting DBV 


(2) To improve the GVSi/VC relative "balance 
of morale." 

(3) To provide the US/GVE with a bargaining 
counter . 

(*+) To reduce DRV infiltration of men and 

(5) To show the world the lengths to which US 

will go for a friend. 

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b a Program : Each week, 1 or 2 "mission days" with 100- 
plane high damage US-VNAF strikes each "day" against 
important targets, plus 3 armed recce missions -- all 
moving upward in weight of effort, value of target or 
proximity to Hanoi and China. 

ALTERNATIVE ONE: 12-week DRV-wide program shunning 

only "population" targets,, 

ALTERNATIVE TWO: 12-week program short of taking out 

Phuc Yen (Hanoi) airfield. 

Co Other actions: (1) Blockade of DRV ports by VNAF/US- 

dropped mines or by ships. 

(2) South Vietnamese-implemented 3^A 


(3) Reconnaissance flights over Laos 

and the DRV. 
{k) Daily BARREL ROLL armed recce strikes 
in Laos (pi us T-28s) . 
• (5) Four-a-week BARREL ROLL choke-point 
stri kes in Laos. 

(6) US/VNAF air & naval strikes against 
VC ops and bases in SVN. 

(7) Westward deployment of US forces. 

(8) No DeSoto patrols or naval bombard- 
ment of DRV at this time. 

do Red "flash points " There are events which we can expect 
to imply substantial risk of escalation: Q 

(1) Air strikes north of 17 . (This one 
al ready passed. ) 

(2) First US/VNAF confrontation with DRV 


(3) Strike on Phuc Yen MIG base near Hanoi. 
(k) First strikes on Tonkin industrial/ 

population targets 

(5) First strikes on Chinese railroad or 

near China 

(6) First US/VNAF confrontation with 

Chicom MIGSo 

(7) First hot pursuit of Chicom MIGs into 


(8) First flak-suppression of Chicom- or 

Soviet-mar ned SAM. 

(9) Massive introduction of US ground 

troops into SVN. 
• (10) US/ARVN occupation of DRV territory 
. (e.g., lie de Tigre). 
(11) First Chi/Sov-US confrontation or 
sinking in blockade. 

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f . Major risks 


Blue "flash points " China/DRV surely are sensitive to 
events which might cause us to escalate: 

(1) All of the above "Red" flash points. 

(2) VC ground attack on Danang. 

(3) Sinking of a US naval vessel. 

(k) Open deployment of DRV troops into 
* South Vietnam. 

(5) Deployment of Chinese troops into 
North Vietnam. 

(6) Deployment of FROGs or SAMs in North 

(7) DRV air attack on South Vietnam. 

(8) Announcement of Liberation Government 
in l/l I Corps area. 

(1) Losses to DRV MIGs, and later possibly 

to SAMs. 

(2) Increased VC activities, and possibly 
Liberation Government. 

(3) Panic or other collapse of GVN from 
under us. 

(4) World-wide revulsion against us 
(against strikes, blockade, etc), 

(5) Sympathetic fires over Berlin, Cyprus, 
Kashmir, Jordan waters 

(6) Escalation to conventional war with 
DRV, China (and USSR?) . 

(7) Escalation to the use of nuclear 

(1) More jets to NVN with DRV or Chicom 
pi lots. 

(2) More AAA (SAMs?) and radar gear (Soviet- 
manned?) to NVN. 

(3) Increased air and ground forces in 
South China. 

(k) Other "defensive" DRV retaliation 
(e.g., shoot-down of a U-2). 

(5) PL land grabs in Laos a 

(6) PL declaration of new government in Laos 

(7) Political drive' for "neutralization" of 

Escalation control . We can dc three things to avoid es- 
calation too-much or too-fast: 

(1) Stretch out : Retard the program (e.g., 
I not 2 fixed strikes a week), 
. (2) Circuit breaker . Abandon at least 

temporarily the theory that our strikes 
are intended to break DRV will, and 

Other Red 


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i . Importa nt 






"plateau" them "below the "Phuc Yen 
airfield" flash point on one or the 
other of these tenable theories: 
(a) That we strike as necessary to 
• interdict infiltration, (b) That 
our level of strikes is generally 
responsive to the level of VC/DRV 
activities in South Vietnam. 
Shunt. Plateau the air strikes per 
para (2) and divert the energy into: 
(a) a mine-and/or ship-blockade of 
DRV ports, (b) Massive deployment of 
US (and other?) troops into SVN (and . 
Laos?): (l) To man the "enclaves," 
releasing AEVN forces. (2) To take 
over Pleiku, Kontum, Darlac provinces. 
(3) To create a lo+° sea-Thaila.nd 
infiltration wall* 

Program should appear to be relentless 
(i.e., possibility of employing 
"circuit-breakers" should be secret) . 
Enemy should be kept aware of our 
limited objectives. 
Allies should be kept on board. 
USSR should be kept in passive role. 
Information program should preserve 
US public support. 

McNaughton T s memorandum dealt in similar detail with the two other 
forms of remedial action that were then being considered: US troop de- 
ployments and exit negotiations, neither of these, however, is a matter 
of prime concern within the scope of this paper. It is well to remember, 
however, that the April 1 Presidential policy review was not confined to 
the air campaign against the DRV. It embraced the whole panoply of military 
and non-military actions that might be undertaken in South and North Vietnam, 
but the main focus was clearly on actions within South Vietnam, and the 
principal concern of Administration policy makers at this time was with the 
prospect of major deployments of US and Third Country combat forces to SVK. 

Unlike McNaughton T s memorandum, the McGsorge Bundy discussion paper 
of April 1 which set forth the key issues for consideration and decision 
by the President*, gave only the most superficial treatment to the complex 
matter of future air pressures policy. In fact, the Bundy paper merely 
listed a series of action recommendations, seemingly providing little room 
for debate or for consideration of alternatives. The actions proposed 
amounted to little more than a continuation of the ongoing modest ROLLING 
THQHDER program, directed, with slowly rising Intensity, at the LOC tar- 
gets that were then beginning to be hit. One must assume that the 


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recommendations "were not subjected to any searching debate when they 
•were discussed with the President on April 2, since the wording of the 
President's decision in the NSAM issued on April 6, 110/ is verbatim 
identical with the wording of the HcGeorge Bundy recommendation that 
was circulated to the Principals before the meeting: 

Subject to continuing review, the President approved the 
following general framework of continuing action against North 
Vietnam and Laos: 

We should continue roughly the present slowly ascending 
tempo of ROLLING THUJTDER operations, being prepared to add 
strikes in response to a higher rate of VC operations, or ' -. 
■ conceivably to slow the pace in the unlikely event VC slaked 
off sharply for what appeared to be more than a temporary 
operational lull. - 

The target systems should continue to avoid the effective 
GCI range of MIGs. We should continue to vary the types of 
targets, stepping up attacks on lines of communication in the 
near future, and possibly moving in a few weeks to attacks on 
the rail lines north and northeast of Hanoi. 

Leaflet operations should be expanded to obtain maximum 
practicable psychological effect on the Worth Vietnamese popu- 
lation.. • 

Blockade or aerial mining of North Vietnamese ports needs 
further study and should be considered for future operations. 
It would have major political complications, especially in 
relation to the Soviets and other third countries, but also 
offers many advantages. 

Air operation in Laos, particularly route blocking opera- 
tions in the Panhandle area, should be' stepped up to the maxi- 
mum remunerative rate. 

E . The Director of Central Intelligence Demurs 

As has been indicated, the dramatic element in the President's 
decisions of April 2 was not in the sphere of air strikes against the 
North, but in the area of the mission of US ground forces in South 
Vietnam. NSAM. 328 promulgated the significant decision to change the 
role of the Marine battalions deployed to Vietnam from one of advice 
and static defense to one of active combat operations against the VC 
guerrillas. The fact that this departure from a long-held policy had 
momentous implications va.s well recognized ''oy the Administration leader- 
ship. The President himself was greatly concerned that the step be 
given as little prominence as possible. In ISAM 328 his wishes in this 
regard were stated as follows: 

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The President desires that with respect to (these) actions 
...premature publicity "be avoided by all possible precautions. 
The actions themselves should be taken as rapidly as practicable, 
but in ways that should minimize any appearance of sudden changes 
in policy, and official statements on these troop movements will 
be made only with the direct approval of the Secretary of Defense, 
in that these movements and changes should be understood as being 
gradual and wholly consistent with existing policy. 

Whether and to what extent there was support or opposition to this 
step among top Administration advisers is not recorded in the documenta- 
tion available to this writer. But one interesting demurrer was intro- 
duced by the Director of Central Intelligence, John A. McCone, in a 
memorandum he circulated on April 2 to Secretary Rusk, Secretary Mci.ainara, 
McCeorge Bundy, and Ambassador Taylor. 


McCone did not inherently disagree with the change in the U.S. 
ground force role, but felt that it was inconsistent with the decision 
to continue the air strike program ait the feeble level- at which it was 
then being conducted. McCone developed his argument as follows: 

I have been giving thought to the paper that we discussed 
in yesterday's meeting, which unfortunately I had little time 
to study, and also to the decision made to change the mission 
of our ground forces in South Vietnam from one of advice and 
static defense to one of active combat operations against the 
Viet Cong guerrillas. 

I feel that the latter decision is correct only if our air 
strikes against the Korth are sufficiently heavy and damaging 
really to hurt the llorth Vietnamese. The paper we examined 
yesterday does not anticipate the type of air operation against 
the North necessary to force the KVK to reappraise their policy. 
On the contrary, it states, T, We should continue roughly the 
present slowly ascending tempo of ROLLING TKUi^DER operations 

, TT and later, in outlining the types of targets, states, 

. "The target systems should continue to avoid the effective GCI 
range of MIG T s, u and these conditions indicate restraints which 
will not be persuasive to the KYK and would probably be read 
as- evidence of a U.S. desire to temporize. 


I have reported that the strikes to date have not caused 
a change in. the ITorth Vietnamese policy of directing Viet Cong 
insurgency, infiltrating cadres and supplying material. If 
anything, the strikes to date have hardened their attitude. 

I have now had a chance to examine the 12-week program 
referred to ~by General Wheeler and it is my personal opinion 
that this program is not sufficiently severe or damaging to 
the North Vietnamese to cause them to compromise their present , ■ 

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On the other hand, we must look with care to our position 
under a program of slowly ascending tempo of air strikes. 
With the passage of each day and each week, we can expect in- 
creasing pressure to stot) the "bombing. This will come from 
various elements of the American public, from the press, the 
United Nations and world opinion. Therefore time will run 
against us in this operation and I think the north Vietnamese 
are counting on this. 

Therefore I think what we are doing .is starting on a track 
which involves ground force operations which, in all probability, 
will have limited effectiveness against guerrillas, although 
admittedly will restrain some VC advances. However, we can 
expect requirements for an ever-increasing commitment of U.S. 
personnel without materially improving the chances of victory. 
I support and agree with this decision but I must point out 
that in my judgment, forcing submission of the VC can only be 
brought, about by a decision in Hanoi. Since the contemplated 
actions against the north are modest in scale, they will not 
impose unacceptable damage on it, nor will they threaten the 
DRV's vital interests. Hence, they will not present them with 
a situation with which they cannot live, though such actions 
will cause the DRV pain and inconvenience. 

I believe our proposed track offers great danger of simply 
encouraging Chinese Communist and Soviet supjjort of the DRV and 
VC cause, if for no other reason than the risk for both will be 
minimum. I envision that the reaction of the NVM and Chinese 
Communists will be to deliberately, carefully, and probably 
gradually, build up the Viet Cong capabilities by covert infil- 
tration on ITorth Vietnamese and, possibly, Chinese cadres and 
thus bring an ever-increasing pressure on our forces. In effect, 
we will find ourselves mired down in combat in the jungle in a 
military effort that we cannot win, and from which we will have 
extreme difficulty in extracting ourselves. 

Therefore it is my judgment that if we are to change the 
mission of the ground forces, we must also change the ground 
rules of the strikes against North Vietnam. We must hit them 
harder, more frequently, and inflict greater damage. Instead 
of avoiding the LHC f s, we must go in and take trhem out. A 
bridge here and there will not do the job. We must strike their 
airfields, their patroleum resources, power stations and their 
military compounds. This, in my opinion must be done promptly . 
and with minimum restraint. 

If we are unwilling to take this kind of a decision now, 
we must not take the actions concerning the mission of our 
ground forces for the reasons I have mentioned above. 


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The record does not show whether this memorandum vas ever submitted 
to or^discussed with the President. In any event, the President had . 
already made his decision by the time the above memorandum reached the 
addressees. McCone, however, persisted in his concern over what he 
felt was an inadequately forceful air strike urogram and he did subse- 
quently make his views known to the President", by way of a personal 
memorandum and a coordinated intelligence estimate he handed to the 
President on April 23, the date on which his successor, Admiral Raborn, 
was sworn in. The memorandum itself is not available to this writer, 
but both the estimate and Admiral Reborn's reaction to the two documents 
are at hand. They are discussed in Section XIII below. 

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A. Mounting Publi c Criticism 

During the latter half of March and the "beginning of April, from 
near and far more and more brickbats were being hurled at the Administra- 
tions T s position on Vietnam, At home, columnist Walter Lippman raised 
his voice to observe that U.S. policy "is all stick and no carrot. We 
are telling the North Vietnamese that they will be very badly hurt if 
they do not quit... But we are not telling the North Vietnamese what kind 
of future there would be for them and the rest of Indochina if the war 
ended as we think it should end." 

Abroad, in an. empty but well-publicized gesture, philosopher 
Jean-Paul Sartre canceled -a lecture trip to the U.S. on the ground that 
Gallup polls indicated most Americans are in favor of the air raids into 
North Vietnam. "Vlhere contradictory opinions thus have hardened," said 
the reluctant Nobel Prize winner, "dialogue is impossible." And in a 
considerably more potent gesture, the government of Charles de Gaulle 
chose this particular juncture to renew its annual trade agreement with 
North Vietnam and to extend Hanoi medium-term credits for the purchase 
of French goods. 

Within the Administration there was a growing feeling that somewhere 
along the line the hand had been mi splayed, that somehow the mix of 
increased military pressure and increased diplomatic efforts for settle- 
ment had not been right. In late March, therefore, the President began 
to try to alter the mix. He began by spending much time on efforts at 
personal persuasion, talking to Congressmen and other visitors in his 
office about the restraint and patience he was showing in operation 
ROLLING THUNDER. Evans and Novak 111/ describe one of these sessions 
follows : 


To illustrate his caution, he showed critics the map of 
North Vietnam and pointed out the targets he. had- approved for 
attack, and to the many more targets he had disapproved. As 
for Communist China, he was watching for every possible sign 
of reaction. Employing a vivid sexual analogy, the President 
explained to friends and critics one day that the slow esca- 
lation of the air war in the North and the increasing pressure 
on Ho Chi Minh was seduction, not rape. If China should 
suddenly react to slow escalation, as a woman might react to 
attempted seduction, by threatening to retaliate (a slap in the 
face, to continue the metaphor), the United States would have 
plenty of time to ease off the bombing. On the other hand, if 
the United States were to unleash an all-out, total assault on 
the North - rape rather- than seduction - there could be no 
turning back, and Chinese reaction might be instant and total. 
Johnson T s language left nothing to the imagination and shocked 
those who heard it. It made an unforgettable image. The 
United States was engaged in a period of testing against Ho 
Chi Minh, but the exercise was seduction, not rape. 


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But. despite the full use of his power to influence, the President 
could not stop the critics. Condemnation of the bombing spread to the 
campuses and to a widening circle of Congressmen. From many directions 
the President was being pressed to make a major public statement wel- 
coming negotiations. 

Up to this time,, the official U.S. position had been unreceptive 
to negotiations, although the President had paid lip-service to his 
•willingness to "do anything and go anywhere in the interests of peace." 
Past inaction he blamed entirely on Hanoi. It was, he said, Hanoi that 
would not talk peace, Hanoi that was subverting South Vietnam, Hanoi 
that was making it possible for the war to continue by funneling supplies 
and manpower over the Ho Chi Minh trail. Washington was not to blame. • 
But now the formula no longer seemed adequate, and the President began 
to look for a more spectacular way of dramatizing his peaceful intent. 
He found it in -three ingredients which he combined in his renowned Johns 
Hopkins address of April 7th. 

B. Ingredients for Johns Hopkins 

Three elements combined to make the President's Johns Hopkins 
speech an important initiative: First , .a new formulation of U.S. readi- 
ness to negotiate, in the shape of an acceptance by the President of the 
spirit of the 17-Hation Appeal of March 15, which had called upon the 
belligerents to start negotiations as soon as possible "without posing 
any preconditions." Here are the words of the speech which the Presi- 
dent ho-ped would satisfy the -orincinal demand of the doves: 

We will never be second in the search for... a peaceful 
settlement in Viet -Nam. 

There may be many ways to this kind of peace: in dis- 
cussion or negotiation with the governments concerned; in 
large groups or in small ones; in the reaffirmation of old 
agreements or their strengthening with' new ones. 

We have stated this position over and over again 50 times 
and more to friend and foe alike. And we remain ready with 
this purpose for unconditional discussions. 

A second key element of the speech was drawn ideas long pro- 
pounded by such old Southeast Asia hands as former U.S. Ambassador to 
Thailand Kenneth Young, involving a massive regional development effort 
for the area, based on the Mekong River basin. This was precisely the 
kind of hopeful and positive gesture the President needed to put a 
bright constructive face on his Vietnam policy. Painting the picture 
of a potentially peaceful, five-nation area, the President said: 

The first step is for the countries of Southeast Asia to 
associate themselves in a greatly expanded cooperative effort 
for development. We would hor>e that Korth Viet -Ram would 

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The first step is for the countries of Southeast Asia to 
associate themselves in a greatly expanded cooperative effort 
for development, We would hope that North Viet -Nam would 

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But. despite the full use of his power to influence, the President 
could not stop the critics. Condemnation of the bombing spread to the 
campuses and to a widening circle of Congressmen. From many directions 
the President was being pressed to make a major public statement wel- 
coming negotiations. 

Up to this time,, the official U.S. position had been unreceptive 
to negotiations, although the President had paid lip-service to his 
willingness to "do anything and go anywhere in the interests of peace." 
Past inaction he blamed entirely on Hanoi. It was, he said, Hanoi that 
would not talk peace, Hanoi that was subverting South Vietnam, Hanoi 
that was making it possible for the war to continue by funneling supplies 
and manpower over the Ho Chi Minh trail. Washington was not to blame. • t 
But now the formula no longer seemed adequate, and the President began . J 
to look for a more spectacular way of dramatizing his peaceful intent. 
He found it in -three ingredients which he combined in his renowned Johns 
Hopkins address of April 7th. 

B. Ingredients for Johns Hop kins 

Three elements combined to make the President's Johns Hopkins 
speech an important initiative: First, .a new formulation of U.S. readi- 
ness to negotiate, in the shape of an acceptance by the President of the 
spirit of the 17-Hation Appeal of March 15~ which had called upon the 
belligerents to start negotiations as soon as possible "without posing 
any preconditions." Here are -the words of the speech which the Presi- 
dent hoped would satisfy the principal demand of the doves: 

We will never be second in the search for... a peaceful 
settlement in Viet-Kam. 

There may be many ways to this kind of peace: in dis- 
cussion or negotiation with the governments concerned; in 
large groups or in small ones; in the reaffirmation of old 
agreements or their strengthening with' new ones. 

We have stated this position over and over again 50 times 
and more to friend and foe alike. And we remain ready with 
this purpose for unconditional discussions. ; 

A second key element of the soeech was drawn ideas long pro- 
pounded by such old Southeast Asia* hands as former U.S. Ambassador to 
Thailand Kenneth Young, involving a massive regional development effort 
for the area, based on the Mekong River basin. ° This was precisely the 
kind of hopeful and positive gesture the President needed to put a 
bright constructive face on his Vietnam policy. Painting the picture 
of a potentially peaceful five-nation area, the President said: 

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take its place in the common effort just as soon as peaceful 
cooperation is possible. 

And the President then offered his munificent carrot: 

For our part I will ask. the Congress to join in a billion- 
dollar American investment in this effort as soon as it is 

And he underlined the grandioseness of the vision by characterizing 
the effort as being conceived "on a scale to dwarf even our TVA. 

There was a third key element to the Johns Hopkins speech which the 
President added almost literally at the last minute -- an illustrious 
name, a person of unquestioned stature, to lend some credibility and 
prestige to the somewhat improbable peaceful development gambit in the 
midst of war. The President found that ingredient in the person of 
Eugene Black, foiraer President of the World Bank, a figure of high 
prominence in international finance, and a politician enjoying Con- 
gressional confidence and open lines to both Democrats and Republicans. 
In a whirlwind performance, the President recruited Black just a few 
short hours before his scheduled appearance at Johns Hopkins, and was 
1 able to announce that appointment in his speech. 

C. Hanoi and Peking "Close the Poor" 

While the President's speech evoked a good press and much 
favorable public reaction throughout the world, 112/ its practical 
consequences were meager. It failed to silence the Peace Bloc and it 
failed to bring the Communists to the negotiating table. 

It is worth noting that the President's initiative of April 7 
was in accord with the "pressures-policy" rationale that had been worked 
out in I-Iovember, 196k, which held that U.S. readiness to negotiate was 
not to be surfaced until after a series of air strikes had been carried 
out against important targets in North Vietnam. Significantly, during 
' the two weeks prior to the President's address, EOLLISG THUIIDER VIII 
..(the "Radar Busting Week") and IX (the first week of the "anti-LOC" cam- 
paign) had inaugurated an almost daily schedule of bombing. 'Thus the 
U.S. was now attempting to achieve, through a deliberate combination of 
intensified military pressures and diplomatic enticements, what it had 
hoped would result from a mere token demonstration of capability and 
resolve. The carrot had been added to the stick, but the stick was still 
the more tangible and visible element of U.S policy. And the President 
made sure that this coercive element would remain very much in the fore- 
ground, when he stated, in the April 7 speech: 

I wish it were possible to convince others with words of 
what we now find it necessary to say with guns and planes: 
armed hostility is futile - our resources are equal to any 

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challenge - because we fight for values and we fight for prin- 
ciple, rather than territory or colonies, our patience and our 
determination are unending. 

But neither pressures nor blandishments succeeded in moving Hanoi. 
On the day following the President's speech, ITorth Vietnamese Premier 
Pham Van Dong published his f amour "Four Points," recognition of which 
he made clear, was the sole way in which "favorable conditions" could 
■be created for peaceful settlement of the war. Two days later, in a 
telling denunciation of the President's Johns Hopkins speech, north 
Vietnam said that the United States was using the "peace" label to 
conceal its aggression and that the Southeast Asia development proposal 
was simply a "carrot" offered to offset the "stick" of aggression and 
to seek to allay domestic and international criticism of U.S. policy in 
Vietnam. The following day, an article in a Chinese Communist newspaper 
denounced President Johnson's proposal for unconditional discussions as 
"a swindle pure and simple." To complete the rejection of Western 
initiatives, Hanoi turned down the appeal of the seventeen non-aligned 
nations on April 19, reiterating that Pham Van Dong's "Four Points" were 
the "only correct way" to resolve the Vietnam problem; and three days 
later Peking's Peoples' Daily gave the coup-de-grace to the 17-nation 
. appeal, saying that it amounted to "legalizing the United States im- 
perialist aggression" and that "the Viet-Namese people will never agree 
to negotiations 'without any preconditions.'" 

D . President's Reprise: Tragedy, Disappointment -- But 
No Bombing Pause 

The rejection of the President's initiative had been total. 
And other Western peace feelers were equally bluntly turned away. 
British former Foreign Secretary Patrick Gordon Walker who sought to 
visit Peking and Hanoi on a self-appointed peace mission to sound out 
both governments on the possibilities of negotiations was unceremoniously 
denied entry to both Mainland China and North Vietnam. 


In the light of these developments , the President made another 
public statement, 113/ opening with the words, "This has been a week of 
tragedy, disappointment, and progress ." 

We tried to open .a window to peace," the President said, "only 
to be met with tired names and slogans and a refusal to talk." But he 
tried once more: 

They want no talk with us, no talk *ith a distinguished 
Briton, no talk with the United Nations. They want no talk 
at all so far. But our offer stands. We mean every word of 
it . . . 

The window to peace is still open. We are' still ready 
for unconditional discussion. We will impose no conditions 

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of any kind on any government willing to talk, nor "will we 
accept any. On this "basis we are ready to begin discussion 
next week, tomorrow, or tonight... 

To thoce governments who doubt our wMlingness to talk 
the answer is simple - agree to discussion, come to the 
meeting room. We will be there. Our objective in Viet -Nam 
remains the same - an independent South Vietnam, tied to 
no alliance, free to shape its relations and association 
with all other nations. This is what the people of South 
Vietnam want, and we will finally settle for no less. 

But this is as far as the President was willing to go in his con- 
cessions to the Peace Bloc at this time. 

To the clamor from many directions, including from Senator Fulbright 
and from Canada's Prime Minister Lester Pearson, that the U.S. should 
pause in its air strikes to bring about negotiations, the Administration 
responded with a resounding "No. Tr Secretary Rusk made the U.S. position 
clear on this, in a statement read to news correspondents on April 17: 

We have thought long and soberly about suspending, for 
a period, the raids on North Viet -Nam. Some have suggested 
this could lead to an end of aggression from the North. But 
• we have tried publicly and privately to find out if this 
would be the result, and' there has been no response. Others 
say such a pause is needed to signal our sincerity, but no 
signal is needed. Our sincerity is plain. 

If we thought such action would advance the cause of 
an honorable peace, we would order it immediately, but now 
our best judgment tells us it would only encourage the 
aggressor and dishearten our friends who bear the brunt of 

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A. Background and Conclusions of Conference 

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. By the middle of April, communications between Washington and 
Saigon were becoming increasingly strained, as it began to dawn upon 
Ambassador Taylor that Washington was determined, with the President's 
sanction, to go far beyond the agreements to which Taylor had been a 
party at the beginning of April and that had been formalized in NSAM 328. 
From April 8 onward, Taylor had been bombarded with messages and instruc- 
tions from Washington testifying to an eagerness to speed up the intro- 
duction to Vietnam of U.S. and Third County ground forces and to employ 
them in a combat role, all far beyond anything that had been authorized 
in the April 2 NSC decisions. Ambassador Taylor's ill-concealed annoy- 
ance at these mounting pressures and progressively more radical proposals 
changed to outright anger and open protest when, on April 18, he received 
another instruction, llU/ allegedly with the sanction of "highest 
authority," proposing seven additional complicated measures haying to do 
with combat force deployment and employment, on the justification that 
"something new must be added in the" South to achieve victory." Taylor's 
exasperated response to McGeorge Bundy the same day made it clear that 
meaningful communication. between Washington and Saigon had all but broken 
down and that something needed to be done quickly to restore some sense 
of common purpose and to provide Taylor with a revised set of instructions 

It was with this background that -Secretary McNamara convened a 
conference in Honolulu on very short notice, bringing together most of 
the key personalities involved in Vietnam policy-making: Chairman Wheeler 
of the JCS, General Westmoreland, COMUSMACV, Admiral Sharp, CINCPAC, 
Ambassador Taylor from Saigon, William Bundy of State, and John McNaughton 
of Defense. 

Precisely what transpired during the one-day meeting in Honolulu 
on April 20th is not known to this writer. But clearly the meeting was 
called for the explicit purpose of ironing out differences and smoothing 
ruffled feathers. The immediate concern was to reach specific agreement 
on troop deployments; but an underlying objective was to restore a sem- 
blance of consensus about assessments and priorities. 

■: The record contains two documents that report on the results of 
the meeting, (l) The minutes of the meeting prepared by John McNaughton, 
and (2) a Memorandum for the President prepared by the Secretary of 
Defense on April 21 which is almost, but not quite, identical with 
McNaughton' s mirrites. The differences are significant in that they 
suggest an effort on McNamara 's part to stress even more than did 
McNaughton the unanimity of view that was achieved at Honolulu. 

• • 

Sections of the two documents relevant to the air war are quoted 
below. Where the two texts differ, both versions are shown -- McNamara' s 
in brackets £~_J> McNaughton' s in parentheses ( ): 

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(Secretary McNanara, accompanied by) Mr. William Bundy (and) 
Mr. McNaughton /and i/ met with Ambassador Taylor, General 
Wheeler, Admiral Sharp and General Westmoreland in Honolulu on 
Tuesday, April 20. (The minutes of that meeting follow:) 
/Following is my report of the meeting^/ 

1. (There was consensus that) /None of them expect 7 the 

• DRV/VC (cannot be expected) to capitulate, or come to a position 
acceptable to us, in less than six months. This is because they 
believe that a settlement will come as much or more from VC 
failure in the South as from DRV pain in the North, and that it 
will take more than six months, perhaps a year or two, to demon- 
strate VC failure in the South. 

2. With respect to strikes against the North, (it was agreed) 
/they all agree/ "that the present tempo is about right, that 
sufficient increasing pressure is provided by repetition and con- 
tinuation. All of them envisioned* a strike program continuing at 
least six months, perhaps a year or more, avoiding the Hanoi- 
Haiphong-Phuc Yen areas" during that period. There might be fewer 
fixed targets, or more restrikes, or more armed reconnaissance 
missions. Ambassador Taylor stated what appeared to be a (shared) 
^/majority/ view, that it is important not to "kill the hostage" by 
destroying the North Vietnamese assets inside the "Hanoi do-nut." 
(it was agreed) /They all believe/ that the strike program is 
essential to our campaign -- both psychologically and physically 
-- but that it cannot be expected to do the job alone, /ihey/ 
All considered it very important that strikes against the North 

be continued during any talks. 

3. None of (the participants) /them/ sees a dramatic improve- ■. 
ment in the South in the immediate future. (The) /Their/ strategy 
for "victory" (proposed by Ambassador Taylor, General Wheeler, 
Admiral Sharp and General Westmoreland) /however/ is to break the 
will of the DRV/VC by denying them victory. Ambassador Taylor ^put 

it in terms of a demonstration of Communist impotence, which will 
lead eventually to a political solution. They see slow improve- 
ment in the South, but all (participants) emphasized the critical 
importance of holding on and avoiding -- for psychological and 
morale reasons -- a spectacular defeat of GVN or US forces. And 
they all suspect that the recent VC lull is but the quiet before 
a storm. ... 

The documents continue with specific force deployment recommendations 
that were agreed upon at the meeting. In addition, Mci:aughton T s minutes 
contain the following concluding item: 

It was agreed that tasks within South Vietnam should have 
first call on air assets in the area and that, .if at any time 
there are not enough air assets in the area to perform all 

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necessary tasks, more air should be brought in. Secretary 
UcITamara directed that this policy be implemented at once. 


From this evidence, it seems apparent that Honolulu marked the 
relative downgrading of pressures against the North, in favor or more 
intensive activity in the South. The key to success, it was now felt, 
was not to destroy or* defeat the enemy, but to frustrate him -- "to 
break the will of the DRV/VC by denying them victory" and, above all, 
to avoid, for our part, a' dramatic defeat. Thus the decision at this 
point was to "plateau" the air strikes more or less at the prevailing 
level, relying on "repetition and continuation" to provide increasing 
pressure, rather than to pursue the relentless dynamic course that had 
been so ardently advocated by .Ambassador Taylor and Admiral Sharp in 
February and March, or the massive destruction of the North Vietnamese 
target complex so consistently advocated hy the Joint Chiefs. If 
Honolulu represented more than a "shotgun wedding-," if it reflected m 
fact a relatively uncoerced expression of views, the leading U.S. actors 
in the Vietnam drama must have undergone, in the intervening weeks, a 
reordering of expectations with respect to the results that bombing 
might achieve. Their views at- this point, in any event, 'were strikingly 
more restrained on the bombing issue than they had been previously. 


•An alternative -- and less charitable -- explanation might be that, 
in the meantime, attention had shifted from the air war to the subject 
of U.S. c<mbat force deployments, and had thus generated a need to con- 
centrate on issues, arguments and rationalizations tha-t would serve to 
promote and justify these new actions. Preoccupation with pressures 
against the North had long been viewed as something of a competitor, 
something of a distraction, by many advocates of a more forceful U.S. 
role in the South. Thus it seems logical that, with the -decision to 
begin a major U.S. ground force commitment, the air campaign should have 
been reduced in rank to second billing. 

B. Interdictio n is Surfaced 


Along with the levelling-off of the air strikes and a reordering 
of expectations as to their likely effectiveness came the decision to 
publicize the fact that "interdiction" was now a major objective of the 
strikes* It will be recalled that LOC interdiction had become a key 
element in the U.S. target ra-tionale beginning with ROLLING IHUHDER IX 
(week of April 2) „ After Honolulu, with the prospective deepening of 
the U.S. involvement on the ground and the need to justify that involve- 
ment in terms of "resisting ETVM aggression," it seemed desirable to stress 
that aspect of U,S. action more explicitly in public. Whereas previously 
there had been only passing reference to the fact that U.S. air attacks on 
North Vietnam had been aimed at targets "associated with infiltration, it 
was now decided to feature interdiction as the objective of U.S. bombing. 

Secretary Rusk made first public mention of this new rationale on 
April 23 5 115 / when he stated: 

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The bombing is designed to interdict, as far as possible, 
and to inhibit, as far as may be necessary, continued aggres- 
sion against the Republic of Viet -Nam. 

Three days later, Secretary McNamara gave a special briefing to the 
press corps at the Pentagon, complete with maps and photographs, driving 
home the point of massive infiltration from the llorth: 

Now the current /TuAF and TJ.sJ strikes against North 
Vietnam have been designed to impede this infiltration of 
men and materiel, and infiltration which makes the differ- 
ence beteeeh a situation which is manageable and one which 
is not manageable internally by the Government of South 

The air strikes have ^oeen carefully limited to military 
targets, primarily to infiltration targets. To transit 
. points, to barracks, to supply depots, to ammunition depots, 
to routes of communication, all feeding the infiltration 
lines from North Vietnam into Laos and then into South 

More recently there has been added to this target system 
railroads, highways, and bridges which are the foundation of 
the infiltration routes... 

The strikes have been designed to increase the dependence 
on an already over -burdened road transport system oy denying 
the use of the -rail lines in the South. In summary, our ob- 
jectives have been to force them off the rails onto the high- 
ways and off the highways onto their feet... 

Supplementing the bridge strikes, armed "reconnaissance is 
being conducted along truck convoy routes against maritime 
traffic and rolling stock on the rail lines... 

These carefully controlled rail strikes will continue as 
necessary to impede the infiltration and to persuade the North 
Vietnamese leadership that their aggression against the south 
will not succeed. ... 

C. Political Objectives are Reviewed 

Now that interdiction was being publicly embraced as a major 
objective of the bombing, at least one high-ranking Administration official 
began to realize that insufficient attention had been paid to the U.S. 
political posture in the event that the DRV became persuaded "that their 
aggression will not succeed." 

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As early as April 1, 116/ McGeorge Bundy expressed his concern that 
the eventual bargaining tradeoffs had not received the careful considera- 
tion that they deserved. As he saw it: 

We have three cards of some value: cur "bombing of North 
Vietnam, our military presence in South Vietnam, and the 
• political and economic carrots that can be offered to Hanoi. 
We want to trade these cards for just as much as possible of 
the following: an end to infiltration of men and supplies , 
an end of Hanoi f s direction, control, and encouragement of 
the Viet Cong, a removal of cadres under direct Hanoi control, 
and a dissolution of the organised Viet Cong military and 
political forces. We do not need to decide today just how we 
wish to mesh our high cards against Communist concessions. 
But we will need to be in such a position soon, if only to 
exchange views with Quat. On this more general point, we be- 
lieve more exploratory conversation with the President is 
needed today. ^A/nril "ij 

Apparently, however, any exploratory conversation that took place 
on that and other occasions failed to lead to a clarification of what 
the U.S. and the CVrl could regard as "a satisfactory outcome 7 ^ in ^ Vietnam^ 
McGeorge Bundy continued to feel a sense of urgency about beginning dis- ' 
cussions with the Saigon Government on this matter. Thus on April 25 he 
" circulated a Memorandum to the Principals, lamenting the lack of progress 
toward such discussions: 

We have had a lot of discussion among ourselves and with 
Embassy Saigon on the negotiating track, but we have not yet 
had serious discussions with the Republic of Vietnamo Such 
serious discussions are the necessary preliminary of any 
substantial improvement in our political posture, because our 
whole position depends on the legitimacy of that independent 
government . 

But we have had great difficulty in talking to Quat^so^far 
because our thinking has focused so sharply on the complexi- 
ties of the bargaining problem itself: 

.At what stage would we stop bombing? 

At what point and with what guarantees could 

we begin to withdraw? 

What are the real terms of an effective cease-fire? 

These are very difficult Questions and the truth is that 
they cannot be answered today. They are precisely tne prob- 
lems which will have to be settled by a combination of action 


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on the ground and hard "bargaining. Moreover, it is very hard 
for us to look these questions in the eye with Quat & Company 
lest each of us begins to suspect the determination of the 

It is perhaps worth observing that these very same questions were- 
still as difficult to* answer and as devisive in April, 1968 as they 
seemed to Bundy in April, 19&5- But at that time Bundy felt that a 
different .approach might be more productive. Thus the main purpose of 
his memorandum was : suggest that there is a better place to begin on 
. this problem: namely, by getting a clearer and more compre- 
hensive statement of the elements of a good eventual solution 
inside South Vietnam,. We can and should work out with Quat 
a program whose elements could include: 

1. Internationally validated free elections, first 
locally, then regionally, and finally on a national basis. 

2. A broad and generous offer of political amnesty to 
all who abandon the use of force, coupled with the right 
of repatriation to the North, or opportunities for peaceful 
resettlement in the South. 

3. A clear opportunity for the people of South Vietnam 
themselves to express themselves directly on the peaceful 
presence of Americans and other foreigners in helping with 
the peaceful progress of Vietnam. 

k. Reciprocal guarantees against any border violation 
with all neighbors of South Vietnam, and a readiness to 
accept international patrols along these borders. 


5. A declaration of intent to work for the unification 
of all Vietnam by the free choice of its people and a readi- 
ness to accept nationwide free elections for this purpose 
if this -Dosition is: 

a„ Supported by the people of South Vietnam in 
. appropriate constitutional process. 

bo .Accepted by the Government of Eorth Vietnam, and 

c. Validated by effectively guaranteed rights of 
free political activity for all parties in both parts of the 

There are other elements to a strong CW program, and 
closer study may well show that the GV3S has already accepted 
a number of these positions,. My present point is simply that 

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our own political position needs now to be "built on a clearer 
and stronger statement of objectives from Saigon itself. 

Once this stronger position of Saigon is established, the 
US could add its own support and its own determination to be 
guided by the freely expressed wishes of the people of South 
Vietnam. It could express its readiness to give peaceful help 
. to such a settled country , and it could reaffirm its readiness 
to participate in appropriate international guarantees. It 
could also reaffirm its determination to support the GVS until 
this program is accepted. 

But the ''strong GVE program" Bundy had in mind clearly did not con- 
template any serious compromise with the NLF. It was a politically 
strengthened, internationally guaranteed, Western-oriented government 
Bundy was seeking to create — at least in appearance if not in reality. 
The grinding problem of the ultimate role of the NLF was left unaddressed 
and in limbo: 

The probability is that any such program would and should 
leave open the exact opportunities open to the Liberation 
Front and its members in the new politics of South Vietnam. 
This is as it should "be, since this point is precisely the one 
which can only be settled by events and bargaining. 

It is a striking fact that, in April, 1968, three years later, this 
crucial point was still viewed as one which can only be settled by events 
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A. The Background 

Pressure for some form of bombing halt had mounted steadily 
throughout April and early May. As early as April 2, Canada's Prime • 
Minister Lester Pearson, on his way to meet with President Johnson, 
had stopped off to make a speech in Philadelphia in which he suggested 
that the President should order a "pause" in the torfiolng of North 
Viet nam o 


Pearson's gratuitous advice was particularly galling to the 
President because the pause had become the battle slogan of the anti- 
Vietnam movement. Students had picketed the L3J Ranch in Texas, 
demanding a cessation of bombing. A massive teach-in had been scheduled 
for May 15 in Washington, with academicians who wanted withdrawal of 
American influence from the Asian mainland, ready to demand as a first 
step an immediate end of the bombing. Pressure for a pause was building 
up, too, in Congress among liberal Democrats. 117/ The U«H. Secretary 
General was on a continual bombing pause kick, with a proposal for a 
three month suspension of bombing in return for Hanoi's agreement to 
cease infiltration in South Vietnam. U Thant had told Ambassador 
Stevenson on April 2k that he believed such a gesture would facilitate 
renewed non-aligned pressure upon Hanoi to negotiate. 


Evidently, however, the President was not impressed with the wide- 
spread clamor that such a gesture would evoke any response from Hanoi. 
He had responded favorably -to the 17-Nation appeal in his April 7th 
speech, only to be answered with blunt rejection by Hanoi and Peking. 
The U.S. had responded favorably to the idea of a Cambodian Conference 
that would provide opportunities for "corridor contacts" with Communist 
powers on the Vietnam problem, but Peking had apparently blocked that 
initiative. Encouragement had been given to a UK approach to the Soviets 
in February looking toward consultations under Article 19 of the I962 
Geneva Accords, but no response from the USSR had been received. The 
Radhakrishnan proposal for a cease-fire along' the 17th parallel, super- 
vised ~by an "Afro-Asian Force" was being favorably considered by the 
U.S. only to be denounced as a "plot" by Peking and as an "offense" by 
Hanoi. Publicly, the President was plaintive: 

There are those who frequently talk of negotiations and 
. political settlement and that they believe this is the course 
we should pursue, and so do I. When they talk that way I say, 
welcome to the club. I want to negotiate. I would much 
rather talk than fight, and I think everyone would. Bring 
in who you want us to negotiate with. I have searched high 
and wide, and I am a reasonably good cowboy, and I can't even 
rope anybody and bring them in who is willing to tali and 

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settle this by negotiation. We send them messages through 
allies - one country, two countries, three countries, four 
or five countries - all have tried to be helpful. The dis- 
tinguished British citizen, Mr. (Patrick Gordon) Walker, 
has been out there, and they say, we can't even talk to you. 
All our intelligence is unanimous- in this one point, that 
. they see no need for negotiation. They think they are 
winning and they have won and why should they sit down and 
give us something and settle with us. lift/ 

But while the public clamor persisted and became more and more 
difficult to ignore, the President was receiving intelligence assess- 
ments from Saigon and from Washington that tended to confirm his reading 
of Hanoi's disinterest in negotiations, but that provided him with a 
quite different argument for a bombing pause at this time: if the^con- 
f lict was going to have to be expanded and bombing intensified before 
Hanoi would "come- to reason," it would be easier and politically more 
palatable to do so after a pause, which would afford an opportunity for 
the enemy's intentions to be more clearly revealedo 

On May k, in response "to an urgent request from Washington, Am- _ 
bassador Taylor submitted a- U.S. Mission "Assessment of DRV/VC Probable 
Courses of Action During the Kert Three Months ." The assessment con-^ 
firmed the Washington view that Hanoi continued to have a very favoraole 
view of its prospects for victory: 

..-.Tone of statements emanating from Hanoi since /pebru- ^ 
ary and March/ indicate that the DRV has not weakened in its 
determination to continue directing and supporting Viet Cong 
and seeking further intensification of war in the Southo 

From DRV viewpoint, outlook is probably still favorable 
despite air strikes on ITorth. Although their general- 
transport at ion system in North has been significantly damaged, 
thus somewhat reducing their infiltration capability, Hanoi 
may calculate it can accept level of damage being inflicted 
as reasonable price to pay for chance of victory in Soutn. 
Viet Cong forces in south retain capability of taking local 
initiatives on ground, although they must accept cost of^ 
heavier losses from tactical air support, and their moraie 
possibly has been reduced by recent developments. GVE force 
levels still are not adequate to cope with these Viet Cong 
ca/oabilities. Despite relative longevity of Quat Govt., 
which marks' improvement over previous recent Govts., po__ii:i- 
cal situation is still basically unstable. While military 
and civilian morale has risen, rumblings among generals con- 
tinue, suspicion among political and religious groups 
persist and are subject to exploitation by communists. On 
balance, Hanoi probably believes it has considerable basis 


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for expectation that Viet Gong, who were clearly making prog- 
ress as recently as February, can regain the initiative and, 
by the application of offensive power, can create an atmosphere 
in which negotiations favorable to the DRV can be instituted. 

Given this situation, the report argued, the most probable course. 
of action that Hanoi would pursue is to continue its efforts to expand 
its military action in the South, "including covert introduction of 
additional PAW units on order of several regiments. This course offers 
♦..the prospect of achieving major military gains capable of offsetting 
US/GVM application of air power. Such gains would expand Viet Cong area; 
of control and might lead to political demoralisation in South Vietnam." 


A similarly unencouraging assessment had been submitted to the 
President by the Board of National Estimates on April 22. In a "highly 
sensitive, limited distribution" memorandum, the leading personalities 
of the U.S. intelligence community concurred in the prediction that: 

If present US policies continue without the introduction 
of large additional forces or increased US air effort, the 
Communists are likely to hold to their existing policy of 
seeking victory in the local military struggle in South Viet- 
nam. They will try to intensify that struggle, supporting it 
with additional men and equipment. At the same time, DRV air 
defenses will be strengthened through Soviet and perhaps 
Chinese aid. ' * 

If, however, the U.S. deepens its involvement by increasing its 
combat role and intensifying its air effort, the intelligence officers 

...that the Viet Cong, lorth Vietnam, and China would ^ - 
initially.. .try to offset the new enemy strength by stepping 
up the insurgency, reinforcing the Viet Cong with the men and 
equipment necessary. They would likely count on time being 
on their side and try to force the piecemeal engagement of 
US troops under conditions which might bog them down in jungle 
warfare, hoping to present the US with a de facto partition of 
the country. The Soviet Union. 0O would almost certainly 
acquiesce in a decision by Hanoi to intensify the struggle. 120/ 


This lack of any real prospect of "give" on the enemy's part was 
also confirmed by "Admiral Raborn, shortly after he had succeeded John 
McCone as Director of Central Intelligence. On the day of Raborn 1 s 
swearing-in (April 28), the President had given him a letter from KcCone 
(apparently worded along, the. lines of his memorandum described in 
Section IX. E. of this study) which McCone had handed to the President 
as his last official act. The President had asked Raborn to prepare 

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his own comments on KcCone's views. Raborn's comments, circulated to 
Secretaries Rusk and llcl'amara on May 6, included the following: 

Our limited "bombing of the North and our present ground- 
force build-up in the South are not likely to exert sufficient 
pressure on the enemy to cause him to meet our present terms 
in the foreseeable future I note very recent evidence which 
suggests that cur military pressures are becoming somewhat more 
■ damaging to the enemy within South Vietnam, but I am inclined 
to doubt that this damage is increasing at a rate which will 
bring him quickly to the conference table. 

With particular reference to McCone's recommendation that the US 
add much heavier air action against the North to its planned combat 
force deployment to the South, Raborn indicated his agreement, and 
expressed his belief that such an action would have the following con- 

The DRV is, in my view, unlikely to engage in meaningful 
discussions at any time in coming months until US air attacks 
have begun to damage or destroy its principal economic and 
military targets. 1 thus concur with the USIB's judgment of 
18 February 1965, that, given such US punishment, the enemy 
would be "somewhat more likely" to decide to make some effort 
to secure a respite, rather than to intensify the struggle 
further and accept the consequent risks. 

And then he added the following advice: 

Insofar as possible, we should try to manage any program of 
expanded bombings in ways which (l) would leave the DRV an oppor- 
tunity to explore negotiations without complete loss of face, 
(2) would not preclude any Soviet pressures on Hanoi to keep the 
war from expanding, and (3) would not suddenly produce ^extreme 
world pressures against us. In this connection, the timing and 
circumstances in which the bombings were extended northward could 
be of critical importance, particularly in light of the fact that 
there have been some indications of differing views between Moscow, 
Peiping, and Hanoi. ?or example, it would probably be advantageous 
to expand bombings after, not before, some major new VC move 
(e.go, obvious concentration for imminent attack on Da Hang or 
Kontum) and after, not before, any current possibilities of serious 
ne gotiations have bee n "fully tested. And such bombings should not 
be so regular "as to leave no interval for the Communists to make 
concessions with some grace. Indeed, wg^jsho uld keep ^ n rai n & the 
possibil it y of a pause at some appropriate time, which could serve 
to test the C ommunis t intentions" and to exploit any differences 
on their side. (Emphasis supplied) 




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One other consideration may have entered into the Presidents "bomb- 
ing pause calculus at this time. On April 5, a TROJM HORSE photography 
mission had revealed the first SA-2 SAM site under construction fifteen 
miles SSE of HanoI 5 confirming the long-rumored shipment of Soviet 
surface-to-air missiles to North Vietnam. 121 / Moreover, the SAMs 
were only the most dramatic form of considerably increased quantities 
of modern military equipment beginning to be furnished to the DRY by 
the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was now in the process of "becoming 
visibly committed to assisting North Vietnam in resisting U.S. attacks 
on its territory, and a more direct confrontation of US and USSR military 
force was rapidly approaching. Indeed, the Joint Chiefs had indicated, 
on April Ik, their desire to obtain approval for air strikes against the 
sites on short notice as they become operational, had estimated, on 
May 6, that the first site construction could be completed by May 15, 
and had instructed CTFTCE&C to commence planning to conduct air strikes 
against that site. 122/ A decision involving a major Soviet "flashpoint', 7 
therefore, would soon have to be faced, and the President may well have 
wished to provide a prior opportunity for a quiet Hanoi backdown, before 
proceeding with more forceful military activity. 

B. • Setting the St age 

On the evening of May 10 the President sent a personal FLASH 
message to Ambassador Taylor, 123/ informing him that he (the President) 
had decided to call a brief halt to air attacks in the North and instruct- 
ing him to obtain Premier Quat's agreement to the plan. The text of the 
message follows: ° ... 

I^have learned from Bob McKamara that nearly all ROLLK'G 
THUNDER operations for this week can be completed by Wednesday 
noon, Washington time. This fact and the ddys of Buddha's 
birthday seem to me to provide an excellent opportunity for a 
pause in air attacks which might go into next week and which I 
could use to good effect with world opinion. 

My plan is not to announce this brief pause but simply to 
call it privately to the attention of Moscow and Hanoi as soon 
as possible and tell them that we shall be watching closely to 
see whether they respond in any way. Kfy current plan is to 
report publicly after the pause ends on what we have done. 

Could you see Quat right away on Tuesday and see if you 
can persuade him to concur in this plan. I would like to 
associate him with me in this decision if possible, but I 
would accept a simple concurrence or even willingness not to 
oppose my decision. In general I think it important that he 
and i should act together in such matters, but "l have no desire 
to embarrass him if it is politically difficult for him to join 
actively in a pause over Buddha's birthday. 

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We have noted your /recent cables/ but do not yet have 
your appreciation of the political effect in Saigon of acting 
around Buddha's "birthday, I^rom my point of view it is a 
great advantage to use Buddha's birthday to mask the first 
days of the pause here, if it is at all possible in^political 
terms for Quat. I assume we could undertake to enlist the 
Archbishop and the Nuncio in calming the Catholics . 

You should understand that my purpose in this plan is to 
begin to clear a path either toward restoration of pea.ce or 
toward increased military action, depending upon the reaction 
of the Communists o We have amply demonstrated our determina- 
tion and our commitment in the last two months, and I now 
wish to gain some flexibility. 

I know that this is a hard assignment on short notice, but 
there is no one who can bring it off better. 

I have kept this plan in the tightest possible circle here 
and wish you to inform no one but Alexis Johnson. After I have 
your report of Quat's reaction I will make a final decision and 
• it will^be communicated promptly to senior officers concerned. 

Ambassador Taylor promptly relayed the President's plan to Quat, 
whose major objection was to the notion of linking the pause in ^ any way 
with Buddha's birthday. Taylor reported this objection to Washington 
12.V and received the following additional instructions from the 
Department in return. 125/ 

We have decided here to go ahead commencing on Thursday 
/May 13/ for period of approximately 5-7 days. Orders through 
military channels will place stand-down on basis "in order to 
. observe reaction of DRV rail and road transportation systems^ ^ 
and will order increase in photo recce of DRV and bombing within 
SVR. You should tell Westmoreland true basis for his^ personal 
use only so that you and he and Alex Johnson remain the only 
three Americans in Saigon aboard. We have informed Dobrynm^ 
tonight and are instructing Kohler to convey message to Hanoi 
through DRV Ambassador in Moscow. I will also be telling 
British and Canadian Foreign Ministers personally tomorrow and 
we will convey message to Menzies through Embassy here. How- 
ever, each of these being informed only at. highest levels and 
their Saigon representatives will not repeat not be witting. 

You should take following actions: 

1. Inform Quat we are going ahead. You should not specify 
period but let us know if he raises question or still insists 
on as short a period as k - 5 days« Tell him we will definitely 




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refrain at all times from associating action with Buddha's 
"birthday and that our initial plan will be to refer all press 
queries to Washington and to hold as long as possible simply _ 
to operational factors as explanation. You should raise with 
him question of what he will tell generals urging in strongest 
terms that he tell them only what we are saying through mili- 
tary channel and. preferably delay even this until question 
arises. If Quat raises question of what we are saying to 
Communist side, you will have copies tonight's talk with 
Dobrynin and instructions to Kohler by septels and may draw 
generally on these for his personal use only. 

2. To deal with any possibility adverse Catholic reaction 
you should inform Archbishop and/or Nuncio very privately that 
any variation in actions in forthcoming period will be USG 
decisions not related in any way to Buddha's birthday or any 
appeal or issue connected with it. You may of course also 
reiterate that any such variations have no effect whatever 

on our determination as clearly shown in recent months. We 
leave timing this approach to you but believe it should be 
done earliest before any speculation arises. 

3. At appropriate time you should instruct Zorthian to 
report simply that no operations other than reconnaissance 
were conducted on each day and to refer press queries, pre- 
ferably by indirection, to Washington. 

A few hours later, Secretary McEamara, with the concurrence of 
Secretary Rusk and McGeorge Bundy, sent the following FLASH joint 
State/Defense message through military channels to Ambassador Taylor, 


'In order to observe reaction of DRV rail and road trans- 
portation systems, bombing (including armed recce and other 
strike operations) of targets within DRV will cease for several 
days effective 2^-00 12 May Saigon time. CIHCPAC should issue 
the necessary instructions to US forces and Ambassador should 
seek to obtain compliance of VEAF. .. 

During the period in which bombing operations axe suspended, 
photo and eyeba,!! reconnaissance flights over DRV, in. so far as 
' they can be carried out without flak suppression escorts and 
within currently approved rules relating to altitudes and lati- 
tudes, will be increased to the level required to permit a 
thorough study of lines of communication. The bombing sorties 
which would have been directed against the DRV during this 
period, to the extent practical, will be targeted against ap- 
propriate targets in South Vietnam. 


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ROLLING THDEBER 15 as outlined in JCS 1736 has been ^ approved . 
It is to be executed upon receipt of appropriate execution orders. 

Press guidance for the period during which bombing operations 
are suspended will be furnished in a separate message. 

Acting on these instructions, Taylor saw Quat in Saigon on the 
morning of May 12, and reported back as follows: 127/ 

1 Along with Alex Johnson, I called this morning to convey 

to Quat the information contained in Department's instructions^. 
I told hjjn that his views with regard to linking the pause with 
Buddha's birthday had been accepted and that this element had 
been removed from the plan. I explained that the pause begins 
tomorrow (Saigon time)" and will continue for several days. As 
he did not raise any question with regard to the precise jura- 
tion, I did not elaborate. He liked the military justification 
• for the pause as explained in REFTEL and undertook to remain 
within this language in dealing with his generals. I assured 
him that General Westmoreland would do the same in his military 

We explained to Quat how the message was being conveyed to 
the USSR and Hanoi. He had no comment except to express doubt 
that any detectable change in DRV conduct will take place dur- 
ing the suspension of attacks . 

As for comment to the press, he repeated his intention to 
ward off queries by references to "Operational Requirements. 

While securing Quat T s support has been somewhat easier^ than 
I had anticipated, I am sure" that he and his colleagues will 
become uneasy very quickly if this pause runs beyond the four^ 
to five days" which Quat has indicated to be acceptable from his 
point of view. I would hope that our purposes can have been 
fulfilled within the five day period. 



With regard to paragraph 2 /of Department's instructions, , 
Johnson and I feel that it" is unnecessary and probably undesir- 
able to approach Archbishop Binh or the Nuncio at this time. 
We will watch closely the local reaction to the suspension and^ 
• convey the message to the Catholic leadership, if necessary, at 
a timely moment. 

Much additional attention was lavished by Washington upon maintain- 
ing near-absolute secrecy, preserving a plausible front vis -a -vis tne 
•oress, and other aspects of stage management. On May 12, tne operation 
was given the codeword FAYFUMER, and all communications on it were 
thenceforth to be slugged with that indicator. Besides Taylor and 
Johnson, the only American Ambassadors informed of the political purpose 

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of MAYFLOWER were William Sullivan in Vientiane, Foy Kohler in Moscow, 
and Winthrop Brown in Seoul — the latter only for the purpose of _ inform- 
ing President Park Chung Hee who was about to embark on a state visit to 
Washington and who, the Department felt, should be. forewarned so tnat he 
might more effectively fend off press probings. 

- On the evening of May 11, Secretary Rusk made two moves designed to 
inform "the other side" of the fact that a bombing halt was being called 
and of its political purpose: 

1. He sent a cable 128 / to Foy Kohler in Moscow, instructing him 

to make urgent contact with the DRV Ambassador in Moscow to convey a 

carefully prepared message to him, as quoted below. The cable set fortn 
the instructions and rationale as follows: 

...We are using you as channel to avoid using Soviets as 
intermediaries and also to insure that message is accurately 
and directly delivered. We leave appropriate method of 
arranging contact to you and are not concerned if Soviets 
should become aware you are making such contact. You should 
of course make maximum effort avoid any attention by any third 
. party. 

Message you should deliver should be oral but confirmed by 
. written piece of paper which you should hand to Ambassador witn 
5T . request he deliver message to Hanoi. Message is as follows: 

BEGIN TEXT. The highest authority in this Government has 
asked me to inform Hanoi that there will be no air attacks on 
North Viet-Nam for a period beginning at noon, Washington time, 
Wednesday, May 12, and running into next week. 

In this decision the United States Government has taken 
account 'of repeated suggestions from various quarters, inclu 
ing public statements by Hanoi representatives, that there can 
be no progress toward peace while there are air attacks on^ 
North Viet-Nam. The United States Government remains convinced 
that the underlying cause of trouble in Southeast Asia is armed 
action against the people and Government of South Vietnam oy 
forces whose actions can be decisively affected from North 
Vietnam. The United States will be very watchful to see Whether 
in this period of pause there are significant reductions in sucn 
armed actions by such forces. (The United States must emphasize 
that, the road toward the end of armed attacks against the P e ^® 
and Government of Vietnam is the only road which will P ermrt Xhe 
Government of Vietnam (and t ^"Government of i'He" UnitecTStaoes) 
to bring a permanent end to their attacks on North Vietnam.;... 

In taking this action the United States is well aware of 
the risk that a temporary suspension of these air attacks may 

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"be misunderstood as an indication of weakness, and it is there- 
fore necessary for me to point out that if this pause should be; 
misunderstood in this fashion, "by any party, it would be neces- 
sary to demonstrate more clearly than ever, after the pause 
ended, that the United States is determined not to accept 
aggression without reply in Vietnam. Moreover, the United 
States must point out that the decision to end air attacks for 
this limited trial period is one which it must be free to re- 
verse if at any time in the coming days there should be actions 
by the other side in Vietnam which required immediate reply. 

But my Government is very hopeful that there will be no^ such 
misunderstanding and that this first pause in the air attacks 
may meet with a response which will permit further and more 
extended suspension of this form of military action in the ex- 
pectation of equally constructive actions by the other side m 
the future. END TEXT. 

2. He summoned Soviet Ambassador. Anatol Dobrynin to his of ^ lc ^. in 
the State Department and made virtually the same oral statement to him, 
' confirmed by a parallel written version handed to him. Rusk, that same 
evening described the meeting to Foy Kohler in a second cable, ^1 sent 
immediately after the message quoted above: 

I explained we were not indicating any precise number o± 
days,.. that we retained freedom of action, and that we would 
convey similar message to Hanoi. I also said we would make 
no announcement although we expected press pressures, and 
made clear our- action related only to strikes of any sort 
and not to continued reconnaissance. (Paper itself makes 
clear, action confined to DRV and does not include Laos or 

I also said we did not know what to expect but ^ that Hanoi 
knows what it is doing and can find a way to make its response 

Dobrynin noted we were 4 merely informing Soviets and was 
clearly relieved we not asking them to act as intermediary. 
Asked about my trip to Vienna and indicated there might be 
further conversations there Saturday with Gromyko. Asked 
basically whether action represented any change in fundamental 
US position. 

I replied that it did not and that this should be no surprise. 

I reviewed recent indications that Cambodia conference . 
blocked by Peiping despite favorable mention in^DRV-Moscow 
communique and that three-party talks on Laos likewise m 

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abeyance apparently following Peiping and perhaps Hanoi pressure. 
President on April 7 had tried open up discourse but thus far 
channels blocked. If attacks on DRV were part of problem, Com- 
munist response to present action might open up channels. 

Dobrynin said he thought we would get some answer but could 
not predict what*. 

I underscored importance action not be misunderstood in 
Hanoi. Hanoi appears to have impression they may succeed, but 
US will not get^ tired or be affected by very small domestic 
opposition or by international pressures, Hanoi cannot rely on 
Saigon instability. They may have wrong ideas on these points 
and important they not misunderstand our action. 


Dobrynin responded he saw no danger of misunderstanding but 
-oroblem was to find way. 


Parallel with the Secretary's diplomatic moves, the President made 
a major public address on the first day Of the bombing pause, m which 
he made no reference to the pause, hut in which he urged Hanoi to^ consider 
a "political solution." The soeech, embracing the theme of the tnree 
. faces of war" (l. armed conflict, 2. diplomacy and politics, and 3. human 
need) contained the following passage: 

The second face of war in Viet -Nam is the quest for a 
political solution - the face of diplomacy and politics - of 
the ambitions and the interests of other nations. We know, 
as our adversaries should also know, that there is no purely 
military' solution in sight for either side. We are ready^for 
unconditional discussions. Most of the non-Communist nations 
of the world favor such unconditional discussions. And it 
would .clearly be in the interest of North Vietnam to now come 
to the conference table. For. them the continuation of war, 
without talks, means only damage without conquest. Communist 
China apparently desires the war to continue whatever the cost 
to their allies. Their target is not merely South Viet-Nam; 
it is Asia. Their objective is not the fulfillment of Viet- 
namese nationalism; it is to erode and to discredit America's 
ability to help prevent '-"Chinese domination over all of Asia, 

In this domination they will never succeed. 3-3o / 

.C. Transmitting the Messag es 

Poy Kohler in Moscow, upon receiving the Secretary's _ instructions, 
directed his Deputy Chief of Mission to telephone the ICorth Vietnamese 
Embassy on the morning of May 12 to request an urgent appointment for 
' Ambassador Kohler with the forth Vietnamese Ambassador. The latter, however, 

rn _ Q art c n +. 

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declined to receive the American Ambassador "in view of the absence of 
diplomatic relations between our two countries," and suggested instead^ 
that the "important, high level private message" from the US Government 
which Ambassador Kohler wished to communicate to the NW Ambassador be 
sent to the Soviet Government "in its capacity as Co-Chairman of the 
Geneva Conference." 

Kohler felt it would not be productive to press the 1-rVK ^ embassy- 
further, and cabled the Department for instructions as to which of two 
alternatives he should pursue: r, (l) Transmit message by letter via 
messenger to NVN ambassador; or (2) seek appointment with Acting Foreign 
Minister Kuznetsov to convey mess age. T, 13l/ 

The Department's reply was as follows: 


Believe you should pursue both alternatives urgently, 
explaining ' to Kuznetsov (who will by now have heard from 
Dobrynin) that you recognize reluctance of Soviets to act^ 
as intermediary and are asking solely that Soviets transmit 
message to DRV Ambassador in accordance with DRV suggestion. 


Kohler acted promptly on both alternatives. He transmitted the^ 
"oral" communication to the DRV Ambassador under cover of a letter signed 
by Kohler, which read as follows: 

In accordance with the suggestion made by a member o± 
your staff today, I am attempting to reach the Acting 
Foreign Minister tonight. 

Since this may not be possible and because of its im- 
portance, I enclose the message I had hoped to be able to 
convey to you personally earlier today. 

However, though hand-delivered by an American embassy employee to 
a DRV employee, the communication was returned the following morning in 
a plain envelope addressed simply Embassy of US of A. 133 / 

At the "same time, Kohler sought an urgent appointment with Acting 
Foreign Minister Kuznetsov (C-romyko being out of town) but Kuznetsov was 
not available and Kohler was able to see only Deputy Foreign Minister 
Firyubin. The latter, after some temporizing, flatly refused his 
government's seryices as an intermediary and lectured Kohler at length 
upon- the US misconception of the real nature of the conflict in Vietnam. 
Kohler T s account of the conversation follows: 13V 

I informed Firyubin that as he must know from report of 
Dobrynin r s conversation with Secretary,, US Government has 
made decision which we hoped would be both understood and 
not misunderstood. I had been informed by several high 

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Soviet sources that decision we had taken "was precisely what 
was called for hut none had been in position to predict re- 
action. Our purpose in reaching this significant decision ; 
was to attempt to ascertain if a way could he found to peace- 
ful solution of current crisis in Southeast Asia. We had 
hoped we would be able to deliver oral communication convey- 
ing this decision to DRY authorities and I had attempted to 
do so today through DRV Ambassador. Unfortunately Ambassador 
let it be known that he did not wish to receive me personally 
and when his embassy was informed that the message I sought 
to deliver was of extreme importance , it was suggested that 
we transmit the message through the Soviet Government in its 
capacity as Geneva Co-Chairman. It was because of these cir- 
cumstances that I had found it necessary to disturb 
Mr. Firyubin tonight. I pointed out that although DRV 
Ambassador had refused to receive me, embassy had succeeded 
in delivering a copy of oral communication to employee of 
DRV embassy earlier this evening (2015 Local) who agreed to 
bring it to attention of Ambassador (communication as set 
forth in DEFTEL 3103 then translated in full for Firyubin^ 
with sole interruption being Firyubin 1 s inquiry if cessation 
attacks applied only to those from air - which I confirmed.) 
After receiving confirmation from me that communication was 
of oral nature ^ Firyubin said he viewed communication as based 
on old erroneous conception on which US has proceeded, a con- 
ception which precludes US recognizing that the South Viet- 
namese people are fighting for their freedom and are struggling 
against aggression and control by Saigon puppets. Furthermore 
it indicated to Firyubin that we continued to view the picture 
incorrectly when we referred again to the struggle in South 
Vietnam as being organized and directed by the DRV. The 
absurdity of this view, he said, is obvious and naturally the 
Soviet Government cannot agree with it as it has made clear 
in numerous statements- Firyubin could only view the communi- 
cation as repetition of the threat against the DRV -- now a 
threat of renewed and expanded aggression., This was the only 
way he could interpret the reference to the risk that a sus- 
pension of attacks involved. Obviously we are suffering from 
a gross mi sionder standing if we think that such aggression will 
go unpunished, without response. The only constructive approach 
to a peaceful settlement of the situation in South Vietnam was 
to end the aggression, recall troops from South Vietnam and give 
the Vietnamese people the right to choose their own form of 
Government -- a choice which can be made freely only if the 
so-caviled specialists should be withdrawn and their opportunity 
of exercising influence on the Vietnamese thus removed. Firyubin 
said that he well acquainted with the countries and peoples of 
Southeast Asia; he therefore was aware and could understand the 
feelings caused by our actions there as well as the reaction in . 
majiy other parts of the world . 

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I told Firyubin I had asked to see him to put a very simple 
question to him. Does the Soviet Government agree to transmit 
the oral communication to the DRV? I said this was the whole 
purpose of my visit. 

Firyubin said the DRV embassy had not put such a ^request 
to the Soviet Government, I must agree that for Soviets to act 
as intermediary between us and DRV is very unusual. Naturally 
he would report my request to his Government and if the DRV^ 
should request this service he would not exclude the possibility 
' of transmitting the communication to the DRV Government. Mean- 
while he would be interested in knowing just how the DRV embassy 
had responded to our approach. 

I again described for Firyubin our efforts to deliver the 
• message to the DRV through its embassy in Moscow and told hm 
that the end result was a suggestion by the 'embassy that we 
transmit the message through the Soviet Government in its 
capacity as Geneva Co-Chairman. Firyubin repeated his promise 
to report my request to his Government and to inform me of the 

While the conversation continued in this vein, Firyubin had passed 
a note to a Foreign Office: assistant, Kornienko, who attended him, and 
the latter left the room. After some time, Kornienko reappeared and 
handed a note to Firyubin, which the latter read carefully. After read- 
ing the note, Firyubin said flatly that the Soviet Government would not 
transmit the U.S. Governments message to the DRV, that the DRV embassy 
had not requested this service and that it was the U.S. responsibility 
to find a convenient way of passing the message. Kohler's account con- 

I said I wished to understand him correctly. Was he 
rejecting my request to transmit the communication to the 
DRV? ' 

He said this was a correct understanding of the Soviet 
Government position. We must ourselves find the way. 


I said that what I was seeking was the cooperation of 
the Soviet Government and Firyubin r s remarks indicated 
.clearly that the Soviet Government was refusing this. 
Firyubin said, "I am not a postman" and again said we could 
find our own ways of transmitting messages. 

I -oointed out to Firyubin that the cooperation I had 
! ' requested is a well-known and not unprecedented process m 

international diplomacy. I had great difficulty in^ recon- 
ciling Soviet Government refusal to cooperate with its 
declaration in support of peaceful settlement of disputed 

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Kornienko chimed in that he had recalled statement by both 
the President and Secretary of State on several occasions that 
. the U.S. Government has channels for transmitting messages 

direct to Hanoi . On this the conversation ended but it should be 
noted that Firyubin made no effort to return to me the text of 
the oral communication which I had handed him at the outset of the 

" After further reflection on his meeting with Firyubin, Kohler sent 
a follow-on message to Washington that afternoon, 135/ in which he 
sought to present the Soviet position with some sympathy and to promote 
an understanding of the Soviet rebuff in the light of the "rather 
strenuous nature" of the document we were asking them to transmit. 
Kohler f s comments were as follows: 

I came away from, my meeting with Firyubin last night with 
mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was annoyed at the apparent 
Soviet rebuff of an effort to take heat out of . admittedly dan- 
gerous situation in SEA and impatient with flimsy rationale for 
Soviet refusal offered "oy Firyubin. On the other hand, I ^ could 
understand, if not sympathize with, Soviet sensitivity,^ given 
Chicom eagerness to adduce proof of their charges of collusion 
against Soviets and, frankly, given rather strenuous nature of 
document they were being asked to transmit to DRV. 

Implicit in latter view, of course, is assumption that 
Soviets in fact want bombing to stop, are genuinely concerned 
at possibilities escalation, and are interested in working 
out some sort of modus vivendi which would take heat ^ out of ^ 
situation while not undercutting their own position in Commie 
world as loyal socialist ally. We cannot be sure that this is 
way Soviets view situation, and it entirely possible they so 
• confident our ultimate defeat in Vietnam that no gesture on our 
.part would meet with encouraging response. Believe at this 

point, however, we lose nothing assuming Soviets have not com- 
pletely forgotten lesson Cuba and there is some flexibility in 
Soviet position which we should seek to exploit. 

I would hope, therefore, we would not regard Firyubin f s 
reaction last night as evidence conscious hardening of Soviet 
attitude. It may simply be reflection of bind -Soviets find 
themselves in at moment Meanwhile, we can feel sure message 
is already in DRV hands — copies now available thru Dobrynin, 
Firyubin, and DRV embassy here -- and I would suggest we go 
through with original plan and be on alert, both here and on 
the scene for any signs reaction from other side. Seen from^ 
here, we would lose nothing by doing so; and we gain at least 
with our friends and the unaligned. 

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By this time (1:00 p.m. March 13, Moscow time), though Kohler was 
not aware of it, the "bombing pause had already "been in effect for 
seventeen hours It had gone into effect as planned at 2^00 on May 12, 
Saigon time, and the Department so informed Kohler. The Department also 
decided, in spite of Kohler f s confidence that the U.S. "oral" communica- 
tion had reached Hanoi, to make doubly sure by asking the U.K. Govern- 
ment to instruct its Consul in Hanoi to transmit the same message, in 
-writing, to his normai contact in the DRV. Informed by the Department 
that this step was about to be taken, Kohler expressed his dissatisfac- 
tion with the character and tone of the communication oy recommending 
that, in any resubmission, the message be shortened and softened: 

• • 

.1 would recommend we shorten and revise wording of 
"oral" communication to DRV if we plan resubmit through 
British Consul Hanoi. If cast is present form, I think we 
are simply inviting rebuff, and exercise -Hanoi would prove 
as fruitless as our efforts in Moscow. Something along 
lines following would get essentia.1 message across: 

BEGIN TEXT. The highest authority in this Government 
has asked me to inform Hanoi that there will be no air 
attacks on North Vietnam for a period beginning at noon, 
Washington time, Wednesday, May 12 and running into next 

In this decision the United States Government has 
taken account of repeated suggestions from various quar- 
ters, including public statements by Hanoi representatives, 
that there can be no progress toward peace while there are 
air attacks on North Vietnam. 

The United States Government expects that in consequence 
of this action the DRV will show similar restraint. If this 
should not prove to be the case, then the United States 
Government will feel compelled to take such measures as it 
feels are necessary to deal with the situation in Vietnam. 
END TEXT. 156/ 


Kohler T s recommendation was not accepted, and the message was trans- 
mitted to the DRV by the British Consul in Hanoi in its original form. . 
As in the Moscow case, the message was shortly thereafter returned to 
the sender, ostensibly unopened. 

As a footnote to the "unopened letter" episodes, it may be worth 
noting that Canadian ICC Commissioner Blair Seaborn, on an early-June 
visit to Hanoi, was approached by the Czech Ambassador to the DRV, who 
recounted to him the story of Kohler f s unsuccessful effort to deliver 
the message to the DRV Ambassador in Moscow, with the message having been 
returned ostensibly unopened. The Czech Ambassador said "everybody 7 in 
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Do Awaiting a ResDonse 

While the Administration expected little in the way of a posi- 
tive Hanoi response, a watchful eye was kept for any signals or actions 
that might suggest North Vietnamese or Soviet receptivity to any further 
diplomatic explorations. Such signals as -were received, however, were 
entirely negative. Op. May 15 a Hanoi English language broadcast noted 
Western news reports of the bombing cessation, terming them "a worn out 
trick of deceit and threat •• ." On the same day, in a conversation with 
British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart in Vienna, Soviet Foreign 
Minister Andrei Grcmyko indicated the USSR's disinclination to partici- 
pate in any negotiations on Indochina. 

In" the meantime, in Saigon, the U.S. Mission was hard at work 
trying to 'clarify its own thinking -- and that of Washington -- on the 
persuasive, or rather coercive, possibilities of bombing pauses. In 
particular, the Mission was hoping to link the intensity of US bombing 
after the resumption closely to the level of VC activity during the 
pause. The purpose would be to make it clear to Hanoi that what we^were 
trying to accomplish with our bombing was to get the DRV to cease direct- 
ing and supporting the VC and to get VC units to cease their military 
activities in the South. In this approach, a downward trend in VC 
activities would be "rewarded" in a similar manner -by decreasing US 
bombing. Thus it was hoped that, during the bombing pause, the DRV 
would offer the first step in a series of events which might ultimately 
"lead to the termination of hostilities on satisfactory /i.e., UoS^y 
terms, without engaging in formal negotiations." 

Ambassador Taylor described this approach to Washington in a 
lengthy cable 13 8/ concurred in by Deputy Ambassador Johnson and General 
Westmoreland. The Ambassador recognized that there were one or two minor 
pitfalls in the scheme, but seemed undaunted in his confidence that US 
bombing could be designed to have powerful coercive effects. Taylor 
admitted that: 

Any success in carrying out such a scenario ^/would/ obviously 
depend on a considerable amount of cooperation from the DRV side 
based on a conviction arising from self-interest that the DRV 
must accept a settlement which excludes the conquest of SVh by 
NW. There is little likelihood that the Hanoi leaders are yet 
ready to reach such a conclusion, but a rigorous application of 
air attacks at a tempo related to Hanoi/VC activities accom- 
panied by pressure on the ground to compel the VC to engage in 
incidents or retreat appears to us to have possibilities • ^Con- 
ceivably, these ground operations might eventually result in 
herding VC units into "safe havens". ••Whatever its other weak- 
nesses, such a program would eliminate in large measure the 
danger which we may now "be facing of equating our bombing ac- 
tivity to VC initiated incidents, and of seeming to suggest that 
we will stop bombing for good if the VC will simply lie low. 


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A quite different approach to a settlement was proposed in a rather 
puzzling informal contact between Pierre Salinger and two somewhat 
shadowy Soviet officials in Moscow. On the evening of May 11 (i.e., one 
• full day prior to the inauguration of the bombing pause) Salinger, who 
was in Moscow at the time on private movie production business, was in-. 
vited to dinner by Mikhail Sagatelyan, whom Salinger had known in Wash- 
ington during the Kennedy years as the TASS Bureau Chief , and who was 
at this time assigned to TASS headquarters in Moscow. Salinger reported 
his conversation to Ambassador Kohler who related it to Secretary Rusk 
in a cable 139/ as follows: 

Sagatelyan probed Salinger hard as to whether he was on 
some kind of covert mission and seemed unconvinced despite 
latter f s reiterated denials. In any case, Sagetelyan, pro- 
testing he was speaking personally, talked at length about 
Viet-Kaia. He wanted Salinger ! s opinion on hypothetical form- 
ula for solution approximately on following lines: 

1. US would announce publicly temporary suspension of 
bombing DRV; . * 

2. DRV or USSR or both would make statement hailing 
suspension as step toward reasonable solution; 

3- Soviet Union would intercede with Viet Cong to curtail 
military activities; 

h. De facto cease fire would thus be accomplished. 

5c Conference would be called on related subject (not 
specifically Viet-Kam). Viet Cong would not be participant 
but have some kind of observer or corridor status (this 
followed Salinger T s expression of opinion US Government 
would never accept Viet Cong as participant in any confer- 

6. New agreement would be worked out on Viet-Kam pro- 
viding for broader -based SVH Government not including direct 
Viet Cong participation but including elements friendly to 

Viet Cong. 

In a follow-up dinner conversation between Salinger and Sagatelyan 
two nights later, in which a Foreign Office representative, identified 
only as "Vassily Sergeyevich" also participated., the Soviet interlocutors 
generally confirmed the proposal quoted above, modifying points three 
and four by suggesting that an actual cease fire could take place only 
after initiation of negotiations and that a cease fire would in fact be 
the first item on the agenda of any negotiations, ihl/ Additional items 
of interest were reported by Kohler as follows: 

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Soviet interlocutors talked at length about President 
Kennedy's forebearance post-Cuba period and broadly implied 
that Soviets now interested in reciprocating such forebear- 
ance* It was clear from their remarks that Soviets assume 
we would welcome some avenue of withdrawal so long as this 
would not involve loss of American prestige • 

Soviets informed Salinger that Soviet Government had 
received a "Rusk proposal" with regard Vietnam but would not 
answer proposal or act on it in any way until Soviet Govern- 
ment had some idea, as to how current exercise with Salinger 
would turn out 

o • 

I As to mechanics of carrying on exercise, Sagatelyan 

suggested Salinger might convey proposal to US Government 
through embassy Paxis and he himself would fly immediately 
Paris in order receive from Salinger there &~ny official 
reaction. Alternatively, if Salinger wished to proceed 
direct Washington, contact -could be designated there, 
probably either Zinchuk (Soviet embassy counselor) or 
Vadvichenko (TASS Washington Bureau). 

Throughout conversation Soviets made clear to Salinger 
that because of sensitive Soviet position any progress^ 
.toward political settlement Vietnam problem must be initiated 
and carried through, at least in preliminary stages, en basis 
unofficial contacts, clear implication being if leak should 
occur or if scheme should go awry, Soviet Government ^ would 
be in position disavow whole affair. At same time, it was 
clear from remarks as well as presence of Foreign Office 
represent at ive_ that proposal by Sagatelyan had official 

Salinger had one further contact with Sagatelyan and Vassily^the 
following day, where it became apparent that the Soviet officials 
interest in the proposal had wanedc By the time Salinger had returned 
to Washington and saw Ambassador Thompson at the State Department on 
May 18, the Soviet disinterest in any role for themselves during the 
current bombing pause had been made clear through other channels, and 
Salinger T s contacts were not further pursued. 

• Of these other channels, the most important (and also the most 

casual) was a brief Kaffeeklatsch between Secretary Rusk ^ and ^ Foreign 

Minister Gromyko at the Austrian Chancellor's residence in Vienna on 

May 15. The proceedings are described in a Rusk cable lM/ to 

Undersecretary Ball as follows: 

Have just returned from Chancellor's lunch for visiting 
dignitaries . After lunch Gromyko and I and our wives were 
at a small table for coffee, 1 commented to Gromyko that we 


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■were in something of a dilemma about Southeast Asia- We felt 
there might be some value in a serious exchange of views 
between our two Governments but that we did not know whether ^ 
they themselves wished to discuss it. 

He commented with considerable seriousness that the Soviets 
will not negotiate about Viet-Kam. He said there were other 
parties involved in that situation and that the United States 
would have to find ways of establishing contact with them^and 
he specifically mentioned the DRV. He said they will^continue 
to support Ilorth Viet -Nam and will do so "decisively." He then 
made reference to a fellow socialist country under attack. 

I interrupted to point out that the problem was not that a 
socialist country was subject to attack but that a socialist 
country was attacking someone else I said that American 
military forces are in South Vietnam solely because North Viet- 
nam has been sending large numbers of men and arms into the 

He denied these facts in the usual ritual fashion but added 
that in any event it was not up to the United States to be the 
judge between Vietnamese. I reminded him that he must know by 

• now that a Horth Korean attack against South Koreans would not 
be accepted merely because both were Korean. He merely com- 
mented that there were important differences between those two 

He referred to Dobrynin's talk with me and said that the 
temporary suspension of bombing was "insulting. " I .said I 
could not understand this in view of the fact that Hanoi, 
Peiping and Moscow have all talked about the impossibility of 

• discussions while bombing was going on. 

At this point Chancellor Klaus joined the table to express 
great happiness that Gromyko and 1 were sitting together. 
Neither one of us dispelled his illusion. 

; I do not know whether Gromyko will pursue the matter 

further when the four foreign ministers meet briefly with 
Quaison-^Sackey this afternoon or when we all assemble for 
the opera tonight. 

j Thompson and 1 both have the impression that Gromyko T s 

: attitude clearly means that the Salinger talk was of little 

■ f substance and that we should now merely consider what kind 

of signal we wish to get back by way of Salinger as a part of 

the closing out process. 

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I do not believe that we should assume from Gromyko's 
remarks that we ourselves should not put to Moscow our own 
most serious views of the situation, whether they are will- 
ing to discuss them or note It is quite clear, however, 
that Gromyko wanted me to believe that they are not prepared 
to work toward a settlement in Hanoi and Peiping and that, 
indeed, unless we abandon our effort in South Viet-Nam there 
. will be very serious consequences ahead. 

E. Resuming the Bombing • 

Having thus been unmistakably rebuffed by Moscow, Hanoi, and 
Peking, the President determined on the evening of May l6 that the bomb- 
ing raids should be resumed, beginning on the morning of May 18 Saigon 
time. In addition to the ROLLING THDM)ER XV execute message sent by 
the JCS to CINCPAC on the l6th, Secretary Rusk sent messages of a poli- 
tical nature to Saigon, London, and Ottawa on May 17, so that the action 
could be cleared with Premier Quat (which Taylor promptly accomplished) , 
and so that the foreign ministers of the Commonwealth countries would 
be informed beforehand. lk2 / 

You should see Fon Min immediately to inform that be- 
ginning Tuesday morning, Saigon time, bombing of North 
Viet-Nam will be resumed by US and South Vietnamese forces, 
marking the end of a five-day suspension. 

You should convey message from me that we regret that 
the reception of the other side to the idea of a pause was 
not merely negative but hostile • Gromyko told Rusk that 
our message to Dobrynin on subject was "insulting. 
_ Nevertheless we do not exclude possibility of other such 
attempts in future. 

There will be no public announcement of the resumption 
of bombingo When press questions are asked, it will be 
• pointed out that there have been and may again be periods 
when no bombing will take place in resvonse to operational 
factors and that we do not discuss these operational 
questions e 

Ambassador Kohler, upon receiving word of the resumption, suggested 
that the US might inform the NATO Council and the 17 non-aligned nations 
of our actions, in advance of any resumption, to underline the serious- 
ness of the President's response to the Unaligned Appeal. The Department, 
however, responded negatively to Kohler T s suggestion: 1^3 / 

There will be no official public statement from here con- 
cerning suspension or resumption,* Decision at highest levels 
is to avoid any discussion Project MAYFLOWER, which now 


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* _ , — 


concluded, outside of restricted circle designated when Project 
begun. Despite disappointing response, we wish to keep open 
channel with Soviets on this subject and we hope eventually with 
DRV via Soviets o We feel that use of this channel another time 
might be precluded if we appear to have carried through Project 
MAYFLOWER solely for credit" it might earn us with third parties 
and public opinion in general. Therefore we would not now wish 
inform NATO Council and 17 Non-aligned countries. 

Only British, Canadians, Australians, IS Secretary General 
and Korean President Park (here on state visit) were in fact 
informed in advance of resumption bombing and also of negative 
outcome of soundings of other side. 

In addition to this limited circle of allied intimates,^ larger 
circle of friendly governments was . provided with Ambassadorial ^rie±- 
ings on the bombing pause after the resumption. An instruction to this 
effect went out to American ambassadors in New Delhi, Tokyo, Bangkok, 
Vientiane, Manila, Wellington, and Paris: ikh , 

You should take first opportunity see Pri. Minister, 
Fon Min, or other appropriate high level official to inform 
him that the U.S. and South Vietnamese Governments suspended 
bombing against North Viet -II am for a period of five days 
which ended on May 18. The initiation of this pause in 
| bombing was accompanied by an approach by us to the Govern- 

ments of the Soviet Union and North Viet-Nam which took note 
of repeated calls from that side for cessation of bombing ■ 
and their statements that discussions could not takie place 
while bombing continued. Unfortunately the reception of our- 
approach was not merely negative but hostile „.. In view of the 
complete absence of any constructive response, we have 

• decided the bombing must be resumed. Nevertheless we do nox, 

• exclude possibility of other such attempts in the future,, 

You should add that the record of the past several weeks 
is discouraging in that Communists and particularly Peking 
! • appear intent on rejecting every effort from whatever ^quarter 

to open up contacts and conversations which might lead to a 
. resolution of the Viet-Nam situation. The rejection^ of Presi- 
. : dent Johnson's April 7 proposals for unconditional discussions, 

• of the appeal of the Seventeen Non-aligned countries and^oi 
I ' • PresidenVRadhakrishnan's proposal all illustrate the point 

I • together with Peking and Hanoi's obvious efforts to obstruct . 

the convening of a conference on Cambodia. We will neverthe- 
less continue to explore all possibilities for constructive 
I ' discussion, meanwhile maintaining with the Government of 

South Viet-Nam our joint military efforts to preserve that 
country's -freedom. _ . 

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• On the evening of May 18, the DRV Foreign Ministry issued a state- 
ment denouncing the gesture as a "deceitful maneuver designed to pave 
the way for new U.S. acts of war," and insisted U.S. planes had, .since 
May 12, repeatedly intruded into DRV airspace "for spying, provocative 
and strafing activities." 

Communist China's Foreign Ministry issued a statement May 21 fully 
endorsing Hanoi's position and denouncing the suspension with charac- 
teristic intemperateness. 

F. Aftermath 

A still somewhat ambiguous diplomatic move was made by Hanoi • 
on May 18, shortly after the bombing had been resumed. 

It appears that in Paris, on the morning of May 18, Mai Van Bo, 
head of the DRV economic delegation there, approached the Asian ^Direction 
of the Quai d'Crsay to explain the reasons for the DRV's rejection of 
the Radhakrishnan proposals (involving a cordon sanitaire by Afro-Asian 
troops along the 17th parallel). More important, however, Bo explained 
-with text in hand that the Pham Van Dong Four Points, enunciated on 
April 8, should not be isolated from the declaration that had followed 
the four points. He then softened the language of that declaration by 
pointing out that the four points constituted the "best basis ^from 
which to find the "most just" solution, and that recognition of these 
principles would create favorable conditions for a solution of the prob- 
lem and would open the possibility of convoking a conference. 

When asked' if Hanoi recognized that realization of its proposed 

"principle of withdrawal" of American forces would depend upon the 
' "conclusions of a negotiation," Bo responded "exactly," and indicated 

that if there were agreement on the "bases," the "ways and means of 
• application of "principles" would be found and in a peaceful manner; the 

possibilities were many; a way out (porte de sortie) should be found for 

the US; "our suggestion humiliates no one." 

This happening, which occurred on May 18, was first reported by 
a Quai official to the US Embassy's Political Counsellor^ in Paris 
unofficially on May 19, in a highly glossed version, making it appear 
that the DRV was clearly responding to the bombing pause by a significant 
softening of its position on "prior conditions." In the official version 
that Lucet, the Director of Political Affairs of the French Foreign Oifice 
conveyed to the DCM on May 20, however, the continued ambiguity ^ of the 
DRV position — as to whether or not recognition of the four points 
remained a precondition to talks of any sort -- was fully revealed. 

This ambiguity was in no sense resolved a few weeks later, when^ 
Blair Seaborn raised this question with the DRV Foreign Minister in Hanoi. 
The U.S. had asked Seaborn in late May to seek an appointment with Pham 

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Van Dong and on its "behalf reiterate the March message and U.S. determi- 
nation to persist in the defense of South Vietnam, to regret that Hanoi 
had not responded positively to the various recent initiatives, includ- 
ing the bombing pause, and to state that, nevertheless, the United States 
remained ready "to consider the possibility of a solution by reciprocal 
actions on each side." If the Vietnamese brought up Pham^Van Dong's 
four points, Seaborn yas authorized to endeavor to establish whether 
Hanoi" 1 " insisted that they be accepted as the condition for negotiations. 
On June 3, Seaborn succeeded in gaining an audience with the DRV Foreign 
Minister (and concurrent Deputy Premier) Nguygen Duy Trinh, who reluc- 
tantly heard him out after stating that the U.S. position was too well 
known to require restatement. Trinh 1 s reaction to the message ^ was totally 
negative, and in the exchange preceding its recitation he studiously 
avoided going beyond the vague statement that Pham Van Dong's four points 
were the "basis for solution of the Vietnam question. "1^5/ 


As there was considerable misunderstanding concerning the Mai Van Bo 
approach of May 18, and misleading accounts of it were ^ circulating, the 
State Department informed several U.S. ambassadors (Saigon, Par-is, Bonn; 
of what it considered the true facts in the case. lU6 / 

. Facts are that bombing was actually resumed on morning 
May 18 Saigon time. Subsequently on morning May 18, Paris 
time, but undoubtedly on antecedent instructions, DRV eco- 
nomic delegate in Paris, Mai Van Bo, approached Quai urgently 
for appointment. .His message was to explain negative Hanoi 
attitude toward Indian proposal (cessation of hostilities on 
both sides and Afro-Asian force) but second, and more impor- 
tant, to discuss Pham Van Dong f s four points originally stated 
April 8 and later included in Hanoi statement referring to 
appeal of 17 Non-aligned nations. .. Bo repeated four points 
with slight variations from public statements, apparently 
softening language by indicating that four points might be 
"best basis" for settlement and apparently, insisting^ less 
strongly that their recognition was required as condition to 
negotiations. During course of conversations, Freneh^ asked 
whether withdrawal US forces visualized as prior condition or 
as resulting from negotiations, and Bo responded that latter 
was correct • 

French passed us this message on May 20 (delaying two 
days) so that we had in fact resumed well before we heard of 
it. More important, message still left ambiguity whether 
recognition' of four points remained precondition to talks ^of 
any sort. Accordingly, we saw no reason to alter conclusion 
based on Hanoi propaganda denunciation of pause, plus fact 
.that pace of Hanoi-directed basic actions in South had con- 
tinued and even increased -- that Hanoi not ready to respond 
to pause and that we must resume . • ' • 

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Subsequently, Canadian ICC Representative, Seaborn, visited 
Hanoi commencing May 31. He himself raised same questions -with 
DRV Foreign Minister and response indicated DRV evasive, and in 
effect negative, apparently taking position recognition four 
points, plus some element US withdrawal, were preconditions to 
any talks. 

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Ao The Rostov "Victory" Thesis 

With the resumption of the bombing at 0600 on 18 May (Saigon time), 
the arguments over the usefulness and intensity of the UoS. air attacks 
against the North were^taken up again with full energy . 


ROLLING THUNDER XV (week of 18-24 May) was designed to attack 

(principally fixed military installations, while continuing the interdiction 
of IOC's south of the 20th parallel . The attacks were carried out with a 
weight of effort similar to the pre-pause level, i.e., 40 sorties per day, 
with a maximum of 200 sorties for the entire week. 147/ 

It was at this time that Walt W. Rostow, then State Department 
Counselor and Chairman of the Policy Planning Council, floated a memorandum 
entitled "Victory and Defeat in Guerrilla Wars: The Case of South Vietnam," 
148/ in which he argued that a clear-cut victory for the U.S. in Vietnam 
was a possibility and that what it required mainly was more pressure on the 
North and effective conduct of the battle in the South. Rostow 1 s memo 
follows : 


In the press, at least, there is a certain fuzziness about the pos 
ibility of clear-cut victory in South Viet-Nam; and the President's 
statement that a military victory is impossible is open to misinter- 

1. Historically, guerrilla wars have generally been lost or won 
cleanly: Greece, China mainland, North Viet-Nam, Malaya, Philippines, 
Laos in 1954 was an exception, with two provinces granted the Com- 

. munists and a de facto split Imposed on the country. ' ■ 

2. In all the cases won by Free World forces, there was a phase 
when the guerrillas commanded a good part of the countryside and, in- 
deed, placed Athens, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila under something close to 
siege o They failed to win because all the possible routes to guerrilla 
victory were closed and, in failing to win, they lost. They finally 
gave up in discouragement • The routes to victory are: 

a) Mao Stage Three: going to all-out conventional war and 
Winning as in China in 1947-49; 

b) Political collapse and takeover: North Viet-Nam; 

c) Political collapse and a coalition government in which 
the Communists get control over the security machinery; that is, army 
and/or police. This has been an evident Viet Cong objective in this 

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war; but the nearest precedents are Eastern European takeovers after 
19^5.? rather than guerrilla war cases 

d) Converting the bargaining pressure generated by the guer- 
rilla forces into a partial victory by splitting the country: Laos 
Also, in a sense, North Viet-Nam in 195^ and the Irish Rebellion after 
the First World W^ir. 

3. If we succeed in blocking these four routes to victory, dis- 
couraging the Communist force in the South, and making the continuance 
of the war sufficiently costly to the North there is no reason we 
cannot win as clear a victory in South Viet-Nam as in Greece, Malaya, 
and the Philippines . Unless political morale in Saigon collapses and 
the ARVN tends to break up, case c), the most realistic hope of the VC, 
should be avoidable. This danger argues for more rather than less 
pressure on the North, while conducting the battle in the South in 
such a way as to make VC hopes of military and political progress wane,, 

ko The objective of the exercise is to convince Hanoi that its 
bargaining position is being reduced with the passage of time; for, 
even in the worst case for Hanoi, it wants some bargaining position 
(rather than simply dropping the war) to get UoS. forces radically 
reduced in South Viet-Nam and to get some minimum face-saving formula 
for the VC. 

5. I believe Hanoi understands its dilemma well. As of early 
February it saw a good chance of a quite clean victory via route c). 
• It now is staring at quite clear-cut defeat, with the rising U.S. 
strength and GVN morale in the South and rising costs in the North. 
That readjustment in prospects is painful; and they won't, in my view, 
accept its consequences unless they are convinced time has ceased to 
be their friend, despite the full use of their assets on the ground 
in South Viet-Nam, in political warfare around the world, and in 

6« Their last and best hope will be, of course, that if they 
end the war and get us out, the political, social, and economic situa- 
tion in South Viet-nam-will deteriorate in such a way as to permit 
Communist political takeover, with or without a revival of guerrilla 
warfare. It is in this phase that we will have to consolidate, with 
the South Vietnamese, a victory that is nearer our grasp than we 
(but not Hanoi) may think. 

Rostow had long been a strong bombing advocate, and an outspoken 
proponent of air attack on elements of the North Vietnamese industrial tar- 
get system. As early as April 1, 1^9/ he had expressed a conviction that 
Hanoi attaches a high premium to the maintenance of its industrial estab- 
lishment and that the optimum U.S Q bombing objective should be not the 


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destruction, but the paralysis of the DRV f s industrial and urban life. By 
taking out all the major electric power stations, he believed, Hanoi would 
be presented "with an immediate desparate economic, social, and political 
problem which could not be evaded." 


In the May memorandum, however, he was not confining his confident 
expertise to the sphere of targeting strategy, but extending it to the much 
larger sweep of the U.S. policy objectives in Vietnam. Rostow's grand 
historic perspective of the road to victory, unfortunately, never focused 
down upon the nagging practical problem of how the UoS, might "make VC 
hopes of military and political progress wane" when compelled to fight in 
behalf of a long-besieged, teetering GW that was, "by this time, hopelessly 
incapable of coping with the military and political tasks required' of it. 
The critical problem of how to preserve and restore political effectiveness 
in the GVN never engaged Rostov's serious attention nor, for that matter, 
that of his contemporaries in the administration., _ 

' B. " ARC LIGHT" Comes to South Vietnam -- Attacks on the No rth Edge 

In line with the April decision to give priority to South ^Vietnam 
over North Vietnam in the employment of UoSo air power, a major administra- 
tion decision was taken after the bombing pause to assign saturation bomb- 
ing missions in the South to SAC B-52 bombers which had long been ^ alerted, 
but never used, to attack North Vietnam. General Westmoreland, with ^Ambas- 
sador Taylor 1 s political endorsement, presented his case to CINCPAC in the 
following terms: 15,0/ 


1. During recent months firm intelligence has been collected using 
. all possible sources which confirms existence of various VC headquarters 
complexes and troop concentrations in RVNo Each of these targets 
(COSVN, NAMBO, Military Region Hqs, VC battalions in jungle assembly 
areas, etc,) is spread over a relatively large area and consists of 
groups of buildings or huts, foxholes, trenches, tunnels, etc., connected 
by trails. General topography is more suitable for area carpet bombing 
than for pinpoint tactical fighter weapon delivery. In most areas two 
and three canopy jungle growth hides surface target. Even if accurate 
• coordinates fixed on maps (with inherent map inaccuracies) or photos, 
solid jungle canopy provides few reasonable aiming points for delivery 


2. Operation Black Virgin 1 on 15 April 1965 was an attack on 
the military component of the Central Office South Vietnam (COSVN), 
(the main VC military headquarters) . 1^3 sorties were applied ^against 
an area of approximately 12 square kilometers, dropping approximately 
• # 900 tons of ordnance. As a result of this effort, the existence of 

the target complex was confirmed by the uncovering of over 100 buildings 

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and the occurrence of several large secondary explosions . We have 
determined that the attack created a drastic effect within the VC 
military headquarters Individual components were disrupted for 
several days, and even though these components now appear to be 
functioning again, they have not re-assembled into an integrated head- 
quarters complex as they were before the attack. In spite of the 
apparent success of the attack we still have no information concerning 
the number of casualties caused and have only fragmentary information 
concerning other damage accomplished • 

3* I>uring the attack the target area became completely covered 
by smoke and resulting bomb pattern was spotty. BDA photography shows 
that as a result, the distribution of bombs throughout the target was 
poor« Some areas received a heavy concentration of bomb impacts while 
other parts of the target area received no hits. If an attack could 
have been launched in which the bombs were evenly distributed, results 
would have been far more effective , An attack compressed into a 
shorter period of time would also have been much more likely to kill 
VC before they could evacuate the area and would have allowed ground 
troops to enter the area the same day 

h. It is essential that we keep these selected VC headquarters 
and units under attack. We are developing target information on the 
headquarters of the 325th PAVN Division, Headquarters Military Region 
V and Headquarters Military Region VII where current reports indicated 
a large VC troop build-up. We know from interrogation of VC captives 
and from agent reports that VC fear air attacks. We also know that 
their plans can be upset by unexpected events. The best way for us 
to keep them off balance and prevent large-scale VC attacks is to keep 
them under constant pressure in their base areas. ■ ' 

5o Continued use of tactical fighters for pattern bombing does 
not get the job done properly; it diverts them from other important 
work for which they are better suited; it creates an unacceptable 
drain on ordnance assets; and it disrupts all SEA air programs in and 
out of country. We will, of course, continue to use tactical fighters 
as the major punch against tactical' targets which constitute the vast 
majority of the in-country air requirements, but for attacks on VC 
base areas, ve must provide a capability which will permit us to 
deliver a well planned pattern of bombs over large areas and prefer- 
ably within a short period of time. 

6. The problem has been discussed with representatives of the 
Strategic Air Command and believe that their conventional bombing 
tactics basel on pattern bombing technique j are ideally suited to 
meet this requirement. I strongly recommend, therefore, that as a 
matter of urgency, we be authorized to employ SAC B-52 aircraft against 
selected area targets in RVW.„„ 

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Washington first authorized the use of ARC LIGHT B-52 forces for radar 
photography over target areas in the Kontum and War Zone D regions on May 17 , 
151 / A month later., despite the misgivings of the Air Staff and^the SAC 
commander, the first B-52 bombing raid was authorized (ARC LIGHT I, June 18, 
1965) attacking the War Zone D VC stronghold near Saigon. On July k and 7 
further attacks were undertaken, and ARC LIGHT became a regular bombing 
program in South Vietnam , 

-As the weight of air attacks increased significantly in South Vietnam, 
there was also some rise in the level of air strikes in the North . Combined 
UoS.-VNAE combat sorties totaled about 3,600 in April, ^-,000 in May, and 
1^800 in June. USAF aircraft flew less than half the mission. But an 
analysis by JCS Chairman Wheeler on k April and another by the CIA and the 
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) early in July showed that the strikes had 
not reduced appreciably North Vietnam* s -ability to defend its homeland, 
train its forces, and infiltrate men and supplies into South Vietnam and 
Laos. 152/ 

But this rising level of attacks did not satisfy the Air Staff, At the 
end of June, General McConnell continued to stress the need for more air 
pressure on Hanoi, saying he was: 

more convinced than ever that these /air/ operations cannot be ^divorced 
from and are the essential key to the eventual defeat of the Viet Congo 
In November 196^,., /the/ JOS unanimously agreed that direct, decisive, 
action against the DRV was. needed immediately. This course of 
action was not adopted and intelligence reports indicate that the ^ cur- 
rent air strike program, while inconveniencing the DRV had done ^ little 
to curtail or destroy their will and capability to support the insur- 
gency, largely due to the restraints on the air strike program. In 
fact, the restraints have provided the DRV with the incentive and 
opportunity to strengthen both their offensive and defensive capabili- 
ties o , • 

So /the/ C/S USAF considers an intensified application of air power 
against key industrial and military targets in North Vietnam essential 
to the result desired. During the period of time required to intro- 
duce more forces, any build-up .of and support for the Viet Cong 
offensive should be denied, . . oFailing this, more serious difficulties 
and casualties for U.S, and allied troops can be expected, 

McConnell urged again that the Air Force be allowed to strike targets 
in the $k target list, as well as others, 153/ 

■ C. McNamara Reviews the Program 

At the end of July, in response to a Presidential request, 
Secretary McNamara undertook a review and evaluation of the bombing program 


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against North Vietnam*, The results of this review were forwarded to the 
President in a memorandum, dated July 30, 1965<, Since it represents an 
effective wrap-up, the memorandum is reproduced in full. 

lo Ra tionale for bombing the North , The program of bombing RVN 
began in an atmosphere of reprisal. We had had the August Tonkin Gulf 
episode; we had absorbed the November 1 attack on Bien Hoa Airfield 
and the Christmas* Eve bombing of the Brinks Hotel in Saigon o The 
attacks at UoSo installations at Pleiku on February 7 and Qui Nhon on 
February 10 were the immediate causes of the first strikes against 
North Vietnam*, The strike following Pleiku was announced as a 
'response' -- a 'reprisal*'; our strike following Qui Nhon was called 
a response to more generalized VC terrorism. The major purposes of 
the bombing program, however, were: 

a. To promote a settlement o The program was designed (l) 
to influence the DRV to negotiate (explicitly or otherwise), and (2 J 
to provide us with a bargaining counter within negotiations . 

b. • To interdict infiltration ,, The program was calculated 
to reduce the flow of men and supplies from the North to the South -- 
at the least, to put a ceiling on the size of war that the ^ enemy 
could wage in the South /Author's Note: This is not entirely 
accurate; interdiction did not become a program rationale within ^ the • 
Administration until late March, and publicly not until late April 
(see Sections VIII and XIoB.)/ Supplemental purposes of the program 
were (c) to demonstrate to South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the world 
the UoSo commitment to see this thing through, (d) to raise morale ^ in 
South Vietnam by punishing North Vietnam, the source of the suffering 
in the South, and (e) to reduce criticism of the Administration from 
advocates of a bombing program • 

2. Achievement of major purposes . The potential targets, 
targets struck and per cent" of destruction are shown at Tab A, In 
terms of the purposes of the program, its results have been as 

a. To promote a settlement. Obviously, this objective has 
not yet been attained. We recognized at the start of the program, as 
we do now, that the influence of the bombing on a settlement would not 
be great until the North Vietnamese had been disappointed m their 
hopes for a quick military success in the South. There is no doubt 
that the bombing program has become an important counter in the cur- 
rent tacit and explicit bargaining process and will be an important 
counter in any future bargaining. 

b. To interdict i nfiltration. It is believed that regu- 
■ lar North Vietnamese units now in South Vietnam (estimated oo be one 

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' division) require about h tons of supplies daily for the 'current' 

level of combat but would require 67 tons of supplies daily for 
'light' combat. ('Current 1 levels are operations conducted largely^ 
in small units; 'light 1 combat would involve larger elements in action 
on the average of every third day, with expenditures of one -third of 
each unit's basic load of ammunition on each action*) It is believed 
that regular Nortlj Vietnamese units and Pathet Lao forces in the Laos 
Binhandle require about 21 and 51 tons daily respectively for the two 
levels of combat . Viet Cong arms, ammunition and other supply require- 
ments are estimated at 8 tons daily for 'current' combat and 115 tons 
for 'light' combat. The effect of the interdiction program on the 
movement of supplies is summarized below: 

The 1^0-ton per day rail traffic from Hanoi south to Vinh has been 
cut off at Ninh Binh (k-0 miles south of Hanoi) . Supplies still move 
by sea and over the parallel highway systemo . The latter has-been badly 
damaged and is subject to armed reconnaissance; sea traffic into SW 
is under surveillance . At a minimum, supply is slower and less regular 
and delivered at increased cost in resources and energy expended . 
Roads into Laos have been subjected to similar interdiction and armed 
recce. Only limited interdiction has been imposed on the key rail and 
road net northwest of Hanoi, and none on the railway net northeast of 
Hanoi; and port destruction has been minimal. Thus, substantially 
uninterrupted supply continues from China by rail into Hanoi and by- 
sea into Haiphong to meet major North Vietnamese military, industrial 
( ' and civilian needs. 

The effect of the bombing on military operations is estimated to 
have been as follows: 

(1) For regular North Vietnamese and Pa thet Lao forces o 
The interdiction program has caused North Vietnam increasing diffi- 
culty in supplying their units in Laos and South Vietnam,, How severe 
this difficulty is or how stretched North Vietnam's supply capabili- 
ties are cannot be estimated precisely Our interdiction efforts may 
have either prevented or deterred the North from sending more^troops 

• than they already have. The interdiction programs in North Vietnam 
and Laos also may have influenced a Communist decision to forego a 
1965 offensive in Laos 

(2) For Viet Cong forces . Because the VC require signifi- 
cantly less infiltrated arms and ammunition and other supplies than 
do the North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao forces, the interdiction program 
probably has had less of an adverse effect on their operations . By 
raising VC fears concerning adequacy of supplies, however, the program 
may have caused the VC summer offensive to be less intense, aggressive 
and unrelenting than it would otherwise have been*. 

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It should be noted that the program has not been a 'strategic 1 bombing 
piogram; it has been limited to selected targets of fairly direct mili- 
tary relevance o Populations and targets such as dikes and basic industries 
have not been strucko Furthermore, the immediate vicinities of Hanoi and 
Haiphong have been avoided, partly because the targets there are 
primarily of the 'strategic 1 type and partly because strikes there would 
involve even more serious risks of confrontations with the Soviet Union 
and China o 

3» Other effects of the program , 

a. Deterrence of VC terrorises There is no evidence that 
strikes against North Vietnam have affected one way or another the 
level or kind of VC incidents of terror in South Vietnam. 

bo Morale in South Vietnam . Morale in South Vietnam was 
raised by the initiation of the bombing program (as, later, by the de- 
ployment of additional troops ). Now -- with the bombing programs having 
become commonplace and with the failure of the situation to improve — . 
morale in South Vietnam is not discernibly better than it was before 
the bombing program began. In a sense, South Vietnam is now 'addicted 1 
to the program; a permanent abandonment of the program would have a 
distinct depressing effect on morale in South Vietnam. 

Co Reduction of criticism of the Administration . Some 
critics, who advocated bombing, were silenced; others are now as vocal 
or more vocal because the program has been too limited for their taste. 
The program has generated a new school of criticism among liberals and 
'peace' groups, whose activities have been reflected especially in 
teach-ins and newspaper criticisms. 

do- Damage to peaceful image of the US . The price paid for 
improving our image as a guarantor has been damage to our image as a 
country which eschews armed attacks on other nations. The hue and cry 
correlates with the kind of weapons (e.g., bombs vs. napalm), the kind 
of targets (e g 9; bridges vs. people), the location of targets (e.g., 
south vs. north), and not least the extent to which the critic feels 
threatened by Asian communism (e.g., Thailand vs. the UK) » Further- 
more, for a given level of bombing, the hue and cry is less now ^ than it 
was .earlier, perhaps to some extent helped by Communist intransigence 
toward discussions. The objection to our 'warlike' image and the 
approval of our fulfilling our commitments competes in the minds of 
many nations (and individuals) in the world, producing a schizophrenia. . 
Within such eilied countrn m »r tttt «^ ja^n. nonular antagonism to 

I Within such allied countries as UK and Japen, popular antagonism^ to 

the bombings per se, fear of escalation and belief that the bombings 
are the main obstacle to negotiation, have created political problems 
for the governments in their support of US policy. 

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e. Pressures to settle . More countries are now., as a con- 
sequence of the bombing program, more interested in taking steps to 
help bring the war to an end. 

f . Impact on US-Soviet detente , The bombing program — 
because it appears to reject the policy of T peaceful co -existence , T 
because it involves an attack on a f fellow socialist country/ 
because the Soviet people have vivid horrible memories of air bombing, 
because it challenges the USSR as she competes with China for leader- 
ship of the Communist world, and because US and Soviet arms are^now 
striking each other in North Vietnam -- has strained the US-Soviet 
detente, making constructive arms -control and other cooperative 
programs more difficult. How serious this effect will be and ^whether 
the detente can be 'revived depend on how far we carry our military 
actions against the North and how long the campaign continues. At 
the same time, the bombing program offers the Soviet Union an oppor- 
tunity to play a role in bringing peace to Vietnam, by gaining credit 
for persuading us to terminate the program. There is a chance that 
the scenario could spin out this way; if so, the effect of the entire • 
experience on the US-Soviet detente could be a net plus, 

go Risk of escalation . The bombing program -- especially as 
strikes move toward Hanoi and toward China and as encounters with 
Soviet/Chinese SAMs/MIGs occur-- may increase the risk of escalation 
into a broader war 


4o " The future of the program . Even with hindsight, "I believe the 
decision to bomb the DRV was wise and I believe the program should be 
continued. The future program should: 

.a. Emphasize the threat . It. should be structured to 
" capitalize on fear of future attacks. At any time, 'pressure 1 on the 
DRV depends not upon the current level of bombing but rather upon the 
credible threat of future destruction which can be avoided by agreeing 
to- negotiate or agreeing to some settlement in negotiations, 

b. Minimize the loss of DRV T face . ! The program should 
be designed to make it politically easy for the DRV to enter negotia- 
tions and to make concessions during negotiations. It may be politic- 
ally easier for North Vietnam to accept negotiations and/or to make 
concessions at a time when bombing of their territory is not currently 
. taking place, 

; c. Optimize interdiction vs, po liti cal costs . Interdic- 

tion should be carried out so as to maximize effectiveness and to 
minimize the political repercussions from the methods used. Physical- • 
ly, it makes no difference whether a rifle is interdicted on its way 

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into Worth Vietnam, on its wa;y out of North Vietnam, in Laos or in 
South Vietnam. But different amounts of effort and different political 
prices may be paid depending on how and where it is done. The critical 
variables in this regard are (l) the type of targets struck (eogo ; 
port facilities involving civilian casualties vs. isolated bridges), 
(2) type of aircraft (e.g., B-52s vs. F-1Q5b), (3) kind of weapons ■ 
(e.g., napalm vs ordinary bombs), (k) location of target (e.g., 
in Hanoi vs. Laotian border area), and (5) the accompanying 
declaratory policy (e.g., unlimited vs. a defined interdiction zone). 

d* Coordinate with other influences on the DRV . So long 
as full victory in the South appears likely, the effect of the bombing 
program in promoting negotiations or a settlement will probably be 
small. The bombing program now and later should be designed for its 
influence on the DRV at that unknown time when the DRV becomes more . 
optimistic about what they can achieve in a settlement acceptable to .. 
us than about what they can achieve by continuation of the war. 

e. Avoid undue risks and costs . The program should avoid . 
bombing which runs a high risk of escalation into war with the Soviets 
or China and which is likely to appall allies and friends. 

C^v> r- n -*- A -i 

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1. JCSM i*60-6U, 30 May 196^' TOP SECRET; JCS 23^3/383-2, 2U August 196k, 
TOP SECRET. (Subsequently, of course, the list grew to comprise 
many hundreds of targets.) 

2. JCSM 746-64, 26 August 1965, TOP SECRET; CM 124-64, 9 September 1964, 

3. These recommendations were made orally to the SecDef on ain-RW? 
and subsequently formalized in JCSM 933-64, k November 1964, TOP SECREi. 

4. Draft NSAM on Southeast Asia, 29 November 196^, TOP SECRET. 

5. JCSM 955-64, 14 November 1964, TOP SECRET; and JCSM 982-64, 2 3 November 
1964, TOP SECRET. 

6. See JCS 2339/164, 12 December 1964, TOP SECRET. 

7. In this connection, it may be noted that the small e ^ n * ion ° f ,Sj; 
U.S. military contingent in South Vietnam that occurred during £££, 
from 16,000 to 23,000 men, did not take place until after zae 

8. A U.S. officers 1 billet in the heart of Saigon which was b °f <;d by the 
VC with the loss of two Americans killed and 63 in J u ; ed ' -. %• 

p ' cisely the type of incident which seemed to fall ^J^^J^^ 

guidelines as to what would justify a reprisal, ine ^ . .. 
such a reprisal (JCSM 10 7 6-64, 24 December 1964, TOP SECRET), but tne 
timing was unpropitious — with Saigon in the throes _ of a poii^ ^ 
crisis and Washington disinclined to launch a reprisal sxr 
Christmas day. 

9. JCSM 1074-64, 24 December 1964, TOP SECRET. 

10. Jacob Von Staaveren, USAF Plans ».nrt Operations Injouth east Asia, 19 5, 
October, 1966, pp. 1-2 (TOP SECEET). 

11. Memorandum for the Secretary from William P. Bundy '„ S "'' b + e ^ t T„ v ,, 1 i° & l 
on the South Vietnamese Situation and Alternatives, dated janu<«y , 

1965 (TOP SECRET). 

12. Cut and Paste of McNaughton Ideas (from drafts August 1964 to February 
1965) —"Action for South Vietnam," TOP SECRET. 

13. 1 October 1J64 SNIE 53-2-64, The Situatiou_i nJgu*iLXig£g£' T ° P ^^ 
Ik. 4 February 1965 SNIE 53-65, Short Term Pro£pe£bg_in_SV^. TOP SECRET. 

15. Memorandum to the President from McGeorge Bundy re The — 1__ 

Vietnam , dated February 7, 1965 (TOP SECRET). 


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16. 9 October 1964 SNIE 10-3-64, Probable Communist Reactions . . . (TOP 

17. 18 February 1965 SNIE IO-3/I-65, Communist Reactions to Possible 
U.S. Courses of Action Against North" Vietnam , (TOP SECRETJ. 

18. 2 June I965, SIHE IO-6-65, Proba ble Communist Reactions... (TOP SECRET, 

19. Saigon 2010, 31 December 1964 (TOP SECRET - NODIS). 

20. Memorandum for the Secretary, "Notes on the South Vietnamese Situation 
and Alternatives, 6 January 1965 (TOP SECRET). 

21. McNaughton Papers, "Situation in SVN After Khanh Re -coup," 27 January 

22. Saigon 208o, 8 January 1965 (TOP SECRET). 

23. JCSM-7O-65, 29 January 1965 (TOP SECRET). 

24. Deputy SecDef Cyrus Vance assured the CJCS, in a Memorandum dated 

4 February I9S5, that their views "will be given the fullest considera 
tion in determining future courses of action." 

25- CINCPAC Frag Order Nr. 2 18 Sept. 1964 TOP SECRET. 
CINCPAC Frag Order Nr. 3 28 Oct. 1964 TOP SECRET. 

26. Appendix B to JCSM-7O-65, 29 Jan 65 TOP SECRET. 

27. JCS 1887 to CINCPAC (j-3 sends) l4 Nov 64 TOP SECRET. 

28. JCS 4244 to CINCPAC 28 Jan 65 TOP SECRET LIMDIS. 

29. JCS 4484 to CINCPAC 3 Feb 65 TOP SECRET. 

30. JCS 4484 to CINCPAC 3 Feb 65 TOP SECRET. 


32. JCSM 70-65, 29 Jan 65, Appendix B TOP SECRET. 

33. CJCS 4612 to CINCPAC 4 Feb 65 SECRET. 

34. Saigon 2762 (?) March 1965 TOP SECRET EXDIS. 

35. "Refutation of the Hew Leaders of the CPSU on 'United Action/" 
Peking Review No. k6, November 12, 1965, pp. 15-l6. See also the 
Chinese account reported "by Peter Grose, The New York Times , Sept. 
12, I966, 

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36. CINCPAC to CIJMCPACFLT 5 Eeb 65 SECRET LIMDIS; J-3M 181-65 from 
Director of Ops, Joint Staff to Military Assistant SecDef , dated 
9 Feb 65- SECRET 

37. Jacob Von Staaveren, USAF Plans and Operations in Southeast Asia , 
I965 , p. T ''TOP SECRET^ To the consternation of careful U.S. 
target planners, Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky who led the VNAF 
attack, in a last*-second switch, dumped his flight's "bomb loads 
on an unassigned target in the Vinh Linh area, in order, as he 

' later explained, to avoid colliding with USA? aircraft which, he 
claimed, were striking his originally assigned target when his 
flight arrived over the target area. CEMCPAC 100100 February to 

38. Robert Shaplen, The Lost Revolution , New York: Harper & Row, 
1965, P. 305- 

39. See p. 30 below. 

hQ. Department of State Bulletin , Vol LII, ITo. 1339, Feb 22, 1965, P- 238. 

kl. Ibid ., p. 239. 

k2. Ibid ., p. 239. 

ii-3. . Van Staaveren, op. cit . , p. 7- 

kk. Department of State Bulletin , 1 March 1965, p. 290 and 291. 

k5. Philip Geyelin, Lyndon 3. Johnson and the World , pp. 2lU and 219 . 

I4-6. Newsweek , Feb 22, 1965, p. 19. 

li-T • Economist , Feb. 13, 1965 pp. 637-8. 

I4-8- CIA -EI "Free World Reaction to the Vietnamese Air Strikes" 9 Feb 

k$. SNIE 10-3-6^-, 9 Oct 195i{- TOP SECRET 

50. Foreign Broadcast Information Division, Special Memorandum , 10 Feb 1965, 

51. Ibid . , p. 1. 

52. Ibid ., p. k. 

53. Memorandum to the President from McGeorge Bundy, Re: The Situation 
in Vietnam , February 7, I9S5 T0P SECRET 

5I1. Saigon Shk5, February 9, 1965, TOP SECRET EXDIS 


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NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

55. Saigon 2^5, February 9, 1965 TOP SECRET EXDIS 

56. Saigon 2536, February 12, 1965 TOP SECRET EXDIS 

57. Saigon 2^95, February 11, 1965 TOP SECRET EXDIS 


59. • Memorandum to the SecDef JCSM-lOO-65, February 11, ±$&, TOP SECRET 


60. Van Staaveren, op. cit ., p. 10. 

61. Memo Maj. Gen. S. J. McKee D/plans, DCS/P&O to C/S USAF, 7 Mar 65, 
subj: "Use of 3-52' s in SV2T" (TOP SECRET). 

62. Deptel 1718 to Saigon, Feb 13, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS 

63. Made at the close of an address before the National Industrial Con- 
ference Eoard at Washington, D. C, on Feb 17 (White House press 
Department of State Bulletin . March 8, 1965, p. 333- 

6i. Saigon 2583, Feb 1^, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS 


65. Deptel 1268 to Bangkok Feb 18, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS (also sent to 
Vientiane, Canberra, Wellington, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Manila; Info 
CINCPAC, Saigon, London) 

66. Saigon 2665, Feb 19, 1965 TOP SECRET 
6T. Deptel Bangkok 1270, Feb 19, 1965 TOP SECRET 

68. Deptel Vfhh for Ambassador from Secretary, Feb 17, 19^5 TOP SECRET 

69. Memcon "Conversation with Lord Karlech, British Ambassador", Feb 
19, 19o5 TOP SECRET 

70. Moscow 2^30 to SecState, Feb 19, 1965 TOP SECRET 


71. Deptel 2268 to Moscow, Feb 20, 1968 TOP SECRET NODIS 

72. Deptel 1783 to Saigon, Feb 20, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS 

73. Depel 5327 to London, Feb 2k j 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 



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

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

Jk. The ROLLING- THUITD5R Program: JCS Proposals and Implementation , 
Feb 20-Jun 3, 19^5 TOP SECRET 

75. Deptel kkkk to Paris, Feb 25, 1965 SECRET EXDIS 

76. U. S. Department of State, Aggression from the ITorth: The Record of 
North Vietnam's Campaign to Conquer South Vietnam . Tj7 S. Government 
Printing Office, February 1965. 

77. Secretary Rusk's News Conference, Feb 25, 1965, Department of Stat e 
Bulletin , March 15, 1965, 

78. Ibid , , - 

79. Address by Secretary Rusk, "Some Fundamentals of American Policy", 
March k, I965, Department of State Bulletin , March 22, 19^5- 

80. Secretary Rusk's interview of "Face the Nation", March 7, 1965, 
Department of State Bulletin , March 29, 1965. 

81. Moscow 2569 to SecState, March 2, 1965 SECRET NOBIS 

82. . B-52 f s on Guam were alerted but not used. See Van Staaveren, op. cit ., 

p. 13. 

83. Memorandum for the SecDef CM-^6-65, 23 February 19o5 SECRET. 

8J4.. Memorandum for General Wheeler from Military Assistant to SecDef , 
• March 2, 1965 SECRET. 

85. CJCS Memorandum for the SecDef, CM-^69-65, 10 March 1965 TOP SECRET. 

86. Memorandum from Secretary of the Air Force to SecDef, "Report of U3AF 
Combat Operations in SEA.", May 22, I9S5 SECRET. 

87. JCS 6692 (JCS send) to CINCPAC, 9 March 1965 TO? SECRET. 

88. As noted by McNamara's hand on McNaughton Memorandum to SecDef, Subject: 
"Use of Napalm Against HVH Targets", 9 March 1965 TOP SECRET. 

89. Saigon 2889 to SecState, March 8 I965 SECRET NODIS. 

90. Saigon 2888 to. SecState, March 8, I9S5 TOP SECRET NODIS. 

91. Deptel 1975 to Saigon, March 12, 1965 TOP SECRET EXDIS. 

92. Saigon 29^9 to SecState, March 13, 1965 TO? SECRET EXDIS. 

93. COmStmV Situation Report, appended as Tab B to Report of General 

:h 1965, Subject: 

CXBOEMCY Situation Report, appended as Tab B to 
H. K. Johnson, Army c/s to SecDef 1^ Marcl 
'Vietnam Trip 5-12 March 1965" TC~SECRET. 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 



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

. TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

$k. DEF 6l8l to Saigon March 2, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS. 

95. CBJCPAC 262155 February 1965 to CJCS TOP SECRET. See also CINCPAC 
050400 March 1965 to Gen. Westmoreland from Sharp TOP SECRET. 

96. C/S Army Report to SecDe'f, March ill-, 1965 TOP SECRET. 

97. JCS Ik^h to CINCPAC (JCS send) 20 March 1965, TOP SECRET SENSITIVE 

98. Deptel 3000 to Saigon March 16, 1965 TOP SECRET EXDIS. 

99. CM-438-65 to the SecDef, 19 February 1965 SECRET. 

100. SecDef Memo to CJCS, 27 February 1965 SECRET. 

101. COMUSMACV MAC J31 7315 March 10, 1965 TOP SECRET 

102. Deptel 809 to Vientiane, March 20, 1965 TOP SECRET LIMDIS. 

103. CINCPAC 210525 March 1965 to JCS TOP SECRET LIMDIS. 
10^. Van Staaveren, op. cit ., p. 22. 


105. JCSM-221-65, 27 March 1965 TOP SECRET SENSITIVE 

106.- Draft Memorandum, "Plan of Action for South Vietnam" dated March 2k, 

107. "Recent Exchanges Concerning Attempts to Promote -a negotiated Settle- . 
ment of the Conflict in Vietnam", Series Vietnam No. 3 (1965). , Pre- 
sented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 

by Command of Her Majesty, London, August 19^5- 

108. Statement by Secretary Rusk, released March 19, W&5t Department of 
State bulletin , April 5, I965, p. ^89. 

109. CINCPAC 3101^07 March 1965 to JCS TOP SECRET. 

110. National Security Action Memorandum No. 328, April 6, 1965 TOP SECRET 

111. Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, Lyndon 3. Johnson: The Exercise of 
Power, New York, i960, p. 539. 

112. USIA Research and Reference Service, "Foreign Reaction to President 
Johnson's Johns Hopkins Speech," R-I&-65, April lh, 19^5- 

113. Made to news correspondents at the L3J Ranch on April 17, 19*>5 , 
Department of State Bulletin . May 3, 1965, pp. 650-52. 

146 • 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

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

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

llV. Joint Defense/State cable to Ambassador Taylor from Asst. Secy. 
McNaughton, dated April 18, I965 TOP SECRET. 

.115. Address made "before the American Society of International Law at 
Washington, D. C. (Department of State Press Release 82). 

116. In his "Key Elements" Memorandum (see Sections IX A and D). 

117. See Evans and Novack, op . eit .j p. 5^7. 

118. Remarks by President Johnson at the White House to a group of 
Senators and Congressmen on May k, 1965. Deipartment of State 
Bulletin , May 2k, 1965, p. 819-20. ~~ " 

• 119. Saigon 3^32 to SecState, May k, 1965 SECRET LBlDIS. 

120. Memo TS #l858^3-c, revised April 22, 1965 TOP SECRET. 

121. JCSM-275-S5 to SecDef, lk April 1965 TOP SECRET. 

122. CM-60O-65 to SecDef, 6 May 1965 TOP SECRET; the Joint Chiefs con- 
tinued to urge throughout May and June that attacks he authorized 
against the SA-2 sites near Hanoi as well as against IL-28 ! s and 
MIG f s at Phuc Yen. But since the SAM's had not then interfered 
with US operations, and since Ambassador Johnson, with General 
Westmoreland's concurrence, recommended against striking the IL-28's, 
Secretary McITamara disapproved (Memo for CJCS from SecDef., 15 June 

123. Deptel 2553 to Saigon, May 10, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS- 
12k. Saigon 3731 to SecState, May 11, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS. 
125 v Deptel 2557 to Saigon, May 11, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS. 

'• 126. DEF001900 SEC DEE SENDS, 11 May 1965, TOP SECRET LBlDIS. 

127. Deptel 2565 to Saigon, May 12, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS. 

128. Deptel 3101 to Moscow (info, to Saigon) May 11, 19^5 TOP SECRET 


129. Deptel 310^ to Moscow, May 11 1965 (info Saigon) TOP SECRET 

130. Made before the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists at 
the White House on May 13 (mite House press release; as -delivered 

text ) . 

131. Moscow 3373 to SecState, May 12 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS. 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 


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


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

132. Deptel 3105 to Moscow (also transmitted London for Secretary's eyes 
only) May 12, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS. 

133. Moscow 3393 to SecState May 13, 1965 TOP SECRET. 

134. Moscow 3391 to SecState (info London, for Secretary's eyes only) 

135. Moscow 339^- to SecState (info London for Secretary's eyes only) May 

136. Moscow 3^25 to SecState (info Vienna for Secretary's eyes only) May 

137. Saigon h-08k to SecState, June 6, 1965 TOP SECRET EXDIS. 

138. Saigon 3781 to SecState, May 16, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS. 

139. Moscow 3395 to SecState (info to London - eyes only for Secretary) 
May 13 > 1965 SECRET NODIS. 

lh6. Moscow 3kl6 to SecState, May lk, 1965 SECRET NODIS. 

ihl. Vienna 29 to SecState (For Undersecretary from the Secretary) May 
15, 1965 SECRET NODIS. 

142. Deptel 7323 to London (1211 to Ottawa) from Secretary to Ambassadors 
May 17, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS. 

3A3. Moscow 3kkk to SecState, May 17, 1965 TOP SECRET NODIS. Deptel 
3171 to Moscow, May 17, 1965 TOP SECRET KODIS. 

Ikk. Deptel 2^-25 to Nev Delhi (From Secretary to Ambassadors) May 18, 


1^5- Saigon 1^083 to SecState, June 6, 1965 CONFIDENTIAL LIMDIS. 

Ik6. Deptel 3696 to Bonn, June 9, 1965 TOP SECRET EXDIS. 

1^7- JCS 002230 to CINCPAC (JCS send), 171201Z May 1965 TOP SECRET. 

II4-8. Memorandum to the Secretary from W. W. Rostov, Kay 20, 1965 SECRET. 

1^9. Memorandum to the Secretary from W. W. Rostov, "An Electric Power 2 
Cut -through in North Vietnam", April 1, 1965 SECRET. 

150. COmmACV l6006 (from MAC J-312) to CINCPAC, May l4, I965 TOP SECRET. 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 


• 1 

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

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

151. JCS 0022^-9 (JCS send) to CIHCPAC, CINCSAC, COMUSMACV, 17 May 19^5 

152. Memoranda for the SecDef CM-53IV-65, 6 April 19^5 i J CSM ^98-65, 
2 July I965 TOP SECRET. 

153. Memorandum for the JCS, CSAE M-IO5-65, 30 June 19&5 TOP SECRET. 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive