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

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

(16 Vols.) 
7. Air War in the North: 1965 - 1968 (2 Vols.) 

a. Volume I 

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






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

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IV. C, 7. (a) 

Voliorae I 




Sec Def Coat Kr. X- 

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


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1 Jul 65 

Under SecState George Ball 
memo to the President 

Ball argues for "cutting our 
losses" in Vietnam and nego- 
tiating an end to the war. A 
massive US intervention would 
likely require complete achieve- 
ment of our objectives or 
humiliation, both at terrible 

Rusk memo to the President 

McNamara DPM. (revised 
20 Jul) 

2 Jul 65 

JCSM 515-65 


13 Jul 65 

McNaughton draft memo 

1^-21 Jul 65 McNamara trip to Vietnam 

US had to defend South Vietnam 
from aggression even with US 
troops to validate the reli- 
ability of the US commitment. 

The gravity of the military 
situation required raising 3^^ 
country troops in SW from I6 
to hh battalions and intensify- 
ing the air war through the 
mining of Haiphong and other 
ports 5 destruction of rail and 
road bridges from China 5 and 
destruction of MIG airfields 
and SAI4 sites. 

The JCS advocate virtually the 
same air war program as the 
DR4 adding only attacks on 
"v/ar-making" supplies and facil- 
ities. Sorties should increase 
from 2,000 to 5,000. 

Negotiations are unlikely, but 
even 200,000-^00,000 men may 
only give us a 50-50 chance of 
a V7in by I968; infiltration 
routes should be hit hard to 
put a "ceiling" on infiltration. 

After a week in Vietnam, 
McNamara retiorned with a 
softened version of the DPM. 


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20 Jul 65 

McNamara memo to the 

30 Jul 65 

McNamara memo for the 

U-6 Aug 65 

2 Sep- 65 

15 Sep G^ 

12 Oct 65 

McNamara "before Senate 
Armed Services and ApprO' 
priatlon Comte and HASC. 


McNamara memo to CJCS 

Amb. Thom-pson memo to 


Backing av/ay from his 1 July 
views, McNamara recommended 
mining the harbors only as a 
"severe reprisal." Sorties 
should be raised to ^,000. 
Political improvement a must 
in SVN; low-key diplomacy to 
lay the grcundwork for a 

Future bombing policy should 
emphasize the threat , minimize 
DRV loss of face, optimize 
interdiction over political 
costs, be coordinated with 
other pressures on the DRV, and 
avoid undue risks of escalation. 

McNamara justifies the Adminis- 
tration's bombing restraint, 
pointing to the risk of escala- 
tion in a,ttacks on POL, air- 
fields or Hanoi -Haiphong areas. 

The JCS recommend air strikes 
against "lucrative" NVN targets 
-- POL, power plants, etc. 

JCSM 670 is rejected as a 
dangerous escalatory step. 

Thompson, discussing the possi- 
bility of a pause, notes need 
to tell Hanoi we'd resume if 
the effort failed. 

3 Nov 65 

McNamara mem.o to the 

McNamara urges the approval 
of the bombing "pause" he had 
first suggested in his 20 Jul 
memo to test NVN's intentions. 

, 9 Nov 65 

State Dept. memo to the 

A State memo to the President, 
written by U. Alexis Johnson 
with Rusk's endorsement j^ opposes 
a pause at a time when Hanoi has 
given no sign of" v;illingness to 
talk. It would waste an impor- 
tant card and give them a chance 
to blackmail us about resumption. 

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10 Nov 65 

17 Nov 65 


DIA memo to McNamara 

28-29 Nov 65 McNamara-l'fneeler trip to 


The Chiefs propose a systematic 
air attack on the I^JVN POL 
storage and distribution net- 

General Carroll (Dir. DIA) 
gives an appraisal of the 
bombing with few bright spots. 

McNamara and General VJheeler 
make a hurried trip to Vietnam 
to consider force increases. 

30 Nov 63 

McNamara report to the 

Among other parts of the 
report, McNamara urges a pause 
in the bom-bing to prepare the 
American public for future 
escalations and to give Hanoi 
a last chance to save face. 

1 Dec 65 

3 Dec 65 

W. Bundy draft memo to 
the President 

McNaughton memo 

Bundy summarizes the pros and 
cons with respect to a pause 
and concludes against it. 

McNaughton favors a "hard-line" 
pause with resiomption unless 
the DRV stopped infiltration . 
and direction of the war, with- 
drew infiltrators , made the VC 
stop attacks and stopped inter- 
fering with the GVN's exercise 
of its functions. 

6 Dec 65 

8 Dec 65 

2^ Dec 65 

State Dept. memo to the 

McNamara memo to the 

State msg I786 to Lodge 

Rusk having apparently been 
convinced, this new dra^t by 
Bundy and Johnson recommends 
a pause. 

McNamara states that he is 
giving consideration to the 
JCS proposal for attacking the 
NVN POL system. 

The bombing pause begins. It 
lasts for 37 days until the 
31st of January. 

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26 Dec 65 

CIJ^CPAC msg 262159Z Dec 65 

27 Dec 65 

28 Dec 65 

12 Jan 66 

15 Jan 66 

18 Jan (^G 

2}\ Jan 66 

MACV msg ^5265 * 

Helms memo to DepSecDef 

CINCPAC msg I20205Z Jan 66 

Bundy "Scenario for 
Possible Resumption" 


McWaughton draft, Some 
Observations about 
Bombing. . ." 

McNamara memo to the 

CINCPAC 5 dissenting from the . 
pause from the outset, argues 
for the resumption of the 
bombing promptly. 

Westmoreland argues that ■ 

"immediate resujaption is 

Estimates that neither the 
Soviets nor Chinese will actively 
intervene in the war if the POL 
system is attacked. 

Admiral Sharp urges that the 
bombing be resvimed at sub- 
stantially higher levels 
imm.ed lately. 

Bundy urges that the resumption 
be at a low level building up 
again gradually before major 
new targets like POL are struck. 

"...offensive air operations 
against IWN should be resumed 
now with a sharp blow and there- 
after maintained with uninter- 
rupted. Increasing pressure." 
Specifically, the Chiefs called 
for immediate mining of the ports. 

Purposes of the bombing are 
(1). to interdict infiltration; 

(2) to bring about negotiation; 

(3) to provide a bargaining 
counter; and (4) to sustain 
GW morale . 

McNamara, drawing on the 
language of McNaughton's 
earlier memo, recommends 
resuiaption with sorties to 
rise gradually to 4,000 per 
month and stabilize. Promises 
are all cautious. 



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25 Jan 66 

Ball memo to the President 

31 Jan 6G 

Bombing resumes 

k Feb 66 

SNIE 10-1-66 

19 Feb 66 

J GSM 113-66 

1 Mar 66 

JGSM 130-66 

10 Mar 66 
late Mar 66 

JCSM 153-66 

McNamara memo to the 

28 Mar 66 

White House Tuesday Lunch 

Ball warns that resumption 
will pose a grave danger of 
starting a war with China. 
He points to the self-generating 
pressure of the bombing for 
escalation, shows its ineffec- 
tiveness and warns of specific 
potential targets such as 
mining the harbors. 

After 37 days the bombing is 
resumed but with no spectacu- 
lar targets. 

This special estimate states 
that increasing the scope and 
intensity of bombing, including 
attacks on POL, would not prevent 
DRV support of higher levels of 
operations in I966. 

The Chiefs urge a sharp escala- 
tion of the air war with maxi- 
mum shock effect. 

Focusing their recommendations 
on POL, the Chiefs call it 
"highest priority action not 
yet approved." It would have 
a direct effect in cutting 

Again attacks on POL are urged. 

This memo to the President con- 
tained McNamara 's bombing 
recommendations for April which 
included hitting 7 of 9 JCS 
recOmm-ended POL storage sites. 

McNam-ara's POL recommendation 
is deferred by the President 
because of political turmoil 
in SM. 

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9 Apr 66 

White House Review 

ik k-^T 66 

JCSM 238-66 

A general policy review at 
the White House includes most 
of the second-level members 
of the Administration • Meet- 
ings and paper drafting con- 
tinued until the political 
crisis in SVN abated in mid- 

The JCS forv/arded a vol\:iminous 
study of the bombing that 
recommends a much expanded 
campaign to hit the Haiphong 
POL5 mine the harbors ^ hit 
the airfields. 

16 Apr 66 

Policy debate continues 

26 Apr 66 

JCS msg 9326 

The high-level policy review 
continues. Bundy, McNaughton, 
Carver & Unger draft position 
papers on the alternatives if 
the GVN collapses. 

CINCPAC is informed that RT5O 
will not include the POL. 

27 Apr 66 

Taylor memo to the 


General Taylor in a major memo 
to the President discusses the 
problem of negotiations des- 
cribing the bombing and other 
US military sections as "blue 
chips" to be bargained away at 
the negotiation table not given 
away as a precondition before- 
hand . 

k May 66 

W. Bundy memo to Rusk 


6 May 66 

W. W. Rostow memo to 
Rusk and McHamara 



Bundy, commenting on Taylor's 
"blue chip" memo takes a harder 
position on what we should get 
for a bombing halt — i.e. both 
an end of infiltration and a 
cessation of VC/kVA military 
activity in the South. 

Rostow urges the attack on POL 
based on the results such 
attacks produced against Germany 
in W.W. II. 

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10 May 66 

22 May 66 

CINCPAC msg IOO73OZ May 66 

MCV msg 17603 

3 Jun 66 

UK R4 Wilson opposes POL 
State Dept msg ^8 to Oslo, 

7 Jun 66 

Brussels msg 87 

8 Jun 66 

CIA SC No. 081|-^0/66 

Ik Jun 66 

CINCPAC msg 1^0659Z Jun 66 

II1-I8 Jun 66 Ronning Mission 

22 Jun 66 

JCS msg 5003 

2k Jun 66 

POL deferred 

25 Jun 66 

JCS msg 5311 

7 ■ 

Adm-iral Sharp again urges the 
authorization of POL attacks. 

General Westmoreland supports 
CINCPAC 's request for strikes 
on the POL system. 

The President, having decided 
sometime at the end of May to 
approve the POL attacks 5 informs 
UK R-'I Wilson. Wilson urges 
the President to reconsider. 

Rusk, travelling in Europe^ 
urges the President to defer 
the POL decision because of the 
forthcoming visit of Canadian 
Ambassador Ronning to Hanoi and 
the possibility of some peace 

"It is estimated that the 
neutralization of the bulk 
petroleiom storage facilities 
in- NVN will not in itself pre- 
clude Hanoi ' s continued support 
of essential war activities." 

Having been informed of high 
level consideration of the POL 
strikes by McNamara, CINCPAC 
assures they will cause under 
50 civilian casualties. 

Canadian Ambassador Ronning 
goes to Hanoi and confers with 
top DRV leaders. He returns 
V7ith no message or indication 
of DRV interest in talks. 

CINCPAC is ordered to strike the 
POL at first light on 2k June. 

Bad weather forces rescheduling 
of the strikes for 25 June. 

The POL execute order is res- 
cinded because of a press leak. 

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28 Jun 66 

29 Jun 66 

8 Jul 66 


2k Jul 66 

1 Aug 66 

k Aug 66 

JCS msg 5^1^ 

POL attacks 

in Honolulu 

CINCPAC msg O8O73OZ Jul 66 

CINCPAC msg 242069Z Jul 66 

LIA Special Intelligence 

SNIE 13-66 

13^lll Aug 66 Westmoreland sees LBJ 

20 Aug 66 

CimTAC msg 2O2226Z Aug 66 


29 Aug 65 

JASON studies 

. 8 

The POL order is reinstated 
for 29 June. 

At long last the POL facilities 
are struck with initially 
highly positive damage reports. 

After having been briefed by 
CINCPAC on the effects of the 
POL strikes to date 3 McNamara 
informs Admiral Sharp that the 
President wants first priority 
given to strangulation of the 
NVN POL system. 

RT 51 specifies a program for 
intensive attacks on POL as 
1st priority. 

As a part of a comprehensive 
attack on POL storage ^ Sharp 
recommends attacks on Kep and 
Phuc Yen airfields. 

70^0 of NVN*s large bulk POL 
storage capacity has been 
destroyed along with 7"^ of its 
dispersed storage. 

NVN was using the POL attacks 
as a lever to extract more aid 
from the Chinese and the Soviets. 

General Westmoreland spends two 
days at the ranch conferring with 
the President on the progress of 
the war and new troop req.uirements 

CINCPAC emphatically opposes 
any standdown^ pause or reduc- 
tion in the air war. 

IDA'S JASON Division submits 
four reports on the war done by 
a special study group of top 
scientists who stress the inef- 
fectiveness of the bombing J 
including POL, and recommend the 
construction of an ant i -infiltra- 
tion barrier across northern 
South Vietnam and Laos. 

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3 Sep 66 

i| Sep 66 

8 Sep 66 


12 Sep 66 

13 Sep 66 

15 Sep 66 

7 Oct 66 

McNamara memo to CJCS 

CINCPAC msg 0^2059Z Sep 66 


Joint CIA/dIA Assessment 
of POL Bombing 

CINCPAC msg I3O7O5Z Sep 66 

McNamara memo to Lt Gen 

JCSM 6^6-66 

10-13 Oct 66 McNamara trip to Vietnam 


McNamara req.uests the viev/s 
of the Chiefs on the proposed 

RT is redirected from a 
primary POL emphasis to "attri- 
tion of men 5 supplies ^ eq.uip- 
ment . . . 


General Wheeler agrees to the 
creation of a special project 
for the barrier under General 
Starbird^ but expresses con- 
cern that funding of the program 
not be at the expense of other 

The intelligence community turns 
in an overv^helbningly negative 
appraisal of the effect of POL 
attacks. No POL shortages are 
evident 5 and in general the 
bombing has not created insur- 
mountable transportation diffi- 
culties, economic dislocations , 
or weakening of popular morale. 

CINCPAC ridicules the idea of 
a barrier. 

Starbird is designated as the 
head of a Joint Task Force for v 
the barrier. 

In a report on the US world- 
wide force posture the Chiefs 
express grave concern at the 
thinness with which manpower is 
stretched. They recommend 
mobilization of the reserves. 

McNamara 5 Katzenbach, VJheelBr, 
Komer, McNaughton and others 
spend three da.ys in Vietnam on 
a Presidential fact-finder. 


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Ik Oct 66 

McNarnara memo to the 

JCSM 672-66 

15 Oct 66 

George Carver memo for 
Dir., CIA . 

23-25 Oct 66 Manila Conference 

k Nov 66 

JCSM 702-66 

8 Nov 66 

Off- Year Election 


With Katzenbach's concurrence, 
McNamara recommended only ifO^OOO 
more troops and the stabilisa- 
tion of the air war. Noting the 
inability of the bombing to 
interdict infiltration, he 
recommended the barrier to the 
President. To improve the 
negotiating clim,ate he proposed 
either a bombing pause or shifting 
it avj'ay from the northern cities. 

The Chiefs disagree with vir- 
tually every McNamara recommenda- 
tion. In addition they urge an 
escalatory "sharp knock" against 

Carver concurs in McNamara 's 
assessment of the bombing and 
agrees with its stabilization 
at about 12^000 sorties per 
month but urges the closing 
of Haiphong port. 

The President meets with the 
heads of government of all the 
troop contributing nations and 
agreed positions on the war and 
the framework of its settlement 
are worked out. In a private 
conference^ Westmoreland opposes 
any curtailment of the 
and urges its expansion. He 
seemed to have reluctantly 
accepted the barrier concept. 

The Chiefs in forwarding the 
CINCPAC force proposals add a 
rationale of their own for the 
bombing: to "make it as diffi- 
cult and costly as pocsible" for 
NVN to continue the war, thereby 
giving it an incentive to end it. 

In an off-year election, the 
peace candidates in both parties 
are all resoundingly defeated. 

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11 Nov 66 

McNamara memo to CJCS 

The President approved only 
the modest McNamara force 
increases and ordered a stabil- 
ization of the air war. 

17 Nov 66 

McNamara D'RA on Supple 
mental Appropriations 

22 Nov 66 


13-li| Dec 66 Hanoi attacks hit civilia^n 



23 Dec 66 

10-mile Hanoi prohibited 
area established 

2i{- Dec 66 

31 Dec 66 

k8-houT truce 

New Year's truce 


McNamara describes for the 
President the failure of the 
bombing to reduce infiltration 
below the essential miniiaum 
to sustain current levels of 
combat in SVN. He argues for 
the barrier as an alternative. 

The Chiefs once again oppose 
holiday standdowns for Christ- 
mas ^ Nev/ Year's and Tet citing 
the massive advantage of them 
taken by the DRV during the 
37"day pause. 

A series of air attacks on 
targets in Hanoi in early Dec. 
culininated in heav^-" strikes 
on Dec. I3-IU. In the immedi- 
ate artermath^ the DRV and 
other communist countries claimed 
extensive damage in civilian 
areas. The attacks came at a 
time when contacts with the DRV 
through the Poles apparently had 
appeared promising. 

In response to the worldwide 
criticism for the attacks on 
civilian areas, a 10-n.m. pro- 
hibited area around Hanoi was 
established with a similar zone 
for Haiphong. Henceforth attacks 
within it could only be by speci- 
fic Presidential authorization. 

A 48-hour truce and bombing pause 
is observed. 

A second 48-hour truce is 
observed. Heavy communist 
resupply efforts are observed 
during the standdown. 



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2 Jan 67 

MA.CV msg 00163 



k Jan 67 

if Jan 67 

18 Jan 67 

25 Jan 67 

28 Jan 67 

1 Eeb 67 

2 Feb 67 

3 Feb 67 

CINCPAC msg 0i|-0lj-03Z Jan 67 



CINCPAC msg I8221OZ Jan 67 

CINCPAC msg 252126Z Jan 67 

RT 53 


CINCPAC msg OI2OO5Z Feb 67 

Marks (Dir., USIA) memo to 

JCSM 59-67 

McNaughton "Scenario" 


Westmoreland opposes the Tet 
truce based on VC violations of 
the two truces just completed - 

CINCPAC endorses Westmoreland's 
opposition to the Tet truce. 

The Chiefs note the heavy DRV 
resupply during the two truces 
and oppose the proposed 96-hour 
Tet truce. 

The Chiefs renew their opposi- 
tion to the Tet truce. 

Admiral Sharp recommends six 
priority targets for RT in I967: 
(1) electric power^ (2) the 
industrial plant , (3) the trans- 
portation system in depth , {h) 
military complexes , (5) POL, 
(6) Haiphong and the other ports. 

Sharp again urges the attack 
of Haiphong and an intensified 
overall Ccunpaign. 

No new target categories are 

Keeping up his barrage of 
cables ;, Sharp urges the closing 
of the NVN ports by aerial mining. 

Marks proposes extending the 
Tet truce for 12 to Zh hours in 
an effort to get negotiations 



The Chiefs propose the mining of 
selected inland water\-/ays and 
selected coastal areas to inhibit 
internal sea transportation in 

A handv/ritten "Scenario" for the 
pause by McNaughton vzhich notes 
McNamara's approval calls for 
extension of the Tet truce to 
7 days to get negotiations startet 



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( ) 

8 Feb 67 

President's letter to Ho 
Chi Minh 

The President invites Ho to 
indicate what reciprocity he 
might expect from a bombing 
halt. The letter is trans- 
mitted in Moscow Feb. 8. 

8-lU Feb 67 Tet truce 

15 Feb 67 

Ho Chi Minh letter to 

19 Feb 67 

Moscovr msg 3568 

21 Feb 67 

Vance memo to Katzenbach 

21 Feb 67 

W. Bundy memo 

Maxwell Taylor mem.o to the 


While this truce was in effect 
frantic efforts were undertaken 
by UK VIA Wilson and Premier 
Kosygin in London to get peace 
talks started. In the end 
these failed because the enor- 
mous DRV resupply effort forces 
the President to resume the 
bombing after having first 
extended the pause. 

Replying to the President's 
letter 5 Ho rejects the US 
conditions and reiterates that 
unconditional cessation of the 
bombing must precede any talks. 

Amb. Thompson indicates the 
Soviets would react extremely 
adversely to the mining of 
Haiphong . 

Vance sends Katzenbach a package 
of proposals for the President's 
night reading. Eight categories 
of new targets are analyzed; 
none can seriously undercut the 
flow of supplies South. 

Bundy notes that mining of the 
waterways and coastal areas of 
the DRV panhandle could be 
approved without the mining of 
Haiphong . 

Taylor again considers the 
question of ceasefire 5 polit- 
ical settlement and sequencing 
of agreements. No direct 
bearing on the situation. 


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22 Feb 67 

Mining waterv/ays approved 

The President approved the 
aerial mining of the water- 
ways and the attack on the 
Thai Nguyen Iron and Steel 
works . 

27 Feb 67 

10 Mar 67 

1st aerial mining 

Thai Nguyen plant struck 

The first aerial mining of 
the waterways begins. 

The Thai Nguyen Iron and 
Steel complex is hit for the 
first time- 

Bundy gives Thieu 

20-21 Mar 67 Guam Conference 


8 Apr 67 

RT 55 

20 Apr 67 

JCSM 218-67 

Bundy in Saigon sees Thieu 
with Lodge and assures him 
the President believes that 
more pressure m.ust be applied 
in the North before Ho will 
change his position. 

The President leads a full 
delegation to a conference 
with Thieu and Ky. Questions 
of constitutional progress and 
war progress in the South 
dominate the discussions. 
During the conference Ho 
releases the exchange of letters 
during Tet. A decision to base 
B-52s in Thailand is also taken. 

RT 55 includes the Kep airfield, 
Hanoi power transformer and 
other industrial sites. 

The Chiefs endorse Westmoreland's 
request for 100,000 more troops 
and 3 r^iore tactical fighter 
squadrons to keep up the pressure 
on the North, 

Haiphong power plants 

After numerous weather aborts, 
the two Haiphong power plants 
are struck for the 1st time. 

2k Apr 67 

Airfields attacked 

Two MG fields come under 
first-time attack shortly after 
their authorization. 


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r ^ 

2k Apr 67 

R. W. Komer memo 

Moscow msg ^566 

Komer leaves behind some vievrs 
on the v/ar as he leaves for 
Vietnam. Negotiations are now 
unlikely, but bombing v/on't m.ake 
Hanoi give in, hence the "crit- 
ical variable is in the South." 

Amb. Thompson reports the bad 
effect of the recent Haiphong 
attacks on Soviet attitudes. 

27 Apr 67 

Westmoreland sees the 


1 May 67 

W- Bundy memo to Katzenbach 

h May 67 

SNIE 11-11-67 

Back in the US to speak to LBJ 
about his troop request and 
address Congress, VJesty tells 
Johnson, "l am frankly dis- 
mayed at even the thought of 
stopping the bombing 


* • • 

As a part of the policy review 
in progress since 2k April, 
Bundy v/rites a strategy paper 
opposing more bombing (among 
other things) because of the 
likely adverse international 

Soviets will likely increase 
aid to the DRV but not help 
get the conflict to the nego- 
tiating table. 

McGeorge Bundy letter to 
the President 

5 May 67 


Bundy argues for a ceiling on 
the US effort in Vietnam and 
no further escalation of the 
air war, particularly the minini 
of Haiphong harbor. 

General Wheeler takes sharp 
exception to Bundy 's views. 
Haiphong is the single most 
valuable and vulnerable NVN 
target yet unstruck. Also 
explains the rationale for the 
attack on the NVN power grid. 



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5 May 67 

McNaughton DM 

6 May 67 

W. W« Rostow memo 

8 May 67 

W. Bundy memo 


12 May 67 

CIA Memo Nos. 06^2/67 
and 06^3/67 

16 May 67 

Hanoi power plant 

19 May 67 

Hanoi power plant "bombed 

McKamara DB4 (given to the 


As a part of the policy review, 
McNaughton drafts a prop'osal 
for cutting the bombing "back 
to 20'^, The action was to 
enhance military effectiveness 
not improve negotiation pros- 
pects, which were dim. 

After considering three options: 
closing Haiphong, heavier 
attacks in the Hanoi -Haiphong 
area and restriction of "bombing 
to the panhandle only, Rostow 
recommended concentrating on the 
panhandle while holding open 
the option to up the ante farther 
north if we desired later - 

Bundy considers five' different 
bombing packages and finally 
favors levelling off at current 
levels with no new targets and 
more concentration on the Dan- 
handle • 

The bombing has not eroded 
NVN morale, materially degraded 
IWN ability to support the war, 
nor significantly eroded the 
industrial-military base. 

As the debate continues, the 
President approves the Hanoi 
power plant . 

The power plant, 1 mile from 
the center of Hanoi, is hit 
for the first time. 

McNamara considered tv70 courses: 
approval of the military recom- 
mendations for escalation in 
both North and South; de-escala- 
tion in the North (20^) and only 
30,000 troops in the South. In 
spite of unfavorable negotiations 
climate, the second course is 
recommended because costs and 
risks of the 1st course were too 
great . 

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20 May 6? 

JCSM 286-67 

20 May 6? 

McRamara memo 

23 May 67 

CIA m.emo 06^9/67 


26 May 67 

CIA memo 

1 Jun 67 

JCSM 307-67 


Helms letter to McKamara 

The Chiefs relDut -the DBA and 
call for expansion of the air 
war " include attacks c.i 
all airfields 5 all port com- 
plexes^ all land and sea lines 
of communication in the Hanoi- 
Haiphong area, and mining of 
coastal harbors and coastal 

McNam.ara asks CJCS, Dir. CIA, 
SecNav, and SecAF to analyze 
(a) cutting back bombing to 20*^; 
and (b) intensifying attacks on 
LOCs in route packages 6A and 6B 
but terminating them against 
industrial targets. 

CIA opposes the mining of the 
harbors as too provocative for 
the Soviets. 

With the recent attacks on NVN's 
power grid 87^ of national 
capacity had been destroyed. 

The Chiefs take strong exception 
to the DPM noting its inconsis- 
tency with NSAM 288 and the 
jeopardy into which it would 
place national objectives in SEA 
because of the radical and con- 
ceptually unsound military 
methods it proposed , including 
any curtaiLnent of the bombing. 

Responding to McNamara^s May 20 
req.uest for analysis of two 
bombing options, Helms states 
neither will cut down the flow 
of men and supplies enough "to 
decrease Hanoi's determinat:" on 
to persist in the war. 


2 Jun 67 

W. Bundy memo 


Bundy, like the Chiefs, rejected 
the reformulation of objectives 
in the May I9 DPM. He leaves 
aside the question of the courses 
of action to be follcrv/ed. 

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f ) 

2 Jun 67 


SecNav memo to McNamara 


3 Jun 67 

SecAF memo to McNamara 

8 Jun 67 

Katzenbach memo to McNamara 

11 Jun 67 

Kep Airfield struck 

12 Jun 67 

McNam^ara DPM 


15 Jun 67 

17 Jun 67 

INE memo to Rusk 

Saigon msg 28293 

'21 Jun 67 

CINCPAC msg 2IO43OZ Jun 67 

I I 

The Chiefs, replying to 
McNamara 's May 20 req.uest5 
again reject all suggestions 
for a cutback in the bombing. 

The Secretary of the Navy con- 
cluded, in reply to the May 20 
request, that the cutback to 
the panhandle would be marginally 
more productive than the current 

Harold Brown favored the 
expanded cam.paign against LOCs 
in northern NVN in his reply 

to McNamara *s May 20 req.uest. 

Katzenbach favors concentrating 
the bombing against LOCs through- 
out the country and abandoning 
attacks on "strategic" target 


The Kep airfield comes under 
attack for the 1st time and 
ten r.'UGs are destroyed. 

Three bombing program.s are 
offered: " (a) intensified 
attack on Hanoi -Haiphong logis- 
tical base; (b) emphasis south 
of 20*^; (c) extension of the 
current program. McNamara, 
Vance & SecNav favor B; JCS 
favor A; SecAF favors C. 

Hanoi was possibly reconsidering 
the desirability of negotiations. 

Bunker doubts the effectiveness 
of bombing at interdiction and 
therefore urges the rapid com- 
pletion of the barrier. 

Sharp argues that results of the 
bom-bing in recent months demon- 
strate its effectiveness and are 
a pcn-^erful argument for its 


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23-25 Jun 67 Glassboro Conference 

3 Jul 67 

5 Jul 67 

18 Jul 67 

9 Aug 67 

SecAF memo to McNamara 

JCSM 382-67 

7-II Jul 67 McNamara trip to Vietnam 

JCS msg 1859 

Addendum to RT 57 

9-25 Aug 67 Stennis Hearings 

11-12 Aug 67 Hanoi struck 

19 Aug 67 

Attacks on Hanoi suspended 

20 Aug 67 

Largest attack of the var 

President Johnson meets Soviet 
Premier Kosygin at Glassboro, 
N.J, Wo "breakthrough on the 

In a lengthy analytical memo 
Brcvm argues for option C, 
a general expansion of the 

The Chiefs reject a Canadian 
proposal to exchange a bombing 
halt for re-demilitarization 
of the DMZ- 

During McNamara 's five day 
trip, CINCPAC argues against 
any further limitation of the 

RT 57 V7ill be only a limited 
extension of previous targets. 
No cutback is planned. 

Sixteen JCS fixed targets are 
added to RT 57 including six 
■within the 10-mile Hanoi zone. 

The Senate Preparedness Sub- 
committee hears two weeks of 
testimony on the air war from 
Wheeler, Sharp, McConnell and 
finally McNamara. The commit- 
tee's report condemns the 
Administration's failure to 
follov/ military advice. 

Several of the newly author- 
ized Hanoi targets, including 
the Pa.ul Doumer Bridge are struck 

CINCPAC is ordered to susperd 
attacks on Hanoi's 10-mile 
zone from 2h Aug to h Sep. 

209 sorties are flown, the 
highest momber in the war to 



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21 Aug 67 

1 Sep 67 

7 Sep 67 

10 Sep 67 

20 Sep 67 

21 Sep 67 

22 Sep 67 

US aircraft lost over China 

President's press conference 

Hanoi prohibition extended 

Campha port struck 

CINCPAC msg 202352Z Sep 67 

CINCPAC msg 210028Z Sep 67 


Two US planes are shot down 
over China after having strayed 
off course. 

The President denies any policy 
rift within the Administration 
on the bombing. 

The prohibition of attack in 
the 10-mile Hanoi zone is 
extended indefinitely. 

For the first time the port 
of Cam.pha is struck including 
its docks. 

CINCPAC recommends hitting the 
MIGs at Phuc Yen air field and 
air defense controls at Bac Mai- 

Sharp urges lifting the 10- 
mile prohibition around Hanoi. 

General Johnson (Acting CJCS) 
agrees with CINCPAC: hit Phu 
Yen and Bac Mai and lift the 
10-mile restriction - 


29 Sep 67 

San Antonio Formula 

6 Oct 67 

8 Oct 67 


CINCPAC msg O8O762Z Oct 67 

The President offers a new 
basis for stopping the bombing 
in a San Antonio speech: 
assurance of productive dis- 
cussions and that no advantage 
will be taken of the cessation 

Specific authority to hit the 
Hanoi power plant is recLuested 

Sharp again requests authority 
to strike Phuc Yen. 


17 Oct 67 


JCSM 555-&7 

Reviewing the objectives and 
limitations of the bombing 
policy for the President^ the 
Chiefs recoimnended ten new 
measures against NVi^I including 
mining the ports and rem.oval 
of all current restrictions on 
the bombing. 


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20 Oct 67 

San Antonio Formula rejected 

In an interview with a western 
conmiunist journalist, WN's 
Foreign Minister rejects the 
San Antonio formula. 

21 Oct 67 


23 Oct 67 

23 Oct 67 
25 Oct 67 

27 Oct 67 

9 Rov 67 

l6 Nov 67 

Pentagon anti-war demon^ 

JCSM 567-67 

JOS msg 967^ 

Phuc Yen struck 


Reduction of Hanoi -Haiphong 
zones refused. 

Haiphong bombed 

A massive demonstration in 
Washington against the war 
ends with a 505000-man march 
on the Pentagon. 

The Chiefs oppose any holiday 
standdowns or pauses at year's 

Phuc Yen authorized for attack. 

Phuc Yen is hit for the 1st 

Wheeler proposes reducing the i -Haiphong prohibited areas 
to 3 and 1.5 n.m. respectively. 

The White House lunch rejects 
the proposal to reduce the 
Hanoi-Haiphong prohibited zones 

Haiphong's #2 shipyard is hit 
for the 1st time. 

17 Nov 67 

22 Nov 67 

Bac Mai hit 


Bac Mai airfield near the 
center of Hanoi is struck for 
the 1st time. 

A joint ISA/jS study of the 
likely DRV" reaction to a 
bombing halt lays stress on 
the risks to the US. 

27 Nov 67 


The Chiefs present a plan for 
the next four months that calls 
for mining the harbors and 
lifting all restrictions on 
Hanoi -Haiphong 5 except in a 
3 and 1.5 n.m. zone respectively, 
In all, 2^ new targets are 


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28 Nov 6? 

McNamara's resignation 

li|-15 Dec 67 Hanoi RR Bridge struck 

16 Dec 67 

22 Dec 67 

2k Dec 67 

1 Jan 67 

2 Jan 68 

3 Jan 68 

Rusk-McNamara agreement on 
new targets 


JCSM 698-67 

Pope asks bombing halt 

Christmas truce 

31 Dec 67 New Year's truce 

CMCPAC msg OIOI56Z Jan 68 

CO^IQSmCV msg 02891 

JCS msg 6k02 

McNamara's resignation leaks 
to the press- 

The Paul Doumer isle.nd highway 
bridge in Hanoi is struck again. 

The two secretaries reach agree- 
ment on ten of the 2^ new 
targets proposed by the Chiefs 
in late Nov. 

IDA'S JASON Division again 
produces a study of the bomb- 
ing that emphatically rejects 
it as a tool of policy. 

Noting that the SEACABIN study 
did not necessarily reflect 
JCS viev^-s, the Chiefs advise 
against any bombing halt. 

The Pope calls on both sides 
to show restraint and on the 
US to halt the bombing in an 
effort to sta-rt negotiations. 
The President visits him the 
next day to reject the idea. 

A 2^-hour Christmas truce is 

Another 24-hour truce - 

CINCPAC ^ s year end wrapup 
asserts RT was successful, 
because of materiel destroyed, 
and manpower diverted to mili- 
tary tasks. 

Westmoreland describes the 
bombing as "indispensable" in 
cutting the flow of supplies 
and sustaining his men's morale 

Bombing is completely pro- 
hibited again v:ithin 5 n.m. of 
Hanoi and Haiphong 5 apparently 
related to a diplomatic effort. 


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16 Jan 68 

\ftLite House meeting 

Tv^o nevr targets are author- 
ized but the 5 n.m, zones are 

25 Jan 68 

Clifford testimony 

29 Jan 68 

31 Jan 68 

3 Feb 68 

5 Feb 68 

10 Feb 68 

Tet truce begins 

Tet offensive 

JCSM 78-68 

Warnke memo to McNamara 

Haiphong struck 

23-25 Feb 68 Wheeler visits Vietnam 

27 Feb 68 

Wheeler Report 

CIA memo 

28 Feb 68 

Clifford Group 

Clark Clifford in his con- 
firmation hearings states that ■ 

"no advantage" means normal 
resupply may continue. 

The Tet truce begins but is 
broken almost immediately by 

communist attacks. 

The VC/JWA attack all major 
towns and cities, invade the 
US Embassy and the Presidential 
Palace- Hue is occupied and 
held vrell into Feb. 

Citing the Tet offensive, the 
Chiefs ask for reduction of 
the restricted zones to 3 and 
1.5 n.m. 

Warnke opposes the reduction 
of the sanctuary because of 
the danger of civilian casu- 
alties. Reduction not approved. 

.After a month of restriction, 
Haiphong is again struck. 

Gen. VJheeler at the President's 
direction goes to Vietnam and 
confers with Westmoreland on 
required reinforcements. 

Wheeler endorses Westmoreland's 
request for 200,000 more men. 

Hanoi unlikely to seek nego- 
tiations but rather will pr-^ss 
the military campaign - 

The President asks Clifford to 
conduct a high-level "A to Z" 
review of US policy in Vietnam. 
The Group meets at the Pentagon 
and work begins. It continues 
until a DR'l is finally agreed 
on Mar . . 4 . 



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29 Feb 68 

W. Bundy memo to Warnke, 
et • al . 

29 Feb 68 

Taylor m-emo to the President 

1 Mar 68 

Moscow msg 2983 

3 Mar 68 


Clifford Group meeting 




k Mar 68 


Bimdy considers several 
alternative courses including 
mining the harbors and all-out 
bombing. Without indicating 
a preference he indicates no 
unacceptably adverse Soviet 
or Chinese reaction to any 
course except invasion. 

Taylor proposes three possible 
packages of responses to Tet 
and Westmoreland's request. 
All three called for removal of 
the San Antonio formula and no 
new negotiating initiative. 

Thompson gives his assessment 
of Soviet reactions to various 
US actions, "...any serious 
escalation except in South 
Vietnam would trigger strong 
Soviet response . . . . " 

The 3 Mar. draf^ memo rejects any- 
bombing escalation, particularly 
mining the harbors or reducing 
the Hanoi -Haiphong restriction 
circles. It also rejects VJest- 
moreland's troop requests. 

The Clifford Group rejects the 
dim's "demographic frontier" 
tactical concept for SVN and is 
divided about the bom_bing. 
Wheeler is adamant for an 

A new draft is completed and 
Clifford sends it to the Presi- 
dent. It proposes no new peace 
initiative and includes both the 
JCS proposal for escalation of 
the bombing, and the ISA posi- 
tion that it should be stab :Mi zed 
In transmitting the Dm, Clifford 
apparently also suggested to the 
President the idea of halting 
the bombing north of 20^, an idea 
discussed in the Clifford Group. 


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k Mar 68 

SecAF memo to Nitze 

5 Mar 6Q 

Rusk "Draft Statement" 

Brovm presents three alter- 
native air war escalations 
that might produce better 

A note to VTheeler for informa- 
tion from Clifford transmits a 
"draft statement" by Rusk 
announcing a bombing halt north 
of 20*^. An attached rationale 
does not foresee negotiations 
resulting but indicates the time 
is opportune because of forth- 
coming bad weather over much of 

11 Mar 68 

New Hampshire Primary 

l6 Mar 68 

Kennedy announces 


18-19 Mar 68 "Senior Informal Advisory 


22 Mar 68 

Westmoreland reassigned 


President Johnson only narrowly 
defeats Eugene McCarthy in a 
great moral victory for anti- 
Administration doves. 

Robert Kennedy, spurred by the 
New Hampshire results, announces 
for the Presidency. 

An ISA draft mem-O that never 
gets SecDef signature proposes 
the concentration of the bomb- 
ing south of 20*=^ on the infil- 
tration routes, with only enough 
sorties northward to prevent 
relocation of DRV air defenses 
to the south. 

Nine prestigious former Presi- 
dential advisors gather at the 
White House for briefings on 
the Vietnam situation. Af1:er 
hearing a report from State, 
DoD and CIA, they recommended 
against further escalation '.n 
favor of greater efforts to 
get peace talks started. 

The President announced that 
Westmoreland would return to 
become CofS Arm.y in the summer- 

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^ ) 

25-26 Mar 68 Abrams confers with the 


30 Mar 68 

State msg 139^61 

31 Mar 68 

The President withdraws 

General Abrams, DepCOIvIUSMACV, 
returns unexpectedly to 
Washington and confers with 
the President. He is presum- 
ably told of his new assignment 
to replace Westmoreland and of 
the President's decision for 
a partial bombing halt. 

US Ambassadors to the allied 
countries are informed of the 
forthcoming announcement of a 
partial bombing halt. The 
likelihood of a DRV response 
is discounted. 

The President announces the 
partial bombing halt on nation- 
vade TV and ends his speech with 
the surprise announcement of his 
own withdrav/al as a candidate 
for re-election. 




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A. Introduction - Where We Stood at Mid-Suminer 1 

I B- The July Escalation Debate 5 

C. Incremental Escalation I6 

. D, The "Pause" -- 2k December I965 to 3I January I966. . 20 

1. The Pre-Pause Debate 20 

2, Resumption -- VJhen and At V/hat Level? 26 

E. Accomplishments by Years-End. • 50 



A* Background 63 

1. JCS Recommendations 63 

2. The Intelligence CommiUnity Demurs 68 

B. The Issue Focuses 73 

1. POL and the Pause 73 

2 . February Debate 76 

3* The -CIA Recommends Escalation 80 

k. McNamara Endorses POL, the President Defers It.. 84 

C April and May -- Delay and Deliberation 90 

1. Reasons to VJait 90 

2. The April Policy Reviev^ 92 

3 . Exogenous Factors IO8 

D. The Decision to Strike 120 



A. Results of the POL Attacks I38 

1. Initial Success I38 

2. ROLLING THUNDER 51 i l40 

3 . POL - Strategic Failure ll|2 

B. Alternatives -- The Barrier Concept IU5 

1. Genesis 1^5 

2 . The JASON Summer Study Reports IU9 

3. A Visit to Vietnam and a Memoz^andum for the 
President l62 

C . The Year End Viev; I70 

1. Presidential Decisions , I70 

2. Stabilization of ,the Air- Vlar I7U 

3. 1966 Sumraary * 177 


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A. Introduction -- VJhere We Stood At Mid-Summer 

By the summer of 1965^ a- U.S.. campaign of sustained j almost 
daily air strikes against NVN was well unden-zay, with token GVN partici- 
pation- Most of the important bombing policy issues had been settled^ 
and the general outlines of the campaign had become clear. Military 
proposals to seek a q.uick and decisive solution to the Vietnam War 
through bombing NVN -- proposals which called for an intensive cam^paign 
to apply maximum practicable military pressure in a short time -- had 
been entertained and rejected. Instead;, what was undertaken was a 
graduated program, nicknam.ed ROLLII^S THUNDER, definitely ascending in 
tempo and posing a potential threat of heavy bombing pressure, but 
starting lo\r and stretching out over a prolonged period. 

U.S. decision-makers apparently accepted the military view 
that a limited, gradual program would exert less pressure upon NVN than 
a prograra of heavy bombing from the outset, and they apparently granted 
that less pressure vras less likely to get NVN to scale dovm or call off 
the insurgency, or enter into reasonable negotiations. They felt, how- 
ever, that all-out bombing would pose far greater risks of widening the 
war, would transmit a signal strength out of all proportion to the limited 
objectives and intentions of the U.S. in Southeast Asia, V70uld carry 
unacceptable political penalties, and would perhaps foreclose the promise 
of achieving U.S« goals at a relatively low level of violence. 

The decision-makers accordingly elected to proceed with the 
bombino" in a slow, steady, deliberate manner, beginning with a few 
infiltration-associated. targets in southern NVN and gradually moving 
northward with progressively more severe attacks on a wider variety of 
tarp:ets. The pattern adopted was designed to preserve the options to 
Tiroceed or not, escalate or not, or q.uicken the pace or not, depending 
on NVN*s reactions. The carrot of stopping the bombing was deemed as 
important as the stick of continuing it, and bombing pauses V7ere provided 
for. It was hoped that this track of major military escalation of the 
war' could be accom-panied by a parallel diplomatic track to bring the 
war to an end, and that both tracks could be coordinated. 

By the summer ofl965? bombing WN had also been relegated 
to a secondary role in U.S« military strategy for dealing with the war. 
Farlier expectations that bom-bing and other pressures on NVIT would 

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T constitute the primary means for the U.S. to turn the tide of the war 

had been overtaken by the President's decision to send in substantial 
U.S. ground forces for combat in SYN. With this decision the main - ' 
hope had shifted from inflicting pain in the North to proving, in the 
South, that DJWI could not vrin a military victory there. ROLLING 
THUNDER was counted as useful and necessary, but in the prevailing 

I view it v^as a supplement and not a substitute for efforts within SVn. 

I From the first, strike req.uirements in SVN had first call on U.S. air 

assets in Southeast Asia. 

Nonetheless, ROLLING THUMER was a comparatively risky and 
politically sensitive component of U.S. strategy, and national author- 
ities kept it imder strict and careful policy control. The strikes 
were carried out only by fighter-bombers, in low-altitude precision- 
bombing modes, and populated areas were scrupulously avoided. Final 
target determinations were made in Washington, with due attention to 
the nature of the target, its geographical location, the weight of 
attack, the risk of collateral damage, and the like. Armed reconnais- 
sance was authorized against targets of opportimity not individually, 
picked in Washington, but Washington did define the types of targets 
which could be hit, set a sortie ceiling on the number of such missions, 
and prescribed the areas within which they could be flown. 

National authorities also closely regulated the rate of 
escalation by discouraging the preparation of extended campaign plans 
which might permit any great latitude in the field. They accepted 
bombing proposals only in weekly target packages. Each target pa.ckage, 
moreover, had to pass through a chain of approvals which included senior 
levels of OSD, the Department of State, and the White House, up to and 
including the principals themselves. 

Within this framework of action the ROLLING THUNDER program 
had been permitted to grow in intensity. By mid-1965 the number of 
1 g^-^j^^gg agaanst targets in the JCS master list of major targets had 

' increased from one or two per week to ten or twelve per week. The geo- 

graphic coverage of the strikes had been extended in stages, first across 
the 19th parallel, from there to the 20th, and then up to 20^30' North. 
The assortment of targets had been widened, from military barracks, 
ammunition depots, and radar sites at first, to bridges, airfields, 
naval bases, radio facilities, railroad yards, oil storage sites, and 
even power plants. The targets authorized for strike by armed recon- 
naissance aircraft were also expanded from vohicles, locomotives, and 
railroad cars to ferries, lighters, barges, road repair eq,uipment, and 
.bivouac and maintenance areas; and aircraft on these missions were 
authorized to interdict LOGs by cratering, restriking, and seeding 
I ^ chokepoints as necessary. The number of attack sorties — strike and 

flak suppression -- had risen to more than 5OO per week, and the total 
,.— . gQ3^-tj_es flo-vm to about 9OO per week, four or five times what they had 

been at the outset. _ ^ ^ . 

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This early ROLLING- THUNDER program had already scored- some 
immediate political and psychological gains. Prior to the bomhing, 
U.S. authorities were coping with what Presidential Assistant McG-eorge 
Bundy called a "widespread belief" that the U.S. lacked the will and 
determination to do what was necessary in Southeast Asia, The initi- 
ation of ROLLING THUNDER, followed by a series of military actions 
which in effect m.ade the U.S. a full co-belligerent in the war, did 
much to correct that belief. The South Vietnamese were given an 
important boost in morale, both by the show of greater U.S. support 
and by the inauguration of joint retaliation against their enemy in 
the North. Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia, \rh±ch had 
been watching SVN slide rapidly downhill while the U.S. seemed to be 
debating what to do, no doubt received the same kind of lift as well. 

The bombing had also served several unilateral U.S. inter- 
ests. It gave a clear signal to NTN — and indirectly to China -- 
that the U.S. did not intend to suffer the takeover of SVN without a 
fight. It served notice that if pressed the U.S. would not necessarily 
recognize privileged sanctuaries. And it provided the U.S. with a 
new bargaining chip, something which it could offer to give up in 
return for a reduction or cessation of NVN*s effort in the South. 

Despite such gains, the overall effect of initiating 
ROLLING THUNDER was somewhat disappointing. The hopes in some quar- 
ters that merely posing a credible threat of substantial damage to 
come might be sufficient "pressure" to bring Hanoi around had been 
frustrated. U.S. negotiation overtures had been rejected, and Hanoi* s 
position had if anything hardened. Infiltration South had continued 
and intensified. The signs indicated that Hanoi was determined to 
ride cut the bombing, at least at the levels sustained up to mid-1965, 
while continuing to prosecute the war vigorously in the South. It was 
evident that the U.S. faced a long-haul effort of uncertain duration. 

Although the real target of the early ROLLING THUNDER 
program was the will of NVN to continue the aggression in the South, 
the public rationale for the bombing had been expressed in terms of 
N\TT's capability to continue that aggression. The public vras told 
that NVN was being bombed because it was infiltrating men and supplies 
into SVN' the targets of the bombing v/ere directly or indirectly related 
to that infiltration^ and the purpose of attacking them was to reduce 
the flow and/or to increase the costs of that infiltration. Such a 
rationale was consistent v/ith the overall position which m.orally justi- 
fied U.S. intervention in the war in terms of NVN's own intervention; 
'and H specifically put the bombing in a politically acceptable military 
idiom of interdiction. . 

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This public rationale for the bombing had increasingly 
become the most acceptable internal rationale as well^ as decision- 
makers sought to prevent runaway escalation c-nd to hold down the 
bombing in what they thought should be a secondary role in the war. 
As a venture in "strategic persuasion" the bombing had not worked. 
The most obvious reason was that it v^as too lights gave too subdued 
and uncertain a signal^ and exerted too little pain. Hardly any of 
the targets most valued by Hanoi -- the "lucrative" targets of the 
JCS m.aster list -- had been hit. If the main purpose of ROLLIK 
THUNDER was to ijnpose strong pressure on Hanoi's v^ill, the "lucrative" 
targets in the Hanoi /Haiphong area, not those in the barren southern 
Panhandle 5 vrere the ones to go after ^ and to hit hard. Aerial bombard- 
ment could then perform in its proven strategic role, and even if the 
risks of such a course were greater it was precisely because the 
potential payoff was greater. 

If, however, the emphasis could be shifted toward inter- 
diction, it would be easier to confine targets to those of direct 
military relevance to the VC/WA campaign in the South, and it would 
be easier to contain the pressures to escalate the bombing rapidly 
into the northern heart of WN's population and industry. A con- 
tinuing emphasis on the Panhandle LOCs could be defended more easily, 
if the main purpose was to actually handicap RVl^rs efforts to support 
and strengthen VC/WA forces in the South, and it vras less likely to 
generate adverse political repercussions. 

The interdiction rationale had come to the fore by mid-1965, 
both V7ithin the government and before the public. There were still 
internal and external pressures to proceed faster and farther, of 
course, because interdiction effects had not been impressive either. 
Official spokesmen conceded that complete interdiction was impossible: 
the flovr of men and supplies from the North, however vital to the 
enemy effort in the South, was quite small and could hardly be cut 
off by bombing alone. They explained that the bombing had "disrupted" 
the flow "slowed" it down, and m.ade it "more difficult" and "costly." 
Thev showed dramiatic aerial photos of bridges destroyed, and implied 
that the enemy was being forced "off the rails onto the highv/ays and 
' off the highv/ays onto their feet." They could not, however, point to 

anv specific evidence that bombing the North had as yet had any impact 
on the war in the South. Almost inevitably, therefore, even within 
the interdiction rationale, the conclusion was that the bombing had 
been too restrained. It was argued that the predictably gradual pace 
had allowed NVH to easily adjust to, circumvent, or otherwise over- 
'corne the effects of the -disruptions and other difficulties caused 
bv the' bombing, and that only an expanded bombing program could produce 
significant material results. 

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Thus, the outlook in niicl.-1965 was for some f\arther escalation 
of the bombing, with a certain amount of tension between pressures 
to speed it up and counter-pressures to keep it in check. With the 
debate increasingly forced into the interdiction context, the prospect 
was for gradual rather than sudden escalation, and strong resistance 
to going all the way if necessary to break Hanoi's will could be pre- 
dicted. There was still a gap between those who thought of the bombing 
as a primarily political instrument and those who sought genuine mili- 
tary objectives, and this would continue to confuse the debate about 
how fast and far to go, but the main lines of the debate were set. 

Still unresolved in mid-1965 was the problem of the diplo- 
matic track. Could the U.S. continue to escalate the bombing, m.ain- 
taining a credible threat of further action, while at the same time 
seeking to negotiate? Could the U.S. orchestrate communications with 
Hanoi with an intensifying campaign? As of mid-1965 this vzas 
an open question. 

B. The July Escalation Debate 

The full U.S. entry into the Vietnam War in the spring of 
1965 -- with the launching of air strikes against IMVN, the release of 
U.S. jet aircraft for close support of ARVN troops in STO, and the 
deployment to STO of m-ajor U.S. ground forces for combat — did not 
bring an immediate turnabout in the security situation in SVN. The 
VC/nVA may have been surprised and stunned at first by the U.S. actions, 
but by the siimm-er of I965 they had again seized the initiative they 
held in late 1964 and early I965 and were again mounting large-scale 
attacks^ hurting ARW forces badly. In mid-July Assistant Secretary 
McNaughton described the situation in ominous terms: 

The situation is worse than a year ago (when it 
was worse than a year before that) . . . -A hard VC push is 
on.... The US air strikes against the North and US com.bat- 
troop deployments have erased any South Vietnamese fears 
that the US v/ill forsake them; but the government is able 
to provide security to fewer and fewer people in less and 
less territory, fewer roads and railroads are usable, the 
economy is deteriorating, and the government in Saigon 
continues' to turn over. Pacification even in the Hop Tac 
area is making no progress. The government -to-VC ratio 
overall is nov7 only 3""to-l3 and in combat battalions only 
1-to-l' governjnent desertions are at a high rate, and the 
Vietnamese force build-up. is stalled; the VC reportedly 
are trying to double their combat strength. There are no 
siRns that the VC have been throttled by US/gVN inter- 
diction efforts; indeed, there is evidence of further 
PAVN build-up in the I an'd II Corps areas. The DRV/VG 


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seem to "believe that SVN is near collapse and show no 
signs of being interested in settling for less than a 
complete cake-over, l/ 

Faced with this gloomy situation^ the leading question on 
the U.S. agenda for Vietnam was a farther major escalation of troop 
commitments, together with a call-up of reserves , extension of mili- 
tary tours 5 and a general expansion of the armed forces. 

The question of intensifying the air war against the North 
was a subsidiary issue, but it was related to the troop question in 
several ways. The military view, as reflected in JCS proposals and 
proposals from the field, was that the war should be intensified on 
all fronts, in the North no less than in the South. There was polit- 
ical merit in this view as well, since it was difficult to publicly 
justify sending in masses of troops to slug it out on the ground 
without at least trying to see whether stronger pressures against 
NVN would help- On the other hand, there was continued high-level 
interest in preventing a crisis atmosphere f^om developing, and in 
avoiding any over-reaction by NVN and its allies, so that a simul- 
taneous escalation in both the North and the South needed to be 
handled with care. The bombing of the North, coupled with the deploy- 
ment of substantial forces should not look like an effort to soften 
up NVN for an invasion. 

During the last days of June with U.S. air operations 
against North Vietnam well into their firth month, with U.S. forces 
in South Vietnam embarking for the first time upon major ground 
combat operations, and with the President near a decision that would 
increase American troop strength in Vietnam from 70,000 to over 
200,000, Under-Secretary of State George Ball sent to his colleagues 
among the small group of Vietnam "principals" in Washington a memoran- 
dum warning that the United States vras poised on the brink of a military 
and political disaster. 2/ Neither through expanded bombing of the 
North nor through a substantial increase in U.S. forces in the South 
would the United States be likely to achieve its objectives, Ball 
arsued. Instead of esca.laticn, he urged, "we should undertake either 
to extricate ourselves or to reduce our defense perimeters in South 
Viet -Nam to accord with the capabilities of a limited US deployment." 

"Th is is our last clear chance to make this decision ," the 
Under-Secretaiy asserted. And in a separate, memorandum to the President, 
he explained why: 

■ The decision you face now, therefore, is crucial. 
Once large nuBibers of US troops are committed to direct 
combat they vdll begin to take heavy casualties in a 


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war they are ill-eq.uipped to fight in a non-cooperative 
if not downright hostile countryside. 

Once v/e suffer large casualties we will have started 
a well-nigh irreversible process. Our involvement will "be 
so great that we cannot — without national humiliation — 
stop short of achieving our complete objectives. Of the 
two possibilities I think humiliation V70uld be more likely 
t han the achievement of our objectives — even after we 
have paid terrible cos ts. 3/ 

"Humiliation" was much on the minds of those involved in 
the making of American policy for Vietnam during the spring and sum.- 
mer of 1965. The word^ or phrases meaning the same thing, appears 
in coujitless memoranda. No one put it as starkly as Assistant Secre- 
tary of Defense John McNaughton, who in late March assigned relative 
weights to various American objectives in Vietnam. In McNaughton's 
view the principal U.S. aim was "to avoid a hum.iliating US defeat (to 
our reputation as a guarantor)." To this he assigned the weight of 
70*^. Second, but far less important at only 20fo v/as "to keep SVN 
(and then adjacent) territory from Chinese hands." And a minor third, 
at but 10^, was "to permit the people of SW to enjoy a better, freer 
way of life." k/ 

Where Ball differed from all the others was in his willing- 
ness to incur "humiliation" that was certain -- but also limited and 
short-term — by* withdrawing American forces in order to avoid the 
uncertain but not unlikely prospect of a military defeat at a higher 
level of involvement. Thus he entitled his memorandum "Cutting Our 
Losses in South Viet -Nam." In it and in his companion memorandum to 
■ the President ("A Compromise Solution for South Viet-Nam") he went on 
to outline a program, first, of placing a ceiling on U.S. deployments 
at present authorized levels (72,000 men) and sharply restricting their 
combat roles, and, second, of beginning negotiations with Hanoi for a 
cessation of hostilities and the formation in Saigon of a "governjiient 
1 * of National Union" that would include representatives of the National 

' ' Liberation Front. Ball's argument was based upon his sense of relative 

■ priorities. As he told his colleagues: 

The position taken in this memorandum does not 
suggest that the United States should abdicate leader- 
ship in "ohe cold war. But any prudent military com- 
mander carefully selects the terrain on which to stand 
and fight, and no great captain has ever been blam^ed for 
a successful tactical withdrawal. • " 

From our point of view, the terrain in South Viet- 
Nam could not be w^orse. Jungles and rice paddies are 
not designed for modern arms and, from a military point 

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of vievr^ this is clearly what General de Gaulle described 
to me as a "rotten country." 

Politically, South Viet-Nam is a lost cause. The 
country is bled v/hite from twenty years of war and the 
people are sick of it. The Viet Cong -- as is shown by 
the Rand Corporation Motivation and Morale Study -- are 
deeply committed. 

Hanoi has a Government and a purpose and a discipline. 
The "government", in Saigon is a travesty. In a very real 
sense ^ South Viet-Nam is a country with an army and no 
government . 

In my view, a deep commitment of United States forces 
in a land war in South Viet-Nam vmuld be a catastrophic 
error. If ever there was an occasion for a tactical v/ith- 
dravral, this is it. ^ 

Ball's argument was perhaps m.ost antithetic to one being put 
forward at the same time by Secretary of State Rusk. In a memorandi:mi 
he wrote on 1 July, Rusk stated bl\mtly: "The central objective of 
the United States in South Viet-Nam must be to insure that North Viet- 
\i . -^^-^ not succeed in taking over or determining the future of South 

Viet-Nam by force. We must accomplish this objective without a general 
•v;ar if possible ." 6/ Here was a statement that the American commit- 
ment to the Vietnam war was, in effect, absolute, even to the point 
of risking general war. The Secretary went on to explain why he felt 
that an absolute commitment was necessary: 

The integrity of the U.S, commitment is the principal 
pillar of peace throughout the world. If that commitment 
becomes unreliable, the commionist world would draw conclusions 
that would lead to our ruin and almost certainly to a catas- 
trophic war. So long as the South Vietnamese are prepared to 
fight for themselves, we cannot abandon them without disaster 
to peace and to our interests throughout the world. 

In short, if "the U.S. commitment" v/ere once seen to be unreli 
able the risk of the outbreak of general war would vastly increase. 
Ther-efore prudence would dictate risking general war, if necessary, 
in order to demonstrate that the United States would m.eet its commi-o- 
ments In either case, some risk would be involved, but in the latter 

the risk would be lo>;-er. The task of the statesman is to choose 
among unpalatable alternatives. For the Under-Secretary of State, 
this meant an early withdrawal from Vietnam. For the Secretary, it 
meant an open-ended commitm.ent. 

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Ball was, of cou-rse, alone among the Vietnam principals in 
' arguing for de-escalation and political "compromise." At the same 

' time that he and Rusk v^rote these papers, Assistant Secretary of State 

William Bundy and Secretary of Defense McNamara also went on record 

with recommendations for the conduct of the war. Bundy 's paper, "A 

t 'Middle Way' Course of Action in South Vietnam," argued for a delay 

in further U.S. troop commitments and in escalation of the bombing 
campaign against North Vietnam, but a delay only in order to allow 
the American public tim.e to digest the fact that the United States 
v/as engaged in a land vrar on the Asian mainland, and for U.S. com- 
manders to make certain that their men were, in fact, capable of 
fighting effectively in conditions of counter-insuxgency v/arfare with- 
out either arousing the hostility of the local population or causing 
i the Vietnamese government and army simply to ease up and allow the 

Americans to "take over" their war. 7/ 

For McNamara, however, the military situation in South 
' Vietnam was too serious to allow the luxury of delay. In a memoran- 

dum to the President drafted on 1 July and then revised on 20 July, 
immediately following his return from a vreek-long visit to Vietnam, 
he recom.mended an immediate decision to increase the U.S. -Third 
Country presence from the current 16 maneuver battalions (15 U.S., 
one Australian) to kh (3^ U.S., nine Korean, one Australian), and a 
■ change in the mission of these forces from one of providing support 
and reinforcement for the ARVN to one which soon became knovm as 
"search and destroy" -- as McNamara put it, they were "by aggressive 
exploitation of superior military forces.. -to gain and hold the 
initiative. - .pressing the fight against VC/dRV main force units in 
South Vietnam to run them to ground and destroy them." 8/ 

At the same time, McNamara argued for a substantial intensi- 
fication of the air war. The 1 July version of his memorandum recom- 
mended a total quarantine of the movement of war supplies into North 
Vietnam by sea, rail, and road, through the mining of Haiphong and 
all other harbors and the destruction of rail and road bridges leading 
from China to Hanoi; the Secretary also uj:ged the destruction of 
fishter airfields and SAM sites "as necessary" to accomplish these 
objectives. 9/ 

On 2 July the JCS, supporting the views in the DPM, reiterated 
a recommendation for immediate implementation of an intensified bombing 
■oroeram against NVN, to accom.pany the additional deployments which were 
■under consideration. lO/ The recommendation was for a sharp escalation 
of the bombing, with the emphasis on interdiction of supplies into as 
- 11 es out of NVN. Like the DH4, it called for interdicting the move- 
ment of "war supplies" into Wm by mining the major ports and cutting 
„ .. rail and highway bridges on the LOCs fromi China to Hanoi; mounting ■ 

' tensive armed reconnaissance against all IjOCs and LOG facilities 

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within NVN; destroying the "war-making" supplies and facilities of' 
NVIT especially POL; and destroying airfields and SAM sites as 
necessary to accomplish the other tasks. The JCS estimated that an 
increase from ohe then 2000 to about 5OOO attack sorties per month 
would be required to carry out the program. 

The elements of greater risk in the JCS proposals vrere 
obvious. The recommendation to mine ports and to strike airfields 
and SAM sites had already been rejected as having special Soviet or 
Chinese escalatory implications 5 and even air strikes against LOCs 
from China were considered dangerous. U.S. intelligence agencies 
believed that if such strikes occurred the Chinese might deliberately 
engage U.S. aircraft over NVN from bases in China. CIA thought the 
chances were "about even" that this would occur; DIA and the Service 
intelligence agencies thought the chances of this would increase but 
considered it still unlikely; and State thought the chances "better 
than even." 11 / 

Apart from this element of greater risk, hov^ever, intelli- 
gence agencies held out some hope that an intensified bombing program 
like that proposed by the JCS (less mining the ports, which they v^ere 
not asked to consider) would badly hurt the WTE economy, dam^age ]WN*s 
ability to support the effort in SVN, and even lead Hanoi to consider 
negotiations. An SIMIS of 23 July estimated that the extension of air 
attacks only to military targets in the Hanoi/Haiphong area v/as not 
likely to "significantly injure the Viet Cong ability to persevere" 
or to "persuade the Hanoi government that the price of persisting was 
unacceptably high." Sustained interdiction of the LOCs from China, 
in addition, vrould m.ake the delivery of Soviet and Chinese aid more 
difficult and costly and would have a serious impact on the Wf^ economy, 
but it would still not have a "critical impact" on "the Communist deter- 
mination to persevere" and would not seriously impair Viet Cong capabili 
ties in SW? "s^t least for the short term." However: 

If, in addition, POL targets in the Hanoi -Haiphong 
area were destroyed by air attacks, the DRV's capability 
to provide transportation for the general economy would 
be severely reduced. It would also complicate their mili- 
'tary logistics- If additional PA VIM forces were em,ployed 
in South Vietnam on a scale sufficient to counter increased 
US troop strength '_/which the SNIE said was "almost certain" 
to happenY this would substantially increase the amount of 
-supplies^needed- in the South. The Viet Cong also depend 
on supplies from the North to maintain their present 
level of large-scale operations- The accumulated strains 
of a prolonged curtailment of supplies received from North 
Vietnam would obviously have an impact on the Communist 
■ effort in the South. They would certainly inhibit and 

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might even prevent an increase in large-scale Viet 
Cong militaiy activity, though they would probably not 
force any significant reduction in Viet Cong terrorist 
t tactics of harassment and sabotage. These strains , 

particularly if they produced a serious check in the 
development of Viet Cong capabilities for large-scale 
(multi-battalion) operations might lead the Viet Cong 
to consider negotiations. 11a/ 

There were certain reservations with respect to the above 
estimate. The State and Army intelligence representatives on USIB 
registered a dissent , stating that even under heavier attack the LOC 
capacities in NVN and Laos were sufficient to support the war in SVN 
at the scale envisaged in the estim.ate. They also pointed out that 
it was impossible to do irreparable damage to the LOCs, that the Com- 
mionists had demonstrated considerable logistic resourcefulness and 
considerable ability to move large amounts of war material long dis- 
tances over difficult terrain by primitive means, and that in addition 
it was difficult to detect, let alone stop, sea infiltration. On 
balance, however, the SNIE came close to predicting that intensified 
interdiction attacks would have a beneficial effect on the war in the 

Facing a decision with these kinds of implications, the 
President vmnted more information and asked McNamara to go on another 
fact -gathering trip to Vietnam before subm-itting his final recommenda- 
tions on a-coiirse of action. In anticipation of the trip, McNaughton 
prepared a memo summarizing his a^ssessment of the problem, McNaughton 
wrote that "meaningful negotiations" were unlikely imtil the situation 
began to look gloomier for the VC, and that even with 200,000-l|00,000 
U.S. troops in SVN the chances of a "win" by I968 (i.e., in the next 
2I. years) were only 5O-5O. But he recommended that the infiltration 
routes be hit hard, "at least to put a 'ceiling' on what can be infil- 
trated;" and he recommended that the limit on targets be "just short" 
of population targets, the China border, a.nd special targets like SAM 
sites which might trigger Soviet or Chinese reactions. 12/ 

McNam.ara left for Vietnam on July 1^ and returned a week 
later with a revised version of his July 1st DPM ready to be sent to 
the President as a final recommendation. The impact of the visit was 
to soften considerably the position he had apparently earlier taken. 
His 20 July memorandum backed off from the 1 July recommendations -- 
■nerha-ps although it is im.possible to tell from the available materials -■ 
because of intimations that such drastic escalation would be unacceptable 
to the President. Instead of mining North Vietnam's harbors as a Quaran- 
tine ireasure, the Secretary recommended it as a possible "severe reprisal 
hould the VC or DRV commit a particularly dam.aging or horrendous act" 
h as "interdiction of the Saigon river." But he recommended a gradual 

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increase in the number of strike sorties against North Vietnam from 
I the existing 2^500 per month to U^OOO "or more/' still "avoiding 

striking population and industrial targets not closely related to 
the LRV's supply of war material to the VC." 

The urgency which infused McNamara's recommendations stemraed 
from his estimate that "the situation in South Vietnam is worse than 
a year ago (when it was worse than a year before that)." The VC had 
launched a drive "to dismember the nation and maul the arm.y"; since 
1 J-une the GVN had been forced to abandon six district capitals and 
had only retaken one. Transport and communications lines throughout 
the country were being cut, isolating the towns and cities and causing 
sharp deterioration of the already shaky domestic economy. Air Marshal 
Ky presided over a goverra:nent of generals which had little prospect of 
being able to unite or energize the country. In such a situation, U.S. 
air and ground actions thus far had put to rest Vietnamese fears that 
they might be abandoned, but they had not decisively affected the course 
of the vrar. Therefore, McNamara recommended escalation. His specific 
recommendations, he noted, were concurred in by General Wheeler and 
Ambassador -designate Lodge, who accompanied him on his trip to Vietnam, 
and by Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Johnson, Admiral Sharp, and 
General Westmoreland, with whom he conferred there. The rationale for 
his decisions was supplied by the CIA, whose assessment he quoted with 
approval in concluding the 1 July version of his mem.orandum. It stated: 

Over the longer term we doubt if the Communists are 
likely to change their basic strategy in Vietnam (i.e., 
aggressive and steadily mounting insurgency) unless and 
until two conditions prevail: (l) they are forced to accept 
a situation in the yiq.t in the South which offers them no 
prospect of an early victory and no grounds for hope that 
they can simply outlast the US and (2) North Vietnam itself 
is under continuing and increasingly damaging punitive 
attack. So long as the Communists think they scent the 
possibility of an early victory (which is probably now the 
case), we believe that they will persevere and accept 
extremely severe damage to the North. Conversely, if North 
■Vietnam itself is not hurting, Hanoi's doctrinaire leaders 
will probably be ready to carry on the Southern struggle 
almost indefinitely. If, ho^'/ever, both of the conditions 
outlined .above should be brought to pass, we believe Hanoi 
■probably would, at least for a period of time, alter its 
basic strategy and course of action in South Vietnam. 

McNamara 's memorandum of 20 July did not include this quota- 
tion although many of these points were made elsewhere in the paper. 
Instead it concluded with an optimistic forecast: 

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The overall evaluation is that the coiirse of action 
• ■ • recommended in this memorandxam -- if the military and 

political moves are properly integrated and executed with 
continuing vigor and visible determination — stands a 
good chance of achieving an acceptable outcome within a 
reasonable time in Vietnam. 

Never again while he was Secretary of Defense would McNamara make so 
optim.istic a statement about Vietnam -- except in public. 

This concluding paragraph of McNamara^s memorandijm spoke of 
political, as well as military, "vigor" and "determination." Earlier 
in the paper, under the heading "Expanded political moves," he had 
elaborated on this point, writing; 

Together with the above military moves, we should 

j take political initiatives in order to lay a groundwork 

for a favorable political settlem-ent by clarifying our 
objectives and establishing channels of comjnunications. 
At the sam.e time as we are taking steps to turn the tide 
in South Vietnam, we would make quiet moves through diplo- 
matic channels (a) to open a dialogue with Moscow and 
Hanoi, and perhaps the VC, looking first toward disabusing 
them of any misconceptions as to our goals and second toward 

I laying the groundwork for a settlement when the time is ripe; 

(b) to keep the Soviet Union from deepening its military in 

I the world until the time when settlement can be achieved; 

* and (c) to cement support for US policy by the US public, 

allies and friends, and to keep international opposition 
at a manageable level. Our efforts m,ay be unproductive 

) until the tide begins to turn, but nevertheless they should 

be made. 

Here was scarcely a program for drastic political action. 
McNamara*s essentially procedural (as opposed to substantive) recom.- 
mendations amounted to little more than saying that the United States 
' should provide channels for the enemy's discrete and relatively face- 
saving surrender when he decided that the game had grovm too costly. 
This was in fact, what official Washington (again v^ith the exception 
- of Ball) meant" in mid-1965 when it spoke of a "political settlement." 

(As McNamara noted in a footnote, even this went too far for Ambassador- 
desiroate Lodge, whose view was that "'any further initiative by us 
now /before we are. strong/ would simply harden the Communist resolve not 
to stop fighting.*" In this view Ambassadors Taylor and Johnson con- 
curred except that they v/ould m.aintain "discreet contacts with the 

Soviets.") 13/ 


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McN£imara*s concluding paragraph spoke of "an acceptable 
outcome/' Previously in his paper he had listed "nine fundamental 
elements" of a favorable outcome. These were: 

(a) VC stop attacks and drastically reduce inci- 
dents of terror and sabotage. 

(b) DRV reduces infiltration to a trickle, v/ith 
some reasonably reliable method of o^or obtaining con- 
firmation of this fact. 

(c) US/gVN stop bombing of North Vietnam. 

(d) GVW stays independent (hopefully pro-US , but 
possibly genuinely neutral). 

(e) GVN exercises governmental functions over sub- 
stantially all of South Vietnam. 

(f) Communists remain quiescent in Laos and Thailand-, 

■ (g) DRV withdraws PAVN forces and other North Viet- 
namese infiltrators (not regroupees) from South Vietnam. 

(h) VC/nLF transforni from a military to a purely 
political organization. 

(i) US combat forces (not advisors or AID) withdraw. 

These "fundsunental elements," McNamara said, could evolve with 
or without express agreem.ent and, indeed, except for what might be nego- 
tiated incidental to a cease-fire they were more likely to evolve v/ithout 
an explicit agreement than with one. So far as the difference betvzeen a 
"favorable" and an "acceptable" outcome was concerned, he continued, 
there was no need for the present to address the 'question of whether the 
United States should "ultimately settle for something less than the nine 
fundamentals," because the force deployments recomjnended in the memoran- 
dutp would be prerequisite to the achievement of any acceptable settle-. 
mert' "a decision can be made later, when bargaining becomes a reality, 
whether to com.promise in any particular." 

In summary, then, McNam.ara's program consisted of first sub- 
stantially increasing the pressure on the enemy by every means short of 
those such as the bombing of population centers in the North, that would 
run sizeable risks of precipitating Soviet or Chinese direct intervention 
. .-^^ ^j^-^ and then seeking a de facto political settlement essentially 

on US/GVN term-s. 

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The July 20 memo to the President was followed up by two 
others on specific aspects of the problem before the end of July. 
On July 285 he replied to a series of eighteen points made by 
Senator Mansfield with respect to the Vietnam war. In so doing. 
Secretary McNamara informed the President of his doubts that even 
a "greatly expanded program" could be expected to produce signifi- 
cant WN interest in a negotiated settlement "until they have been 
disappointed in their hopes for a quick military success in the 
South." Meanwhile he favored "strikes at infiltration routes" to 
impose a ceiling on what NVF coiad pour into SVTT, "thereby putting 
a ceiling on the size of war that the enemy can wage there." He 
warned that a greatly increased progrsjn woiild create even more seri- 
ous risks of "confrontations" with the Soviet Union and China. Ik/ 

McNamara stated that the current bombing program was on the 
way to accomplishing its purposes and should be continued. The future 
program, he said, should: 

a. Emphasize the threat > It should be structured 
to capitalize on fear of future attacks. At any time, 

'pressure' 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. 


^' Minim.ize the loss of DRV 'face.' The program 
should be designed to make it politically easy for the 
DRV to enter negotiations and to make concessions during 
negotiations. It may be politically easier for North 
Vietnam to accept negotiations and/or to make concessions 
at a time vrhen bombing of their territory is not currently 
taking place. 

c. Optimize interdiction vs. political costs . Inter- 
diction should be carried out so as to maximize effective- 
ness and to minimize the political repercussions from the 
methods used. Physically, it makes no difference whether ■ ■ 
a rifle is interdicted on its way into North Vietnam, on 
its way out of North Vietnara, 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, (e.g., port facilities involving civilian 
casualties vs. isolated bridges), (2) types of aircraft 
(e.g. 5 B"52s vs. E-105s), (3) kinds of weapons (e.g., 
napalm vs. ordinary bombs), (1+) location of target (e.g., 
in Hanoi vs. Ijaotian border area), and (5) the accompanying ■ 
declaratory policy (e.g.,' unlimited vs. a defined inter- 
diction zone). 


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. d. Coordin ate with o ther influences on the DRV- So ' 

Mill! " ' ' ' ^— ^^^^— — ^— ^-^^ ■ 11 , I , |- , 

long as fi^-11 victory in the South appears likely, the effect 
of the bombing program in promoting negotiations or a settle- 
ment will probably be sm-all. 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 
whe.t 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 vmich runs a high risk of escalation into war 
with the Soviets or China and which is likely to appall allies 
and friends. I5/ 

C . Incremental EscalatJ-O n 


Secretary McNam-ara's 5 principles prevailed. The bombing 
continued to expand and intensify, but there v/as no abrupt switch in 
bombing policy and no sudden escalation. The high-value targets in 
the Hanoi/Haiphong area were kept off limits, so as not to "kill the 
hostage." Interdiction remained the chief criterion for target selec- 
tion, and caution continued to be exercised with respect to sensitive 
targets. The idea of a possible bombing pause, longer than the last, 
was kept alive. 16/ The Secretary refused to approve an overall JCS 
concept for fighting the Vietnam War which included much heavier 
ROLLING THUNDER strikes against key military and economic targets 
coordinated with a blockade and mining attack on NVN ports, I7/ and 
he also continued to veto JCS proposals for dramatic attacks on major 
POL depots, power plants, airfields, and other "lucrative" targets. 18 / 

The expansion of ROLLING THUroER during the rest of I965 
followed the previous pattern of step-by-step progression. The approval 
cycle shifted from one-week to two-week target packages. New fixed 
targets from the JCS list of major targets, v/hich grew from 9^- to 236 
by the end of the year, continued to be selected in Washington. The 
number of these new targets was kept down to a few per week, most of 
them LOC-related. Few strikes vrere authorized in the vital northeast 
quadrant, north of 2']P N. and east of IO6 E., which contained the 
Hanoi/Haiphong urban complexes, the major port facilities, and the 
main LOCs to China. In addition, de facto sanctuaries V7ere maintained 
in the areas w^ithin 30 nautical miles from tne center of Hanoi, 10 from 
the center of Haiphong, 30 from the Chinese border in the northwest (to 
106*"^ E ) and 25 from the Chinese border in the northeast.. I9/ 

The scope of armed reconnaissance missions was also enlarged 
but kept within limits. The boundary for such missions was shifted to 
the north and west of Hanoi up to the Chinese buffer zone, but it vms 
ket)t back from the northeast q.uadrant,- where onJLy individually approved 

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fixed target strikes were authorized. The operational latitude for 
armed reconnaissance missions was also widened. They were authorized 
to strike small pre-briefed fixed military targets not on the JCS 
list (e.g.? minor troop staging areas, warehouses, or depots) in the 
course of executing their LOG attacks, and to restrike previously 
authorized JCS targets in order to make and keep them inoperable. 
An armed reconnaissance sortie ceiling continued in effect. It was 
lifted to 600 per week by October, but then held there until the end 
of the year. 20/ 

By the end of I965 total ROLLING THUNDER attack sorties had 
levelled off to about 750 per week and total sorties to a little over 
1500 per v^eek. All told, some 55,000 sorties had been flov/n during 
the year, nearly half of them on attack (strike and flak suppression) 
missions, and three-fourths of them as armed reconnaissance rather 
than JCS-directed fixed target strikes. Altogether, ROLLING TmLE)ER 
represented only 30 percent of the U.S. air effort in Southeast Asia 
during the year, in keeping with the rough priorities set by decision- 
makers at the outset. 2l / 

■Although bombing NVN had done much to generate^ as Secretary 
McNamara put it, "a new school of criticism among liberals and 'peace' 

groups," whose activities were reflected in a wave of teach-ins and 
' other demonstrations during 1965^ £2/ the bombing also drew abundant 

criticism from m.ore hawkish elements because of its limited nature. 
As a result, the Secretary and other officials were freq,uently obliged 
to defend the bombing restrictions before Congress and the press. 

Most of the hawkish criticism of the bombing stemmed from 
basic disa^greement with an air campaign centered upon a tactical inter- 
diction rationale rather than a punitive rationale more in keeping with 
i strategic uses of air pov/er, a campaign in which the apparent target 

I ' ^as the infiltration system rather than the economy as a whole, and in 

which, as one CIA report put it, 

■ '■ ...almost 80 percent of North Vietnaja's limited modern 

industrial economy, 75 percent of the nation's population, 

! , and the most lucrative military supply and LOC targets 

have been effectively insLilated from air attack. 23/ 

' ' This kind of criticism, of the bombing concentrated on the most conspic- 

uous aspect of the program, the strikes against fixed targets, and it 
faulted the program for failing to focus on the kinds of targets which 
strategic bombing had made familiar in VIorld VJar II -- power plants, oil 
depots, harbor facilities, and factories. .- ^ 

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Such "strategic" targets had not "been entirely exempted 
from attack^ of course ^ but they had been exempted from attack where 
they counted most^ in the sanctuary areas, •i'his occasioned some 
embarrassment in the Administration because any attack on such 
targets seemed inconsistent with a purely interdiction rationale, 
while failui^e to attack the m-ost important of them did not satisfy 
a strategic bombing rationale. Secretary McNamara was pressed hard 
on these points vrhen he appeared before the Congressional armed 
services and appropriations comiuittees in August I965 with a major 
supplemental budget request for the Vietnam War. Senator Cannon 

I know that our policy was to not attack power sta- 
tions and certain oil depots and so on earlier. But 
within the past two weeks we have noticed that you have 
attacked at least one or more power stations. I am 
wondering if your policy has actually changed now in 
regard to the targets. In other words, are we stepping 
up the desirability of certain targets? 

Secretary McNamara replied: 

I would say we are holding prim.arily to these 
targets I have outlined. This week's program, for 
example, includes primarily, I would say, 95 percent 
of the sorties against fixed targets are against supply 
depots, ammo depots, barracks. . .but only one or two 
percent of the sorties directed against /one power plant/- 

I don't want to mislead you. We are not bombing 
in the Hanoi... or the Haiphong area. There is a very 
good reason for that. In Haiphong there is a substantial 
petroleum dump /for example/. First, there is question 
whether destruction of that dump would influence the 
level of supply into South Vietnam. Secondly, General 
■ Westmoreland believes that an attack on that would lead 
to an attack on the petroleum dumps outside of Saigon 
that contain eighty percent of the petroleum storage 
for SVN. Thirdly, there is the real possibility that 
an attack on the Haiphong petroleum would substantially 
increase the risk of Chinese participation. .• .for all 
those reasons it seems unwise at this time... to attack 
that petroleuia dump 

In defending the policy of " not attacking the powerplants and POL sites 
concentrated in the Hanoi/Haiphong area, the Secretary did not stress 
the interdiction purposes of the bombing but rather the risks of widening 
the wa-^. He explained that an attack "on the powerplants and POL sites 
would require also attacking Fnuc Yen^ airfield and the surrounding SAM 



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I had better not describe hov?- we would handle it 
but it would be one whale of a big attack. .. .this might 
well trig.ier, in the view of some, would trigger Chinese 
I I intervention on the ground. .. .This is what we wish to 

avoid. 2k. 


Before the House Comjnittee on Armed Services tvro days later. 
Secretary McRamara stressed both the irrelevance of targets like the 
POL facilities at Haiphong to infiltration into the South and the risks 
of Chinese intervention: 

At present our bombing program against the North is 
directed primarily against the military targets that are 
associated with the infiltration of men and equipment into 
the South, ammo depots, supply depots, barracks areas, the 
particular lines of comjnunication over which these move 
into the South. For that reason, we have not struck in 
the Hanoi area because the targets are not as directly 
related to the infiltration of men and equipment as those 
outside the area.... As to the Haiphong POL.... if we 
strike that there will be greater pressure on Communist 
China to undertake military action in support of the 
Worth Vietnamese. .. .We want to avoid that if we possibly 

On other occasions the Secretary put such stress on the limited 
interdiction purposes of the bombing that it seemed to virtually rule out 
altogether industrial and other "strategic" targets: 

...we are seeking by our bombing in North Vietnam 
to reduce and make more costly the movement of men and 
supplies from North Vietnam, into South Vietnam for the 
support of the Viet Cong operations in South Vietnam. 
That's our primary military objective, and that requires 
that we bomb the lines of cormnunication primarily and 
secondarily, the amjnunition and supply depots. .. .The great 
bulk of our bombing... is directed against traffic moving on 
roads and railroads, and the other portion... is directed 
'" against specific targets associated with the lines of com- 
munication, primarily supply depots and. . .bridges. .. .We 
think our. bombing policy is quite properly associated with 
the effort to stop the insurgency in South Vietnam. We've 
said time after time; It is not our objective to destroy 
the Government of North Vietnam. We're not seeking to 
wider the war. We do have a limited objective, and that's 
T^hy OUT targeting is limited as it is. _ 

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When asked whether the U.S. refrained from bombing NVN's more vital 
installations because it v/ould escalate the war, the Secretary added: 

Well, I'm saying that the other installations you're 
speaking of are not directly related to insurgency in the 
Southj and that's v/hat we're fighting. And that our tar- 
geting should be associated with that insurgency. .. .our 
objective is to sho\j them they can't win in the South. 
Until we do shovr that to them it's unlikely the insurgency 
in the South will stop, 26/ 

The Secretary's arguments had difficult sledding, however. 
As 1965 ended, the bombing restrictions were still under attack. The 
U.S. was heavily engaged in the ground war in the South, and a limited 
bombing campaign in the North did not make much sense to those who 
wanted to win it. The hawks v/ere very much alive, and there was mounting 
pressure to put more lightning and thunder into the air vmr. At that 
point, in not very propitious circumstances, the Administration halted 
the bombing entirely, and for 37 days, from 2k December I965 to 3I Janu- 
ary 1966, pursued a vigorous diplomatic offensive to get negotiations 
started to end the war. 

D. ■ The "Pause" --• 2^ December 196g to 3I January I966 

1. The Pre "Pause Debate 

An important element of the program developed by McNamara 
and his Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs, John 
McNaughton in July I965 was a pause in the bombing of North Vietnam. 
There had been a five-day pause in May, from the 13th through the l8th, 
apparently inspired by the President himself in an effort to see if the 
North Vietnamese government — which had previously indicated that any 
progress towards a settlement would be impossible so long as its terri- 
tory was being bom^bed -- would respond with de-escalatory measures of 
its own. Yet the President also saw a pause as a means of clearing the 
way for an increase in the tempo of the air war in the absence of a 
satisfactory response from Hanoi. The May pause had been hastily 
arranged — almost, so the record makes it seem, as if on the spur of 
the moment -- and advance knowledge of it was so closely held, not only 
within the international community but also within the U.S. government, 
that no adeq.uate diplomatic preparation could be made. Its most seri- 
ous short as an effective instrument of policy, however, lay in 
its very brief duration. To have expected a meaningful response in so 
short a tim.e, given the complexity of the political relationships not 
onlv within the North Vietnam.ese government and party, but also between 
Hanoi and the NLF in the South, and between Hanoi and its separate (and 
quarrelling) supporters within the Communist world, was to expect the 
imno^sible. 27/ Therefore, in his 20 July m-emiorandum to the President, 

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Secretary McNamara wrote: "After the hh US/third- country battalions 
have been deployed and after some strong action has been taken in the. 
program of bombing the North (e.g.^ after the key railroad bridges 
north of Hanoi have been dropped) ^ we could, as part of a diplomatic 
initiative, consider introducing a 6-8 week pa,use in the program of 
bombing the North." 

The pause which eventually occurred — for 37 days, from 
December 1965 until 3I January I966 — was somewhat shorter than the 
six-to-eight weeks McNamara suggested, but it was clearly long enough 
to allow the North Vietnamese fully to assess the options before them. 
They were not very attractive options, at least in the way they were ■ 
seen in Washington. McNam^ara summarized them in a memorandum to the 
President on ^0 November: 

It is my belief that there should be a three- or 
four-week pause /note that McNamara himself no longer 
held to the six-to-eight week duration/ in the program 
of bombing the North before we either greatly increase 
our troop deployments to Vietnam or intensify our strikes 
against the North. The reasons for this belief are, 
first, that we must lay a foundation in the mind of the 
American public and in v7orld opinion for such an enlarged 
phase of the war and, second, we should give North Viet- 
nam a face-saving chance to stop the aggression. 28/ 

In other words, Hanoi should be given the implicit 
(although, natur3.11y, not explicitly stated) choice of either giving 
up "its side of the war," as Secretary Rusk often put it, or facing 
a greater level of punishment from the United States. In an earlier 
memorandum, dated 3 November, and given to the President on the 7th, 
McNam.ara had remarked that "a serious effort would be made to avoid 
advertising /a pause/ as an ultimiatum to the DRV," 29 / yet Hanoi 
could sca^rcely have seen it as anything else. John McNaughton had per- 
fectly encapsulated the Washington establishm.ent 's view of a bombing 
pause the previous July, when he had noted in pencil in the margin of 
a draft mem.orandum the words "PT /i.e., ROLLim THUNDER/ (incl. Pause), 
ratchet »" 3p/ The image of a ratchet, such as the device which raises 
the net on a tennis court, backing off tension between each phase of 
increasing it, v/as precisely what McNaughton and McNamara, William 
Bundy and Alexis Johnson at State, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had 
in mind when they thought of a pause. The only danger was, as McNamara 
•put it in his memorandum of 3 November, "being trapped in a status- 
auo cease-fire or in negotiations which, though unaccompanied by real 
concessions by the VC, made it politically costly for us to terminate 

the Pause." 

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McNamara and McNaughton v/ere optimistic that, by skill- 
ful diplomacy^ this pitfall could be avoided- Rusk, Bundy and Johnson, 
who had to perform the required diplomatic task, and the Chiefs, who 
were professionally distrustful of the diplomatic art and of the ability 
of the political decision-makers in Washington to resist the pressures 
from the "peace movement" in the United States, v/ere not so sure. The 
Chiefs (echoing General Westmoreland and Admiral Sharp) were also opposed 
to any measures which would, even momentarily, reduce the pressure on 
North Vietnam, The arguments for and against a pause were summarized 
in a State Department memorandum to the President on 9 November: 

The purposes of — and Secretary McNamara 's arguments 
for -- such a pause are four: 

(a) It would offer Hanoi and the Viet Cong a chance 
to move toward a solution if they should be so inclined, 
removing the psychological barrier of continued bombing 
and permitting the Soviets and others to bring moderating 
arguments to bear; 

(b) It vrould demonstrate to domestic and inter- 
national critics that x^e had indeed made every effort for 
a peaceful settlement before proceeding to intensified 
actions, notably the latter stages of the extrapolated 
Rolling Thunder program; 

(c) It would probably tend to reduce the dangers of 
escalation after we had resumed the bombing, at least inso- 
far as the Soviets were concerned; 

(d) It would set the stage for another pause, per- 
haps in late I966, which might produce a settlement. 

Against these propositions, there are the following 
considerations arguing against a pause: 

(a) In the absence of any indication from Hanoi as 
to what reciprocal action it might take, we could well 
find ourselves in the position of having played this very 
important card without receiving anything substantial in 
return- There are no indications that Hanoi is yet in a 
mood to c.gree to a settlement acceptab-'^.e to us. The chance 
is therefore, very slight that a pause at this time could 
lead to an acceptable settlement. 

(b) A unilater9,l pause at this time would offer an 
excellent opportujaity for Hanoi to interpose obstacles to • 
our resumption of bombing and to demoralize South Vietnam 

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by indefinitely dangling "before us (and the -world) the 
prospect of negotiations \;ith no intent of reaching an 
acceptable settlement. It might also tempt the Soviet 
Union to make threats that tjould render very difficult a 
decision to resume bombing. 

(c) In Saigon^ obtaining South Vietnam.ese acquies- 
cence to a pause vould be difficult. It could adversely 
affect the Government's solidity. Any major falling out 
betveen the Government and the United States or any over- 
turn in the Governm.ent ' s political structure could set us 
back very severly ( sic ). 

(d) An additional factor is that undertaking the 
second course of action following a pause /i-_e_. ^ "extrapo- 
lation" of ROLLING THUDIDER/ vould give this course a much 
more dram.atic character^ both internationally and 
tically^ and "would^ in particular _, present the Soviets -with 
those difficult choices that -we have heretofore been suc- 
cessful in avoiding. 

After this summary of the competing arguments^ the State paper -- 
speaking for Secretary Rusk -- came down against a bombing pause. 
The paper continued: 

On balance J the arguments against the pause are con- 
vincing to the Secretary of State ^ who recomjaends that it 
not be undertaken at the present time. The Secretary of 
State believes that a pause should be undertaken only when 
and if the chances were significantly greater than they 
now appear that Hanoi would respond by reciprocal actions 
leading in the direction of a peaceful settlem.ent. He 
further believes that^ from the standpoint of international 
and dom_estic opinion^ a pause might become an overriding 
requirement only if we were about to reach the advanced 
stages of an extrapolated Rolling Thunder program involving 
extensive air operations in the Hanoi/Haiphong area. Since 
the Secretary of State believes that such advanced stages 
are not in them-selves desirable until the tide in the South 
is more favorable^ he does not feel that^ even accepting 
the point of view of the Secretary of De:^ense^ there is 
now any international requirement to consider a "Pause," 31/ 

Basic to Rusk's position _, as John McNaughton pointed out 
in a memorandum to Secretary McNam.ara the same day^ was the assumption 
that a bombing pause was a "card" which could be "played" only once. 
In fact McNaughton wrote ^ "it is more reasonable to think that it 
could be played any number of times^ with the arguments against it_,' 

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"but not those for it^ "becoming less valid each time." 3^ / I"t vas 
this argument of McKaughton's which lay behind the Defense position 
that one of the chief reasons for a pause vas that even if it vere to 
-nroduce no response from Hanoi ^ it might set '.^he stage for another 
pause perhaps late in 1966^ vhich might "be "productive." 

The available materials do not reveal the President's 
response to these arguments^ but it is clear from the continuing flow 
of papers that he delayed positively committing himself either for or 
against a pause until very shortly before the actual pause began. Most 
of these papers retraced old ground^ repeating the arguments vhich ve 
have already examined. A State mem^orandum by William Bundy on 1 Decem- 
ber however^, added some new ones. 33 / '^^ summary _j they were: 

F OR a bombing pause (in addition to those we have already 
seen) : 

--Soviet Ambassador Dobiynin had "recently urged a 'pause' 
on McGeorge Bundy and had pretty clearly indicated the 
Soviets would make a real effort if we undertook one; 
however^ he was equally plain in stating that he could 
give no assurance of any clear result." 

--"American casualties are mounting and further involve- 
ment appears likely. A pause can demonstrate that the 
President has taken every possible means to find a peace- 
ful solution and obtain domestic support for the further 
actions that we will have to take." 

--"There are already signs of dissension between Moscow^ 
Peking _, Hanoi and the Viet Cong, The pause is certain 
to stimulate further dissension on the other side and 
add to the strains in the Communist camp as they argue 
about how to deal with it." Moreover^ it would decrease 
the ability of Hanoi or Peking to bring pressure on 
■Moscow to escalate Soviet support. 

--"Judging by experience during the last war_, the resump- 
tion of bombing after a pause would be even more painful 
to the population of North Vietnam than a fairly steady 

■ rate of bombing." 

--"The resumption of bombing after a pause ^ combined with 
increased United States deployments in the South^ would 
remove any doubts the other side may have about U.S. 
determination to stay the course and finish the job." 


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AGAINST a bombing pause ^ fever new arguments were 
adduced. Those vhich ve have seen^ however^ vere restated -with 
greater force. Thus it vas noted that while Hanoi had said it 
could never "negotiate" so long as the bombing continued^ it had 
given no sign whatsoever that even with a complete cessation (this^ 
the paper pointed out^ and not a "pause/' was what the DRV really 
insisted upon) it would be led to "meaningful" negotiations or to 
de-escalatory actions. It mighty for example^ offer to enter into 
negotiations on condition that the bombing not be resmned and/or 
that the NLF be seated at the conference on a basis of full equality 
with the GVN. Both of these conditions would be clearly unaccept- 
able to the U.Soj which would run the danger of having to resume 
bombing in the face of what m,ajor sectors of domestic and international 
opinion would regard as a "reasonable" Hanoi offer: "In other words^ 
instead of improving our present peace-seeking posture^ we could actu- 
ally end up by damaging it severely." And in doing so^ the U.S. would 
"lose the one card that we have which offers any hope of a settlement 
that does more than reflect the balance of forces on the ground in 
the South." (Here^ it may be noted^ was the ultimate claim that 
could be m.ade for the bombing program, in the face of criticism that 
it had failed to achieve its objective of interdicting the flow of 
men and materials to the South.) 

To these arguments _, essentially restatements of ones 
we have previously seen^ were added: 

--"There is a danger that^ in spite of any steps we may 
take to offset it^ Hanoi may misread a pause at this 
time as indicating that we are giving way to inter- 
national pressures to stop the bombing of North Vietnam 
and that our resolve with respect to South Vietnam is 
thus weakening." This danger had recently increased_, 
the paper noted^ because of peace demonstrations in the 
United States and the first heavy American casualties 
in South Vietnam. 

--Just as a pause would m.ake it m.ore difficult to cope 
with the domestic "doves^" so it would the "hawks" 
as well: "Pressure from the Rivers/Nixon sector to 
hit Hanoi and Plaiphong hard might also increase very 

sharply .... 

■ --"If a 'pause' were in fact to lead to negotiations 
(with or without resumed bombing)^ we would then have 
continuing serious problems in maintaining South Viet- 
namese stability. We must also recognize that^ although 
we ourselves have some fairly good initial ideas of the 
positions we would take^ we have not been able to go over 
the ground with the GVN or to get beyond general proposi- 
tions on some of which we and they might well disagree." 

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These statements amounted, then, to the contention 
that just as the United States could not afford to initiate a bombing 
pause that mig^it fail to produce negotiation.; and a de-escalation, 
neither could it afford to initiate one that succeeded. 

Bundy's memorandum of 1 December contained no recom- 
mendations- It was a draft, sent out for comment to Under-Secretary 
Ball Ambassadors Thompson and Johnson, Johja McNaughton, and McGeorge 
Bundy. Presumably, although there is no indication of it, copies also 
went to Secretaries Rusk and McNam.ara. By 6 December, William Bundy 
and Alexis Johnson were able to prepare another version, repeating 
the same arguments in briefer compass, and this time making an agreed 
recom-mendation. It stated: "After balancing these opposing considera- 
tions, we unanimously recommend that you / "i > e , , the President/ approve 
a pause as soon as possible this month. The decision would, of course, 
be subject to consultation and joint action with the GVN." gV Thus, 
at some point between 9 November and 6 December (the available documents 
do not reveal when). Secretary Rusk evidently dropped his objection to 
a pause. 

Getting the agreement of the Ky government to a pause 
was no easy task. Ambassador Lodge reported that he himself opposed 
the notion of a pause because of the unsettling effects it would have 
on the South Vietnam political situation. Only by m.aking very firm 
commitments for large increases in American force levels during the 
coming year, Lodge warned, could Washington obtain even Saigon's grudging 
acq.uiescence in a pause. This is not the place to describe the process 
by which the GVN's consent was obtained; it is sufficient to note that 
nowhere in Saigon, neither within the government nor vrithin the American 
Embassy and Military Assistance Comm.and, was the prospect of any relaxa- 
tion of pressure on the North — for any reason — greeted with any 

2, Resmaption — Wien and At What Level? 

Implicit in the very notion of "pause," of course, is 
the eventual resumption of the activity being discontinued. Among the 
nrincipals in Washington concerned with Vietnam, consideration of the 
circumstances and conditions in which the bombing of North Vietnam would 
be resimied went hand-in-hand with consideration of its interruption. 
"Relatively early in this process, in his Presidential memorandum of 
? November Se .iretary McNamara distinguished between what he termed a 
"hard-line" and a "soft-line" pause. "Under a 'hard-line' Pause," he 
wrote "we v/ould be firmly resolved to resume bombing unless the Com- 
rrunists were clearly moving toward m-eeting ovx declared terms. .. .Under 

'soft-line' Pause, we would be willing to feel our way with respect 
to termination of the Pause, with less insistence on concrete conces- 
sions by the Communists." 

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McNamara himself came down on the side of a "hard-line" 
pause -- a "scft-line" pause would make sente^ he noted, only if the 
U.S. sought a "compromise" outcome. The words "hard-line" and "soft- 
line" became terms of art, employed by all of the principals in their 
papers dea^ling with the question of a pause. Throughout this discussion, 
it was taken for granted that bombing v/ould be resumed. The only point 
at issue was how. On 3 December, John McNaughton v/rote an "eyes only" 
memorandum ( whose eyes was not specified, but presumably they included 
those of the Secretary of Defense) entitled, "Hard-Line Pause Packaged 
to Minimize Political Cost of Resuming Bombing." He specified four 
conditions, all of which would have to be met by the enemy in order to 
forestall the res\;miption of bombing: 

"a. The DRV stops infiltration and direction of the 

b. The DRV moves convincingly toward withdrawal 
of infiltrators. 

c. The VC stop attacks ^ terror and sabotage. 

d. The VC stop significant interference v/ith the 
GVN's exercise of governmental functions over substantially 
all of South Vietnam." 36/ 

Clearly it was unlikely that the enemy would even begin 
to meet any of these conditions, but Hanoi^ at least (if not the NLF) , 
might move towards some sort of negotiations. In that event, the resump- 
tion of bombing when "peace moves" were afoot v^ould incur a heavy polit- 
ical price for the United States. In order to maintain the political 
freedom to resume bomhing without substantial costs, the U.S. govern- 
ment v;'Ould have to make clear from the outset that it intended only a 
pause, certainly not a permanent cessation of the bombing^ and that 
its continua^tion would depend upon definite actions by the enemy. Yet 
there v/as a problem, as McNaughton saw it, as to which definite actions 
to specify. He recognized that the United States could not easily list 
the conditions he had put forward earlier in his memorandum. McNaughton 
expressed his dilemma in the following terms: 

In consistent objectives . A Pause has two objectives-- 
(a) T"iJ -i'l^s^'^^ "^^^ ^^^ ^^ back out o."* the war and (b) to 
create a public im.pression of US willingness "to try every- 
thing" before further increases in military action. To maxi- 
mize the chance that the DRV would decide to back out would 
reQuire presenting them with an ex plicit proposal, in a form 
where some clearly defined conduct on their part would assure 
■ them of no more bombings. The truth of the matter, however, 
is that the hard-line objective is, in effect, capitulation 

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'by a CoiTHAunist force vhich is far from "beaten^ has un- 
limited (if unattractive) reserves availatile in China^ 
and is confident that it is fighting for a just principle. 
To spell out such "capitulation" in explicit terms is 
more likely to subject us to ridicule than to produce a 
favorable public reaction. It follows that the hard-line 
objectives should be blurred somevhat in order to m.aximi2e 
favorable public reaction^ even though such blurring -would 
I ■ reduce the chances of DRV acceptance of the terms. 

If McNaughton was reluctant to spell out U.S. "hard-line" 
objectives _, he was nevertheless anxious not to allov a situation to 
; develop vhere the enemy could make its mere participation in negotia- 

tions a sufficient quid pro quo for a continuation of the pause. Regard- 
I ing negotiations^ McNaughton suggested_, the Am.erican position should be: 

j "We are villing to negotiate no matter "what military actions are going 

on." Moreover^ when bombing was resum.ed^ the ending of the pause should 
be tied to Hanoi's failure to take de-escalatory actions. "People might 
criticize our Pause for not having been generous _," McNaughton wrote ^ "but 
they will be unlikely to attack the US for having failed to live up to the 
deal we offered with the Pause.'" 37/ 

McNaughton recommended that the first strikes after a 
resumption should be "identified as militarily required interdiction/* 
in order to minimize political criticism.. "Later strikes could then be 
escalated to other kinds of targets and to present or higher levels." 
I ■ (j\t the time McNaughton wrote^ the pause had not yet gone into effect.) 

Similar advice came from William Bundy^ writing on 15 January during the 

pause : 

Resumed bombing should not begin with a dram.atic 
strike that was even at the margin of past practice (such 
as the power plant in December). For a period of two- 
three weeks at least ^ while the world is digesting and 
assessing the pause ^ we should do as little as possible 
to lend fuel to the charge -- which will doubtless be 
' the main theme of Communist propaganda -- that the pause 
was intended all along merely as a prelude to more dras- 
tic action. 

I Moieover^ from a m.ilitary standpoint alone ^ the 

I ' ^Qg-t i mjnediate need would surely be to deal with the 

communications lines and barracks areas south of the 
20th parallel. A week or two of this would perhaps 
make sense from both military and political stand- 
^^^-^g^ After that we could m^ove against the northeast 
^ ^gj_X and road lines again, but the very act of gradual- 

ness should reduce any chance that the Chicoms /the 


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Chinese Conirriunists]r vill react to some nev or dramatic 
vay vlien ve do so. Extensions of past practice^ such 
as Haiphong POL /petroleum^ oil^ and lulDricants/^ should 
be a third stage. 38/ 

McNaughton and Bundy were in essential agreement: the 
bombing should be re summed; it should be resumed on a low key at first; 
but after a decent interval it should be escalated at least to the 
extent of striking at the Haiphong POL storage facilities ^ and perhaps 
other high-priority targets as well. In their own eyes the two Assistant 
Secretaries were cautious ^ prudent men. Their recomimendations were in 
marked contrast to those of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ^ who (as this paper 
shows in greater detail later) pressed throughout the auturmi and winter 
of 1965-66 for permission to expand the bombing virtually into a program 
of strategic bombing aimed at all industrial and economic resources as 
well as at all interdiction targets. The Chiefs did so^ it may be added^ 
despite the steady stream pf m.emoranda from the intelligence comm.unity 
consistently expressing skepticism that bombing of any conceivable sort 
(that iS; any except bombing aim.ed primarily at the destruction of North 
Vietnam's population) could either persuade Hanoi to negotiate a settle- 
ment on US/gVN terms or effectively limit Hanoi's ability to infiltrate 
men and supplies into the South. 

i These arguments of the Chiefs were essentially an exten- 

sion and amplification of arguments for large-scale resumption received 

'I " from the field throughout the pause. Apparently^ neither Lodge^ VJestmore- 

land^ nor Sharp received advance intimation that the suspension might 

i| continue not for a few days_, as in the preceding May^ but for several weeks. 

When notified that full-scale ground operations could recommence _, following 

I the Christmas cease-fire_, as soon as there was "confirmed evidence of 

significant renewed Viet Cong violence _," they were simply told that air 
operations against North Vietnam would not immediately resume. They were 
assured^ however^ 

We, will stand ready to order inmiediate renewal of 
ROLLING THUNDER... at any tim^e based on your reports and 
recomjrnendations. 39 / 

None of the three hesitated long relaying- such recommenda- 
tions. "Although I am not aware of all the considerations leading to the 
continuation of the standdown in ROLLING THUI^ER/' General Westmoreland 
cabled on December 27^ "I consider that their immediate resumption is 
essential." He continued, 

"...our only hope of a m.ajor impact on the ability of 
the DRV to support the war in Vietnam is continuous air 
attack over the entire length of their LOC's from the 
Chinese border to South Vietnam. , . .Notwithstanding the 

heavy pressure on their transportation system in the 


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past 9 montlis^ they have demonstrated an ability to 
deploy forces into South Vietnam at a greater rate than 
ve are deploying U.S. forces, .. .Considering the course 
of the "war in South Vietnam and the capahility vhich has 
been built up here by the PAVl^l/VC forces -- the full 
impact of which we have not yet felt -- the curtailment 
of operations in North Vietnam is unsound from a militaiy 
standpoint. Indeed^ we should no/w_7 step up our effort 
to higher levels, ^o/ 

Ambassador Lodge seconded this recommendation^ and Admiral Sharp filed 
his own pleas not only that ROLLING THUNDER be resumed "at once" but 
that his previous recomjraendations for enlarging it be adopted. The aim 
should be to "drastically reduce the flow of military supplies reaching 
the DRV and hence the VC/* he argued^ adding "the anned forces of the 
United States should not be required to fight this war with one arm tied 
behind their backs." Ul/ 

One reason for ignorance in Saigon and Honolulu of the 
bombing suspension's possible continuation was that the President had 
apparently never fully committed himself to the timietable proposed by 
McNamara. Replying to Lodge on December 28^ Rusk cabled a summ.aiy of the 
President's thinking. As of that mom.ent^ said the Secretary of State^ 
the President contemplated extending the pause only "for several more 
days^ possibly into middle of next week_," i.e.^ until January 5 or 6. 
His aim in stretching out the pause was only in small part to seek nego- 
tiations . 

We do not_, quite frankly^ anticipate that Hanoi will 
respond in any significant way.... There is only the slimm.est 
of chances that suspension of bombing will be occasion for 
basic change of objective by other side but communist propa- 
ganda on this subject should be tested and exposed. 

The key reasons for extending the pause ^ Lodge was told^ were diplomatic 
and domestic. Some hope existed of using the interval to "drive [b.J 
rift between Communist powers and between Hanoi and NLF." Even more 
hopeful were indications that the government's act of self-abnegation 
would draw support at home. The latest Harris poll^ Lodge was informed^ 
shoved 73^ favoring a new effort for a cease -fire _, 59*5^ in favor of a 
bombing pause, and 6lfo in favor of stepping up bombing if the pause pro- 
duced no result. 

The prospect of large-scale reinforcem.ent in men and 
defense budget increases of som.e twenty billions for the 
next eighteen month period requires solid preparation of 
the American public. A crucial element will be clear 
demonstration that we have explored fully every alterna- 
tive but that aggressor has left us no choice. ^/ 

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This message v/ent to Lodge as "EYES ONLY" for himself 
and Ambassador Porter. To vrhat extent its contents vrere shared with 
General Westmoreland or other military or naval personnel^ available 
doctiments do not indicate. In any case, the Embassy in Saigon had 
received from the very highest authority the same kind of intim^ation 
that opponents of the pause had been given in Washington. If the 
period of inaction would prepare American and world opinion for more 
severe measures, it followed that the next stage would see such measures 
put into effect. ■ . 

As the pause continued beyond the deadline mentioned to 
Lodge, military planners in Saigon, Honolulu, and Washington worked 
at defining what these severe measures ought to be. On January 12, 
Admiral Sharp sent the Joint Chiefs a long cable, summarizing the 
conclusions of intensive planning by his staff and that of COMUSMACV. 

We began Rolling/ Thunder/ with very limited 
objectives, at a time when PAVN infiltration was of less 
significance than it is nov/, 

CINCPAC commented, 

....When RT began, there was considerable hope of 
causing Hanoi to cease aggression through an increasing 
pressure brought to bear through carefully timed destruc- 
tion of selected resources, accompanied by threat of 
greater losses. . .But .. .the nature of the war has changed 
since the air campaign began. RT has not forced Hanoi 
to the decision which we sought. There is now every indi- 
cation that Ho Chi Minh intends to continue support of the 
VC until he is denied the capability to do so.... We must 
do all that we can to make it as difficult and costly as 
possible for Hanoi to continue direction and support of 
aggression. In good conscience, we should not long delay 
resumption of a RT program designed to meet the changed 
nature of the war. 

Specifically, Admiral Sharp recommended: 

1. "....interdiction of land LOC's from China and closing 
of the ports ... ._^he7 northeast q.uadrant . . . .must be 
opened up for armed recce with authority to attack 
LOC targets as necessary." . . ■ 

2 "Destruction of resources within WVN should begin 

with POL. Every known POL facility and distribution 
activity should be destroyed and harassed until the 
war is concluded. Denial of electric power facilities 
should begin at an early date and continue lontil all 

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' ^v 

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plants are out of action. .. .All large military 
facilities should be destroyed in Northern NVW. . . , 

3. We should mount an intensified armed reconnsaissance 
program without sortie restriction, to harass, dis- 
rupt and Q.ttv±t/eJJ the dispersed and hidden military 
facilities and activities south of 20 deg/reesj . . . . 

These three tasks well done will bring the enemy to 
the conference table or cause the insurgency to wither 
from lack of support. The alternative appears to be a 
long and costly counterinsurgency -- costly in U.S. and 
GVN lives and material resources. U3/ 

Writing the Secretary of Defense on January 18, the 
Joint Chiefs offered an eq.ually bold definition of a post -pause 
bombing campaign. The Chiefs argued that the piecemeal nature of 
previous attacks had permitted the DRV to adapt itself to the bomb- 
i , -ing, replenish and disperse its stocks, diversify its transportation 

system and improve its defenses. Complaining about the geographic 
and num.erical restrictions on the bombing, the Chiefs recommended 
that "offensive air operations against WN should be resumed nov7 with 
^ a sharp blow and thereafter maintained with uninterrupted, increasing 

pressure, hk/ The Chiefs further argued that, 

. These operations should be conducted in such a 
manner and be of sufficient magnitude to: deny the 
DRV large-scale external assistance; destroy those 
resources already in WN which contribute most to the 
support of aggression; destroy or deny use of military 
facilities; and harass, disrupt and impede the movement 
of men and materials into SVN. h^ / 

The shutting off of external assistance would req.uire3 

...closing of the ports as v;ell as sustained inter- 
diction of land LOCs from China. .. .Military considera- 
tions would dictate that mining be conducted now ; however, 
^Yie Joint Chiefs. . .appreciate the sensitivity of such a 
j I ' measure and recognize that precise timing must take into 

account political factors. U6 / 

I _ 
■ > 

In addition to endorsing the full-scale attacks on POL, 
electric power plants, large military facilities in northern IWW, and 
T.or centers and choke points with intensified armed reconnaissance, 

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unhampered by the existing restrictions on sortie number, that ^INCPAC 
has recommended, the Chiefs urged the reduction of the size of the 
sanctuaries around Hanoi, Haiphong and the China border. More impor- ■ 
tantly the Chiefs requested authorization to eliminate the airfields 
if req.uired and permission for operational comjnanders "to deal with the 
3MA threat, as req.uired to prevent interference with planned air opera- 
tions." ^ 

The Chiefs acknowledged the likely adverse response to 
this sharp escalation in the international community, but urged the 
necessity of the proposed actions. In dealing with the an_xieties about 
Chinese commiunist entry into the war, they neatly turned the usual argu- 
ment that China would enter the war in response to escalatory provocation 
on its head by arguing that a greater likelihood was Chinese entry through 
mi s calculat i on . 

The Joint Chiefs. . .believe that continued US restraint 
may serve to increase rather than decrease the likelihood 
of such intervention ^hinesej by encouraging gradual 
responses on the part of the Chinese Communists. This is 
in addition to the probable interpretation of such restraint 
as US vacillation by both the Communist and Free World 
leadership. ^8/ 

The Chiefs spelled out their specific proposals in their concluding recom- 

a. The authorized area for offensive air operations 
be expanded to include all of NVN less the area encom.passed 
by a ten-mile radius around Hanoi/phuc Yen Airfield, a 
four-mile radius around Haiphong, and a tv/enty-mile China 
buffer zone. Exceptions to selected strikes within 
these restricted areas, in accordance with the air campaign 
described herein, will be conducted only as authorized by 
the Joint Chiefs 

b. Numerical sortie limitations on armed reconnais- 
sance in NVTI be removed. 

c. No tactical restrictions or limitations be imposed 
upon the execution of the specific air strikes. 

d. The Joint Chiefs... be authorized to direct CINCPAC 
to conduct the air campaign against the DRV as described 

herein. ^9 / 

On the same day as the Chiefs* Memorandum, and perhaps in 
tion to it John McNaughton set dovm V7hat he termed "Some Observa- 
tions about Bombing North Vietnam." 50/ It is not clear to whom the 

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/ ^ 

paper was addressed, or v/ho saw it. But it comprises perhaps the most 
effective political case that could have been made for the bombing 
program in early 1966, by a writer who was intimately involved with 
every detail of the prograra and vrho was fully aware of all its limita- 
tions. As such its most important sections are worth extensive quota- 
tion here- They were the following: 

3* Purposes of the program of bombing the North . The 
purposes of the bombing are m.ainly: 

a. To interdict infiltration. 

b. To bring about negotiations (by indirect third- 
party pressure flowing from fear of escalation 
and by direct pressure on Hanoi). 

c. To provide a bargaining counter in negotiations 
(or in a tacit "minuet"). 

d. To sustain GVN and US morale. 

Short of drastic action against the North Vietnamese popula- 
tion (and query even then), the program probably cannot be 
expected directly or indirectly to persua,de Hanoi to come to 
the table or to settle either (l) while Le Duan and other 
militants are in ascendance in the politburo or (2) while 
the North thinks it can win in the South. The only ques- 
tions are tv7o: (3) Can the program be expected to reduce 
(not just increase the cost of) DRV aid to the South below 
what it would other\iise be — and hopefully to put a ceiling 
on it -- so that we can achieve a military victory or, short 
of that, so that their failure in the South will cause them 
to lose confidence in victory there? (Our World War II 
experience indicates that only at that time can the squeeze 
on the North be expected to be a bargaining counter) . And 
(k) is the political situation (vis a vis the "hard-liners" 
at home, in the GVN and elsewhere) such that the bom^bing 
must be carried on for morale reasons? (The negative morale 
effect of now stopping bombing North Vietnam could be substan- 
tial but it need not be considered unless the interdiction 
reason fails.) 

h* " Analysis of past interdiction efforts. The program • 
so far has not successfully interdicted infiltration of men 
' and materiel into South Vietnam (although it may have caused 
the North to concentrate its logistic resources on the trail, 
to the advantage of our efforts in support of Souvanna) . 
Des"Dite our armed reconnaissance efforts and 'strikes on rail- 
roads bridges, storage centers, training bases and other key 

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links in their lines of communications, it is estim-ated 
that they are capable of generating in the North and 
infiltrating to the South U5OO men a month and between 
50 and 300 (an average of 200) tons a day depending on 
the season. The insufficiency of the interdiction effort 
is obvious when one realizes that the 110 battalions of 
PAW (27) and VC (83) forces in Vietnam need only 20 or 
so tons a day from North Vietnam to sustain "1964" levels 
of activity and only approxim.ately 80 tons a day to sustain 
"light combat" (l/5th of the force in contact once every 
7 days using l/3d of their basic load). The expansion of 
enemy forces is expected to involve the infiltration of 
9 new PAVN and the generation of 7 new VC combat battalions 
a month, resulting (after attrition) in a leveled-off force 
of 155 battalions at end-1966. The req.uirements from the 
North at that time — assuming that the enemy refuses, as it 
can, to permat the level of corn-bat to exceed "light" -- 
should approximate 1^0 tons a day, less than half the dry- 
season infiltration capability and less than three-q,uarters 
the average infiltration capability. 

5 . The effective interdiction program . The flow 
of propaganda and military communications cannot be 
physically interdicted. But it is possible that the flow 
of men and materiel to the crucia^l areas of South Vietnam 
can be. The interdiction can be en route into North Vietnam 
from the outside world, inside North Vietnam, en route from 
the North by sea or through Laos or Cambodia to South Viet- 
nam, and inside South Vietnam. It can be by destruction or 
by slow down. The effectiveness can be prolonged by ex- 
hausting the North's repair capability, and can be enhanced 
by complicating their communications and control machinery. 
The ingredients of an effective interdiction program in 
North Vietnam must be these: 

a. Intensive around-the-clock armed recon- 
naissance throughout NVN. 

b. Destruction of the LOC targets heretofore tar 

-, Destruction of POL. 

d. Destruction of thermal pov^-er plants. 

e. Closing of the ports. 

.It has been estimated (without convincing back-up) that an 
intensive progre.m could reduce Hanoi *s capability to supply 

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forces in the South to 50 tons a day — too little for 
flexibili':y and for frequent offensive actions, perhaps 
too little to defend themselves against aggressive US/gvN 
forces 5 and too little to permit Hanoi to continue to 
deploy forces with confidence that they could be supplied. 

6. Possible further efforts against the North . 
Not included in the above interdiction program are these 
actions against the North: 

f. Destruction of industrial targets. 

g. Destruction of locks and daims. 

h. Attacks on population targets (per se). 

The judgment is that, because North Vietnam's economy and 
organization is predominantly rural and not highly inter- 
dependent, attacks on industrial targets are not likely to 
contribute either to interdiction or to persuasion of the 
regime. Strikes at population targets (per se) are likely 
not only to create a counterproductive wave of revulsion 
abroad and at home, but greatly to increase the risk of 
enlarging the war with China and the Soviet Union. Destruc- 
tion of locks and dams, however --if handled right -- might 
(perhaps after the next Pause) offer promise. It should be 
studied. Such destruction does not kill or drown people. 
By shallow-flooding the rice, it leads after time to wide- 
spread starvation (more than a million?) unless food is 
provided — which we could offer to do "at the conference 

7. Nature of resiHued program against the North . The 
new ROLLING THUNDER program could be: 

a. None, on grounds that net contribution to 
success is negative - 

b. Resi:ime where we left- off, with a "flat-line" 

c. Resume where we left off, but with slow 
continued escalation. 

d. Resume where we left off, but with fast 


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On the judgment that it will not "flash" the Soviet Union 
or China -- we should follovr Course d (fast escalation). 
Failure to resuine would serve none of our purposes and 
make us appear irresolute. A "flat line" program would 
reduce infiltration (but not belov? PAVN/vC needs) and 
would placate GVW and domestic pressures. But this is 
not good enough. A fast (as compared -with a slow) escala- 
tion serves a double purpose — (l) it promises q.uickly 
to interdict effectively^ i.e., to cut the DRV level of 
infiltration to a point below the VC/PAVN requirements, 
and (2) it promises to m-ove events fast enough so that 
the Chinese "take-over" of North Vietnam resulting from 
our program will be a visible phenomenon, one which the 
DRV may choose to reject. There is some indication that 
China is "smothering North Vietnam with a loving embrace •" 
North Vietnam probably does not like this but, since it is 
being done by "salami slices" in reaction to our "salami- 
slice" bombing program, North Vietnam is not inspired to 
do anything about it. This condition, if no other, argues 
for escalating the war against North Vietnam more rapidly -- 
so that the issue of Chinese encroachment will have to be 
faced by Hanoi in bigger bites, and so that the DRV m.ay 
elect for a settlement rather than for greater Chinese . 
infringement of North Vietnam's independence. The objec- 
tions to the "fast" escalation are (l) that it runs serious 
risks of "flashing" the Chinese and Soviets and (2) that 
it gets the bombing program against the North "out of phase" 
with progress in the South. With respect to the first objec- 
tion, there are disagreements as to the likelihood of such 
a "flash"; as for the second one, there is no reason why the 
two programs should be "in phase" if, as is the case, the 
main objective is to interdict infiltration, not to "persuade 
the unpersuadable." . 

« « • « 

9. Criticisms of the program . There are a number of 
criticisms of the program of bombing North Vietnam: 

Q-* Cost in men and materiel . The program of 
bombing the North through I965 cost 10C(?) airmen (killed 
and missing or prisoner) and I78 US or South Vietnamese 
aircraft (costing about $250 (?) million) in addition to 
the amjnunition and other operating costs. The losses and 
costs in 1966 are expected to be 200(?) airmen and 300(? ) 

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"b* Damage to peaceful image of the US . A price 
paid for because of our program of bombing the North 
has been damage to our image as a country which eschews 
armed attacks on other nations. The hue and cry corre- 
lates with the kind of weapons (e.g., bombs vs. napalm), 
the kind of targets (e.g., bridges vs. people), the loca- 
tion of targets (e.g., south vs. north), and not least the 
extent to which the critic feels threatened by Asian com- 
munism (e.g., Thailand vs. the UK). Furthermore, 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.... 

c. Impact on US-Soviet d etente. The bombing 
program -- because it appears to reject the policy of 
"peaceful co-existence," because it involves azi attack 
on a "fellow socialist country," because the Soviet 
people have vivid horrible memories of air bombing, be- 
cause it challenges the USSR as she competes with China 
for leadership of the Communist world, and because US 
and Soviet arm-s are novr striking each other in North 
Vietnam -- has seriously strained the US-Soviet detente, 
making constructive arms-control and other cooperative 
programs more difficult. .. .At the same time, the bombing 
program offers the Soviet Union an opportunity 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. 

d. Impact on Chi com role in DRV . So long as the 
program continues, the role of China in North Vietnam 
will increase- Increased Chinese aid will be req.uired 
to protect against and to repair destruction. Also, the 

t ■ strikes against North Vietnamese "sovereign territories," 

by involving their "honor" more than would otherwise be the 
case increases the risk that the DRV would accept a sub- 
stantially increased Chinese role, however unattractive 
that may be, in order to avoid a "^national defeat" (failure 
of the war of liberation in the South) . 

e. Ri sk of escalation . The bombing program — 
especially as strikes move toward Hanoi and toward China 
and as encounters vrith Soviet/chinese SAI-Is/MTGs/vessels- 
at-sea occur — increases the risk of escalation into a 


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"broader v;ar. The most risky actions are mining of the 
ports, bombing of cities (or possibly dams), and landings 
in North Vietnam. 

10. Req.uirements of a program designed to "persuade" 
(not i nterdict ). A bombing progra.m focused on the objective 
of^'persuasion" would have these characteristics: 

a. Emphasize the threat . The program should be 
structured to capitalize on fear of the future. At a given 
time, "pressure" on the DRV depends not upon the current 
level of bombing but rather upon the credible threat of 
future destruction (or other painful conseq.uence, such as an 
unwanted increased Chinese role) which can be avoided by 
agreeing to negotiate or agreeing to some settlement in 
negotiations. Further, it is likely that North Vietnam, would 
be more influenced by a threatened resumption of a given level 
of destruction -- the "hot-cold" treatment -- than by a threat 
to maintain the same level of destruction; getting "irregu- 
larity" into our pattern is important- 

b. Minimize the loss of DRV "face." The program 
should be designed to make it politically easy for the DRV 

to enter negotiations and to make concessions during negoti- 
ations. It is politically easier for North Vietnam to accept 
negotiations and/or to make concessions at a time v/hen bombing 
of their territory is not currently taking place. Thus we 
shall have to contemplate a succession of Pauses. 

e. Maintain a "military" cover . To avoid the 
allegation that we are practicing "pure blackmail," the 
targets should be military targets and the declaratory policy 
should not be that our objective is to sq,ueeze the DRV to 
the talking table, but should be that our objective is only 
to destroy military targets. 

Thus, for purposes of the objective or promoting a settle- 
ment three guidelines emerge: (l) Do not practice "strategic" 
bombing; (2) do not abandon the program; and (3) carry out 
strikes oily as freq.uently as is req.uii ed to keep alive fear 
of the future. Because DRV "face" plays a role and because 
we can never tell at what time in the feature the DRV might 
be willing to talk settlement, a program with fairly long 
gaps between truly painful strikes at "military" targets 
would be optimum; it would balance the need to maintain the 
threat v/ith the need to be in an extended pause when the 
DRV m^ood changed. Unfortunately, so long as full VC victory 

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in the South appears likely, the effect of the bombing 
program in promoting negotiations or a settlement will 
probably be small. Thus, because of the present balance 
in the South, the date of such a favorable DRV change of 
mood is not likely to be in the near future.... 

11. Elements of a com-promdse program . There is a 
conflict between the objective of "persuading Hanoi," 
which would dictate a program of painful surgical strikes 
separated by fairly long gaps, and the objective of inter- 
diction, which would benefit from continuous heavy bombings - 
No program can be designed which optimizes the chances of 
achieving both objectives at the same time. The kind of 
program which should be carried out in the future therefore 
depends on the relative importance and relative likelihood 
of success of the objectives at any given time. In this 
copjiection, the following questions are critical: 

a. How likely is it that the Communists will 
star t talking ? The more likely this is, the more emphasis 
"should be put on the "pressure/bargaining counter" program 
(para 10 above). The judgment is that the Communists are 
not likely to be interested in talking at least for the 
next few months. 

"^ • How important to the military campaign is 
infiltration and how efficiently can we frustrate the 
flovr? The more important that preventable infiltration 
is, the more emphasis should be put on the interdiction 
program, (para 5 above). Unfortunately, the data are not 
clear on these points.... 

12. Reconciliation. The actions which these con- 
siderations seem now to imply are these, bearing in mind 
that our principal objective is to promote an acceptable 

a. Spare non-interdiction targets. Do not 
bomb any non-interdiction targets in North Vietnam, since 
such strikes are not consistent with either of the two 
obiectives. Such painful non-interdiction raids should 

be carried out only occasionally, pursuant to the rationale 
explained in para 10 above. 

b. Interdict. Continue an interdiction program 
in the immediate future, as described in para 5 above, since 
the Conmiunists are not likely to be willing to talk very 
soon and since it is possible that the interdiction program 
will be critical in keeping the Communist effort in South 
Vietnam within manageable proportions. 

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c. Study politically cheaper methods. Conduct a 
study to see whether most of the benefits of the inter- 
diction cajnpaign can be achieved by a Laos-STO barrier or 
by a bombing program which is limited to the Laos-SVN 
border areas of North Vietnam^ to Laos and/or to South 
Vietnam (and, if so, transition the interdiction program 
in that direction). The objective here is to find a way 
to maintain a ceiling on potential communist military 
activity in the South with the least political cost and 
with the least interference with North Vietnam willingness 
to negotiate. 

McNaughton prepared a second memorandiJim complementing and 
partially modifying the one on bombing. It concerned the context for 
the decision. Opening with a paragraph which warned, "We... have in 
Vietnam the ingredients of an enormous miscalculation," it sketched the 
dark outlines of the Vietnamese scene: 

...the AJRVN is tired, passive and accommodation- 
prone.... The PAVN/vC are effectively matching our deploy- 
ments.... The bombing of the North... m.ay or may not be 
able effectively to interdict infiltration (partly 
because the PAVN/vC can simply refuse to do battle if 
supplies are short).. . .Pacification is stalled despite 
efforts and hopes. The GVN political infrastructure 
is moribund and weaker than the VC infrastructure among 
most of the rural population. .. .South Vietnam is near 
the edge of serious inflation and economic chaos. 51/ 

The situation might alter for the better, McNaughton con- 
ceded. "Attrition — save Chinese intervention -- may push the DRV 
'against the stops' by the end of I966." Recent RAND motivation and 
morale studies shewed VC spirit flagging and their grip on the peasantry 
growing looser. "The Ky government is coming along, not delivering its 
promised 'revolution' but making progress slowly and gaining experience 
and stature each week." Though McNaughton termed it "doubtful that 
a meaningful ceiling can be put on infiltration," he said "there is 
no doubt that the cost of infiltration can. . .be made very high and 
that the flov/ of supplies can be reduced substantially below what it 
would otherwise be." Possibly bombing, combined with other pressures, 
could bring the DRV to consider terms after "a period of months, not 
of days or even weeks." . ■ 

The central point of McNaughton 's memorandum, following 
from its opening warning, was that the United States, too, should consider 
coming to terms. He wrote 

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c. The present US objective in Vietnam is to avoid 
hu miliation . The reasons why we v?-ent into Vietnam to the 
present depth are varied; but they are now largely academic 
Why v;e have not withdravm from Vietnam is^ by all odds, 

one reason: (1) To preserve our reputation as a guarantor, 
and thus to preserve our effectiveness in the rest of the 
world. We have not hung on (2) to save a friend, or (3) to 
deny the Communists the added acres and heads (because the 
dominoes don't fall for that reason in this case), or even 
(U) to prove that "wars of national liberation" won't work 
(except as our reputation is involved). At each decision 
point we have gambled; at each point, to avoid the damage 
to our effectiveness of defaulting on our commitment, V7e 
have upped the ante. We have not defaulted, and the ante 
(and commitment) is now very high. It is important that 
we behave so as to protect our reputation. At the same 
time, since it is our reputation that is at stake, it is 
important that we not construe our obligation to be more 
than do the countries whose opinions of us are our repu- 

d. We are in an escalating military stalemate . 
There is an honest difference of judgment as to the suc- 
cess of the present military efforts in the South. There 
is no question that the US deplo;^T:nents thwarted the VC 
hope to achieve a quick victory in I965. But there is a 
serious question whether we are now defeating the VC/PAVl^ 
main forces and whether planned US deploym-ents will more 
than hold our position in the country. Population and 
area control has not changed significantly in the past 
year; and the best judgment is that, even with the Phase 
IIA deployments, we will probably be faced in early I967 
with a continued stalemate at a higher level of forces 
and casualties. 

2. US comjtiitment to SVN . Some will say that we have 
defaulted if we end up, at any point in the relevant 
future, with anything less than a Western-oriented, non- 
Communist, independent government, exercising effective 
sovereignty over all of South Vietnam. This is not so. 
As statec. above, the US end is solely "^.o preserve our 
reputation as a guarantor. It follows that the "soft^est" 
credible formulation of the US comraitmient is the follov/ing: 

a. DRV does not take over South Vietnam by force. 
This does not necessarily rule out: 

b. A coalition government including Communists. 

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c. A free decision by the South to succvmh to the 
VC or to the North. 

d. A neutral (or even anti-US) government in SVN. 

e. A live-and-let-live "reversion to 1959»" 
Furtherraore J we must recognize that even if we fail in 
achieving this "soft" formulation^ we could over time 
come out v/ith minimum damage : 

f. If the reason was GVN gross wrongheadedness or 
apathy . 

g. If victorious North Vietnam "went Titoist." 

h. If the Coimnunist take-over v/as fuzzy and very slow. 

Current decisions , McNaughton argued, should reflect aware- 
I ness that the U.S. commitm-ent could be fulfilled with something consider- 

I ably short of victory, " it takes time to make hard decisions, " he v/rote, 

"It took us almost a year to take the decision to bomb North Vietnam; 
it took us weeks to decide on a pause; it could take us months (and 
could involve lopping some vjhite as well as brov/n heads) to get us in 
position to go for a compromise. We should not expect the enemy's 
molasses to pour any faster than ours. And we should *tip the pitchers' 
now. if we want them to 'pour* a year from now." 

But the strategy following from this analysis more or 
less corresponded over the short term to that recomm_ended by the Saigon 
mission and the military commands: More effort for pacification, more 
push behind the Ky government, more battalions for MOV, and intensive 
interdiction bombing roughly as proposed by CINCPAC. The one change 
introduced in this memorandum, prepared only one day after the other, 
concerned North Vietnamese ports. Now McNaughton advised that the ports 
not be closed. VJhy he did so is not apparent. The intelligence com- 
munity had concurred a month earlier that such action wo\ild create "a 
particularly unwelcome dilemma" for the USSR, but would provoke nothing 
more than vigorous protest. 5^/ Perhaps, however, someone had given 
McNaughton a warning som.etime on January l8 or 19 that graver conseq.uences 
could be involved. In any case, McNaughton introduced this one modifica- 

The argument which coupled McNaughton 's political analysis 
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The dilemma, We are in a dilemma. It is that the 
situation may be "polar." That is^ it nay be that v^hile 
going for victory v^e have the strength for compromise, 
but if we go for compromise we have the strength only for 
defeat -- this because a revealed lowering of sights 
from victory to compromise (a) will unhinge the GVN and 
(b) will give the DRV the "smell of blood." The situation 
therefore req.uires a thoroughly loyal and disciplined US 
jl ' team in Washington and Saigon and great care in what is 

said and done. It also requires a v/illingness to escalate 
the war if the enemy miscalculates, misinterpreting our 
willingness to compromise as Implying we are on the run. 
The risk is that it may be that the "coin must come up 
heads or tails ^ not on edge." ^3/ 

Much of McNaughton's cautious language about the lack of 
success — past or predicted- -- of the interdiction efforts appeared 
six days later, 2h January, in a memorandum from McNa3m,ra for the 
President. _5V ^'^^ mem.orandum recommended (and its tone makes clear 
that approval was taken for granted) an increase in the number of 
attack sorties against North Vietnam from a level of roughly 3,000 
per month -- the rate for the last half of I965 -- to a level of at 
least ^,000 per month to be reached gradually and then maintained 
throughout I966. The sortie rate against targets in Laos, which had 
risen from 5II per month in June I965 to 3? 0^7 in December, would rise 
to a steady ^,500? ^-^d those aga,inst targets in South Vietnam, having 
risen from 7^23^ in June to 13,11^ in December, would drop back to 
12^000 in June 1966, but then climb to 15,000 in December- By any 
standards^ this was a large bombing program, yet McNam.ara could promise 
the President only that "the increased program probably will not put 
a tight ceiling on the enemy's activities in South Vietnam," but might 
cause him to hurt at the margins, with perhaps enough pressure to 
"condition /him/ toward negotiations and an acceptable /to the US/gVN, 
that isT end to the war -- and will maintain the morale of our South 
Vietnamese allies." 

Most of McNamara's memorandum, dealt with the planned 
expansion of American ground forces, however. Here it indicated that 
the President had decided in favor of recomjriendations the Secretary 
had brought back from his trip to Vietnam on 28 and 29 November, and 
had incorporated in memoranda for the President on 30 November and 
7 December". 55/ These v^'ere to increase the number of US combat batta- 
*lions from S^at the end of I965 to 7^ a year later, instead of to 62 
as previously planned, with com-parable increases for the Korean and 
Australian contingents (from nine battalions to 21, and from one to 
two respectively). Such an increase in US combat strength would raise 
f 1* total US personnel in Vietnam from 220,000 to over UOO5OOO. At the 
■ -- g time McNam-ara noted in his mem-orandiim of 7 December, the Depart- 

ment of Defense would com.e before the Congress in January to ask for a 

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supplemental appropriation of $11 billion of nevr obligational authority 
to cover increased Vietnam costs. 

The Secretary recommended these measures, he said, because ■ 
of "dramatic recent changes in the situation — on the military side." 
■Infiltration from the North, mainly on greatly improved routes through 
Laos J had increased from three battalion equivalents per month in late 
196^ to a recent high of a dozen per month. With his augmented forces, 
the enemy was shovring an increased willingness to stand and fight in 
large scale engagements, such as the la Drang River campaign in November. 
To meet this growing challenge the previously planned US force levels 
would be insufficient. Identical descriptions of the increased enemy 
capability appeared in both McNamara's 30 November and 7 December memorand; 
In the former, but not the latter, the following paragraph also appeared: 

We have but two options, it seems to me. One is to go 
now for a compromise solution (something substantially less 
than the "favorable outcome" I described in my memorandum of 
November 3)3 Q'^-d hold further deployments to a minimum. The 
other is to stick v?ith our stated objectives and with the war, 
and provide what it takes in men and materiel. If it is 
decided not to move now toward a compromise, I recommend that 
the United States both send a substantial num-ber of addi- 
tional troops and very gradually intensify the bom^bing of 
North Vietnam. Ambassador Lodge, General Wheeler, Admiral 
Sharp and General Westmoreland concLir in this two-pronged 
course of action, although General Wheeler and Admiral Sharp 
would intensify the bombing of the North more quickly. 

McNamara did not commit him-self — in any of these papers, 
at least — on the question of whether or not the President should now 
opt instead for a "compromise" outcome. The President, of course, 
decided against it. He did so, it should be noted, in the face of a 
"prognosis" from McNamara that was scarcely optimistic. There were 
changes in this prognosis as it went through the Secretary's successive 
" Presidential memoranda on 30 November, 7 December and 2h January. The 
first of these stated simply: 

We should be aware that deployments of the kind I 
have recommended will not guarantee success. US killed- 
in-action can be expected to reach 1000 a month, and the 
odds are even that we will be faced in early I967 with a 
"no decision" at an even higher level. My overall evalu- 
' ation nevertheless, is that the best chance of achieving 

our stated objectives lies in a pause followed, if it fails, 
by the deployments mentioned above. 

^ In the latter two memoranda, McNamara elaborated ox\ this prognosis, and 

made it even less optim.istic. The versions of 7 December and 2k January 


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were similar, but there were important differences. They are set 
forv/ard here with deletions from the 7 Decemoer version in brackets, 
and additions in the 2U January version underlined: 

/Deployments of the kind we have recommended will 
not guarantee success_^7 Our intelligence estimate is 
that the present Commimist policy is to continue to 
prosecute the war vigorously in the South. They continue 
to believe that the war will be a long one, that time is 
their ally, and that their own staying povzer is superior 
to ours. They recognize that the US reinforcements of I965 
signify a determination to avoid defeat, and that more US 
troops can be expected. Even though the Communists will 
continue to suffer heavily from. GW and US ground and air 
action, we expect them, upon learning of any US intentions 
to augment its forces, to boost their own commitment and 
to test US capabilities" and will to persevere at a higher 
level of conflict and casualties (US killed-in-action with 
the recommended deployments can be expected to reach 1000 
a month) . 

If the US were willing to commit enough forces — 
perhaps 600,000 men or more -- we could probably ultimately 
prevent, the DRV/VC from sustaining the conflict at a 
significant level. V/hen this point was reached, however, 
the q.uestion of Chinese intervention v/ould become critical. 
(We are generally agreed that the Chinese Communists will 
intervene with com^bat forces to prevent destruction of the 
Communist regim.e in North Vietnam; it is less clear that they 
would intervene to prevent a DRV/vC defeat in the South.) 56/ 
The intelligence estimate is that the chances are a little 
better than even that, at this stage, Hanoi and Peiping 
would choose to reduce their effort in the South and try to 
salvage their resources for another day_^ [\ but there is an 
almost equal chance that they would enlarge the war and bring 
in large numbers of Chinese forces (they have m-ade certain 
preparations vzhich could point in this direGtion)^^ 

It follows, therefore, that the odds are about even 
that even with the recommended deployments, -we will be 
faced in early I967 with a military stand-off at a miuch 
higher level, with pacification _^till stalled, and with 
- * any prospect of military success marred by the chances of 
i an active Chinese intervention/ hardly unden^/ay and with 

! . the requirement for the deploym.ent of still more US forces. 57/ 

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;e of 

On 25 January 1966^ before the bombing had yet been 
resumed^ George Ball sent to the President a long memorandum on the 
matter. Its first page warned: 

I recognize the difficulty and complexity of the 
problem and I do not wish to add to your burdens. But 
before a final decision is made on this critical issue, 
I feel an obligation to amplify and document my strong 
conviction: that sustained bombing of North Viet-Nam 
will more than likely lead us i nto war with Red China — 
probably in six to nine months . And it may well involve 
at least a limited v/ar with the Soviet Union. 58/ 

There were. Ball said, "forces at work on both sides of the conflict that 
v/ill operate in combination to bring about this result."" 

^ The Under-Secretary dealt with the U.S. side of the conflict 

I P first. The bombing, he wrote, vrould inevitably escalate; the passage ( 

time, he contended, had demonstrated " that a sustained bombing program 
' ' ac quires a life and di^namism of its own." For this there were several 

p. "' reasons^ First was that the U.S. " philosophy of bombing req.uires gradual 

escal ation ." Ball explained: 

Admittedly, v;e have never had a generally agreed 
rationale for bombing North Viet-Nam. But the inarticulate 
major premise has always been that bombing will somehow, 

I some day, and in som-e manner, create pressure on Hanoi to 

stop the war. This is accepted as an article of faith, not 

' only by the military who have planning and operational 

responsibilities but hj most civilian advocates of bombing 
in the Administration. 

Yet it is also widely accepted that for bombing to 
have this desired political effect, we m.ust gradually 
extend our attack to increasingly vital targets. In this 
way -- it is contended --we will constantly threaten 
Hanoi that if it continues its aggression it will face 
mounting costs -- with the destruction of its economic life 
at the end of the road. . * 

On an attached chart. Ball demonstrated that in the eleven months of 
bombinp" target selection had gradually spread northward to a point where 
it was'^nearing the Chinese border and closing in on the Hanoi -Haiphong 
area "steadily constricting the geographical scope of immunity." 

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Just as the geographical extent of the "bombing would 
inexorably increase. Ball argued, so would the value of the targets 
struck. "Unless we achieve dramatic successes in the South -- v,^hich 
no one expects /Ball Mvotej -- we will be led by frustration to hit 
increasingly more sensitive targets." He listed four categories of 
likely operations: (l) the mining of Haiphong harbor, and the destruc- 
tion of (2) North Vietnam* s POL supplies, (3) its system of power 
stations, and (U) its airfields. Each of these targets had already 
been recommended to the President by one of his principal military or 
civilian advisors in Washington or Saigon, Ball noted, and each had 
"a special significance for the major Communist capitals." The mining 
of Haiphong harbor would impose a major decision on the Soviet Union. 
"Could it again submit to a blockade, as at the time of the Cuban missile 
crisis," Ball asked, "or should it retaliate by sending increased aid or 
even volunteers to North Viet-Nam or by sq.ueezing the United States at 
some other vital point, such as Berlin?" Would Hanoi feel compelled 
to launch some kind of attack on crowded Saigon harbor or on U.S. fleet 
units — perhaps using surface-to-surface missiles provided by the 
Soviet Union? Similarly, the bombing of North Vietnam's POL supplies 
might bring in response an attack on the exposed POL in Saigon harbor. 
Then there were the airfields. Ball wrote: 

■ The bombing of the airfields would very likely lead 
the DRV to request the use of Chinese air bases north of 
the border for the basing of North Vietnamese planes, or 
even to request the intervention of Chinese air. This 
would pose the most agonizing dilemma for us. Consistent 
with our decision to bomb the North, we could hardly per- 
mit the creation of a sanctuary from which our ov/n planes 
could be harassed. Yet there is general agreement that 
for us to bomb China would very likely lead to a direct 
war with Peiping and v/ould -- in principle at least — 
trigger the Sino-Soviet Defense Pact, vrhich has been in 
force for fifteen years. 

I The same process of action-reaction. Ball noted, would 

• also apply- to surface-to-air missile sites (SMIs) within North Vietnam. 
The wider the bombing the greater the number of SAM sites -- manned sub- 
stantially by Soviet and Chinese technicians -- the North Vietnamese 
' would install.' "As more SAMs are installed, we will be compelled to 

take them out in order to safeguard our aircraft. This v/ill mean 
killing m.ore Russians and Chinese and putting greater pressure on those 
two nations for increased effort." Ball summarized this process in 
general terms: "Each extension of our bombing to more sensitive areas 
will ircrease the risk to our aircraft and compel a further extension 
^^ qj bomb-in^ to protect the expanded bombing activities we have staked 

out." . • 

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These risks V70uld be run. Ball observed, for the sake 
of a bombing program that would nevertheless be ineffective in pro- 
ducing the political results being asked of it. Ten days before sending 
his memorandum to the President , Ball had asked the CIA*s Office of 
National Estimates to prepare an estimate of likely reactions to various 
extensions of the bombing^ and also an assessment of the effects they 
would be likely to have on North Vietnam's military effort in the south. ^9/ 
He cited the estimate's conclusions in his Presidential memorandum.. None 
of the types of attacks he had specified -- on Haiphong harbor, on the 
POL5 or on power stations — "would in itself, have a critical impact on 
the combat activity of the Comjnimist forces in South Viet-Nam." This 
was, of course, scarcely a new conclusion. In various formulations it 
had figured in intelligence estimates for the preceding six months. From 
it Ball was led to the premises v^hich motivated him to write his vigor- 
ously dissenting paper: "if the war is to be vron -- it must be won in 
the South," and "the bombing of the North cannot win the war, only enlarge 


Ball's paper was at its most general (and perhaps least 
persuasive) in its discussion of "enlargement" of the war. He started 
from a historical example -- the catastrophic misreading of Chinese 
intentions by the United States during the Korean war -- and a logical 

Quite clearly there is a threshold which we cannot 
pass over without precipitating a major Chinese involve- 
ment. We do not know -- even within wide margins of error — 
where that threshold is. Unhappily we will not find out 
until after the catastrophe. 

In positing his own notions of possible thresholds, Ball could only reiter- 
ate points he had already made: that forcing the North Vietnamese air 
force to use Chinese bases, by bombing their own airfields, would be likely 
to escalate into armed conflict between the U.S. and China, and that the 
destruction of North Vietnam's industry would call in increased Chinese 
assistance to a point "sooner or later, we will a.lmost certainly collide 
with Chinese interests in such a way as to bring about a Chinese involve- 
ment / ■ 

There were, strikingly enough, no recommendations in Ball's 
memorandum. Given his assumption that "sustained bombing" would acq.uire 
"a life of it^ own," and invariably escalate, the only consistent recom- 
' mendation v/ould have been that the U.S. should not resume bombing the 

North but should instead confine the war to the South. There were no 
I . compromise positions. To a President who placed the avoidance of v/ar 

with China (not to mention with the U.S.S.R.) very high on his list of 
obipctives and yet who felt -- for military and political reasons -- 
'''^ that he was unable not to resiuae bombing North Vietnam, but that, once 

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resumed J the bc.mbing must be carefully controlled, Ball offered dis- 
turbing analysis but little in the way of helpful practical advice. 

■ The week including the Tet holidays (January 23-29) 

' saw some final debate at the White House on the question of whether 

to resume at all in which Ball's memo surely figured. The outcome 
was a Presidential decision that ROLLING THUKDER should recommence 
' on January 31. The President declined for the time being, however, 

' ■ to approve any extension of air operations, despite the strong recom- 
mendations of the military and the milder proposals of the Secretary 
of Defense for such action. 

E. Accomplishments by Years -End 

After 10 months, of ROLLING THUNDER, months longer than U.S. officials 
had hoped it would require to bring NWI to terms, it was clear that NVN 
had neither called off the insurgency in the South nor been obliged to 
slov; it down. Still, decision-makers did not consider bombing the North 
a failure. While willing to entertain the idea of a tem-porary pause 
to focus the spotlight on the diplomatic track they vrere pursuing, they 
.were far from ready to give up the bombing out of hand. VThy not? What 
did they think the bombing was accomplishing, and what did they think 
these accomplishments were worth? What did they hope to achieve by 
continuing it? 


As already noted, certain political gains from- the bombing were 
evident from the start. Morale in SVN was lifted, and a certain degree 
of stability had emerged in the GVN. NVN and other countries were shoi^m 
that the U.S. v/as willing to back up strong words with hard deeds. These 
were transient gains, hovrever. After the bombing of the North was begun, 
other U.S. actions — unleashing U.S. jet aircraft for air strikes in 
the South, and sending U.S. ground troops into battle there -- had as 
ffreat or even greater claim as manifestations of U.S. will and determina- 
tion. Similarly, breaking through the sanctuaiy barrier had been accom- 
■ plished and once the message was clear to all concerned it did not 
require daily and hourly reinforcement. The acquisition of an important 
bargaining chip v/as a gain of uncertain value as yet, since it might 
have to be weighed against the role of the bombing as an obstacle to 
e;etting negotiations under'way in the first place. As one high-level 
group stated in the fall of I965: would be difficult for any government, but 
especially an oriental one, to agree to negotiate while 
under. sustained bombing attacks. 60/ 

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' ^ 





If this particilar chip had to be given up in order to establish what 
the group called "the political and psychological framework for initi- 
ating negotiations/' the gain in leverage might be small. 

Public opinion about the bombing was mixed. On the hav/k side, 
as Secretary McNamara summed it up for the President: 

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- 6l/ 

People vrho believed that the U.S. was justified in intervening in the 
v/ar and who identified Hanoi as the real enemy naturally tended to 
approve of the bombing. People who questioned the depth of U.S. involve' 
ment in Southeast Asia and who feared that the U.S. was on a collision 
course with China seemed to be more appalled by the bombing than by any 
other aspect of the war. The peace fringe attacked it as utterly reck- 
less and immoral. Abroad, in many countries, the U.S. v^as portrayed as 
a bully and NVN as a victim. Even U.S. allies who had no illusions 
about Hanoi's complicity in the South were unhappy with the bombing. 
As McNamara viewed it: 

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 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 allied countries as UK and Japan, 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 support of US policy. £2/ 

Bombing HVTT, the Secretary added, had also complicated US-Soviet 
relations, mostly for the worse though conceivably -- barely so -- for 
the better: 

The bombing program -- because it appears to 
reject the policy of 'peaceful coexistence,' because 
the Soviet people have vivid horrible memories of air 
bombing, because it challenges the USSR as she competes 
with China for leadership of the Communist world, and 
because US and Soviet arm.s are now striking each other 
in North Vietnam^ -- has strained the US -Soviet detente, 
making constructive arms control and other cooperative 
programs difficult. How ^serious this effect will be and 
v/hether the detente can be revived depend on how far we 

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carry our military actions against the North and how 
long the campaign continues. At the sa^iie time, the 
"bombing program offers the Soviet Union an opportunity 
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. 63/ 

In addition, the Secretary continued, more countries than before 
were "more interested in taking steps to bring the war to an end." The 
, net effect of this, however, was generally to increase the international 

) i pressures on the U<S. to seek an accommodation, not Hanoi, so that it 

was hardly an unmixed blessing. 

Immediate gains and losses in the domestic and international polit- 
ical arenas were less important, however, than the overall influence of 
the bombing on the course of the v/ar itself. Short-term political 
penalties were not hard to bear, at home or abroad, if the bombing could 
materially improve the prospects for a favorable outcome. This did not 
necessarily mean that the bombing had to contribute to a military victory. 
■ ROLLING TIIUM)ER was begun at a time when the war was being lost and even 
the minimuim task of preventing an outright defeat was far from assured. 
Almost any military contribution from the bombing could be viewed as a 

It V7as not easy to assess the contribution of ROLLING THUNDER to 
the war as a whole. Decision-makers like Secretary McNam.ara received 
regular monthly reports of measurable physical damage inflicted by the 
strikes, together with a verbal description of less readily quantifi- 
able economic, military and political effects within NVN, but it was 
difficult to assess the significance of the results as reported or to 
relate them to the progress of the war in the South. Reports of this 
kind left it largely to the judgment or the imagination to decide what 
the bombing was contributing to the achievement of overall U.S. objec- 

CIA and DIA, in a joint monthly "Appraisal of the Bombing of North 
Vietnam" which had been requested by the SecDef in August, attempted 
to keep a running tabulation of the theoretical cost of repairing or 
reconstructing damaged or destroyed facilities and equipment in NVN. 
According to this, the first year of ROLLING THUI^JDER inflicted $63 million 
worth of'^measurable damage, $36 million to "economic" targets like 
bridges and transport equipment, and $2? million to "military" targets 
" like barracks and ammunition depots. 6k/ In addition to this measurable 

damage the bombing vras reported to have "disrupted" the production and 
''^ distribution of goods; created "severe" problems and "reduced capacity" 

in all forms of transportation; created more "severe problems" in man- 
• • XT the economy; reduced production'; caused "shortages" and "hardships"; 


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forced the diversion of "skilled manpower and scarce resources" from 
productive uses to the restoration of damaged facilities and/or their 
dispersal and relocation; and so on. 

In terms of specific target categories ^ the appraisals reported 
results like the following: 

Power plants. 6 small plants struck^ only 2 of them 
in the main power grid. Loss resulted in local power 
shortages and reduction in power available for irri- 
gation but did not reduce the power supply for the 
Hanoi/Haiphong area. 

POL storage, h installations destroyed, about 17 per- 
cent of IWIT^s total bulk storage capacity. Economic 
effect not significant, since neither industry nor 
agriculture is large user and makeshift storage and 
distribution procedures will do. 

Manufacturing. 2 facilities hit, 1 explosive plant 
and 1 textile plant, the latter by mistake. Loss of 
explosives plant of little consequence since China 
furnished virtually all the explosives required. Damage 
to textile plant not extensive. 

Bridges. 30 highway and 6 railroad bridges on JCS list 
destroyed or damaged, plus several hundred lesser bridges 
hit on armed reconnaissance missions. NVDI has generally 
not made a major reconstruction effort, usually putting 
fords, ferries, and pontoon bridges into service instead. 
Damage has neither stopped nor curtailed movement of 
military supplies. 

Railroad yards. 3 hit, containing about 10 percent of 
pjVl\T*s total railroad cargo -handling capacity. Has not 
significantly hampered the operations of the major 
portions of the rail network. 

Ports. 2 small maritime ports hit, at Vinh and Thanh Hoa 
in the south, with only 5 percent of the country's mari- 
time cargo-handling capacity. Impact on economy minor. 

Locks. Of 91 known locks and dams in NVTT, only 8 targeted 
as significant to inland waterv/ays, flood control, or 
irrigation. Only 1 hit, heavily damaged. 

Trans-Dort equipment. Destroyed or damaged 12 locom.o- 
tives* 819 freight cars, 805 trucks, IO9 ferries, 75O 

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forced the diversion of "skilled manpov/er and scarce resources" from 
productive uses to the restoration of damaged facilities and/or their 
dispersal and relocation; and so on. 

In term-S of specific target categories ^ the appraisals reported 
results like the follovang: 

Power plants. 6 small plants struck, only 2 of them 
in the main power grid. Loss resulted in local power 
shortages and reduction in power available for irri- 
gation hut did not reduce the power supply for the 
Hanoi/Haiphong area. 

POL storage, h installations destroyed, about 17 per- 
cent of NVN's total bulk storage capacity. Economic 
effect not significant, since neither industry nor 
agriculture is large user and makeshift storage and 
distribution procedures will do. 

Manufacturing. 2. facilities hit^ 1 explosive plant 
and 1 textile plant, the latter by mistake. Loss of 
explosives plant of little consequence since China 
furnished virtually all the explosives required. Damage 
to textile plant not extensive. 

Bridges. 30 highway and 6 railroad bridges on JCS list 
destroyed or damaged, plus several hundred lesser bridges 
hit on armed reconnaissance missions. FTO has generally 
not made a major reconstruction effort, usually putting 
fords, ferries, and pontoon bridges into service instead. 
Damage has neither stopped nor curtailed movement of 
military supplies. 

Railroad yards. 3 hit, containing about 10 percent of 
HVDJ^s total railroad cargo -handling capacity. Has not 
significantly hampered the operations of the major 
portions of the rail network. 

Ports. 2 small maritime ports hit, at Vinh and Thanh Hoa 
in the south, with only 5 percent of the country's mari- 
time cargo-handling capacity. Impact on economy minor. 

Locks. Of 91 known locks and dams in NTOI, only 8 targeted 
as significant to inland waterways, flood control^ or 
irrigation. Only 1 hit, heavily damaged. 

Transport equipment. Destroyed or damaged 12 locom.o- 
tives 819 freight cars, 8O5 trucks, IO9 ferries, 750 


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barges, and 35^ other water craft. No evidence of seri- 
our problems due to shortages of equipment. 6^/ 

What did all of this amount to? The direct losses, in the language 
of one of the monthly appraisals, 


...still remain small compared to total economic 
activity, because the country is predominantly agricul- 
tural and the major industrial facilities have not been 
attacked. 66/ 

The "cujiiulatlve strains" resulting from the bombing had "reduced indus- 
trial performance," but "the primarily rural nature of the area permits 
continued functioning of the subsistence economy." The "economic deter- 
ioration so far has not affected the capabilities of North Vietnam's 
armed forces, which place little direct reliance on the domestic economy 
for material." The bombing had "still" not reduced W^ capabilities 
to defend itself from attack and to support existing INA/yC forces in 
Laos and SVN, but it had "limited" "freedom of movement" in the southern 
provinces, and it had "substantially curtailed" NVA capabilities to 
mount "a major offensive action" in Southeast Asia. Altogether, how- 
ever, "the air strikes do not appear to have altered Hanoi's deter- 
mination to continue supporting the war in South Vietnam." 6?/ 

An evaluation which had to be couched in such inexact and impres- 
sionistic language was of little help in to grips with the most 
important questions about the bombing: (l) Plow much "pressure" was 
being applied to NVN to scale dox-zn or give up the insurgency, and how 
well was it working? (2) In what ways and to what degree v/as the bombing 
affecting NVN's capacity to wage war in the South? Whether the bombing 
program V7as viewed primarily as a strategic-punitive campaign against 
Planoi's will or a tactical-interdiction carapaign against NVN's military 
capabilities in the South -- or, as some would have it, both -- these 
were the questions to address, not the quantity of the damage and the 
quality of the dislocations. 

In dealing with the above questions, it had to be recognized that 
NVN was an extremely poor target for air attack. The theory of either 
strategic or interdiction bombing assumed highly developed industrial 
nations producing large quantities of military goods to sustain mass 
armies engaged in intensive warfare. NVN, as U.S. intelligence agencies 
knevr was an agricult\iral country with a rudimentary transportation 
system and little industry of any kind. Nearly all of the people were 
rice farmers who worked the land V7ith water buffaloes and hand tools, 
and whose well -"being at a subsistence level was almost entirely dependent 
on what they grew or m.ade themselves. VJhat intelligence agencies liked 
to call the "modern industrial sector" of the economy was tiny even by 
Asian standards, producing only about 12 percent of a GNP of $1.6 billion 


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97 ' 

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in 1965. There were only a handf\il of "major industrial facilities." 
When NVN was first targeted the JCS found orly 8 industrial installa-. 
tions worth listing on a par with airfields , military supply dumps, 
barracks complexes , port facilities, bridges, and oil tanks. Even by 
the end of 19^5 5 after the JCS had lowered the standards and more than 
doubled the number of important targets, the list included only 2h . 
industrial installations, I8 of them povrer plants which were as impor- 
tant for such humble uses as lighting streets and pumping water as for 
operating any real factories. 68 / 

Apart from one explosives plant (which had already been demolished), 
JWDJ's limited industry made little contribution to its military capabil- 
ities. IWN forces, in intelligence terminology, placed "little direct 
reliance on the domestic economy for m-aterial." NVN in fact produced 
only limited q_uantities of simple military items, such as mortars, 
grenades, mines, small arms, and bullets, and those were produced in 
I ■ small v^orkshops rather than. large arsenals. The great bulk of its 

military equipment, and all of the heavier and more sophisticated items, 
had to be imported. This was no particular problem, since both the 
USSR and China were apparently more than glad to help. 

The NW transportation system was austere and superficially looked 
very vulnerable to air attack, but it was inherently flexible and its 
capacity greatly exceeded the demands placed upon it. The rail system, 
with single-track lines radiating from Hanoi, provided the main link-up 
to China and, via the port of Haiphong, to the rest of the world; it 
was more important for relatively long-haul international shipments than 
for domestic freight. The latter was carried mostly over crude roads 
and simple waterways, on which the most common vehicles were oxcarts 
and sampans, not trucks or steamers. The system was quite primitive, 
but immensely durable. 

Supporting the war in the South was hardly a great strain on NYN's 
economy. The NVA/vC forces there did not constitute a large army. They 
did not fight as conventional divisions or field armies, with tanks and 
airplanes and heavy artillery; they did not need to be supplied by huge 
coriYOY^ of trucks, trains, or ships. They fought and moved on foot, 
supplying themselves locally, in the main, and simply avoiding combat 
when supplies were low. What they received from NVN was undoubtedly 
critical to their military operations, but it amounted to only a few 
tons per day for the entire force -- en amovnt that could be carried by 
a handful of trucks or sampans, or several huridred coolies. This small 
amount did not have to be carried conspicuously over exposed routes, 
and it was extremely difficult to interdict, by bombing or any other 

means . 

f - j^ g^jjji then, NVN did not seem to be a very rewarding target for 

air attack. Its industry was limited, meaningful targets were fev7, and 

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they did not appear critical to either the viability of the economy, 
the defense of the na.tion, or the prosecution of the war in the South. 
The idea that destroying, or threatening to destroy, NVN's industry 
would pressure Hanoi into calling it q.uits seems, in retrospect, a 
colossal misjudgTaent. The idea was based, however, on a plausible 
assumption about the rationality of NVN^s leaders, which the U.S. intel- 
ligence coimnunity as a v^hole seemed to share. 69/ This was that the 
value of what little industrial plant NW possessed was disproportionately 
great. That plant was purchased by an extremely poor nation at the 
price of considerable sacrifice over many years. Even though it did 
not am^ount to much, it no doubt symbolized the regime's hopes and desires 
for national status, power, and wealth, and was probably a source of 
considerable pride. It did not seem unreasonable to believe that NVN 
leaders would not wish to risk the destruction of such assets, especially 
when that risk seemed (to us) easily avoidable by cutting down the 
insurgency and deferring the takeover of SWI until another day and per- 
haps in another manner — which Ho Chi Minh had apparently decided to 
do once before, in 195^* After all, an ample supply of oriental patience 
is precisely what an old oriental revolutionary like Ho Chi Minh was 
supposed to have. 

For 1965, at least, these assumptions about Hanoi's leaders were 
not borne out. The regime's public stance remained one of strong defi- 
ance, determined to endure the worst and still see the U.S. defeated. 
The leadership directed a shift of strategy in the South, from an attempt 
at a decisive military victory to a strategy of protracted conflict 
designed to wear out the opposition and prepare the ground for an eventual 
political settlement, but this decision was undoubtedly forced upon it 
by U.S. intervention in the South. There was no sign that bombing the 
North, either alone or in combination with other U.S. actions, had brought 
about any greater readiness to settle except on their terms. 

■ In the North, the regime battened down and prepared to ride out 
the storm. With Soviet and Chinese help, it greatly strengthened its 
air defenses, multiplying the number of AAA guns and radars, expanding 
the number of jet fighter airfields and the jet fighter force, and intro- 
ducing an extensive SA!4 system. Economic development plans were laid 
aside. Imports v;ere increased to offset production losses. Bombed 
facilities were in most cases simply abandoned. The large and vulnerable 
barracks and storage depots were replaced by dispersed and concealed ones. 
Several hundred thousand workers were mobilized to keep the transportation 
system operating. Miles of by-pass roads w^ere built around choke-points 
to make the system redundant. Knocked-out bridges were replaced by fords, 
ferries or alternate structures, and methods were adopted to protect 
them from attack. Traffic shifted to night time, poor weather, and 
canoufla'^e. Shuttling and transhipm.ent practices were instituted. Con- 
struction material, equipment, and workers were prepositioned along key 

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routes in order to effect quick repairs. Imports of railroad cars 
and trucks were increased to offset eq.uipment losses. 

In shorty NVN leaders mounted a major effort to withstand the 
bombing pressm^e. They had to change their plans and go on a war 
footing. They had to take drastic measures to shelter the population 
and cope with the bomb damage. They had to force the people to work 
harder and find new ways to keep the economy operating. They had to 
■greatly increase imports and their dependence on the USSR and China. 
There were undoubtedly many difficulties and hardships involved. Yet, 
JWI^T had survived. Its economy had continued to function. The regime 
had not collapsed, and it had not given in. And it still sent men 
and supplies into SVN. 

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1. Draft memorandum^, "Analysis and Options for South Vietnam," 
7/13/65;, TOP SECRET, filed with compila-^-ion of data assembled 
by Secretary McNamara for his 1^-21 July I965 trip to Vietnam. 

2. Memorandiom for Rusk, McNamara, McG. Bundy, W. Bundy, McNaughton^ 
•* Unger, "Cutting Our Losses in South Viet-Nam," TOP SECRET. Ball 

distributed this paper in two parts, a summary on 28 June I965 
and the paper itself on the 29th. 

3. Memorandum for the President, "A Compromise Solution for South 
Viet-Nam," 1 July I965, TOP SECRET. (Underlining in original.) 

k. Dran, "Plan of Action for South Vietnam," 2k March I965, TOP SECRET. 

5. From Ball's summary, 28 June 1965? of his memorandum of the 29th, 
cited above, n. 2. 

6. Memorandum, "Viet-Nam," 1 July 1965^ TOP SECRET. (Emphasis added.) 
Rusk's name is typed as drafter at the foot of the memorandum. 

7. Bundy's memorandum, 1 July I965 (TOP SECRET), summ^arized points 
Bundy made in a longer paper, "Holding on in South Vietnam," 

30 June 1965 (TOP SECRET). 

8. Memorandiim for the President, "Recommendations of additional deploy- 
ments to Vietnam," 20 July I965, TOP SECRET. 

9. Memorandum for the President, "Program of expanded military and 
political m-oves with respect to Vietnam," first draft 26 June 1965^ 
revised 1 July, TOP SECRET. The copy used here is the typed draft 
of 26 June with extensive pencilled revisions in McNamara's ovm 
hand and his signature. 

10. JCSM 515-65, 2 July 1965, "Deployments to South Vietnam," TS; 
Fact Sheet, "Military Pressures Against NVN," in Cable File 3^, 
SecDef Saigon Trip, 1^-21 July I965. 

11. SKEE IO-9-65, 23 July 1965? "Communist and Free World Reactions 
to a Possible US Course of Action," TOP SECRET. 

11a. Ibie. 

12. Draft Memorandum, "Analysis and Options for South Vietnam," 7/13/65:. TS 

l':i Footnote on p. k of McNamara's memorandum of 20 July I9655 cited 
above, n. 8. 


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Ilk. Memorandum for the President, ?-8 July 1965, UNCLASSIFIED , com- 
menting en 18 points made by Senator Mcnsfield to the President 
on the Vietnam situation. 

15. Memorandum for the President, "Evaluation of the Program of 
• * Bombing North Vietnam," 3O July 1965; TOP SECRET. 

16. Even as early as 7 July the SecDef apparently planned to take up 
the idea of a 6-8 week bombing pause with Ambassador Taylor and 
General Westmoreland. See OSD 5319 to Saigon, O7/2352 Z July I965, 

17. JCSM 652-65, 27 Aug 1965, "Concept for Vietnam," TS; Mem.orandum 
for the SecDef from ASD/iSA, 1-361^/65? "Concept for Vietnam," 
9/8/65, TS; and Mem.orandiom for the CJCS from the SecDef, "Concept 
for Vietnam," 9/1^/65 5 TS. 

18. JCSM 670-65, 9/2/65; JCSM 686-65, 9/11/65; SecDef Memorandum for 
CJCS, "Air Strikes on North Vietnam," 9/15/65, TS. JCS recommenda- 
tions along these lines continued to be submitted throughout I965. 
See JCSM 8IO-65, II/10/65, and JCSM 8II-65, II/II/65, both TS. 

19. The Planoi and Haiphong" circles and the Chinese buffer zones 
developed into sa.nctuaries during I965 from a decision in August 
to exclude them from an authorization to strike SAM sites at v/ill, 
provided photography had shown them to be occupied. See JCSM 238-66, 
Ik April 1966, "ROLLING THUNDER Study Group Report -- Air Operations 
Against North Vietnam," Annex B to Appendix A to Section II, "Chronology," 
TS. . 

20. JCSM 238-66, ik April I966, op, cit . , contains a chronological 
account of ROLLING THUNDER missions to March I966. See also CINCPAC 
Command History, I965, Vol. II, pp. 32U-389, TS. 

21. The statistics are taken from CIA SC No. Oi|l|l|2/675 Jan. I967, 
"The ROLLING THUNDER Program." _ ' , 

22. Memorandum for the President, 30 July I965, op. cit . 

2^. CIA SC No. 0828/665 "The Role of Air Strikes in Attaining Objec- 
tives in North Vietnam." 

2li Testimony before Senate coram^ittees on Armed Services and Appropri- 
ations, if August 1965, SECRET. 

25 Testim.ony, House Committee on Armed Services, 6 August I965, SECRET. 

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26. SecDef Backgroujid briefing for the press, 21 October 1965, OUG. 

27. The circumstances and the diplomacy of the May pause are treated 
in detail in another paper in this project. 

28. Memorandum for the President, 30 November 1965^ TOP SECRET. This 
paper, written immediately following a visit to Vietnam by McNamara 
and General VJheeler on 28 and 29 November, was intended as a supple- 
ment to the Secretary's memorandum of 3 November, cited below. 

29. Memorandum for the President, "CoTirses of Action in Vietnam," - 
3 November 1965;, TOP SECRET. This paper is headed "1st Rough 
Draft," but a note in McNam-ara's handwriting states: "A copy 
of this was sent to the Pres. by courier thru Mac's office on 
11/7 & discussed with him by me, George, & Mac on ll/7* RMcN." 

30. McNaughton draft, "Analysis and Options for South Vietnam," I3 July 
1965, TOP SECRET. 

31. Memorandum, "Courses of Action in Viet-Narn," 9 November I965, TOP 
SECPvET. A pencilled note by McNaughton on the copy used here indi- 
cates that Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson v;as the author of the paper. 

32. Memorandum for Secretary McNam.ara, "State's Memo to the President 
(Courses of Action in Viet-Nam)," 9 November 1965, TOP SECRET - 

33. Draft Memorandum for the President, "A Pause," 1 December 1965? 
TOP SECRET. A cover note indicates that this is an up-dating of 
a paper originally circulated on 16 Novemiber. 

3^. Memorandiua, "Possible Political Actions, Specifically a 'Pause'," 

TOP SECRET. A pencilled note indicates the paper was by Johnson and 

Bundy, on 6 December 1965- 

35. McNamara 's memorandum of 3 November 19o5? ££• cit . 

36. McNamara's memorandum, 3 December I965, TOP SECRET - EYES OITLY. ^. 

37- Sl^- 

^8 Bundy draft, "Scenario for Possible Resumption of Bombing," I5 January 

. ' 1966, SECRET. 

39 state 1786 to Lodge, MA.CV, and CINCPAC, 2h Dec I965, CF i|^. 

1^0. imCV ^5265, 27 Dec 65, Ibid^ 

i^l CINCPAC 262159Z Dec I965, CF hk; CINCPAC 271955Z Dec I965, Ibid- 

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k2. State 1805 to Lodge and Porter, 28 Dec 1965? Ibid . (This cable 
is misfiled under 23 Dec I965-) 

43'. CIKCPAC I202O5Z Jan I966, Ibid. 
kk. JCSM kl'GG, 18 Jan I966. 

^5. Ibid. 

lj-6. Ibid , (emphasis added) 

U7. Ibid. 

48. Ibid. 

49. Ibid. - 

50. McNaughton 2nd Draft, "Some Observations about Bombing North 
Vietnam/' I8 January I966. (TS- SENSITIVE) in McNaughton Book 11, 
Tab DD. 

51. McNaughton 3rd Draft, "Some Paragraphs on Vietnam," I9 Jan I966 
(TS-Sensitive), in McNaughton Book, Tab BB. 

52. SNIE 10-12-65, 10 Dec I965, p. 9 (TS). 

53. McNaughton Draft "Some Paragraphs...," op. cit . 

54. Memorandum for the President, "The Military Outlook in South Vietnam," 
2h January I966, TOP SECRET. 

55. These were: Memorandum for the President (no title), 30 November 
1965? TOP SECRET, and Memorandum for the President, "Military and 
Political Actions Recommended for South Vietnam," 7 December I965, 

56. In the 7 December version, this parenthetical sentence was a footnote. 

57. The follov.dng footnote, expressing the reservations of the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff, v;as appended to the 2k January I966 version of McNamara's 

"The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe 'that the evaluation set forth 
in paragraph 7 is on the pessimistic side in view of the constant and 
heavy military pressure which our forces in Southeast Asia will be 
capable of apploying. While admittedly the following factors are to 
a degree imponderables, they believe that greater weight should be 
given to the following: 

"a. The cumulative effect of our air campaign against the 

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I i 


PRV on morale and DRV capabilities to provide and move men and 
material from the DRV to South Vietnam. 

"b. The effects of constant attack and harassment on 
the ground and from the air upon the growth of Viet Cong forces 
and on the morale and combat effectiveness of Viet Cong/PAVTT forces. 


"c. The effect of destruction of Viet Cong base areas on 
the capabilities of VC/PAV]}J forces to sustain combat operations over 
an extended period of time. 

"d. The constancy of will of the Hanoi leaders to continue 
a struggle which they realize they cannot win in the face of progres- 
sively greater destruction of their country," 

58. Memorand^om for the President, "The Resiimption of Bombing Poses Grave 
Danger of Precipitating a Vlar with China/' 25 January I9665 SECRET- 
NODIS. Ball noted in a covering letter that he sent copies only to 
the President and to Secretaries Rusk and McNamara. 

59. Letter, Ball to Raborn, I6 January I966, SECRET. 

60. Memorandum for the SecDef from Ambassador-at-Large Llewellyn E. Thompson, 
12 October I965, SECRET, forwarding a study of ROLLING THUNDER options. 
The study, Thompson wrote, "was i.argely prepared in State and was reviewed 
by General Taylor, l-'Ir. McNaughton, Mr. William Bundy, Mr. Unger, and myself." 

61. Memorandum for the President, 30 July 1965? op. cit. 

62. Ibid. 

6.3. Ibid. Although this was written at the end of July, the basic situation 
continued essentially as Secretary McNamara described it and there is no 
reason to believe his comments would have been different at the end of . 
the year. -^ 

6U. CIA/dIA, "An Appraisal of the Effects of the First Year of Bombing in North 
Vietnam," SC No. 08^37/66, 1 June I966. A I967 CIA publication, "The 
Rolling Thunder Program -- Present and Potential Target Systems," SC No. 
Ol|ifi|2/67, January 1967^ upped the value of military damage in I965 to $33*6 
million and the total to $69-8 million. 

65 CIA/dIA, "An Appraisal of the Effects of the First Year of Bombing in 
North Vietnam," op. cit . 

66. Memorandum for the SecDef from Gen. J. F. Carroll, DIA, "An Appraisal 
of the Bombing of North Vietnam," 17 November I965- 

67. I^i^ 


JCSM 16-66, 10 Jan I966 (TS). 

69. CIA/dIA, "An Appraisal...," op. cU 


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A. Back^^round 

When the 37-day bombing pause v/as terminated at the end of 
January I9665 the principal issue before decision-makers was not whether 
to intensify the bombing but whether the intensification should be 
gradual as before or be sharply accelerated. 

Some kind of escalation if the bombing pause failed, i.e., 
if the North Vietnamese did not give "concrete evidence of a willingness 
to come to terms," was foreshadowed by the October paper from State 
recommending the pause: 

We would have to convey our intent to reinstitute 
the bombing if the North Vietnam.ese refused to negoti- 
ate or if their willingness to negotiate is not accom- 
panied by a manifest reduction of VC aggression in the 
South. If it is necessary to reinstitute bombing, we 
should be prepared to consider increasing the pressure, 
e.g. through striking industrial targets, to make clear 
our continuing, firm resolve, l/ 

According to this thinking, failure of the pause would indicate that 
the bombing had not exerted enough pressure; greater effort was needed 
to convince Hanoi that the U.S. intended not only to continue the bombing 
but to do so on an increasing scale. Moreover, the pause had improved 
the political atmosphere for escalation. U.S. willingness to negotiate 
and NVN^s unreasonableness had been amply and dram.atically displayed 
for all the world to see. If the U.S. now decided to intensify the 
bombing, the decision could at least be presented as one that was made 
reluctantly after trying to find a more peaceful alternative. 

The debate over the form of escalation in early I966 was a 
continuation of the debate over bombing policy which had surfaced again 
in the fall of I965, and which had mixed into the debate over the long 
pause. Regardless of any pause, it was clear by November that even the 
gradual rate of escalation of I965 v/as approaching a point at which any 
further increase would be possible only by attacking the sensitive targets 
in the Hanoi/plaiphong sanctuaries and the China buffer zone. As of the 
end of October^ 126 of the 2^1-0 existing JCS targets had been struck; and 
of the remaini-ig llU, two thirds (75) were i.i the off-limits areas, and 
29 of the other 39 remaining were in the touchy northeast quadrant. 2/ 
As the debate gathered momentum in the winter of I965 without a clear 
decision to begin attacking "the hostage," the bombing actually levelled 
off During November and December only 8 more JCS targets were struck 
and 'armed reconnaissance missions were held to a sortie ceiling of 1200 
per two-week period. 3/ . . 


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Apart from general cautiousness about the next obvious 
escalatory step, one of the reasons for the Administration's hesi- 
tancy was apparently the fear that the timing might not be right. 
As the bombing drew closer to Hanoi and Haiphong, some officials felt 
forcing the pace might oblige IWN to confront the issue of negotiations 
versus greater Chinese and/or Soviet involvement prematurely, i.e. 
before IWN was sufficiently convinced that it could not outlast the 
U.S. and v^in in the South. The theory was that so long as Hanoi was 
hopeful there was a greater risk that it would opt for escalation rather 
than a compromise settlement. As the October paper from State put it: 

We may be able to recognize the optimum time for 
exerting further pressure by increasing the level of our 
bombing, but an increase in our bombing of the North at 
the present time may bring matters to a head too soon, kf 

In addition, of course, there was good reason to hold off 
any escalation until a substantial bombing pause was undertaken, both 
to test Hanoi's intentions and to disarm critics on the dovish side who 
felt that the Administration had not gone far enough to m.eet Hanoi half- 

1. JCS Recomjnendations 

Dissatisfied with the measured pace of the bombing program 
from the start, they again began advocating a sharp intensification of 
the bombing in early November. Diplomatic and political considerations 
were secondary. Their position was that ROLLING THUNDER had succeeded 
in making it "substantially" more costly and difficult for NYN to support 
the insurgents in Laos and SVN, and had "substantially" degraded NVN's 
capability to conduct a conventional invasion of the South, but they 
agreed that the cam^paign had not materially reduced NVI^'s other military 
capabilities, damaged its economy, deterred it from supporting the war 
in the South, or brought it closer to the conference table. It was not 
because of any difficulty in applying pressure on Hanoi by bombing or in 
interdicting support South that the program had not been more successful, 
hov^ever; it v/as because numerous "self-imposed restraints" had limited 
the potential effectiveness of the program: 

...we shall .continue to achieve only limited success 
in air operations in DRV/Laos if requir-^d to operate within 
the constraints presently imposed. The establishment and 
f observance of de facto sanctuaries within the DRV, coupled 

with a denial of operations against the most important mili- 
tary and war supporting targets, precludes attainment of the 
objectives of the air campaign. .. .Thus far, the DRV has been 
able and willing to absorb damage and destruction at the slow 
rate. Now required is an immediate and sharply accelerated 

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program which will leave no doubt that the US intends to win 
and 'achieve a level of . destruction X'/hich they will not be 
able to overcome. Following such a sudden attack, a follow-on 
program of increasing pressures is necessary, but at a rate of 
increase significantly higher than the present rate. 5/ 

The JCS accordingly recommended an immediate acceleration 
in the scale, scope, and intensity of the bombing, beginning with heavy 
strikes against POL targets and power plants in the Hanoi/Haiphong area 
and continuing with aerial mining of WN ports and air strikes against 
the remaining "military and war-supporting" targets. Specifically, the 
JCS proposed an immediate sharp blow against the remaining 9 of the 
original 13 major POL tank farms, most of them in the Hanoi/Haiphong 
area, and against 5 key power plants, 2 in Hanoi and others at Uong Bi, 
Thai Nguyen, and Hon Gai, in order to "materially reduce enemy military 
capabilities." These strikes would be follov;ed by an accelerated program 
of fixed target and armed reconnaissance strikes to cut dov/n KVN's 
ability to direct and support the war in the South. The follow-on program 
would attack first the major airfields in the Hanoi/Haiphong area 5 then 
the rail, road, and waterway LOCs throughout IWN, including the major LOC 
targets in the Hanoi/Haiphong area, "at a rate of destruction that would 
exceed the recuperability rate"; then the ports at Haiphong, Hon Gai, 
and Cam Pha; and finally military installations and other targets of 
military significance, such as the Ministry of Defense, the Radio Transmitter 
Station, and the Machine Tool Plant in Hanoi; the Ammiunition Depot at 
Haiphong; and the Iron-Steel Combine and Army Supply Depot at Thai Nugyen- 
SAM installations and other antiaircraft defenses would be attacked in 
order to keep friendly losses down. According to the proposal, most 
of the significant fixed targets in IWN would be destroyed within three 
or four' months. Thereafter, the effort would concentrate on keeping the 
targets inoperative and maintaining the pressure on LOCs. 6/ 

The JCS proposal to escalate all aspects of the bombing 
was largely oriented toward greatly increasing the pressure on Hanoi's 
will. On the same day, however, in a separate m.emorandum, the JCS made 
a strong pitch for an immediate attack on the IVJ^ POL system as an inter- 
diction m.easure: 

Attack of this system, would be more damaging to the 
WN capability to move war-supporting resources within 
country and along the infiltration routes to SVN than an 
attack against any other single target system. 7/ 

It is not surprising that the JCS singled out the POL target 
'svstem- for special attention. HVN had no oil fields or refineries, and 
had to import all of its petroleum products, in refined form. During 1965? 
't imt)orted about 170,000 metric tons, valued at about $4.8 million. Nearly 
11 of it came from the Black Sea area of the USSR and arrived by sea at 

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Haiphong, the only port capable of conveniently receiving and handling 
bulk POL brought in by large tankers. From large tank farms at Haiphong 
with a capacity of about one-fourth of the annual imports, the POL was 
transported by road, rail, and water to other large storage sites at 
Hanoi and elsewhere in the country. Ninety-seven percent of the I^JVN POL 
storao-e capacity was concentrated in 13 sites, k of which had already 
been hit. The other 9 were still off limits. They were, of course, 
highly vulnerable to air attack. 8/ 

In making the recommendation, the JCS emphasized the 
interdiction effects. They pointed out that the strikes would not hurt 
the industrial base or the civilian economy very much. They would directly 
affect the m.ilitary establishment, which consumed some 60 percent of all 
POL, and the "government transportation system," which consum.ed nearly 
all the rest. Supplying the armed forces in ]WN as well as in Laos and 
STO depended heavily on POL-pov^ered vehicles, and this dependence had if 
anything increased as a result of air attacks on the railroads: 

The flow of supplies to all communist military forces, 
both in and through the country to SVN and Laos, would be 
greatly impeded since POL-fueled carriers are the principal 
vehicles for this transport. Further, the interdiction of 
rail lines and destruction of railroad rolling stock has 
resulted in the need to move increased tonnages by alternate 
means, primarily trucks and motor driven water craft. Thus, 
the most effective way to compound the current interdiction 
of DRV LOCs^ and to offset the introduction and use of sub- 
stitute modes and routes, is to reduce drastically the 
available supply of POL. 9/ 

The JCS also suggested that POL in IWN was becoming increas-' 
ingly important to the effort in the South. There were now 5 confirmed 
and 2 suspected 3WA regiments in SVTT, increasing the load on the supply 
lines through Laos, and the roads there were being improved, indicating 
that KVN planned to rely more heavily on trucks to handle the load. 
Significantly, the importation of trucks was increasing, and despite 
losses inflicted by ROLLING THUNDER strikes, the size of the truck fleet 
was growing. 

The JCS recomjnehded hitting the most important target, 
Haiphong POL storage, first- followed closely by attack on the remaining 
8 targets. The weight of effort req.uired 336 strike and 80 flak 
supp-^ession aircraft, with not m.ore than 10 losses predicted. All POL 
targets could be destroyed with only light damage to surrounding areas 
and few civilian casualties (less than 50). 


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According to the JCS^ the destruction of the Haiphong 
target "would drastically reduce the capahility to receive and dis- 
tribute the major portions of DRV bulk POL imports." Destruction of 
the others would "force reliance upon dispersed POL storages and 
improvised distribution methods," Recovery would be difficult and 
time-consuming. As stated in an annex to the JCSM: 

Recuperability of the DRV POL system from the 
effects of an attack is very poor. Loss of the receiving and 
and distribution point at Haiphong would present many 
problems. It would probably require several months for 
the DRV, with foreign assistance^ to establish an alternate 
method for importing bulk POL, in the quantities required. 
An alternative to bulk importation would be the packaging 
of POL at some point for shipment into WN and subsequent 
handling and distribution by cumbersome and costly methods 
over interdicted LOCs. Loss of bulk storage facilities 
would necessitate the use of sm-all drioms and dispersed 
storage areas and further compound the POL distribution 
problem. 10/ 

Any further delay in carrying out the strikes, on the 
other hand, "will permit further strengthening of DRV active defenses 
of the POL, as well as the improvem^ent of coLintermeasures, such as dis- 
persed and underground storages." On the latter point, the appendix 
to the JCSM added detailed intelligence information that boded ill for 
any procrastination: 

Current evidence shows that the DRV has in progress 
an extensive program of installing groups of small POL 
tanks in somewhat isolated locations and throughout the 
Hanoi area. Photographs reveal groups of tanks ranging 
in number of l6 to 120 tanks per group. The facilities are 
generally set into shallow excavations and are then earth- 
covered leaving only the vents and filling apparatus exposed. 
This construction was observed at several places in the Hanoi 
area in August and appeared to be an around-the-clock activity.... \ 
In addition, considerable drum storage has been identified. 11/ 

It appeared that NVN had already begun a crash program to drastically 
reduce the vulnerability of its POL storage and handling system. As 
in other instances, NVN expected further escalation of the bombing, 
and was preparing for it. 

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■ 2* The Intelligence Community Demurs 

There vras no immediate action on the November I965 JCS 
recommendations, "but they were taken under study. Secretary McNamara 
asked for intelligence evaluations , and on 27 November and 3 December, 
respectively, he received special reports from the Board of National 
Estimates on (a) U.So air attacks on WHl petroleum storage facilities, 
and (b) a generally stepped-up effort involving doubling or tripling 
U.S. troop commitments, bombing military and industrial targets in the 
Hanoi/Haiphong area, and mining NVN harbors. 12/ 

The Board reported that strikes against POL targets in 
the Hanoi/Haiphong area v/ould represent "a conspicuous change in the 
ground rules" which the U.S. had hitherto observed, but would not 
appreciably change the course of the war: 

...the Commiunists .would unq_uestionably regard the 
proposed US attacks as opening a new stage in the war, and 
as a signal of US intention to escalate the scale of con- 
flict. ... -V7e do not believe, however, that the attacks in 
themselves would lea.d to a major change of policy on the 
Communist side, either toward negotiations or toward enlarging 
the war .... 13/ 

The strikes v^ould cause strains and embarrassment but would not have a 
major military or economic impact: 

Hanoi would not be greatly surprised by the attacks. 
Indeed... it has already taken steps to reduce their impact. 
It has developed some underground storage facilities, and 
some capacity for dispersed storage in drums.... We believe 
that the DRV is prepared to accept for some time at least 
the strains and difficulties vrhich loss of the major POL 
facilities would mean for its military and economic activity. 
It is unlikely that this loss would cripple the Communist 
military operations in the South, though it would certainly 
embarrass them, ik/ 

NVN might possibly ask the Chinese to intervene with fighter aircraft 
to help defend the targets but would probably not ask for ground troops. 
The Chinese v/o.ild probably decline to inter^^ene in the air and would not 
volunteer ground forces, though they would urge Wl^ to continue the war. 
•The Soviets would be "concerned" at the prospect of a further escalation 
of the bombing: 

The Soviets would find their difficulties and frustra- 
tions increased. .. -They are committed to provide defense 
for North Vietnam, and — their inability to do so effectively 

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would "be dramatized. .. .We believe that they would not change 
their basic policy of avoiding overt involvement in combat 
.while giving extensive military equipment and economic 
assistance to NVIT. But their relations with the US would 
almost certainly deteriorate^, for it is the bombing of 
North Vietnam which is, for Moscow, the most nearly intoler- 
able aspect of ^he War^y^ 15/ 

In its estimate of the likely reactions to the wider 
course of substantially expanding the U.S. effort in the South, together 
with the bombing and aerial mining of the North, the Board similarly 
offered little hope that the escalation would produce any marked improve- 
ment in the situation. They characterized JWN's will to resist in the 
North and to persevere in the South as virtually unshakeable in the short 
run and extremely tough even in the long run: 

Present Communist policy is to continue to prosecute 
the war vigorously in the South. The Communists recognize 
that the US reinforcements of I965 signify a determination 
to avoid defeat. They expect more US troops and probably 
anticipate that targets in the Hanoi -Haiphong area will come 
imder air attack. Nevertheless, they rem^ain unwilling to 
damp down the conflict or move toward negotiation. They 
expect a long war, but they continue to believe that time 
is their ally and that their ovm staying power is superior. 16/ 

Heavier air attacks by themselves would not budge them: 

The DRV would not decide to quit; PAVN infiltration 
southward would continue. Damage from the strikes would 
make it considerably more difficult to support the war in 
the South, but these difficulties would neither be immedi- 
ate nor insiirmoiintable . I7/ 

Aerial mining would create serious problems, but NVN would keep supplies 
moving by resorting to shallow-draft coastal shipping and intensive 
efforts to keep the rail lines open. As for the South, NVN would accept 
the challenge: 

Rather than conclude in advance that the tide of battle 
would turp. permanently against them, the Communists would 
choose to boost their own commitm.ent ard to test US capa- 
bilities and will to persevere at a higher level of conflict 
and casualties. Thus the DRV reaction would probably be a 
larger program of PAVN infiltration. 18 / 

The Board's picture of Hanoi was one of almiost unbelievably 
strong comjnitment and dogged determination, by contrast with previous 
estimates. Thus, if the U.S. ^committ-ed enough forces in the South to 

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prevent NVA/vC forces from sustaining the conflict at a significant 
level -- and the Board would not estimate how many U.S. forces were 
"enough" -- 

...they might "believe it necessary to make a m-ore 
fundamental choice between resorting to political tactics 
or enlarging the war. /But/ We believe that it would take a 
prolonged period of military discouragement to convince the 
DRV and the VC, persuaded as they are of their inherent 
advantages J that they had reached such a pass. 19/ 

Even if it found itself in such straits ^ however ^ the chances were close 
to 50-50 that NVn would bring in Chinese forces rather than q.uit: 

If this point were reached. .. .Prudence would seem to 
dictate that Hanoi ... shouJ_d choose... to reduce the effort 
in the South, perhaps negotiate, and salvage their resources 
for another day. We think that the chances are a little 
better than even that this is what they would do. But their 
ideological and emotional comjnitment, and the high political 
stakes involved, persuade us that' there is an almost equal 
chance that they would do the opposite, that is, enlarge the 
war and bring in large numbers of Chinese forces. 20/ 

The two CIA intelligence estimates of the probable con- 
seq.uences of the proposed escalatory measures were apparently closely 
held, but the available documentary evidence does not reveal how influ- 
ential they m.ay have been. Secretary McNamara's response to the JCS 
was merely that he was considering their recommendations "carefully" in 
connection with "decisions that must be taken on other related aspects 
of the conflict in Vietnam." 2l/ He was apparently not satisfied with 
the estlm-ate of reactions to the POL strikes, however, which was largely 
confined to an estimate of political reactions, and asked CIA for another 
estimate, this time related to two options: (a) attack on the storage and 
handling facilities at Haiphong, and (b) attack on the facilities at 
Haiphong together with the other bulk storage sites. 

The new estimate was submitted by Richard Helms, then 
Acting Director of CIA, on 28 December (with the comment that it had 
been drafted without reference to any pause in the bombing "such as is 
now the subject of various speculative press articles." 22/ The esti- 
mate spelled out with greater force than before what "strains" the POL 
strikes might create in the North and how they might "embarrass" NVA/vC 
military operations in the South, and its tone >;as much m-ore favorable 
to carrying out the strikes. 

The estimate m.ade little distinction between the two 
options. Haiphong vras by far the most im.portant and m.ost sensitive of 
the targets and the closest to a m.ajor city; the attacks on the others were 

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of secondary Importance. Neither option was likely to bring about a 
change in KW policy ;, either toward negotiations or toward sharply 
enlarging the 'v^ar, but either option would substantially increase NVN's 
economic difficulties in the North and logistics problems in the South. 

First, the estimate said, NVN would have to resort to 
much less efficient methods of receiving, storing and handling POL: 

Destruction of the storage tanks and bulk unloading 
equipment at Haiphong would substantially increase the 
Comm.unists' logistic problems and force them to improvise 
alternate POL im.port and distribution channels. These 
could include, subject to the hazards of interdiction, the 
use of rail or highway tankers and the transport of POL 
in drums by road, rail, or coastal shipping. The DRV is 
already increasing its use of dreams because this facili- 
tates dispersal and concealment, Hov/ever, handling POL 
this way also requires .greater expenditures of time and 
effort, and very large num.bers of drums. Resort to these 
methods v/ould necessitate transhipping through Chinese ports 
or transport directly across China by rail, which would in 
turn not only involve physical delays and difficulties but 
also increase the DRV's political problems in arranging for the 
the passage of Soviet supplies through China. 23 / 

This in turn would interfere with the production and distribution of 
goods in NVN: 

The econom^y would suffer appreciably from the resultant 
disruption of transportation. This. . .vrould somewhat curtail 
the output of the DRV's modest industrial establishment and 
complicate the problems of internal distribution. 2h/ 

And make it more difficult to support the war in the South (although it 
would not force a reduction in such support): 

The loss of stored POL and the dislocation of the 
distribution system would add appreciably to the DRV's 
difficulties in supplying the Comjuujiist forces in the South. 
Hovrever-5 we have estimated that the Communist effort in 
South Vietnam, at present levels of combat, does not depend 
on imports of POL into the South and rrq.uires only relatively 
small tonnages of other supplies (say 12 tons per day, on an 
annual basis). Accordingly, we believe that adequate quan- 
tities of supplies would continue to m.ove by one means, or 
another to the Communist forces in South Vietnam, though the 
su-pplies wo-uld not move as fast and it would, hence require 
more to keep the pipeline filled 25/ 


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But was not likely to break Hanoi's will: 

Although there presumably is a point at which one more 
turn of the screw would crack the enemy resistance to 
negotiations 5 past experience indicates that we are unlikely 
to have clear evidence when that point has been reached,... 
Though granting that each increase of pressure on the DRV 
bears with it the possibility that it may be decisive , we 
do not believe the bombing of the Haiphong facility is likely 
to have such an effect. 26/ 

With the exception of State's INR^ other intelligence 
agencies appeared to look v^-ith favor upon escalating the bombing. In 
a SNIE issued on 10 Decem-ber, they agreed that intensified air attacks, 
beginning with POL facilities and key povrer plants and extending to 
other targets in the Hanoi/Haiphong area and mining the harbors , would 
not bring about any basic change in WN policy but would in time hamper 
IWN's operations and set a lid on the war in the South: 

We believe that Hanoi's leaders would not decide to 
quit and that PAVDI infiltration southward would continue. 
Though damage from the strikes would m.ake it considerably 
more difficult to support the war in South Vietnam, these 
difficulties would not be immediate. Over the long run, 
the sustained damage inflicted upon North Vietnam might 
impose significant limitations on the num.bers of PAVN and 
. VC m.ain force units which could be actively supported in 
South Vietnam from North Vietnam. 27/ 

Mining the ports, despite the dilemma created for the Soviets, would 
probably succeed in blocking all deep-water shipping: 

The difficulty of clearing such mine fields and the 
ease of resowing would virtually rule out efforts to reopen 
the ports. The Soviets would protest vigorously and might 
try for some kind of action in the UN. We do not believe, 
however, that the Soviets would risk their ships in mined 
Vietnamese harbors. Peking and Hanoi would try to compensate 
by keeping supplies moving in shallow-draft coastal shipping 
and overland. 28/ 

J^IA, NSA, and the 3 Service intelligence agencies even 
recorded a judgment that the intensified air strikes, combined with the 
projected build-up of U.S. ground forces ,in SVE to about 350,000 troops 
*bv the fall of I966, might ultimately result in a change of heart in 
Hanoi. In a footnote to the SNIE they said they believed: 

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...that as time goes on and as the impact of sustained 
bombing in IJVN merges with the adverse effects of the other 
co\irses of action as they begin to unfold, the DRV would 
become clearly aware of the extent of US determination and ■ 
thus might reconsider its position and seek a means to 
achieve a cessation of the hostilities. 29/ 

IKR dissented. Its Director, Thomas L. Hughes, wrote that 
the escalation vrould evoke stronger reactions than indicated in the 
SNIE, "because it would be widely assumed that we were initiating an 
effort to destroy the DRV's modest industrial establishment": 


The distinction between such operations and all-out 
war would appear increasingly tenuous. As. these attacks 
expanded, Hanoi would be less and less likely to soften its 
opposition to negotiations and at some point it would com.e 
to feel that it had little left to lose by continuing the 
• fighting 32/ 

B. The Issue Focuses 

1. POL and the Pause 

' Meanwhile, the flow of JCS papers urging POL strikes as 

the next step continued. Secretary McNamara sent the Chairman, General 
Wheeler, the 27 November CIA estimate which had suggested that the 
strikes would not have great impact on the war (they vrould only "embar- 
rass" operations in the South). General VJheeler commented that the loss 
of POL storage v/ould do m.uch more: 

It would, in fact, have a substantial impact not only 
on their military operations but also would significantly 
impede their efforts to support the anticipated build-up of 
VC/PAVN forces in South Vietnam during the coming months. 3^/ 

General ^^eeler also forwarded a Joint Staff -DIA study 
of the POL target system, with the comment that destruction of the system 
would force HVTI to curtail all but the m.ost vital POL-povT-ered activities 
and resort to "more extensive use of porters, transport, and non- 
powered water craft." The net result wouJId be to considerably reduce 
IJVN's capability to m.ove large units cr q.uartities of eq.uipm.ent, an 
I important consideration in view of the fact that motorable segments of 

.the Ho Chi Minh trail were being extended- 32/ 

The Joint Staff -DIA study 33/ showed that JWW's bulk POL 
storage capacity was greatly in excess of what NVM req.uired to sustain 
current consumption levels -- 179,000 metric tons available as compared 

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with 32,000 metric tons needed -- indicating that the strikes would 
have to be very damaging in order to cause IWIT any major difficulties. 
The study also hinted that an adequate substJ^tute system could be 
improvised, with lighterage from ocean tankers and dispersed storage, 
but it nonetheless concluded that the strikes would result in "a reduc- 
tion of essential transport capabilities for military logistic and 
infiltration support opeations," i.e., as a result of a deprivation of 
necessary POL. SV 

As already noted, during the 37-day Pause, the JOS con- 
tinued to recommend not only the resumption of the bombing but resumption 
v/ith a dramatic sharp blow on major targets, including POL, followed by 
uninterrupted, increasing "pressure" They v^ished, in short, 
to turn the limited bombing program into a major strategic assault on JWl^. 
In mid-January I966 they sent Secretary McNamara a memo reiterating old 
arguments that the current ROLLING THUMDER program would not cause WN 
to stop supporting the war in the South, and that the piecemeal nature 
of the attacks left JWN free to replenish and disperse its supplies and 
contend with interdictions. The way to achieve U.S. objectives, the JCS 
said, was to implement the bombing program they had recommended long ago, 
in JCSM 982-6^ of 23 November 196^, which called for the rapid destruction 
of the entire NVIM target system. In order to get the program started, the 
JCS recommended extending arm.ed reconnaissance to all areas of NTN except 
the sa.nctuaries, which they would shrink (to a 10-mile radius around 
Hanoi and Phuc Yen airfield, a 4-mile radius around Haiphong, and a strip 
20 miles along the Chinese border); lifting the sortie ceiling on armed 
reconnaissance; and removing "tactical restrictions" on the execution of 
specific strikes. The strikes would be heavy enough to deny NVN external 
assistance, destroy in-country resources contributing to the war, destroy 
in-country resources contributing to the war, destroy all military facili- 
ties, and harass, disrupt, and impede movement into SVN. 35/ 

The idea of resuming the bombing with a large and dramatic 
bang did not appeal much to decision-makers. Apart from the old problem 
of triggering an unwanted Chinese reaction, the Administration was inter- 
ested in giving the lie to NVN and Chinese claims that the Pause was a 
■cynical prelude to escalation. Although it was possible that res-uming 
merely where the bombing left off (following as it would an extended pause 
and a display of great eagerness for peace) might signal too much irreso- 
lution and uncertainty, there was good reason to put off any escalatory 
acts for a while. As Assistant Secretary of State William Bundy wrote: 

For a period of two-three weeks at least, while the 
world is digesting and assessing the Pause, we should do as 
little as possible to lend fuel to the charge -- which will 
■ doubtless be the main them^e of Communist propaganda -- that 
the Pause vras intended all along merely as a prelude to more 
drastic action. 3§J 

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Bundy in fact suggested resuming at a lesser level, opening with strikes 
loelow the 20th parallel, and only after a fe-j weeks again moving north- 
ward. McNaughton wrote: 

No consideration argues for a 'noisy' resumption. •. . 
The program at first should be at the level and against 
the kinds of targets involved prior to the Pause (only 
two vreeks later should the program begin... to escalate ), 37/ 

He also suggested that criticism would be less if the first strikes were 
clearly identified with the effort to stop the southward flow of men 
and supplies, which had been greatly increased during the Pause. 

The decisions went against ending the Pause with a bang. 
When the bombing was resumed on 31 January (Saigon time) it was limited 
"until further notice" to armed reconnaissance. No new major targets 
were authorized. The former sanctuary restrictions and the sortie 
ceilings were maintained. 38/ 

It was also decided to postpone any serious escalation for 
the time being. Secretary McNamara infonued the JCS that their proposals 
for rapid escalation were being considered, and on 2k January he sent 
the President a memorandum on the overall Vietnam program which side- 
stepped the issue. For I966, the memorandum said, the bombing program 
against NTO should include ^000 attack sorties per month "at a minimum." 
It should consist of day and night armed reconnaissance against rail and 
road targets and POL storage sites. The present sanctuaries should be 
preserved. There should be more intense bombing of targets in Laos, 
along the Bassac and Mekong Rivers running into SVN from Cambodia, and 
better surveillance of the sea approaches. 39/ 

The use of interdiction rather than pressure terms in the 
Presidential memorandum, and the emphasis on bombing infiltration routes 
into SVN, rather than the flow of supplies into or within NVN, indicates 
that the Secretary was still interested in keeping the objectives of the 
bombing limited and any escalation in check. The memorandum said that 
the bombing had already achieved the objective of raising the cost of 
infiltration, and was reducing the am.ount of enemy supplies reaching the 
South. In NVN it had also diverted manpov/er to air defense and repair 
work interfered with mobility, and forced the decentralization of many 
activities- It could further reduce the flew of supplies to NVA/vC forces 
in the South, and limit their "flexibility" to defend themselves adeq.uately 

undertake frequent offensive action, but it was doubtf\il that even 
heavier bombing would put a "tight ceiling" on the NVN effort in the 
South, ho/ 

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Despite the application of the brake on ROLLING THUNDER 
operations 5 the debate over escalation wore on. Further proposals were 
made and farther studies and reviews were req.uested. DIA was asked 
to conduct a special analysis of the NTN POL system- The study said 
that the exceptionally high ratio of storage capacity to consumption 
allowed the system to "absorb a high degree of degradation," and noted 
that the dispersed sites in the system were "relatively invulnerable," 
but concluded nonetheless that (a) the loss of storage at Haiphong would 
be "critical to the entire bulk distribution system" and would rec[uire 
either a "modification" in the handling of marine imports or a switch 
to importation by rail or truck through China, and (b) the loss of the 
other facilities would produce local POL shortages and transportation- 
bottlenecks until substitutes and alternatives could be devised. Ul/ 

2» The February Debate 

In February a SNIE was published, estimating how I^IWI's 
physical capabilities (not its will) to support the v/ar in the South 
would be affected by increasing the scope and intensity of ROLLING 
THUNDER. The enlarged program which the estimate considered included 
attacks to destroy all knov/n POL facilities, destroy all large military 
facilities except airfields and SAM sites (unless they seriously inter- 
fered with our operations), interdict the land LOCs from China, (a) with 
or (b) without closing the ports, put and keep electric power plants out 
of action, and restrict the use of LOCs throughout WN but especially 
south of Hanoi. k2/ 

The SNIE concluded that although the increased bombing 
might set a somewhere on the expansion of NVA/vc forces and their 
operations in SVN, it would not prevent their support at substantially 
higher levels than in 1965* The destruction of electric power facilities 
would practically "paralyze" NVN*s industry, but 

...because so little of what is sent south is pro- 
duced in the DRV, an industrial shutdown would not very / 
seriously reduce the regime's capability to support the 
insurgency. k3 / 

Destruction of POL storage facilities v^ould force NTN to almost complete 
dependence on current imports, but NVN could manage. Destruction of 
military facilities would mean the loss of some stockpiled munitions, 
"although most such storage is now well dispersed and concealed." Closing 
the ports and interdicting the LOCs from China would reduce the level of 
imports --leaving the ports open v^ould not--but NVN could continue to 
brine in enough supplies that were critical to the survival of the regime 
and essential military tasks, including the "small q,uantities" necessary 
for transshipment to SVN* 

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Importation of POL would be a key problem, but would 
be surmountable in a comparatively short time, probably a 
few weeks, since quantities involved would not be large, 
even if increased somewhat over previous levels. Soviet 
POL could be unloaded from tankers at Chan-chiang in South 
China, moved thence by rail to the DRV border and from there 
to the Hanoi area by truck. It could also move from the USSR 
by rail directly across China, or down the coast from Chan- 
chiang in shallow-draft shipping, kk/ 

Restricting the LOCs south of the Hanoi region would create logistical 
problems for NVN military forces in Military Region IV south of the 20th 
parallel, but would not stop the relatively small amounts of m^aterial 
foi^arded to SVN. 

The cumulative effect of the proposed bombing program 
would make life difficult for ]WN, therefore, but it would not force it 
to curtail the war in the South: 

The combined impact of destroying in-country stock- 
piles, restricting import capabilities, and attacking the 
southward LOCs would greatly complicate the DRV war effort. 
I ' The cumulative drain on material resources and human energy 

^ would be severe. The postulated bombing and interdiction 

campaign would harass, disrupt, and impede the movement 
of men and material into South Vietnam and impose great 
' overall difficulty on the DRV. However, we believe that, 

with a determined effort, the DRV could still move sub- 
stantially greater amounts than in 1965- ^$/ 

The bombing program would not prevent WN from further expanding NVa/vC 
forces in the South at the projected reinforcement rate of ^500 men per 
month and from further providing them with heavier weapons, but it might 
set some limit on their size and their operations: attempt by the Communists to increase their 
strength. . .to intensify hostilities. . .or. . .to meet 
expanded US/gVN offensive operations. . .will use up 
supplies at a higher rate.-.^hisj might raise supply 
requirements to a level beyond the practical ceiling 
imposed on their logistic capabilities by the bombing 
campaign. •• -There are, however, too many uncertainties 
to permit estimating at just what level the limit on 
expansion would be. 46/ 


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' Also in February, Secretary McNamara asked the JCS to 

develop an optimum air interdiction program "to reduce to the maxi- 

(mum extent the support in men and materiel being provided by North 
Vietnam to the Viet Cong and PAVN forces in South Vietnam," 47/ The 
study, fon-;arded to the Secretary on Ik April, managed to frame an 
interdiction program which embraced virtually everything the JCS had 
been recommending • It pointed out that less than half of the JCS 
targets, "the most critical to North Vietnam's support of the insurgency, 
) I military capabilities, and industrial output," had been hit, "due to 

self-imposed restraints": 

These restraints have caused a piecemealing of air 
operations which has allowed the enemy a latitude of freedom 
to select and use methods that significantly increase his 
combat effectiveness. It has permitted him to receive war 
supporting m^ateriel from external sources through routes of 
ingress which for the most part have been immune from attack 
and then to disperse and store this materiel in politically 
assured sanctuaries. From these sanctuaries the enemy then 
infiltrates this materiel to SVN/Laos. .. .Throughout the 
entire movement, maximum use is made of villages and towns 
as sanctuaries. These and the Hanoi, Haiphong, and China 
border buffer areas cloak and protect his forces and m-ater- 
iel, provide him a military training and staging area free 
from attack,, and permit him to mass his air defense weapons. 

....The less than optim-um air campaign, and the rela- 
tively unmolested receipt of supplies from Russia, China, 
satellite countries, and certain elements of the Free World 
have undoubtedly contributed to Hanoi's belief in ultimate 
victory. Therefore, it is essential that an intensified air 
campaign be promptly initiated against specific target sys- 
tems critical to North Vietnam's capability for continued 
aggression and support of insurgency. k8 / 

The study went on to outline an intensified bombing 
campaign to cause MN to stop supporting the insurgency in the South 

by making it difficult and costly for North Vietnam to 
• continue effective support of the NVN/vC forces in South 
• Vietnam and to im-pose progressively increasing penalties 

Qj^ jjY])^ for continuing to support insurgency in Southeast 

Asia. h9/ 

Its language left no doubt that v/hile the strikes were intended "to 
restrict NVN capability to support and conduct armed aggression in 

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SMsia^" the ultimate purpose was to apply pressure against Hanoi's 

The strategy of this plan req.uires initial application 
of air attacks over a widespread area against the WN mili- 
tary base structure and war supporting resources. The 
intensity of air operations and the numher of targets to 
be attacked gradually increase. Under such pressure of 
attack^ ]NIW must further disperse or face destruction in 
depth of its military base and resources. The dispersal 
will increase the stresses on command, control, and logistic 
support and should cause some concern in the Military Com- 
mand of the wisdom of further aggression. .. .The combined 
effects of reducing and restricting external assistance to 
IWN, the progressive attacks against NVN military and war 
supporting resources, the interdiction of infiltration 
routes in NVN and Laos, and the destruction of NVN/vC forces 
and bases in SVN and Laos should cause a reappraisal in 
Hanoi as to NVN's military capability to continue aggression. _50/ 

The plan, which was merely "noted" and not red-striped 
by the JCS, called for the "controlled and phased intensification of 
air strikes" and a "modest adjustment" in the sanctuaries (to 10 miles 
around Hanoi, k around Haiphong, and 20 from the Chinese border, as 
previously recommended by the JCS). A first phase extended armed recon- 
naissance to the northeast, and struck 11 more JCS-listed bridges, the 
Thai Nguyen railroad yards and shops, ih headc[uarters/barracks, k ammuni- 
tion and 2 supply depots, 5 K)L storage areas, 1 airfield, 2 naval bases, 
and 1 radar site, all outside the (reduced) sanctuaries. The second 
phase attacked 12 "military and war supporting installations" within 
the Hanoi and Haiphong sanctuaries: 2 bridges, 3 POL storage areas, 2 
railroad shops and yards, 3 supply depots, 1 machine tool plant, and 
1 airfield. The third phase attacked the ^3 rem.aining JCS targets, 
including 6 bridges, 7 ports and naval bases, 6 industrial plants, 7 locks, 
10 power plants, the WHi ministries of national and air defense, and 
assorted railroad, supply, ra.dio, and transformer stations. 

The plan also provided for three special attack options 
for execution during any of the phases "as a counter to enemy moves or 
when strong political and military action is desired." The options were: 
attack on the K)L center at Haiphong; aerial mining of the channel 
a-pproaches to Haiphong, Hon Gai, and Cam Pha, the three principal mari- 
time ports; and strikes against the major jet airfields at Hanoi, Haiphong, 
and Phuc Yen. 5l/ 

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The JCS were apparently not in complete sympathy with 
the gradual phasing of stronger attacks ovex several months ^ as pro- 
posed in the study- In their formal memoranda to the SecDef they 
continued to restate their mid-January recommendations for the sharp 
blows with maximum, shock effect as "the soundest program from a mili- 
tary standpoint" which offered "the greatest return for the air effort 
expended." 52/ Apparently sensing that this was m-ore than the traffic 
would bear^ however, they began to push for early strikes against POL 
as "one of the highest priority actions not yet approved." They pointed 
out that JWI^'was busily expanding and improving its LOCs, and its 
"offensive and defensive" air capabilities; it was expediting its 
import of trucks. POL was becoming increasingly significant to NTO^s 
war effort, and its destruction would have an "imjnediate effect on the 
military movement of war supporting materials." ^3 / 

3* The CIA Recommends Escalation 

t While the JCS kept up its barrage of recommendations during 

March, CIA broke into the debate with an apparently very influential 
report on the past accomplishments and future prospects of the bombing. 
The report virtually vnrote off the bombing results to date as insignifi- 

i " cant, in terms of either interdiction or pressiore; blamed "the highly 

restrictive ground rules" under which the program operated; and took 
the bold step, for an intelligence document, of explicitly recommending 
a preferred bombing program of greater intensity, redirected largely 
against "the will of the regime as a target system." ^h j 

The report held that the economic and military damage sus- 
tained by NYN had been moderate and the cost had been passed along to 
the USSR and China. The major effect of the bombing had been to disrupt 
nonnal activity, particularly in transportation and distribution, but 
with considerable external help the regime had been singularly successful 
in overcoming any serious problems. It had been able to strengthen its 
defenses, keep its economy going, and increase the flow of men and sup- 
plies South. Most of the direct damage so far had been to facilities 
which WW did not need to sustain the military effort, and which the 
regime merely did v/ithout. It had been able to maintain the overall 
TDerformance of the transportation system at the levels of 1964 or better. 
It had increased the capacity of the LOCs to the South and made them less 
vulnerable to air attack by increasing the number of routes and bypasses. 
Despite the bombing, truck movement through Laos, with larger vehicles 
and heavier loads ^ had doubled. 

The program had not been able to accomplish more because 
it had been handicapped by severe operational restrictions: 

./^^ Self-ii^-posed restrictions have limited both the choice 

^ ^ ■ Q^ targets and the areas to be bombed. Consequently, almost 

80 percent of North Vietnam.' s limited modern, industrial 

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economy^ 75 percent of the nation's population and the 
most lucrative military supply and LOG targets have been 
ij effectively insulated from air attack. Moreover, the - ■ 

authorizations for each of the ROLLING THUNDER programs 
often have imposed additional restrictions , such as limiting 
the number of strikes against approved fixed targets. The 
policy decision to avoid suburban casualties to the extent 
" " possible has proved to be a major constraint • 

The overall effect of those area and operational 
restrictions has been to grant a large measure of 
immunity to the military, political, and economic assets 
used in Hanoi's support of the war in the South and to 
insure an am^ple flow of military supplies " from North 
Vietnam's allies. Among North Vietnam's target systems, 
not one has been attacked either intensively or extensively 
enough to provide a critical reduction in national capacity. 
No target system can be reduced to its critical point under 
existing rules. 55/ 

Moreover, the bombing had been too light, fragmented, and slov/ly paced: 

The ROLLING THUNDER program has spread bomb tonnage 
over a great variety of military and economic targets 
systems, but the unattacked targets of any one system have 
consistently left more than adequate capacity to meet all 
essential requirements. Furthermore, the attacks on major 
targets have often been phased over such long periods of 
time that adequate readjustment to meet the disruption could 
be accomplished. _56/ 

VJhat was required was a basic reorientation of the 

Fundamental changes must be made if the effective- 

(ness of the campaign is to be raised significantly. 
First, the constraints upon the air attack must be 
reduced. Secondly, target selection must be placed on 
1 .a more rational basis militarily. 57/ 


Putting the program on a "more rational" military basis 
apparently involved abandoning interdiction as a prim.ary goal. The 
report held out little promise that any acceptable bombing program 
' could physically interfere with the flow of supplies to the South* 
The NVN econov:^:^ :, it stated, was not "an indigenous economic base heavily 
committed to the support of military operations in the South," but rather 

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a "logistic funnel" through which supplies from the USSR and China 
flowed. As su'ih, it was a hard target , easy to maintain in operation 
and quite large for the load. This was particularly the case in the 
Icn^rer half of the "funnel", where the bombing had been concentrated: 

...the rudimentary nature of the logistic targets 
in the southern part of North Vietnam, the small volume 
of traffic moving over them in relation to route capaci- 
ties, the relative ease and speed with which they are 
repaired, the extremely high frequency with which they 
would have to be restruck — once every three days — 
all combine to make the logistic network in this region 
a relatively unattractive target system, except as a 
supplement to a larger program. A significant lesson from 
the ROLLII^IG THUNDER program to date is that the goals of 
sustained interdictions of the rudimentary road and trail 
networks in southern North Vietnam and Laos will be 
extremely difficult and probably impossible to obtain in 
1966, given the conventional ordnance and strike capabili- 
ties likely to exist. ^8 / 

The upper half of the "funnel" was a much more lucrative 
target — not, however, because attacking it would choke the volum^e 
of supplies flowing into the South, but because it would inflict more 
pain on the regime in the North. 

The flow of military logistics supplies from the USSR 
and China cannot be cut off, but the movement could be 
made considerably more expensive and unreliable if authoriza- 
tion is granted to attack intensively the rail connections to 
Communist China and if the thz-^ee major ports are effectively 
mined. About 2/3 of North Vietnam's imports are carried by 
sea transport and the remainder move principally over the 
rail connections from Communist China- Mining the entrances 
to the three major ports would effectively transfer all 
imports to rail transport, including the flow of imports needed 
to maintain economic activity. The rail connections to Com- 
munist China would then become a m-ore lucrative target and 
the disruptive effect of interdiction would then be more 
immediately felt- Sustained interdiction would then force 
Hanoi to allocate considerable am.ounts of manpower and 
materials to maintain the line. _59/ 

Bombing the supplies and supply facilities at the top of 
the "funnel" was therefore a "preferred LOC target system." It v^as 
not advanced as an interdiction measure, ho^^ever, but as a means of 
increasing the penalty to Hanoi (and its allies), in terms of economic, 

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social^ and political consequences, of supporting the war in the South, 
and thus presunably to reduce the desire to continue it. Other targets 
which might be attacked in order to similarly influence the will of the 
' regime were: 26 military barracks and/or supply facilities on the JCS 

. J list, the neutralization of v/hich would "impede the flow of military 

supplies and disrupt the military training programs of NVN"; 8 major POL 
storage facilities, which had a "direct bearing" on the regime's ability 

, to support the war in the South, but which had to be hit almost simul- 

taneously in order to reduce IWN to the critical point in meeting essential 
requirements; the Haiphong cem.ent plant, the loss of which would "create 
a major impediment to reconstruction and repair programs" until cement 
could be imported; 3 major and 11 minor industrial plants which, though 

i ■ they made "no direct or significant contribution to the war effort" and 

"only a limited contribution" to the economy, v;ere "highly prized and 
nominally lucrative" targets; or, as an alternative miethod of knocking 
out industrial production, the main electric power facilities. 60/ 

As for other potential targets in WfR -- the command and 
control system, agriculture, and manpower — 

Attacks on these targets are not recommended at this 
timie* In each case the effects are debatable and are 
likely to provoke hostile reactions in vrorld capitals. 6l/ 

The March CIA report, with its obvious bid to turn ROLLING 
THUNDER into a pionitive bombing campaign and its nearly obvious promise 
of real payoff, strengthened JCS proposals to intensify the bombing. In 
particular, hovzever, the report gave a substantial boost to the proposal 
to hit the POL targets. The POL system appeared to be the one target system. 
in NVN to which, what the report called, "the principle of concentration" 
might be applied; that is, in which enough of the system could be brought 
under simultaneous attack to cut through any cushion of excess capacity, 
and in which a concentrated attack might be able to over^fhelm the other 
side's ability to reconstruct, repair, or disperse its capacity. 62/ 

The POL targets had other qualities to commend them as the 
next escalatory step in ROLLING THUNDER. They really v/ere pressure tar- 
gets but they could be plausibly sold as interdiction targets. The 
main ones were in the Hanoi/Haiphong sanctuaries, so that over and above 
any economic or military impact, strikes against them would signal that 
the last sanctuaries were going and the industrial and other targets there 
were now at risk. They fit the image of "war-supporting" facilities which 
strategic bombing doctrine and ample military precedent had decreed to be 
fair same in bringing a wa;r machine to a standstill. They had, in fact, 
beer struck before in other parts of MN without any unusual political 
repe-^cussions. They v^ere situated in the arbitrarily-defined urban/ 
industrial centers, but somewhat set apart from the densest civilian 
housing areas, and thus m-ight not entail as many civilian casualties 

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as other targets in those areas. 

Moreover 5 even if the impact of POL strikes v/ould be 
within WIl\ itself -- because IWN supplied no POL at all to MA/yC forces 
in the South and used next to none in transporting other goods there — 
POL was at least relevant as an interdiction target. It did power trucks 
and boats which were involved in carrying men and supplies South. If 
any truck in the IWN fleet was an acceptable interdiction target, vzherever 
it was and whatever its cargo, why not any POL? 

k. McNamara Endorses POL, The President Defers It 

Resumption of ROLLING THUNDER, as initiation of the pause, 
did not, of course, constitute a final decision on escalation. The views 
of CINCPAC and the JCS remained unaltered, and Secretary McNam.ara stood 
committed, unless he reversed himself, to enlarging the area and intensity 
of interdiction bombing and to destroying North Vietnamese POL. Neither 
in OSD nor the VHilte House had anyone opposed these measures on other than 
prudential grounds -- the risk of alienating allies or provoking Chinese 
or Russian intervention or uncertainty that results would justify either 
the risks or the costs. Everyone seemed agreed that, were it not for these 
factors, intensified bombing of the North would help to accomplish American 
objectives. Nevertheless, the position of the decision-makers can best be 
characterized as hesitant. 

The services naturally undertook to tip the balance toward 
the rapid and extensive escalation they had all along advocated. To 
McNamara *s memorandum to the President, the JCS had attached a dissent. 
They felt that the Secretary underrated the "cumulative effect of our 
air campaign against the DRV on morale and DRV capabilities" and over- 
estimated the "constancy of will of the Hanoi leaders to continue a 
struggle which they realize they cannot win in the face of progressively 
greater destruction of their country." 63 / 

When McNamara reported to the Chairman the President's ruling 
on ROLLING THUNDER, he apparently spoke of the difficulty of making out a 
convincing case that air operations against North Vietnam could seriously 
affect PAVN/vC" operations in the South. In any event, following a conver- 
sation with the Secretary, General \fneeler ordered formation of a special 
studv group to devise a bombing effort "redirected for optimum military 
effect." He explained, "the primary objective should be to reduce to the 
maximum extent the support in men and materiel being provided by North 
Viet-Nam to the Viet Cong and PAVN forces in South Viet-Nam." 6V Headed 
'by a Brigadier General from SAC, composed of five Air Force, three Navy, 
two Army, and one Marine Corps officers, and making extensive use of 
CINCPAC assistance, this study group went to v/ork in early February, with 
an assignment to produce at least an interim report by 1 March and a final 
report no later than 1 August. 65/ 

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Meanv/hile, routine continued, vrith CINCPAC recommending 
programs thirteen days prior to the beginning of a month and tHe JCS 
acting on thes3 recommendations two days later. 66/ In consequence ^ 
McNamara received from the Chiefs on 19 February the same advice that 
had been given during the pause. 6? / He and the President responded 
much as before, though now permitting armed reconnaissance within the 
geographical limits fixed just before the pause and authorizing a sig- 
nificant increase -- to above 5?000 -- in numbers of sorties. 

On 1 March, when this slightly enlarged campaign opened, 
the Chiefs filed a memorandum stressing the special im.portance of an 
early attack on North Vietnamese POL. 69/ They had singled out POL 
somev;-hat earlier, writing McNamara in November, I965? that attack on 
this target "would be more damaging to the DRV capability to move war- 
supporting resources within country and along infiltration routes to 
SVN than an attack against any other single target system." While causing 
relatively little damage to the civilian economy, it would, they reasoned 
force a sharp reduction in truck and other road traffic carrying men and 
supplies southward. They held also that the attack should be made soon, 
before North Vietnam succeeded in improving air defenses and in dispersing 
POL storage. 70/ 

McNamara had rejected this recommendation, not only because 
of the planned pause, but also because CIA sources q,uestioned some of 
the Chiefs* reasoning and stressed counterarguments which they tended to 
minimize. Assessing the probable results of not only taking out North 
Vietnam.ese POL, but also mining harbors and bombing military and indus- 
trial targets in the northeast quadrant, the Board of National Estimates 
said, "Dam^age from the strikes would make it considerably more difficult 
to support the war in the South, but these difficulties would neit?ier be 
immediate nor insurmountable." Jl/ With regard to the POL system alone, 
the Board observed "it is unlikely that this loss would cripple the Com- 
munist military operations in the South, though it v/ould certainly 
embarrass them." Pointing out that the bulk of storage facilities stood 
near Haiphong and Hanoi, the Board went on to say that "the Communists 
would unquestionably regard the proposed U„S. attacks as opening a new 
stage in the war, and as a signal of U.S. intention to escalate the 
scale of conflict." 72/ This appraisal did not encourage adoption of 
the JCS recommendation. 

The Chiefs continued nevertheless to press for a favorable 
decision. Before and during the pause, they presented fresh memoranda 
to McNamara. 73/ A more detailed CIA study, obtained just after Christ- 
mas provided"~somewhat m-ore backing for their view. It conceded that the 
Communists were dispersing POL facilities and that an early attack on 
those at Hanoi and Haiphong "would add appreciably to the DRV's difficulties 
in supplying the Communist forces in the South." Nevertheless, it fore- 
cast that "adequate quantities of supplies would continue to move by one 
means or another to the Communist forces in South Vietnam." jh/ 


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In mid-January, the DIA prepared an estimate considerably 
more favorable to the scheme. 75/ But in early February appeared a 
SNIE estimatin^j effects on "DRV physical capabilities to support the 
insurgency in the South" of the various measures, including attacks on 
POL, previously recommended by CINCPAC and the JCS. Its conclusion, sub- 
scribed to by all intelligence services except that of the Air Force, 
was that, even with a campaign extended to port facilities, power plants, 
and land LOC's from China, "with a determined effort, the DRV could still 
move substantially greater amounts than in I965." 76/ 

In renewing their recommendation on 1 March, and again on 
10 March, the JCS once more disputed such assessments. In an appendix 
to their long March 1 memorandum to the Secretary, the Chiefs outlined a 
concept of operations upon which they proposed to base future deployments. 
With respect to the air war, they urged that it be expanded to include POL 
and the aerial mining of ports and attacks on Hanoi and Haiphong. Their 
rationale was as follows: 

I To cause. . .NVN to cease its control, direction, and 

support of the coimnunist insurgency in SVN and Laos, air 
strikes are conducted against military and war-sustaining 
targets in all areas, including the Hanoi/Haiphong complex 
and areas to the north and northeast. Armed reconnaissance 
within NVN and its coastal waters is conducted to interdict 
LOCs, harass, destroy and disrupt military operations and 
the movement of m-en and m.aterials from NVN into Laos and SVN. 

I Aerial mining of ports and interdiction of inland waterways 

and coastal waters, harbors and water LOCs are conducted to 

I reduce the flow of war resources. Air reconnaissance and 

special air operations are conducted in support of the over- 

' all effort." 77/ 

Ten days later the Chiefs again req.uested attacks on the POL together with 
authorization to mine the approaches to Haiphong. This time they noted 
that Ambassador Lodge and Admiral Sharp had each recently endorsed such 
measures (no documents so indicating are available to the writer). Sup- 
porting their rec[uest they cited recent intelligence reports of North 
Vietnamese orders for expedited delivery of additional trucks. With the 
arrival of more trucks, POL would become even more critical to the North 
Vietnamese logistical effort. Once POL reserves were initially destroyed, 
however the mining of Haiphong harbor would be the next immediate priority 
to prevent resupply by North Vietnam's allies. 78 / The Chiefs argued that 
the elimination as a package of these high value targets would signifi- 
cantly damage the DRV's war-sustaining capability. 

This tim-e, moreover, the Chiefs possessed support in the 
intelligence comm.unity. A study by CIA addressed the question vrhich had 
been deliberately omitted from the terms of reference for the k February 

I ( 

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! SNIE, i.e., vrhat effect bombing might produce on the will of the 

; North Vietnamese regime. Judging from a summary with some extracts^ 

preserved in Task Force files, it made a stiong case for almost 

t unlimited bombing such as CINCPAC and the JCS had steadily advocated. 

It accepted previous judgraents that "the goals of sustained interdictions 
of the rudimentary road and trail networks in southern North Vietnam and 
Laos will be extremely difficult and probably impossible to obtain in 
19665 given the conventional ordnance and strike capabilities likely 
to exist." Though arguing that more payoff could result from regarding 
North Vietnam as a "logistic funnel" and attempting to stop v;hat went 
into it rather than what came out, it conceded that the "flow of military 

I logistics supplies from the USSR and China cannot be cut off." But the 

report contended that such measures as mining harbors, maintaining steady 
pressure on LOC's with China, and destroying militarily insignificant 
but "highly prized" industrial plants would not only reduce North Vietnam's 
capacity to support the insurgency in the South but would influence her 
leaders' willingness to continue doing so. "Fundamental changes must be 

; made if the effectiveness of the campaign is to be raised significantly," 

said the report, "First, the constraints upon the air attack must be 
reduced. Secondly, target selection must be placed on a more rational 
basis militarily." One point stressed was the importance of taking out 
all remaining POL storage facilities simultaneously and at an early date. 79 / 

With memoranda from the JCS now reinforced by this CIA 
report. Secretary McNamara had to reconsider the POL issue. Conferring 
with I\Jheeler on 23 March, he put several specific questions, among them 
whether destruction of POL storage facilities would produce significant 
results if not coupled with mining of North Vietnamese ports, what exact 
targets were to be hit, and with how many sorties. 80/ Responding with 
the req.uested details, the Chiefs said that they attached the highest 
importance to the operation, even if enemy harbors remained open. They 
strongly recomm.ended, in addition, attacks on adjoining industrial targets 
and LOC's, in order to enhance the effect of destroying POL facilities. 81/ 

In a m.emorandum for the President on bombing operations for 
Aprilj McNamara endorsed most of these JCS recommendations. He proposed 
authorizing attacks on seven of the nine POL storage facilities in the 
I . Hanoi -Haiphong area. Of the two he omitted, one lay near the center of ^- 

(Hanoi. In addition, McNamara recommended attacks on the Haiphong cement 
Tilant and on roads, bridges, and railroads connecting Haiphong and Hanoi 
and leading from the two cities to the Chinese border, and asked that the 
military comm-C-nders be permitted to run up to 9OO sorties into the north- 
east quadrant, at their discretion. 

For this marked stepping-up of the air war, McNamara put 
on Daper a much more forceful presentation than that in his January 
meniorandum. Using as a point of departure the general estimate that 
bombing could neither interdict supply of the South nor halt flow from 
C^ina and Russia into the North, he argued that: 

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....The movement can "be made considerably more 
expansive and unreliable (a) by taking action to over- 
load the roads and railroads (e^g., by destroying the 
domestic source of cement)^ (b) by attacking the key 
roads 5 railroads and bridge between Hanoi on the one hand 
and Haiphong and China on the other ^ and (c) by pinching 
the supply of POL, which is critical to ground m.ovement 
and air operations. 

Amplifying one of these recommendations, McNamara commented that destruc- 
tion of the plant, which produced 50^ of North Vietnam's cement, v;ould 
make bridge and road rebuilding difficult. As for POL,, he observed that 
the facilities targeted represented 70-80^ of those in the country. 
Though the North Vietnam^ese possessed reserves and had probably already 
built up some in the South, their transportation system depended on a 
continuous supply. They were knovm to have recently doubled their orders 
for imported Soviet POL. Eventually, though not necessarily in the short 
run, he said, they were bound to suffer a shortage. 

While McNamara conceded that he did not expect the proposed 
program to yield quick results in South Vietnam, he predicted that it 
would ultimately have some effect. Addressing som.e political issues that 
had influenced the previous hesitancy, he asserted that the South would 
probably do nothing more than adopt "a somewhat harsher diplomatic and 
propaganda line" and that the Chinese "would not react to these attacks 
by active entry — by ground or air," unless the United States took 
further steps, the decisions on which "at each point would be largely 
within our ovm control." And offsetting such risks stood the possibility 
of favorable political effects. McNamara ventured no promises. He said, 
"We would not expect Hanoi to change its basic policy until and unless it 
concluded that its chances of winning the fight in the South had become 
so slim that they could no longer justify the damage being inflicted upon 
the North." Nevertheless, he commented that destruction of POL facilities 
"should cause concern in Hanoi about their ability to support troops in 
South Vietnam" and concluded his m-emorandum by writing: 

In the longer term, the recommended bombing program.... 
can be expected to create a. substantial added burden on North 
Vietnam's manpovj-er supply for defense and logistics tasks and 
to engender popular alienation from the regions should shortages 
become widespread. While we do not predict that the regime's 
r control would be appreciably weakened, there might eventually 

be an aggravation of any differences which may exist within the 
regime as /""to/ "^^^ policies to be followed. 


Reading this memorandum, one might conclude that the 
Secretary, after passing through a season of uncertainty, had finally 


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made up his mind — that he now felt the right action to be sharp 
escalation such as CINCPAC, the JCS, and McNaughton had advocated during 
the pause. But even nov;, despite the comparatively vigorous language of 
the memorandum, one cannot be sure that McNamara expected or wanted the 
President to approve his recommendations. 

The memorandum was probably brought up at the White House 
Tuesday luncheon on 28 March. Just sixteen days earlier, in response to 
Marshal Ky*s removal of General Nguyen Chanh Thi from Command of the 
I Corps Area, Buddhist monks had initiated anti-ICy demonstrations in DaNang 
and Hue. Soon, with other groups joining in, dissidents dominated the 
northern and central part of the country. Many not only attacked the Ky 
regime but denounced the American presence in Vietnam and called for negoti- 
ation with the I^TLF- Controlling the Hue radio and having easy access to 
foreign newsmen, these dissidents won wide publicity in the United States. 
As a result, Americans previously counted as supporters of administration 
policy began to ask why the United States should expend its resources on 
people v/ho apparently did not want or appreciate help. Such q.uestioning 
was heard from both Dem.ocrats and Republicans in Congress. Quite probably, 
the political situation in Vietnam and its repercussions in America stood 
uppermost in the President's mind. Eq.ually probably, McNam.ara recognized 
this fact. If so, it should not have surprised him to find the President 
taking much the same position as that which they had both taken, and 
recorded in NSAM 288 in March, 196^, when the Khanh government trembled — 
that it was imprudent to mount new offensives "from an extremely weak base 
which might at any moment collapse and leave the posture of political 
confrontation v/orsened. rather than improved." 83/ 

In any event, the principal outcome of l^Jhite House meetings 
at the end of March was a string of urgent cables from Rusk to Lodge, 
suggesting steps which might be urged on the Ky government and saying, 
among other things, 

....We are deeply distressed by the seeming unwilling- 
ness or inability of the South Vietnamese to put aside their 
lesser qiuarrels in the interest of meeting the threat from 
■ the Viet Cong. Unless that succeeds, they will have no 
country to q.uarrel about.... We face the fact that we our- 

I selves cannot succeed except in support of the South Viet- 

■ namese. Unless they are able to mobilize reasonable solidarity, 

the prospects are very grim." 8^/ 

*As for McNamara 's proposals, the President approved only giving commanders 
discretion to launch 9OO sorties into the northeast quadrant during April 
and -permission to strike roads, railroads, and bridges outside or just on 
the fringe of the prohibited circles around Hanoi and Haiphong. He did 
not consent to m.easures involving more visible escalation of the air war. 

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McNamara returned to the Pentagon to inform the Chiefs that^ while 
these operations had not heen vetoed^ they were not yet authorized. 

The President had authorized the extension of armed 
reconnaissance into the northeast quadrant and strikes on k of the 5 
bridges recommended by McNamara but deferred any decision on the crucial 
portion, the strikes against the 5th bridge , the cem^ent plant , the radar, 
and above all the 7 POL targets. The JCS execution message for ROLLING 
THUNDER 50, which was sent out on 1 April, directed implementation of what 
had been approved. In addition, it ordered CINCPAC to "plan for and be 
prepared to execute when directed attacks during April" against the 5th 
bridge, the cement plant, the radar, and the 7 POL sites. 86/ A pen- 
cilled notation by Secretary McNamara with reference to these targets also 
mentions April: "Defer. . .until specifically authorized but develop specific 
plans to carry out in April." 87/ 


C. April and May -- Delay and Deliberation 
1. Reasons to Wait 


Although the President's reasons for postponing the POL 
decision are not known, and although the initial postponem.ent seemed 
short, a matter of weeks, it is evident from the indirect evidence avail- 
able that the proposal to strike the POL targets ran into stiffening 
opposition within the Administration, presumably at State but perhaps in 
other quarters as well. Before the question was settled it had assumed 
the proportions of a strategic issue, fraught with military danger and 
political risk, requiring thorough examination and careful appraisal, 
difficult to com-e to grips with and hotly contended. The question remained 
on the agenda of senior officials for close to three months, repeatedly 
brought up for discussion and repeatedly set aside inconclusively. Before . 
it was resolved a crisis atmosphere was generated, requiring the continuing 
personal attention of all the principals. 

There can be little doubt that the POL proposal instigated 
a major policy dispute. The explanation seems to be two-fold. One, 
those vfho saw the bombing program., whatever its merits, as seriously 

' risking war with China or the USSR, decided to seize the occasion as 
perhaps the last occasion to establish a firebreak against expanding the 
bombing to the "flash points." Two, those who saw the bombing program 
as incurring severe political penalties saw this as the last position 
up to which those penalties were acceptable and beyond which they were 

' not. Both points no doubt merged into a single position. Both turned 
the POL question into an argument over breaching the Hanoi/Haiphong 
sanctuaries in any major way. 

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McNaraara's Memorandum for the President, which had treated 
the K)L strikes as a logical extension of the previous interdiction 
program into an area in which it might "be more remunerative, did not 
address these questions of sanctuaries- No other single docioment has 
been located in the available files which does. Pieced together and 
deduced from the fragmentary evidence, however, it appears that the 
view that POL strikes ran too great a risk of counter-escalation involved 
several propositions. One was that the strikes might trigger a tit-for- 
tat reprisal (presumably by the VC) against the vulnerable POL stores 
near Saigon. The Secretary of Defense had himself made this point as 
early as mid-1965 in holding off Congressional and other proponents of 
Hanoi/Haiphong area POL strikes, citing the endorsement of General 
Westmoreland- 88/ The JCS had recognized the possibility in their 
November I965 paper on POL strikes, although they considered it "of 
relatively small potential conseq.uence, minor in comparison to the value 
of destruction of the DRV POL system." 89/ General VJheeler had also 
gone out of his way to allude to it- 90/ Under Secretary of State Ball, in 
a January I966 memorandum, saw the possibility of an enemy reprisal in 
SVN as only the first act of a measure -count ermeasure scenario which could 
go spiralling out of control: a VC reprisal against POL in SVN would put 
unbearable pressure on the U.S. to counter-retaliate against the North in 
some dangerous manner, which in turn would force the other side to react 
to that, and so on. 91/ 

More important than the fear of a VC reprisal, one assumes, 
was the belief that the POL sites were the first of the "vital" targets, 
high-value per se but also generally co-located with and fronting for 
NVN's other high-value targets. NVN, with its "vital" targets attacked 
and its economic life at stake, would at a minimum defend itself strenu- 
ously (again, provoking us to attack its airfields in our defense, which 
in turn might set off an escalatory sequence); or, at the other extreme, 
NVN might throw caution to the winds and call on its allies to intervene - 
This might be only a limited intervention at first, e.g. use of Chinese 
fighters from Chinese bases to protect NVN targets, but even this could 
go escalating upward into a full-scale collision with China. On the 
other hand, the strikes at the "vital" targets might be the Southeast 
Asian equivalent of the march to the Yalu, convince the other side that 
the U.S. was embarked on a course intolerable to its own interests, such 
as the obliteration of the NVN regime, and ca^ise it to intervene directly. 92 

These arguments were not new, of course; they were arguments 
which could be, and no doubt were, used against any bombing at all- They 
e-ained force, however, as the bombing became more intense and the more 
the bombing was thought to really hurt Hanoi, (it was an irony of the 
original concept of the air war North that the more pressure it really 
applied and hence the more successful it was, the more difficult it was 
to prosecute.) 

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Tbe belief that POL strikes would overload the negative 
side of the scale on political grounds had to do with the possibility 
that 5 since the targets were situated in relatively populated "urban" 
areas (even though outside of the center cities), the strikes would be 
construed as no less than the beginning of an attack on civilian targets 
and/or population centers. This possibility, too, could widen the war 
if it were taken by NVN and its allies as indicating a U.S. decision to 
commence "all-out" bombing aimed at an "unlimited" objective. But even 
if it did not widen the war, it could cause a storm of protest v/orld-wide 
and turn even our friends against us. The world had been told repeatedly 
that the U.S. sought a peaceful settlement, not a total military victoiy; 
.that the U.S. objectives were limited to safeguarding SVN; that bombing 
IWN vms confined to legitimate military targets related to the aggression 
against SW; and that great care was taken to avoid civilian casualties. 
Any or all of this could be called into question by the POL strikes, 
according to the argument, and the U.S. could be portrayed as embarking 
on a course of ruthless brutality against a poor defenseless population. 

The argimient about the escalatory implications of the pro- 
posed POL strikes was difficult to deal with. Official intelligence 
estimates were available which said, on balance, that Chinese or Soviet 
intervention in the war was unlikely, but no estimate could say that such 
intervention was positively out of the question, and of course intelli- 
gence estim-ates could misjudge the threshold of intervention, it was said, 
as they had in Korea. 93/ 

The argument about the political repercussions made some 
headway, however. Progress became possible because of the development of 
military plans to execute the strikes with "surgical" precision, thus 
minimizing the risk of civilian casualties, and because of the develop- 
ment of a "scenario" for the strikes in which military, diplomatic, and 
public affairs factors were coordinated in an effort to contain adverse 
reactions. There slowly unfolded a remarkable exercise in "crisis manage- 
ment . " 

2. The April Policy Review 

Though McNamara^s m^emorandurn, and the President's indica- 
tion that he might later approve POL, brought the Administration somewhat 
nearer to a decision for escalation, there was as yet no new consensus on 
how the air war against the ITorth might be ^ailored to serve American 
obiectives or, indeed, on what those objectives were or ought to be. The 
• study group in the Joint Staff, completing its work early in April, offered 
a straightforward answer: " "The overall objective is to cause ITOT to cease 
suT)X)0rting5 directing, and controlling the insurgencies in South Vietnam 
and Laos." With his understanding, they could recommiend a three phase 

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campaign leading to destruction of between 90 and 100^ of all POL 
storage, bridges, airfields, rail facilities, power plants, communica- 
tions, port structures, and industry in North Vietnam. Whether the 
Chiefs reasoned similarly is not apparent from the papers available. 
Although they came out with comparable recommendations, they merely 
"noted" this study. 9^/ 

Certainly, in spite of McWamara's memorandum recomimending 
escalation, no clear view prevailed within OSD or civilians 
elsevAere in the government occupied with Vietnam policy. Among the 
papers left behind by McNaughton are some fragments relating to an attempt 
early in April, I966, to rethink the question of what the United States 
sought in Vietnam. These fragments suggest an evolution between winter, 
1965-66, and spring, I966, from hesitancy to perplexity. 

The political situation in South Vietnam became increas- 
ingly explosive. On March 3I, 10^000 Buddhists had demonstrated in 
Saigon against the government and the demonstrations had spread to other 
cities in the next several days. On April 5, Premier Ky flew to Danang 
to quell the rebellion and threatened to use troops if necessary. 95/ 
In this context, a meeting was convened at the White House on Friday, 
9 April- Vance and McNaughton represented Defense; Ball, Bimdy, and 
Leonard Unger the State Department; and George Carver the CIA. Walt Rostow, 
who had just replaced McGeorge Bundy, took part. So did Robert Komer 
and Bill Moyers. 

In. preparation for this meeting, McNaughton, Ball, Unger, 
and Carver undertook to prepare memoranda outlining the broad alternatives 
open. Carver would make the case for continuing as is, Unger and McNaughton 
for continuing but pressing for a compromise settlement -- Unger to take 
an optimistic and McNaughton a pessimistic view and Ball to argue for 
disengagement. Then four options were labelled respectively. A, B-O, B-P, 

and C. 

Carver, advocating Option A, vrrote: 


I. Description of the Course of Action 

■ 1. Option A involves essentially persevering in our 
present r)olicies and program,s, adhering to the objectives of 

f ■ ■' a. Preventing a North Vietnamese takeover of 

South Vietnam by insurrectionary warfare, thus 

(1) Checking Commtinist expansion in 
,--^,, ■ Southeast Asia 

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(2) Demonstrating U.S. ability to provide 
support v^hich will enable indigenous non-Communist elements 
to cope with "wars of national liberation" and, hence, 

(3) Demonstrating the sterile futility of 
the militant and aggressive expansionist policy advocated by 
the present rulers of Commionist China. 

b. Aiding the development of a non-Communist 
political structure within South Vietnam capable of expending 
its writ over most of the country and acquiring sufficient 
internal strength and self-generated momentum to be able to 
survive without the support of U.S. combat forces whenever North 
Vietnam ceases its present campaign of intensive military 

To adopt this option. Carver reasoned, required, on the 
political side, work with all non-Communist Vietnamese factions "to 
insure that the transition to civilian rule is as orderly as possible 
and effected with a minimum disruption of current programs." The United 
States would have to m^ke plain in Saigon that continued support was 
"contingent upon some modicum of responsible political behavior" and 
would have to "initiate the Vietnamese in the techniques of developing 
political institutions such as constitutions and parties." An "intensive 
endeavor at provincial and district levels" would have to complement 
efforts in the capital. 

On the military side. Carver judged the dem^ands of Option A 
to be as follows: 

a. Current U.S. force deployments in Vietnam will have 
to be maintained and additional deployments already authorized 
should be made- 

b. Efforts to hamper Communist use of I:aos as a corridor 
for infiltrating troops and supplies into South Vietnam should 
be continued and in some respects intensified. There should be 
farther employment of B-52*s against selected choke points 
vulnerable to this type of attack. Additional programs should 
be developed to make our interdiction attacks more effective. 

c. The aerial pressure campaign on ]}Torth Vietnam should 
be sustained for both military and psychological purposes. 
Attacks should not be mounted against population centers such 
as Hanoi or Haiphong, but m.ajor POL storage depots should be 
destroyed and, probably, Haiphong harbor should be mined. 


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d» Within South Vietnam we must recognize that the 
period of political transition now in urain -- even if it 
evolves in the most favorable fashion possible -- will pro- 
duce some diminution in the effectiveness of central authority 
and some disruption in current programs. At best, we will be 
in for a situation like that of late 1963* It is essential 
that the Communists be prevented from. m.aking major military 
gains during this time of transition or scoring military 
successes which would generate an aura of invincibility or 
seriously damage the morale of our South Vietnamese allies. 
Therefore, it is essential that during this period, Comjnunist 
forces be constantly harried, kept off balance, and not per- 
mitted to press their advantage. The bulk of this task will 
have to be borne by U.S. and allied forces during the immedi- 
ate future and these forces must be aggressively and offensively 

Option B-0, as developed by Unger, assumed a "policy 
decision that we will undertake to find a vray to bring to an end by 
negotiation the military contest in South Viet -Nam." (This paper, dated 
"if/l4/66," was prepared after the April 9 meeting but was filed with the 
other papers of that date.) It was the optimistic version of this option 
because Unger assumed the possibility of reaching a settlement "on terms 
which preserve South Vietnam intact and in a condition which offers at 
least a 60-^0 chance of its successfully resisting Communist attempts 
at political takeover." 

In pursuit of this option the United States would persuade 
the GVN to negotiate with the NLF, offering amnesty and a coalition 
government, though not one giving the NLF control of the military, the 
police, or the treasury. The United States would withdraw troops "in 
return for the withdrawal of North Vietnamese military forces and political 
cadre." Perhaps, agreements betv^een South Vietnajn and North Vietnam would 
provide for economic intercourse and mutual recognition. 

It would not be easy to persuade the GVN, Unger conceded. 
Doing so might require not only words but withholding of funds or with- 
drawal of some American forces. And once the GVN appreciated that the 
United States was in earnest, there v/ould be danger of its collapse. Even 
if these problems were surm.ounted, there would remain the difficulty of 
pressing the iiegotiations to conclusion. "There is no assurance," Unger 
v;rote "that a negotiated settlement can pass successfully betvreen the 
UDper millstone of excessively dangerous concessions to the VC/nLF and 
the nether millstone of terras insufficiently attractive to make the 
VC/l^F consider it v/orthwhile to negotiate." 


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Militarily^ Unger reasoned^ Option B-0 would call for 
continuation of current efforts, perhaps witla a modest increase in 
ground forces but with no step-up in the air war. Total refusal to 
talk on the part of the Communists would, however, linger wrote, 

...leave us with a question of what kind of stick we 
have to substitute for the preferred carrot and this might 
bring us up against the judgment of whether intensification 
and extension of our bombing in North Viet-Nam, coupled with 
whatever greater military efforts could be made in the South 
would bring the Communists to the table. 

McNaughton's papers do not contain his original memorandum 
setting forth the pessimistic version of Option B. One can, however, 
infer its outlines from various other pieces in the McNaughton collection. 

The difference between McNaughton and Unger presumably did 
not concern the objective — negotiating out. It lay in McNaughton 's 
expressing less confidence in an outcome not Involving Communist control 
of South Vietnam. On the first Monday in April, he had talked with 
Michael Deutch, freshly back from Saigon. His notes read: 

1. Place (VN) in unholy mess. 

2. We control next to no territory. 

3. Fears economic collapse. 

h. People would not vote for 'our ride.' 

5. Wants to carry out economic warfare in VC. 

6. This is incorruptible and popular. Chieu fsloj 
is best successor for Ky. 

7. Militarily will be same place year from now. 

8. Pacification won't get off ground for a year. 

If McNaughton himself accepted anything like this estimate, he would 
have been pessimistic indeed about prospects for the GVN's survival. 
Even if he did not take quite so gloomy a view, he probably felt, as he 
had intimated in one of his January memoranda, that the United States 
qhould prepare to accept som.ething less than the conditions which Unger 
sketched. VJhat practical consequences followed from this difference in 
view, one can only guess. 

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Option C, as stated by Ball, rested on the assumption 
that "the South Vietnamese people will not be able to put together a 
government capable of maintaining an adeq.uat-; civil and military effort 
or — if anything resembling actual independence is ever achieved — 
running the country." On this premise, he concluded, much as in earlier 
memoranda, "we should concentrate our attention on cutting our losses." 
Specifically, he recommended official declarations that United States 
support depended on a representative government which desired American 
aid and which demonstrated its ability to create "the necessary unity of 
action to assure the effective prosecution of the war and the peace," 
Seizing upon the next political crisis in South Vietnam, the United States 
should, said Ball, "halt the deployment of additional forces, reduce the 
level of air attacks on the North, and maintain ground activity at the 
minimum level required to prevent the substantial improvement of the 
Viet Cong position." 

Ball described two alternative outcomes from Option C. 
One was that the South Vietnamese might unify and "face reality," the 
other, far more likely in Ball's estimation, was that South Vietnam would 
fragment still further, "leading to a situation in which a settlement 
would be reached that contemplated our departure." He closed: 


Let us face the fact that there are no really attrac- 
tive options open to us. To continue to fight the war with 
the present murky political base is, in my judgment, both 
dangerous and futile. It can lead only to increasing com- 
mitments, heavier losses, and mounting risks of dangerous 

In McNaughton's files are pencil notes vrhich may relate 
either to his ovm missing memorandum or to a conversation that took place 
among some of the officials concerned. Despite its cryptic nature, it is 
worth reproducing in its entirety, in part because it gives a clue to 
thoughts passing at this time through McNamara's mind: 

Do we press VNese or do they move themselves^?y 

What the point of probes if (w/oul/d be counterpro- 
ductive otherwise) 


1, Uo more US forces unless better govt 

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2. Reemph^sisJ of aondifltloxi^J 

(a) Rep govt ask^dT" 

(b) Performance 

3. Fashion govt unified and stable govt. Give time. 
Protect selves. 

Defend selves. 

if. Effect 

(a) Nationalist 

(b) VC deal by GYN 

If sc[ueeze GVN firsts and go to _^all*s position/ later^ have 
contaminated Course C. Better to claim we want to win and they 
■ • rush .out to settle. 

Timing critical. 10 days ago. Not today. Will have new 
chance when advisors decide how election set up. Unless 
elections rigged^ Buddhists to streets. 

Need Pres. statements re (a) cond/itio/ns and (b) optimism 
, i VNese moving that way. 

w/oul/dn't the SVNese just comply and knuckle dovm and not 
do any better JjJ How do we move them toward compromise UJ 
i. Maybe second time^ we do throw in the towel and they make deal. 

Lodge more likely to go for Ball ultimatum than B. 

Anti-US govt likely to follow. How handle actual departure JjJ 
I . Do we want to precipitate anti-US fJJ 

Must we condition US and vrorld public for 6 mos before 
'ultimatim.. ' 

Pres. to pressj ans. q.n. giving bases of our help. 

BUT why not get better deal for SVN by RSM approach? Give 
■- • them choice now between (l) chaos 6 mos from now (via Ball) 

|fr g^3^(j YQ govt, and (2) chance at compromise now with even 

chance of something better. 

Who can deal — Don, Thi? 

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If we followed RSM approach, ruin our image (pushing for 
deal) and cause demoralization. Tri Quang may even say we 
selling out. 

We ch^'Ued bids earlier. 

Could there be an independent Delta? Already accommodation. 

As McNaughton's notes reveal. 
White House on April 9 was preoccupied with 
crisis in South Vietnam. Early that morning 
a memo to Secretaries Rusk and McNamara sugg 
for "breaking Tri Quang's m.omentum." 97/ H 
form the subsequent solution took — called 
tactical concessions to the Buddhists on the 
Assembly in order to bring the regime -threat 
end. At the VThite House meeting later that 
were called on to prepare papers on the oris 

the group that met at the 
the immediate political 
5 Walt Rostow had addressed 
esting a course of action 
is .proposal — which was the 
for giving substantial 

issue of the Constituent 
ening deomonstrations to an 
day several participants 

Leonard Unger of the State Department drafted a paper out- 
lining five possible outcomes of the crisis, the last two of which were 
a secession of neutralist northern provinces and/or a complete collapse of 
Saigon political machinery with the VC moving into the vacuum. 98/ His 
paper was probally considered at a meeting on Monday, April 12, as sug- 
gested by McNaughton's handwritten notes. 99/ At the same meeting, 
a long memorandum prepared by George Carver of CIA in response to a rec[uest 
at the Friday meeting, and entitled "Consequences of Buddhist Political 
Victory in South Vietnam," was also considered. lOO/ Carver argued that 
while a Buddhist government would have been difficult for us to deal with 
it would not have been impossible and, given the evident political strength 
of the Buddhists, might even work to our long ra,nge advantage. The three 
American options in such a contingency were: (l) trying to throw out the 
new government; (2) attempting to work vrith it; or (3) withdrawing from 
South Vietnsjra. Clearly, he argued, the second was the best in viev; of 
our commitments.. 

That same day, Max^-zell Taylor sent the President a detailed 
memo with recommendations for dealing with the Buddhist uprising. In 
essence he recommended that the U.S. take a tough line in support of Ky 
and against the Buddhists. In his words, 

. . .we must prevent Tri Quang from overthrowing the 
Directorate (with or without Yij who personally is expendable) 
and support a conservative, feasible schedule for a transi- 
tion to constitutional government. In execution of such a 
program, the GVN (Ky, for the present) should be encouraged 
to use the necessary force to restore and maintain order, short 
of attempting to reimpose government rule by bayonets on 


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Danang-Hue which, for the time being, should be merely 
contained and isolated. lOl/ 

These recommendations, hov/ever, had been overtaken by events* The GVN 
had already found a formula for restoring order and appeasing the Buddhists. 
In a three day "National Political Congress" in Saigon from April 12-14, 
the GVN adopted a program promising to move rapidly toward constitutional 
government vrhich placated the main Buddhist demands, 102 / For a few 
weeks the demonstrations ceased and South Vietnam returned to relative 
political quiet, "t^ile not unusual as policy problems go, this political 
crisis in South Vietnam intervened temporarily to divert official attention 
from the broader issues of the v/ar and indirectly contributed to the 
deferral of any decision to authorize attacks on the POL in North Vietnam. 
Other issues and problems would continue to defer the POL decision, both 
directly and indirectly, for another two months. 

With some semblance of calm restored momentarily to South 
Vietnamese politics, the second-level Washington policy officials could 
turn their attention once again to the broader issues of U.S. policy 
direction. On April lU, Walt Rostow sent McNaughton a memo entitled 
"Headings for Decision and Action: Vietnam, April 3-4, I966 ," (implying 
topics for discussion at a meeting later that dayfj"^ Item one on Rostow 's 
agenda was a proposed high-level U.S. statement endorsing the recent evolu- 
tion of events in South Vietnam and stipulating that continued U.S. assis- 
tance and support would be contingent on South Vietnamese demonstration 
of unity, movement toward constitutional government, effective prosecution 
of the war, and m.aintenance of order. His second topic vzas the bom-bing of 
the North, and subheading "b" re-opened the POL debate with the simple 
question, "Is this the time for oil?" IO3/ Other issues which he listed 
for consideration included: accelerating the cam.paign against main force 
units, economic stabilization, revolutionary construction, Vietnamese 
politics (including constitution-making), and negotiations between the 
GVN and the VC (if only for political warfare purposes). 

On the sam.e day, the JOS forwarded to the Secretary the 
previously mentioned "ROLLING THUNDER Study Group Report: Air Operations 
Against NVN" with a cover memo noting that its recommendations for a 
g^ pg^ ^p bombing campaign were "in consonance with the general concept 

(reconimended in JCSM-^1-66 " lOk/ The voluminous study itself recom- 
mended a general expansion of the with provision for three special 
attack options, one against the Haiphong POL center; the second for the 
aerial mining of the sea approaches to Haiphong, Hon Gai, and Cam Pha; an;l 
the third for strikes at the major airfields of Hanoi, Haiphong, and Phuc 
Yen. 105/ In offering these options, the report stated that, "Military 
considerations would require that two of the special attack options, POL 
and mining, be conducted now. Hov^ever, appreciation of the sensitivity of 
such attacks is recognized and the precise time of execution must take 
into account political factors." IO6/ Somewhat optimistically, the report 

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' ' estimated that the POL strike woiald involve only 13 civilian casualties, 

and the mining would cause none. IO7/ While there is no specific record 
of the Secretary's reaction to this full-blown presentation of the argu- 
ments for expanded bombing, he had sent a curt m-emo to the Chiefs the 
previous day in reply to their JCSM 189-66 of March 26, in which they had 
again urged attacking the POL. Tersely reflecting the President's failure 
to adopt their (and his) recommendation, he stated, "I have received 

J I ,. JCSM-I89-66. Your recommendations were considered in connection with 

the decision on ROLLING THJITOER 50-" 108/ 


As the second-echelon policy group returned to its consid- 
■ • eration of the four options for U.S. policy (previously known as A, B-0, 
I I . B-P, and C), the weight of recent political instability shifted its focus 

I I somewhat. When the group met again on Friday, April I6, at least three 

papers were offered for deliberation. William Bundy's draft was titled, 
I I "Basic Choices in Viet-Nam"; George Carver of CIA contributed "How We 

Should Move"; and a third paper called "Politics in Vietnam: A 'Worst' 
Outcome" was probably written by John McNaughton. 

Bundy began v^ith a sober appraisal of the situation: 

*. The political crisis in South Viet-Nam has avoided 
outright disaster up to this point, but the temporary 
equilibriimi appears to be uneasy and the crisis has meant 
at the very least a serious setback of the essential non- 
military programs . 109/ 

But the closeness with which political disaster had been averted in the 
South in the preceding week, "forces us to look hard at our basic posi- 
tion and policy in South Viet-Wami. We must now recognize that three 
contingencies of the utmost gravity are in some degree, more likely than 
our previous planning had re cognized.. ."110/ The three contingencies Bundy 
had in mind were: (l) a state of total political chaos and paralysis 
resulting from an uprising by the Buddhists countered by the Catholics, 
Army, etc.; (2) the emergence of a neutralist government with wide support 
that would seek an end to the war on almost any basis and ask for a U.S. 
withdrawal; and (3) a continuation of the present GVTi but in an enfeebled 
condition unable to effectively prosecute the war, especially the vital 
non-military aspects of it. Bundy 's estimate was that the third contingency 
was the most likely at that moment, and that even the most optimistic 
scenario for political and constitutional e'^'-olution could not foresee a 
chano-e within the succeeding three to four months. Nevertheless, he out- 
lined the four possible U.S. lines of action much as they had been presented 


Option A: To continue roughly along present lines, but to 
hope that the setback is temporary. 

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Option B : To continue roughly along present lines , "but 
to move more actively to stimulate a negotiated soluticn^ ' 
specifically through contact between the Saigon government 
and elements in the Viet Cong and Liberation Front. This 
eptien ^ined out in McNaughton/ could be approached on an 
"optimistic " _^nderlined in McNaughtonT" or "ieeee^? leiek" 
^ined out in McNaughton with "harder penciled in above and 
question m.arks in the margin/ basis, or on a " pessimistic " 
^cNaughton MnderllneJ or "greate^-3?i9k" ^ined out in 
McNaughton with "softer" pencilled in/ basis. The opening 
moves might be the sam.e in both options, Tout more drastic 
indications of the U.S. position would /^be involved" penned 
in by McNaughton/ in the "pessimistic" approach /^ "which 
shades into option C belovr." penned by McNaughton/. 

Option C : To decide now that the chances of bringing about an 
independent (and non-Communist) parenthesis added by McNaughton/ 
South Viet-Nam have shrunk to the point where, on an over-all 
basis, the US effort is no longer warranted ^ined out by 
McNaughton and replaced in pencil with "should be directed at a 
minimum-cost disengagement*" Stet pencilled in the m-argin./ 
This would mean setting the stage rapidly /circled by McNaughton/ 
for US disengagem-ent and withdrawal irrespective of whether any 
kind of negotiation would work or not." /question marks in the 
margin_^/ 111 / 

Bundy did not identify in the paper his preferred option. 
The tone of his paper, however, suggested a worried preference for "A". 
In a concluding section he listed a number of "broader factors" which 
"cut, as they always have, in deeply contradictory directions." 112/ The 
first was the level of support for the Vietnam policy within the U.S. 
While it was adequate for the moment, continued G-VN weakness and political 
unrest could seriously undermine it. With an eye on the I968 Presidential 
elections, Bundy prophetically sumjned up the problem: 

As vre look a year or two ahead, with a military program 
that would require m^jor further budget costs — with all their 
implications for taxes and domestic programs — and with steady 
or probably rising casualties, the war could well become an 
albatross around the Administration's neck, at least equal to 
what Korea was for President in 1952. 113/ 

Moreover, if the prevailing malaise about the war among our non-SEATO 
allies de-enerated into open criticism, a far wider range of world issues 
* on which their cooperation was required might be seriously affected. With 
respect to the Soviet Union, no movement on disarm.ament or other matters 
of detente could be expected while the war continued. But since no 

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significant change in Chinese or North Vietnamese attitudes had been 
expected in any circumstances , continuing the war under more adverse 
conditions in South Vietnam would hardly worsen them. Bundy ended his 
paper with an analysis of the impact of a U.S. failure in South Vietnam 
on the rest of non-communist Asia^ even if the failure resulted from a 
political collapse in Saigon. 

! I 

5* Vis-a-vis the threatened nations of Asia ^ we must 
ask ourselves whether failure in Viet-Nam because of clearly 
visible political difficulties not under our control would be 
any less serious than failure by-eHr-e>fn-ekeiee _^ined out in 
McNaughton/ without this factor. The question comes down^ as 
it always has^ to vrhether there is any tenable line of defense 
in Southeast Asia if Viet-Nam falls. Here we must recognize 
that the ant i -Communist regime in Indonesia has been a tremen- 
dous "break" for uS;, both for in ^cNaughton/ i^moving the 
possibility of a Communist pincer movement, which appeared 
ir^eeiatible alm.ost certain ^^cNaughton/ a year ago, and 
in ^cNaughton/opening up the possibility that over a period 
"of some years Indonesia may become a constructive force. But 
for the next year or two any chance of holding the rest of 
Southeast Asia hinges on the same factors assessed a year 
^ ago, whether Thailand and Laos in the first instance and 

Malaysia, Singapore, and Burma close behind, would- -in the 
face of a US failure for any reason in Viet-Nam — have any 
significant remaining will to resist the Chinese Comjnunist 
pressures that would probably then be applied. Taking the 
case of Thailand as the next key point, it must be our present 
conclusion that--even if sophisticated leaders understood the 
Vietnam.ese ^^cNaughton/ political weaknesses and our inability 
to control them- -to the m^ass of the Thai people the failure 
would remain a US failure and a proof that Communism from the 
north was the decisive force in the area. Faced with this 
reaction, we must still conclude that Thailand simply could 
not be held in these circumstances, and that the rest of South- 
east Asia would probably follow in due course. In other words, 
the strategi c stakes in Southeast Asia are fundamentally 
unchanged by the possible political nature of the causes for 
failure in Viet -Nam.. The same is aLnost certainly true of the 
shocfa^/aves that would arise against other free nations — Korea, 
Taiv/an, Japan, and the Philippines — in the wider area of East 
Asia. Perhaps these shock^^^aves can be countered, but they 
I 1 would not ^/McNaughton/ be mitigated by the fact that the failure 

arose f^om internal political /sic/ causes rather than any US 
major error or omission." Hh/ 



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Once again, the domino theory, albeit in a refined 
case "by case presentation, was offered by this key member of the 
Administration as a fujidamental argument for the continuing U.S. 
involvement in Vietnam. Bundy rejected even the subtle argi:mient5 
offered by some longtime Asian experts, that the uniq.ueness of the 
Vietnamese case, particularly its extraordinary lack of political 
structure, invalidated any generalization of our experience there to 
the rest of Asia. Thus, he argued the American comjnitment was both 
open-ended and irreversible. 

George Carver of CIA argued quite a different point 
of view. His paper began, "The nature and basis of the U.S. commit- 
ment in Vietnam is widely misunderstood within. the United States, 
throughout the world, and in Vietnam itself." 11^/ Placing himself 
squarely in opposition to the kind of ana-lysis presented by Bundy, 
Carver argued that we had allowed control over our policy to slip from 
our grasp into the "sometimes irresponsible and occasionally unidentifi- 
able hands of South Vietnamese over whom we have no effective control. 
This is an intolerable position for a great power. 116 / By inferring 
that our cominitment was irreversible and open-ended, Carver maintained 
we permitted the Vietnamese to exercise leverage over us rather than 
vice versa. To correct this mistaken view of our commitment and get 
our own priorities straight, Carver proposed a reformulation of objec- 

"Whatever course of policy on Vietnam we eventually 
decide to adopt, it is essential that we first clarify the 
nature of cur commitment in that country and present it in 
a manner which gives us maximujii leverage over our Vietnamese 
allies and maximum freedom of unilateral action. VJhat we 
need to do, in effect, is return to the original 195^ 
Eisenhower position and make it abundantly clear that our 
continued presence in Vietnam in support of the South Viet- 
namese struggle against the aggressive incursions of their 
northern compatriots is contingent on the fulfillment of 
both of two necessary conditions: 

(a) A continued desire by the South Vietnamese 
for our assistance and physical presence. 

(b) Some measure of responsible political 
behavior on the part of the South Vietnamese themselves 
including, but not limited to, their establishment of a 

■ reasonably effective .government with which we can work. II7/ 

Carver vras careful to state, however, that tv/o to three 
months would be required to prepare the ground for this kind of clarifi- 
cation so as not to have it appear vre were reversing directions on Vietnam 

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or presenting the GVN with an ultimatum. Effectively carried out, such 
a clarification would broaden the range of available options for the U.S. 
and place us in a much better position to effect desired changes. The 
mechanics of his proposal called for a Presidential speech in the near 
future along the lines suggested earlier that vreek by Walt Rostow. The 
President should express satisfaction at the evolution of political events 
in South Vietnam toward constitutional government and indicate "that our 
capacity to assist South Vietnam is dependent on a continued desire for 
our assistance and on the demonstration of unity and responsibility in 
the widening circle of those who v/ill now engage in politics in South 
Vietnam." 118/ Other speeches by the Vice President and members of 
Congress in the succeeding weeks might stress the contingency of our 
commitment 5 and press stories conveying the new message could be stimu- 
lated. Finally, three or four months in the future, the President would 
complete this process by making our position and commitment crystal clear, 
possibly in response to a planted press conference q.uestion. This public 
effort would be supplemented by private dj.plomatic communication of the 
new message to South Vietnamese leaders by the Embassy. 

Carver argued that putting the U.S. in a position to 
condition its commitment would considerably enhance U.S. flexibility in 
an uncertain policy environment. 

Once the U.S. position is clear we can then see whether 
our word to the Vietnamese stimulates better and more respon- 
sible political behavior. If it does, we will have improved 
■ Option A's chances for success. If it does not, or if South 
Vietnam descends into chaos and anarchy, we will have laid 
the groundwork essential to the successful adoption of Option C 
with minimal political cost. II9/ 

Questions vrhich remained to be answered included: (l) v/hether to continue 
with scheduled troop deployments; (2) whether to give the GVN a specific 
list of actions on vfnich we expected action and then rate their performance, 
or rely on a more general evaluation; (3) whether the U.S. should continue 
to probe the DRV/iMLF on the possibility of negotiations; (k) whether to 
encourage the GVTI to make negotiation overtures to the VC. 

The third paper, Politics in Vietnam: A "Worst" Outcome , 
(presumably by Mclfeughton) dealt v/ith the unsavory possibility of a fall 
of the current goverrmient and its replacement by a "neutralist" successor 
that sought negotiations, a ceasefire, and a coalition with the VC- After 
considering a variety of possible, although eq.ually unpromising, courses 
of action the paper argued that in such a case the U.S. would have "little 
'choice but to get out of Vietnam. .. .Governing objectives should be: 
minimizing the inevitable loss of face and protecting U.S. forces, allied 
forces and those South Vietnamese who appeal to us for political refuge." 120/ 
An intriguing tab to the same paper considered the impact on the U.S. posi- 
tion in the Pacific and East Asia in the event of a withdravral from Vietnam. 

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Unlike the Bundy paper this analysis eschewed pure domino theorizing 
for a careful country by country examination. The overall evaluation 
was that 3 "Except for its psychological impact ^ withdrawal from Vietnam 
1 1 would not affect the present line of containment from its Korean anchor 

down the Japan-Ryukyus-Taiwan-Philippine Island chain." 121/ Four 
possible alternate defense lines in Southeast Asia were considered: (l) 
the Thai border j (2) the Isthmus of Kra on the Malay peninsula; (3) the 
"Water Line" from the Strait of Malacca to the North of Borneo; and {k) an 
"Interrupted Line" across the gap between the Philippines and Australia. 
Like other analyses of the strategic problem in Southeast Asia, this 
paper rejected any in-depth defense of Thailand as militarily untenable. 
The best alternatives were either the Isthjaus of Kra or the Strait of 
Malacca; alternative four was to be considered only as a fall back posi- 
tion. The paper stands as a terse and effective refutation of the full- 
blown domino theory, offering as it does cool-headed alternatives that 
should have evoked more clear thinking than they apparently did about 
the irrevocability of our commitment to South Vietnam. 

What the exact outcome of the deliberations on these 
papers was is not clear from the available documents. Nor is there any 
clear indication of the influence the docujnents or the ideas contained 
in them might have had on the Principals or the President. Judgments 
on this score must be by inference. A scenario drafted by Leonard Unger 
and included by McNaughton with Carver's paper suggests that some con- 
sensus was reached within the group reflecting mostly the ideas contained 
in Carver's draft. Its second point stated: 

On U.S. scene and internationally we will develop in 
public statements and otherwise the dual theme that the U.S. 
has gone into South Viet -Nam to help on the assiJimption that 
(a) the Government is representative of the people who do want 
our help (b) the Government is sufficiently competent to hold 
the country together, to maintain the necessary programs and 
use our help. President will elaborate this at opportune 
moment in constructive tone but with monetary overtones if 
there is any political turmoil or if Government unv/illing to 
do what we consider essential in such fields as countering 
inflation, allocating manpovrer to essential tasks and the like. 122/ 

In fact, however, while v/e did attempt to steer the South Vietnamese 
toward constitutional government on a democratic model, when the President 
spoke out in succeeding weeks it was to reiterate the firmness of our 
'commitment and the qiuality of our patience, not to condition them. At a 
Medal of Honor ceremony at the VJliite House on April 21, he said: 

There are times vrhen Viet-Nam miust seem to many a 
thousand contradictions, and the pursuit of freedom there 
an almost unrealizp.ble dream. 

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But there are also tiineS"-and for me this is one of 
them — ^^rhen the mist of confusion lifts and the basic 
principles emerge: 

— that South Viet-Nam^ however young and frail^ has 
the right to develop as a nation^ free from the interference 
of any other power^ no matter how mighty or strong ; 

— that the normal processes of political action^ 
if given time and patience and freedom to work, will some- 
day, some way create in South Viet-Nam a society that is 
responsive to the people and consistent with their tradi- 
tions. . . . 123/ 

The third point in the Unger scenario was to encourage 
the GW to establish contacts with the VC in order to promote defections 
and/or to explore the possibilities of "negotiated arrangements." This 
emphasis on contacts between the GVN and the VC may well have reflected 
the flurry of highly public international activity to bring about negoti- 
ations between the U.S. and the DRV that vras taking place at that time 
(considered in more detail below)* In any event, this entire effort at 
option-generation came to an inconclusive end around April 20. 

The last paper to circulate was a much revised redraft 
of Course B that reflected the aforementioned ideas about GVN/vC contacts. 
It was, moreover, a recapitulation of ideas circulating in the spring 
of 1966 at the second-level of the government. That they were considerably 
out of touch with reality would shortly be revealed by the renewed I Corps - 
Buddhist political problem in May. The paper began with a paragraph dis- 
cussing the "Essential element" of the course of action -- i.e. "...our 
decision now to press the GVN to expand and exploit its contacts with 
the VC/WLF." 12U / The point of these contacts was to determine v^'hat 
basis, if any, might exist for bringing the insurgency to an end. 

The proposed approach to the GVN v^as to be miade with three 
considerations in mind. The first was the dual theme that U.S. assistance 
in South Vietnam depended on a representative and effective GVN and the 
genuine desire of the people for our help. Continued political turmoil 
in South Vietnam would force us to state this policy with increasing 
sharpness. The second consideration was the U.S. military effort. 
McNaughton specifically bifurcated this section in his revision to include 
two alternati'^'^es, as follows: 

(b) Continuation of the military program including U.S. 
. deployments and air sorties. 

(1) Alternative A. Forces increased by the end of 

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the year to 385? 000 men and to attacks on the key military'- 
targets outside heavily popiilated areas in all of INTorth 
Vietnam except the strip near China. 

(2) Alternative B » Forces increased in modest 
amounts "by the end of the year to about 3^0 ,000 (with 
the possibility of halting even the deployments implicit 
in that figure in case of signal failure by the GVN to 
! • ■ perform) and air attacks in the northeast q.uadrant of 

North Vietnam kept to present levels in terms of intensity 
and type of target. I25/ 

The third consideration vj-as a continuation of U.S. support for GVN revo- 
lutionary development and inflation control. 

Two alternative GVN tactics for establishing contact with 
the NIF were offered. The first alternative would be an overt ^ highly 
publicized GVN appeal to the YC/NLF to meet with representatives of the 
GVN to work out arrangements for peace. Alternative two foresaw the 
initiation of the first contacts through covert channels with public 
negotiations to follow if the covert talks revealed a basis for agreement 
All of this would produce 5 the paper argued 5 one of the following out- 
comes : 

(a) If things were going passably for our side but 

i • the VC/nLF showed no readiness to settle on terms providing 

reasonable assurances for the continuation of a non-Communist 
regime in SVN, vre might agree to plod on with present programs 
(with or without intensified military activity) until the VC/ 
NLF showed more give. 

(b) If things were going badly for our side we might 
feel obliged to insist on the GVN's coming to the best 
terms it could get with the VC/liLF^ vrith our continuing mili- 
tary and other support conditioned on the GVN moving along 
those lines. 

(c) If things were going well for our side, the Vc/nLF 
might accede to terms which entailed no serious risks for 

a continuing non-Communist orientation of the GVN in the 

short teim. It would probably have to be assijimed that this 

would represent no more than a tactical retreat of the VC/NLF. 126/ 

3- Exogeneous Factors 

No precise reason can be adduced for the termination of 
^ — s. this interdepartmental effort to refine options for American action. In 

a general way, as the preceding paper shows, the effort had lost some 

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touch with the situation; the GVW was far too fragile a structure at 
I ' ■ that point (and about to be challenged again in May by I Corps 'Com- 

mander General Thi and his Buddhist allies) to seriously contemplate 
contacts or negotiations with the VC. In Washington^ the President 
and his key advisors Rusk and McNamara were preoccupied with a host of 
additional immediate concerns as well. The President had a newly appointed 
Special Assistant ^ Robert Komer^ vrho had recently returned from a trip 
to Vietnam urging greater attention to the non-military^ nation-building 
aspects of the struggle. In addition, the President was increasingly 
aware of the importance of the war, its costs, and its public relations 
to the upcoming Congressional elections. McNamara and the JCS were 
struggling to reach agreement on force deployment schedules and req.uire- 
ments; and Rusk was managing the public U.S. response to a major inter- 
national effort to bring about U.S. negotiations vzith Hanoi, These con- 
cerns, as we shall see, served to continue the deferral of any imple- 
mentation of strikes against North Vietnam-ese POL reserves. 

On April 19, about the time the option drafting exercise 
was ending, Robert Komer addressed a lengthy memo to the President 
(plus the Principals and their assistants) reporting on his trip to 
Vietnam to review the non-military aspects of the war. Presidential 
concern with what was to be called "pacification" had been piq.ued during 
the Honolulu Conference ia February. Upon his return to Washington, 
President Johnson named Komer to become Special Assistant within the 
White House to oversee the Washington coordination of the program. To 
emphasize the ijnportance attached to this domain, Komer *s appointment 
was announced in a National Security Action Memorandi:im on March 28. I27/ 
As a "new boy" to the Vietnam problem, Komer betook himself to Saigon 
in mid-April to have a first-hand look. His eleven page report repre- 
sents more a catalogue of the v?'ell-known problems than any very startling 
suggestion for their resolution. 128/ Nevertheless, it did provide the 
President with a detailed vevievj of the specific difficulties in the BD 
effort, an effort that the President repeatedly stressed in his public 
remarks in this period. 129/ 

At Defense, problems of deployment phasing for Vietnam occu- 
pied a good portion of McNam-ara*s time during the spring of I966. On 
March 1, the JCS had for\^^arded a recommendation for meeting planned 
deployments that envisaged extending toiirs of service for selected 
specialties and calling up some reserve units. I30/ Whatever McNamara' s 
own views on calling the reserves, the President was clearly unprepared 
to contemplate such seemingly drastic measu-^es at that juncture. Like 
attacks on North Vietnamese POL, a reserve callup would have been seen 
as a complete rejection of the international efforts to get negotiations 
started and as a decisive .escalation of the war. Moreover, to consider 
such an action at a tme when South Vietnam was in the throes of a pro- 
tracted political crisis would have run counter to the views of even 
■ some of the strongest supporters of the war. So, on March 10, the Secre- 
tarv asked the Chiefs to redo their proposal in order to m.eet the stipulated 
deployment schedule, stating that it was imperative that, "...all necessary 

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actions... be taken to meet these deployinent dates without callup of 
reserves or extension of terms of service." "'31/ The JCS replied on 
April k that it would "be impossible to meet the deployment deadlines 
because of shortages of critical skills. They proposed a stretch-out 
of the deployments as the only remedy if reserve callups and extension 
of duty tours were ruled out. 13 2 / Not satisfied, the Secretary asked 
the Chiefs to explain in detail why they could not meet the req.uire- 
ments within the given time schedule. 133/ The Chiefs replied on 
April 28 with a listing of the personnel problems that were the source 
of their difficulty, but promised to take "extraordinary measures" in 
an effort to conform as closely as possible to the desired closure 
schedule. 13 V The total troop figure for Vietnam for end CY GG on 
which agreement was then reached v/as some 276,000 men. This constituted 
Program 2-AR. 

These modifications and adjustments to the troop deploy- 
ment schedules, of course, had implications for the supporting forces 
as well. The Chiefs also addressed a series of memos to the Secretary 
on req,uired modifications in the deployment plans for tactical aircraft 
to support ground forces, and for increases in air munitions req,uirem-ents . 135/ 
These force expansions generated a req.uirement for additional airfields. I36 / 
When these matters are added to the problems created for McNamiara and his 
staff by the French decision that spring to req.uest the withdrawal of all 
NATO forces from French soil, it is not hard to understand why escalating 
the war was momentarily set aside. 

Another possible explanation for delaying the POL strikes 
can be added to those already discussed. The spring of I966 saw one of 
the most determined and m.ost public efforts by the international community 
to bring the U.S. and North Vietnam to the negotiating table- While at 
no time during this peace initiative was there any evidence, public or 
private, of give in either sides' uncompromising position and hence real 
possibility of talks, the widespread publicity of the effort meant that 
the Administration was constrained from any military actions that might 
be construed as "worsening the atmosphere" or rebuking the peace efforts. 
Air strikes against- DRV POL reserves would obviously have fallen into this 

In February, after the resumption of the bombing, Nkrumah 
and Nasser unsuccessfully attempted to get negotiations started, the former 
touring sever?! capitals including Moscow to further the effort. LeGauUe 
replied to a letter from Ho Chi Minh with an offer to play a role in set- 
tling the dispute, but no response was forthcoming. Prime Minister Wilson 
met with Premier Kosygin in Moscow* from Feb. 22-2^ and urged reconvening 
the Geneva Conference; the Soviets countered by saying the U.S. and DRV 
must arrange a conference since the conflict was theirs. Early in March, 
Hanoi reportedly rejected a suggestion by Indian President Radharrishnon 
for an Asian-African force to replace American troops in South Vietnam. 

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Later that mcntli Canadian Ambassador Chester Ronning went to Hanoi 
- ■ -to test for areas in v^hich negotiations might be possible. He -returned 

with little hope, other than a vague belief the ICC could eventually 
play a role. ■ ' . 

■I . Early in April, UN Secretary General U Thant advocated 

I Security Council involvement in Vietnam if Communist China and North 

Vietnam agreed, and he reiterated his three point proposal for getting 
the parties together (cessation of bombing; scaling down of all mili- 
tary activity; and vrillingness of both sides to meet). No response was 
forthcoming from the DRV, but later that month during meetings of the 
"Third National Assembly" Ho and Premier Pham Van Dong reiterated the 
I ' unyielding North Vietnamese position that the U.S. must accept the four 

points as the basis for solving the war before negotiations could start. 
On April 29, Canadian Prime Minister Pearson proposed a ceasefire and 
a gradual withdi^awal of troops as steps toward peace. The ceasefire was 
' t' seen as the first part of peace negotiations v/ithout prior conditions. 

Phased withdrawals would begin as the negotiations proceeded. The U.S. 
1 endorsed the Pearson proposal which was probably enough at that stage 

p to insure its rejection by Hanoi. On the same day, Danish PM Krag urged 

the US to accept a transitional coalition government as a realistic step 
toward peace. 

, In May, Netherlands Foreign Minister Luns proposed a mutual 

reduction in the hostilities as a step toward a ceasefire and to prevent 
any further escalation. Neither side made any direct response. On May 
22, Guinea and Algeria called for an end to the bombing and a strict 
respect for the Geneva Agreements as the basis of peace in Vietnam. In 
a major speech on May 25, U Thant called for a reduction of hostilities, 
I ■ but rejected the notion that the UN had prime responsibility for finding 

a settlement. Early in June press attention was focused on apparent 
Romanian efforts to bring Hanoi to the negotiating table. Romanian 
intermediaries made soundings in Hanoi and Peking but turned up no new 
sentiment for talks. In mid-June Canadian Ambassador Ronning m.ade a 
second trip to Hanoi but found no signs of give in the DRV portion (detailed 
discussion below). Near the end of jMae a French official, Jean Sainteny, 
reported from Hanoi and Peking through Agence France-Presse that the DRV 
had left him with the impression that negotiations might be possible if 
' the U.S. committed itself in advance to a timetable for the withdrawal of 

I forces from South Vietnam. With pressure again mounting for additional U.S. 

measures against the North and the failure of the Ronning mission, the 
? State Department closed out this international effort on June 23 (the day 

after the original POL execute order), stati^ng that neither oral reports 
nor public statements indicated any change in the basic elements of 
* Hanoi's position. On June 27^ Secretary Rusk told the SSATO Conference 
in Camberra, "I see no prospect of peace at the present moment." 137/ 
The bombing of the POL storage areas in Hanoi and Haiphong began on 
June 29. ' 

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The seriousness with v/hich these international efforts 
were being treated within the U.S. Government is reflected in two memos 
from the period of late April and early May. On April 27 , Maxwell Taylor, 
in his capacity as military advisor to the President, sent a memo to 
the President entitled, "Assessment and Uses of Negotiation Blue Chips." 
The heart of his analysis vras that bombing was a "blue chip" like cease- 
fire, withdrawal of forces, amnesty for VC/JWA, etc., to be given away 
at the negotiation table for something concrete in return, not abandoned 
beforehand merely to get negotiations started. The path to negotiations 
would be filled with pitfalls, he argued, 

Any day, Hanoi may indicate a willingness to negotiate 
provided we stop permanently our bombing attacks against the 
north. In this case, our Government would be under great 
pressure at home and abroad to accept this precondition whereas 
to do so would seriously prejudice the success of subsec^uent 
negotiations. I38 / 

To avoid this dilemma, Taylor urged the President to clearly indicate 
to our friends as well as the enemy that we were not prepared to end 
the bombing except in negotiated exchange for a reciprocal concession 
from the North Vietnamese. His analysis proceeded like this: 

To avoid such pitfalls, we need to consider what we will 
want from the Communist side and what they will want from 
us in the course of negotiating a cease-fire or a final 
settlement- What are our negotiating assets, what is their 
value, and how should they be employed? As I see them, the 
following are the blue chips in our pile representing what 
Hanoi would or could like from us and what we might consider 
giving under certain conditions. 

a. Cessation of bombing in North Viet-Nam. 

b. Cessation of military operations against Viet Cong units. 

c. Cessation of increase of U.S. forces in South Viet-Nam. 

d. Withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Viet-Nam. 

e. Amnesty and civic rights for Viet Cong. 

f. Economic aid to North Viet-Nam. 

The Viet Cong/Hanoi have a similar stack of chips representing 
actions we would like from them. 


Cessation of Viet Cong incidents in South Viet-Nam. 

b. Cessation of guerrilla _military operations. 


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c. Cessation of further infiltration of men and 
supplies from North Viet -Nam to South Viet -Nam. 

d. Withdrawal of infiltrated North Vietnamese Army 
units and cadres. 

6- Dissolution or repatriation of Viet Cong. 139/ 

Continuing his argument, Taylor outlined his views about which ""blue 
chips" we should trade in negotiations for concessions from the DRV. 

If these are the chips , how should we play ours to 
get theirs at minimum cost? Our big chips are a and d, 
the cessation of bombing and the withdrawal of U.S. forces; 
their big ones are _c and £, the stopping of infiltration 
and dissolution of the Viet Cong. We might consider trading 
even, our a and d for their £ and e except for the fact that 
all will req.uire a certain amount of verification and inspec- 
tion except our bombing which is an overt, visible fact. 
Even if Hanoi would accept inspection, infiltration is so 
elusive that I would doubt the feasibility of an effective 
detection system. Troop withdrawals, on the other hand, 
are comparatively easy to check. Hence, I would be inclined 
to accept as an absolute minimura a cessation of Viet Cong 
incidents and military operations (Hanoi a and b) which are 
readily verifiable in exchange for the stopping of our 
bombing and of offensive military operations against Viet 
Cong units (our a and b). If Viet Cong performance under 
the agreement were less than perfect, we can resume our 
activities on a scale related to the volume of enemy action. 
This is not a particularly good deal since we give up one of 
our big chips, bombing, and get neither of Hanoi's two big ones. 
However, it would achieve a cease-fire under conditions which 
are subject to verification and, on the whole, acceptable. 
We would not have surrendered the right to use our weapons 
in protection of the civil population outside of Viet Cong- 
controlled territory. 1^0, 

" Summing up, Taylor argued against an unconditional bombing halt in these 
words : 

Such' a tabulation of negotiating blue chips and their 
. ' purchasing power emphasized the folly of giving up any one 

in advance as a precondition for negotiations. Thus, if 
we gave up bombing in order to start discussions, we would 
not have the coins necessary to pay for all the concessions 
required for a satisfactory terminal settlement. ¥^ estimate 
J ^ of assets and values may be challenged, but I feel that it is 

important for us to go through some such exercise and make up 
our collective minds as to the Value of ovxr holdings and how 

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to play them. We need such an analysis to guide our own , 
thoughts and actions and possibly for communication to some 
of the third parties who^ from time to time, try to get . " 
negotiations started. Some day we may be embarrassed if some 
country like India should express the view to Hanoi that the 
Americans would probably stop their bombing to get discussions 
started and then have Hanoi pick up the proposal as a formal 
offer. To prepare our ovm people as well as to guide our 
friends, we need to make public explanation of some of the 
points discussed above. l4l/ 

In conclusion he sounded a sharp warning about allowing ourselves to 
become embroiled in a repetition of our Korean negotiating experience, 
where ca.sualties increased during the actual bargaining phase itself. 
It is hard to assess how much influence this memo had on the President's 
and the Administration's attitudes tovrard negotiations, but in hind- 
sight it is clear that thinking of this kind prevailed within the U.S. 
Government lontil the early spring of I968. 


Taylor's memo attracted attention both at State and Defense 
at least down to the Assistant Secretary level. William Bundy at State 
sent a micmo to Secretary Rusk the following week commenting on Taylor's 
ideas with his own assessment of the bargaining value and timing of a 
perm^anent cessation of the bombing. Since they represent vlev/s on the 
bombing v^hich v^ere to prevail for nearly two years, Bundy 's memo is repro- 
duced in substantial portions below. Recapitulating Taylor's analysis 
and his own position, Bundy began, 

Essentially, the issue has always been whether we would 
trade a cessation of bombing in the North for some degree of 
reduction or elimination of Viet Cong and new North Viet- 
namese activity in the South, or a cessation of infiltration 
from the North, or a combination of both. 1^2/ 

Worried that Taylor's willingness to trade a cessation of US/gVN bombing 
and offensive operations for a cessation of VC/nVA activity might be 
prejudicial to the GVN, Bundy outlined his own concept of what would be 
a reciprocal concession from the DRV: 

...I have m^yself been more inclined to an asking price, 
at least, that would include both a declared cessation of 
infiltration and a sharp reduction in \c/nVA military opera- 
tions in the South. Even though we could not truly verify 
the cessation of infiltration, the present volume and routes 
are such that we could readily ascertain whether there was 
any significant movement, using our own air. Moreover, DRV 

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action concerning infiltration woiild be a tremendous 
psychological blovr to the VC and would constitute an 
admission which they have always declined really to make. 

Whichever form of trade might be pursued if the issue 
even arose -- as it conceivably might through such nibbles 
as the present Ronning effort — I fully agree with General 
Taylor that we should do all we can to avoid the pitfalls 
of ceasing bombing in return simply for a willingness to talk. 1^3 / 

Concerned that the current spate of international peace moves might entice 
the Administration in another bombing pause^, Bundy reminded the Secretary 
that 5 

...during our long pause in Janua-ry, we pretty much 
agreed among ourselves that as a practical matter, if Hanoi 
started to play negotiating games that even seemed to be 
serious, we would have great difficulty in resuming bombing 
for some time. This was and is a built-in weakness of the 
"pause" approach. It does not apply to informal talks with 
the DRV, directly or indirectly, on the conditions under 
which we would stop bombing, nor does it apply to possible 
third country suggestions. As to the latter, I myself believe 
that our past record sufficiently stresses that we could stop 
the bombing only if the other side did something in response. 
Thus, I would not at this m.oment favor any additional public 
. statement by us, which might simply highlight the issue and 
bring about the very pressures we seek to avoid. l^U/ 

Hence, he concluded. 

As you can see, these reactions are tentative as to the 
form of the trade, but q,uite firm that there must in fact be 
a trade and that we should not consider another "pause" under 
existing circumstances. If we agree merely to these points, 
I think we will have made some progress. 1^^/ 

Bombing was thus seen from within the Administration as a counter to be 
traded during negotiations, a perception not shared by large segments of 
the international community where bombing was alvrays regarded as an 
im-oediment to any such negotiations. Hanoi, however, had always clearly 
seen the bombing as the focal point in the test of wills with the U.S. 

While Secretary Rusk was fending off this international 
'pressure for an end to the bombing and de-escalation of the war as a 
means to peace, the President was having increasing trouble with war- 
dissenters within his own party. The US had scarcely resumed the bombing 

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of the Worth after the extended December-January pause when Senator 
Fulbright opened hearings by his Senate Foreign Relations Committee 
into the Vietnam war. Witnesses who took varying degrees of exception 
to U.S. policy as they testified in early February included former 
Ambassador George Kennan and retired General James Gavin. Secretary 
Rusk appeared on February l8 and defended U.So involvement as a fulfill- 
ment of our SEATO obligations. In a stormy confrontation with Fulbright 
the Secretary repeatedly reminded the Senator of his support for the 
iggij. Tonkin Gulf Resolution. The next day^ Senator Robert Kennedy stated 
that the KLF should be included in any postvrar South Vietnamese govern- 
ment. Three days later, he clarified his position by saying that he had 
meant the NLF should not be "automatically excluded" from power in an 
interim government pending elections. Speaking no doubt for the Presi- 
dent and the Administration, the Vice President pointedly rejected 
Kennedy's suggestion on February 21. On the other side of the political 
spectrum, Senator Russell, otherwise a hawk on the war, reacted in April 
to the continuing political turmoil in South Vietnam by suggesting a 
poll be taken in all large Vietnamese cities to determine whether our 
assistance v/as still desired by the Vietnamese. If the answer was no, 
he asserted, the U.S. should pull out of Vietnam. 

The President was also regularly reminded by the press of 
the possible implications for the November Congressional elections of a 
continuing large effort in South Vietnam that did not produce results. 
Editorial writers were often even more pointed. On May 17^ Jajues Reston 

President Johnson has been confronted for some time 
with a moral q.uestion in Vietnara, but he keeps evading it. 
The question is this: What Justifies m.ore and more killing 
in Vietnam when the President's own conditions for an effec- 
tive war effort --a government that can govern and fight in 
Saigon -- are not met? 

By his own definition, this struggle cannot succeed 
without a regime that commands the respect of the South 
Vietnamese people and a Vietnamese army that can pacify the 
country. Yet though the fighting qualities of the South 
Vietnamese are now being demonstrated more and more against 
one another, the President's orders are sending more and more 
Americans .into the battle to replace the Vietnamese who are 
fighting c-^jnong themselves. lU6/ 

Public reaction to the simmering political crisis in South Vietnam was 
reflected in declining popular approval of the Rresident's performance 
In March 68fa of those polled had approved the President's conduct in 
office but by ¥b.J^ l^is support had declined sharply to only 5^fo. 1^?/ 

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Some indication of the concern being generated by these adverse 
U.S.. political effects of the governmental crisis in South Vietnam is 
offered by the fact that State, on May 21, sent the Embassy in Saigon 
the results of a Gallup Poll on v:hether the U.S. should continue its 
support for the war. These were the q.uestions and the distribution of 
the responses: 

1. Suppose South Vietnamese start fighting on big scale 
among themselves. Do you think we should continue help them, 
or should we withdraw our troops? (a) Continue to help 28 
percent; (b) Withdraw 5^ percent; (c) No opinion 18 percent. 

2. If GVW decides stop fighting (discontinue war), what 
should US do — continue war by itself, or should we withdraw? 
(a) Continue l6 percent; (e) Withdrav/ 72 percent; (c) No 
opinion 12 percent. Comparison August I965 is I9, 63 and I8 
percent . 

3. Do you think South Vietna^nese will be able to estab- 
lish stable government or not? (a) Yes 32 percent; (b) No 
48 percent; (C) No opinion 20 percent. Comparison January 
1965 is 25, kZ and 33 percent. 1^8/ 

Lodge, struggling with fast moving political events in Hue and DaNang, 
replied to these poll results on May 23 in a harsh and unsympathetic tone. 

We are "in Viet-Nam because it cannot ward off external 
aggression by itself, and is, therefore, in trouble. If it 
were not in trouble, vre would not have to be here. The time 
for us to leave is when the trouble is over — not when it is 
changing its character. It makes no sense for us here to help 
them against military violence and to leave them in the lurch 
to be defeated by criminal violence operating under political, 
economic and social guise. 

It is obviously true that the Vietnamese are not today 
ready for self-government, and that the French actively tried 
"to unfit them for ^elf -government . One of the implications 
of the phrase 'internal squabbling' is this unfitness. But 
if we are going to adopt the policy of turning every country 
that is unfit for self-government over to the communists, there 
won't be much of the world left. 1^9/ 

Lodge rejected the implications of these opinion polls in the strongest 
possible terms, reaffirming his belief in the correctness of the U.S. 


The idea that we are here smply because the Vietnamese 
want us to be here — which is another implication of the 

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phrase 'internal squabbling' -; that we have no national 
interest in being here ourselves; and that if some of 
them don't want us to stay, we ought to get out is to 
me fallacious. In fact, I doubt whether we would have 
the moral right to make the commitment we have made here 
solely as a matter of charity towards the Vietnamese and 
without the existence of a strong United States interest. 
For ono. thing, the U.S. interest in avoiding VJorld War 
III is very direct and strong. Some day we may have to 
decide how much it is worth to us to deny Viet-Na>m to Hanoi 
and Peking -- regardless of what the Vietnamese may think. l^O/ 

Apparently unable to get the matter off his mind, Lodge brought it up 
again in his weekly NODIS to the President on May 25, 

I have been miolling over the state of American opin- 
ion as I observed it when I was at home. I have also been 
reading the recent Gallup polls. As I comjnented in my 
MBTEL ^880, I am quite certain that the number of those 
who want us to Viet-Nam because of current 'internal 
squabbling' does not reflect deep conviction but a super- 
ficial jjnpulse based on inadequate information. 

In fact, I think one television fireside cliat by you 
personally -- with all your intelligence and compassion — 
could tip that figure over in one evening. I am thinking of 
a speech, the general tenor of which would be; 'we are 
involved in a vital struggle of great difficulty and 
complexity on which much depends. I need your help.' 

I am sure you would get much help from the very 
people in the Gallup poll who said we ought to leave 
Viet-Nam — as soon as they understood what you want them 
to support. 151/ 

Lodge's reassurances, however, while welcome bipartisan political support 
from a critical member of the team, could not m.itigate the legitimate 
Presidential concerns about the domestic base for an uncertain policy. 
Thus, assailed on m.any sides, the President attempted to steer what he 
must have regarded as a middle course. 

-The President's unwillingness to proceed with the bombing 
of the POL storage facilities in North Vietnam continued in May in spite 
of the near consensus among his top advisors on its desirability. As 
already noted, the JCS recommendation that POL be included in Program 5O 
of the ROLLING THUl^ILER strikes for the month of May had been disapproved . 1^2 / 
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series for the month of May, which ordinarily vrould have been ROLLING 
THUJTOER 5I5 but the decision was to extend ROLLING THUNDER 5O until 
further notice , holding the POL q,uestion in abeyance. 1^3/ On May 3^ 
McNaughton sent Walt Rostow a belated list of q^uesticns, "to put into 
the 'ask-Lodge' hopper." The first set of proposed q[ueries had to do 
with the bombing program and included specific q.uestions about attacking 
K)L. Itoether Rostow did, in fact, query Lodge on the matter is not clear 
from the available cables, but in any case, Rostow took up the matter of 
the POL attacks himself in an im.portant memorandum to Rusk and McNamara 
i on May 6. Rostow developed his argument for striking the petroleum 

' reserves on the basis of U.S. experience in the World War II attacks on 

I German oil supplies and storage facilities. His reasoning v/as as follows 

From the moment that serious and systematic oil attacks 
started, front line single engine fighter strength and tank 
mobility were affected. The reason was this: it proved much 
more difficult, in the face of general oil shortage, to 
allocate from less important to more important uses than the 
simple arithmetic of the problem would suggest. Oil moves 
in various logistical chan-nels from central sources. VJhen 
the central sources bega-n to dry up the effects proved fairly 
prompt and widespread. VJhat look like reserves statistically 
are rather inflexible commitments to logistical pipelines. I5U/ 

The same results might be expected from heavy and sustained attacks on 
the North Vietnamese oil reserves, 

With an understanding that simple analogies are danger- 
ous, I nevertheless feel it is quite possible the military 
effects of a systematic and sustained bombing of POL in North 
Vietnam may be more prompt and direct than conventional intel- 
ligence analysis v/ould suggest. 

I vrould underline, however, the adjectives 'systematic 
and sustained.' If we take this step we must cut clean 

through the POL system and hold the cut -- if we are looking 

for decisive results. 155/ 

On May 9^ recalling that the VC had recently attacked three 
South Vietnamese textile factories, Westmoreland suggested that to deter 
* further assaults against South Vietnam.ese industry, the U.S. should strike 

i . a North Vietnamese industrial target with considerable military signifi- 

cance such as the Thai Nguyen iron and steel plant. 156/ Concurring with 
- ^2;^g basic intent of the proposal, CINCPAC recommended that the target be 

I ^j^g North Vietnamese POL system instead, "initiation of strikes against 

f • ■jNjY]\[ POL system and subsequent completed destruction , would be more mean- 
ingful and further deny NVN essential war making resources. I57/ 

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Lending further support to these military and civilian 
recommendations x-/as a study completed on May k by the Air Staff- which 
suggested that civilian casualties and collateral damage coiild be mini- 
mized in POL strikes if only the most experienced pilots, with thorough 
briefing were usedj if the raids were executed only under favorable 
visual flight conditions with maximum use of sophisticated navigational 
aids 5 and if weapons and tactics v/ere selected for their pinpoint accuracy 
rather than area coverage. 158/ On May 22, COMUSMCV sent CINCPAC yet 
another recommendation for retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnamese 
industrial and military targets. He called for plans that would permit the 
U.S. to respond to any VC terror attacks by an air strike against a 
similar target in the North. In particular, the Hanoi and Haiphong oil 
storage sites v/ere recoimnended as reprisal targets for VC attacks against 
UoS. or South Vietnamese POL. 1^9/ 

Intervening again in mid-May, however, was yet another 
round of the continuing South Vietnamese political crisis. It is not 
clear whether or not a decision on the strikes against Hanoi/Haiphong 
POL was deferred by the President for this reason, but it is plausible to 
think that it was a factor. In brief, the Buddhists in Hue and DaNang, 
with the active support and later leadership of General Thi, the I Corps 
commander, defied the central government. Thi refused to return to Saigon 
when ordered and only when Ky flev7 to DaNang and intervened vrith troops 
and police to recapture control of the two cities was GVN authority 
restored to the area. The crisis temporarily put the constitutional 
processes off the track and diverted high level American attention from 
other issues. l6o/ The effect of this dispute on public support for the 
U.S. involvement in the war has already been discussed. Concern with 
bringing an end to this internal strife in South Vietnam and with pushing 
a reluctant GVN steadily along the road to constitutional and dem-ocratic 
government preoccizpied the highest levels of the U.S. Government throughout 
May. These concerns momentarily contributed to forcing the military 
aspects of the war into the background for harried U.S. leaders whose time 
is always insufficient to the range of problem.s to be dealt with. 

D, The "Decision to Strike 

The POL decision was rapidly coming to a head. On May 31, a 
slight relaxation of the restrictions against attacking POL was made when ■ 
six minor storage areas in relatively unpopulated areas were approved 
for attack. l6l/ Apparently sometim^e in late May, possibly at the time 
of the approval of the six minor targets, the President decided that 
attacks on the entire North Vietnamese POL netv/ork could not be delayed 
'much lon-^er. In any case, sometime near the end of the month he infoiTned 
British Prime Minister Wilson of his intentions. When Wilson protested, 
McNamara arranged a special briefing by an American officer for Wilson 
and Foreign Minister Michael Stev/art on June 2. Ihe following day, Wilson 

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I . 

cabled his appreciation to the President for his courtesy^ but expressed 
his own feeling of obligation to urge the President not to make these 
new raids. Thus^ he stated: 

I was most grateful to you for asking Bob McNamara to 
arrange the very full briefing about the two oil targets near 
Hanoi and Haiphong that Col, Rogers gave me yesterday.... 

I know you will not feel that I am either linsympathetic 
or uncomprehending of the dilemma that this problem presents 
for you. In particular, I v/holly understand the deep concern 
you must feel at the need to do anything possible to reduce 
the losses of young Americans in and over Vietnam; and Col. 
Rogers made it clear to us what care has been taken to plan 
this operation so as to keep civilian casualties to the 

However,... I am bound to say that, as seen from here, 
the possible m-ilitary benefits that may result from this 
bombing do not appear to outweigh the political disadvantages 
that would seem the inevitable conseq.uence. If you and the 
South Vietnamese Government were conducting a declared war 
on the conventional pattern. . .this operation would clearly 
be necessary and right. But since you have m^ade it abun.dantly 
clear — and you knov/ how much vre have welccm.ed and supported 
this — that your purpose is to achieve a negotiated settlement, 
and that you are not striving for total military victory in 
the field, I remain convinced that the bombing of these targets, 
without producing decisive military advantage, may only increase 
the difficulty of reaching an eventual settlement.... 

The last thing I wish is to add to your difficulties, but, 
as I warned you in my previous message, if this action is taken 
we shall have to dissociate ourselves from it, and in doing so 
I should have to say that you had given me advance warning and 
that I had made my position clear to you.... 

Nevertheless I want to repeat. . .that our reservations 
about this operation will not affect our continuing support 
for your policy over Vietnam, as you and your people have 
made it clear from your ^pril ISG^J Baltimore speech onwards. 
But, v/hile this will remain the Government's position, I know 
that the effect on public opinion in this country -- and I 
• believe throughout Western Europe -- is likely to be such as 
to reinforce the existing disq.uiet and criticism that we have 
to deal with. I62/ 

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The failure of the special effort to obtain Wilson's support 
must have been disappointing, but it did not stop the onward flow of 
events. Available information leaves unclear exactly how firmly the 
President had decided to act and gives no specific indication of the 
intended date for the strikes. A package of staff papers prepared by 
McNaughton suggests that the original date was to have been June 10. 
A scenario contained in the package proposes a list of actions for the 
period 8-30 June and begins with strike-day minus 2. The suggested 
scenario was as follows: 

B-Jstvike/ day minus 2: Inform UK, Australia, Japan 
N . S-day minus 1: Notify Canada, New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, 

Philippines (Marcos only), CRC (Chiang only), Korea 
S-hour minus 1: Inform GVN 
S-hour: Strike Hanoi, Haiphong 
S-hour plus 2: Announce simultaneously in Washington and 

S-hour plus 3""5- SecDef press backgrounder (depends on 

strike timing and com.pleteness of post-strike reports) I63/ 

The package also included a draft JCS execute message, a draft State 
cable to the field on notifying third countries, a draft public announce- 
ment, a talking paper for a McNamara press conference, a list of anticipated 
press q.uestions, and maps and photographs of the targets. 

The circle of those privy to this tentative Presidential decision 
probably did not. include more than a half dozen of the key Washington 
advisers. Certainly the military commanders in the field had not been 
informed. On Jujie 5^ Westmoreland iirged that strikes be made against POL 
at the "earliest possible" moment, noting that ongoing North Vietnamese 
dispersal efforts would make later attacks less effective. l6k/ Admiral 
Sharp took the occasion to reiterate to Washington that the"~s^rikes, 
besides underscoring the US resolve to support SVN and increase the pres- 
sure against NVN, would make it difficult for Hanoi to disperse POL, 
complicate off-loading from tankers, necessitate new methods of trans- 
shipment, "temporarily" halt the flow to dispersed areas, and have a 
■ "direct effect" on the movement of trucks and watercarft — perhaps (if 
imports were inadequate) limiting truck use. Sh^rp called the POL targets 
the most lucrative available in terms of impairing NVN's military logis- 
tics capabilities. I65/ Two days later, in reporting the results of a 
review of the armed recce program, CINCPAC again urged that POL be 
attacked. He particularly noted the importance of, 

...the effort being made by the NVN to disperse, camou- 
flage and package things into ever smaller increments. This 
is particularly true of POL.... This again em-phasises the 
importance of souce /sic/ targets such as ports and major 
POL installations. 

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I I 

I It is hoped that Jiine will see a modification to 

I the RT /rolling THTOIDKR/ ^rules with authorization to 

syrike /J'^£l ^^Y K)^ targets ;, selected targets in the 
Hon Gai and Cam Pha compleses /si^c/^ ^^^ relaxation of 
the restrictions against coastal armed recce in the KE. 
In addition 5 reduction in the size of the Hanoi/Haiphong 
restricted areas would be helpful.... 166/ 

The CIA5 however^ remained skeptical of these expectations for strikes 
against POL. On June 8^ they produced a special assessment of the likely 
effects of such an attack, probably in response to a req[uest from the 
Principals for a last minute evaluation. The report emphasized that 
"neutralization" of POL would not in itself stop North Vietnamese support 
of the war^ although it would have an adverse general effect on the 

It is estimated that the neutralization of the bulk 
petroleum storage facilities in IWN will not in itself 
preclude Hanoi's continued support of essential war activi- 
ties. The immediate impact in JWN will be felt in the need 
to convert to an alternative system of supply and distribu- 
tion. The conversion program will be costly and create 
additional burdens for the regime. It is estimated, how- 
ever, that the infiltration of m.en and supplies into SVN 
can be sustained. The impact on normal economic activity, 
however, would be more severe. New strains on an already 
burdened economic control structure and managerial talent 
v;ould cause reductions in economic activity, compound 
existing distribution problems, and further strain 
power resources. The attacks on petrc3-eum storage facili- 
ties in conjunction with continued attacks on transportation 
targets and armed reconnaissance against lines of coirimunica- 
tions will increase the burden and costs of supporting the 
war. 167/ 

The sequence of events in the POL scenario drawn up by McNaughton 
was interrupted on June 7 by yet another international diplomatic effort 
to get negotiations started, or at least to test Hanoi's attitudes toward 
such a possibility. Canadian Ambassador Chester Ronning had been planning 
a second visit to Hanoi for June 1U-I8 with State Department approval. 
Thus, when Rus.k, who was travelling in Europe, learned on June 7 of the 
possibility of strikes before Ronning' s trip, he urgently cabled the 
President to defer them. 

...Regarding special operation in Vietnam we have had 
under consideration, I sincerely hope that timing can be 
I"! postponed until my return. A major question in my mind is 

j^onnin^ mission to Hanoi occurring June ik through I8. This 

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is not merely political question involving a mission with 
which we have ftilly concurred. It also involves impor- 
tance of c^Jir knowing whether there is ary change in the 
thus far harsh and unyielding attitude of Hanoi. 168/ 

Much on his mind in making the request ^ as he revealed in a separate 
cable to McNamara the following day, was the likelihood of "...general 
international revalsion. . . ." toward an act that might sabatoge Ronning's 

...I am deeply distixrbed by general international 
revulsion, and perhaps a great deal at home, if it becomes 
known that we took an action which sabotaged the Ronning 
mission to which we had given our agreement. I recognize 
the agony of this problem for all concerned • We could 
make arrangements to get an Immediate report from Ronning. 
If has a negative report, as we expect, that provides a 
firmer base for the action we contemplate and would make 
a difference to people like Wilson and Pearson. If, on 
the other hand, he learns that there is any serious break- 
through toward peace, the President would surely want to 
know of that before an action which would knock such a 
possibility off the tracks. I strongly recommend, there- 
fore, against ninth or tenth. I regret this because of my 
maximum desire to support you and your colleagues in your 
tough Job. 169/ 

The President responded to the Secretary's request and suspended action 
until Ronning returned. VJhen Ronning did return, William B^JJidy flew to 
Ottawa and met v;ith him on June 21. Bundy reported that he was "markedly 
m.ore sober and subdued" and had found no opening or flexibility in the 
North Vietnamese position. I7Q/ 

While these diplomatic efforts were underway, McKamara had 
informed CINCPAC of the high level consideration for the POL strikes, but 


Final decision for or aga.inst will be influenced by 
extent they can be carried out without significant civilian 
■ casualties. What preliminary steps to minimize vrould you 
recommend and if taken what num.ber of casualties do you 
believe would result? 171/ 

CINCPAC replied eagerly listing the conditions and safeguards for the 
attack that the Air Staff study had suggested in early May. He would 
execute only under favorable weather conditions, with good visibility 
and no cloud cover, in order to assiire positive identification of the 
targets and improved strike accuracy; select the best axis of attack to 

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avoid populated areas j select -weapons with optimum ballistic character- 
istics for precisions make maximum use of ECM support in order to hamper 
SA-2 and AAA radars and reduce "pilot distraction" during the strikes; 
and employ the most experienced pilots ^ thoroughly "briefed. He added 
that IWN had an excellent alert system^ which would provide ample time 
for people to take cover. In all^ he expected "xmder 50" civilian 
casualties. 172/ (This was the Joint Staff estimate^ too, but CIA in 
its 8 June report estimated that civilian casualties might run to 200-300.) 

McNamara cabled his approval of the measures suggested and indi- 
cated that they would be included in the execute message. He stressed 
that the President's final decision would be greatly influenced by the 
ability to minimize civilian casualties and inq,uired about restrictions 
against flak and SAM suppression that might endanger populated areas. 173/ 
On June 16;, CINCPAC offered farther assurances that all possible measures 
would be taken to avoid striking civilians and that flak and SAM suppression 
would be under the rightest of restrictions. 17^/ 

The stage was thus set, and when the feedback from the Penning 
mission revealed no change in Hanoi's position, events moved quickly. 

On 22 June the execution message V7as released. 175./ I"t auth- 
orized strikes on the 7 POL targets plus the Kep radar, beginning with 
attacks on the Hanoi and Haiphong sites, effective first light on 2^ Jiine 
Saigon time. 

The execution message is a remarkable document, attesting in 
detail to the political sensitivity of the strikes and for some reason 
ending in a "never on Sunday" injunction. The gist of the message was 
as follows : 

Strikes to commence with initial attacks against 
Haiphong and Hanoi POL on same day if operationally 
feasible. Make maxmum effort to attain operational 
surprise. Do not conduct initiating attacks imder mar- 
ginal weather conditions but reschedule when weather 
assures success. Follow-on attacks authorized as opera- 
tional and weather factors dictate. ■ 

At Haiphong, avoid damage to merchant shipping. No - 
attacks authorized on craft -unless US aircraft are first 
fired on and then only if clearly North Vietnamese. Piers 
servicin;^ target will not be attacked if tanker is berthed 
off end of pier. 

Decision made after SecDef and CJCS v/ere assured every 
feasible step vrould be taken to minimize civilian casiial- 
ties would be small- If you do not believe you can accom- 
> plish objective vrhile destroying- targets and protecting 

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crews, do not initiate program. Take the following 
measures: maximum use of most experienced ROLLING 
THUNDER persopjiel, detailed briefing of pilots stressing 
need to avoid civilians , execute only when weather per- 
mits visual identification of targets and improved strike 
accuracy, select best axis of attack to avoid populated 
areas, maximiim use of ECM to hamper SAi-I and AAA fire 
control, in order to limit pilot distraction and improve 
accuracy, maximum use of vreapons of high precision 
delivery consistent vrith mission objectives, and limit 
SAM and AAA suppression to sites located outside popu- 
lated areas. 

Take special precautions to inspire security. If 
weather or operational considerations delay initiation 
of strikes, do not initiate on Sunday, 26 June. 176/ 

The emphasis on striking Hanoi and Haiphong POL targets on the 
same day and trying to achieve operational surprise reflected an acute 
concern that these targets were in well-defended areas and U.S. losses 
might be high. The concern about merchant shipping, especially tankers 
which might be in the act of off-loading into the storage tanks, reflected 
anxiety over sparking an international incident, especially one with the 

With the execute message out, high-level interest turned to the 
weather in the Hanoi/Haiphong area. The M4CC began to send Secretary 
McNamara written forecasts every fe\f hours. These indicated that the 
weather was not promising. Tv/ice the strikes were scheduled but had to 
be postponed. Then, on 2}\ June, Philip Geyelin of the Wall Street Journal 
got hold of a story that the President had decided to bomb the POL at 
Haiphong, and the essential details appeared in a Dow Jones news wire that 
evening. This was an extremely serious leak, because of the high risk of 
UgS. losses if NYN defenses were fully prepared. The next day an order 
was issued cancelling the strikes. 17? / . ■ 

The weather watch continued^ however, under special security 
precautions. The weather reports, plus other messages relating to the 
strikes, continued, handled as Top Secret Special Category (SpeCat) 
Exclusive for the SecDef, CJCS, and CINCPAC. (It is not known whether 
the diplom.atic scenario vrhich involved informing some countries about 
the strikes ahead of time was responsible for the press leak; in any case^, 
the. classification and handling of these m.essages kept them out of State 
'Department channels.) The continued activity suggests that the cancella- 
tion of the strikes on the' 25th may have been only a cover for security 

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On the 28th Admiral Sharp cabled General Wheeler that his 
forces were ready and the v/'eather was favorable for the strike?; he 
requested authority to initiate them on the 29th. 178/ General 
Wheeler responded with a message rescinding the previous cancellation^ 
reinstating the original execution order, and approving the recommenda^ 
tion to execute on the 29tho The message informed Admiral Sharp that 
preliminary and planning messages should continue as SpeCat Exclusive 
for himself and the SecDef . 179/ 

The strikes were launched on 29 June, reportedly with great 
success. The large Hanoi tank farm was apparently completely knocked 
out; the Haiphong facility looked about 80 percent destroyed. One U.S, 
aircraft was lost to ground fire. Four MIGs were encountered and one 
was probably shot dovm. The Deputy Comm.ander of the 7th Air Force in 
Saigon called the operation "the m^ost significant, the most irrrportant 
strike of the War." 



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1. Memorandiim for the SecDef from Ambassador -at -Large Llewellyn E. 
Thompson^ 12 October 1965? op. cit , 

2. JCSS Armed Reconnaissance Study Group Report, "An Analysis of the 
Armed Reconnaissance Program in North Vietnam^" I5 November I965? 
Appendix 1 to Annex C. 

3. JCSM 238-665 ROLLING THUNDER Study Group Report, "Air Operations 
Against North Vietnam," ±k April I966, Tab B to Annex C to 
Appendix A to Section II, and Appendix B to Section II. 

h. Memorandum for the SecDef from Ambassador-at-Large Llewellyn E. 
Thompson, 12 October I965? 2R' £ii* 

15. JCSM 811-65, 10 November I965, "Future Operations and Force Deploy- 
ments with Respect to the War in Vietnam." 

6. Memorandum for the DepSecDef from McNaughton, 9 November 1965^ 
summ.arizing the JCS position. 

rY. JCSM 810-65, "Air Operations Against the North Vietnam. POL System," 
10 November 1965- 

8. "Attack on the North Vietnam Petroleum Storage System -- A Study," 
prepared by J-3 in collaboration with DIA, 23 April 1965? revised 
22 December 1965* 

9. JCSM 810-65, 10 November 1965? op. cit. 

10. Ibid ., Appendix, Annex D. 

11. Ibid. 

' ' 12. Memorandum for the Director, CIA, from Sherman Kent, for the Board 

of National Estimates, "Probable Reactions of the DRV, Communist 

' China, and the USSR to US Air Attacks on Petroleum Storage Facilities 

in North Vietnam," 27 November I9655 and Memorandum for the SecDef 
from Admiral W- F. Raborn, 3 December 1965^ f03rwarding Memorandum for 
the Director, CIA, from. Sherman Kent, for the Board of National 
Estimates, "Reactions to a US Course of Action in Vietnam," 2 December 

1965. ^ " •. * 

is. Memorandum for Director, CIA from Sherman Kent, 27 November 1965^ 
op . cit . 


1I+. Ibid. 

I • 

15- I^- . ■ * 

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16- Memorandum for the Director , CIA, from Sherman Kent, 2 December 
1965? £P- £ii- 

17- Ibid . 

18. Ibid. 

19. Ibid . 

20. Ibid. 

21. Memorandum for the CJCS from the SecDef, 8 December 1965, "Military 
Operations in North and South Vietnam." 

22. Memorandum for the DepSecDef from the Acting Director, CIA, 

28 December I965, "Probable Reactions to US Bombing Attacks on 
POL Targets in Worth Vietnam." 

23. Ibid. 
2k. Ibid . 

25. Ibid. 

26. Ibid . 

27. SIHE 10-2-65, 10 December I965, "Probable Communist Reactions to 
a US Course of Action." 

28. Ibid. 

29. Ibid. 

30. Ibid. 

31. CM-IOO6-65, Memorandum for the SecDef, "Probable Reactions of 
the DRV, Communist China, and the USSR to US Air Attacks on the 

■Petroleiom Storage Facilities in North Vietnam," 2 December 196.5 . 

32. CM 1071-65, MemorandiHu for ASd/iSA, 28 December 1965- 

33. "Attack on the North Vietnam Petroleiim Storage System — A Study" 
prepared by J-3 in collabroation with DIA, 23 April I965, revised- 
22 December 1965- 

3I1. ■ Ibid. 

35. JCSM Ul-66, 18 January I966. 

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36. Drafts W- P. Bundy^ 1/15/66^ "Scenario for Possible Resiiiription 
of Bombing." 

37. Drafts McNaughton, 1/18/665 "Some Observations About Bombing 
North Vietnam." 

38. JCS 2830, 292126Z January 1966, directed the resumption. This 
was the beginning of ROLLim THUNDER ^8. 

39. Memorandum for the President^ "The Military Outlook in South 
Vietnam," 2k January I966. 

kO. Ibid. 

1^1, DIA Special Report AP-I-63O-I-I5-665 "Relationship Between Petro- 
leum Storage and Distribution System and Petroleum Consum^ption 
in North Vietnam," January I966. 

1|2. SNIE 10-1-66, "Possible Effects of a Proposed US Co-arse of Action 
on DRV Capability to Support the Insurgency in South Vietnam," 
h February I966. 

I If 3 . Ibid'. 

^ Iflf. Ibid. 

^5. Ibid * 

k6. Ibid. 


i|-7. CM-11^7-66, 1 February I966, "interdiction Operations Against the DRV." 

1|8. JCSM 238-66, Ik April 1966, "ROLLING THUNDER Study Group Report," 
op. cit . , Section I, Basic Report. 

I49. Ibid . 

50. Ibid. 

51.- Ibid. 

52. JCSM 113-^6, 19 February I966. 

53. JCSM 130-66, 1 March I966; JCSM 153-66, 10 March I966. 

5I1. CIA SC No. 0828/66, "The Role of Air Strikes in Attaining Objec- 
tives in North Vietnam," March I966. 

55. Ibid. 

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56. Ibid . 

57. Ibid . . ' " 

58. Ibid. 

59. Ibid . 

60. Ibid . 

61. rbid. 

62. Ibid . 

63. Memo, SecDef to President, 2k Jan I966, op. cit. 

6k. CM 11^7-66: Memo, Chairman to Director, Joint Staff, 1 Feb I966, 

JCS Study Group Report, Sect. I, App A, Annex B; JCSM 238-66: Memo, 
Director, Joint Staff to SecDef, 1^ Apr I966, states that the Study 
Group was formed "in furtherance of your conversation with the 
Chairman. ..." 

65. JCS Study Group Report, Sect. I, App A, Annex B, and App B. 

66. Ibid., Sect. II, App A, Annex D, pp. 12-13. 

67. JCSM 113-66 (19 Feb 1966)- 

68. JCS Study Group Report, Sec. II, App A, Annex B, p. I3. 
■ 69. JCSM 130-66 (1 Mar I966). 

70. JCSM 810-65 (10 Nov 1965)- 

71. ■ Memo, Sherman Kent to Director, CIA, 2 Dec 1965- 

72. Memo, Sherman Kent to Director, CIA, 27 Nov 1965- 

73. Ibid . 
7k. Mem.o, Acting Director, CIA, to DepSecDef, 28 Dec 1965* 

75. DIA Special Report AP-I-63O, 15 Jan I966. 

76. SNIE 10-1-66 {h Feb I966). 

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77. JCSM-I3O-66, 1 March I9665 Appendix A, p. A-3 (TS), emphasis 

78. JCSM-153-66, 10 March I966 (TS). 

79. CIA SC No. 0828/665 ''The Role of Air Strikes in Attaining Objectives 
in North Vietnam/' March I966. 

80. JCSM 189-665 26 Mar I966. 

81. Ibid. 

82. Memo^ SecDef to President (no date^ but late March 1966), Subject: 
April Program of Air Strikes Against North Vietnam and La^os" (in 
McNaughton Book 11, Tab V.) 

83. NSAM No. 2885 17 Mar I96U. 

Qk. State 288^^ to Lodge , 30 Mar I9665 CF k9. 

85. Notes on Memo^ SecDef to President, "April Program.../' copy in 
McNaughton Book VII , Tab L.) 

86. JCS 7^80, 010112Z April I966. 

87. Memorandum for the President, "April Program...," _^. cit. 

88. Testimony before the Senate Committees on Armed Services and Appro- 
priations, k August 1965, SECRET. 

Q(^. JCSM 810-65, 10 November 1965? ££• cit . 

90. CM-IOO6-65, 2 December 1965? £P* cit . 

91. Memorand^om for the President from Under SecState Ball, 25 January I966. 

92. Ibid. 

93. Ibid . . 

9I1. JCS Study Group Report, Section III, Appendix A, pp. 2-3; JCSM 238-66, 
II+ April' 1966. 


Q5 Backgroun d Information Relating to Southeast Asia and Viet-Nam , o_p. 
cit77*P- 2B^ 


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96. The papers and notes presented at this meeting for consideration 
and described^ in detail below are all contained in McNaughton 
Book II 5 Tab W (S-Sensitive) . 

97. W. ¥. Rostow Meaaorandum for Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara, 
April 9^ 1966 — 7:00 a.m., Subject: Breaking Tri Quang's Momentum (S), 
in McNaughton Book 11, Tab S. 

98. Leonard Unger, State, Far East, Flanjiing for Viet-Nam Contingencies , 
April 11, 1966 (TS), in McNaughton Book II, Tab R. 

99. McNaughton* s handwritten notes dated ^'U/l2/66" suggest such a meeting; 
they begin withha list of names (of participants?) and contain a 
numbered summary of probable discussion points. (McNaughton, Book II, 
Tab R.) 

100. George A. Carver, CIA, Memorandum for the Honorable John T. McNaughton 
(copies to Rostow, Bundy, Moyers, Unger, Ball, Vance, Komer), 

12 April 1966, with attached Memorandum entitled "Conseq.uences of 
a Buddhist Political Victory in South Vietnam," 11 April I966, 
(S-SENSITIVE); McNaughton Book II, Tab Q,. . 

101. Maxwell D. Taylor, Memorandum for the President, Subject: "Current 
Situation in South Vietnam," April 12, I966 (s); in McNaughton Book II, 

Tab P. 

102. U.S. Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Background Information 
Relating to Southeast Asia and Vietnam (Uth Revised edition), 
(Washington; GPO, March I968), p. 28; for a good review of events 
at the time see Embassy Saigon msg. 4o33, I6 April I966 (S-LIMDIS). 

103. W- W. Rostow, Headings for Decision and Action: Vietnam, April l4, 
1966, April 1^1, 1966 (S), copy for Mr. McNaughton; in McNaughton 
Book II, Tab 0. " 

IQh. JCSM-238-66, op. cit . 

105. JCS ROLLING THUNDER Study Group Report: Air Operations Against , 
■ NVN, 6 April I966 (TS), Section III, Annexes D, E, and F. 

106. Ibid., Se-tion III, Appendix B, p. 6. 

107. Ibid . ■ 

108 Robert S. McNamara Memora,ndum for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of 

Staff Subject: Air Operations Against North Vietnam, April 13, .I966. 

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109. DMFT5 FE: WPBundyjmk^ k/lG/GG, Basic Choices in Viet-Nam (S); 
in McNaughton Book II , Tab N- 

no. Ibid , 

ill. Ibid. 

112. Ibid. 

113. Ibid. 
lli|. Ibid . 3 emphasis added. 

115. Plow ¥e Sh ou ld Move^ unsigned ^ Lindated paper (TS- SENSITIVE, "By 
Carver, U7T5/66" pencilled in by McNaughton) in McNaughton Book 11, 
Tab Mc. 

116. Ibid. 
XI7. Ibid. 3 emphasis added. 

-■ ' 118. Ibid . 

119. Ibid . 

120. Politics in Vietnam: A "Worst" Outcome, I6 April I9665 unsigned 
paper in McNaughton Book II, Tab M (S)V 

121. Ibid., Tab A. 

122. Scenario , EE: LUngerjhjh, V^^ in McNaughton Book II, Tab Mc. 

123. Weekly Compilation of Presidentia.l Documents , vol. 2, no. I6, 
. Monday, April 25, I966, p. 555, emphasis added. 

12^. Course B, linger k/ls/GGl McNaughton revision U/20/66; Unger re- 
revision k/2l/ GG (S-SENSITIVS) in McNaughton Book II, Tab J. ' 


125. Ibid. 

■ '■'• 126. Ibid. 

127. NSAM 3^3^ March 28, I966 (s). 

i \ 128. R. W. Komer Mem.orandum for Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, and 

* Administrators Bell, Marks and Raborn, April I9, I966 (s); with 
attached Memorandi:mi for the President, April I9, I966 (s). 

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129. See 5 for instance, his Statementoon Vietnam during a News Conference 
at the White House, June 18, I9665 in Weekly Compilation of Presi- 
dential Documents, Monday, June 27, 196^, pp. 8O5-7. 

130. JCSM-130-66, 1 March I966 (TS). ■ 

131. Robert S, McNamara Memorandum to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of 
Staff, Subject: "Deployments to Southeast Asia," 10 March I966 (TS) 

132. JCSM-218-66, h April 1966 (TS). 

133. Robert S. McNamara Memorandum for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of 
Staff, Subject: "Deployment Program for South Vietnam," 12 April 
1966 (TS). 

I3I1. JCSM-27^-66, 28 April I966 (TS). 

135. See JCSM-215-66, 2 April I966 (TS); JCSIvI-233-66,- 15 April I966 (TS); 
and JCSM-375-66, h June I966 (TS) on Tac Air requirements; and 
JCSM-317-66, 10 May I966 (TS) on air munitions req,uirement£. 

136. JCSM-26U-66, 27 April 1966 (TS). 

137. The New York Times , 28 June I966. 

138. Maxwell D. Taylor Memorandiom for the President, Subject: "Assess- 
ment and Use of Negotiation Blue Chips," April 27, I966 (S); in 
McNaughton Book II, Tab H. . ^ 

139. Ibid. 

140. Ibid. 

litl. Ibid . 

ll|2. VJilliam P. Bundy Memorandum' to the Secretary [of StateJ, Subject: 

"General Taylor's Memorandum of April 27 on Negotiation Blue Chips," 
May \, 1966 (S-NODIS); in McNaughton Book II, Tab K. 

1^3. rbid. 
1U1|. Ibid. 
11^5.. Ibid ." 

lii-6. Jam^es Reston, "Washington: The Evaded Moral Question in Vietnam," 
New York Times , May I8, I966. 

1I+7, Tabular presentation of Presidential popularity showing Truman, 
Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson- in SecDef Cable File 52, Tab E. 


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ikQ. State Department message 3553? May 21, I966 (c). 
11^9. Embassy Saigon message ^880, May 23, .T,966 (C-LIMDIS). 

150. Ibid . 

151. Embassy Saigon message ^952 for the President from Lodge, May 25, 
19665 7:20 a.m. (S-NODIS). 

152. Robert S. McNamara Memorandiim for the Chairman, JCS, April I3, I9665 
op. cit . 

153. JCS 9326, 2618U2Z April 1966. 

15^. W. W. Rostow Memorandiim for the Secretary of State /and/ the 
Secretary of Defense, May 6, I966 (TS-SENSITIVE) . 

155. Ibid. 

156. COMQSMACV message to CINCPAC O91226Z May I966 (S). 

157. CINCPAC message to JCS IOO73OZ May I966 (s); emphasis in original. 

158. Memorandum apparently prepared in the Air Staff, "Safeguards for 
Success," May 4, I966. 

159. COMUSMA.CV message for CINCPAC I76O3, 22IIU5Z May I966 (S). 

160. Eor a complete review of these political events and the U.S. 
reactions and involvement in them, see Task Force Vol. IV. C, 
"Evolution of the War: US-GVN Relations: 1963-1967, part II" 


161. History of Restrictions on Attack on NVN POL System , briefing paper 
prepared by the JCS, 10 August I967 for Secretary of Defense Backup 
Book for appearance before Preparedness Subcommittee of the Sena.te 
Armed Services Committee, 25 Aug 1967^ Section IV, Tab A(s). 

162. State Department msg. kQ to OSLO (ToSec), 3 Jun 66^ For Secretary 
and Ambassador Bruce, transmitting "for your ey^^ only" msg. 
received by President from P. M. Wilson (S-NODIS). 

153^ 1-35728/66 (no date). Memorandum for the SecDef from ASd/iSA. 
16^. COMUSMCV msg O5I2OIZ June I966, personal for CINCPAC (TS). 

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165. CINCPAC to JCS, O6O7O5Z June I966. 

166. CINCPAC asg. to JCS 080757Z June I966 (TS). 

167. CIA SC No. 08^^0/665 "The Effect of Destruction of NVN Petroleum 
Storage Facilities on the War in SVN" 8 June I966. 

168. Brussels msg 79 to State, Literally Eyes Only for the President 
from the Secretary, 7 Jme I966 (TS-NODIS). 

169. Brussels msg, 87 to State, Eyes Only for Secretary McNamara 
from the Secretary, 8 June I966 (TS-NODIS). 

170. State Department Memorandum of Conversation, "Visit of Ambassador 
Ronning to Hanoi ^ June 1^-17? I966," 21 June I966. 

171. OSD msg. to CINCPAC 3339-66, 132l46z June I966, SECDEF to CINCPAC 
Eyes Only. 

172. CINCPAC msg to SecDef, 1^6659^ June I966, Exclusive. 

173. OSD msg 3395-66, I52OOOZ June I966, SecDef to CINCPAC, Eyes Only. 

174. CINCPAC msg to SecDef, I6092OZ June I966, Exclusive. 

175. JCS 5003 to CINCPAC, 222055Z June I966. This execute message was 
drafted as an amendment to JCS 9326 of 26 April, which had extended 
ROLLING THUNDER 5O until further notice. The amendment simply made 
provision for an A, or Alpha, element to ROLLING THUNDER 5O consisting 
of these particular JCS fixed targets. The operation thus came to be 
identified as ROLLING THUNDER 5O-A. 

176. Ibid , 

177. JCS msg 53II5 to CINCPAC, 251859Z June I9665 New York Times, 1 July 
1966 . 

178. CINCPAC msg 28IOI5Z June I966, SpeCat Exclusive to SecDef and CJCS. 

179. JCS msg" 5^1^ to CINCPAC, 2813UOZ, SpeCat Exclusive. 

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The attack on North Vietnam's POL system was the last major 
escalation of the air war recommended by Secretary McNamara. Its 
eventual failure to produce a significant decrease in infiltration 
or cripple l^Iorth Vietnamese logistical support of the war in the 
South, when added to the cumulative failure of the rest of ROLLINGr 
THIMDER, appears to have tipped the balance in his mind against any 
further escalation of air attacks on the DRV. As we shall see, a 
major factor in this reversal of position was the report and recommenda- 
"tion submitted at the end of the summer by an important study group 
of America's top scientists. Another consideration weighing in his 
mind must have been the growing antagonism, both domestic and inter- 
national, to the bombing, which was identified as the principle impedi- 
ment to the opening of negotiations. But disillusionraent with the 
bombing alone might not have been enough to produce a recommendation 
for change had an alternative method of impeding infiltration not been 
proposed at the same time. Thus, in October when McNamara recomjnended 
a stabilization of the air war at prevailing levels, he vras also able 
to recommend the imposition of a multi-system anti-infiltration barrier 
across the Df/iZ and the Laos panhandle. The story of this momentous 
policy shift is the most important element in the evolution of the air 
war in the summer and fall of I9660 

Ao Results of the POL Attacks 

lo Initial Success 

Official Washington reacted with mild jubilation to the 
reported success of the POL strikes and took satisfaction in the 
relatively mild reaction of the international community to the 
escalation. Secretary McNamara described the execution of the raids 
as "a superb professional job," and sent a message of personal con- 
gratulation to the field commanders involved in the planning and 
execution of the attacks shortly after the results were in. l/ 

In a press conference the next day, the Secretary justi- 
fied the strikes "to counter a mounting reliance by NVN on the use of 
trucks and powered junks to facilitate the infiltration of men and 
equipment from North Vietnam to South Vietnam." He explained that 
truck movement in the first half of I966 had doubled, and that daily 
supply tonnage and troop infiltration on the Ho Chi Minh trail were 
up 150 and 120 percent, respectively, over I965. The enemy had built 
new roads and its truck inventory by the end of the year was expected 
to be double that of January 19^5^ an increase which would require 50-70 
percent more POL. 2/ 

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The Department of State issued instructions to embassies 
abroad to explain the strikes to foreign governments in counter- 
infiltration terms o The guidance was to the effect that since the 
Pause, the bombing of NW had been carefull/ restricted to actual 
routes of infiltration and supply; there had been no response what- 
ever from Hanoi suggesting any willingness to engage in discussions 
or move in any way tovrard peace; on the contrary, during the Pause 
and since, IWTJ had continued to increase the infiltration of regular 
]\IW forces South, and to develop and enlarge supply routes; it was 
relying more heavily on trucking and had sharply increased the importa- 
tion and use of POL. The U.S. could no longer afford to overlook this 
threat. Major POL storage sites in the vicinity of Hanoi and Haiphong 
were military targets that needed to be attacked. 

The targets, the guidance continued, were located away 
from the centers of both cities. Strike forces had been instructed 
to observe every precaution to confine the strikes to military targets 
and there had been no change in the policy of not carrying out attacks 
against civilian targets or population centers,, There was no intention 
of widening the war. The U.S. still desired to raeet Hanoi for dis- 
cussions without conditions or take any other steps which might lead 
toward peace. 3/ 

The strikes made spectacular headlines every^^here. Hanoi 
charged that U.So planes had indiscriminately bombed and strafed resi- 
dential and economic areas in the outskirts of Hanoi and Haiphong, and 
called this "a new and extremely serious stepo" The USSR called it a 
step toward further escalation^ The UK, France, and several other 
European countries expressed official disapprovalo India expressed 
"deep regret and sorrow," and Japan was understanding but warned that 
there was a limit to its support of the bombing of NVN. Nevertheless, 
according to the State Department's scoreboard, some 26 Free World 
nations indicated either full approval or "understanding" of the strikes, 
and 12 indicated disapproval. Press reaction to the attacks was short- 
lived, however, and within a week or so they were accepted as just 
another facet of the war. k/ • ■ . 

Meanwhile in the U^S., follomng a familiar pattern of the 
Vietnam war, in which escalations of the air war served as preludes to 
additional increments of combat troops. Secretary McNamara informed the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Service Secretaries and the Assistant Secre- 
taries of Defense on July 2 that the latest revision of the troop deploy- 
ment schedule had been approved as Program .f3«> 5/ The troop increases 
were not major as program changes have gone in the Vietnam -vrar, an increase 
in authorized year-end strength from 383 5 500 approved in April to 391^000 
and an increase of the final troop ceiling from ^25,100 to 431,000o 6/ 
But McHam.ara had personally revnritten the draft memo submitted to him by 
Systems Analysis inserting as its title, "Program #3," His hand\^^ritten 

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changes also included a closing sentence which read^ "Requests for 
changes in the JE¥ogram may be submitted by the Service Secretaries 
or JCS whenever these appear appropriate." 7/ This language clearly 
reflected the following instruction that McNamara had received from 
the President on June 28: 

As you knowj we have been moving our men to Viet Nam 
on a schedule determined by General Westmoreland's require- 

As I have stated orally several times this year, I should 
like this schedule to be accelerated as much as possible so 
that General Westmoreland can feel assured that he has all 
the men he needs as soon as possible. 

Would you meet with the Joint Chiefs and give me at 
your early convenience an indication of what acceleration 
is possible for the balance of this year. 8/ 

While the Chiefs were unable to promise any further speed-up in the 
deployment schedule, the Secretary assured the President on July 15 
that all possible steps were being taken. 9/ S^"^ ^s in the air war, 
-SO also in the question of troop deployments a turning point was 
being reached o By the fall of I966 when Program =ffh was under considera- 
tion, the President would no longer be instructing McNamara to honor 
all of General Westmoreland's troop requests as fully and rapidly as 


In the air campaign strikes continued on the other major 
POL storage sites, and were soon accepted as a routine part of the 
bombing program. On 8 July, at a Honolulu conference, Secretary McNamara 
was given a coroplete briefing on the POL program. He informed CINCPAC 
that the President wished that first priority in the air war be given to 
the complete "strangulation" of NVN's POL system, and he must not feel 
that there were sortie limitations for this purpose. (He also stressed 
the need for increased interdiction of the railroad lines to China 0) 10/ 
As a result, ROLLING THUNDER program No. 31, which went into effect the 
next day, specified a "strangulation" program of armed reconnaissance 
against the POL system, including dispersed sites. The ceiling for 
attack sorties on NVN and Laos "vras raised from 8IOO to 10,100 per month. 11/ 

McNamara left CINCPAC with instructions to develop a com- 
prehensive plan to accomplish the miaximum feasible POL destruction while 
maintaining a balanced effort against other priority targets. On July 2k , 
CINCPAC for\iarded his concept for the operation to Washington. 12/ In 
addition to the fixed and dispersed sites already under attack, he recom- 
mended strikes against the storage facilities at Phuc Yen and Kep airfields; 

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against the DRV's iniportation facilities (ioe.^ foreign ships in 
Haiphong harbor, destruction of harbor dredges , destruction of doc s, 
etc.); ^^^ "^^^ expansion of the reconnaissance effort to provide more 
and better information on the overall POL system. Also recommended 
vas a step-up in attacks on rolling stock of all kinds carrying POL, 
and strikes on the Xom Trung Hoa lock and dam. In spite of this recom- 
mendation and a follow-up on August 8, ROLLING THUOT)ER 51 was only 
authorized to strike previously approved targets plus some new bridges 
and a bypass as outlined in the July 8 execute order. 13/ 

■ While CINGPAC and his subordinates were making every effort 
to hamstring the DRV logistical operation through the POL attacks, the 
Secretary of Defense was keeping tabs on results through specially com- 
missioned reports from DIA. These continued through July and into 
August. By July 20, DIA reported that 59*9?^ of North Vietnam's original 
POL capacity had been destroyed. lh/ By the end of July, DIA reported 
that "J0% of ]WN's large bulk ( JCS-targeted) POL storage capacity had been 
destroyed, together with "]% of the capacity of knovm dispersed sites. 
The residual POL storage capacity was do-vm from some 185,000 metric tons 
to about 75,000 tons, about 2/3 still in relatively vulnerable large 
storage centers -- two of them, those at the airfields, still off limits ■ 
and 1/3 in smaller dispersed sites, 15/ This still provided, however, 
a fat cushion over NVN's req.uirementSo Waat became clearer and clearer 
as the summer wore on >7as that while we had destroyed a major portion 
of North. Vietnam's storage capacity, she retained enough dispersed 
capacity, supplemented by continuing imports (increasingly in easily 
dispersable drums, not bulk), to meet her on-going requirements- The 
greater invulnerability of dispersed POL meant an ever mounting U.S. 
cost in munitions, fuel, aircraft losses, and men. By August we were 
reaching the point at which these costs were prohibitive. It was simply 
iirrpractical and infeasible to atteirrpt any further constriction of North 
Vietnam's POL storage capacity. 

As the POL campaign continued, the lucrative POL targets 
disappeared and the effort was confined more and more to the small 
scattered sites. Finally, on September U, CINCPAC (probably acting 
by direction although no instructions appear in the available documents) 
directed a shift in the primary emphasis of ROLLING THUMDER strikes « 
Henceforth they were to be aimed at, "o «> .attrition of men, supplies, 
equipment and. o oPOL. . o o " I6/ Stressing the new set of priorities 
CINCPAC instructed, "POL will also receive errrphasis on a selective 
basis." 17/ By mid-October, even PACAE reported that the campaign had 
reached the point of diminishing returns. I8/ 

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■3* POL - Strategic Failure 

It was clear in retrospect that the POL strikes had been 
a failure. Apart from the possibility of inconveniences ^ interruptions ^ 
and local shortages of a temporary nature^ there was no evidence that 
]WN had at any time been pinched for POL. NVU's dependence on the 
unloading facilities at Haiphong and large storage sites in the rest of 
the country had been greatly overestimated. Bulk imports via ocean- 
going tanker continued at Haiphong despite the great damage to POL docks 
and storage there. Tankers merely stood offshore and unloaded into 
barges and other shallow-draft boats ^ usually at night, and the POL 
was transported to hundreds of concealed locations along internal water- 
ways. More POL was also brought in already drummed, convenient for dispersed 
storage and handling and virtually immune from interdiction. 19/ 

The difficulties of svritching to a much less vulnerable 
but perfectly workable storage and distribution system, not an unbearable 
strain vihen the volume to be handled was not really very great, had also 
been overestimated. Typically^ also, LIVN's adaptability and resourceful- 
ness had been greatly underestimated. As early as the summ^er of I965, 
about six months after the initiation of ROLLING THUKDER, IWN had begun 
to import more POL, build additional small, dispersed, underground tank 
storage sites, and store more POL in drums along LOCs and at consumption 
points. It had anticipated the strikes and taken out insurance against 
them; by the time the strikes came, long after the decision had been 
telegraphed by open speculation in the public media, NVN was in good 
position to ride them out. Thus, by the end of I9665 after six months 
of POL attacks, it was estimated that IMVN still had about 26,000 metric 
tons storage capacity in the large sites, about 30-^0,000 tons capacity 
in medium-sized dispersed sites, and about 28,000 tons capacity in smaller 
tank and drum sites. 20/ 


One of the unanticipated results of the POL strikes, which 
further offset their effectiveness, was the skillful way in which Ho Chi 
Minh used them in his negotiations with the Soviets and Chinese to extract 
larger commitments of economic, military and financial assistance from 
them. Thus, on July 17 he made a major appeal to the Chinese based on 
the American POL escalation. 2l / Since North Vietnam is essentially a 
logistical funnel for supplies originating in the USSR and China, this 
increase in their support as a direct result of the POL strikes must 
also be discounted against whatever effect they may have had on hampering 
Worth Vietnam's transportation. 

The real and imm.ediate failure of the POL strikes was 
reflected,* however, in the undiminished flow of men and supplies down ■ 
the Ho Chi Minh trail to the war in the South. In early July, the 

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intelligence commimity had indicated that POL could become a factor 
in constricting the truck traffic to the South. The statement was, 
however, qualified. 

The POL requirement for trucks involved in the infiltra- 
tion movement has not been large enough to present significant 
supply problems. But local shortages have occurred from time 
to time and may become significant as a result of attacks on 
the POL distribution system. 22/ 

By the end of the month, however, the CIA at least was more pessimistic: 

Hanoi appears to believe that its transportation system 
will be able to withstand increa.sed air attacks and still 
maintain an adequate flow of men and supplies to the South. 

...Recent strikes against North Vietnam's POL storage 
facilities have destroyed over 50 percent of the nation's 
petroletom storage capacity. However, it is estimated that 
substantial stocks still survive and that the DRV can con- 
tinue to import sufficient fuel to keep at least essential 
military and economic traffic moving. 23 / 

DIA continued to focus its assessments on the narrower effectiveness of 
the strikes in destruction of some percentage of North Vietnamese POL 
storage capacity without directly relating this to needs and import 
potential. 2hl By September, the two intelligence agencies were in 
general agreement as to the failure of the POL strikes* In an evaluation 
of the entire bombing effort they stated, "There is no evidence yet of 
any shortage of POL in North Vietnam and stocks on hand, with recent imports, 
have been adequate to sustain necessary operations." 25 / The report 
went even further and stated that there was no evidence of insurmountable 
transport difficulties from the bombing, no significant economic dislocation 
and no weakening of popular morale. 

Powerful reinforcement about the ineffectiveness of the 
strikes came at the end of August when a special summer study group of 
top American scientists submitted a series of reports through the JASON 
Division of the Institute for Defense Analyses (treated comprehensively 
below). One of their papers dealt in considerable detail with the entire 
bombing program, generally concluding that bombing had failed in all its 
specified goals. With respect to the recent petroleum attacks to disrupt 
North Vietnamese transportation, the scientists offered the following 
summary conclusions: ■ , 


In view of the nature of the North Vietnamese POL system, 
the relatively small quantities of POL it requires, and the 
options available for overcoming the effects of UcS. air 
strikes thus far, it seems doubtful that any critical denial 

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of essential POL has resulted^ apart from temporary and 
local shG~?tages. It also seems doubtful that any such denial 
need result if China and/or the USSR are v^illing to pay 
greater costs in delivering it. 

Maintaining the flow of POL to consumers within North 
Vietnam will be more difficult, costly, and hazardous, 
depending primarily on the effectiveness of the U.S. armed 
reconnaissance effort against the transportation system. 
Temporary interruptions and shortages have probably been 
and can no doubt continue to be inflicted, but it does not 
seem likely that North Vietnam will have to curtail its 
higher priority POL-powered activities as a result. 

Since less than 5 percent of North Vietnamese POL 
requirements are utilized in supporting truck operations 
in Laos, it seems unlikely that infiltration South will 
have to be curtailed because of POL shortages; and since 
North Vietnamese and VC forces in South Vietnam do not 
req.uire POL supplied from the North, their POL-powered 
activities need not suffer, either. 26/ 

Coming as they did from a highly prestigious and respected group of 
policy-supporting but independent -thinking scientists and scholars, and 
coming at the end of a long and frustrating summer in the air war, these 
views must have exercised a powerful influence on McNamara's thinking. 
His prompt adoption of the "infiltration barrier" concept they recomm.ended 
as an alternative to the bombing (see below) gives evidence of the overall 
weight these reports carried. 

McNamara, for his part, made no effort to conceal his dis- 
satisfaction, and disappointment at the failure of the POL attacks. He 
pointed out to the Air Force and the Navy the glaring discrepancy between 
the optimistic estimates of results their pre-strike POL studies had 
postulated and the actual failiire of the raids to significantly decrease 
infiltration. 27/ The Secretary was already in the process of rethinking 
the role of the entire air campaign in the U.S. effort in Southeast Asia. 
He v^as painfully aware of its inability to pinch off the infiltration to 
the South and had seen no evidence of its ability to break Hanoi's will, 
demoralize its. population, or bring it to the negotiation table. The full 
articulation of his disillusionment would not come until the following 
January however, when he appeared before a joint session of the Senate 
Armed Services and Appropriations Committees to argue against any farther 
extension of the bombing. To illustrate the ineffectualness of bombing 
he cited our experience v/ith the POL strikes: 

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There is no question but what petroleum in the North 
is an essential material for the movement ^ under present 
circiomstances, of men and equipment to their borders. But 
neither is there any doubt that with, in effect ^ an unres- 
tricted bombing campaign against petroleum^ we were not 
able to dry up the supply. 

The bombing of the POL system was_ carried out with as 

much skill, effort, and attention as we could devote to it, 

starting on June 29, and we haven't been able to dry up 
those supplies .... 

We in effect took out the Haiphong docks for unloading 
of POL and v/e have had very little effect on the importation 
level at the present time. I would think it is about as 
high today as it would have been if we had never struck 
the Haiphong docks. And I think the same thing would be 
true if we took out the cargo docks in Haiphong for dry 
cargo. . . . 

I don't believe that the bombing up to the present 
has significantly reduced, nor any bombing that I could 
contemplate in the future would significantly reduce, actual 
flow of men and materiel to the South. 28 / 

Thus disenthralled with air power's ability to turn the 
tide of the war in our favor, McNamara would increasingly in the months 
ahead recommend against any further escalation of the bombing and turn 
his attention to alternative methods of shutting off the infiltration 
and bringing the war to an end. 

B. Alternatives — The Barrier Concept 
1. Genesis 

I; The fact that bombing had failed to achieve its objectives 

i did not mean that all those purposes were to be abandoned. For an option- 

I . , oriented policy adviser like McNamara the task was to find alternative 

-^^ays of accomplishing the job. The idea of constructing an ant i -infiltration 

^ I j ' barrier across the DMZ and the Laotian panhandle was first proposed in 

January I966 by Roger Fisher of Harvard Law School in one of his periodic 
memos to McNaughton. 29 / The purpose of Fisher's proposal was to provide 
the Administration with an alternative strategic concept for arresting 
infiltration, thereby permitting a cessation of the bombing (a supporting 
sub-thesis of his memo v/as the failure of the bombing to break Hanoi's 
will)* He had in mind a primarily air-seeded line of barbed wire, mines 

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and chemicals since the terrain in question would make actual on-the- 
ground physical construction of a barrier difficult and would probably 
evoke fierce military opposition. In his meno^ Fisher dealt at length 
with the pros and cons of such a proposal including a lengthy argument 
for its political advantages. 

The memo must have struck a responsive cord in McNaughton 
because six weeks later he sent McNamara an only slightly revised 
version of the Fisher draft. 30/ McNaughton*s changes added little to 
the Fisher ideas; they served merely to tone down some of his assertions 
and hedge the conclusions. The central argument for the barrier concept 
proceeded from a negative analysis of the effects of the bombing, 

B. Present Military Situation in North Vietnam 

1. Physi cal consequen ces of b ombing 

a. The DRV has suffered some physical, hardship and 
pain, raising the cost to it of supporting the VC. 

b. Best intelligence judgment is that: 

(1) Bombing may or may not - by destruction 
or delay - have resulted in net reduction in the flow of men or 
supplies to the forces in the South; 

(2) Bombing has failed to reduce the limit on 
the capacity of the DRV to aid the VC to a point below VC needs; 

(3) Future bombing of North Vietnam cannot be 
expected physically to limit the military support given the VC 
by the DRV to a point below VC needs. 

2. Influence consequences of bombing 

a. There is no evidence that bombings have made 
r it more likely the DRV v/ill decide to back out of the war. 

b. Nor is there evidence that bombings have 

! ■ resulted in an increased DRV resolve to continue the war to 

■ an eventual victory, fisher's draft had read "There is some 
evidence that bombings '^ 


C. The Future of a Bombing Strategy 

Although bombings of North Vietnam improve GV^ morale 
and provide a counter in eventual negotiations (should they 
\ take place) there is no evidence that they meaningfully reduce 

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either the capacity or the will for the DRV to support the 
VC- The DRV knows that we cannot force them to stop by "bomhing 
and that we cannot^ without an unacceptable risk of a major war 
with China or Russia or both, force them to stop by conquering 
them or "blotting them out/' Knowing that if they are not 
influenced we cannot stop them, the DRV will remain difficult 
to influence. With continuing DRV support , victory in the 
South may remain forever beyond our reach. 

Having made the case against the bombing, the memo then spelled out the 
i case for an anti-infiltration barrier: 


A. That the US and GVN adopt the concept of physically 
cutting off DRV support to the VC by an on-the-ground barrier 
across the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the general vicinity of the 17th 
Parallel and Route 9- To the extent necessary the barrier would 
run from the sea across Vietnam and Laos to the Mekong, a straight' 
line distance of about 160 miles. 

B. That in Laos an "interdiction and verification zone," 
perhaps 10 miles wide, be established and legitimated by such 
measures as leasing, international approval, compensation, etc. 

C. That a major military and engineering effort be 
directed toward constructing a physical barrier of minefields, 
barbed wire, walls, ditches and military strong points flanked 
by a defoliated strip on each side. 

D» That such bombing in Laos and North Vietnam as 
takes place be narrowly identified with interdiction and with 
the construction of the barrier by 

1. Being within the 10-mile-wide interdiction 
zone in laos, or 

2. Being in support of the construction of the 
barrier, or 

- 3- Being interdiction bombing pending the completion 

of the barrier. 

E.- That, of course, intensive interdiction continues at 
sea and from Cambodia. 

(it might be stated that all boml)ings of North Vietnam will stop 
as soon as there is no infiltration and no opposition to the con- 
^- struction of the verification barrier.) 32/ 

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Among the McNaughton additions to the Fisher draft were 
several suggested action memos including one to the Chiefs asking for . 
military comment on the proposal. Available documents do not reveal 
whether McNamara sent the memo nor indicate what his own reaction to 
the proposal was. He did^ however^ contact the Chiefs in some way 
for their reaction to the proposal because on March 2k the Chiefs sent a 
message to CINCPAC requesting field comjnent on the barrier concept. 33/ 
After having in turn queried his subordinates , CINCPAC replied on April 7 
that construction and defense of such a barrier would require 7-8 U.S. 
divisions and might take up to three and one half to four years to become 
fully operational. sV It vrould require a substantial diversion of 
available combat and construction resources and would place a heavy strain 
on the logistics support system in Southeast Asia, all in a static defense 
effort which would deny us the military advantages of flexibility in 
employment of forces. Not surprisingly, after this exaggerated catalog 
of problems, CINCPAC recommended against such a barrier as an inefficient 
use of resources with small likelihood of achieving U.S. objectives in 
Vietnam. These not unexpected objections notwithstanding, the Army (pre- 
sumably at McNamara *s direction) had begun an R&D program in March to 
design, develop, test and deliver within six to nine months for opera- 
tional evaluation a set of anti-personnel route and trail interdiction 

devices. 3^/ 

At approximately the same time an apparently unrelated offer 
was made by four distinguished scientific advisors to the Government to 
foiTn a summer working group to study technical aspects of the war in 
Vietnam. It is possible that the idea for such a study really originated 
in the Pentagon, although the earliest documents indicate that the four 
scholars (Dr. George Kistiakowsky - Harvard; Dr. Karl Kaysen - Harvard; 
Dr. Jerome Wiesner - MIT; and Dr. Jerrold Zacharias - MIT) made the 
first initiative with Adam Yarmolinsky, then working for McNaughton. 36/ 
In- any case, McNamara liked the idea and sent Zacharias a letter on April I6 
formally requesting that he and the others arrange the summer study on 
"technical possibilities in relation to our military operations in 
Vietnam." 37/ On April 26 he advised John McNaughton, who was to oversee 
the project, that the scientists' group should examine the feasibility of 
"A 'fence' across the infiltration trails, warning systems, reconnaissance 
(especially night) methods, night vision devices, defoliation techniques, 
and area-denial weapons." 38/ In this way the barrier concept was offi- 
cially brought to the attention of the study group. 

During the remainder of the spring, while McNamara and the 
other Principals \ieTe preoccupied with the POL decision, the summer study 
'^roup was organized and the adm-inistrative mechanics worked out for providing 

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its members with briefings and classified material. The contract ^ it 
was determined, would be let to the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) 
for the study to be done through its JASON Division (ad hoc high-level 
studies using primarily non-IDA scholars). The group of "47 scientists 
(eventually to grov/ to 6? with the addition of 20 IDA personnel);, repre- 
senting the cream of the scholarly community in technical fields , finally 
met in Wellesley on June 13 for ten days of briefings by high-level 
officials from the Pentagon, CIA, State and the White House on all facets 
of the war. Thereafter they broke into four sub-groups to study different 
aspects of the problem from a technical (not a political) point of view. 
Their work proceeded through July and August and coincided with McNamara's 
disillusionment over the results of the POL strikes. 

2. The JASON Summer Study Reports 

At the end of August the Jason Summer Study, as it had come 
to be known, submitted four reports: (l) The Effects of US Bombing in 
North Vietnam^ (2) VC/nvA Logistics and Manpov^er; (3) An Air Supported 
Anti-Infiltration Barrier; and (k) Summary of Results, Conclusions and 
Recommendations. The documents were regarded as particularly sensitive and 
were extremely closely held with General VJheeler and Mr. Rostow receiving 
the only copies outside OSD. The reason is easy to understand. The Jason 
Summer Study reached the conclusion that the bombing of North Vietnam was 
ineffective and therefore recommended that the barrier concept be imple- 
mented as an alternative means of checking infiltration. 

Several factors combined to give these conclusions and recom- 
mendations, a pov/erful and perhaps decisive influence in McNaraara's mind at 
the beginning of September I966. First, they were recomm.endations from 
a group of America's most distinguished scientists, men who had helped the 
Government produce m.any of its most advanced technical v;eapons systems 
since the Second World War, and men who were not identified with the vocal 
academic criticism of the Administration's Vietnam policy. Secondly, the 
reports arrived at a time when McNaiaara, having witnessed the failiu-e of 
the POL attacks to produce decisive results, was harboring doubts of his 
own about, the effectiveness of the bombing, and at a time when alternative 
approaches were welcome. Third, the Study Group did not mince words or 
-f^^ge its conclusions, but stated them bluntly and forcefully. For all 
these reasons, then, the reports are significant. Moreover, as we shall 
see they apparently had a dramatic impact on the Secretary of Defense 
and provided much of the direction for futuri policy. For these reasons, 
then the reports are significant. Moreover, as we shall see, they 
.apparently had a dram.atic impact on the Secretary of Defense and provided 
much of the direction for future policy. For these reasons important 
sections of them are reproduced at some length below. 

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■ The report evaluating the results of the U.S. air campaign 
against North Vietnam began with a forceful statem.ent of conclusions: 


1. As of July 1966 the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam (NVN) 
had had no measurable direct effect on Hanoi's ability to mount 
and support military operations in the South at the current 
level . 

Although the political constraints seem clearly to have 
reduced the effectiveness of the bombing program, its limited 
effect on Hanoi's ability to provide such support cannot be 
explained solely on that basis. The countermeasures intro- 
duced by Hanoi effectively reduced the impact of U.S. bombing. 
More fundamentally, however, North Vietnajn has basically a 
subsistence agricultural economy that presents a difficult and 
unrewarding target system for air attack. 

The economy supports operations in the South raiainly by 
functioning as a logistic funnel and by providing a source of 
manpower. The industrial sector produces little of military 
value.. Most of the essential military supplies that the VC/ 
NVN forces in the South require from external sources are provided 
by the USSR and Communist China. Furthermore, the volume of 
such supplies is so low that only a small fraction of the capacity 
of North Vietnam's rather flexible transportation netv/ork is 
required to maintain the flow. The economy's relatively under- 
employed labor force also appears to provide an ample manpower 
reserve for internal military and economic needs including 
repair and reconstruction and for continued support of military 
operations in the South. 

2. Since the initiation of the ROLLING THUNDER program 

the damage to facilities and equipment in North Vietnam has been 
more than offset by the increased flow of military and economdc 
aid, largely from the USSR and Communist China. 

The measurable costs of the damage sustained by North 
Vietnam are estimated by intelligence analysts to have reached 
approximately $86 million by I5 July 1966. In I965 alone, 
the value of the military and economic aid that Hanoi received 
from the USSR and Communist China is estimated to have been on 
the order of ^^^O-kOO million, of which about $100-150 million 
was economic, and they have continued to provide aid, evidently 
at an increasing rate, during the current year. Most of it 
has been from the USSR, which had virtually cut off aid during 
the I962-6U period. There can be little doubt, therefore, that 

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Hanoi's Communist backers have assimted the economic costs 
to a degree that has significantly cushioned the impact 
of U.S. bombing. 

3. The aspects of the basic situation that have 
enabled Hanoi to continue its support of military opera- 
tions in the South and to neutralize the impact of U.S. 
bombing by passing the economic costs to other ComJtiunist 
countries are not likely to be altered by reducing the 
present geographic constraints, mining Haiphong and the 
principal harbors in North Vietnam, increasing the number 
of armed reconnaissance sorties and othejrvrise expanding the 
U.S. air offensive along the lines now contemplated in 
military recommendations and plarjiing studies. 

An expansion of the bombing program along such lines 
would make it more difficult and costly for Hanoi to 
move essential military supplies through North Vietnam to the 
VC/nvN forces in the South. The low volume of supplies 
required, the demonstrated effectiveness of the counter- 
measures already undertaken by Hanoi, the alternative options 
that the WTN transportation netvrork provides and the level 
of aid the USSR and China seem prepared to provide, how- 
ever, make it quite unlikely that Hanoi's capability to 
function as a logistic funnel would be seriously impaired. 
Our past experience also indicates that an intensified air 
campaign in-NVN probably woiold not prevent Hanoi from infil- 
trating men into the South at the present or a higher rate, 
if it chooses. Furthermore, there would appear to be no 
basis for a-ssuming that the damage that could be inflicted by 
an intensified air offensive would impose such demands on 
the North Vietnamese labor force that Hanoi woiold be unable 
to continue and expand its recruitment and training of mili- 
tary forces for the insurgency in the South. 

k. While conceptually it is reasonable to assume that 
some limit m-ay be imposed on the scale of military activity 
that Hanoi can maintain in the South by continuing the 
ROLLING THULIDER program at the present, or some higher level 
of effort, there appears to be no basis for defining that 
limit in .concrete terms or, for concluding that the present 
scale of VC/lMVN activities in the field have approached that 
limit- , ■ . 

The available evidence clearly indicates that Hanoi has 
been .infiltrating military forces and supplies into South 
Vietnam at a,n accelerated rate during the current year. 
Intelligence estimates have concluded that North Vietnam is 
capable of substantially, increasing its support. 

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5. The indirect effects of the bomhing on the will of 
the North Vietnamese to continue fighting and on their leaders' 
appraisal of the prospective gains and costs of maintaining the 
present policy have not shown themselves in any tangible vray. 
Furthermore^ we have not discovered any basis for concluding 
that the indirect punitive effects of bombing will prove 
decisive in these respects. 

It may be argued on a speculative basis that continued or 
increased bombing must eventually effect Hanoi's will to con- 
tinue^ particularly as a component of the total U.S. military 
pressures being exerted throughout Southeast Asia. However, 
it is not a conclusion that necessarily follows from the avail- 
able evidence; given the character of North Vietnam's economy 
and society, the present and prospective low levels of casualties 
and the amount of aid available to Hanoi. It would appear to 
be eq.ually logical to assimie that the major influences on 
Hanoi's will to continue are most likely to be the course of the 
war in the South and the degree to which the USSR and China sup- 
port the policy of continuing the war and that the piinitive 
impact of U.S. bombing m^ay have but a marginal effect in this 
broader context. 39/ 

In the body of the report these simmary formulations vrere 
elaborated in more detail. For instance, in assessing the military and 
economic effect of the bombing on North Vietnam's capacity to sustain 
the war, the report stated: 


The economic and military damage sustained by Hanoi in 
the first year of the bombing was moderate and the cost could 
be (and was) passed along to Moscow and Peiping. 

The major effect of the attack on North Vietnam was to 
force Hanoi to cope with disruption to normal activity, 
particularly in transportation and distribution. The bombing 
hurt most in its disruption of the roads and rail nets and 
in the very considerable repair effort which became necessary. 
The regime, however, was singularly successful in overcom-ing 
the effects of the U.S. interdiction effort. 


Much of the damage was to installations that the North 
Vietnamese did not need to sustain the military effort. 
The regime made no attempt to restore storage facilities 
and little to repair dam-age to power stations, evidently 
because of the existence of adequate excess capacity and 



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because the facilities were not of vitcl importance. For 
somewhat similar reasons , it made no major effort to restore 
military facilities , but merely abandoned barracks and dis- 
persed materiel usually stored in depots. 

The major essential restoration consisted of measures 
to keep traffic moving^ to keep the railroad yards opera- 
ting, to maintain communications , and to replace transport 
equipment and eq.uipment for radar and SAM sites. hO^ j 

A little further on the report examined the political effects of the 
bombing on Hanoi's will to continue the war, the morale of the popu- 
lation, and the support of its allies. 

The bombing through I965 apparently had not had a major 
effect in shaping Hanoi's decision on whether or not to 
continue the war in Vietnam. The regime probably continued 
to base such decisions mainly on the course of the fighting 
in the South and appeared willing to suffer even stepped-up 
bombing so long as prospects of winning the South appeared 
to be reasonably good. 

Evidence regarding the effect of the bombing on the 
morale of the North Vietnamese people suggests that the 
results v/ere mixed. The bombing clearly strengthened 
popular support of the regime by engendering patriotic 
and nationalistic enthusiasm to resist the attacks. On the 
other hand, those more directly involved in the bombing 
underv;'ent personal harships and anxieties caused by the 
raids. Because the air strikes were directed away from 
urban areas , morale was probably damaged less by the direct 
bombing than by its indirect effects, such as evacuation 
of the urban population and the splitting of families. 

Hanoi's political relations with its allies were in 
some respects strengthened by the bombing. The attacks had 
the effect of encouraging greater material and political 
support from the Soviet Union than might otherwise have 
been the case. While the Soviet aid complicated Hanoi's 
relationship with Peking, it reduced North Vietnam's 
dependence on China and thereby gave Hanoi more room for 
maneuver on its own behalf. h\J 

■This report's' concluding chapter was entitled 
"Observations" and contained some of the most lucid and 
penetrating analysis of air war produced to that date, or 
this I It began by reviewing the original objectives the 
bombing was initiated to achieve: 

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...reducing the ability of North Vietnam to support 
the insurgencies in South Vietnam and Laos, 
and. . .increasing progressively the pressure on NVN to 
the point where the regime would decide that it was too 
costly to continue directing and supporting the insurgency 
in the South. k2j 

After rehearsing the now familiar military failure of the bombing to 
halt the infiltration, the report crisply and succinctly outlined the 
bombing's failure to achieve the critical second objective --the 
( psychological one: 

...initial plans and assessments for the ROLLING 
THUNDER program clearly tended to overestimate the 
persuasive and disruptive effects of the U.S. air strikes 
and, correspondingly, to under estim^ate the tenacity and 
recuperative capabilities of the North Vietnamese. This 
tendency, in turn, appears to reflect a general failure 
to appreciate the fact, well-documented in the historical 
and social scientific literature, that a direct, frontal 
attack on a society tends to strengthen the social fabric 
of the nation, to increase popular support of the existing 
government, to improve "the determination of both the 
leadership and the populace to fight back, to induce a 
variety of protective measures that reduce the society's 
vulnerability to future attack, and to develop an increased 
capacity for q.uick repair and restoration of essential 
functions. The great variety of physical and social counter- 
measures that North Vietnam has taken in response to the 
bombing is nox-/ well documented in current intelligence 
reports, but the potential effectiveness of these counter- 
measures was not stressed in the early planning or intelli- 
gence studies. ^3/ 

Perhaps the most trenchant analysis of all, however, was reserved for 
last as the report attacked the fundamental weakness of the air war 
strategy -- our inability to relate operations to objectives: 

■ In general, current official thought about U.S. objec- 
tives in bombing NWI implicitly assumes two sets of causal 

1. That by increasing the damage and destruction of 
resources in NVN, the U.S. is exerting pressure to cause 
the DRV to stop their support of the militaiy operations 
in SVN and Laos; and 

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2. That the combined effect of the total military effort 
against NVTT -- including the U.S. air strikes in KVTT and 
Laos, and the land, sea, and air operations in SVIT — will 
xiltimately cause the DRV to perceive that its probable losses 
accruing from the var have become greater than its possible 
gains and, on the basis of this net evaluation, the regime 
will stop its support of the war in the South. 

These two sets of interrelationships are assumed in 
military planning, but it is not clear that they are sys- 
tematically addressed in current intelligence estimates and 
assessments. Instead, the tendency is to encapsulate the 
bombing of W^ as one set of operations and the war in the 
South as another set of operations, and to evaluate each 
I separately; and to tabulate and describe data on the physical, 

economic, and military effects of the bombing, but not to 
address specifically the relationship between such effects and 
the data relating to the ability and will of the DRV to continue 
its support of the war in the South. 

The fragmented nature of current analyses and the lack of 
an adequate methodology for assessing the net effects of a 
"""^ ' given set of military operations leaves a major gap between the 

quantifiable data on bomb damage effects, on the one hand, and 
policy judgments about the feasibility of achieving a given set ■ 
of objectives., on the other. Bridging this gap still requires 
the exercise of broad political-military judgments that cannot 
be supported or rejected on the basis of systematic intelli- 
gence indicators. It must be concluded, therefore, that there 
is currently no adequate basis for predicting the levels of 
U.S. military effort that would be required to achieve the 
stated objectives — indeed, there is no firm basis for deter- 
mining if there is any feasible level of effort that would 
achieve these objectives, kh/ 

The critical impact of this study on the Secretary's thinking is revealed 
by the fact that many of its conclusions and much of its analysis would 
find its way into McNamara's October trip report to the President. 

Having submitted a stinging condemnation of the bombing, 
the Study Group was under some obligation to offer constructive alter- 
natives and this they did, siezing, not surprisingly, on the very idea 
McNarnara had suggested -- the anti -infiltration barrier. The product 
of their summer's v/ork was a reasonably detailed proposal for a multi- 
system barrier across the DMZ and the Laotian panhandle that would make 
g^gj^g^Yg ^3e of recently innovated mines and sensors. The central 
_^ portion of their recommendation follows: 

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The barrier would have two somev^hat different parts ^ 
one designed against foot traffic and one against vehicles. 
The preferred location for the anti-foot -traffic barrier is 
in the region along the southern edge of the DMZ to the 
Laotian border and then north of Tchepone to the vicinity 
of Muong Sen J extending about 100 by 20 kilometers. This 
area is virtually unpopulated ^ and the terrain is q.uite 
rugged, containing mostly V-shaped valleys in which the 
opportunity for alternate trails appears lower than it is 
elsewhere in the system. The location of choice for the 
anti-vehicle part of the system is the area, about 100 by kO 
kilometers, now covered by Operation Cricket. In this area 
the road network tends to be more constricted than else- 
where, and there appears to be a smaller area available for 
new roads. An alternative location for the anti-personnel 
system is north of the DMZ to the Laotian border and then 
north along the crest of the mountains dividing Laos from 
North Vietnam. It is less desirable economically and mili- 
tarily because of its greater length, greater distance 
from U.S. bases, and greater proximity to potential North 
Vietnamese counter -efforts . 

The air-supported barrier would, if necessary, be 
supplemented by a manned "fence" connecting the eastern 
end of the barrier to the sea. 

The construction of the air-supported barrier could be 
initiated using currently available or nearly available 
com^ponents, with some necessaiy modifications, and could 
perhaps be installed by a year or so from go-ahead. How- 
ever, we anticipate that the North Vietnamese would learn 
to cope with a barrier built this way after some period of 
time which we cannot estimate, but which we fear may be 
short. Weapons and sensors which can make a much more 
effective barrier, only some of v^hich are now under develop- 

(ment, are not likely to be available in less than l8 months 
■ ■ to 2 years. Even these, it must be expected, will eventu- 

I : ally be overcome by the North Vietnamese, so that further 

improvements in weaponry will be necessary. Thus we 
envisage a dynamic "battle of the barrier," in which the 
barrier is repeatedly improved and strengthened by the 
I ; introduction of new components, and which will hopefully 

permit us to keep the North Vietnamese off balance by 
continually posing new problems for them. 

I ^^^ This barrier is in concept not very different from 

what has already been suggested elsewhere; the new aspects 
« are: the very large scale of area denial^ especially mine 

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fields kilometers deep rather than the conventional 
100-200 meters; the very large numbers and persistent 
employment of weapons ^ sensors ^ and aircraft sorties 
in the barrier area; and the emphasis on rapid and 
carefully planned incorporation of more effective 
weapons and sensors into the system. 

The system that could be available in a year or so 
wouldj in our conception^ contain /sic/ the following 

— Gravel mines (both self-sterilizing for harass- 
ment and non-sterilizing for area denial). 

— Possibly^ "button bomblets" developed by Picatinny 
Arsenal^ to augment the range of the sensors against 
foot traffic.^ 

— SADEYE/bLU-26b clusters,^ for attacks on area- 
type targets of "uncertain locations. 

— Acoustic detectors 5 based on improvements of 
the "Acoustic Sonobuoys" currently under test 
by the Navy. 

— P-2V patrol aircraft, equipped for acoustic 
sensor monitoring. Gravel dispensing, vectoring 
strike aircraft, and infrared detection of 
campfires in bivouac areas. 

— Gravel Dispensing Aircraft (A-1's, or possibly 

— Strike Aircraft 

— Photo-reconnaissance Aircraft 

— Photo Interpreters 

--(possibly) ground teams to plant mines and sensors, 
gather information, and selectively harass traffic 
on foot trails. 

1? These .are small mines (aspirin-size) presently designed to give 
a loud report but not to injure when stepped on by a shod foot. 
They would be sown in great density along well-used trails, on 
the assiimption that they would be much harder to sweep than 
Gravel. Their purpose wo-uld be to make noise indicating pedes- 
trian traffic at a range of approximately 200 feet from the 
acoustic sensors. 

-5Hf CBU-2^ in Air Force nomenclature. 

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The anti-troop infiltration system (which would also 
function against supply porters) would operate as follows. 
There would be a constantly renewed mine field of non- 
sterilizing Gravel (and possibly button bomblets)^ dis- 
tributed in patterns covering interconnected valleys and 
slopes (suitable for alternate trails) over the entire 
barrier region. The actual mined area would encompass 
the eq.uivalent of a strip about 100 by 5 kilometers. 
There would also be a pattern of acoustic detectors to 
listen for mine explosions indicating an attempted pene- 
tration. The mine field is intended to deny opening of 
alternate routes for troop infiltrators and should be 
emplaced first. On the trails and bivouacs currently used^ 
from which mines may--we tentatively assume--be cleared 
without great difficulty^ a more dense pattern of sensors 
would be designed to locate groups of infiltrators. Air 
strikes using Gravel and SADEYES would then be called 
against these targets. The sensor patterns would be 
monitored 2k hours a day by patrol aircraft. The struck 
areas would be reseeded with new mines. 

The anti-vehicle system v/ould consist of acoustic 
detectors distributed every mile or so along all truck- 
able roads in the interdicted area^ monitored 2k hours 
a day by patrol aircraft ^ with vectored strike aircraft 
using SADEYE to respond to signals that trucks or truck 
convoys are moving. The patrol aircraft would distribute 
self-sterilizing Gravel over parts of the road net at 
dusk. The self -sterilization feature is needed so that 
road-watching and mine-planting teams could be used in 
this area. Photo-reconnaissance aircraft would cover the 
entire area each few days to look for the development 
of new truckable roads, to see if the transport of supplies 
is being switched to porters, and to identify any other 
change in the infiltration system. It may also be desir- 
able to use ground teams to plant larger anti-truck mines 
along the roads, as an interim measure pending the develop- 
ment of effective air-dropped anti-vehicle mines. 

The cost of such a system (both parts) has been 
estimatea to be about $800 million per year, of which by 
far the major fraction is spent for Gravel and SADEYES. 
The key req.uirements would be (all numbers are approxi- 
mate because of assumptions which had to be made regarding 
degradation of system components in field use, and regarding 
the magnitude of infiltration) : ■ 20 million Gravel mines 
per month; possibly 25 million button bomblets per month; 

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10,000 SA.JEYE-BLU-26B clusters"^ per monoh; l600 aco-astic 
sensors per month (assiiming presently employed batteries with 
2-week life), plus 68 appropriately eq.uipped P-2V patrol 
aircraft; a fleet of about 50 A-l's or 20 C-123's for Gravel 
dispensing (l^OO A-1 sorties or 600 C-123 sorties per month) j 
500 strike sorties per month (f-4c equivalent); and sufficient 
photo-reconnaissance sorties, depending on the aircraft, to 
cover 2500 sq.uare miles each week, with an appropriate team of 
photo interpreters. Even to make this system work, there 
would be req.uired experimentation and further development 
for foliage penetration, moisture resistance, and proper dis- 
persion of Gravel; development of a better acoustic sensor 
than currently exists (especially in an attempt to eliminate 
the need for button bomblets); aircraft modifications; possible 
modifications in BLU-26B fuzing; and refinement of strike- 
navigation tactics. 

For the future, rapid development of new mines (such as 
tripwire, smaller and more effectively camouflaged Gravel, 
and various other kinds of mines), as well as still better 
sensor/information processing systems will be essential, h^/ 

Thus, not only had this distinguished array of American 
technologists endorsed the barrier idea McNamara had asked them to con- 
sider, they had provided the Secretary with an attractive, well-thought- 
out and highly detailed proposal as a real alternative to further 
escalation of the ineffective air war against North Vietnam. But, true 
to their scientific orientations, the study group members could not con- 
clude their work without examining the kinds of counter-measures the North 
Vietnamese might take to circumvent the barrier. Thus, they reasoned: 

Assuming that surprise is not thrown av;ay, countermeas- 
ures will of course still be found, but they may take some 
time to bring into operation. The most effective counter- 
measures we can anticipate are mine sweeping; provision of 
shelter against SADEYE strikes and Gravel dispersion; 
spoofing of sensors to deceive the system or decoy aircraft 
into ambushes, and in general a considerable step-up of North 
Vietnamese anti-aircraft capability along the road net. 
Count er-countermeasures must be an integral part of the 
system development. 

^ These q.uantities depend on an average number of strikes consistent 
with the assumption of 7OOO troops/month and I80 tons/day of supplies 
bv truck on the infiltration routes. This assumption was based on 
likely upper limits at the time the barrier is installed. If the 
assumption of initial infiltration is too high, or if we assume that 
the barrier will be successful, the number of weapons and sorties 
will be reduced accordingly. 

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Apart from the tactical count ermeasures against the 
barrier itself, one has to consider strategic alternatives 
available to the North Vietnamese in case the barrier is 
successfi^l. Among these are: a move into the Mekong Plain; 
infiltration from the sea either directly to SVN or through 
Cambodia; and movement down the Mekong from Thakhek (held by 
the Pathet I^o-Horth Vietnamese) into Cambodia. 

Finally, it will be difficult for us to find out how 
effective the barrier is in the absence of clearly visible 
North Vietnamese responses, such as end runs through the 
Mekong plain. Because of supplies already stored in the 
pipeline, and because of the general shakiness of our q.uan- 
titative estimates of either supply or troop infiltration, 
it is likely to be some time before the effect of even a 
v/holly successful barrier becomes noticeable. A greatly 
stepped-up intelligence effort is called for, including 
continued road-watch activity in the areas of the motorable 
roads, and patrol and reconnaissance activity south of the 
anti-personnel barrier. 

This, then, was the new option introduced into the Vietnam 
discussions in Washington at the beginning of September. 

Their work completed, the Jason Group met with McNamara 
and McNaiighton in Washington on August 30 and presented their conclusions 
and recommendations. McNamara was apparently strongly and favorably 
impressed with the work of the Summer Study because he and McNaughton 
flew to Massachusetts on September 6 to meet with members of the Study 
again for more detailed discussions. Even before going to Massachusetts, 
however, McNamara had asked General Vflieeler to bring the proposal up 
with the Chiefs and to req.uest field comment, h'j / After having asked 
CINCPAC for an evaluation, Wheeler sent McNamara the preliminary reactions 
of the Chiefs, 48/ They agreed with the Secretary's suggestion to estab- 
lish a project manager (General Starbird) in DDRScE, but expressed concern 
that, "the very substantial funds req.uired for the barrier system would 
be obtained from current Service resources thereby affecting adversely 
important current programs." 

CINCPAC 's evaluation of the barrier proposal on September 13 
was little m-ore than a rehash of the overdrawn arguments against such a 
system advanced in April. The sharpness of the language of his simmary 
arguments, however, is extreme even for AdmJral Sharp. In no uncertain 
terms he stated: - . 

• The combat forces req.uired before, during and after con- 
struction of the barrier; the initial and follow-on logistic 
support; the engineer construction effort and time required; 
and the existing logistic posture in Southeast Asia with 
respect to ports and land LOCs make construction of such a 
barrier impracticable. 

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....Military operations against North Vietnam and 
operations in South Vietnam are of transcendent importance. 
Operation"', elsewhere are complementary supporting under- 
takings. Priority and emphasis should be accorded in 
consideration of the forces and resources available to 
implement the strategy dictated by our objectives, hs / 

To some extent , the vehem-ence of CINCPAC's reaction must 
have stemmed from the fact that he and General Westmoreland had just 
completed a paper exercise in which they had struggled to articulate 
a strategic concept for the conduct of the war to achieve U.S. objec- 
tives as they understood them. This effort had been linked to the 
consideration of CY 196? force requirements for the war^ the definition 
of which required some strategic concept to serve as a guide- With 
respect to the war in the North, CINCPAC's final "Military Strategy 
to Accomplish United States Objectives for Vietnam/' stated: 

In the North - Take the war to the enemy by imremitting 
but selective application of United States air and na-val 
power. Military installations and those industrial facili- 
ties that generate support for the aggression will be 
attacked. Movement within, into and out of North Vietnam 
will be impeded. The enemy will be denied the great psycho- 
logical and material advantage of conducting an aggression 
from a sanctuary. This relentless application of force is 
designed progressively to curtail North Vietnam's war- 
making capacity. It seeks to force upon him major replenish- 
ment ^ repair and construction efforts. North Vietnamese 
support and direction of the Pathet Lao and the insurgency 
in Thailand will be impaired. The movement of men and material 
through Laos and over all land and water lines of communica- 
tions into South Vietnam will be disrupted. Hanoi's capability 
to support military operations in South Vietnam and to direct 
those operations will be progressively reduced. ^O/ 

With this formulation of intent for the air war, it is not surprising 
that the barrier proposal should have been anathema to CINGPAC- 

McNamara, hov;ever, proceeded to implement the barrier pro- 
posal in spite of CINCPAC's condemnation and the Chiefs' cool reaction. 
On September 15 he appointed Lt. General Alfred Starbird to head Joint 
Task Force 7^8 within DDR&E as m.anager for the project. _5l/ The Joint 
Task Force was eventually given the cover name Defense Communications 
Planning Group to protect the sensitivity of the project. Plans for 
implementing the barrier were pushed ahead speedily. Early in October, 
iust prior to the Secretary's trip. General Starbird m.ade a visit to 
Vietnam to study the problem on the ground and begin to set the adminis- 
trative wheels in m-otion. In spite of the fact that McNamara was 

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vigorously pushing the project forv/ard^ there is no indication that 
he had officially raised the matter with the President, although it 
is hard to imagine that some discussion of the Jason Summer Study recom- 
mendations had not taken place between them. In any case, as McNamara 
prepared to go to Vietnam again to assess the situation in light of new 
requests for troop increases, he made arrangements to have General Starbird 
remain for the first day of his visit and placed the anti -infiltration 
barrier first on the agenda of discussions, ^2/ 

3, A Visit to Vietnain and a Memorandum for the President 

McNamara *s trip to Vietnam in October I966 served a variety 
of purposes. It came at a time when CINCPAC was involved in a force 
planning exercise to determine desired (required in his view) force levels 
for fighting the war through I967. This was related to DOD's fall DPM 
process in which the Pentagon reviews its programs and prepares its budget 
recommendations for the coming fiscal year. This in turn engenders a 
detailed look at requirements in all areas for the five years to come. As 
a part of this process, just three days before the Secretary's departure, 
; the Joint Chiefs of Staff had sent him an important memo reviewing force 

posture the world over and recommending a call-up of the reserves to meet 
anticipated 19^7 requirements. ^3 / This recommendation as a part of the 
overall examination of force requirements needed his personal assessment 
on the spot in Vietnam. Other important reasons, for a trip were, no 
doubt, the ones to which we have referred in detail: McNamara's dissatis- 
' faction with the results of the POL attacks; and the reports of the Jason 

:-. Summer Study. Furthermore, the off-year Congressional elections were 

only a month away and the President had committed himself to go to Manila 
for a heads of state meeting later in October. For both these events 
the President probably felt the need of McNamara* s fresh impressions 
and recommendations. 

. "Whatever the combination of reasons, McNamara left Vfashington 

on October 10 and spent four days in Vietnam. Accompanying the Secretary 
on the trip were Under Secretary of State Katzenbach, General Wheeler, 

' - Mr. Komer, John McNaughton, John Foster, Director of DDP&E, and Henry 

Kissinger. In the course of the visit McNamara worked his way through 

I . a detailed seventeen item agenda of briefings, visited several sections 

i of the country plus the Fleet, and met with the leaders of the GVN. 

I i ^ His findings in those three days in South Vietnam must have 

confirmed his disquiet about the lack of progress of the war and the 
\ ' ineffectualness of U.S. actions to date, for when he returned to Washington 

he sent the President a gloomy report with recommendations for leveling 
I off the U.S. effort and seeking a solution through diplom^atic channels. 5^ 
McNamara recommended an increase in the total authorized final troop 
strength in Vietnam of only about ^0,000 over Program #3, for an end 
strength of ^70,000. This was a direct rejection- of CINCPAC's request 
for a 12/31/67 strength of 570,000 and marked a significant turning point 

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in McNamara^s attitude toward the force buildup. _56/ The issue would 
■ continue to b3 debated until the President's decision shortly after 

the election in November to approve the McNamara recommended total of 
^69,300 troops under Program #^. 

With respect to the air war he stated that the bombing had 
neither significantly reduced infiltration nor diminished Hanoi's will 
to continue the fight, and he noted the concurrence of the intelligence 
community in these conclusions. Pulling back from his previous positions, 
he now recommended that the President level off the bombing at current 
levels and seek other means of achieving our objectives. The section of 
the memo on bombing follows: 

Stabilize the ROLLING THUNDER program against the North . 
Attack sorties in North Vietnam have risen from about 4,000 
per month at the end of last year to 6,000 per month in the 
first quarter of this year and 12,000 per month at present. 
Most of our 50 percent increase of deployed attack-capable air- 
craft has been absorbed in the attacks on North Vietnam. In 
North Vietnam, almost 84,000 attack sorties have been flown 
(about 25 percent against fixed targets), ^5 percent during 
the past seven months. 

Despite these efforts, it now appears that the North 
Vietnamese -Laotian road network will remain adequate to meet 
the requirements of the Communist forces in South Vietnam — 
this is so even if its capacity could be reduced by one-third 
and if combat activities v^ere to be doubled. North Vietnam's 
serious need for trucks, spare parts and petroleiom probably 
can, despite air attacks, be met by imports. The petroleum 
requirement for trucks involved in the infiltration movement, 
for example, has not been enough to present significant sup- 
ply problems, and the effects of the attacks on the petroleum 
distribution system, while they have not yet been fully 
assessed, are not expected to cripple the flow of essential 
supplies. Furthermore, it is clear that, to bomb the North 
sufficiently to make a radical impact upon Hanoi's political, 
economic and social structure, would require an effort which 
we could make but which would not be stomached either by our 
own people or by world opinion; and it would involve a seri- 
ous risk of drawing us into open war with China. 

The North Vietnamese are paying a price. They have been 
forced to assign some 300,000 personnel to the lines of com- 
munication in order to maintain the critical flow of personnel 
and materiel to the South. Nov; that the lines of communica- 
tion have been manned, however, it is doubtful that either a 



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large increase or decrease in oiir interdiction sorties woiild 
substantially change the cost to the enemy of maintaining* 
the roads, railroads, and waterways or affect whether they 
are- operational. It follov/s that the marginal sorties — 
probably the m^arginal 1,000 or even 5^000 sorties -- per 
month against the lines of communication no longer have a 
significant im_pact on the war. 

■When this m^arginal inutility of added sorties against 
I^orth Vietnam and Laos is compared with the crew and air- 
craft losses implicit in the activity (four men and aircraft 
and $20 million per 1,000 sorties), I recommend, as a minimum, 
against increasing the level of bombing of North Vietnara and 
against increasing the intensity of operations by changing 
the areas or kinds of targets struck. 

Under these conditions, the bombing program would continue 
the pressure and would remain available as a bargaining counter 
to get talks started (or to trade off in talks). But, as in 
the case of a stabilized level of US ground forces, the 
stabilization of ROLLING THUNDER would remove the prospect of 
ever- escalating bombing as a factor complicating our political 
posture and distracting from the main job of pacification in 
South Vietnam. 

At the proper time, as discussed on pages 6-7 below, 
1 believe we should consider terminating bombing in all of 
North Vietnam., or at least in the Northeast zones, for an 
indefinite period in connection with covert moves toward 
peace. ^7/ 

As an alternative to further escalation of the bombing, McNamara recom- 
mended the barrier across the DMZ and Laos: 

I nstall a barrier . A portion of the ^70,000 troops -- 
perhaps 10^000 to 20,000 -- should be devoted to the construc- 
tion and maintenance of an infiltration barrier. Such a 
barrier would lie near the 17th parallel — would run from 
the sea, across the neck of South Vietnam (choking off the 
new infiltration routes through the DMZ) and across the trails 
in Laos. This interdiction system (at an approximate cost 
of $1 billion) w^ould comprise to the east a ground barrier 
of fences, wire, sensors, artillery, aircraft and mobile troops; 
' and to the west — mainly in Laos -- an interdiction zone 
covered by air-laid mines and bombing attacks pin-pointed 
by air-laid acoustic sensors. 


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The barrier may not "be fully effective at first, but 
I believe that it can be made effective in time and that 
even the threat of its becoming effective can substantially 
change to our advantage the character of the war. It 
would hinder enemy efforts , would permit more efficient use 
of the limited number of friendly troops, and would be per- 
suasive evidence both that our sole aim is to protect the 
South from the North and that we intend to see the Job 
through. ^8/ 

The purpose of these two actions would be to lay the 
groundwork for a stronger U.S. effort to get negotiations started. With 
the war seemingly stalemated, this appeared to be the only "out" to the 
Secretary that offered some prospect of bringing the conflict to an end 
in any near future. In analyzing North Vietnamese unwillingness to date 
to respond to peace overtures, McNam.ara noted their acute sensitivity to 
the air attacks on their homeland (recalling the arguments of the Jason 
Summer Study) and the hostile suspicion of U.S. motives. To improve the 
climate for talks, he argued, the U.S. should make some gesture to 
indicate our good faith. Foremost of these was a cessation or a limita- 
tion of the bombing. 

As a. way of projective /si^c/ U.S. bona fides, I believe 
that we should consider two possibilities with respect to 
- our bombing program against the North, to be undertaken, if 
at all, at a time very carefully selected with a view to 
maximizing the chances of influencing the enemy and world 
opinion and to minimizing the chances that failure would 
strengthen the hand of the "hawks" at home: First, without 
fanfare, conditions, or avowal, whether the stand-down was 
permanent or temporary, stop bombing all of North Vietnam. 
It is generally thought that Hanoi will not agree to negoti- 
ations until they can claim that the bombing has stopped 
unconditionally. We should see what develops, retaining 
freedom to resume the bombing if nothing useful was forth- 
,; ■ coming. 


1 Alternatively, we could shift the weight -of -effort away 

from "Zones 6A and 6b" — zones including Hanoi and Haiphong 

; and areas north of those two cities to the Chinese border. 

I ■ This alternative has some attraction in that it provides 

the North Vietnamese a "face saver" if only problems of 

"face" are holding up Hanoi peace gestures; it would narrow 

the bombing down directly to the objectionable infiltration 

(supporting the logic of a stop-infiltration/full -pause 

■ deal); and it v/ould reduce the international heat on the 

US. Here, too, bombing of the Northeast could be resumed at 

any time, or "spot" attacks could be made there from time 

to time to keep North Vietnam off balance and to require 

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her to pay almost the full cost by maintaining her repair ' 
crews in place. The sorties diverted from Zones 6a and 6b 
could he concentrated on the infiltration routes in Zones 1 
and 2 (the southern end of North Vietnam^ including the 
Mu Gia Pass) 5 in Laos and in South Vietnam. g^/ 

a/ Any limitation on the bombing of North Vietnam will cause 
"serious psychological problems among the men who are risking 
their lives to help achieve our political objectives; among 
their commanders up to and including the JCS; and among those 
of our people who cannot understand why we should withhold 
punishment from the enemy. General Westmoreland^ as do the 
JCS, strongly believes in the military value of the bombing 
program. Further , Westm^or eland reports that the morale of 
his Air Force personnel may already be showing signs of 
erosion -- an erosion resulting from current operational 
restrictions. 59/ 

The Secretary's footnote was judicious. The Chiefs did 
indeed oppose any curtailment of the bombing as a means to get negoti- 
ations started. They fired off a dissenting mxcmo to the Secretary the 
same day as his m.emo and requested that it be passed to the President. 

With respect to the bombing program per se they stated: 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not concur in your recom- 
mendation that there should be no increase in level of 
bombing effort and no modification in areas and targets subject 
to air attack. They believe our air campaign against NVN to be 
an integral and indispensable part of our over all war effort. 
To be effective 5 the air campaign should be conducted with 
only those minimum constraints necessary to avoid indiscrim- 
inate killing of population. 60/ 

As to the Secretary's proposal for a bombing halt: 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not concur with your pro- 
posal that;, as a carrot to induce negotiations, we should 
suspend or reduce our bombing campaign against NVN. Our 
experiences with pauses in bombing and resumption have not 
been happy ones. Additionally, the JoJnt Chiefs of Staff 
believe that the likelihood of the war being settled by 
negotiation is small, and that, far from inducing negoti- 
ations, another bombing pause v;ill be regarded by North 
Vietnamese leaders, and our Allies, as renewed evidence 
of lack of US determination to press the vmr to a successful 

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conclusion. The bombing campaign is one of the two triomp 
cards in the hands of the President (the other being the 
presence of US troops in SW). It should not be given up 
without an end to the W^ aggression in SVN. 6l/ 

The Chiefs did more than just dissent from a McNamara 
recommendation^ however. They closed their memo with a lengthy counter- 
proposal with significant political overtones clearly intended for the 
President's eyes. In their own words this is what they said: 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the war has 
reached a stage at which decisions taken over the next 
sixty days can determine the outcome of the war and, con- 
seq.uently5 can affect the over-all security interests of 
the United States for years to come. Therefore, they wish 
to provide to you and to the President their uneq.uivocal 
views on two salient aspects of the war situation: the 
search for peace and military pressures on ]WN. 

a. The frequent, broadly -based public offers 
made by the President to settle the war by peaceful means 

■ on a generous basis ^ which would take from ]Wn nothing it 
now has, have been admirable. Certainly, no one - American 
or foreigner - except those who are determ.ined not to be 
convinced, can doubt the sincerity, the generosity, the 
altruism of . US actions and objectives. In the opinion of 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff the time has come when further 
overt actions and offers on our part are not only non- 
productive, they are counterproductive. A logical case 
/sic/ can be made that the American people, c^ur Allies, 
and'^our enemies alike are increasingly uncertain as to 
our resolution to pursue the war to a successful conclusion. 
The Joint Chiefs of Staff advocate the following: 

(1) A statement by the President during the 
Manila Conference of his unswerving determination to carry 
on the war until JWN aggression against SW shall cease; 

(2) Continued covert exploration of all avenues 
leading to a peaceful settlement of the war; and 

(3) Continued alertness to detect and react 
appropriately to withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from 
SVN and cessation of support to the VC. 

b. In JCSM-955-6^, dated lU November 196^, and in 
jQgj^_o62-6^, dated 23 November 196^, the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
provided their views as to the military pressures which should be 

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brought to bear on JWN. In siunmary^ they recommended a 
"sharp knock" on WTN militar^^ assets and war-supporting 
facilities rather than the campaign of slowly increasing 
pressure which was adopted, "Whatever the political merits 
of the latter course ^ we deprived ourselves of the mili- 
tary effects of early weight of effort and shocks and gave 
I to the enemy time to adjust to our slow quantitative and 

q_ualitative increase of pressure. This is not to say that it 
is now too late to derive military benefits from more 
effective and extensive use of our air and naval superiority. 
The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend: 

(1) Approval of their ROLLING THUKDER 52 
program, which is a step toward meeting the requirement 
for improved target systems. This program would decrease 
the Hanoi and Haiphong sanctuary areas , authorize attacks 
against the steel plant, the Hanoi rail yards, the thermal 
power plants, selected areas within Haiphong port and other 
ports, selected locks and dams controlling water LOCs, SAJ-I 
support facilities within the residual Hanoi and Haiphong 
sanctuaries, and POL at Haiphong, Ha Gia (Phuc Yen) and 
Can Thon (Kep). 

(2) Use of naval surface forces to interdict 
North Vietnamese coastal wa^terborne traffic and appropriate 
land LOCs and to attack other coastal military targets such 
. as radar and AM sites. 

5. The Joint Chiefs of Staff request that their views 
as set forth above be provided to the President. 

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff 

(Sgd) EARLE G. "WHEELER 62/ 

Such a memo from the Chiefs represents more than a dissent or an alterna- 
tive recomjnendationj it constitutes a statement for the record to 
guarantee that in the historical accounts the Chiefs will appear having 
discharged their duty. It always comes as a form of political notifica- 
tion not merely a military recommendation. 

The available documents do not show what the reaction at 
the State Department was (apart from I4r. Katzenbach's apparent endorse- 
ment) nor do they indicate the views of the T^Jhite House staff under 
'w W. Rostow. McNaughton's- files do contain a commentary on the McNamara 
recommendations prepared by George Carver of CIA for the Director, 
Richa-^d Helms. Carver agreed with the basic McNamara analysis of the 
I quits of the air war but did not think they constituted a conclusive 

statement about possible results from an escalation. Carver wrote, 

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"We concur in Secretary McNamra's analysis of the 
effects of the ROLLING THUKDER program^ its potential 
for reducing the flow of essential supplies, and his 
judgment on the marginal inutility of added sorties against 
lines of communication. ¥e endorse his argument on 
stabilizing the level of sorties. ¥e do not agree, how- 
ever, with the implied judgment that changes in the bombing 
program could not be effective. "We continue to judge that 
a bombing program directed both against closing the port 
of Haiphong and continuously cutting the rail lines to 
China could have a significant ijnpact. 63/ 

Carver also opposed any halt or de-escalation of the bombing to start 
negotiations, arguing that we could either pursue negotiations or try 
to build up the GVN but we could not do both. His preference was to build 
in the South. Hence, a bombing halt or pause was not required. As to 
a reduction, he argued that. 

Shifting the air effort from the northeast q.uadrant 
to the infiltration areas in Laos and southern North Vietnam 
would be q.uite unproductive. Such a course of action would 
not induce Hanoi to negotiate (since it would still involve 
bombing in the north) and would probably have little effect 
in changing present international attitudes. Furthermore, 
a concentration of sorties against the low-yield and elusive 
targets along the infiltration routes in the southern end of 
North Vietnam and in Laos would not appreciably diminish North 
Vietnam's ability to maintain the supply of its forces in 
South Vietnam. Q\J 

As for the anti-infiltration barrier, neither the Chiefs 
nor Carver had a great deal of comment. The Chiefs reiterated their 
reservations with respect to resource diversion but endorsed the barrier 
concept in principle. Carver somewhat pessimistically observed that^ 

In order to achieve the objectives set for the barrier 
in our view it must be extended well westward into Laos. 
Air interdiction of the routes in Laos unsupplemented by 
ground action will not effectively check infiltration. 

To no one's su-^prise, therefore, McNamara proceeded with the barrier 
project in all haste, presumably with the President's blessing. 

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C. The Year End View 

1. Presidential Decisions " 

The President apparently did not react immediately to the 
McNamara recommendations ^ although he must have approved them in general. 
He was at the time preparing for the Manila Conference to take place 
October 23-25 and major decisions before would have been badly timed. 
Thus, formal decisions on the McNamara recommendations, particularly 
the troop level question would wait until he had returned and the elec- 
tions were over. At Manila, the President worked hard to get the South 
Vietnamese to make a greater commitment to the war and pressed them for 
specific reforms. He also worked hard to get a generalized foimulation 
of allied objectives in the war and saw his efforts succeed in the agreed 
comm.uniq.ue. Its most important feature was an appeal to the North Viet- 
namese for peace based on a commitment to withdraw forces within six 
months after the end of the war. It contained, however, no direct refer- 
ence to the air war. 

"While in Manila, the President and his advisors also con- 
ferred with General Westmoreland. As McNaughton subsequently reported 
^ ^o McNamara (who did not attend), Westmoreland opposed any curtailjnent 

^ of the air war in the North, calling it "our only trump card." 66 / 

J • Unlike the Jason Study Group, Westmoreland felt the strikes had definite 

military value in slowing the southv^ard movement of supplies, diverting 
DRV manpower and .creating great costs to the North. Rather than stabilize 
or de-escalate, Westmoreland advocated lifting the restrictions on the 
program. Citing the high level of aircraft attrition on low priority 
■ ■ targets, he warned, "you are asking for a very bad political reaction." 

He recomm.ended that strikes be carried out against the MTG airfields, the 
missile assembly area, the truck miaintenance facility, the Haiphong port 
facilities, the twelve thermal power plants, and the steel plant. When 
McNaughton pressed him on the question of whether the elimination of 
these targets would have much payoff in reduced logistical support for the 
Southern war, Westmoreland backed off stating, "I'm not responsible for 
the bombing program. Admiral Sharp is. So I haven't spent much time on it. 
But I asked a couple of my best officers to look into it, and they came 
up with the recommendations I gave you." In any event, he opposed any 
.pause in. the bombing, contending that the DRV would just use it to 
strengthen its air defenses and repair air fields. McNaughton reported 
that Westmoreland had repeated these views to the President in the presence 
I -I r. ^ Q_^^ Thieu at Johnson's request; moreover, he planned to forward 

them to the President in a memo ^ot available/ at the request of Walt 


As to the barrier, McNaughton reported that, "Westy seems 
+ be fighting the barrier less (although he obviously fears that it 
^ is designed mainly to Justify ^stopping RT /ROLLING THUIIDE^, at which 

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he 'shudders'-..." 69/ Apart from that his concerns about the barrier 
were minor (although he did propose a NIKE battalion for use in a 
surface to surface role in support of the ba^^^rier). 

On his way home from Manila, the President made the now 
famous dramatic visit to U.S. troops at Cam Ranh Bay. Once home, how- 
ever, he deferred any major decisions on the war until after the elections. 
Several "peace" candidates were aggressively challenging Administration 
supporters in the off-year Congressional contests and the President wished 
to do nothing that might boost their chances. As it turned out, they were 
oveivheljTiingly defeated in the November 8 balloting. 

(Meanwhile, at the Pentagon the dispute over the level of 
effort for the air war continued. Even before Manila, the Chiefs had 
j attempted to head off McNamara's recommendation for stabilizing the 

i bombing with a request for a 25 percent increase in B-52 sorties per 

' month. 70/ The Secretary, for his part, was showing considerable con- 

cern over the high attrition rates of ROLLING THUNDER aircraft. Among 
other things he questioned the utility of committing pilots to repeated 
risks when the operational return from many of the missions was so small 
and the expectations for achieving significant destruction so minimal. 71/ 

The force level arguments had continued during the President's 
trip too. On October 20, CINCPAC forwarded his revised Force Planning Program 
containing the results of the October 5"!^ Honolulu Planning Conference to 
the JCS. 72/ In effect, it constituted a reclama to the Secretary's 
October 14 recommendations. CINCPAC requested U.S. ground forces totalling 
^93,969 by end CY I967; 519:.310 by end CY I968; and 520,020 by end CY I969. 
But the total by end CY I969 would really be 555,262 reflecting an addi- 
tional 35,721 troops whose availability was described in the planning 
document as "unknown." 73/ 

With respect to the air war, CINCPAC stated a requirement 
for an additional ten tactical fighter squadrons (TFS) and an additional 
aircraft carrier to support both an intensification of the air war in the 
North and the additional maneuver battalions requested for the war in the 
South. These new squadrons were needed to raise sortie levels in the North 
above 12,000/month in CY I967. Of these ten TFS, the Air Force indicated ' 
that three were unavailable and the Secretary of Defense had previously 
deferred deployment of five. Nonetheless, the requirement was reiterated, jkj 
They were needed to implement the strategic concept of the air mission in 
SEA that CINCPAC had articulated on September 5 ^-nd that was included 
again here as justification. 25/ Moreover, the objective of attacking 
the ports and water LOCs was reiterated as well- 76/ 

On November ^, the JCS sent the Secretary these CINCPAC 
force planning recommendations with their own slight upward revision of 
the troop figures to an eventual end strength of 558,^32- 77/ In the 
bodv of the memo they endorse the CINCPAC air war recommendations in 

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principle but indicated that 3 TFS and the carrier woTild not be, available. 
They supplemented CINCPAC's rationale with a statement of their own on 
the matter in appendix A. The two objectives of the air war were to . 
"make it as difficult and costly as possible'"^ for NYN to support the war 
in the South and to m-Otivate the DRV to ^''cease controlling and directing 
the insurgency in South Vietnam." 78/ Their evaluation of the effective- 
ness of the bombing in achieving these objectives was that: 

Air operations in TTVN have disrupted enemy efforts to 
support his forces and have assisted in preventing the success- 
ful mounting of any major offensives. The NVN air campaign 
takes the war home to NVTT by complicating the daily life, 
causing multiple and increasing management and logistic problems , 
and preventing the enemy from conducting an aggression from 
the comfort of a sanctuary. 79/ 

Failures to date were attributed to the constraints imposed on the 
bombing by the political authorities, and the Chiefs again urged that 
these be lifted and the target base be widened to apply increasing pres- 
sure to the DRV. 

These were the standard old arguiaents. But on October 6, 
the Secretary had addressed them a memo with an attached set of 28 
"issue papers" drafM:ed in Systems Analysis. One of these took sharp 
issue with any increase in the air war on purely force effectiveness 
grounds. The Chiefs attempted to rebut all 28 issue papers in one of the 
attachments to the November U memo. The original Systems Analysis "issue 
paper" on air war effectiveness had argued that additional deployments of 
air sq.uadrons should not be made because: (l) the bulk of the proposed 
new sorties for North Vietnara v/ere in Route Package I (see Map) and could 
be attacked m-uch more econcm.ically by naval gunfire; (2) although inter- 
diction had forced the enemy to make greater repair efforts and thereby 
had diverted some resources, had forced m.ore reliance on night operations, 
and had inflicted substantial casualties to vehicular traffic, none of 
these had created or were likely to create insuperable problems for the 
DRV; and (3) CINCPAC's increased sortie req.uirements would generate 23O 
aircraft losses in CY I967 and cost $1.1 billion while only doing negligible 
damage to the WN * QoJ The similarity of much of this analysis to the 
conclusions of the Jason Summer Study is striking. 

The Chiefs rejected all three of the Systems Analysis argu- 
ments. "Naval gunfire, in their view, shoulc be regarded as a necessary 
supplement for the bombing, not as a substitute since it lacked flexibility^ 
'and responsiveness. As to the question of com.parative costs in the air 
war, the Chiefs reasoned as follows: 

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The necessity for this type of air campaign is created 
by constrcints imposed^ for other than rllitary reasons ^ 
upon the conduct of the war in NVN. These constraints 
result in maximizing exposure of larger numbers of aircraft 
for longer periods against increasingly well defended targets 
of limited comparative /sic/ The measure of the 
effectiveness of the interdiction effort is the infiltration 
and its conseq.uence which would be taking place if the air 
campaign were not being conducted. The cost to the enemy 
is not solely to be measured in terms of loss of trucks but 
in tenns of lost capability to pursue his military objectives 
in SW. Similarly^ the cost to the US must consider that 
damage which the enemy would be capable of inflicting by 
infiltrating men and supplies now inhibited by the inter- 
diction effort; this includes increased casualties in RW 
for which a dollar cost is not applicable. 8l/ 

Sensing that the thrust of the OSD analysis v/as to make a case for the 
barrier at the expense of the bombing, the Chiefs at last came down hard 
against any diversion of resources to barrier construction. In no uncer- 
tain terms they stated: 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff agree that improved inter- 
diction strategy is needed, but such improvem^ent would not 
necessarily include the barrier operation. As mentioned above 
and as recommended previously, an effective air campaign 
against WN should include closing the ports, destruction of 
high value military targets, attack of their air defense 
systems and airfields and the other fixed targets on the 
target list that have not been struck. These improvements 
have thus far been denied. 

Preliminary information developed by Task Force 7^8 indi- 
cates that the forces and cost for the barrier will be sub- 
stantial. The concept and eq.uipment for the barrier have 
not been subjected to a cost analysis study. Its effectiveness 
is open to serious q.uestion and its cost could well exceed 
the figure of $1.1 billion given for- projected aircraft losses ' 
in this issue paper. 82/ 

Ar- already indicated, these issues were all decided upon 
bv the President immediately after the election. On November 11, McNamara 
sent the Chiefs a memo with the authorized levels for Program #4. CINCPAC's 
•nronosed increases in sortie levels were rejected and the McNamara recom- 
mendation of October 1^ for their stabilization was adopted. 83/ As a 
reason for rejecting expansion of the air war, the Secretary simply stated 
that such would not be possible since no additional tactical fighter 
squadrons had been approved. The one -upward adjustm-ent of the air v/ar 

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that was authorized was the increase of B-52 sorties from 600 to 800 
in February I967 as proposed by CINCPAC and the JCS. 

2, Stabilization of the Air War 

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with the President's decision not to increase sq.uadrons 
or sorties for the air campaign in I967 added to McNamara ' s strong 
recommendation on stabilizing the level of the bombing, activity for 
the remainder of I966 was kept at about the current level. Among the 
continuing constraints that was just beginning to alleviate itself was 
an insufficiency of certain air munitions to sustain higher levels of 
air combat. 8^/ The real constraints, however, as CINCPAC and the 
JCS correctly stated were political. 

The principle supporters of halting the expansion of the 
air war, as we have already seen, were the Secretary of Defense and his 
civilian advisors. The arguments they had used during the debate over 
Program #^ and its associated air program were reiterated and somewhat 
enlarged later in November in the backup justification for the FY I967 
Southeast Asia Supplemental Appropriation. Singled out for particular 
criticism was the ineffective air effort to interdict infiltration. 
The draft Memorandum for the President began by making the best case 
possible, on the basis of results, for the bombing, and then proceeded 
to demonstrate that those accom-plishments were simply far below what 
was req.uired to really interdict. The section of the memo in q.uestion 
follows : 

A substantial air interdiction campaign is clearly 
necessary and worthwhile. In addition to putting a ceiling 
on the size of the force that can be supported, it yields 
three significant military effects. First, it effectively 
harasses and delays truck movements down through the 
southern panhandles of NVN and Laos, though it has no effect 
on troops infiltrating on foot over trails that are virtually 
invisible from the air. Our experience shows that daytime 
armed reconnaissance above some minimum sortie rate makes 
it prohibitively expensive to the enemy to attempt daylight 
■movement of vehicles, and so forces him to night movement- 
Second, destri;ction of bridges and cratering of roads 
forces the enemy to deploy repair crews, equipment, and 
porters to repair or bypass the damage. Third, attacks 
on vehicles, parks, and rest camps des:^.roy some vehicles 
with .their cargoes and inflict casualties. Moreover, our 
bombing campaign may produce a beneficial effect on U.S. 
and SVW morale by making IWN pay a price for its enemy. 
But at the scale we are now operating, I believe our bombing 
j_g yielding very small marginal returns, not worth the 
cost in pilot lives and aircraft. 


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The first effect ^ that of forcing the enemy into a 
system of night movement ^ occurs at a lower freq.uency of 
armed reconnaissance sorties than the level of the past 
several months. The enemy was already moving at night 
in 1965, before the sortie rate had reached half the 
current level; further sorties have no further effect on 

(the enemy's overall operating system. The second effect, 
that of forcing the enemy to deploy repair crews ^ equip- 
ment , and porters, is also largely brought about by a 
comparatively low interdiction effort. Our interdiction 
campaign in I965 and early this year forced NVN. to assign 
roughly 300,000 additional personnel to LOCs; there is no 
f indication that recent sortie increases have caused further 

increases in the number of these personnel. Once the 
enemy system can repair road cuts and damaged bridges in 
a few hours, as it has demonstrated it can, additional 
sorties may work this system harder but are unlikely to 
cause a significant increase in its costs. Only the third 
effect, the destruction of vehicles and their cargoes, con- 
tinues to increase in about the same proportion as the number 
of armed reconnaissance sorties, but without noticeable 
impact on VC/WA operations. The overall capability of 
the jWN transport system to move supplies within WE 
apparently improved in September in spite of 12,200 attack 


In a summary paragraph, the draft memo m_ade the entire case against the 

The increased damage to targets is not producing notice- 
able results. No serious shortage of POL in North Vietnam 
is evident, and stocks on hand, with recent imports, have 
been adequate to sustain necessary operations. No serious 
transport problem in the movement of supplies to or within 
North Vietnam is evident; most transportation routes appear 
to be open, and there has recently been a major logistical 
build-up in the area of the DMZ. The raids have disrupted 
the civil populace and caused isolated food shortages, but 
have not significantly weakened popular morale. Air strikes 
continue to depress economic growth and have been responsible 
for abandonment of some plans for economic development, but 
essential economic activities continue. The increasing 
amounts of physical damage sustained by North Vietnamese are 
in large measure compensated by aid received from other 
Communist countries. Thus, in spite of an interdiction 
campaign costing at least $250 million per month at current 
levels no significant impact on the war in South Vietnam 
is evident. The monetary value, of damage to NVN since the 

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start of bombing in February 19^5 is estimated at about 
$ll|0 million through October 10, I966. 87/ 

As an alternative method of arresting the infiltration the 
memo proposed the now familiar barrier , preparatory work on which was 
proceeding rapidly. No new arguments for it were offered , and its 
unproven q^ualities were acknowledged. But it seemed to offer at that 
point a better possibility of significantly curtailing infiltration 
than an escalation of the ineffective air war. Its costs were estimated, 
however, at an astounding $1 billion per year. 

While these considerations were dominant at the Pentagon, 
the air vrar in the North continued. The only exceptions to the even 
pattern of air strikes at the end of I966 were strikes authorized in 
early December within the 30-mile Hanoi sanctuary against the Yen Vien 
rail classification yard and the Van Dien vehicle depot. 88 / The former 
was attacked on December k and again on the 13th and lUth with extensive 
damage to buildings but little destruction of rolling stock. The Van 
Dien vehicle depot was struck six times between December 2 and 1^ with 
some two thirds of its l8^ buildings being either destroyed or damaged. 
Hanoi's reaction was prompt and vociferous. The DRV accused the U.S. of 
blatantly attacking civilian structures and of having caused substantial 
civilian casualties. On December 13, the Soviet Press Agency TASS picked 
up the theme claiming that U.S. planes had attacked residential areas in 
Hanoi. This brought a prompt State Department denial, but on December 15 
further attacks on the two targets were suspended. Three days later 
there were new charges. This time the Communist Chinese claimed the U.S. 
had bombed their embassy in Hanoi. On December 1? the Rumanians made a 
similar allegation. The net result of all this public stir was another 
round of world opinion pressure on Washington. 92/ ^^ this atmosphere, 
on December 23? attacks against all targets within 10 n.m. of Hanoi were 
prohibited without specific Presidential authorization. 

The most important result of these attacks, however, was to 
undercut what appeared to be a peace feeler from Hanoi. In late November, 
the DRV had put out a feeler through the Poles for conversations in 
Warsaw. The effort was given the code name Marigold , but when the attacks 
were launched inadvertently against Hanoi in December, the attempt to 
staH talks ran into difficulty. A belated U.S. attempt to mollify 
North Vietnam's bruised ego failed and formal talks did not materialize. 
Some significant exchanges between Hanoi and Washington on their respec- 
tive terms apparently did take place, however. 91/ 

The controversy over civilian casualties from the bombing 
continued through the end of the year and into January 1967* Harrison 
Sali'sbury a respected senior editor of the New York Time s , went to 
Hanoi at Christmas and dispatched a long series of articles that attracted 
much world-wide attention. He corroborated DRV allegations of civilian 

Ities and damage to residential areas including attacks on Nam Dinh, 

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llorth Vietnam's third city, and other towns and cities throughout the 
country. 92/ The matter reached a level of concern such that the 
President felt compelled to make a statement to the press on December 3^ 
to the effect that the bombing was directed against legitimate military 
targets and that every effort was being made to avoid civilian casualties, 93/ 

At no time in the fall of I966 is there any evidence that 
a second major "pause" like that of the previous year was planned for the 
holiday period to pursue a diplomatic initiative on negotiations* But 
as the holidays drew near a brief military standdown was expected. The 
Chiefs went on record in November opposing any suspension of military 
operations 5 North or South, at Christmas, New Years or the Lunar New 
Year the coming February. 9h/ The failirre of the initiative through 
Poland in early December left the U.S. with no good diplomatic reason for* 
lengthening the holiday suspensions into a pause, so the President ordered 
only U8-hour halts in the fighting for Christmas and New Year's. The Pope 
had made an appeal on December 8 for both sides to extend the holiday 
truces into an armistice and begin negotiations, but this had fallen on 
deaf ears in both capitals. _95/ As windovr-dressing, the U.S. had asked 
UN Secretary General U Thant to take whatever steps were necessary to get 
talks started. He replied in a press conference on the last day of the 
year that the first step tov/ard negotiations must be an "unconditional" 
U S. bombing halt. 96/ This evoked little enthusiasm and some annoyance 
in the Johnson Administration. 

Thus, 1966 drew to a close on a sour note for the President. 
He had just two months before resisted pressure from the military for a 
major escalation of the war in the North and adopted the restrained 
approach of the Secretary of Defense, only to have a few inadvertent 
raids within the Hanoi periphery mushroom into a significant loss of 
world opinion support. He was in the uncomfortable position of being 
able to please neither his hawkish nor his dovish critics with his care- 
fully modulated middle course. t 

3, 1966 Summary 


ROLLING THUNDER was a much heavier bombing program in I966 
than in I965. There were 1^8,000 total sorties flown in I966 as compared 
with 55 000 in I965, and 128,000 tons of bombs were dropped as compared 
with 33 000 in the 10 months of bombing the year before. The number of 
JCS fixed targets struck, which stood at 158 at the end of 1965? increased 
to 185, or 27 more, leaving only 57 unstruck out of a list of 2li-2. 97/ 
Armed reconnaissance, which was still kept out of the northeast q.uadrant 
at the end of I965, was extended during I966 throughout NVN except for the 
Hanoi /Haiphong sanctuaries and the China buffer zone, and beginning with 
■ROLLING THUI^DER 51 on 6 July was even permitted to penetrate a short way 
into the Hanoi circle along small selected route segments. Strikes had 

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even been carried out against a few "lucrative" POL targets deep 
within the circles. 

The program had also become more expensive. 318 ROLLING 
THUKDER aircraft were lost during I9665 as compared with I7I in I965 
(though the loss rate dropped from ,G6% of attack sorties in I965 to 
.39^ in 1966). CIA estimated that the direct operational cost of the 
program (i.e., production costs of aircraft lost, plus direct sortie 
overhead costs — not including air base or CVA maintenance or logistical 
support -- plus ordnance costs) came to $1,2^7 million in I966 as com- 
pared with $^60 million in I965. 98/ 

Economic damage to ]WN went up from $36 million in I965 
to $9^ million in I9665 and military damage from $3^ million to $36 million 
As CIA computed it, however, it cost the U.S. $9.6 to inflict $1 worth of 
damage in I966, as compared with $6.6 in I965. 

Estimated civilian and military casualties in WN also went 
up, from 13,000 to 23-21^,000 (about 80f, civilians), but the numbers 
remained small relative to the I8 million popula ion. 100/ 

The program in I966 had accomplished little more than in 
1965? however. In January 19^7? an anlaysis by CIA concluded that the 
attacks had not eliminated any important sector of the NVTT economy or 
the military establishment. They had not succeeded in cutting route 
capacities south of Hanoi to the point where the flow of supplies required 
in SVN was significantly impeded. The POL attacks had eliminated 76^ of ■ 
JCS-targeted storage capacity, but not until after NVN had implemented a 
system of dispersed storage, and the POL flow had been maintained at 
adequate levels. 3^'^ of WN's power-generating capacity had been put 
out of action, but the remaining capacity was adequate to supply most 
industrial consiomers. Hundreds of bridges were knocked down, but vir- 
tually all of them had been quickly repaired, replaced, or bypassed, and 
traffic continued. Several thousand freight cars, trucks, barges, and 
ether vehicles were also destroyed or damaged, but inventories were main- 
tained through imports and there v/as no evidence of a serious transport 
problem due to equipment shortages. The railroad and highway networks 
were considerably expanded and improved during the year. lOl / 

The main losses to the economy, according to the CIA 
analysis, had been indirect — due to a reduction in agricultural out- 
put and the fish catch, a cut in foreign exchange earnings because of 
a decline in exports, disruptions of production because of dispersal 
and other passive defense measures, and the diversion of effort to 
repair essential transportation facilities. On the military side, damage 
had disrupted normal military practices, caused the abandonment of many 
facilities, and forced the widespread dispersal of equipment, but overall 
military capabilities had continued at a high level. 102/ 

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The sioininary CIA assessment was that ROLLING- THUMER 
had not helped either to reduce the flow of supplies South or to shake 
the will of the North: 

The evidence available does not suggest that ROLLING 
THUNDER to date has contributed materially to the achieve- 
ment of the two primary objectives of air attack -- 
reduction of the flow of supplies to VC/nVA forces in the 
South or weakening the will of North Vietnam to continue 
the insurgency. ROLLING THUNDER no doubt has lessened 
the capacity of the transport routes to the South — put a 
lower *cap* on the force levels which North Vietnam can 
support in the South -- but the 'cap' is well above present 
logistic supply levels. IO3/ 

The bombing had not succeeded in materially lowering morale among the 
people, despite some "war weariness." The leaders continued to repeat 
in private as well as public that they were willing to withstand even 
heavier bombing rather than accept a settlement on less than their 
terms. As to the future: 

There may be some degree of escalation which would 
force the regime to reexamine its position, but we 
believe that as far as .pressure from air attack is con- 
cerned the regime would be prepared to continue the 
insurgency indefinitely in the face of the current level 
and type of bombing program. 10 V 

A key factor in sustaining the will of the regime, according 
to the CIA analysis, was the "massive" economic and military aid provided 
by the USSR, China, and Eastern Europe. Economic aid to NVN from these . 
countries, which ran about $100 million a year on the average prior to 
the bombing, increased to $150 million in 1965 and $275 million in I966. 
Military aid was $270 million in I965 and $^55 million in I966. Such 
aid provided NVN v/ith the "muscle" to strengthen the insurgency in the 
South and to maintain its air defense and other military forces; and it 
provided the services and goods with which to overcome NVN's economic 
difficulties. So long as the aid continued, CIA said, NVN would be able 
and willing to persevere "indefinitely" in the face of the current 
ROLLING THUNDER program. 105/ 

The military view of why ROLLING THUNDER had failed in its 
objectives in ,1966 was most forcefully given by Admiral Sharp, USCINCPAC, 
in a briefing for General I^/heeler at Honolulu on January 12, I967. 
Admiral Sharp described three tasks of the air campaign in achieving 
^" j_^g objective of inducing Hanoi to "cease supporting, controlling, and 

directing" the insurgency in the South: "(l) reduce or deny external 
assistance; (2) increase pressures by destroying in depth those resources 
that contributed most to support the aggression; and (3) harass, disrupt 
and impede movement of men and m^aterials to South Vietnam." 106/ CINCPAC 


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had developed and presented to the Secretary of Defense an integrated 
plan to perfoi-m these tasks, but much of it had never been approved. 
Therein lay the cause of whatever failure could be attributed to the 
bombing in Admiral Sharp's view. 

The rest of the briefing was a long complaint about the 
lack of authorization to attack the Haiphong harbor in order to deny 
external assistance, and the insignificant number of total sorties 
devoted to JCS numbered targets (1*5^ of some 81,000 sorties). Never- 
theless, CINCPAC was convinced the concept of operations he had pro- 
posed could bring the DRV to give up the war if "self -generated US 
constraints" were lifted in I967. 10?/ 

Thus, as 1966 drew to a close, the lines were drawn for 
a long fifteen m.onth internal Administration struggle over whether to 
stop the bombing and start negotiations. McNamara and his civilian 
advisers had been disillusioned in I966 with the results of the bombing 
and held no sanguine hopes for the ability of air power, massively 
applied, to produce anything but the same inconclusive results at far 
higher levels of overall hostility and with significant risk of Chinese 
and/or Soviet intervention. The military, particularly CIRCPAC, were 
ever more adamant that only civilian imposed restraints on targets had 
prevented the bombing from bringing the DRV to its knees and its senses 
about its aggression in the South. The principle remained sound, they 
argued; a removal of limitations would produce dramatic results. And 
so 1967 would be the year in which many of the previous restrictions 
were progressively lifted and the vaunting boosters of air power would be 
once again proven wrong. It would be the year in which we relearned the 
negative lessons of previous wars on the ineffectiveness of strategic 

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2. USAF Historical Division Liaison Office, "USAF Plans and Operations: 
The Air Campaign Against North Vietnam^ I966." 

3. State Circular 2568, 29I3OOZ June I966. 
k. "Current Foreign Relations/' 6 July I966. 

5. Robert S« McNamara Memorandum for Secretaries of the Military 
Departments J Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Assistant Secre- 
taries of Defense^ Subject: "Southeast Asia Deplo;^anent Plan," 

2 July 1966 (S). 

6. Alain Enthoven, ASd/sa, Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, 
Subject: "Southeast Asia Deployment Plan," 30 June I966 (TS), 
transmitting the recommended changes and a draft mem.o to the JCS, 
Services and ASDs. ■ . . 

7. McNamara' s handwritten and signed changes to the draft mem.o submitted 
by Alain Enthoven, ASd/sA, ibid. 

8. President Lyndon B. Johnson Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, 
Tuesday, June 28, I966, 5:05 p.m. (s). 

9. David L- McDonald, Acting CJCS, MemorandT:im for the Secretary of Defense, 
JCSM-^50-66, 8 July 1966 (TS); and Robert S. McNamara Memorandum 

for the President, Subject: "Schediile of Deployments to South Vietnam," 
15 July 1966 (TS). For a full treatment of the troop deployment issue 
see Task Force paper IV. C. 6, "U.S. Ground Strategy and Force Deploy- 
ment, 1965-1967," (TS-Sensitive). • ' ' 

10. USAF Historical Division Liaison Office, "USAF Plans and Operations: 
The Air Campaign Against North Vietnam, I966," op. cit. 

11. CINCPAC msg. O8O73OZ July I966 (TS). 

12. CINCPAC msg. to JCS 2i|2069Z July I966 (TS). 

13. CINCPAC msg. to JCS 081937Z August 1966 (TS); and CINCPAC msg. O8O73OZ 
July 1966, o£. cit. 

ll^ DIA Special Intelligence Suiomary, "NVN POL Status Report," 20 July I966 (TS] 
IS DIA Special Intelligence Summary, "NVN POL Status Report," 1 August I966. 

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16. CINCPAC msg to CINCPACAF OU2059Z September I966 (TS-LIMDIS). 

17. Ibid . 

18. USAF Historical Division Liaison Office^ "USAF Plans and Operations: 
The Air Campaign Against North Vietnam, I966." 

19. CIA SC 1^0. Ohkk2/67y January 196?? "The Rolling Thunder Program^ 
Present and Potential Target Systems/* Appendix A- 

20. Ibid. 

21. SffiE 13-66, "Current Chinese Communist Intentions in the Vietnam 
Situation," if August I966 (s). 

22. KEE lU.3-665 7 July 1966, "North Vietnamese Potential for Fighting 
in South Vietnam," (TS), p. 12. 

23. CIA Intelligence Memorandum No. 1684/66, "North Vietnamese Intentions 
: and Attitudes Toward the War/' 25 July I966 (s), pp. S-k. 

n ,'"^' 2if. See the daily DIA Special Intelligence Summaries, "NVN POL Status 
— - Report" for July and August I966. 

25. Joint CIA/dIA Report, "An Appraisal of the Bombing of North Vietnam 
through 12 September I966/' (TS). 

26. Institute for Defense Analysis Study, IDA TS/HQ66-U9, "The Effects 
of US Bombing on North Vietnam's Ability to Support Military Opera- 
tions in South Vietnam and Laos: Retrospect and Prospect," 29 August 
1966 (TS), p. 585 emphasis added. 

27. USAF Historical Division Liaison Office, "USAF Plans and Operations: 
The Air Campaign Against North Vietnam, I966." 

28. Quoted in the Washington Post, I5 February I967. 

29. Roger Fisher, Memorandum, A Barrier Strategy , Dr aft /I-30 -66, in 
McNaughton Book II, Tab AA (S-Eyes Only). 


^0. Unsigned -'MemorandTarii for the Secretary of Defense, Subject: *A 
Barrier Strategy' 5" dated in pencil in McNaughton's hand I/30/66 
with additional pencil note, "copy given to RSI4 3/22/66" (S-Eyes 

Only) . 
31. Ibid^ - , 

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32. Ibid , 

33. JCS msg. 2339/222 to CINCPAC 2k Mar I966 (TS); and JCS msg. 
2523O5Z Mar 1966 to CINCPAC (TS). 

3lf. CINCPAC msg. to JCS O71925Z April I966 (TS). 

35. Prograjn is referred to in DA msg. to COMUSMACV 77^060, l6l456z July 

1966 (S). 

36- Adam Yarmolinsky (Principle Deputy ISA) Memorandum for the Secretary 
of Defense, 3O March I966. 

37. Robert S. McNamara letter to Jerrold Zacharias, I6 April I9665 
copies to Kistiakowsky, Kaysen and Wiesner. 

38. Robert S. McNamara Memorandum for the Assistant Secretary of 
Defense, International Security Affairs , 26 April I966 (s). 

39. Institute for Defense Analyses Report , IDA TS/hq66-^95 "The Effects 

of US Bombing on North Vietnam's Ability to Support Military Operations 
in South Vietnam and Laos: Retrospect and Prospect/^ 29 August I966 
(TS), pp. V"Viii. 

kO. Ibid ., pp. 10-11. 

kl. Ibid., pp. 12-13. . ' 

1|2. Ibid ., pp. 37-38. 

I13. Ibid. , p. 39. 

kk. Ibid. , pp. ii5-^6. 

U5. Institute for Defense Analyses, JASON Division, Study S-255 (TS), 
August 1966, "Air-Supported Ant i -Infiltration Barrier," pp. 2-6. 

k6. Ibid,, p. 7- 

kl, Robert S. McNamara Mem.orandum for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of 

Staff, Subject: "Proposal for Barrier Systems," 3 September I966 (s). 

1[8. JCS msg. 1975 to CINCPAC, O72155Z September I966 (TS); JCS msg. 2l60 
to CINCPAC, O823O7Z September I966 (s); and CM-1732-66, 8 September 

1966 (S). 

k9. CINCPAC msg. to JCS I3O7O5Z Septem.ber I966 (TS) . 

•^0 CINCPAC msg. to field comm^ands, O5205O September I966 (TS). 

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51. Robert S. McNamara Memoranduin for Lieutenant General Alfred D, 
Starbird^ 15 September I966 (s). 

52. Defense msg. ^2^^, from SecDef to AmEmbassy Saigon , 02l801Z October 

1966 (S). 

53. JCSM"6i+6-66, 7 October I966 (TS). 

54. SecDef's Saigon Trip, October I9665 CF-5^^ Tab C. 

55. Robert S. McNamara Memorandiom for the President, Subject: "Actions 
Recommended for Vietnam," 1^1 October I966 (TS), A note at the end of 
the memo states, "Mr. Katzenbach and I have disctissed many of its 
(the memo's) main conclusions and recommendations — in general, but 
not in particulars, it expresses his views as well as my own." 

56. See Task Force paper IV. C. 8 for a detailed examination of the back-^ 
ground and decision on Program #U- 

57. Ibid . 

58. Ibid . ' 

59. Ibid . 

60. JCSM-672-66, Ik October I966 (TS). 

61. Ibid . 

62. Ibid. 

63. George A. Carver, Jr., Memorandum for the Director, CIA, Subject: 
"Comments on Secretary McNamara' s Trip Report," I5 October I966 (TS). 
A pencil note in the margin in McNam^ara's hand says, "prepared by 
Dick at my request." 

• 6h. Ibid . ,,,■..'. 


I i 65. Ibid. 

(■' 66. John T. McNaughton, ASD/iSA, Memorandum for Secretary McNamara, 

Subject: "McNaughton in Manila, October 23-25, I966," 26 October I966 
(S-Eyes Only); with a copy of the Manila Communic[ue annotated in 
McNaughton 's hand attached. 

67. Ibid, quoted in the McNaughton memo. 

68. Ibid., a^ioted in the McNaughton memo. 

69. Ihid* 

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70. JCSM-667-66, 15 October I966 (TS); reg.uests an increase in B-52 
sorties from 6OO to 8OO per month beginning in February 196? . 
Tiie Chief 1 also noted they had a proposal for foiT^ard basing the 
B-52s under study and would forward a recommendation later. 

71. Memo to ¥a:. Vance, I8 October 1966, signed ^^ACG" (Col Abbot C. 
Greenleaf, military assistant to the Deputy Secretary) with a 
summary of McNamara's views of an attached JCS study of attrition 

■ factors . 

72. CINCPAC letter to JCS 3OIO, Ser: OQOh'^^, 20 October I966, Subject: 
"Calendar Year I966 and I967 Force Req.uirements/Capabilities Programs ," 
in three volumes (TS). 

73. Ibid .;, Vol. II, p. 1. ■ 
i^. Ibid. 5 Vol. I5 p. C-2. 

75. See above, p. 

76. CINCPAC letter 3010, op. cit . , p. B-7. 

77. JCSM- 702-66, ^ November I966 (TS) with appendices A-C, p. B-1. 
■ 78. Ibid ., p. A-1. 

79. Ibid. ■ • . 

80. Robert S. McNamara Memorandum for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of 
Staff, Subject: "CINCPAC Additional CY I966 and CY I967 Force 
Requirements," 6 October I966 (TS), with appendix. 

81. JCSM-702-66, op. cit.. Annex C, p. 68. 

82. Ibid ., p. 70- 

83. Robert S. McNamara Memorandum for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs 
-of Staff, Subject: "Deployments to Southeast Asia," 11 November I966 


Qlj.. For a complete treatment of the issues and background to the Program 

M\ decision on ground forces see Task Force paper IV. C. 8 (TS-Sensitive). 

85. Chairman's Memoranda to the Secretary of Defense, CM-1770-66, 22 September 
1966 (TS)j CM-179^-66, 29 September I966; and 201^-66, 22 December 

1966 (S). 

h 86 Draft Memorandum for the President (For Comment), Subject: "Recom- 

^ ^ ■ * mended FY67 Southeast Asia Supplemental Appropriation," 17 Nov. I966 

(rji3) pp. 13-lif, in McNaughton Book VII 5 Tab Q. 

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87. rbid. 

88. Authorized in RT-^2, November 12, I966. 

89. Information on both targets is in CINCPAC Command History - 1966 , 
Vol. II, pp. 5OU-5O5 (TS). 

90. Ibid >, and New York Times , Dec. I3, 1^;, I6, 1?, I966. 

91. Kraslow and Toory, The Secret Search for Peace in Vietnam , (Random 
House, NY, I968), p. 

92. See the New York Times , December 25, I966 - January 30, I967. 

93. New York Times, Jan. 1, I967. 

9lf. JCSI^^x-727-66, 22 November I966 (s). 

95. New York Times , December 9, I966. 

96. New York T imes , January 1, 1967- 

97. CIA.SC No. Okkk2/67:, "The Rolling Thunder Program 
Potential Target Systems," January 1967- 

— Present and 

98. Ibid . • 

99. Ibid . 

100. Ibid . 

101. Ibid . 

102. Ibid. 

103. Ibid. 
10k. Ibid. 

105. Ibid. 

106. CINCPAC Command History - 1966 , op . cit . , vol. II, p. 5II 

107. Ibid., pp. 511-51^- 


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