The Pentagon Papers
Gravel Edition
Volume 1
Document 46, Memorandum from Brigadier General C.H. Bonesteel, III to the Secretary of Defense,"Future US Action Regarding Indochina," 9 May 1954, p 506


OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
WASHINGTON 25, D.C.

9 May 1954

INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

SUBJECT: Future U.S. Action Regarding Indo-China

1. In light of the French having tabled an armistice proposal at Geneva, the United States must now decide whether:

a. To intervene actively in the Indo-China war to redeem the situation.
b. To exercise all feasible pressure to require the French Government to avoid all compromise at Geneva and to take increased effective military and political action against the Viet Minh in Indo-China. This appears realistically possible only if the decision to implement a above is also made.
c. To adopt a passive policy toward the negotiations at Geneva while endeavoring to organize hastily a regional grouping, with U.S. participation, to hold what remains of Southeast Asia.

2. Decisions a plus b offer the only sure way to stop the Communist advance. They involve substantial risk of war with Red China and increased risk of general war. However, recognizing the steadily increasing Soviet capabilities in nuclear warfare and the consequent steady diminution of the present military advantage of the U.S. over the USSR, these increased risks can more surely and safely be accepted now than ever again.

3. Decision c would be a compromise involving clear possibilities for piecemeal advancement of Communist control over the balance of free Asia despite the best efforts of the U.S. to the contrary. The likelihood of further such advancement would be somewhat diminished if the U.S. made publicly clear that the further support by Moscow and Peiping of Communist aggression or subversion, as judged by the U.S., would entail direct military action by the U.S. against the source or sources of this support. However, it might be months or years before further subversion would enable such a U.S. judgment. By then the increased Soviet nuclear capability might well inhibit the U.S. Government from implementing its announced intention. Asia could thus be lost.

4. Therefore, it would appear that the U.S. Government must decide whether to take the steps necessary to contain Communism in Asia within Red China by intervention in Indo-China or accept the probable loss of Asia to Communism.

C. H. BONESTEEL, III
Brigadier General, United States Army
Defense Member, NSC Planning Board


Go Back to Volume 1, Chapter I of the Pentagon Papers

Go Back to Volume 1, Chapter 2 of the Pentagon Papers

Go Back to Volume 1, Chapter 3 of the Pentagon Papers

Go Back to Volume 1, Chapter 4 of the Pentagon Papers

Go Back to Volume 1, Chapter 5 of the Pentagon Papers

Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to Vietnam War Page