Letter from McNaughton to W.P. Bundy Requesting Clarifications and Changes in the Rules of Engagement, 11 August 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 529

11 Aug 64

Honorable William P. Bundy Assistant Secretary of State for
Far Eastern Affairs
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Bill:

Events in the Gulf of Tonkin and the subsequent decision to deploy additional forces to Southeast Asia accentuate the need for clarification and certain changes to the Rules of Engagement under which U.S. forces must operate in situations short of open hostilities.

A review of current rules indicates the following voids should be filled as soon as possible:

a. There are no Rules of Engagement for intercept, hot pursuit, and destruction of hostile aircraft which violate Thailand air space.
b. U.S. forces intercepting hostile aircraft over South Vietnam are not authorized hot pursuit outside of the South Vietnam territorial air space.
Hostile forces which initiate unprovoked attacks against our forces whether on the high seas or ashore should not be afforded sanctuary from which they can repeat the attack. The best way to preclude repeated attacks is to pursue and destroy the attackers. Such action is not punitive per se but primarily defensive for self-protection. U.S. forces should be authorized immediate and unrestricted pursuit.

The Joint Chiefs have recommended that the Rules of Engagement be handled as a matter of urgency. Their recommendations have been reviewed in a joint meeting with members of your staff and mine. Certain changes were tentatively agreed. The revised rules are attached in the form of a proposed message which the Joint Chiefs will be authorized to forward to CINCPAC subject to your concurrence.

I would appreciate your approval of the Rules of Engagement or your comments as soon as possible.

John T. McNaughton

cc: Chan JCS w/Encl [Enclosure missing]

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