Cable from COMUSMACV to CINCPAC on Cross Border Operations, 16 August 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 539-540

16 Aug 64





B. JCS DTD 0420127

C. CINCPAC 1101527

1. Combined planning with JGS on cross border operations has reached a point where your approval or further guidance is necessary.

2. After a slow start and under the impetus of US actions against the DRV, the JGS is now energetically participating in combined cross border planning. . . . The liaison bureau headed by Lt Col Ho Tieu is the high command control headquarters for this operation, which has been entitled "Anh Dung." A war room is being set up at the liaison bureau headquarters in the old special forces compound. Radio communications are being established direct with Vietnamese special forces headquarters at Nha Trang and with I and II Corps.

4. Cross border mission type orders will be issued by the bureau over the signature of General Khiem, RVN Commander in chief. Detailed implementing plans will be prepared by I and II Corps, Hq VNSF and at a later date, VNAF, and submitted to the bureau for approval. JGS estimates from time the plan is approved it will take 10 days to get the operation underway.

5. The concept follows:

A. First Phase:

(1) Three bridgeheads to be established in Laos; one astride route 9 opposite Lao Bao, approximately 50 km wide by 15 km deep; one Ref C not held, will furnish on request, if obtainable the same size opposite Dak Prou; and one 20 kilometers wide by 11 km. deep opposite Dak To. VNSF to have responsibility for northern (Lao Bao) bridgehead, I Corps for central (Dak Prou), and II Corps for southern.

(2) VNSF to have available strike force of the CIDG camp at Kee Sanh, 4 ABN ranger companies, 3 recon teams from "Leaping Lena" group, and, in later stages one airborne battalion. The corps to use strike forces from CIDG camps at A Ro and Kham Duc (I Corps) and Dak Pek and Dak To (II Corps), plus one ranger battalion each and such infantry elements as can be spared from pacification effort, estimated at this time as not more than one battalion from each of corps involved.

(3) Reconnaissance patrols by squad and platoon elements initiate operations followed progressively and methodically by raids and ambushes of platoon and company size upon targets and infiltration routes developed by patrols. Larger scale and deeper penetrations of company and battalion size to follow hopefully to dominate the bridgehead area.

(4) Close air support missions and air strikes against known or strongly suspected critical targets to be blown (Ref C). . . . Preplanned air missions to require personal approval of . . . INCRVNAF and COMUSMACV.

B. Second Phase (as visualized by GVN):

1) Expand and connect bridgeheads. I and II Corps to be charged with responsibility for operating in and dominating a strip of the Laotian side of the border 40 km deep.

2) Within and beyond this strip, destruction operations to be mounted by air strikes, airborne ranger company and airborne battalion raids against major VC targets.

C. Because of extremely rugged terrain in the area of the bridgeheads operations will be slow in developing. After initiation of operation, troops will probably be limited to company size in each bridgehead for a period of several weeks. There will be ample opportunity to review and, if necessary, direct operations before substantially larger forces become involved.

It would be essential for US advisors to accompany CIDG, ranger, airborne ranger and airborne troops. Air strikes would . . . conducted VNAF. US Army and US Marine and VNAF helicopters would have to be used in supporting roles. US Air Force C-123's would be required for airborne operations.

Considering the forces which could be made available this is . . . overly ambitious scheme. However, the desirability of getting such a program underway, coupled with GVN apparent willingness to . . . started now, argues for US encouragement and indorsement . . . first phase of concept. Although an effort will be made to build in US controls . . . should be recognized that once this operation is initiated . . . the GVN, US control may be marginal. While they would no doubt be willing to attack targets suggested by US or to mount intelligence and reconnaissance operations in areas desired by US, they may undertake operations at their own initiative and against targets of their choosing without our knowledge or consent. In other words, our control over their military actions in a compat situation could not be expected to change from the present. Advisory pattern. The VC are probably in the corridor in strength and there will be a number of tactical engagements requiring reinforcement and air support which from an operational standpoint must be controlled by the Corps CTOC/ ASOC. Therefore, this type operation does not lend itself to single mission control from Saigon.

In view of the disrupting effect these operations could have . . . VC infiltration CAGTES and bases in Laos approval of the concept is recommended plan would be susceptible to execution in total or in part and can develop as experience is gained.

Coordination with Laotian government will be necessary and it is assumed Washington will take initiative in this matter at the appropriate time.

. . . combined cross border planning under the original terms of reference did not include the use of FARMGATE aircraft for airstrikes into the Panhandle. However, in view later authority to plan unilaterally for use of FARMGATE and in view fact that the use of FARMGATE would put COMUSMACV in position to insist on participation in decision making and combined control through the AOC, strongly recommend that FARMGATE be included within the scope of cross border operations outlined in this message.

12. Concept has been discussed with Ambassador Taylor who has not taken a position at this time.

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