Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 560-561.
COURSES OF ACTION FOR SOUTH VIETNAM
1. Khanh will probably stay in control and may make some headway in the next 2-3 months in strengthening the government. The best we can expect is that he and the government will be able to maintain order, keeping the pacification program ticking over (but not progressing markedly), and keep up the appearance of a valid government.
2. Khanh and the GVN leaders are temporarily too exhausted to be thinking much about moves against the North. However, they do need to be reassured that the US continues to mean business, and as Khanh goes along in his government efforts, he will probably want more US effort visible.
3. The GVN over the next 2-3 months will be too weak for us to take any deliberate major risks of escalation that would involve any important contribution by South Vietnam. However, escalation arising from and directed against US action would tend to lift GVN morale. [Temporarily only; not worth US action for this purpose alone.]
4. The Communist side will probably avoid provocative action, and it is uncertain how much they will step up VC activity. They do need to be shown that we and the GVN are not simply sitting back after the Gulf of Tonkin.
Courses of Action
We should in any event:
1. Resume 34A operations very soon. The operations selected should be related to the case against VC infiltration by sea, and this case should be made publicly by the GVN to legitimize and surface--in a general sense--the maritime operations. Other 34A air drop operations should also be resumed but are secondary in importance. We should not consider air strikes under 34A for the present.
2. US naval patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin should be resumed very soon, initially beyond the twelve-mile limit and clearly dissociated from 34A maritime operations.
3. Limited GVN air and ground operations into the Corridor areas of Laos should be undertaken in the near future, together with Laos air strikes as soon as we can get Souvanna's permission. These operations will have only limited effect, however.
4. We should be prepared to respond on a tit-for-tat basis against the DRV in the event of any attack on US units or any special DRV/VC action against SVN.
The main further question is the extent to which we should add elements to the above actions that would tend to provoke a DRV reaction, and consequent retaliation by us. The main action to be considered would be running US naval patrols increasingly close to the North Vietnamese coast and/or associating them with 34A operations. Such extension might be undertaken if the initial US naval patrols had not aroused a reaction.
As to timing, the above actions would get underway late in September or early in October. The more provocative variations would be considered for insertion not earlier than mid-October.
W. P. Bundy/bmm
September 8, 1964
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