Cable, Saigon 913 to State, Summary of Conclusions of Meeting of Three Embassies Held in Saigon on 11 September to Review Air and Ground Operations in the Lao Corridor, 19 September 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 566-568






Following is a summary, coordinated with Vientiane and Bangkok, of the conclusions of the meeting of the three posts held at Saigon September 11 to review air and limited ground operations of the Lao corridor:

1. Air operations in Corridor. This involves attack of 22 targets for which folders available at Vientiane and Saigon. If objective is primarily military, i.e., to inflict maximum damage to targets, to prevent VN/PL dispersal and protective measures, and impede rapid VN/PL riposte, it was agreed that a series of sharp, heavy attacks must be made in a relatively short time span, which would involve substantial US and/or VNAF/FARMGATE attacks. If objective primarily psychological, military disadvantages of attacks over longer time frame would be acceptable and chief reliance could be placed on RLAF T-28s with some YANKEE TEAM strikes against harder targets, e.g., five bridges. Established sortie requirements for this second option 188 T 28 sorties and 80 USAF sorties. Time required 12 days. Vientiane representatives believe Souvanna would probably go along with second option but would probably wish to have such attacks spread out over considerable period of time. Also felt Souvanna would prefer VNAF not conduct air strikes in corridor. It was general consensus that best division of targeting for immediate future would be RLAF/YANKEE TEAM mix.

Vientiane is very reluctant to see VNAF participation such strikes and would hope that by keeping GVN informed of actions being taken by RLAF and US in corridor, psychological needs of GVN could reasonably be met. Saigon will seek to do this, but if there are compelling reasons for covert VNAF participation Vientiane would be given prior info on necessity, timing, and place of such strikes. Alternatively, it was agreed that, if possible, joint Lao, Thai, RVN, and US participation in a common effort against a common enemy would be desirable but, recognizing that, even if possible, arrangements for such an effort would take some time to achieve. If such negotiations are conducted, however, RLAF/ YANKEE TEAM strikes should not be precluded. Vientiane has since stated it does not consider that it would be desirable to seek to formalize such four country participation in corridor operations as to do so would raise question of degree of Souvanna Phouma's knowledge and involvement which Vientiane feels would jeopardize success of operations.

2. Ground operations.

A. Although it was agreed that northern Route 9 area offered most profitable targets, conference proceeded on assumption that Vientiane would find operations astride Route 9 politically unacceptable at this time. However, Vientiane's 448 to Dept, dispatched after return of conferees, now indicates that "shallow penetration raids (20 kilometers). . . . In Rte 9 area . . . by company-sized units" would be acceptable and would not require clearance by the RLG.

B. Conference also agreed that central and southern areas offered targets and terrain consistent with capabilities of current assets.

C. Saigon concept is that operations astride Rte 9 would be initiated by 8-man intelligence and reconnaissance teams infiltrated overland or by air. Exploitation of targets developed by these teams would be by airborne ranger companies (80- 100 men), committed by parachute, helicopter or overland. Operations in order two areas would be conducted by reconnaissance combat patrols of up to company size. In southernmost area operations would be characterized by limited but ever expanding overland ground probes; in central area combination overland and air launch methods probably required. In each area operations would be limited to 20 kilometers penetration not to exceed two companies at any one time. In addition airborne ranger companies, assets include CIDG strike companies and ARVN rangers.

D. Air supply for these operations can in normal foreseeable circumstances be handled exclusively within VNAF assets. This would include not rpt not only air drop and air exfiltration requirements but also air strike support and SAR operations in the event of emergency. FARM-GATE and/or overt US support would be called upon only in the event of unforeseen contingency which would exceed available VNAF capability. No problem was foreseen in use of US jumpmasters/observers. Saigon group stated that under these operating rules, operations could be initiated within fifteen days of decision to execute.

E. It was the view of Saigon group that authority for US advisors to accompany units is a prerequisite to successful operations. Without this US participation probability of success is judged so low that the advisability of conducting cross border operations would be questionable. Vientiane representatives were strongly opposed to presence US advisors because of difficulty with current SAR operations in Laos and political importance of US maintaining credible stance of adhering to provisions Geneva Accords.

F. Embassy Vientiane had earlier indicated that they would insist on advanced clearance of cross border operations. All representatives agreed that this requirement would be met by VIENTIANE having opportunity to comment on all plans submitted to Washington for approval. Once approval to execute is received, Vientiane would be kept informed of day-to-day operations as information addressed on operational traffic between Saigon/Washington/CINCPAC.

[The remainder of this document was available only with the left-hand portion missing, as follows.]

stance. It was the unanimous opinion of the group
ould be preferable to have no publicity with regards
nal details, and that no comment should be made in
questions or accusations other than our unawareness
ch matters. Additionally, it was agreed that Souvanna
t be informed of any of these GVN/US actions. Use
ould, of course, have to be cleared by him.
mary, recommend we proceed as follows:
Team escort strike hard targets (5 bridges), RLAF
of 22-target list. Accordingly, VIENTIANE should be
d make approach to RLG on initiation T-28 strikes
H 2, Vientiane's 448 to department).
ize ground operations in all three areas, with timing
of employment of available assets as determined
te by COMUSMAC and CINCRVNAF, subject to provision
(19) relative depth of penetration and size of
be committed; para 2(D) relative air support;
2(F) relative coordination with Vientiane.
tions, ground and air, to be initiated as rapidly
ionally feasible.
licity and no public acknowledgement of any operational
ground or air.
er to give some four nation "flavor" to operations,
Bangkok to approach TG for authority to use KORAT
or some of US aircraft participating in foregoing
am operations.
t earliest Washington decision as to use of US advisors,
ng Saigon's serious reservations as to changes of
if their suse is denied and Vientiane's concern over
political impact of capture by PL/VM of US military
Bangkok and Vientiane. Foregoing has been modified
ginal draft sent you in light your comments and:
's 448 to Dept.

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