Cable, CINCPAC to Joint Chiefs of Staff on De Soto Patrols, 21 September 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 56-569

21 Sept 64




1. Believe it urgent that we operate another DESOTO patrol in the immediate future and certainly within a month. Failure to do so will, in my opinion, materially increases the likelihood of enemy reaction to operations in the Gulf of Tonkin later on. The DRV must not be given any reason to believe that the U.S. considers the Gulf of Tonkin too hot for comfort. Much has been made both publicly and in our own government's planning of our determination to get the message to Hanoi and Peiping that continuation of their present course in sea will cost them heavily. But to discontinue the DESOTO patrols now would convey the opposite message.

2. Beyond that there are other substantial military advantages which can accrue to the U.S. and to the RVN by continuation of destroyer patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin. These are:

A. Determine DRV coastal defense posture including their capability to detect, track and intercept hostile targets. Of special significance are types/numbers of forces committed in reaction to DESOTO ships' presence and that point at which DRV forces attempt to harass aggressively or attack.
B. Identify visually and photograph naval units.
C. Collect sigint, including attempts at deception and jamming.
D. Determine possible relocation/repositioning of enemy naval forces.
E. Determine any revision to enemy operational procedures recent incidents.
F. Conduct area familiarization under QUASI-COMBAT conditions in a region of possible future naval combat operations. All personnel involved in the patrol are motivated to peak performance. The potentially hostile environment demands positive and realistic reaction to any indicated threat.
G. Divert attention of the DRV naval forces from an area where 34a maritime operations may be in progress.
H. Determine movements of DJV junk forces possibly employed for infiltration along the RVN coastline.
T. Deny the free, unobserved use of the Gulf of Tonkin to the DJV and CHICOM naval forces.
J. Determine the attitude of DRV toward US Navy maritime patrols by measuring their response to the patrol, i.e. establish the degree and success of delivering the "message to Hanoi."

3. There are still other justifications for the continuance of these patrols as COMUSMACV points out so clearly in REF A.

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