Cable, Joint Chiefs of Staff to CINCPAC, Definitive Rules of Engagement Applying to Laos," 28 September 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 570-571

28 Sept 64

JCS 9117

Subj: Definitive Rules of Engagement Applying to Laos

Refs: a. JCS 7947, DTG 151318Z Aug; b. Vientiane 380 to State 29 Aug (NOTAL); and c. CINCPAC to JCS, DTG 041 100Z Aug

1. Ref a remains in effect. This message supplements and provides specific guidance for friendly forces and installations-(See subpara 2c, ref a.)

2. Rules of Engagement for US air defense forces operating in Southeast Asia, as agreed to by Royal Laos Government (RLG), are:

a. US air defense forces are authorized to engage and destroy hostile aircraft in Laos. Hot pursuit may be conducted as necessary and feasible over Thailand and South Vietnam.
b. No pursuit is authorized at this time into North Vietnam or Cambodia except when actually engaged in air combat. No pursuit is authorized into Communist China.
c. Unless specifically directed otherwise, US air defense forces are not authorized to attack other hostile forces or installations unless attacked first, and then only to extent necessary for self-defense.

3. Definitions

a. Hostile aircraft--A hostile aircraft is defined as one which is:

(1) Visually identified, or designated by the US Director of a Joint Operations Center or his authorized US representatives, as a communist bloc or Cambodian aircraft overflying Laos territory, and
(2) Observed in one of the following acts:

(a) Attacking US or friendly ground forces or installations;
(b) Attacking US or friendly aircraft (including Air America or Bird and Son aircraft);
(c) Laying mines within friendly territorial waters;
(d) Attacking US or friendly vessels;
(e) Releasing parachutes or gliders over friendly sovereign territory when obviously not in distress; or
(f) Acting or behaving in a manner which indicates within reasonable certainty that air attack on US or friendly forces, installations, and aircraft (including Air America and Bird and Son aircraft) is intended.

4. These rules are not intended, in any manner, to infringe upon the traditional responsibility of a military commander to defend against unprovoked armed attack. In the event of such attack, the commander concerned will take immediate, aggressive action against the attacking force.

5. Declaration of aircraft as hostile will be tempered with judgement and discretion. There may be cases where the destruction of Cambodian or communist
bloc forces would be contrary to US and allied interests. Examples of such cases are: due to navigational error, civilian aircraft which penetrate Laos sovereign territory; communist aircraft or vessels, manned by defectors attempting to land with the intention of surrendering themselves. All available intelligence should be considered in determining action to be taken in such cases.

6. Info on any action taken under this authority will be provided JCS by flash precedence.

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