Questions and Answers on Covert Activities, Questions by John T. McNaughton, Answers by JCS and ISA, Sept. 1964


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 571-575


Questions and Answers on Covert Activities, Sept. 1964

Questions by John T. McNaughton

Answers by JCS and ISA

1. What if the DRV and/or DRV air patrol boats attack our DeSoto patrols in the future?
2. What if Chicom air is involved in attacks on our DeSoto Patrols
3. What if DRV patrol boats engage 34A Marops in hot pursuit?
4. What if T-28s are attacked by North Vietnam fighters?
5. What if U.S. Yankee Team strikes in Laos are engaged by DRV fighters?
6. What if U.S. low-level reconnaissance in North Vietnam is attacked by ground fire and/or fighters?
7. What if Chinese redeploy offensive air to bases within strike distance of South Vietnam?
8. What if VC "spectaculars" in South Vietnam come as direct response to U.S. strikes in the Panhandle? Or U.S. strikes in North Vietnam?
9. What if North Vietnam aircraft attack targets in South Vietnam?
10. What if the Pathet-Lao reenforced by North Vietnamese units seize vulnerable targets such as Attopeu and Saravane?
11. What if the VC launch mortar attacks on Tan Son Nhut or Denau U.S. Embassy? Attack U.S. hotels, transportation facilities?
12. What if the DRV steps up infiltration sharply, including organized units?
13. What if there is a large-scale augmentation of North Vietnam units in Laos?
14. What if in response to U.S. attacks against targets in North Vietnam, the Communists make major forces movements on redeployments?
15. What if Chinese forces enter North Vietnam in strength?
16. What if the Chicoms along with the DRV move into Laos in strength?
17. What if Chinese "volunteers" are employed in Laos?
18. What if North Vietnam and/or Chinese air is employed in Laos?
19. What if the DRV responds to attacks on North Vietnam by full scale invasion of South Vietnam and Laos? And, then Laos alone? What if Chinese forces join this invasion?
20. What if the Chinese Communists launch attacks against Burma, Thailand?
21. What if the GVN collapses in the midst of the campaign against the North?

[JCS] Answers

1. Severe attacks might compel temporary withdrawal of DeSoto patrols from the gulf. U. S. would respond by attacking bases from which the attacks were mounted and associated targets.
2. Greater likelihood of damage. Hit Chinese bases from which attack was launched (Hainan).
3. In hot pursuit, employ all available air and naval to repulse the attack. Continue pursuit until attackers are destroyed.
4. Provide U. S. air caps for all T-28s strength. Include provisions for hot pursuit.
5. Such DRV attacks are likely to be of nuisance value only. U. S. assault fighters engage DRV fighters and employ hot pursuit as necessary. If attacks persist, hit bases from which, DRV fighters came.
6. Suppressive fire and same as 5 above. North Vietnam attacks are not likely to be effective.
7. Alert U. S. forces to possible Chinese air attack. Have to press preparations for defense against Chinese air attack in South Vietnam to include augmentation of air defense radar, fighters and Hawks.
8. Materially increase severity of attacks in North Vietnam. Continue attacks in the Panhandle and attack certain targets in North Vietnam associated with infiltration.
9. Mount large scale South Vietnam and U. S. air attacks on all air facilities in North Vietnam, with the intention of destroying North Vietnam air capability. North Vietnam air attacks are not likely to be militarily effective, but could have great psychological impact.
10. Respond by large-scale interdiction of Pathet-Lao and North Vietnamese supply routes employing T-28s and U. S. and South Vietnamese fighter bomber aircraft. Attempt to get Laotians to recapture towns when military situation permits.
11. Mount attacks against attacked targets on the 94 target list, and consider stepping up scale of U. S. activities in Laos. Evacuate remaining U. S. dependents, if any. Such attacks could be highly effective and could cause substantial loyal deterioration. Release U.S. air to support South Vietnamese anti-guerilla action. If high ranking U. S. personnel are associated, seek evidence of a North Vietnamese involvement and if established, direct reprisals against North Vietnam command and control facilities.
12. Mount heavy air strikes against infiltrated associated targets in Panhandle and South Vietnam.
13. Hit infiltration associated targets in the Panhandle and DRV LOC in North Vietnam.
14. Increase intelligence gathering activities, including high and low-level reconnaissance in North Vietnam and China. U. S. would be compelled to make counter-deployments in expectation of major Communist movements.
15. Commit U. S. ground forces to develop positions on border of North and South Vietnam. Increase reconnaissance activities to include low level.
16. If unopposed, Chinese forces could move into the Mekong in a relatively short period of time. Include initial air interdiction.

[ISA] ANSWERS

1. Patrol boats unlikely to cause damage; daytime air attack more likely to be damaging. US would respond by attacking bases from which the attacks were mounted and associated targets; on scale related to extent of damage.
2. Greater likelihood of damage. Hit Chinese bases from which attack was launched e.g. (Hainan).
3. Commit SVN air and naval forces plus FARMGATE to repulse the attack and destroy attackers.
4. Provide US cap for all T-28 strikes. Include provisions for hot pursuit.
5. Such DRV attacks are likely to be of nuisance value only. US assault fighters engage DRV fighters and employ hot pursuit as necessary. If attacks persist, hit bases from which DRV fighters launched.
6. Suppressive fire and same as 5 above. North Vietnam attacks are not likely to be effective.
7. Alert US forces to possible Chinese air attack. Press preparations for defense against Chinese air attack in South Vietnam to include augmentation of air defense radar, fighters and Hawks.
8. Continue attacks in the Panhandle and attack certain targets in southern North Vietnam associated with infiltration.
9. Mount large scale South Vietnam and US air attacks on all air facilities in North Vietnam, with the intention of destroying North Vietnam air capability. North Vietnam air attacks are not likely to be militarily effective, but could have great psychological impact.
10. Respond by large scale interdiction of Pathet-Lao and North Vietnamese supply routes employing T-28s and US and South Vietnamese fighter bomber aircraft. Attempt to get Laotians to recapture towns when military situation permits'.
11. Such attacks could be highly effective and could cause substantial deterioration of morale. Mount attacks against selected targets on the 94 target list. Release US air to support South Vietnamese anti-guerilla action. If high ranking US personnel are assassinated, seek evidence of a North Vietnamese involvement and if established, direct reprisals against North Vietnam command and control facilities.
12. Mount heavy air strikes against infiltration-associated targets in Panhandle and South Vietnam.
13. Hit infiltration associated targets in the Panhandle and DRV LOC in North Vietnam.
14. Increase intelligence gathering activities, including high and low-level reconnaissance in North Vietnam and China. Make counter-deployments in expectation of major Communist movements.
15. Commit US ground forces to defensive positions on border of North and South Vietnam. Increase reconnaissance activities to include low level recon.
16. If unopposed, Chinese forces could move into the Mekong in a relatively short period of time. Initiate air interdiction.

LESSER COMMUNIST RESPONSES TO US MILITARY PRESSURES

A. DRV/Chicom Attacks on DeSoto Patrols

US/GVN Responses.

a. Conduct one of 4 retaliatory punitive reprisal attack options against DRV targets from 94 target list (CINCPAC FRAG Order 3). Attack options represent graduated response according to level of damage to DeSoto. 1A and lB with lowest order of response the options are-

1A. Phouc Yen Airfield

PT port facilities and associated POL

lB. Key army barracks: supply and ammo depots. and major naval base and associated port facility.
2A. Effected in 2 strike days and includes all targets in 1A plus. Secondary airfields, naval base and port facilities.
2B. Effected in 2 days and includes all targets in 1A plus. Secondary airfields and 3 preselected highway bridges.

b. Pursue surface and air attackers in accordance with current rules of engagement for DeSoto, to be announced.

B. Pursue 34A MAROPS craft south of 17th Parallel.

In response, SVN air and naval forces to include Farmgate attack to repulse and destroy attackers (JCS msg 9109).

C. NVN air attacks X-Border air and/or YT aircraft in Laos. In response, the US

1. Provides US CAP for all T-28 strikes (currently CAP is as requested by RLAF).
2. Hot pursuit (current rules of engagement for SEA and for Laos)
3. If attacks persist, strike DRV home and staging bases from 94 target list with increasing severity with the objective of destroying them and with them the DRV capabilities to continue air support of the Viet Cong and Pathet Lao. (Part VI, NSC working paper).

D. Introduce NVN air into Laos in attack of ground targets. The US response is the same as in paragraphs C2 and 3, above.

E. Introduce organized DRV units into Laos reinforcing P/L and seizing key objectives (Saravane, Attopeu). This could include covert or volunteer ChiCorn support in Laos.

The US/GVN forces:

1. Interdict DRV and Pathet Lao LOC in Laos and NVN with US/VNAF; air attacks of increasing severity on military and industrial targets selected from 94 target list (JCSM in draft 16 Nov).
2. Concurrently with a prior to initiating air strikes above. Implement CINCPAC OPLAN 99-64.
3. Reintroduce a MAAG-type supply and training mission (SATM) into Laos.
4. Implement when required Phase II (Laos) OPLAN 32-64.

F. DRV effect air strikes on northern SVN air facilities.

Initiate or continue in coordination with GVN an air strike campaign against DRV bases and associated targets (OPLAN 37-64 and 94 target list); (Section VI, para 2, NSC paper).


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