JOINT STATE-DEFENSE MESSAGE, on Search and Rescue Operations and Cross-Border Operations, 26 October 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 585-586




Consideration has been given to recommendations for the expansion of search and rescue (SAR) operations to cover OPLAN 34A operations and cross border operations into Laos by RVN forces. In this connection it should be clearly understood that, since 34A operations are covert and not acknowledged by the United States, they are not entitled to be characterized as "friendly" under the US Rules of Engagement which have been promulgated for Southeast Asia and Laos. In the event of a 34A aircraft being downed in Laos, SAR operations are authorized as determined in the discretion of the United States Ambassador to Laos using only in-country resources available to him. In such a case, the Ambassador could employ (RLAF, Air America, and Bird and Sons assets) (including those based Udorn, as necessary) but would not be authorized to include other United States resources (i.e., Yankee Team and USAF aircraft). The question of employing such identificable US resources will be referred in each instance to Washington for decision.

In the Gulf of Tonkin, SAR operations in behalf of 34A forces should be the responsibility of the RVN and should include no US forces without prior approval from Washington.

A decision regarding SAR operations in behalf of RVN forces involved in possible cross-border operations into Laos is deferred for consideration until such time as it may be decided to proceed with such operations.

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