Memorandum for Members of the NSC Working Group, Draft Sections of Sections VII, IX, and X, Sent by William B. Bundy, 10 November 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 610-619

November 10, 1964


I am enclosing copies of draft Sections VII, IX, and X, which contain Mr. McNaughton's comments, for your general use. These should be considered working papers only and should not go outside the Working Group.

William P. Bundy

Draft Sections VII, IX, and X.

W. P. Bundy/bmm
Nov. 8, 1964



1. Rationale

a. This course of action consists of progressive application of increasing military pressures, undertaken in concert with appropriate political pressures, to cause the DRV to terminate its support of the insurgency in South Vietnam (SVN) and Laos. It would be designed for maximum control at all stages, and to permit interruption at some appropriate point or points for negotiations, while seeking to maintain throughout a credible threat of further military pressures should such be required.

b. The object of negotiations would initially be the complete termination of DRV support to the insurgency in SVN and Laos, in order to re-establish an independent and secure SVN and the integrity of the 1962 Geneva Accords in Laos. However, the program would provide for the contingency that, as the result of politico-military evaluation of developments during its progress, it might become desirable to settle for less than complete assurances on our key objectives.

c. A stated basis for our actions would place maximum stress on the documented illegal infiltration of armed and trained insurgents from the DRV, and over-all DRV direction and control of VC insurgency all along. Our posture would be that these DRV activities had now reached an intolerable level requiring action against the DRV by the US and the GVN. Additional VC major actions in the south would be used to strengthen this posture, particularly if such actions included major further attacks on US installations.

2. Preparatory Actions

Substantial preparation for this course of action would already have been taken under the "Immediate Program" set forth in Section IX. The headings of preparatory action appear to be as follows:

a. A firm Presidential statement setting forth our rationale.
b. Key information actions addressed to the US public and to international audiences, notably the surfacing of all our useable information on infiltration.
c. Consultation with key leaders of Congress. We believe that the present Congressional Resolution provides an adequate legal basis for initiating this course of action.
d. With the GVN, we would make clear what we were planning to do, provide for GVN participation to the maximum degree militarily feasible, but above all take a very tough position insisting that the GVN set its own house in order, maintain political stability, and get ahead with the military and pacification programs.
e. Certain key allies--UK, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the Philippines--would be fully informed in advance of our plans and would be asked to contribute in various ways to the maximum possible extent. A SEATO meeting might be used to obtain a strong general declaration of support, but the actions would not be placed on an explicit SEATO basis (unless perhaps France and Pakistan had in the meantime dropped out of SEATO).
f. Key involved nations such as Canada, India, and France, would require special individual treatment.
g. Laos would require practically full consultation.
h. In Asia and GRC and ROK would be informed in advance, but their active participation, except in limited GRC intelligence ways, would not be sought.
i. In NATO, we would make our basic position clear and seek their sympathy and moral support, but not seek to enlist them in military actions.
j. With non-aligned nations, we would make our position clear, combining individual approaches with our UN statements.


1. Conditions of Action: "cold blood" versus "hot blood"

There would be many advantages if the course of action could be initiated following either an additional VC "spectacular" or at least strong additional evidence of a major infiltration. However, we should be prepared to go ahead even without these, on the basis of a picture of over-all deterioration.

2. Specific: Military Actions

a. Intensified conduct of existing activities, such as 34-A MAROPS, De Soto patrols, Lao and US-armed recce strikes on infiltration-associated targets in Laos, high-level recce of the DRV, and shallow SVN ground actions in Laos to the degree practicable.
b. The key additional air actions in the first phase would be US/VNAF low-level reconnaissance in the southern DRV and the initiation of strikes against infiltration-associated targets in the southern DRV. These actions, actually hitting the DRV on an overt basis, would constitute the first real break-point in terms of both the beginning of real pressures on the DRV and international pressures for negotiation.
c. In conjunction with these air actions, we would be taking maximum security measures, with the GVN, in the south, and would also carry out a medium level of additional readiness deployments in the area. Dependents would already have been evacuated from SVN in the last stages of the "immediate program."
d. Reprisal actions at this point would be fitted into the larger script. We must recognize, however, that such reprisal actions might necessarily be more major individually than the attacks on the DRV contemplated under b. above.
e. Present military planning does not envisage the introduction of substantial ground forces into SVN or Thailand in conjunction with the first phase. We believe this needs further consideration. Among the proposals that should be considered would be the introduction of substantial ground forces into Thailand and, more dramatically, the introduction of a US or multilateral ground force into the northern provinces of South Vietnam. (Contributors to the multilateral force might include Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the Philippines. In other words, it would be a SEATO-member force prepared to act firmly on the ground, as opposed to a "neutralizing" force drawn from India, Canada, and similar nations. We believe the latter to be impracticable.)
f. The degree of action against Cambodia needs further thought. JCS plans would provide for hot pursuit at least. Others believe Cambodia should be treated on present lines unless Cambodia itself starts crossing the border.
g. Actions in Laos also need further thought. The military script now provides only for a more intensive application of present types of action. If the situation in Laos simply rocks along, without major Communist action, or if Laos negotiations have moved forward, this is probably the right course. However, the introduction of substantial ground forces to seal the Panhandle might be considered at some early military stage, especially if the Communist side had attacked in Laos. Such action would move us a very long way toward de facto partition of Laos; in effect, we would be adopting a strong blocking posture in Laos, necessarily balked by deployments in Thailand.


This raises two questions: the inter-relation of various possible channels of communication and negotiating avenues, and the initial negotiating position to be taken by the US.

1. Communication and Negotiating A venues

a. Channels to Hanoi and Peiping

(1) We would continue to use the existing channel to Hanoi.
(2) We could conceivably start direct conversations with Hanoi in some third country.
(3) Use of third countries as intermediaries for actual negotiations does not appear promising. We could hope that countries such as India, and perhaps Pakistan and France, would be useful in making clear the limited nature of our objectives. Moscow might likewise play a key role in this respect, and it is possible that Moscow would report back to us useful interpretations of the positions of Hanoi and Peiping. However, it seems most unlikely that Moscow would go so far as to serve as a useful intermediary. In sum, not much hope can be held that we would have useful negotiations through such channels. Hanoi and Peiping might give us indications of their position, but they would probably be pressing for some type of conference as an actual negotiating locale.

b. The UN

It is virtually certain that the initiation of attacks against the DRV would cause some form of UN discussion, and we believe it essential that we and the GVN take the initiative to explain our position and its justification, in the Security Council. It is just possible that we would have to fend off some condemnatory move in the General Assembly or the Security Council, and an affirmative initiative would be the best way to forestall this, as well as providing an essential forum for stating our position.
The question arises whether, beyond such use of the UN, we should seriously consider letting the UN become the scene of serious negotiations, either through inscription of a continuing item on the agenda or through de facto use of UN contacts. Here we encounter a major timing problem in relation to the issue of Chinese Communist representation. If a UN item were actually inscribed, before we had disposed of the Chinese issue in this General Assembly, there would be great pressures both to invite Hanoi and Peiping to the UN and to admit at least Peiping. Since we do not think the ChiRep issue will be disposed of before February, or perhaps even March, this timing factor argues almost insuperably against any formal inscription of the SVN problem, or the Southeast Asia problem generally, prior to that time.

c. A Geneva Conference

Once we had started attacks on the DRV, the USSR might well try to convene a Geneva Conference. Although the UK Government might be responsive to any pressures we exerted against doing so, UK public opinion would almost certainly exert enormous pressure for the UK to join in calling a conference. France would of course join in the hue and cry, and India would probably do likewise. In short, the aggregate pressure for a Geneva Conference would be very great in any event.

In these circumstances, we believe that the best course would be for the US to yield fairly early to such pressures, and in effect to accept a Geneva Conference as the best available negotiating forum. At the same time, we must recognize the difficulty inherent in such action-and indeed in the whole of Option C-that our early acceptance of negotiation would in itself have morale effects in South Vietnam, Thailand, and perhaps Laos. Thus, we would probably want to put on some show of resistance.

d. An Expanded Laos Conference

The present prospects are that a Laos Conference will not be convened in the near future on the basis of satisfaction of Souvanna's present preconditions. We are trying out some variations that might ease these preconditions without hurting morale in Laos, and these might result in a conference-or at least make a record that the onus for rejecting one is on the Communist side. If a Laos Conference were in fact convened, it could be the locale for quiet negotiations with somewhat less disadvantage than the formal convening of a Geneva Conference on Vietnam itself. But we would have to weigh this advantage against the disadvantages of any interim concessions making a Laos Conference possible.

2. Initial US Negotiating Position

Our initial position would be basically to insist on our present objectives, plus certain bargaining elements:

a. The 1954 settlement in South Vietnam must be restored. (We would duck the question of elections in all Vietnam, or insist that any such elections must be truly free, after a period of consolidation.) This means a South Vietnam not free to enter alliances, with any external military presence reduced to minimal "normal MAAG" levels, but free to accept external military equipment.
b. The DRV must observe the 1954 agreement by totally ceasing its support for the VC in SVN. We would specify an end to infiltration of arms and equipment, an end to propaganda, closing down of command and other communications, and removal of personnel from SVN.
c. The ending of DRV activity in SVN must be verified by some new enforcement machinery replacing the present ineffective ICC.
d. The DRV itself should be neutralized to the same extent as SVN, and this policed by effective [word illegible] enforcement machinery. This goes beyond 1954, and might later be traded out.
e. A new form of international guarantee should be provided against any violation of the above. This could take the form of declaration by all powers and the designation of some to provide forces in case of need.

In sum, we would use the negotiation in part as a propaganda forum to air the DRV violations and force other nations to endorse them. We also would set our sights high, so that "compromises" might still leave us in a defensible position.


There are three possible Communist responses:

1. Hanoi might start to yield visibly. This is unlikely.
2. Hanoi might retaliate militarily by some form of overt military action such as limited air attacks against South Vietnam, or an offensive in Laos. This is possible, but any major degree of military retaliation initially is less likely than:
3. Hanoi would hold firm, possibly avoiding major new attacks in South Vietnam but keeping up continued strong VC pressure. Hanoi and Peiping would do their utmost to stimulate condemnation of the attacks in world opinion and, if negotiations began, would take a tough initial position. This appears the most likely response.


1. Within SVN, the initial reaction to attacks on the DRV would probably be one of elation, in the belief that the US was at last bringing its great power to bear against the enemy. The South Vietnamese would be given a substantial psychological boast, and we would quickly see at least a spurt of much more effective GVN military and administrative performance.

However, initial South Vietnamese elation and support would almost certainly quickly wane, if the war seemed to drag on despite the new US moves, and especially if the VC were able to increase their military and terrorist pressures.

In short, the appearance of a stalemate could easily produce a resumption in present deteriorating trends, and this could lead to a new government committed to a cease fire and a negotiated end of the war on almost any terms. The US would probably have the capability to install and protect a GVN subservient to US wishes, but the situation might have deteriorated to such an extent that there would be less nation-wide suport for this government.

If this somewhat gloomy prognosis of developments in South Vietnam proved correct, we could be driven at a fairly early point to consider:

2. Moving up to a second phase involving further increases of military pressure. Here the actions to consider would be extensions of the target system in the DRV to include additional targets on the "ninety-four target list," aerial mining of DRV ports, and a naval quarantine of the DRy. The aim of such actions would be to hold morale in South Vietnam and to increase the pressure on Hanoi.

3. Either in conjunction with such expanded action, or to some degree alternatively, the US might intensify its initial tough negotiating positions. Such modification would be a crucial break-point in the course of action. At this point, both the Communist side and such key nations as Thailand, as well as the GVN itself, would be tempted to conclude we were getting ready for a way out. Hence, the synchronizing of such modifying moves with our military actions would have to be extremely careful. In addition:

4. We should be conducting substantial actions to strengthen and reassure the nations of the area. Both for this purpose and to convey a continuing threat of further military action, we should probably [word illegible] consider major additional deployments to the area.


1. Although we reckon this to be unlikely at the early stages, some sharp reprisal action, or Communist misreading of our intent, could change this calculation.
2. In the second phase of military actions, there would be a progressively increasing chance of some major Communist military response. This might take the form of:

a. Air attacks against the south. Effective air defense measures probably should be taken as part of the initial deployment, in any event prior to the second phase.
b. DRV ground action in South Vietnam or Laos. This would call for retaliatory air and ground action that underscores the need for ground deployments either early or in the second phase.
c. Chinese Communist ground action does not seem likely in Vietnam, but might conceivably take place into Laos or even elsewhere. While we believe this very unlikely, it cannot be excluded as a response to the hitting of major targets in the DRV. It would call for very substantial US deployments and a major scale of military action.


The variable factors are too great to permit a confident evaluation of how this course of action would come out.

1. At best, we might (judo) our way to a settlement that would involve some modification but that would give South Vietnam a fair chance to survive and get going.
2. At worst, South Vietnam might come apart while we were pursuing the course of action so that we had to fight a military action for a non-existent client or the conflict might escalate to war with China.



1. Option C is more hopeful than Option A, more controllable and less risky of major military action than Option B.

2. If the outcome were in the end the loss of South Vietnam to Communist control, our having taken stronger measures would still leave us a good deal better off than under Option A with respect to the confidence and willingness to stand firm of the nations in the next line of defense in Asia. This would apply particularly to Thailand, where much might depend on the course events had taken in Laos. Another factor would be the degree of military deployments we had taken to Thailand.

3. On a worldwide basis, we would be on the whole reasonably well off with our European allies for having made an effort but at the same time not having become inextricably involved in major action.


1. This course of action is inherently likely to stretch out and to be subject to major pressures both within the US and internationally. As we saw in Korea, an "in-between" course of action will always arouse a school of thought that believes things should be tackled quickly and conclusively. On the other side, the continuation of military action and a reasonably firm posture will arouse sharp criticism in other political quarters. Internationally, the latter line of criticism would be more prevalent, but the first would be the position of key Asian nations such as Thailand, the GRC, and the ROK.

2. The course of action probably cannot achieve our full objectives even in the best case.

3. The course of action has lesser risks of military actions than Option B, but such risks cannot by any means be eliminated.


To meet the problem of sustaining South Vietnamese morale, and to convey a firm signal to Hanoi and Peiping as a prelude to the carrying out of Option C, the following program could be adopted during the coming weeks. Basic to this program would be an immediate decision that Option C was our preferred course of action, and that we would move into that course of action, probably early in the new year, unless Hanoi showed clear signs of yielding.

The basic ingredients of the program would be:

A. [words illegible] communications to Hanoi and Peiping in the same way.
B. Military build up and other measures clearly foreshadowing stronger action.
C. Vigorous actions within present policy, with reference to actions in South Viet-Nam, actions within Laos, and overt actions against North Viet-Nam.
D. Reprisals against any repetition here of the Gulf of Tonkin incident or any major VC "spectacular" such as the Bien Hoa attack, in South Viet-Nam.

Specific actions under the above headings would be as follows:

A. Talking Tough.

1. A continued picture of intense government activity and concern, leading up to the return of Ambassador Taylor for consultation about November 18.
2. Issuance of a public statement, following an NSC meeting at which Ambassador Taylor reported, that would convey the general flavor that North VietNam had been continuing and increasing its activity in the South and that we were getting fed up with it. This statement would not commit us to a specific date for stronger action, but would carry the unmistakable threat of such action.
3. A generalized strong message to Hanoi through the existing channel, to be conveyed about November 15. This would definitely foreshadow the Washington statement expected about November 18, but would not wholly scoop it.
4. As a part of the above specific actions, we would in some way convey on a background basis that our objectives and our position on negotiation were unchanged, i.e., that we would accept a negotiated settlement if but only if Hanoi got out and the situation was restored.

B. Miscellaneous Actions.

1. Order a strengthening of our naval, air, and ground readiness posture in the area, not at a crash tempo but so as to be clearly spotted by the other side.
2. As to US dependents, an early order stopping the sending of additional dependents, followed by the orderly removal, probably at some time in December, first of families with children and finally of all dependents from South VietNam.
3. Tough conversations with GVN civilian and military leaders indicating, on the one hand, that we were preparing to move to stronger action, but making it perfectly clear, on the other hand, that the GVN must set its house in order. This would include such specific GVN measures as intensifying the Hop Tac program, putting its military forces on a totally wartime operations basis, tightening security in Saigon and elsewhere, etc.

C. Vigorous Actions within Current Policy.

1. A strong 34A MAROPS schedule (already approved). Consider US air cover if required for specific operations. Surfacing of MAROPS probably not to be pressed, unless GVN itself indicates willingness.
2. Continued strong air activity in the Panhandle area of Laos, including at least a few US armed reconnaissance strikes.
3. Continued strong air activity in central Laos, both Lao T-28's and US reconnaissance, possibly including--if evidence of the Communist build-up continues--a major armed reconnaissance strike on Route 7.
4. A DESOTO patrol, probably in early December, dissociated from any specific MAROPS.
5. Consider explicit use of US air in South Viet-Nam if a lucrative target appears. (This could be part of the reprisals under D below or new.)

D. Reprisals.

1. In case of another Gulf of Tonkin incident, extend the reprisal to Haiphong facilities and other major naval-related targets.
2. In case of another Bien Hoa, attack infiltration-related targets in the southern part of South Viet-Nam, using GVN and FARMGATE aircraft.

In addition, this program must include the following collateral actions:

a. Early discussion with Congressional leaders.
b. Early discussion with major allies, probably through the immediate creation of a special consultative group to include the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and possibly the Philippines.
c. Early surfacing in Saigon of the usable evidence of greatly-increased DRV infiltration into the south. Pending a decision to adopt this program, together with Option C at a later date, this material should not be surfaced in any formal fashion (even on a background basis), although of course we should not deny or contradict accurate indications in this direction that may be starting to come out of the GVN almost at once.

Among the problems that this program may raise, and with which we would have to deal, would be the following:

a. Possible Communist reaction to our stronger signal, including the possibility of additional military deployments. This needs an intelligence judgment.
b. Possible pressures for early negotiations before we start on Option C. Such pressures will come in any event from the French and perhaps others, and we should be prepared to fight them off.


We recommend that the President:

A. Approve the program for immediate actions within the next few weeks stated in Section IX;
B. Make the decision that, if the Communist side does not respond favorably to the Section IX program, the US will initiate early in the new year a course of action along the lines of Option C.

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