Part VI (Analysis of Option B), Section F. "Likely Developments and Problems if the Communist Side Engaged in Major Retaliation at Some Point," Unsigned. Undated.

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 633-639

Part VI (Analysis of Option B), Section F. Likely Developments and Problems if the Communist Side Engaged in Major Retaliation at Some Point.

Right from the outset, this course of action would entail some chance of a Communist military response against the south. Furthermore, as we move to the stage of "further increases of military pressure," the chance of the more severe types of response would increase. We need a more precise judgment of just how likely various contingencies discussed below are, but each must be considered from the standpoint of what it would require on our side to deal with it.

Four classes of serious Communist responses to increased military pressures will be discussed here: a VC offensive in South Vietnam; DRV or Chicom air attacks in South Vietnam; DRV ground offensives into South Vietnam; and Chicom/DRV offensives into South Vietnam or Laos. These could occur in combinations. Extensive planning is applicable to the latter two cases and we shall summarize the force requirements implied by current plans. We shall not discuss here the circumstances--considered in SNIE 10-3-64 and in other sections of this paper--that would make these various Communist actions more or less probable; it is enough to assume that pressures upon the North have progressed to a point that makes the respective Communist military reactions significantly likely.

1. VC Offensive in South Vietnam. Under a wide range of US/RVN pressures, Hanoi might direct greatly intensified VC operations in South Vietnam. These could take various forms:

a. Increased sabotage and terrorism countrywide;
b. Assaults upon US personnel, including high diplomatic figures, or their dependents;
c. Terrorism and attacks in and around Saigon, or in provincial capitols;
d. Attacks up to regimental strength, on airfields, particularly Danang, Bien Hoa and Tan Son Nhut;
e. Facilities such as communications, POL or transportation facilities (including roads, bridges, railroad lines and inland waterways).

US ground forces--such as the Marine SLF afloat and Army or Marine units from Okinawa--will have been deployed to defend bases in the Da Nang and Saigon areas prior to undertaking air operations against the DRV. The positioning of US forces at these major bases and population centers releases ARVN forces for security duty at other locations and for combat in the field against the VC, which are primary responsibilities of the RVNAF.

Prior to or concurrently with the introduction of US ground forces, US dependents will be evacuated.

Depending on developments, further security measures and US forces may be required. US fixed-wing aircraft could be committed to direct support within South Vietnam.

For purposes of such a burst of operations, the VC is believed to have military capabilities it has not yet committed and may, to a lesser extent, have unused capabilities for terrorism and subversion. As in the mortar attack on Bien Hoa, the VC could inflict serious damage on US materiel and personnel based within South Vietnam, though this would not affect the major US resources in the area on carriers or based outside South Vietnam. Large-scale, protracted combat operations by the VC would expose them to heavy and possibly disastrous counterattack by RVN regular forces, perhaps directly supported by US air. But against this risk would be the hope that intense VC operations could produce mass defections, government shifts toward "neutralism," or an atmosphere of public demoralization and war-weariness such that US advisors and support could remain in South Vietnam only against strong popular wish.

2. Chicom or DRV Air Attacks. North Vietnam would be limited to fighter strikes against the south. Of their 117 military aircraft, 36 are MIG 15-17 jet fighters, all now located at Phuc Yen Airfield northwest of Hanoi, out of range of targets in South Vietnam. If relocated to Dong Hoi airfield, these fights could reach targets in northern South Vietnam, such as Danang and Hue.

Significant air actions would have to originate with Communist China, which has in addition to jet fighters (including 80 MIG-19s and about 15 MIG-21s, which can reach the 17th parallel from Hanoi or Hainan Island) 290 1 1-28s, 2 TU-16s and 13 TU-4s. The 11-28 light jet bomber can reach Danang from Phuc Yen on a two-way mission. With a normal bomb load, it could reach Saigon only on a one-way sortie-unless Dong Hoi airfield is improved, or Hainan's Lingshui used. From Hainan, the 11-28 can cover Laos, Cambodia, South Vietnam and western Thailand.

DRV attacks would be essentially nuisance raids, and even the Chicom attacks would have primarily psychological rather than military effort.

The US response to DRV air action in SVN would be to initiate or to continue in coordination with the RVN forces an air strike campaign against DRV air bases and associated targets. In case of Chicom air attacks, including attacks on a US aircraft carrier US forces would attack air bases, nuclear production facilities and other selected military targets in Communist China.


1. DRV capabilities:

a. Attack across the Demarcation Zone (DMZ) with two infantry divisions (20,000 troops) within 48 hours after initiation of strikes on DRV.
b. In conjunction with the attack into SVN, move into southern Laos with two infantry divisions and two infantry brigades, supported by one tank regiment and eight artillery regiments (total 45,000 troops).

2. CHICOMs could provide support to the DRV offensive with increased shipments of military weapons and equipment, food and medical supplies and provide the DRV with covert or "volunteer" air defense, engineer, ordnance and medical personnel.

3. US response to defend the area under attacks and to push back the communist offensive would require implementation of CINCPAC OPLAN 32-64, Phase III. US force deployments into mainland Southeast Asia, totaling nearly five divisions with supporting air and naval units, are summarized as follows:

a. Into South Vietnam--

D + 1 III Marine Expeditionary Force Hq. (Da Dang)
D + 2 One Marine Division (Da Dang)
to One Marine Air Wing (Da Dang)
D + 35 One Army Airborne Brigade
D + 15 Hq. COMUSSFASIA (augmented)
One Army Corps Hq.
D + 60 One Army Infantry Division
Army Combat and Combat Support Units

b. Into Thailand--

D + 15 One Army Corps Hq.
to One Army Infantry Division
D + 35 One Army Airborne Brigade
One Army Logistic Command Hq.
D + 40 One Army Mechanized Infantry Brigade (Reinforced)
D + 60 Army Combat and Combat Support Units

c. Air and air support units as required in addition to forces presently in place.

d. Naval forces available for direct support or to reinforce COMUSSEASIA--

1-2 Attack Carrier Groups
1 ASW Carrier Group
2 Patrol Squadrons
2 Submarines
3 Minesweep Divisions
3-4 Amphibious Squadrons
2-3 Landing Ship Squadrons
2-3 LCU Divisions
1 Marine Expeditionary Force

4. The mission of CINCPAC OPLAN 32-64 Phase III is to bring about an early cessation of hostilities under conditions representing a net advantage to the Free World. In conjunction with the campaign of the above deployed forces in the areas under invasion, air and naval strikes against the DRV and a naval blockade will contribute toward bringing the superior allied military power into play against the enemy. The plan envisages further an early ground attack northward to seize, liberate and occupy North Vietnam.


1. CHICOM capabilities

a. Reinforce a DRV attack into southern Laos with six infantry divisions. These divisions could close the Vinh area in about seven days.

b. Attack against indigenous forces in South Vietnam, Laos and Thailand with a combined CHICOM/DRV force equivalent to up to 31 divisions, supported by one tank regiment, 13 artillery regiments and combat support and service support troops of five Army headquarters. Against US/Allied opposition an attack could be launched with the equivalent of 22 infantry divisions supported by five artillery regiments.

c. The above estimates are for dry season operations. During the wet season, the increased problems of movement through a difficult terrain and of maintaining logistic support could reduce effective combat forces up to fifty per cent.

d. In conjunction with the above ground attacks the CHICOM/DRV could support the employment of 540 jet fighters and 120 jet light bombers and attack US/RVN forces with a sustained sortie rate of 650 air defense/combat patrol and 85 bomber sorties per day. It is most likely that over 50 per cent of the 540 jet fighters would be used to control air space and to perform air defense missions over south/southwest China and North Vietnam. From south/southwest China bases jet light bombers could deliver 4,400 pound bomb loads to targets northward of Saigon and Bangkok. FAGOT/FRESCO jet fighters, with external fuel and guns only, would have the same combat radii as the jet light bombers. In a ground support role FAGOT/FRESCOs, with guns only, operating from southern Hainan Island could cover little more than the northern part of South Vietnam and northeastern Thailand. If jet fighters were operated from Dong Hoi airfield, they could penetrate farther into South Vietnam.

e. At sea the CHICOMs could attack US/RVN naval forces in the Tonkin Gulf and South China Sea with 45 motor torpedo boats and 20 motor gunboats. Transfer of submarines from the North and East Sea Fleets could be accomplished, with an estimated limit of six submarines on station in the South China Sea area.

2. US response to meet a CHICOM drive into Southeast Asia would require implementation of CINCPAC OPLAN 39-65 and/or OPLAN 32-64 Phase IV.

a. CINCPAC OPLAN 39-65 is designed to employ massive US naval and air power against Communist China and her satellites at times and places of our choice to force termination of the aggression. It visualizes minimum use of US ground forces and maximum use of indigenous forces. The plan can, however, be implemented in conjunction with, or preliminary to, other contingency plans for the area concerned; such as, for Southeast Asia, OPLAN 32-64, Phase IV (see below). Deployments under OPLAN 39-65 provide for a significant increase in US strength in the Western Pacific, mostly naval and air, by movements from the Continental US and the Eastern Pacific. Forces will be throughout WestPac, from Japan and Korea to the Philippines adjustments to be made within the area for best effective following summarizes the major force increases visualized to Asia situation:


Plus reconnaisaance, refueling and support units
Plus following embarked squadrons
1 1/2
1 1/2
Plus reconnaissance and patrol sqaudrons, minecraft and support units
Plus reconnaissance, refueling and support units
2 (Korea)
1 (from Hawaii to Thailand)
1 ABN BDE (Okinawa)
1 (to Hawaii)
Plus air defense, missile artillery, aviation and support units

CONUS Army forces to alerted:


b. CINCPAC OPLAN 32-64 Phase IV is designed to counter aggression by Communist China in Southeast Asia, either independently or in conjunction with North Vietnam. The objective is to bring about an early cessation of hostilities under conditions representing a net advantage to the Free World, including liberation and control of North Vietnam and reunification of Vietnam under a government aligned with the Free World. US forces are increased to nearly six divisions, and air strike and blockade actions are extended to south China. Major force deployments to mainland Southeast Asia are summarized as follows:

To South Vietnam--

D + 1 III Marine Expeditionary Force Hq. (Da Nang) One Air Force Control Center Hq. (Saigon)
D + 5 1st ANGLICO (Da Nang)
D + 15 Army Hq. COMUSSEASIA (augmented) One Army Corps Hq.
D + 9 One Army Airborne Brigade
D +20
D + 2 One Marine Division
to One Marine Air Wing
D +35
D + 60 One Army Infantry Division

To Thailand--

D + 15 One Army Corps Hq.
One Army Logistics Command Hq. (augmented)
D + 8 One Army Airborne Division
D + 45 Two Army Infantry Divisions One Army Mech. Infantry Brigade (Reinforced)

Follow on to Vietnam and Thailand--

Army air defense, combat and combat support and logistics support units.
Navy and Marine Corps construction battalion units.

Back-Up Forces--

Back-up forces include one Army airborne division from CONUS to Hawaii, one Marine division from CONUS to Okinawa, and one Marine Air Wing from CONUS to Japan.

Air Forces--

Air Force units are assumed to be largely in place as result of implementation of earlier phases of OPLAN 32-64 or preparations for implementation of OPLAN 39-65. Supporting augmentation units to be deployed to West Pac include:

Combat and service support units.
Logistic support units.
Composite air strike force units.
Two C-123 squadrons.

Naval Forces--

Following forces are available for direct support in Southeast Asia area or to reinforce COMUSSEASIA:

1-3 Attack carrier groups
1-2 ASW Carrier Group
3 Patrol Squadrons
4-6 Submarines
6 Minesweep Divisions
3-4 Amphibious Squadrons
2-3 Landing Ship Squadrons
2-3 LCU Divisions
1 Marine Expeditionary Force combat and service support units as required

3. In Initial operations against CHICOM aggression the serious enemy air threat, his naval capability, and the potential threat of his ponderous ground forces will require the greatest magnitude of over-all US effort. Priority of effort will be directed toward gaining and maintaining air superiority in the area, preventing the advance of enemy troops and their supplies, and altering the enemy's intent to continue the aggression. As operations develop, air and naval attacks will be increased in scope and in intensity against Chinese forces and into southern China to increase the pressure on the Chinese communists. Both OPLANs 32-64 and 39-65 provide for either non-nuclear or nuclear options. Strategic Air Command forces are to be utilized to strike selected targets within China using nuclear and/or non-nuclear weapons, as directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As early as practicable, counteroffensive operations to regain friendly territory and to liberate North Vietnam will be initiated. Amphibious forces will launch a major assault in North Vietnam to seize the initiative, cut enemy supply lines and routes of withdrawal, and facilitate the ground offensive. Concurrently, US/ Allied ground forces will mount a major offensive along the coastal axis northward from Da Nang; forces in other areas will launch simultaneous attacks; and air and naval attacks will be intensified. The magnitude and intensity of operations will be increased until favorable conditions are achieved to force the enemy to accept terms for the cessation of hostilities, the reunification of Vietnam, and the curtailment of communist influence in Southeast Asia.

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