JCS Memorandum to the Secretary of Defense on a Controlled Program of Increased Military Pressure Against North Vietnam, 18 November 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 639-640

18 NOV 1964


Subject: Courses of Action in Southeast Asia

1. This memorandum derives from your conversation with the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, on 10 November 1964 concerning a possible US program of actions in Southeast Asia comprising a controlled program of systematically increased military pressures against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) applied in coordination with appropriate political pressures.

2. It is desirable that a clear set of military objectives be agreed upon before further military involvement in Southeast Asia is undertaken. In this connection, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that JCSM-955-64 dated 14 November 1964, sets forth their preferred course of action to reverse the unfavorable trend in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) and Laos with the objective of causing the DRV to cease supporting and directing the insurgencies in those countries. However, should a controlled program of systematically increased pressures referred to in paragraph 1 above be directed, the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are set forth herein on how such a program should be implemented.

3. For a program of graduated military pressures, the following objectives are appropriate:

a. Signal the willingness and determination of the United States to employ increasing force in support of national objectives with respect to RVN and Laos; namely, an independent and stable noncommunist government in RVN and a free and neutral Laos under the terms of the Geneva Accords of 1962.
b. Reduce, progressively, DRV support of the insurgencies in RVN and Laos to the extent necessary to tip the balance clearly in favor of the Governments of RVN and Laos by:

(1) Reduction of the amount of support available through destruction of men, material, and supporting facilities;
(2) Reduction of the amount of support available through diversion of DRV resources to increased homeland defenses and alerts; and
(3) Reduction of the rate of delivery of the available support through destruction of bridges and other LOC choke points; staging facilities and transport; and through interruption of movements by attacks on selected fixed targets, armed route reconnaissance, raids, and waterborne interdictions.

c. Punish the DRV for DRV-supported military actions by the Viet Cong/ Pathet Lao (VC/PL) against the Governments of RVN and Laos, including the US casualties which have resulted from those actions.
d. Terminate the conflicts in Laos and RVN only under conditions which would result in the achievement of US objectives.

4. In JCSM-955-64, the Joint Chiefs of Staff analyzed certain possible enemy reactions to US air strikes against North Vietnam and appropriate US/allied responses thereto. The Joint Chiefs of Staff reaffirm the salient conclusion which arose from that analysis, which is equally applicable to this program, that the United States and its allies can deal adequately with any course of action the DRV and/or CHICOMs decide to pursue. The logistic, personnel, and intelligence considerations contained in the above memorandum are also applicable to this program.

5. Should a course of action to apply controlled, systematically increased pressures against the DRV be directed, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend the program of actions contained in the Appendix and the objectives contained in paragraph 3, above.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Earle G. Wheeler
Joint Chiefs of Staff


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