The Pentagon Papers
Gravel Edition
Volume 4
Chapter 2, "U.S. Ground Strategy and Force Deployments, 1965-1968," pp. 277-604.
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)

Section 4, pp. 477-538.


1. The McNaughton Draft Presidential Memorandum

On 19 May, the memorandum on which McNaughton had been working was floated. It was a comprehensive document drawing upon the arguments developed in the Office of Systems Analysis as well as recent CIA studies and views both from the State Department and the White House on the bombing. The preamble to the basic document noted that it was written at a time when there appeared to be no attractive course of action. McNaughton stated that he believed that Hanoi had decided not to negotiate until the American electorate had been heard from in November of 1968. His appraisal of the current situation dwelled on the unpopular nature of the Vietnam war in the country. In his eyes it was becoming:

. . . . increasingly unpopular as it escalates-causiflg more American casualties, more fear of its growing into a wider war, more privation of the domestic sector, and more distress at the amount of suffering being visited on the non-combatants in Vietnam, South and North. Most Americans do not know how we got where we are, and most, without knowing why, but taking advantage of hindsight, are convinced that somehow we should not have gotten this deeply in. All want the war ended and expect their President to end it. Successfully, or else.

This state of mind in the US generates impatience in the political structure of the United States. It unfortunately also generates patience in Hanoi. (It is commonly supposed that Hanoi will not give anything away pending the trial of the US elections in November 1968.)

There is sufficient evidence that McNaughton's feelings about the war, and especially the increasing opposition to force increases in South Vietnam, ran much deeper than even the cogent arguments he had been making in the draft memorandum. In a memo for the Secretary of Defense written on 6 May after McNaughton had examined an earlier 5 May "Rough Draft," he described his apprehensions about the ground force strategy which he described as a "trap which had ensnared us," and which if unchecked might lead us to almost an irreversible ground force escalation for the next undetermined number of years. He wrote:

I am afraid there is the fatal flaw in the strategy in the draft. It is that the strategy falls into the trap that has ensnared us for the past three years. It actually gives the troops while only praying for their proper use and for constructive diplomatic action. Limiting the present decision to an 80,000 add-on does the very important business of postponing the issue of a Reserve call-up (and all of its horrible baggage), but postpone it is all that it does-probably to a worse time, 1968. Providing the 80,000 troops is tantamount to acceding to the whole Westmoreland-Sharp request. This being the case, they will "accept" the 80,000. But six months from now, in will come messages like the "470,000-570,000" messages, saying that the requirement remains at 201,000 (or more). Since no pressure will have been put on anyone, the military war will have gone on as before and no diplomatic progress will have been made. It follows that the "philosophy" of the war should be fought out now so everyone will not be proceeding on their own major premises, and getting us in deeper and deeper; at the very least, the President should give General Westmoreland his limit (as President Truman did to General MacArthur). That is, if General West-moreland is to get 550,000 men, he should be told "that will be all, and we mean it."

McNaughton was also very deeply concerned about the breadth and the intensity of public unrest and dissatisfaction with the war. To him the draft paper underplayed a bit the unpopularity of the conflict especially with young people, the underprivileged, the intelligentsia, and the women. He examined those lining up on both sides of an increasingly polarized public and he did not especially like what he saw:

A feeling is widely and strongly held that "the Establishment" is out of its mind. The feeling is that we are trying to impose some US image on distant peoples we cannot understand (anymore than we can the younger generation here at home), and that we are carrying the thing to absurd lengths. Related to this feeling is the increased polarization that is taking place in the United States with seeds of the worst split in our people in more than a century. The King, Galbraith, etc., positions illustrate one near-pole; the Hebert and Rivers statements on May 5 about the need to disregard the First Amendment illustrates the other. In this connection, I fear that "natural selection" in this environment will lead the Administration itself to become more and more homogenized--Mac Bundy, George Ball, Bill Moyers are gone. Who next?

Finally, he quarreled with the way in which the paper had dealt with the definition of "success." He felt that this definition was the major problem, that the draft had not properly grappled with the redefinition, since "winning" was what the strategy pursued by COMUSMACV tried to do. He suggested that as a matter of tactics maybe the President should figure it out himself, a point which tied in closely with an earlier one of his about getting the "philosophy of the war" straightened out and thereby avoiding another diplomatic default and military misuse of forces.

McNaughton's review of the situation in South and North Vietnam stressed that the big war in the south between the United States and the North Vietnamese units seemed to be going well but that regrettably the "other war" against the VC was not going so well. In his words:

The "big war" in the South between the US and the North Vietnamese military units (NVA) is going well. We staved off military defeat in 1965; we gained the military initiative in 1966; and since then we have been hurting the enemy badly, spoiling some of his ability to strike. "In the final analysis," General Westmoreland said, "we are fighting a war of attrition." In that connection, the enemy has been losing between 1500 and 2000 killed-in-action a week, while we and the South Vietnamese have been losing 175 and 250 respectively. The VC/NVA 287,000-man order of battle is leveling off, and General Westmoreland believes that, as of March, we "reached the cross-over point"--we began attriting more men than Hanoi can recruit or infiltrate each month. The concentration of NVA forces across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the enemy use of long-range artillery are matters of concern. There are now four NVA divisions in the DMZ area. The men infiltrate directly across the western part of the plains to nibble at our forces, seeking to inflict heavy casualties, perhaps to stage a "spectacular" (perhaps against Quang Tri City or Hue), and/or to try a major thrust into the Western Highlands. They are forcing us to transfer some forces from elsewhere in Vietnam to the I Corps area.

Throughout South Vietnam, supplies continue to flow in ample quantities, with Cambodia becoming more and more important as a supply base--now of food and medicines, perhaps ammunition later. The enemy retains the ability to initiate both large- and small-scale attacks. Small-scale attacks in the first quarter of 1967 are running at double the 1966 average; larger-scale attacks are again on the increase after falling off substantially in 1966. Acts of terrorism and harrassment have continued at about the same rate.

[material missing]

their political power is less than it was before their defeat in 1966. National elections are scheduled for September 1. No one, unfortunately, has shown any charismatic appeal. Ky and Thieu have promised not to split over the presidency, but there is obviously a serious struggle going on between them (Ky has announced his candidacy, and Thieu, the weaker of the two, has hinted that he may throw his weight behind a civilian). So there is hope that there will be an orderly transition to stable constitutional rule.

Little has been done to remedy the economic and social ills of the corruption from which VC popular support stems. Partly because of this inaction--where reform action would destroy the working consensus--the political situation at the top remains relatively stable.

The port is operating much better. Inflation appears to be under control. But the flow of rice into Saigon from the Delta, as good an indicator as any of the state of affairs, continues to decrease: The flow is 75 percent of the 1966, and half of the 1965, rates; national exports of rice ceased in 1964, and imports continue to climb.


Hanoi's attitude towards negotiations has never been soft nor open-minded. Any concession on their part would involve an enormous loss of face. Whether or not the Polish and Burchett-Kosygin initiatives had much substance to them, it is clear that Hanoi's attitude currently is hard and rigid. They seem uninterested in a political settlement and determined to match US military expansion of the conflict. This change probably reflects these factors: (1) increased assurances of help from the Soviets received during Pham Van Dong's April trip to Moscow; (2) arrangements providing for the unhindered passage of materiel from the Soviet Union through China; and (3) a decision to wait for the results of the US elections in 1968. Hanoi appears to have concluded that she cannot secure her objectives at the conference table and has reaffirmed her strategy of seeking to erode our ability to remain in the South. The Hanoi leadership has apparently decided that it has no choice but to submit to the increased bombing. There continues to be no sign that the bombing has reduced Hanoi's will to resist or her ability to ship the necessary supplies south. Hanoi shows no signs of ending the large war and advising the VC to melt into the jungles. The North Vietnamese believe they are right; they consider the Ky regime to be puppets; they believe the world is with them and that the American public will not have staying power against them. Thus, although they may have factions in the regime favoring different approaches, they believe that, in the long run, they are stronger than we are for the purpose. They probably do not want to make significant concessions, and could not do so without serious loss of face.

He then analyzed two alternative military courses of action which he labeled "A" and "B." In Course A the full troop requirement request from COMUSMACV was to be honored, and subsequent military actions intensified not only in the south, but especially in the north. This program consisted of an addition of the minimum of 200,000 men; 100,000 in the 2½ division "minimum essential' force in FY 68 and another 100,000 in FY 69, with possibly more later to fulfill the JCS ultimate requirement for Vietnam and associated worldwide contingencies. Course B proposed limiting the force increases to no more than 30,000 thereby stabilizing the ground conflict within the borders of South Vietnam and concomitantly concentrating the bombing on the infiltration routes south of the 20th parallel. He analyzed the two courses of action in the following terms.

COURSE A would be chosen with a view to bringing additional military pressure to bear on the enemy in the South while continuing to carry out our present missions not directly related to combating enemy main-force units. It would involve accepting the risk--the virtual certainty--that the action, especially the Reserve call-up, would stimulate irresistible pressures in the United States for further escalation against North Vietnam, and for ground actions against "sanctuaries" in Cambodia and Laos.


Proponents of the added deployments in the South believe that such deployments will hasten the end of the war. None of them believes that the added forces are needed to avoid defeat; few of them believe that the added forces are required to do the military job in due course; all of the proponents believe that they are needed if that job is to be done faster. The argument is that we avoided military defeat in 1965; that we gained the military initiative in 1966, since then hurting the enemy badly, spoiling much of his ability to strike, and thus diminishing the power he could project over the population; and that even more-vigorous military initiative against his main forces and base areas will hurt him more, spoil his efforts more, and diminish his projected power more than would be the case under presently approved force-deployment levels. This, the argument goes, will more readily create an environment in South Vietnam in which our pacification efforts can take root and thrive; at the same time-because of our progress in the South and because of the large enemy losses-it will more rapidly produce a state of mind in Hanoi conducive to ending the war on reasonable terms.

Estimates by the proponents vary as to how long the job will take without, and with, the additional forces. General Westmoreland has said that without the additions the war could go on five years. He has said that with 100,000 more men, the war could go on for three years and that with 200,000 more men it could go on for two. These estimates are after taking account of his view that the introduction of a non-professional force, such as that which would result from fulfilling the requirement by calling Reserves, would cause some degradation of morale, leadership and effectiveness.

Questions to be Answered

Addressing the force additions alone: We should expect no serious objections based on internal South Vietnamese reasons (the 44-billion piastre inflationary impact can probably be handled, and anti-Americanism is not likely to increase significantly); nor are dangerous reactions likely to come from the USSR, East Europe, or from the non-Communist nations of the world. The questions that must be answered are:

--(1) Will the move to call up 200,000 Reserves, to extend enlistments, and to enlarge the uniformed strength by 500,000 (300,000 beyond the Reserves), combined with the increased US larger initiative, polarize opinion to the extent that the "doves" in the US will get out of hand--massive refusals to serve, or to fight, or to cooperate, or worse?

--(2) Can we achieve the same military effect by making more efficient use of presently approved US manpower (e.g., by removing them from the Delta, by stopping their being used for pacification work in I Corps, by transferring some combat and logistics jobs to Vietnamese or additional third-country personnel)?

--(3) Assuming no specific enemy counter-deployments, are the added US forces likely to make a meaningful military difference? (On the one hand, if we are now "past the cross-over point," cannot the military job be done without the added forces? On the other, if the enemy can conduct his terror "from the bushes," can the military job be done even with them?)

--(4) Will the effect of any US additions be neutralized, or stalemated, by specific enemy counter-deployments involving more forces from North Vietnam (and perhaps introduction of more Chinese in North Vietnam and Chinese and other "volunteers" into South Vietnam)?

--(5) Will the factors mentioned in (1) above generate such impatience in the United States that "hawk" pressures will be irresistible to expand the land war into Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam and to take stronger air and naval actions against North Vietnam, with consequent risks of a much larger war involving China and Russia and of even more dove-hawk polarization at home and abroad?

The answer to Question 1(regarding "dove" reaction), we believe, is a qualified no. Barring escalation of the "external" war discussed under Question 5, we believe that increased forces will not lead to massive civil disobedience. However, a request for Congressional authority to call Reserves would lead to divisive debate.

Question 2 (relating to more efficient use of US forces) is an important one, but its answer, even if most favorable, is not likely to free-up enough personnel to satisfy a 200,000-man request. It is true that one of the additional divisions could be eliminated if the US Army eschewed the Delta, and certain of the other ground-force requirements could be eliminated if the US Marines ceased grass-roots pacification activities. Additional fractions might be trimmed if the ARVN (whose uninspired performance is exasperating) were jacked up, if the Koreans provided more combat or usable logistics personnel, or if other third-country forces were forthcoming. Efforts along this line should be made, but the items that prove out will not go nearly as far as the 200,000 request.

Questions 3 and 4 (relating to the value of additional US forces and possible enemy action to offset them) are very difficult ones and can be treated together. In December 1965, when the US had 175,000 men in Vietnam, I reported that "the odds are even that, even with the recommended deployments, we will be faced in early 1967 with a military standoff at a much higher level . . ." In October 1966, when our deployments had reached 325,000, I pointed out that that was substantially the case and that "I see no reasonable way to bring the war to an end soon." That remains true today. With respect to Question 3, this is because the enemy has us "stalemated" and has the capability to tailor his actions to his supplies and manpower and, by hit-and-run terror, to make government and pacification very difficult in large parts of the country almost without regard to the size of US forces there; and, with respect to Question 4, because the enemy can and almost certainly will maintain the military "stalemate" by matching our added deployments as necessary. (General Westmoreland has made the point that "this war is action and counteraction; any time we take an action, we can expect a reaction." He added, "It is likely the enemy will react by adding troops.") In any event, there is no suggestion that the added deployments will end the war in less than two years and no assurance that they will end it in three, or five, years.

Question 5 (regarding irresistible pressures to expand the war) is the toughest one.

The addition of the 200,000 men, involving as it does a call-up of Reserves and an addition of 500,000 to the military strength, would, as mentioned above, almost certainly set off bitter Congressional debate and irresistible domestic pressures for stronger action outside South Vietnam. Cries would go up--much louder than they already have--to "take the wraps off the men in the field." The actions would include more intense bombing-not only around-the-clock bombing of targets already authorized, but also bombing of strategic targets such as locks and dikes, and mining of the harbors against Soviet and other ships. Associated actions impelled by the situation would be major ground actions in Laos, Cambodia, and probably in North Vietnam--first as a pincer operation north of the DMZ and then at a point such as Vinh. The use of tactical nuclear and area-denial radiological-bacteriological-chemical weapons would probably be suggested at some point if the Chinese entered the war in Vietnam or Korea or if US losses were running high while conventional efforts were not producing desired results.

Bombing Purposes and Payoffs

Our bombing of North Vietnam was designed to serve three purposes:

--(1) To retaliate and to lift the morale of the people in the South who were being attacked by agents of the North.
--(2) To add to the pressure on Hanoi to end the war.
--(3) To reuce the flow and/or to increase the cost of infiltrating men and materiel from North to South.

We cannot ignore that a limitation on bombing will cause serious psychological problems among the men, officers and commanders, who will not be able to understand why we should withhold punishment from the enemy. General Westmoreland said that he is "frankly dismayed at even the thought of stopping the bombing program." But this reason for attacking North Vietnam must be scrutinized carefully. We should not bomb for punitive reasons if it serves no other purpose--especially if analysis shows that the actions may be counterproductive. It costs American lives; it creates a backfire of revulsion and opposition by killing civilians; it creates serious risks; it may harden the enemy.

With respect to added pressure on the North, it is becoming apparent that Hanoi may already have "written off" all assets and lives that might be destroyed by US military actions short of occupation or annihilation. They can and will hold out at least so long as a prospect of winning the "war of attrition" in the South exists. And our best judgment is that a Hanoi prerequisite to negotiations is significant retrenchment (if not complete stoppage) of US military actions against them--at the least, a cessation of bombing. In this connection, Consul-General Rice (Hong Kong 7581, 5/1/67) said that, in his opinion, we cannot by bombing reach the critical level of pain in North Vietnam and that, "below that level, pain only increases the will to fight." Sir Robert Thompson said to Mr. Vance on April 28 that our bombing, particularly in the Red River Delta, "is unifying North Vietnam."

With respect to interdiction of men and materiel, it now appears that no combination of actions against the North short of destruction of the regime or occupation of North Vietnamese territory will physically reduce the flow of men and materiel below the relatively small amount needed by enemy forces to continue the war in the South. Our effort can and does have severe disruptive effects, which Hanoi can and does compensate for by the reallocation of manpower and other resources; and our effort can and does have sporadic retarding effects, which Hanoi can and does plan on and pre-stock against. Our efforts physically to cut the flow meaningfully by actions in North Vietnam therefore largely fail and, in failing, transmute attempted interdiction into pain, or pressure on the North (the factor discussed in the paragraph next above). The lowest "ceiling on infiltration can probably be achieved by concentration on the North Vietnamese "funnel" south of 20° and on the Trail in Laos.

But what if the above analyses are wrong? Why not escalate the bombing and mine the harbors (and perhaps occupy southern North Vietnam)- on the gamble that it would constrict the flow, meaningfully limiting enemy action in the South, and that it would bend Hanoi? The answer is that the costs and risks of the actions must be considered.

The primary costs of course are US lives: The air campaign against heavily defended areas costs us one pilot in every 40 sorties. In addition, an important but hard-to-measure cost is domestic and world opinion: There may be a limit beyond which many Americans and much of the world will not permit the United States to go. The picture of the world's greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1000 non-combatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one. It could conceivably produce a costly distortion in the American national consciousness and in the world image of the United States--especially if the damage to North Vietnam is complete enough to be "successful."

The most important risk, however, is the likely Soviet, Chinese and North Vietnamese reaction to intensified US air attacks, harbor-mining, and ground actions against North Vietnam.

Likely Communist Reactions

At the present time, no actions-except air strikes and artillery fire necessary to quiet hostile batteries across the border-are allowed against Cambodian territory. In Laos, we average 5000 attack sorties a month against the infiltration routes and base areas, we fire artillery from South Vietnam against targets in Laos, and we will be providing 3-man leaders for each of 20 12-man US-Vietnamese Special Forces teams that operate to a depth of 20 kilometers into Laos. Against North Vietnam, we average 8,000 or more attack sorties a month against all worthwhile fixed and LOC targets; we use artillery against ground targets across the DMZ; we fire from naval vessels at targets ashore and afloat up to 19°, and we mine their inland waterways, estuaries and coastal waters up to 20°.

Intensified air attacks against the same types of targets, we would anticipate, would lead to no great change in the policies and reactions of the Communist powers beyond the furnishing of some new equipment and manpower.* China, for example, has not reacted to our striking MIG

* The U.S. Intelligence Board on May S said that Hanoi may press Moscow for additional equipment and that there is a "good chance that under pressure the Soviets would provide such weapons as cruise missiles and tactical rockets" in addition to a limited number of volunteers or crews for aircraft or sophisticated equipment. Moscow, with respect to equipment, might provide better surface-to-air missiles, better anti-aircraft guns, the YAK-28 aircraft, anti-tank missiles and artillery, heavier artillery and mortars, coastal defense missiles with 25-50 mile ranges and 2200-pound warheads, KOMAR guided-missile coastal patrol boats with 20-mile surface-to-surface missiles, and some chemical munitions. She might consider sending medium jet bombers and fighter bombers to pose a threat to all of South Vietnam.

fields in North Vietnam, and we do not expect them to, although there are some signs of greater Chinese participation in North Vietnamese air defense.

Mining the harbors would be much more serious. It would place Moscow in a particularly galling dilemma as to how to preserve the Soviet position and prestige in such a disadvantageous place. The Soviets might, but probably would not, force a confrontation in Southeast Asia--where even with minesweepers they would be at as great a military disadvantage as we were when they blocked the corridor to Berlin in 1961, but where their vital interest, unlike ours in Berlin (and in Cuba), is not so clearly at stake. Moscow in this case should be expected to send volunteers, including pilots, to North Vietnam; to provide some new and better weapons and equipment; to consider some action in Korea, Turkey, Iran, the Middle East or, most likely, Berlin, where the Soviets can control the degree of crisis better; and to show across-the-board hostility toward the US (interrupting any on-going conversations on ABMs, non-proliferation, etc). China could be expected to seize upon the harbor-mining as the opportunity to reduce Soviet political influence in Hanoi and to discredit the USSR if the Soviets took no military action to open the ports. Peking might read the harbor-mining as indicating that the US was going to apply military pressure until North Vietnam capitulated, and that this meant an eventual invasion. If so, China might decide to intervene in the war with combat troops and air power, to which we would eventually have to respond by bombing Chinese airfields and perhaps other targets as well. Hanoi would tighten belts, refuse to talk, and persevere-as it could without too much difficulty. North Vietnam would of course be fully dependent for supplies on China's will, and Soviet influence in Hanoi would therefore be reduced. (Ambassador Sullivan feels very strongly that it would be a serious mistake, by our actions against the port, to tip Hanoi away from Moscow and toward Peking.)

To US ground actions in North Vietnam, we would expect China to respond by entering the war with both ground and air forces. The Soviet Union could be expected in these circumstances to take all actions listed above under the lesser provocations and to generate a serious confrontation with the United States at one or more places of her own choosing.

Ground actions in Laos are similarly unwise. LeDuan, Hanoi s third- or fourth-ranking leader, has stated the truth when he said "the occupation of the Western Highlands is a tough job but the attack on central and lower Laos is a still tougher one. If a small force is used, the problem remains insoluble. The US may face a series of difficulties in the military, political and logistic fields if a larger force goes into operation. In effect, an attack on central and lower Laos would mean the opening of another front nearer to North Vietnam, and then the US troops would have to clash with the North Vietnamese main force." In essence, a brigade will beget a division and a division a corps, each calling down matching forces from North Vietnam into territory to their liking and suggesting to Hanoi that they take action in Northern Laos to suck us further in. We would simply have a wider war, with Souvanna back in Paris, world opinion against us, and no solution either to the wider war or to the one we already have in Vietnam.

Those are the likely costs and risks of COURSE A. They are, we believe, both unacceptable and unnecessary. Ground action in North Vietnam, because of its escalatory potential, is clearly unwise despite the open invitation and temptation posed by enemy troops operating freely back and forth across the DMZ. Yet we believe that, short of threatening and perhaps toppling the Hanoi regime itself, pressure against the North will, if anything, harden Hanoi's unwillingness to talk and her settlement terms if she does. China, we believe, will oppose settlement throughout. We believe that there is a chance that the Soviets, at the brink, will exert efforts to bring about peace; but we believe also that intensified bombing and harbor-mining, even if coupled with political pressure from Moscow, will neither bring Hanoi to negotiate nor affect North Vietnam's terms.


As of March 18, 1967, the approved US Force Structure (Program 4) for Southeast Asia provided for 87 maneuver battalions, 42 air squadrons, and a total strength of 468,000 men. Based on current forecasts of enemy strength, under COURSE B it should not be necessary to approve now for deployment more than 9 of the 24 available maneuver battalions and none of the air squadrons-a total of approximately 30,000 men including appropriate land and sea support forces (see Attachment III [missingi).

This approach would be based, first, on General Westmoreland's statement that "without [his requested] forces, we will not be in danger of being defeated, . . . but progress will be slowed down," and General Wheeler's support of that view. General Wheeler added, "We won't lose the war, but it will be a longer one." It would be based, second, on the fact that no one argues that the added forces will probably cause the war to end in less than two years. COURSE B implies a conviction that neither military defeat nor military victory is in the cards, with or without the large added deployments, and that the price of the large added deployments and the strategy of COURSE A will be to expand the war dangerously. COURSE B is designed to improve the negotiating environment within a limited deployment of US forces by combining continuous attacks against VC/NVA main force units with slow improvements in pacification (which may follow the new constitution, the national reconciliation proclamation, our added efforts and the Vietnamese elections this fall) and a restrained program of actions against the North.

This alternative would give General Westmoreland 96 maneuver battalions--an 85 percent increase in combat force over the 52 battalions
that he had in Vietnam in June of last year, and 22 percent more than the 79 we had there at the beginning of this year. According to this report, we have already passed the "cross-over point," where the enemy's losses exceed his additions; we will soon have in Vietnam 200,000 more US troops than there are in enemy main force units. We should therefore, without added deployments, be able to maintain the military initiative, especially if US troops in less-essential missions (such as in the Delta and in pacification duty) * are considered strategic reserves.

* General Wheeler has explained where the first 2½ divisions would go: "One on the DMZ to relieve the Marines to work with ARVN on pacification; one east of Saigon to relieve the 9th Division to deploy to the Delta to increase the effectiveness of the three good ARVN divisions now there; the brigade to Quang Ngai to make there the progress in pacification in the next year that we have made in Binh Dinh in the past year." Thus the bulk of the first 100,000 men are for pacification and for the Delta. General Westmoreland said regarding the Delta, "in the Fourth Corps, there is no threat of strategic VC victories and there are three good ARVN divisions there." The question arises whether US combat troops should be devoted to pacification or to the Delta. Are these not matters for the Vietnamese? The Delta may be a test case of the proposed strategy. It is normally stated that "in order to win in Vietnam we must win in the Delta where the people are." This obviously implies that Saigon's writ must run throughout the Delta. But two facts appear: (1) The Delta is a fairly active VC area, in which a moderately high level of Stage II guerrilla warfare tactics are pursued; and (2) the VC effort is primarily indigenous (that is, the North Vietnamese Main Force units play almost no role). If our "success" objective is solely to check or offset North Vietnam's forceful intervention in the South, we are in that position already in the Delta! Must we go further and do the job for the South Vietnamese? What kind of a deal could the contending forces cut in the Delta?

The strategy of proponents of COURSE B is based on their belief that we are in a military situation that cannot be changed materially by expanding our military effort, that the politico-pacification situation in South Vietnam will improve but not fast, and that (in view of all this) Hanoi will not capitulate soon. An aspect of the strategy is a "cool" drive to settle the war--a deliberate process on three fronts: Large unit, politico-pacification, and diplomatic. Its approach on the large-unit front is to maintain the initiative that "Program 4-plus" forces will permit, to move on with pacification efforts and with the national election in September, and to lay the groundwork by periodic peace probes, perhaps suggesting secret talks associated with limitation of bombing and with a view to finding a compromise involving, inter alia, a role in the South for members of the VC.

This alternative would not involve US or Vietnamese forces in any numbers in Laos or Cambodia, and definitely not in North Vietnam. Since the US Reserves would still be untapped, they would still be available for use later in Asia, or elsewhere, if it became necessary.

Bombing Program

The bombing program that would be a part of this strategy is, basically, a program of concentration of effort on the infiltration routes near the south of North Vietnam. The major infiltration-related targets in the Red River basin having been destroyed, such interdiction is now best served by concentration of all effort in the southern neck of North Vietnam. All of the sorties would be flown in the area between 17° and 20°. This shift, despite possible increases in anti-aircraft capability in the area, should reduce the pilot and aircraft loss rates by more than 50 percent. The shift will, if anything, be of positive military value to General Westmoreland while taking some steam out of the popular effort in the North.

The above shift of bombing strategy, now that almost all major targets have been struck in the Red River basin, can to military advantage be made at any time. It should not be done for the sole purpose of getting Hanoi to negotiate, although that might be a bonus effect. To maximize the chances of getting that bonus effect, the optimum scenario would probably be (1) to inform the Soviets quietly that within a few days the shift would take place, setting no time limits but making no promises not to return to the Red River basin to attack targets which later acquire military importance (any deal with Hanoi is likely to be midwifed by Moscow); (2) to make the shift as predicted, without fanfare; and (3) to explain publicly, when the shift had become obvious, that the northern targets had been destroyed, that that had been militarily important, and that there would be no need to return to the northern areas unless military necessity dictated it. The shift should not be huckstered. Moscow would almost certainly pass its information on to Hanoi, and might urge Hanoi to seize the opportunity to de-escalate the war by talks or otherwise. Hanoi, not having been asked a question by us and having no ultimatum-like time limit, would be in a better posture to answer favorably than has been the case in the past. The military side of the shift is sound, however, whether or not the diplomatic spill-over is successful.

McNaughton concluded his case against force level increases by proposing a time-phased "suggested strategy":

(1) Now: Not to panic because of a belief that Hanoi must be made to capitulate before the 1968 elections. No one's proposal achieves that end.

(2) Now: Press on energetically with the military, pacification and political programs in the South, including groundwork for successful elections in September. Drive hard to increase the productivity of Vietnamese military forces.

(3) Now: Issue a NSAM nailing down US policy as described herein. Thereafter, publicly, (a) emphasize consistently that the sole US objective in Vietnam has been and is to permit the people of South Vietnam to determine their own future, and (b) declare that we have already either denied or offset the North Vietnamese intervention and that after the September elections in Vietnam we will have achieved success. The necessary steps having been taken to deny the North the ability to take over South Vietnam and an elected government sitting in Saigon, the South will be in position, albeit imperfect, to start the business of producing a full-spectrum government in South Vietnam.

(4) June: Concentrate the bombing of North Vietnam on physical interdiction of men and materiel. This would mean terminating, except where the interdiction objective clearly dictates otherwise, all bombing north of 20° and improving interdiction as much as possible in the infiltration "funnel" south of 20° by concentration of sorties and by an all-out effort to improve detection devices, denial weapons, and interdiction tactics.

(5) July: Avoid the explosive Congressional debate and US Reserve call-up implicit in the Westmoreland troop request. Decide that, unless the military situation worsens dramatically, US deployments will be limited to Program 4-plus (which, according to General Westmoreland, will not put us in danger of being defeated, but will mean slow progress in the South). Associated with this decision are decisions not to use large numbers of US troops in the Delta and not to use large numbers of them in grass-roots pacification work.

(6) September: Move the newly elected Saigon government well beyond its National Reconciliation program to seek a political settlement with the non-Communist members of the NLF-to explore a ceasefire and to reach an accommodation with the non-Communist South Vietnamese who are under the VC banner; to accept them as members of an opposition political party, and, if necessary, to accept their individual participation in the national government-in sum, a settlement to transform the members of the VC from military opponents to political opponents.

(7) October: Explain the situation to the Canadians, Indians, British, UN and others, as well as nations now contributing forces, requesting them to contribute border forces to help make the inside-South Vietnam accommodation possible, and--consistent with our desire neither to occupy nor to have bases in Vietnam--offering to remove later an equivalent number of US forces. (This initiative is worth taking despite its slim chance of success.)

His closing paragraph repeated his belief that it had to be made clear to political and military leaders alike that the troop limit as imposed by Course B which he recommended was firm and short of an imminent military defeat would not be breached. Westmoreland and the JCS had to be persuaded that the objective was not to attain "victory" but to make progress, albeit slow, without the risks attendant to Course A. He acknowledged that it would not be easy for the President to stick at 550,000 troops in South Vietnam or to limit the bombing program to targets south of the 20th parallel, but that it would be possible, and that in his estimation the benefits of such a course of action far outweighed the political risks which Course A included.

From the standpoint of ground force strategy, what McNaughton was really, it appears, saying was that we should make a decision to basically set our objectives within a time frame geared to South Vietnamese Army and South Vietnamese government progress, and that in doing so our own troops in approximately the current strengths could be devoted to providing the shield while the government of South Vietnam provided the shelter and performed the vital pacification function. As he noted, associated in the decision was the very conscious determination not to use large numbers of U.S. troops in the delta and not to use large numbers of them in what he called "grass roots pacification work," the two justifications most frequently used to support requests for additional troops. The appraisal, as well as the alternative military courses of action and their analyses contained in this document provided the catalyst for the subsequent and final decisions on Program 5.

2. JCSM 284-67, Persistent Pressure up the Ladder--"Shouldering Out" the Parts

On 20 May the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted JCSM 286-67, entitled "Operations Against North Vietnam," a paper primarily concerned with the air campaign. It stated that the JCS were seriously concerned at the prospective introduction by the USSR into NVN of new weapons including improved antiaircraft and surface to air missiles, guided missile patrol boats, surface to surface missiles and a variety of artillery and direct fire weapons. They felt that such weapons would further improve the NVN air and coastal defense systems and provide offensive capabilities which would pose additional threats to our forces and installations in SEA. Since the Hanoi-Haiphong areas constituted the principal North Vietnam logistical base through which these arms passed the JCS recommended that this complex be neutralized. This was feasible by direct attack on the areas but such direct attack would entail increased danger of high civilian casualties. Preferable to direct attack the Chiefs recommended that the area be interdicted by cutting the land and sea lines of communications leading into it. However, for such an interdiction campaign to be effective, all the elements of the import system of North Vietnam had to be attacked concurrently on a sustained basis, or, in the Chiefs' estimation, the weight of the attack would be insufficient to reduce imports to a level which would seriously impair the overall North Vietnamese war supporting capability. Accordingly, they recommended first an attack on Haiphong, conducted first by surgically "shouldering out" foreign shipping and then mining the harbor and approaches. This concept of "shouldering out" which was to reappear many times in subsequent JCS communications was to be executed by a series of air attacks commencing on the periphery of the port area and gradually moving to the center of the complex. These attacks were designed to reduce the functional efficiency of the port and could be expected to force the foreign shipping out of the nearby estuaries for off-loading by lighterage. Once the foreign vessels cleared port, according to the JCS calculation the remaining elements of the port could be taken under attack and the harbor mined. While the Haiphong port was being attacked an intensive interdiction campaign would commence against the roads and railroads from China. Concurrently, another series of attacks would be mounted against the eight major operational airfields. These recommendations met with predictably cool response and on 26 July 1967 the Deputy Secretary of Defense, in a memorandum to the Chairman of the JCS, stated that "a final decision on the proposals contained in the memorandum will be rendered in connection with the determination of overall future courses of action in Vietnam which should be completed in the near future."

On the same date, 20 May, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted their World-wide Posture Paper. The most significant recommendation in it was a proposal that a selective call-up for the Reserves be made so that the U.S. could more effectively fulfill world-wide commitments. In it the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that the nation must be able to (1) send large U.S. forces to any of the several trouble spots, such as Korea and Berlin; they also noted that we could not respond fast enough with sufficient forces to meet most of these contingencies. They also wrote that we must meet CINCPAC's FY 68 force requests, and to do so would require an addition of 2 1/3 division forces or the now familiar 'minimum essential requirements" stated by General Westmoreland in his original 18 March request. The Chiefs also believed that we had to "regain the Southeast Asia initiative and exploit our military advantage." They stated that they believed present air restrictions crippled our war effort and that limitations should be reduced on targets as well as the rules of engagement, and that more forces, primarily air, evidently, should be sent. Moreover, they believed that we should reinforce as fast as possible, to prevent the enemy from adjusting to the increases in pressure, as he had been able to do thus far.

Of seven alternate U.S. force postures they reviewed, the JCS considered only two to be "adequate." The alternative they endorsed provided the following increases to the approved forces: 4 1/3 active army divisions; one navy attack carrier; two carrier air-wings; two battleships; two gun cruisers; as well as 570 UE Air Force tactical fighters, 72 UE Reconnaissance Aircraft and 80 UE Cl30's. They did not propose any new permanent additions to the United States Marine Corps. In their estimation the proposed force structure would be adequate to meet the FY 68 CINCPAC "minimum essential force requirements" for SEA without changing current rotation policies. It would also provide forces to reinforce NATO as well as respond to other major contingencies including MACV's tentative FY 1969 add-on requirement for 2 1/3 divisions and 90 tactical fighters. (This was, of course, the "optimum" force which the 18 March COMUSMACV request had contained.) The JCS proposed to extend terms of service, and to call up Reserves to provide this capability quicker. The Reserves they proposed to call would be two Army and one Marine division forces, plus 15 Naval Reserve destroyers and two Naval construction battalions. In addition, an unspecified number of individual Reservists would be needed along with certain types of Reserve equipment and aircraft. The Reserves would be replaced by permanent units during FY 69-70. The Marine Reserve Division would be deployed to SVN to be replaced after a year by an Army Division, while the Marine Reserve Division would then revert to Reserve status. In the JCS estimate they stated that we could meet the FY 68 CINCPAC requirement by March 1968 if we called Reserves or by September 1969 if we did not. The Chiefs were particularly exercised at the prospect of very slow U.S. build-up over time which would continue to permit the VC/NVA to react. They commented that:

The rate at which US power has been applied has permitted North Vietnamese and Viet Cong reinforcements and force posture improvements to keep pace with the graduated increases in US military actions. It is fundamental to the successful conduct of warfare that every reasonable measure be taken to widen the differential between the capabilities of the opposing forces. Target system limitations, rules of engagement, and force curtailments have combined to militate against widening the gap between the total Free World force capability, including South Vietnam, and the capability of the enemy to generate, deploy, and sustain his forces while improving the defense of his homeland.

a. Successful prosecution of the war in Southeast Asia requires the maintenance of simultaneous pressure against all echelons of the enemy forces. In South Vietnam, this involves extensive ground, air, and naval operations against Viet Cong/North Vietnamese main forces and major base areas, while continuing revolutionary development and aggressive operations against Viet Cong provincial forces and guerrillas. In North Vietnam, the effectiveness of LOC interdiction cannot be greatly improved without significant reduction of the present restrictions on bombing and mining operations. Deep-water ports then can be closed or neutralized, and it will be worthwhile to intensify the interdiction effort against other LOCs in North Vietnam. Concomitantly, remaining high-value, war-supporting resources should be quickly, but methodically, destroyed. Attacks against population centers, per se, would continue to be avoided. Limited ground action in North Vietnam might also become necessary to destroy forces threatening the northern provinces.

As they continued, however, they fed a fear which was becoming predominant in the administration, that increases in forces might tempt COMUSMACV and our SEA commanders to expand operations into Cambodia and Laos, thereby complicating an already sensitive political situation:

b. It may ultimately become necessary to conduct military operations into Cambodia to deny the Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Army forces the psychological, military, and logistical advantages of this sanctuary. Should the Viet Cong/North Vietnamese forces increase their use of the Laos Panhandle, it might become necessary to deploy additional forces to Thailand and expand operations further to protect South Vietnam. To counter large-scale CHICOM overt intervention in northern Laos, it would be necessary to establish a strategic defense. Invocation of the SEATO Treaty would be indicated. In the event the CHICOMs attack Thailand, use of nuclear weapons against LOCs and supply bases in southern China might be required. Similarly, should the CHICOMs intervene overtly with major combat forces in Vietnam, it might be necessary to establish a strategic defense in South Vietnam and use tactical nuclear weapons against bases and LOCs in South

3. The Vance Options--Reexamination of Increases

On 24 May the JCS submitted to the Secretary of Defense their study entitled, "Alternative Courses of Action for Southeast Asia." This study was in response to a request made on 26 April by Deputy Secretary Vance asking the Joint Chiefs to study in detail the two alternative courses of action, outlined in the State paper prepared earlier by Acting Secretary of State Katzenbach. Strangely enough, between the time of the 26 April memorandum from Deputy Secretary Vance to the Director of the Joint Staff, Course A was altered, changing in the JCS paper from 200,000 personnel to approximately 250,000," roughly 125,000 in FY 68 and another 125,000 in FY 69. In the JCS study this was described as the "optimum force outlined in JCSM 218-67 and includes a 4 2/3 division force." Course B as it was outlined in the original Katzenbach memo confined troop increases to "those that can be generated without calling up reserves-perhaps 9 battalions (10,000) men in the next year." This figure was altered in the JCS study so that Course B read: "add only forces that can be generated without calling up Reserves. This will amount to approximately 70,000 in FY 68 to include 1 1/3 Army division force equivalents with a limited capability in FY 69."

Course A which would necessitate a Reserve call-up and a 12-month involuntary extension in terms of service effective 1 Jun 67 was estimated to cost $12.1 billion through FY 69, as compared to $7.7 billion for Course B. The end strength increases for Courses A and B were 602,900 and 276,000 men, respectively. Within South Vietnam the additional combat force in terms of battalion months available to COMUSMACV for operations was markedly greater for A than under Course B. The JCS calculated that Course A would add 111 battalion/ months in FY 68 and 373 battalion/months in FY 69 for a total of 484. Course B, on the other hand, could add but 39 in FY 68 and 144 in FY 69 for a grand total of 183. This added combat power in Course A which was recommended for deployment in JCSM 218-67 would, in the JCS estimation, improve chances for "progress in the war to a greater extent than the Course B forces. The primary advantage offered is that of flexibility. COMUSMACV would have forces available with which to maintain his present momentum as well as to expand combat and RD operations throughout the country."

If Course A forces were deployed as they desired the JCS noted they could be used to conduct operations in the DMZ, and into Laos or Cambodia if such operations were desired. Otherwise they could be properly employed in South Vietnam such as in the IV CTZ (the Delta). Course A would, they predicted, contribute to a hastening of the war's conclusion. The smaller Course B force would require the continued in-country deployment of additional forces to I Corps Tactical Zone to meet the "formidable enemy threat in that area." According to the Chiefs, this drawdown of forces from other areas would inhibit the reaction capability of U.S. forces in SVN that even with the increase proposed by Course B the US/FW/RVNAF would not be able to sustain the momentum of present offensive operations. The picture the memo painted of what would happen under the smaller Course B force was bleak:

(1) If the enemy maintains his current strength and force structure trends we cannot expect to attain objectives much beyond present goals, particularly the objective of expanding the areas under GVN control, unless forces are diverted from offensive operations. Thus we are confronted with an undesirable choice of a reduction of continued large-scale offensive operations in order to secure additional areas for expansion of RD activities or slowing the tempo of offensive operations in order to maintain security of areas cleared of the enemy.

(2) Should the enemy successfully exploit a vulnerable point in our military posture we run the risk of having even a modest enemy success publicized as a regression. The present situation, with all forces in South Vietnam fully committed in their respective areas, would not be greatly improved. As a result COMUSMACV cannot influence effectively the course of one operation without disengaging from another.

On the other hand, if Course A was pursued:

e. The greatly intensified pressures against NVN that could be applied by conducting the air and naval operations described in Annex D are not dependent on Course A or Course B force levels. These military actions can be initiated at any time with existing forces. By increasing pressure on the enemy's warmaking capability, the cumulative effect would complement the effects of added deployments in the south. On the other hand, continued restraint, further restrictions or cessation of the air campaign would provide the enemy with an incentive and allow him the means to sustain and increase his support of aggression in SVN relatively unmolested.

On the bombing, the high military chiefs persisted in their recommendations contained in JCSM 218-67 asking for a more effective air/naval campaign against North Vietnam, to include striking (closing) principal North Vietnamese ports. The complete recommendations of the study included:

It is concluded that:

a. The force levels of Course A for FY 68 should be deployed as recommended in JCSM-218-67. They are required in FY 68 to meet the threat posed in I CTZ, to continue the pressures on the VC/NVA in SVN, and to sustain the progress of RD. Course B force levels would not fulfill this requirement.
b. Course A force levels would provide the capability to deploy additional forces in FY 69 should such action be indicated.
c. Course A provides more flexibility in providing the forces in the stipulated time frame for the immediate need, a greater capability to accomplish the mission, and a better posture for possible contingencies than does Course B.
d. As recommended in JCSM-2 18-67, a more effective air/naval campaign against NVN to include the principal NVN ports should be undertaken now with existing forces.
e. Further restrictions or cessation of air action against NVN would tend to prolong the war and could be costly to friendly forces.
f. Significant measures to improve the RVNAF are being taken but only limited improvement can be expected within a reasonable time frame.
g. Efforts to obtain additional allied forces should continue; however, US requirements or capability should not be reduced until the commitments are firm.
h. Communist reactions to Courses A and B, and to the increased air and naval campaign would most likely fall short of forcing a confrontation with the Soviets or Chinese Communists but would involve attempted increased material assistance to NVN and increased propaganda against the United States. Free World support for the United States in each case would not differ materially from the present except where the attacks involved Cambodia.
i. US public reaction to Course A probably would be more favorable than to Course B over the long term.
j. A settlement of the conflict in shorter time at less cost should result from initiating Course A, together with a more effective air campaign.
k. Post-settlement conditions in SEAsia are likely to be better under Course A because of the greater level of US forces on the scene.

A lay-out of the analysis of opposing courses of action as included in this document are presented in the following table:

Part II


For purposes of this portion of the analysis, the following level of military action outside SVN are assumed:

a. Expansion of the use of ARC LIGHT forces in Laos and southern NVN; b. Closing principal NVN ports;
c. Early destruction of remaining high value targets and intensified interdictions of supply movement into NVN by land/sea/air and from NVN to

1. Impact on progress of war.
Course A

Provides forces, in FY 68, to control the enemy threat in the vicinity of the DMZ and simultaneously to sustain initiative and momentum in disrupting enemy main force unit operations, defeating enemy provincial forces and guerrilla forces at the margin of Revolutionary Development, and supporting an expanding area of US efforts. Provides in FY 69, forces for continuing momentum in further expanded area of RD, particularly in II and III CTZ, and a two DFE exploitation force to give COMUSMACV flexibility in destroying enemy main force units and major base areas and responding to contingency situations.

Course B

Requires in-country re-deployment to meet threat to I CTZ thus inhibiting reaction capability in other areas. With only Course B forces, COMUSMACV may not be able to maintain momentum of present offensive operations and to attain objective of expanding area under GVN control. Course B will confront COMUSMACV with a choice between continued large scale offensive operations at expense of securing additional areas for expansion of RD, or slowing tempo of offensive operations to maintain security of areas cleared of enemy. Runs risk of temporary enemy success against vulnerable point in US/FW posture or in slowing of progress of war. Present situation wherein all forces in SVN are fully committed to their respective geographic areas denies COMUSMACV the means to influence the course of one operation without disengaging from another.

2. Impact on settlement.
Course A

While this course of action carries no guarantee of early settlement, psychologically, the nature of the actions taken should convince the enemy of US determination to pursue the war to a successful settlement, and militarily should result in the rapid reduction of enemy controlled and organized efforts in SVN. Net effect should force enemy to conference table or lead-in to final phase of war in which enemy will be defeated.

Course B

This incremental increase in efforts in SVN, in conjunction with increased pressures against NVN, under favorable circumstances, may prevent progress toward settlement. It is more likely, however, that the enemy's determination will not be undermined and that, by renewed effort, the enemy in the South will continue to be controlled and sustained at a sufficient level to unduly prolong the war.

3. Major policy decisions required.
Course A

(1) National decision for callup of Reserves and involuntary extension of terms of service.

(2) Authorization for access to equipment from: CONUS depot assets and programmed production deliveries; operational project contingency, and Reserve component stocks; pre-positioned equipment in Europe; and non-deploying units.

(3) Authorization for reopening of CONUS inactive installations and expansion of facilities.

(4) Timely provision of funds and authorization of strength increases.

Course B

Except for decision in regard to callup of Reserves and extension of terms of service, decisions remain essentially the same but vary in magnitude. However, Course B entails a deliberate decision to pursue the conflict in SEAsia at a level less than that needed to progress steadily toward attainment of US objectives.

4. Probable reaction.

a. Domestic.
Course A

In near term expected to increase opposition and intensify polarization. In long term, expected to coalesce public opinion behind administration's apparent new determination and resolve to terminate war on acceptable terms, particularly if diplomatic efforts for negotiated settlement continue.

Course B

Course B provides little cause for near term change to domestic reaction to the war in SVN but lack of marked results in long term could result in further disenchantment with the war in SEAsia and increased pressure for the US to withdraw under less than acceptable terms.

b. SVN/NVA/Vietcong.
Course A

SVN would defend the targets and seek additional aid. VC/NVA forces in South Vietnam would probably be directed to increase their harassment of the waterways in the South.

Course B

Same as Course A.

Course A

Increased force levels should cause no significant direct Soviet or CHICOM military reaction. Propaganda, and increased material and technical support to NVN expected. Mining of ports and increased air action expected to provoke Soviet diplomatic reactions and deterioration in US-Soviet relations. Introduce new/improved Soviet weapons.

Course B
Same as Course A.

d. International.
Course A

Some adverse reaction generated by callup of Reserves and deployment of allied forces, tempered in certain quarters by realization that US would be in better position to meet worldwide commitments. No major disruption of international attitudes so long as forces used as discussed in Annex D. Increased cries of escalation and some loss of support due to increased air/ naval/actions. Cambodian attacks would generate worldwide pressure against US action.

Course B
No appreciable reaction in international arena as result of increased ground force. Same as for Course A for increased air/naval action and attacks on Cambodia.

5. Probable effect on SVN attitudes.
Course A

Favorable. Awareness of growing force on their side would be expected whet GVN leaders' appetite to "total victory" and might make them reluctant to cooperate with US efforts to bring about negotiated settlement short of defeating VC/NVA.

Course B
Same as Course A, with less impact on "total victory" appetite of GVN leaders.

6. Estimated costs (through FY 69) in addition to approved FY 68 DOD Budget. *

* Gross estimates of costs include one time costs, such as equipping a division, reactivation BB, etc., and annual recurring costs such as pay, O&M, etc. For details see Annex A.

Course A

Army $ 8,650 million
Navy 1,400 million
Air Force 860 million
Marine Corps 1,190 million
Total $12,100 million


Course B

Army $ 5,820 million
Navy 1,145 million
Air Force 690 million
Marine Corps 0 million
Total $ 7,655 million

7. Approximate end strength increases above present force levels (through FY69).

Course A

Army 465,000 (includes 150,000 Reserves mobilized)
Navy 35,000 (all Reserves)
Air Force 48,400 (includes 7,700 ANG mobilized)
Marine Corps 54,500 (all Reserves)
Total 602,900

Course B

Army 204,000
Navy 47,000
Air Force 25,000
Marine Corps 0
Total 276,000

Part of the mystery as to why the numbers in the JCS analysis which we have just discussed differ from those stipulated by Secretary Vance in his request for an analysis of Courses A and B is explained by a 29 May 1967 memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. In it, General Wheeler identified certain factual corrections and annotations noted by the Joint Chiefs which should be entered so as to provide a "common basis of factual material." The corrections, General Wheeler noted, were factual only and did not address matters of policy, strategy, judgment, or opinion, as expressed in the Draft Presidential Memo of 19 May. He went on to comment that as the draft memorandum for the President indicated, COMUSMACV message 09101, 18 March 1967, included a "minimum essential force" for FY 68 and looking beyond, a probable requirement for an "optimum force" through FY 69. These forces totaled 4 2/3 division or force equivalents and 10 TFS-2 1/3 of these division force equivalents and 5 of the TFS to be deployed in FY 68 and the remainder thereafter. COMUSMACV estimated these forces at about 200,000. However, the Chairman continued, "the changed situation in South Vietnam including the formation and deployment of Task Force OREGON, the addition by CINCPAC of other PACOM requirements, and revised service estimates [had] caused variation in the total numbers for FY 63 and beyond. While exact numbers of the larger forces [could not] then be determined unless detailed troop lists are developed the following appeared at this time to reflect more accurately the probable personnel strengths, end strength increases and costs required to provide COMUSMACV a 4½ DFE/PFS optimum force and the additional requirements through FY 69 that have been stated by CINCPAC.

Additional Forces for SEA: 250,000
Additional Service End Strengths: 600,000
Estimated Additional Costs thru FY 69 over Approved FY 68: 12,000,000"

General Wheeler concluded that although the Joint Chiefs of Staff had not recommended the deployment of COMUSMACV's optimum force or even adoption of Course A as used in the Draft Presidential Memorandum, that the corrected figures which he quoted were more nearly representative of Course A than those of the DPM.

On 20 May, Secretary McNamara sent a short memorandum to the President replying to his request for comments on Senator Brooke's letter of 19 May, which proposed integration of the National Liberation Front into some kind of viable political role in South Vietnam's government or in its political life. Although these views coincided very closely to those submitted in the Draft Presidential Memorandum of the day earlier, McNamara commented that despite the fact that Brooke's proposals were almost identical to those which he had suggested he had not discussed any part of the paper or any of the ideas with Brooke.

On the last day of May, the Joint Chiefs of Staff replied to the 19 May Draft Presidential Memorandum prepared by McNaughton. It was a sharply worded and strong reply, expressing strong objections to the basic orientation of the paper as well as its specific recommendations and objectives. The Chiefs resented the implication of the DPM that Course A generally reflected their recommendations. They insisted that Course A as outlined in the DPM was an extrapolation of a number of proposals which were recommended separately but not in concert or ever interpreted as a single course of action as they were in the DPM. The JCS categorically denied that the combination force levels, deployments, and military actions of Course A accurately reflected the positions or recommendations of COMUSMACV, CINCPAC or the Joint Chiefs. They stated that the positions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff which would provide a better basis against which to compare other alternatives were already set forth in JCSM 218-67, JCSM 286-67 and JCSM 288-67.

There were five major areas of concern detailed in the JCSM: objectives, military strategy in operations, military strategy for air and naval war, the domestic attitude and predicted reactions in the international attitude and reaction. Reference objectives, the preferred course of action in the Draft Presidential Memorandum, Course B, was not considered by the military heads to be "consistent with NSAM 288 or with the explicit public statements of U.S. policy and objectives." In the eyes of the Joint Staff:

The DPM would, in effect, limit US objectives to merely guaranteeing the South Vietnamese the right to determine their own future on the one hand and offsetting the effect of North Vietnam's application of force in South Vietnam on the other. The United States would remain committed to these two objectives only so long as the South Vietnamese continue to help themselves. It is also noted that the DPM contains no statement of military objectives to be achieved and that current US national, military, and political objectives are far more comprehensive and far-reaching. Thus:

a. The DPM fails to appreciate the full implications for the Free World of failure to achieve a successful resolution of the conflict in Southeast Asia.
b. Modification of present US objectives, as called for in the DPM, would undermine and no longer provide a complete rationale for our presence in South Vietnam or much of our effort over the past two years.
c. The positions of the more than 35 nations supporting the Government of Vietnam might be rendered untenable by such drastic changes in US policy.

The strategy proposed in the Draft Presidential memorandum which the Chiefs characterized as "making do" was not acceptable either:

Military Strategy and Operations (Other than Air/Naval Operations in the North). The DPM favors Course B with inadequate analysis of its implications for conduct of the war in Vietnam. The strategy embodied in this alternative--largely designed to "make do" with military resources currently approved for Southeast Asia--would not permit early termination of hostilities on terms acceptable to the United States, supporting Free World nations, and the Government of Vietnam. The force structure envisaged provides little capability for initiative action and insufficient resources to maintain momentum required for expeditious prosecution of the war. Further, this approach would result in a significant downgrading of the Revolutionary Development Program considered so essential to the realization of our goals in Vietnam. It would also result in the abandonment of the important delta region on the basis of its being primarily a problem for the Republic of Vietnam to solve without additional external assistance.

There was little more agreement expressed about the bombing, about the domestic attitude or the international attitude:

Military Strategy for Air/Naval War in the North. The DPM stresses a policy which would concentrate air operations in the North Vietnamese "funnel" south of 20°. The concept of a "funnel" is misleading, since in fact the communists are supplying their forces in South Vietnam from all sides, through the demilitarized zone, Laos, the coast, Cambodia, and the rivers in the Delta. According to the DPM, limiting the bombing to south of 20° might result in increased negotiation opportunities with Hanoi. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that such a new self-imposed restraint resulting from this major change in strategy would most likely have the opposite effect. The relative immunity granted to the LOCs and distribution system outside the Panhandle would permit: (a) a rapid recovery from the damage sustained to date; (b) an increase in movement capability; (c) a reduced requirement for total supplies in the pipeline; (d) a concentration of air defenses into the Panhandle; and (e) a release of personnel and equipment for increased efforts in infiltration of South Vietnam. Also, it would relieve the Hanoi leadership from experiencing at first hand the pressures of recent air operations which foreign observers have reported. Any possible political advantages gained by confining our interdiction campaign to the Panhandle would be offset decisively by allowing North Vietnam to continue an unobstructed importation of war materiel. Further, it is believed that such a drastic reduction in the scale of air operations against North Vietnam could only result in the strengthening of the enemy's resolve to continue the war. We doubt the reduction in scope of air operations would also be considered by many as a weakening of US determination and a North Vietnamese victory in the air war over northern North Vietnam. The combination of reduced military pressures against North Vietnam with stringent limitations of our operations in South Vietnam, as suggested in Course B, appears even more questionable conceptually. It would most likely strengthen the enemy's ultimate hope of victory and lead to a redoubling of his efforts. (See Part III, Appendix A, for additional comments.)

Domestic Attitude and Predicted Reactions. The DPM presents an assessment of US public attitude and assumed reactions to several occurrences. Its orientation is toward the risks involved in Course A. The difficulty of making accurate judgments in the area of public response is acknowledged, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff concede that their appraisal is subject to the same degree of uncertainty that is inherent in the DPM. Nevertheless, they are unable to find due cause for the degree of pessimism expressed in the DPM. The Joint Chiefs of Staff firmly believe that the American people, when well informed about the issues at stake, expect their Government to uphold its commitments. History illustrates that they will, in turn, support their Government in its necessary actions. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that there is no significant sentiment for peace at any price. They believe also that despite some predictable debate a Reserve callup would be willingly accepted, and there would be no "irresistible" drive from any quarter for unnecessary escalation of the conflict. (See Part IV, Appendix A, for additional comments.)

International Attitude and Predicted Reaction. There are several inconsistencies between the DPM and the published intelligence estimates. For example, from these intelligence estimates, there is no evidence that Hanoi is prepared to shun negotiation, regardless of the pressure brought to bear, until after the US elections. Also, it is estimated that US prestige will not decline appreciably if prompt military action is taken to bring the conflict to an early close. In the long term, US prestige would probably rise. The effect of signs of US irresolution on allies in Southeast Asia and other friendly countries threatened by communist insurgency could be most damaging to the credibility of US commitments. The DPM contains the view that there is strong likelihood of a confrontation between the United States and the CHICOMs or the USSR, as a result of intensification of air and naval operations against North Vietnam and/or a major increase in US forces in South Vietnam. Intelligence estimates do not support this contention. (See Part V, Appendix A, for additional comments.)

Summarizing, the Chiefs explained that the divergencies between the DPM and the stated policies, objectives and concepts were individually important and in their eyes, reasons for concern. However, as they viewed them collectively, an "alarming pattern" emerged which suggested a major realignment of U.S. objectives and intentions in Southeast Asia. The Joint Chiefs stated that they were not aware of any decision to retract the policies and objectives which had been affirmed by responsible officials many times in recent years (apparently stemming back to NSAM 288). In their view the DPM lacked adequate foundation for further consideration. Their conclusions were strong, namely that the DPM "did not support current U.S. national policy objectives in Vietnam and should not be considered further" and "there is no basis for change in their views in the major issues in the DPM," and that "these views were adequately stated in recent memorandums and reinforced herein." Implementation of Course B in the estimation of the joint body would serve to prolong the conflict, reinforce Hanoi's belief in ultimate victory, and probably add greatly to the ultimate cost in US lives and treasure.

The Joint Chiefs recommended that:

a. The DPM NOT be forwarded to the President.
b. The US national objective as expressed in NSAM 288 be maintained, and the national policy and objectives for Vietnam as publicly stated by US officials be reaffirmed.
c. The military objective, concept, and strategy for the conduct of the war in Vietnam as stated in JCSM-218-67 be approved by the Secretary of Defense.

4. The Last Interagency Round of Alternatives

Certainly the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been correct in detecting the basic policy realignment and the crystallization of opposition to expansive increases in the war in South Vietnam or in the air war over North Vietnam. If they had misread or underestimated anything it was in the magnitude and the strength of this opposition as it began to crystallize throughout different agencies of the government. As the replies to the 19 May DPM from other agencies began to filter in there was little doubt remaining that, in fact, the validity of the assumptions in the DPM were not those being called into question, but the ones of JCSM 218-67 were under attack.

Before the other agency views on the DPM were received, however, the JCS reported in again with their discussion of air operations against North Vietnam. This was in response to a SecDef memo of 20 May 1967 in which McNamara requested the JCS to examine two alternative bombing campaigns-one concentrating the bombing of North Vietnam on the lines of communication in the Panhandle Area of Route Packages 1, 2 and 3, with the concomitant termination of bombing in the remainder of North Vietnam; and the other, to terminate the bombing of fixed targets not directly associated with LOC's in Route Sectors 6A and 6B and simultaneously expand the armed reconnaissance operations in those sectors by authorizing strikes on all LOC's. Furthermore, the second program was to be examined under two alternative assumptions, one in which strikes against ports and port facilities were precluded, and the other, in which every effort was made to deny importation from the sea. (This final option was essentially that recommended in JCSM 288-67 dated 20 May.) To all of this, the JCS concluded that their original recommendation on 20 May represented the most effective way to successfully prosecute the air and naval campaign against North Vietnam. The Joint Chiefs' position was vigorously stated in their conclusion:

The analysis provided in the Appendix supports the conclusion that the recommendations submitted to you on 20 May 1967 represent the most effective way to prosecute successfully the air and naval campaign against North Vietnam. Such a campaign would exert appropriate military pressures on North Vietnamese internal resources while substantially reducing the importation of the external resources that support their war effort and could be accomplished at risks and costs no greater than those associated with the most desirable of the suggested alternatives, Alternative II (Ports Closed). Although the Joint Chiefs of Staff recognize and appreciate the necessity for continuing review, they believe that the campaign selected and recommended to you, together with expanded efforts to increase the destruction and enemy consumption of war materiels in South Vietnam would have a far-reaching detrimental effect on the North Vietnamese capability to support and direct the aggression against South Vietnam.

Secretary McNaughton asked Mr. Martin Bailey to look this JCSM over to determine if there were any areas of agreement between what the JCS proposed on the bombing and what ISA at the time was proposing. Particularly important was the key point on the unlikelihood of meaningful interdiction. Although the Chiefs did not specifically address this, they did state that increased bombing as they had recommended in the earlier JCSM on 20 May would bring about "a deterioration in the enemy's total environment," leading to curtailment of his overall efforts and increased difficulty in his support of the war in the South. The Chiefs had objected to the first alternative that concentrated the bombing on the southern three route packages because they felt that it would not appreciably reduce the flow of men and material to the south; that it would permit the enemy increased freedom of action in the north by allowing him to increase the density of his air defenses in the panhandle or Route Packages 1, 2 and 3, and finally, because they felt that in the long term such a course of action would not appreciably reduce U.S. losses. An undesirable side-effect, furthermore, was that such cutting back might indicate to the DRV a weakening of the United States resolve to the detriment of our basic goals and objectives in Vietnam. Alternative 2 (ports open) was not felt desirable for all of the reasons cited in the earlier JCSMs and, in addition, because it would not effectively degrade the enemy's war-making capability in any way. The "ports closed" alternative was desirable, but, in a listing of priorities, the JCS listed it behind the JCS course of action previously submitted in JCSM 288-67, 20 May 1967, which proposed a wider, concerted attack against all logistics facilities--"the shouldering out" proposal.

The issues then, as they were distilled and presented by the JCS, involved first the notion that total pressure was what was required to bring about some degradation of the North Vietnamese ability to support the war in the south; that pilot losses would not be appreciably decreased, and, finally, that shifting the bombing to the southern Route Packages would be indicative of U.S. failure in North Vietnam. This JCSM was carefully examined by McNaughton and his staff and the major arguments as they were presented by the Joint Chiefs were incorporated in the revised June 12th Draft Presidential Memorandum on the subject of bombing options.

The first detailed feedback from the circulation of the 19 May McNaughton Draft Presidential Memorandum came from William P. Bundy on 2 June when he wrote an incisive and highly perceptive memorandum which argued that the "gut" point in Vietnam was not necessarily the military effect of our bombing or the major force increases and all the rest, but the effect that they had on the South Vietnamese. He wrote:

If we can get a reasonably solid GVN political structure and GVN performance at all levels, favorable trends could become really marked over the next 18 months, the war will be won for practical purposes at some point, and the resulting peace will be secured. On the other hand, if we do not get these results from the GVN and the South Vietnamese people, no amount of US effort will achieve our basic objective in South Viet-Nam- a return to the essential provisions of the Geneva Accords of 1954 and a reasonably stable peace for many years based on these Accords. . . .

It follows that perhaps the most critical of all factors in assessing our whole strategy--bombing, major force increases, and all the rest--lies in the effect they have on the South Vietnamese. On the one hand, it is obvious that there must be a strong enough US role to maintain and increase GVN and popular confidence and physical security; although the point is not covered in the CIA papers, it surely is the fact that in early 1965 virtually all South Vietnamese believed they were headed for defeat, whereas the general assumption today is strongly in the opposite direction, that with massive US help the country has a present chance to learn to run itself and a future expulsion of the North Vietnamese will take place although not perhaps for a long time. We have got to maintain and fortify this underlying confidence and sense that it is worthwhile to get ahead and run the country properly.

On the other hand, many observers are already reporting, and South Vietnamese performance appears to confirm, that the massive US intervention has in fact had a significant adverse effect in that South Vietnamese tend to think that Uncle Sam will do their job for them. This point was not included in the levy on CIA, and it may be that we need a judgment from the Agency, recognizing that it will be "broad brush" at best. The tentative judgment stated above need not be considered a shocking one; in our calculations of two years ago, we anticipated the possibility.

But today, in facing decisions whether to make a further major increase in the US performance and whether to maintain at a high level that portion of the war that is really wholly US--bombing--we must at least ask ourselves whether we are not at or beyond another kind of "cross-over point," where we are putting in an undue proportion of US effort in relation to the essential fact that in the last analysis the South Vietnamese have got to do the job themselves. By "do the job themselves" we mean concretely a much more effective South Vietnamese role in security, pacification, and solid government while the war is going on. But we mean also the progressive development of a South Viet-Nam that can stand on its own feet whenever North Viet-Nam calls it off, and can nail down at that point what could otherwise be a temporary and illusory "victory" which, if it unraveled, would make our whole effort look ridiculous, undermine the gains in confidence that have been achieved in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, and have the most disastrous effects on our own American resolve to bear burdens in Asia and indeed throughout the world.

Turning to the specific question of the 200,000 man force increase Bundy argued that the gains from such a major force increase were increasingly marginal while the effect on the South Vietnamese, a very much more important factor and one which went to the heart of the conflict itself and our ability to achieve a lasting peace, may not be so marginal:

Obviously, the assessment of the effect of our actions on the South Vietnamese is an extremely difficult one. It may be that the "cross-over point" was reached in late 1965, when it became clear that we were conducting a massive intervention; perhaps any further change from additional forces, on any scale, is at most one of slight degree. Certainly we have all felt that our force increases up to their present strength were absolutely required in order to bring about a condition even more essential than maintaining South Vietnamese performance--the blunting and reversing of the North Vietnamese effort that, in 1965, was about to take over the country. But the question now presents itself in a new form, when 200,000 more men do not make the difference between victory and defeat, but at most the difference between victory in three years and victory in 5, on what is necessarily a calculation assuming both South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese performance and morale as relative constants. And, on the other side of the coin, we have reached a point where the South Vietnamese have managed in part to pull themselves together and must learn to do so more. Hence, the gains from major force increases are now more marginal, while the effect on the South Vietnamese must be rated a very much more important factor and one which goes to the heart of the conflict itself and of our ability to achieve a lasting peace.

On the basic objectives, Bundy disagreed with the Chiefs and expressed general agreement with what the McNaughton draft had stated. He believed that the minimum statement which we could make reference our objective in Vietnam was certainly "to see that the people of South Vietnam are permitted to determine their own future." But he felt it much too pat to say that "this commitment ceases if the country ceases to help itself," or even to observe that there are not further elements in our commitment. He believed additional commitments related not only to getting North Vietnamese forces off the backs of the South Vietnamese but to making sure that the political board, as he called it, in South Vietnam was not tilted to the advantage of the NLF.

In his summary, he addressed this question of our commitment again, and then expanded upon what he called the hard core question, that is, what to do if "the country [Vietnami ceases to help itself." Using the teeter-totter analogy, he commented that our commitment must be to see that the people of South Vietnam were permitted to determine their own future and to see that the "political board" was level and not tilted in favor of elements that believed in force. He also believed that we should at least hold open the possibility that a future South Vietnamese government would need continuing military and security assistance and should be entitled to get it. He agreed with the Joint Chiefs' analysis of the DOD draft and their contention that it displayed a negative turn to our strategy and to our commitment in Vietnam:

In terms of our course of action, the major implication--as compared with the DOD draft--is that we will not take our forces out until the political board is level. The implication of the DOD draft is that we could afford to go home the moment the North Vietnamese regulars went home. This is not what we said at Manila, and the argument here is that we should not in any way modify the Manila position. Nor should we be any more hospitable than the South Vietnamese to coalitions with the NLF, and we should stoutly resist the imposition of such coalitions.

On the second question, of what would happen if the Vietnamese could not help themselves or refused to help themselves Bundy argued for more time to take a closer look at the Vietnamese situation, especially the elections, before getting into a negative frame of mind about our Vietnamese military/political/ economic commitment. In arguing this position he broadened the perspective embraced by the question and addressed the [words missing]:

This is a tough question. What do we do if there is a military coup this summer and the elections are aborted? There would then be tremendous pressure at home and in Europe to the effect that this negated what we were fighting for, and that we should pull out.

But against such pressure we must reckon that the stakes in Asia will remain. After all, the military rule, even in peacetime, in Thailand, Indonesia, and Burma. Are we to walk away from the South Vietnamese, at least as a matter of principle, simply because they failed in what was always conceded to be a courageous and extremely difficult effort to become a true democracy during a guerrilla war.

We should not decide this lightly if the case arises, and above all we should not get into a negative frame of mind suggested by the DOD draft until we see what the situation actually looks like. As in Latin American cases, a great deal would depend on how the military ruled, and whether they made some pledge of returning to the Constitution and holding elections in the not-distant future. And a great deal would depend on whether the military coup appeared in any sense justified by extremist civilian actions from any quarter. At any rate, let us not look at this contingency--or any like it--in quite the negative way that the DOD draft suggests. For the effects in Asia may not be significantly reduced if we walk away from Viet-Nam even under what we ourselves and many others saw as a gross failure by the South Vietnamese to use the opportunity that we had given them.

If the ISA group proposing a stabilized ground strategy took heart with the Bundy memorandum, it was positively elated when the reply came from Under Secretary of State Nicholas deB Katzenbach.

Katzenbach quote skillfully outlined the outstanding disagreements included in the draft Presidential memorandum. First, Westmoreland and McNamara disagreed on whether Course A, the infusion of 200,000 troops, would end the war sooner. Under Secretary Vance and the CIA disagreed on the ability of North Vietnam to meet the force increases in the South although, as Katzenbach later noted in his paper, the CIA figures were somewhat outdated and the analysis was not "good." He listed a Wheeler-Vance disagreement on the military effectiveness of cutting back bombing to below the 20th parallel and on whether it would save U.S. casualties. (The Wheeler label on this disagreement is not completely accurate since JCSM 288-67 and the later JCMS 312-67, the bases for this disagreement, were less the product of Wheeler, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, than of the corporate body itself. As Chairman's Memoranda indicate, Wheeler had a much "softer" line on the military effectiveness of the bombing.) The CIA and Vance were seen as at odds because the CIA believed that the Chinese might not intervene if an invasion of North Vietnam did not seem to threaten Hanoi, while Vance stated that an invasion (of any kind) would cause Chinese intervention. Vance believed that the Chinese would decide to intervene if the ports were mined. CIA reports at the time did not mention this possibility. There was basic disagreement, as to whether or not we had achieved the "cross-over point" and more broadly how well the "big war" was going. One optimistic CIA analysis which Bundy quoted contradicted a later CIA statement expressing the view that the enemy's strategic position had improved over the past year. State's INR also disagreed with CIA on Hanoi's basic objectives, with CIA arguing that Hanoi was determined to wear us down or in the vernacular of the time "wait us out," while INR felt that Hanoi was really determined to seek more positive victories in the South. The INR also believed that the bombing was having a greater effect than did the CIA. CIA and Vance, of course, had been saying for some time that all of the worthwhile targets in North Vietnam except the ports had been struck, while as we have seen, the JCS disagreed with this assessment. There was some allusion to the dispute over whether or not inflationary pressures would be aggravated by the increase in U.S. forces under Course A. DOD said that these pressures were under control and could be handled if Course A were adopted, while the CIA felt otherwise. (Comment: This leads to the suspicion that the piaster limitation might not have been as critical as was originally believed and possibly was just an instrument of a sophisticated rationalization for limiting force increases in the earlier programs.) Katzenbach also cited a basic disagreement about just what message an increase of U.S. forces or a massive call-up of Reserves would communicate to Hanoi.

The general goals which the Undersecretary predicated in Vietnam and upon which he based the analysis which followed were: first, to withdraw U.S. forces from Vietnam; we would only do so with the high degree of confidence that three things were accomplished-( 1) that we would be behind a stable democratic government (democratic by Asian standards); (2) that we would confront the prospect of a reasonably stable peace in Southeast Asia for several years; and (3) that we will have demonstrated that we met our commitments to the government of Vietnam. To do these, we had to persuade the North Vietnamese to give up their aggression and we had to neutralize the internal Viet Cong threat while in the process being careful not to create an American satellite nor to generate widespread anti-American sentiment nor destroy the social fabric of South Vietnam, nor incur disproportionate losses in our relations with other countries or bring in so called "enemy" countries.

His overall prognosis for the war was not optimistic. He believed that during the course of the next 18 months, the probability of achieving our goals was quite low. In two or three years, it was possibly higher depending again on what we did during the intervening period. He entered a caveat, however, stating that because of our uncertain knowledge of the motivation and intentions of both the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the VC in the South, that we may be closer to achieving our goals than we thought. Moreover, the Soviet Union and Communist China would influence the course of events in ways not easily predictable over the next three years.
He assessed the battle in South Vietnam as "the key" and reviewed the "big war" of attrition as one in which a flood of contradictory indicators made it much more difficult to appraise. Enemy losses were up 70% in the first quarter of 1967, but so were U.S. losses up 90%. North Vietnamese/VC intentions were also doubtful but they appeared to be set on an intensive grinding position-warfare campaign in the northern provinces coordinated with offensive thrusts in the central coastal provinces and the Western Highlands. All of these then possibly combined with major actions against cities, provincial capitals in the III Corps area. The overall object of such a strategy evidently being to inflict maximum losses on the US/GVN in an effort to break our will. (Here he noted that INR believed that the VC/NVA had a more positive approach and were looking for real victories.

Pacification efforts came in for little praise. There was little real progress reported and the short term prospects were not bright. However, the long term prospects appeared better if ARVN could be more effectively involved. However, it appeared that GVN and ARVN were going to continue moving slowly, corruption was becoming more widespread and the population was increasingly apathetic. Katzenbach said he could not determine whether this was due to growing anti-Americanism or war-weariness or what. He concluded that if we were winning the war, we were not winning it very quickly-it had become a question of the will to persist on either side rather than the attainment of an overwhelming military victory.

With this assessment as background he then analyzed the two courses of action. In his estimation, Course A, which added a 200,000 U.S. troop increment and necessitated a call-up of Reserves possessed the following advantages: It could hasten the end of the war by hurting the enemy more. It could dispel Hanoi's notions about weakening U.S. resolve. It could provide more U.S. troops to be used for main force sweeps and might release U.S. units to help provide security for pacification. It might persuade the Russians to counsel Hanoi to accept some kind of negotiations rather than risk a much expanded war, possibly iin North Vietnam. Katzenbach listed a score of disadvantages for this course of action:

b. Disadvantages:

1. Introduction of these forces could lead to counter-moves by Hanoi, with result we have simply expanded the present war. (Need paper with better analysis of whether Hanoi could add troops.) Our position is one of meeting infiltration, not stimulating it. Even its proponents do not argue it could end the war in less than two years.
2. It might well be viewed by Hanoi as another sign of US impatience and unwillingness to persist. Hanoi might also see a call-up of reserves as a sign that we are running out of manpower.
3. Congressional and public debate on the reserve call-up would be divisive and give comfort to Hanoi.
4. It could mean a total eventual addition of 500,000 men; some limitation on our ability to act elsewhere in the world; and a cost of approximately $10 billion in FY '68.
5. It could lead to irresistible pressures for ground actions against sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos, and increased actions against NVN. Problems involved in such moves--NVN and even Chinese reactions. International disapproval. Problems with Souvanna.
6. Effect on US flexibility and, inevitably, US goals in Viet-Nam.
7. It could produce, to some extent, a growth in the South Vietnamese attitude of "let the US do it."
8. More troops probably mean growth of anti-Americanism. (Although we don't really know how strong it is now.)
9. Inflationary effects in South Viet-Nam.
10. Adverse international reaction to escalation and to what would appear to be significant US move towards a friendly occupation of the country.

Compared to this course the option of maintaining current force levels possessed the twin advantages of avoiding all of those which we just listed, plus it could improve the negotiating environment if some progress were made without an expansion of forces. The disadvantages of this course were also twofold: Hanoi could be encouraged by forces levelling off and the possible bad effect on morale of U.S. and allied forces.

To these original two options Katzenbach added what he called two middle strategies. Each one of these would incur some of the advantages and disadvantages of the two which we just listed above, but to obvious lesser greater degrees. The first "middle" strategy was to add 30,000 troops. This would not necessitate a Reserve call-up. The second was to add enough U.S. forces to "operate effectively against provincial main force units and to reinforce I Corps and the DMZ area." This he estimated would include a Reserve call-up.

The overall recommendation he made in this regard was, first, in the South, to emphasize the war of attrition and to do this by adding 30,000 troops. The complete set of recommendations which followed read:

a. Add 30,000 more troops, in small increments, over the next 18 months. This would show Hanoi and our own forces that we are not levelling off, and yet we would not appear impatient or run into the risks and dangers which attend force increases. Continue to try to get as many more third country forces as possible.

b. Make a major effort to get the South Vietnamese more fully involved and effective. A crucial question. (Separate paper with recommendations--advisers, joint command, threats, etc.) Tell the GVN early in 1968 that we plan to start withdrawing troops at the end of 1968, or earlier if possible, in view of progress in the "big war." Pacification will be up to them.

c. Use the great bulk of US forces for search and destroy rather than pacification-thus playing for a break in morale. Emphasize combat units rather than engineers. Leave all but the upper Delta to the Vietnamese.

d. Use a small number of US troops with South Vietnamese forces in pacification, targetted primarily on enemy provincial main force units. Recognize that pacification is not the ultimate answer-we have neither the time nor the manpower. In any event, only the Vietnamese can make meaningful pacification progress. The GVN should therefore hold what it has and expand where possible. Any progress will (1) discourage the enemy and (2) deprive him of manpower.

e. We should stimulate a greater refugee flow through psychological inducements to further decrease the enemy's manpower base. Improve our ability to handle the flow and win the refugees' loyalty.

f. Devote more attention to attacking the enemy infrastructure. Consider giving MACV primary responsibility for US efforts in this regard.

g. Use all the political pressure we have to keep the GVN clean in its running of the elections. Press for some form of international observation. Play down the elections until they are held, then exploit them and their winner (probably Ky) in the international and domestic press.

h. After the elections, but prior to the Christmas-Tet period, press hard for the GVN to open negotiations with the NLF and for a meaningful National Reconciliation program.

2. In the North--the object is to cut the North off from the South as much as possible, and to shake Hanoi from its obdurate position. Concentrate on shaking enemy morale in both the South and North by limiting Hanoi's ability to support the forces in South Viet-Nam.

a. A barrier, if it will work . . . or

b. Concentrate bombing on lines of communication throughout NVN, thus specifically concentrating on infiltration but not running into the problems we have had and will have with bombing oriented towards "strategic" targets in the Hanoi/Haiphong area. By continuing to bomb throughout NVN in this manner we would indicate neither a lessening of will nor undue impatience.

This recommendation, essentially in line with that of McNaughton and his staff in ISA, was to provide powerful ammunition for the group pressing for a halt to the force increases and some stabilization of the bombing in North Vietnam.

On 8 June, McNaughton dealt once again with the dispute between the JCS and ISA over whether or not Course A as written into the DPM did or did not, in fact, reflect the recommendations of the JCS. Colonel Amos Wright of the Joint Staff had been queried by ISA as to why the JCS had objected to the wording in the DPM which asserted that Course A (or the addition of the 200,000 men) reflected JCS recommendations. The basis of the JCS objection, according to Colonel Wright, was first that the JCS had not yet actually recommended that COMUSMACV and CINCPAC be given the additional 100,000 men they requested for FY 69 and that the DPM discussed, in connection with Course A, various "extreme actions" especially ground actions that the JCS had not actually recommended.

ISA concluded, after this, that although the courses of action included under Course A had not actually been recommended as a complete package by the JCS. The DPM did not, or need not, say this. The Chiefs had discussed these courses of action as ones that "might be required" and had done so in close conjunction with increased force levels and escalated attacks on North Vietnam that they had recommended. Under these circumstances ISA felt justified to argue in the DPM that Course A should be rejected because it could quite probably lead to the "extreme" course of action flagged by the JCS even though the Chiefs had not actually recommended them.

On 12 June, McNaughton submitted a draft memorandum for the President entitled "Alternative Military Actions Against North Vietnam" in which he incorporated the views of State, CIA and the JCS. He analyzed three major alternatives: Alternative A--the JCS proposal to expand the present program to include mining of the ports and attacks on roads and bridges closer to Hanoi and Haiphong; Alternative B--which would continue the present level of attacks but generally restricted to the neck of North Vietnam south of 20 degrees; and Alternative C--a refinement of the then currently approved program. In the memorandum, McNaughton (and later Vance) opposed the JCS program (Alternative A) on grounds that it would neither substantially reduce the flow of men and supplies to the South nor pressure Hanoi toward settlement; that it would be costly in American lives and in domestic and world opinion, and that it would run serious risks of enlarging the war into one with the Soviet Union or China, leaving the United States a few months from now more frustrated and with almost no choice but even further escalation. Refinement of the present program (Alternative C) was also opposed on grounds that it would involve most of the costs and some of the risks of Alternative A with less chance than Alternative A of interdicting supplies or moving Hanoi toward settlement. Finally, McNaughton recommended concentration of the bulk of the bombing efforts on infiltration routes south of the 20th parallel (Alternative B) because this course would, in his words "interdict supplies as effectively as the other alternatives, would cost the least in pilots' lives and would be consistent with effort to move toward negotiations."

Implicit in the recommendations submitted by Vance and McNaughton on 12 June was the conviction that nothing short of toppling the Hanoi regime would pressure North Vietnam to settle so long as they believed they had a chance to win the "war of attrition" in the South. They judged that actions great enough to topple the Hanoi regime would put the United States into a war with the Soviet Union and/or China. Furthermore a shift to Alternative B could probably be timed and handled in such a way as to gain politically while not endangering the morale of our fighting men. In their recommendations, Vance and McNaughton were in agreement with Mr. Nitze, Mr. Brown and Mr. Helms in that none recommended Alternative A. Mr. Nitze, Secretary of the Navy at the time, joined with Vance and McNaughton in recommending B; Dr. Brown, Secretary of the Air Force preferred C; while the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mr. Helms, did not make a specific recommendation but stated that the CIA believed that none of the alternatives was capable of decreasing Hanoi's determination to persist in the war or of reducing the flow of goods sufficiently to affect the war in the South.

The 12 June Draft Presidential Memorandum only momentarily diverted attention from the question of the ground force increases which it so skillfully skirted. However, it achieved one important purpose. It had crystallized opinion and also marshalled an impressive array of opposition against any significant expansion of the bombing for the time being, and reflected a surprising turn toward objectives much different than those originally stated in NSAM 288, anachronisms pursued in virtual isolation by the Chiefs.

Another argument against significant increases of forces in Southeast Asia came from the financial side of the Department of Defense. Balance of payment expenditures associated with the then current level of Southeast Asia hostilities was running about $1.35 billion per year above calendar year 1964 levels. If the effect of increased deployments were proportional, then a 25 % increase in deployment would mean approximately 350 million dollars annual increase. However, as a later memorandum pointed out, the actual effect was not necessarily proportional. On the one hand there were two forces that would cause the increase to be greater than proportional, such as the increased demand leading to an increase in the prices of foreign products and, as demonstrated earlier in 1966, increased DOD expenditures had an effect on the domestic economy that tended to hurt the trade balance in that it caused inflation. On the other hand, and partially offsetting these two forces in the upward direction, there was some fraction of DOD gross IBP expenditures returned to the U.S. via increased exports to the benefitting nations. But this feedback was conservatively estimated at not more than 25%. Whatever the effect might be, more or less than $350 million, it was agreed that it would certainly be substantial and that this should be a major consideration before recommending large force increases or larger programs in Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, in the Department of Defense there was increasing emphasis upon exploration of the increased use of South Vietnamese civilians for U.S. troop support. This was partially in follow-up to the directive from the SecDef to the JCS on 23 May of 1967 which asked them to review their combat service support and headquarters staffing to determine whether all units were required in light of the sharply improved logistics posture and support provided from other sources. As part of the overall program of improving the U.S. "tooth to tail" ratio, the JCS were asked to determine which of the resulting "hard core logistical requirements" could be met by increased use of South Vietnamese civilians for U.S. troop support. A preliminary review by Systems Analysis had indicated a potential for saving approximately 20-25,000 troop spaces. These, in turn, could be reallocated to increase combat force requirements recommended by the JCS or alternatively used to reduce the U.S. burden in Vietnam. The deadline given the JCS for submitting their study was 1 August but as the press for decisions on increased forces became greater McNamara went back to the JCS and asked for both studies before his planned trip to South Vietnam at the end of July. In detailed conversations over force increases with both COMUSMACV and CINCPAC McNamara asked:

Can we not make wider use of Vietnamese to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel performing support functions in SVN? This action would free U.S. men for combat duties and train Vietnamese in skills they will need to help build their nation. I believe it would be wise to expand the analysis I requested on May 23, 1967 (Combat Service Support Staffing in SVN) to include an analysis of each essential combat service support function to determine the extent it can be performed by SVN civilian personnel. The unit-by-unit, function-by-function review of support should be performed first; then, the essential requirements should be evaluated to see which can be met by appropriately trained and supervised SVN civilians. The studies forwarded to me should separately show the line items and number of support personnel no longer required and the number for whom Vietnamese can be substituted.

While organic U.S. military combat service support capability is obviously required in an active combat theater, the requirements in the permanent logistic enclaves, such as Saigon or DaNang, should be less than at forward locations, such as An Khe or Dong Ha. Further, some U.S. military personnel are needed for such contingencies as strikes, but the requirements should vary with the degree of criticality of the functions involved. For example, I understand that MACV's policy is to maintain at least 50% U.S. manning at each deep draft port. Why 50% and not 40% or 60%? Must this rule be followed for all types of port personnel? USARV's use of Pacific Architects and Engineers contract civilians for most of the repair and utility work at 67 SVN locations suggests that neither forward operations nor contingencies are adequate reasons for using as many military personnel for support as we are now.

I also doubt we have adequately explored the use of "Type B" units which are a mix of military cadres and civilian workers. A preliminary review indicates that there are over 72,000 U.S. Army personnel in units which have alternative "Type B" TO&E's. Converting these units to "Type B" would cut military personnel in support roles by over 25,000 men: this might provide another combat division.

5. The McNamara Visit to Saigon

As the Pentagon feverishly prepared the background briefings for Secretary McNamara's forthcoming trip to Vietnam an article discussing the problem of mobilization and force levels in Vietnam broke in the Washington Daily News. It touched a nerve around the Pentagon generating a flurry of correspondence and studies. The article by Jim Lucas, entitled "Partial Mobilization?" with dateline Saigon, observed that the manpower squeeze was on in Vietnam. The United States had 472,000 men in Vietnam according to General William C. Westmoreland, who Lucas quoted as having asked Washington for 200-250,000 more, bringing the total to about 700,000. Lucas concluded on the basis of this remarkably accurate estimate that such a total could not be achieved without some sort of mobilization--at least a partial Reserve call. He wrote that it was equally obvious that the White House did not want any sort of mobilization if it could be avoided before the elections upcoming next year. Most Americans in Saigon, he noted, realized this, but they weren't happy about it. He quoted a helicopter pilot as saying, "A lot of us are going to die before then." The military officers that he had interviewed were especially loath to discuss manpower with anything approaching candor. "I'll be damned if I'm going to tell Charlie how much he has hurt us," one exploded. Lucas also questioned the credibility of military reports and estimates emanating from the White House. He saw clear indications that some records were being camouflaged if not falsified to hide the facts. Many commanders, among them a Marine air group commander, said their reports on personnel and materiel were being consistently upgraded in DaNang and Honolulu before going to Washington. The article wound up on an equally sour note pointing out the various personnel deficiencies by rank and by skills which existed within both the Army and the Marine Corps in Vietnam. It noted that the Army was short of buck sergeants everywhere, rifle companies were extremely short of non-commissioned officers, Marine Corps squads and platoons were operating below acceptable manpower levels, and hundreds of Marine enlisted men with infantry training were being jerked out of other jobs and sent to combat units to replace men in battle.

Lucas had come remarkably close to the truth and as a consequence the replies which were requested from the various service secretaries tended to focus upon the more detailed criticisms of manpower levels in different units in Vietnam, on military occupation specialty shortages, etc. None of the internally generated replies really grappled with the basic issue of whether or not the mobilization level was in fact dictating force levels and requirements in Vietnam.

The 3 July edition of the New York Times featured another article this time by Neil Sheehan, entitled "The Joint Chiefs Back Troop Rise Asked by Westmoreland" in which he noted that 70,000 additional men were needed to retain the U.S. initiative in the ground war. In this article, again very perceptive and accurate, a large amount of detailed information, supposedly classified, surfaced. The writer quoted the Joint Chiefs of Staff as having warned the Johnson Administration that if General William C. Westmoreland's minimum request for 70,000 more troops was not met the United States would run "a high risk of losing the initiative in the ground war in South Vietnam." Sheehan noted that the recommendation was submitted to Mr. McNamara on April 20 according to his sources and the administration had taken no action on it. This was, of course, JCSM 218-67. Sheehan believed the inaction on the COMUSMACV request was because the administration could not grant the increase without a partial mobilization of Reserves and significant rise in war costs--an estimate that was remarkably close to the truth. In the article Sheehan also revealed discussions about two alternatives, or what he called two levels of requirements, both of which he correctly identified as the "optimum" and the "minimum essential." He was a bit short of the level of the optimum quoting it as only 5 divisions or about 150,000 men. According to Sheehan's sources, Westmoreland had not supported his request for the "optimum" with the detailed arguments, apparently believing that he had little hope of obtaining it. But, the general had argued strongly for his minimum requirement of two more divisions with supporting units, about 70,000 men, warning that he needed these troops to retain the initiative in South Vietnam. On the 4th of July, Secretary McNamara sent a note to Mr. Phil Goulding, Public Affairs, asking him to follow up with Secretary of the Army Resor for replies to the charges made in the Sheehan article. On 5 July, Secretary Resor replied that in view of the low fill levels for officers in the Seventh Army, which reflected upon the overall Army readiness and which tended to substantiate some of the charges Sheehan had made about the problem of drawing down Army forces all over the world to supply Vietnam, he believed DOD should not attempt to answer Sheehan in the public press, and the matter rested there.

To prepare the SecDef for his trip and to help him get at what were considered to be the "gut" questions to be asked on his field trips, especially reference pacification, Assistant Secretary of Defense Enthoven sent him a study entitled "Holbrooke/Burnham Study on Vietnam." Enthoven cited this study as a perfect example of why the U.S. involvement in Vietnam was so costly. In the Binh Chan district of Gia Dinh Province there were 6,000 U.S. and GVN troops that were tied down by the VC who really had more than a company stationed there. According to Enthoven and to the Holbrooke/Burnham Study, there was no prospect now that things would change or that anything resembling permanent pacification would take place. Holbrooke and Burnham attempted to tell why. According to them there had been a total failure in rooting out the VC infrastructure; that is, the VC officials and organizers, and unless such infrastructure was destroyed, US-GVN military and pacification forces soon degenerated into nothing more than an occupation Army. Holbrooke cited Operation FAIRFAX which began as a sweep of Binh Chan but bogged down rapidly into a static defense. He concluded that if U.S. forces were withdrawn after FAIRFAX, the VC would be in control of the area almost immediately. Enthoven was pleading for the Secretary of Defense to reorient his questioning as he toured the pacification and rural areas. He wanted the SecDef to specifically focus on the infrastructure questions. He recounted what he had seen as the typical briefing on pacification, the one which first covered the demoralization of the VC in area, the reduced number of incidents, but then skipped over the infrastructure question and went on to the pig program, the number of wells dug, hog cholera inoculations and so forth. Accordingly, he suggested that Mr. McNamara might pursue the following questions when talking to briefing officers on the field trip:

1. Is there an intelligence collection center in this district? Is there a U.S. adviser responsible for the center?
2. Who in this district has specific responsibility for rooting out the infrastructure? on the U.S. side? on the GVN side? What unit of command exists in intelligence gathering? in anti-infrastructure operations?
3. In this district what are the assets available for rooting out the infrastructure? Which are available full-time and which are available part-time? Are these assets sufficient given the population of the district, its area, etc?
4. In a step-by-step manner how do these assets function in rooting out the infrastructure?
5. What guidelines have you developed to measure success in rooting out the infrastructure? How can you tell how well you are doing?

Despite the prospect that these questions might prove very embarrassing to those giving the briefing, Enthoven felt that they were extremely important and they must be answered or pacification might not ever succeed. Of course, he did not include the crucial question, this being whether or not U.S. forces should be or even could be profitably engaged in pacification. The answer to that question, whatever it may be, could have a significant impact upon how U.S. decision-makers viewed any future increases in U.S. forces justified by the pacification requirement.

Probably the most important paper which the Secretary of Defense took with him as he departed for Saigon on 5 July was a study prepared by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis, Alain Enthoven, entitled "Current Estimate of Additional Deployment Capability." In it, Systems Analysis had updated their original estimate of what the Army could provide and was now convinced that approximately 3 2/3 division equivalents could be provided to MACV by 31 December, 1968 without changing tour policy, calling Reserves, or deploying NATO STRAF units. Although development of this force would require drawing upon critical skills and equipment from NATO STRAF, thus reducing their readiness, the capability plan still satisfied the key requirement of not sheltering the mobilization "pane" while still furnishing the 2 2/3 nominal division force. The 2 2/3 force consisted of (1) the 198th Brigade, which had already been approved for PRACTICE NINE; (2) the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade, partially approved and standing offshore, (3) the ARCOV Rifle Company packets for use in making up the 33 additional rifle companies (an earlier approval from the Secretary of the Army had been denied because of the absence of trade-off slots for the 5,500 odd men in this group); (4) the 101st Airborne Division minus one unit which had already been deployed; (5) the 11th Infantry Brigade and a new Infantry Division. Systems Analysis evaluated the augmentation of 33 additional companies as being worth one Division to which they would add the 2 2/3 that were named units, thereby making up the 3 2/3 Division equivalents. The Table which accompanied this study is shown below.

December 31, 1968

Land Forces Program 4 as of 3/18/67 MACV 3/18/67 Proposal Estimated Capability
Strength (000) 381 170 92 (b)
Divisions 8 1/3 (a) 4 2/3 2 2/3 + 1 (c)
Maneuver Bns (87) (42) (24 + 11) (d)
Artillery Bns 60 2/3 31 13
Engineer Bns 48 14 14 (e)
Helicopter Cos. 62 20 10 (f)
Signal Bns 11 6 2

(a) Excludes 1 Armored Cay Regt.
(b) Includes 6000 Army contract personnel.
(c) 2 2/3 nominal division equivalents plus 1 additional division equivalent representing the significance of ARCOV augmentations.
(d) 24 maneuver battalions plus the equivalent of 11 additional (approximate) because of ARCOV augmentations.
(e) Includes 6 battalion equivalents of contractor personnel.
(f) 17 companies by end Feb. 69.

The total basic units strength under this 32/3 division equivalent was 51,249 troops, with a total force strength of 86,213. Although the documents which are available are unclear on this point, it appears that Secretary McNamara was prepared to authorize eventual deployment of all of the 32/3 division equivalent force. Although, again, the documentation is incomplete it appears that he had been given the green light by the President to negotiate anywhere below this level but not to exceed it, that is, not to bump up against the crucial mobilization line.

Within the staffs preparing the briefings and the background papers for the SecDef as he departed for Saigon there was a generally held belief that this was the scenario which the Saigon visit would follow: The Secretary would explore in detail the justifications for General Westmoreland's minimum essential force after which he and the General would bargain and negotiate the civilianization differences which could be worked out. This "compromise" would be the ultimate force package--Program V. There was little or any doubt among those working on the exact force levels and composition of the different packages, that the 86,000 total which had been developed in the Systems Analysis memorandum would not be exceeded and probably that the final force program package added would approximate closer to 50-65,000.

The briefings given the Secretary in Saigon divulged very little different from the considerations and arguments presented ad nauseam in Washington. In fact they were devoted to nothing more than supporting the programs already submitted which were under consideration in Washington. But the discussions are useful to get a feel for what greeted McNamara in SEA and the tenor of thought of those operators on the ground in South Vietnam. Ambassador Bunker's remarks were guarded, attributed partly to the fact, as he noted, that he had been in Vietnam barely more than two months; Secretary McNamara and perhaps many others out from Washington had spent more total time in Vietnam than he had. Bunker proclaimed that there was general agreement as to what U.S. objectives were, but he wanted to recall them. They included:

1. A just durable and honorable peace through negotiations leading to a political settlement acceptable to the United States, the GVN, Hanoi and
2. A chance for the Vietnamese people to choose freely the form of government under which they wish to live;
3. To help them build their own political institutions and develop a viable economy;
4. To make credible our obligations under the Charter of the UN and SEATO to resist aggression;
5. Eventually to develop regional organizations through which the Southeast Asian countries can carry on joint undertakings in economic development and mutual cooperation.

He appraised our progress in the direction of achieving these objectives and noted that the difficulties that we were to face were still formidable. He disliked the term "the other war." To him, it was all one war having many aspects but all a part of the whole with each of them important and essential in achieving a successful conclusion. He thought the problem of Vietnamese capabilities and performance was partially a function of the fact that there was a relatively thin crust of managerial and organizational talent. This talent had to be located and the personnel possessing it trained as we went along. He counseled patience explaining that we could not expect the same degree of competence, efficiency or speed from the Vietnamese that we demanded of ourselves and that this tardiness on the part of the Vietnamese to react often became frustrating and required the exercising of great patience in the future. He did not sound like a man anticipating a quick solution to the problem--especially a quick military solution. He felt that realism demanded that a number of programs receive top priority. He listed:

1. A vigorous, imaginative and flexible prosecution of the war within acceptable limits.
2. Through free and honest elections establishing a broadly based stable, functioning, constitutional government.
3. An expedited pacification program which will win the allegiance of the Vietnamese people including the Viet Cong, and which offers them the opportunity to become part of the social fabric of the country.
4. Reorientation of the mission of the Vietnamese Armed Forces and their revitalization with increased emphasis on improvement and quality.
5. The optimum use of available manpower.
6. Economic stability and development.

He was basically optimistic about the progress of the military war:

In a series of splendidly executed offensive operations undertaken by General Westmoreland since late April in which a total of over 12,000 of the enemy have been killed in action, the enemy has been kept off balance and his time schedule has been disrupted. It seems apparent that the main effort of the enemy to achieve his summer campaign objectives has been postponed from May at least until July. General Westmoreland's strategy of anticipating enemy threats has paid off handsomely and is one which he intends to continue in view of what he foresees as an intensification of enemy attempts to achieve his summer campaign objectives.

An encouraging element of these recent operations has been evidence of increased effectiveness of the Vietnamese Armed Forces. In a number of heavy engagements throughout the country ARVN units have turned in highly creditable performances. They contributed materially to the success of the initial operations in the DMZ, killing 342 enemy with a loss of only 31 of their own forces. In a total of 14 other operations in the I Corps area during the past six weeks, ARVN units accounted for 1,400 enemy killed in action. In the II Corps area they also have given a good account of themselves and recently in the Delta area of IV Corps conducted a highly successful operation. I believe that where the ARVN is weakest, however, is in their pacification role where motivation and performance still leave much to be desired. Here, of course, the Regional and Popular Forces are also important elements and all are getting increased attention. While ARVN morale and performance have been improving there is evidence that that of the VC has been declining. It has had increasing difficulties in recruiting and a growing share of the enemy war effort is being assumed by Hanoi.

But he too saw that the crux of the military problem was how to choke off the North Vietnamese infiltration. To him doing this, which he fully believed feasible, carried at least three primary advantages:

a. It would drastically reduce the dimensions of our problem in South Viet-Nam. Militarily we would be dealing only with the Viet Cong whose problems of recruitment and supplies would be enormously multiplied lacking the assistance and reinforcements of North Viet-Nam. I believe the result would be that the Viet Cong would eventually wither on the vine.
b. When the infiltration is choked off, it should be possible to suspend bombings at least for a period and thereby determine whether there is substance to the statement in many quarters that Hanoi would then come to negotiations; we should at least call their bluff.
c. Tensions now existing between the U.S. and Viet-Nam on the one side and Cambodia on the other should be, over a period of time, relieved and our relations with Cambodia improved, even though initially Sihanouk might continue to allow the NVA/VC to use Cambodia as a haven and a source of certain supplies.

He realized full well that the means employed to achieve such an objective, of course, presented many difficult and delicate problems, both military and political, but he expressed confidence "that with imagination and ingenuity, these can be met . . . "

What is involved, of course, are operations within Laos but I do not believe this fact should present insuperable obstacles. The North Vietnamese Government is a signatory to the 1962 Geneva Accords but its forces have been in Laos both before and since the signing of the Agreements. It is now using Laos as the main route for infiltration into South Viet-Nam. Is it not logical and reasonable, therefore, that South Vietnamese troops should oppose and combat North Vietnamese offensive action by whatever method can be devised in order to prevent the invasion of their country? Guarantees, of course, would have to be given to the Lao Government by the South Vietnamese, and I believe should be underwritten by us, that Vietnamese troops were on Lao territory for defensive purposes only and would be withdrawn immediately when peace is secured. The operation, especially in its preparatory stages, should be carried out with as much security and secrecy as possible. I have made some recommendations as to methods we might use to achieve these objectives. This is a matter which I believe we should pursue with the utmost concentration.

These views, of course, accorded with those which the military had been pressing for some time. COMUSMACV was fortunate in having such ,a staunch ally in his battle for expanded operations into the sanctuaries as well as the moral support for a more intensive war effort. Bunker concluded his short introduction by outlining his current assessment and summarized by saying that Hanoi's stance was one of determined inflexibility until the situation developed more clearly in favor of either the United States or the North Vietnamese. Under these conditions, he concluded that Hanoi might consider the next six-ten months a crucial time of testing of wills. The period coincided with the monsoon season, most favorable to the VC militarily and this, combined with electoral pressures in South Vietnam followed by the pre-electoral period in the United States with its mounting pressures for resolution of the Vietnam conflict, seemed to indicate to Hanoi that a crucial period of developments was emerging. Bunker estimated that Ho Chi Minh held to the expectation that the United States could not significantly curb infiltration or destroy the VC's military and political capability in the next six to twelve months, and that by their domestic and international political pressures would dominate the course of events demanding some sort of resolution of the war unfavorable to United States interests.

COMUSMACV, who followed the briefing by Ambassador Bunker, interpreted United States overall strategy as one of applying such pressure on the enemy as would destroy his will to continue the aggression. In COMUSMACV's words,

. . . . we must convince the enemy that he cannot win, that time is not on his side. I believe that this strategy will succeed, provided we step up the pressure by reinforcing our mounted successes. The grueling success of our air and sea offensive is being matched by the less dramatic success of our ground campaign. Although our strategy in the South is necessarily defensive, our tactics are decidedly offensive.

Of particular importance General Westmoreland felt was that the enemy had been refused strategic or significant tactical success:

It has been my objective to frustrate the enemy's plans, therefore I have given overriding attention to maneuvering troops to deny them battlefield successes and psychological opportunities.

During the past year, the enemy has--

a. Been forced by our naval operations to abandon plans to bring in large tonnages by sea.
b. Had to resort to use of the long rugged land supply route through Laos.
c. Been denied recruits in the numbers required from the populated areas along the coast, thereby forcing him to supply manpower from North Vietnam.
d. Been denied rice from the coastal provinces of I and II Corps in the quantities required, thereby forcing him to transport rice from North Vietnam or to buy rice from Cambodia.

In summary, COMUSMACV believed that North Vietnam was paying a tremendous price with nothing to show in return. In his words: "The situation is not a stalemate; we are winning slowly but steadily and this pace can accelerate if we reinforce our successes. Therefore, I believe we should step up our operations in pacification in the south, increase the pressure in the north, and exercise new initiatives in Laos."
The J2 estimate which followed COMUSMACV's overall assessment concluded that:

Overall, the enemy must be having personnel problems. His losses have been heavy, and his in-country recruiting efforts unsatisfactory. He is probably attempting to make good his losses by heavy infiltration, but we cannot conclusively prove this, nor do we know how successful he has been. We hear frequently of the so-called "Cross-over point"-that is, when we put out of action more enemy per month than we estimate he brought into country and recruited for that month. This is a nebulous figure, composed as you have seen of several tenuous variables. We may have reached the "cross-over point" in March and May of this year, but we will not know for some months;

and that the enemy could be expected to:

(1) present a constant threat in widely separated areas, (2) attrite US, FW and ARVN forces, and (3) gain military victories for propaganda purposes.

If our analysis is correct, his Main Forces have failed to carry out their part of the enemy's campaign plan. He has maintained his Main Force units as a threat-in-being, largely at the sacrifice of the other MF tasks. His immediate problem then, must be to improve his MF capabilities and operations.

From this analysis, what can we expect of the enemy in the future? First, we believe that direct participation and control of the war in the South by NVA will increase. The Northern Front, the DMZ Front, and B-3 Front have emerged as major NVA Control Headquarters. North Vietnamese leadership in III CTZ is increasing with the introduction of NVA units and political cadre. Senior Generals in COSVN are North Vietnamese. The B-3 Front and MR 5 are commanded by NVA generals. We have seen an increase in the number of personnel taken from MRIII in NVN whereas most of his personnel previously came from MR IV. This indicates an enemy willingness to draw down on his strategic reserves in the North to restore the situation in the South. Another indication of growing NVA control is the increased professionalism of his operations. His equipment is better, he uses heavier and more modern weapons, and his techniques (infantry-artillery coordination) more polished. It is obvious that the NVA effort has increased and will continue to increase as the VC effort falters.

Second, since we foresee increased NVA participation, we believe that the enemy is now, or will shortly, bring in significant numbers of NVA infiltrees or units. He must attempt to reinforce the units in the coastal areas. He must attempt to regain the initiative around the periphery of SVN. He must attempt to attrite us. To do this he will need more strength than we now see at hand.

To support this build-up the Laos corridor becomes increasingly important to the enemy. . . . You know of the location of base areas in the Laos Panhandle which serve as logistical, rest, and training bases and permit the orderly movement of both men and material to SVN. There has been heavy truck movement through the Laos Panhandle which began in November and December and continued throughout the dry season. To improve his capability of supporting the war in SVN, he has constructed numerous bypasses at critical points along roads throughout the Panhandle, extended Route 922 east into the Ashau Valley, and improved and extended Route 96 south to Route 110 and Base Area 609. . . . Prior to the onset of the Monsoon Season, Route 110 was a heavily used, main supply route leading from Cambodia, through Laos into SVN.

Use of Cambodia will also be increased. . . . The enemy has established a Military Region 10 in SVN which extends into Cambodia. He has stated that MR 10 is to become the biggest base area of the war. He has formed a replacement and refitting center reported to be 8,000 strong, in the Fishhook Area for units badly mauled in SVN. An agent recently reported a VC arsenal in the Parrot's Beak which produces assorted mines, and repairs weapons. We do know that the Parrot's Beak area is often used by the VC in moving men and supplies between Tay Ninh Province and the Delta.

Such an analysis held little prospect for the fading away which had been predicted for this time of year in 1967. Furthermore, these trends carried with them significant developments in terms of future enemy operations and these operations tended to shape the strategy which COMUSMACV was planning to pursue for the remainder of the year. The J2 summarized by noting, first, the advantages and disadvanatges of the so-called enemy "peripheral strategy," an exercise which emphasized that the Laos and Cambodia sanctuaries were becoming increasingly important to the enemy:

What does this mean in terms of future enemy operations? From peripheral base areas in NVN, Laos, and Cambodia, he can launch attacks designed to draw us into the border areas. . . . These operations can be mounted from terrain which is most difficult for our intelligence effort to penetrate. When forced to withdraw, the enemy will have sanctuaries into which he can move to break contact, rest, refit and train. This arrangement gives him flexibility in choice of operational objectives. For example, he can launch offensive operations through the DMZ, he can attempt to seize the two northern provinces; he can attempt a thrust through the Central Highlands from Base Area 609 toward the coast, he can threaten Pleiku and Darlac; he can launch an offensive from MR 10 toward Phuc Tuy Province. Obviously, he can combine several of these options. When he encroaches from the sanctuaries in force, we must go to meet him. We cannot permit him to win territory, intimidate the people, and move freely about the countryside and thus, gain the psychological victory he wants.

This enemy "peripheral strategy" has disadvantages, too. He will have to move supplies from secure areas in Laos and Cambodia to those units located deep inside SVN, where once he might have supported them with relative ease by sea. Weather conditions impose restrictions upon his land lines of communication, especially during the wet season. POL and wheeled vehicle requirements are increased as is his maintenance needs. Inside SVN, he will be hard pressed to support large scale military operations along the coastal plains because of his long, insecure, LOC's. Thus, he will find it difficult to make his main force presence felt in the heavily populated areas. In turn, this will reduce his access to manpower, taxes, rice and other supplies normally procured from these populated coastal areas.


In summary, here are the significant elements of the enemy situation as we see them:

1. His strategy of the war of attrition is unchanged, and his determination to carry it out is evident.
2. He has been hurt, particularly in the coastal areas of II Corps and around Saigon.
3. His Main Forces have not carried out their part of the enemy's strategic plan.
4. His Main Force units require additional strength to carry out their role.
5. The war is becoming more and more an NVA war, and Laos and Cambodia are becoming increasingly important to him.

The J3 briefing continually emphasized that a major redisposition of U.S. forces had been required to take full advantage of the opportunities to engage the enemy. This was especially true in I, II and III CTZ's, primarily in the DMZ area, in the Qui Nonh and in the border regions at the juncture of Kontum and Pleiku Provinces. After a brief discussion of the different force packages which had been requested by COMUSMACV/CINCPAC, the J3 went on to outline the major tasks to be accomplished. They were:

1) Contain enemy at borders
2) Locate and destroy VC/NVA
3) Neutralize enemy base areas
4) Maximum support to RD
5) Open and secure LOC
6) Interdict enemy LOC
7) Secure key installations
8) Emphasize Psy Ops

J3 then presented a comparison of friendly and enemy maneuver battalions projected through 30 June 1967. Then, he compared maneuver battalions, this time applying a weighted factor of 3 to each U.S. and Free World battalion and a factor of 1 for each RVNAF or VC/NVA battalion. These tables are shown


31 Dec 66 79 23 153 255
30 Jun 67 85 23 154 252

837 RF Co's and 4028 PF Plt's

30 Jun 68 111 24 154 289

Prog 4





VC/NVA MNVR BNS US/FW/GVN Mnvr Bns BN Equivalent Ratios *
End FY 66 161 220 2.2
End FY67 162 262 3.1
End FY 68 162 (?) 289 4.5

* 1 US/FW Bn Equivalent to 3 VC/NVA Bn.

Using these figures as a basis for comparison the J3 then detailed what the enemy threats appeared to be especially in light of increased or continued enemy infiltration. To meet these threats he listed three roles in which our forces were deployed. One, containment or anti-invasion forces, countered the threat along the DMZ and were needed for deployment opposite enemy sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia. Two, pacification and security forces required for support of RD and security of base installations in LOC's; and three, offensive forces required to defeat the enemy in the main force war and to invade his in-country base areas. Under Course of Action A (Minimum Essential)-21 battalions were required for containment; 168 for pacification and security; and 100 for main force offensive, for a total of 289 by the end of FY 67. These were, in the words of J-3 "within the time frame under discussion a fixed overhead or a down payment on winning the war which must be paid."

Under Course of Action B (Optimum), the J3 estimated that containment forces would be increased to 27, this being based on the need to counter the expected increased build-up of enemy forces along the DMZ, in Laos and in Cambodia, all assumed possible because of restraints on air interdiction plus the enemy's continued freedom of action in the trans-border sanctuaries.

Of the 42 U.S. battalions then committed to pacification/security, 16 were in support of RD, 13 were in combined pacification/security roles, and an additional 13 were assigned base and line of communication security missions. Of the 22 free world battalions, 21 were on pacification and security roles and one on a security role only. Of the 80 RVN armed force battalions 53 were assigned RD support roles and an additional 27 were assigned security missions. Of the total number of maneuver battalions available at the end of FY 67, 25 U.S., one Free World and 71 ARVN battalions were considered available for offensive operations. Then, using the battalion equivalents which he had quoted earlier, the J3 analyzed what he had labelled Courses A and B:

For a discussion of offensive capabilities under course of action A and B, let us turn to the second slide (UU). It summarizes the previous one and shows the aggregate number of US, Free World, and GVN battalions by the role to which committed. Note that the 97 battalions available for offensive operations at the end of FY 67 increases to 100 under course of action B. However, these numbers do not give the true picture. By applying the battalion equivalent ratio of 3 for a US or Free World battalion and 1 for an ARVN battalion, the offensive capabilities at present are 149 ARVN bn equivalents. Course of action A represents a 34% increase (200 bn equivalents) over our present offensive capability. Course of action B represents only a 4% increase (155) over our present offensive capability. These offensive forces are what remain after commitment of forces to containment of the enemy threat and pacification and security. (The end FY 67 column was the actual distribution of units as of 30 June 1967. However, during any given week the forces in the containment and offensive roles, and to a lesser degree, those performing pacification/security missions will vary. It would be misleading to say they represent precise estimates, rather the numbers are representative of the basic distribution of our forces to varying roles and illustrative of the type of war we are fighting.) It is possible that additional forces may be required for containment since the 27 battalions represent only an estimate of what will be necessary. If so, we may be required to take units from the pacification and security or offensive roles. Should this be required, course of action A provides a greater operational flexibility for offensive action or reinforcement of our containment forces. Under course of action B, however, response to contingencies must be met at the expense of forces committed to pacification and security or offensive roles.

In summary, the reduced forces under course of action B; the limitation of air operations north of 20° latitude; and the restriction of ground action to South Vietnam could reinforce Hanoi's determination to prolong the conflict. In particular, the restriction of out-of-country air and ground operations would increase the enemy's capability to concentrate his defense, maintain his LOC's and require us to divert additional ground forces to the containment role. Under these circumstances, we present the enemy increased options to prolonging the war. Course of action B does not provide us with reasonable assurance that, given the present objectives, there would be any prospects of an early settlement of the conflict. This is not to imply we might not eventually win the war of attrition but it would be a long drawn out process and would postpone the time when US forces could redeploy from South Vietnam.

The sum total of the briefings did not vary from what McNamara had heard so many times before: that there was an increasing NVA presence in control of the war; that it was increasingly becoming a main force battle; that the sanctuaries were becoming increasingly important to the enemy both for the logistics and tactical advantages they offered. It was clear that MACV's view of the war in these terms, as increasingly a main force battle to be fought by American units, had considerable influence upon the strategies that they pursued, as well as their calculations of resources required to carry them out. By the final day of his visit in Saigon no resolution of the ground force requirements had really been arrived at. However, on the final evening, Secretary McNamara and General Westmoreland, accompanied by General Abrams sat down after dinner and worked out what seemed to be an equitable provision of forces below the mobilization level. In this, they took what was commonly accepted as available, approximately the 32/3 divisions outlined by Enthoven, and substracted those which the COMUSMACV had stated were possibly available for civilianization during the next year, some 14,400. Computed, this came to approximately a 45,000 force increase, since part of the PRACTICE NINE barrier brigade had already been included in the Program 5 total.

The events of the next week, July 8-13, indicated that COMUSMACV was not completely prepared to support the 525,000 level which was agreed upon, a level, incidentally, which coincided with the old Program 4 optimum request submitted by COMUSMACV in the fall of the previous year. General Dunn, who was General Westmoreland's force planner, worked his staff throughout the night prior to the Secretary of Defense's departure on the 9th. He prepared a rough troop list under the 525,000 limit which he hand carried back to the Joint Staff for refinement.

6. The Compromise--Slightly More of the Same

At the point of Secretary McNamara's return to Washington, planning on force structures travelled along two parallel tracks for the next week. As General Dunn conferred with the JCS and the Joint Staff and they tried to refine the force within the 525,000 level, Secretary McNamara initiated a study in Systems Analysis to flesh out the 525,000, or as so often was the case, to prepare the OSD position with which to compare and evaluate the JCS recommendation which would come. According to Mr. McNamara's instructions to Secretary Enthoven, the 525,000 package would include 19 battalions in addition to the 87 already included in Program 4 through the previous March. The sources of the 19 battalions were to be as follows: 3 PRACTICE NINE barrier brigade; 3 from the 9th MAB, 6 from the deployment of the 101st Airborne Division; 3 from the 11th Infantry Division (the Brigade in Hawaii), and 4 new battalions formed in lieu of the 24 rifle companies proposed in the ARCOV recommendation. In addition to these 19 battalions, 9 ARCOV rifle company equivalents, equivalent to three more battalions in foxhole strength, would be approved if they could be included in the 525,000 ceiling. (This accounts for the original ARCOV total of 33 battalions dropping out in the subsequent figures and planning for Program 5). The 525,000 also included five TFS, 3 Air Force and two Marine. Of these squadrons, two Air Force would be scheduled to move. The other three would be included in the plan but without a movement schedule, although as a footnote, "their availability when needed" was recognized. Enthoven proceeded by directing that Program 5 should be prepared for publication with a strength of 525,000 minus the strengths of the three air squadrons now scheduled for deployment.

Another subject which occupied much focus of attention in early July when Program 5 approached final approval was how to go about obtaining additional troops from our allies in South Vietnam.

A 13 July 1967 memorandum for Rusk, McNamara, Rostow and Katzenbach, Subject: Messages to Manila Nations and Possibilities for Additional Troop Contributions, prepared by William P. Bundy following a luncheon with the President indicates just how urgently everyone saw the problem and how much they desired to obtain troops from these sources. In accordance with the directives at the luncheon, Bundy had put together a series of letters making the need for additional forces more clear and blunt. Even though the letters were all put in terms of early indication of prospects or exchanges of views rather than a blunt request for additional forces, the message was unmistakeable. Australia and New Zealand were seen as being prepared to come in with "more" but it was expected that their contribution would be modest in relation to the need, perhaps 2,000 or 3,000 from the Australians and a few hundred from the New Zealanders. The Philippines were characterized as a "doubtful starter," at least in the immediate future. Anything over 2,000 from the Philippines by whatever route seemed highly unlikely. In Korea, Park himself seemed to be willing, but he had already fended off the Vice President's general approach completely and it was clear that he intended to get his political situation straightened out before he moved with any additional forces for the United States. At best Korea appeared to be a prospect for action in late fall and with perhaps an additional division coming by the end of the year. Thailand was considered a possibility with the thought that it might come through with an additional 3-5,000 over the next six months, but it would, in Bundy's words, "take very careful handling." In fact, earlier on 3 July the President had had a conversation with the King of Thailand on just this very subject. The President had posed the problem raised for the United States by the need to respond to General Westmoreland's request for an additional 200,000 troops. He said that it would be impossible for him, President Johnson, to get support for such additional forces unless the troop-contributing allies also put in more troops on a proportional basis. Thanat pointed out that when the Thai government asked for 2,500 volunteers in Vietnam, 50,000 had come forward, but the King pointed out the problem was not men willing to fight, but training and weapons. The President said that we could help with training and equipment. The problem was to get a distribution of the 200,000 which was fair and equitable. The President then asked Mr. Rostow on the basis of population how might the extra 200,000 be distributed? Rostow had replied that it came out to something like 125,000 and 75,000, with Thailand required to put up about 20,000 as its share. The King then cited three problems: the quality of recruits, to which the President had said we also had to draw on and train men of lower IQ and physical quality than we might wish; the training and equipment of additional troops and the improved equipment of the forces left behind in Thailand. The King elaborated at some length on the psychological and political problems posed by the latter element, saying it was very hard for the military to accept sending troops abroad well equipped when they themselves were lacking in modern equipment. After discussing the specific equipment, the President telephoned Secretary McNamara and informed him of the King's response to which McNamara said that it would not be worth our while to train and equip a few thousand more Thais for Vietnam but if Thailand could furnish 10,000 he could guarantee their training and equipment.

On 20 July, the Joint Chiefs of Staff responded to the request from the Secretary of Defense for the detailed troop list providing the specified forces for COMUSMACV within the ceiling of 525,000. Significantly in this JCSM, the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not concur in the inclusion of the elements of the 9th MAB and the non-deployed tactical fighter squadrons in the Republic of Vietnam ceiling. They argued that the 9th MAB was already included for PACOM under Program 4 and that it had never been included as part of the MACV force structure and was not added in the RVN spaces in MACV's package 5 alternative force structure. They wanted to maintain a string on it since the brigade was ticketed for the PACOM Reserve and subject to employment in other areas depending upon the criticality of the contingency. The Chiefs wanted the 9th MAB when ashore in RVN to be carried as a temporary augmentation as was being done under Program 4. Similarly, they wanted the Tactical Fighter Squadrons to be maintained in a "ready to deploy status" outside of RVN, included in the RVN ceiling only if and when they deployed in-country. They also expressed doubt as to whether MACV could recruit suitable civilian personnel in the competitive market on a civilian direct-hire basis to replace 8,100 military spaces. They believed "that the forces included in the attached troop list will contribute significantly to the prosecution of the war, but are less than those recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in JCSM 218-67, dated 20 April 1967, Subject: Force Requirements--Southeast Asia, FY 1968. The views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as set forth in JCSM 288-67 which also provided an assessment of U.S. worldwide military posture are still considered valid." This was, of course, reaffirming a force requirement of 2 1/3 divisions "minimum essential" and the add-on 2 1/3 division for the "optimum" in FYs 68 and 69 respectively.

On 21 July, Systems Analysis prepared a comparison of the JCS recommendations as contained in JCSM 416-67 and those proposed by OSD. The OSD proposal was actually prepared in Systems Analysis per McNamara's earlier 13 July directive. The major differences between OSD & JCS occurred both over the MAB and the TFS battalion which we just outlined and the civilianization issue with the JCS recommendation requiring over 12,000 civilianization slots and the OSD recommendation not quite half that number. A summary table of the two recommendations appears below.

JCS Recommendations

  Army Navy AF MC Total
Program #4 323,735 (a) 30,039 56,148 74,550 484,472
FY 68 Added Forces 34,398 (b) 7,772 3,380 7,523 (c) 53,073
Civilianization (d) (d) (d) (d) -12,545
Program #5 358,133 (d) 37,811 (d) 59,528 (d) 82,073 (d)


OSD Recommendations

  Army Navy AF MC Total
Program #4 323,735 (a) 30,039 56,148 74,550 484,472
FY 68 Added Forces 33,297 (b) 4,234 2,242 7,523 (c) 47,296
Civilianization -5,414 -812 -542 -- -6,768
Program #5 351,618 33,461 57,848 82,073


(a) Includes the 198th Brigade (3 Infantry battalions).
(b) Includes the 101 Div (-), 11th Brigade and 3 separate battalions (13 infantry battalions).
(c) Includes 9th MAB, currently authorized in SVN until 1 Sept. (3 infantry battalions).
(d) Less Service portion of civilianization to be determined.
(e) OSD estimate of Service breakout of civilianization. Actual breakdown is undetermined.

There were several decisions which Enthoven in his memorandum to McNamara recommended be deferred for the time being. These included an Army intelligence augmentation and a MACV headquarters JTV, a Navy request for two mobile construction battalions, two construction battalion maintenance units and various staffs as well as an Air Force A-i TFS civil engineer squadron and UC 123 herbicide augmentation. JCSM 218-67 which recommended the original MACV "minimum essential force" included certain out of country forces also, primarily three tactical fighter squadrons in Thailand, five additional destroyers and two battleships and two cruisers for naval gunfire support. Although these forces were not specifically addressed in the latest JCSM 416-67, Enthoven recommended that they be addressed at that time. Accordingly, he recommended that the TFS recommended by the JCS be unfavorably considered since he felt it would not contribute significantly to our effort in Southeast Asia and that one battleship be authorized and that other than that the increments in JCSM 218-67 be disapproved. These recommendations were approved by Secretary McNamara in a memorandum for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, dated 10 August. In it, he wrote:

I tentatively approve for planning the forces as recommended for SVN in the enclosure to JCSM 416-67 dated July 20, 1967 except for those units and augmentations listed in the enclosure, pending submission of adequate justification. The 9th MAB, the rotational APB, and tactical air squadrons ready for deployment will be included in the 525,000 SVN U.S. strength ceiling. Deployment authority for the two VMA/VMFA Marine squadrons will be considered separately.

The table below summarizes the approved force levels.

Army Navy AF MC Total
Program #4 323,735 30,039 56,148 74,550 484,472
FY 68 Added Forces 33,297 4,234 * 2,242 7,523 47,296
Civilianization -5,414 -812 -542 -- -6,768
Program #5 351,618 33,461 57,848 82,073 525,000

* Includes transfer of 1 APB (199 personnel) from offshore to in-country.

I recognize that the FY 68 troop list has not been refined. In order to provide for timely budget actions, please submit for my detailed review your refined troop list, with detailed justification by September 15, 1967. Your submission should include a monthly schedule of civilianization/tradeoffs, identified by unit and Service, in order to insure that U.S. forces in SVN do not exceed 525,000. For planning purposes, Program #5 will reflect a total civilianization, trade-off schedule as follows:

Jan 68 Feb Mar Apr May Jun Total
Army 500 500 1000 1000 1000 1414 5414
Navy 100 100 100 100 200 212 812
AF -- 100 100 100 100 142 542

Any added requirements in your refined troop list including deferred units should be fully justified and accompanied by corresponding civilianization or trade-off spaces.

The additional out-of-country forces proposed in JCSM 218-67 are not approved except for the 5 additional destroyers for gunfire support. These
destroyers are approved providing they can be made available from existing active fleet assets. In addition, I am considering the activation and deployment of 1 battleship in a separate action.

This was in the ratification of Program 5 which was to be formally published on 14 August.

The final decision in mid-August came as no surprise to either the public or to the Secretaries or to anyone included in the distribution of the finished program for that matter, for in his tax budget message to Congress on 4 August President Johnson had disclosed plans to dispatch between 45 and 50,000 troops to Vietnam bringing the total to 525,000. A New York Times article noted that it was a "compromise between the 70,000 men sought by Westmoreland and the 15-30,000 men suggested by Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara." That it was. However, the announcement was greeted in both the public press and in the public consciousness with a certain resignation which bordered on apathy. Clark Clifford and General Maxwell Taylor had already been dispatched to the Far East, ostensibly to visit allies and to explain the course of American policy in the war, but there was little secret that they were out scrounging troops and trying to induce commitments from some of the nations which had already contributed or those which were being reluctant to contribute more. Their return on 6 August only increased the public pressure for they reported "wide agreement among allies fighting in South Vietnam to increasing pressure on the enemy." A day later, Johnny Apple's article on "stalemate" broached the subject in the public press. In it, Apple outlined in consummate detail the infiltration figures showing that the United States was failing to "win" the big war because of the ability of the North Vietnamese to reinforce faster than we could kill them; he quoted the infiltration statistics both official and those which he had derived from his time in Vietnam from "unofficial sources," all quite accurate. He cited the constant need for reinforcements as a measure of our failure. The article which received wide circulation both in Vietnam and especially in the decision-making circles of the Pentagon merely confirmed what many had been saying officially and unofficially for some time-that infiltration was a crucial variable; that there was no indication that the North Vietnamese had lost stomach for the war; nor did the NVA lack the capability to reinforce at a much higher level than we had anticipated.

As Program 5 broke almost as if programmed, General H. K. Johnson announced in his visit to Saigon that there was "a smell of success in every major area of the war." In a Senate Preparedness Subcommittee report given by Senator Stennis he repeated their incessant demand that we have a sharp intensification of the air war over North Vietnam in an attempt to stem the infiltration. General Cao Van Bien, Chief of Staff of the South Vietnamese Armed Forces said he was convinced, however, that bombing of North Vietnam would never adequately control infiltration. That "we have to solve the problem of Laos and Cambodia and the sanctuaries or the war might last 30 years."

The program which emerged and was ratified in this environment, of public debate and concern, was essentially the result of the circular path traced far back to the optimum request of Program 4. Its origins and its limits can be traced to one primary factor--that of mobilization. When the President and the Secretary of Defense, as well as other Congressional leaders and politically attuned decision makers in the government began to search for the illusive point at which the costs of Vietnam would become inordinate, they always settled upon the mobilization line, the point at which Reserves and large units would have to be called up to support a war which was becoming increasingly distasteful and intolerable to the American public. Domestic resource constraints with all of their political and social repercussions, not strategic or tactical military considerations in Vietnam, were to dictate American war policy from that time on.

7. Follow-Ons

Hardly had the ink dried on approval of Program 5 deployments, when pressures began to build for the acceleration of these deployments to Vietnam. On 6 September 1967, the Acting Chairman informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he had been queried as to what could be done to speed up or accelerate Program 5 deployments. Although ostensibly the reason for accelerated deployments was to meet the threat in the DMZ and I CTZ, the Acting Chairman indicated he had been specifically asked to look at:

a. What could be done prior to Christmas.
b. What could be done prior to March 12, the date of the New Hampshire primary election.

The Chiefs were to look into the subject on an urgent basis and to provide their views to the Acting Chairman by 9 September 1967.

A Director's Memorandum to the Acting Chairman, in response to this inquiry, was forwarded on 9 September. This Memorandum indicated that the refined Program 5 troop list then being developed by the Joint Staff indicated that a total of 62,132 Program 5 forces had not been ordered deployed as of that date. Of these, approximately 9% were scheduled to be deployed in Calendar Year 67, 35% to be deployed 1 January to 1 March 1968, and the remainder scheduled to be deployed after 1 March. Most of the forces scheduled to deploy in FY 1969 were controlled by long lead time equipment and were not subject to acceleration into the January-February 1968 time frame. A hurried analysis, however, indicated that about 1,700 Navy personnel, scheduled to deploy after 1 March, might be accelerated to January-February 1968 deployments. Since neither the Air Force nor the Marines had an appreciable number scheduled to deploy after 1 March 1968, the fruitful area for further exploration quickly turned to the Army capability for accelerating deployment. The bulk of the Army combatant units was scheduled to deploy in February-March 1968. These included the 101st Airborne Division (-), and the 11th Light Infantry Brigade in February 1968, and 4 separate infantry battalions in March 1968.

The Army indicated that 1 brigade task force plus the division headquarters, approximately 4,500 personnel, of the 101st Airborne Division (--), could, in fact, be accelerated to arrive in-country by 15 December 1967, and the remainder of the division (--), approximately 5,500 personnel, could be accelerated to arrive in-country on 31 January 1968, under the following conditions:

a. Movement by air would be required and would cost $15M more than movement by surface;
b. Non-divisional support units which were planned to accompany the division could not be accelerated; therefore the support must be provided by in-country resources.
c. Additional unit training in-country of approximately four weeks would be required before the units would be fully combat ready.

The 11th Light Infantry Brigade could be accelerated for arrival in-country by 31 January 1968, if it were to be deployed by air.

The Director's memorandum listed several possible actions to be explored with the Services which might speed up Program 5 deployments. Among these were:

1. Delay commencement of civilianization program until after 1 March 1968. Thereafter use personnel released by civilianization for fill of skeleton units or for in-country activation of new units.
2. Deploy unit without equipment to join like unit in South Vietnam for double shifting on the available equipment. This pertains primarily to service support type units.
3. Withdraw deployable elements from existing combat/mission ready units in CONUS and Europe for deployment to South Vietnam. Replace these units by others presently being readied for South Vietnam.
4. Draw down personnel and equipment from existing units in CONUS (including reserve equipment) and Europe as required to expedite readiness of units for deployment.
5. Substitute ready units located in CONUS and Europe for early deployment to South Vietnam for those units which cannot be readied by 1 March
6. Deploy units to South Vietnam in substandard readiness condition in personnel, training and/or equipage. Raise the unit to satisfactory state of combat/mission readiness in South Vietnam prior to commitment to combat or combat service support role.
7. Deploy units to bases in PACOM (Hawaii, Guam, Okinawa, Philippines, Japan and Korea) in substandard readiness condition in personnel, training and/or equipage. Raise unit to satisfactory state of combat/mission readiness at these bases and then move them into South Vietnam.
8. Establish training facilities at PACOM bases and in Vietnam or use existing ARVN facilities there to complete training of units deployed under conditions defined in 6 and 7 above.
9. Services expedite funding and equipment and material procurement so units can be equipped ahead of present Program 5 schedule.
10. Surge air and surface transportation means in cases where transportation is pacing factor to early deployments.
11. Provide inducements to reserves with desired skills to volunteer for active service.
12. Accelerate and compress training schedules.

The Acting Chairman (General Johnson) apparently took the Director, Joint Staff Memorandum to the White House on 12 September. The nature of the discussion is not known. However, upon his return from the White House, General Johnson indicated that the President desired the Joint Staff to indicate recommended actions, within present policy limitations, which would increase pressure on North Vietnam. Nothing was said concerning accelerated deployments, and the Joint Staff did not further consider this subject.

However, on 16 September 1968, in a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army indicated that the Army had re-analyzed its capability to deploy the 101st Airborne Division (--) to Vietnam and had determined that a brigade task force and a headquarters and control element of the division (approximately 4,500 personnel) could be deployed by air to close in Vietnam before Christmas. The remainder of the division (--) could either deploy by surface to close in Vietnam before February or could deploy by air in mid to late January 1968 to close before TET (31 January 1968).

On 22 September, the Secretary of Defense approved the plan to deploy the brigade task force and headquarters element by air in December 1967, but indicated that a decision on the accelerated deployment of the remainder of the division would be made at a later date.

In the meantime, on 15 September, the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved and forwarded to the Secretary of Defense the refined troop list for the "tentatively approved FY 1968 additive forces for South Vietnam and a civilianization schedule to remain within the specific military personnel strength ceiling of 525,000." Civilianization, the 525,000 ceiling, plus Program 4 trade-offs, permitted an additive force structure of 50,978 for FY 1968, which was allocated as follows: Army 39,365; Navy 7,483; Marine Corps 969; and Air Force 3,161.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff pointed out again, however, that even with the high civilization goal, many requirements still could not be accommodated.

For example, a Marine Corps requirement for 6,124 spaces plus integral Navy personnel to permit III MAF to be manned at full strength is not included in the troop list. This requirement is based on modification of existing T/Os and augmentations caused by the nature of operations being conducted in I CTZ, the introduction of newer and more sophisticated equipment, and the expanding functions and responsibilities being assigned to III MAF. The Marine Corps has indicated that approximately 3,500 of these additional Marines could be provided by December 1967. Also, both the Army and Air Force identified additional priority requirements that could not be incorporated within ceiling; approximately 3,000 spaces for the Army and 1,000 for the Air Force. These requirements, and others, now outside the ceiling, will be the subject for future recommendations.

Inclusion of elements of the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade, which CINCPAC plans to operate ashore in South Vietnam only on a temporary basis, of nondeploying tactical fighter squadrons, and of the 1,164 spaces for the augmented hospital facilities for civilian war casualties, as directed by references, has further reduced the force level recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in JCSM-218-67, dated 20 April 1967, subject: "Force Requirements-Southeast Asia FY 1968 (U)," and prevented inclusion of high priority units and personnel, some of which are now available for deployment.

The major differences in the refined troop list were the addition of 3 light helicopter companies, 2 C-140 jet aircraft for the Ambassador and visiting dignitaries, a Radio Research Aviation Company, and a Marine fixed-wing reconnaissance squadron. Additionally, the helicopter requirements included ambulance detachments and helicopters in the supporting aviation headquarters for the 101st Airborne Division and the Americal Division. Other lower priority units were deleted.

The Secretary of Defense, on 5 October, approved for deployment those forces listed in JCSM 505-67, and indicated that subsequent requests for additional high priority units should be accompanied by appropriate trade-offs to insure forces remained within the total personnel authorization of 525,000.

On 28 September, General Westmoreland forwarded to CINCPAC and the JCS his plan for reorienting in-country forces for the northeast monsoon season. This reassessment of planned operations and force deployments was necessitated, COMUSMACV indicated, in view of the accelerated deployment of the 101st
Airborne Division and the heavy enemy pressure in I CTZ. COMUSMACV indicated that his overall fall-winter objectives were to:

A. Relieve the 1st Cav Div in Binh Dinh and commit it to successive country-wide offensive operations
B. Reinforce I CTZ to the extent practicable without unduly retarding other progress.
C. Move additional elements of the 9th Inf Div to the Delta.
D. Reinforce III CTZ so that we can attack during favorable weather . . . .and force the enemy into a vulnerable posture away from populated areas.

The prospective early arrival of the 101st Airborne Division, General West-moreland indicated,

. . . . will now allow for initiation of planned operations in III CTZ while diverting the 1st Cay Div to I CTZ as required by the intensified enemy situation there. To insure adequate combat ready forces for III CTZ operations, I now plan to delay the movement of additional 9th Div elements to the delta; however, a Vietnamese Marine battalion will deploy to IV CTZ to reinforce our mobile Riverine operations planned for that area.

3. (TS) These moves are carefully planned to preclude any regression in the vital coastal areas of II CTZ; to insure that the ultimate posture of forces required to meet objectives for next year is not changed significantly; to do what is necessary to relieve and reverse the situation near the DMZ; and to conduct large scale operations in selected areas when weather is favorable. By this reoriented effort I desire to preempt the enemy strategy of attempting to tie down forces and denude the pacification shield.

General Westmoreland indicated that higher authority could provide him the following additional assistance to help accomplish his strategy:

A. Accelerate the deployment of the 101st Div to close all major elements of the Div prior to 20 December 1967. This will facilitate early combat readiness of this force and allow its employment in late January . . .
B. Continue the retention of the elements of 9th MAB now in-country. My evaluation now of the situation in I CTZ indicates a continuing requirement for this force through the spring of 1968.
C. Accelerate deployment of 11th Separate Infantry BDE to arrive in-country during December 1967. Early arrival would permit early release of the l73d ABN Bde which would be employed in II CTZ. A consideration in all accelerated deployments is the possibility of an extended holiday moratorium resulting in an agreement of status quo on force deployments.

In a memorandum for the President on 4 October 1967, the Secretary of Defense indicated the actions taken to date on COMUSMACV's recommendations, to include:

(1) Recommendation: Accelerate the deployment of the 101st Division to close all major elements of the Division prior to 20 December 1967.
Action: Deployment of a brigade task force (3 battalions) of the 101st Airborne Division had already been accelerated from February 1968 to December 1967. The Army now believes that deployment of the remaining brigade can be accelerated from February 1968 to January 1968.
(2) Recommendation: Retain the elements of the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade now in-country.
Action: The current deployment plan authorizes this action.
(3) Recommendation: Accelerate deployment of the 11th Separate Infantry Brigade from February 1968 to December 1967.
Action: The Secretary of the Army believes this date can be met.

The Army, meanwhile, continued to assess the possibility of accelerating deployment of its Program 5 combat units.

On 16 October 1967, in a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army indicated that the remainder of the 10 1st AB Division could be deployed by air to close in Vietnam by 20 December 1967. This accelerated deployment would require the completion of four weeks of training in-country prior to commitment to combat. Additional transportation costs to the Army would be $1OM, and support of the element in South Vietnam over the CONUS cost for the same period would be approximately $5.3M. The acceleration, however, would not provide General Westmoreland an operational element earlier than now programmed, but would ensure the Division's early closure in South Vietnam in the event of an extended moratorium on deployment at Christmas. In response to this memorandum, the Secretary of Defense asked: "Why spend $15M without an earlier operational capability?" On 20 October the Secretary of the Army indicated that, contrary to his earlier assertion, the Division would be available for operations in South Vietnam five weeks earlier than the Program 5 availability date.

The Program 5 availability date, using surface transportation and allowing for one month's in-country orientation, is 1 March 1968. Using air movement and conducting the normal one-month orientation concurrent with completion of training will provide an availability date of 22 January

On 21 October, the Secretary of Defense approved the Army recommendation to deploy by air the remainder of the 101st Airborne Division (--) in December 1967.

On 31 October, in a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army replied to General Westmoreland's request for the deployment of the 11th Infantry Brigade to arrive in Vietnam before Christmas. He stated that the Army Staff had determined that the Brigade could be deployed on or about December 10, by surface transportation from Hawaii to close in South Vietnam by 24 December. It would be necessary for the Brigade to have the same kind of in-country training on arrival in South Vietnam as the 101st Airborne Division (--). The only additional costs involved would be the slightly increased operating costs from having the unit in South Vietnam one month earlier and being combat ready in January rather than in February.

On 6 November, Secretary of Defense approved the Army request for the early deployment of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade by surface transportation to South Vietnam in December 1967, and directed that necessary in-country training should be conducted in a low risk area.

In the meantime, on 17 October 1967, the Joint Chiefs of Staff forwarded to the President through the Secretary of Defense their reply to the questions raised by the President at the White House luncheon on 12 September concerning what military actions consistent with present policy guidelines would serve to increase pressure on North Vietnam, thereby accelerating the rate of progress toward achievement of the U.S. objective in South Vietnam.

The Chiefs considered that North Vietnam was paying heavily for its aggression and had lost the initiative in the South. They further considered that many factors indicated a military trend favorable to Free World Forces in Vietnam. However, they again concluded that if acceleration in the pace of progress was to be achieved, an appropriate increase in military pressure was required.

The Chiefs then reiterated the policy guidelines established for the conduct of military operations in SEA to achieve U.S. objectives, among which were:

a. We seek to avoid widening the war into a conflict with Communist China or the USSR.
b. We have no present intention of invading NVN.
c. We do not seek the overthrow of the Government of NVN.
d. We are guided by the principles set forth in the Geneva Accords of 1954 and 1962.

In a rather resigned tone, the Joint Chiefs indicated that they considered the rate of progress to have been and to continue to be slow largely because U.S. military power has been constrained in a manner which had reduced significantly its impact and effectiveness. Limitations have been imposed on military operations in four ways, they indicated:

a. The attacks on the enemy military targets have been on such a prolonged, graduated basis that the enemy has adjusted psychologically, economically, and militarily, e.g., inured themselves to the difficulties and hardships accompanying the war, dispersed their logistic support system, and developed alternate transport routes and a significant air defense system.
b. Areas of sanctuary, containing important military targets, have been afforded the enemy.
c. Covert operations in Cambodia and Laos have been restricted.
d. Major importation of supplies into NVN by sea has been permitted.

The Chiefs indicated that they considered that U.S. objectives in SEA could be achieved within this policy framework providing the level of assistance the enemy received from his communist allies was not significantly increased and there was no diminution of U.S. efforts.

However, the Chiefs concluded pessimistically that progress would continue to be slow so long as present limitations on military operations continued in effect and, further, at the present pace, termination of NVN's military effort was not expected to occur in the near future.

The Joint Chiefs then listed a series of actions which could be taken in the near future to increase pressures on NVN and accelerate progress toward the achievement of U.S. objectives and recommended they be authorized to direct these actions.


1. Remove restrictions on air campaign against all militarily significant targets in NVN (ROLLING THUNDER).

Specific Actions

Eliminate Haiphong and Hanoi prohibited areas.
Reduce Hanoi and Haiphong restricted areas to the city proper.
Reduce CPR Buffer Zone to 10 miles.
Conduct unrestricted attacks against LOC, rail lines, roads up to five miles from CPR border.
Authorize CINCPAC strike and restrike prerogative for all targets outside of redefined restricted areas.
Permit JCS to authorize strikes against targets in the redefined restricted areas on a case-by-case basis (to include Haiphong port).


Greater destruction of NVN war-supporting facilities.
Increased destruction of air-defense including air fields.
Reduce logistic support of NVN/VC.
More efficient use of available forces.
Favorable impact on reducing friendly casualties, particularly in critical I Corps/DMZ area.
Permits timely reaction against targets of opportunity.


Charges of escalation.
Increased use of CPR airfields for storage or training, but not for combat missions.
Increased CPR AAA and Engineer support in NVN.

2. Mine NVN deep water ports.

Specific Actions

Establish, replenish as required, mine fields in approaches and harbors at Haiphong, Hon Gai and Cam Pha.
Publish warning notice to mariners.
Adjust/extend mine fields as necessary to prevent bypassing.


Reduce import of war-supporting materials.


Soviet Union may cancel existing negotiations with the U.S. and initiate propaganda campaign.
Possible Soviet action to increase tensions in other parts of the world but major confrontations would be unlikely.
CPR would strengthen defensive posture and may increase military aid to NVN; unlikely to initiate offensive air or surface actions.

3. Mine inland waterways and estuaries in NVN north of 20°N.

Specific Actions

Mine mouths of navigable NVN rivers.
Mine navigable inland waterways throughout NVN to within 5 NM of CPR border (authority currently limited to those south of 20°N.).


Interdict internal waterways LOCs.
Destroy waterborne logistic craft and block channels.
Require great NVN sweeping efforts.
Reduce POL and other cargo distribution.


No specific military reactions from communists.
Some increased propaganda against U.S. actions.

4. Extend naval surface operations (SEA DRAGON).

Specific Actions

Conduct offensive naval surface force operations against NVN military/ logistic water craft and against suitable targets in NVN ashore north of 20°N. latitude to the redefined buffer zone (SEA DRAGON operations now limited to south of 20°N.).


Interdict coastal water traffic.
Reduce use of land LOCs by harassing gunfire.


Possible naval and air reactions by NVN in northern waters.
CPR or Soviet might provide additional patrol craft.

5. Use U.S. SAM (TALOS) from ships against combat aircraft.

Specific Actions

Use sea-based SAM missiles against NVN aircraft both over water and in airspace over NVN


Increase destruction of enemy air forces.
Inhibit enemy air operations.


NVN air and surface attack possible.
USSR or CPR might provide NVN with coast defense missiles.

6. Increase air interdiction in Laos and along NVN borders.

Specific Actions

Selected bombing of Laotian waterway traffic (SEKONG).
Establish special saturation bombing interdiction air strike zones in Laos, e.g., northwest of DMZ, Nape and Mu Gia Passes.


Increase interdiction of LOCs and reduction of supplies to NVA/VC.


No immediate reaction other than propaganda.
No Laos reaction.

7. Eliminate operational restrictions on B-52s with regard to Laos.

Specific Actions

Overflight of Laos, by day and night, by B-52s en route to or from targets in Vietnam or Laos.
Daylight bombing attacks on Laos.
Eliminate requirement for cover strikes in SVN when bombing targets in Laos.


Greater operational efficiency and quicker reaction time for B-52s.


Possible political reactions.

8. Expand operations in Laos (PRAIRIE FIRE).

Specific Actions

Increase authorized size of exploitation force.


Disrupt sanctuaries.
Increase efficiency of interdiction.
Reduce supplies to NVA/VC.


Souvanna would probably not object if he could deny the actions and avoid publicity.
Possible increased NVA forces and activities in Laos.

9. Expand operations in Cambodia.

Specific Actions

Expand current DANIEL BOONE reconnaissance program by extending the area of operations for the full length of the SVN/Cambodia border; authorize use of helicopters; remove limitations on number of missions.
Authorize DANIEL BOONE forces to conduct limited sabotage/destruction activity; authorize calling in tactical airstrikes on enemy targets near the border.


Disrupt sanctuaries.
Reduce supplies to NVA/VC.
Improve intelligence.
Discourage use of Cambodia as sanctuary for NVA/VC forces.
Provide self-defense of U.S. forces.


Cambodia would protest expansion of operation to Cambodian soil and might seek to defend its territory.
Adverse political reaction.

10. Expand and reorient NVN covert programs (FOOTBOY).

Specific Actions

Undertake action to increase the credibility of a current national resistance movement in NVN.
Increase intelligence collection and covert physical destruction missions.


Harass NVN within country.
Require NVN to divert resources to internal security.


NVN would accuse the United States of attempting to bring about downfall of government of NVN.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff recognize that expansion of US efforts entails some additional risk. They believe that as a result of this expansion the likelihood of overt introduction of Soviet/Bloc/CPR combat forces into the war would be remote. Failure to take additional action to shorten the Southeast Asia conflict also entails risks as new and more efficient weapons are provided to NVN by the Soviet Union and as USSR/CPR support of the enemy increases.

Information indicates that the President reviewed this paper and stated that it was not what was desired, that it recommended actions which had previously been denied and would not now be approved.

However, Administration actions to find a way to accelerate progress in South Vietnam continued. On 7 November 1967, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff indicated, in a memorandum to the Director, Joint Staff, that he had been urged again to take all feasible measures to deploy Program 5 forces at the earliest possible date. He directed that the Joint Staff explore what further foreshortening of the deployment dates could be accomplished.

On 8 November, at the White House luncheon meeting, the Secretary of State recommended that the Department of State and the Department of Defense prepare a joint policy document which would govern political and military operations in Southeast Asia for the next four months. Secretary Rusk's proposal was expressed in broad terms. He considered that parameters should be established for political, military, and economic operations over the upcoming four months' period in order to preclude the need for weekly examinations of many small and short-range operations. This proposal was agreed to by the principals at the meeting, and the Chairman directed the Joint Staff to prepare as a matter of priority the recommendations of the JCS for military operations in SEA over the cited time period. He directed that the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cover the following as a minimum:

a. Air operations against North Vietnam--

Fixed targets important to our air effort against North Vietnam; authorization for re-strike of important targets; allocation of air effort between North Vietnam and South Vietnam.

b. Ground operations--

Large ground operations in South Vietnam to include operations in the Delta region; ground operations in Laos; ground operations in Cambodia; and possible ground operations against North Vietnam.

c. Bombing Pauses--

In addressing this subject the Joint Staff should take note of American Embassy Saigon to State cable #10563. Ambassador Bunker reported that Vice President Ky believes that bombing pauses of 24 hours each for Christmas and New Years and 48 hours at TET should be announced in the near future by the allied forces.

In reply to the Chairman's request to explore foreshortening of deployment dates, the Director, Joint Staff on 21 November furnished the following resume:

Army--Based on a comprehensive capability study recently completed, Army concludes it is not in a position to make further accelerations without jeopardizing capability to deploy remaining units in Program 5 in an orderly manner.
Navy--The bulk of the 3000 Navy forces scheduled to deploy after 1 March 1968, are linked to ship/waterborne craft conversion or construction. They are susceptible to little acceleration and cannot be accelerated into the JAN/ FEB 68 time frame.
Air Force--Excluding the TFS maintained in CONUS ready for deployment, the Air Force has only 760 personnel scheduled to deploy after 1 March 1968. These include a CE Squadron (scheduled for civilianization had funds been available) and 6 UC-123 herbicide aircraft. The CE Squadron must be activated and equipped and the aircraft must be spray equipped.
Marine Corps--Contingent upon Department of Defense approval (which is expected in the near future) of a PCR for additional end strength increase to deploy and sustain 800 CAC personnel, the Marine Corps will have only 164 Program 5 spaces remaining for deployment after 1 March 1968. The 164 personnel are associated with an observation squadron for which pilots and aircraft are not available.

On 27 November 1967, the Joint Chiefs of Staff provided the Secretary of Defense their views on planned and recommended military operations to be conducted in Southeast Asia over the next four months. They concluded, rather pessimistically again, that:

There are no new programs which can be undertaken under current policy guidelines which would result in a rapid or significantly more visible increase in the rate of progress in the near term.

The Chiefs recommended against a stand-down in military operations for any of the forthcoming holidays, as progress during the next four months would be dependent upon the maintenance of pressure upon the enemy.

Any action which serves to reduce the pressure will be detrimental to the achievement of our objectives.

While progress toward U.S. military objectives was expected to be sustained during the period under consideration, the Joint Chiefs held that additional gains could be realized through the modification and expansion of certain current policies. Thus, they recommended that current policies for the conduct of the war in SEA during the next four months be modified and expanded to permit a fuller utilization of our military resources.

On 22 December 1967, the ASD/ISA, in a memorandum to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, forwarded the joint comments of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State on the JCS recommendations. Their comments were:

a. recommend against aerial mining or bombing of North Vietnamese deep water ports. Possible military gains are far outweighed by risk of confrontation with Soviets or Chinese.

b. recommend that strike authorization for high density population centers of government and domestic commerce continue to be controlled at the highest level of Government which is most closely in touch with the political significance of air attacks in these areas.

c. every recommendation for authorization of a new target should be considered on its own merits. The military significance of the target is, of course, a dominant factor in the evaluation of a target recommendation, but our policy is to minimize civilization casualties and this consideration must be weighed in every determination. Recommend no change in this policy.

d. recommend authorization for use of CS in rescues in Laos. Effectiveness of such use can be evaluated against possible adverse public reaction to use of agents combined with firepower if conducted in NVN and given propaganda play by NVN.

Go to the Next Section of Volume 4, Chapter 2 of the Pentagon Papers, "U.S. Ground Strategy and Force Deployments, 1965-1968," pp. 277-604

Glossary of Acronyms and Terms

Go to Volume 1, Chapter 1 of the Pentagon Papers, "Background to the Conflict, 1940-1950." pp. 1-52

Go to Volume 1, Chapter 2 of the Pentagon Papers, "U.S. Involvement in the Franco-Viet Minh War, 1950-1954," pp. 53-107

Go to Volume 1, Chapter 3 of the Pentagon Papers, "The Geneva Conference, May-July, 1954," pp. 108-178.

Go to Volume 1, Chapter 4 of the Pentagon Papers, "U.S. and France in Indochina, 1950-56," pp. 179-241

Go to Volume 1, Chapter 5 of the Pentagon Papers, "Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam, 1954-1960," pp. 242-314

Go to Volume 2, Chapter 1 of the Pentagon Papers, "The Kennedy Commitments and Programs, 1961,"pp. 1-127

Go to Volume 2, Chapter 2 of the Pentagon Papers, "The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963," pp. 128-159.

Go to Volume 2, Chapter 3, of the Pentagon Papers, "Phased Withdrawal of U.S. Forces, 1962-1964," pp. 160-200.

Go to Volume 2, Chapter 4, of the Pentagon Papers, "The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, May-November, 1963," pp. 201-276.

Go to Volume 2, Chapter 5 of the Pentagon Papers, "US-GVN Relations, 1964-1967," pp. 277-407.

Go to Volume 2, Chapter 6 of the Pentagon Papers, "The Advisory Build-up, 1961-67," pp. 408-514

Go to Volume 2, Chapter 7 of the Pentagon Papers, "Re-Emphasis on Pacification: 1965-1967," pp. 515-623.

Go to Volume 3, Chapter 1 of the Pentagon Papers, "U.S. Programs in South Vietnam, Nov. 1963-Apr. 1965," pp. 1-105.

Go to Volume 3, Chapter 2 of the Pentagon Papers, "Military Pressures Against North Vietnam, February 1964-January 1965," pp. 106-268.

Go to Volume 3, Chapter 3, of the Pentagon Papers, "The Air War in North Vietnam: Rolling Thunder Begins, February-June, 1965," pp. 269-388

Go to Volume 3, Chapter 4, of the Pentagon Papers, "American Troops Enter the Ground War, March-July 1965," pp. 389-485

Go to Volume 4, Chapter 1, of the Pentagon Papers, "The Air War in North Vietnam, 1965-1968," pp. 1-276.

Go to Volume 4, Chapter 2, of the Pentagon Papers, "U.S. Ground Strategy and Force Deployments, 1965-1968," pp. 277-604.

Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to Vietnam War Page