The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 5:21 am


#110: McNaughton Memo for McNamara on Anti-Infiltration Barrier Plan

Excerpts from a memorandum to Secretary of Defense McNamara, "A Barrier Strategy," as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. According to the narrative, the memorandum is unsigned but is by Assistant Secretary of Defense McNaughton, in whose handwriting the copy is marked "1/30/66" and "copy given to RSM 3/22/66." The study further says that the document is based on a draft memo of Jan. 3, 1966, "A Barrier Strategy," by Prof. Roger D. Fisher of Harvard Law School.


1. Physical consequences of bombing

a. The DRV has suffered some physical hardship and pain, raising the cost to it of supporting the VC.

b. Best intelligence judgment is that:

(1) Bombing mayor may not -- by destruction or delay -- have resulted in net reduction in the flow of men or supplies to the forces in the South;

(2) Bombing has failed to reduce the limit on the capacity of the DRV to aid the VC to a point below VC needs;

(3) Future bombing of North Vietnam cannot be expected physically to limit the military support given the VC by the DRV to a point below VC needs.

2. Influence consequences of bombing

a. There is no evidence that bombings have made it more likely the DRV will decide to back out of the war.

b. Nor is there evidence that bombings have resulted in an increased DRV resolve to continue the war to an eventual victory. [Fisher's draft had read "There is some evidence that bombings . . . ."]


Although bombings of North Vietnam improve GVN morale and provide a counter in eventual negotiations (should they take place) there is no evidence that they meaningfully reduce either the capacity or the will for the DRV to support the VC. The DRV knows that we cannot force them to stop by bombing and that we cannot, without an unacceptable risk of a major war with China or Russia or both, force them to stop by conquering them or "blotting them out." Knowing that if they are not influenced we cannot stop them, the DRV will remain difficult to influence. With continuing DRV support, victory in the South may remain forever beyond our reach.

Having made the case against the bombing, the memo then spelled out the case for an anti-infiltration barrier:


A. That the U.S. and GVN adopt the concept of physically cutting off DRV support to the VC by an on-the-ground barrier across the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the general vicinity of the 17th Parallel and Route 9. To the extent necessary the barrier would run from the sea across Vietnam and Laos to the Mekong, a straightline distance of about 160 miles.

B. That in Laos an "interdiction and verification zone," perhaps 10 miles wide, be established and legitimated by such measures as leasing, international approval, compensation, etc.

C. That a major military and engineering effort be directed toward constructing a physical barrier of minefields, barbed wire, walls, ditches and military strong points flanked by a defoliated strip on each side.

D. That such bombing in Laos and North Vietnam as takes place be narrowly identified with interdiction and with the construction of the barrier by

1. Being within the 10-mile-wide interdiction zone in Laos, or

2. Being in support of the construction of the barrier, or

3. Being interdiction bombing pending the completion of the barrier.

E. That, of course, intensive interdiction continues at sea and from Cambodia.

(It might be stated that all bombings of North Vietnam will stop as soon as there is no infiltration and no opposition to the construction of the verification barrier.)

#111: Johnson's Remarks to Officials of U.S. and Saigon at Honolulu

Excerpts from remarks by President Johnson to senior United States and South Vietnamese after the issuance of a joint communique at their Honolulu conference, Feb. 9, 1966, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. The paragraph in italics is the study's explanation.

(The Vietnamese then thanked the Americans for the conference, and in turn some of the senior members of the American delegation -- in order, Admiral Sharp, Leonard Marks, General Wheeler, Ambassador Lodge, Ambassador Harriman -- made brief statements about the meaning of the conference. The President then made his final statement:

... Preserve this communique, because it is one we don't want to forget. It will be a kind of bible that we are going to follow. When we come back here 90 days from now, or six months from now, we are going to start out and make reference to the announcements that the President, the Chief of State and the Prime Minister made in paragraph I, and what the leaders and advisors reviewed in paragraph 2. . . . You men who are responsible for these departments, you ministers, and the staffs associated with them in both governments, bear in mind we are going to give you an examination and the finals will be on just what you have done.

In paragraph 5; how have you built democracy in the rural areas? How much of it have you built, when and where? Give us dates, times, numbers.

In paragraph 2; larger outputs, more efficient production to improve credit, handicraft, light industry, rural electrification -- are those just phrases, high-sounding words, or have you coonskins on the wall ....

Next is health and education, Mr. Gardner. We don't want to talk about it; we want to do something about it. "The President pledges he will dispatch teams of experts." Well, we better do something besides dispatching. They should get out there. We are going to train health personnel. How many? You don't want to be like the fellow who was playing poker and when he made a big bet they called him and said "what have you got?" He said "aces" and they asked "how many" and he said "one aces". . . .

Next is refugees. That is just as hot as a pistol in my country. You don't want me to raise a white flag and surrender so we have to do something about that ....

Growing military effectiveness: we have not gone in because we don't want to overshadow this meeting here with bombs, with mortars, with hand grenades, with "Masher" movements. I don't know who names your operations, but "Masher." I get kind of mashed myself. But we haven't gone into the details of growing military effectiveness for two or three reasons. One, we want to be able honestly and truthfully to say that this has not been a military build-up conference of the world here in Honolulu. We have been talking about building a society following the outlines of the Prime Minister's speech yesterday.

Second, this is not the place, with 100 people sitting around, to build a military effectiveness.

Third, I want to put it off as long as I can, having to make these crucial decisions. I enjoy this agony .... I don't want to come out of this meeting that we have come up here and added on X divisions and Y battalions or Z regiments or D dollars, because one good story about how many billions are going to be spent can bring us more inflation that we are talking about in Vietnam. We want to work those out in the quietness of the Cabinet Room after you have made your recommendations, General Wheeler, Admiral Sharp, when you come to us ....

#112: Memo on Pentagon Meeting Following up Honolulu Session

Excerpts from memorandum by Richard C. Steadman, special assistant to Secretary of Defense McNamara, Feb. 9, 1966, summarizing a Pentagon meeting after the Honolulu talks. According to Mr. Steadman the participants included the Secretary, his deputies, the secretaries of each of the armed services and other Defense Department officials.

... 3. Southeast Asia Program Office. It is essential that the Department of Defense has at all times a readily available and centralized bank of information with respect to the Southeast Asia build-up. To this end. Dr. Enthoven is to establish a Southeast Asia Program Office which is to be able to furnish Mr. McNamara and Mr. Vance all information that may be required with respect to Southeast Asia. Among other things, this unit is to be able to provide immediate information on what overseas units are being depleted in order to accommodate Southeast Asia needs. If there is any drawdown anywhere, Mr. McNamara wants to know it promptly. We must know the full price of what we are doing and propose to do.

Mr. McNamara suggested that each Service Secretary establish a similar Southeast Asia Program Unit to bring together and keep current data relating to that Service involving Southeast Asia, and that the Joint Staff might establish a similar set-up.

Mr. McNamara said that it was mandatory that the situation be brought under better control. For example, the Southeast Asia construction program was $1.2-billion in the FY 66 Supplement; yesterday at Honolulu the figure of $2.5-billion was raised. Yet there is only the vaguest information as to how these funds will be spent, where, on what, and by whom. This is part of the bigger problem that there is no proper system for the allocation of available resources in Vietnam. McGeorge Bundy is to help organize the country team to deal with this problem, including reconciling military and non-military demands.

4. Manpower Controls. Mr. McNamara designated Mr. Morris as the person to be responsible for the various manpower requirements. He is either to insure that the requirements are met or to let Mr. McNamara know if they are not being met. Mr. McNamara wants a written statement whenever we have been unable to do something that General Westmoreland says he needs for full combat effectiveness. (In this regard, General Westmoreland recognizes that it is not possible to have 100 percent combat effectiveness for all the 102 battalions. For example, there are not sufficient helicopter companies. Roughly, he estimates he will get 96 battalion combat effectiveness out of the 102 battalions.)

At this point there was a brief discussion concerning the use of U.S. troops for pacification purposes. Mr. Nitze indicated that in his view the Marines were doing this to some degree. The point was disputed. At any rate, Mr. McNamara said that the 102 combat battalions contemplated under Case 1 were not to be used for pacification but only for defense of base areas and offensive operations. Mr. McNamara outlined briefly the South Vietnamese Government's plan for pacification. It will affect some 235,000 people in the whole country. The major allocation of resources and personnel will be to four very limited areas, one of which is near Danang. There will also be a general program extending throughout the country involving some 900 hamlets.

5. Call-Up of Reserves. Mr. McNamara said that it was important that everyone understand why a Reserve call-up is receiving such careful study. There are at least two important considerations. First, the problem is a very complicated one and we do not yet have all the facts. Mr. Morris and others will amass the necessary data as soon as possible. Second, the political aspects of a Reserve call-up are extremely delicate. There are several strong bodies of opinion at work in the country. Look, for example, at the Fulbright Committee hearings. One school of thought, which underlies the Gavin thesis, is that this country is over-extended economically and that we cannot afford to do what we are doing. Another school of thought feels that we plain should not be there at all, whether or not we can afford it. A third school of thought is that although we are rightly there, the war is being mismanaged so that we are heading straight toward war with China. Furthermore, there is no question but that the economy of this country is beginning to run near or at its capacity with the resulting probability of a shortage of certain skills and materials. If this continues we may be facing wage and price controls, excess profits taxes, etc., all of which will add fuel to the fire of those who say we cannot afford this. With all these conflicting pressures it is a very difficult and delicate task for the Administration to mobilize and maintain the required support in this country to carryon the war properly. The point of all this is to emphasize that a call-up of the Reserves presents extremely serious problems in many areas and a decision cannot be made today.

General Johnson said he wished to add three additional considerations. First, a Reserve call-up might be an important factor in the reading of the North Vietnamese and the Chinese with respect to our determination to see this war through. Second Reserve call-ups are traditionally a unifying factor. Third, as a larger problem, a hard, long-term look should be taken at the degree to which we as a government are becoming committed to a containment policy along all the enormous southern border of China. Mr. McNamara said he would ask for a JCS study of this last point and discussed it briefly.

During the course of the meeting, General Johnson also pointed out that with respect to overseas deployment, the Army is already shortchanging certain overseas areas so as to increase the training cadres in CONUS. He pointed out that because of the effect on the strategic reserve of deployments already made, the quality of new units will be lower than at present. He raised certain additional points affecting the Army. Mr. McNamara, Mr. Vance, Mr. Resor and General Johnson will discuss these problems further. . . .

#113: Rostow's Memo on Bombing of Hanoi's Petroleum Facilities

Excerpt from memorandum from Walt W. Rostow, Presidential assistant for national security, to Secretary of State Rusk and Secretary of Defense McNamara, May 6, 1966, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

Rostow developed his argument for striking the petroleum reserves on the basis of U.S. experience in the World War II attacks on German oil supplies and storage facilities. His reasoning was as follows:

From the moment that serious and systematic oil attacks started, front line single engine fighter strength and tank mobility were affected. The reason was this: It proved much more difficult, in the face of general oil shortage, to allocate from less important to more important uses than than the simple arithmetic of the problem would suggest. Oil moves in various logistical channels from central sources. When the central sources began to dry up the effects proved fairly prompt and widespread. What look like reserves statistically are rather inflexible commitments to logistical pipelines.

'The same results might be expected from heavy and sustained attacks on the North Vietnamese oil reserves,

With an understanding that simple analogies are dangerous, I nevertheless feel it is quite possible the military effects of a systematic and sustained bombing of POL in North Vietnam may be more prompt and direct than conventional intelligence analysis would suggest.

I would underline, however, the adjectives "systematic and sustained." If we take this step we must cut clean through the POL system -- and hold the cut -- if we are looking for decisive results. . . .

#114: Joint Chiefs' Order to Begin Bombing of Hanoi's Oil Facilities

Joint Chiefs of Staff's cablegram to Adm. U. S. Grant Sharp, commander in chief of Pacific forces, June 22, 1966, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study.

Strikes to commence with initial attacks against Haiphong and Hanoi POL on same day if operationally feasible. Make maximum effort to attain operational surprise. Do not conduct initiating attacks under marginal weather conditions but reschedule when weather assures success. Follow-on attacks authorized as operational and weather factors dictate.

At Haiphong, avoid damage to merchant shipping. No attacks authorized on craft unless U.S. aircraft are first fired on and then only if clearly North Vietnamese. Piers servicing target will not be attacked if tanker is berthed off end of pier.

Decision made after SecDef and CJCS were assured every feasible step would be taken to minimize civilian casualties would be small [sic]. If you do not believe you can accomplish objective while destroying targets and protecting crews, do not initiate program. Take the following measures; maximum use of most experienced ROLLING THUNDER personnel, detailed briefing of pilots stressing need to avoid civilians, execute only when weather permits visual identification of targets and improved strike accuracy, select best axis of attack to avoid populated areas, maximum use of ECM to hamper SAM and AAA fire control, in order to limit pilot distraction and improve accuracy, maximum use of weapons of high precision delivery consistent with mission objectives, and limit SAM and AAA suppression to sites located outside populated areas.

Take special precautions to insure security. If weather or operational considerations delay initiation of strikes, do not initiate on Sunday, 26 June.

#115: August McNamara Memo to Chiefs Challenging Troop Request

Memorandum, "CINCPAC CY 1966 Adjusted Requirements & CY 1967" from Secretary McNamara to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Aug. 5, 1966, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study.

As you know, it is our policy to provide the troops, weapons, and supplies requested by General Westmoreland at the times he desires them, to the greatest possible degree. The latest revised CINCPAC requirements, submitted on 18 June 1966, subject as above, are to be accorded the same consideration: valid requirements for SVN and related tactical air forces in Thailand will be deployed on a schedule as close as possible to CINCPAC/ COMUSMACV's requests.

Nevertheless, I desire and expect a detailed, line-by-line analysis of these requirements to determine that each is truly essential to the carrying out of our war plan. We must send to Vietnam what is needed, but only what is needed. Excessive deployments weaken our ability to win by undermining the economic structure of the RVN and by raising doubts concerning the soundness of our planning.

In the course of your review of the validity of the requirements, I would like you to consider the attached Deployment Issue Papers which were prepared by my staff. While there may be sound reasons for deploying the units questioned, the issues raised in these papers merit your detailed attention and specific reply. They probably do not cover all questionable units, particularly for proposed deployments for the PACOM area outside of SVN. I expect that you will want to query CINCPAC about these and other units for which you desire clarification.

I appreciate the time required to verify the requirements and determine our capability to meet them, but decisions must be made on a timely basis if units are to be readied and equipment and supplies procured. Therefore I would appreciate having your recommended deployment plan, including your comments on each of the Deployment Issue Papers, no later than 15 September 1965.

#116: Cable from Westmoreland in August on Manpower Needs

Excerpts from cablegram from General Westmoreland to Gen. Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Adm. U. S. Grant Sharp, commander in chief of Pacific forces, Aug. 10, 1966, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study.

These and other facts support earlier predictions and suggest that the enemy intends to continue a protracted war of attrition. We must not underestimate the enemy nor his determination.

The war can continue to escalate. Infiltration on enemy troops and supplies from NVN can increase and there is no assurance that this will not occur.

If, contrary to current indication, Hanoi decides not to escalate further, some modification of the forces which I have requested probably could be made. Under such circumstances, I conceive of a carefully balanced force that is designed to fight an extended war of attrition and sustainable without national mobilization.

I recognize the possibility that the enemy may not continue to follow the pattern of infiltration as projected. Accordingly, my staff is currently conducting a number of studies with the objective of placing this command and the RVN in a posture that will permit us to retain the initiative regardless of the course the enemy chooses to pursue. These include:

A. A study which considers possible courses of action by the enemy on our force posture and counteractions to maintain our superiority.

B. An analysis of our requirements to determine a balanced U.S. force that can be employed and sustained fully and effectively in combat on an indefinite basis without national mobilization.

C. A study to determine the evolutionary steps to be taken in designing an ultimate GVN security structure.

D. A study to determine the optimum RVNAF force structure which can be attained and supported in consideration of recent experience and our estimate of the manpower pool.

REF B [The CINCPAC submission] establishes and justifies minimal force requirements, emphasizing the requirement for a well balanced, sustainable force in SVN for an indefinite period. Consequently, at this point in time I cannot justify a reduction in requirements submitted.

#117: Vietnam Bombing Evaluation by Institute for Defense Analyses

Excerpts from report by Institute for Defense Analyses, "The Effects of U.S. Bombing on North Vietnam's Ability to Support Military Operations in South Vietnam: Retrospect and Prospect," Aug. 29, 1966, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

1. As of July 1966 the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam (NVN) had had no measurable direct effect on Hanoi's ability to mount and support military operations in the South at the current level.

Although the political constraints seem clearly to have reduced the effectiveness of the bombing program, its limited effect on Hanoi's ability to provide such support cannot be explained solely on that basis. The countermeasures introduced by Hanoi effectively reduced the impact of U.S. bombing. More fundamentally, however, North Vietnam has basically a subsistence agricultural economy that presents a difficult and unrewarding target system for air attack.

The economy supports operations in the South mainly by functioning as a logistic funnel and by providing a source of manpower. The industrial sector produces little of military value. Most of the essential military supplies that the VC/NVN forces in the South require from external sources are provided by the USSR and Communist China. Furthermore, the volume of such supplies is so low that only a small fraction of the capacity of North Vietnam's rather flexible transportation network is required to maintain the flow. The economy's relatively underemployed labor force also appears to provide an ample manpower reserve for internal military and economic needs including repair and reconstruction and for continued support of military operations in the South.

2. Since the initiation of the ROLLING THUNDER program the damage to facilities and equipment in North Vietnam has been more than offset by the increased flow of military and economic aid, largely from the USSR and Communist China.

The measurable costs of the damage sustained by North Vietnam are estimated by intelligence analysts to have reached approximately $86 million by 15 July 1966. In 1965 alone, the value of the military and economic aid that Hanoi received from the USSR and Communist China is estimated to have been on the order of $250-400 million, of which about $100-150 million was economic, and they have continued to provide aid, evidently at an increasing rate, during the current year. Most of it has been from the USSR, which had virtually cut off aid during the 1962- 64 period. There can be little doubt, therefore, that Hanoi's Communist backers have assumed the economic costs to a degree that has significantly cushioned the impact of U.S. bombing.

3. The aspects of the basic situation that have enabled Hanoi to continue its support of military operations in the South and to neutralize the impact of U.S. bombing by passing the economic costs to other Communist countries are not likely to be altered by reducing the present geographic constraints, mining Haiphong and the principal harbors in North Vietnam, increasing the number of armed reconnaissance sorties and otherwise expanding the U.S. air offensive along the lines now contemplated in military recommendations and planning studies.

An expansion of the bombing program along such lines would make it more difficult and costly for Hanoi to move essential military supplies through North Vietnam to the VC/NVN forces in the South. The low volume of supplies required, the demonstrated effectiveness of the countermeasures already undertaken by Hanoi, the alternative options that the NVN transportation network provides and the level of aid the USSR and China seem prepared to provide, however, make it quite unlikely that Hanoi's capability to function as a logistic funnel would be seriously impaired. Our past experience also indicates that an intensified air campaign in NVN probably would not prevent Hanoi from infiltrating men into the South at the present or a higher rate, if it chooses. Furthermore there would appear to be no basis for assuming that the damage that could be inflicted by an intensified air offensive would impose such demands on the North Vietnamese labor force that Hanoi would be unable to continue and expand its recruitment and training of military forces for the insurgency in the South.

4. While conceptually it is reasonable to assume that some limit may be imposed on the scale of military activity that Hanoi can maintain in the South by continuing the ROLLING THUNDER program at the present, or some higher level of effort, there appears to be no basis for defining that limit in concrete terms or, for concluding that the present scale of VC/NVN activities in the field have approached that limit.

The available evidence clearly indicates that Hanoi has been infiltrating military forces and supplies into South Vietnam at an accelerated rate during the current year. Intelligence estimates have concluded that North Vietnam is capable of substantially increasing its support.

5. The indirect effects of the bombing on the will of the North Vietnamese to continue fighting and on their leaders' appraisal of the prospective gains and costs of maintaining the present policy have not shown themselves in any tangible way. Furthermore, we have not discovered any basis for concluding that the indirect punitive effects of bombing will prove decisive in these respects.

It may be argued on a speculative basis that continued or increased bombing must eventually affect Hanoi's will to continue, particularly as a component of the total U.S. military pressures being exerted throughout Southeast Asia. However, it is not a conclusion that necessarily follows from the available evidence; given the character of North Vietnam's economy and society, the present and prospective low levels of casualties and the amount of aid available to Hanoi. It would appear to be equally logical to assume that the major influences on Hanoi's will to continue are most likely to be the course of the war in the South and the degree to which the USSR and China support the policy of continuing the war and that the punitive impact of U.S. bombing may have but a marginal effect in the broader context.

In the body of the report these summary formulations were elaborated in more detail. For instance, in assessing the military and economic effect of the bombing on North Vietnam's capacity to sustain the war, the report stated:

The economic and military damage sustained by Hanoi in the first year of the bombing was moderate and the cost could be (and was) passed along to Moscow and Peiping.

The major effect of the attack on North Vietnam was to force Hanoi to cope with disruption to normal activity, particularly in transportation and distribution. The bombing hurt most in its disruption of the roads and rail nets and in the very considerable repair effort which became necessary. The regime, however, was singularly successful in overcoming the effects of the U.S. interdiction effort.

Much of the damage was to installations that the North Vietnamese did not need to sustain the military effort. The regime made no attempt to restore storage facilities and little to repair damage to power stations, evidently because of the existence of adequate excess capacity and because the facilities were not of vital importance. For somewhat similar reasons, it made no major effort to restore military facilities, but merely abandoned barracks and dispersed materiel usually stored in depots.

The major essential restoration consisted of measures to keep traffic moving, to keep the railroad yards operating, to maintain communications, and to replace transport equipment and equipment for radar and SAM sites.

A little further on the report examined the political effects of the bombing on Hanoi's will to continue the war, the morale of the population, and the support of its allies.

The bombing through 1965 apparently had not had a major effect in shaping Hanoi's decision on whether or not to continue the war in Vietnam. The regime probably continued to base such decisions mainly on the course of the fighting in the South and appeared willing to suffer even stepped-up bombing so long as prospects of winning the South appeared to be reasonably good.

Evidence regarding the effect of the bombing on the morale of the North Vietnamese people suggests that the results were mixed. The bombing clearly strengthened popular support of the regime by engendering patriotic and nationalistic enthusiasm to resist the attacks. On the other hand, those more directly involved in the bombing underwent personal hardships and anxieties caused by the raids. Because the air strikes were directed away from urban areas, morale was probably damaged less by the direct bombing than by its indirect effects, such as evacuation of the urban population and the splitting of families.

Hanoi's political relations with its allies were in some respects strengthened by the bombing. The attacks had the effect of encouraging greater material and political support from the Soviet Union than might otherwise have been the case. While the Soviet aid complicated Hanoi's relationship with Peking, it reduced North Vietnam's dependence on China and thereby gave Hanoi more room for maneuver on its own behalf.

This report's concluding chapter was entitled "Observations" and contained some of the most lucid and penetrating analysis of air war produced to that date, or this! It began by reviewing the original objectives the bombing was initiated to achieve:

... Reducing the ability of North Vietnam to support the Communist insurgencies in South Vietnam and Laos, and ... increasing progressively the pressure on NVN to the point where the regime would decide that it was too costly to continue directing and supporting the insurgency in the South.

After rehearsing the now familiar military failure of the bombing to halt the infiltration, the report crisply and succinctly outlined the bombing's failure to achieve the critical second objective -- the psychological one:

... Initial plans and assessments for the ROLLING THUNDER program clearly tended to overestimate the persuasive and disruptive effects of the U.S. air strikes and, correspondingly, to underestimate the tenacity and recuperative capabilities of the North Vietnamese. This tendency, in turn, appears to reflect a general failure to appreciate the fact, well-documented in the historical and social scientific literature, that a direct, frontal attack on a society tends to strengthen the social fabric of the nation, to increase popular support of the existing government, to improve the determination of both the leadership and the populace to fight back, to induce a variety of protective measures that reduce the society's vulnerability to future attack, and to develop an increased capacity for quick repair and restoration of essential functions. The great variety of physical and social counter-measures that North Vietnam has taken in response to the bombing is now well documented in current intelligence reports, but the potential effectiveness of these counter-measures was not stressed in the early planning or intelligence studies.

Perhaps the most trenchant analysis of all, however, was reserved for last as the report attacked the fundamental weakness of the air war strategy -- our inability to relate operations to objectives:

In general, current official thought about U.S. objectives in bombing NVN implicitly assumes two sets of causal relationships:

1. That by increasing the damage and destruction of resources in NVN, the U.S. is exerting pressure to cause the DRV to stop their support of the military operations in SVN and Laos; and

2. That the combined effect of the total military effort against NVN- -- ncluding the U.S. air strikes in NVN and Laos, and the land, sea, and air operations in SVN -- will ultimately cause the DRV to perceive that its probable losses accruing from the war have become greater than its possible gains and, on the basis of this net evaluation, the regime will stop its support of the war in the South.

These two sets of interrelationships are assumed in military planning, but it is not clear that they are systematically addressed in current intelligence estimates and assessments. Instead, the tendency is to encapsulate the bombing of NVN as one set of operations and the war in the South as another set of operations, and to evaluate each separately; and to tabulate and describe data on the physical, economic, and military effects of the bombing, but not to address specifically the relationship between such effects and the data relating to the ability and will of the DRV to continue its support of the war in the South.

The fragmented nature of current analyses and the lack of adequate methodology for assessing the net effects of a given set of military operations leaves a major gap between the quantifiable data on bomb damage effects, on the one hand, and policy judgments about the feasibility of achieving a given set of objectives, on the other. Bridging this gap still requires the exercise of broad political-military judgments that cannot be supported or rejected on the basis of systematic intelligence indicators. It must be concluded, therefore, that there is currently no adequate basis for predicting the levels of U.S. military effort that would be required to achieve the stated objectives -- indeed, there is no firm basis for determining if there is any feasible level of effort that would achieve these objectives.

The critical impact of this study on the Secretary's thinking is revealed by the fact that many of its conclusions and much of its analysis would find its way into McNamara's October trip report to the President.

Having submitted a stinging condemnation of the bombing, the Study Group was under some obligation to offer constructive alternatives and this they did, seizing, not surprisingly, on the very idea McNamara had suggested -- the anti-infiltration barrier. The product of their summer's work was a reasonably detailed proposal for a multi-system barrier across the DMZ and the Laotian panhandle that would make extensive use of recently innovated mines and sensors. The central portion of their recommendation follows:

The barrier would have two somewhat different parts, one designed against foot traffic and one against vehicles. The preferred location for the anti-foot-traffic barrier is in the region along the southern edge of the DMZ to the Laotian border and then north of Tchepone to the vicinity of Muong Sen, extending about 100 by 20 kilometers. This area is virtually unpopulated, and the terrain is quite rugged, containing mostly V-shaped valleys in which the opportunity for alternate trails appears lower than it is elsewhere in the system. The location of choice for the anti-vehicle part of the system is the area, about 100 by 40 kilometers, now covered by Operation Cricket. In this area the road network tends to be more constricted than elsewhere, and there appears to be a smaller area available for new roads. An alternative location for the anti-personnel system is north of the DMZ to the Laotian border and then north along the crest of the mountains dividing Laos from North Vietnam. It is less desirable economically and militarily because of its greater length, greater distance from U.S. bases, and greater proximity to potential North Vietnamese counter-efforts.

The air-supported barrier would, if necessary, be supplemented by a manned "fence" connecting the eastern end of the barrier to the sea.

The construction of the air-supported barrier could be initiated using currently available or nearly available components, with some necessary modifications, and could perhaps be installed by a year or so from go-ahead. However, we anticipate that the North Vietnamese would learn to cope with a barrier built this way after some period of time which we cannot estimate, but which we fear may be short. Weapons and sensors which can make a much more effective barrier, only some of which are now under development, are not likely to be available in less than 18 months to 2 years. Even these, it must be expected, will eventually be overcome by the North Vietnamese, so that further improvements in weaponry will be necessary. Thus we envisage a dynamic "battle of the barrier," in which the barrier is repeatedly improved and strengthened by the introduction of new components, and which will hopefully permit us to keep the North Vietnamese off balance by continually posing new problems for them ....

The anti-troop infiltration system (which would also function against supply porters) would operate as follows. There would be a constantly renewed mine field of non-sterilizing Gravel (and possibly button bomblets), distributed in patterns covering interconnected valleys and slopes (suitable for alternate trails) over the entire barrier region. The actual mined area would encompass the equivalent of a strip about 100 by 5 kilometers. There would also be a pattern of acoustic detectors to listen for mine explosions indicating an attempted penetration. The mine field is intended to deny opening of alternate routes for troop infiltrators and should be emplaced first. On the trails and bivouacs currently used, from which mines may -- we tentatively assume -- be cleared without great difficulty, a more dense pattern of sensors would be designed to locate groups of infiltrators. Air strikes using Gravel and SADEYES would then be called against these targets. The sensor patterns would be monitored 24 hours a day by patrol aircraft. The struck areas would be reseeded with new mines.

The anti-vehicle system would consist of acoustic detectors distributed every mile or so along all truck able roads in the interdicted area, monitored 24 hours a day by patrol aircraft, with vectored strike aircraft using SADEYE to respond to signals that trucks or truck convoys are moving. The patrol aircraft would distribute self-sterilizing Gravel over parts of the road net at dusk. The self-sterilizing feature is needed so that road-watching and mine-planting teams could be used in this area. Photo-reconnaissance aircraft would cover the entire area each few days to look for the development of new truckable roads, to see if the transport of supplies is being switched to porters, and to identify any other change in the infiltration system. It may also be desirable to use ground teams to plant larger anti-truck mines along the roads, as an interim measure pending the development of effective air-dropped anti-vehicle mines.

The cost of such a system (both parts) has been estimated to be about $800 million per year, of which by far the major fraction is spent for Gravel and SADEYES. The key requirements would be (all numbers are approximate because of assumptions which had to be made regarding degradation of system components in field use, and regarding the magnitude of infiltration): 20 million Gravel mines per month; possibly 25 million button bomblets per month ...

Apart from the tactical counter-measures against the barrier itself, one has to consider strategic alternatives available to the North Vietnamese in case the barrier is successful. Among these are: a move into the Mekong Plain; infiltration from the sea either directly to SVN or through Cambodia; and movement down the Mekong from Thakhek (held by the Pathet Lao-North Vietnamese) into Cambodia.

Finally, it will be difficult for us to find out how effective the barrier is in the absence of clearly visible North Vietnamese responses, such as end runs through the Mekong plan. Because of supplies already stored in the pipeline, and because of the general shakiness of our quantitative estimates of either supply or troop infiltration, it is likely to be some time before the effect of even a wholly successful barrier becomes noticeable. A greatly stepped-up intelligence effort is called for, including continued road-watch activity in the areas of the motorcade roads, and patrol and reconnaissance activity south of the anti-personnel barrier.

Air Force Phantom jets bombing North Vietnam (Pictorial Parade).

Westmoreland and Lodge. The Ambassador had proposed the carrot-and-stick approach to Hanoi made through Seaborn (Harry Redl from Black Star)

J. Blair Seaborn, Canadian official, delivered warning to Pham Van Dong.

The landing of marines in Danang bolstered U.S. presence. ("Paris Match")

Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky became Premier in 1965. Above, he meets with Alexis Johnson, Lodge, Taylor and McNamara. ("Paris Match")

Honolulu, 1966. McNamara talks with President Nguyen Van Thieu while President Johnson listens to Vice President Ky.

Aboard Air Force One are Vice President Humphrey, Rusk, John Gardner, Alexis Johnson, Taylor, Rostow, the President.

Gen. Earle Wheeler briefing the President at the White House. At left is Gen. John McConnell, at rear Gen. Harold Johnson ("Paris Match")

Walt Rostow also counseled the President. At left is George Christian, press aide; at rear is Brig. Gen. Robert Ginsburgh.

American bombs explode near an antiaircraft battery outside Hanoi in 1967, the period of greatest pressure on the North (Central Press).

George W. Ball, who had doubted the effectiveness of bombing the North, proposed the U.S. "cut its losses" and withdraw (The New York Times).
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 6:20 am


Chapter 9: Secretary McNamara's Disenchantment: October, 1966 - May, 1967

Highlights of the Period: October, 1966-May, 1967

Starting late in 1966, the Pentagon study recounts, doubts about the effectiveness of American policy in Vietnam began to shred the unity of the Johnson Administration, with Secretary of Defense McNamara emerging as the leader of a group of "disillusioned doves."

Here are highlights of the months of doubt and debate:


Mr. McNamara, returning from South Vietnam, told the President in a memorandum that "pacification has if anything gone backward" and the air war had not "either significantly affected infiltration or cracked the morale of Hanoi." He recommended a limit on the increase of forces and the consideration of a halt in the bombing, or of shifting targets from the Hanoi-Haiphong areas to infiltration routes, to "increase the credibility of our peace gestures."

The Joint Chiefs, in their memorandum to the President, opposed any cutback in the bombing; they proposed a "sharp knock," including strikes at locks, dams and rail yards. They said that the military situation had "improved substantially over the past year" and called the bombing "a trump card."


Mr. McNamara gave the Joint Chiefs a new troop authorization for 469,000 men by the end of June, 1968, below the military request. The study comments that from then on "the judgment of the military ... would be subject to question."

Mr. McNamara told the President there was "no evidence" that additional troops "would substantially change the situation," and that the bombing was yielding very small marginal returns" with "no significant impact" on the war in the South.


The Central Intelligence Agency, in a study, estimated 1965-1966 air-war casualties in North to be 36,000 -- "about 80 per cent civilians" -- making the civilian casualty toll about 29,000.


The President approved a "spring air offensive," including attacks on power plants, the mining of rivers, and the relaxation of restrictions on air raids near Hanoi and Haiphong.

MARCH 1967

General Westmoreland asked for 200,000 more troops, for a total U.S. force in Vietnam of 671,616.

APRIL 1967

The Joint Chiefs transmitted the Westmoreland troop request, and called for the mobilization of reserves, proposing "an extension of the war" into Laos and Cambodia and possibly North Vietnam.

The President asked Gen. Westmoreland if the enemy could not increase troop strength also and added: "If so, where does it all end?"

MAY 1967

Assistant Secretary of State William P. Bundy opposed ground operations against North Vietnam as likely to provoke China; he also warned -- as did the C.I.A. -- of the possibility of a Soviet reaction to the mining of Haiphong harbor.

Walt W. Rostow, in a memo to the President, urged a cutback in the bombing.

A McNamara-McNaughton memo to the President recommended a bombing cutback to the 20th parallel, a troop increase of only 30,000 and what the study calls basically "a recommendation that we accept a compromise outcome" and "scaled-down goals." Study says these were "radical positions" under the circumstances.

Chapter 9: Secretary McNamara's Disenchantment: October, 1966-May, 1967

by Hedrick Smith

The Pentagon's secret study of the Vietnam war discloses that Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara sought in October, 1966, to persuade President Lyndon B. Johnson to cut back the bombing of North Vietnam to seek a political settlement -- 17 months before Mr. Johnson made that move on March 31, 1968.

In May, 1967, the study reveals, Mr. McNamara went a step further and advocated that the Johnson Administration stop trying to guarantee a non-Communist South Vietnam and be willing to accept a coalition government in Saigon that included elements of the Vietcong.

What the study terms his "radical" proposal for scaling down American objectives in the war called for Saigon to negotiate with elements of the guerrilla movement not only for a political compromise but also for a cease-fire.

Mr. McNamara's disillusionment with the war has been reported previously, but the depth of his dissent from established policy is fully documented for the first time in the Pentagon study, which he commissioned on June 17, 1967.

The study details how this turnabout by Mr. McNamara -- originally a leading advocate of the bombing policy and, in 1965, a confident believer that American intervention would bring the Vietcong insurgency under control -- opened a deep policy rift in the Johnson Administration.

The study does not specifically say, however, that his break with established policy led President Johnson to nominate him on Nov. 28, 1967, as president of the World Bank and to replace him as Secretary of Defense.

But Mr. McNamara has previously revealed that in both May and August of 1967 the subject of his possible departure from the Administration came up in talks with President Johnson, and the Pentagon study depicts both periods as critical points in the internal maneuvering on military strategy. In May Mr. McNamara was pressing his proposals to scale down the war, and in August President Johnson decided to expand the air war against the Secretary's advice.

The account of the Johnson Administration from late 1966 onward is that of a government wrestling with itself as the views of some senior policymakers changed under the pressures of protracted war.

Three identifiable camps are described: the McNamara group -- the "disillusioned doves," as the analysts put it -- trying to set limits on the war and then reduce it; the military faction, led by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the commander in Vietnam, pressing for wider war; and President Johnson, as well as senior civilian officials at the White House and State Department, taking a middle position.

At each stage, the primary issues of debate were much the same: the size of American troop commitments; the effectiveness of the bombing of North Vietnam, which began on a sustained basis in March, 1965, and the proposed expansion of the air war and of the ground war in the South.

Beginning in late 1966, the study relates, President Johnson was being urged by the military leaders to step up the air war sharply and to consider allied invasions of Laos, Cambodia and even North Vietnam. Repeatedly the President was pressed to mobilize reserves to provide the manpower for a larger war.

The military leaders reacted to Secretary McNamara's proposals for a reduction of the air war with what the study calls "the stiffest kind of condemnation" and they "bombarded" him with rebuttals.

According to the study, Gen. Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned on May 24, 1967, that halting the bombing north of the 20th Parallel would be "an aerial Dienbienphu" -- a reference to the disastrous French military defeat in May, 1954, just before the negotiations that ended the French Indochina war.

The Joint Chiefs, the study relates, saw an "alarming pattern" in Mr. McNamara's over-all strategy -- one, they declared, that would undermine the entire American war effort.

Their most vehement criticism was directed against the Secretary's memorandum to President Johnson on May 19, 1967. That paper gave a discouraging picture of the military situation and a pessimistic view of the American public's impatience with the war, and said:

"The time has come for us to eliminate the ambiguities from our minimum objectives -- our commitments -- in Vietnam. Specifically, two principles must be articulated, and policies and actions brought in line with them: (1) Our commitment is only to see that the people of South Vietnam are permitted to determine their own future. (2) This commitment ceases if the country ceases to help itself.

"It follows that no matter how much we might hope for some things, our commitment is not:

" ... To ensure that a particular person or group remains in power, nor that the power runs to every corner of the land (though we prefer certain types and we hope their writ will run throughout South Vietnam),

"To guarantee that the self-chosen government is non- Communist (though we believe and strongly hope it will be) and

"To insist that the independent South Vietnam remain separate from North Vietnam (though in the short-run, we would prefer it that way)." The material in italics and in parentheses is in the McNamara memorandum.

Specifically, the Secretary urged that in September, 1967, after the South Vietnamese presidential elections, the United States "move" the Saigon Government "to seek a political settlement with the non-Communist members of the NLF [National Liberation Front, or Vietcong] -- 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."

Mr. McNamara acknowledged that one obvious drawback would be "the alleged impact on the reputation of the United States and of its President," but argued that "the difficulties of this strategy are fewer and smaller than the difficulties of any other approach."

President Johnson, the study recounts, preferred the middle ground of piecemeal escalation -- what the study calls "the slow squeeze" -- to either the "sharp knock" advocated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the shift toward political and military accommodation favored by Mr. McNamara.

It is "not surprising," the Pentagon analysts remark, that the President did not adopt the McNamara approach in view of his need to keep "the military 'on board' in any new direction for the U.S. effort in Southeast Asia." This is evidently an allusion to reports at the time that some high-ranking officers were in the mood to threaten resignation if the McNamara policy was adopted.

Satisfying neither extreme, President Johnson "was in the uncomfortable position of being able to please neither his hawkish nor his dovish critics with his carefully modulated middle course," the study asserts.

During the prolonged internal debate, the Pentagon account discloses, such issues as stalemate in the ground war and civilian casualties of the air war were of much more concern to some policy makers than the Administration publicly acknowledged.

Press dispatches from Hanoi in late 1966 stimulated what the analysts call an "explosive debate" in public about civilian casualties. Privately, the analysts add, the Central Intelligence Agency produced a summary of the bombing in 1965 and 1966 that estimated that there had been nearly 29,000 civilian casualties in North Vietnam -- a figure far higher than Hanoi itself had ever used.

The Pentagon study also discloses that early in 1967 the growing stalemate on the ground became a concern of high civilian officials -- even, at times, of President Johnson himself.

On April 27, the study notes, the President met with General Westmoreland and General Wheeler, who urged him to grant General Westmoreland's request for 200,000 more troops -- a request the two officers repeated nearly a year later -- but Mr. Johnson was wary.

Their discussion was recorded in notes, found in Pentagon files and quoted in the study. [See Document # 125.]

"When we add divisions, can't the enemy add divisions?" the President asked. "If so, where does it all end?"

When General Westmoreland conceded that the enemy was likely to match American reinforcements, President Johnson turned to the worry that Hanoi might ask Communist China for help.

"At what point," he asked, "does the enemy ask for volunteers?"

The only recorded reply from General Westmoreland was, "That is a good question."

The real ceiling on the American commitment, the analysts suggest several times, was imposed primarily by President Johnson's refusal to be pushed by the military leaders into asking Congress to mobilize reserve forces -- both former servicemen on inactive status and organized units of these servicemen.

Mobilization, the analysts assert, became the "political sound barrier" that President Johnson would not break.

A Pessimistic Report

For Mr. McNamara and his influential aide John T. McNaughton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, the first frontal challenge to the basic trend of policy came in October, 1966, and grew out of doubts that had been mounting for nearly a year.

As early as November, 1965 -- eight months after the American decision to intervene with ground forces -- the Secretary of Defense warned President Johnson that the major new reinforcements he was approving could "not guarantee success." And in January, 1966, Mr. McNaughton, the third-ranking official in the Pentagon, voiced fear that the United States had become caught in "an escalating military stalemate."

In mid-October, Secretary McNamara returned disturbed from a trip to South Vietnam. He had been the intended target of a Vietcong assassination squad that was discovered only a few hours before his arrival in Saigon -- a point to which he seemed to allude in his report to the President. "Full security exists nowhere," he said, "not even behind the U.S. Marines' lines and in Saigon [and] in the countryside, the enemy almost completely controls the night." [See Document #118.]

The Pentagon study notes that in this Oct. 14 memorandum, Mr. McNamara for the first time recommended cutting back sharply on military requests for reinforcements. Such requests had previously been given almost routine approval in Washington.

In September, 1966, Adm. U. S. Grant Sharp, commander in chief of forces in the Pacific, had pressed on behalf of General Westmoreland for an increase in the projected strength of American forces in South Vietnam from 445,000 to 570,000 by the end of 1967. Actual strength was 325,000 men, and still rising.

On Oct. 7, the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged what the Pentagon study calls "full-blown" mobilization of 688,500 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine reservists to help provide more troops for Vietnam and also to build up the armed forces around the world.

In his Oct. 14 memorandum, Mr. McNamara told President Johnson that he was "a little less pessimistic" than he had been a year earlier because the allied military campaign had "blunted the Communist military initiative" and prevented a total collapse in Saigon. But he went on to say that this had not produced results in what he called "the 'end products' -- broken enemy morale and political achievements" by the South Vietnamese Government.

Discussing Saigon's struggle to win the people's allegiance, Mr. McNamara showed none of the confidence of high American officials in the early sixties that the mere introduction of Americans would revitalize the South Vietnamese civilian and military leadership.

"The discouraging truth," he said, "is that, as was the case in 1961 and 1963 and 1965, we have not found the formula, the catalyst, for training and inspiring them into effective action."

Summing up the crucial drive to extend Government control in the countryside, he said:

"Pacification has if anything gone backward. As compared with two, or four, years ago, enemy full-time regional forces and part-time guerrilla forces are larger; attacks, terrorism and sabotage have increased in scope and intensity; more railroads are closed and highways cut; the rice crop expected to come to market is smaller; we control little, if any, more of the population. . . . In essence, we find ourselves . . . no better, and if anything worse off."

"Nor," he said, turning to the air war, "has the Rolling Thunder program of bombing the North either significantly affected the infiltration or cracked the morale of Hanoi."

The essence of Mr. McNamara's recommendations was that the United States should be "girding, openly, for a longer war" rather than pursuing what the Pentagon study terms General Westmoreland's "meatgrinder" strategy of trying to kill enemy troops more rapidly than they could be replaced either by new recruits or by infiltration from North Vietnam.

In his memorandum, the Secretary put forward his program:

• "Limit the increase in U.S. forces" in 1967 to a total of 470,000 men -- 25,000 more than planned, and 100,000 fewer than requested by the military.
• "Install a barrier" to infiltration just south of the demilitarized zone astride the two Vietnams' border and jutting across the Ho Chi Minh Trail complex of enemy supply lines in the mountainous panhandle of Laos. The electronic barrier would cost roughly $ 1-billion.
• "Stabilize the Rolling Thunder program against the North" at the current monthly level of 12,000 sorties -- individual flights by planes -- because "to bomb the North sufficiently to make a radical impact upon Hanoi's political, economic and social structure, would require an effort which we could make but which would not be stomached either by our own people or by world opinion; and it would involve a serious risk of drawing us into open war with China."
• "Pursue a vigorous pacification program" that would require "drastic reform" in the approach of South Vietnamese civilian, police and military officials to insure that they "will 'stay' in the [contested] area, ... behave themselves decently and ... show some respect for the people."
• "Take steps to increase the credibility of our peace gestures in the minds of the enemy" through both political and military moves.

Among these moves, he proposed that "we should consider" a decision to "stop bombing all of North Vietnam" or, alternatively, to "shift the weight-of-effort away from 'zones 6A and 6B' -- zones including Hanoi and Haiphong and areas north of those two cities to the Chinese border" and concentrate the air war instead "on the infiltration routes in Zones 1 and 2 (the southern end of North Vietnam, including the Mugia Pass), in Laos and in South Vietnam." The parenthetical material is Mr. McNamara's.

Politically, he suggested consideration of efforts to "try to split the VC off from Hanoi" and to "develop a realistic plan providing a role for the VC in negotiations, postwar life and government of the nation."

Joint Chiefs Demur

The public position of the Johnson Administration opposed negotiating with the Vietcong or recognizing them. A proposal for political compromise from Senator Robert F. Kennedy on Feb. 19, 1966 -- that the Vietcong should be admitted "to a share of power and responsibility" in Saigon -- had been quickly denounced by Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. That, Mr. Humphrey said, would be like putting "a fox in a chicken coop; soon there wouldn't be any chickens left."

Mr. McNamara was skeptical that any approach would work rapidly. "The prognosis is bad that the war can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion within the next two years," he told President Johnson in his memorandum. "The large-unit operations probably will not do it; negotiations probably will not do it."

There are no indications that other agencies of government were called upon to comment formally, although the Mc- Namara report did receive general endorsement from Under Secretary of State Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, who had gone with the Secretary of Defense to Saigon. A note at the end of Mr. McNamara's paper stated: "Mr. Katzenbach and I have discussed many of its main conclusions and recommendations -- in general, but not in particulars, it expresses his views as well as my own."

The reaction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Mr. McNamara's proposals of Oct. 14, the Pentagon study reports, was "predictably rapid -- and violent." Obviously forewarned, the Joint Chiefs had their own memorandum ready on the same day for Mr. McNamara and the President. [See Document #119.]

Their paper, quoted at length in the Pentagon study, agreed that a long war was likely but took issue with Mr. McNamara's guarded assessment of the military situation, which, in their eyes, had "improved substantially over the past year." They were especially concerned that the McNamara paper did not take into account what they called the "adverse impact over time of continued bloody defeats on the morale of VC/ N.V.A. [Vietcong/North Vietnamese Army] forces and the determination of their political and military leaders."

The Joint Chiefs objected to Mr. McNamara's suggestion of a halt or a cutback in bombing to stimulate negotiations. The bombing, they argued, was a "trump card" that should not be surrendered without an equivalent return, such as "an end to the NVN aggression in SVN." Rather than cutting back or leveling off, they advocated a "sharp knock" against North Vietnamese military assets and war-supporting facilities.

Whatever the "political merits" of slowly increasing the pressure, they said:

"We deprived ourselves of the military effects of early weight of effort and shock, and gave to the enemy time to adjust to our slow quantitative and qualitative increase of pressure. This is not to say that it is now too late to derive military benefits from more effective and extensive use of our air and naval superiority."

What the Joint Chiefs recommended in their Oct. 14 memorandum -- and what they largely succeeded in getting President Johnson to approve, though only step by step -- was a bombing program that would have these effects:

"Decrease the Hanoi and Haiphong sanctuary areas, authorize attacks against the steel plant [at Thainguyen], the Hanoi rail yards, the thermal power plants, selected areas within Haiphong port and other ports, selected locks and dams controlling water LOCs [lines of communications -- canals and rivers] SAM [surface-to-air missile] support facilities within residual Hanoi and Haiphong sanctuaries, and P.O.L. [petroleum-oil-lubricants storage] at Haiphong, Hagia (Phucyen) and Canthon (Kep)."

The Joint Chiefs commented that Mr. McNamara's proposal for total American troop strength of 470,000 men was "substantially less" than the earlier recommendations of General Westmoreland and Admiral Sharp. On Nov. 4, the study recounts, they recommended a build-up to 493,969 men by the end of 1967 and eventually to 555,741. They also discussed their preferred strategy, which involved the lifting of political restraints:

"The concept describes preparation for operations that have not as yet been authorized, such as mining ports, naval quarantine, spoiling attacks and raids against the enemy in Cambodia and Laos, and certain special operations."

But at a conference of the allied powers in Manila on Oct. 23 to 25 came an indication that General Westmoreland had sensed that, as the Pentagon study puts it, "McNamara and Johnson were not politically and militarily enchanted with a costly major force increase at that time, nor with cross-border and air operations which ran grave political risks."

The general's talks with President Johnson on these issues "remain a mystery," the Pentagon study says. But twice the general sought out Assistant Secretary McNaughton, who reported to Mr. McNamara on Oct. 26 that General Westmoreland had trimmed his requests to 480,000 men by the end of 1967 and 500,000 by the end of 1968.

According to Mr. McNaughton's report, cited in the study, General Westmoreland said that those forces would be enough "even if infiltration went on at a high level" but that he wanted a contingency force of roughly two divisions on reserve in the Pacific. This could range between 50,000 and 75,000 men.

The time for decision came virtually on the eve of the Nov. 8 Congressional election. Although the war was not a central issue in most districts, the Pentagon account says, President Johnson had obtained at the Manila meeting a statement on ultimate allied withdrawal that would favorably impress American voters.

The final Manila communique, issued on Oct. 25, pledged that allied forces would be withdrawn from Vietnam "not later than six months after" the other side "withdraws its forces to the North, and ceases infiltration, and as the level of violence thus subsides."

According to Mr. McNaughton's notes, "the President was determined to get the language in, including the reference to 'six months' (opposed by State, supported by me)."

Three days before the election, Secretary McNamara said at a news conference at Johnson City, Tex., that the American troop commitment to South Vietnam would grow in 1967 at a rate "substantially less" than the 200,000 men added in 1966.

The Pentagon study says that the troop decision had been made in a meeting with the President that morning after weeks of detailed studies and arguments, but Mr. McNamara would give no figure to reporters. When they questioned him, he replied: "I couldn't give you an estimate. We don't have detailed plans."

Nor did the Secretary give any indication of the discouragement with the war that had characterized his confidential report to the President on Oct. 14. Instead, he dwelt upon allied success in preventing the Communist take-over that had been expected a year before. Whereas in private Mr. McNamara had talked about the build-up of enemy forces and the American inability to energize the Saigon Government, in public he cited prisoner interrogations that suggested that enemy morale was sagging.

The troop build-up decision was formally communicated to the Joint Chiefs on Nov. 11. Mr. McNamara told them, the Pentagon study recounts, that the new goal would be 469,000 men in the field by June 30, 1968 -- not only fewer men than General Westmoreland's revised figures at Manila but an even slower build-up than Mr. McNamara himself had foreseen in mid-October.

The Pentagon study asserts that the significance of the 1966 troop debate was that for the first time the President essentially said "no" to General Westmoreland. Moreover, Secretary McNamara, in his October memorandum, had generated alternative strategies to those put forward by the military commander. "From this time on," the Pentagon study comments, "the judgment of the military as to how the war should be fought and what was needed would be subject to question."

On Nov. 17, Mr. McNamara went a step further and challenged General Westmoreland's strategy of attrition. In a paper to the President, Mr. McNamara reported Pentagon calculations that previous American reinforcements had not brought sharp enough increases in enemy casualties to justify further heavy reinforcements. [See Document # 120.]

Pentagon efficiency specialists showed, Mr. McNamara said, that from 1965 to 1966 "enemy losses increased by 115 per week during a period in which friendly strength increased by 166,000, an increase of about 70 losses per 100,000 of friendly strength .... We have no evidence that more troops than the 470,000 I am recommending would substantially change the situation."

"Moreover," he went on, "it is possible that our attrition estimates substantially overstate actual VC/NVA losses. For example, the VC/NVA apparently lose only about one-sixth as many weapons as people, suggesting the possibility that many of the killed are unarmed porters or bystanders."

He made a similar report on the air war. "At the scale we are now operating, I believe our bombing is yielding very small marginal returns, not worth the cost in pilot lives and aircraft," Mr. McNamara said. "In spite of an interdiction campaign costing at least $250-million per month at current levels, no significant impact on the war in South Vietnam is evident."

But President Johnson did not accept Mr. McNamara's earlier suggestions for a cutback in the bombing. The study reveals that the Secretary's pessimism about the war was not shared by such White House officials as Walt W. Rostow and Robert W. Komer, both special assistants to the President.

The one change in the air war that the President approved, the study shows, was an increase in B-52 sorties from 60 to 800 monthly, effective in February, 1967, as urged by Admiral Sharp and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

By the turn of the year, the air war had become the main point of controversy. Public dissent over the bombing was rising. Dispatches from Hanoi by Harrison E. Salisbury, assistant managing editor of The New York Times, generated an "explosive debate about the bombing," the Pentagon study adds.

"His dispatches carried added sting," the study explains, because he was in North Vietnam as the bombing moved in close to Hanoi. On Dec. 25, 1966, Mr. Salisbury reported from Namdinh that the air campaign had killed 89 persons and wounded 405 others. Press reports from Washington quoted officials as expressing irritation and contending that Mr. Salisbury was exaggerating the damage to civilian areas.

But soon, the Government's own intelligence specialists were privately estimating that civilian casualties in North Vietnam were far more numerous than indicated in the dispatches of Mr. Salisbury or of William C. Baggs, editor of The Miami News, who went later to Hanoi.

In January, 1967, the Pentagon account discloses, the Central Intelligence Agency produced a study estimating that military and civilian casualties of the air war in North Vietnam had risen from 13,000 in 1965 to 23,000 or 24,000 in 1966 -- "about 80 per cent civilians." In all, that meant nearly 29,000 civilian casualties in an air war that was to expand in the next 15 months.

The study reports that the total number of individual flights against North Vietnam in Operation Rolling Thunder rose from 55,000 in 1965 to 148,000 in 1966, total bomb tonnage rose from 33,000 to 128,000, the number of aircraft lost rose from 171 to 318, and direct operational costs rose from $460- million to $1.2-billion. But, paraphrasing the C.I.A. analysis, the Pentagon study comments that the bombing in 1966 "accomplished little more than in 1965."

According to the account, the major result of the raids close to Hanoi on Dec. 2,4, 13 and 14 -- all inside a previously established 30-mile sanctuary around the capital -- "was to undercut what appeared to be a peace feeler from Hanoi."

The Pentagon version of this diplomatic maneuver, codenamed Marigold by the State Department, is reportedly included in the diplomatic section of the study, the one part not obtained by The New York Times. The authors of other sections relied on press accounts and on the book "The Secret Search for Peace" by David Kraslow and Stuart H. Loory of The Los Angeles Times.

The study recounts that the Polish member of the International Control Commission for Vietnam tried to arrange for talks between American and North Vietnamese representatives in early December, 1966, in Warsaw.

"When the attacks were launched inadvertently against Hanoi in December," the Pentagon study comments, "the attempt to start talks ran into difficulty. A belated attempt to mollify North Vietnam's bruised ego failed and formal talks did not materialize." This is an allusion to President Johnson's decision to restore part of the bomb-free sanctuary around Hanoi. The analyst does not explain why he considered the raids inadvertent.

Recapitulating the public furor over the bombing, the study comments that 1966 "drew to a close on a sour note for the President."

"He had just two months before resisted pressure from the military for a major escalation of the war in the North and adopted the restrained approach of the Secretary of Defense," the study continues, "only to have a few inadvertent raids within the Hanoi periphery mushroom into a significant loss of world opinion support."

Pressure for Wider War

As 1967 began, the study asserts, the stage was set for "a running battle" inside the Johnson Administration " between the advocates of a greatly expanded air campaign against North Vietnam, one that might genuinely be called 'strategic,' and the disillusioned doves who urged relaxation, if not complete suspension, of the bombing in the interests of greater effectiveness and the possibilities for peace."

"The 'hawks,' of course, were primarily the military," the study continues, "but in wartime their power and influence with an incumbent administration is disproportionate. Mc- Namara, supported quantitatively by John McNaughton ... led the attempt to deescalate the bombing. Treading the uncertain middle ground at different times in the debate were William P. Bundy (Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs], Air Force Secretary Harold Brown and, most importantly, the President himself. Buffeted from right to left, he determinedly tried to pursue the temperate course, escalating gradually in the late spring but leveling off again in the summer."

With the exception of a diplomatic interlude during the holiday truce at Tet, the Lunar New Year celebration in early February, the pressures for widening the war were unrelenting, according to the Pentagon account.

Mr. Rostow, the President's special assistant for national security, said in a memorandum on Dec. 12, for example, that he found the allied military position "greatly improved" in 1966 and pictured a dominant -- even potentially victorious -- position by the end of 1967.

In Congress, the study also notes, the military received support from Senator John C. Stennis, chairman of the influential Senate Preparedness Subcommittee. On Jan. 18, the Mississippi Democrat declared that General Westmoreland's troop requests should be met, "even if it should require mobilization or partial mobilization."

In Saigon, General Westmoreland was pressing Washington to speed the troop shipments already promised. In support of his requests, the study notes, General Westmoreland described the growth of enemy forces as of Jan. 2:

". . . 9 division headquarters, 34 regimental headquarters, 152 combat battalions, 34 combat support battalions, 196 separate companies, and 70 separate platoons totaling some 128,600, plus at least 112,800 militia and at least 39,175 political cadre ... (a) strength increase of some 42,000 during 1966 despite known losses."

For the allies, he explained, this posed the danger that in any of the three military regions north of Saigon, "the enemy can attack at any time selected targets . . . in up to division strength" of roughly 10,000 men.

Diplomatic activity reached a peak during Tet, Feb. 8 to 12, as the United States halted the bombing. In London, Prime Minister Harold Wilson, acting on President Johnson's behalf, met with the Soviet Premier, Aleksei N. Kosygin, in an effort to get the bombing stopped permanently and peace talks started.

Then, on Feb. 13, after a pause of nearly six days, the bombing of North Vietnam was resumed. Mr. Johnson said he had based his decision on what he termed the unparalleled magnitude of the North Vietnamese supply effort.

Excerpts from Mr. Wilson's memoirs, "The Labor Government, 1964-70: A Personal Record," published in April, 1971, in The Sunday Times of London and Life magazine, blamed President Johnson for the collapse of the talks, charging that at the last moment he had changed his terms for a bombing halt by demanding a cessation of enemy infiltration as a precondition.

By Mr. Wilson's account, this was a "total reversal" of the offer Washington first authorized him to pass through Mr. Kosygin to Hanoi: a secret agreement under which the bombing would be stopped first, infiltration second and the American troop build-up third.

The sections of the Pentagon study available to The New York Times provide no insight into why Mr. Johnson's position changed suddenly.

The study makes it clear, however, that the collapse of the diplomatic efforts was a turning point, for shortly afterward President Johnson began approving additional targets in North Vietnam for attack.

"The President perceived the [air] strikes as necessary in the psychological test of wills between the two sides to punish the North," the study adds, "in spite of the near consensus opinion of his [civilian] advisers that no level of damage or destruction that we were willing to inflict was likely to destroy Hanoi's determination to continue to struggle."

President Johnson approved what the Pentagon account calls the "spring air offensive" in the following phases:

• On Feb. 22, for attacks on five urban thermal power plants, excluding those in Hanoi and Haiphong, and on the Thainguyen steel plant; for mining of rivers and estuaries and conducting naval barrages against the coastline up to the 20th Parallel.
• On March 22, the two Haiphong thermal power plants.
• On April 8, by relaxing the previous restrictions on raids around Hanoi and Haiphong, for raids against Kep airfield, the power transformer near the center of the city; for attacks on petroleum storage facilities, an ammunition dump and cement plant in Haiphong.
• On May 2, for a raid on the thermal power plant a mile north of the center of Hanoi.

By early May these raids, the Pentagon study relates, had become a focus of controversy among Presidential advisers. General Wheeler sent the President a memorandum on May 5, justifying the raids on such targets as power plants with this assertion:

"The objective of our attacks on the thermal electric power system in North Vietnam was not ... to turn the lights off in major population centres, but . . . to deprive the enemy of a basic power source needed to operate certain war-supporting facilities and industries."

In rebuttal to this was the position of McGeorge Bundy. As President Johnson's assistant for national security until he left the government on Feb, 28, 1966, Mr. Bundy had been one of the foremost original advocates of the air war against North Vietnam. But in a personal letter to President Johnson, evidently received by the White House on May 4, Mr. Bundy termed the "strategic bombing" of North Vietnam "both unproductive and unwise," especially the raids on the power plants. [See Document # 126.]

"The lights have not stayed off in Haiphong," he said, "and even if they had, electric lights are in no sense essential to the Communist war effort."

Mr. Bundy emphasized that he was "very far indeed from suggesting that it would make sense now to stop the bombing of the North altogether" because that would be "to give the Communists something for nothing." But as for the power plants, he commented: "We are attacking them, I fear, mainly because we have 'run out' of other targets. Is it a very good reason?"
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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The 200,000 Request

The main catalyst for the sharp debate in the Johnson Administration in the spring of 1967, however, was not the air war but General Westmoreland's request for 200,000 more troops.

According to the Pentagon account, General Westmoreland first notified the Joint Chiefs of Staff on March 18 of his additional troop needs and then, at their suggestion, submitted a more detailed request on March 26. He spoke with concern about the large enemy build-ups in sanctuaries in Laos, Cambodia and parts of South Vietnam as well as about the threat posed by large North Vietnamese forces just north of the DMZ.

"The minimum essential force" needed to contain the enemy threat and maintain the "tactical initiative," as he put it in his March 18 message, was two and one-third divisions -- roughly 100,000 men -- "as soon as possible but not later than 1 July 1968." For an "optimum force," he said he needed four and two-thirds divisions in all -- 201,250 more troops -- to boost the ultimate strength of American forces in Vietnam to 671,616 men. [See Document #122.]

The reinforcements, General Westmoreland asserted, would enable him to destroy or neutralize enemy main forces "more quickly" and deny the enemy long established "safe havens" in South Vietnam.

In some regions, however, his picture sounded less hopeful. In the northernmost portion of South Vietnam, and in the Central Highlands along the Laotian border, he wanted more troops largely "to contain the infiltration" of North Vietnamese forces from Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam.

One point that quickly aroused controversy in Washington, the Pentagon study notes, was General Westmoreland's argument that the American build-up would "obviate the requirement for a major expansion" of South Vietnamese forces. This, the authors report, "prompted many who disagreed with the basic increases to ask why the U.S. should meet such expanded troop requirements when the Government of South Vietnam would neither mobilize its manpower nor effectively employ it according to U.S. wishes."

The Joint Chiefs transmitted General Westmoreland's main troop requests to Secretary McNamara on April 20 with their endorsement. "Once again," the Pentagon analyst notes, the Joint Chiefs "confronted the Johnson Administration with a difficult decision on whether to escalate or level off the U.S. effort."

"What they proposed," the study says, paraphrasing their April 29 memorandum to Secretary McNamara, "was the mobilization of the reserves, a major new troop commitment in the South, an extension of the war into the VC/NVA sanctuaries (Laos, Cambodia and possibly North Vietnam), the mining of North Vietnamese ports and a solid commitment in manpower and resources to a military victory. The recommendation not unsurprisingly touched off a searching reappraisal of the course of U.S. strategy in the war."

The Joint Chiefs spoke for mobilization despite President Johnson's previous opposition to such a move.

Without a reserve call-up, the Joint Chiefs told Mr. Mc- Namara, the Army could provide only one and one-third of the four and two-thirds divisions that General Westmoreland wanted by July, 1968, and a second division could probably not be provided until late in 1969. "A reserve call-up and collateral actions," they asserted, "would enable the services to provide the major combat forces required."

General Westmoreland and General Wheeler put the military case before President Johnson on April 27 when, according to the Pentagon account, ostensibly to deliver a speech, General Westmoreland returned to the United States.

According to unsigned "Notes on Discussions With the President," which the writers of the Pentagon study found in the files of Assistant Secretary of Defense McNaughton and attributed to him, General Westmoreland told President Johnson that if he did not get the first 100,000 men, "it will be nip and tuck to oppose the reinforcements the enemy is capable of providing," though he acknowledged this would not risk defeat. The second 100,000 troops, he said, were needed to push the allied strategy to success. [See Document # 125.]

That was the point at which President Johnson, worried about enemy infiltration, asked, "When we add divisions, can't the enemy add divisions? If so, where does it all end?"

General Westmoreland replied that the Vietcong and North Vietnamese now had 285,000 troops, or roughly eight divisions, in South Vietnam and had "the capability of deploying 12 divisions .... If we add 2-1/2 divisions, it is likely the enemy will react by adding troops."

Later, according to the notes, the general warned of prolonged fighting. He predicted that "unless the will of the enemy is broken or unless there was an unraveling of the VC infrastructure the war could go on for five years." Reinforcements would shorten the time -- "with a force level of 565,000, the war could well go on for three years," General Westmoreland said. "With a second increment of 2-1/3 divisions leading to a total of 665,000 men, it could go on for two years."

General Wheeler, presumably citing other reasons for a reserve call-up, voiced his concern that the United States might face military threats elsewhere -- in South Korea or in the form of Soviet pressure on Berlin.

In Indochina, he went on, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were deeply concerned about the North Vietnamese build-up in Cambodia and Laos and felt that American troops "may be forced to move against these units." Beyond that, he was quoted as putting forward the idea of possible invasion of North Vietnam: "We may wish to take offensive action against the D.R.V. with ground troops."

Picking up that theme, General Westmoreland told the President that he had an operational plan that "envisioned an elite South Vietnamese division conducting ground operations in Laos against D.R.V. bases and routes under cover of U.S. artillery and air support." In time, he foresaw "the eventual development of Laos as a major battlefield," as the analysts put it.

According to the Pentagon account, General Westmoreland also told President Johnson "that he possessed contingency plans to move into Cambodia in the Chu Pong area, again using South Vietnamese forces but this time accompanied by U.S. advisers."

Turning to the air war, General Wheeler argued that it was time to consider action "to deny the North Vietnamese use of the ports" because otherwise the American air strategy was "about to reach the point of target saturation -- when all worthwhile fixed targets except the ports had been struck."

The Pentagon study says that President Johnson concluded this discussion by asking: "What if we do not add the 2-1/3 divisions?" General Wheeler was quoted as replying that the allied military momentum would die and in some areas the enemy would recapture the initiative, meaning a longer war but not that the allies would lose. General Westmoreland's reply, if any, was not recorded.

The President then reportedly urged his commanders to "make certain we are getting value received from the South Vietnamese troops."

The cleavage between the military and civilian views in the Johnson Administration emerged at once.

On April 24 Under Secretary of State Katzenbach, acting in Secretary Rusk's absence, ordered an interagency review of two major options that in effect set out the two opposing views:

• Course A -- providing General Westmoreland with 200,000 more troops and, as the analysts put it, "possible . . . intensification of military actions outside South Vietnam including invasion of North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia."

• Course B -- confining troop increases, in Mr. Katzenbach's words, to "those that could be generated without calling up the reserves." Coupled with this, the various agencies should consider "a cessation ... of bombing North Vietnamese areas north of 20 degrees (or, if it looked sufficiently important to maximize an attractive settlement opportunity, cessation of bombing in all of North Vietnam.)"

The resistance of high civilian officials to the military proposals was virtually unanimous, according to the Pentagon study, though the position of Secretary of State Dean Rusk is not described. The three most sensitive issues were the reserve call-up, attacks on the port of Haiphong, and allied ground offensives into Laos, Cambodia or North Vietnam.

At the State Department, Assistant Secretary Bundy, in a memorandum on May 1 to Under Secretary Katzenbach, came out "totally against" ground operations against North Vietnam, asserting that the odds were 75 to 25 that it would provoke Chinese Communist intervention. He was also "strongly opposed" to sending a South Vietnamese division into Laos.

Except for allowing attacks on the Hanoi power station, Mr. Bundy was against further expansion of the air war, especially the mining of Haiphong so long as the Soviet Union refrained from sending combat weapons through the port. Both Mr. Bundy and the C.I.A., in a special intelligence estimate in early May, warned of the dangers of Soviet counteraction if the port was attacked, according to the Pentagon account.

The mobilization required to provide large troop reinforcements for the ground war, Mr. Bundy contended, would entail "a truly major debate in Congress." With signs of rising domestic dissent over the war, he advised that "we should not get into such a debate this summer."

The Assistant Secretary felt the "real key factors" were the political development in the South leading up to presidential elections in September. The internal political turmoil in Communist China, he suggested, was an important and potentially helpful factor because of the worry it caused in Hanoi.

In the Pentagon, resistance to the Westmoreland-Wheeler strategy came from another angle. The systems-analysis section, headed by Assistant Secretary of Defense Alain C. Enthoven, produced a series of papers late in April and early in May arguing that, contrary to General Westmoreland's expectations, American troop increases did not produce correspondingly sharp increases in enemy losses.

"On the most optimistic basis, 200,000 more Americans would raise [the enemy's] weekly losses to about 3,700, or about 400 a week more than they could stand," Dr. Enthoven told Secretary McNamara in a memorandum on May 4. "In theory we'd then wipe them out in 10 years." [See Document #127.]

A major effort to oppose the military strategy and to limit the air war was building in Secretary McNamara's office. The moving force, the Pentagon study shows, was Assistant Secretary McNaughton, who eventually wrote key portions of Mr. McNamara's controversial May 19 memorandum.

Roughly two years before, Mr. McNaughton had been an advocate of the "progressive squeeze" on Hanoi through air power. But by October, 1966, he was so doubtful of its effectiveness that he helped Secretary McNamara draft the first suggestion for a cutback in the air war and for political compromise.

Now, in May, 1967, the Pentagon account relates, both he and the Secretary of Defense were preparing for a more vigorous argument. First, on May 5, Mr. McNaughton sent Mr. McNamara a paper intended for inclusion in a memorandum from the Secretary to President Johnson, known as a Draft Presidential Memorandum -- D.P.M. -- because it not only stated the Secretary's views but also was intended to become a policy document for the President's signature.

The core of Mr. McNaughton's paper was a recommendation that "all of the sorties allocated to the Rolling Thunder program be concentrated on the lines of communications -- the funnel through which men and supplies to the south must flow -- between 17-20 degrees, reserving the option and intention to strike (in the 20-23 degree area) as necessary to keep the enemy's investment in defense and in repair crews high throughout the country."

The proposed cutback of the air war, he said, was to reduce American pilot and aircraft losses over heavily defended Hanoi and Haiphong and not primarily to get North Vietnam to negotiate. No favorable response should be expected, Mr. McNaughton said, but "to optimize the chances" for such a response he proposed this scenario:

"To inform the Soviets quietly (on May 15) that within a few (5) days the policy would be implemented, stating no time limits and making no promise not to return to the Red River Basin to attack targets . . . and then to make an unhuckstered shift as predicted on May 20."

Without what he called "an ultimatum-like time limit," Mr. McNaughton suggested that North Vietnam "might be in a better posture to react favorably than has been the case in the past." The American public should be told, he said, that the bombing was being concentrated on the southern infiltration routes to "increase the efficiency of our interdiction effort" and because "major northern military targets have been destroyed."

According to the Pentagon account, the McNaughton paper, combined with other Defense Department proposals on the ground war, was read by Secretary McNamara at a White House meeting on May 8, although it is not clear whether Mr. McNamara also signed it and sent it to President Johnson.

Its significance, the Pentagon study reveals, is that for the first time a specific recommendation was put before President Johnson urging a cutback on the bombing to the 20th Parallel. That went a step further than the McNamara memorandum of Oct. 14, 1966 which urged the President "to consider" narrowing the bombing campaign as a possible step toward negotiations.

Several other papers went before President Johnson on May 8, according to the Pentagon account. They included one, recommending a bombing cutback, by Mr. Rostow, described in the study as a "strong bombing advocate" long in favor of attacks on the "North Vietnamese industrial target system."

Mr. Rostow's memorandum, quoted at length in the Pentagon study, rejected proposals for mining North Vietnamese harbors and bombing port facilities lest these steps lead to a "radical increase in Hanoi's dependence on Communist China" and increase United States tensions with the Soviet Union and China. [See Document # 128.]

He was considerably more positive than Mr. McNaughton on the results of the strategic bombing campaign, but urged that the bombing be concentrated on the supply routes in southern North Vietnam supplemented by "the most economical and careful attack on the Hanoi power station" and by "keeping open the . . . option" of bombing the Hanoi- Haiphong area in the future.

A more equivocal position, the Pentagon study discloses, was taken by Assistant Secretary of State Bundy. His paper, completed on May 8, favored tactics that would "concentrate heavily on the supply routes" but would also "include a significant number of restrikes" north of the 20th Parallel. Without restrikes, he argued, "it would almost certainly be asked why we had ever hit the targets in the first place." Moreover, it would keep Hanoi and Moscow "at least a little bit on edge."

But he was opposed to hitting such new and "sensitive targets" as the Hanoi power station, the Red River bridge at Hanoi and Phucyen airfield, 13 miles outside the city.

The Pentagon study comments that "this significant convergence of opinion on bombing strategy in the next phase among key Presidential advisers could not have gone unnoticed in the May 8 meeting." The account notes that a new effort began after the session to combine the various views in one paper largely drafted by Mr. McNaughton for Secretary McNamara and finally submitted to the President on May 19.

Even before the White House meeting, Mr. McNaughton was uneasy about the over-all Pentagon position, especially the willingness to provide General Westmoreland with considerable reinforcements. The Pentagon study does not say who drafted the portions of the May 5 memorandum on the ground war or precisely what was proposed, although it reports that Secretary McNamara had been told that 66,000 more soldiers could be provided without calling up the reserves. Later the figure rose to 84,000.

In a note to Secretary McNamara on May 6, Mr. Mc- Naughton indicated that the May 5 memorandum proposed giving General Westmoreland 80,000 more men. Excerpts from that note vividly portray Mr. McNaughton's unhappiness about this course of action:

"I am afraid there is a fatal flaw in the strategy in the [May 5] 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." (The emphasis was Mr. Mc- Naughton's. )

"Limiting the present decision to an 80,000 add-on," he continued, "does the very important business of postponing the issue of a reserve call-up (and all of its horrible baggage), but postpone 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 Westmoreland is to get 550,000 men, he should be told, 'That will be all, and we mean it.''' (The parentheses were Mr. McNaughton's.)

The note to Secretary McNamara, the study reveals, expressed uneasiness about the breadth and intensity of public unrest and dissatisfaction with the war. As a man whose 18- year-old son was about to enter college, the study notes, Mr. McNaughton was especially sensitive to the unpopularity of the war among the young.

"A feeling is widely and strongly held that 'the Establishment' is out of its mind," he wrote. "The feeling is that we are trying to impose some U.S. image on distant peoples we cannot understand (any more than we can the younger generation here at home), and 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 .... "

A major assault on Administration policy drew near. In early May, the Pentagon study recounts, there were three C.I.A. intelligence papers "to reinforce the views" of civilian opponents of the bombing.

One report concluded that 27 months of American bombing "have had remarkably little effect on Hanoi's over-all strategy in prosecuting the war, on its confident view of long-term Communist prospects, and on its political tactics regarding negotiations." A second, issued on May 12, characterized the mood in North Vietnam after prolonged bombing as one of "resolute stoicism with a considerable reservoir of endurance still untapped."

The third said that as of April, the American air campaign had "significantly eroded the capacities of North Vietnam's industrial and military bases. These losses, however, have not meaningfully degraded North Vietnam's material ability to continue the war in South Vietnam."

New Trend of Policy

The climax for what the study calls the "disillusioned doves" came in Secretary McNamara's May 19 memorandum to President Johnson, which marshaled the arguments against the strategy of widening the war and sharpened the case for curtailing the air war.

What gave the May 19 "draft Presidential memorandum" a new and radical thrust, the analysts observe, were its political recommendations, reflecting Mr. McNaughton's earlier point about the need to argue out "the philosophy of the war."

The May 19 paper not only recommended a cutback of the bombing to the 20th Parallel and only 30,000 more troops for General Westmoreland, but also advocated a considerably more limited over-all American objective in Vietnam that, in the words of the Pentagon study, "amounted to . . . a recommendation that we accept a compromise outcome." [See Document #129.]

As Mr. McNamara and Mr. McNaughton put it in the memorandum. "Our commitment is only to see that the people of South Vietnam are permitted to determine their own future .... This commitment ceases if the country ceases to help itself."

However much the United States might "strongly hope" for a non-Communist government that would remain separate from North Vietnam, they said, "our commitment is not" to guarantee and insist on those conditions.

"Nor do we have an obligation to pour in effort out of proportion to the effort contributed by the people of South Vietnam or in the face of coups, corruption, apathy or other indications of Saigon's failure to cooperate satisfactorily with us," the writers declared.

The United States was committed, they went on, "to stopping or offsetting the effect of North Vietnam's application of force in the South, which denies the people of the South the ability to determine their own future."

The Pentagon study underscores the significance of Mr. McNamara's break with policy. The paper, it says, "pointedly rejected the high blown formulations of U.S. objectives in NSAM 288 ('an independent non-Communist South Vietnam,' 'defeat the Vietcong,' etc.), and came forcefully to grips with the old dilemma of the U.S. involvement dating from the Kennedy era: only limited means to achieve excessive ends."

The reference was to National Security Action Memorandum 288, issued on March 17, 1964, which had since provided the basic doctrine for Johnson Administration policy.

The emphasis in the "scaled-down" set of goals put forward by the McNamara-McNaughton memorandum, the analysts observed, was on South Vietnamese self-determination, which envisioned an eventual "full-spectrum government."

At several points the Pentagon study emphasizes the sharp departure that this represented from established policy. "Let there be no mistake," the study comments, "these were radical positions for a senior U.S. policy official within the Johnson Administration to take. They would bring the bitter condemnation of the [Joint] Chiefs and were scarcely designed to flatter the President on the success of his efforts to date."

In addition to advancing its own views, the McNamara- McNaughton paper developed the counterarguments against the military option of large reinforcements and a wider war, emphasizing the increasing popular discontent with the war among the American public.

The memorandum acknowledged that a cutback on the bombing "will cause psychological problems" for allied officers and troops "who will not be able to understand why we should withhold punishment from the enemy."

However, the paper added: "We should not bomb for punitive reasons if it serves no other purpose. . . . It costs American lives; it creates a backfire of revulsion and opposition by killing civilians; it creates serious risks; it may harden the enemy."

The paper also pointed out that the bombing in the Hanoi and Haiphong regions took an extremely high toll in American pilots' lives. On May 5, Mr. McNaughton commented that the loss rate over Hanoi-Haiphong was six times as great as over the rest of North Vietnam. Now, on May 19, the McNamara- McNaughton paper noted that the campaign against these heavily defended areas lost "one pilot in every 40 sorties." It predicted that if the bombing was held below the 20th Parallel, these losses would be cut "by more than 50 per cent."

Their arguments against granting General Westmoreland the scale of reinforcements that he had requested were centered on what the Pentagon analysts refer to as the growing fear that such forces would engender "irresistible pressures" for carrying the battle beyond the borders of South Vietnam.

The mobilization of reserves to provide the necessary manpower, according to the McNamara-McNaughton paper, would almost certainly stimulate a "bitter Congressional debate."

"Cries would go up -- much louder than they have already -- to 'take the wraps off the men in the field,' " their memorandum asserted. It foresaw pressures not only for ground operations against Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam, but also, at some point, for proposals to use tactical nuclear arms and bacteriological and chemical weapons if the Chinese entered the war "or if U.S. losses were running high."

"Dilemma of President"

Secretary McNamara showed his paper to President Johnson on May 19, the day it was completed, the study says. Although the analyst provides no documentary record of Mr. Johnson's reaction, he comments that it was "not surprising" that the President "did not promptly endorse the McNamara recommendations as he had on occasions in the past."

"This time," the study continues, "he faced a situation where the Chiefs were in ardent opposition to anything other than a significant escalation of the war with a call-up of reserves. This put them in direct opposition to McNamara and his aides and created a genuine policy dilemma for the President."

In any event, the study says, Secretary McNamara quickly got the message intended by the President's inaction. On May 20, Mr. McNamara -- "perhaps reflecting a cool Presidential reaction, -- -ordered a new study of bombing alternatives.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff needed no spur. Within four days, they had submitted three memorandums, renewing earlier recommendations for more than 200,000 new troops and for air attacks to "shoulder out" foreign shipping from Haiphong and to mine the harbors and approaches, as well as raids on eight major airfields and on roads and railways leading to China. "It may ultimately become necessary," they said, to send American troops into Cambodia and Laos and take "limited ground action in North Vietnam."

Their sharpest rebuttal to Mr. McNamara, however, came on May 31 in a paper contending that the "drastic changes" in American policy advocated by the Secretary "would undermine and no longer provide a complete rationale for our presence in South Vietnam or much of our efforts over the past two years."

Moreover, the parts of this paper quoted in the Pentagon narrative asserted that the McNamara-McNaughton memorandum "fails to appreciate the full implications for the free world of failure" in Vietnam.

On the issue of public support for the war, the Joint Chiefs said they were "unable to find due cause for the degree of pessimism expressed" in the McNamara paper. They asserted their belief "that the American people, when well informed about the issues at stake, expect their Government to uphold its commitments."

Addressing the specific proposal for a bombing cutback, the Joint Chiefs were doubtful that such a step would induce Hanoi to move toward negotiations. They contended it would "most likely have the opposite effect" and "only result in the strengthening of the enemy's resolve to continue the war."

In conclusion, the military leaders urged that the McNamara proposals "not be forwarded to the President" because they represented such a divergence from past policy that they were not worthy of consideration. The Chiefs were unaware that Mr. Johnson had seen the paper 12 days before.

In other agencies, the Pentagon study relates, official viewpoints fell between the two extremes and the debate floundered toward a compromise on the issues of tactics, without any shift in war aims.

Under Secretary of State Katzenbach, for example, proposed on June 8, according to the study, that the United States add 30,000 ground troops "in small increments over the next 18 months" and "concentrate bombing on lines of communication throughout" North Vietnam but shifting away from strategic targets around Hanoi and Haiphong. The American political objective, he said, should be to leave behind a stable democratic government in Saigon by persuading Hanoi to end the war and by neutralizing the Vietcong threat internally.

In the Pentagon, Mr. McNaughton found mixed views on the air war and summarized them for Mr. McNamara in another memorandum on June 12. The findings, cited in the study, were that Cyrus R. Vance, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Paul H. Nitze, Secretary of the Navy; and Mr. McNaughton favored the cutback in bombing; the Joint Chiefs renewed their case for escalation; and Secretary Brown of the Air Force recommended adding a few targets to the present list.

The Pentagon study says it is unclear whether this paper was formally presented to President Johnson who, in any case, was preoccupied in June, 1967, with the six-day Arab- Israeli war and with preparations for his meeting with Premier Kosygin at Glassboro, N.J.

Secretary McNamara's primary attention remained on the unresolved troop issue. According to the Pentagon account, he went to Saigon from July 7 to July 12 under President Johnson's instructions "to review the matter with General Westmoreland and reach an agreement on a figure well below the 200,000 [Westmoreland] had requested in March."

On Mr. McNamara's final evening in Saigon, the Pentagon account says, the two men agreed on a 55,000-man increase, to a total of 525,000 troops. President Johnson approved the compromise, far closer to Mr. McNamara's position than General Westmoreland's, and announced it in a tax message on Aug. 4.

But in a series of decisions on the air war during July and August, the President adopted a course that differed markedly from the strategy of de-escalation that Secretary McNamara had urged on him.

His first decision, in mid-July, added only a few fixed targets, but in the next two months he approved all but about a dozen of the 57 targets the Chiefs of Staff wanted. On July 20, the Pentagon study reports, he added 16 targets, including a previously forbidden airfield, a rail yard, two bridges and 12 barracks and supply areas, all within the restricted circles around Hanoi and Haiphong.

The day before the authorization of Rolling Thunder 57 -- each number signaling an extension of the air war -- Secretary McNamara lost perhaps his closest adviser and staunchest ally. On July 19, Mr. McNaughton and his wife, Sarah, and their 11-year-old son Theodore were killed in a plane collision over North Carolina.

By late July, the study continues, the frustrations of the military commanders over the restraints imposed upon them had prompted the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee to schedule hearings on the conduct of the air war. Although conducted in secret, the hearings gave the public its first real knowledge of the policy division between Secretary McNamara and the Joint Chiefs over bombing.

"The subcommittee unquestionably set out to defeat Mr. McNamara," the analyst comments. "Its members, Senators Stennis, Symington, Jackson, Cannon, Byrd, Smith, Thurmond and Miller, were known for their hard-line views and military sympathies. . . . They viewed the restraints on bombing as irrational, the shackling of a major instrument which could help win victory."

Such powerful Congressional backing for the air war, the study observes, "must have forced a recalculation on the President."

The study finds it "surely no coincidence" that on Aug. 9, the day the Stennis hearings opened, President Johnson authorized "an additional 16 fixed targets and an expansion of armed reconnaissance."

"Significantly," the study continues, "six of the targets were within the sacred 10-mile Hanoi inner circle .... Nine targets were located in the northeast rail line in the China buffer zone [formerly a proscribed zone], the closest one eight miles from the border .... The tenth was a naval base, also within the China buffer zone."

The raids began promptly, the study recounts, and more targets were approved shortly afterward. The prohibited zone around Hanoi was restored from Aug. 24 to Sept. 4 to permit a follow-up to what the study calls "a particularly delicate set of contacts with North Vietnam." The military sections of the Pentagon study give no details, but published reports have identified this as a secret effort to test Hanoi on what became known later as the San Antonio formula.

It was made public by President Johnson in a speech on Sept. 29 at San Antonio, Tex., when he offered to halt the bombing provided that action would lead to prompt and productive negotiations, on the assumption that the North Vietnamese would "not take advantage" of the halt militarily. Hanoi rejected these terms as imposing conditions on a halt in bombing.

For months the secret diplomatic probing went on fruitlessly while the air war widened slowly -- although still short of the desires of the Joint Chiefs. Not until March, 1968 -- a few days after Secretary McNamara had left the Government -- did his proposal for a reduction of the bombing to the 20th Parallel re-emerge and open the way toward negotiations in Paris in May.


Following are texts of key documents accompanying the Pentagon's study of the Vietnam war, covering the period late 1966 to mid-1967, in which Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara began to express disillusionment with the effectiveness of the war effort. Except where excerpting is specified, the documents are printed verbatim, with only unmistakable typographical errors corrected.

#118: McNamara Memo of Oct. 14, 1966, Opposing Increase in War Effort

Draft memorandum for President Lyndon B. Johnson, "Actions Recommended for Vietnam," from Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Oct. 14, 1966.

1. Evaluation of the situation. In the report of my last trip to Vietnam almost a year ago, I stated that the odds were about even that, even with the then-recommended deployments, we would be faced in early 1967 with a military stand-off at a much higher level of conflict and with "pacification" still stalled. I am a little less pessimistic now in one respect. We have done somewhat better militarily than I anticipated. We have by and large blunted the communist military initiative -- any military victory in South Vietnam the Viet Cong may have had in mind 18 months ago has been thwarted by our emergency deployments and actions. And our program of bombing the North has exacted a price.

My concern continues, however, in other respects. This is because I see no reasonable way to bring the war to an end soon. Enemy morale has not broken -- he apparently has adjusted to our stopping his drive for military victory and has adopted a strategy of keeping us busy and waiting us out (a strategy of attriting our national will). He knows that we have not been, and he believes we probably will not be, able to translate our military successes into the "end products" -- broken enemy morale and political achievements by the GVN.

The one thing demonstrably going for us in Vietnam over the past year has been the large number of enemy killed-in-action resulting from the big military operations. Allowing for possible exaggeration in reports, the enemy must be taking losses -- deaths in and after battle -- at the rate of more than 60,000 a year. The infiltration routes would seem to be one-way trails to death for the North Vietnamese. Yet there is no sign of an impending break in enemy morale and it appears that he can more than replace his losses by infiltration from North Vietnam and recruitment in South Vietnam.

Pacification is a bad disappointment. We have good grounds to be pleased by the recent elections, by Ky's 16 months in power, and by the faint signs of development of national political institutions and of a legitimate civil government. But none of this has translated itself into political achievements at Province level or below. Pacification has if anything gone backward. As compared with two, or four, years ago, enemy full-time regional forces and part-time guerrilla forces are larger; attacks, terrorism and sabotage have increased in scope and intensity; more railroads are closed and highways cut; the rice crop expected to come to market is smaller; we control little, if any, more of the population; the VC political infrastructure thrives in most of the country, continuing to give the enemy his enormous intelligence advantage; full security exists nowhere (now even behind the U.S. Marines' lines and in Saigon); in the countryside, the enemy almost completely controls the night.

Nor has the ROLLING THUNDER program of bombing the North either significantly affected infiltration or cracked the morale of Hanoi. There is agreement in the intelligence community on these facts (see the attached Appendix).

In essence, we find ourselves -- from the point of view of the important war (for the complicity of the people) -- no better, and if anything worse off. This important war must be fought and won by the Vietnamese themselves. We have known this from the beginning. But the discouraging truth is that, as was the case in 1961 and 1963 and 1965, we have not found the formula, the catalyst, for training and inspiring them into effective action.

2. Recommended actions. In such an unpromising state of affairs, what should we do? We must continue to press the enemy militarily; we must make demonstrable progress in pacification; at the same time, we must add a new ingredient forced on us by the facts. Specifically, we must improve our position by getting ourselves into a military posture that we credibly would maintain indefinitely -- a posture that makes trying to "wait us out" less attractive. I recommend a five-pronged course of action to achieve those ends.

a. Stabilize U.S. force-levels in Vietnam. It is my judgment that, barring a dramatic change in the war, we should limit the increase in U.S. forces in SVN in 1967 to 70,000 men and we should level off at the total of 470,000 which such an increase would provide. [i] It is my view that this is enough to punish the enemy at the large-unit operations level and to keep the enemy's main forces from interrupting pacification. I believe also that even many more than 470,000 would not kill the enemy off in such numbers as to break their morale so long as they think they can wait us out. It is possible that such a 40 percent increase over our present level of 325,000 will break the enemy's morale in the short term; but if it does not, we must, I believe, be prepared for and have underway a long-term program premised on more than breaking the morale of main force units. A stabilized U.S. force level would be part of such a long-term program. It would put us in a position where negotiations would be more likely to be productive, but if they were not we could pursue the all-important pacification task with proper attention and resources and without the spectre of apparently endless escalation of U.S. deployments.

b. Install a barrier. A portion of the 470,000 troops -- perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 -- should be devoted to the construction and maintenance of an infiltration barrier. Such a barrier would lie near the 17th parallel -- would run from the sea, across the neck of South Vietnam (choking off the new infiltration routes through the DMZ) and across the trails in Laos. This interdiction system (at an approximate cost of $1 billion) would comprise to the east a ground barrier of fences, wire, sensors, artillery, aircraft and mobile troops; and to the west -- mainly in Laos -- an interdiction zone covered by air-laid mines and bombing attacks pinpointed by air-laid acoustic sensors.

The barrier may not be fully effective at first, but I believe that it can be effective in time and that even the threat of its becoming effective can substantially change to our advantage the character of the war. It would hinder enemy efforts, would permit more efficient use of the limited number of friendly troops, and would be persuasive evidence both that our sole aim is to protect the South from the North and that we intend to see the job through.

c. Stabilize the ROLLING THUNDER program against the North. Attack sorties in North Vietnam have risen from about 4,000 per month at the end of last year to 6,000 per month in the first quarter of this year and 12,000 per month at present. Most of our 50 percent increase of deployed attack-capable aircraft has been absorbed in the attacks on North Vietnam. In North Vietnam, almost 84,000 attack sorties have been flown (about 25 percent against fixed targets), 45 percent during the past seven months.

Despite these efforts, it now appears that the North Vietnamese- Laotian road network will remain adequate to meet the requirements of the Communist forces in South Vietnam -- this is so even if its capacity could be reduced by one-third and if combat activities were to be doubled. North Vietnam's serious need for trucks, spare parts and petroleum probably can, despite air attacks, be met by imports. The petroleum requirement for trucks involved in the infiltration movement, for example, has not been enough to present significant supply problems, and the effects of the attacks on the petroleum distribution system, while they have not yet been fully assessed, are not expected to cripple the flow of essential supplies. Furthermore, it is clear that, to bomb the North sufficiently to make a radical impact upon Hanoi's political, economic and social structure, would require an effort which we could make but which would not be stomached either by our own people or by world opinion; and it would involve a serious risk of drawing us into open war with China.

The North Vietnamese are paying a price. They have been forced to assign some 300,000 personnel to the lines of communication in order to maintain the critical flow of personnel and material to the South. Now that the lines of communication have been manned, however, it is doubtful that either a large increase or decrease in our interdiction sorties would substantially change the cost to the enemy of maintaining the roads, railroads, and waterways or affect whether they are operational. It follows that the marginal sorties -- probably the marginal 1,000 or even 5,000 sorties -- per month against the lines of communication no longer have a significant impact on the war. (See the attached excerpts from intelligence estimates.)

When this marginal inutility of added sorties against North Vietnam and Laos is compared with the crew and aircraft losses implicit in the activity (four men and aircraft and $20 million per 1,000 sorties), I recommend, as a minimum, against increasing the level of bombing of North Vietnam and against increasing the intensity of operations by changing the areas or kinds of targets struck.

Under these conditions, the bombing program would continue the pressure and would remain available as a bargaining counter to get talks started (or to trade off in talks). But, as in the case of a stabilized level of U.S. ground forces, the stabilization of ROLLING THUNDER would remove the prospect of ever escalating bombing as a factor complicating our political posture and distracting from the main job of pacification in South Vietnam.

At the proper time, as discussed on pages 6-7 below, I believe we should consider terminating bombing in all of North Vietnam, or at least in the Northeast zones, for an indefinite period in connection with covert moves toward peace.

d. Pursue a vigorous pacification program. As mentioned above, the pacification (Revolutionary Development) program has been and is thoroughly stalled. The large-unit operations war, which we know best how to fight and where we have had our successes, is largely irrelevant to pacification as long as we do not lose it. By and large, the people in rural areas believe that the GVN when it comes will not stay but that the VC will; that cooperations with the GVN will be punished by the VC; that the GVN is really indifferent to the people's welfare; that the low-level GVN are tools of the local rich; and that the GVN is ridden with corruption.

Success in pacification depends on the interrelated functions of providing physical security, destroying the VC apparatus, motivating the people to cooperate and establishing responsive local government. An obviously necessary but not sufficient requirement for success of the Revolutionary Development cadre and police is vigorously conducted and adequately prolonged clearing operations by military troops, who will "stay" in the area, who behave themselves decently and who show some respect for the people.

This elemental requirement of pacification has been missing.

In almost no contested area designated for pacification in recent years have ARVN forces actually "cleared and stayed" to a point where cadre teams, if available, could have stayed overnight in hamlets and survived, let alone accomplish their mission. VC units of company and even battalion size remain in operation, and they are more than large enough to overrun anything the local security forces can put up.

Now that the threat of a Communist main-force military victory has been thwarted by our emergency efforts, we must allocate far more attention and a portion of the regular military forces (at least half of the ARVN and perhaps a portion of the U.S. forces) to the task of providing an active and permanent security screen behind which the Revolutionary Development teams and police can operate and behind which the political struggle with the VC infrastructure can take place.

The U.S. cannot do this pacification security job for the Vietnamese. All we can do is "Massage the heart." For one reason, it is known that we do not intend to stay; if our efforts worked at all, it would merely postpone the eventual confrontation of the VC and GVN infrastructures. The GVN must do the job; and I am convinced that drastic reform is needed if the GVN is going to be able to do it.

The first essential reform is in the attitude of GVN officials. They are generally apathetic, and there is corruption high and low. Often appointments, promotions, and draft deferments must be bought; and kickbacks on salaries are common. Cadre at the bottom can be no better than the system above them.

The second needed reform is in the attitude and conduct of the ARVN. The image of the government cannot improve unless and until the ARVN improves markedly. They do not understand the importance (or respectability) of pacification nor the importance to pacification of proper, disciplined conduct. Promotions, assignments and awards are often not made on merit, but rather on the basis of having a diploma, friends or relatives, or because of bribery. The ARVN is weak in dedication, direction and discipline.

Not enough ARVN are devoted to area and population security, and when the ARVN does attempt to support pacification, their actions do not last long enough; their tactics are bad despite U.S. prodding (no aggressive small-unit saturation patrolling, hamlet searches, quick-reaction contact, or offensive night ambushes); they do not make good use of intelligence; and their leadership and discipline are bad.

Furthermore, it is my conviction that a part of the problem undoubtedly lies in bad management on the American as well as the GVN side. Here split responsibility-- or "no responsibility" -- has resulted in too little hard pressure on the GVN to do its job and no really solid or realistic planning with respect to the whole effort. We must deal with this management problem and deal with it effectively.

One solution would be to consolidate all U.S. activities which are primarily part of the civilian pacification program and all persons engaged in such activities, providing a clear assignment of responsibility and a unified command under a civilian relieved of all other duties. [ii] Under this approach, there would be a carefully delineated division of responsibility between the civilian-in- charge and an element of COMUSMACV under a senior officer, who would give the subject of planning for and providing hamlet security the highest priority in attention and resources. Success will depend on the men selected for the jobs on both sides (they must be among the highest rank and most competent administrators in the U.S. Government), on complete cooperation among the U.S. elements, and on the extent to which the South Vietnamese can be shocked out of their present pattern of behavior. The first work of this reorganized U.S. pacification organization should be to produce within 60 days a realistic and detailed plan for the coming year.

From the political and public-relations viewpoint, this solution is preferable -- if it works. But we cannot tolerate continued failure. If it fails after a fair trial, the only alternative in my view is to place the entire pacification program -- civilian and military -- under General Westmoreland. This alternative would result in the establishment of a Deputy COMUSMACV for Pacification who would be in command of all pacification staffs in Saigon and of all pacification staffs and activities in the field; one person in each corps, province and district would be responsible for the U.S. effort.

(It should be noted that progress in pacification, more than anything else, will persuade the enemy to negotiate or withdraw.)

c. Press for Negotiations. I am not optimistic that Hanoi or the VC will respond to peace overtures now (explaining my recommendations above that we get into a level-off posture for the long pull). The ends sought by the two sides appear to be irreconcilable and the relative power balance is not in their view unfavorable to them. But three things can be done, I believe, to increase the prospects:

(1) Take steps to increase the credibility of our peace gestures in the minds of the enemy. There is considerable evidence both in private statements by the Communists and in the reports of competent Western officials who have talked with them that charges of U.S. bad faith are not solely propagandistic, but reflect deeply held beliefs. Analyses of Communists' statements and actions indicate that they firmly believe that American leadership really does not want the fighting to stop, and, that we are intent on winning a military victory in Vietnam and on maintaining our presence there through a puppet regime supported by U.S. military bases.

As a way of projective U.S. bona fides, I believe that we should consider two possibilities with respect to our bombing program against the North, to be undertaken, if at all, at a time very carefully selected with a view to maximizing the chances of influencing the enemy and world opinion and to minimizing the chances that failure would strengthen the hand of the "hawks" at home: First, without fanfare, conditions, or avowal, whether the stand-down was permanent or temporary, stop bombing all of North Vietnam. It is generally thought that Hanoi will not agree to negotiations until they can claim that the bombing has stopped unconditionally. We should see what develops, retaining freedom to resume the bombing if nothing useful was forthcoming.

Alternatively, we could shift the weight-of-effort away from "Zones 6A and 6B" -- zones including Hanoi and Haiphong and areas north of those two cities to the Chinese border. This alternative has some attraction in that it provides the North Vietnamese a "face saver" if only problems of "face" are holding up Hanoi peace gestures; it would narrow the bombing down directly to the objectionable infiltration (supporting the logic of a stop infiltration/ full-pause deal); and it would reduce the international heat on the U.S. Here, too, bombing of the Northeast could be resumed at any time, or "spot" attacks could be made there from time to time to keep North Vietnam off balance and to require her to pay almost the full cost by maintaining her repair crews in place. The sorties diverted from Zones 6A and 6B could be concentrated on infiltration routes in Zones 1 and 2 (the southern end of North Vietnam, including the Mu Gia Pass), in Laos and in South Vietnam. [iii]

To the same end of improving our credibility, we should seek ways -- through words and deeds -- to make believable our intention to withdraw our forces once the North Vietnamese aggression against the South stops. In particular, we should avoid any implication that we will stay in South Vietnam with bases or to guarantee any particular outcome to a solely South Vietnamese struggle.

(2) Try to split the VC off from Hanoi. The intelligence estimate is that evidence is overwhelming that the North Vietnamese dominate and control the National Front and the Viet Cong. Nevertheless, I think we should continue and enlarge efforts to contact the VC/NLF and to probe ways to split members or sections off the VC/NLF organization.

(3) Press contacts with North Vietnam, the Soviet Union and other parties who might contribute toward a settlement.

(4) Develop a realistic plan providing a role for the VC in negotiations, postwar life, and government of the nation. An amnesty offer and proposals for national reconciliation would be steps in the right direction and should be parts of the plan. It is important that this plan be one which will appear reasonable, if not at first to Hanoi and the VC, at least to world opinion.

3. The prognosis. The prognosis is bad that the war can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion within the next two years. The large-unit operations probably will not do it; negotiations probably will not do it. While we should continue to pursue both of these routes in trying for a solution in the short run, we should recognize that success from them is a mere possibility, not a probability.

The solution lies in girding, openly, for a longer war and in taking actions immediately which will in 12 to 18 months give clear evidence that the continuing costs and risks to the American people are acceptably limited, that the formula for success has been found, and that the end of the war is merely a matter of time. All of my recommendations will contribute to this strategy, but the one most difficult to implement is perhaps the most important one -- enlivening the pacification program. The odds are less than even for this task, if only because we have failed consistently since 1961 to make a dent in the problem. But, because the 1967 trend of pacification will, I believe, be the main talisman of ultimate U.S. success or failure in Vietnam, extraordinary imagination and effort should go into changing the stripes of that problem.

President Thieu and Prime Minister Ky are thinking along similar lines. They told me that they do not expect the Enemy to negotiate or to modify his program in less than two years. Rather, they expect that enemy to continue to expand and to increase his activity. They expressed agreement with us that the key to success is pacification and that so far pacification has failed. They agree that we need clarification of GVN and U.S. roles and that the bulk of the ARVN should be shifted to pacification. Ky will, between January and July 1967, shift all ARVN infantry divisions to that role. And he is giving Thang, a good Revolutionary Development director, added powers. Thieu and Ky see this as part of a two-year (1967-68) schedule, in which offensive operations against enemy main force units are continued, carried on primarily by the U.S. and other Free-World forces. At the end of the two-year period, they believe the enemy may be willing to negotiate or to retreat from his current course of action.

Note: Neither the Secretary of State nor the JCS have yet had an opportunity to express their views on this report. Mr. Katzenbach and I have discussed many of its main conclusions and recommendations -- in general, but not in all particulars, it expresses his views as well as my own.
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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Extracts from CIA/DIA Report "An Appraisal of the Bombing of North Vietnam through 12 September 1966."

1. There is no evidence yet of any shortage of POL in North Vietnam and stocks on hand, with recent imports, have been adequate to sustain necessary operations.

2. Air strikes against all modes of transportation in North Vietnam and during the past month, but there is no evidence of serious transport problems in the movement of supplies to or within North Vietnam.

3. There is no evidence yet that the air strikes have significantly weakened popular morale.

4. Air strikes continue to depress economic growth and have been responsible for the abandonment of some plans for economic development, but essential economic activities continue.

Extracts from a March 16, 1966 CIA Report "An Analysis of the ROLLING THUNDER Air Offensive against North Vietnam."

1. Although the movement of men and supplies in North Vietnam has been hampered and made somewhat more costly (by our bombing), the Communists have been able to increase the flow of supplies and manpower to South Vietnam.

2. Hanoi's determination (despite our bombing) to continue its policy of supporting the insurgency in the South appears as firm as ever.

3. Air attacks almost certainly cannot bring about a meaningful reduction in the current level at which essential supplies and men flow into South Vietnam.

Bomb Damage Assessment in the North by the Institute for Defense Analyses' "Summer Study Group."

What surprised us (in our assessment of the effect of bombing North Vietnam) was the extent of agreement among various intelligence agencies on the effects of past operations and probable effects of continued and expanded Rolling Thunder. The conclusions of our group, to which we all subscribe, are therefore merely sharpened conclusions of numerous Intelligence summaries. They are that Rolling Thunder does not limit the present logistic flow into SVN because NVN is neither the source of supplies nor the choke-point on the supply routes from China and USSR. Although an expansion of Rolling Thunder by closing Haiphong harbor, eliminating electric power plants and totally destroying railroads, will at least indirectly impose further privations on the populace of NVN and make the logistic support of VC costlier to maintain, such expansion will not really change the basic assessment. This follows because NVN has demonstrated excellent ability to improvise transportation, and because the primitive nature of their economy is such that Rolling Thunder can affect directly only a small fraction of the population. There is very little hope that the Ho Chi Minh Government will lose control of population because of Rolling Thunder. The lessons of the Korean War are very relevant in these respects. Moreover, foreign economic aid to NVN is large compared to the damage we inflict, and growing. Probably the government of NVN has assurances that the USSR and/or China will assist the rebuilding of its economy after the war, and hence its concern about the damage being inflicted may be moderated by long-range favorable expectations.


1. As of July 1966 the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam had had no measurable direct affect on Hanoi's ability to mount and support military operations in the South at the current level.

2. Since the initiation of the Rolling Thunder program the damage to facilities and equipment in North Vietnam has been more than offset by the increased flow of military and economic aid, largely from the USSR and Communist China.

3. The aspects of the basic situation that have enabled Hanoi to continue its support of military operations in the South and to neutralize the impact of U.S. bombing by passing the economic costs to other Communist countries are not likely to be altered by reducing the present geographic constraints, mining Haiphong and the principal harbors in North Vietnam, increasing the number of armed reconnaissance sorties and otherwise expanding the U.S. air offensive along the lines now contemplated in military recommendations and planning studies.

4. While conceptually it is reasonable to assume that some limit may be imposed on the scale of military activity that Hanoi can maintain in the South by continuing the Rolling Thunder program at the present, or some higher level of effort, there appears to be no basis for defining that limit in concrete terms, or for concluding that the present scale of VC/NVN activities in the field have approached that limit.

5. The indirect effects of the bombing on the will of the North Vietnamese to continue fighting and on their leaders' appraisal of the prospective gains and costs of maintaining the present policy have not shown themselves in any tangible way. Furthermore, we have not discovered any basis for concluding that the indirect punitive effects of bombing will prove decisive in these respects.

#119: Joint Chiefs' Memo Disputing McNamara View on Bombing

Excerpts from Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum, signed by Gen. Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman, to Secretary of Defense McNamara, Oct. 14, 1966, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not concur in your recommendation that there should be no increase in level of bombing effort and no modification in areas and targets subject to air attack. They believe our air campaign against NVN to be an integral and indispensable part of over all war effort. To be effective, the air campaign should be conducted with only those minimum constraints necessary to avoid indiscriminate killing of population ....

The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not concur with your proposal that, as a carrot to induce negotiations, we should suspend or reduce our bombing campaign against NVN. Our experiences with pauses in bombing and resumption have not been happy ones. Additionally, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the likelihood of the war being settled by negotiation is small, and that, far from inducing negotiations, another bombing pause will be regarded by North Vietnamese leaders, and our Allies, as renewed evidence of lack of U.S. determination to press the war to a successful conclusion. The bombing campaign is one of the two trump cards in the hands of the President (the other being the presence of U.S. troops in SVN). It should not be given up without an end to the NVN aggression in SVN ....

The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the war has reached a stage at which decisions taken over the next sixty days can determine the outcome of the war and, consequently, can affect the overall security interests of the United States for years to come. Therefore, they wish to provide to you and to the President their unequivocal views on two salient aspects of the war situation: the search for peace and military pressures on NVN.

a. The frequent, broadly-based public offers made by the President to settle the war by peaceful means on a generous basis, which would take from NVN nothing it now has, have been admirable. Certainly, no one -- American or foreigner -- except those who are determined not to be convinced, can doubt the sincerity, the generosity, the altruism of U.S. actions and objectives. In the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the time has come when further overt actions and offers on our part are not only nonproductive, they are counter-productive. A logical case can be made that the American people, our Allies, and our enemies alike are increasingly uncertain as to our resolution to pursue the war to a successful conclusion. The Joint Chiefs of Staff advocate the following:

(1) A statement by the President during the Manila Conference of his unswerving determination to carry on the war until NVN aggression against SVN shall cease;

(2) Continued covert exploration of all avenues leading to a peaceful settlement of the war; and

(3) Continued alertness to detect and react appropriately to withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from SVN and cessation of support to the VC.

B. In JCSM-955-64, dated 14 November 1964, and in JCSM- 962-64, dated 23 November 1964, the Joint Chiefs of Staff provided their views as to the military pressures which should be brought to bear on NVN. In summary, they recommended a "sharp knock" on NVN military assets and war-supporting facilities rather than the campaign of slowly increasing pressure which was adopted. Whatever the political merits of the latter course, we deprived ourselves of the military effects of early weight of effort and shock, and gave to the enemy time to adjust to our slow quantitative and qualitative increase of pressure. This is not to say that it is now too late to derive military benefits from more effective and extensive use of our air and naval superiority. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend:

(1) Approval of their ROLLING THUNDER 52 program, which is a step toward meeting the requirement for improved target systems. This program would decrease the Hanoi and Haiphong sanctuary areas, authorize attacks against the steel plant, the Hanoi rail yards, the thermal power plants, selected areas within Haiphong port and other ports, selected locks and dams controlling water LOC's, SAM support facilities within the residual Hanoi and Haiphong sanctuaries, and POL at Haiphong, Hai Gia (Phuc Yen) and Can Thon (Kep).

(2) Use of naval surface forces to interdict North Vietnamese coastal waterborne traffic and appropriate land LOCs and to attack other coastal military targets such as radar and AAA sites.

. . . The Joint Chiefs of Staff request that their views as set forth above be provided to the President.

#120: McNamara Draft Memorandum for Johnson in November, '66

Excerpts from draft memorandum for President Johnson from Secretary McNamara, dated Nov. 17, 1966, and headed "Recommended FY67 Southeast Asia Supplemental Appropriation," as provided in the body of the Pentagon study.

A substantial air interdiction campaign is clearly necessary and worthwhile. In addition to putting a ceiling on the size of the force that can be supported, it yields three significant military effects. First, it effectively harasses and delays truck movements down through the southern panhandles of NVN and Laos, though it has no effect on troops infiltrating on foot over trails that are virtually invisible from the air. Our experience shows that daytime armed reconnaissance above some minimum sortie rate makes it prohibitively expensive to the enemy to attempt daylight movement of vehicles, and so forces him to night movement. Second, destruction of bridges and cratering of roads forces the enemy to deploy repair crews, equipment, and porters to repair or bypass the damage. Third, attacks on vehicles, parks, and rest camps destroy some vehicles with their cargoes and inflict casualties. Moreover, our bombing campaign may produce a beneficial effect on U.S. and SVN morale by making NVN pay a price for its enemy [sic]. But at the scale we are now operating, I believe our bombing is yielding very small marginal returns, not worth the cost in pilot lives and aircraft.

The first effect, that of forcing the enemy into a system of night movement, occurs at a lower frequency of armed reconnaissance sorties than the level of the past several months. The enemy was already moving at night in 1965, before the sorties rate had reached half the current level; further sorties have no further effect on the enemy's overall operating system. The second effect, that of forcing the enemy to deploy repair crews, equipment, and porters, is also largely brought about by a comparatively low interdiction effort. Our interdiction campaign in 1965 and early this year forced NVN to assign roughly 300,000 additional personnel to LOCs; there is no indication that recent sortie increases have caused further increases in the number of these personnel. Once the enemy system can repair road cuts and damaged bridges in a few hours, as it has demonstrated it can, additional sorties may work this system harder but are unlikely to cause a significant increase in its costs. Only the third effect, the destruction of vehicles and their cargoes, continues to increase in about the same proportion as the number of armed reconnaissance sorties, but without noticeable impact on VC/NVA operations. The overall capability of the NVN transport system to move supplies within NVN apparently improved in September in spite of 12,200 attack sorties.

In a summary paragraph, the draft memo made the entire case against the bombings:

The increased damage to targets is not producing noticeable results. No serious shortage of POL in North Vietnam is evident, and stocks on hand, with recent imports, have been adequate to sustain necessary operations. No serious transport problem in the movement of supplies to or within North Vietnam is evident; most transportation routes appear to be open, and there has recently been a major logistical build-up in the area of the DMZ. The raids have disrupted the civil populace and caused isolated food shortages, but have not significantly weakened popular morale. Air strikes continue to depress economic growth and have been responsible for abandonment of some plans for economic development, but essential economic activities continue. The increasing amounts of physical damage sustained by North Vietnamese are in large measure compensated by aid received from other Communist countries. Thus, in spite of an interdiction campaign costing at least $250 million per month at current levels, no significant impact on the war in South Vietnam is evident. The monetary value of damage to NVN since the start of bombing in February 1965 is estimated at about $140 million through October 10, 1966.

#121: Komer Report to Johnson after February Trip to Vietnam

Excerpts from memorandum to President Johnson from Robert W. Komer, his special assistant, Feb. 28, 1967, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

After almost a year full-time in Vietnam, and six trips there, I felt able to learn a good deal more from my 11 days in-country, 13-23 February. I return more optimistic than ever before. The cumulative change since my first visit last April is dramatic, if not yet visibly demonstrable in all respects. Indeed, I'll reaffirm even more vigorously my prognosis of last November which would be achieved in 1967 on almost every front in Vietnam.

He firmly believed that in time we would just overwhelm the VC in SVN:

Wastefully, expensively, but nonetheless indisputably, we are winning the war in the South. Few of our programs -- civil or military -- are very efficient, but we are grinding the enemy down by sheer weight and mass. And the cumulative impact of all we have set in motion is beginning to tell. Pacification still lags the most, yet even it is moving forward.

Finally, and contrary to all military reports, he saw same let-up in the pressures for additional resources:

Indeed my broad feeling, with due allowance for over-simplification, is that our side now has in presently programmed levels all the men, money and other resources needed to achieve success ....

#122: Westmoreland's March 18 Memo on Increase in Forces

Excerpts from cablegram from Gen. William C. Westmoreland, commander of United States forces in Vietnam, to Pacific command, March 18, 1967, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

On 18 March, General Westmoreland submitted his analysis of current MACV force requirements projected through FY 68. This request was to furnish the base line for all further force deployment calculations during the Program 5 period. In preface to his specific request, COMUSMACV reviewed his earlier CY 67 requirement which asked for 124 maneuver battalions with their necessary combat and combat service support, a total strength of 555,741. This figure was the maximum figure requested during the Program 4 deliberations. The approved Program 4 package included only 470,336 and was considerably below the MACV request, a fact which led to the series of reclamas described in Section II. Westmoreland related that MACVCINCPAC had not strongly objected earlier to the 470,000 man ceiling because of adverse piaster impact and the realities of service capabilities, but, subsequent reassessment of the situation had indicated clearly to him that the Program 4 force, although enabling U.S. force to gain the initiative did not "permit sustained operations of the scope and intensity required to avoid an unreasonably protracted war."

As the cable continued, the American commander in Vietnam briefly restated his earlier assessment of enemy trends: That the enemy had increased his force structure appreciably and was now confronting Free World Military Forces with large bodies of troops in and above the DMZ, in the Laotian and Cambodian sanctuaries and certain areas within SVN. In light of this new appraisal, he had established an early requirement for an additional 21/.3 divisions which he proposed be accommodated by restructuring the original 555,741-man force package proposed during Program 4. This force was required "as soon as possible but not later than 1 July 1968." Part of the reasoning was that this in effect constituted no more than a 6-month "extension" of the CY 67 program and as such would permit shifting force programming from a Calendar Year to a Fiscal Year basis, a shift long needed in COMUSMACV's estimation to make force programming for Vietnam compatible with other programs and to provide essential lead time in the procurement of hardware. Westmoreland then looked further ahead, noting:

. . . It is entirely possible that additional forces, over and above the immediate requirement for 2-1/3 Divisions, will materialize. Present planning, which will undergo continued refinement, suggests an additional 2-1/3 division equivalents whose availability is seen as extending beyond FY 68.

Then as if to take the edge off his request, COMUSMACV turned attention to two programs which were becoming increasingly attractive to American decision-makers. These were development of an improved RVNAF and an increase in the other Free World Military Forces committed to the war in Vietnam. He commented that despite the force ceiling on RVNAF currently in effect some selective increase in Vietnamese capabilities was required, such as creation of a suitable base for establishing a constabulary, an organization vital to the success of the Revolutionary Development program. Westmoreland stated that it was the position of his headquarters that provision for any and all Free World Military Forces was welcomed as "additive reinforcements," but they would be treated as additions only, thereby having no effect upon U.S. force computations.

The concept of operations under which the new forces he requested were to be employed varied little in its essential aspects from that outlined in MACV's February "Assessment of the Military Situation and Concept of Operations," which had reached Washington but a week earlier. However, the new cable integrated the new forces as part of the MACV operational forces. Westmoreland reviewed the period just past then turned to the future:

. . . our operations were primarily holding actions characterized by border surveillance, reconnaissance to locate enemy forces, and spoiling attacks to disrupt the enemy offensive. As a result of our buildup and successes, we were able to plan and initiate a general offensive. We now have gained the tactical initiative, and are conducting continuous small and occasional large-scale offensive operations to decimate the enemy forces; to destroy enemy base areas and disrupt his infrastructure; to interdict his land and water LOC's and to convince him, through the vigor of our offensive and accompanying psychological operations, that he faces inevitable defeat.

Military success alone will not achieve the U.S. objectives in Vietnam. Political, economic and psychological victory is equally important, and support of Revolutionary Development program is mandatory. The basic precept for the role of the military in support of Revolutionary Development is to provide a secure environment for the population so that the civil aspects of RD can progress.

He then detailed corps by corps the two troop request requirements labeling them the "optimum force" [4-2/3 Divs] and the "minimum essential force" [2-1/3 Divs]:


(1) The MACV objectives for 1967 were based on the assumption that the CY 67 force requirements would be approved and provided expeditiously within the capabilities of the services. However, with the implementation of Program Four, it was recognized that our accomplishments might fall short of our objectives. With the additional forces cited above, we would have had the capability to extend offensive operations into an exploitation phase designed to take advantage of our successes.

(2) With requisite forces, we shall be able to complete more quickly the destruction or neutralization of the enemy main forces and bases and, by continued presence, deny to him those areas in RVN long considered safe havens. As the enemy main forces are destroyed or broken up, increasingly greater efforts can be devoted to rooting out and destroying the VC guerrilla and communist infrastructure. Moreover, increased assistance can be provided the RVNAF in support of its effort to provide the required level of security for the expanding areas undergoing Revolutionary Development.

(3) Optimum Force. The optimum force required implement the concept of operations and to exploit success is considered 4-2/3 divisions or the equivalent; 10 tactical fighter squadrons with one additional base; and the full mobile riverine force. The order of magnitude estimate is 201,250 spaces in addition to the 1967 ceiling of 470,366 for a total of 671,616.

(A) In I Corps, the situation is the most critical with respect to existing and potential force ratios. As a minimum, a division plus a regiment is required for Quang Tri Province as a containment force. The latter has been justified previously in another plan. Employment of this force in the containment role would release the units now engaged there for expansion of the DaNang, Hue-Phu Bai and Chu Lai TAOR's as well as increase security and control along the corps northern coastal areas. One of the most critical areas in RVN today is Quang Ngai Province even if a major operation were conducted in this area during 1967, the relief would be no more than temporary. A force is needed in the province to maintain continuous pressure on the enemy to eliminate his forces and numerous base areas, and to remove his control over the large population and food reserves. The sustained employment of a division of 10 battalions is mandatory in Quang Ngai Province if desired results are to be realized. Employment of this force would provide security for the vital coastal areas, facilitate opening and securing Route 1 and the railroad and, perhaps equally important, relieve pressure on northern Binh Dinh Province.

(b) In II Corps, the task is two fold: destroy the enemy main and guerrilla forces in the coastal areas; and contain the infiltration of NVA forces from Cambodia and Laos. Continual expansion both north and south of the present capital coastal TAOR's opening and securing Route 1 and the railroad, securing Route 20 from Dalat south to the III Corps boundary, destruction of enemy forces in Pleiku and Kontum Provinces, and containment of enemy forces in the Cambodian and Laotian sanctuaries are all tasks to be accomplished given the large area in II Corps and the continuous enemy threat, an optimum force augmentation of four separate brigades is required to execute effectively an exploitation of our successes. An infantry brigade is needed in northern Binh Dinh Province to expand security along the coastal area and to facilitate operations in Quang Ngai Province to the north. A mechanized brigade in the western highlands will assist in offensive and containment operations in the Pleiku-Kontum area. An infantry brigade in the region of Nam Me Thout is needed to conduct operations against enemy forces and bases there and to add security to this portion of II Corps now manned with limited ARVN forces, and finally, a mechanized brigade is needed in Binh Thuan Province to neutralize the enemy forces and bases in the southern coastal area, and to open and secure highway 1 and the national railroad to the III Corps boundary.

(c) In III Corps, operations to destroy VC/NVA forces and bases in the northwestern & central parts of the corps area and to intensify the campaign against the enemy's infrastructure are being conducted. These operations are to be completed by intensive efforts to open and secure the principal land and water LOC's throughout the Corps Zone. However, deployment of the U.S. 9th Div to IV Corps will create a gap in the forces available in III Corps to operate against seen significant base areas in Phuoc Tuy, Bin Tuy, and Long Lhanh Provinces. These areas constitute the home base of the still formidable 5th VC Division. This unit must be destroyed, its bases neutralized and Route 1 and the national railroad opened and secured. Other critical locales that will require considerable effort are War Zone D and Phuoc Long area in which the VC 7th Division is believed to be located. With the forces operating currently in III Corps, substantial progress can be made, but to exploit effectively our successes an addition of one division, preferably air mobile is required. By basing this division in Bien Hoa province just north of the RSSZ, it would be in position to conduct operations against the 5th Div, and War Zone D, as well as to reinforce the U.S. 9th Div in Delta operations as required.

(d) In IV Corps, with deployment of the U.S. 9th Div to the Corps area and with increasing success of ARVN operations there, the situation will be greatly improved. Primary emphasis will be given to destroying VC main and guerrilla units and their bases, to intensifying operations to extend GVN control, to stopping the flow of food stuffs and materials to the enemy through Cambodia, and to assisting in the flow of goods to GVN outlets in Saigon. In addition emphasis will be accorded the opening and securing of principal water and land LOC's which are the key to all operations in the Delta. It is noteworthy on this score, that effectiveness of forces available is hampered severely by an inadequate mobile riverine force. In IV Corps, the essential requirement is to flesh out the mobile riverine force with three APB's (Barracks Ships) one ARL (repair ship), and two RAS (river assault squadrons).

(4) The Minimum Essential Force necessary to exploit success of the current offensive and to retain effective control of expanding areas being cleaned of enemy influence is 2-1/3 divisions with a total of 21 maneuver battalions. One division, with nine infantry battalions -- each with 4 rifle companies -- and an ACR of three squadrons are required. The other division of nine maneuver battalions, each battalion organized with four rifle companies is required in Quang Ngai Province. Four tactical fighter squadrons, each generating 113 sorties per month per identified maneuver battalion, are required. Two squadrons will be stationed at Phu Cat and two at Tuy Hoa. One C-l30 or equivalent type squadron can provide adequate airlift and is justified on the basis of current planning factors: This SQD would be based at Cam Ranh Bay. A minimum essential logistic base can be provided by selective augmentation of NSA Danang, and by provision for lift capability equivalent to eight LST's in addition to two LST's identified previously for the containment force in Quang Tri Province. Two nondivisional Army combat engineer battalions and four Army construction battalions will be required to support divisional engineering effort to augment two navy construction battalions that previously have been identified with the containment force in Quang Tri Province.

(b) Effectiveness of the U.S. 9th Division's operations in IV Corps will be degraded unacceptably without adequate mobility on the waterways. For this reason, addition of two river assault squadrons with their associated support is deemed essential. The Mekong Delta Mobile Riverine Force originally was tailored and justified as a four RAS level. This requirement still is valid. The primary media of transport in the Delta are air and water. Air mobility is recognized as critical to success of operations in the area, but the size of offensive operations that can be mounted is limited by the inherent physical limitations of airborne vehicles. Accordingly, any sizeable offensive operation such as those visualized for the U.S. 9th Division must utilize the 300km of waterways in the Delta to exploit tactical mobility. Maintenance of LOC's and population control in the areas secured by the division's operations, along with extension of the interdiction effort, necessitates expansion of the game warden operation. Fifty PBR's can provide this capability based on experience factors accrued thus far ....

#123: March 28 Westmoreland Cable to Joint Chiefs on Troop Needs

Excerpts from cablegram from General Westmoreland to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "MACV FY-68 Force Requirements," March 28, 1967, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

On 26 March COMUSMACV submitted to the CINCPAC Requirements Task Group a detailed troop listing for the 2-1/3 division "minimum essential force." Other than providing a detailed list of TO&E's and unit small strengths, the document provides little of interest. It did stipulate that the northern portion of the minimum essential force would be directed toward an expanded infiltration interdiction mission and that the southern portion of the force would pursue "presently prescribed operations."

In a follow-up message to the Task Requirements Group on the 28th of March COMUSMACV again commented on the restrictive aspects of Program 4. This in turn was picked up and amplified by CINCPAC in a message to the JCS on the same day. CINCPAC pointed out that as of 9 March 1967 Program 4 was 38,241 spaces short of full implementation and that this figure included spaces for five battalions or their equivalents which could not be considered for trade-off purposes. All of these spaces, especially the battalion equivalents, were significant elements when considered within the perspective of MACV's operational requirements and could not be deleted without seriously impairing MACV capability to achieve its objectives. In light of this shortfall in Program 4 CINCPAC requested that the JCS reconsider its earlier proposal that a 4th rifle company be added to all U.S. Army infantry battalions in Vietnam. The logic behind such a raise in program ceiling which would increase materially the combat power and effectiveness of the infantry without increasing unit overhead was irrefutable in CINCPAC's eyes. CINCPAC proposed that the addition of the rifle companies, a total of 8,821 men, be added to the Program 4 ceiling for a total of 479,231 of all services. The space requirements for the 2-1/3 division minimum essential force reflected in the COMUSMACV request would then be added on to the adjusted Program 4 total of 479,000. However, in the event that any or all of the spaces reflected in that 479,000 were not approved or that the package itself would be reduced, the Pacific Commander predicted grave curtailment in MACV operations and a danger that the operational objectives set for the force requirements initially would not be achieved.

By 28 March the JCS through the CINCPAC group had the detailed justification and planning calculations for the COMUSMACV 67 force requirements in hand. MACV had added little that was new in the way of strategic concept other than to reaffirm their intention to concentrate on certain priority areas in each corps tactical zone. Priority areas themselves were selected because they seemed best suited to achieve destruction or neutralization of enemy main forces and bases -- persistently prime MACV goals. Despite this strong declaration of intent MACV hedged by noting that "the enemy will be struck wherever he presents a lucrative target." Forces would also be maintained by MACV outside the priority areas to contain the enemy in his out of country sanctuaries. In this connection, the planners anticipated that there would be large scale offensive operations continuously conducted during FY 68 to detect and destroy infiltration or invasion forces in the DMZ-Highland Border regions.

If the forces outlined under the optimum force request were granted priority was to be accorded to the expansion of secure areas. The RVNAF would be given the primary responsibility of providing military support of Revolutionary Development activities and Revolutionary Development operations would be intensified throughout the country as the pacified areas were expanded, MACV explained that such increased demands on the RVNAF would establish a concomitant demand for additional U.S. force resources to fill the operational void resulting from the intensified Revolutionary Development orientation of the RVNAF. The long message also broke out the minimum essential and optimum package forces by service and by total troop's as shown in the table below.


The total optimum force end strength was 678,248 arrived at by adding the approved Program 4 strength of 470,000 to the earlier MACV reclama of 8,821 (see page 68 this section) and the "optimum force" additive of 199,017. The justification for additional forces broken out by corps tactical zones were essentially the same as those presented in the original MACV request on 18 March. However, the later document prepared at PACOM Hqs on the 28th reflected the increased concern with the enemy threat developing in the I Corps tactical zone. Concerning this threat, COMUSMACV wrote:

. . In I Corps tactical zone, the bulk of the population and the food producing regions are within 15 miles of the coast. In the northern part of the zone, multiple NVA Divisions possess the capability to move south of the DMZ. Additionally, there is constant enemy activity in much of the coastal area. The topography of I Corps lends itself to the establishment and maintenance of enemy base areas in the remote, sparsely populated regions. The enemy has operated for years virtually unmolested throughout most of Quang Ngai Province because friendly forces could not be diverted from other important tasks.

There are several important tasks which must be performed in I Corps. Security of bases and key population centers must be maintained. The area under GVN control must be extended by expanding existing TAOR's, and by opening and securing major LOC's, particularly Route 1. The enemy must be contained in his sanctuaries, and denied use of infiltration and invasion routes. Enemy main forces and bases must be sought out and destroyed. Surveillance and reconnaissance in force throughout the CTZ must complement the tasks discussed above.

The deployment of a division and an armored cavalry regiment to Quang Tri Province, south of the DMZ, would make it possible for Marine Corps units now conducting containment operations to secure and expand tactical areas of responsibility (TAOR's).

The RVNAF and U.S./FWMAF will intensify operations against organized enemy forces and base areas in and near the populated and food producing areas of the coastal plains thus denying them access to population and food resources.

Clearing and securing operations will be pursued to facilitate the expansion of the secured areas, the ultimate goal being to connect the Hue-Phu Bai, Danang, and Chu Lai TAOR's. The following major LOC's will be opened and secured: Route 9, from Route 1 to Thon San Lam; and Route 1 and the railroad throughout the entire length of I CTZ, including the spur to the An Hoa industrial complex.

One of the most critical areas in the RVN today is Quang Ngai Province. A division is required there to maintain continuous pressure on the enemy, to eliminate his forces and numerous base areas, and to remove his control over large population and food resources.

Sustained employment of a division in Quang Ngai would obviate the necessity to use other forces to meet a critical requirement. The division would provide security for the coastal area, facilitate opening and securing Route I and the railroad, and relieve some of the pressure on northern Binh Dinh Province. Of particular significance is the support which would be provided to the RVNAF in securing the important Mo Duc Area with its dense population and three annual rice crops. Additionally, deployment of the division as discussed above would allow III MAF to expand its clearing and securing operations into the heavily populated Tam Ky area north of the Chu Lai TAOR. Long term security must be provided for both of these areas so that Revolutionary Development can progress.

Failure to provide two and one-third divisions for I CTZ would result in the diversion of existing forces from other tasks to deny and defeat infiltration or invasion. Security in support of Revolutionary Development could not be increased to the desired degree in the coastal area, the major LOC's could not be opened throughout the CTZ, and the enemy would be able to continue operating virtually unmolested throughout the key Quang Ngai Province.

It is emphasized that the relationship of the two and one-third division force requirement for I Corps to that of Practice Nine is coincidental. This force is the minimum essential required to support operations planned for FY 68 without reference to Practice Nine.

The next most dangerous situation appeared to be that in II Corps, a diverse geographical area which included major population centers along the coastal plains as well as sizeable population centers and military bases on the western plateau such as Binh Dinh, Anke, Kontum, and Pleiku. Here the enemy, orienting himself on the population, presented a different problem which, in the words of General Westmoreland, required "a high degree of mobility and flexibility in U.S./FWMAF/RVNAF." As he analyzed the corps tactical situation, Westmoreland re-emphasized what he had already said about containing the large enemy military forces at the boundaries of the sanctuaries:

Enemy forces in the Pleiku and Kontum areas must be destroyed, and infiltration from Cambodia and Laos must be contained. Forces in-country will continue to make progress in areas of current deployment. Those programmed for deployment will augment this effort. However, there are gaps, as discussed below, that must be filled before success can be exploited and minimum essential security can be provided within the II Corps area.

Large enemy forces remaining in heavily populated Binh Dinh Province must be destroyed. Security must be established and maintained in the northern portion of the province, particularly along the coastal area, so that Revolutionary Development can progress. These security forces also will facilitate the conduct of operations in Quang Ngai Province.

Inadequacy of forces in the border areas is a significant weakness in II Corps. Reinforcement of units in the western highlands is needed to assist in the conduct of offensive and containment operations. With the large enemy forces located in border sanctuaries, II Corps is faced constantly with the possible requirement to divert critical resources from priority tasks to counter large scale intrusion.

The most pressing military objective in III Corps area was to expand security radically from the Saigon-Cholon area. MACV planned to accomplish this primarily by standard clearing and security operations featuring an intensified campaign conducted to. root out the VC infrastructure. In conjunction with this, continuous pressure presumably in the form of search and destroy operations would be applied to the enemy in War Zones C and D, the Iron Triangle, and the base area clusters in the Phuoc Long area. Denial of these areas to the enemy would provide a protective shield behind which the Revolutionary Development programs could operate. However, deployment of the U.S. 9th Division to the 4th Corps area would create a gap in the farces available in III Corps and seriously degrade the capability to provide this shield. The possible repositioning of the assets existing within III Corps to either I CTZ in the north or the 9th Division relocation just to the south just mentioned could also seriously limit the offensive capabilities in the northern and central portion of III Corps. Accordingly, COMUSMACV expressed an urgent requirement for an additional division for III Corps. This unit would be positioned just north of the Rung Sat operation zone and would assist in maintaining the protective shield around Saigon-Cholon. Revolutionary Development operations would then be able to proceed unhindered and operations against the VC 5th Division could be reinforced if required.

Throughout the force requirement justifications, one is immediately struck by the implicit ordering of the priorities for assignment of forces and missions. It is quite clear that the "minimum essential force" which COMUSMACV requested was intended to be employed against VC/NVA main force units in a containment role in the border areas and a destruction-disruption mode in I CTZ as well as the base areas within the country itself. Those forces over and above the "minimum essential," so labeled the "optimum force," were those intended to take up the slack in the RD "shield" role. MACV, probably rightly, calculated that not even minimal gains such as were forthcoming in the under-manned RD program would be possible unless the VC/NVA main force operations could be stymied and kept from directly assaulting the "shields."

#124: Joint Chiefs' April 20 Report to McNamara on Troop Needs

Excerpts from Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum 218-67 to Secretary of Defense McNamara, April 20, 1967, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

On 20 April, the JCS, in JCSM-218-67, formally reported to the Secretary of Defense that MACV required additional forces to achieve the objectives they considered the U.S. was pursuing in Vietnam. The JCS announcement came as little surprise to the Secretary of Defense since as early as 23 March he had seen the original message in which COMUSMACV had outlined the minimum essential and optimum force requirements.

JCSM 218-67 reaffirmed the basic objectives and strategic concepts contained in JCSM 702-66 dated 4 November 1966. Briefly, these entailed a national objective of attaining a stable and independent non-communist government in South Vietnam and a fourfold military contribution toward achieving the objectives of:

(a) Making it as difficult and costly as possible for the NVA to continue effective support of the VC and to cause North Vietnam to cease direction of the VC insurgency.

(b) To defeat the VC/NVA and force the withdrawal of NVA forces.

(c) Extend government dominion, direction and control.

(d) To deter Chinese Communists from direct intervention In SEA.

The JCS listed three general areas of military effort that they felt should be pursued in the war:

(1) Operations against the Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Army (VC/NVA) forces in SVN while concurrently assisting the South Vietnamese Government in their nation-building efforts.

(2) Operations to obstruct and reduce the flow of men and materials from North Vietnam (NV) to SVN.

(3) Operations to obstruct and reduce imports of war-sustaining materials into NVN.

They continued by assessing the achievements of the U.S. and allies in these three areas:

In the first area, the United States and its allies have achieved considerable success in operations against VC/NVA forces. However, sufficient friendly forces have not been made available to bring that degree of pressure to bear on the enemy throughout SVN which would be beyond his ability to accommodate and which would provide the secure environment essential to sustained progress in Revolutionary Development. The current reinforcement of I CTZ by diversion of forces from II to III CTZs reduces the existing pressure in those areas and inevitably will cause a loss of momentum that must be restored at the earliest practicable date. In the

second area, U.S. efforts have achieved appreciable success. Greater success could be realized if an expanded system of targets were made available.

In the third area, relatively little effort has been permitted. This failure to obstruct and reduce imports of war-sustaining materials into NVN has affected unfavorably the desired degree of success of operations in the other areas.

The Joint Chiefs strongly recommended not only the approval of additional forces to provide an increased level of effort in SVN but that action be taken to reduce and obstruct the enemy capability to import the material support required to sustain the war effort. They argued that the cumulative effect of all these operations, in South Vietnam, in North Vietnam and against the enemy's strategic lines of communication would hasten the successful conclusion of the war and would most likely reduce the overall ultimate force requirements. Their rationale for the 1968 forces was summarized as follows:

The FY 1968 force for SVN is primarily needed to offset the enemy's increased posture in the vicinity of the DMZ and to improve the environment for Revolutionary Development in I and IV CTZs. To achieve the secure environment for lasting progress in SVN, additional military forces must be provided in order to (l) destroy the enemy main force, (2) locate and destroy district and provincial guerrilla forces, and (3) provide security for the population. The increased effort required to offset VC/NVA main forces' pressure is diminishing the military capability to provide a secure environment to villages and hamlets. Diversion of forces from within SVN and the employment of elements of CINCPAC's reserve are temporary measures at the expense of high-priority programs in other parts of SVN. Thus, if sufficient units are to be available to provide both direct and indirect support to Revolutionary Development throughout SVN, added forces must be deployed.

The three-TFS force for Thailand and the additional Navy forces in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Tonkin are required to bring increased pressures to bear on NVN.

#125: Notes on Johnson Discussion with Wheeler and Westmoreland

Excerpts from the Pentagon study describing a conversation on April 27, 1967, between President Johnson and Generals Wheeler and Westmoreland. The narrative says the conversation was reported in notes by John T. Mc- Naughton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. Italicized emphasis and words in parentheses are those of the Pentagon study.

Westmoreland was quoted as saying that without the 2Y3 additional divisions which he had requested "we will not be in danger of being defeated but it will be nip and tuck to oppose the reinforcements the enemy is capable of providing. In the final analysis we are fighting a war of attrition in Southeast Asia."

Westmoreland predicted that the next step if we were to pursue our present strategy to fruition would probably be the second addition of 2-1/3 divisions or approximately another 100,000 men. Throughout the conversations he repeated his assessment that the war would not be lost but that progress would certainly be slowed down. To him this was "not an encouraging outlook but a realistic one." When asked about the influence of increased infiltration upon his operations the general replied that as he saw it "this war is action and counteraction. Anytime we take an action we expect a reaction." The President replied: "When we add divisions can't the enemy add divisions? If so, where does it all end?" Westmoreland answered: "The VC and DRV strength in SVN now totals 285,000 men. It appears that last month we reached the crossover point in areas excluding the two northern provinces." (Emphasis added.) "Attritions will be greater than additions to the force .... The enemy has 8 divisions in South Vietnam. He has the capability of deploying 12 divisions although he would have difficulty supporting all of these. He would be hard pressed to support more than 12 divisions. If we add 2-1/2 divisions, it is likely the enemy will react by adding troops." The President then asked "At what point does the enemy ask for volunteers?" Westmoreland's only reply was, "That is a good question."

COMUSMACV briefly analyzed the strategy under the present program of 470,000 men for the President. He explained his concept of a "meatgrinder" where we would kill large numbers of the enemy but in the end do little better than hold our own, with the shortage of troops still restricting MACV to a fire brigade technique -- chasing after enemy main force units when and where it could find them. He then predicted that "unless the will of the enemy is broken or unless there was an unraveling of the VC infrastructure the war could go on for 5 years. If our forces were increased that period could be reduced although not necessarily in proportion to increases in strength, since factors other than increase in strength had to be considered. For instance, a nonprofessional force, such as that which would result from fulfilling the requirement for 100,000 additional men by calling reserves, would cause some degradation of normal leadership and effectiveness. Westmoreland concluded by estimating that with a force level of 565,000 men, the war could well go on for three years. With a second increment of 2-1/3 divisions leading to a total of 665,000 men, it could go on for two years.

General Wheeler . . . listed three matters . . . which were bothering the JCS. These were:

(a) DRV troop activity in Cambodia. U.S. troops may be forced to move against these units in Cambodia.

(b) DRV troop activity in Laos. U.S. troops may be forced to move against these units.

(c) Possible invasion of North Vietnam. We may wish to take offensive action against the DRV with ground troops.

The bombing which had always attracted considerable JCS attention was in Wheeler's estimation about to reach the point of target saturation -- when all worthwhile fixed targets except the ports had been struck. Once this saturation level was reached the decision-makers would be impelled to address the requirement to deny to the North Vietnamese use of the ports. He summarized the JCS position saying that the JCS firmly believed that the President must review the contingencies which they faced, the troops required to meet them and additional punitive action against DRV. Westmoreland parenthetically added that he was "frankly dismayed at even the thought of stopping the bombing program." ...

The President closed the meeting by asking: "What if we do not add the 2-1/3 divisions?" General Wheeler replied first, observing that the momentum would die; in some areas the enemy would recapture the initiative, an important but hardly disastrous development, meaning that we wouldn't lose the war but it would be a longer one. He added that:

"Of the 2-1/3 divisions, I would add one division on the DMZ to relieve the Marines to work with ARVN on pacification; and I would put one division 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 I would send to Quang Ngai to make there the progress in the next year that we have made in Binh Dinh in the past year."

The President reacted by saying: "We should make certain we are getting value received from the South Vietnamese troops. Check the dischargees to determine whether we could make use of them by forming additional units, by mating them with US troops, as is done in Korea, or in other ways."

There is no record of General Westmoreland's reply, if any ....
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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#126: McGeorge Bundy's Memorandum to Johnson in May on Bombing

Excerpts from memorandum for President Johnson from McGeorge Bundy, headed "Memorandum on Vietnam Policy," as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. According to the study, the document bore no date but a copy was marked in pencil "rec'd 5-4-67 12n." Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

Since the Communist turndown of our latest offers in February, there has been an intensification of bombing in the North, and press reports suggest that there will be further pressure for more attacks on targets heretofore immune. There is also obvious pressure from the military for further reinforcements in the South, although General Westmoreland has been a model of discipline in his public pronouncements. One may guess, therefore, that the President will soon be confronted with requests for 100,000- 200,000 more troops and for authority to close the harbor in Haiphong. Such recommendations are inevitable, in the framework of strictly military analysis. It is the thesis of this paper that in the main they should be rejected, and that as a matter of high national policy there should be a publicly stated ceiling to the level of American participation in Vietnam, as long as there is no further marked escalation on the enemy side.

There are two major reasons for this recommendation: the situation in Vietnam and the situation in the United States. As to Vietnam, it seems very doubtful that further intensifications of bombing in the North or major increases in U.S. troops in the South are really a good way of bringing the war to a satisfactory conclusion. As to the United States, it seems clear that uncertainty about the future size of the war is now having destructive effects on the national will.

Unlike the vocal critics of the Administrations, Mac Bundy was not opposed to the bombing per se, merely to any further extension of it since he felt such action would be counter-productive. Because his views carry such weight, his arguments against extending the bombing are reproduced below in full:

On the ineffectiveness of the bombing as a means to end the war, I think the evidence is plain -- though I would defer to expert estimators. Ho Chi Minh and his colleagues simply are not going to change their policy on the basis of losses from the air in North Vietnam. No intelligence estimate that I have seen in the last two years has ever claimed that the bombing would have this effect. The President never claimed that it would. The notion that this was its purpose has been limited to one school of thought and has never been the official Government position, whatever critics may assert.

I am very far indeed from suggesting that it would make sense now to stop the bombing of the North altogether. The argument for that course seems to me wholly unpersuasive at the present. To stop the bombing today would be to give the Communists something for nothing, and in a very short time all the doves in this country and around the world would be asking for some further unilateral concessions. (Doves and hawks are alike in their insatiable appetites; we can't really keep the hawks happy by small increases in effort -- they come right back for more.)

The real justification for the bombing, from the start, has been double -- its value for Southern morale at a moment of great danger, and its relation to Northern infiltration. The first reason has disappeared but the second remains entirely legitimate. Tactical bombing of communications and of troop concentrations -- and of airfields as necessary -- seems to me sensible and practical. It is strategic bombing that seems both unproductive and unwise. It is true, of course, that all careful bombing does some damage to the enemy. But the net effect of this damage upon the military capability of a primitive country is almost sure to be slight. (The lights have not stayed off in Haiphong, and even if they had, electric lights are in no sense essential to the Communist war effort.) And against this distinctly marginal impact we have to weigh the fact that strategic bombing does tend to divide the U.S., to distract us all from the real struggle in the South, and to accentuate the unease and distemper which surround the war in Vietnam, both at home and abroad. It is true that careful polls show majority support for the bombing, but I believe this support rests upon an erroneous belief in its effectiveness as a means to end the war. Moreover, I think those against extension of the bombing are more passionate on balance than those who favor it. Finally, there is certainly a point at which such bombing does increase the risk of conflict with China or the Soviet Union, and I am sure there is no majority for that. In particular, I think it clear that the case against going after Haiphong Harbor is so strong that a majority would back the Government in rejecting that course.

So I think that with careful explanation there would be more approval than disapproval of an announced policy restricting the bombing closely to activities that support the war in the South. General Westmoreland's speech to the Congress made this tie-in, but attacks on power plants really do not fit the picture very well. We are attacking them, I fear, mainly because we have "run out" of other targets. Is it a very good reason? Can anyone demonstrate that such targets have been rewarding? Remembering the claims made for attacks on [rest illegible].

In a similar fashion Bundy developed his arguments against a major increase in U.S. troop strength in the South and urged the President not to take any new initiatives for the present. But the appeal of Bundy's analysis for the President must surely have been its finale in which Bundy, acutely aware of the President's political sensitivities, cast his arguments in the context of the forthcoming 1968 Presidential elections. Here is how he presented the case:

There is one further argument against major escalation in 1967 and 1968 which is worth stating separately, because on the surface it seems cynically political. It is that Hanoi is going to do everything it possibly can to keep its position intact until after our 1968 elections. Given their history, they are bound to hold out for a possible U.S. shift in 1969 -- that's what they did against the French, and they got most of what they wanted when Mendes took power. Having held on so long this time, and having nothing much left to lose -- compared to the chance of victory-they are bound to keep on fighting. Since only atomic bombs could really knock them out (an invasion of North Vietnam would not do it in two years, and is of course ruled out on other grounds), they have it in their power to "prove" that military escalation does not bring peace -- at least over the next two years. They will surely do just that. However much they may be hurting, they are not going to do us any favors before November 1968. (And since this was drafted, they have been publicly advised by Walter Lippmann to wait for the Republicans -- as if they needed the advice and as if it was his place to give it!)

It follows that escalation will not bring visible victory over Hanoi before the election. Therefore the election will have to be fought by the Administration on other grounds. I think those other grounds are clear and important, and that they will be obscured if our policy is thought to be one of increasing -- and ineffective -- military pressure.

If we assume that the war will still be going on in November 1968, and that Hanoi will not give us the pleasure of consenting to negotiations sometime before then what we must plan to offer as a defense of Administration policy is not victory over Hanoi, but growing success -- and self reliance -- in the South. This we can do, with luck, and on this side of the parallel, the Vietnamese authorities should be prepared to help us out (though of course the VC will do their damndest against us.) Large parts of Westy's speech (if not quite all of it) were wholly consistent with this line of argument....

If we can avoid escalation-that-does-not-seem-to-work, we can focus attention on the great and central achievement of these last two years: on the defeat we have prevented. The fact that South Vietnam has not been lost and is not going to be lost is a fact of truly massive importance in the history of Asia, the Pacific, and the U.S. An articulate minority of "Eastern intellectuals" (like Bill Fulbright) may not believe in what they call the domino theory, but most Americans (along with nearly all Asians) know better. Under this administration the United States has already saved the hope of freedom for hundreds of millions -- in this sense, the largest part of the job is done. This critically important achievement is obscured by seeming to act as if we have to do much more lest we fail.

#127: May 4 Memo on Force Levels by Systems-Analysis Chief

Memorandum for Secretary McNamara, "Force Levels and Enemy Attrition," from Alain C. Enthoven, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis, May 4, 1967, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. Although MACV has admitted to you that the VC/NV A forces can refuse to fight when they want to, this fact has played no role in MACV's analysis of strategy and force requirements. (For example, in his October 1965 briefing, General DePuy said, "The more often we succeed at (search and destroy operations) the less often will the VC stand and fight.") Because enemy attrition plays such a central role in MACV's thinking, and because the enemy's degree of control over the pace of the action determines how well he can control his attrition, we have taken a hard look at the facts on the enemy's tactical initiative. From reliable, detailed accounts of 56 platoon-sized and larger fire-fights in 1966 we have classified these fights according to how they developed. The first four categories in the table all represent cases in which the enemy willingly and knowingly stood and fought in a pitched battle; these categories include 47 (84%) of the 56 battles. The first three categories, enemy ambushes and assaults on our forces, have 66% of the cases; these three plus category 4a, comprising the cases where the enemy has the advantage of surprise, have 78% of the cases.

The results are independently confirmed from two sources. First, the ARCOV study, which analyzed a different set of battles in late 1965 and early 1966, found that 46% of the fights begin as enemy ambushes and that the enemy starts the fight in 88% of the cases; moreover, it found that 63% of the infantry targets encountered were personnel in trenches or bunkers. Second, we have analyzed the After-Action Reports submitted to MACV by the line commanders in the field; although generally vague and incomplete in their descriptions of what happened, they broadly confirm the drift of the above numbers.

These results imply that the size of the force we deploy has little effect on the rate of attrition of enemy forces. This conclusion should scarcely surprise you in view of the trend of enemy losses in 1966 and in view of the obvious sensitivity of mouth-to-mouth enemy losses to his known strategic initiatives. What is surprising to me is that MACV has ignored this type of information in discussing force levels. I recommend that you inject this factor into the discussion.

#128: Rostow Memorandum of May 6 on the Bombing Program

Excerpts from a memorandum by Walt W. Rostow, Presidential assistant for national security, to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance, Under Secretary of State Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, Assistant Secretary of Defense John T. McNaughton, Assistant Secretary of State William P. Bundy and Richard Helms, Director of Central Intelligence, dated May 6, 1967, and headed "U.S. Strategy in Vietnam," as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

Rostow's paper began by reviewing what the U.S. was attempting to do in the war: frustrate a Communist take-over "by defeating their main force units; attacking the guerrilla infrastructure; and building a South Vietnamese governmental and security structure .... " The purpose of the air war in the North was defined as "To hasten the decision in Hanoi to abandon the aggression .. ," for which we specifically sought:

(i) to limit and harass infiltration; and

(ii) to impose on the North sufficient military and civil cost to make them decide to get out of the war earlier rather than later.

Sensitive to the criticisms of the bombing, Rostow tried to dispose of certain of their arguments:

We have never held the view that bombing could stop infiltration. We have never held the view that bombing of the Hanoi- Haiphong area alone would lead them to abandon the effort in the South. We have never held the view that bombing Hanoi- Haiphong would directly cut back infiltration. We have held the view that the degree of military and civilian cost felt in the North and the diversion of resources to deal with our bombing could contribute marginally -- and perhaps significantly -- to the timing of a decision to end the war. But it was no substitute for making progress in the South.

Rostow argued that while there were policy decisions to be made about the war in the South, particularly with respect to new force levels, there existed no real disagreement with the Administration as to our general strategy on the ground. Where contention did exist was in the matter of the air war. Here there were three broad strategies that could be pursued. Rostow offered a lengthy analysis of the three options . . .


Under this strategy we would mine the major harbors and, perhaps, bomb port facilities and even consider blockade. In addition, we would attack systematically the rail lines between Hanoi and mainland China. At the moment the total import capacity into North Viet Nam is about 17,200 tons per day. Even with expanded import requirement due to the food shortage, imports are, in fact, coming in at about 5700 tons per day. It is possible with a concerted and determined effort that we could cut back import capacity somewhat below the level of requirements; but this is not sure. On the other hand, it would require a difficult and sustained effort by North Viet Nam and its allies to prevent a reduction in total imports below requirements if we did all these things.

The costs would be these:

-- The Soviet Union would have to permit a radical increase in Hanoi's dependence upon Communist China, or introduce minesweepers, etc., to keep its supplies coming into Hanoi by sea;

-- The Chinese Communists would probably introduce many more engineering and anti-aircraft forces along the roads and rail lines between Hanoi and China in order to keep the supplies moving;

-- To maintain its prestige, in case it could not or would not open up Hanoi-Haiphong in the face of mines, the Soviet Union might contemplate creating a Berlin crisis. With respect to a Berlin crisis, they would have to weigh the possible split between the U.S. and its Western European allies under this pressure against damage to the atmosphere of detente in Europe which is working in favor of the French Communist Party and providing the Soviet Union with generally enlarged influence in Western Europe.

I myself do not believe that the Soviet Union would go to war with us over Viet Nam unless we sought to occupy North Viet Nam; and, even then, a military response from Moscow would not be certain.

With respect to Communist China, it always has the option of invading Laos and Thailand; but this would not be a rational response to naval and air operations designed to strangle Hanoi. A war throughout Southeast Asia would not help Hanoi; although I do believe Communist China would fight us if we invaded the northern part of North Viet Nam.

One can always take the view that, given the turmoil inside Communist China, an irrational act by Peiping is possible. And such irrationality cannot be ruled out.

I conclude that if we try to close the top of the funnel, tension between ourselves and the Soviet Union and Communist China would increase; if we were very determined, we could impose additional burdens on Hanoi and its allies; we might cut capacity below requirements; and the outcome is less likely to be a general war than more likely.


This is what we have been doing in the Hanoi-Haiphong area for some weeks. I do not agree with the view that the attacks on Hanoi-Haiphong have no bearing on the war in the South. They divert massive amounts of resources, energies, and attention to keeping the civil and military establishment going. They impose general economic, political, and psychological difficulties on the North which have been complicated this year by a bad harvest and food shortages. I do not believe that they "harden the will of the North." In my judgment, up to this point, our bombing of the North has been a painful additional cost they have thus far been willing to bear to pursue their efforts in the South.

On the other hand:

-- There is no direct, immediate connection between bombing the Hanoi-Haiphong area and the battle in the South;

-- If we complete the attack on electric power by taking out the Hanoi station -- which constitutes about 80% of the electric power supply of the country now operating -- we will have hit most of the targets whose destruction imposes serious military civil costs on the North.

-- With respect to risk, it is unclear whether Soviet warnings about our bombing Hanoi-Haiphong represent decisions already taken or decisions which might be taken if we persist in banging away in that area.

It is my judgment that the Soviet reaction will continue to be addressed to the problem imposed on Hanoi by us; that is, they might introduce Soviet pilots as they did in the Korean War; they might bring ground-to-ground missiles into North Viet Nam with the object of attacking our vessels at sea and our airfields in the Danang area.

I do not believe that the continuation of attacks at about the level we have been conducting them in the Hanoi-Haiphong area will lead to pressure on Berlin or a general war with the Soviet Union. In fact, carefully read, what the Soviets have been trying to signal is: Keep away from our ships; we may counter-escalate to some degree; but we do not want a nuclear confrontation over Viet Nam.


The advantage of concentrating virtually all our attacks in this area are three:

-- We would cut our loss rate in pilots and planes;

-- We would somewhat improve our harassment of infiltration of South Viet Nam;

-- We would diminish the risks of counter-escalatory action by the Soviet Union and Communist China, as compared with courses A and B.

He rejected course A as incurring too many risks with too little return ... Here is how he formulated his conclusions:

With respect to Course B I believe we have achieved greater results in increasing the pressure on Hanoi and raising the cost of their continuing to conduct the aggression in the South than some of my most respected colleagues would agree. I do not believe we should lightly abandon what we have accomplished; and specifically, I believe we should mount the most economical and careful attack on the Hanoi power station our air tacticians can devise. Moreover, I believe we should keep open the option of coming back to the Hanoi-Haiphong area, depending upon what we learn of their repair operations; and what Moscow's and Peiping's reactions are; especially when we understand better what effects we have and have not achieved thus far.

I believe the Soviet Union may well have taken certain counter-steps addressed to the more effective protection of the Hanoi- Haiphong area and may have decided -- or could shortly decide -- to introduce into North Viet Nam some surface-to-surface missiles.

With respect to option C, I believe we should, while keeping open the B option, concentrate our attacks to the maximum in Route Packages 1 and 2; and, in conducting Hanoi-Haiphong attacks, we should do so only when the targets make sense. I do not expect dramatic results from increasing the weight of attack in Route Packages 1 and 2; but I believe we are wasting a good many pilots in the Hanoi-Haiphong area without commensurate results. The major objectives of maintaining the B option can be achieved at lower cost.

#129: Secretary McNamara's Position of May 19 on Bombing and Troops

Excerpts from draft memorandum for the President from the office of Secretary of Defense McNamara dated May 19, 1967, and headed "Future Actions in Vietnam." Text, provided in the body of the Pentagon study, is labeled "first rough draft -- data and estimates have not been checked." Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

By the 19th of May the opinions of McNamara and his key aides with respect to the bombing and Westy's troop requests had crystalized sufficiently that another Draft Presidential Memorandum was written. It was entitled, "Future Actions in Vietnam," and was a comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the war -- military, political, and diplomatic. It opened with an appraisal of the situation covering both North and South Vietnam, the U.S. domestic scene and international opinion. The estimate of the situation in North Vietnam hewed very close to the opinions of the intelligence community already referred to. Here is how the analysis proceeded:


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 U.S. military expansion of the conflict. This change probably reflects these factors: (1) increased assurances of help from the Soviets received during Ph am 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 U.S. 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.

When added to the continuing difficulties in bringing the war in the South under control, the unchecked erosion of u.S. public support for the war, and the smoldering international disquiet about the need and purpose of such U.S. intervention, it is not hard to understand the DPM's statement that, "This memorandum is written at a time when there appears to be no attractive course of action." Nevertheless, 'alternatives' was precisely what the DPM had been written to suggest. These were introduced with a recapitulation of where we stood militarily and what the Chiefs were recommending. With respect to the war in the North, the DPM states:

Against North Vietnam, an expansion of the bombing program (ROLLING THUNDER 56) was approved mid-April. Before it was approved, General Wheeler said, "The bombing campaign is reaching the point where we will have struck all worthwhile fixed targets except the ports. At this time we will have to address the requirement to deny the DRV the use of the ports." With its approval, excluding the port areas, no major military targets remain to be struck in the North. All that remains are minor targets, restrikes of certain major targets, and armed reconnaissance of the lines of communication (LOCs) -- and, under new principles, mining the harbors, bombing dikes and locks, and invading North Vietnam with land armies. These new military moves against North Vietnam, together with land movements into Laos and Cambodia, are now under consideration by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The broad alternative courses of action it considered were two:

Course A. Grant the request and intensify military actions outside the South -- especially against the North. Add a minimum of 200,000 men -- 100,000 (2-1/3 division plus 5 tactical air squadrons) would be deployed in FY 1968, another 100,000 (2-1/3 divisions and 8 tactical air squadrons) in FY 1969, and possibly more later to fulfill the JCS ultimate requirement for Vietnam and associated world-wide contingencies. Accompanying these force increases (as spelled out below) would be greatly intensified military actions outside South Vietnam -- including in Laos and Cambodia but especially against the North.

Course B. Limit force increases to no more than 30,000; avoid extending the ground conflict beyond the borders of South Vietnam; and concentrate the bombing on the infiltration routes south of 20°. Unless the military situation worsens dramatically, add no more than 9 battalions of the approved program of 87 battalions. This course would result in a level of no more than 500,000 men (instead of the currently planned 470,000) on December 31, 1968. (See Attachment IV for details). A part of this course would be a termination of bombing in the Red River basin unless military necessity required it, and a concentration of all sorties in North Vietnam on the infiltration routes in the neck of North Vietnam, between 17° and 20°.

. . . This was the way the DPM developed the analysis of the war segment of course of action A:


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

-- (1) To retaliate and to lift the morals [sic] 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 reduce the flow and/or to increase the cost of infiltrating men and material 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 U.S. military actions short of occupation of annihilation [sic]. 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 U.S. 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 plan on and prestock 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 U.S. 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 1,000 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.


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 5,000 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 leadership for each of 20 12-man U.S.-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 . . . 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 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 U.S. (interrupting any ongoing 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

The arguments against Course A were summed up in a final paragraph:

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.

With Course A rejected, the DPM turned to consideration of the levelling-off proposals of Course B. The analysis of the deescalated bombing program of this option proceeded in this manner:

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 per cent. 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, stating no time limits but making no promises 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, and 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 spillover is successful.

In a section dealing with diplomatic and political considerations, the DPM outlined the political view of the significance of the struggle as seen by the U.S. and by Hanoi. It then developed a conception of large U.S. interests in Asia around the necessity of containing China. This larger interest required settling the Vietnam war into perspective as only one of three fronts that required U.S. attention (the other two being Japan-Korea and India- Pakistan). In the overall view, the DPM argued, long-run trends in Asia appeared favorable to our interests:

The fact is that the trends in Asia today are running mostly for, not against, our interests (witness Indonesia and the Chinese confusion); there is no reason to be pessimistic about our ability over the next decade or two to fashion alliances and combinations (involving especially Japan and India) sufficient to keep China from encroaching too far. To the extent that our original intervention and our existing actions in Vietnam were motivated by the perceived need to draw the line against Chinese expansionism in Asia, our objective has already been attained, and COURSE B will suffice to consolidate it!

With this perspective in mind the DPM went on to reconsider and restate U.S. objectives in the Vietnam contest under the heading "Commitment and Hopes Distinguished":

The time has come for us to eliminate the ambiguities from our minimum objectives -- our commitment- -- in Vietnam. Specifically, two principles must be articulated, and policies and actions brought in line with them: (1) Our commitment is only to see that the people of South Vietnam are permitted to determine their own future. (2) This commitment ceases if the country ceases to help itself.

It follows that no matter how much we might hope for some things, our commitment is not:

-- to expel from South Vietnam regroupees, who are South Vietnamese (though we do not like them),

-- to ensure that a particular person or group remains in power, nor that the power runs to every corner of the land (though we prefer certain types and we hope their writ will run throughout South Vietnam),

-- to guarantee that the self-chosen government is non-Communist (though we believe and strongly hope it will be), and

-- to insist that the independent South Vietnam remain separate from North Vietnam (though in the short-run, we would prefer it that way).

(Nor do we have an obligation to pour in effort out of proportion to the effort contributed by the people of South Vietnam or in the face of coups, corruption, apathy or other indications of Saigon failure to cooperate effectively with us.)

We are committed to stopping or off setting the effect of North Vietnam's application of force in the South, which denies the people of the South the ability to determine their own future. Even here, however, the line is hard to draw. Propaganda and political advice by Hanoi (or by Washington) is presumably not barred; nor is economic aid or economic advisors. Less clear is the rule to apply to military advisors and war materiel supplied to the contesting factions.

The importance of nailing down and understanding the implications of our limited objectives cannot be overemphasized. It relates intimately to strategy against the North, to troop requirements and missions in the South, to handling of the Saigon government, to settlement terms, and to US domestic and international opinion as to the justification and the success of our efforts on behalf of Vietnam.

This articulation of American purposes and commitments in Vietnam pointedly rejected the high blown formulations of U.S. objectives in NSAM 88 ["an independent non-communist South Vietnam," "defeat the Viet Cong," etc.], and came forcefully to grips with the old dilemma of the U.S. involvement dating from the Kennedy era: only limited means to achieve excessive ends. Indeed, in the following section of specific recommendations, the DPM urged the President to, "issue a NSAM nailing down U.S. policy as described herein." The emphasis in this scaled down set of goals, clearly reflecting the frustrations of failure, was South Vietnamese self-determination. The DPM even went so far as to suggest that, "the South will be in position, albeit imperfect, to start the business of producing a full-spectrum government in South Vietnam." What this amounted to was a recommendation that we accept a compromise outcome. Let there be no mistake these were radical positions for a senior U.S. policy official within the Johnson Administration to take. They would bring the bitter condemnation of the Chiefs and were scarcely designed to flatter the President on the success of his efforts to date. That they represented a more realistic mating of U.S. strategic objectives and capabilities is another matter.

The scenario for the unfolding of the recommendations in the DPM went like this:

(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 200 and improving interdiction as much as possible in the infiltration "funnel" south of 200 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 U.S. Reserve call-up implicit in the Westmoreland troop request. Decide that, unless the military situation worsens dramatically, U.S. 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 U.S. troops in the Delta and not to use large numbers of them in grassroots 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 cease-fire 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 U.S. forces. (This initiative is worth taking despite its slim chance of success.)

Having made the case for de-escalation and compromise, the DPM ended on a note of candor with a clear statement of its disadvantages and problems:

The difficulties with this approach are neither few nor small: There will be those who disagree with the circumscription of the U.S. commitment (indeed, at one time or another, one U.S. voice or another has told the Vietnamese, third countries, the U.S. Congress, and the public of "goals" or "objectives" that go beyond the above bare-bones statement of our "commitment"); some will insist that pressure, enough pressure, on the North can payoff or that we will have yielded a blue chip without exacting a price in exchange for our concentrating on interdiction; many will argue that denial of the larger number of troops will prolong the war, risk losing it and increase the casualties of the Americans who are there; some will insist that this course reveals weakness to which Moscow will react with relief, contempt and reduced willingness to help, and to which Hanoi will react by increased demands and truculence; others will point to the difficulty of carrying the Koreans, Filipinos, Australians and New Zealanders with us; and there will be those who point out the possibility that the changed U.S. tone may cause a "rush for the exits" in Thailand, in Laos and especially inside South Vietnam, perhaps threatening cohesion of the government, morale of the army, and loss of support among the people. Not least will be the alleged impact on the reputation of the United States and of its President. Nevertheless, the difficulties of this strategy are fewer and smaller than the difficulties of any other approach.

#130: William Bundy's May 30 Memo on Reasons for U.S. Involvement

Excerpts from memorandum from Assistant Secretary of State Bundy, circulated at State and Defense Departments, May 30, 1967, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

William Bundy at State drafted comments on the DPM on May 30 and circulated them at State and Defense. In his rambling and sometimes contradictory memo, Bundy dealt mainly with the nature and scope of the U.S. commitment -- as expressed in the DPM and as he saw it. He avoided any detailed analysis of the two military options and focused his attention on the strategic reasons for American involvement; the objectives we were after; and the terms under which we could consider closing down the operation. His memo began with his contention that:

The gut point can almost be summed up in a pair of sentences. 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 U.S. 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 is the view of the central importance of the South that dominates the remainder of Bundy's memo. But his own thinking was far from clear about how the U.S. should react to a South Vietnamese failure for at the end of it he wrote:

None of the above decides one other question clearly implicit in the DOD draft. What happens if "the country ceases to help itself." If this happens in the literal sense, if South Viet-Nam performs so badly that it simply is not going to be able to govern itself or to resist the slightest internal pressure, then we would agree that we can do nothing to prevent this. But the real underlying question is to what extent we tolerate imperfection, even gross imperfection, by the South Vietnamese while they are still under the present grinding pressure from Hanoi and the NLF.

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?

Bundy took pointed issue with DPM's reformulation of U.S. objectives. Starting with the DPM's discussion of U.S. larger interests in Asia, Bundy argued that:

In Asian eyes, the struggle is a test case, and indeed much more black-and-white than even we ourselves see it. The Asian view bears little resemblance to the breast-beating in Europe or at home. Asians would quite literally be appalled -- and this includes India -- if we were to pull out from Viet-Nam or if we were to settle for an illusory peace that produced Hanoi control over all Viet-Nam in short order.

In short, our effort in Viet-Nam in the past two years has not only prevented the catastrophe that would otherwise have unfolded but has laid a foundation for a progress that now appears truly possible and of the greatest historical significance.

Having disposed of what he saw as a misinterpretation of Asian sentiment and U.S. interests there, Bundy now turned to the DPM's attempt to minimize the U.S. commitment in Vietnam. He opposed the DPM language because in his view it dealt too heavily with our military commitment to get NV A off the South Vietnamese back, and not enough with the equally important commitment, to assure that "the political board in South Vietnam is not tilted to the advantage of the NLF." Bundy's conception of the U.S. commitment was twofold:

-- To prevent any imposed political role for the NLF in South Vietnamese political life, and specifically the coalition demanded by point 3 of Hanoi's Four Points, or indeed any NLF part in government or political life that is not safe and acceptable voluntarily to the South Vietnamese Government and people.

-- To insist in our negotiating position that "regroupees," that is, people originally native to South Viet-Nam who went North in 1954 and returned from 1959 onward, should be expelled as a matter of principle in the settlement. Alternatively, such people could remain in South Viet-Nam if, but only if, the South Vietnamese Government itself was prepared to receive them back under a reconciliation concept, which would provide in essence that they must be prepared to accept peaceful political activity under the Constitution (as the reconciliation appeal now does). This latter appears to be the position of the South Vietnamese Government, which -- as Tran Van Do has just stated in Geneva -- argues that those sympathetic to the Northern system of government should go North, while those prepared to accept the Southern system of government may stay in the South. Legally, the first alternative is sound, in that Southerners who went North in 1954 became for all legal and practical purposes Northern citizens and demonstrated their allegiance. But if the South Vietnamese prefer the second alternative, it is in fact exactly' comparable to the regroupment provisions of the 1954 Accords, and can legally be sustained. But in either case the point is that the South Vietnamese are not obliged to accept as citizens people whose total pattern of conduct shows that they would seek to overthrow the structure of government by force and violence.

The remainder of Bundy's comments were addressed to importance of this last point. The U.S. could not consider withdrawing its forces until not only the North Vietnamese troops but also the regroupees had returned to the North. Nowhere in his comments does he specifically touch on the merits of the two military options, but his arguments all seem to support the tougher of the two choices (his earlier support of restricting the bombing thus seems paradoxical). He was, it is clear, less concerned with immediate specific decisions on a military phase of the war than with the long term consequences of this major readjustment of American sights in Southeast Asia.



i. Admiral Sharp has recommended a 12/ 31/67 strength of 570,000. However, I believe both he and General Westmoreland recognize that the danger of inflation will probably force an end 1967 deployment limit of about 470,000.

ii. If this task is assigned to Ambassador Porter, another individual must be sent immediately to Saigon to serve as Ambassador Lodge's deputy.

iii. Any limitation on the bombing of North Vietnam will cause serious psychological problems among the men who are risking their lives to help achieve our political objectives; among their commanders up to and including the JCS; and among those of our people who cannot understand why we should withhold punishment from the enemy. General Westmoreland, as do the JCS, strongly believes in the military value of the bombing program. Further, Westmoreland reports that the morale of his Air Force personnel may already be showing signs of erosion -- an erosion resulting from current operational restrictions.

iv. Includes 5,547 spaces required to incorporate MACV Study recommendations.
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

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Chapter 10: The Tet Offensive and the Turnaround

Highlights of the Period: January-April, 1968


The enemy, on January 31, the Tet holiday, struck at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and attacked scores of important towns and all the major cities. The Joint Chiefs urged bombing closer to the centers of Hanoi and Haiphong; President Johnson refused.

Gen. Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, asked Gen. Westmoreland to specify his troop needs. Gen. Westmoreland, advised repeatedly that a division and a half was available, requested a force of that size.

The Joint Chiefs -- trying to force the President into mobilization, the study says -- insisted that a reserve call-up must precede any deployment. But Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara approved a 10,500-man Vietnam deployment with no call-up.

Gen. Wheeler visited Saigon in late February, and found that the initiative was held by the enemy. He concluded that Gen. Westmoreland needed 206,756 more men.

Clark Clifford, now the Secretary-of-Defense-designate, convened a high-level working group for a full policy review. The initial draft policy memorandum found the Saigon forces ineffective, and the enemy likely to match any escalation. It urged a static "population security" strategy "to buy time" for the Vietnamese to take over their own defense. It opposed any extension of the bombing as "unproductive or worse."

MARCH 1968

A C.I.A. study, bolstering the advocates of de-escalation among the working group, found that the enemy could withstand a war of attrition regardless of U.S. troop increases in the next 10 months.

Mr. Clifford's working group debated the drafters' memorandum and developed a consensus against completely abandoning the initiative. There was intense conflict between the military and the advocates of de-escalation. Gen. Wheeler argued for the extension of bombing. Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Warnke argued against an extension.

A revised draft, by Warnke and Assistant Secretary Phil Goulding, went to the White House. It asked for 22,000 more men for Vietnam and favored deferring any decision on further deployments. It asked for a reserve call-up and no new peace initiatives, stating that the planners were unable to reach a consensus on the question of wider bombing.

Gen. Westmoreland welcomed the 22,000 men but repeated his request for 206,756.

On March 5, Mr. Clifford asked Gen. Wheeler's opinion on a Rusk draft favoring a halt in the bombing of most of North Vietnam; the study "infers" that Mr. Clifford favored the Rusk plan. Air Force Secretary Brown pressed for a step-up of the bombing and offered three optional plans for it.

On March 10, Gen. Westmoreland's "206,000" request became public in The New York Times, provoking a brisk debate.

Senator Eugene J. McCarthy, running as a peace candidate, edged out President Johnson in the New Hampshire presidential primary. On March 13, the President decided on a 30,000-man Vietnam troop increase, with a reserve call-up of 98,451.

On March 22, Gen. Westmoreland was recalled from Vietnam to become the Army Chief of Staff-a signal, the study says, that the President had ruled out major escalation. Gen. Creighton W Abrams, who would later be named to succeed Gen. Westmoreland, visited the White House secretly.

The "Wise Men" -- a council of current and former high officials -- met March 25-26 at the President's request and advised de-escalation.

On March 31, President Johnson announced: "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party." He also announced pull-back in bombing to the 20th Parallel.

APRIL 1968

On April 3, North Vietnam agreed to talks.

Chapter 10: The Tet Offensive and the Turnaround

by E.W. Kenworthy

Amid the shock and turmoil of the Tet offensive in February, 1968, the Pentagon study of the Vietnam war discloses, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. William C. Westmoreland sought to force President Lyndon B. Johnson a long way toward national mobilization in an effort to win victory in Vietnam.

But, the study shows, this pressure by the Joint Chiefs of the commanding general in the field set off a last, bitter policy debate in the Administration that culminated in the opposite of the military's desires.

For the first time, the study explains, President Johnson squarely faced the prospect that he had sought adamantly to avoid during three years of steadily widening war: "A full-scale call-up of reserves" and "putting the country economically on a semiwar footing." And, the Pentagon study goes on, Mr. Johnson confronted this prospect "at a time of great domestic dissent, dissatisfaction and disillusionment about both the purposes and the conduct of the war."

Finally the President relieved General Westmoreland of his command in late February, and on March 31, 1968, exactly two months after the opening blows of the Vietcong and North Vietnamese offensive at Tet, Mr. Johnson announced his decision to limit the American operation in Vietnam. He cut back the bombing of North Vietnam to the 20th Parallel and sent to South Vietnam a token troop increase: one-tenth of the 206,000 men his generals had requested to achieve "victory."

Having announced these steps as a hopeful prelude to a negotiated settlement of the war, the President, citing a wish to ease the "partisan division" racking the country, said he would not seek re-election.

The enemy offensive during Tet, the Lunar New Year, began on Jan. 31 with an attack on the United States Embassy in Saigon; for a day enemy guerrillas held the embassy compound. The attacks spread rapidly to almost all the cities and major towns of South Vietnam. Hue, the ancient capital of central Vietnam, was captured and not retaken until Feb. 24 in the last days of the offensive.

On Feb. 2, three days after the initial assault, President Johnson summoned White House reporters to the Cabinet Room. The enemy attack, he said, had been "anticipated, prepared for and met." Militarily, the enemy had suffered "a complete failure." As for a "psychological victory," the enemy's second objective, the President said that "when the American people know the facts," they would see that here, too, the enemy had failed.

In reply to questions, the President said that General Westmoreland had been given "every single thing" he "believed that he needed at this time," and that therefore no change was contemplated in the planned level of 525,000 American soldiers nor was there likely to be "any change of great consequence" in strategy.

The Pentagon study, however, says that the offensive took the White House and the Joint Chiefs "by surprise, and its strength, length and intensity prolonged this shock."

For the President, the study makes plain, the shock and disappointment were particularly severe, because throughout much of 1967 he had discounted "negative analyses" of United States strategy by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon offices of International Security Affairs and Systems Analysis. Instead, the study says, Mr. Johnson had seized upon the "optimistic reports" from General Westmoreland to counteract what many Pentagon civilians sensed was a growing public disillusionment with the war.

As an example of an unheeded warning, the Pentagon analyst cites at length a bombing study by the Government-subsidized Institute for Defense Analyses that was submitted to Secretary McNamara in mid-December, 1967. In this study -- on which Mr. McNamara was to draw heavily in his farewell statement on defense posture to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 1 -- the institute said that the bombing of North Vietnam had had "no measurable effect on Hanoi's ability to mount and support military operations in the South" and had "not discernibly weakened" Hanoi's will to support the insurgency.

As an example of the reports that the President did heed, the analyst cites the year-end assessment of General Westmoreland, which was delivered on Jan. 27, four days before the Tet offensive. The general said:

"Interdiction of the enemy's logistics train in Laos and NVN [North Vietnam] by our indispensable air efforts has imposed significant difficulties on him. In many areas the enemy has been driven away from the population centers; in others he has been compelled to disperse and evade contact, thus nullifying much of his potential. The year ended with the enemy increasingly resorting to desperation tactics in attempting to achieve military/psychological victory; and he has experienced only failure in these attempts."

New Troop Needs

A far different assessment came on Feb. 12, with the Tet offensive at its height. General Westmoreland reported then to the Joint Chiefs and Secretary McNamara that, as of Feb. 11, the enemy had attacked "34 provincial towns, 64 district towns and all of the autonomous cities." This, the general said, the enemy had been able to do while committing "only 20 to 35 per cent of his North Vietnamese forces . . . employed as gap fillers where VC [Viet-cong] strength was apparently not adequate to carry out his initial thrust on the cities and towns."

The first formal reaction of the Joint Chiefs to the offensive came on Feb. 3 when they asked Mr. McNamara to reduce the radius of the zone in which bombing was prohibited in Hanoi and in the port of Haiphong. In Hanoi, they sought to cut the radius from 10 nautical miles from the city's center to 3, and in Haiphong from 4 nautical miles to 1.5, thus enlarging the outer "restricted" zones in which bombing of selected targets was permitted upon Presidential approval. The J oint Chiefs also asked that blanket authority be given to air commanders to bomb in these outer zones.

The Joint Chiefs said in their memorandum that this extension was necessary to reduce "the enemy capability for waging war in the South" -- a reason that the Pentagon analyst dismisses as "a nonsequitur," in view of "the evident ineffectiveness of the bombing in preventing the offensive."

Paul C. Warnke, who had succeeded the late John T. McNaughton as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, opposed the request on the ground that enlargement of the zones would allow strikes on "only a couple of fixed targets not previously authorized." The President did not approve the request.

In any event, the Pentagon analyst notes, the primary focus of Washington's reaction to the Tet offensive was inevitably centered on General Westmoreland's possible troop requirements. At this point, however, the Pentagon study does not take account of several messages between Gen. Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and General Westmoreland. These messages, which have been quoted verbatim by Marvin Kalb and Elie Abel in their 1971 book "Roots of Involvement," throw considerable light on what was to become a matter of contention; whether the President and General Wheeler pressed General Westmoreland to ask for more troops or whether, as Mr. Johnson was to insist, the President merely asked for General Westmoreland's "recommendations."

In the first of these cablegrams, on Feb. 3, four days after the offensive began, General Wheeler said: "The President asks me if there is any reinforcement or help that we can give you."

General Westmoreland had not replied by Feb. 8, and General Wheeler, according to the book, sent a second cablegram then that did not mention the President: "Query: Do you need reinforcement? Our capabilities are limited. We can provide 82d Airborne Division and about one-half a Marine Corps division, both loaded with Vietnam veterans. However, if you consider reinforcements imperative, you should not be bound by earlier agreements. United States Government is not prepared to accept defeat in Vietnam. In summary, if you need more troops, ask for them."

"Earlier agreements" referred to the authorized level of 525,000 troops in 1968, of whom about 500,000 had reached South Vietnam.

That same day General Westmoreland replied, requesting the proffered units and asking, according to the Kalb-Abel book, that the President authorize an amphibious assault by the marines into North Vietnam as a diversionary move. The next day, Feb. 9, he followed up with this message:

"Needless to say, I would welcome reinforcements at any time they can be made available. A. To put me in a stronger position to contain the enemy's major campaign in the DMZ-Quangtri-Thuathien area and to go on the offensive as soon as his attack is spent. B. To permit me to carry out my campaign plans despite enemy's reinforcements from North Vietnam, which have influenced my deployment plans. C. To offset the weakened [South] Vietnamese forces resulting from casualties and Tet desertions. Realistically, we must assume that it will take them at least six weeks to regain the military posture of several weeks ago.... D. To take advantage of the enemy's weakened posture by taking the offensive against him."

General Wheeler responded: ". . . It occurs to me that the deployment of the 82d Airborne Division and marine elements might be desirable earlier than April to assist in defense and pursuit operations. . . . Please understand that I am not trying to sell you on the deployment of additional forces which in any event I cannot guarantee .... However, my sensing is that the critical phase of the war is upon us, and I do not believe that you should refrain from asking for what you believe is required under the circumstances."

At this point the Pentagon study turns to the issue of troop levels. On Feb. 9, it says, Mr. McNamara asked the Joint Chiefs to furnish plans for General Westmoreland's emergency reinforcement. The study says that on Feb. 12, after extensive communication with General Westmoreland, the Joint Chiefs submitted to the Secretary three plans, all of which they said would leave the strategic reserve in the United States so thin as to seriously compromise the nation's worldwide commitments.

Therefore, the Joint Chiefs recommended in their memorandum that "a decision to deploy reinforcements to Vietnam be deferred at this time," but that preparatory "measures be taken now" for possible later deployment of the 82d Airborne Division and two-thirds of a Marine division air wing team.

The Pentagon study says: "The tactic the Chiefs were using was clear: by refusing to scrape the bottom of the barrel any further for Vietnam, they hoped to force the President to 'bite the bullet' on the call-up of the reserves -- a step they had long thought essential, and that they were determined would not now be avoided."

Despite the Joint Chiefs' recommendation against deployments without calling up the reserves, the next day, Feb. 13, Secretary McNamara approved immediate emergency deployment of 10,500 men -- a brigade of the 82d Airborne and a Marine regimental landing team -- above the 525,000 ceiling.

The Joint Chiefs reacted immediately by sending the Secretary a memorandum recommending a call-up of reserves to replace and sustain the new deployment -- 32,000 Army reservists, 12,000 marines and 2,300 Navy men, a total of 46,300 former servicemen.

Mr. McNamara's action and the Joint Chiefs' response were only a foretaste of the struggle to come as a result of the Tet offensive, the Pentagon study says, since General Westmoreland was preparing to raise his sights with the full support of the Joint Chiefs.

On Feb. 14, President Johnson went to Fort Bragg, N. C., to say good-by to the brigade of the 82d Airborne going to South Vietnam. The Pentagon narrative recalls the scene: "The experience proved for him to be one of the most profoundly moving and troubling of the entire Vietnam war. The men, many of whom had only recently returned from Vietnam, were grim. They were not young men going off to adventure but seasoned veterans returning to an ugly conflict from which they knew some would not return. The film clips of the President shaking hands with the solemn but determined paratroopers on the ramps of their aircraft revealed a deeply troubled leader. He was confronting the men he was asking to make the sacrifice and they displayed no enthusiasm. It may well be that the dramatic decisions of the succeeding month and a half that reversed the direction of American policy in the war had their genesis in those troubled handshakes."

"A Fork in the Road"

In late February, the President sent General Wheeler to Saigon to consult with General Westmoreland on precisely how many more men he wanted. General Wheeler returned on Feb. 28 and immediately delivered a written report to the President. The report began by saying that General Westmoreland had frustrated the enemy's objective of provoking a general uprising. But it went on to say that the offensive had been "a very near thing" for the allies and then ranged in bleak fashion over the situation in Vietnam:

Despite 40,000 killed, at least 3,000 captured and perhaps 5,000 disabled or dead of wounds, the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong now had the initiative. They were "operating with relative freedom in the countryside" and had driven the Saigon Government forces back into a "defensive posture around towns and cities." The pacification program "in many places ... has been set back badly." To hold the northernmost provinces, General Westmoreland had been forced to send half of his American maneuver battalions there, "stripping the rest of the country of adequate reserves" and robbing himself of "an offensive capability. [See Document #132.]

"Under these circumstances," General Wheeler warned, "we must be prepared to accept some reverses."

However, once the enemy offensive is decisively defeated, General Wheeler said, "the situation over all will be greatly improved over the pre-Tet condition." But to accomplish this and to "regain the initiative through offensive operations," General Westmoreland would require more men.

The 500,000 soldiers then in South Vietnam and the 25,000 others who had been approved for eventual deployment under the ceiling established in the summer of 1967 were now "inadequate in numbers," General Wheeler said.

"To contend with, and defeat the new enemy threat," he continued, General Westmoreland "has stated requirements for forces over the 525,000 ceiling .... The add-on requested totals 206,756 spaces for a new proposed ceiling of 731,756." All of the additional 206,756 soldiers were to be in the war zone by the end of 1968. General Westmoreland wanted roughly half of them, the study notes, as early as May 1.

"Principal forces included in the add-on are three division equivalents, 15 tactical fighter squadrons and augmentation for current Navy programs," General Wheeler explained.

To provide this many troops by the end of the year, the President would have had to call up from civilian life 280,000 military reservists to replenish the strategic reserve in the United States and to sustain the units newly sent to Vietnam.

"A fork in the road had been reached," the Pentagon study comments. "Now the alternatives stood out in stark reality. To accept and meet General Wheeler's request for troops would mean a total U.S. military commitment to SVN [South Vietnam] -- an Americanization of the war, a call-up of reserve forces, vastly increased expenditures. To deny the request for troops, or to attempt to again cut it to a size which could be sustained by the thinly stretched active forces, would just as surely signify that an upper limit to the U.S. military commitment in SVN had been reached."

The issue was immediately joined at the highest level of the Pentagon.

Clark M. Clifford, an old friend and adviser of President Johnson and an unwavering supporter of his Vietnam policy, had been designated to succeed Mr. McNamara as Secretary of Defense. He was not to be sworn in until March 1, but had begun to work at his job many days earlier. On Feb. 28, when the Wheeler-Westmoreland report was delivered, the President asked Mr. Clifford to gather a senior group of advisers for a complete review of United States policy in Vietnam.

The next day, Mr. Clifford convened what came to be known as the Clifford Group. The principals were Mr. McNamara; Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, President Johnson's personal military adviser, as he had been President Kennedy's; Paul H. Nitze, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Henry H. Fowler, Secretary of the Treasury; Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, Under Secretary of State; Walt W. Rostow, the President's adviser on national security; Richard Helms, Director of Central Intelligence; William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs; Mr. Warnke, the head of the Pentagon's politico-military policy office, International Security Affairs, and Philip C. Habib, Mr. Bundy's deputy.

At the first meeting of the group, the Pentagon Study says, Mr. Clifford said that the real problem was "not whether we should send 200,000 additional troops to Vietnam," but whether if "we follow the present course in SVN, could it ever prove successful even if vastly more than 200,000 troops were sent?"

Mr. Clifford stipulated that the various papers he assigned on United States strategy should consider four options, ranging from granting General Westmoreland's full request to sending him no additional troops.

"The work [of drafting papers] became so intensive," the study states, "that it was carried out in teams within . . . International Security Affairs."

The dominant voice in the consideration of alternatives was the civilian hierarchy in the Pentagon. And the most influential force there, according to the study, was Mr. Warnke, whose young civilian assistants, including Morton H. Halperin and Richard C. Steadman, had become disenchanted with Vietnam policy since 1967 and were now among the leading dissenters in the Administration. The position of the dissenters was strengthened by intelligence estimates from the C.I.A., which submitted papers to the working group.

The most important of these, submitted on March 1, suggested strongly that the most likely prospect for the future -- under any course of proposed action -- was more stalemate. These, as quoted in the Pentagon study, were the answers it gave to questions by Mr. Clifford:

Q. What is the likely course of events in South Vietnam over the next 10 months, assuming no change in U.S. policy or force levels?

A. . . . It is manifestly impossible for the Communists to drive U.S. forces out of the country. It is equally out of the question for U.S./GVN forces to clear South Vietnam of Communist forces.

Q. What is the likely N.V.A./VC [North Vietnamese Army/Vietcong] strategy over the next 10 months if U.S. forces are increased by 50,000, by 100,000 or by 200,000?

A. We would expect the Communists to continue the war. They still have resources available in North Vietnam and within South Vietnam to increase their troop strength .... Over a 10-month period the Communists would probably be able to introduce sufficient new units into the South to offset the U.S. maneuver battalion increments of the various force levels given above.

Q. What is the Communist attitude toward negotiations: in particular how would Hanoi deal with an unconditional cessation of U.S. bombing of NVN and what would be its terms for a settlement?

A. The Communists probably still expect the war to end eventually in some form of negotiations ... they are not likely to give any serious considerations to negotiations until this campaign has progressed far enough for its results to be fairly clear.

If the United States ceased the bombing of North Vietnam in the near future, the C.I.A. believed, Hanoi would probably respond to an offer to negotiate, although the intelligence agency warned that the North Vietnamese would not modify their terms for a final settlement or stop fighting in the South.

"In any talks, Communist terms would involve the establishment of a new 'coalition' government," the C.I.A. said, "which would in fact, if not in appearance, be under the domination of the Communists. Secondly, they would insist on a guaranteed withdrawal of U.S. forces within some precisely defined period. . . ."

General Taylor wrote a long memorandum that went not only to the Clifford Group but also directly to the White House. The general was opposed to any basic change in policy.

"We should consider changing the objective which we have been pursuing consistently since 1954 only for the most cogent reasons," he wrote. "There is clearly nothing to recommend trying to do more than we are now doing at such great cost. To undertake to do less is to accept needlessly a serious defeat for which we would pay dearly in terms of our worldwide position of leadership, of the political stability of Southeast Asia and of the credibility of our pledges to friends and allies."

General Taylor recommended against any initiative for negotiations that might involve a halt in bombing. To this end he proposed the withdrawal of the so-called San Antonio formula, enunciated by President Johnson the previous September, under which the United States would stop the bombing of North Vietnam if Hanoi promised "prompt and productive" talks and agreed to "not take advantage" of a bombing cessation in a military way. The general argued against "any thought of reducing the bombing."

Although he did not advocate any specific reinforcements for General Westmoreland, General Taylor recommended a build-up of the strategic reserve in the United States, thereby aligning himself with the Joint Chiefs.

The Pentagon's Office of Systems Analysis, headed by Dr. Alain C. Enthoven, said in a paper that "the offensive appears to have killed the [pacification] program once and for all." In another paper, Assistant Secretary of Defense Enthoven painted what the study calls "a bleak picture of American failure in Vietnam."

"While we have raised the price to NVN of aggression and support of the VC," the paper said, "it shows no lack of capability or will to match each new U.S. escalation. Our strategy of 'attrition' has not worked. Adding 206,000 more U.S. men to a force of 525,000, gaining only 27 additional maneuver battalions and 270 tactical fighters at an added cost to the U.S. of $10-billion per year raises the question of who is making it costly for whom ....

"We know that despite a massive influx of 500,000 U.S. troops, 1.2 million tons of bombs a year, 400,000 attack sorties per year, 200,000 enemy K.I.A. [killed in action] in three years, 20,000 U.S. K.I.A., etc., our control of the countryside and the defense of the urban areas is now essentially at pre-August 1965 levels. We have achieved stalemate at a high commitment. A new strategy must be sought."

The paper concluded that a shift to a military strategy of having the United States forces protect population centers in South Vietnam, rather than ranging the countryside on search-and-destroy operations, would, if unchallenged by the enemy, stabilize American casualty rates.

The Battle at Home

By the end of the first meeting on Feb. 29, the Clifford Group had produced an initial draft memorandum for the President. It began with a pessimistic appraisal, expressing doubt that the South Vietnamese Army "as currently led, motivated and influenced at the top," would buckle down to the job of pacifying the countryside, or that the Saigon Government "will rise to the challenge" and "move toward a government of national union."

"Even with the 200,000 additional troops" requested by General Westmoreland, the draft memorandum said, "we will not be in a position to drive the enemy from SVN or to destroy his forces," since Hanoi had always been able to maintain from its reserve a ratio of one combat battalion to 1.5 American combat battalions. A North Vietnamese combat battalion has some 300 men and an American combat battalion has about 700 men.

If further escalation occurred, the draft went on, "it will be difficult to convince critics that we are not simply destroying South Vietnam in order to 'save' it and that we genuinely want peace talks." It added: "This growing disaffection accompanied, as it certainly will be, by increased defiance of the draft and growing unrest in the cities because of the belief that we are neglecting domestic problems, runs great risks of provoking a domestic crisis of unprecedented proportions."

The memorandum concluded that the United States presence in South Vietnam should be used "to buy the time" during which the South Vietnamese Army and Government "can develop effective capability." Therefore, the Clifford Group said, General Westmoreland should be told that his mission was to provide security to populated areas -- along what the memorandum called "the demographic frontier." He should also be told that he was not to wage a war of attrition against enemy forces or seek to drive them out of the country.

This initial draft was discussed with military leaders in Mr. Clifford's office on March 1. The meeting started an intense battle that went on for the next three weeks, the study says.

"General Wheeler . . . was appalled at the apparent repudiations of American military policy in South Vietnam contained in the I.S.A. draft memorandum," the analyst writes. "He detected two 'fatal' flaws in the population-security strategy" similar to the flaws found by the military in the defensive "enclave strategy" that some had advocated in 1966.

The flaws, the Pentagon account says, were that "the proposed strategy would mean increased fighting in or close to the population centers and, hence, would result in increased civilian casualties," and that "by adopting a posture of static defense, we would allow the enemy an increased capability of massing near population centers, especially north of Saigon."

At a formal meeting on March 3, Mr. Warnke read the initial draft of the memorandum to the entire Clifford Group. "The ensuing discussion," the study says, "apparently produced a consensus that abandoning the initiative completely as the draft memo seemed to imply could leave allied forces and the South Vietnamese cities themselves more, not less, vulnerable."

There was also a sharp division on the bombing of North Vietnam. The initial draft recommended no bombing above present levels, and opposed proposals by the military to bomb closer to the centers of Hanoi and Haiphong as "likely to be unproductive or worse."

At the March 3 meeting, General Wheeler advocated an extension of the bombing again, rather than a cutback, while Mr. Warnke fought against expansion of the air war, the study asserts.

Finally, Mr. Warnke and Phil G. Goulding, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, were directed to write a new draft that would deal only with the troop issue, recommending a modest increase; call for "a study" of new strategic guidance to General Westmoreland, advise against a new initiative on negotiations and acknowledge the split on the air war.

The new paper, a draft Presidential memorandum intended for Mr. Johnson's approval as doctrine, was completed the next day, March 4. "Gone was any discussion of grand strategy," the study says. As it finally went to the White House, the memorandum made these recommendations:

• Deployment of 22,000 more troops, of whom 60 per cent would be combat soldiers.
• Reservation of a decision to deploy the remaining 185,000 men requested by General Westmoreland, contingent upon a week-by-week examination of the situation.
• Approval of a reserve call-up of approximately 262,000 men, increased draft calls and extension of terms of service.
• No new peace initiative.
• A general decision on bombing policy, which the Clifford Group had not been able to reach. "Here," the memorandum said, "your advisers are divided: a. General Wheeler and others would advocate a substantial extension of targets and authority in and near Hanoi and Haiphong, mining of Haiphong, and naval gunfire up to a Chinese buffer zone; b. Others would advocate a seasonal step-up through the spring, but without these added elements."

The analyst notes that both sides of the bombing argument in the memorandum were "devoted to various kinds of escalation."

"The proposal that was eventually to be adopted [by the President at the end of March], namely cutting back the bombing to the panhandle only, was not even mentioned, nor does it appear in any of the other drafts or papers related to the Clifford Group's work," the study notes. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary Clifford, the account emphasizes, "differed only on the extent to which the bombing campaign against North Vietnam should be intensified."

The study speculates at this point on why a cutback in bombing to the 20th Parallel was not mentioned in any of these documents.

The omission may be "misleading," the narrative says, since the cutback "apparently was one of the principal ideas being discussed and considered in the forums at various levels."

"It is hard to second-guess the motivation of a Secretary of Defense," the study continues, "but, since it is widely believed that Clifford personally advocated this idea to the President, he may well have decided that " .. to have raised the idea of constricting the bombing below the 19th or 20th Parallel in the memo to the President would have generalized the knowledge of such a suggestion and invited its sharp, full and formal criticism by the J.C.S. and other opponents of a bombing halt. Whatever Clifford's reasons, the memo did not contain the proposal that was to be the main focus of the continuing debates in March and would eventually be endorsed by the President."

"Faced with a fork in the road of our Vietnam policy," the study concludes, "the working group failed to seize the opportunity to change directions. Indeed, they seemed to recommend that we continue rather haltingly down the same road, meanwhile consulting the map more frequently and in greater detail to insure that we were still on the right road."

The President asked that the memorandum be sent to General Westmoreland for his views, since the recommendations, as the analyst says, "were a long way down the road in meeting [his] request."

In his reply on March 8 the general welcomed the additional 22,000 men proposed as a first increment, but told Mr. Johnson in a cablegram that he stuck by his request for the full 206,756-man reinforcement by the end of 1968.

Mounting Pressure

The documentary record for the final rounds of the internal policy debate now "becomes sparse," the Pentagon study remarks, because the discussion was "carried forward on a personal basis by the officials involved, primarily, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State."

"The decision, however," the account goes on, "had been placed squarely on the shoulders of the President. . . . The memorandum had recommended 'a little bit more of the same' to stabilize the military situation, plus a level of mobilization in order to be prepared to meet any further deterioration in the ground situation ....

"But many political events in the first few weeks of March, 1968, gave strong indications that the country was becoming increasingly divided over and disenchanted with the current Vietnam strategy, and would no longer settle for 'more of the same.'"

The internal maneuvering revolved around the cutback in the bombing, first proposed, without result, by Secretary Mc- Namara in October, 1966.

"The first appearance of the idea in the documents in March," the study says, came in a circuitous and seemingly casual way from Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who, as far as the record shows, had given no support to a cutback in bombing when it was proposed in 1967.

But now in a note to General Wheeler on March 5, Secretary Clifford wrote that he was "transmitting for the latter's exclusive 'information' a proposed 'statement' drafted by Secretary Rusk," the study says.

"The statement, which was given only the status of a 'suggestion' and therefore needed to be closely held," the study continues, "announced the suspension of the bombing of North Vietnam except 'in the area associated with the battle zone.' It was presumably intended for Presidential delivery.

"Attached to the draft statement, which shows Rusk himself as the draftee, was a list of explanatory reasons and conditions for its adoption. Rusk noted that bad weather in northern North Vietnam in the next few months would severely hamper operations around Hanoi and Haiphong in any event and the proposal did not, therefore, constitute a serious degradation of our military position. It was to be understood that in the event of any major enemy initiative in the South, either against Khesanh or the cities, the bombing would be resumed.

"Further, Rusk did not want a major diplomatic effort mounted to start peace talks. He preferred to let the action speak for itself and await Hanoi's reaction.

"Finally, he noted that the area still open to bombing would include everything up to and including Vinh (just below 19 degrees) and there would be no limitations on attacks in that zone."

Mr. Rusk was thus suggesting the 19th Parallel as the cutoff point for bombing. Both the 19th and the 20th Parallels had figured in the discussions in 1967.

"Clifford's views of the proposal and its explanation do not appear in his note," the study remarks. "It can be inferred, however, that he endorsed the idea. In any case, by the middle of March the question of a partial bombing halt became the dominant air-war alternative under consideration in meetings at State and Defense. It is possible that the President had already indicated to Clifford and Rusk enough approval of the idea to have focused the further deliberative efforts of his key advisers on it."

Aware that a Presidential decision was in the making, the advocates of all-out bombing pressed their views. On March 4, Dr. Harold Brown, the Secretary of the Air Force, sent to Deputy Secretary of Defense Nitze a memorandum setting forth three options for a step-up. The first was intensification of the bombing of "remaining important targets" in North Vietnam, and "neutralization of the port of Haiphong by bombing and mining." The second was intensification of air raids in the "adjoining panhandle areas" of Laos and North Vietnam. The third involved increased air attacks in the South as a substitute for additional ground forces.

Mr. Brown made plain his preference for the first option, which he said would "permit bombing of military targets without the present scrupulous concern for collateral civilian damage and casualties." His objective was "to erode the will of the population by exposing a wider area of NVN to casualties and destruction."

In evaluating the effect of such a campaign, however, Mr. Brown "was forced to admit," the study says, that it would not "be likely to reduce NVN capability in SVN substantially below the 1967 level," and that North Vietnam would probably "be willing to undergo these hardships."

The study comments that Dr. Brown's proposals, while indicating military thinking, "were never considered as major proposals within the inner circle of Presidential advisers."

Among other major advisers, the analyst reports, Under Secretary of State Katzenbach opposed a partial suspension of the bombing "because he felt that a bombing halt was a trump card that could be only used once and should not be wasted when the prospects for a positive North Vietnamese response on negotiations seemed so poor. He reportedly hoped to convince the President to call a complete halt to the air war later in the spring when prospects for peace looked better and when the threat to [the Marine outpost at] Khesanh had been eliminated."

Mr. Rostow, the analyst continues, apparently resisted all suggestions for a restriction of the bombing, preferring to keep the pressure on the North Vietnamese for a response to the San Antonio formula."

Public pressure now began to mount on the President as speculation grew that he was considering further escalation in Vietnam.

On March 7, Senate debate on civil rights was interrupted as several prominent Senators demanded that Congress be consulted before any decision was made on troop increases.

On March 10, The New York Times published the first report, from Washington, about General Westmoreland's request for 206,000 troops. "The President was reportedly furious at this leak," the Pentagon study says. The publication of the troop-request figure provided a "focus" for political debate and intensified the "sense of [public] dissatisfaction," the study adds.

The next day, Secretary Rusk appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations committee, ostensibly to testify on foreign aid. But the televised hearings turned into a two-day grilling of the Secretary on Vietnam policy. He confirmed that an "A to Z" policy review was being held, but refused to discuss possible troop increases. He said it would "not be right for me to speculate about numbers of possibilities while the President is consulting his advisers."

Not long after the conclusion of the second day's hearings, the returns from the Democratic primary in New Hampshire began coming in. Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota -- the Pentagon historian terms him an "upstart challenger" for the Presidency -- who had campaigned against President Johnson's war policy and demanded a halt to the bombing, was only narrowly beaten by Mr. Johnson. In fact, when the write-in vote was finally tabulated, Mr. McCarthy had a slight plurality over the President.

In one of the study's few discussions of domestic politics, the analyst declares: "It was clear that Lyndon Johnson, the master politician, had been successfully challenged, not by an attractive and appealing vote-getter, but by a candidate who had been able to mobilize and focus all the discontent and disillusionment about the war."

At a White House meeting on March 13, the President decided that, in addition to the 10,500-man emergency reinforcement already made, 30,000 more soldiers should be deployed to South Vietnam, an increase over the 22,000 men recommended by the Clifford Group. There would be two reserve call-ups to meet and sustain these deployments, one in March and one in May. The first would support the 30,000 deployment; the second would reconstitute the strategic reserve at seven active Army divisions.

Secretary of the Army Stanley R. Resor demurred, arguing that no reserve call-up had been provided to sustain the 10,500 deployed by Secretary McNamara in February. He urged that 13,500 more be called up for this purpose. This plan was approved by the President.

The troop deployment plan agreed upon brought the new ceiling to 579,000 men. To meet these requirements and fill out the strategic reserve, there would be a total reserve call-up of 98,451 men.

But in the fast-moving pace of the internal struggle over Vietnam policy, even this plan would soon be abandoned. "The President was troubled," the study declares. "In public he continued to indicate firmness and resoluteness, but press leaks and continued public criticism continued to compound his problem."

On March 16, Senator Robert F. Kennedy announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.

On March 17, The New York Times, in a dispatch from Washington that the Pentagon study terms "again amazingly accurate," reported that the President would approve sending 35,000 to 50,000 more men to South Vietnam during the next six months.

The next day, in the House of Representatives, 139 members -- 98 Republicans and 41 Democrats -- sponsored a resolution calling for an immediate Congressional review of policy in Southeast Asia.

That same day, in a speech at the convention of the National Farmers Union in Minneapolis, President Johnson said that Hanoi was seeking to "win something in Washington that they can't win in Hue, in the I Corps or in Khesanh." He pledged not to "tuck our tail and violate our commitments."

"Those of you who think that you can save lives by moving the battlefield in from the mountains to the cities where the people live have another think coming," he said.

Despite this explosion against his critics, there were indications -- some public, some known only to insiders -- that the President was weighing what the critics had been saying and was also pondering the mood of the country.

On March 20, for example, he had a meeting -- now a matter of public record but not dealt with in the Pentagon study -- with Arthur J. Goldberg in the White House. Only five days earlier, Mr. Goldberg, the United States representative at the United Nations, had sent a memorandum to Mr. Johnson recommending a halt in the bombing. It had infuriated the President. The next day, at a meeting with his advisers, Mr. Johnson was quoted by the press as having said: "Let's get one thing clear. I'm telling you now I am not going to stop the bombing. Now is there anybody here who doesn't understand that?"

But now he asked Mr. Goldberg to go through his arguments once more, and when Mr. Goldberg had finished, the President asked him to join a meeting on March 25 of his ,Senior Informal Advisory Group -- familiarly known in Washington as the Wise Men.

Then suddenly, on March 22, the President recalled General Westmoreland and announced that he would become Chief of Staff of the Army. The transfer of General Westmoreland, the Pentagon analyst says, was a signal that the President had decided against any major escalation of the ground war.

On March 25, Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, General Westmoreland's deputy, flew to Washington unannounced. The next day he and the President were closeted, and -- the Pentagon study speculates -- "Mr. Johnson probably informed him of his intentions, both with respect to force augmentations and the bombing restraint, and his intention to designate Abrams" as General Westmoreland's successor.

Precisely when the President decided to reduce the bombing, the Pentagon study does not say. But it inclines to the view that, if he was still wavering at this time, the decisive advice was given by the Wise Men, who assembled in Washington on March 25 and 26.

The members of the Senior Informal Advisory Group had served in high Government posts or had been Presidential advisers during the last 20 years. They gathered at the State Department on March 25, six days before the President was due to address the nation on television.

Those present were Dean Acheson, Secretary of State under President Harry S. Truman; George W. Ball, Under Secretary of State in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, now in private business; General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, World War II commander and later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; McGeorge Bundy, special assistant for national security under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, now president of the Ford Foundation; Arthur H. Dean, lawyer and negotiator of the armistice in Korea, and Douglas Dillon, banker, Under Secretary of State under President Eisenhower and Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

Also present were Associate Justice Abe Fortas of the Supreme Court; Mr. Goldberg; Henry Cabot Lodge, twice Ambassador to South Vietnam and former representative at the United Nations; John J. McCloy, High Commissioner in West Germany under President Truman; Robert D. Murphy, a top-ranking career diplomat, now in private business; General Taylor; Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, retired commander in the Korean war, and Cyrus R. Vance, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and trouble shooter for President Johnson.

With the exception of Mr. Ball and Mr. Goldberg, all had been accounted hawks. Only the previous fall, with Mr. Clifford then a participant, they had approved the President's escalation of the air war.

The Pentagon study does not give a version of the discussions over the two days, but simply reprints verbatim the first public account of the meetings, by Stuart H. Loory of The Los Angeles Times, published late in May, which the study says "has been generally considered to be a reliable account."

That dispatch told how the turnabout on the war by most of the Wise Men left the President "deeply shaken."

Nor does the Pentagon account relate the story -- now well known -- of how the drafts of the President's March 31 speech, at the hands of Harry C. McPherson, who had become a doubter of war policy, grew progressively less hawkish almost up to the hour when Mr. Johnson spoke on television.

What is new in the Pentagon account is a cablegram from the State Department that was sent the night before the speech to the United States Ambassadors in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, the Philippines and South Korea. It instructed them to inform the heads of governments in those countries that the President's speech would include announcement of a bombing cutback.

The cablegram also instructed the ambassadors to "make clear that Hanoi is most likely to denounce the project and thus free our hand after a short period." [See Document #134.]

The analyst comments that it is "significant" that the cablegram reflected Secretary Rusk's draft statement on March 5.

"It is important to note that the Administration did not expect the bombing restraint to produce a positive Hanoi reply," the study comments. "The fact that the President was willing to go beyond the San Antonio formula and curtail the air raids at a time when few responsible advisers were suggesting that such action would produce peace talks is strong evidence of the major shift in thinking that took place in Washington about the war and the bombing after Tet, 1968."

In his speech, the President did not specifically set the bombing limit at the 20th Parallel. This had been altered in a final draft. Instead, he said:

'Tonight I have ordered our aircraft and our naval vessels to make no attacks on North Vietnam, except in the area north of the demilitarized zone where the continuing enemy build-up directly threatens allied forward positions and where the movements of their troops and supplies are clearly related to that threat.

"The area in which we are stopping our attacks includes almost 90 per cent of North Vietnam's population, and most of its territory. Thus there will be no attacks around the principal populated areas, or in the food-producing areas of North Vietnam."

In the excitement over the bombing restrictions and his astonishing epilogue -- "I shall not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party" -- little attention was paid to his announcement of a token troop increase -- 13,500 support troops for the 10,500 February emergency contingent. Only those privy to the internal debate would realize that the President had reversed his decision of two weeks earlier to send 30,000 more men.

"None of the some 200,000 troops requested by General Westmoreland on 27 February were to be deployed," the Pentagon study says, underscoring the turn that policy had taken.

Contrary to the expectations of the policy makers, Hanoi responded positively to the offer of negotiations. On April 3, President Johnson announced that North Vietnam had declared readiness for its representatives to meet with those of the United States.

In an epilogue to the narrative of the events of February and March, the study sums up the lesson of the Tet offensive, which, the analyst believes, imposed itself finally upon President Johnson and led him to accept the view of those civilian advisers and the intelligence community that he had so long resisted in his search for "victory." The analyst writes:

"In March of 1968, the choice had become clear cut. The price for military victory had increased vastly, and there was no assurance that it would not grow again in the future. There were also strong indications that large and growing elements of the American public had begun to believe the cost had already reached unacceptable levels and would strongly protest a large increase in that cost.

"The political reality which faced President Johnson was that 'more of the same' in South Vietnam, with an increased commitment of American lives and money and its consequent impact on the country, accompanied by no guarantee of military victory in the near future, had become unacceptable to these elements of the American public. The optimistic military reports of progress in the war no longer rang true after the shock of the Tet offensive.

"Thus, the President's decision to seek a new strategy and a new road to peace was based upon two major considerations:

"(1) The conviction of his principal civilian advisers, particularly Secretary of Defense Clifford, that the troops requested by General Westmoreland would not make a military victory any more likely; and

"(2) A deeply felt conviction of the need to restore unity to the American nation."
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 6:41 am



Following are texts of key documents accompanying the Pentagon's study of the Vietnam war, covering the period in early 1968 surrounding the Vietcong's Tet offensive. Except where excerpting is specified, the documents are printed verbatim, with only unmistakable typographical errors corrected.

#131: Adm. Sharp's Progress Report on War at End of 1967

Excerpts from cablegram from Adm. U. S. Grant Sharp, commander in chief of Pacific forces, to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dated Jan. 1, 1968, and headed "Year-End Wrap-Up Cable," as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

Admiral Sharp outlined three objectives which the air campaign was seeking to achieve: disruption of the flow of external assistance into North Vietnam, curtailment of the [tow of supplies from North Vietnam into Laos and South Vietnam, and destruction "in depth" of North Vietnamese resources that contributed to the support of the war. Acknowledging that the [tow of fraternal communist aid into the North had grown every year of the war, CINCPAC noted the stepped up effort in 1967 to neutralize this assistance by logistically isolating its primary port of entry -- Haiphong. The net results, he felt, had been encouraging:

The overall effect of our effort to reduce external assistance has resulted not only in destruction and damage to the transportation systems and goods being transported thereon but has created additional management, distribution and manpower problems. In addition, the attacks have created a bottleneck at Haiphong where inability effectively to move goods inland from the port has resulted in congestion on the docks and a slowdown in offloading ships as they arrive. By October, road and rail interdictions had reduced the transportation clearance capacity at Haiphong to about 2700 short tons per day. An average of 4400 short tons per day had arrived in Haiphong during the year.

The assault against the continuing traffic of men and material through North Vietnam toward Laos and South Vietnam, however, had produced only marginal results. Success here was measured in the totals of destroyed transport, not the constriction of the flow of personnel and goods.

Although men and material needed for the level of combat now prevailing in South Vietnam continue to flow despite our attacks on LaCs, we have made it very costly to the enemy in terms of material, manpower, management, and distribution. From 1 January through 15 December 1967, 122,960 attack sorties were flown in Rolling Thunder route packages I through V and in Laos, SEA Dragon offensive operations involved 1,384 ship-days on station and contributed materially in reducing enemy seaborne infiltration in southern NVN and in the vicinity of the DMZ. Attacks against the NVN transport system during the past 12 months resulted in destruction of carriers, cargo carried, and personnel casualties. Air attacks throughout North Vietnam and Laos destroyed or damaged 5,261 motor vehicles, 2,475 railroad rolling stock, and 11,425 watercraft from 1 January through 20 December 1967. SEA DRAGON accounted for another 1,473 WBLC destroyed or damaged from 1 January-30 November. There were destroyed rail-lines, bridges, ferries, railroad yards and shops, storage areas, and truck parks. Some 3,685 land targets were struck by Sea Dragon forces, including the destruction or damage of 303 coastal defense and radar sites. Through external assistance, the enemy has been able to replace or rehabilitate many of the items damaged or destroyed, and transport inventories are roughly at the same level they were at the beginning of the year. Nevertheless, construction problems have caused interruptions in the flow of men and supplies, caused a great loss of work-hours, and restricted movement particularly during daylight hours.

The admission that transport inventories were the same at year's end as when it began must have been a painful one indeed for CINCPAC in view of the enormous cost of the air campaign against the transport system in money, aircraft, and lives. As a consolation for this signal failure, CINCPAC pointed to the extensive diversion of civilian manpower to war related activities as a result of the bombing.

A primary effect of our efforts to impede movement of the enemy has been to force Hanoi to engage from 500,000 to 600,000 civilians in full-time and part-time war-related activities, in particular for air defense and repair of the LOCs. This diversion of manpower from other pursuits, particularly from the agricultural sector, has caused a drawdown on manpower. The estimated lower food production yields, coupled with an increase in food imports in 1967 (some six times that of 1966), indicate that agriculture is having great difficulty in adjusting to this changed composition of the work force. The cost and difficulties of the war to Hanoi have sharply increased, and only through the willingness of other communist countries to provide maximum replacement of goods and material has NVN managed to sustain its war effort.

To these manpower diversions C1NCPAC added the cost to North Vietnam in 1967 of the destruction of vital resources -- the third of his air war objectives:

C. Destroying vital resources:

Air attacks were authorized and executed by target systems for the first time in 1967, although the attacks were limited to specific targets within each system. A total of 9,740 sorties was flown against targets on the ROLLING THUNDER target list from 1 January-15 December 1967. The campaign against the power system resulted in reduction of power generating capability to approximately 15 percent of original capacity. Successful strikes against the Thau Nguyen iron and steel plant and the Haiphong cement plant resulted in practically total destruction of these two installations. NVN adjustments to these losses have had to be made by relying on additional imports from China, the USSR or the Eastern European countries. The requirement for additional imports reduces available shipping space for war supporting supplies and adds to the congestion at the ports. Interruptions in raw material supplies and the requirement to turn to less efficient means of power and distribution has degraded overall production.

Economic losses to North Vietnam amounted to more than $130 million dollars in 1967, representing over one-half of the total economic losses since the war began.

#132: Wheeler's '68 Report to Johnson after the Tet Offensive

Excerpts from memorandum from Gen. Earle G. Wheeler to President Johnson, dated Feb. 27, 1968, and headed "Report of Chairman, J.C.S., on Situation in Vietnam and MACV Requirements."

1. The Chairman, JCS and party visited SVN on 23, 24 and 25 February. This report summarizes the impressions and facts developed through conversations and briefings at MACV and with senior commanders throughout the country.


-- The current situation in Vietnam is still developing and fraught with opportunities as well as dangers.

-- There is no question in the mind of MACV that the enemy went all out for a general offensive and general uprising and apparently believed that he would succeed in bringing the war to an early successful conclusion.

-- The enemy failed to achieve his initial objective but is continuing his effort. Although many of his units were badly hurt, the judgement is that he has the will and the capability to continue.

-- Enemy losses have been heavy; he has failed to achieve his prime objectives of mass uprisings and capture of a large number of the capital cities and towns. Morale in enemy units which were badly mauled or where the men were oversold the idea of a decisive victory at TET probably has suffered severely. However, with replacements, his indoctrination system would seem capable of maintaining morale at a generally adequate level. His determination appears to be unshaken.

-- The enemy is operating with relative freedom in the countryside, probably recruiting heavily and no doubt infiltrating NVA units and personnel. His recovery is likely to be rapid; his supplies are adequate; and he is trying to maintain the momentum of his winter-spring offensive.

-- The structure of the GVN held up but its effectiveness has suffered.

-- The RVNAF held up against the initial assault with gratifying, and in a way, surprising strength and fortitude. However, RVNAF is now in a defensive posture around towns and cities and there is concern about how well they will bear up under sustained pressure.

-- The initial attack nearly succeeded in a dozen places, and defeat in those places was only averted by the timely reaction of V.S. forces. In short, it was a very near thing.

-- There is no doubt that the RD Program has suffered a severe set back.

-- RVNAF was not badly hurt physically -- they should recover strength and equipment rather quickly (equipment in 2-3 months -- strength in 3-6 months). Their problems are more psychological than physical.

-- U.S. forces have lost none of their pre-TET capability.

-- MACV has three principal problems. First, logistic support north of Danang is marginal owing to weather, enemy interdiction and harassment and the massive deployment of U.S. forces into the DMZ/Hue area. Opening Route 1 will alleviate this problem but takes a substantial troop commitment. Second, the defensive posture of ARVN is permitting the VC to make rapid inroads in the formerly pacified countryside. ARVN, in its own words, is in a dilemma as it cannot afford another enemy thrust into the cities and towns and yet if it remains in a defensive posture against this contingency, the countryside goes by default. MACV is forced to devote much of its troop strength to this problem. Third MACV has been forced to deploy 50% of all U.S. maneuver battalions into I Corps, to meet the threat there, while stripping the rest of the country of adequate reserves. If the enemy synchronizes an attack against Khe Sanh/Hue-Quang Tri with an offensive in the Highlands and around Saigon while keeping the pressure on throughout the remainder of the country, MACV will be hard pressed to meet adequately all threats. Under these circumstances, we must be prepared to accept some reverses.

-- For these reasons, General Westmoreland has asked for a 3 division-15 tactical fighter squadron force. This force would provide him with a theater reserve and an offensive capability which he does not now have.


a. Enemy capabilities.

(1) The enemy has been hurt badly in the populated lowlands, is practically intact elsewhere. He committed over 67,000 combat maneuver forces plus perhaps 25% or 17,000 more impressed men and boys, for a total of about 84,000. He lost 40,000 killed, at least 3,000 captured, and perhaps 5,000 disabled or died of wounds. He had peaked his force total to about 240,000 just before TET, by hard recruiting, infiltration, civilian impressment, and drawdowns on service and guerrilla personnel. So he has lost about one fifth of his total strength. About two-thirds of his trained, organized unit strength can continue offensive action. He is probably infiltrating and recruiting heavily in the countryside while allied forces are securing the urban areas. (Discussions of strengths and recruiting are in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of Enclosure (1) ). The enemy has adequate munitions, stockpiled in-country and available through the DMZ, Laos, and Cambodia, to support major attacks and countrywide pressure; food procurement may be a problem. (Discussion is in paragraph 6 Enclosure (1)). Besides strength losses, the enemy now has morale and training problems which currently limit combat effectiveness of VC guerrilla, main and local forces. (Discussions of forces are in paragraphs 2, 5, Enclosure (1) ).

(a) I Corps Tactical Zone: Strong enemy forces in the northern two provinces threaten Quanq Tri and Hue cities, and U.S. positions at the DMZ. Two NVA divisions threaten Khe Sanh. Eight enemy battalion equivalents are in the Danang-Hoi An area. Enemy losses in I CTZ have been heavy, with about 13,000 killed; some NVA as well as VC units have been hurt badly. However, NVA replacements in the DMZ area can offset these losses fairly quickly. The enemy has an increased artillery capability at the DMZ, plus some tanks and possibly even a limited air threat in I CTZ.

(b) II Corps Tactical Zone: The 1st NVA Division went virtually unscathed during TET offensive, and represents a strong threat in the western highlands. Seven combat battalion equivalents threaten Dak To. Elsewhere in the highlands, NVA units have been hurt and VC units chopped up badly. On the coast, the 3rd NV A Division had already taken heavy losses just prior to the offensive. The 5th NVA Division, also located on the coast, is not in good shape. Local force strength is about 13,000 killed; some NVA as well as coastal II CTZ had dwindled long before the offensive. The enemy's strength in II CTZ is in the highlands where enemy troops are fresh and supply lines short.

(c) III CTZ: Most of the enemy's units were used in the TET effort, and suffered substantial losses. Probably the only major unit to escape heavy losses was the 7th NVA Division. However, present dispositions give the enemy the continuing capability of attacking in the Saigon area with 10 to 11 combat effective battalion equivalents. His increased movement southward of supporting arms and infiltration of supplies has further developed his capacity for attacks by fire.

(d) IV Corps Tactical Zone: All enemy forces were committed in IV Corps, but losses per total strength were the lightest in the country. The enemy continues to be capable of investing or attacking cities throughout the area.

(2) New weapons or tactics:

We may see heavier rockets and tube artillery, additional armor, and the use of aircraft, particularly in the I CTZ. The only new tactiC in view is infiltration and investment of cities to create chaos, to demoralize the people, to discredit the government, and to tie allied forces to urban security.

b. RVNAF Capabilities:

(1) Current Status of RVNAF:

(a) Strength

-- As of 31 Dec RVNAF strength was 643,116 (Regular Forces-342,951; RF-151,376; and PF-148,789)


... (d) The redeployment of forces has caused major relocations of support forces, logistical activities and supplies.

(e) The short range solutions to the four major areas listed above were: (a) Emergency replacement of major equipment items and ammunition from the CONUS and (b) day-to-day emergency actions and relocation of resources within the theater. In summary, the logistics system in Vietnam has provided adequate support throughout the TET offensive.

d. GVN Strength and Effectiveness:

(1) Psychological -- the people in South Vietnam were handed a psychological blow, particularly in the urban areas where the feeling of security had been strong. There is a fear of further attacks.

(2) The structure of the Government was not shattered and continues to function but at greatly reduced effectiveness.

(3) In many places, the RD program has been set back badly. In other places the program was untouched in the initial stage of the offensive. MACV reports that of the 555 RD cadre groups, 278 remain in hamlets, 245 are in district and province towns on security duty, while 32 are unaccounted for. It is not clear as to when, or even whether, it will be possible to return to the RD program in its earlier form. As long as the VC prowl the countryside it will be impossible, in many places, even to tell exactly what has happened to the program.

(4) Refugees -- An additional 470,000 refugees were generated during the offensive. A breakdown of refugees is at Enclosure (7). The problem of caring for refugees is part of the larger problem of reconstruction in the cities and towns. It is anticipated that the care and reestablishment of the 250,000 persons or 50,000 family units who have lost their homes will require from GVN sources the expenditure of 500 million piasters for their temporary care and resettlement plus an estimated 30,000 metric tons of rice. From U.S. sources, there is a requirement to supply aluminum and cement for 40,000 refugee families being reestablished under the Ministry of Social Welfare and Refugee self-help program. Additionally, the GVN/Public Works City Rebuilding Plan will require the provision of 400,000 double sheets of aluminum, plus 20,000 tons [words illegible].


a. Probable enemy strategy. (Reference paragraph 7b, Enclosure (1). We see the enemy pursuing a reinforced offensive to enlarge his control throughout the country and keep pressures on the government and allies. We expect him to maintain strong threats in the DMZ area, at Khe Sanh, in the highlands, and at Saigon, and to attack in force when conditions seem favorable. He is likely to try to gain control of the country's northern provinces. He will continue efforts to encircle cities and province capitals to isolate and disrupt normal activities, and infiltrate them to create chaos. He will seek maximum attrition of RVNAF elements. Against U.S. forces, he will emphasize attacks by fire on airfields and installations, using assaults and ambushes selectively. His central objective continues to be the destruction of the Government of SVN and its armed forces. As a minimum he hopes to seize sufficient territory and gain control of enough people to support establishment of the groups and committees he proposes for participation in an NLF dominated government.

b. MACV Strategy:

(1) MACV believes that the central thrust of our strategy now must be to defeat the enemy offensive and that if this is done well, the situation overall will be greatly improved over the pre-TET condition.

(2) MACV accepts the fact that its first priority must be the security of Government of Vietnam in Saigon and provincial capitals. MACV describes its objectives as:

-- First, to counter the enemy offensive and to destroy or eject the NV A invasion force in the north.

-- Second, to restore security in the cities and towns.

-- Third, to restore security in the heavily populated areas of the countryside.

-- Fourth, to regain the initiative through offensive operations.

c. Tasks:

(1) Security of Cities and Government. MACV recognizes that U.S. forces will be required to reinforce and support RVNAF in the security of cities, towns and government structure. At this time, 10 U.S. battalions are operating in the environs of Saigon. It is clear that this task will absorb a substantial portion of U.S. forces.

(2) Security in the Countryside. To a large extent the VC now control the countryside. Most of the 54 battalions formerly providing security for pacification are now defending district or province towns. MACV estimates that U.S. forces will be required in a number of places to assist and encourage the Vietnamese Army to leave the cities and towns and reenter the country. This is especially true in the Delta.

(3) Defense of the borders, the DMZ and northern provinces. MACV considers that it must meet the enemy threat in I Corps Tactical Zone and has already deployed there slightly over 50% of all U.S. maneuver battalions. U.S. forces have been thinned out in the highlands, notwithstanding an expected enemy offensive in the early future.

(4) Offensive Operations. Coupling the increased requirement for the defense of the cities and subsequent reentry into the rural areas, and the heavy requirement for defense of the I Corps Zone, MACV does not have adequate forces at this time to resume the offensive in the remainder of the country, nor does it have adequate reserves against the contingency of simultaneous large-scale enemy offensive action throughout the country.


A. Forces currently assigned to MACV, plus the residual Program Fives forces yet to be delivered, are inadequate in numbers to carry out the strategy and to accomplish the tasks described above in the proper priority. To contend with, and defeat, the new enemy threat, MACV has stated requirements for forces over the 525,000 ceiling imposed by Program Five. The add-on requested totals 206,756 spaces for a new proposed ceiling of 731,756, with all forces being deployed into country by the end of CY 68. Principal forces included in the add-on are three division equivalents, 15 tactical fighter squadrons and augmentation for current Navy programs. MACV desires that these additional forces be delivered in three packages as follows:

(1) Immediate Increment, Priority One: To be deployed by 1 May 68. Major elements include one brigade of the 5th Mechanized Division with a mix of one infantry, one armored and one mechanized battalion; the Fifth Marine Division (less RLT- 26); one armored cavalry regiment; eight tactical fighter squadrons; and a groupment of Navy units to augment on going programs.

(2) Immediate Increment, Priority Two: To be deployed as soon as possible but prior to 1 Sep 68. Major elements include the remainder of the 5th Mechanized Division, and four tactical fighter squadrons. It is desirable that the ROK Light Division be deployed within this time frame.

(3) Follow-on Increment: To be deployed by the end of CY 68. Major elements include one infantry division, three tactical fighter squadrons, and units to further augment Navy Programs.

b. Enclosure (9) treats MACV's force requirements for CY 68 to include troop lists, and service strengths for each of the three packages which comprise the total MACV request.

c. Those aspects of MACV's CY 68 force requirements recommendations meriting particular consideration are:

(1) Civilianization. Approximately 150,000 Vietnamese and troop contributing nations' civilians are currently employed by MACV components. Program Five contains provisions to replace 12,545 military spaces by civilians during CY 68. MACV is experiencing difficulties with the civilian program because of curfew impositions, disrupted transportation, fear, movement of military units which include civilians, strikes, and prospective mobilization [rest illegible].

#133: Orientation Memo for Clifford Telling How Targets Are Chosen

Excerpts from memorandum from Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul C. Warnke to Clark M. Clifford, newly appointed Secretary of Defense, March 5, 1968, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study.

Twice a month the Joint Staff has been revising the Rolling Thunder Target List for the bombing of North Vietnam. The revisions are forwarded to my office and reconciled with the prior list. This reconciliation summary is then forwarded to your office ....

Every Tuesday and Friday the Joint Staff has been sending me a current list of the authorized targets on the target list which have not been struck or restruck since returning to a recommended status. After our review, this list also is sent to your office ....

In the normal course of events, new recommendations by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for targets lying within the 10 and 4 mile prohibited circles around Hanoi and Haiphong, respectively, or in the Chinese Buffer Zone have been submitted both to the Secretary of Defense's office and to my office in ISA. ISA would then ensure that the State Department had sufficient information to make its recommendation on the new proposal. ISA also submitted its evaluation of the proposal to your office. On occasions the Chairman would hand-carry the new bombing proposals directly to the Secretary of Defense for his approval. Under those circumstances, the Secretary, if he were not thoroughly familiar with the substance of the proposal, would call ISA for an evaluation. State Department and White House approval also were required before the Chairman's office could authorize the new strikes.

#134: Cable to Envoys in A8ia on Day of Johnson's De-escalation Speech

Excerpts from cablegram from State Department to United States Ambassadors in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, the Philippines and South Korea, March 31, 1968, as provided in the body of the Pentagon study. The message announced provisions of the major speech President Lyndon B. Johnson was to make hours later. Paragraphs in italics are the study's paraphrase or explanation.

a. Major stress on importance of GVN and ARVN increased effectiveness with our equipment and other support as first priority in our own actions.

b. 13,500 support forces to be called up at once in order to round out the 10,500 combat units sent in February.

c. Replenishment of strategic reserve by calling up 48,500 additional reserves, stating that these would be designed to strategic reserve.

d. Related tax increases and budget cuts already largely needed for non-Vietnam reasons.

3. In addition, after similar consultation and concurrence, President proposes to announce that bombing will be restricted to targets most directly engaged in battlefield area and that this meant that there would be no bombing north of the 20th parallel. Announcement would leave open how Hanoi might respond, and would be open-ended as to time. However, it would indicate that Hanoi's response could be helpful in determining whether we were justified in assumption that Hanoi would not take advantage if we stopping bombing altogether. Thus, it would to this extent foreshadow possibility of full bombing stoppage at a later point.

This cable offered the Ambassadors some additional rationale for this new policy for their discretionary use in conversations with their respective heads of government. This rationale represents the only available statement by the Administration of some of its underlying reasons and purposes for and expectations from this policy decision.

a. You should call attention to force increases that would be announced at the same time and would make clear our continued resolve. Also our top priority to re-equipping ARVN forces.

b. You should make clear that Hanoi is most likely to denounce the project and thus free our hand after a short period. Nonetheless, we might wish to continue the limitation even after a formal denunciation, in order to reinforce its sincerity and put the monkey firmly on Hanoi's back for whatever follows. Of course, any major military change could compel full-scale resumption at any time.

c. With or without denunciation, Hanoi might well feel limited in conducting any major offensives at least in the northern areas. If they did so, this could ease the pressure where it is most potentially serious. If they did not, then this would give us a clear field for whatever actions were then required.

d. In view of weather limitations, bombing north of the 20th parallel will in any event be limited at least for the next four weeks or so -- which we tentatively envisage as a maximum testing period in any event. Hence, we are not giving up anything really serious in this time frame. Moreover, air power now used north of 20th can probably be used in Laos (where no policy change planned) and in SVN.

e. Insofar as our announcement foreshadows any possibility of a complete bombing stoppage, in the event Hanoi really exercises reciprocal restraints, we regard this as unlikely. But in any case, the period of demonstrated restraint would probably have to continue for a period of several weeks, and we would have time to appraise the situation and to consult carefully with them before we undertook any such action.

The Vietcong staged a fierce offensive to mark the Lunar New Year, or Tet, in January of 1968. Here, civilians flee from their homes in Saigon (Wide World).

The Tet attacks brought devastation to Cholon, Chinese area of Saigon (Wide World).

The Vietcong also struck in the ancient capital of Hue. Marines fought a house-to-house battle to regain control of the city (UPI Photo by Kyoichi Sawada).

By 1968, McNamara was disenchanted with the war. There were signs Johnson was tired (Pictorial Parade).

Clark Clifford replaced McNamara as Secretary of Defense in 1968

Johnson, Westmoreland, Clifford and Rusk. A plea for more troops for Vietnam led Johnson to reconsider his policy (Wide World).

March, 1968: Johnson preparing a speech in which he announced he would limit the bombing, and would not seek re-election (Wide World).
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 6:35 pm

Appendix 1: Analysis and Comment


by Max Frankel

The Pentagon papers on how the United States went to war in Indochina probably mark the end of an era in American foreign policy -- a quarter of a century of virtually unchallenged Presidential management and manipulation of the instruments of war and the diplomacy bearing on war. Yet the papers cannot be more than the beginning of reflection on that era and its climax, the nation's painful, disillusioning and still unresolved involvement in Vietnam.

Massive but incomplete, comprehensive but by no means exhaustive, remarkably honest but undoubtedly warped by perspective and experience, the papers are unlike any others ever composed in the midst of war and published within 3 to 10 years of the secret deliberations and calculations they describe.

They form a unique collection and they have been summarized under unique circumstances in nine installments in The New York Times -- over unique legal challenge of the United States Government. The very novelty of the papers and the contest over their publication have tended to divert attention from the essential tale they bear. There has already been dispute not only about what they mean but also about what they say.

From the perspective of 1971, they could be read as an anatomy of failure: the misapplication of an earlier day's theories and techniques for containing Communism and the misfire of the political wisdom of that day that the United States would pay any price and bear any burden to prevent the loss of one more acre of ground to Communists anywhere.

Yet, paradoxically, the Pentagon papers tell the story of the successful application of those theories and they demonstrate the great and still-surviving force of those political convictions and fears.

But they could also be read as a chronicle of success: the tenacious collaboration of four -- and now perhaps five -- administrations of both major parties in the preservation of a commitment to an ally, the demonstration of American fidelity to an enterprise once begun and the denial of victory to Communist adversaries.

Yet the Pentagon papers show that despite the sacrifices of life, treasure and serenity to the Vietnam war, the predominant American objective was not victory over the enemy but merely the avoidance of defeat and humiliation.

In sum, the papers and the discussion now swirling about them command at least a preliminary appraisal -- of what they are and what they are not, of what they reveal and what they neglect. Who really deceived whom? And how did all this agony really arise?

Essentially the Pentagon papers are raw material for history -- an insiders' study of the decision-making processes of four administrations that struggled with Vietnam from 1945 to 1968. The papers embody 3,000 pages of often overlapping analyses and 4,000 pages of supporting documents. They were commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, in a period of frustration with a war that critics sardonically gave his name to. But they were written and compiled by 36 analysts, civilian and military, most of them still anonymous, and they were finally printed and bound into fewer than 20 sets in the early months of the Nixon Administration, which paid them no heed until they began to appear in The Times.

The study drew primarily upon Pentagon files that are still sealed and upon some of the most important Presidential orders and diplomatic materials of the time under review. The analysts did not have access to the most private White House documents bearing on the moods and motives of the Presidents. And in the form obtained by The Times, the study also lacked several of the 47 volumes, among them four devoted to the diplomacy that surrounded the war.

But the Pentagon papers also offer more than the most polished of histories. They present not only the directives, conclusions and decisions of government in an era of prolonged crisis, but also many of the loose memorandums, speculations, draft proposals and contingency plans composed by influential individuals and groups inside that government.

Whatever is missing, for lack of access or perception, is more than recompensed by the sheer sweep and drama of this contemporaneous record.

Unlike diary, which can never escape the moment, and unlike history, which must distill at a remote future, the Pentagon study was able to re-enact a fateful progression of attitudes and decisions while simultaneously viewing them from a perspective greater than that of any of the participants.

So whatever its shortcomings, the study will stand as a vast trove of insights, hindsights and revelations about the plans and conceptions of small groups of men as they guided the nation into a distant but grievous venture, about how they talked and wrote to each other, to friend and foe, in public and in private. And the study is bound to stand as a new model for governmental analysis, raising questions normally reserved for literature: how powerful and sophisticated men take on commitments while they think themselves free, how they reach decisions while they see the mirage of choice, how they entrap themselves while they labor to induce or coerce others to do their will.

As the coordinator of the Pentagon study, Leslie H. Gelb, recently said of this story, "It was and is a Greek tragedy."

As written at the Pentagon and as recounted by The Times, the study found no villains or heroes. It made no historical value judgments. It argued no brief.

The portraits of the principal actors -- especially those such as Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who were wary of betraying their views in interagency meetings and memorandums -- are far from complete or satisfying. The portraits of the Presidents, even if their own files had been available, would remain inadequate until they were set against the political and international imperatives felt at the White House at every stage.

In the absence of a comparable study of the objectives and tactics of the Vietnam adversaries -- notably the Government of North Vietnam and the coalition of insurgents in South Vietnam -- the Pentagon papers could not presume to judge the morality or even the wisdom of the policies they record and describe.

And although many of the authors appear to have become disillusioned doves about the war, their study could stand almost as well as a brief for frustrated hawks; its central conclusion, that the nation simply pursued excessive aims with insufficient means, leaves entirely unresolved the central question of whether it would have been better to do more or to seek less.

Of all the revelations in the Pentagon papers, the most important deal with the patterns of thought and action that recur at almost every stage of the American involvement in Indochina:

• This was a war not only decreed but closely managed by the civilian leaders of the United States. The military chiefs were in fact reluctant at the start, unimpressed by the strategic significance of Vietnam and worried throughout that they would never be allowed to expand the size and scope of the war to the point where they could achieve a clear advantage over the enemy.
• This was not a war into which the United States stumbled blindly, step by step, on the basis of wrong intelligence or military advice that just a few more soldiers or a few more air raids would turn the tide. The nation's intelligence analysts were usually quite clear in their warnings that contemplated escalations of force and objective would probably fail.
• Yet military considerations took precedence over political considerations at almost every stage. Since none of the Americans managing the Vietnam problem were prepared to walk away from it, they were forced to tolerate the petty political maneuvering in Saigon and Saigon's political and economic policies, even when Washington recognized them as harmful. As a result, even the military chiefs, and notably Gen. William C. Westmoreland, yielded to the temptation of seeking victory on the ground, although it was known that the enemy could always resupply just enough men to frustrate the American military machine.
• The public claim that the United States was only assisting a beleaguered ally who really had to win his own battle was never more than a slogan. South Vietnam was essentially the creation of the United States. The American leaders, believing that they had to fight fire with fire to ward off a Communist success, hired agents, spies, generals and presidents where they could find them in Indochina. They thought and wrote of them in almost proprietary terms as instruments of American policy. Ineluctably, the fortunes of these distant, often petty men became in their minds indistinguishable from the fortunes of the United States.
• The views of the world and the estimate of the Communist world that led the United States to take its stand in Indochina remained virtually static for the men who managed the Vietnam war. The "domino theory" -- that all the other nations of Asia would topple if Indochina fell into Communist hands -- moves robustly through the Pentagon papers, even by momentous events such as the split between the Soviet Union and Communist China, Peking's preoccupation with its Cultural Revolution or the bloody destruction of the Communist challenge in Indonesia.
• The American objective in Vietnam, although variously defined over the years, remained equally fixed.Disengagement, no matter how artfully it might have been arranged or managed, was never seriously considered so long as a separate, pro-American and non-Communist government was not safely installed in Saigon.
• The American Presidents, caught between the fear of a major war involving the Soviet Union or China and the fear of defeat and humiliation at the hands of a small band of insurgents, were hesitant about every major increase in military force. But they were unrestrained in both their public and private rhetorical commitments to "pay the price," to "stay the course" and to "do whatever is necessary."
• The American military and civilian bureaucracies, therefore, viewed themselves as being on a fixed course. They took seriously and for the most part literally the proclaimed doctrines of successive National Security Council papers that Indochina was vital to the security interests of the nation. They thus regarded themselves as obligated to concentrate always on the questions of what to do next, not whetherthey should be doing it.

But the principal findings of the Pentagon papers cannot be fully understood without some recollection of the traditions, the training and the attitudes of the men who led the United States in the generation following World War II.

As The Economist of London has observed, these men were reared in the habits of the internationalist Presidents, notably Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who also felt duty-bound to lead the nation into war after vowing to avoid it. The British weekly goes so far as to suggest that secret maneuver and public deception may be the only way to take great democracies to war.

Moreover, as Senator Frank Church of Idaho, one of the early Congressional critics of the war in Vietnam, remarked in Washington the other day, Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson were all reared to the conviction that only Presidents and their experts can have the perspective and knowledge needed to define the national interest in a hostile world.

They lived with the memory of Congress destroying Wilson's League of Nations and hampering Roosevelt's quest for safety in alliances against Germany and Japan.

They lived with the memory of two costly world wars, both of which they judged avoidable if American power had been arrayed soon enough against distant aggression.

They lived with the nightmare that "appeasement" would only invite more aggression and lead directly to World War III, as the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia to Hitler at Munich led to World War II.

And they lived with the knowledge that another major war would be a nuclear war unless it were deterred with frequent demonstrations of American resolve and readiness to honor promises to friends and threats against adversaries.

These are the convictions that the men who made the Vietnam war carried into the post-world-war rivalry against the Soviet Union and against what they regarded for many years as a highly disciplined international Communist conspiracy, directed from Moscow and aimed at worldwide revolution and conquest.

After the "loss" of half of Europe to Communism, the American leaders set out to draw the line, wherever possible, to "contain" the Communists without major war.

They were imaginative and cold-blooded about the techniques they used in this effort. They broke the Berlin blockade without firing a shot. They poured $12-billion in economic aid into the revival of the economies of Western Europe. They led the United Nations into war in defense of South Korea. They sent military missions, military equipment, spies and agitators to all parts of the world. They sought to make and to destroy governments. They tried to "build" nations where none had existed before.

But they paid a profound psychological price. Their summons to sacrifice at home gave the contest an uncontrollable ideological fervor. The "loss" of China to Communism in 1949 and the further frustration of war in Korea in 1950 inspired a long hunt at home for knaves and traitors, in the White House and below, from which American politics is only beginning to recover.

Politicians and the politicians who became Presidents goaded each other to the conclusion that they could not "lose" another inch of territory to Communism, anywhere. The Republicans took after Democrats by saying they had been weak or treacherous about China and had accepted less than total victory in Korea. The Democrats took after Republicans by saying they had lost Cuba and dissipated American prestige and missile strength.

As President Eisenhower reached the end of his Administration, his greatest fear was the "loss" of Laos. And as President Kennedy assumed office, the Government's greatest ambition was the "liberation" of Cuba. No matter how small the nations or how marginal their threat to the United States, their "loss" came to be seen as an intolerable humiliation of American purpose and a dangerous invitation to aggression elsewhere.

Thus whenever aid and intrigue had failed, the cold-war instinct was resort to overt force. And the failure of force in one place only magnified the temptation to use it elsewhere. The simultaneous fiasco at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and dissolution of anti-Communist forces in Laos in 1961 was uppermost in the minds of the Kennedy men who then proceeded to raise the stakes in Vietnam.

As the Pentagon papers show, they were motivated by the desire to contain China and what they considered to be the Asian branch of "international Communism," to protect the "dominoes" of non-Communist Asia, to discredit the Communist theories of guerrilla war and "wars of national liberation" and to demonstrate to allies everywhere that the United States would honor its pledges and make good on its threats no matter how difficult the task or insignificant the terrain.

These objectives were widely supported in the United States throughout the nineteen-sixties. But the Presidents who progressively decided on an ultimate test in Vietnam never shared with the Congress and the public what is now seen to have been their private knowledge of the remoteness of success.

As the Pentagon papers show, every President from Truman to Johnson passed down the problem of Vietnam in worse shape than he had received it. The study gives special point to President Johnson's recently disclosed remark to his wife in the spring of 1965, at the very start of his massive commitment of troops:

"I can't get out. I can't finish it with what I have got. So what the hell can I do?"

What he and his predecessors did not do was to inform the country of the dilemma and invite it to help make the choice.

The Pentagon papers reveal that all the difficulties of defining the Indochina problem date from the very earliest American experiences there, under Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. They show that Gen. George C. Marshall, a Secretary of State for Mr. Truman, recognized the Vietnamese Communists to be also the leaders of a legitimate Vietnamese anti-colonialism. He thus recognized their challenge as different from any other Communist bid for power, but the distinction was soon lost.

The papers show that even after President Eisenhower reluctantly let the French go down to defeat in Indochina, his Administration refused to accept the compromise settlement of Geneva in 1954. It set out to supplant the French and to carry on the struggle, with hastily organized acts of sabotage, terror and psychological warfare against the new Communist Government in North Vietnam and with programs of aid and military training to establish a rival anti-Communist nation of South Vietnam.

The stories now revealed make vastly more complicated the official American version of Vietnam history, in which the Hanoi Communists alone were charged with aggression and a ruthless refusal to leave "their neighbors" alone. Clearly, the American commitment to save at least half of Vietnam from Communism antedates the whole succession of Saigon governments to which it was nominally given.

Even in these early years of American involvement, the Governments of South Vietnam were perceived as mere instruments of larger American objectives. It was Gen. J. Lawton Collins, acting as President Eisenhower's personal representative in Indochina, who first proposed the ouster of Ngo Dinh Diem. The Vietnamese leader was saved at the time by agents of the Central Intelligence Agency, but several of those agents were still available to help arrange a coup against Mr. Diem eight years later.

Even in those early years, the Pentagon papers show, Washington's public optimism about the prospects for anti-Communists in Vietnam masked a private pessimism.

And even then the North Vietnamese Communists were being held responsible for the direction of the insurgency in the South, even though it was not for lack of trying that the Americans in the South failed to cause equal difficulty in the North.

In hindsight, with the benefit of the Pentagon papers, it is plain that the Kennedy years brought more, much more of the same.

The "domino theory" was now expanded to embrace concern about the fate of Indonesia, loosely regarded as also in Southeast Asia. The fiasco in Cuba and tension over Berlin made it seem even more imperative to take a stand somewhere, if only for demonstration purposes.

Despite the Eisenhower warnings, Laos was deemed to be a poor place to make a stand. So it was partitioned among three rival factions, with the North Vietnamese gaining a convenient corridor for systematic infiltration into South Vietnam.

The deal had the effect of making the defense of South Vietnam vastly more difficult at the very moment when the American commitment to its defense was taking deeper root. The same paradoxical effect was achieved many times during the years of American involvement in Indochina.

The character of that involvement, it is now clear, also underwent a portentous though subtle change during the Kennedy years: American military and political activities came to be valued less for their intrinsic benefits than for the general encouragement they might give to the struggling South Vietnamese. They also came to be valued less for the damage they might inflict on the North Vietnamese than for the fear of still greater American involvement they were supposed to arouse.

Even though the Kennedy Administration knew the sad facts of instability, corruption and tyranny in South Vietnam, it consistently gave priority to military measures that would express its activism and bespeak its determination. Its vain but constant hope was that morale would improve in Saigon and that the threat of massive American intervention would somehow persuade Hanoi to relent.

So for practical as well as domestic political reasons, private realism yielded even further to public expressions of optimism and confidence. Three weeks after the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961, Mr. Kennedy felt it necessary to order the start of new covert operations against the territory of North Vietnam and Communist regions in Laos.

Later in 1961, he heard so much debate about the growing need for American ground troops in Vietnam that the decisions to send several thousand military "advisers" seemed a relatively modest and cautious move.

But the pressure built for a more direct American management of the entire war, an impulse that found its ultimate expression in Washington's complicity in the overthrow of President Diem. Once again, more than the President realized and perhaps more than he wanted, the obligation of the United States had been simultaneously deepened and made more difficult to redeem.

Along with the Kennedy term and the Kennedy men, President Johnson thus inherited a broad Kennedy commitment to South Vietnam. And twice in Mr. Johnson's first four months in office, Secretary McNamara returned from Saigon with the news that things were going from bad to miserable. Stable government now seemed impossible to achieve and the countryside was fast falling into Vietcong control.

Mr. McNamara and many other officials began to press for action, including new covert attacks against North Vietnam and at least urgent planning for open bombing and border patrols. They acknowledged privately that the real problems were in the South, but they could not yet conceive of any effective form of intervention.

So they built on the old formula of the Kennedy years -- action for action's sake, not because it would achieve anything tangible but because it might help morale in Saigon and cause Hanoi to recognize that it could never "win" the war without confronting American power.

As the Pentagon papers show, these "scenarios" for threat and escalation were written in the glib, cold but confident spirit of efficiency experts -- the same experts whose careful plotting of moves and countermoves against the Soviet Union in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis had so gloriously vindicated the new political science of gamesmanship and probability theory.

Assistant Secretary of Defense John T. McNaughton, who eventually turned against the war with a pathetic confession of ignorance of the Vietnamese people, best typified this style of thought and planning at the upper levels of government.

In his memorandums, choices of more or less war were reduced to "options": "B----- fast full squeeze. Present policies plus a systematic program of military pressures against the North ... "; "C----- progressive squeeze-and-talk. Present policies plus an orchestration of communications with Hanoi and a crescendo of additional military moves ... "

Countries and peoples became "audiences": "The relevant audiences" of U.S. actions are the Communists (who must feel strong pressures), the South Vietnamese (whose morale must be buoyed), our allies (who must trust us as 'underwriters'), and the U.S. public (which must support our risk-taking with U.S. lives and prestige) . . . Because of the lack of 'rebuttal time' before election to justify particular actions which may be distorted to the U.S. public, we must act with special care -- signaling to the DRV that initiatives are being taken, to the GVN that we are behaving energetically despite the restraints of our political season, and to the U.S. public that we are behaving with good purpose and restraint."

Many of these memorandums were only "contingency plans" that contemplated what else the United States might do in one or another eventuality. But there was nothing contingent in their definition of American purposes and objectives, in their analyses -- in the crucial years of 1964-65 -- of the rapidly deteriorating situation in South Vietnam and in their revelation of the state of mind of the dozen or so top officials whose persistent clamor for action could be delayed but never ultimately denied by a President who shared their purpose.

And there was nothing "contingent" about the direct orders of the National Security Council and the Presidential messages that have turned up with the Pentagon papers. The lines of reasoning and decision from the action papers to the contingency papers are direct and unmistakable.

The Pentagon papers and The Times's reports on them confirm the judgment of contemporary observers that President Johnson was reluctant and hesitant to take the final decision at every fateful turn of his plunge into large-scale war.

Mr. Johnson and other officials were often evasive or coy with the press by creating the impression that plans for bombing were only "recommendations" without "decision" or that "requests" for more troops from the field were not "on my desk at this moment" because they lay formally elsewhere.

But these are not the most important deceptions revealed in the Pentagon papers.

There is, above all, much evidence that the four Administrations that progressively deepened the American involvement in the war felt a private commitment to resist Communist advance, and then a private readiness to wage war against North Vietnam and finally a private sense of frustration with the entire effort much sooner and to a much greater extent than they ever acknowledged to the Congress and the nation.

There is evidence in the papers that the Congress was rushed into passing a resolution to sanction the use of force in Vietnam in 1964, ostensibly to justify retaliation for an "unprovoked" attack on American vessels, even though the Administration really intended to use the resolution as the equivalent of a declaration of war and withheld information that would have shown the North Vietnamese to have had ample reason for "retaliating" against the United States.

There is evidence that all the elaborately staged offers of negotiation and compromise with the Communist adversary were privately acknowledged in the Administration as demands for his virtual "surrender."

And there is evidence, scattered over the years, that the oft-proclaimed goal of achieving "self-determination" for the South Vietnamese was in fact acceptable to the United States only as long as no South Vietnamese leader chose neutralism or any other form of nonalignment. As President Johnson put it in a cablegram to his ambassador in early 1964, "Your mission is precisely for the purpose of knocking down the idea of neutralization wherever it rears its ugly head."

The evidence for two very specific charges of deception that have been leveled against President Johnson since publication of the Pentagon papers is much less clear.

The Pentagon study itself did not make any charges, and neither did The Times in its reports on the findings of the study. But many readers concluded that Mr. Johnson had lied to the country in 1964, when he denounced his Republican opponent, Senator Barry Goldwater, for advocating full-scale air attacks against North Vietnam, and again in April, 1965, when he secretly authorized the use of American troops in an offensive combat role.

The Pentagon study describes a "general consensus" among the President's advisers, two months before the 1964 election, that air attacks against North Vietnam would probably have to be launched. It reports an expectation among them that these would begin early in the new year. As The Times report added, the papers also showed the President "moving and being moved toward war, but reluctant and hesitant to act until the end."

Mr. Johnson and those who defend his public statements at the time are undoubtedly right in their contention that the President made no formal decision to authorize more bombing until there were additional attacks on American bases in February, 1965.

But the President also knew that most of his major advisers regarded such a decision as "inevitable" -- because they thought South Vietnam to be in danger of imminent collapse, because the forces to conduct more air attacks were in place, because the target lists had long ago been prepared and because even sustained bombing was destined to be merely a stopgap measure until more troops could be rushed to South Vietnam.

In a search through his own dispatches from Washington at the time, this reporter has come upon three interesting accounts that help to explain the confusion but tend to support the much more thoroughly researched judgment of the Pentagon papers.

On Oct. 9, 1964, The Times reported on a news conference question to Secretary Rusk about reports "here and in Saigon that the Administration was considering a 'major turn' in policy but deferring a decision until after Election Day, Nov. 3." Mr. Rusk refused to predict "future events" but said that domestic politics had no bearing on any such decisions.

On Feb. 13, 1965, after a new "retaliatory" raid on North Vietnam but before the start of sustained bombing, this reporter quoted two unidentified high officials as follows:

"There is no doubt that the President remains skeptical about a deeper involvement in Asia, but he is getting some very belligerent advice from very intimate quarters."

"History may determine that it was already too late, that the die is cast, but I am sure that the Government's strategy is not yet determined."

In other words, even high officials sensed that their President was still reserving final judgment and "decision," but they did not really know how much real choice remained.

Even after the decision had been made, however, there was no simple way to get a straight answer from the Johnson Administration in those days, as is evident in the opening lines of a dispatch on March 2, 1965:

"The Administration described today's air strikes against North Vietnam as part of a 'continuing' effort to resist aggression and made no effort, as in the past, to relate them to particular provocation. . . . The White House said only that there had been no change in policy. The State Department said nothing. . . ."

Some officials at the time, and Mr. Johnson on at least one occasion since then, suggested that such coyness after decision had been deemed necessary to avoid provoking intervention in the war by Soviet or Chinese Communist forces. They never explained, however, why either nation would make such a grave decision on the basis of announcements in Washington rather than on the facts of the bombing, which were well known to them.

A far more plausible explanation, one that sounds strange in matters of such weight but rings true to those who could observe Lyndon Johnson closely and sympathetically in those days, has been offered by Stewart Alsop in Newsweek: "President Johnson was trying to fool not the people but himself -- and temporarily succeeding."

What really emerges from the Pentagon papers, Mr. Alsop wrote approvingly, "is a picture of a desperately troubled man resisting the awful pressures to plunge deeper into the Vietnam quagmire -- resisting them as instinctively as an old horse resists being led to the knackers. The President bucks, whinnies and shies away, but always in the end the reins tighten -- the pressures are too much for him."

And, he adds: "A precisely similar sequence of events -- mounting pressure from his advisers, instinctive resistance by the President, final agonized agreement -- preceded the President's decision to commit additional troops and to give the marines an offensive role. When he made these decisions, the President did not realize -- because he did not want to realize -- that he had crossed his Rubicon. He still hoped and prayed that a bit more air power, a few more troops on the ground, would bring the Communists to the conference table in a mood to 'reason together.' Hence there really had been, in his own mind, nothing 'very dramatic' about his decisions, no 'far-reaching strategy.'"

As the Pentagon papers further show, Mr. Johnson was to make two or three other big decisions about troop commitments and carve them up into smaller, more digestible numbers, as if this could hide the magnitude of the American involvement. He knew that he was not winning the war and he knew that he was playing only for some unforeseeable stroke of good fortune, and it may be that his sense of statesmanship led him to conclude that the nation would be preserved longer if he minimized the task.

Whatever the motives, the methods for handling the awkwardness of Vietnam had then become almost traditional. But it was Mr. Johnson's misfortune to be President, as Mr. Gelb, the coordinator of the study has written, when the "minimum necessary became the functional equivalent of gradual escalation" and the "minimal necessity became the maximum" that international and domestic constraints would allow.

The overriding evidence in the Pentagon papers, quite apart from the timing of decisions or the candor with which they were disclosed, is that the United States Government involved itself deeply and consciously in a war that its leaders felt they probably could not win but that they also felt they could not afford to lose.

Gradually, some of the leading advocates of the war lost their enthusiasm for it, but even in disillusionment they felt a higher duty of loyalty to the President and his policy than to the public that had become deeply divided and tormented by the war.

As early as 1966, Mr. McNaughton perceived an "enormous miscalculation" and an "escalating military stalemate." By 1967, Mr. McNamara and probably others were recommending a reduction of objectives and perhaps a face-saving exit through the formation of a coalition government in Saigon.

But Mr. Johnson thought more unhappy Americans were hawks than doves and he was also forced, amid fears of noisy resignations, to negotiate with his military leaders, who were demanding more, rather than less, commitment.

Not until the shock of the enemy's Tet offensive in 1968, and the need to mobilize reserves if he was to meet the military's request for 206,000 additional men for the combat zone, did Mr. Johnson set a final limit on the American commitment, cut back the bombing of North Vietnam and announce his plan to retire without seeking a second term.

No one knows to this day whether by these moves the President intended to hurry out of the war in some face-saving manner or merely to buy still more time from the American voters for a final effort at vindication.

As the Pentagon papers disclose, his Administration did not expect much from the bombing limitation or the new offer to negotiate with Hanoi.

"We are not giving up anything really serious in this time frame" of four weeks, the State Department informed its embassies, noting that poor weather would have curtailed the raids for that period in any case. It said that some of the air power would be switched to targets in Laos and South Vietnam and that in any case Hanoi was expected to reject the bid for talks and this would "free our hand after a short period."

Hanoi accepted the bid for talks, but has offered very little so far that interests Washington. Neither on the way in nor on the way out, it is now clear, was the American hand in Vietnam ever "free."

-- July 6, 1971


The Vietnam Documents

In an unprecedented example of censorship, the Attorney General of the United States has temporarily succeeded in preventing The New York Times from continuing to publish documentary and other material taken from a secret Pentagon study of the decisions affecting American participation in the Vietnam War.

Through a temporary restraining order issued by a Federal District judge yesterday, we are prevented from publishing, at least through the end of the week, any new chapters in this massive documentary history of American involvement in the war. But The Times will continue to fight to the fullest possible extent of the law what we believe to be an unconstitutional prior restraint imposed by the Attorney General.

What was the reason that impelled The Times to publish this material in the first place? The basic reason is, as was stated in our original reply to Mr. Mitchell, that we believe "that it is in the interest of the people of this country to be informed .... " A fundamental responsibility of the press in this democracy is to publish information that helps the people of the United States to understand the processes of their own government, especially when those processes have been clouded over in a hazy veil of public dissimulation and even deception.

As a newspaper that takes seriously its obligation and its responsibilities to the public, we believe that, once this material fell into our hands, it was not only in the interests of the American people to publish it but, even more emphatically, it would have been an abnegation of responsibility and a renunciation of our obligations under the First Amendment not to have published it. Obviously, The Times would not have made this decision if there had been any reason to believe that publication would have endangered the life of a single American soldier or in any way threatened the security of our country or the peace of the world.

The documents in question belong to history. They refer to the development of American interest and participation in Indochina from the post-World War II period up to mid-1968, which is now almost three years ago. Their publication could not conceivably damage American security interests, much less the lives of Americans or Indochinese. We therefore felt it incumbent to take on ourselves the responsibility for their publication, and in doing so raise once again the question of the Government's propensity for over-classification and mis-classification of documents that by any reasonable scale of values have long since belonged in the public domain.

We publish the documents and related running account not to prove any debater's point about the origins and development of American participation in the war, not to place the finger of blame on any individuals, civilian or military, but to present to the American public a history -- admittedly incomplete -- of decision-making at the highest levels of government on one of the most vital issues that has ever affected "our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor" -- an issue on which the American people and their duly elected representatives in Congress have been largely curtained off from the truth.

It is the effort to expose and elucidate that truth that is the very essence of freedom of the press.

-- June 16, 1971

Decision for Freedom

District Judge Murray L. Gurfein's decision yesterday denying the Government's plea for a preliminary injunction to bar this newspaper from publishing articles about a secret Pentagon study of the Vietnam war marks a significant victory for press freedom in the United States and for the right of the American people to be informed about the operations of their Government.

"A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, an ubiquitous press, must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know," Judge Gurfein declared. "These are troubled times. There is no greater safety valve for discontent and cynicism about the affairs of government than freedom of expression in any form."

After hearing the Government's arguments in a lengthy secret session, the District Judge agreed with this newspaper's contention that publication of the articles and documents did not endanger national security. "Without revealing the content of the testimony," he said, "suffice it to say that no cogent reasons were advanced as to why these documents except in the general framework of embarrassment . . . would vitally affect the security of the nation."

The case now goes to the Appeals Court which we hope will speedily clear the way for resumed publication of the articles and documents based on the Pentagon study. By any definition of democratic government and freedom of the press, the public is entitled to the information contained in this history, which in fact is indispensable to an understanding of the evolution of American policy in Vietnam.

-- June 20, 1971

The Vietnam Papers

On Nov. 25, 1964, some three weeks after President Johnson's election, The Times observed editorially that "another Vietnam reassessment is under way . . . [and] if there is to be a new policy now, if an Asian war is to be converted into an American war, the country has a right to insist that it be told what has changed so profoundly in the last two months to justify it." The country was not told.

Six months later, after repeated demands for "a straightforward explanation" of what was clearly becoming a major land war on the continent of Asia, this newspaper noted that "there is still no official explanation offered for a move that fundamentally alters the character of the American involvement in Vietnam" and pleaded "for the President to take the country into his confidence .... "

These comments illustrate how Congress and the American people were kept in the dark about fundamental policy decisions affecting the very life of this democracy during the most critical period of the war. The conviction even then that the Government was not being frank with the American people has been fully confirmed by the massive Pentagon history and documentation which The Times began to publish last week -- until the Government undertook to censor it.

The running commentary and documents that did appear in this newspaper before the Government moved to block them throw a clear spotlight on the decision-making process during the period up to and including the major escalation of the Vietnam War in 1964 and 1965. The multi-volume study on which The Times' account was based shows beyond cavil how the decisions affecting American participation in and conduct of the war were planned and executed while their far-reaching political effect and profound significance, fully appreciated at the top reaches of government, were either deliberately distorted or withheld altogether from the public.

Even more important, the papers as published thus far suggest that almost no one in the upper ranks of the Administration during this crucial period six and seven years ago was probing into the basic political issue on which the military operation depended: Was the Saigon Government's control of South Vietnam of such vital, long-range interest to the United States that it warranted an open-ended American military involvement -- or was this really an unexamined conclusion that had already become an article of faith? Nearly every official concerned was discussing the tactics and strategy of the war, how to handle it, how to win it, how to come out of it, what plans to make under various contingencies. These were important matters indeed and the officials in question would not have been doing their duty if they had failed to consider them. They should not be faulted for this; nor was it in any way improper to have planned for every conceivable military eventuality.

But the missing factor was discussion or argumentation over the raison d' etre of the war and the rationale for continuing massive American involvement in it. It seems to have been accepted without question by virtually everyone in the top ranks, except Under Secretary of State George Ball, that the interests of the United States did indeed lie, at almost any cost and overriding almost any risk, in military victory for the South Vietnamese Government even to the point of major American participation in a war on the land mass of Southeast Asia.

This was the premise, this the context, and this the fateful error. If, as the principal officers of the Government saw the country being drawn into such a war, a full and frank debate and discussion in Congress and outside had been undertaken, it is quite possible that events would have moved in a different way. No one will ever know, for this "open covenant, openly arrived at" between American Government and American people never materialized.

This, then, is what the Vietnam Papers prove -- not venality, not evil motivation, but rather an arrogant disregard for the Congress, for the public and for the inherent obligation of the responsibilities of leadership in a democratic society. The papers are not only part of the historical record; they are an essential part of that record. They are highly classified documents and so is the analytical study on which The Times running commentary was based. But they carry the story of Vietnam no farther than 1968 -- now three years ago; they in no way affect current plans, operations or policy; and there seems no longer any justification for these papers -- along with many others in governmental files -- to bear the kind of classification that keeps them from general public access. Overclassification and misclassification of documents is at best a normal reflection of governmental inertia; but, as here, it is often used to conceal governmental error.

The material was not published by The Times for purposes of recrimination or to establish scapegoats or to heap blame on any individual in civilian or military ranks. It was published because the American public has a right to have it and because, when it came into the hands of The Times, it was its function as a free and uncensored medium of information to make it public. This same principle held for The Washington Post when it too obtained some of the papers. To have acted otherwise would have been to default on a newspaper's basic obligation to the American people under the First Amendment, which is precisely the point that Federal District Judge Murray Gurfein suggested in his memorable decision in this newspaper's favor last Saturday.

And yet the Government of the United States, in an action unprecedented in modern American history, sought and is continuing to seek to silence both The New York Times and The Washington Post, claiming that "irreparable injury" to the national security would be caused by publication of further chapters in the Vietnam study. The fact is that "irreparable injury" has been done to the Government itself, not because of anything that has been published but, quite the contrary, because of the extraordinary action the Government took to thwart and subvert in this manner the constitutional principle of freedom of the press which is the very essence of American democracy. Judge Gurfein's decision -- whether or not it is sustained on appeal -- surely represents a landmark in the endless struggle of free men and free institutions against the unwarranted exercise of governmental authority.

-- June 21, 1971

"An Enlightened People"

The historic decision of the Supreme Court in the case of the United States Government vs. The New York Times and The Washington Post is a ringing victory for freedom under law. By lifting the restraining order that had prevented this and other newspapers from publishing the hitherto secret Pentagon papers, the nation's highest tribunal strongly reaffirmed the guarantee of the people's right to know, implicit in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

This was the essence of what The New York Times, and other newspapers were fighting for and this is the essence of the Court's majority opinions. The basic question, which goes to the very core of the American political system, involved the weighing by the Court of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom against the Government's power to restrict that freedom in the name of national security. The Supreme Court did not hold that the First Amendment gave an absolute right to publish anything under all circumstances. Nor did The Times seek that right. What The Times sought, and what the Court upheld, was the right to publish these particular documents at this particular time without prior Governmental restraint.

The crux of the problem lay indeed in this question of prior restraint. For the first time in the history of the United States, the Federal Government had sought through the courts to prevent publication of material that it maintained would do "irreparable injury" to the national security if spread before the public. The Times, supported in this instance by the overwhelming majority of the American press, held on the contrary that it was in the national interest to publish this information, which was of historic rather than current operational nature.

If the documents had involved troop movements, ship sailings, imminent military plans, the case might have been quite different; and in fact The Times would not have endeavored to publish such material. But this was not the case; the documents and accompanying analysis are historic, in no instance going beyond 1968, and incapable in 1971 of harming the life of a single human being or interfering with any current military operation. The majority of the Court clearly recognized that embarrassment of public officials in the past -- or even in the present -- is insufficient reason to overturn what Justice White described as "the concededly extraordinary protection against prior restraint under our constitutional system."

So far as the Government's classification of the material is concerned, it is quite true, as some of our critics have observed, that "no one elected The Times" to declassify it. But it is also true, as the Court implicitly recognizes, that the public interest is not served by classification and retention in secret form of vast amounts of information, 99.5 per cent of which a retired senior civil servant recently testified "could not be prejudicial to the defense interests of the nation."

Out of this case should surely come a total revision of governmental procedures and practice in the entire area of classification of documents. Everyone who has ever had anything to do with such documents knows that for many years the classification procedures have been hopelessly muddled by inertia, timidity and sometimes even stupidity and venality.

Beyond all this, one may hope that the entire exercise will induce the present Administration to re-examine its own attitudes toward secrecy, suppression and restriction of the liberties of free man in a free society. The issue the Supreme Court decided yesterday touched the heart of this republic; and we fully realize that this is not so much a victory for any particular newspaper as it is for the basic principles of freedom on which the American form of government rests. This is really the profound message of yesterday's decision, in which this newspaper rejoices with humility and with the consciousness that the freedom thus reaffirmed carries with it, as always, the reciprocal obligation to present the truth to the American public so far as it can be determined. That is, in fact, why the Pentagon material had to be published. It is only with the fullest possible understanding of the facts and of the background of any policy decision that the American people can be expected to play the role required of them in this democracy.

It would be well for the present Administration, in the light of yesterday's decision, to reconsider with far more care and understanding than it has in the past, the fundamental importance of individual freedoms -- including especially freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly -- to the life of the American democracy. "Without an informed and free press," as Justice Stewart said, "there cannot be an enlightened people."

-- July 1, 1971

The Court's Decision

The decision of the Supreme Court allowing The Times and other newspapers to continue to publish hitherto secret Pentagon documents on the Vietnam war is in our view less important as a victory for the press than as a striking confirmation of the vitality of the American democratic form of government.

Despite the potentially far-reaching significance of doubts and reservations expressed in the confusing welter of individual opinions -- each of the nine Justices wrote his own -- the outcome of this case is a landmark for the press in its centuries-old battle against the efforts of Governmental authority to impose prior restraints. But we believe its real meaning goes deeper than that, in the context of the present time and place. We believe that its more profound significance lies in the implicit but inescapable conclusion that the American people have a presumptive right to be informed of the political decisions of their Government and that when the Government has been devious with the people, it will find no constitutional sanction for its efforts to enforce concealment by censorship.

For this is the essential justification of The Times' grave decision to take on itself the responsibility of publishing the Pentagon papers. It was a decision not taken lightly; but The Times felt that the documents, all dating from 1968 or earlier, belonged to the American people, were now part of history, could in no sense damage current military operations or threaten a single life, and formed an essential element in an understanding by the American people of the event that has affected them more deeply than any other in this generation, the Vietnam war.

The decision had to be made whether or not the embarrassment to individuals, or even to governments, outweighed the value to the American public of knowing something about the decision-making process that led into the war and its subsequent escalation. Furthermore, it was evident that Governmental documents have been so generally overclassified and misclassified for so many years that the mere fact of labeling bore no necessary relationship to the national security. An intensive review of classification procedures is sure to be one beneficial result of this affair.

But there will be other results. We hope that the great lesson to have been learned from publication of the Pentagon papers is that the American Government must play square with the electorate. We hope that this Administration and those to come will realize that the major decisions have to be discussed frankly and openly and courageously; and that the essence of good government as of practical politics is, in Adlai Stevenson's phrase, to "talk sense to the American people."

The Pentagon papers demonstrate the failure of successive Administrations to carry out this policy in respect to Vietnam. We do not think it is a question of personal morality, but rather of private attitudes. We do not think that the respective officials involved made recommendations or took decisions that they did not conscientiously believe to be in the public interest. As an early opponent of the escalation of American military force in Vietnam, this newspaper has never attacked the motives of those leaders, but we have criticized and we continue to criticize their wisdom, their sense of values and their failure fully to apprise the people and Congress of the implications of decisions taken in secret.

Even if these decisions, now being revealed in the Pentagon papers, had been generally understood by the public at the time, we are not at all sure that in the climate of those days, the results would have been any different. Given the fear of Communist penetration and aggression throughout the '50's and most of the '60's, it is quite likely that the American public would have supported the basic rationale on escalation even if the respective Administrations had been as forthcoming as democratic procedures demanded.

The fact remains that out of the publication of this material, the American people emerge the gainers. They have gained in knowledge of the past, which should serve them well in the future. They have gained in an understanding of their rights under the Constitution. And they have gained in the perennial effort of free men to control their government rather than vice versa.


One more Monday morning in the USA
Twenty thousand people lost their jobs today
We’re payin’ mercenaries
To fight some stupid war
If it isn’t over oil,
Then what the hell’s it for?

There’s a scary sound,
There’s a gathering danger
People talkin’ loud
Voices raised in anger

And if ya turn on the radio,
Whatta they say?
They’re givin’ billionaire bankers bonus pay,
They say ya can’t say no,
It’s the American way,


One more Monday night in Afghanistan,
Kids try to do their homework without hands
There’s an enemy around here somewhere,
We gotta draw a line in the sand,
I wonder why they hate us?
We’ve killed all that we can.

There’s a scary sound,
There’s a gathering danger
People talkin’ loud
Voices raised in anger

And if ya turn on the Fox news
What’s Hannity say?
Ta win hearts and minds,
Ya gotta blow ‘em away,
As long as ratings go up,
It’s a perfect war,
So hand me that flag,
I’ll show what it’s for,


Military preparations never cease
Congress meets the generals on bended knee
They offer them our nation
With heartfelt gratitude,
But they couldn’t protect the Pentagon
From a fuckin’ missile, Dude!

The masses getting rude
Our schools are total failures
Our people have no pride
We live in tents and trailers

And in grocery line
The magazines say
You can lose ten pounds in fifteen ways
Bin Laden seen with Elvis in Paris France
Brad’s kicked out,
Angelina wears the pants,


-- Buy American, by Charles Carreon

-- July 4, 1971
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 6:39 pm


Appendix 2: Court Records

Summary of Court Proceedings

United States of America v. New York Times Company

June 13, 1971, The New York Times published the first article in its series on the Pentagon study.

June 15, the Government obtained from the U.S. District Court a temporary restraining order prohibiting The Times from publishing further installments until a hearing on its motion for a preliminary injunction against The Times could take place.

June 17-18, the hearings were held part in public and part in camera (as were all hearings in both these cases) before the court.

June 19, the District Court released its decision to deny the motion (pp. 665-672). The Government obtained a temporary stay of the decision, continuing the prohibition, from the U.S. Court of Appeals pending its appeal.

June 22, the appeal was argued before the full bench (eight judges) of the Court of Appeals.

June 23, the Court of Appeals in a 5-3 decision ruled to continue the stay and remanded the case to the District Court for further hearings (p. 673).

The New York Times then petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari (to review the case). The petition was granted (No. 1873).

United States of America v. The Washington Post Company.

June 18, The Washington Post began its series on the Pentagon study. The Government sought and was refused a temporary restraining order from the U.S. District Court (pp. 674-675).

June 19, the Government petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals, who reversed the decision (in a 2-1 vote) and remanded the case to the District Court for further hearings (pp. 675-680). The Post was restrained from publishing.

June 21, after the hearings, the District Court ruled to deny the Government's motion (pp. 680-683). The Government obtained a temporary stay from the Court of Appeals pending its appeal.

June 23, the Court of Appeals, now in full bench (nine judges), affirmed 7-2 the District Court's decision, but granted a stay pending the Government's appeal to the Supreme Court (pp. 683-686).

The Government then petitioned for certiorari to the Supreme Court which, after denying the Government's request for further in camera proceedings, granted the petition (No. 1885). The case was then merged with The New York Times case before the Supreme Court.

June 26, the Oral Arguments of the parties -- The Times, the Government and The Post -- were heard before the Supreme Court (pp. 687-724).

June 30, the Supreme Court handed down its 6-3 decision to deny any injunction against either newspaper (pp. 725-756).



NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY, et al, Defendants.

Decision of U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, 71 Civ. 2662

June 19, 1971

On June 12, June 13 and June 14, 1971 the New York Times published summaries and portions of the text of two documents -- certain volumes from a 1968 Pentagon study relating to Vietnam and a summary of a 1965 Defense Department study relating to the Tonkin Gulf incident. The United States sues to enjoin the Times from "further dissemination, disclosure or divulgence" of materials contained in the 1968 study of the decision making process with respect to Vietnam and the summary of the 1965 Tonkin Gulf study. In its application for a temporary restraining order the United States also asked the Court to order the Times to furnish to the Court all the documents involved so that they could be impounded pending a determination. On June 15 upon the argument of the order to show cause the Court entered a temporary restraining order against the New York Times in substance preventing the further publication until a determination by the Court upon the merits of the Government's application for a preliminary injunction. The Court at that time, in the absence of any evidence, refused to require the documents to be impounded.

The Government contends that the documents still unpublished and the information in the possession of the Times involves a serious breach of the security of the United States and that the further publication will cause "irreparable injury to the national defense."

The articles involved material that has been classified as Top Secret and Secret, although the Government concedes that these classifications are related to volumes rather than individual documents and that included within the volumes may be documents which should not be classified in such high categories. The documents involved are a 47 volume study entitled "HISTORY OF UNITED STATES DECISION MAKING PROCESS ON VIETNAM POLICY" and a document entitled "THE COMMAND AND CONTROL STUDY OF THE TONKIN GULF INCIDENT DONE BY THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT'S WEAPONS SYSTEM EVALUATION GROUP IN 1965." There is no question that the documents are in the possession of the Times.

The issue of fact with respect to national security was resolved in the following manner. In view of the claim of the Government that testimony in support of its claim that publication of the documents would involve a serious security danger would in itself be dangerous the Court determined that under the "Secrets of State" doctrine an in camera proceeding should be held at which only the attorneys for each side, witnesses for the Government and two designated representatives of The New York Times would be present. It was believed that this would enable the Government to present its case forcefully and without restraint so that the accommodation of the national security interest with the rights of a free press could be determined with no holds barred. It was with reluctance that the Court granted a hearing from which the public was excluded, but it seemed that there was no other way to serve the needs of justice. My finding with respect to the testimony on security will be adverted to below.

1. This case is one of first impression. In the researches of both counsel and of the Court nobody has been able to find a case remotely resembling this one -- where a claim is made that national security permits a prior restraint on the publication of a newspaper. The Times in affidavits has indicated a number of situations in which classified information has been "leaked" to the press without adverse governmental or judicial action. It cites news stories and the memoirs of public officials who have used (shortly after the events) classified material in explaining their versions of the decision making process. They point out that no action has ever been taken against any such publication of "leaks." The Government on the other hand points out that there has never been an attempt to publish such a massive compilation of documents which is probably unique in the history of "leaks." The Vietnam study had been authorized by Secretary of Defense McNamara, continued under Secretary Clifford and finally delivered to Secretary of Defense Laird. The White House was not given a copy. The work was done by a group of historians, including certain persons on contract with the Government. It is actually called a "history." The documents in the Vietnam study relate to the period from 1945 to early 1968. There is no reference to any material subsequent to that date. The Tonkin Gulf incident analysis was prepared in 1965, six years ago. The Times contends that the material is historical and that the circumstance that it involves the decision making procedures of the Government is no different from the descriptions that have emerged in the writings of diarists and memoirists. The Government on the other hand contends that by reference to the totality of the studies an enemy might learn something about United States methods which he does not know, that references to past relationships with foreign governments might affect the conduct of our relations in the future and that the duty of public officials to advise their superiors frankly and freely in the decision making process would be impeded if it was believed that newspapers could with impunity publish such private information. These are indeed troublesome questions.

This case, in the judgment of the Court, was brought by the Government in absolute good faith to protect its security and not as a means of suppressing dissident or contrary political opinion. The issue is narrower -- as to whether and to what degree the alleged security of the United States may "chill" the right of newspapers to publish. That the attempt by the Government to restrain the Times is not an act of attempted precensorship as such is also made clear by the historic nature of the documents themselves. It has been publicly stated that the present Administration had adopted a new policy with respect to Vietnam. Prior policy must, therefore, be considered as history rather than as an assertion of present policy the implementation of which could be seriously damaged by the publication of these documents.

2. The Times contends that the Government has no inherent power to seek injunction against publication and that the power of the Court to grant such an injunction can be derived only from a statute. The Government has asserted a statutory authority for the injunction, namely, the Act of June 25, 1948, c. 645, 62 Stat. 736; Sept. 23, 1950, c. 1024, Tit. I, Sec. 18, 64 Stat. 1003 (18 U.S.C. 793). The Government contends moreover, that it has an inherent right to protect itself in its vital functions and that hence an injunction will lie even in the absence of a specific statute.

There seems little doubt that the Government may ask a Federal District Court for injunctive relief even in the absence of a specific statute authorizing such relief.

The Supreme Court has held that "(o)ur decisions have established the general rule that the United States may sue to protect its interests . . . This rule is not necessarily inapplicable when the particular governmental interest sought to be protected is expressed in a statute carrying criminal penalties for its violation." Wyandotte Co. v. U.S., 389 U.S. 191,201-2 (1967).

In recent times the United States has obtained an injunction against the State of Alabama from enforcing the miscegenation laws of that State. U.S. v. Brittain, 319 F. Supp. 1058, 1061. The United States has been held entitled to restrain a collection of a tax because "the interest of the national government in the proper implementation of its policies and programs involving the national defense such as to vest in it the non-statutory right to maintain this action." U.S. v. Arlington County, 326 F. 2d 929,232-33 (4th Cir. 1964). Recently in U.S. v. Brand Jewelers, Inc., 318 F. Supp. 1293, 1299, a decision by Judge Frankel of this Court collects the authorities illustrating the various situations in which the classic case of In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564 (1895) has been cited. Accordingly, even in the absence of statute the Government's inherent right to protect itself from breaches of security is clear.

That, however, is only the threshold question. Assuming the right of the United States and, indeed, its duty in this case to attempt to restrain the further publication of these documents, the Government claims and the Times denies that there is any statute which proscribes such publication. The argument requires an analysis of the various sections (792-799) contained in Chapter 37 of Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code entitled "ESPIONAGE AND CENSORSHIP." The statute seems to be divided into two parts. The first which for lack of a better term may be considered simple espionage, and the second, the publication of information. The Government relies upon Section 793. There are two subsections concerning which the question of interpretation has arisen. Subsection (d) deals with persons with lawful possession -- "whoever lawfully having possession of any document, writing, code book, etc. . . . relating to the national defense or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation ... " It seems clear that neither the Times nor the Government now claim that subsection (d) applies since it is fairly obvious that "lawful" possession means the possession of Government officials or others who have authorized possession of the documents. The Government, however, relies on subsection (e) which reads as follows:

"(e) Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it; or"

It will be noted that the word "publication" does not appear in this section. The Government contends that the word "communicates" covers the publication by a newspaper of the material interdicted by the subsection. A careful reading of the section would indicate that this is truly an espionage section where what is prohibited is the secret or clandestine communication to a person not entitled to receive it where the possessor has reason to believe that it may be used to the injury of the United States or the advantage of any foreign nation. This conclusion is fortified by the circumstance that in other sections of Chapter 37 there is specific reference to publication. The distinction is sharply made in Section 794 entitled "Gathering or Delivering Defense Information to Aid Foreign Government." Subsection (a) deals with peace-time communication of documents, writings, code books, etc. relating to national defense. It does not use the word "publication." Subsection (b) on the other hand which deals with "in time of war" does punish anyone who "publishes" specific information "with respect to the movement, numbers, description, condition or disposition of any of the Armed Forces, ships, aircraft or war materials of the United States or with respect to the plans or conduct, or supposed plans or conduct of any naval or military operations, or with respect to any works or measures undertaken for or connected with, or intended for the fortification or defense of any place, or any other information relating to the public defense, which might be useful to the enemy ... "

Similarly, in Section 797 one who publishes photographs, sketches, etc. of vital military and naval installations or equipment is subject to punishment. And finally, in Section 798 which deals with "Disclosure of Classified Information" there is a specific prohibition against one who "publishes" any classified information. This classified information is limited to the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or any foreign government for cryptographic or communication intelligence purposes; or the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government, knowing the same to have been obtained by such processes.

The Government does not contend, nor do the facts indicate, that the publication of the documents in question would disclose the types of classified information specifically prohibited by the Congress. Aside from the internal evidence of the language of the various sections as indicating that newspapers were not intended by Congress to come within the purview of Section 793, there is Congressional history to support the conclusion. Section 793 derives from the original espionage act of 1917 (Act of June 15, 1917, Chap. 30, Title I, Sections 1, 2, 4, 6, 40 Stat. 217, 218, 219). At that time there was proposed in H.R. 291 a provision that "(d)uring any national emergency resulting from a war to which the United States is a party or from threat of such a war, the President may, by proclamation, prohibit the publishing or communicating of, or the attempting to publish or communicate any information relating to the national defense, which in his judgment is of such character that it is or might be useful to the enemy." This provision for prior restraint on publication for security reasons limited to war time or threat of war was voted down by the Congress. In the debate Senator Ashhurst in a scholarly speech stated the problem as follows:

"Freedom of the press means simply, solely, and only the right to be free from a precensorship, the right to be free from the restraints of a censor. In other words, under the Constitution as amended by amendment No.1, 'freedom of the press' means nothing except that the citizen is guaranteed that he may publish whatever he sees fit and not be subjected to pains and penalties because he did not consult the censor before doing so." [i]

It would appear, therefore, that Congress recognizing the Constitutional problems of the First Amendment with respect to free press, refused to include a form of precensorship even in war time.

In 1957 the report of the United States Commission on Government Security in urging further safeguards against publication of matters affecting national security recognized that "any statute designed to correct this difficulty must necessarily minimize constitutional objections by maintaining the proper balance between the guarantee of the first amendment, on one hand, and required measures to establish a needed safeguard against any real danger to our national security." Report of the United States Commission on Government Security 619-20 (1957).

Senator Cotton, a sponsor of the bill, recognized in debate that "it should be made crystal clear that at the present time penalties for disclosure of secret information can only be applied against those employed by the Government. The recommendation extended such control over those outside the Government." The bill proposed was never passed. The significance lies, however, in the awareness by the Congress of the problems of prior restraint and its determination to reject them except in the limited cases involved in Section 794 and Section 798 involving codes, communication intelligence, and the like.

The injunction sought by the Government must, therefore, rest upon the premise that in the absence of statutory authority there is inherent power in the Executive to protect the national security. It was conceded at the argument that there is Constitutional power to restrain serious security breaches vitally affecting the interests of the Nation. This Court does not doubt the right of the Government to injunctive relief against a newspaper that is about to publish information or documents absolutely vital to current national security. But it does not find that to be the case here. Nor does this Court have to pass on the delicate question of the power of the President in the absence of legislation to protect the functioning of his prerogatives -- the conduct of foreign relations, the right to impartial advice and military security, for the responsibility of which the Executive is charged against private citizens who are not Government officials. For I am constrained to find as a fact that the in camera proceedings at which representatives of the Department of State, Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified, did not convince this Court that the publication of these historical documents would seriously breach the national security. It is true, of course, that any breach of security will cause the jitters in the security agencies themselves and indeed in foreign governments who deal with us. But to sustain a preliminary injunction the Government would have to establish not only irreparable injury, but also the probability of success in the litigation itself. It is true that the Court has not been able to read through the many volumes of documents in the history of Vietnam, but it did give the Government an opportunity to pinpoint what it believed to be vital breaches to our national security of sufficient impact to contravert the right of a free press. Without revealing the content of the testimony, suffice it to say that no cogent reasons were advanced as to why these documents except in the general framework of embarrassment previously mentioned, would vitally affect the security of the Nation. In the light of such a finding the inquiry must end. If the statute (18 U.S.C. 793) were applicable (which I must assume as an alternative so that this decision may be reviewed by an appellate court), it is doubtful that it could be applied to the activities of the New York Times. For it would be necessary to find as an element of the violation a willful belief that the information to be published "could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation." That this is an essential element of the offense is clear. Gorin v. U.S., 312 U.S. 19 (1941).

I find that there is no reasonable likelihood of the Government successfully proving that the actions of the Times were not in good faith, nor is there irreparable injury to the Government. This has been an effort on the part of the Times to vindicate the right of the public to know. It is not a case involving an intent to communicate vital secrets for the benefit of a foreign government or to the detriment of the United States.

3. As a general matter we start with the proposition that prior restraint on publication is unconstitutional. Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931). As the Supreme Court observed in Grosjean v. American Press Co. Inc., 297 U.S. 233:

"The predominant purpose of the ... (First Amendment) was to preserve an untrammeled press as a vital source of public information. The newspapers, magazines and other journals of the country, it is safe to say, have shed and continue to shed, more light on the public and business affairs of the nation than any other instrumentality of publicity; and since informed public opinion is the most potent of all restraints upon misgovernment, the suppression or abridgement of the publicity afforded by a free press cannot be regarded otherwise than with grave concern." (297 U.S. at 250)

Yet the free press provision of the First Amendment is not absolute. Near v. Minnesota, supra. In the Near case the Court said that "no one would question but that a government might prevent actual obstruction to its recruiting service or the publication of the sailing dates of transports or the number or location of troops." The illustrations accent how limited is the field of security protection in the context of the compelling force of First Amendment right. The First Amendment concept of a "free press" must be read in the light of the struggle of free men against prior restraint of publication. From the time of Blackstone it was a tenet of the founding fathers that precensorship was the primary evil to be dealt with in the First Amendment. Fortunately upon the facts adduced in this case there is no sharp clash such as might have appeared between the vital security interest of the Nation and the compelling Constitutional doctrine against prior restraint. If there be some embarrassment to the Government in security aspects as remote as the general embarrassment that flows from any security breach, we must learn to live with it. The security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions. A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know. In this case there has been no attempt by the Government at political suppression. There has been no attempt to stifle criticism. Yet in the last analysis it is not merely the opinion of the editorial writer or of the columnist which is protected by the First Amendment. It is the free flow of information so that the public will be informed about the Government and its actions.

These are troubled times. There is no greater safety valve for discontent and cynicism about the affairs of Government than freedom of expression in any form. This has been the genius of our institutions throughout our history. It is one of the marked traits of our national life that distinguish us from other nations under different forms of government.

For the reasons given the Court will not continue the restraining order which expires today and will deny the application of the Government for a preliminary injunction. The temporary restraining order will continue, however, until such time during the day as the Government may seek a stay from a Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The foregoing shall constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law under Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

(Gurjein, U.S.D.J.)

So ordered.

Decision of U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Docket No. 71-1617

June 23,1971


Upon consideration by the court ill bane, it is ordered that the case be remanded to the District Court for further in camera proceedings to determine, on or before July 3, 1971, whether disclosure of any of those items specified in the Special Appendix filed with this Court on June 21, 1971, or any of such additional items as may be specified by the plaintiff with particularity on or before June 25, 1971, pose such grave and immediate danger to the security of the United States as to warrant their publication being enjoined, and to act accordingly, subject to the condition that the stay heretofore issued by this court, shall continue in effect until June 25, 1971, at which time it shall be vacated except as to those items which have been specified in the Special Appendix as so supplemented and shall continue in effect as to such items until disposition by the District Court.

(Firendly, Ch.J., Lumbard, Smith, Hay, Mansfield, Circuit Judges)

DISSENTING: Kaufman, Feinberg, Oakes, Circuit Judges.

We dissent and would vacate the stay and affirm the judgment of the Court below.




Decision of U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, 71 Civ. 1235

June 18, 1971

This morning the Washington Post, a paper of general circulation in this city with correspondents throughout the country, published an article based upon matters contained in a 47-volume "top secret" publication prepared under the auspices of the Department of Defense, reviewing various developments relating to the Vietnam war over a period of some sixteen years prior to 1968. The United States, through the Attorney General, seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Post from further publications based on this data, which the Post contemplates making in serial fashion continuing with tomorrow's morning edition which goes to press at 9:00 p.m., and subsequent editions. In a related case, the New York Times, which was also publishing excerpts from this material, has been temporarily enjoined until 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, and proceedings are now in progress in the Southern District of New York, in camera, to determine whether or not a preliminary injunction shall issue against the Times.

The United States contends that the material contained in these 47 volumes is highly sensitive, as its "top secret" designation indicates, and asserts that the United States will be irreparably injured in its conduct of the war and in its diplomatic relations by disclosures which it has reason to believe are contemplated in the subsequent Post articles. 18 U.S.C. § 793 provides for possible criminal sanctions in these circumstances but Congress in that statute did not authorize any injunctive action. Indeed, Congress appears to have condemned any pre-existing restraint or censorship of the press by the language of the Internal Security Act of 1950 (Sec. 1 (b», of which this statute is a part, and the Supreme Court speaking through Chief Justice Hughes in Near V. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931), has outlined the historic reasons supporting the total freedom of the press to publish as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

A temporary restraining order is designed to preserve the status quo for a brief period until all of the issues can be fully developed. It is a matter of discretion with a court whether such an order shall issue. The Court has before it no precise information suggesting in what respects, if any, the publication of this information will injure the United States and must take cognizance of the fact that there are apparently private parties in possession of this data which they will continue to leak to other sources.

What is presented is a raw question of preserving the freedom of the press as it confronts the efforts of the Government to impose a prior restraint on publication of essentially historical data. The information unquestionably will be embarrassing to the United States, but there is no possible way after the most full and careful hearing that a court would be able to determine the implications of publication on the conduct of Government affairs or to weigh these implications against the effects of withholding information from the public. It is to be strongly regretted that the Post has been unwilling to allow the court to pursue this matter over the next two or three days and voluntarily to withhold publication. Unfortunate as this may be, the Post's position does not obviate the necessity for the Court to determine the law, particularly since the Attorney General has stated he will pursue this action regardless of what result is reached in the Times case.

The Post stands in serious jeopardy of criminal prosecution. This is the only remedy our Constitution or the Congress has provided. The Post will be allowed to publish and the request for a temporary restraining order is denied.

The application of the American Civil Liberties Union to participate in these proceedings as amicus is denied.

(Gesell, U.S.D.J.)

So ordered.
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Re: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam W

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2015 6:46 pm


Decision of U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, Docket No. 71-1478

June 19, 1971


Very early this morning, we entered an order in this case summarily reversing an order of the District Court denying appellant, the Government, a temporary restraining order. We now summarize the reasons for the action we deemed necessary in the unusual circumstances with which we were confronted.

Appellees, the Washington Post Company and certain of its officers, are in possession of portions of a 47-volume "top secret" document known as the "History of U.S. Decision-Making Process on Vietnam Policy." Yesterday they published information derived from that document, and admittedly intend to publish more. The Government filed in the District Court a complaint and affidavits of responsible officials claiming that publication of material from the document has prejudiced and will prejudice the conduct of the Nation's military efforts and diplomatic relations, and will result in irreparable harm to the national defense. Appellees claim that the material is historical in character, that its publication therefore cannot reasonably be expected to prejudice defense interests though it may embarrass both governments and individuals, and that the First Amendment protects their right to publish it.

About 8: 00 p.m. yesterday, the District Court denied the Government's request for a temporary restraining order to prevent further publication of this material by appellees. In its memorandum opinion, the Court expressed the views that the Supreme Court's opinion in Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931), supported total freedom of the press, and that criminal sanctions were the Government's only remedy for publication of classified information. The court also said that it had no precise indication of how publication of the material would injure the United States; it felt that other parties may also have copies of the document and may divulge its contents to other sources, so that judicial intervention might ultimately be futile. The court was also concerned that even after a full hearing, it might not be able to weigh the conflicting private, public and governmental interests in secrecy and freedom of the information.

We have concluded that the District Court's action was improper. In the first place, freedom of the press, as important as it is, is not boundless. The Near case relied on so heavily by the District Court involved a broad scheme for injunctions against "obscene, lewd and lascivious" or "malicious, scandalous and defamatory" publications. In the Supreme Court's opinion, that scheme was clearly a prior restraint on the press prohibited by the First Amendment. But Near recognized a narrow area, embracing prominently the national security, in which a prior restraint on publication might be appropriate. See 283 U.S. at 715-16. We think the instant case may lie within that area.

Second, the District Court placed questionable reliance on the traditional rule that equity will not enjoin conduct amounting to crime. The principle is a corollary of the more general principle that equitable relief is inappropriate where there is an adequate remedy at law. The Supreme Court has recognized exceptions to the rule against injunctions to prevent crimes in cases where an important public interest was threatened with irreparable harm. See, e.g., Hecht Co. v. Bowles, 321 U.S. 321 (1944); In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564 (1895). Section l(b) of the Internal Security Act of 1950 indicates that the criminal sanctions the Act provides for dissemination of classified information are not to be construed as establishing military or civilian censorship. 64 Stat. 987; see 18 U.S.C. § 793 (1964). But it is hardly clear that Congress thereby meant to foreclose all possible resort to injunctive relief to protect such information in such exceptional circumstances as would justify prior restraints under Near.

Thus we think the law permits an injunction against publication of material vitally affecting the national security. In this case, the Government makes precisely that claim -- that publication by appellees will irreparably harm the national defense. The District Court nevertheless found that the Government had not advanced even a basis for a temporary restraint to determine whether there is any merit to its claim. Under the circumstances, we think that the District Court erred in that ruling.

We are aware that the Government has not set forth particular elements of prejudice to the national defense, and that the document in question covered a period which ended over four years ago: But we also recognize that the Government may not have been able to make specific allegations without knowing precisely what parts of the document are held by appellees, and that there is an interest in avoiding disclosure of classified information even in court where such disclosure is not crucial to the court's decision. See United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1, 8-10 (1953). The document is admittedly a review of the conduct of military and diplomatic affairs with respect to a war which continues into the present. And the Government did present affidavits of officials in a position to know what sort of harm might result from publication of material derived from the document. These circumstances do not provide a sufficient basis for determining, one way or the other, whether all of the document is essentially historical in character or whether any of it has a present impact on vital matters affecting national security. We do not understand how it can be determined without a hearing and without even a cursory examination of the material that it is nothing but "historical data" without present vitality.

While we are advertent to the heavy burden the Government bears to demonstrate ample justification for any restraint on publication, we are unable to escape the conclusion that the denial of a temporary restraining order may possibly threaten national security. Judicial responsibility, in our view, cannot properly be discharged without some inquiry into the matter. The Government does not ask us to accept its allegations, but only to afford it an opportunity to prove them. While appellees will be delayed by a grant of relief, and while courts should always hesitate to restrain free expression, the injury to appellees from a brief pause in publication is clearly outweighed by the grave potentiality of injury to the national security.

Under these circumstances, we felt compelled to reverse the decision of the District Court, and to restrain publication for the shortest possible period consistent with an opportunity for the Government to substantiate its claims at a hearing on its request for a preliminary injunction.

(Robinson and Robb, Circuit Judges)


DISSENTING: Wright, Circuit Judge

This is a sad day for America. Today, for the first time in the two hundred years of our history, the executive department has succeeded in stopping the presses. It has enlisted the judiciary in the suppression of our most precious freedom. As if the long and sordid war in Southeast Asia had not already done enough harm to our people, it now is used to cut out the heart of our free institutions and system of government. I decline to follow my colleagues down this road and I must forcefully state my dissent.

The executive department has sought to impose a prior restraint on publication of a series of articles by the Washington Post. The district court refused to cooperate. Very basic constitutional principles support the district court's decision.

In Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 713 (1931), Mor. Chief Justice Hughes spoke for the Supreme Court and stated that imposition of prior restraints upon publishing is "the essence of censorship." Id. at 713. He quoted Blackstone, the father of our common law liberties, and Madison, the father of our Constitution, to the effect that prior restraints on speech and press constitute the most heinous encroachment on our freedom. In the early days, Americans such as Madison had hoped that their country would not follow the repressive course of England. "Here, as Madison said, 'the great and essential rights of the people are secured against legislative as well as executive ambition. They are secured, not by laws paramount to prerogative, but by constitutions paramount to laws. This security of the freedom of the press requires that it should be exempt not only from previous restraint by the Executive, but from legislative restraint also.'" Id. at 714.

Under the First Amendment of our Constitution, prior restraints upon speech and press are even more serious than subsequent punishment. There is no question as to the extent of the deterrent effect. A restraining order, imposed by a court, applies directly against a particular individual or newspaper and carries very specific and very severe penalties for contempt. It is imposed before the speech at issue has even seen the light of day. As in this case, it is imposed even before the judges have read the offending material -- imposed quite literally in the dark. The weapon of the prior injunction is a weapon long unused, but potentially deadly.

It is said that a temporary restraining order suppresses free speech only for a few days, and what is the hurry? That argument, in my opinion, cheapens the First Amendment. All of the presumptions must run in favor of free speech, not against it. It is the government, not the newspapers, which should be asked, "what is the hurry?"

Thus we arrive at the key issue here. The burden is on the government. Clearly, there are some situations in which a prior restraint on speech or press might conceivably be allowable. But those situations are very exceptional and must be very convincingly established by the party seeking an injunction. The Near Court recognized as much and said:

the protection even as to previous restraint is not unlimited. But the limitation has been recognized only in exceptional cases: ... No one would question but that a government might prevent actual obstruction to its recruiting service or the publication of the sailing dates of transports or the number and location of troops. On similar grounds, the primary requirements of decency may be enforced against obscene publications. The securing of the community life may be protected against incitements to acts of violence and the overthrow by force of orderly government. The constitutional guaranty of free speech does not 'protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force.'

ld. at 716.

In this case, the executive department has made no alIegations -- to say nothing of convincing showings -- that troop movements or recruitment are threatened. Neither obscenity nor overthrow of the government is at issue. All that is at issue is what the district court termed "essentially historical data." It is at least three years old and as much as twenty years old. It records the plans and policies of bygone days; it does not reveal the current plans of the present administration which, by its own account, is pursuing a different policy.

Since we are dealing with "essentially historical data," the executive department has an even greater burden to suggest what specific sort of harm may result from its publication. Yet it seeks to suppress history solely on the basis of two very vague allegations: (1) the data has been classified as "top secret," because (2) the data is said to adversely affect our national security.

With the sweep of a rubber stamp labeled "top secret," the executive department seeks to abridge the freedom of the press. It has offered no more. We are asked to turn our backs on the First Amendment simply because certain officials have labeled material as unfit for the American people and the people of the world. Surely, we must demand more. To allow a government to suppress free speech simply through a system of bureaucratic classification would sell our heritage far, far too cheaply.

It is said that it is better to rely on the judgment of our government officials than upon the judgment of private citizens such as the publishers of the Washington Post. Again, that misses the point. The First Amendment is directed against one evil: suppression of the speech of private citizens by government officials. It embodies a healthy distrust of governmental censorship. More importantly, it embodies a fundamental trust of individual Americans. Any free system of government involves risks. But we in the United States have chosen to rely in the end upon the judgment and true patriotism of all the people, not only of the officials.

This case would seem to be a good illustration. As the district court said, a detailed account of our initiation and prosecution of the war in Vietnam "unquestionably will be embarrassing to the United States." But that is due to the nature of the history, not to the nature of the account. Surely, mere "embarrassment" is not enough to defeat First Amendment rights. Indeed, it may be a necessary part of democratic self-government. At a time when the American people and their Congress are in the midst of a pitched debate over the war, the history of the war, however disillusioning, is crucial. The executive department, which brought us into the war and which would be primarily "embarrassed" by publication of the material in question, must not be allowed to bury that history at such a time. Democracy works only when the people are informed.

Whatever temporary damage may come to the image of this country at home and abroad from the historical revelations in these Pentagon Papers is miniscule compared to the lack of faith in our government engendered in our people from their suppression. Suppression breeds suspicion and speculation. I suggest the truth is not nearly so devastating as the speculation following suppression. We are a mature people. We can stand the truth.

Thus, in my view, the government faces a very great burden of justification in this case. It has sought to meet that burden with general allegations about national security and "top secret" classifications. It suggests that it may have more specific allegations, but refuses even to hint at them until we bend to its will and grant a temporary restraining order. I refuse to act on such a basis. I believe that the government has not met its burden -- it has not even come close. In that circumstance, I feel duty and honor bound to vote to affirm the decision of the district court.

I respectfully dissent.

Decision of U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, 71 Civ. 1235

June 21, 1911

THE COURT: The Washington Post has certain papers from The History of United States Decision-Making Process on Vietnam Policy, a forty-seven-volume document, which was given an over-all Top Secret classification.

The United States Court of Appeals granted a temporary restraining order against publication by the Post and directed that this Court hold a hearing today and make a determination by 5:00 p.m. with respect to the prayer of the United States for a preliminary injunction against further publication. This Court was directed by the Court of Appeals to determine whether publication of material from this document would so prejudice the defense interests of the United States or result in such irreparable injury to the United States as would justify restraining the publication thereof.

The role of quasi-censor thus imposed is not one that any District Judge will welcome to have placed on him by an appellate decision. It has been a doubly difficult role because the material to be censored is unavailable for there is absolutely no indication of what the Post actually will print and no standards have been enunciated by the Court of Appeals to be applied in a situation such as this, which is one of first impression.

Venturing onto this unfamiliar and uncongenial ground, the Court has in public hearings and in the secret hearings that the Court's directive necessarily required sought to carry out its responsibilities.

Voluminous material was submitted in affidavit form, testimony was taken from several witnesses at the session starting at 8: 00 a.m. today, and the parties were heard in brief oral argument at conclusion.

The Court finds that the documents in question include material in the public domain and other material that was Top Secret when written long ago but not clearly shown to be such at the present time. The Court further finds that publication of the documents in the large may interfere with the ability of the Department of State in the conduct of delicate negotiations now in process or contemplated for the future, whether these negotiations involve Southeast Asia or other areas of the world. This is not so much because of anything in the documents, themselves, but rather results from the fact that it will appear to foreign governments that this Government is unable to prevent publication of actual Government communications when a leak such as the present one occurs. Many of these governments have different systems than our own and can do this; and they censor.

The problem raised in this instance is particularly acute because two major papers are involved and the volume of the material leaked is great.

There has been some adverse reaction in certain foreign countries, the degree and significance of which cannot now be measured even by opinion testimony. No contemporary troop movements are involved, nor is there any compromising of our intelligence.

On the other hand, it is apparent from detailed affidavits that officials make use of classified data on frequent occasions in dealing with the press and that this situation is not unusual except as to the volume of papers involved.

The Court of Appeals apparently felt that the question of irreparable injury should be considered; that is, that the Court should weigh the equities of the situation in the traditional manner; and this Court has attempted to do so. This requires a word with respect to the classification process.

There is no showing that in this instance there was any effort made by the Government to distinguish Top Secret and other material, to separate the two, or, indeed, to make any effort once the publication was completed, to determine the degree, the nature or extent of the sensitivity which still existed in 1968 or for that matter exists at the present time.

At the close of the argument today, the Government stated it was engaged in declassifying some of the material and requested time to complete this process with the thought that permission would then perhaps be given to the Post to publish what is ultimately declassified out of the whole.

The volumes stretch back over a period ,well into the early forties. The criteria of Top Secret are clear; and the Government has not presented, as it must on its burden, any showing that the documents at the present time and in the present context are Top Secret.

There is no proof that there will be a definite break in diplomatic relations, that there will be an armed attack on the United States, that there will be an armed attack on an ally, that there will be a war, that there will be a compromise of military or defense plans, a compromise of intelligence operations, or a compromise of scientific and technological materials.

The Government has made a responsible and earnest appeal demonstrating the many ways in which its efforts particularly in diplomacy will not only be embarrassed but compromised or perhaps thwarted. In considering irreparable injury to the United States, however, it should be obvious that the interests of the Government are inseparable from the public interest. These are one and the same and the public interest makes an insistent plea for publication. This was represented not only in the eloquent statements of Congressman Eckhart, which the Court found persuasive, speaking on behalf of amicus curiae, but it also is apparent from the context in which this situation presents itself.

Equity deals with realities and not solely with abstract principles. A wide-ranging, long-standing and often vitriolic debate has been taking place in this country over the Vietnam conflict. The controversy transcends party lines and there are many shades and differences of opinion. Thus the publications enjoined by the Court of Appeals concern an issue of paramount public importance, affecting many aspects of Governmental action and existing and future policy.

There has, moreover, been a growing antagonism between the Executive branch and certain elements of the press. This has serious implications for the stability of our democracy. Censorship at this stage raises doubts and rumors that feed the fires of distrust.

Our democracy depends for its future on the informed will of the majority, and it is the purpose and effect of the First Amendment to expose to the public the maximum amount of information on which sound judgment can be made by the electorate. The equities favor disclosure, not suppression. No one can measure the effects of even a momentary delay.

Given these circumstances, the Court finds it is still in the same position that it was in when it denied the request for a temporary restraining order. There is presented the raw question of a conflict between the First Amendment and the genuine deep concern of responsible officials in our Government as to implications both immediate and long-range of this breach of confidentiality.

In interpreting the First Amendment, there is no basis upon which the Court may adjust it to accommodate the desires of foreign governments dealing with our diplomats, nor does the First Amendment guarantee our diplomats that they can be protected against either responsible or irresponsible reporting.

The First Amendment in this case prohibits a prior restraint on publication. Accordingly, on the issue of likely success on the merits which is presented in any preliminary injunction application, the Court has concluded there is no likelihood of success. There is not here a showing of an immediate grave threat to the national security which in close and narrowly-defined circumstances would justify prior restraint on publication.

The Government has failed to meet its burden and without that burden being met, the First Amendment remains supreme. Any effort to preserve the status quo under these circumstances would be contrary to the public interest. Accordingly, the Government's prayer for a preliminary injunction is denied.

I have signed an order to that effect in order to facilitate appeal by the United States. I will state now on the record that the Court will not under any circumstances grant a stay.

You may file this.

I wish to again thank counsel in the case.

MR. MARONEY: Would Your Honor grant us a stay of the order dissolving the restraining order to permit us time to go to the Court of Appeals?

THE COURT: I will not grant any stay. You have twenty minutes. I am sure they are waiting for you upstairs.

(Gesell, U.S.D.J.)

Decision of U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, Docket No. 71-1478

June 23, 1971


This is an appeal by the United States from an order of the district court denying a preliminary injunction against the publication of material derived from a document entitled "History of U.S. Decision- Making Process on Vietnam Policy." We affirm the district court.

The district court denied the preliminary injunction after a hearing. By affidavits and the testimony of witnesses at the hearing the government attempted to demonstrate that the publication of the material in question should be restrained because it would gravely prejudice the defense interests of the United States or result in irreparable injury to the United States. The district court found that the government failed to sustain its burden. Specifically, the district court directed the government to present any document from the "History" the disclosure of which in the government's judgment would irreparably harm the United States. The government's affidavits and testimony, presented largely in camera, discussed several of the documents. The district court found either that disclosure of those specific documents would not be harmful or that any harm resulting from disclosure would be insufficient to over-ride First Amendment interests. Having examined the record made before the district court we agree with its conclusion. In our opinion the government's proof, judged by the standard suggested in Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697, 716 (1931), does not justify an injunction.

The vitality of the principle, that any prior restraint on publication comes into court under a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity, was recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States as recently as May 17, 1971. Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe, No. 135, October Term 1970, 39 L.W. 4577.

Our conclusion to affirm the denial of injunctive relief is fortified by the consideration that the massive character of the "leak" which has occurred, and the disclosures already made by several newspapers, raise substantial doubt that effective relief of the kind sought by the government can be provided by the judiciary.

The government has requested a stay in order that it may present this matter to the Supreme Court of the United States. Accordingly, the stay previously entered is continued until 6:00 P.M., Friday, June 25,1971.

(Bazelon, Ch.J., Wright, McGowan, Tamm, Leventhal, Robinson, Robb, Circuit Judges)


DISSENTING: MacKinnon and Wilkey, Circuit Judges.

MacKinnon, Circuit Judge: It is unfortunate that this case comes to us on a blind record in which the actual documents in the possession of the newspaper are not before us. Our ability to deal effectively with the problem is also currently complicated today by the release of the entire 47 volumes to Congress where the problem of disclosure may be compounded. This and the widespread disclosure heretofore made, would minimize the value of any restraining order. However, by agreement of the parties some of the documents will be protected, and an examination of some of the other documents convinces me that we should not entirely abdicate our responsibility to protect the security of our nation's military and diplomatic activities even though the ability of any court to act effectively is greatly impaired by the present climate of disclosure. Since we must pass on some phases of the matter, at the very least I would remand to the District Court for a more precise ruling by the trial court as to several specific documents. I would not reward the theft of these documents by a complete declassification. There is a regular method by which access to classified information can be accomplished and in my view the prescribed method should be followed in this as in other instances. As this case well illustrates, courts are not designed to deal adequately with national defense and foreign policy. Epstein v. Resor, 421 F.2d 930,933 (9th Cir.), cert[iorari] denied, 398 U.S. 965 (1970).

Wilkey, Circuit Judge: I would affirm the action of the trial court in not restraining the publication of the vast majority of these documents, but I must dissent from the blanket, total affirmance of the trial court's action, without a remand for a particularized finding as to the likelihood of harm resulting from the publication of certain specific papers.

We all take pride in freedom of speech and the press as one of the true glories of our form of government, perhaps most eloquently apotheosized by Judge Learned Hand, "To many this is, and always will be, folly; but we have staked upon it our all." [1] This sets an ideal reference point, but Judge Hand, when he uttered those words, was not adjudicating this particular case. Of more relevance to the case at bar are the words of Justice Holmes: "The character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done .... The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree." [2] To which Justice Frankfurter added: "Free speech is not so absolute or irrational a conception as to imply paralysis of the means for effective protection of all the freedoms secured by the Bill of Rights." [3]

In the desire to minimize the prior restraint of publication required in the stay Orders, the compression of time severely handicapped the parties, the trial court and this court in focusing on the few specific documents whose publication presently constitute a clear danger. The Government did not know which documents out of the 47 volumes the Post had in its possession until a partial list was furnished the night before the second hearing before the trial court, a supplemental list was furnished in the middle of the hearing, and not until the Government had time to check the Post description of each document against the 47 volumes was the Government in a position to say whether in its opinion publication would be dangerous or not. The obvious clarifying solution of the Post physically producing the documents in its possession was barred by the Post's objection, sustained by the trial court, that its source would be revealed.

In this state of affairs the Government necessarily relied on affidavits couched in general terms, two dated before and one on the day of the hearing. These and the cross-examination of two affiants on the material in the affidavits did not satisfy the trial court with the requisite specificity as to the clear danger that publication of any single document presently represented. On this state of the record the court here sustains the trial court, saying that the Government did not sustain its admittedly heavy burden of proof to justify a prior restraint on publication.

We have not been furnished any of the original documents. But on careful detailed study of the affidavits in evidence, I find a number of examples of documents which, if in the possession of the Post and if published, could clearly result in great harm to the nation. When I say "harm," I mean the death of soldiers, the destruction of alliances, the greatly increased difficulty of negotiation with our enemies, the inability of our diplomats to negotiate as honest brokers between would-be belligerents.

The court's opinion relies upon the standard of Near v. Minnesota in regard to prior restraint. So do I. Near cites "the publication of sailing dates of transports or the number and location of troops" [4] as obvious examples where prior restraint of publication would be justified. In the affidavit evidence before the trial court and this court there are examples cited which meet this standard. There appears to be a clear and present danger of military casualties enhanced. There are numerous examples of the likely destruction of our diplomatic efforts, and this should not be put on a lower scale than immediate prospective military losses. Only those who think of the settlement of international disputes by sheer military power would derogate the importance of diplomatic negotiations as our first line of defense. It is literally true that when diplomacy fails lives are lost.

Of course the great bulk of these documents probably may be characterized as only embarrassing, some not even that, and are ready for study by journalists, historians and the public: the public should have them. Yet the small percentage which appear dangerous could be grievously harmful to this country.

Since neither we nor the trial court had before it the individual documents, and the trial court dealt only in generalities, because that was necessarily the Government's case, I would remand this case to the trial court for the Government, first, now that it has the Post complete list and has had the time to check the list against the 47 volumes, to say which documents it objects to having published. This, in my judgment, will immediately release the great bulk of these for publication. (If it doesn't, the Government is relying on the wrong standard.) Next, the Government can pinpoint its objections to each of the remaining documents. On the basis of what we heard in oral argument, the Post might agree that some would not be published, leaving a remainder on which it differs with the Government. On the remainder the trial court can then rule, applying the Near standard, but this time knowing to which specific document the standard is to be applied.
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