War History

The Pentagon Papers
Gravel Edition
Volume 3 Chapter 2, "Military Pressures Against North Vietnam, February 1964-January 1965," pp. 106-268. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971)

Section 1, pp. 106-157 Summary February-June, 1964 The first half of 1964 saw the unfolding of an intensive debate and planning effort within the Johnson Administration concerning the desirability, limitations, and risks of mounting major military pressures against North Vietnam. Actual U.S. involvement in SEA increased only slightly during this period. The single notable element of actual increased U.S. involvement during this period was a program of covert GVN operations, designed to impose "progressively escalating pressure" upon the North, and initiated on a small and essentially ineffective scale in February. The active U.S. role in the few covert operations that were carried out was limited essentially to planning, equipping, and training of the GVN forces involved, but U.S. responsibility for the launching and conduct of these activities was unequivocal and carried with it an implicit symbolic and psychological intensification of the U.S. commitment. A firebreak had been crossed, and the U.S. had embarked on a program that was recognized as holding little promise of achieving its stated objectives, at least in its early stages. Thus, a demand for more was stimulated and an expectation of more was aroused. The demands came--mostly from U.S. officials in Saigon and Washington and mostly because of the felt need to do something about a deteriorating situation in SVN--to increase the intensity of the covert operations and to change from covert to overt action. The Khanh government, it should be noted, opposed these demands on the grounds that it would expose the vulnerable GVN to greater pressures from the enemy. With each successive "crisis"--recognition of insufficient intelligence on the nature and scope of the infiltration (December through May), realization of dramatic communist gains in SVN...