Document 36. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara (1)


Washington, June 11, 1965.

US/Allied Troop Deployments to South Vietnam (SVN)

1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed US/Allied force requirements in SVN in the light of recent developments in Southeast Asia and the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). Findings and recommendations resulting from this review are set forth in the following paragraphs.

2. There are significant indications that the communists may be on the threshold of moving the conflict in Southeast Asia to a new and higher level of intensity. By JCSM-415-65, dated 27 May 1965, (2) as supplemented by JCSM 442-65, dated 7 June 1965, (3) the Joint Chiefs of Staff advised you of their views that the deployment of increased numbers of jet fighters, some jet light bombers, and SA-2 surface-to-air missiles to North Vietnam shows a communist decision to add a new dimension to the situation in Southeast Asia. Further, with respect to land combat, the Viet Cong (VC) have been engaged in a build-up of their forces and are capable of mounting regimental-size operations in all four corps areas and at least battalion-size operations in virtually all provinces. Many VC units are well trained and equipped and some are equipped with a new family of weapons. Elements of the 101st Regiment of the 325th North Vietnamese Army (PAVN) Division are in the northern zone of II Corps area, and it is possible that elements of two other regiments of the division are now deployed within the provinces of Kontum-Pleiku and Phu Bon or in nearby Laos. Elements of the 304th PAVN Division are suspected to be in Southern Laos, capable of early movement into the RVN. The communists recently have shown a willingness to take heavy losses to achieve their objectives. So far, the VC have not employed their full capabilities. Only two of the nine VC regiments have been heavily engaged and probably only a similar proportion of their separate battalions have been committed. Recent events as well as captured VC prisoners and documents suggest that a summer campaign is now underway to destroy government forces and, concurrently, first to isolate and then attack district and province towns.

3. RVN ground forces are in a precarious position as to their capability to withstand such an offensive. As a result of recent heavy engagements with the VC, COMUSMACV reports that some ARVN units are beginning to show signs of reluctance to take necessary offensive actions and, in some areas, their steadfastness under fire is coming into doubt. Planned RVN force build-ups have been suspended until November, because of the requirement to allocate available resources toward reconstituting units recently combat-attired. Thus, it is estimated that a further deterioration in the near term will occur through change of force ratios in favor of the communist units in South Vietnam.

4. While a formal appraisal in the form of a SNIE by the USIB has not been conducted, informal polling of the intelligence community indicates general agreement with the COMUSMACV views regarding the enemy and friendly situation in Southeast Asia.

5. In this unstable military situation, appropriate countermeasures are required. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the ground forces situation requires a substantial further build-up of US and Allied forces in the RVN, at the most rapid rate feasible on an orderly basis. The Appendix hereto (4) summarizes US and Allied forces required now for this build-up, designed to provide a substantial and necessary increase in offensive capability. The recommended deployments were discussed with Ambassador Taylor on 9 June 1965 (5) and he foresees no political problems with the Government of Vietnam in the introduction of these forces. Lists in the appendix may be further refined by recommendations from CINCPAC and the Services.

6. In addition to the above deployments, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that air action against North Vietnam should be intensified to include increased armed reconnaissance of LOCs and strikes against militarily important targets. Such action is necessary to reduce DRV capabilities to support the VC and the PAVN, further punish the DRV, and further establish US intent to prevent a communist seizure of SVN.

7. In addition to the actions recommended in JCSM-415-65, JCSM-442-65, and paragraph 6, above, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the deployments shown in the Appendix be approved now for implementation.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Earle G. Wheeler
Joint Chiefs of Staff


(1) Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, JCS Memos, Vol. I. Top Secret.

(2) See Document 318.

(3) In this memorandum to the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff indicated that they had reviewed Special National Intelligence Estimates 10-6-65, 10-6/1-65, and 10-7-65, and concluded that "these intelligence estimates sustain the judgments advanced to you in JCSM-415-65." (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 70 A 1265, Vietnam 381)

(4) Not printed.

(5) No record of the discussion cited here has been found.


Copyright Digital History 2018