The Pentagon Papers Essay Research Paper The

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The Pentagon Papers Essay, Research Paper The Pentagon Papers In 1967, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara commissioned what has come to be known as the Pentagon Papers–a massive top-secret history of the U.S. role in Indochina. The result was approximately 3,000 pages of narrative and more than 4,000 pages of appended documents–about 2.5 million words. Forty-seven volumes cover U.S. involvement in Indochina from World War II through May 1968, the month the peace talks began in Paris. Among other things, the Pentagon Papers document the activities of sabotage and terror warfare against North Vietnam beginning in 1954 and the moves that encouraged and influenced the overthrow of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. The papers represent the most

complete secret archives of government decision-making on Indochina. Rarely has a collection of documents similar to these papers come to light in modern history. Included in the papers is McNamara’s December 1963 memorandum to President Lyndon B. Johnson summarizing the situation in Vietnam as very disturbing. “Current trends, unless reversed in the next 23 months,” he said, “will lead to neutralization at best and more likely to a Communist-controlled state.” A coup had just been completed, and the new leader of a military revolutionary council, General Duong Van Minh, and his generals were so occupied with political affairs that military operations were suffering. McNamara highlighted the “Country Team” as the second major weakness and wrote that it was poorly

informed and not working to a common plan. He stated flatly: “Lodge [Henry Cabot Lodge, ambassador to South Vietnam, 19631967] has virtually no official contact with Harkins [General Paul Harkins, first commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV)]. Lodge sends in reports of military implications without showing them to Harkins and does not show Harkins important incoming traffic. My impression is that Lodge simply does not know how to conduct a coordinated administration….He has just operated as a loner all of his life and cannot readily change now.” McNamara continued his gloomy report with a summary of the Viet Cong infiltration, estimating that between 1,000 and 1,500 Viet Cong cadres entered South Vietnam from Laos in the first nine months of 1963.

Operations Plan 34A (OPLAN 34A), which the Pentagon documents call “an elaborate program of covert military operations against the state of North Vietnam,” was conceived by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and began on February 1, 1964. President Johnson ordered the implementation of the program based on McNamara’s recommendation, though without the support of the intelligence community, in the hope that progressively escalating pressure from the clandestine attacks might eventually force Hanoi to order the Viet Cong guerrillas in Vietnam and the Pathet Lao in Laos to halt their insurrections. McNamara directed the clandestine operations through a section of the Joint Chiefs organization called the Office of Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities. A second

major segment of the Johnson administration’s covert war against North Vietnam was air operations in Laos, where a force of propeller-driven North American T-28 fighter-bombers had been organized. The planes bore Laotian air force markings, but only some belonged to Laos. The remainder were manned by pilots of Air America, financed and controlled by the CIA under the control of Ambassador Leonard Unger. Throughout 1964, OPLAN 34A operations ranged from flights over North Vietnam by Lockheed U-2 spy planes to kidnappings of North Vietnamese citizens for intelligence information, parachuting sabotage and psychological warfare teams into the North, commando raids from the sea to blow up rail and highway bridges, and bombardment of North Vietnamese coastal installations by