U. S. Planes Blast Laos; Troops Poised at Border
From Wire Dispatches
North Vietnamese troops retreated under the furious lash of U. S. air power yesterday as South Vietnamese forces pushed westward across parts of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Southern Laos.
Although 10,000 U. S. ground troops remained poised on the Laotian border directly behind the South Vietnamese forces, both Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird and Secretary of State William P. Rogers denied that U. S. ground troops would be brought into the Laotian attack.
Senator Jacob K. Javits, (R-N. Y.), expressed serious doubts yesterday about Rogers's claim to newsmen after a closed hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that all U. S. troops will eventually be withdrawn.
Javits said that the United States is possibly so committed in Southeast Asia that "some kind of military presence" will remain indefinitely.
Foreign Relations Chairman J. William Fulbright, (D-Ark.), also found little encouragement in Laird's and Rogers's repeated reassurances that the Laotian invasion was necessary for American troop withdrawal.
In the meantime, the White House has sent over 600 editorial writers a Joseph Alsop newspaper column charging that Fulbright is "downright eager" for the Laotian operation to fail because it would prove he is right in opposing the action.
The Laotian Premier, Prince Souvanna Phouma, said that the Laotian government "deplored once again that foreign troops belonging to countries and governments that have pledged to guarantee and defend the sovereignty, neutrality and inviolability of Laos have chosen to deliberately use her territory as a field of battle."
On the second day of the operation, the main column of South Vietnamese forces had proceeded about 12 miles inside Laos. Working in front of the South Vietnamese, U. S. Cobra helicopters attacked supply depots 15 miles inside Laos.
A South Vietnamese field commander said he expected his troops to cut off all the roads that form the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the last major supply route of the North Vietnamese to Cambodia and South Vietnam.
The 20,000 South Vietnamese troops entering Laos were moving under the cover of U. S. combat planes which had been flying missions daily against the Ho Chi Minh Trail and other targets in Laos.
In addition to U. S. fighter planes, Strategic Air Command B-52 heavy bombers are supporting the South Vietnamese effort.