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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Johnson Administration > Volume V
Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 1-22

Marigold, Sunflower, and the Continuing Search for Peace, January-February

1. Paper Prepared by the President’s Special Consultant (Taylor)/1/

Washington, January 1, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Taylor Report on Overseas Operations and Misc. Memos. Secret. A marginal note indicates that Taylor sent this paper to President Johnson. In a January 3 memorandum to the President, Taylor requested that his role as special consultant be terminated. (Ibid., Gen. Taylor (2 of 2)) Rostow forwarded both memoranda to the President on January 4. The next day, Rostow called Taylor and told him that the President wished him to "stay on." (Rostow note on memorandum from Rostow to the President, January 4; ibid.) At the direction of the President, Rostow sent copies of Taylor's memoranda to Secretaries McNamara and Rusk. (Memorandum from Rostow to Rusk and McNamara, January 5; ibid.)


As we enter the New Year, there are many aspects of the situation in Viet-Nam which deserve review but I have singled out only two for comment in this paper because of their prime importance.

a. Role of United States Ground Forces

There is a clear trend toward an expanded role for United States Ground Forces during the coming year, a trend which results from the success of our offensive search-and-destroy operations and the sluggishness of the pacification program. (For convenience, I continue to use that inadequate word "pacification" to refer to all those military and civil activities involved in clearing, holding, securing and rebuilding rural South Viet-Nam.) It will be further accentuated if the Viet Cong adopt or attempt to adopt a policy of reversion to small guerrilla-type operations and of avoidance of large unit clashes with our forces. If this kind is not checked, it can result in the deep involvement of our forces in clear-and-hold operations, static security missions, and local civil administration.

It is impossible to argue against the importance, indeed the indispensability of these activities but I have real concern over assuming them as primary tasks for United States ground forces. In the first place, they are inconsistent with the distinguishing attributes of our troops--mobility, fire-power and aptitude for the offensive. By their nature, they would impose relatively static, defensive dispositions on our units with responsibilities for terrain, population and local administration which raise a host of questions. How well would our troops deal with the problems arising from a close intermingling with the civilian population? If successful in their community relations, will it be at the expense of the relationship of the GVN with their own citizens? What about the growing "colonialist" image of the white man? Where do we get the non-military skills to deal with the local, civil problems?

I suspect that our troops would perform quite well in this new environment and that we would thus resolve a lot of the short-term problems which are delaying progress in pacification. I am not at all sure, however, that we would not thereby create long-term problems resulting from substituting American initiative and leadership in areas where the Vietnamese must eventually assume responsibility. Most of all, I am concerned by the implications of added troop requirements if this trend to expanded missions goes unchecked.

At the time of the submission of General Westmoreland’s "Concept of Military Operations in South Viet-Nam" last August,/2/ I suggested that a searching analysis of the implicit troop requirements be made at that time. Now I again suggest the need for looking this issue clearly in the eye and deciding what roles our ground forces should undertake in the pacification field. If no limit is set in principle, Washington will continue to receive from Westmoreland repeated requests for troops which it may be hard to decline. If he is not given policy guidance, Westmoreland will be justified in assuming that his concepts for the employment of our troops are consistent with Washington policy. But is it? We need to be sure of the answer.

/2/Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 220.

I would think that, before accepting the inevitability of this expanded role for United States troops, we would leave no stone unturned to assure the Armed Forces of Viet-Nam have made a maximum contribution to pacification under the terms of their new assignment.

b. Preparations for a Viet-Nam Settlement

Although I am not privy to current actions in the government to prepare for a settlement of the Viet-Nam situation, I am struck by the lack of public discussion of the very real problems involved in a settlement and hence the lack of preparation of public opinion for their appearance and for the conduct of our government in coping with them.

The problems I have in mind are those related to such things as getting talks started under conditions favorable to a definitive settlement, keeping discussions going without bogging down in a Panmunjom kind of stalemate and, throughout, playing our "blue chips" wisely and effectively so that we come away from the conference table with our basic objective of an independent South Viet-Nam, free from the danger of external aggression.

Such problems relate to a formal negotiation; a tacit settlement in which violence merely subsides and eventually goes away would avoid many of these but would have others of its own. How to verify and measure subsidence? How to determine when our objective has been attained and when it is safe to go home? While fewer in number than for the negotiated settlement, these questions might prove more time-consuming than the requirements of a full-dress conference.

In either case, if we are not to sacrifice our basic objective, our government is going to have to take and maintain some very tough and unpopular positions before domestic and international opinion. We will have to justify the rejection of peace feelers which clearly have no motivation beyond a desire for propaganda advantage. We must avoid the pitfalls of accepting a cease-fire, almost certain to work to our disadvantage, and seek instead to negotiate a complete package which will include a cessation of both military and terrorist actions. To avoid foot-dragging at a conference, we will be obliged to continue to keep military pressure on the enemy--on this point, we need to reread Admiral Joy’s record of the stalemate at Panmunjom./3/

/3/Reference is to Admiral C. Turner Joy, How the Communists Negotiate (New York: Macmillan, 1955).

In justification of the play of our "blue chips", we need to identify them openly and give some indication of our estimate of their worth--particularly of the chip representing our bombing of the North. It is perfectly apparent that the Communist World has mounted a world-wide campaign (assisted by certain of our fellow citizens on the home front) to force us to play this chip in advance for the privilege of negotiating. But I do not believe that the significance of this campaign is generally clear to the public nor is the reason why it would be fatal to the attainment of our basic objective to surrender this chip to the Communist-inspired clamor.

In a settlement based on the subsidence of violence, we will have the task of insisting on a graduated de-escalation in phase with verified performance by the other side--a verification difficult and slow to obtain. We will need patience and determination to see this process through, resisting throughout any emotional impulse to "bring the boys home" as occurred at the end of World War II.

My conclusion is that we need to be sure of our own government position on these and similar points and prepare our people in advance for the courses of action which we are likely to take--courses which many of our people will find unreasonably harsh. To get their support, we need to restate over and over the importance of our basic objective and the need to clinch it at the conference table.. Otherwise we will lose the sacrifices which we and our allies have made and the gains achieved in other fields in over a decade of conflict.


/4/Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.


2. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) and the Commander in Chief, Pacific Forces (Sharp)/1/

Saigon, January 2, 1967, 1238Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIII, Cables. Secret; Immediate; Exclusive.

MACJ00 00160. Personal for Admiral Sharp and General Wheeler from General Westmoreland. Subject: Year-end assessment of enemy situation and enemy strategy (U).

1. (U) As the year ends, it occurs to me that you may find useful a current summary of the enemy’s situation; his objectives, tactics and strategy; and my evaluation thereof.

2. (S) Summary of the enemy situation: Forces currently available to the enemy in SVN as identified in MACV order of Battle are nine 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. The principal threats posed are in the DMZ area, the Chu-Pong region, and the Tay-Ning/Phuoc Long area of Northern III CTZ. Although enemy forces in these areas have been punished in operations during 1966, they have not been destroyed and are continuing efforts to reinforce, resupply, and plan for resumption of operations in a winter-spring campaign. Enemy capabilities throughout SVN are summarized in the following paragraphs:

A. Attack. The enemy can attack at any time selected targets in I, II, and III CTZ in up to division strength and in IV CTZ in up to regimental strength, supported by local force and guerrillas. Simultaneously, he can continue harassing attacks throughout SVN.

(1) In I CTZ, he can attack objectives in the DMZ area (Quang Tri Province) with elements of the 324B and 341st NVA Divisions supported by one separate regiment. Additionally, he can attack objectives in Quang Tin or Quang Ngai Provinces with the 2d NVA Division and two regiments of the 3d NVA Division. In Thua Tien and Quang Nam Provinces he can attack in up to regimental strength.

(2) In II CTZ, he has the capability to attack in Western Pleiku, Southern Kontum, or Northern Darlac Provinces with elements of the 1st and 10th NVA Divisions, in Northern Binh Dinh Province with one regiment of the 3d NVA Division, and in Pho Yen and Northern Khanh Hoa Provinces with elements of the two regiments of the 5th NVA division.

(3) In III CTZ, he can attack with the 9th VC and possibly the 7th NVA Divisions in Tay Ninh, Binh Long, Binh Duong, or Phuoc Long Provinces, and in Phuoc Tuy and Southern Long Khanh Provinces with elements of the two regiments of the 5th VC Division. He also can sabotage GVN and FW shipping transiting the Rung Sat special zone with a sapper battalion; harass installations and LOC’s in Gia Ding Province with elements of the 165A VC Regiment. He has the capability of continuing his terror campaign in Saigon/Cholon.

(4) In IV CTZ, he can attack in up to regimental strength in Chuong Thien and Dinh Tuong Provinces, and in up to reinforced battalion strength throughout the rest of the CTZ. Militia and guerrilla forces predominate, and emphasis is on harassing attacks and local action to consolidate and extend his control.

B. Political attack. The enemy is expected to continue efforts to: destroy the effectiveness of hamlet, village, district, provincial, and national governments by elimination, intimidation, and subversion of GVN officials; discredit and erode GVN political authority at all levels by conducting propaganda attacks against elected and appointed GVN officials and against GVN programs./2/

/2/The enemy also scored propaganda points by declaring on January 1 a Tet cease-fire for the period February 8-15. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, p. 818.

C. Economic attack. We expect the enemy to intensify efforts to impose an economic blockade against the GVN by denying the latter access to its own resources; conduct overt and covert operations throughout SVN against targets of vital economic significance to the maintenance and growth of the GVN economy; stimulate inflation by diverting commodities destined for SVN markets and by denying commodities from markets through interdiction and harassment of LOC’s; and undermine the people’s confidence in SVN currency by propaganda and possible counterfeiting.

D. Reinforce. The enemy has the demonstrated capability to reinforce in SVN by infiltrating personnel and units from NVN at a rate of about 8,400 men per month and by in-country recruitment of about 3,500 per month in VC main and local forces. In the tactical sense, his dependence on foot movement normally precludes major reinforcement on the battlefield beyond attack forces initially committed. Defensively, he normally conducts holding actions to enable extrication of the main body rather than reinforcing.

(1) In I CTZ, he can reinforce his attack or defense through the DMZ and from Laos within three to ten days after commencing movement with three divisions, three infantry regiments, and eight infantry battalions. He can reinforce his attack or defense with one infantry division from Binh Dinh Province in II CTZ and one infantry regiment from Kontum Province in II CTZ in twelve days after commencing movement. Many of these units are presently understrength.

(2) In II CTZ, he can reinforce his attack or defense in northern II CTZ within ten days by elements of one infantry division from southern I CTZ and in southern II CTZ within five to ten days after commencing movement by up to two regiments from III CTZ.

(3) In III CTZ, he can reinforce his attack or defense in the northern portion with three separate battalions from II CTZ and with one regiment from IV CTZ within three to ten days after commencing movement.

(4) Preponderance of militia and local forces in IV Corps and the reliance upon encroachment through local and harassing action makes large unit reinforcement unlikely in IV CTZ.

(5) Politically and economically, the enemy will seek to reinforce his effort by increased assistance from other Communist countries, principally Communist China and the USSR, and there is no indication that current levels of aid will decrease. In SVN, he will reinforce by infiltrating additional political and economic cadre from NVN, and by training additional cadre in country.

E. Withdraw. He has the capability to withdraw or break down his main force units and attempt to achieve his objectives by guerrilla and small unit operations. Furthermore, he can stop his political warfare and withdraw elements of the infrastructure from disputed and/or GVN controlled areas. While he has these capabilities, there is no evidence that he is fragmenting his forces, reverting to exclusively guerrilla type operations, or downgrading his political and economic effort.

3. (S) Enemy strategy: The conclusion to be drawn from the enemy’s strength increase of some 42,000 during 1966 is that despite known losses, he has been able to maintain a proportional counter-buildup to the growth of US/FWMA forces. Sources of this increase are in-country conscription and foot infiltration down the trails from NVN through the DMZ, but principally through Laos and the Cambodian extension. To understand what the enemy is doing and is likely to do in the coming year, it is essential to understand his objectives, strategy, and major tactics, all of which derive from the principles of insurgency warfare (or "wars of national liberation") which essentially are political in nature and which have been described by Mao Tse Tung, Vo Nguyen Giap, and others such as Che Guevara with clarity and conviction. To aid in conveying this picture I have summarized in the succeeding sub paragraphs my estimate of his overall strategy and its probable continued application.

A. Objectives: The enemy’s objectives in SVN may be expressed under two dual headings: to extend his control over the population of SVN and to prevent the GVN from controlling that population; to reduce the will to resist of the US/FWMAE and their governments and correspondingly to strengthen his own posture and will.

B. Strategy: The enemy’s favored doctrine of "strategic mobility" has been the subject of debate in NVN. Politburo member Nguyen Chi Thanh has held that the proper application is to initiate mobile warfare with simultaneous attacks throughout SVN. Defense Minister Vo Nguyen Giap, whose view has prevailed as seen by our experience, favors a "defensive/offensive" version of strategic mobility consisting of these factors:

(1) Developing strong, multi-division forces in dispersed regions accessible to supplies and security.

(2) enticing US/FWMA forces into prepared positions where dug-in Communist forces may inflict heavy casualties upon them.

(3) Conducting concurrent, intensified guerrilla and harassment pressure country-wide to tie down our forces, destroy small units, attack morale, and extend his control.

4. (S) Evaluation:

A. Present enemy dispositions, logistics, and level of combat indicate a continued adherence to the doctrine of strategic mobility implemented by Giap’s "defensive/offensive" major tactics. Our intelligence does not indicate a change in enemy strategy, tactics, or weapons now or in the coming year, although this possibility remains under continuous scrutiny. Specifically, we have no evidence of an intent to fragment his main forces and revert exclusively to guerrilla-type operations.

B. The enemy was hurt during 1966 in many areas, and his principal concentrations near sanctuaries at the DMZ, in the Chu Pong region, and in the Tay Ninh/Binh Long areas, have been contained by our preemptive operations as a result of which he has suffered heavy losses. He is avoiding major contact by fighting defensively when forced to do so, and attempting to rebuild and reinforce for winter-spring campaign operations. It would be premature to assume that an apparent decrease in activity in December just prior to holiday standdowns is indicative of a change in trend. Further, it would be erroneous to conclude that VC main force and NVA formations are no longer dangerous, that their unit integrity has been destroyed, or that their logistical capability has fallen below that needed to sustain his war of conquest by attrition.

C. On level of battalion [garble--combat?] the enemy has maintained throughout 1966 is about 1 day in 30. This level is consistent with his strategy of conserving his forces while attriting US/FWMA forces, and is within his capability to support logistically. If forced to a higher level such as 1 day in 15, he will encounter difficulty.

D. It is probable that the enemy during the coming year will attempt to infiltrate men and supplies into SVN by sea, through Laos and Cambodia, and across the DMZ to: counter-balance the US/FWMAF build-up; maintain a credible threat posture; attrit friendly forces and determination by inflicting casualties and prolonging the conflict; maintain and promote expansion of the insurgency base (infra-structure and militia); and continue his protracted war to control the people of SVN./3/

/3/In a memorandum requested by Secretary of Defense McNamara, the CIA also concluded that "the present force level can be sustained if Hanoi chooses." (Memorandum from Kent to Helms, January 9; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIII, Cables)


3. Editorial Note

Harrison Salisbury, a senior reporter for The New York Times, visited Hanoi December 23, 196-January 7, 1967. As a result of his trip, he wrote nearly two dozen articles for the newspaper alleging that U.S. aerial bombardment had caused extensive damage to civilians and non-military targets. See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume IV, Document 352. Although Salisbury’s critique concerned the administration, U.S. officials did little to dispute the dispatches publicly. However, in private some argued that Salisbury’s reports "contain exaggerations and that where they were not clearly based on Salisbury’s own observations, they appear to lean heavily on North Vietnamese propaganda." (Telegram 111162 to Saigon, December 31, 1966; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 27 VIET S)

Salisbury’s most important contact in Hanoi was on January 2 with Democratic Republic of Vietnam Premier Pham Van Dong. During this long discussion, Dong insisted that the National Liberation Front’s official terms for ending the war, known as the Four Points, were not "preconditions" for settlement talks, but rather a simple framework for any eventual settlement. Salisbury later wrote that Dong had implied that if Washington made the first move by unconditionally ending the bombing of the North, "we would know what to do," a statement that Salisbury believed was a rejection of overt reciprocity but not of secret, direct discussions. (Harrison Salisbury, Behind the Lines--Hanoi, New York: Harper & Row, 1967, pages 192-205)

The First Secretary of the French Embassy in Washington Roger Duzer informed Richard Smyser of the Vietnam Working Group that Hungarian officials told the French that Hanoi no longer insisted upon U.S. acceptance of the Four Points in advance of negotiations and observed that Mai Van Bo had recently remarked that Hanoi would "examine and study" possible negotiations if bombing ceased permanently and unconditionally. Duzer thought this was a "new position." (Memorandum of conversation, January 5, 5:30 p.m.; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, EA/VN Files: Lot 75 D 167, TS-POLMIL-DRV/PRG-Negotiations and Settlement, 1965-67) The Four Points included an end to U.S. involvement and warfare in Vietnam, the implementation of the military provisions of the 1954 Geneva Accords, a political settlement "in accordance with the programme of the South Vietnam National Liberation Front," and the peaceful reunification of Vietnam without foreign interference. For text of the Four Points, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume II, Document 245.

On January 13 in Washington, Salisbury met with Secretary of State Rusk and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs William P. Bundy to brief them on his visit to North Vietnam, and especially Dong’s statement on the relation between the Four Points and a bombing cessation. Salisbury argued that the Prime Minister’s remarks (which Hanoi did not want to be made public) represented a moderation in North Vietnam’s negotiating stance. He presented the notes of his meeting, which differed in significant ways from the final version edited by North Vietnamese officials. Most important was the exclusion of Dong’s statement that if the United States "stops doing harm to the North we know what we should do," a remark that was deleted by the DRV censors. Salisbury maintained that this act indicated that it was a statement meant to remain confidential and thus was of great importance. In addition, Salisbury drew the conclusion that Dong, although remaining elusive on reciprocal restraints, did not reject the convening of private talks with U.S. officials. The "atmospherics" of his visit demonstrated in his mind that Hanoi was prepared for "secret explorations." Memorandum of conversation, January 13; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-69, POL 27-14 VIET S) Another debriefing of Salisbury conducted by Department of Defense officials was summarized in a January 20 memorandum from the Director of the Office of Research and Analysis for East Asia and the Pacific of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Frederick Greene, to Bundy. (Ibid., EA Files: Lot 74 D 246, Miscellaneous-Salisbury)


4. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 3, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-67, POL 27-14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Top Secret; Marigold. The date is handwritten on the memorandum and a note indicates that Rusk saw it. The memorandum was used at a luncheon meeting that day with the President, Rostow, and McNamara which lasted from 1:35 to 4 p.m. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) A substantive record of the meeting has not been found. On December 15, 1966, Paul Martin, Canadian Foreign Minister, suggested using the offices of the International Control and Supervisory Commission to bring about the opening of peace talks. As an initial step, he proposed a meeting of the ICC representative nations (Canada, Poland, and India) to begin the process of mediating the conflict without the venue of a formal conference (which the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was reluctant to enter into at this point). (Telegram 105378, December 19, and telegram 105380, December 19, both to Ottawa; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-67, POL 27-14 VIET S) Martin had received a proposal from the Indian Government for a meeting of the ICC in New Delhi. See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 351.

Necessary Actions in Connection with the Marigold Project

1. As you know, Rapacki on December 29 told Gronouski that Hanoi was definitely not prepared for direct talks, despite our undertaking to suspend bombing within ten miles of the center of Hanoi for an indefinite period. Rapacki claimed that Hanoi believed that our bombing, particularly of December 13-14, showed clearly that we were not in good faith in seeking talks. Rapacki thinks the possibility of getting conversations started through the Poles is now dead./2/

/2/The conversation was reported in telegram 1596 from Warsaw, December 30, 1966; for text, see ibid., Document 355.

2. We do not recommend any new approach to Rapacki or any revision of our offer of December 24./3/ The question remains, however, whether we should continue to refrain from bombing within ten miles of the center of Hanoi.

/3/See ibid., Document 351.

3. Meanwhile, we have disturbing information that--in addition to the Italians and the Soviets--the Poles have given the Pope "all details" as of approximately December 23, and that on December 23 the Poles gave U Thant an account of events through December 16./4/ Finally, the Canadians informed us yesterday (January 2)/5/ that on December 28 U Thant had "in utmost confidence" informed the Canadian UN representative of the account the Poles had given him on December 23.

/4/Also reported in telegram 1596 from Warsaw; see footnote 2 above.

/5/Rusk discussed the Marigold initiative with Canadian Ambassador C.S.A. Ritchie on January 2. Tab A not printed, is the memorandum of conversation of the meeting.

4. We do not know exactly what the Pope has been told, but it is reasonable to suppose that it is the same as the account to U Thant and the Canadians. This we do have, and the full Canadian report is attached as Tab A. While generally accurate in chronology, this report certainly gives the impression that we torpedoed the possibility of direct talks by our bombings. It glosses over completely Rapacki’s haggling between December 5 and December 11 on the interpretation question, and it omits completely all the events since December 16, including our undertaking of December 24.

5. In the light of these known disclosures, we believe the danger is now acute that the Pope, U Thant, and the Canadians all believe we were badly in the wrong. There is a second, and almost equally serious, danger--that the widening of the circle may lead at any moment to a public disclosure in some fashion highly unfavorable to us. U Thant in particular is emotional and not always discreet, and however closely the matter may have been held in all three quarters (not to mention Rome), a leak or intentional disclosure is now all too likely.

6. For these reasons alone, we now recommend that we given the Pope, U Thant, and the Canadians a full account of the whole episode up to this point, along the lines of Tab B./6/ In the case of the Pope and U Thant, Goldberg and our Ambassador in Rome should handle this--without indicating our knowledge that they already have some information--on the basis that we believe they should have a full account. With the Canadians, who have come to us virtually asking for a full picture, we would simply be providing this to them.

/6/Tab B, not printed, was a draft of a full account of Marigold to be given to the Pope, U Thant, and the Canadians. The British and the Italians also received briefings. Instructions for and reports of these briefings are in telegram 3458 from USUN, January 3; memorandum for the record, January 5; telegram 114278 to Rome, January 6; and telegram 112886 to Rome, January 8. (All National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/MARIGOLD)

7. The second immediate action question concerns our bombing pattern. Even though Rapacki assumes Marigold is dead, it is possible that Soviet intervention could still bring about some forward motion. We have given the Soviets a strong justification of our line of conduct (Bundy to Zinchuk on December 22 and 27, Thompson briefly to Dobrynin on December 30),/7/ including a full statement of our undertaking not to bomb within ten miles of the center of Hanoi. Even though the Soviets (Dobrynin to Thompson) purport not to understand our actions, they apparently do understand our difficulty with the Poles, and if the situation remains undramatic with respect to the bombing for an additional period, it is just possible that they would be able to get something going again. I myself will be talking to Dobrynin within the next two or three days and will spell out our basic willingness for bilateral talks, with a full explanation of why we have acted as we have up to this point. This hope alone would warrant continuing our undertaking with respect to Hanoi. Moreover, with U Thant emotional, any renewal of bombing in the Hanoi area might drive him over the edge and cause him to make a public disclosure.

/7/See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 354.

8. Indeed, we believe that the over-all situation should cause us not only to refrain from bombing within ten miles of the center of Hanoi but to avoid for the time being any dramatic attacks on North Vietnam, particularly if these may involve civilian casualties. I have asked Secretary McNamara to review current authorizations to see if this guideline would require any change. He joins me in recommending:

a. Adhering to the undertaking not to bomb within ten miles of the center of Hanoi.

b. Avoiding any dramatic attacks on the lines defined above.

9. A third, and somewhat lesser, question concerns the Indian suggestion for a meeting of the ICC nations in the near future. The Canadians have specifically asked for an expression of our attitude on this initiative in view of Marigold. I have told them tentatively that we believed the ICC project has merit in any event, since it might open the way to discussions on Cambodia or other less sensitive topics. As to the poles, Gronouski has told Rapacki that the ICC project could be useful and could also serve to camouflage anything that may happen under Marigold. To the Indians we have consistently encouraged the project./8/ In light of the specific Canadian requests, I recommend that we now reiterate in categorical terms our favorable attitude, to all three nations.

/8/On January 4 Secretary of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs T.N. Kaul met with the DRV Consul General in New Delhi. The Consul General asserted that "if America stops bombing of North Vietnam unconditionally and indefinitely, this would lead to cessation of hostilities and other steps." The Indians considered the Consul General's statement "more than a whisper" and told Ambassador to India Chester Bowles that Washington should respond to this overture. (Telegram 113614, January 6; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/NIRVANA) On January 13 Kaul received word from the Indian Consul in Hanoi that the North Vietnamese had called for a quiet extension of the Tet cease-fire, after which the United States and South Vietnam could enter into negotiations with the NLF, the conclusion of which the DRV would abide by. (Telegram 1003/2/from New Delhi, January 13; ibid.) However, news of Kaul's intercessions reached the press that day. Given North Vietnamese sensitivities, the publicity effectively ended the channel. (Telegram 118714 to New Delhi, January 13, and telegram 10228 from New Delhi, January 18; ibid.) On January 30 Bowles reported that the North Vietnamese Consul told Kaul that Hanoi was "prepared" to enter into negotiations once the bombing of North Vietnam ended. The Government of India was considered the DRV statement to have been a "serious move reflecting a genuine desire of Hanoi govt to reach a settlement acceptable to both sides." (Telegram 10807 from New Delhi, January 30; ibid.)

10. In summary, we recommend the following actions:/9/

/9/None of these recommendations is checked, although apparently were approved at the luncheon meeting.

A. Informing the Pope, U Thant, and the Canadians fully on Marigold.

B. Maintaining our undertaking not to bomb within ten miles of the center of Hanoi, and avoiding any dramatic bombing attacks elsewhere in North Vietnam.

C. Reiterating to the Canadians, Poles, and Indians that we take a completely favorable view of a possible ICC initiative.

Dean Rusk/10/

/10/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


5. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 3, 1967, 7:10 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. I. Top Secret; Literally Eyes Only.

Mr. President:

The reason this improbable message interests me is because while recognizing all the reasons Hanoi might wish to sweat us out through 1968, I have come to believe it conceivable, if not probable, that they are trying to get out of the war but don’t know how./2/

/2/Reference is to the message from Pham Van Dong delivered via Salisbury; see Document 3. The outgoing Vietnamese Ambassador told Rusk and Unger that Dong's statements did not represent a "significant change" in the DRV position but instead "was a trial balloon launched to test Communist China's reaction." (Memorandum of conversation, January 9; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL US-VIET S) As a follow-up to Goldberg's statement of September 22, 1966, offering a bombing halt in exchange for private assurances from the North Vietnamese that they would promptly de-escalate the fighting, on December 31 the President had offered to meet the Vietnamese Communists "any time and anywhere." (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, Book II, p. 1464)

By "don’t know how" I mean they cannot openly negotiate with us. They must have a deal which saves them minimum face with the NLF and the Chinese to announce before negotiations are acknowledged. They lose their bargaining leverage if they are known to be negotiating, because the NLF might bug out./3/

/3/Rostow added the final sentence by hand.

If this is so, the message we should send back is this, and no more: Your message to Salisbury has been delivered. You will be hearing from us soon.

We should then send a direct message via your friend, Ne Win in a sealed envelope./4/ It should be a direct communication, unopened, without intermediaries, between the U.S. Government and Hanoi. It could restate the kind of settlement we would envisage, but its major message should be technical; namely, that we believe a secure facility could be provided for our emissaries to meet without diplomatic or journalistic knowledge, close to Rangoon. We have faith in the security and integrity of Ne Win in providing such a facility. It would be close enough so that courier service to their embassy and ours in Rangoon, providing secure communications to both parties, could be available.

/4/On January 5 Rostow sent a draft letter to Rusk for his approval. He stressed that the letter had "no status" and that the President knew about it but had not seen it. In the letter the President called on Ho Chi Minh to arrange for direct and secret talks at a neutral and secure site, preferably in Burma. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Marigold, Vol. II) The letter was not sent. Burmese President Ne Win's interest came about through the intercession of his fellow countryman U Thant. In a December 31, 1966, letter, Goldberg had requested that U Thant ascertain "what tangible response" the DRV would undertake following a cessation of bombing. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 895-896.

We have canvassed all the other possibilities; but Rangoon appears the best place. Ne Win, after your conversations, would be reliable and willing to keep out of the act as an intermediary. It is a military dictatorship with effective control. There is no substantial Western press corps. Even then, I am confident that the right way to mount it is out in the country.

Strangely enough, just before lunch today I spoke to Sec. Rusk and Sec. McNamara about the need to mount such a direct communication with Hanoi. Perhaps Moscow would do; but I have the strong feeling that these fellows in Hanoi may want to talk to us without Poles, Italians, Canadians, British, or even Russians in the act.

Be clear, I don’t give this very high odds. But I have had the nagging feeling that they could well be in a position of wanting to get out and not knowing how. I can even reconstruct the reasons for this view.

Therefore, I think it is worth a try./5/

/5/Rostow added a handwritten postscript: "A full scenario, prepared some days ago, is attached." It is not printed.



6. Letter From the Commander of the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific (Krulak) to Secretary of Defense McNamara/1/

San Francisco, January 4, 1967.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Vietnam Files: FRC 77-0075, Vietnam (January and February 1967). Top Secret.

Dear Mr. McNamara:

I have just come from Vietnam where, as always, there is a lot of talk concerning what we need to do the job. The views vary greatly. In many cases they derive from what I regard as faulty reasoning or unjustified assumptions. Let me tell you what I mean.

The nature, length and intensity of past wars have largely been functions of the capabilities of the antagonists. Both sides did everything they could to win, using all the ingenuity and all the resources at their disposal. In the Vietnam war, this is not the case. Each adversary has the capability to do more than he is doing, and the length and nature of the war are heavily influenced by national judgements as to what type and intensity of action best suits their purposes.

It is this unused capability that has made it so difficult to estimate the nature of the war even a few months in the future. The opponents have exhibited this fact by matching bets time and again, and each time the result has been a state of equilibrium at a higher level of intensity.

Equilibrium, as a matter of fact, is one of the dominant characteristics of the war. Either the new actions of one contestant, or the counter-actions of his adversary, have created a succession of military plateaus. The plateaus have been the basis for miscalculations, sometimes giving the illusion of progress when actually no absolute progress is being attained. Examples of U.S. decisions leading to plateau changes are the initial introduction of ground forces, the initiation of air attacks against NVN, the use of SAC aircraft, and anti-infiltration ground and air action in Laos. Examples of enemy decisions which have generated plateaus at higher levels are attacks against U.S. shipping, growth in infiltration, the increased use of USSR munitions and advisors in NVN, and the attacks of U.S. aircraft by MIGs. A recent example of a plateau change was the enemy decision to make extensive use of the DMZ as a sanctuary, and the U.S. decision to counter this move by taking selective action against enemy forces and bases in the hitherto proscribed DMZ.

In the main, the enemy has decided the plateau on which we fight, although our power is vastly greater than his. Ours has largely been a reactive role; hoping for the enemy to come to terms at the current level of conflict, while preparing to punish him more intensely in case he does not. Consequently, any valid projection of force requirements must be preceded by an estimate not only of what the enemy can do, but of what he is most likely to do next.

But it goes further than that. Conclusions as to how much and what kind of power we need to commit must also be affected by the contribution of our allies. And, in this regard, I believe that inadequate emphasis has been placed on the resolution of the GVN, its willingness and its capability to bear its share of the burden. The visit which I concluded yesterday underscored my earlier conclusions that the GVN forces are not now contributing to the war to the full extent that they are capable. The consequences of this condition are evident. Our progress in large operations, counterguerrilla operations and pacification is slowed by the failure of GVN forces to assume a more active correlated role in these undertakings. Although more U.S. power is needed in RVN, any deductions respecting the magnitude of the needed increase will be influenced by conclusions regarding the capabilities and willingness of GVN forces to participate more extensively in a mutual GVN/U.S. effort.

So we must not only estimate what the enemy can and will do, but must conclude also just how much more our Vietnamese allies can and will contribute. Wound up in these two estimates is an array of variables, all having a direct effect upon any quantification of requirements or calculation of time needed to achieve our objectives. Taking departure from the situation described earlier relating to uncommitted resources, here are a few of the variables which give me trouble:

--What is the USSR going to do? Will she add to the 1500 technicians already in NVN? Will she send more men to make the GCI and SA-2 systems more effective? Will she send a better family of radars? Will she send replacements for lost MIG-21s? Will she fly them in action, as in the Korean War? Will she send more oil? More trucks? Or, in a contrary vein, will she weary of changing her Five Year Plans, back off and let Ho Chi Minh and the Chicoms go it alone?

--What are Mao and Lin Piao going to do? Will the current level of Chinese influence in NVN increase? Will they add to the 40,000 men they have invested now, and send tactical units into NVN? Will they send them into RVN? Will they create a diversion in Laos or Thailand? Or will their internal problems so preoccupy them as to cause a gross reduction in Chicom effort?

--What is Ho Chi Minh going to do? Will he shoot the works, try and send six divisions south to seize control of part of RVN? Will he send his Beagles south? Will he send more forces into Laos? Or into Thailand? Will he use the forces in the vicinity of the DMZ to try and make a Dien Bien Phu out of Khe Sanh? Or will he conclude, since he cannot win, that he should put his faith in protracted guerrilla and subversive war and count on weariness to defeat the U.S.?

--What is the GVN going to do? Is the existing government going to last? Will they do the sensible things necessary to curb inflation? Will the military continue at its present pace, or will it begin to operate somewhere near its practical capability? Will they get honestly into Revolutionary Development on the big scale now contemplated? Or will they, more and more, tend to "Let George Do It"?

Each of these variables can serve as a determinant of the cost of the war to use, and of the time it will take to bring it to a military end. And the frustrating thing is that none of them is rejectable, out of hand, because of impracticability or unreality. Thus, simply by a choice of assumptions related to these variables, one can generate conclusions which bear no similarity one to the other. And that, it seems to me, has been the greatest defect of our military planning up to now--the arbitrary assumption of constants which subsequent events have proven not to be constant. Indeed, there seems to be only one constant, which is this;--it flies in the face of our Vietnam experience to assume that any factor will continue unchanged for long.

An example of this inconstancy is the recent major change in enemy strategy. During 1965 and the first half of 1966 the enemy put emphasis on massing his forces--transition into Phase III of the revolutionary war cycle. This was climaxed in June of this year, when he tried us on for size in large scale maneuver involving thousands of people. We met him head-on in Hastings, in the DMZ area, and Attleboro,/2/ in the Laos border-high plateau area. He took a severe beating each time, and even the most cement headed Communist could see from these experiences that there was no chance of defeating us in mass, combined arms battle. They had to change, and they did.

/2/Attleboro and Hastings were large U.S. military offensives in Vietnam launched during 1966.

First, it is clear that, without risking their own major formations, the Reds are now trying to present us with a continual threat of large unit involvement, by maintaining strong forces near the borders, in the Laos and DMZ sanctuaries. In doing so, they hope to draw our ground strength into the inhospitable hinterland and away from the key populated areas, where the beginnings of Revolutionary Development have begun to worry them. Second, they are intensifying guerrilla warfare, terrorism and subversion. Their purposes in this are two-fold, to thwart our Revolutionary Development efforts and, of equal importance, to present us with close quarters combat circumstances where, because of the great population density, our supporting arms are of minimum avail.

There is no doubt that the enemy is doing both of these things. They are to be found today in strength in the Laos and DMZ sanctuaries. There is evidence of continued activity of NVN units near the borders. There are small trans-border forays to hold our attention, but there are no mass adventures such as Attleboro or Hastings. Their attitude in the border areas is largely defensive.

And there has been an upsurge in terrorism and guerrilla activity in the populated regions. Prisoners in the Danang-Chu Lai area tell us, over and again, that this is what we now have to look forward to. The VC want to subvert and seize control of those people who have moved to our side, and they want to confront us with a surfeit of land mines, ambushes, snipers and raids; in other words, with the close quarters misery war where they know the casualty ratio is the least favorable to us, and our supporting arms are least effective on them.

In doing these things, I think Ho Chi Minh has made a sagacious decision and a far reaching one where we are concerned. He is putting his hopes on manpower erosion and protracted combat among the people, expecting that the demand for more fighting men to meet the needs of the slow-moving guerrilla war will cause U.S. resolution to waver.

There is little doubt that more fighting men are going to be needed in countering the renewed enemy guerrilla/terrorism program. Some of these additional men must be Americans,--for leadership and example, to apply the "monkey see, monkey do" influence we have on our Vietnamese military counterparts. However, the great majority of the soldiers who sit in the hamlets, day and night, to protect the people, must be Vietnamese. The thousands of nightly counterguerrilla patrols have to be conducted by Vietnamese; not by Americans. We must show them how, as we have in the past; we must encourage them and, in a limited degree, we must go with them. But the major manpower contribution to the guerrilla war and Revolutionary Development should be theirs. We will have a major task of our own, protecting the flanks of the ARVN engaged in Revolutionary Development and in destroying Viet Cong bases and resources.

This Revolutionary Development is what the Vietnamese should be doing. It is within their competence and their capability, but they are not doing it. Right now there are about 190 battalions or battalion equivalents in the ARVN. I doubt if ten percent are involved in protecting the people from the harassment, depredations and oppression of the Viet Cong. Most of them are busy reacting to the initiatives of the Main Force or involved in static defensive activities of limited productivity. I know this is true in the I Corps where, of the 32 ARVN battalions, no more than four are really deep into Revolutionary Development. They need to be gotten into pacification on a gross basis.

The plans for this transition are good. During my current visit to Vietnam I became well acquainted with the details of the ARVN RD program in I Corps. As a plan it cannot be faulted, but there is a long reach between plan and fulfillment. It is a tremendous change for the Vietnamese military, and the road is rutted with ignorance, cynicism, oriental face and the ghosts of earlier, now-defunct, programs. I really do not look to see the ARVN come around to doing what they ought to do, without greater compulsion than is now being exerted on them.

I say all this as preamble to these conclusions:

--We do need more U.S. people in Vietnam--but the numbers are going to depend greatly upon just how much the Vietnamese military choose to do for themselves. This is the great unanswered question of 1967.

--The real and greater need, on the U.S. side, is for power, more than people. The Reds will happily match us--five or ten for one--in successive people plateaus, but there is no sense in competing on those terms.

--As to the need for more U.S. power, I mean the infusion of things;--things that show our resolution; things that cause the enemy losses of men and resources, at little cost to us. He is counting on the flesh and blood loss ratio becoming unbearable to us. We must frustrate him by eschewing the high U.S. manpower cost programs, which he can counter, in favor of low U.S. manpower cost programs, which he cannot. Examples? A quantum increase in the Arc Light effort to harry the VC bases in RVN and to help disrupt their logistics; a ten-fold growth in air interdiction of the Laos routes and of the DMZ area; constant bombardment from the sea of every sensitive point on the enemy communications, transportation and air defense system within naval gun range in the southern waist of NVN; greatly increased progressive and selective aerial destruction of NVN transportation, military logistic support and power resources./3/ These exemplify actions which we can afford more than manpower, which strike the Reds where it hurts them most, and which show them that we are not fooling.

/3/The expanded bombing would be carried out by B-52s to be deployed at U Tapao air force base in Thailand. (SNIE 10-67, "Reactions to a Possible US Action," January 5; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

--Meanwhile, persuasive leverage must be applied to get the Vietnamese military busy doing what they have never done and have never wanted to do before--protect the people. So far they have only talked about it and, while the talk is modestly encouraging, it still has had no effect on the Viet Cong. They have to be made to produce in this area, else the manpower burden will be ours by default.

--The leverage needed to make the GVN get seriously into the Revolutionary Development business is at hand. We have it, if we will use it, in the form of greater U.S. control over the distribution of military medical and commodity imports. In my belief, the GVN get their hands on munitions and civilian goods too quickly, too easily and with too few restraints. While it will be necessary to preserve their face by exerting our increased controls in an unobtrusive manner, we can still make plain that the things they most want are going to materialize only as we see them doing what we want them to do in Revolutionary Development. This material leverage, moreover, should be applied mainly through the interface with the U.S. military, who have a better dialog with their RVN counterparts than do the civilians. One practical step would be to hand over the U.S. part of the Saigon port problem wholly to the military.

--Finally, we have to generate a comprehensive plan of campaign; and not just a plan for the ground campaign or the air campaign, not even a plan just for the overall military campaign. Rather, it should integrate everything--the plans for our political and economic operations in Vietnam, plans for employment of all U.S. military elements, plans for the RVNAF and plans for employment of those U.S. and GVN nonmilitary and quasi-military activities which are involved in Revolutionary Development. It should derive from an analysis and comparison of all of the possible strategic plateaus, in terms of the results expected in each case, versus the corresponding hazards and costs involved. And it should be a sensible plan, in terms of time; not going off into the blue of the distant future, but being revised and updated--as a mandatory matter--every six months.

Happy New Year. May 1967 bring us much nearer to the honorable Peace for which we all pray. I believe it can.



P.S. I will be in Washington on 26, 27 and 28 January, and look forward to the opportunity of seeing you./4/

/4/In a January 26 memorandum to the President, Komer advised Johnson to meet with Krulak, who had just returned from two trips to Vietnam and was "perhaps our best counter-insurgency man in uniform," in order to hear his report on the situation in Vietnam. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIV, Memos (A)) Komer wanted the Marines' Combined Action Company "technique" in I Corps to be adopted by the Army in the III or IV Corps of South Vietnam. (Ibid., Files of Robert Komer, RWK Chron File, January-March 1967) The President met with Krulak on January 27, 12:01-12:19 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) No record of the meeting has been found.


7. Memorandum of Meeting/1/

Washington, January 5, 1967, 3 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Secret; Eyes Only Participants; Marigold. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. This meeting of the Negotiations Committee was held in Harriman's office; it is also summarized in a January 6 memorandum from Harriman to the President and Rusk. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Amb. Harriman--Negotiations Committee)

Eugene Rostow
W. Averell Harriman
Henry Cabot Lodge
William Bundy
John McNaughton
Joseph Sisco
Benjamin Read
Leonard Unger
Chester L. Cooper

Rusk-Dobrynin Conversation

Mr. Read briefly outlined the highlights of the 2-1/2 hour conversation between Secretary Rusk and Ambassador Dobrynin. Mr. Read identified two points that he felt were new: The Secretary’s suggestion that we and the Soviets meet to see if we couldn’t come to some joint agreement on the points at issue; and the Secretary’s query to Dobrynin on what Moscow would do if bombing stopped. On both points Dobrynin seemed interested and receptive, but it was apparent that he had to wait for instructions before pursuing them further. The Secretary gave Dobrynin a revision of the "14 points" (originally developed in connection with the peace offensive a year ago). Dobrynin, speaking personally, stated that there seemed to be little in the 14 points with which the Soviets could not agree. The MemCon will be made available to participants./2/

/2/A memorandum of conversation of the January 4 meeting between Rusk and Dobrynin, January 5, is ibid., Files of Walt Rostow, Box 9, Marigold-Sunflower. For the Fourteen Points, as expounded by Vice President Hubert Humphrey and other officials in early 1966, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 740-742; for the Ten Points, which were suggested U.S. negotiating positions put forward by Lewandowski during the Marigold exercise in December 1966, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 322.

Mr. McNaughton reported on a luncheon conversation he had with Mr. Zinchuk of the Soviet Embassy (Mr. Read is to furnish the MemCon of this)./3/ Zinchuk suggested that we let the Warsaw exercise "cool off" for a while, but felt that direct talks between the North Vietnamese and the Americans would be productive; NLF participation could come later.

/3/Not found.

Instructions for Ambassador Thompson

It was agreed that key documents, including the "package for Hanoi", should be pouched to Moscow as soon as possible (these documents are now on their way)./4/ It was also agreed that a message should be forwarded to Thompson for receipt on his arrival which would give him an up-to-date account of the state of play. Another message containing suggestions and instructions for his talks with Soviet leaders should await the playback from the Rusk/Dobrynin discussion and elaboration of the Salisbury interview with Pham Van Dong.

/4/The "package" was a letter that the Embassy in Moscow would deliver directly to the DRV Embassy on January 10 proposing confidential discussions that would lead to formal peace talks. See Document 8.

Harrison Salisbury

Salisbury has declined the invitation to use British code facilities in Hanoi to provide additional information on his interview with Pham Van Dong in favor of a personal conversation with the Secretary. The timing of his return to the U.S. is uncertain, but it appears that he will be in Washington on or before January 11./5/

/5/See Document 3.

Mr. Unger indicated that a preliminary reading of the Mai Van Bo interview showed no basic change in the DRV position./6/

/6/See Document 3. On January 5 Bo amplified his remarks before a meeting of the Congress of the French Communist Party by assuring that the DRV would "examine and study" U.S. proposals for peace after a halt to the bombing. See The New York Times, January 6, 1967. State Department spokesman Robert McCloskey responded during a news conference the same day with the following statement: "Our position has been repeatedly made clear. We are prepared to have talks without any conditions with North Viet-Nam at any time. We are prepared to order a cessation of all bombing of North Viet-Nam the moment we are assured, privately or otherwise, that this step will be answered promptly by a corresponding and appropriate de-escalation on the other side. This could occur before talks started, or it could be the first order of business in such talks." His statement is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 828-829.


It was generally agreed that Sainteny should proceed to Hanoi "to take soundings" if deGaulle permits him to do so. The Secretary should be informed of the judgment of the Committee and, subject to his judgment on timing, a message should be forwarded from the Governor through John Dean of our Embassy suggesting that Sainteny make the trip./7/

/7/Jean Sainteny was a former French Government official with long experience in Indochina and an associate of President Charles de Gaulle. Sainteny had met with Ho Chi Minh in July 1966, and planned to return to Hanoi in early 1967 at the request of the U.S. Government. On January 20 President de Gaulle vetoed the trip because he doubted the sincerity of the U.S. Government with respect to negotiations. (Memorandum from Harriman to the President, January 24; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Subject Files, Johnson, Lyndon 1967) According to a memorandum of conversation dated January 30, Sainteny later told Senator Robert Kennedy (D-NY) that the North Vietnamese would never regard a simple bombing cessation as sufficient for peace talks if it was not permanent and accompanied by a troop withdrawal and an acceptance of the Four Points as a basis for a political settlement. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXV, Memos (B)).

Japanese Contacts with North Vietnamese in Moscow

Mr. Bundy suggested that we ask the Japanese Ambassador in Moscow to query his North Vietnamese colleague about Salisbury’s report that Pham Van Dong is being more flexible on negotiations to clarify our position with respect to reciprocal action in connection with a bombing cessation (i.e., to indicate that we want something more than an agreement to talk), and to correct the record with respect to the North Vietnamese claim that there are no North forces in the South. We should also indicate to the Japanese that we would welcome contacts between their Ambassador to Moscow and the New DRV Ambassador. (Mr. Bundy is to handle.)/8/

/8/During July, September, and December 1966, as well as during January 1967, the Japanese Ambassador in Moscow carried on discussions with his DRV counterpart. The Japanese Government characterized the response of the DRV representative to its overtures as the "standard line." (Telegram 118870 to Tokyo, January 14; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

Contacts with the NLF

Ambassador Lodge felt that any American contacts with NLF representatives should be secret, unofficial, and deniable, although, by and large, he advised against any independent approaches to the Front. He felt that the NLF had little direct control over the Viet Cong; the Viet Cong are directed from Hanoi rather than by the NLF. The Front, in turn, is under the control of Hanoi, primarily through the "power of assassination". Ambassador Lodge felt that the GVN would be ready to talk to the NLF "when the time was right". The GVN feels that Hanoi is ready to continue the war at least for another year and for this reason there would be no point in early contacts with the Front. In any case, it would be preferable to wait until the Viet Cong or Hanoi takes the initiative to seek us out. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] contacts with the NLF and SVN contacts with individuals of the Front, however, were desirable.

Before we or the GVN can have any effective talks with the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese, Ambassador Lodge felt that we had to demonstrate our ability to break up the hard core terrorist apparatus. Although some modest steps were being taken to do this, we still were far from developing an effective operation. "We don’t even know what happens to those hard core terrorists who have been caught"; apparently many of these who were imprisoned have escaped.

Ambassador Harriman felt that the differences between the NLF and Hanoi were probably greater than intelligence analysts tended to believe--pointing to differences within the Polet Bureau [Politburo] even under Stalin.

Mr. McNaughton suggested that the GVN would score many points internationally and in the U.S. if they would agree to "unconditional talks" with the NLF. Ambassador Lodge emphasized the difficulties such a course would have for the GVN and Mr. Bundy stressed that we must accept and live with the proposition that the GVN cannot talk with the "NLF qua NLF" publicly. He could envisage contacts by U.S. representatives, or by Ky himself at an appropriate time.

It was agreed that the question of dealing with individuals of the NLF should be part of the program of national reconciliation.

It was also agreed that Mr. Cooper should explore the whole question of NLF-GVN-US contacts.

Miscellaneous Items

Mr. Cooper is to get in touch with Mr. Colby to see if some contacts could be arranged with the DRV and NLF Delegations to the French Communist Party Congress currently in session. (This has been done.)

It was generally agreed that, in the Marigold operation, Hanoi was trying to see how far it could go in getting U.S. concessions before being confronted with the necessity of talking to us. It was also suggested that Rapacki himself may have been less than forthright in his handling of the talks (Ambassador Lodge indicated that Lewandowsky probably felt that he had been let down by the conduct of the talks in Warsaw).

Mr. Unger indicated that the question of a 7-day Tet truce, which was recommended by State, was under current consideration in DOD. Governor Harriman indicated his personal view that, from the point of view of world opinion, a 7-day truce would be desirable.


8. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union/1/

Washington, January 5, 1967, 4:46 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Priority; Sunflower. Drafted by Read; cleared by Bundy, Kohler, Rostow, Katzenbach, and Walsh; and approved by Rusk.

112967. Ref: Moscow 2887./2/ You should seek appointment directly with departing NVN Ambassador and deliver the following message:/3/

/2/Dated January 5. (Ibid., POL US-USSR)

/3/Chargé John Guthrie requested that the Soviet Embassy's First Secretary, Alexander Akalovsky, deliver a request to the DRV Embassy for an appointment with North Vietnamese Ambassador Kinh. Hoang Man' Tu, First Secretary of the DRV Embassy in Moscow, received the request and promised to pass it on to the North Vietnamese Ambassador. (Telegram 2916 from Moscow, January 6; ibid., POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER) It read: "Dear Mr. Ambassador: I have been instructed to deliver to you personally a confidential message from my government. I am prepared to call on you for that purpose at your earliest convenience. Please let me know when you would be available to receive me." On January 9 Kinh responded that his Embassy's Minister-Counselor, Le Chang, would meet with him the next day. On January 10 Le Chang accepted the message Guthrie was forwarding, which indicated the U.S. desire to engage in confidential discussions leading to a peaceful settlement. Le Chang stated that it would be passed on to his Ambassador (Telegram 2966 from Moscow, January 10; ibid.)

"Although the USG has attempted to deliver the following message to the North Vietnamese authorities indirectly in the last few days, we would appreciate it if he would make sure that those authorities are informed directly by him upon his return to Hanoi as follows: The USG places the highest priority on finding a mutually agreeable, completely secure arrangement for exchanging communications with the government of the DRV about the possibilities of achieving a peaceful settlement of the Vietnamese dispute. If the DRV is willing to explore such possibilities with us we will attempt to meet any suggestions they have to offer regarding the time and place of such discussions and we will be prepared to receive such information directly from the North Vietnamese through direct diplomatic contacts at any capital where we both maintain posts or otherwise."

Slug any reply Nodis/Sunflower.



9. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Poland/1/

Washington, January 6, 1967, 8:11 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Top Secret; Priority; Nodis; Marigold. Drafted by Unger, cleared by Bundy and Rostow, and approved by Walsh.

114370. Ref: Warsaw’s 1646./2/

/2/Telegram 1646 from Warsaw, January 6, reported a January 5 conversation between Ambassador Gronouski and Director-General of the Polish Foreign Service Michalowski relating to the breakdown of the Marigold initiative in Warsaw during the previous December. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)

1. In view of complex of developments relating to Viet-Nam problem we would like you to avoid for the present any further initiatives along lines section 2 reftel./3/

/3/In this section of telegram 1646, Gronouski proposed that Poland get both sides to agree on specific and verifiable de-escalatory actions before actual direct talks between the United States and the DRV took place. Michalowski refused, citing Poland's desire to remain as an intermediary and to avoid direct involvement.

2. If Poles come back to you on this matter please make clear, as you have already stated to them, that idea described Para 6 was entirely your own and that neither before presenting it nor since have you received any instructions in this regard./4/ Naturally you would want to hear any reactions the Poles may be prepared to offer and report them to your Government.

/4/In paragraph 6 of telegram 1646, Gronouski suggested that Under Secretary Katzenbach meet with Michalowski during the latter's upcoming unofficial visit to the United States.

3. Discussion Para 6 reftel concerning Phase A and B package prompts us to offer following clarification. It has been our conception that the totality of de-escalatory actions in Phases A and B taken together would be approximately equal in importance on both sides. In other words Hanoi’s action under Phase B would be expected to be generally equivalent to our actions in Phase B plus our cessation of bombing of North Viet-Nam./5/

/5/The Phase A-Phase B formula for getting the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table arose out of the Marigold contacts during the fall of 1966. It was an attempt to allow for mutual de-escalation, a move that Washington considered essential but Hanoi regarded as placing undue preconditions upon its involvement in peace negotiations, in two steps. In the first phase, the United States would cease bombing the DRV and talks would begin. The halt would be followed by the second phase, a series of mutually-agreed upon actions by both sides that would mark a reduction in hostilities.

4. We are not suggesting that you take initiative with Poles to make the clarification along lines of preceding paragraph but rather that you bear this in mind in case, in any subsequent conversation, you have reason to believe Poles do not understand Phase A and B package in this sense.



10. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, January 6, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. II. Top Secret; Personal; Eyes Only.

Mr. Secretary:

My concern is this: we are, in diplomatic parlance, "following up" every lead we get back through the channel which generates or communicates the lead.

The net effect in Hanoi must be to convey an image of confusion and uncertainty similar to the image of confusion and uncertainty that we have about their position.

We have many indications from the Soviet Union and others that a direct bilateral clandestine approach is what is required.

Moreover, they must regard us--the greatest power in the world--as the critical factor in whether a deal livable for them can be brought off.

As I said this morning, in a curious way they are looking for some kind of guidance and leadership from us in this murky, delicately balanced situation. It is for that reason that I still recommend the letter, a draft of which I sent over yesterday./2/ It offers the best opportunity I can perceive for crystallizing the decision in Hanoi.

/2/See footnote 4, Document 5.

W. W. Rostow/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


11. Editorial Note

On January 10, 1967, President Johnson delivered his annual message to Congress. In the State of the Union speech, the President stated his intention to recommend to Congress the passage of legislation enacting a surcharge of 6 percent on both corporate and individual taxes "to last for two years or for so long as the unusual expenditures associated with our efforts in Vietnam continue." The speech also demonstrated the President’s frustration over the continuing war in Vietnam and his resolve to stay the course:

"I wish I could report to you that the conflict is almost over. This I cannot do. We face more cost, more loss, and more agony. For the end is not yet. I cannot promise you that it will come this year--or come next year. Our adversary still believes, I think, tonight, that he can go on fighting longer than we can, and longer than we and our allies will be prepared to stand up and resist.

"Our men in the area--there are nearly 500,000 now--have borne well 'the burden and the heat of the day.’ Their efforts have deprived the Communist enemy of the victory that he sought and that he expected two years ago. We have steadily frustrated his main forces. General Westmoreland reports that the enemy can no longer succeed on the battlefield.

"So I must say to you that our pressure must be sustained--and will be sustained--until he realizes that the war he started is costing him more than he can ever gain."

For full text of the speech, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pages 2-14.


12. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, January 10, 1967, 1200Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Received at 10:58 a.m. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD and passed to the White House, DOD, CIA, USIA, and NSA at 12:10 p.m.

15287. 1. Lansdale visited Prime Minister Ky at Latter’s invitation morning of Jan 9. Highlights of conversation follow.

2. Ky said Gen Co was becoming increasingly a problem and would have to be dealt with soon. General Vinh Loc had told Ky about a recent visit by Co to Pleiku where he made disparaging remarks about Ky and GVN to a number of ARVN officers he had assembled. This was merely latest of a long series of misbehaviors by Co. (Ky mentioned several, including Co’s rapid promotion of his aide, which Ky said angered many younger ARVN officers.) When Lansdale asked Ky what he was going to do about Co, Ky replied quickly that only thing to do was to try Co, with major count being Co’s corruption. Ky said Co has now made so much money that legal action would have to be taken to make him disgorge it. Ky said this would happen "very soon."

3. Lansdale remarked that he had heard Ky was starting to meet with members of Constituent Assembly and that recognition of their fine progress with Constitution is well merited./2/ Ky said he plans to have each bloc join him for dinner, a different bloc each week. He has already met with most of drafting committee, the Hoa Hao and the Catholics. He had had long discussion with drafting committee about problems of electing province chiefs, pointing out that Viet-Nam probably could not afford this during wartime without much more preparation. CA members replied that, while Ky’s comments were realistic and true, it would be most difficult to resubmit provision for election of province and district chiefs to another vote in CA for its amendment. Drafting committee members said they would study way to add another provision to Constitution to effect that election of district and province chiefs is an accepted principle and charging elected President with task of holding these elections as soon as feasible.

/2/The Constituent Assembly drafted specific articles of the new Vietnamese Constitution during the period November 30-December 22, 1966, and currently was engaged in modifying the draft provisions. The major problems anticipated included the military government's ability to unilaterally change any of the component parts of the Constitution and the desire of members of the Assembly to continue functioning on an interim basis after the Constitution was promulgated. (Memorandum from Bundy to Rusk, January 3; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIII) In a January 10 memorandum to Rostow, Roche reviewed an advance copy of the Vietnamese constitution, drafted by the Constituent Assembly and obtained by the CIA, highlighted several structural flaws, including the lack of a required majority to elect a president, the emergency powers of the Assembly, election of provincial chiefs, and the stringent prohibition on the political activities of clergymen. (Ibid.)

4. Ky said that he had begun meeting CA members because Chief of State Thieu had not seemed to be too skillful in dealing with them. Lansdale remarked that he assumed Thieu and Ky were getting together more often since they now share the new place. Ky looked a little bemused at Lansdale’s remark and, after a pause, said yes, but that he wanted to discuss a most sensitive matter. He then discussed the Presidency. He explained that Thieu was a very clever person, maneuvering carefully to become President but keeping way open to return to army as its commander in case it becomes clear to him that he cannot be elected. A number of people, including CA members, religious leaders and military men, had told Ky that Thieu could not be elected, that Thieu’s reputation for being "clever" would be considerable political handicap at this point in Viet-Nam’s history. Ky added that even Catholics had told him this, despite Thieu’s being a Catholic. But Ky continued that it seems to be clearly indicated that a military man should become President. The war, the ravaged conditions in the country, and possibility of a negotiated peace, with 600,000 armed military suddenly facing civilian pursuits, all indicate that years just ahead in Viet-Nam are going to be very hard ones, requiring firmer leadership than possible from any civilian politicians known to him. Presidency will probably demand decisive actions, rather than skillful compromise along political lines, at least for next four years. For example, "democracy" or "freedom" will be empty words unless elected President also sees to it that GVN gives people social justice at same time, and this is revolutionary enough in Viet-Nam that it will be opposed by a number of groups that a politician usually needs. Thus, President should be a military man. The only two who are really eligible are Thieu and Ky. Thieu cannot be elected. That leaves Ky. Ky said that all corps and division commanders have asked him to run for Presidency. Many others have asked him to declare his intention to run so they can start organizing support for him. He said that 19 months as Prime Minister make him reluctant to accept political office, but if this is best way to serve Viet-Nam, he will become a candidate for President. Lansdale asked Ky for his assessment of southern support for him, since he is a northerner. Ky said a number of southern leaders had been urging him to run for President and had assured him of their support, as had leaders from the center. He felt being a northerner would not be too big an obstacle, particularly if he teamed up with a southerner as his Vice President. Ky stated that if he decides to run, most difficult immediate task will be so informing Thieu. Yet, Thieu probably would be able to return to army as its commander, and this might appeal to him. Ky said this matter would require considerable thought.

5. Other than as indicated above, Lansdale listened to Ky without comment.

6. We not informed whether Ambassador at present in Washington but assume Dept will bring this message to his attention. We are particularly disturbed at implication para 2 to effect that Ky talking about trying Co "very soon." While latter may not be healthy influence in govt today, he is certainly not pushover for Ky. Nor have we confidence that Ky is in position to make necessary arrangements and alliances required to bring down this prominent southerner. We assume at this point there is sufficient time remaining for Ambassador to discuss subject with Ky on his return, and we are watching developments carefully. Problem with kind of statement he made to Lansdale is that it would enable Ky to say, after or during event, that he had informed us of his intentions.

7. Ky downgrading of Thieu Presidential possibilities, while upgrading his own, adds to unpleasant uncertainties which face us.

8. We would appreciate comments you may wish to provide at this juncture.



13. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 10, 1967, 3:50 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIII, Memos. Secret. The notation "L" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.

Mr. President:

Herewith talking points for your discussion with Cabot Lodge tomorrow, January 11, at 11:30 a.m./2/

/2/Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge was in the United States during early January for high-level consultations. The President actually saw Lodge from 12:06 to 12:50 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) No other record of this meeting has been found.

1. The next two months are critical and will set the pattern for a year we hope will prove decisive. You are counting on him./3/

/3/Lodge had already expressed his desire to leave his post as Ambassador to South Vietnam in March. (Memorandum from Rostow to Johnson, January 4; ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIV, Memos (B)) During his January 11 meeting with the President, Lodge presumably discussed his departure and replacement. In a January 11 letter to the President, Lodge suggested McGeorge Bundy, Robert McNamara, or Clark Clifford as possible nominees for the Saigon post. (Ibid., Files of Walt Rostow, Viet Nam--W.W. Rostow (1 of 2)) In a January 19 memorandum to the President, Komer also recommended McGeorge Bundy and advised that McNamara be the one to "feel Bundy out" on taking the job. (Ibid., Files of Robert Komer, Memos to the President, January-May 1967) In a separate memorandum to Johnson sent the same day, Komer added four other names for consideration: Ellsworth Bunker, Westmoreland, William Porter, and himself. (Ibid.)

2. In particular, it is essential he use all the wisdom and skill of a lifetime in politics to help the South Vietnamese:

--find military-civilian agreement on the constitution and on the candidates for the national election;

--consolidate the moderate non-Communist majority into a national political alliance--or party--so that:

(1) Ky--or whoever--has a political base and national program when he runs: a truly new look.

(2) We have the beginnings of a party that can defeat the VC if they give up the war and enter politics.

None of us knows when the South Vietnamese may have to face that test. We must help them prepare now.

3. Keep close to Westy. No matter how it is organized, pacification requires intense military-civil cooperation. There is too much talk already of civil versus military attitudes and policies. Pacification is a two-fisted, military-civil job. Westy and Cabot should live in each other’s pockets.

4. Moreover, Westy’s influence over the Vietnamese military may be valuable to Cabot in finding a new political base in South Viet Nam. For these purposes, Cabot should regard Westy as a valuable political aide.

5. Encourage Ky, from his situation of strength, to reach out, communicate with, and be prepared to negotiate with the NLF. Tell him we are not going to sell out to the Communists and to operate from confidence, not fear.

6. You might indicate we shall be formulating a NSAM to crystallize our 1967 policy, after Bus Wheeler returns. You understand he has read it in draft./4/ You hope he left behind his suggestions. (FYI: He’s abroad; but we want him to feel you want him aboard.)

/4/Not further identified.



14. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Washington, January 10, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Top Secret; Marigold. Prepared by Cooper. Copies were sent to Harriman, Bundy, Read, and Jorden.

Michael Shenstone, First Secretary at the Canadian Embassy, came in this morning to report on developments with respect to the ICC. He said there would be a "little meeting" of the ICC in New Delhi tomorrow, January 10. The Canadian and Polish Ambassadors would meet with Kaul, the Indian head of the ICC. This represented a change in position for the Poles since they had recently tried to postpone any such meeting until their new Ambassador arrived in New Delhi. Shenstone said that, according to their information, the Indians were planning to have the ICC recommend a stop to the bombing, a ceasefire, and a negotiations session--in sequence. The Indians hoped that the ICC would also review its mandate and its resources for the policing of a ceasefire and a settlement. The Indians apparently were encouraged by the Mai Van Bo and Pham Van Dong interviews./2/

/2/See Document 3.

I told Shenstone that while we were very much in favor of an ICC meeting, a report along the lines the Indians proposed could hardly be very useful. I said that the recent North Vietnamese statements were hardly forthcoming, and even certain Communist countries claimed they were not a change in Hanoi’s position. To base an ICC set of recommendations on them would destroy the credibility of any ICC report here. More than that, any ICC recommendations that took a one-sided view on our stopping bombing would be counter-productive.

At the end of our session Shenstone said that they had reason to believe that the Indian Ambassador in Warsaw had some knowledge of the Marigold exercise. According to the Canadian Ambassador in Warsaw, his Indian colleague pointed out in December that they couldn’t expect the Poles to agree to an ICC meeting since the Poles were already negotiating directly with the Americans to establish talks with the North Vietnamese.

Chester L. Cooper/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

Note: I have since been informed by telephone that the New Delhi meeting has been postponed because the Pole "had not received instructions"./4/

/4/On January 1 the Polish ICC representative rejected the idea of meeting in New Delhi. In a draft telegram to Warsaw, January 14, which was apparently sent, the Department concluded that statements made by NLF representative in Algeria Tran Hoi Nam to Ambassador John D. Jernegan, as well as statements communicated through other channels, including contacts by the Government of India, which linked bombing and a cessation of hostilities to the opening of talks, were the foundation for the Polish diplomat's backing away. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Top Secret--WPB Chron, Jan/Apr 1967) The Algerian connection to the NLF was known as Primrose; it was followed through mid-March without success. Additional documentation on Primrose is ibid., Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PRIMROSE.


15. Editorial Note

On January 10, 1967, Ambassador to Britain David K.E. Bruce informed Secretary of State Dean Rusk of concerns that Prime Minister Harold Wilson expressed privately to him regarding the use of the British Government as an intermediary in efforts to end the fighting in Vietnam. (Telegram 11895 to London, January 15; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Marigold II) The problem arose in the aftermath of the mid-November 1966 visit to Moscow by British Foreign Secretary George Brown, an occasion during which he espoused (with U.S. Government concurrence) a two-stage proposal for ending hostilities and opening negotiations. He was not forewarned of the Marigold contact by the Johnson administration, but found out through the Soviets that the Poles had put forth the same package simultaneously. In a January 4 statement, the North Vietnamese had repudiated the British effort. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 824+N825.

On January 12 Wilson sent a formal message to President Johnson expressing his dissatisfaction over the way that the administration had handled Brown’s visit. Brown felt slighted by the fact that the U.S. Government did not tell him that it had given the proposal to Lewandowski 2 days prior to his departure for the Soviet Union. In addition, Wilson had grave reservations about the upcoming visit to London by Kosygin. As a consequence, the President approved Secretary Rusk’s request that Chester Cooper, Special Assistant to Ambassador at Large W. Averell Harriman, brief Brown, and that Bruce brief Wilson on all aspects of Marigold. "I do not believe that we owe it to the British to keep them fully informed on every move in this game when 500,000 U.S. men are under arms and the British fighting contribution is zero," Rostow wrote to the President. "Nevertheless, keeping the British tolerably happy is part of the job." (Memorandum from Rostow to Johnson, January 16; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Marigold II)

As reported in telegram 118905 to London, January 19, 4 days earlier Assistant Secretary Bundy apologized to Ambassador Patrick Dean over the American misstep. He assured Dean that the "Brown message was the clear and solid one we were sure would get through," while the administration had no idea if the message sent through Lewandowski would reach the top channels. Bundy added that the United States "recognized absolute obligation never to put British in false position and hence to provide them with all information they needed for any contacts they had" including the meeting between Kosygin and Wilson that would occur in February. (Ibid.)

On January 18 Cooper, accompanied by Bruce for part of the time, saw both Brown and Wilson. In telegram 5707 from London, January 10, Cooper observed that they appeared satisfied by his explanation that Brown had carried the more precise message. Wilson proposed that the Tet bombing pause be extended to cover the entire period of Kosygin’s reception in Britain, which would be "talk not sightsee." (Telegram 5707 from London, January 19; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/MARIGOLD) On January 20 President Johnson dispatched a message in response to Wilson’s January 12 communication that read: "I trust that your talk with David Bruce and Cooper settled the questions you raised earlier with David and put you in a knowledgeable position to deal with Kosygin." (Memorandum from Rostow to the President, January 20; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Marigold II) Nevertheless, Rostow opposed sharing with Wilson any information about a direct channel that might arise before Kosygin’s arrival. (Memorandum from Rostow to the President, January 21; ibid., Files of Walt Rostow, Vietnam, Jan-March 1967)


16. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 17, 1967, 11 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. I. Top Secret; Literally Eyes Only.

Mr. President:

I do believe we face a moment of truth with the arrival of this cable (attached):/2/

/2/Telegram 3066 from Moscow, January 17, was attached. In the telegram Guthrie reported on a conversation with Le Chang in which Chang requested clarification of the January 10 message (see Document 8).

Hanoi has come back to us in Moscow with a three-part response:

--What does the U.S. mean by a "completely secure arrangement?"

--What is the U.S. position for a settlement?

--He wants a prompt reply, indicating "some sense of urgency."

I take this seriously because, as you know, I have detected some impulse in Hanoi to get out of the war but they didn’t appear to know how. Specifically I felt they needed:

--secrecy and speed, to avoid surfacing the negotiation;

--direct negotiations with the U.S. to avoid intermediaries and keep secrecy;

--an agreed end position--terms of settlement--before they surfaced the fact of negotiation to the NLF and the Chinese.

All these elements are in this response.

Therefore, I believe, we must not only find a secure technique for negotiation but we must now produce a plan for getting them out of the war step by step. We must take them by the hand.

As for secrecy, the two best alternatives are:


--Rangoon, for reasons we explained.

With Tommy in Moscow, and the channel started there, we should offer to continue, but indicate a willingness to mount sustained contacts in secret in any other place or by any other means they may suggest. If they are willing to cut the Russians in, the Russians should supply a secure place in the countryside with courier service to Moscow.

But the heart of the matter is to deliver this week an outline of a settlement and a sequence for settlement, which is equally important.

Therefore, our response should be: we propose to negotiate in secret with you these things:

--principles governing a settlement;

--de-escalation steps on both sides to be taken (on an A-B basis, if you wish) when the principles are agreed and announced;

--principles we shall both urge on the South Vietnamese with whom we are connected, for a peaceful settlement within South Viet Nam, after the principles are jointly announced;

--agreement for a reinstallation of the Geneva Accords of 1954 and 1962, as the international framework for the region.

I believe there are two reasons they want speed:

--to minimize the loss of secrecy;

--to make the most of the Tet stand-down.

They may want a swift negotiation of principles; an announcement of principles; and a mutual stand-down in two weeks.

I am reacting strongly because this may be an opportunity we should not miss. When you have an insight and it opens up a little, you must back your play. But I would underline at the end that this could be fun and games. We must, therefore, in presenting our position, stick to our principles and, notably, not sell out the constitutional process in South Viet Nam. If we’ve gotten this far, it’s because of your decisions--including your State of the Union Message--and the quality and courage of our men in the field.



17. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union/1/

Washington, January 17, 1967, 5:45 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Sunflower. Drafted by Bundy, cleared by Harriman and Read, and approved by Rusk.

120058. 1. In conversation with Harriman last night, Dobrynin said he understood that our order concerning bombing within ten nautical miles of the center of Hanoi still stood on an indefinite basis. Harriman challenged this and said that while we were continuing the order for the present, we did not consider ourselves bound to do so indefinitely. Dobrynin asked for clarification, stating that he believed Moscow understood it in this sense, based on Bundy disclosure to Zinchuk on December 27 of proposal made in Warsaw on December 24./2/ (This of course was prior to negative response through Polish channel on December 29.)/3/

/2/See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 351.

/3/See ibid., Document 355.

2. We are informing Dobrynin quietly here that negative response of December 29 in Warsaw necessarily meant that we did not feel ourselves bound to maintain the order indefinitely. At the same time, we were continuing the order for the present and watching developments closely.

3. Your instructions on Vietnam also discuss the possibility of secret talks with DRV and indicate we have had no reply. In light of latest developments, we believe you should say that we as yet have no clear indication of DRV willingness for such talks. We simply cannot guess whether DRV has informed Soviets of our message or their latest reply, and we believe it best to protect ourselves from any charge of disclosure to any party or government. If you think it wise, you might omit discussions of this point entirely while simply reiterating our willingness for direct secret talks.



18. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union/1/

Washington, January 17, 1967, 7:30 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Nodis; Priority; Sunflower. Drafted by Bundy; cleared by Katzenbach, Harriman, Walt Rostow, and Read; and approved by Rusk.

120335. Literally Eyes Only for Ambassador and DCM. Moscow 3066./2/

/2/See footnote 2, Document 16.

Following is to be held until an execute order is received:

1. Guthrie should seek appointment soonest with DRV Chargé to convey message below.

2. Message is:

a. By "completely secure arrangement" USG has in mind discussions between DRV and US representatives that would not be disclosed to any other government or party whatsoever unless by mutual agreement, and that would be subject to the strictest precautions against press or public inquiry. USG is able to assure DRV that earlier message has not been disclosed to anyone.

b. We believe DRV already has considerable information by both public and private means, of US position on settlement of Viet-Nam problem, and has also received formulations from others in contact with USG. USG for its part has studied public and private statements by DRV representatives. We believe discussions should seek to establish whether common ground now exists for an acceptable settlement.

c. In discussions, USG would be prepared to consider any topic that DRV felt should be included. For illustration, topics USG would be prepared to discuss would include following:

(1) Arrangements for the reduction or the cessation of hostilities.

(2) Essential elements of the Geneva Accords of 1954 and 1962, including withdrawal of any forces coming from outside South Viet-Nam and now present there.

(3) Arrangements for a free determination by North Viet-Nam and South Viet-Nam on the issue of reunification.

(4) Recognition of the independence and territorial integrity of North and South Viet-Nam, or of all Viet-Nam if the people should choose reunification.

(5) The international posture of South Viet-Nam, including relationships with other nations.

(6) Appropriate provisions relating to the internal political structure of South Viet-Nam, including freedom from reprisals and free political participation.

(7) Appropriate objective means for insuring the integrity of all provisions agreed to.

d. The topics thus listed could be considered in any order, and the USG would be prepared to consider any additional topics the DRV would propose.

3. You should put these points in writing. In addition, you should note orally that while USG is prepared to conduct discussions under a completely secure arrangement at any place the DRV may wish, USG believes there are many advantages in Moscow. USG senior representatives in Moscow are fully equipped and can be supported securely and without personnel moves that might attract attention. We believe physical security in Moscow can be maintained subject to appropriate safeguards.

4. As these instructions indicate, we believe our first response should be a listing of topics. However, we recognize possibility that Guthrie might be probed further about substance of USG position. He should seek to avoid going beyond this, indicating that very purpose of discussions would be to develop positions on both sides. If, but only if, DRV Chargé should refer to Marigold ten points (which you have as attachment to Dobrynin-Rusk memcon of January 5),/3/ Guthrie should be familiar with these and should respond that, as we believe has been indicated to DRV, we believe this formulation would be satisfactory basis for more detailed discussion of the points contained therein./4/

/3/See Document 7. For the 10-point statement issued during the height of the Marigold exercise, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 331.

/4/Guthrie and Akalovsky met with Le Chang and Hoang Man'Tu on January 20. After Le Chang read the written message, Guthrie told him that U.S. representatives would meet those of the DRV at any place, including Moscow, and that the list of topics was merely "illustrative." Guthrie noted not only that Le Chang promised to transmit the message to Hanoi, but that his demeanor was congenial, "in marked contrast with his attitude" in past meetings with Embassy representatives. (Telegram 3126 from Moscow, January 20; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)



19. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 18, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. I. Top Secret; Sunflower; Literally Eyes Only For the President. A typed note on the memorandum reads: "For the Historical Record." In a covering memorandum, Rostow told the President: "You asked me to take notes of last night's remarkable bedroom session. Here they are--for the historical record only; and if you've got a tight enough safe!"

About 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, January 17, 1967, the President called into his bedroom Senators Mansfield and Dirksen. They were in the living room of the Mansion at the President’s invitation before the dinner given in honor of the Vice President, Speaker McCormack, and Chief Justice Warren. Others present were Mr. Marvin Watson and Mr. Walt Rostow.

Senator Mansfield sat on a chair in the far corner of the room; Senator Dirksen sat on the President’s bed. The President was standing, in stocking feet, as he completed dressing for dinner.

The President said that he had asked them to join him so that they might share perhaps the most important communication he had received since becoming President. He needed their understanding and commitment. He asked whether they were willing to receive this communication on the understanding that not another soul would hear from them what he was about to say. The President then listed those who were at the lunch earlier in the day, who knew of the matter./2/

/2/The lunch with the President lasted from 1:15 to 3:10 p.m. Those present were Rusk, McNamara, Rostow, and Christian. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

The two Senators agreed to receive the communication on these terms.

The President then explained that we had been receiving a large number of hints and suggestions about negotiating an end to the war in Viet Nam. These came from many directions: Poles, Italians, Russians, Indians, etc. These had come to nothing.

We concluded that perhaps the best way of moving forward was direct communication with Hanoi. The President had considered addressing a direct letter to Ho Chi Minh. It had been decided, however, first to go directly to a representative of Hanoi in a certain capital. We had initiated this approach. We now had a reply which might be important./3/ There was a certain hope.

/3/See footnote 2, Document 16.

This fragile hope could be destroyed by two things: first, by a loss of secrecy; second, by public statements or actions which were too soft or too hard. If Hanoi believed that, in fact, we would stop bombing without any compensating move on their side, they might persist with the war. They listen carefully to what is said by Senators and Congressmen. They read the newspapers and see the advertisements against our policy. Equally the chance could be destroyed if we acted too toughly, as if to put special pressure on them during a negotiation. The President cited the alleged effect of a statement by an unknown Admiral at a critical moment in a certain probe that aborted.

Therefore, the President was resisting the addition of major targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong area at this time. He had today turned recommendations that steel and cement plants be attacked.

The President then read a modified version of a memorandum sent to him earlier in the day by his National Security Staff. (WWR memorandum of January 17, 1967, 11:00 a.m.)/4/

/4/Document 16.

After reading the memorandum, the President said: "I want nothing to happen to disturb this possibility between now and, say, mid-February. I would hope the public hearings on foreign policy and Viet Nam could be held in abeyance until we see what we can do. Give me two or three weeks to run this out."

The President then asked: Will Fulbright and Hickenlooper give us this little chance? Public hearings can do us no good at all at this moment, only harm. Can the Senate hold off? The President indicated he had no problem with continuing hearings in secret.

Senator Dirksen then said: "You must call them down. They have big egos. It is not good enough if we ask them to stand down. They must hear from the President and directly know the reason."

Senator Mansfield strongly asserted the same position.

The President probed further as to whether there was any possibility of "gaining a little running room" without having fully to take anyone beyond the Majority and Minority Leaders into his confidence in this matter.

Senators Dirksen and Mansfield stated again strongly that there was no other way than to bring them in.

It was then decided that the President would invite for a meeting in the Cabinet room at 9:30 a.m., January 18, Senators Dirksen, Mansfield, Fulbright, Hickenlooper, Russell, Smith, and Aiken./5/

/5/On January 18 the President and Rostow met with Senators Mansfield, Dirksen, Hickenlooper, Russell, and Aiken for a 65-minute off-the-record session. Senator Smith did not attend the meeting. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) No record of the meeting has been found. For speculation that the President may have persuaded the Senators to delay for several weeks the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's hearings on Vietnam in order to avoid interference with the ongoing peace initiatives, see William Gibbons, The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War, Part IV, p. 506.

The President then read to Senators Mansfield and Dirksen a draft resolution on Viet Nam. He said that he could not carry the burden of this war alone. He needed reaffirmation by the Congress.

Senator Mansfield immediately said: "This is the worst thing you could do. It is exactly what you don’t want to happen--a public debate questioning the foundations of our Viet Nam policy. Your opponents would have a field day."

Senator Dirksen agreed. He said these are only words on paper. "You just pursue your course."

Senator Mansfield said any talk of a resolution reminds them of the Tonkin Gulf resolution and "rubs the wrong way on both sides."

The President then said that Secretary Rusk felt it might be useful (responding to a suggestion of Senator Fulbright) to have hearings next week on the Consular Treaty with the Soviet Union. Senator Mansfield asked if Mr. Hoover was now agreeable. The President said he could not control Mr. Hoover’s view.

Senator Mansfield then asked if it would be helpful if he made a speech on the East-West trade bill and the Consular Treaty early next week. The President said this would be helpful. Mr. Rostow agreed to supply Senator Mansfield by 9:00 a.m., Wednesday, January 18, a full listing of agreements made with the Soviet Union during President Johnson’s administration.

The President and the two Senators joined the party in the Oval Room at 8:15 p.m.



20. Editorial Note

During October 1966 retired Mexican diplomat Luis Quintanilla traveled to North Vietnam to meet with DRV President Ho Chi Minh. At that time, Quintanilla proposed that Ho engage in private conversations with two of his American colleagues from the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, William Baggs and Harry S. Ashmore, who had arranged an international conference for world peace in Geneva in May 1967. Subsequently, Baggs and Ashmore received visas from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam Consulate in Phnom Penh and a briefing from U.S. Government officials. Accompanied by Quintanilla, they arrived in Hanoi on January 6, 1967, and remain in North Vietnam for 8 days.

On January 12 they met with Ho Chi Minh. Ho told them that private talks could begin after the United States halted its bombing of North Vietnam. He refused to entertain any reciprocal gestures before the bombing stopped for, in his view, "this would be like a person who has been shot at and held up by a bandit in Chicago, and then was asked by the bandit what price the victim would be willing to pay for the bandit to stop shooting at him." (Report of Baggs and Ashmore to Bundy, January 18; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Aztec; see also the published account by Baggs and Ashmore, Mission to Hanoi: A Chronicle of Double-Dealing in High Places) Walt Rostow saw little encouraging in Ho Chi Minh’s statements to Baggs and Ashmore. "What comes through clearly, as it has with other recent visitors to Hanoi, is that they are trying to wig-wag to us that they might be willing to settle by negotiation," he wrote to President Lyndon Johnson in a January 23 memorandum. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Aztec)

Quintanilla insisted upon presenting his own peace plan independent of Baggs and Ashmore. On January 18 he met with Ambassador Fulton Freeman in Mexico City. He related that he had successfully submitted his own proposal for a military truce and a peace agreement to Hoang Tung, an alternate member of the Lao Dong Central Committee. The North Vietnamese had examined Quintanilla’s draft and had proposed changes in it, which Quintanilla then passed on to Freeman. (Telegram 3955 from Mexico City, January 18; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/AZTEC) Bundy responded to Freeman that the draft showed that "Quintanilla may take far too optimistic view of what he has found and may have strong tendencies in direction of publicity and self-glorification." Quintanilla’s proposal was "a totally one-sided paper that could not possibly form a useful basis for any further discussion." However, in order "to avoid publicity," Bundy recommended that a careful response coupled with strictures about secrecy be made to Quintanilla. (Telegram 124925 to Mexico City, January 25; ibid.) The administration would allow Quintanilla to respond to the North Vietnamese with a statement calling for discussions "without any prior conditions or agenda" that Hanoi could initiate through the "Quintanilla channel or any channel of which they already aware." (Telegram 4141 to Mexico City, January 26; ibid., POL 7 MEX) "The element of a tangible corresponding response to the bombing halt was totally lacking," Bundy told Under Secretary Katzenbach. (Memorandum from Bundy to Katzenbach, February 3; ibid., POL US-VIET N)

In a meeting with Katzenbach and Bundy on February 4, Ashmore and Baggs presumably requested a response from the administration that they could send to Ho Chi Minh. No record of this meeting can be found, but it is referenced in the negotiating volume of the Pentagon Papers; see George Herring, The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, page 105. As a consequence, Bundy drafted a letter for Ashmore to sign that reported that he and Baggs had informed the administration; it called for some measure of reciprocal restraint before a bombing halt would occur. (Draft letter from Ashmore to Ho Chi Minh, February 4; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL US-VIET N) On February 15 the letter reached a DRV representative in Cambodia and was forwarded to Hanoi. On February 23 Harriman met with Baggs in Florida and told him that while he "thought their channel was the best available," he advised no further action. Nevertheless, on February 27 Quintanilla transmitted a request to Hanoi for an "urgent" reply to the February 4 Ashmore letter. He also mentioned that Baggs and Ashmore would return to Hanoi on March 10 in order to discuss the proposal. (Memorandum to the Director of Central Intelligence from the Deputy Director for Plans and attached Intelligence Report CSDB-312/00592-67, March 2; Central Intelligence Agency, DDI Files, Job 80-B01721R, Vietnam (General) 1967) On March 3 Quintanilla received a reply from the DRV rebuffing the proposed trip due to new military actions by the United States in Vietnam. (Memorandum to the Director of Central Intelligence from the Deputy Director for Plans and attached Intelligence Report CSDB-312/00649-67, March 9; ibid.) Baggs and Ashmore later argued that their effort had been "undercut" by the administration due to an exchange the President had initiated simultaneously with Ho Chi Minh. See Baggs and Ashmore, Mission to Hanoi, pages 88-99.

At the end of May the conference Pacem in Terris II convened in Geneva. The Johnson administration, the Soviet Union, and the DRV did not send representatives to the conference. Given an agreement among the international participants that no Vietnamese side would be heard without both being present, the government in Saigon was not invited to attend.

During early June Baggs and Ashmore presented to both sides a call for a secret discussion to decide the agenda for negotiations. These talks would not occur prior to the termination of aerial bombardment, an idea that was strongly supported by the conference attendee nations. (Ibid., pages 100-105) According to a June 14 report given to Katzenbach by Baggs and Ashmore, on June 8 Ashmore received a message from the DRV General Delegation in Paris granting permission for him to see its head, Mai Van Bo. Both Baggs and Ashmore met with Bo for an hour and a half on June 12. They told Bo that the U.S. Government knew of the meeting and "would expect to be informed." Bo did not depart from the official position of his government in opposition to reciprocal action in exchange for a bombing halt. Baggs offered that despite its reliance on military measures, the U.S. Government was in reality looking for a means by which to settle the war through negotiations. Ashmore suggested that instead of official settlement discussions, which could not be held until the bombing ended completely, according to the DRV position, perhaps "an exploratory conversation" could occur between designated representatives of the two sides. Bo expressed interest. Bo stated categorically that his government "would talk" if the U.S. bombardment ceased unconditionally. Bundy passed the memorandum of the conversation to S/S, with instructions to distribute it to Rusk, Katzenbach, Harriman, Rostow, McNaughton, and Helms on an Eyes Only basis. He expressed concern that the DRV leadership would misinterpret the remarks of the two Americans as implying that the "only condition" was an agreed agenda for settlement talks, with no insistence upon reciprocity. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Top Secret WPB Chron., Jun/Aug. 1967) This channel remained moribund for the rest of the year.

On September 18 the State Department issued a description of the contacts in response to an article written by Ashmore on the episode. For text of the statement, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 990-992.


21. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, January 19, 1967, 0630Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Received at 2:41 a.m. and passed to the White House, DOD, and CIA at 3:44 a.m.

16000. 1. I visited General Thieu, who told me about progress towards a Constitution, saying that working groups representing the GVN and the Constituent Assembly were working close together at the Independence Palace with a great deal of agreement and an excellent "tone" to the proceedings./2/

/2/During the first part of 1967, the GVN wrestled with internal differences over the promulgation of a new Constitution. Not only did the ruling Directorate have points of disagreement with the newly-formed Constituent Assembly, but within the executive body itself Thieu and Ky were locked in a dispute over the procedures for Presidential candidacy. (Telegram 15193 from Saigon, January 9; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIV, Memos (B))

2. He believed that after the Constitution had been promulgated the members of the Constituent Assembly would serve individually as a sort of an electoral commission to devise the procedures for holding the election for President.

3. There would be a provision in the Constitution [omission--establishing a National Security] Council to advise the President on military matters. This, he said, would be one way in which the military would be recognized in the new government. Another way, of course, would be for military men to take off their uniforms and be candidates.

4. When I asked him about Presidential candidates, he said that the persons whose names were heard mentioned were Suu, Dan, Don, Huong,/3/ Thanh and then "the two military ones," Thieu and Ky./4/ He felt that Huong and Thanh had the least chance.

/3/Phan Khac Suu, Phan Quang Dan, Tran Van Don, Tran Van Huong, and Au Truong Thanh were prominent South Vietnamese political figures.

/4/In a conversation with a U.S. Military Attaché, Prime Minister Ky expressed his desire to return to active military service, but since in his view no other potential Presidential candidate had a following comparable to his, Ky feared political instability if he left office. "There will be coups and counter-coups, the likes of which we have not seen before," he predicted. (Telegram 15080 from Saigon, January 9; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIV, Memos (B)) In a January 10 covering memorandum submitting this information to the President, Walt Rostow commented that Ky's major dilemma was: "should he try to be George Washington or not?" (Ibid.)

5. I asked him whether he thought these seven names would all be printed on the ballot, pointing out that if this happened it would be not only impossible for any one man to get a majority, but it would be very difficult to get a plurality of any significant size.

6. Without giving me a direct answer to my question, he made it clear that thought is being given as to how a multiplicity of candidacies can be whittled down. One method being discussed is that no candidate’s name could go on the ballot unless a certain number of deputies in the Constituent Assembly were to sign what in effect would be a nomination paper.

7. He then said that to get anything done in Viet-Nam, it was necessary to have: A) the support of the military; B) the support of the Vietnamese people; and C) the support of the Americans. There was much talk, he said, that the Americans were supporting Suu and Dan. I said that I thought I was in a position to know, and that the Americans, meaning the United States Government, is not supporting anyone./5/

/5/On February 1 EAP prepared an analysis of the alternative Presidential slates in the upcoming campaign in South Vietnam in response to a request by President Johnson. The analysis, drafted by Robert H. Miller of the Vietnam Working Group and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Leonard Unger, asserted that Thieu was the candidate with the most support from the military since Ky lacked Thieu's broader base; Ky's potential success would depend on who became his running mate. Others such as former government figureheads Phan Khac Suu and Tran Van Huong were considered either too old or too weak to be elected, and former Generals Duong Van Minh and Tran Van Don would disrupt the unity of the military. In various combinations, a potential Presidential slate could either emphasize the civilian character of the incoming government and broaden its appeal, or it could acquire a different nature and maximize military support for and cohesiveness in the new regime. Miller and Unger expressed concern as to whether the military would indeed turn over power to the civilians. The best option available to the U.S. Government was not to support any particular candidate but to ensure a fair election. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S) The South Vietnamese apparently regarded the matter differently. In a conversation with a member of the MACV staff on February 21, JGS Chairman Cao Van Vien pointed out that "absolutely no positive guidance in this matter has been forthcoming from the U.S. side," an omission that had a "counter-productive effect" upon the leadership of the GVN just at the critical stage when American advice was needed most. (Memorandum of conversation, February 21; U.S. Army Military History Institute, William C. Westmoreland Papers, History File, 2/2/Jan 67-28 Mar 67)

8. I agreed with him that the promulgation of a Constitution and the election of a President were a beginning, and that it was important to have men in these high offices who could command the confidence of the people and move the country ahead.

9. On Article 21, he agreed with me that if the Constitution was a satisfactory document, as he believed it would be, this provision would be a dead letter./6/

/6/Article 21 provided for the continuation of the Constituent Assembly as the legislative arm of the government until the first National Assembly was elected. In addition, the military-dominated government of South Vietnam sought to make other changes in the draft Constitution. The most important contention involved the perceived curtailment of Presidential powers in the document. In telegram 16456 from Saigon, January 25, Bunker wrote: "I agree with the government that the President should have the normal powers with respect to emergencies and foreign affairs. We are using our influence to help bring about the necessary changes to that end. I also favor some provision to insure that the President will be elected by at least a large plurality. With a large number of candidates, some thinning out device is indispensable to prevent the winner from having a very low percentage of the total vote." National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

10. Altogether his report on Constitution-making was a report of progress.

11. As I was leaving, he brought up the matter of the revamping of the ARVN, and said that he was making a systematic tour of the country, speaking to the officers wherever he went and stressing the absolutely vital nature of this job which only the Vietnamese could do. He stressed the importance of working closely with the district and province chiefs and the importance of promoting officers on the basis of their work in pacification and not on the basis of how many Viet Cong they had killed or how many guns and Viet Cong weapons they had seized. He negated reports which I had heard of stubborn resistance to using the ARVN in this way. He did not find resistance, but found a lack of understanding. With understanding, he thought the program would really move.



22. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 19, 1967, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIV. Secret; Literally Eyes Only. A notation indicates that the memorandum was received in the President's office at 3:03 p.m.

Mr. President:

Last evening I had a long and fruitful talk with Clark Clifford about your instruction that I explore the setting up of a committee to examine the effects of our bombing of North Viet Nam.

Clark posed the following questions and made the following points.

1. What use does the President propose to make of the committee’s report: Is it for him? Is it for the public? Is it for the Congressional leadership?

2. Would the existence of the committee be known?

3. If the desire is to keep it secret, is this possible? He cited the success of the non-committee on foreign aid. He said secrecy was possible in that case because the subject matter was not controversial and it was not necessary to engage the various government departments very deeply. In this case, we would have to be seeking evidence and views from government departments where the issue was extremely controversial. He gravely doubted, therefore, whether we could count on keeping the existence of such a committee secret.

4. Would the committee make policy recommendations? He strongly believed that this is not a subject on which a committee should make recommendations to the President. There is no substitute, in a matter of this kind, for the President’s personal, lonely judgment. And the very fact that the President was asking for outside advice in this matter would indicate, to the public and the world, that the President was uncertain. Whatever recommendations the report made would complicate the President’s problems.

5. Specifically, if the committee were representative, and it came up with recommendations different from current policy, it would be very hard for the President to deal with it, as President Eisenhower found with the Killian Report, etc. On the other hand, if the committee is handpicked, it would be less than valueless, a millstone around the President’s neck, which would fool no one. The effect on the public would be the same; namely, an impression of Presidential indecision on a vital controversial issue.

6. In short, it is Clark’s strongly held view that this is not an issue on which a committee whose existence became publicly known, could be helpful to you.

7. Clark went on to say that if the President needs more information, a wider spectrum of views, then he should set out to get the data and the views quietly, with my (WWR) assistance.

8. If the President wished to have a fresh, clean look at the problem by men that he trusts, the prime requirement is that secrecy be maintained. If that is the way the President wishes to go, Clark recommends a very small group which would not be a committee at all. It might consist of three men--the fewer the better. I (WWR) could get them, on my own account, the materials from the bureaucracy to read them into the problem. They would not file a report. They might sit down with the President on a long evening and exchange impressions. If there were any leak, the President could then say truthfully: There was no committee. I talk to a great many people on a great many subjects.

9. If the problem is to deal with Vance Hartke’s ridiculous idea,/2/ the only advice Clark has is: ignore it. This one will go away, and Hartke will have another damn fool idea within a month which also should be ignored.

/2/Senator R. Vance Hartke (D-IN) proposed a halt to the bombing in both North and South Vietnam and a limitation of ground operations. See The New York Times, December 28, 1966.

10. Clark asked me, finally, to tell you this:

--Of course he will serve in any capacity that you wish him to serve;

--But, before entering such an enterprise, he would welcome a chance to present directly to you his view.

11. Now my own reaction. On the committee I am, basically, in agreement with Clark. It would be most difficult to keep it secret. It would serve no political purpose if it were secret. It would be unsettling and possibly explosive, if made public--among other things, because it would appear you were not confident of JCS and Bob McNamara’s advice. But I do think you may face a problem to which we should address ourselves and on which a certain amount of wise guidance from people like Clark, Gruenther, etc., might be helpful at the right time.

12. The problem is this: If we do not get a diplomatic breakthrough in the next three weeks or so, it probably means that they plan to sweat us out down to the election of 1968. As you know, I share your view that we would then have to think hard about how to apply our military power against the North with maximum effect and minimum risk of enlarging the war as a whole.

13. Because of the way in which bombing policy has evolved in the North--with pulling and hauling on each target--there has been little systematic thought about a northern strategy as a whole. Because of this, I have stimulated Cy Vance (via the Katzenbach Committee) to take a fresh look, leaving no options out, setting out the pros and cons of the three major possible strategies against the North as if we had never heard of them before. I am doing the same.

14. In broad terms, the three strategies are:

--Cut off supplies coming from outside North Viet Nam (mining, etc.);

--Bomb so as to disrupt the whole North Vietnamese economy, without interdicting external supplies;

--Apply our military power with great concentration in the southern part of North Viet Nam--at the bottom of the funnel--in effect, to separate North and South Viet Nam.

15. Under each heading there are various lines of action; and we could do all three. But this is the problem to which I think we should address ourselves and the broad strategic approach with which we should begin.

16. In addressing that problem in mid-February, if necessary, I believe you should instruct your senior advisers and their departments to clear their minds and come up with a fresh appraisal of all the courses open and the pros and cons./3/

/3/Point 16 is circled, with the following notation written by the President: "OK--I agree. L."

17. In making up your own mind as to what course to pursue, something like Clark’s informal non-committee might be helpful to you.




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