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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 23-43

23. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator J. William Fulbright/1/

Washington, January 20, 1967, 5:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Fulbright, January 20, 1967, 5:30 p.m., Tape F67.03, Side A, PNO 1 and 2. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

[Here follows discussion of legislative issues relating primarily to U.S.-Latin American relations.]

President: I saw you ran out last night before Strom Thurmond/2/ told you where the hell the cow at the cabbage. When you saw old Strom getting ready to get up, you and Joe Clark/3/ went to disarmament.

/2/Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC). The reference is to briefings on foreign policy for members of Congress which occurred at the White House the previous day.

/3/Senator Joseph Clark (D-PA).

Fulbright: Bill Foster had asked us some time ago and I hated to back out at such a late date. I didnít care bout hearing Strom anyway.

President: Heís got the answers if youíll just listen to him.

Fulbright: God almighty, he gives me the willies.

President: He says that the trouble is that the targets, that you donít know anything about these targets, that youíre not hitting the right targets.

Fulbright: Well, I hope you can get those God-damned people to talking over there. I hate when I see all those figures and all those amounts and so on, you know, itís just awful./4/

/4/Fulbright published an eight-point plan for peace in his book The Arrogance of Power (New York: Random House, 1967). The plan called for a cessation of bombing of the North and a decrease of military actions in the South leading to a four-party conference that would result in the creation of a neutralized Vietnam.

President: You are not going to get them talking until they are convinced they canít win here. And you just let them know here, the statement that you made a long time ago that they canít win here, that the hawks are more in control than anybody else and they are stronger than the President. When they are convinced of that, I am convinced that you can sit down and get an agreement with them on your '54 and '62 [Geneva Accords] and maybe have an election there with the understanding that we will just pull out and abide by the results of the election just like we did in the Dominican Republic.

Fulbright: I can be fair to you but you have to get the first step and that is I donít think you can ignore the Viet Cong. They are the bastards of the fight.

President: We are not ignoring them. When they get ready to transact business, theyíll take the Viet Cong exactly like weíll take South Vietnam.

Fulbright: Why donít you encourage that damned Assembly, some of those native South Vietnamese, not Ky the general, but whoever is in there and coming into that constituency and encourage them very quietly, through your CIA or somebody, to get in communication with the Viet Cong and say, "For Christís sake, let us have an election. Weíre just killing each other for nothing."

President: They are just as much under the control of North Vietnam, Bill, as that little stenographer that you sit outside who takes your direction. It is just the same way, and they got just about as much independence as a sharecropper in Mississippi.

Fulbright: This is an approach to them. Maybe they would then put it up to the North?

President: You see these people donít want anybody to know that they are missing with us and they donít want the Viet Cong or the Chinese to know it. But they see what is happening in China and they see the days are numbered with the Russians having to force everything, so they are going to talk if things just keep on. They are hollering too much not to want to talk. All this yelling--you see your friend Ashmore today with his story./5/ Theyíre going to talk in a reasonable length of time, in my judgment, if we donít blow it here. And if they decide they can wait until the next election, why they might do it to see if they blow up the election. Otherwise, theyíll talk, and when they talk, we can make reasonable terms. We can let them bring whoever they want to. If they want the Viet Cong to come there, their voice will be heard as we have said. But they are going to write the ticket. And I think one of the most insurmountable things has been removed by Manila, which you all laughed at, but when we told them in Manila that we werenít going to stay there, that weíd come home and said it publicly all over the world, all eight of them agreed, and South Vietnam agreed that it did not want us, and weíd come out of there just like we did in the Dominican Republic. Then I think that is whatís going to get it done if we do it.

/5/Ashmore publicly stated that the North Vietnamese were likely to engage in peace talks but would not do so until the United States ceased its bombing of the DRV.

I think whether we do it or not is whether they think they can wear us out here. If they think they can, they will do it because they want that territory. Otherwise, theyíll be willing to settle it. And I think the Indonesia thing is just waiting to see what happens. I think that theyíll be throwing Sukarno out before long and they will be willing to put two or three divisions of their own in there. And I think they can see that, and they can see China crumbling up. This is getting closer to a solution if we just donít blow it. The Goldwater statement today hurts us./6/ Itíll just give us hell because he has been out and he has all the dope about how they are being restrained and restricted. Strom, if it had been public last night, would have hurt us. Heís just back and his was all on the targets and not using our weapons. Some of Dickís [Russell] statements, the same way. The Joint Chiefs, how we keep them and your man from Arkansas and the rest of them suppressed, I donít know.

/6/Upon returning from a 4-day trip to Vietnam on January 20, Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) called for an expansion of military efforts in order to bring the enemy to the bargaining table but opposed an invasion of North Vietnam at the time.

But we are going it pretty good. If we can hold out just a little while longer, I think we will get somewhere. They will not fight anymore; they get out of the way, you see. Itís awfully hard on them. What they want us to do--there are some targets we should take, the steel mill and the damn cement thing and the stuff that they are manufacturing, but we have held back because we are so close and they are so basic and there is such a change. Weíre not going to hit their dikes or their water or their civilians or their cities or anything like that. But everything you hit, you kill some. It is just a question of how many. But there are some things in which we could make it harder. They are having hell now. They have thousands and hundreds of thousands repairing, trying to keep going and itís not easy for them. Theyíre not going to do this much longer if we can--I donít think they would be sending their folks back home. Theyíre going back and forth now, you see, with these messages. Weíve just got to hold a stiff upper lip and be careful and donít rock the boat. When these folks go to making speeches, just get off the floor. Donít get in a debate with them. Just let Strom ignore them, you canít answer them. You canít answer them.

I just hope that Goldwater--somebody said I should have him come in and report to me because he was the nominee. I said, "The hell with the nominee. I donít want any reports like that. I want to play them down as much as I can." I read what our Navy admiral said. I donít even know who he is and I canít find the damned fellow. But he got right in to the conference table, right in the middle of it, right in Warsaw, and they just came up and said, "Well, the hell with it. Here is Johnson--the man wouldnít be speaking without him," and they interpreted what he says as representing me just like you say when Gromyko says something, that thatís a Soviet line. They do not understand our system and that is the great danger and has been the danger in all of these wars we have had. That people misjudge us.

Okay, you have given me what I wanted. I donít want to take all day, but I did want to find out about these folks, and you keep it silent. Now, listen, when I have to change out there, I am seriously thinking, I have talked to you about this once before, but you may have forgotten it. My number one problem in Vietnam as I see it is what we can clean up to try to administer it and pacify it. If Lodge gets out of there, I am inclined to put Westmoreland over in his place.

Fulbright: Well, it has become such a major military matter, I guess it is . . .

President: Heís level-headed, he is quiet, he will cooperate, he will do what we tell him to do. He doesnít fight with us, he holds the folks in line, heís got the prestige, he knows the country, he can make Ky and them act, and he has the Constituent Assembly and other things, and I believe heíll be more effective than Lodge if Lodge comes out of there, and Lodge is going to come out of there after the Constituent Assembly gets out of the way, in my judgment. And you once said before, well, it is military anyway, and I wouldnít want a military man in other countries, but for the transition; just trying to get to where we can feed these refugees, where we can take care of these people, where we can protect what we have cleaned up and I believe that if we are going to have a pacification program, Bill, it is awful hard to get these AID and State Department men to manage the job. They are not managers.

Fulbright: No, that is awful bad. In fact, it is so bad it has to be all with a military operation.

President: Okay, that is all right. Do you know Westmoreland at all?

Fulbright: No.

President: I wish you did. Why donít you go to Vietnam?

Fulbright: Oh, Jesus, Iím too old to be running out there.

President: Well, youíre not too old to run around and make those speeches. Arthur Goldberg is going out there next month. You could ride out there with him and be back in 10 days.

Fulbright: I promised Mike [Mansfield] Iíd go to Mexico with him.

[Here follows discussion of U.S.-Mexican relations and a trip to Mexico that Fulbright was planning.]

 

24. Memorandum From the Presidentís Special Assistant (Komer) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 23, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Meetings with the President, January-June 1967. Secret. A typed notation at the top of the source text reads: "Eyes Only Mr. Rostow," suggesting that the memorandum was sent through Rostow. On January 11 Komer had sent the President a memorandum that listed the top priorities of 1967 for South Vietnam: the promulgation of the new Constitution and the swearing-in of a new government, the use of the ARVN to increase pacification, successful local and national elections, the launching of a national reconciliation program, and measures to keep down inflation. (Ibid., Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIII)

I. Whatís Happening in South Vietnam. Though few were as foolhardy as I in predicting it last October, more and more people now tend to agree that we are doing a lot better in Vietnam. The trend line is up on the military, political evolution, and economic fronts. The VC/NVA are hurting, and it is beginning to show. Even pacification is beginning to move, though far from enough as yet. There are signs that Hanoi is beginning to rethink the problem. The convulsion in China may prove a major bonus.

But we still arenít doing as well as we should--and can if we force the pace:

1. Evidence is gradually accumulating that the VC/NVA is reverting more to a guerrilla-type strategy under our successful military pressures. But is Westy shifting fast enough toward a counter-guerrilla strategy (i.e. clear and hold) to keep up with this enemy shift?

2. The political transition to an elected government is going well, but there are major risks of civil/military or northerner/southerner crises which could lead to critical setbacks. The stakes are so great that we canít afford to sit by passively without using our influence to insure a safe transition. Rostow and I have been pushing this for weeks now, but it wonít happen unless you lay down the law.

3. Pacification is creeping forward, but not much more. Nor will it move faster so long as it is left mostly to the civilians with 20% of the assets, while the US/ARVN military (with 80% of the assets) still give it only a lick and promise. There is still a grievous lack of integrated, detailed civil/military pacification planning in Vietnam.

4. There is also an appalling lack of vigorous, integrated management of our Vietnam affairs in Saigon. Westy operates quite independently of Lodge and Porter. In Washington, the Katzenbach-Vance-Rostow-Komer group has been a useful forum for exchanging ideas every two weeks or so, but not the executive committee I hoped for (mainly because Nick is swamped with other matters).

II. Some Quick Fixes. If we want to maximize the chances of accelerating results in 1967-68, we ought to consider some radical steps. These can only be taken from Washington.

1. Management. State canít pull together and oversee the running of this $20-25 billion railroad. First, itís mostly McNamaraís railroad. Even the civil side (say one-twentieth of the total) had to be lodged in the White House to be run at all. In any case, the State people are no managers. Stateís top echelons spend a lot of time usefully on the negotiating track, but not on generating the movement in Vietnam which will largely determine whether Hanoi can be brought to the table. The need is so urgent that you might even want to make Bob McNamara chairman of a Washington "executive committee". He could get us all around the table regularly and make sure things happen. Iíd gladly work in harness with him.

2. Vigorous top management is even more urgently needed in Saigon. I wonít say any more about Lodge, but Porter canít fairly be charged with managing a pacification enterprise that is necessarily mostly military. The 90-day trial period will shortly be up without much more happening than consolidation of the civil side under Porter (long overdue, but not enough). So Iíd urge you get Taylorís and McNamaraís views on what more needs to be done.

3. We badly need to decide on what kind of elected government best suits our purposes in Vietnam, or at least what we can tolerate and canít. There is plenty of evidence that the military intend to run, and even rig the election if necessary. Do we want this?/2/

/2/During a January 30 meeting with Komer, McNamara recommended a concentration of pacification effort few select areas to ensure greater success by bringing all resources to bear simultaneously. (Note from Komer to McNamara, January 31; Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Vietnam Files: FRC 77-0075, Vietnam (January-February 1967)) Komer had previously advised such an effort in telegram 120338 to Saigon, January 17, which he attached to the note to McNamara.

My trip to Saigon/3/ can be a vehicle for carrying the word on these matters, or at the least getting a solid line on them for you. All I need is your blessing and State/DOD cooperation. Hence I suggest that at Tuesday lunch you get a reading from Rusk/McNamara on current status, and tell them what you want done./4/

/3/Komer left for a 10-day trip to South Vietnam on February 4.

/4/Komer met with the President, McNamara, Rostow, Rusk, and George Christian at the Tuesday Luncheon the next day from 1:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) No other record of the meeting has been found.

R. W. Komer/5/

/5/Printed from a copy that indicates Komer signed the original.

 

25. Memorandum From the Presidentís Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 23, 1967, 10:45 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIV. Top Secret.

Mr. President:

SUBJECT
Rolling Thunder 53

Secretaries Rusk and McNamara asked me to put to you their agreed recommendations about which targets submitted by the JCS in Rolling Thunder 53 should be accepted at the present time, and which should be deferred until after Tet and until after we see what, if anything, develops in the various flowered negotiating tracks.

1. They would accept nine military support targets (marked in red in the table attached to the enclosed map:/2/ barracks, ammo and supply depots. This table also indicates with a (d) the JCS targets which they recommend for deferral.

/2/Not printed.

2. In substance, they would defer a major ammo depot near Haiphong (for fear of substantial civilian casualties); the steel plant; the cement plant; and six electric power plants.

3. They would hold the naval sea interdiction zone to the 19th parallel where it now is; the JCS kept to their original recommendation of extension to the 20th parallel.

4. The operational instruction now reads: "You are authorized to transit the Hanoi/Haiphong restricted areas as necessary in conducting air operations; however, transit of the Hanoi prohibited area by strike aircraft should be avoided." This is the 10-mile zone. Although Secretaries Rusk and McNamara did not address themselves to this point, you may wish to strengthen the language by substituting "will" for "should" to underline the importance of not having an operational accident in that zone at this time.

5. Secretaries Rusk and McNamara also recommend that, whatever the weather situation, no more than three of these new targets should be struck in any one week, to avoid the image of an accelerated, intensive, and concerted campaign.

My own recommendation is that you support the two Secretaries in this matter; and also change "should" to "will." I do so for two reasons:

--at this particular moment we should stay straight and level and not introduce new target systems or take operational risks which might weaken our negotiating record;

--I believe before we go into any new target systems--if that should be required after Tet--you should hear systematic argument on alternative "northern strategies" so that we decide something more fundamental than merely adding a few targets to the existing list.

Walt

Approve recommendations of Sects. Rusk and McNamara/3/
Alter their recommendations as follows
Alter language from "should" to "will"
See me

/3/The first and third of these options is checked. A January 23 handwritten notation by Rostow at the bottom of the first page of the memorandum reads: "Townsend Hoopes notified (Sec. McNamara not available & John McNaughton out of city) of decision. Also told John Walsh of decision." Six of the nine RT 53 targets were not struck due to poor weather conditions. They were re-authorized as targets under RT 54, which was approved on February 23. (Joint Chiefs of Staff, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam, 1960-1968, Part III, pp. 41-2-41-5)

 

26. Editorial Note

The escalating war in Vietnam continued to require supplemental appropriations from the Congress. President Johnson formalized his request for additional funding for the war and his Great Society programs in his Budget Message on January 24, 1967. In the message, he asked for a supplemental amount of $12.275 billion for the remainder of fiscal year 1967 (of which $4.5 billion needed new authorization) and $21.9 billion for fiscal year 1968, an increase of $5.8 billion over the previous year. As a means of underwriting these costs, he also requested that a 6 percent surcharge on incomes be levied beginning on July 1, 1967. "The tax should remain in effect for two years or for such period as may be warranted by our unusual expenditures in Vietnam," the President stated in the speech. "I will not hesitate to recommend an earlier expiration date, however, if the fiscal requirements of our commitments in Vietnam permit such action." For the full text of the address, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pages 39-61.

Hearings in joint meetings of the Senateís Armed Services Committee and the Department of Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Richard Russell (D-GA), on the request for supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 1967 began the day prior to the Presidentís speech. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara testified on the first day of Russellís hearings. McNamara submitted a 33-page statement that discussed various military aspects of the war, including an estimate of enemy strength in the range of 275,000-280,000. For an excerpt of the statement, see Congressional Record, Volume 113, pages 1847-1848. In response to questioning on his prepared remarks from members of the committees, McNamara replied, "I donít believe that the bombing up to the present has significantly reduced, nor would any bombing that I could contemplate in the future would significantly reduce, the actual flow of men and matťriel to the South." In his view, the bombing served solely to punish the North Vietnamese in an effort to make them cease their infiltration. In contrast, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Earle Wheeler, who also testified at the hearings, stated that the bombings did in fact reduce infiltration by limiting the overall number of people that the North Vietnamese could send southward. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 835-841; and Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Volume 23, 1967, pages 205-206.

 

27. Telegram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State/1/

Rome, January 24, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Marigold. The telegram was received at 7:54 a.m.; there is no indication when it was sent.

3812. State 123197./2/

/2/Dated January 21. (Ibid.)

1. Saw Fanfani last night. In reply to first question he said his interlocutor was not Vietnamese and had simply informed him that Hanoi was prepared to send to him a representative if agreeable./3/ He has refused any reply saying he must think the matter over. Fanfani said to me this was both because he did not wish to cause any confusion and also because the last thing he wanted to do was to get involved in a floorshow such as took place in late 1965. Yet he would of course be glad to follow up on this if Washington so desired. Contact had taken place last Friday/4/ morning prior to his meeting with Rostow and me. He had informed us of it and no one else.

/3/In telegram 3664 from Rome, January 16, Lodge reported on his January 15 discussion with Fanfani on the various peace channels. (Ibid.) Soon thereafter, Fanfani was approached by a North Vietnamese representative interested in exploratory talks. (Telegram 3787 from Rome, January 20; ibid.) In telegram 3678 from Rome, January 17, Lodge reported that he had informed the Pope of the same topic during a January 16 meeting. (Ibid.)

/4/January 20.

2. My efforts to induce Fanfani to identify to me his interlocutor produced no results other than his vigorous assertion that this had nothing to do with La Pira or his group, none of whom including La Pira he Fanfani had seen for more than a year./5/

/5/Giorgio LaPira was an Italian law professor involved in an abortive peace effort in 1965. See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. III, Documents 207, 263, and 271.

3. In reply I said I did not wish to raise this question with Washington; that I thought it better, if he considered this contact potentially productive, that he should on a personal basis seek to elicit more information from his interlocutor. In this fashion both Washington and he himself would remain uncommitted (senza impegno).

4. Fanfani said he thought he would try that and would ask four questions: (A) the identity of the Hanoi representative; (B) his position official or otherwise; (C) his terms of reference; and (D) how he was to be recognized.

Reinhardt

 

28. Memorandum From the Presidentís Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 26, 1967, 10 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIV, Memos (B). Secret.

Mr. President:

Westyís command guidance for 1967 will interest you./2/

/2/Attached but not printed is telegram DOD 63890 from Westmoreland to the President, January 24, the conclusion of which reads: "In summary, we have two equally important tasks to accomplish simultaneously--maintain relentless pressure on enemy combat forces and support systems and provide expanding security to the population. Our progress will be measured in terms of Viet Cong bases eliminated, of territory cleared of enemy influence, of population secured, of land and water lines of communication which provide uninterrupted flow of goods to market, and of enemy forces destroyed. The number and nature of our tasks require a combination of deliberate planning and flexible execution. Imagination in the use of our assets, understanding of the political and economic effect of actions, appreciation of our role in support of the people of South Vietnam, and anticipation of the future leadership needs of South Vietnam will contribute to our success and to attainment of U.S. objectives. The majority of the people will gravitate toward the side which manifests greater strength. We must demonstrate throughout the country that the Government of South Vietnam is the stronger."

It is clear:

--we have the initiative;

--we will have sufficient forces for steady offensive pressure on base areas, pacification, opening roads, etc.

The unsolved problems are:

--the detailed planning of pacification, province by province;

--galvanizing the ARVN for pacification;

--getting the right allocation of U.S. forces between pacification and base area attacks;

--getting the right coordination from Saigon down to the provinces between military and civil elements and between U.S. and Vietnamese efforts.

But weíre moving; and Westyís vision of 1967 is basically cheering.

Walt

 

29. Editorial Note

On January 27, 1967, the North Vietnamese responded to the U.S. Governmentís January 10 message (see Document 8) when Le Chang handed to John Guthrie, Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow, an aide-mťmoire. The document stated that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) would only "exchange views" with the United States when the latter ended "immediately and unconditionally the bombing and all other acts of war" against North Vietnam. (Telegram 3218 from Moscow; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-68, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER) Walt Rostow suggested to the President that either this statement represented an outright rejection of the January 10 overture or it was "starting a negotiation from the very hard end." (Memorandum from Rostow to Johnson, January 27; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. I) Ambassador Thompson regarded the message as the "first round in oriental rug trading," although he believed that the emphasis on escalation betrayed a concern in the Hanoi leadership that the bombing was having a debilitating impact. Thompson cautioned that North Vietnam might even be compelled into "dangerous moves" such as requesting foreign "volunteers" from China. (Telegram 3231 from Moscow, January 28; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)

The next day Hanoi clarified its requirement for engaging in negotiations to stop the fighting. In an interview with Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett on January 28, DRV Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh stated that negotiations "could" occur if the United States ceased bombing and troop augmentation unconditionally. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 843-844. The Burchett interview marked the first time that North Vietnam addressed the issue of direct bilateral discussions with the U.S. Government. Simultaneously, the DRV sent confirmation of its modified negotiating stance through the Governments of India and Egypt. In New Delhi, the DRV Consul General emphasized the importance of the requirement of prior termination of the bombing before discussions could take place. (Telegram 128147 to New Delhi, January 30; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/NIRVANA) In turn, the Egyptians considered the North Vietnamese message that they had received, an affirmation that acceptance of the Four Points by the United States was not a precondition to talks, to be a clear indication "that Hanoi was clearly moving towards talks," which they mistakenly believed would soon occur in Cairo. (Memorandum of conversation, February 1; ibid., POL 27-14 VIET/TULIP; and telegram 4293 from Cairo, February 1; ibid., POL 27-14 VIET)

In response to a question concerning Trinhís statement during a February 2 press conference, the President stated: "I have seen nothing that any of them have said that indicates any seriousness on their part. I am awaiting any offer they might care to make. They know that we are in contact with them. I cannot speak for them. But I am very anxious for them to make any proposal. And we will give it very prompt and serious consideration." For the full text, see Public Papers of the President of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pages 128-134.

 

30. Letter From the Presidentís Consultant (Taylor) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 30, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Gen. Taylor (2 of 2). Secret. A handwritten "L" on the letter indicates that the President saw it. A covering note from Rostow to Secretary Rusk indicates that the Taylor report was to be a topic of discussion at the next day's luncheon of senior foreign policy advisers. Taylor returned from an 11-day trip to Vietnam on January 28. For his statement to the press regarding his visit, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 844-846.

Dear Mr. President:

I have just returned from a ten day trip to Southeast Asia for the purpose of updating my acquaintance with the area after an absence of a year and a half and of doing work related to the Presidentís Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board./2/ In the five days spent in South Viet-Nam, I talked to our principal officials and visited our major headquarters.

/2/In a January 9 note to the President, Taylor described his forthcoming official visit to Vietnam as a "refresher course in the realities of the local situation." According to a marginal notation on Taylor's note by the President's secretary, Johnson talked with Taylor at 1:19 p.m. and "heartily agreed" with the trip. The President encouraged Taylor to "take any imaginative people you want who might come up with new ideas." (Message from Taylor to the President, January 9; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Gen. Taylor (2of 2))

As a general observation, I would say that, since I left Viet-Nam, there has been dramatic progress in resolving many of the serious problems which I knew, particularly those which, in the past, arose from lack of sufficient military resources to cope with the main Viet Cong threat or derived from the chronic political instability which marked the period from the fall of Diem to the advent of the present Ky Government. In the enclosure, I have endeavored to tabulate briefly some of the most notable forms of progress which came to my attention.

Inevitably, in attacking tough problems, we either solve some incompletely or create new ones. Thus, any observer of the Viet-Nam scene, impressed though he is with the visible advances made, to give a balanced report must take note of the many residual problems. This I have tried to do in the second part of the enclosure.

No report is complete without a recommendation. Mine is that your responsible officials be set to work at once to produce plans to deal with these residual problems with a view to obtaining maximum results in 1967. Rather than depend on ad hoc task forces or individual initiatives, I would suggest assigning this task to the Senior Interdepartmental Group (with the membership adjusted as required) which was set up last year by NSAM-341/3/ to do precisely this kind of work in directing and coordinating complex governmental activities overseas. In attacking these problems, we should try to create the atmosphere of a "victory drive" to dispel any tendency to apathy at home and to exploit the growing confidence which one senses in Viet-Nam.

/3/Dated March 2, 1966; scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume XXXIII.

Sincerely yours,

Maxwell D. Taylor

 

Attachment

Washington, January 30, 1967.

MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD: VIET-NAM VISIT,
JANUARY 20-25, 1967

The following are the important impressions which I received during my visit to Viet-Nam after an absence of a year and a half. For convenience, the record is divided into two sections, one covering indications of progress in the principal sectors of U.S. activities and the second, a short tabulation of principal problem areas which still require solution.

I. Indications of Progress

The Big War (Search and Destroy)

It is more easy to identify progress in this sector than in most of the other areas of GVN/U.S. activity. It is clear that we have gained and may expect to retain the initiative against Main Force units of the Viet Cong and the elements of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Important engagements have been fought and won along the border of South Viet-Nam. South of the DMZ, in the I Corps area, the Marines have decisively defeated elements of two divisions of the NVA in the course of Operation Hastings. Along the Cambodian border of the High Plateau in Operation Paul Revere and subsequent engagements, the 4th Infantry Division has beaten back elements of three NVA divisions which have intermittently attempted to force their way out of the Cambodian base area into the Highlands.

Concurrently with defensive operations along the borders, U.S. and GVN forces have been successful in actions against Viet Cong base areas which have long served as logistic sanctuaries, the most conspicuous success being the recent clearing of the Iron Triangle by the 1st Division and supporting troops. This operation began January 8 and has just ended. Among its accomplishments were the disruption of the enemy command and logistic organization, the seizure of large quantities of supplies to include the rice needed to feed five regiments for a year, and 184,000 pages of documents, many of which have significant intelligence value.

There is reason to feel that our forces can continue to be successful in bringing the enemy main forces to battle by the attack of base areas which must be defended or abandoned at great loss, by the exploitation of the improved quantity and quality of information derived from documents, prisoners and informants, and by giving better protection to the population against the foraging raids of the Viet Cong. To live and fight, the latter must have access to the people and their resources; an effective defense of the population deprives them of this vital access.

In the course of ground operations, our side has been successful in inflicting heavy losses on the VC/NVA. General Westmorelandís

J-2 estimates their permanent losses in 1966 (KIA, seriously wounded, captured and defected) at about 96,000 and, projecting current trends forward, forecasts that these losses in 1967 will be of the order of 110,000. These estimates appear to be conservative because of the low ratio of killed to seriously wounded, 1 to 1.2, which J-2 uses in computations. The U.S. experience figure is about 1 to 6 for KIA to all wounded and the GVN figure is approximately 1 to 2.2. The latter would seem to be a reasonable figure to use for the VC/NVA since the ARVN do not include the lightly wounded in their WIA reports. In defense of the low ratio which he uses, J-2 points out that we are surely counting among the enemy KIA many of those seriously wounded VS who die shortly in the vicinity of the battlefield.

While the enemy casualty figures, past and projected, are encouraging from our point of view, J-2 believes that the enemy will be able to effect a net increase in his forces during 1967. To do so, he is expected to infiltrate about 7,000 men a month and recruit another 7,500 for a monthly gain of 14,500, and a total reinforcement for the year of 174,000. Thus, J-2 is counting on a net enemy gain in strength of about 64,000 for 1967.

I have the feeling, shared by many of the American officers outside of Saigon, that these J-2 figures are unduly pessimistic. It is understood that they are based largely on information contained from documents and prisoner interrogations. As a review of all such evidence is not feasible, I would be inclined to accept the J-2 estimates for planning purposes but with the feeling that there is an ample safety factor included in them.

The military progress in Viet-Nam results in large measure from the success and timeliness of the logistic efforts which have made possible the introduction and support of the growing number of U.S. forces. Our troops are magnificently equipped and supplied--if there is a fault, it is that too much equipment not needed in this theater has been brought with them.

They are also much better served now than formerly by the intelligence agencies which now have vast quantities of captured documents and large numbers of prisoners to provide the information which was so hard to acquire in previous years. The intelligence facilities available and procedures employed give the impression of a high order of professionalism. As always, there is a great deal that we do not know about such things as enemy intentions and leadership but our commanders are now far better served than ever in the past in Viet-Nam.

Revolutionary Development (RD)

In recognition by U.S. and GVN alike that RD is the weak sector of our efforts, there is a new intensification of attention and effort which leads to hope for significantly better progress in 1967. The causes for the sluggishness to date are numerous and are difficult to eradicate in the short term. The level of security remains too low in many areas to permit effective and methodical pacification. There have been planning and organizational difficulties in combining the resources of many agencies, GVN and U.S., into effective programs adjusted to the special needs of the forty-three provinces. There is the chronic shortage in the paramilitary and police forces needed to exploit the successes of the search and destroy military operations. While the 59-man RD cadres are expanding toward a year-end total of some 50,000, they are yet to prove themselves in action and there is a final target figure of 80,000 to be reached to meet estimated requirements. Even if this requirement can be met without a notable dilution of quality, there is still considerable question as to the capability of these cadres to spearhead the GVN civil activities in the fields of local government, self-help and local security. It may be that we are expecting more from them than they will ever produce. At the same time, because of the exaggerated importance attached to them, there is the danger that, when these cadres are not available, the province authorities will use this fact as an excuse for inactivity.

The province chief is still a vastly overburdened official. While we are simplifying our organization for RD by setting up the Office of Civil Operations discussed below, Vietnamese governmental direction and resources still reach the province chief over many channels. For military help he must look to the ARVN command channel; for Revolutionary Cadre, elementary education, agriculture and public works to the Ministry of Revolutionary Development (General Thang); for police to the head of the National Police (Colonel Loan) and for other forms of ministerial support in such fields as finance, industry, public health and public welfare to a half dozen other ministers in Saigon. Until the GVN, like the U.S. Mission, consolidates responsibility for the many forms of civil aid in support of RD, it will never be possible to get really efficient administration at the vital provincial level.

These are serious obstacles which will impede progress in 1967 unless they are overcome by energetic countermeasures. Among the latter, the two most promising are the reorganized U.S. civil efforts in the Office of Civil Operations under Deputy Ambassador Porter and the new emphasis on the pacification mission of ARVN forces.

The Office of Civil Operations (OCO) appears soundly conceived and appropriately designed to achieve its purpose of integrating all U.S. resources contributing to the civil side of RD. It has just become operational and will need several months to demonstrate its capabilities. Its success will depend largely on the quality of the individuals staffing the key positions./4/ While there is some skepticism in Saigon as to its ultimate effectiveness, it is important to give it maximum support and every opportunity to make good during the coming months. Otherwise, a more drastic organizational solution must be sought.

/4/OCO was awaiting the arrival of 150-200 personnel. (Memorandum from Leonhart to Komer, January 24; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIV, Memos (A))

A similar comment may be made with regard to the RD mission of the ARVN. The decision has been taken at the senior ARVN level to make available roughly half of the infantry battalions for use at the provincial level in support of RD, and a training program is in progress to prepare these battalions for this assignment. There are doubts among some Americans with regard to the eventual success of this project. Much will depend upon the loyal acceptance of the mission by the general and field-grade officers of ARVN. There is no question about the need for these troops on RD missions and it is essential that all U.S. influence be put behind this decision of the Vietnamese high command to assure its effective implementation.

While we are justified in being dissatisfied with current progress in RD, there has been some forward movement. Ambassador Lodge estimates that some 59 percent of the population is now securely under government control in contrast to the 54 percent which was considered secure a year ago. In appraising progress, it is a mistake to expect in the short term rapid and dramatic advances in the RD programs. By its nature, this kind of development will be slow. Much depends upon military success in achieving the necessary minimum levels of security. Progress also depends on the development of able administrators, a class which is in critical short supply in Viet-Nam, and is not easily improvised.

We should recognize that, in a sense, RD is a form of growth which will never be completed. Rather, it will blend imperceptibly into the nation-building process from which will evolve the Viet-Nam of the future. Thus, it eludes precise measurements of progress made against short term goals.

Bombing of the North

There is no doubt in the minds of U.S. representatives in South Viet-Nam as to the effectiveness and essentiality of the bombing campaign in the north. They are convinced that it impedes infiltration and imposes an ever increasing burden on the economy and government of North Viet-Nam. The big question among the U.S. military is how to intensify the air campaign and increase its contribution to an early settlement. They are convinced that there are still untouched targets which, if struck, would add materially to the effectiveness of the present program. Such targets include key elements of the North Vietnamese power system (such as the Hanoi transformer); steel, cement and chemical plants supporting the war effort; untouched components of the transportation system (locks on the inland waterways and railroad yards); and, in high priority, the port of Haiphong. Our commanders believe that if allowed to attack a target system restricted only to avoid significant civilian casualties, they could achieve greater results than now in a shorter time and with fewer airplane losses.

Political Progress

In this sector, progress as represented by the work of the Constitutional Assembly and the movement toward constitutional government and presidential elections, has been most encouraging. While there are still unresolved problems in drafting the constitution, U.S. observers expect its promulgation on schedule in March. Thereafter, they look to presidential elections a few months later, probably about September, and hope for as successful an election as that of September, 1966, when the delegates to the Constitutional Assembly were elected by a vote of 80 percent of the eligible voters.

While not ruling out the possibility of a civilian President, American official opinion in Saigon tends to regard Generals Ky and Thieu as the most likely candidates. There is a difference of opinion as to which one would make the stronger candidate. Thieu is regarded as the more desirable in terms of experience and stability but he is not generally popular and suffers politically from being a Catholic and an alleged Dai Viet. Our U.S. representatives agree that it would be most unfortunate to have a campaign in which both generals run in competition but are inclined to believe that the military themselves will see to it that this does not occur.

A point of complete agreement is that the USG should keep its hands off the presidential election and allow an uninhibited expression of Vietnamese choice./5/

/5/In a January 12memorandum, Komer warned against a "hands off" attitude and called for a program of action to limit "the risks of setback." Although the United States should avoid any overt "interference," he suggested that the Embassy warn the ARVN leadership not to attempt any coups, encourage a broad coalition, and discourage politicians from antagonizing the military. Direct political action was also an option to be explored. (Ibid.) In a January 27 memorandum to the President, Komer continued to call for a strong decision at the highest level for political action in Vietnam. "At the moment the drift is favorable, but there are plenty of storm signals. In the Santo Domingo case, as I understand it, we decided we couldn't afford to 'lose' the election, and saw that we didn't. Unless we make the same kind of decision now, and follow it up closely, we're running great risks." (Ibid., Files of Robert Komer, Memos to the President, Jan-May, 1967)

Economic Progress

On this complex subject, it is sufficient to say that, following devaluation, prices have tended to level off and that the pressures of inflation, while remaining strong, appear to be under control for the moment. The government gold reserves are about $300 million, and we are trying to get GVN agreement to reduce this reserve to $250 million. The Saigon Port remains a problem but with the completion of Cam Ranh Bay and the improvement of auxiliary ports, we have been able to meet military requirements and to carry out an assistance program totalling $455 million in 1966. The anti-inflation line has been held but the battle is still on and a final victory has not been won.

Progress Toward a Settlement

There is a general feeling among our senior officials in South Viet-Nam that progress toward a settlement is good in the sense that we have scored successes, political and military, which create a situation conducive to successful negotiations. However, there is general uneasiness over our negotiating positions (or lack thereof) with regard to many of the important matters which must be dealt with in a settlement. In Embassy Telegram 7630, October 3, 1966,/6/ the Embassy was authorized to undertake a commitment to the GVN which contains the following language:

/6/See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 258.

". . . the U.S. will not withdraw our troops before security is assured or GVN is able to cope with terrorism or while the Viet Cong infrastructure remains intact; South Viet-Nam will not be left without protection."

Since that time, there have been statements like the Manila Communiquť/7/ and passages in public addresses of senior officials which appear to Saigon to be incompatible with this commitment.

/7/The October 25 Manila communiquť, issued by the Seven-Nation Conference, established as a fundamental part of a future peace settlement the mutual withdrawal from Vietnam of all belligerents. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 867-871.

Other causes for concern include an apparent lack of comprehension in Washington of the problems of arranging a cease-fire on acceptable terms and a fear that we will cease our bombing of the north either as a price for the initiation of negotiations or in exchange for unverifiable assurances of some sort from Hanoi. There is no agreement as to how we would behave if the enemy should avail themselves of the so called "fade away" option. The feeling is that we should move rapidly to develop positions on these points before we are surprised by Hanoi initiatives.

II. Problems

Our principal remaining problems in South Viet-Nam are those arising from the inadequacy of progress made to date in the sectors discussed above. On the Big War front, a primary question is how best to use U.S. ground forces during the coming year. MACV has indicated in the 1967 Campaign Plan the intention to continue the primary effort of U.S. forces against the Main Forces of the VC/NVA and to intensify that effort by continuous aggressive actions against enemy units and bases with priority given to areas which contain 77 percent of the population of South Viet-Nam. At the same time, the plan recognizes the necessity for supporting RD without specifying the level of U.S. effort. This is a mission which, if uncontrolled, could generate requirements for large increases in U.S. forces and, hence, needs to be carefully monitored.

For the moment, four U.S. infantry battalions are earmarked to support RD in the old battleground of Long An Province southeast of Saigon. This will be as a test of the effectiveness of U.S. forces operating against small guerrilla bands deeply imbedded in a heavy rural population. Until firm conclusions can be drawn from this experience, I would hope that we would not commit any more of our forces in this kind of static mission./8/

/8/The troops were temporarily deployed to support an experiment in unified pacification management with the ARVN.

To avoid further demands for U.S. troops on this kind of duty, we have the problem of getting an adequate return from the ARVN units committed to the new pacification mission. RD is essentially a Vietnamese job and we will make a great mistake if we try to take it over.

Our best contribution to RD can be made through an efficient execution of the mission of the OCO. By example, we must induce the GVN to tidy up its organization for RD, something fairly easy to do if General Thangís Ministry for Revolutionary Development were given broader powers. But if we can never entirely perfect the GVN performance in this field, there is no excuse for ineffectiveness of the U.S. effort. Henceforth we have two large U.S. organizations working side by side, MACV representing our military resources and OCO representing the non-military. Together, they must work out and implement interlocking plans which will keep the civil effort geared in place and time to the progress of the military campaign. Too often in the past, the latter has run away from the former so that military success has resulted in no permanent gain in RD. It would seem reasonable to give OCO about six months to prove itself and then review the situation.

Although I have mentioned the favorable progress toward constitutional government, success in this field is so critical that all remaining problems related to it should be watched closely to assure timely resolution. But too much zeal on the U.S. side can be harmful. To have maximum lasting effect, this must be a genuine Vietnamese success without direct U.S. influence or involvement in shaping the outcome.

In preparing for a settlement of this conflict, we have the problem of eliminating the uncertainties and of firming positions on the points mentioned in the discussion above. Specifically, we need answers to such key questions as the following:/9/

/9/A February 6 memorandum to the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Sharp contained his answers to these questions. (National Defense University, Maxwell Taylor Papers, Amb. Unger Correspondence) Westmoreland sent his responses to Sharp in telegram 89063, February 7. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXV, Cables) For the responses of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to these questions, see Document 90.

a. What price should we exact for the cessation of bombing in the north?

b. What forms of verification are essential to protect ourselves against unfulfilled Communist promises or the traps of a phony de-escalation?

c. What role in negotiations will we concede to the GVN and to our allies who are contributing military forces?

d. How will we avoid a stalemate in negotiations on the pattern of Panmunjom?

e. How can we prepare U.S. and international public opinion for the tough positions which the U.S. must take in any settlement which will achieve our basic objective of an independent Viet-Nam free from aggression?

There is an overall problem which is the critical one--how to make 1967 the year of victory in Viet-Nam. There is a fair chance to do so but it will require a maximum, simultaneous effort across the whole range of U.S./GVN activities. We must do better in our ground operations in the south, raise the level of the air operations in the north, inaugurate a constitutional president, hold the line against inflation and show significant progress in RD in the principal areas of population. If we can do these things in Viet-Nam while conducting ourselves at home in such a way as to show that, regardless of pressures, the U.S. will not change its course, I have the feeling that the Vietnamese situation may change drastically for the better by the end of 1967.

Maxwell D. Taylor/10/

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

 

31. Memorandum From the Presidentís Special Consultant (Roche) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 30, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIV. Secret. A copy was sent to Rostow.

Some time ago (in a memo dated November 4, 1966)./2/ I suggested that our plans in Vietnam should be predicated on a split between Thieu and Ky.

/2/Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 291.

--The Mission took a dim view of this prediction, arguing that Ky and Thieu were buddies for life.

But now the cables and intelligence reports indicate that a Ky-Thieu split is in full bloom with each of them building political capital for the presidential election.

This is splendid--so long as they both stick to political capital development.

However, the temptation to reach for guns is going to be very great.

--Only one of them can be elected President and clearly if a military man is President the Prime Minister must be a civilian.

--So, come election night, one or the other will be unemployed.

In power terms, Ky has General Loan and the National Police, who just did a spectacular job in disposing of General Co./3/

/3/Nguyen Huu Co was ousted the previous week from his Ministerial offices.

Thieu, to a lesser degree, has ARVN, but the odds are that he could beat Ky in an open election, which would give him the mantle of legitimacy.

Whatever the outcome, we have enormous stakes in the peaceful, political evolution of South Vietnam.

I strongly recommend that we take out coup insurance, that is, announce privately to the Vietnamese through the Ambassador and General Westmoreland, that we will not permit a coup to take place.

And set up contingency plans in Saigon so that our power can effectively be utilized to block any coups. This is the only thing the Vietnamese will taken seriously.

John P. Roche/4/

/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

 

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

Washington, January 31, 1967, 5:16 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 Rostow and Read, and approved by Rusk.

128486. Ref: Moscowís 3218 and 3231./2/

/2/See Document 29.

1. Guthrie should ask to see DRV Chargť soonest to deliver following written message:

a. The USG has carefully noted the DRV message of January 27 and the accompanying remarks by the DRV Chargť. The USG has preserved the strictly confidential nature of these exchanges, but notes that the DRV has broadcast publicly the essence of the January 27 message and asked other governments to inform us that the DRV is prepared to enter negotiations with the USG when bombing of North Viet-Nam stops without stated conditions. The US has felt that it must give some response to third nations conveying messages from the DRV, and will be conveying such responses in the near future. We believe this essential in order to protect the existence of this strictly confidential channel. We assume the DRV will treat third country channels in the same manner, but that strictly confidential statements will continue to be handled through this channel.

b. The basic objective of the USG remains the holding of direct and private talks covering any elements that either side believes should be considered in reaching a peaceful solution to the Viet-Nam problem. For this purpose, the US would be prepared to include in these discussions the four-point position of the DRV or any other matter the DRV wishes to bring up. The US would welcome DRV comments on the US message of January 10./3/

/3/See Document 8.

c. At the same time, the USG notes the concern of the DRV in discussing "intensification" or "escalation" of the bombing of North Viet-Nam as presented in the January 27 aide-mťmoire and the oral remarks of the DRV Chargť. We are ready to discuss this and related issues. But we remind the DRV that one step has already been taken by the USG to de-escalate the war in the North: for more than a month our planes have been ordered not to bomb within 10 nautical miles of Hanoi city center. We would like to avail ourselves of this direct private channel to inform the DRV that the USG would be prepared to implement additional measures to de-escalate the bombing of the North to create conditions conducive to the success of talks with the DRV. We, of course, would be impressed with similar acts of restraint on the part of the DRV, and we can assure the DRV that any such acts on its part need not be made public. The favorable atmosphere which would result from these mutual steps toward peace would permit the US and DRV to take additional steps toward obtaining a peaceful solution.

d. The USG is aware that the DRV is sensitive to any public link between a stopping of the bombing and reciprocal actions on Hanoiís part. In this connection, it should be observed that the cessation of bombing would lead to a world-wide assumption that talks were under way and it would become increasingly difficult to hold discussions under conditions of secrecy. For this reason, we remind the DRV of the USG suggestion that the stopping of the bombing might take place as a prior and ostensibly unilateral action. Before doing this we would want a private understanding with the DRV that additional subsequent steps would be taken that would amount in the aggregate to an equitable and reciprocal reduction of hostile action. The USG takes this opportunity to renew this suggestion as one to which the DRV may wish to give serious consideration.

e. Finally, the USG notes that the approaching Tet period, during which both sides have announced cessations of military action, including the bombing of North Viet-Nam, may make the present occasion particularly appropriate for discussions along the lines suggested above. In view of the nearness of the Tet period, the USG hopes that the DRV response to the foregoing will be made as soon as possible.

2. Before handing over the above written message and reading it for translation, Guthrie should note orally that the USG refutes categorically the charges about US actions and intentions concerning South Viet-Nam and the GVN contained in the DRV aide-mťmoire and oral remarks. However, in the interests of bringing about a constructive exchange of views, the USG will refrain from a point-by-point refutation and proceed to our formal reply to the January 27 aide-mťmoire.

3. Either at close, or at appropriate point in conversation, Guthrie should ask when DRV Chargť expects new ambassador to arrive. FYI: Purpose of this inquiry is to suggest possible early appointment of representative qualified for more frank and direct discussions, if DRV desires. End FYI.

Rusk

 

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

Moscow, February 2, 1967, 1515Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Nodis; Sunflower. Received at 11:24 a.m.

3321. Ref: A. State 128486;/2/ B. Moscow 3295, para 1 P./3/

/2/Document 32.

/3/Telegram 3295 from Moscow, February 1, contained a chronology of the Embassy staff's meetings with their North Vietnamese counterparts; paragraph "P" described Akalovsky's call on Hoang Man'Tu to request an appointment for Guthrie with Le Chang. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower)

1. Hoang ManíTu failed call back yesterday afternoon (ref B) but phoned at 12:30 today to say Le Chang would see DCM at 14:00 today.

2. DCM, accompanied by Akalovsky, met with Le Chang for 50 minutes. Latter accompanied by Hoang ManíTu and also by one Nhuyen Dinh Dhuong, who acted as English interpreter.

3. DCM began by making oral statement per para 2 ref State tel. Then handed Le Chang written statement.

4. After Huong translated text into Vietnamese (he did it twice, apparently to ensure accuracy), Le Chang inquired if DCM had any additional remarks to make.

5. Noting he had made such remarks at outset of meeting, DCM asked if Le Chang had any questions re message just delivered to him.

6. In consultation with Tu and Dhuong--apparently re exact language USG message--Le Chang raised following points.

A. Le Chang wishes to know what was meant in sentence noting that "DRV has broadcast publicly essence of January 27 message and asked other governments to inform us that DRV is prepared enter negotiations with USG when bombing of NVN stops without stated conditions." Specifically, he wished to know what message being referred to and also to get more concrete information re latter part of sentence. DCM said message was one Le Chang had given him January 27; as to info re second half of sentence, said would relay question to USG. Le Chang said he could assure DCM January 27 message had not been publicized; DCM noted reference was only to "essence" of message and not to message as such. In response Le Changís query whether reference was to DRV FonMin Trinhís interview with Burchett, DCM said this might be one of such instances but reiterated would transmit question to Washington. Le Chang said would welcome info on this point but also wished repeat January 27 message not published at all./4/

/4/The Department believed that this issue had to be addressed. In telegram 131591 to Moscow, February 3, Guthrie was instructed to emphasize that the Trinh interview and a January 29 article in the DRV's official newspaper conveyed the "essence" of the January 27 message, even though Hanoi had not publicized the message it sent to the U.S. Government. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)

B. Le Chang then asked for clarification second and third sentences penultimate para USG message. ("In this connection, it should be observed that cessation of bombing would lead to a world-wide assumption that talks were under way and it would become increasingly difficult hold discussions under conditions of secrecy. For this reason, we remind the DRV of the USG suggestions that the stopping of the bombing might take place as a prior and ostensibly unilateral action.") DCM limited his response to noting that these statements would probably be clear to government in Hanoi. Added that should this not be the case, he would appreciate being informed by Le Chang. In reply to Le Changís question if first cited sentence means U.S. would continue bombing DRV while talks going on, DCM observed answer contained in next two sentences, which he read to Le Chang.

C. Le Chang asked if reference to "additional subsequent steps" etc., meant that cessation of bombings would be conditional. DCM replied he could only repeat what message said and quoted again third and fourth sentences penultimate para, stressing words "equitable and reciprocal."

7. Le Chang then said would convey message to his govt and would inform us if he received any instructions. As to rejection by U.S. Govt of DRV Govtís statements and statements he had made orally to DCM as representative U.S. Govt in USSR, asserted they in accord with facts. Contended practical deeds by U.S. Govt have shown U.S. constantly intensifying and extending aggressive war in both SVN and NVN. Proof of this were recent U.S. military operations, such as bombing and clean-up operations in SVN, as well as recent bombings of populated areas in sovereign state of DRV. Re latter, cited January 29 bombing of a village in Thanh Hoa Province, asserting it resulted in over 100 elderly civilians being killed or wounded. Le Chang alleged these actions demonstrated U.S. Govt has yet to prove its good will and said all peace and justice-loving people of world, including American people, condemn bombings of civilian population. Observing he made these remarks in connection USG rejection his govtís message, reiterated would convey U.S. message to Hanoi. (Comment: From context, it clear that Le Chang referred here to DCMís opening oral remarks and not January 27 message as a whole.)

8. DCM said would report Le Changís supplementary remarks as well.

9. Before parting, DCM inquired when new DRV Ambassador expected to arrive. Le Chang said "in near future."

10. During phone call this noon, Tu asked who would be coming, DCM or Ambassador. Made no further comment when told "DCM" and subject did not arise during meeting.

Thompson

 

34. Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) to President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, February 2, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. II. Top Secret; Nodis; Sunflower. In the February 3 covering note transmitting the memorandum to the President, Rostow wrote: "Herewith Averell Harriman suggests an extended unilateral bombing pause during Tet; and reports further arrangements to debrief Baggs." The handwritten "L" on the covering note indicates that the President saw Harriman's memorandum. Harriman's assistant, Chester Cooper, also took notes of the Negotiations Committee meeting. (Memorandum of meeting, February 2; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Chronological File, Feb. 1967 General)

SUBJECT
"Negotiations Committee"

At the Negotiations Committee meeting this afternoon, I raised the question of the extension of the bombing pause beyond the four-day Tet period.

As this subject is so serious a matter of policy, I did not ask for an expression of opinion on whether the pause should be extended, but rather on how it might be dealt with, if the President should decide to take this action.

The following procedures were suggested:

(1) Hanoi should be informed through Moscow channel prior to the beginning of the Tet period that bombing would not be resumed after Tet. No indication should be given of the duration of the pause. Hanoi should also be informed that we would watch with interest what Hanoi did during the Tet period and beyond in the movement of supplies to the South by road and sea, and other indications of positive reaction in de-escalation, as well as take into account their reply to our messages of January 20 and 31./2/ Hanoi should be given this advance notice of the pause since otherwise the North Vietnamese may not recognize its significance and use it automatically for their military advantage.

/2/See Documents 18, 29, and 32.

(2) We should request Brown to inform Kosygin in London of the above, and ask him to point out on his own initiative the opportunity the Soviets have to use their influence in Hanoi for a favorable response in reciprocal de-escalation and in willingness to begin immediate discussions./3/

/3/On February 2 Rusk discussed with Cooper the points that he should go over with Wilson and Brown. (Notes of meeting, February 2; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Subject Files, Vietnam, General, Jan.-March 1967) In addition, on February 3 Ambassador Dobrynin informed Kohler that he had been told of the Moscow contacts with the DRV. (Telegram 131591 to Moscow, February 4; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. I)

I strongly recommend that the pause be extended for the full seven-day Tet period and beyond for a sufficient length of time to permit a reaction from Hanoi.

My reasons for urging this action now are:

(1) The Tet period will be the last chance the President will have for another year to extend a pause which has been begun during a season of good will. This pause may encourage Hanoi to start serious negotiation.

(2) With the recent diplomatic and propaganda build-up, the world is looking for some response from the US. This pressure will increase. By extending the pause, the President will place himself in a strong position abroad as well as at home to show again that he is in the lead in seeking a peaceful settlement. If Hanoi abuses the pause, it will strengthen the Presidentís hand in the prosecution of the war. If it becomes desirable to resume bombing, the DRV/VC will undoubtedly provide credible public justification by some terrorist or military action.

Averell

 

35. Memorandum From the Presidentís Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, February 4, 1967, 12:40 p.m.

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

Mr. President:

Herewith Amb. Goldberg suggests that:

--for the time being we not undertake "new or additional" targeting in North Viet Nam;

--following the Tet ceasefire we further reduce bombing in the North; inform Hanoi; and express our expectation that North Viet Nam undertake "some corresponding de-escalatory action."

Comment: Although I remain sceptical that mutual de-escalation is the likely route to peace, we ought to develop better thought on:

--what action by them would be escalatory;

--and, especially, how we should monitor and measure it.

W. W. Rostow/2/

/2/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

 

Attachment

USUN 3848--NODIS--Sunflower, February 2, 1967/3/

/3/The text is a typed copy of the telegram.

For the President and Secretary of State from Goldberg

In connection with Hanoiís recent approaches, both direct and indirect,/4/ I have already indicated my agreement with the appraisal in the last telegram to Moscow in Sunflower series that approaches could represent either:

/4/INR concluded in an Intelligence Note, February 3, that Hanoi had split the various demands of its negotiating position into several parts in order to create a more attractive environment for talks. Bilateral discussions were now specifically contingent upon a bombing halt, a political settlement revolved around U.S. recognition of the NLF, and the Four Points no longer had to be accepted before negotiations began. As a result, the DRV had "made its position more flexible" in order to "make the US less reluctant to yield" to its immediate demands. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, EA/ACA Files: Lot 69 D 277, Vietnam File--DRV)

A. A sign of serious interest on Hanoiís part in beginning process toward reaching settlement or toward mutual abatement of the conflict; or

B. Part of an intensified propaganda effort to increase pressure of world and domestic opinion on U.S. to end bombing.

I consider it essential that, in reacting to these approaches, we follow course which does not exclude either of these possibilities and which takes into account slightly greater weight given in assessment to the first possibility. Our reaction, in short, must serve dual purpose: It must demonstrate convincingly to Hanoi that we are prepared to accept Hanoiís direct approach as serious move and to respond affirmatively; at same time, our reaction must be such that it will protect our public position in event Hanoiís direct approach turns out to be propaganda effort.

With these purposes in mind, I wish to urge two additional steps to policy which has been approved for responding to Hanoiís direct approach:

First, while this approach is being explored, and until it is ascertained beyond reasonable doubt that it is not serious move on Hanoiís part, we should undertake no new or additional targeting for our bombing sorties in North Vietnam.

Second, following the Tet ceasefire, we should reduce the bombing of North Vietnam by a small but significant amount, namely: suspend those bombing sorties which are directed against targets not related to the Northís infiltration of men and supplies into South. As I understand from Secretary McNamaraís statement to Cabinet on February 1, this would involve suspension of approximately 5% of present sorties in North.

This second step would be taken without any announcement and with every possible effort made to ensure its complete secrecy. We should notify Hanoi directly of this action. Perhaps at outset of the Tet ceasefire, stating that: It represents a substantial earnest of our desire to de-escalate conflict; we would expect North Vietnam, within reasonably prompt period, to inform U.S. of and actually carry out some corresponding de-escalatory action on its part; and, finally, we are prepared to include further steps toward mutual de-escalation as one of subjects to be explored in private talks.

The principal advantages I see to these additional steps on our part are as follows: They offer something of substance to Hanoi immediately and the prospect of something more in future; there is, moreover, reasonable prospect of keeping secret our action, as well as any action Hanoi might choose to take in response. These in themselves could be significant factor in persuading Hanoi to continue direct contact with us. At same time, I believe the steps I have proposed would serve to protect our public position: on the other hand, we would be relatively free from charge that we had not responded affirmatively to Hanoiís approaches. Our public record on this score will need bolstering, for it appears the record is being rather badly clouded by Polish version of how our mid-December bombings interfered with what they conceive to be a very promising chance of talks with Hanoi. On other hand, since reduction of bombing would be relatively small and would not involve suspension of sorties directed against targets related to North Vietnamese infiltration, our action would not open us to charge of having placed in jeopardy status and security of our forces in South.

 

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

Moscow, February 6, 1967, 1500Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Nodis; Sunflower. Received at 11:09 a.m.

3375. Ref: State 131591./2/

/2/In telegram 131591 to Moscow, February 3, the Department asked that Guthrie inform Chang that the U.S. Government's reference to the DRV's public broadcast of the January 27 message referred to the essence of the message being released in the statement made by Trinh and comments contained in the Nhan Dan article. In addition, Chang should be informed that the Governments of both Egypt and India had passed messages from DRV representatives stating the same cessation formula. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower)

1. Akalovsky phoned Hoang ManíTu 11:42 hours February 4 to arrange meeting today. Latter was out of office and failed call back as requested by Akalovsky. When Akalovsky called again at 10:20 today, Tu said he had not received message Saturday./3/ He called back at 10:50, saying Le Chang very busy today and could receive DCM at 13:00 tomorrow. Noted, however, that if, as Akalovsky had indicated, we really wanted meeting ASAP, he would check with Le Chang again. Having been told we would prefer meeting today, Tu said would call within hour if such meeting possible. He did so five minutes later, suggesting meeting at 13:00 today provided it would not last beyond 14:00, when Le Chang had another commitment. We agreed.

/3/February 4.

2. Meeting was attended by same participants as last time and lasted 35 minutes. DCM opened by recalling at February 2 meeting Le Chang asked certain questions re U.S. paper he received on that date, some of which DCM had answered himself and some he said would refer to Washington. Noting Le Chang had asked about specific meaning of sentence re public broadcast by DRV of essence its January 27 message, and particularly if reference was to Trinh-Burchett interview, DCM said he had been instructed deliver answer to that question in writing and gave Le Chang paper per para 2 reftel.

3. After translation of paper, on which Le Chang made no comment, DCM said that in connection U.S. February 2 message/4/ he also wished refer again to final paragraph that message, which he quoted. Added that U.S. would be most interested in Hanoiís reaction to our various messages on urgent basis.

/4/See Document 33.

4. Le Chang inquired if para DCM just quoted was identical to that contained in Feb 2 message or modified version thereof. When DCM said he had quoted para verbatim from message but had also made an additional statement, Le Chang requested that latter be repeated.

5. Pointing out that he turning to somewhat different subject, DCM then referred to Estabrook Feb 5 WashPost story of which he gave Le Chang brief oral summary based on State 131700./5/ Said he mentioned story because he instructed tell Le Chang that story had come from Polish sources and that U.S. Govt will maintain complete silence and avoid comment on it.

/5/Washington Post columnist Robert Estabrook's story of February 3 discussed the contacts in Warsaw that would have led to direct negotiations between the DRV and the United States if not for ill-timed U.S. bombing raids. It was reported in circular telegram 131700, February 4. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

6. As Le Chang indicated he had no comment to make at this point, DCM said he wished raise a matter of operational nature. Noting that both sides had been concerned to maintain their contact confidential and secret (Le Chang expressed full agreement with this), DCM said we concerned about certain aspects of this: (A) Soviets would know about his visits to DRV Embassy, e.g., his driver Soviet; and (B) it always possible Western correspondents might see him enter or leave DRV Embassy and ask him what he doing here. If (B) should occur, he could not deny his visit, and problem would be how to respond to questions. One possibility would be to confirm that contact had been established and refuse further comment. If we kept quiet, there might be implication that we discussing POWs. DCM said all this led him to ask if we should arrange another meeting place. Should we ask Soviets to provide us a less conspicuous place? While stressing we had no fixed ideas about this matter, reiterated our concern and invited Le Changís comment.

7. Le Chang said it his sideís view, as well as previous mutual agreement, that all these exchanges should be confidential and secret. This connection, he wished reiterate DRV position not to make public these exchanges, either through Western correspondents or any other people. Re place of meeting, Le Chang emphatically stated his view was that we should not ask any third party to arrange for a change of venue, because of principle of confidentiality and secrecy he had mentioned. Also said he wanted reiterate that time or content of meetings should not be mentioned to anybody, including correspondents. As to how any possible press query should be answered, said he was sure that if this principle were abided by, many ways of responding could be found. In response DCMís comment correspondents would indulge in guessing, Le Chang said if they wanted to guess they could do so. Reverting to question of locus, Le Chang thought that if venue were changed many additional people would know about our contact; he thus did not believe such change would be in "our" interest, if only from standpoint of avoiding distortions by correspondents, especially Western.

8. DCM asked if Le Chang was suggesting that in case any possible press inquiry DCM should make a no comment response. However, Le Chang refused to be pinned down, saying merely it up to DCM--who surely experienced this regard--how to respond while preserving principle of secrecy. DCM reiterated that while we had no fixed ideas we concerned about problem, and expressed appreciation for Le Changís comments.

9. Le Chang closed meeting by saying he would report todayís exchange to his govt but that "for time being" he had no further comment.

10. On way out, Akalovsky raised with Tu question of ensuring more effective communication, with particular reference to Tuís failure receive his message February 4. Specifically, Akalovsky asked if in Tuís absence he should identify himself to anyone else receive his call or leave messages for Tu. In what seems indicate NVNís concern about leaks, including by their own personnel, Tu immediately responded Akalovsky should not identify himself; rather, he should speak Russian and leave message for Tu to call a fictitious Russian, using a mutually agreed code name for that purpose. He suggested, and we agreed, use "Ivanov" in such contingencies./6/

/6/In telegram 131734 to Moscow, February 5, Rusk requested that Guthrie also convey orally that since it was nearly Tet, the matter required the utmost urgent response from the North Vietnamese. (Ibid., POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)

Thompson

 

37. Letter From the Presidentís Consultant (Taylor) to President Johnson/1/

Arlington, Virginia, February 6, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Westmoreland, William C. Secret; Eyes Only. The letter is on the stationery of the Institute for Defense Analyses. In an attached covering note to the President, February 10, Rostow wrote: "Herewith Max Taylor's administrative recommendations should Gen. Westmoreland be made Ambassador in Saigon."

Dear Mr. President:

At your Tuesday luncheon last week,/2/ you invited me to consider alternative ways to make General Westmoreland Ambassador to Viet-Nam in succession to Cabot Lodge. I have done so and the following are my conclusions.

/2/The President discussed Vietnam with Taylor, Rostow, McNamara, and Rusk on January 31 from 2:20 to 3:20 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) No notes of the meeting have been found.

The advantages of selecting Westmoreland arise from his personal attributes of leadership; his deep experience in the intricate problems of Viet-Nam, both civil and military; his immediate availability; and the opportunity which his appointment offers to put all U.S. resources under the effective direction of a single official. Likewise, there would be the advantage of improved leverage on the Vietnamese military which Westmoreland with his military prestige and added authority as Ambassador could exert in influencing the trend of the important political events which lie ahead.

On the negative side of the balance sheet, I can see at least two possible items--the opportunity afforded the critics to charge that the military have taken over to the detriment of our non-military objectives and the difficulty which Westmoreland may have in keeping out of the direct conduct of the war and shifting his interests and talents to the broader field of the direction of all U.S. activities. But in the absence of a very outstanding civilian candidate for Ambassador, I feel that in the selection of Westmoreland, the pros outweigh the cons by a substantial margin.

If this conclusion is accepted, it then becomes a question of how to readjust the top echelons of the U.S. organization in Viet-Nam to such a decision. I feel that in making changes, the following points should be taken into account:

a. To unify responsibility for the total U.S. effort, Westmoreland should be concurrently Ambassador and Commander-in-Chief of all U.S. military forces in South Viet-Nam. As Ambassador, he would report to the President through the Secretary of State and as Commander-in-Chief, through CINCPAC, the JCS and the Secretary of Defense.

b. Westmoreland will need three able assistants, an Army 4-star general to exercise direct command over the U.S. military effort, a civilian of Ambassadorial rank to run the U.S. civil field activities, now incorporated in the new Office of Civil Operations, and a senior State Department official to run the U.S. Mission in the usual manner of a Deputy Chief of Mission.

With regard to the conduct of civil field activities, I would be inclined to keep them for the time being separate from the military channel of command under the Office of Civil Operations. If after several months it becomes clear that this arrangement is not sufficiently cohesive, then it may be desirable to integrate the U.S. military and civil structures to provide a single channel of direction and resources leading from Saigon to U.S. agencies and activities in the field.

Hoping that these comments may be of some use in resolving this important question,/3/

/3/In a February 10 memorandum to the President responding to his request for commentary on the Taylor letter, Komer offered his full agreement with its conclusions. (Ibid., National Security File, Files of Robert Komer, Memos to the President, January-May 1967) In a February 11 memorandum to the President, Katzenbach termed as "unwise" the move to nominate Westmoreland, since it would indicate a military dominance over the essentially political struggle by giving the appearance of a "military occupation" of Vietnam. (Ibid., Files of Walt Rostow, Westmoreland, William C.)

Sincerely,

Maxwell D. Taylor

 

38. Memorandum From the Presidentís Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, February 6, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Negotiations. Secret. A handwritten "L" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.

SUBJECT
Hanoi "Proposal" Through Senator Kennedy/2/

/2/The President, Katzenbach, and Rostow met with Senator Robert Kennedy that day from 4:34 p.m. through 5:52 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) A half hour before the meeting, Rusk advised the President to have "a witness" present in the meeting with Kennedy. (Ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, February 6, 1967, 4:04 p.m., Tape F67.06, Side A, PNO 2) The President told Rusk that Kennedy sought only to use such a meeting as a "platform" for a new peace proposal that the Senator would make. Johnson was also concerned about Kennedy "leaking" information. (Ibid., Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, February 6, 1967, 3:30 p.m., Tape F67.06, Side A, PNO 1) The meeting was off-the-record, but an account of it appears in Arthur Schlesinger's Robert Kennedy and His Times (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978), pp. 768-769.

I have not seen the full text of the Newsweek report on this matter./3/ However, news stories, for example the Washington Post piece on page one today, indicate that Newsweek went well beyond the true facts.

/3/The February 5 issue of Newsweek reported that Kennedy had received a message from Mai Van Bo through the French Government suggesting that peace talks would begin once the bombing of the DRV ceased.

We have a copy of the Kennedy interview with a French Foreign Ministry official which is clearly the basis of this story. The text of the conversation is attached./4/

/4/The attached text of the conversation is in telegram 11650 from Paris, February 2. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) Full reports on Kennedy's discussions with Manac'h and Sainteny are in memoranda of conversation, January 30 and 31, prepared by First Secretary of the Embassy in Paris John Dean, in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXV.

The French official in question is M. Manacíh who is Asian Director of the Quai. The meeting occurred on January 31. Manacíh was accompanied by Mr. Brethes of the Quai. The Senator was accompanied by Mr. Van Den Heuvel. Foreign Service Officer John Dean of the American Embassy interpreted.

At no point did Manacíh profess to be speaking for the North Vietnamese. He underlined that what he was giving the Senator was his own "personal interpretation" and he also said that the formula of "three slices" was his "own invention." The heart of the Manacíh theory was:

(1) If the United States stopped bombing the North, Hanoi would be willing to talk with the United States, and this could produce a "system of balanced de-escalation."

(2) The next "slice" would be a discussion of the situation in South Viet-Nam.

(3) The third "slice" would involve an "overall settlement."

Senator Kennedy apparently feels he was misled in estimating the importance of the French theory by the comment of the Foreign Service Officer, Mr. Dean. At one point, Manacíh said he thought Hanoi was telling us: "If the Americans really want to get in touch with the Democratic Republic of North Viet-Nam, it will suffice if they definitively and unconditionally stopped bombing North Viet-Nam. Then talks would be possible between the United States and North Viet-nam."

Mr. Dean commented at that point: "That seems very new and very interesting to me, and I am taking the liberty of calling Senator Kennedyís attention to it." He then asked if the North Vietnamese had told the French specifically of their intention to "divide the problems into slices."

Manacíh replied it was "obviously my personal interpretation."

Mr. Deanís interjection may have misled Senator Kennedy, but Manacíhís stress on this being his "own invention" would have seemed to have brought the thing back into perspective. Apparently, it didnít.

The three point formula, it is clear, was not a message from the North Vietnamese but rather the French interpretation of the situation as they see it. We do not know how the story was leaked to Newsweek. As you know, both the French Foreign Ministry and the North Vietnamese representative in Paris have denied that they passed any message from Hanoi to Senator Kennedy.

State believes the stories emanated from a member of the Senatorís staff.

Under Secretary Katzenbach will be seeing Senator Kennedy this afternoon.

Walt

 

39. Memorandum From the Presidentís Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, February 6, 1967, 8 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower Plus [2 of 2]. Top Secret. A handwritten "L" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. On February 4 Bruce and Cooper met with Prime Minister Wilson and Foreign Secretary Brown to discuss the impending Kosygin visit. As a means of making the DRV more amenable toward negotiations, they suggested that the British could press the Soviets on the need to "insure Hanoi" against Chinese recriminations if in fact the North Vietnamese decided to move toward negotiations. Wilson and Brown were also informed about the U.S. Government's direct contact with the North Vietnamese Embassy in Moscow, although they were advised not to reveal their knowledge of it to Kosygin. (Telegram 6271 from London, February 4; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER) In telegram 6272 from London, February 4, Cooper reported on his review and approval of the brief that Wilson would use with Kosygin which emphasized the willingness of the U.S. Government to extend "private assurances" to the DRV. (Ibid.) In telegram 131698 to London, February 5, the Department cautioned: "May we assume that you made clear to them that private and direct message we received was even more conditional than public or third country messages." (Ibid.)

Mr. President:
Mr. Secretary:

John Walsh of State has talked on the secure phone to Chet Cooper./2/ The situation is as follows:

/2/Cooper's reports to Washington were sent in telegrams 6315 from London, February 6, and 6316 from London, February 7. Cooper met with Wilson and his Ministers immediately after the Prime Minister's meeting with Kosygin ended and reviewed the Kosygin meeting with Wilson later that evening over dinner. (Both ibid.)

1. After the formal meeting Wilson and Kosygin met./3/ Wilson had been pressing Kosygin for a firm commitment that they would negotiate if we stopped bombing.

/3/Telegram 132572 to Moscow, February 7, contained a text of Wilson's February 6 message to Johnson on his meetings with Kosygin. Wilson reported that he met with Kosygin informally in the afternoon, at the plenary session, and for a private talk at the end of a dinner he had given for the Soviet Premier. According to Wilson, Kosygin's statements reflected a dramatic shift in favor of negotiations by the Soviets. He also reported that Kosygin would prepare a message pressing President Johnson to meet the offer put forth by Trinh in his interview with Burchett. (Ibid.)

2. Kosygin later said he called Hanoi and got that commitment. He then pressed Wilson to join him in a statement to Washington asking for us to stop bombing in the North in return for Hanoi entering into negotiations. Wilson refused. But Kosygin states that he will table tomorrow at 4:00 in the afternoon, London time, a draft of this type.

3. Wilson wants to know:

--On what language would we insist? Could we furnish a draft?

--Did we have anything concrete in mind in the Presidentís press conference remarks that he is prepared to stop "for almost any reciprocal action";/4/

/4/See the President's press conference in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 128-134.

--If we want him to be tough, he will be tough./5/

/5/In White House telegram CAP 67038, February 7, the President responded that the administration planned to inform the North Vietnamese directly of the following: "if they will agree to an assured stoppage of infiltration into South Viet Nam, we will stop the bombing of North Viet Nam and stop further augmentation of U.S. forces in South Viet Nam." Johnson underscored that he wanted Wilson to support this position in his talks with Kosygin. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower & Sunflower Plus) The text of the Johnson letter to Wilson was also sent to Bruce and Cooper in telegram 132481 to London, February 7. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET; the full text of this cable and the Johnson letter to Wilson are printed in Herring, The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 29-31) Cooper read the President's statement of the Phase A-Phase B formula to Brown on the morning of February 7. (Telegram 6321 from London; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)

4. Kosygin says the Russians are ready to underwrite Hanoiís commitment to talk if we stop bombing.

Walt

My reaction: This is obviously a pressure play which we should take seriously but not react to with excessive haste. Also, if we are going to enter into counter-drafting, we ought to get the draft Wilson is talking about.

 

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

Washington, February 7, 1967, 2:15 p.m.

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

132608. 1. Please arrange delivery at once to DRV Chargť of following letter:/2/

/2/Akalovsky acted as the intermediary in arranging a meeting between Guthrie and Le Chang, which took place at 1 a.m. on February 8 and lasted for 22 minutes. The account of the arrangement of the meeting is in telegram 3408 from Moscow, February 8. (Ibid.)

Text

His Excellency Ho Chi Minh, President, Democratic Republic of Vietnam

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to you in the hope that the conflict in Vietnam can be brought to an end. That conflict has already taken a heavy toll--in lives lost, in wounds inflicted, in property destroyed, and in simple human misery. If we fail to find a just and peaceful solution, history will judge us harshly.

Therefore, I believe that we both have a heavy obligation to seek earnestly the path to peace. It is in response to that obligation that I am writing directly to you.

We have tried over the past several years, in a variety of ways and through a number of channels, to convey to you and your colleagues our desire to achieve a peaceful settlement. For whatever reasons, these efforts have not achieved any results.

It may be that our thoughts and yours, our attitudes and yours, have been distorted or misinterpreted as they passed through these various channels. Certainly that is always a danger in indirect communication.

There is one good way to overcome this problem and to move forward in the search for a peaceful settlement. That is for us to arrange for direct talks between trusted representatives in a secure setting and away from the glare of publicity. Such talks should not be used as a propaganda exercise but should be a serious effort to find a workable and mutually acceptable solution.

In the past two weeks, I have noted public statements by representatives of your government suggesting that you would be prepared to enter into direct bilateral talks with representatives of the US Government, provided that we ceased "unconditionally" and permanently our bombing operations against your country and all military actions against it. In the last day, serious and responsible parties have assured us indirectly that this is in fact your proposal.

Let me frankly state that I see two great difficulties with this proposal. In view of your public position, such action on our part would inevitably produce worldwide speculation that discussions were under way and would impair the privacy and secrecy of those discussions. Secondly, there would inevitably be grave concern on our part whether your government would make use of such action by us to improve its military position.

With these problems in mind, I am prepared to move even further towards an ending of hostilities than your Government has proposed in either public statements or through private diplomatic channels. I am prepared to order a cessation of bombing against your country and the stopping of further augmentation of US forces in South Viet-Nam as soon as I am assured that infiltration into South Viet-Nam by land and by sea has stopped. These acts of restraint on both sides would, I believe, make it possible for us to conduct serious and private discussions leading toward an early peace.

I make this proposal to you now with a specific sense of urgency arising from the imminent New Year holidays in Viet-Nam. If you are able to accept this proposal I see no reason why it could not take effect at the end of the New Year, or Tet, holidays. The proposal I have made would be greatly strengthened if your military authorities and those of the Government of South Viet-Nam could promptly negotiate an extension of the Tet truce.

As to the site of the bilateral discussions I propose, there are several possibilities. We could, for example, have our representatives meet in Moscow where contacts have already occurred. They could meet in some other country such as Burma. You may have other arrangements or sites in mind, and I would try to meet your suggestions.

The important thing is to end a conflict that has brought burdens to both our peoples, and above all to the people of South Viet-Nam. If you have any thoughts about the actions I propose, it would be most important that I receive them as soon as possible.

Sincerely, LBJ

End Text.

2. For your own background, you should know that this proposal arises from Kosygin/Wilson discussions (cables being repeated septels) in London on Monday/3/ and today. Kosygin has pressed Wilson hard that Hanoi--allegedly in direct contact with Kosygin twice on Monday--really means its proposal to talk if we stop the bombing. We have pointed out to the British, and believe they accept, that this is not possible. We have already conveyed to the British the essence (without text or reference to exact form) of our counter proposal along the lines of this letter, and we have made it clear to them that we are conveying it directly to Hanoi at once through appropriate channels./4/

/3/February 6.

/4/The British were assured that the message to Ho was "identical" in terms of substance to the language used by the President in his February 6 letter to Wilson. (Telegram 133516 to London, February 8; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER) For the President's letter to Wilson, see footnote 5, Document 39. When he met with Guthrie on February 8, Chang described the message as one that "contained points showing absence of goodwill on part of U.S." by imposing conditions for a bombing cessation. (Telegram 3412 from Moscow, February 8; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)

Rusk

 

41. Memorandum From the Presidentís Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, February 7, 1967, 8 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower & Sunflower Plus. Top Secret; Nodis; Sunflower.

Mr. President:

We have a problem: real but soluble.

The British took our proposal of last night and put it into A-B form; that is:

--first bombing halt;

--then simultaneous stopping of infiltration and troop movements.

That is not how we stated it last night; or to Hanoi today./2/

/2/The Johnson administration preferred that Wilson place a strong emphasis upon mutual de-escalation in his talks with Kosygin. However, a private assurance from Kosygin that Moscow would "urge course of mutual de-escalation on Hanoi" would be acceptable. Of utmost importance was for Wilson "not to sign on to anything which calls for unilateral action by U.S." (Telegram 132521 to London, February 7; ibid.)

The reason: we gave Wilson and Brown the A-B formula and told them to peddle it in Moscow and, again, on this occasion.

I talked with Sec. Rusk and he is confident that if they, in fact, buy the A-B formula we can work it out to protect our interests.

I believe it can be done if weíre short on the time-gap between A and B and mighty hard on verification.

If they buy anything, which I doubt, theyíll buy the A-B formula rather than the tougher formula to Hanoi--where at lunch we virtually reversed the A and B. But thatís a good initial bargaining position to be in--if bargaining it gets to be.

Walt

 

Attachment

London 6360, Feb. 7, 1967/3/

/3/The text is a copy retyped by the White House. The original of the telegram is in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER.

For the Secretary and Harriman from Cooper

1. With Ambassador Bruce went to Downing Street for briefing on afternoon session. Present were Wilson, Burke, Trend, Palliser, and Murray.

2. The earlier part of the afternoon session was devoted to continuation of Soviet-British bilateral issues and only an hour or so devoted to Vietnam. Kosygin did not table a draft message to the President as he said he would do. Rather, he gave a pro-forma restatement of his earlier position on importance of the Vietnamese statements to Burchett.

3. Wilson read from his prepared briefing notes. The exposition of the Phase A-Phase B formula was changed from the version contained in my para. 5 London 6329./4/ It was felt that it would be worth spelling this out in the simplest possible terms. The final text follows:

/4/ In telegram 6329 from London, February 7, Cooper described his review with Wilson of the brief the Prime Minister would use in the afternoon session. In paragraph 5, Cooper reported that Wilson would inform Kosygin that the U.S. Government would not only halt the bombing as a first step but would also stop the further build-up of its forces in South Vietnam if it could get like assurances from the DRV. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower Plus)

"Extract from statement by British Prime Minister at meeting with Mr. Kosygin on Feb. 7, 1967

. . . I am now satisfied that the Americans would now be prepared to move to further actions to strengthen mutual confidence if they were able to secure some assurance that this move would be reciprocated by the other side. For instance, I believe that they are now seeking to get word to Hanoi on the following lines. They recognize the need for a first and visible step. They further recognize that this step must mean the cessation of the bombing. This I believe they would do, and they recognize that it must be presented as being done unconditionally. Therefore we have to use our ingenuity to divorce in presentation the stopping of the bombing from the consequential actions. Yet you and I know that the consequential actions are essential if we are to get the bombing stopped.

The consequential actions are as follows. The United States are willing to stop the build-up of their forces in the South if they are assured that the movement of North Vietnamese forces from the North to the South will stop at the same time. Essentially therefore the two stages are kept apart. But because the United States Government know that the second stage will follow, they will therefore be able first to stop the bombing, even if there is a short period between the first stage and the actions to be taken by both sides in the second stage. There would be balanced concessions in the second stage; the first stage would be carried out by the United States alone; but the United States would only carry out the first stage because they would know that the second stage would follow within a short period of time.

The entry of American reinforcements to Vietnam can be easily observed. Therefore there could be no doubt on the part of the North Vietnamese that the Americans were keeping their part of the bargain.

The North Vietnamese action in the second stage would be seen as in response to the United States action in the second stage but it would be the result of a prior secret assurance."

4. Kosygin showed considerable interest in this formulation. He evidently had not understood it when Brown presented it to him last November. He asked Wilson to repeat it and then asked Wilson to deliver the text to him in writing this evening. This has been done. The British are virtually certain that Kosygin is going to transmit this to Hanoi. They hope that on Thursday/5/ afternoon when talks resume Kosygin will have a reply from Hanoi.

/5/February 9.

5. I was asked if we were sending a similar message to Hanoi. I said that I could not say for sure, but the implication of the Presidentís communication to the Prime Minister was that such a message would be sent. The British hope that if any questions arise as to differences in the formulation of Phase A and Phase B as worked out today in London, and the formulation forwarded to Hanoi by Washington, Hanoi be told that the British text was authoritative in substance, although there may be stylistic or translation differences from the U.S. version.

 

42. Editorial Note

On February 7, 1967, Pope Paul VI sent a letter to President Johnson expressing the hope that the Tet truce would lead to negotiations. The Pope also transmitted similar messages the next day to Chief of State Nguyen Van Thieu of the Republic of Vietnam and President Ho Chi Minh of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. For the text of these letters, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 850-852, and telegram 4106 from Rome, February 8. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) President Johnson responded to the Popeís appeal in a February 8 letter, which reads:

"Your Holiness:

"I deeply appreciate your message, which is a great source of spiritual support. I devoutly share your wish that the suspension of hostilities over the Lunar New Year may be extended and may open the way to negotiations for a just and stable peace.

"The Governments of the United States and the Republic of Vietnam, together with others, are devoting intensive efforts to this end. As you know, the Government of Vietnam has twice signified its readiness to discuss an extension of the truce with representatives of the other side.

"We are prepared to talk at any time and place, in any forum, with the object of bringing peace to Vietnam; however I know you would not expect us to reduce military action unless the other side is willing to do likewise.

"We are prepared to discuss the balanced reduction in military activity, the cessation of hostilities, or any practical arrangements which could lead to these results.

"We shall continue our efforts for a peaceful and honorable settlement until they are crowned with success.

"With great respect, Lyndon B. Johnson"

This message was transmitted in telegram 133530 to Saigon, February 8. (Ibid.) The February 13 reply to the Pope from Ho Chi Minh reads as follows:

"Your Holiness:

"I wish to thank Your Holiness for his message of February 8, 1967. In his message Your Holiness expressed the wish to see an early peaceful solution to the Viet-Nam question.

"Our people sincerely love peace in order to build our country in independence and freedom. However, the U.S. imperialists have sent to South Viet-Nam half a million U.S. and satellite troops and used more than 600,000 puppet troops to wage a war against our people.

"They have committed monstrous crimes. They have used the most barbarous arms such as napalm, chemical products and toxic gases, to massacre our compatriots and burn down our villages, pagodas, churches, hospitals, schools. Their acts of aggression have grossly violated the 1954 Geneva agreements on Viet-Nam and have seriously menaced peace in Asia and the world.

"To defend their independence and peace the Vietnamese people are resolutely fighting against the aggressors. They are confident that justice will triumph. The U.S. imperialists must put an end to their aggression in Viet-Nam, end unconditionally and definitively the bombing and all other acts of war against the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, withdraw from South Viet-Nam all American and satellite troops, recognize the South Viet-Nam National Front for Liberation and let the Vietnamese people settle themselves their own affairs. Only in such conditions can real peace be restored in Viet-Nam.

"It is my hope that Your Holiness, in the name of humanity and justice, will use his high influence to urge that the U.S. Government respect the national rights of the Vietnamese people, namely peace, independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity as recognized by the 1954 Geneva agreements on Viet-Nam.

"With my high regards, Ho Chi Minh"

The text of Hoís reply is in telegram 137496 to Saigon, February 15. (Ibid., POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)

 

43. Summary Notes of the 568th Meeting of the National Security Council/1/

Washington, February 8, 1967, 11:05 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Meetings File, Vol. 4, Tab 50. Top Secret; Sensitive; For the President Only. According to the President's Daily Diary the meeting lasted from 10:32 to 11:08 a.m. (Ibid.)

Bombing of North Vietnam--North Africa

In opening the meeting, Walt Rostow summarized the history of U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, citing:

1. The Kennedy statement at Fort Bragg referring to the U.S. Governmentís position at the time of the Geneva Conference./2/

/2/Not further identified.

2. The Taylor Report, 1961/3/--that part which discussed what might be necessary if current moves did not work in Vietnam.

/3/See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Document 210.

3. The Geneva Accords of 1962./4/

/4/Text in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 1075-1083.

4. The February, 1965, decisions./5/

/5/See in particular Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. II, Document 98.

5. The Johns Hopkins speech./6/

/6/See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, Book I, pp. 394-399.

General Wheeler briefed on the military objectives of our bombing of North Vietnam. His statement, verbatim, is attached./7/ It is an accurate and complete record of what he told Council members. He concluded by saying that bombing of North Vietnam is an integral part of the U.S. war effort. A North Vietnamese promise to talk is not enough to lead us to halt the bombing.

/7/Not found.

Secretary McNamara: Bombing of North Vietnam could be stopped if we got in return a symmetrical de-escalation.

Secretary Rusk: Responded to the Presidentís request to review our peace probes:

We have undertaken dozens of probes. We have been in touch with the Pope, with Secretary General U Thant, and the United Nations. Our position is entirely clear and it is summarized in the fourteen-point paper which we have now made public./8/ The other side is not interested. We have had no comeback from them. We have used third parties without success. There is a readiness of the North Vietnamese to receive our position, but there is no indication of their changing their public position.

/8/See footnote 2, Document 7.

The Poles have put out fragmentary and false accounts of a probe which is called "Marigold". All our efforts have encountered silence. We have had no serious response, private or public.

We have come to feel that the North Vietnamese may think we are panicking. This risk we took. There is no evidence that Hanoi is ready to stop the fighting. The North Vietnamese want sanctuary in the north without giving anything, at the same time continuing the war in South Vietnam.

The President: We have our people all over the world who are ready to listen. We have pursued every hint that the North Vietnamese were willing to give up something if we give up something. Hanoi is trying to force us to give up the bombing of North Vietnam. We will keep on until we get something from the North Vietnamese.

The Council then turned to the second item on the agenda, i.e., North Africa. Notes of this discussion follow on the next page./9/

/9/Printed in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XXIV, Document 4.

Bromley Smith

 

 


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