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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 84-99

Debate Over Expansion of the War,

84. Notes of Meeting With President Johnson/1/

Washington, February 17, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Bombing. Top Secret. The meeting lasted from 12:25 to 2:04 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) In a telephone conversation with the President on February 16, McNamara said that he and Wheeler would be able to meet with the President the next day in order "to review these bombing targets and evaluate the benefits of taking them out and perhaps propose a sequence of moves against them." The President tentatively agreed to the meeting. (Ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and McNamara, February 16, 1967, 11:32 a.m., Tape 67.06, Side B, PNO 4)

The President
Secretary Robert McNamara
General Earle Wheeler
General Maxwell D. Taylor
Walt W. Rostow

General Wheeler presented the case for bombing the following:

--The steel and cement plants in North Viet Nam;

--The interconnected North Viet Nam grid supplying 138,000 kilowatts.

The exact location of these plants was discussed and the estimated level of civilian casualties. The objective of the bombing was to exert pressure on the North Vietnamese economy and on the will of the North Vietnamese government to persist in the conduct of the war. General Wheeler did not expect a major direct military effect from the attacks.

There was considerable discussion of the power plant at Hanoi containing about 20% of residual electric capacity. The estimate was that an attack would inflict 19 civilian casualties, 5 in the plant, 14 outside.

The President asked how many casualties in all would be inflicted by the proposed program. General Wheeler thought at the most between 2 and 300, including those engaged in the plants attacked. The basis for these estimates was examined, it being pointed out that they flowed from an estimate that 90% of the bombs would fall within 3 CEP (probable civilian error) from the center of the target. It was difficult to estimate the number of casualties from the 10% that would fall outside the 3 CEP.

The President suggested that we analyze our records and try to find out where this 10% fell.

In general, it was pointed out by General Wheeler and Sec. McNamara that the bulk of the civilian casualties were not caused by attacks in North Viet Nam on fixed targets but by intensive bombing of logistical routes via armed reconnaissance. Civil casualties consisted mainly of those engaged in military or military support activities, whether in uniform or not.

After going through each of the electric power plants, in turn, the steel plant was analyzed. As a steel plant, it is only 25% complete and the open hearth furnace is not yet operational. It does, however, engage in shaping POL drums, barges, and girders, all of which relate to the military supply structure. With respect to the cement plant, it was pointed out that it produced materials directly relevant to the maintenance of the military supply structure and its destruction would throw heavy additional burden on the transport system.

General Wheeler again pointed out, in response to a question from the President, that taking out the whole electric power system would be a severe blow to the industrial capability and the will of the North to persist in the war; and that the capacity of the ports would be indirectly affected in a significant way.

General Wheeler also raised the question of cutting back the present 10-mile circle around Haiphong to 4 miles to permit aircraft to attack not ships but lighters offloading the ships.

When asked his views by the President, General Taylor said that it was timely to expand the air attack on the North. He recommended that all targets outside built-up urban areas be cleared for attack. General Wheeler then raised the question of attacking the mile-long railroad bridge linking Hanoi to the northeast and northwest, as well as certain major ammunition depots which have hitherto not been attacked because of their proximity to civilian areas.

Sec. McNamara then spoke, emphasizing he did not believe these attacks would affect the net flow of supplies into the South. The logistical capacity of the North was well beyond infiltration requirements. Air attacks actually required to reduce the flow of men and supplies to the South would have to include the following:

--Attack on cement plant;

--Mining of the harbors;

--The destruction of the dikes which would throw a burden of importing and distributing an extra million tons of rice;

--The mining of inland waterways;

--Expanded transport attacks, including attack on the Hanoi bridge./2/

/2/At a February 24 press conference, McNamara discussed the U.S. program of bombing in Vietnam. He described the objective of the bombing campaign as being the right of the South Vietnamese to self-determination without "pressure from external powers." The bombardment of North Vietnam would bring about the achievement of this objective in three ways: 1) It would raise South Vietnamese morale. 2) It could be used "to either reduce the level of infiltration of men and equipment from North to South or to increase the cost of that infiltration." He underscored the fact that the bombing of the North was only a "supplement" to the war against the Viet Cong insurgents in South Vietnam. 3) The bombing would "make clear to the political leaders of the North that they would pay a price so long as they continued to carry on in their aggression of the South." He labeled the bombing program as "successful" in terms of achieving its objectives and pointed out that the bombardment would cease when the leaders in Hanoi agreed to a reciprocal de-escalation of military actions. For full text of the news conference, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 861-863.

General Taylor expressed the view that the most effective military form of attack would be mining of Haiphong harbor; the key question, of course, was what the Soviet reaction would be and the effect on Hanoi’s dependence upon Communist China.

Sec. McNamara pointed out and underlined that we simply could not foresee the results of mining the Haiphong harbor; but we did know that this might push certain moderates on Viet Nam (e.g., Javits, Romney), into opposition. He said that if the President recommended attack on the power system, we should go all out and take out the whole system in as short a time as possible.

The President then asked for an evaluation of our attacks on POL. Sec. McNamara said there was no obvious net reduction in consumption; imports remained at about the same level; we had destroyed certain supplies; but they had successfully dispersed their stocks and evaded the loss of storage capacity by using barges to transship into dispersed storage points.

General Wheeler said that we had managed to disrupt the POL distribution system and impose strain and inconvenience, although we had not destroyed the petroleum base for their operations.

Sec. McNamara proposed one additional area which the President should consider, which is to expand our operations of surveillance and interdiction along the Laos trails. In this he would recommend that the President support Westmoreland’s strong recommendation for an expansion in these trail watching and interdiction activities.

The President said that he wished Sec. McNamara, General Wheeler, Under Sec. Katzenbach to come together on agreed recommendations, to be available by Wednesday, February 22./3/ He would like to see all the alternatives laid before him with respect to accelerating the effort in the North, with the probable consequences of adopting each course.

/3/At a February 22 luncheon with the President, Rusk, Wheeler, and McNamara recommended an expansion of mining and naval bombardment up to the 20th parallel, increased artillery barrages into the DMZ and Laos, the extension of Shining Brass interdiction patrols further into Laos, continued weather manipulation and force build-up, as well as specific bombing targets in North Vietnam. Notes of the meeting have not been found. These recommendations were restated in a memorandum from Bromley Smith to President Johnson, February 22. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVI) Presumably during the luncheon, the President approved an intensified yet still limited strike program for RT 54 attacks in Route Package VI (the Hanoi-Haiphong area) and an extension of Sea Dragon authority. The targets included several thermal power plants and the iron and steel works at Thai Nguyen.

With respect to the South, the President said he wanted every possibility for accelerating action in the South explored and recommendations made: more personnel, if necessary; more initiatives; more aggressiveness; additional efforts in Laos. Our Viet Nam policy was operating on borrowed time. We are confronted with an all-out psychological war against us by the Communists, which is making headway and eroding the political base in the U.S. We had been at this job in Viet Nam for 3 years. As the coach, he needed to get results. We had to solidify our support in the country by doing more militarily. In the country the support for more vigorous military action is at least 3-1, even if the war should get rougher and we face serious consequences. The President leaned to that side. We must get an agreed program and carry it forward in the next 9 months with maximum efficiency and with everything we have. We have probed for talks and found nothing substantial. Now we must act strongly.

The President then instructed that we take special measures to explain our bombing policy. The opposition has a strong hold on several of the networks and key newspapers. We must make our case and put to the country the central proposition: we shall back our men in the field.

W. W. Rostow/4/

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


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

Moscow, February 18, 1967, 1737Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Sunflower Plus. Received at 4:08 p.m.

3562. Subject: February 18 call on Kosygin--Vietnam.

1. I broached Vietnam by saying we deeply disappointed with latest developments. We did not know why other side had responded in such a manner. As Kosygin probably knew, we had had a very direct and negative reply to what we believed was reasonable proposal. We did not know if other side had been serious in starting discussions in first place. Perhaps North Vietnam was under pressure from Chinese, or perhaps it felt that under pressure of criticism from different quarters, including some quarters in US, we would quit. In any event, people in Washington were pleased to see indication that USSR also wanted to see problem settled. I said I did not know where we should go from here. As Kosygin knew we had shown great restraint: our policy was not to destroy North Vietnam, and we had also restricted our bombings to exclude ten mile area of Hanoi. However there had been no similar response from other side. Yet, as President had said, door to negotiations remains open and we ready discuss political settlement at any time.

2. I then pointed out that during a 4 or 5 day Tet holiday an estimated 25,000 tons of supplies had been sent southward, i.e., as many supplies had been shipped in 4 or 5 days as normally had been sent in a month. Thus we wondered what the purpose of this exercise was./2/ I also noted that from earlier discussions and from statements by other side we had understood that question was not only that of bombings, but also that if they stopped infiltration we would have to stop our reinforcements. We had made it clear that we would accept that. I said that if Kosygin had any suggestion about any further step, or any other comments, I would be glad to transmit them to my government.

/2/Thompson informed the Department that he planned to cite specifically the stepped-up North Vietnamese infiltration as the reason for the change in the formula sent through the British because Kosygin's interpreter remarked to him the night before: "That was quite a switch you pulled on us in the text of your proposal." (Telegram 3533 from Moscow, February 17; ibid., POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)

3. Kosygin said he wished make it clear he not authorized negotiate for North Vietnam and therefore could not say his remarks would represent Vietnamese point of view. He did not wish to mislead us. However, he could state his own views. His estimate of latest events was as follows: Vietnamese had for first time stated they ready negotiate if bombings were stopped unconditionally; this was first time they had done so and it was a public statement. When he came to England, he supported this proposal publicly. He did it because he had good reason for taking such a step. Although he believed that mediators in this situation either complicated the problem or merely pretended they doing something, he took that step because he had seen a basis for US-Vietnamese talks. Wilson had been in touch with Washington but not on his, Kosygin’s, initiative. However, Wilson kept him informed and he was in touch with Hanoi. Then came latest message, which had nature of ultimatum. It said that if by such and such time, i.e., 10 o’clock, Hanoi failed to do certain things, bombings would resume. Time given to Hanoi was very short--just a few hours--and situation was even more complicated because of time difference between London and Hanoi. Thus there was no opportunity for Hanoi to consider message and conduct necessary consultations. In fact, US received Ho Chi Minh’s reply after bombing had already resumed. Kosygin continued that in his view US had made basic mistake. First, nothing would have happened if US had delayed bombings another three or four days. Second, US had couched its message in terms of an ultimatum. Third, US talked about 25,000 tons going to South--nature of which he did not know--but US said nothing about its own reinforcements. During that period US had sent additional troops, had moved its naval vessels to North Vietnamese shores, and had increased number its aircraft carriers in area from three to five. US accusing other side of having sent in 25,000 tons but US itself probably sent as much as 100,000 tons. In other words, US seems believe its infiltration is all right but infiltration by other side is not. Thus other side has no confidence in US intentions. Moreover, US seems discount China, which grave error. China wants continuation and expansion of conflict. In this connection, he wished point out that his remarks in London that negotiations should take place had provoked fury in China. This was another proof of his step having been a deliberate and responsible one. Yet what he received from US was message that bombings would be resumed if something wasn’t done by 10 o’clock. If US wanted to conduct bombings it was of course its own decision. Kosygin then said that he had also advanced that thought that infiltration by both sides should cease. He repeated that he did not understand how US could object to infiltration from North while continuing its own infiltration. After all, Vietnam was one country and Vietnamese were one people, whereas US infiltration was of interventionist character.

4. After reiterating that he not authorized represent Vietnamese views and that his remarks reflected only Soviet views, Kosygin said Soviets not confident US proposal had been very serious./3/ Confidence was most important in this situation. While it perhaps inadvisable to rake up history, he wished recall that he, Chairman of USSR Council of Ministers, had been in Hanoi when US started bombings./4/ Why did not US turn to him at that time and explain to him its problems? Another example of this need for confidence was fact that despite fact US and USSR had reached understanding to reduce their military expenditures US raised its budget without informing USSR. As for USSR, it kept its word; in any event, if it had deemed necessary to take certain steps it would have informed other side.

/3/In telegram 139631 to Moscow, February 17, Bundy reported that he had seen Zinchuk prior to this Thompson-Kosygin talk. From the discussion, Bundy had determined that the North Vietnamese had already briefed the Soviets on their reply to Johnson's first letter, which stated that the North Vietnamese "simply could not talk in any fashion as long as the bombing was not stopped." The Soviets still had credibility with the DRV leadership, which was important since the North Vietnamese still desired "to deal with and through the Soviets." However, with the "present action" on the heels of the pre-emptive bombings that ended the initiative in Warsaw the previous December, the Soviets now wondered "whether it had become the basic U.S. view that the military situation was steadily improving from our standpoint and that we therefore did not really want negotiations at the present time in the belief that the situation had become steadily more favorable to us." (Ibid.) Over 2 weeks later, Under Secretary of State Eugene Rostow confirmed this lingering pessimistic opinion among the Soviets. In a March 3 conversation among Ambassador Dobrynin, Ambassador at Large Harriman, and Rostow, Dobrynin asserted that there was a widespread belief that the administration did not want negotiations in the near future so that it "could pursue a military solution." (Memorandum of conversation, March 3; ibid.)

/4/Kosygin was on a State visit to the DRV when President Johnson ordered the initiation of the Rolling Thunder bombing program on February 13, 1965.

5. Kosygin continued that if statement by DRV Foreign Minister had opened possibilities for talks, those possibilities had been rudely disrupted by latest US step. Soviets did not know reasons for this US action, although I had mentioned some. Perhaps we had a situation here where policy was one thing and statements another. In any event, some forces were playing with fire in that area. Chinese want extension of war, and this is why they reacted the way they did to his statement in London. US was helping those forces by its actions; US left USSR open vis-à-vis China, it also left North Vietnam open vis-à-vis China. Net result is that Chinese view has triumphed, and Chinese can now say that all those efforts were nothing but a masquerade./5/ Thus problem was now to find way toward unconditional cessation of bombings so as to start negotiations. He wished to stress, however, that question was only of direct US-North Vietnam contact, for North Vietnam’s prestige was involved here. In addition, he wanted to say frankly that no third party must seek gain advantage from its activities in this situation; much more important thing was at stake here, i.e., search for peaceful settlement. As to how to proceed further, he did not know. Road he had conceived of had been disrupted by US ultimatum. Chinese now very happy for they seek increased tension and hope for US-Soviet confrontation. US assisting them and this alarming to USSR. Kosygin said he could not venture to propose anything constructive now. He had no basis for doing so and he did not wish to make unrealistic propositions. He had spoken very frankly with me--as he would not have spoken with anyone else--because he knew that I would transmit his views only to President.

/5/Soviet officials expressed special concerns about the U.S. actions that would move North Vietnam further under the influence of China. As reported in telegram 140351 to Moscow, February 19, Zinchuk raised the specter of secret Washington-Peking contacts in the discussion with Bundy. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER) In telegram 3570 from Moscow, February 20, Thompson reported evidence of a special concern over U.S.-Chinese contacts in Warsaw. (Ibid.) The previous day, in telegram 3568 from Moscow, Thompson also reported that mining Haiphong would cause an extreme reaction in Moscow. (Ibid.) In a February 21 conversation with British official Michael Stewart, Kohler attributed Soviet involvement in the Sunflower episode not only to Wilson's actions but also to the "profound fear and hostility all Russians feel towards China." (Ibid.) Perhaps, as the Ambassador suggested in telegram 3622 from Moscow, February 23, Kosygin had not mentioned the necessity for American troop withdrawals from Vietnam because of the Chinese expansionist threat to Southeast Asia. (Ibid.)

5. [sic] After thanking Kosygin for his comments, I said I wished to make a few remarks of my own. I said I did not believe it justified compare other side’s infiltration with sending of our own reinforcements. For one thing, we were in South Vietnam at request SVN Govt. Moreover, our bombings were for purpose of impeding North Vietnamese supplies to South, whereas North Vietnamese could not stop our own supplies. Thus stopping of our bombings gave advantage to North Vietnamese.

6. Kosygin interjected that this interesting reasoning. After all, NLF--which certainly more solid organization than US puppets in Saigon and which controlled three fourths of SVN territory--also asking North Vietnam for support.

7. I continued we had told North Vietnam that if they stopped infiltration we would stop our reinforcements. Important point here was that North Vietnam should not gain any advantage.

8. Kosygin again interrupted by asserting US was talking from position of strength.

9. Referring to general question of cessation of bombings, I said our position had been clear and I did not think there was need to dwell on it in detail. US always prepared to stop bombings if such cessation would not result in improvement NVN position; in other words, if infiltration from North stopped we would also stop our reinforcements. I continued that in their reply North Vietnamese had advanced again demand that we accept their Four Points and recognize NLF as genuine representative of SVN, etc., which tantamount to demand for our complete capitulation. This connection, I said we could not accept view that Vietnam one country and regarded Vietnam as consisting of two separate countries. Kosygin said he knew that our positions on this point were different.

10. I agreed that Chinese wanted exploit situation and wished US-Soviet confrontation. I also agreed that direct US-NVN talks would be desirable, although we would accept any other method of negotiations, such as through third parties or at a conference. As to question of prestige, we did not believe it should be important factor. For instance, if North Vietnam not prepared say they had sent troops to South, that would be all right with US. This was why we had not asked them to make any public statement on subject. Main problem was to stop conflict.

11. I said I understood that Kosygin was not in position to negotiate, but wished nevertheless reiterate we wanted settlement. On other hand, while I did not know what further decisions US would take and did not want to make any misleading statements, I thought that if in face certain US steps, such as restriction of bombings around Hanoi, other side continues killing people, including Americans, in South, US would feel free take any action necessary to stop infiltration. For our part, we had made main step in advance of any settlement in stating that, despite all the money we had spent in South Vietnam on construction of bases, etc., we would withdraw from South Vietnam. I said my govt was grateful for Kosygin’s actions, including those he had taken while in London, to see this problem settled.

12. After reiterating he not representing North Vietnam, Kosygin said US must realize its bombings, defoliation, operations, etc., not successful. Thus US must look for constructive steps. US must realize North Vietnam between hammer and anvil. It must look forward and also look back, for Chinese want to heat up situation. This was why he had made his statement in London. In fact, he could tell me that even earlier USSR had sought a political settlement. China, which strictly nationalistic, has expansionist aspirations in Asia, including such countries as India, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, etc. Thus US must keep this in mind--it must take account of these sharp corners in international situation. He continued that he knew that objectively we would agree there was no Saigon govt, even though we would of course never admit that. Saigon regime was sitting on island surrounded by sea of civil war. Its situation could be compared to that of Kolchak or Denikin during Russian civil war. Also, it could be compared to position of Archangel govt, against which he himself had fought. US, as well as others, had sought to make use of those governments but all that ended in failure. Now US administers oxygen to Saigon regime. Of course one could sustain life by oxygen but he did not know for how long, as he no physician. But even if US were to fight another five years, what would situation be then. Vietnamese would still be there for no one could expect them to leave their country. Consequently, settlement must be sought earlier rather than later. Of course, there was internal dissent in US over this problem, there were Goldwaters and Nixons in US, but he was confident that they would not be supported by US people if a settlement were reached. He said he wished repeat that what should be looked for were constructive steps, certainly not ultimata: US should not send messages stating that something should be done by 10 o’clock for it would receive reply that would make it necessary start all over again. In sum, he felt situation not simple.

13. I said that as Kosygin probably knew, we had given North Vietnamese our suggestions as to what could be discussed and we had also told them in advance we would be prepared continue Tet suspension of bombing. Thus, there no question of any last-minute actions on our part. As to South Vietnam Govt, I pointed out that they were developing new Constitution and would have elections, and that we were prepared let South Vietnamese people decide what they want.

14. Kosygin said that in concluding our discussion on Vietnam, he wished to stress that USSR favored political rather than military solution. He emphasized, however, that this statement was strictly private and not for publication. I assured him that I fully understood. Referring again to message he had transmitted to Hanoi from London, he said he knew it was hopeless the minute he had read it.

15. As Kosygin indicated he wished break off discussion on Vietnam, I raised another subject, leased line for our Embassy. However, after my initial remarks on this subject, Kosygin apologized and said he wished ask me a question relating to Vietnam. He then asked me directly if Chinese had approached us re possibility of negotiations on Vietnam. When I said that to best of my knowledge they had not, he asked me if I was absolutely certain, noting that perhaps there were channels with which I not familiar. I told him I had seen all reports of our conversations with Chinese in Warsaw and could tell him that they did not amount to anything; they consisted essentially of constant Chinese accusations of US for helping Taiwan, having aggressive designs, etc.

16. Discussion then turned to leased line (septel).



86. Letter From the Ambassador to Vietnam (Lodge) to President Johnson/1/

Saigon, February 19, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Office of the President File, Henry Cabot Lodge. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The first two and the last paragraphs, along with the salutation and complimentary close, are handwritten by Lodge. He sent this letter along with a handwritten letter of resignation to Rusk. He informed Rusk that he would leave on April 3, after the promulgation of the South Vietnamese Constitution on March 27, and that he was letting him know now in order to provide sufficient time to name a successor. (Ibid.)

Dear Mr. President:

Herewith I submit my resignation as Ambassador to Viet-Nam--which I do entirely for personal and private reasons.

Indeed, I wish specifically to thank you for the privilege of carrying out a policy which I believe to be profoundly right and which has already achieved great things.

One way to measure these achievements is to note the things which once worried us and which worry us no more. For example, we used to worry that the enemy would cut Viet-Nam in two along highway 19; or that the aggressor would establish an enemy capital in some provincial city from which we could not extricate him; or that a Viet Cong coup would take over the Government by subversion; or that inflation would cause famine; or that there would never be even a breathing spell in an unending wave of governmental instability. In particular, we worried that the loss of Viet-Nam would so encourage the aggressor that he would move against other nations of East Asia--in which case the immediate threat of World War III would be staring us in the face.

Today, the large enemy units are so split up and off balance that they cannot divide the country or occupy any one point both day and night. Viet-Nam moves towards constitutional government. Economic and social programs continue. Runaway inflation has been staved off. Still to be accomplished, however, is the destruction of the terrorist organization which continues to assassinate, kidnap, torture and sabotage--and to impress young males into the Viet Cong. While thus a satisfactory outcome has not yet been achieved, it is clear that even terrorism cannot hold out forever and that persistence will ward off aggression. They cannot win and we cannot be pushed out.

Outside of Viet-Nam that whole great area of islands and peninsulas constituting the edge of East Asia, going from Korea south, then west to Burma, and southeast to New Zealand (and containing 370 million people) is denied to the expansionism of Peking. To be sure, the current situation is dangerous because the world is dangerous, but if we had been pushed out of Viet-Nam or if we had abandoned Viet-Nam, the tide would have turned towards Peking and a catastrophe of global dimension would have ensued. This would have involved us in a far more acute danger. Thus your policies, looked at in their most fundamental sense, actually tend away from escalation and towards peace, even though the other side is not yet ready for negotiations.

All these solid achievements would not have occurred without your farsighted and brave decision, in the summer of 1965, to make limited use of our military power, in addition to our civilian aid, to help the all-out Vietnamese effort to ward off the aggression and protect the independence of their revolution. In so doing, we also fight directly for our own vital national interest.

As I finish three and a half years of complete involvement in United States policy toward Viet-Nam, both as Ambassador and as consultant, I wish to thank you for your unfailing support and for the honor conferred on me by your trust./2/

/2/On March 1 Komer wrote to Lodge: "The President mentioned your latest letter. As you know, ever since you gave me your confidence and confided your own preferences many months ago, I've been keeping an eye out for them. The great problem has been finding someone who could even come close to filling your shoes. But you will bequeath any successor a legacy of accelerating success. More and more I sense that 1966 was the decisive year." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Komer Files: Lot 69 D 303, Vietnam/Turkey)

With respectful regard

Faithfully yours

Henry Cabot Lodge


87. Memorandum From the President’s Special Consultant (Taylor) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, February 20, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Gen. Taylor (2 of 2). Top Secret. At the request of the President, Rostow distributed Taylor's memorandum to Rusk, McNamara, and Wheeler the next day. (Memorandum from Rostow to Rusk, McNamara, and Wheeler, February 21; ibid.)

Possible Forms of Negotiation with Hanoi

Walt Rostow recently made available to me his memorandum to you of November 17, 1966 on the above subject (I attach herewith a copy of his paper)./2/ He has made a very important point, I believe, in concluding that, in any negotiation, we need to seek agreement on an end position and then work back to agreement on a cease-fire.

/2/Printed in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 313.

I have always been impressed with the difficulties of negotiating a satisfactory cease-fire which will really stop the shooting and, at the same time, avoid giving the enemy a respite for refitting and retraining for a bigger and better war. Such a cease-fire would have to include bringing a halt to our bombing of North Viet-Nam and to all breaches of the peace in South Viet-Nam, including the "Big War" (the war against the units of the Viet Cong Main Forces and of the North Vietnamese Army), the "Little War" (the activities of the local guerrillas) and the "Criminal War" (the activities of the terrorists and saboteurs). If the cease-fire is to be in effect for any significant duration prior to reaching a total settlement of the situation, it should also include a verifiable agreement whereby the enemy ceases the infiltration of reinforcements in exchange for our freezing of force levels.

Clearly, to negotiate such a cease-fire would be very difficult; to fail to cover all the elements mentioned would expose us to the possibility of a Panmunjom-type stalemate in the negotiation of the remaining steps required for a normalization of relations and an enduring peace. The latter steps would include such things as the dissolution of the Viet Cong organization, the disposition of the remaining guerrillas and the withdrawal of foreign troops (I mean here the U.S. and Free World Forces and the North Vietnamese forces and cadres infiltrated from North Viet-Nam).

For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to refer to the package of measures necessary for a cease-fire as Package A and the remaining measures for normalization as Package B. We could conceive of negotiating the totality of issues of A plus B in three ways or cases. Case I would be to negotiate A and B separately in that order. Case II would be the simultaneous negotiation of A and B. Case III would be the negotiation of B and A separately in that order. The question to decide is which of these cases is the most advantageous from our point of view.

In evaluating them, there are several points which have to be taken into account. Without suggesting an order of priority, they include the following:

a. To prevent a Panmunjom, we must either keep the military pressure on during the negotiations or set tight deadlines for getting results at the negotiating table.

b. South Viet-Nam should always retain the right to exercise its police powers in maintaining law and order and protecting Vietnamese citizens outside of the areas under Viet Cong control.

c. The infiltration from the North, the withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces and cadres, and the dissolution of the Viet Cong are actions difficult to verify in the short run. On the other hand, the bombing of the North and the military, paramilitary and criminal activities in the South can be verified in a general way and can even be statistically tabulated.

d. Based upon the experience of several truces, it is doubtful whether a complete cease-fire in South Viet-Nam will be possible prior to the completion of the actions of Package B. Experience suggests that breaches are inevitable.

e. It is uncertain how long the Main Force Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese units can subsist without supplies from North Viet-Nam and without molesting the local population. It is probable that the local guerrillas must live off the population although local accumulation of stocks may give them a limited capability of self-maintenance.

With these points in mind, now let us consider the pros and cons of the three cases./3/

/3/Taylor outlined the cases in an attachment, "Negotiating Sequence Alternatives," in the form of annotated charts. In Case I, the cease-fire would precede the "measures for normalization," which, while ending the fighting, could result in protracted negotiations that would benefit the enemy. Case II involved a simultaneous cease-fire and normalization that would be complicated and make any necessary resumption of military pressure difficult. In Case III, the normalization occurred before the cease-fire, thereby causing a situation wherein tension continued to remain high. Case IV consisted of a slow, deliberate de-escalation of the war but without any formal agreement on the termination of hostilities. The attachment is not printed.

Case I

Case I, if successful, would bring a quick end to the fighting and a sharp reduction of tensions in Viet-Nam and elsewhere. However, it would probably create a sense of euphoria on our side and a feeling that peace is at hand. It would open the possibility of a drawn out negotiation of B which would give the enemy the opportunity to refit and prepare for a longer war. As indicated above, it would probably be impossible to avoid violations of the cease-fire, intentional or accidental. Finally, it would be impossible to negotiate the B Package quietly since the whole world would know that negotiations were in process and our side at least would soon be under pressure to report progress and to soften tough negotiating positions to expedite results.

Case II

Case II would avoid most of the cons of Case I and, if successful, would settle everything in a single operation. The difficulty is that such a negotiation would be highly complex and time-consuming. It is doubtful that it could be kept secret and, if revealed, would expose our side to the pressures mentioned under the cons of Case I. We could count on a major effort at home and abroad to get us to stop the bombing during such negotiations and perhaps to reduce all military activity to the levels of a de facto cease-fire in order to reduce loss of life with peace just around the corner.

Case III

Case III would avoid most of the cons of Case I and has the great advantage of showing each participant how he would come out in the end. Hence, if agreement is reached on B, there should be little difficulty in obtaining agreement on A and little inducement for further stalling. Secrecy should be possible during the negotiation of B and military pressure would be maintained until agreement on A.

It is clear from the foregoing that Case III appears to be by far the most advantageous from our point of view. For success, it requires, first, a carefully prepared negotiating position on our side, then a secret, solid negotiating contact with Hanoi. Our preparations would require an understanding as to the "carrots" which we are prepared to offer for the dissolution of the Viet Cong and disposition of Viet Cong personnel. Such "carrots" might include an amnesty and civil rights for the Viet Cong guaranteed by the GVN and the U.S., the assurance of participation by Viet Cong in political life, economic assistance to aid the ralliers, and the right of honorable repatriation to those who prefer to go north of the 17th parallel. We would also need a position on the phased and verified withdrawal of foreign troops and the kinds of verification procedures which we would consider acceptable to assure ourselves that infiltration had ceased and withdrawal had been completed. We need to make up our own minds on these points well before sitting down at a conference table with our opponents.

For completeness, I might have added consideration of a Case IV, the subsidence termination without formal negotiations. Under certain conditions, it might compete in desirability with Case III. It avoids the requirement for formal negotiations and agreements. It avoids the disadvantages attendant upon the presence of kibitzers and advisors behind the chairs of our negotiators. It permits slow and cautious de-escalation with minimum risks.

On the other hand, there would always be the problem of verifying the threat really had subsided and did not remain latent for an indefinite period in the jungles of South Viet-Nam and in the sanctuaries of Laos and Cambodia. There would always be an uncertainty about the termination of hostilities which could neither be verified, guaranteed or made the subject of public commitments by the adversaries.

A hybrid Case III/Case IV is conceivable which would be partly negotiated, partly tacit--a blend of the negotiation and subsidence approach. As a starter, the field commanders of ARVN and of the VC/NVA forces, following the armistice pattern in 1954, could negotiate a military agreement covering the disposition of the Viet Cong and the "carrots" to be given them. If this succeeded, we could then accept a cease-fire to create the conditions necessary for the carrying out of the agreement. If this appeared successful, we could then freeze our forces and secretly inform Hanoi of the fact with the suggestion that they do likewise. After receiving evidence that infiltration was subsiding, we could then progressively decrease bombing of the North, adjusting it to the behavior of the other side.

If all violence subsided and the Viet Cong resettlement proceeded in accordance with plan, then we could consider a slow withdrawal of forces, watching for corresponding actions by Hanoi.

From this analysis, I come out with the following priority of desirability in negotiation forms:

Priority 1 Case III, IV or hybrid III/IV
Priority 2 Case II
Priority 3 Case I

Maxwell D. Taylor


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

Washington, February 20, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 21. Top Secret. The President wrote at the top of the page: "Put it on my desk for Wed. L."

Mr. President:

I have reflected over the week-end on where we are in Viet Nam and where we ought to go. I forward these thoughts now because I won’t be here for the Wednesday meeting./2/

/2/Present for the February 22 meeting were the President, Eugene Rostow, McNamara, Taylor, Wheeler, Smith, and Christian. It ran 1:15 p.m. to 3:25 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) No notes of the meeting have been found.

Here, bare-boned, are my conclusions and order of priority.

1. Keep pouring it on in the South. Nothing is better than the kind of successful operations we have had in the past few days--notably the good and (at last) well-publicized operations of the South Vietnamese. Westy must stretch his capabilities and, even, take risks to keep forward momentum. The most fundamental Communist question affecting their policy judgments is: "What is the situation on the ground?"

2. Pacification and Opening of Roads. This is where we must be able to show real obvious progress in the next 3-6 months. We’ll have to await Bob Komer’s return before knowing how to get a handle on it.

3. Bombing the North. As you know, I am for applying more weight. I won’t go into detail here, but I believe it should be applied step-by-step, not convulsively. They should feel in Hanoi the sheriff is coming steadily down the road for them, not that we are in a spasm of anxiety or desperation.

4. The Russians. We should keep in steady frank conversation with them--here as well as Moscow. Apparently, Tommy did not make crystal clear that we no longer feel bound by the 10-mile circle. That should now be done by Nick or by me. We should tell them that we are not talking with the Chinese beyond Warsaw (which they monitor). We should tell them politely that since they can’t deliver Hanoi on a sensible deal, we’ll have to do it; although all channels remain open.

5. Negotiations. We should stop projecting an atmosphere of great anxiety about negotiations to Hanoi--a kind of "you call me" posture is about right.

6. Politics in South Viet Nam. This is the sleeper for 1967 if it comes out right. The critical issue is increasingly this: Westy and Lodge should take Thieu up on a mountain and let him see what a grand role he could play if he took over the Vietnamese military and modernized them for the long pull while keeping unity and backing the constitutional process. Ky looks to me the more likely politician for the next phase; but it may matter that Thieu know he will have all kinds of U.S. support if he undertakes the critical backstop military job. This conversation can wait until Bob Komer gives us his picture of the lay of the land./3/

/3/For Komer's report, see Document 91.

When the Ky-Thieu matter is settled--and the sooner the better--then we can really go to work to encourage them to organize solidly a military-civil coalition; a national program; a consolidation of political parties into a great big national party; an election with maximum turn-out; a forthcoming amnesty position; and all the rest.

Because it doesn’t involve hardware and much money, this is the dimension we tend to neglect; but doing it well may make all the difference to whether we get a settlement this year.



89. Memorandum for the 303 Committee/1/

Washington, February 27, 1967.

/1/Source: National Security Council, Records of the 303 Committee, Vietnam, 1965-1969. Secret; Eyes Only. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. At the bottom of the first page of the memorandum is the handwritten note: "Noted by the Committee principals on 7 April 1967."

Status Report on Covert Operations in Support of Veterans, Labor, Youth and Students and Information Media in Vietnam

1. Summary

In the veterans field, our work consists of an on-going program of covert support and financial assistance [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in training organizers at the provincial, district and village levels with the object of forming Vietnamese veterans into a non-governmental channel of communication between the central government and local areas. The subsidy also provides for maintaining the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] headquarters staff in Saigon.

In the labor field, we provide covert financial assistance and advice to the Vietnamese trade union movement through the Vietnamese Confederation of Trade Unions (CVT). In addition to supporting the national headquarters of CVT in Saigon, we support organizers who provide the connective tissue between Saigon and the CVT's provincial and district councils. We also direct support to the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] which provides us unique access to the small holder who works his own land.

In the youth and student field, our efforts have been devoted to channeling the energies of youth and students into constructive lines in support of the war effort and away from destructive dissent and political agitation. Because of the diffuse target, we have been forced to work through a variety of organizations such as [3 lines of source text not declassified]. CIA funding of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] internationally was recently compromised. However, there had been no direct use of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in Saigon since June 1966. Our activities in this area range from financial support to the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] monthly magazine, to an as-yet unrealized program of providing provincial youth hostels for high school students from outlying areas.

In the domestic media field, we continue to use seven separate agents to influence local public opinion through the planting of information and articles in the vernacular press.

The foregoing activities were reviewed and approved initially by Deputy Ambassador Johnson in April 1965 as implementation of the actions listed in the 12-point CIA Action Program, NSAM #328./2/

/2/For text of NSAM No. 328, April 6, 1965, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. II, Document 242.

In the field of political party work, we provide a small monthly subsidy to a ranking official of the Revolutionary Dai Viet Party to permit expanded circulation of the Party's monthly theoretical journal. This subsidy is provided on condition that the journal will emphasize the importance of overt party activity as contrasted to the Dai Viets traditional clandestine modus operandi.

2. Coordination

Currently, coordination in the field is effected through the political minister-counselor who is kept informed on developments. In Washington coordination is maintained with Assistant Secretary Bundy and other appropriate officers of the Bureau of East Asian Affairs. The most recent authority for these programs in contained in the 12-point CIA Action Program, approved by NSAM 328, 6 April 1965. Predecessor activities were a part of the Covert Annex to the Vietnam task force Action Program endorsed by the Special Group in June 1961.

3. Review of Effectiveness and Accomplishments of Operations

As noted above, the requirements for these programs stemmed from NSAM 328 and earlier approvals of CIA station programs [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Previous developments were reviewed in the Status Reports of the 12-point program until these reports were discontinued in August 1965.

[1 paragraph (15 lines of source text) not declassified]

In the labor field, we have worked in much the same fashion, providing the means whereby the Confederation of Vietnamese Trade Union (300,000 members) is capable of maintaining its position as a responsible and independent spokesman for Vietnamese labor in its dealings with the central government. Although not as badly tainted by the Diem era, the CVT faces considerable domestic opposition from management, splinter union groups envious of its dominant position, and occasionally the government which is uncertain as to whether it wants to tolerate the existence of an uncontrolled power center. More recently, we have concentrated significant support on the revitalization of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] again a remnant of the Diem era which had been stifled by government control and direction, but which offers the only non-government means of reaching the agricultural small holder and persuading him that he has a stake in the future of Vietnam.

In the youth and student field, we have made less headway, partly because of the many different Vietnamese organizations and groups that are involved in this general area. In an effort to reduce the problem to more manageable size, we have stimulated the growth of the [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] which serves as a point of reference if not direction of a wide variety of youth activities. Through [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] we have supported the training of university students for peace corps type work in local areas. We have also managed to stimulate considerable interest in the building of youth hostels in various provincial capitals so that high school students will have a place to stay when they come from surrounding, and frequently VC-controlled, areas to study. For various reasons, this program is not yet underway, but it offers considerable promise of being able to provide low-key indoctrination for the students while staying at the hostels.

In the media field, we continue the routine, day-by-day, process of attempting to influence local public opinion through placement of material in an assortment of local media. In addition to spot items of immediate tactical value, this material ranges from educational articles on local constitutional development to commentary on international issues relating to Vietnam.

In respect to political party work, the first issue of the Dai Viet theoretical journal to appear since the beginning of the subsidy contained three articles dealing with the importance of open party activities.


90. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara/1/


Washington, February 27, 1967.

/1/Source: Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 911/080 (30 Jan 67), IR #557. Top Secret; Sensitive.

A Settlement of the Conflict in Vietnam (U)

1. (S) Reference is made to a report to the President by General Maxwell D. Taylor, dated 30 January 1967,/2/ in which he sets forth five key questions bearing on the subject of a settlement of the conflict in Vietnam.

/2/Document 30.

2. (S) Appendix A/3/ contains responses to General Taylor’s questions. It is recommended that the positions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, summarized in Annex A to Appendix A, be considered in the formulation of a comprehensive US policy on the settlement of the conflict in Vietnam.

/3/Appendix A, not printed, is a table of contents for Annexes A-F, of which only Annex A is printed below.

3. (C) Since these questions involve matters of interdepartmental interest, you may wish to forward a copy of the paper to the Secretary of State. A suggested memorandum for that purpose is attached as Appendix B./4/

/4/Not printed.

4. (C) The Joint Chiefs of Staff request that, in the future formulation of US policy concerning a settlement of the conflict in Vietnam, they be afforded an opportunity to provide you their views based upon the situation which exists at the time.

5. (U) Without attachments, this memorandum is downgraded to Secret.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Earle G. Wheeler/5/
Joint Chiefs of Staff

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


Annex A to Appendix A



1: What price should we exact for the cessation of bombing in the north? (Annex B)


a. The minimum price we should exact for a cessation of our bombing in the North is a cessation by North Vietnam of its infiltration of personnel and matériel into South Vietnam and Laos, with effective inspection and verification thereof.

b. The Government of Vietnam has the sovereign right of circulation throughout all of South Vietnam and the obligation to protect its citizens and to maintain law and order. In no instance should this right be restricted, jeopardized, or negotiated.

c. Since a cessation of our bombing in the North is one of our most important negotiating assets, we should endeavor to exact additional concessions. In terms of immediacy, these concessions include:

(1) A cessation of support and direction by North Vietnam of the Viet Cong and conclusive demonstration that withdrawal to North Vietnam has begun of North Vietnamese military forces and equipment and cadres from South Vietnam and the demilitarized zone, and from the Laotian Panhandle.

(2) A cessation of North Vietnamese military operations in South Vietnam.

(3) A significant reduction of North Vietnamese/Viet Cong acts of terrorism in South Vietnam.

d. Additional concessions, in terms of what is needed for the restoration of peace in South Vietnam, are listed below. While these concessions are not now of the immediacy of those in paragraph b, above, they could become so with the passage of time and changes in the military situation.

(1) The withdrawal by North Vietnam of all its military forces and equipment and cadres from South Vietnam and the demilitarized zone, and from the areas of Laos not occupied by the communists prior to the signing of the Geneva Accords on Laos on 1962, with effective inspection and verification. During this withdrawal, all radio transmissions would be in the clear. Withdrawal would include the dismantling of the communications net.

(2) A cessation of all North Vietnamese/Viet Cong acts of terrorism in South Vietnam.

(3) Agreement by North Vietnam and the Viet Cong to exchange prisoners with the allies.

e. A firm agenda for reaching agreement on specific issues should be established, and progress on this agenda should be insisted upon. Drawn-out negotiations caused by communist intransigence or stalling or communist violation of any of the conditions which led to a cessation of the bombing in North Vietnam should constitute a basis for resumption of the bombing.


2: What forms of verification are essential to protect ourselves against unfulfilled communist promises or the traps of a phony de-escalation? (Annex C)


a. There is no case since World War II where an international peacekeeping organization has been fully effective in maintaining the peace. Moreover, in view of past patterns of communist intransigence, subversion and obstructionist tactics, there is serious doubt that any form of an international control commission can be effective in Vietnam.

b. If the United States is to accept an international control commission in Vietnam, a new organization must be developed which is free of the serious deficiencies of the present commission.

c. The preferred alternative to a new international control commission, and the best way of assuring effective verification, is unilateral inspection and policing of the truce by the belligerents themselves, particularly during the period of negotiations and prior to assumption of this responsibility by an international control commission. Such activities would include: patrolling and unlimited access by US/Government of Vietnam/Free World Military Assistance Forces to all parts of South Vietnam, including the southern portion of the demilitarized zone; air reconnaissance and surveillance over North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and Laos, as well as other forms of intelligence collection, to include coastal surveillance of North Vietnam, South Vietnam and Cambodia, and covert operations in Laos and Cambodia to detect any attempts by North Vietnam/Viet Cong to infiltrate personnel and matériel into those countries and from them into South Vietnam.

d. Under a formal agreement requiring withdrawal of US forces, inspection and verification should be placed in the hands of an international organization only if it is in-being, in-place, and effective. It should be recognized, however, that the organization probably would have neither the responsibility for nor the capability of enforcing the peace.

e. DIA and other intelligence resources should continue surveillance and analysis of areas, points, and routes on land, sea, and in the air to include North Vietnam and South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and other possible areas of interest in Southeast Asia; further, data derived therefrom should be kept current for ready reference.


3: What role in negotiations will we concede to the Government of Vietnam and to our allies who are contributing military forces? (Annex D)


a. The Seven Nations/6/ should develop their negotiating positions and strategy well in advance of any peace negotiations. Their pronouncements in the Manila Communiqué can provide a suitable framework for the objectives to be sought. The negotiating strategy should prescribe the role of each allied nation, to include who will be negotiators and who will be observers. The negotiators should be South Vietnam and the United States (ostensibly the United States would be an observer with the understanding that, behind the scene, it would have a primary role). The remainder would be observers.

/6/Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Vietnam, Thailand, and the United States. [Footnote in the source text.]

b. Since the main antagonists are South Vietnam and North Vietnam, and in order not to create the impression of impinging upon South Vietnamese sensibilities concerning their sovereign status, the Government of Vietnam should desirably be the principal visible spokes-man on the allied side, contingent upon the Government of Vietnam adopting positions acceptable to the United States and the other allies. During the negotiations, it will be necessary that the Seven Nations act in close consultation and coordination on all substantive issues.

c. Prenegotiation arrangements might begin with military representation from the Government of Vietnam and North Vietnam, and US observers, meeting in the demilitarized zone (or other suitable location) in order to establish the ground rules for the negotiations. At that time, based upon guidance from higher authority, conference representation would be decided upon. Such representation would be consistent with the nature, scope, and objectives of the conference.

d. Negotiators dealing with military matters should be military personnel. An advisory committee of military representatives of the Government of Vietnam, the United States, and our Third Country Allies contributing military forces should be formed in order to enable the attainment of a unison of military views on matters of a military nature.


4: How will we avoid a stalemate in negotiations on the pattern of Panmunjom? (Annex E)


a. A cessation of our military operations against the enemy prior to and/or during the negotiations would enhance the communist position, would provide North Vietnam with an opportunity to sustain and increase its support of the Viet Cong, and would enable it to string out the negotiations in the hope of wearing down the allied negotiators and, thus, of obtaining a settlement more favorable to the communists.

b. Despite pressures to suspend US/Government of Vietnam/Free World Military Assistance Forces military operations in order to provide ostensibly a more favorable climate for negotiations, such operations, including air and naval actions against North Vietnam, should be continued during the negotiations, except insofar as North Vietnam has met our conditions for halting the bombing. In any event, a cessation of our bombing in the North should not restrict allied military operations in the South or in Laos, which should be continued during the negotiations.

c. If a decision is made to suspend the bombing in North Vietnam, in connection with their meeting our conditions for such a halt preliminary to negotiations, the bombing should be resumed if communist intransigence or stalling precludes satisfactory progress during the negotiations.

d. Therefore, military operations should be continued and should be pressed vigorously during negotiations. They should be suspended only to the extent agreed upon in the negotiations. It should be made clear that any failure on the part of North Vietnam to comply with the terms of any agreement will be met by a resumption of hostilities (if they have been suspended or reduced) in an appropriate degree.

e. The Government of Vietnam has the sovereign right of circulation throughout all of South Vietnam and the obligation to protect its citizens and to maintain law and order. In no instance should this right be restricted, jeopardized, or negotiated.


5: How can we prepare US and international public opinion for the tough positions which the United States must take in any settlement which will achieve our basic objective of an independent Vietnam free from aggression? (Annex F)


a. We should be doing everything possible now to gain the support of US and international public opinion for our position on Vietnam. Our approach must emphasize the reasonableness of this position.

b. The United States needs to assert the following points in order to gain understanding and acceptance by US and international public opinion:

(1) That the United States will stop bombing in the North when presented with clear evidence of a commensurate reciprocal de-escalation of hostilities by the other side. Further, that the United States will not discontinue bombing, or curtail other military efforts which contribute to the protection of the people of South Vietnam and the armed forces of our allies in South Vietnam as a price for participation in negotiations. Moreover, we would expect that the communists would enter negotiations with a sincere desire to achieve a satisfactory peace settlement within a reasonable period of time.

(2) That our bombing in the North has been against highly selective and, in many instances, heavily defended military targets; that great destruction at undefended points could have been accomplished with enormous effect and with far less loss to US forces if it were not for the humanitarian restraint exercised by the United States.

(3) That our side reserves the right, in the absence of an effective system of controls, to decide whether agreements have been violated and to take appropriate action.

(4) That, in the light of the Korean experience, the allies will not participate in a prolonged Panmunjom-type negotiation in which devious communist negotiating techniques were employed. That the United States, in the absence of steady progress, reserves the right to take selective military actions.

(5) That the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong continue to be encouraged to take advantage of Government of Vietnam amnesty programs during negotiations, offering them the opportunity to reintegrate as peaceful and useful citizens in South Vietnam.

(6) That the United States wants to get on with the important business of helping to build a nation in an atmosphere of peace and security.

(7) That, with honest fulfillment by the communists of the provisions applicable to them under the Manila Communiqué, US/FWMAF will withdraw based upon their commitments in that Communiqué.

(8) That the United States, as a further demonstration of its peaceful intentions and humanitarianism, reaffirms its willingness to assist in the economic development of Southeast Asia and otherwise to promote regional cooperation.

c. The Secretary of State should be requested to form an interdepartmental study group to determine the scope, responsibility, timing, and content of the public statements necessary to establish our position on the above points. Such statements would include those to be made by key government and civil leaders of both the United States and South Vietnam, as well as those of other allied countries and of other countries whose support we are seeking.


91. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Komer) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, February 28, 1967.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Vietnam Files: FRC 77-0075, January and February 1967. Secret. Komer had participated the previous day in a press conference with the President and David Lilienthal, head of the American side of a joint U.S.-South Vietnamese nongovernmental development planning group, at which time he discussed several of his conclusions contained in this memorandum. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 863-865. The various operations that constituted the U.S. pacification support program became housed in the OCO after November 1966.

Change For The Better--Latest Impressions from Vietnam

After almost a year full-time on Vietnam, and six trips there, I felt able to learn a good deal from my eleven days in country, 13-23 February. I return more optimistic than ever before. The cumulative change since my first visit last April is dramatic, if not yet visibly demonstrable in all respects. Indeed, I’ll reaffirm even more vigorously my prognosis of last November (which few shared then) that growing momentum would be achieved in 1967 on almost every front in Vietnam.

I. General Impressions. Wastefully, expensively, but nonetheless indisputably, we are winning the war in the South. Few of our programs--civil or military--are very efficient, but we are grinding down the enemy by sheer weight and mass. And the cumulative impact of all we have set in motion is beginning to tell. Pacification still lags the most, yet even it is moving forward.

Indeed my broad feeling, with due allowance for oversimplification, is that our side now has in presently programmed levels all the men, money, and other resources needed to achieve success. There is so much in country--Vietnamese and US--that some programs are even beginning to get in the way of each other.

If this is so, our greatest present need on the US and especially GVN sides is to pull together our multiplicity of programs, set better priorities, refine program content, and do whatever else is necessary to get the most out of the massive effort which can now be supported by the incredible logistic base which we have built. This is easier said than done. I also believe that we could "win" eventually anyway even without better management. But we can achieve our purposes more quickly, and with less cost in blood and treasure, through more effective utilization of resources already available.

If better management is the key, the first requisite (I again contend) is a vigorous top US team in Saigon. The second is better civil/military coordination, especially in the critical gray area of pacification. Third, and by far the most important, is a more effective and coordinated GVN effort, though experience dictates that results in this area will come slowly at best. Whatever new GVN emerges from the political process now in motion may be even less "efficient" in many respects than the present Ky regime, though its weaknesses are such that the difference might be marginal. However, the political plus from an elected government would far outweigh any likely loss in administrative efficiency.

Lastly, that vital intangible--the mood of the people--is changing for the better. As CAS chief John Hart put it, a "victory psychology" is beginning to emerge in Vietnam. I saw it everywhere I went--in the confidence shown by GVN officers and officials high and low in the 10 provinces I visited, in the growing traffic on the roads, the increased pace of economic activity, the tone of the press, and the way in which more civilians are emerging to take part in the political process. This optimism is shared by most US military and civilians; the chief remaining doubters are a large segment of the US press corps and many of the US officials concerned with pacification. To my mind, many of this latter group fail to see the forest for all the trees, as will become clear in the following sections of this report.

[Here follows the body of the paper, in which Komer discussed the status of political, military, pacification, and economic measures in South Vietnam.]

VI. The Future Course of the War.

Though my latest visit was the most encouraging yet, I don’t wish to end on a note of excessive optimism. Even if most things are beginning to break our way, Hanoi retains the option--should it choose to suffer the pain--of a protracted guerrilla war aimed at waiting us out. Many think it will do so, at least through our 1968 elections. Plenty could still go wrong on our side too, especially a political crisis in Saigon as the Vietnamese struggle over who should inherit the fruits of American success.

Yet I return from Vietnam with more confidence than ever in my November prognosis that 1967-68 would be a period of gathering success, and that by mid-1968 at the latest it would be clear to all that we were "winning" the war in the South. Indeed, I now believe that it will be clear much sooner--almost surely by end-1967 if not before. It now seems quite conceivable that gathering momentum in the South, plus the turmoil in China and our continued pressure on the North, could lead to negotiation or Hanoi fadeaway in 1967. And I am one of those who believe that cessation of infiltration from the North would almost inevitably be a decisive psychological shock to the southern VC.

Even if the VC/NVA manage to sustain a protracted war, it seems likely that we can inflict such damage on them in the next 12-18 months--and achieve sufficient pacification, political and economic progress in the south--to reduce the enemy threat to proportions permitting redeployment of some US forces. In this case, Vietnam would gradually become more like a super-Malaya case, in which continued attrition of the enemy hard core could take years--but at a rate of loss and cost to us far less than in the present phase. In sum, we will face plenty of problems in Vietnam, but these are increasingly the problems of gathering success--no longer those of forestalling disaster./2/

/2/The CIA echoed Komer's optimism. In a February 18 memorandum entitled "Pacification and Nation-building in Vietnam: Present Status, Current Trends and Prospects," Helms presented the Agency's analysis to Komer, Vance, Rostow, and Bundy. Its summary reads as follows: "Major strides have been made in improving the organization and effectiveness of pacification and nation-building programs on both the U.S. and GVN sides. The recent integration of U.S. civil operations into a single organization should markedly improve their effectiveness, and the aggressive leadership of the Minister for Revolutionary Development is beginning to overcome past weaknesses in the Vietnamese administrative structure. The Vietnamese civilian cadre apparatus has been completely overhauled in the past year, with various groups integrated into a single, standardized organization. Some weaknesses in cadre leadership and recruit selection remain, however, and the current emphasis on achieving quality rather than quantity will limit the expansion of revolutionary development activities in the countryside. Effective integration of civilian cadre activities with local security resources also remains a problem in many areas." The conclusion of the memorandum described the prospects for the program as "generally favorable." The effective employment of the ARVN in support of pacification and the ability of the allied military forces to stem intensified VC activity in 1967 would be decisive in shifting the civil struggle in favor of the GVN. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FRC 71 A 3470, Vietnam 380 Pacification 1967)

I will submit separately a list of action recommendations./3/

/3/Not found.

R. W. Komer


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

Saigon, March 1, 1967, 0730Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Received at 5:31 a.m.

19209. For the President from Lodge. Herewith my weekly telegram:

A. Lilienthal Visit/2/

/2/Lilienthal, who had led the Tennessee Valley Authority re-development project in the United States, headed a joint U.S.-South Vietnamese group concerned with developing long-range plans for postwar development in Vietnam. See footnote 1, Document 91.

1. It was good to have David Lilienthal and his experts here. He traveled widely and spoke with businessmen, farmers, government officials and college students. In fact, he spent one evening with 36 students, getting their views on the economic development of their country. He made a very favorable impression on the Vietnamese as a man genuinely interested in their problems and in their hopes for their country.

2. He was impressed by the caliber of the Vietnamese with whom he will work and was encouraged by their enthusiasm and their earnest desire to work. He believes, as do I, that both the human and the natural resources are here.

3. We are thus off to a good start on this project of defining Viet-Nam’s economic path in the future. Mr. Lilienthal is already acting as a catalyst around which the Vietnamese can work and discuss what comes after the war. This could be nation-building in the best sense of the word.

B. Pressures on Hanoi

4. In Ky’s mind, and that of other leading Vietnamese, the idea is growing that evolution toward a constitutionally elected President is a great source of pressure on Hanoi. They believe it would make establishment of Communism in the future much more difficult here, notably because it would make the insertion of the so-called NLF as such into the Government of Viet-Nam almost impossible. To be sure, individuals could in theory get elected to Congress in an individual capacity, but this would be totally different.

5. In the Vietnamese view, to "put the NLF into the GVN" would confer a benediction on the worst criminal-terrorist elements; would mean defeat and consequent stultification of all who have made sacrifices here; would confirm the right of the Viet Cong to hold at least the 20 percent of the population which they now largely control; would be a signal to all GVN troops to stop fighting; and would give a hunting license to Viet Cong to start expansion of terrorism among the 80 percent presently not under Viet Cong domination. The current GVN would undoubtedly regard putting the NLF into the government of South Viet-Nam as an individual death sentence for many Vietnamese, specifically including themselves.

6. The conviction that the developments in para 5 above would be made much more difficult, if not impossible, under a constitutional government is responsible for Ky’s desire to hold the election as soon as it is humanly possible to do so after the Constitution has been promulgated. Considering the difficulties of setting up an election, with the printing of the ballots and all the rest, I estimate a period of anywhere between three to six months after promulgation of a Constitution before the election could be held.

7. Another result of Ky’s conviction that the move toward an elected constitutional president is so important was his statement to me on the day when I went to see him to tell him about your decision on increased military pressure. At that time, he said that even if a civilian was elected president whom he, Ky, did not like, he would support him so that Viet-Nam could speak and act internationally with one strong, authoritative and legitimate voice. He obviously would be supporting the process rather than indulging individual preferences--a wholesome and unusual attitude here. He also is much impressed with the question of legitimacy, and has been concerned by the feeling abroad that his government lacks legitimacy. He believes that an election would confer a legitimacy which nobody could question.

8. All this naturally raises the question of the U.S. view of the Presidential election. I have asked my American colleagues here to say two things in response to all questions: A) we have not and will not interfere in the internal affairs of Viet-Nam. The question of what individual they elect for President is their business and is an internal question. B) We expect to recognize whoever is duly elected.

9. Comment: This is a safe position for us to take since there is as yet no candidate who is dangerous for us--nor is there one in sight. I also prefer to use the word "recognize" rather than the word "support." There is a vast difference between our "supporting" a certain group in power, and our "recognizing" that group as the due Government of Viet-Nam. I remember when the late Senator Taft criticized the administrators of the Marshall Plan for "supporting" the Labor government of England. The answer was that we were not "supporting" the Labor government and that in an election between them and the Conservatives, we would be impartial, but the Labor government was the duly constituted government, and we had to work through it if the Marshall Plan were to be carried out.

10. Every day brings an attempt by someone, usually very cleverly done, to involve us in some of these candidacies. And there are all too many Americans who regard it as their God-given right to say whom they favor for President of Viet-Nam. This led me to utter words of caution at the Mission Council meeting last Monday.

C. Constitution

11. Last week the Assembly moved swiftly through both the executive and the judiciary sections of the draft Constitution. Still to be considered are sections on advisory councils, political parties and the opposition, amending the Constitution, and the transitional provisions.

12. The powers of the President were further increased, in accord with the wishes of the government, by reducing the importance of the Prime Minister. The President will determine national policy and the Prime Minister will execute it; the President will also preside over the Council of Ministers, thus diminishing the authority of the Prime Minister over the Cabinet.

13. Among the problems yet to come before the Assembly is the proposal by General Thieu that the Assembly write into the Constitution provision for a High Council for National Defense and the Armed Forces. The Council would advise the President on matters relating to national defense. In a February 22 letter to the Assembly, Thieu said that "The Council will be an institution through which the military can make its voice heard, contribute to national reconstruction, and legally set forth the aspirations of those who have sacrificed so much for their country." Thieu also said that "Such a Council will keep military personnel from feeling that they are mere instruments of persons who are irresponsible or acting for their personal benefit."

14. Thieu in effect would give the present Armed Forces Council a place in the basic law of the land. There is much to be said for thus constitutionally regularizing the rights and duties of the highest military authority in this country where it has an importance unknown in our country. Some civilian politicians fear that the body would not be content merely to advise the President. Presidential hopeful Tranh Van Huong, for example, told an Embassy officer that the Armed Forces Council is an "illegal body" and that if it is embedded in the Constitution it will "interfere" in the government in a destructive way. Best guess is that after a sharp debate, the Assembly will provide for such a body in the Constitution.

15. Other major issues yet to be decided include the proposal for election of province chiefs, the role of the current Assembly after the promulgation of the Constitution, and provisions covering the formation and activities of political parties.

16. In his February 22 letter to the Assembly, the second such official message from the government to the Deputies, Thieu also opposed election of province chiefs and urged that the Assembly reconsider its decision on "no confidence" votes. As the Constitution now stands, the legislature can force removal of the Prime Minister only by a 3/4 vote of the total membership of both houses. Although in practice such a vote would probably prove extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve, the Directorate is still dissatisfied with this provision. Thieu has asked that a vote of no confidence not be binding on the President under any circumstances.

D. Carrying out Manila pledges

17. The Vietnamese Government has been slow in carrying out some of the promises made at Manila,/3/ but there is now some progress. The effort to elect thousands of hamlet chiefs and village officials is going well. Ky kicked off the organization of the elections personally by appearing at the corps seminars being held for the provincial officials who will conduct the elections. In a speech at the III Corps seminar, Ky stressed the importance of building democracy at the lowest levels of society, and he emphasized the necessity for conducting completely honest elections. Although military personnel on active duty (including Regional Forces and Popular Forces) will not be permitted to run in the hamlet and village elections, Ky hit hard at those who may think that the military is not capable of playing a constructive role in the building of democracy. He asked for tolerance by the people of the military and vice versa. Also in Can Tho on February 28, Ky stressed the continuing role of the military in completing the social revolution. In III Corps, government preparations for the elections include planning for a training program after the elections for some 1,775 village officials.

/3/A reference to the commitments to extend the political base in South Vietnam made in the declaration following the October 1966 Manila conference. See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, Book II, pp. 1259-1265.

18. During the past week, the land reform effort progressed with the distribution of land titles at two large ceremonies attended by Ky and other Cabinet officers.

19. General Thieu is clearly and thoroughly committed to the Manila pledge of a program of national reconciliation. In fact, he is enthusiastic about it, having called in Zorthian for a long discussion. Thieu said that he knew we felt the government had not moved quickly enough to carry out its Manila commitments because he had not issued a national reconciliation proclamation either on Tet or November 1. He explained that the government had not made the necessary preparations by either of those dates and he had decided the simple issuance of a proclamation without the necessary preparations would result in failure. He also pointed out that an offer of full civil and political rights for returnees would be less impressive without the existence of a Constitution.

20. Thieu told Zorthian that the occasion of the promulgation of the Constitution would be the best time for the announcement. He said this would provide enough time to undertake preparations for an increased influx of returnees and also give the Viet Cong enough time to come in and undergo screening and a reorientation process before participating in the Presidential elections in the late summer or early fall.

21. Thieu also said that he felt there were three essential preparatory steps that must be accomplished between now and the time of the national reconciliation proclamation, as follows:

A) The first would be an intensive educational effort among government officials down to the lowest ranks. He said he and other members of the government would undertake this effort through travels around the country.

B) Secondly, adequate resources must be available to handle returnees both at Chieu Hoi centers and at resettlement projects.

C) Third, preparations must be made and resources assured for a major psychological operations campaign. Throughout his lengthy presentation of his ideas on this subject, Thieu emphasized the importance of performance on the part of the GVN and the potential shortening of the war through draining off Viet Cong strength.

[Here follows discussion of defections, port congestion, and military matters.]



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

Saigon, March 1, 1967, 1330Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Limdis. Received at 9:24 a.m. Repeated to Bangkok, Paris, Vientiane, and CINCPAC for POLAD.

19263. 1. I called on Ky on Wednesday afternoon/2/ saying that there was "something that worried me."

/2/March 1.

2. I began by saying how much respect there was for Ky in the United States, that his handling of the Hue/Danang situation last spring, the devaluation of the currency, and the move toward a constitution all had given him the appearance abroad of a "mature and skillful statesman."

3. Now come the demonstrations in Saigon,/3/ which led to breaking open the French Consulate General, setting fires, beating people up. However unjustly, Ky was held responsible. If this went on he would no longer appear as a "mature and skillful statesman" but would appear "immature and clumsy." These were the words to apply not only to the demonstrations in Saigon but also to the preposterous cock and bull story out of Paris about a coalition government in exile.

/3/Daily demonstrations against "false peace" had begun outside the French Consulate in Saigon after the February 24 announcement of the formation of a "government-in-exile" in Paris by Bao Dai and Nguyen Huu Tho. Speculation within South Vietnam was that the demonstrations were more the result of "rivalry" between Thieu and Ky than of the need to show "domestic determination" or "a militant stand to the world at large." (Memorandum of conversation, March 4, enclosed in airgram A-53 from Saigon, March 16; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S)

4. He knew my views about a so-called coalition government but surely the concoction about the government in exile in Paris was not the way to cope with the problem.

5. I understood that there were men of merit who might have been involved and I wished to point out that a man who shows courage and capacity as a police officer in the maintenance of law and order was not for that reason very clever about politics.

6. He had often said that I was an advisor to him on American affairs and so I felt that when I saw a little cloud "no bigger than a man’s hand" I should tell him about it before real trouble began.

7. He thanked me and said that when his permission had been requested for a demonstration against the French, he had seen no objection since it is always the French who are always trying to make trouble.

8. I said that it was perfectly all right for people to parade and carry signs, but what reminded everyone of Communist techniques was when they broke into the Consulate General and started to burn and beat people up.

9. He said it had gone too far and assured me it was all over and would not happen again. As we were going to the door, he said, rather as an afterthought, "As a matter of fact, I agree with you completely."/4/

/4/In an intelligence report by the CIA, March 10, Ky is described as advocating an "anti-peace movement" to counteract any attempt by the U.S. Government to install a coalition government in South Vietnam. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVII)



94. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Mike Mansfield/1/

Washington, March 1, 1967, 9:53 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Mansfield, March 1, 1967, 9:53 a.m., Tape 67.08, Side A, PNO 1. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

Mansfield: "The Congress hereby declares--one: its firm intention to provide all necessary support for members of the armed forces of the United States fighting in Vietnam; two: its support of efforts being made by the President of the United States--the President was not in the Clark second resolution--and other men of goodwill throughout the world to prevent an expansion of the war in Vietnam and to bring that conflict to an end through a negotiated settlement which will preserve the honor of the United States, protect the vital interests of the country, and allow the people of South Vietnam to determine the affairs of that nation in their own way; and three: its support of the Geneva Accords of '54 and urges the convening of that conference or any other meeting of nations similarly involved and interested as soon as possible for the purpose of formulating plans for bringing the conflict to an honorable conclusion in accordance with the principles of those Accords." You have said every one of those things./2/

/2/After being reported out of the Armed Services Committee on February 23, the Senate began debate on the supplemental authorization bill for fiscal year 1967 known as S665. The amendment that Mansfield read to the President was a substitute for two amendments to the appropriations bill, introduced by Senator Joseph Clark (D-PA). Clark's first amendment prohibited funds for operations against the DRV or augmentation of forces in South Vietnam and included a statement of support for a negotiated settlement. The second resolution affirmed Congressional support for U.S. troops in Vietnam and included a statement of support for a negotiated settlement and a declaration that the 1954 Geneva Accords should serve as the basis for settlement of the conflict. For text of Clark's resolutions, see Congressional Record, vol. 113, pp. 5279-5284. The Mansfield amendment, which also included a reference to the 1962 Geneva Accords, passed by a vote of 72-19 on February 28 and was attached to the final authorization bill approved by the Senate 89-2 on March 1. On March 2 the House of Representatives passed HR4515, as reported from the House Armed Services Committee on February 24, and substituted its language for the provisions of S665, which was passed by voice vote. The bill went into conference on March 7; both the House and Senate adopted S665 on March 8. See Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. XXIII, 1967, pp. 204-209. On March 12 the President discussed the issue of appropriations for the war effort with his advisers. (Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings) The President signed Public Law 90-5 on March 16 authorizing an additional $4.5 billion in supplemental expenditures in Vietnam. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 885-886. The total amount of the funds needed for the remainder of fiscal year 1967 was reduced by $80 million by Congress; the total appropriation of $12.2 billion was reported on March 17 and signed into law by the President on April 4. See Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. XXIII, 1967, pp. 209-211.

President: Yeah. Is that it?

Mansfield: That’s it.

President: Now what’s going to be your argument--just say rather than declare war we just substitute this?

Mansfield: That’s right. The other argument goes too far; it infringes upon the executive, it has a lot of loopholes in it, and we’re up facing an accomplished fact, and we have to go through with it. We cannot withdraw, we will not withdraw, and we’ll continue our efforts, and this is it.

President: What we want to do now out there--I’ve talked to you I think once before and then I’ll be through--I’m giving serious thought, I’ve got to meet with them sometime, our 6 months is about up, and we’re trying to get Ky to come on and have an election as quickly as we can after the Constitution comes in. Lodge will be moving out; he can’t stay, we’ve got to move him somewhere else. We are thinking seriously of making Westmoreland, who has the leadership qualities and the respect of everybody with whom he has ever dealt, and particularly our AID people and particularly our State people and the military people, giving him overall command. He just wears the uniform and he’ll be our number one man in Vietnam until they have their presidential election and get a man elected. He’ll replace Lodge in effect and replace Westmoreland in effect. But we’ll have under him that we expect to develop, the younger men--Abrams, who would be Chief of Staff of the Army here if he stayed here, but we want to send him out there to try to see if we can’t put a new touch on our pacification and get a new approach to try to get this country of South Vietnam back on its feet. We’re going to make a desperate effort to move Sullivan out of Laos in there to take Porter’s job--Porter is tired--and probably move Bob Komer out to do work on the other side of the war: the pacification, schools, and hospitals. And then we’re going to make one desperate pitch if we can to get Ellsworth Bunker to go there as Ambassador at Large to really be the midwife like he did with the Dominican Republic--to try to get the civilian election held, to try to see that it’s fair, to try to get the generals to have a civilian viewpoint and understand that that’s more important to have a good election than it is to win a big battle and try to guide them like he did. He’s in perfect health now, he feels good, he’s younger than I am, but he does have 72 years old. But I, look, last night, I was talking to Mac Bundy, he said, "Well, Secretary Stimson/3/ came down here as the greatest Secretary of War at 73 and stayed 5 years, and this fellow oughtn’t have to stay over 5 months in this transition period." And we’ve got Westmoreland there so if something happened to the older man, he got a little senile or something, we wouldn’t be caught. At the same time, we think he has enough stature and enough respect of the whole world, and certainly Westmoreland would respect him enough, that he in effect would be the political man and diplomatic man, and we’d just use Westmoreland’s stars to keep Ky in line, and we’re doing that, and doing it pretty effectively since Honolulu. We’ve made him go with a Constituent Assembly, and Westmoreland’s worked his heart out and we’ve got him going now with a presidential election, and he’s agreed to move it up 4 or 5 months. I want to get your reaction to that.

/3/Henry Stimson, Secretary of War, 1911-1913, Secretary of State, 1929-1933, and again Secretary of War, 1940-1945.

Mansfield: It sounds like it has a possibility. I’d sort of like to think it through, Mr. President.

President: All right. I don’t know that he’ll do it. The weakness is, I don’t know whether Westmoreland will want to take on a little more responsibility, it’s kind of to supervise the other. We think we need to do that because of his position there. I don’t know that Bunker would want to work under somebody, you see, as an older man, but he is not familiar with all these things. But he has an approach that nobody in the government has.

Mansfield: He’s been a good soldier too.

President: That’s right. He does, that’s right. He just goes wherever the ball is. If it’s going around end, he’ll go there, if it goes through the line, he goes. He doesn’t seem to pick up any barnacles or hurt anybody’s feelings or he doesn’t get in any fights. Most of the State Department people got problems, but he doesn’t seem to get any. Think it over. Say nothing about it. I’m thinking it over this weekend. I’m going to send for him and see if I can talk him into it. But I’ve got to do something and I’ve got to find something for Lodge. I don’t know where I’ll put him.

Mansfield: Uh-huh. Okay, Mr. President, do that. Thank you.

President: Bye.


95. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Henry Jackson/1/

Washington, March 2, 1967, 2:04 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Jackson, March 2, 1967, 2:04 p.m., Tape F67.08, Side A, PNO 4. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

President: Where are you?

Jackson: I’m in the cloak room on the telephone.

President: We were talking the other night about our bombing policy, and all of this stuff cannot be available, but you have seen it from time to time. I told him after we got back to prepare a note to give to you on what we were doing out there, and Rostow went back and got that old report that he worked for Max Taylor, ‘61, do you remember that?/2/

/2/See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Document 210. The President discussed the recommendations of the Taylor report in his news conference of March 2. See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 259-262.

Jackson: Well, I remember in a general way.

President: Max Taylor said that we ought to try to stop this thing, but if we couldn’t stop it, the time would come in this new class of warfare where we’d have to hit at the sources of guerrilla strength in the North, and he said, "I won’t make that decision now, but if what we do now is not successful, we’ll have to do that," you see what I mean. So he started, he told President Kennedy, and he told everybody, you and me and everybody else that saw his report at the time or that heard about it or discussed it, that we might have to come to this. I’m going to make that part of the report available together with some of the reasons for our bombing, and if you want to, I’m going to send you up a letter that I had Rostow draft for me that sometime you can put in the record./3/

/3/Later the same day Jackson publicly released the letter he received from Johnson. For text, see ibid., pp. 267-269.

Jackson: I’d be happy to do it. You know, I spent 3-1/2 hours on Friday/4/ on this bombing business, and strongly supported what you’re doing.

/4/February 24.

President: Yes, I knew that. We were talking about it the other night in front of the fireplace over there when we were having dinner,/5/ about what you were saying and what you were doing. So I got Rostow to try to make a summation of why we were doing all these things, and the background of it and all of it. And I thought that if I get it up to you by messenger, you might put it in.

/5/Jackson dined at the White House on the evening of February 18. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)

Jackson: You can just say that I requested this.

President: Well, I’d just say with reference to our discussions the other evening, I’ll look on my diary when it was and your calendar will show you when it was, and then you can put it in the record and maybe make a little comment. I think it will be kind of the first release of the Taylor report and I think a lot of people will want to look at substantial parts of it. And then I think it gives a pretty good summary of what we are doing there and why on this bombing. For instance, our Cabinet met yesterday and they say, "Everybody says why are you bombing--it doesn’t do any good." The hell it doesn’t. When these folks, those that get through and finally get down there, they are worn out because they’ve been bombed all the way down.

Jackson: Mr. President, I think the important argument is that if the North Vietnamese, that if they’re not being hurt, why were they making every effort to try to stop it. You know, I’m just a country boy, but we understand that out home.

President: You’re exactly right, and that’s the best way to say it. But what you can say is, "The other night I was having dinner at the White House and I just asked the President, give us the best reasons you can and the history why and what and he told me he would and he wrote me and here it is." Period.

Jackson: Right. Well, if you’ll have someone get it to the office right away, I’ll try to get it in today.


96. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell/1/

Washington, March 2, 1967, 3:04 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Russell, March 2, 1967, 3:15 p.m., Tape F67.08, Side A, PNO 5. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

President: In Bobby’s long speech, there was really just two things. He says that he wants to test Kosygin’s sincerity by halting the bombardment and saying we are ready to negotiate within the week, making it clear that discussions cannot continue for a prolonged period without an agreement, and that neither side will substantially increase the size of the war in South Vietnam./2/ That’s the important proposal he makes. It’s not important, but that’s what he does. Now we just finished doing that. I don’t know where the hell he was. But against the advice of our military people, against the wishes of a good many of the countries associated with us, we halted the bombardment for 6 days and we said we are ready to negotiate and we pled with not only Ho Chi Minh direct. I wrote him a letter that you say--you said some of my actions were "unseemly," but I . . .

/2/In his March 2 speech to the Senate, Kennedy also proposed that an "international presence" be established to gradually replace U.S. troops and that all major political factions be included in the settlement process. For text, see Congressional Record, Vol. 13, pp. 5279-5284.

Russell: I said "almost unseemly."

President: I know it. I know it. It didn’t hurt my feelings.

Russell: I thought you’d have enough sense to know what I meant.

President: So, now, what I want to point out to you--this is not public, but I want you to know it--I wrote Ho Chi Minh a letter and I said to him that we will halt the bombing and we will stop our augmentation of our troops if you’ll stop your infiltration. Now, he just turned me down flat./3/

/3/See Document 82.

Russell: Did he ever reply to you?

President: Yes, sir, he replied to it, and he said, "No soap." He said the same thing he said to the Pope. Now, that’s not known, but what is known is that for 6 days we did just what Senator Kennedy said. We halted the bombardment and said we’re ready to negotiate within the week and we made it clear that discussions could not continue for a prolonged period without an agreement that each side would not substantially increase the size of the war. Now we did that for 6 days and each day we would repeat to Kosygin and Wilson to go and tell them that and get back, and they got back with nothing except what the Pope gave us./4/ So we have tried within the month during the Tet period for 6 days just what the Senator proposes today, and we got the same result that we got the last time the Senator proposed a pause, 37 days--we got nothing. And the same result we got with the 5-day pause that he came down here and suggested that to me. Bobby originated the 5-day one, the first one. We gave them 2 or 3 days notice and told them we were going to pause and asked them if they’d stop, and we’d stop. They just . . .

/4/See Document 42.

Russell: When was that, Mr. President?

President: Oh, a year and a half ago, I guess, I forgot, the last one. That was the first one. Five days. He came alone to this office. He came in here and told me he had "good reason to believe"--these fellows play Secretary of State all around the world--and I stopped it, I notified everybody that I was going to stop it, get ready, told the Russians to see what you can do, and stopped it for 5 days. On the second day after I had stopped it, they spit in our face, turned the letter back to us, and said, "To hell with you. We are not interested in this." So I waited then, for several months, I’d forgotten how long, until the second one came along. Now if you want to know the reconstruction, I reviewed it with you once, but to make it short: The first man they got out there was Fulbright and Dobrynin told him. He came and told me. The next man they got was Mansfield. He came and told me. The third man they got was Morse. He had 3-1/2 hours. He came and told me. Then a number of others whom I do not recall except Bundy. They got Bundy, who was then on my staff. He came and sold McNamara. Then Bundy and McNamara came and tried to sell me and Rusk. We didn’t buy it. That held on several days and I went to Texas and they sold Rusk. Then I came back up here and had long detailed meetings that ran for a couple of days and had Clark Clifford and the head of the Intelligence Board and Abe Fortas to come in. I was about sold to start the pause, but Fortas said it was outrageous and predicted exactly what would happen. So did Clifford. Later, McNamara and Bundy said, "You went out and picked up two men on the street that hadn’t any information on this and brought them in here and followed their advice instead of ours." I said, "Yeah, I sure as hell did. I’m not going to cause our boys to suffer down there unless I’ve got some quid pro quo, unless they’ll stop doing something." So that went on for about a week. I went back to Texas and refused to take one. Then General Taylor called me up and said that he didn’t recommend it, but he would guarantee me that if I was ever going to stop--and it looked like I’d have to, to get ready for the Congress with all of this new money--that now was the time to do it because it wouldn’t cost me anything, that the weather was bad and they needed these planes over in Laos anyway, and that he would defend me, and so forth. So I got in my plane, came back and talked to General Wheeler, and Wheeler said that he didn’t recommend it, that he wasn’t for it, but he did see from the other angle that we ought to show some desire for peace to try to placate the doves and therefore, if I did it, he could defend it because, two reasons, one: he needed these planes in Laos more than he needed them in the North, number one, and number two: the weather was so bad over the North he couldn’t get anything done, but it would make it appear pretty good. Well, I didn’t never stress that. I want to get all of the blood out of it that I could so I just said "thirty-seven days," and so forth. So I went through that one and was damned lucky to get back in. The last few days it looked like they’d keep delaying us. They had the British Prime Minister to go and they had Ronning of Canada/5/ to go and they sent our friends over there and then we couldn’t bomb while they were there.

/5/Chester Ronning, a retired Canadian diplomat, was involved in an abortive peace effort during 1966.

So this time the Tet came along. We had grave reservations about it, our military men had grave reservations about it, but we didn’t want to be bombing. We said we had agreed to go along with South Vietnam on Christmas, and if we’d go along on Christmas and our New Year, we ought to be fair with them. So we did go along. Now, at that time Kosygin and Wilson were meeting. So, they came to us and I said, "Now we have stopped bombing. Now is the time to get the job done." I did the same thing to Ho Chi Minh. I can’t say that yet because I want to keep the channel open. I am writing back and forth to him, but I wanted you to know that. But they had it direct. We met their man. We delivered to their man in Moscow our letter to Ho Chi Minh. He took it back to Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh replied to me and said, "No go." Now we thought, though, that the fact that he never publicized that letter was an indication that he was weakening and he wanted to keep that channel open, and all this other stuff, the Pope and Wilson, we thought was just so much crap and we still think so. We think Kosygin wants to get out of it. We think he is damned anxious to get out of it, with the Chinese thing what it is, but he’s embarrassed and can’t do anything. Bobby comes along, though, and says he does . . .

Russell: Which letter was it that Ho Chi Minh answered and just spit in your face. Was that one prior letter?

President: That wasn’t a letter to Ho Chi Minh. That was an offer, the first pause, the first 5-day one, and Bobby Kennedy was the author of that. That was the Bobby Kennedy pause. You can just tell him that when you were opposing it that he had more influence than you did, that he got the first pause: 5 days. Then he’s got the next one for 35 days; 37. Then he’s got the last one for 6 days. But nowhere, anytime, can he give you one damn word from Hanoi. Now they can quote preachers and teachers, and they can quote Kosygin and they can quote Wilson, and they can quote U Thant and Goldberg, but damned if you can get it from Ho Chi Minh, and Ho Chi Minh is talking to us and writing us and you know that he knows how to get a message to us if he wants to.

Russell: Well now, they’re voting in there on Rule 22 and I’ve got to vote. Now, what part of this can I use other than this last one?

President: You can use every bit of it except Ho Chi Minh’s letter, where I wrote Ho Chi Minh. You can say all the rest of it, and he . . .

Russell: Is it all right to say "have communicated with him through other sources"?

President: Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, sure, sure. And, the main thing is, he [Kennedy] says halt the bombardment and make it clear that we’ll negotiate, but we won’t wait long. Well, tell him we halted the bombardment in Tet, we made it clear we’d negotiate through Kosygin, and we did wait 6 damn days, period, and what he’s suggesting this week we’ve just finished doing 2 weeks ago over your protest. And they build up 50 days . . .

Russell: All right. I have some misgivings about getting into a debate with the little pissant, but I’ll see about it./6/ Bye.

/6/The President contacted Rusk on the day of Kennedy's speech and requested that he formulate a reply to Kennedy. (Johnson Library, Recordings of Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, March 2, 1967, 3:15 p.m., Tape F67.08, Side A, PNO 6 and 7) Rusk issued the following statement on March 2: "Proposals substantially similar to those put forward by Senator Kennedy were explored prior to, during, and since the Tet truce--all without result. We have had bombing pauses of 5 days in 1965; 37 days in December-January 1965-1966; and 6 days just 2 weeks ago--and we encountered only hostile actions in response. There is, therefore, no reason to believe at this time that Hanoi is interested in proposals for mutual de-escalation such as those put forward by Senator Kennedy. The President has consistently made clear that the door to peace is and will remain open and we are prepared at any time to go more than half way to meet any equitable overture from the other side." (Department of State Bulletin, March 27, 1967, p. 516) The President also contacted Senator Everett Dirksen (R-IL) and Representative Carl Albert (D-OK) in an effort to further incite Congressional opposition to Kennedy's proposal. Dirksen led the critical reaction to the Kennedy speech in the Senate, notably deriding the proposal as nothing new and declaring his support for the President's policies in Vietnam. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Albert, March 2, 1967, 3:30 p.m., Tape 67.08, Side B, PNO 1; and Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Dirksen, March 2, 1967, 3:50 p.m., Tape F67.08, Side B, PNO 2) For additional background on the Kennedy speech and the debate that followed, see Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Robert Kennedy and His Times (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978), pp. 770-777.


97. Letter From President Johnson to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, March 2, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVII, Memos (B). No classification marking. Drafted by Rostow.

Dear Dean:

Since I may not be in town when you see Ellsworth Bunker, I should like to tell you what I hope will prove possible in Saigon./2/

/2/The leading candidates as successor to Lodge continued, throughout the early spring, to be Ellsworth Bunker, McGeorge Bundy, and Westmoreland. As made clear in a February 14 message to Westmoreland from Wheeler, both he and McNamara supported the selection of Westmoreland as the new Ambassador to South Vietnam since the mission required "a MacArthur-type operation" of coordinated military and political plans. (JCS telegram 1190-67 to Saigon, February 14; Center for Military History, Papers of William C. Westmoreland, #13 History File [I], 27 Jan-25 Mar 67) In a February 27 memorandum to the President, Bundy withdrew his name and argued that, given Bunker's skills as a diplomat, he should be the top choice. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Vietnam--W.W. Rostow)

I have decided that the best solution is to give General Westmoreland the over-all task of Ambassador while maintaining his military command. I want you and Bob McNamara to confirm that this is possible without Senate confirmation.

As you know, however, the bringing to life within the next six months of a constitutional government in Saigon is as important to us as the course of military events in the field. I have concluded that there is one American above any other who is qualified to guide this process on behalf of the nation; and I feel, in justice to our fighting men and to the country as a whole, that only our best is justified in the circumstances.

Therefore, I wish you to ask Ellsworth Bunker if he is willing to serve as Ambassador at Large in Saigon, assuming responsibility for our political policy under Westmoreland’s general direction.

We would assign an aircraft to Ellsworth so that he could easily move about the area and return, as necessary, for consultations in Washington.

As you know, I envisage assigning Bob Komer to serve with Westmoreland to drive forward our civil operations in Saigon, in fields other than that assigned to Ellsworth. I would be prepared, if you agree, to strengthen further the political side of the Saigon Embassy by assigning Bill Sullivan to assist Ambassador Bunker in his work.

I am conscious, of course, of the sacrifice I am asking Ellsworth to make at the age of 72. I can only recall that Henry Stimson was almost 73 when he became our greatest Secretary of War, serving for five years. I have in mind that Ellsworth would serve for only a relatively short period and I’m hopeful that, if I assured him I would not ask him to serve as Stimson did until he is 78--at least in Viet Nam--he would do this for our country and for me. I do believe the task of political midwifery ahead is the highest possible challenge to the wisdom, discretion, strength, and tact which Ellsworth embodies uniquely.

I hope your full powers of persuasion will be brought to bear in laying our case before him, and that you and Ellsworth will feel free to come back to me with any refinements you may suggest in this proposal./3/

/3/The President met with Rusk, McNamara, and Rostow that evening from 5:55 to 6:45 p.m., to discuss Westmoreland's appointment as successor to Lodge. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) While no notes of the meeting have been found, according to Wheeler's comments to Westmoreland, both Rusk and McNamara now opposed Westmoreland's selection, particularly in light of Westmoreland's professed reluctance to give up his military status and rank in order to accept the post. Wheeler stated his preference for McNamara's recommendation that Westmoreland should remain in a military capacity. (JCS telegram 1637-67 to Saigon, March 3; Center for Military History, Papers of William C. Westmoreland, Message Files) During a March 9 news conference, the President denied that he was considering a replacement for Lodge. See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, p. 104. However, the decision on a successor was made within a week. In a speech before a joint session of the Tennessee State legislature on March 16, Johnson announced Bunker's appointment as the new Ambassador to South Vietnam, along with Eugene Locke's selection as the new Deputy Ambassador and Robert Komer's appointment as the new head of the pacification effort. See ibid., pp. 352-353. The Senate confirmed Bunker's nomination on April 5. The new Ambassador presented his credentials in Saigon on April 28. Lodge's recommendations on the process of transition are in telegram 20988 from Saigon, March 22. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVIII)


Lyndon B. Johnson


98. Editorial Note

On March 2, 1967, UN Secretary-General U Thant met with Colonel Ha Van Lau, head of the North Vietnamese delegation to the International Control Commission, at the house of Le Tung Son, North Vietnamese Consul in Burma. Thant suggested to Lau that "one avenue to settlement might be a stand down by all concerned of all military activities" and a "mutual grounding of arms," to which the North Vietnamese responded with some interest and expressed the desire to make the proceedings public. (Telegram 150826 to USUN, March 8; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET) According to a March 15 [text not declassified] report, in the meeting with Lau, Thant had also advised the North Vietnamese that the domestic peace movement would not change the attitude of the U.S. Government toward the conduct of the war. (Ibid., EA/ACA Files: Lot 69 D 277, Vietnam File--U.N.)

On March 6 Thant discussed that meeting with U.S. Representative Arthur Goldberg in New York. The previous day, Thant had given a press conference in which he called for the unconditional end of U.S. bombing, after which, he believed, talks would surely follow. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 872-873. North Vietnam later criticized Thant for making his proposal public before its leadership had a chance to reply and for the truce formula itself which "equated the aggressor and the victim of aggression." (Memorandum from David Popper of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs to Rusk, March 29; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET)

Thant’s call for a truce generated a debate within the administration over the implementation of a cease-fire. In a March 7 memorandum to Walt Rostow, Robert Ginsburgh of the NSC Staff argued the likelihood that the North Vietnamese might use the Secretary-General’s proposal in order to consolidate gains in the field and strengthen their position at the bargaining table. The only cease-fire acceptable to the United States and South Vietnam would be one in which the Communists ceased entirely all military actions and infiltration in the South. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S) A March 11 appraisal by Chester Cooper, Ambassador W. Averell Harriman’s assistant, suggested a new approach to de-escalation if a mutual stand-down came into effect. A verified withdrawal would occur before the cessation of bombing over North Vietnam, although infiltration routes in Laos would continue as active targeting areas. Bilateral discussions would follow this halt. (Ibid., POL 27-14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)

The Department of State was encouraged by the fact that the North Vietnamese had contacted Thant on their own initiative and had not rejected his offer. It instructed Goldberg to pursue the matter more extensively. (Telegram 152887 to USUN, March 10; ibid., POL 27-14 VIET) However, there was strong opposition in the State Department to Goldberg’s further request to take the issue of Vietnam to the UN Security Council for deliberation. (Memorandum from Sisco to Rusk, March 15; ibid., EA Files: Lot 74 D 246, United Nations--General) Any initiative along these lines awaited a favorable North Vietnamese response to Thant’s proposal.


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

Washington, March 4, 1967, 5:43 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Miller, cleared in S/S, and approved by Unger. Repeated to Manila for Bundy.

149111. Subject: Presidential Candidates.

1. We gather from our recent exchanges with you on this subject and from reports of informal conversations recently between Embassy officers and visitors from Washington agencies that current prospects are for a single military candidate, presumably opposed by one or more civilian candidates. We also understand that it is the Embassy’s strong feeling at present that the military candidate is almost certain to win the presidential election in a fair contest but with the realistic recognition that he has the sizeable resources of the military and civilian bureaucracy behind him. We also have the impression that you find an increasing acceptance among civilian political groups of at least the inevitability, if not the desirability, of a military president, and that in fact there is growing civilian political activity to get behind the inevitable military candidate./2/

/2/While accepting the inevitability of the military ticket's victory, the Department expressed the hope that the political base of South Vietnam could be expanded either at the legislature level or in the subsequent elections. (Telegram 152441 to Saigon, March 9; ibid.)

2. If our reading of this assessment is correct, we consider that primary U.S. objective in forthcoming presidential elections should continue to be a fair and open contest between a military candidate and, hopefully, no more than one or two civilian candidates. In discussions with any and all Vietnamese we should make clear that USG is supporting no candidate but rather a fair contest. In our own thinking, we should certainly keep our options open should a civilian candidate succeed in winning presidency.

3. As we see it now, presidential race may face following problems:

a. Agreement among military on single military candidate. Our interest lies in ensuring that there is only one military presidential candidate. We should seek to avoid a Thieu-Ky ticket on grounds that it would represent "no change", and we gather in any event that neither Thieu or Ky is inclined to become a vice presidential candidate or to serve as prime minister under the other. While both Thieu and Ky have their advantages and disadvantages, U.S. should not attempt to intervene in favor of either candidacy but be prepared to accept either one. This of course assumes that emergence of either Thieu or Ky as military candidate will not create irreconcilable rifts within military establishment.

b. Civilian participation in military ticket. We believe it is important for military presidential candidate to include on his ticket a prominent, attractive civilian as his vice presidential candidate. We are also inclined to believe that military candidate, if successful, should name prominent civilian as prime minister. In selecting vice presidential candidate and a prime minister, military candidate would have to bear in mind importance of regional representation as well as selection of individuals with whom he can work as team.

c. Military participation in civilian ticket. Although civilian presidential candidate would probably select another civilian as his vice presidential running mate, it would be important for him to make clear his intentions of cooperating fully with military establishment and perhaps even of naming military man as prime minister. Should civilian candidate win election, problem would then be to ensure that military swung behind him with their full support.

d. Naming of prospective Prime Minister. While it might be normal for prime minister to be named only after elections, we wonder whether it would not be wiser if he were named beforehand, at same time candidates announce their platforms. In this way further scope is provided for balancing regional, religious and other interests and particularly for establishing civil-military balance. Believe this would have importance internally in South Viet-Nam and know it would be optically helpful on international scene.

4. We would welcome your comments on above./3/

/3/In a reply to this message, Lodge offered his concurrence in these guidelines, especially since the success of the election lay in the maintenance of military unity and civilian participation, most likely at the prime ministerial position on the ticket (which would be named during the campaign in order to maximize the ticket's appeal). (Telegram 20032 from Saigon, March 10; ibid.)


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