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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 100-116

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

Washington, March 6, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Gen. Taylor (2 of 2). Confidential. In a covering note transmitting this memorandum to the President, Rostow wrote: "Herewith an interesting reaction of General Taylor's that I am flagging for Sect. Rusk, Sect. McNamara and (via the back channel) for Ambassador Lodge." The President wrote on this note: "This should go to Lodge earliest." (Ibid.) This memorandum was sent to Lodge by Rostow, who requested that Lodge comment on it, via CIA channels, in telegram CAP 67118 at 12:35 a.m. on March 7. (Ibid., Taylor Report of Overseas Operations & Misc. Memos) For Lodge's comments, see Document 102.

SUBJECT
A Constitutional Issue of Importance in Saigon
Ref. Saigon, 19209/2/

/2/Document 92.

In his latest weekly cable, Ambassador Lodge refers to the proposal by General Thieu that the Constituent Assembly write into the Constitution a provision for a High Council for National Defense and the Armed Forces which would advise the President on matters related to national defense and give the military a way to make their voices heard and to set forth their aspirations in the national councils.

Our people in Saigon do not seem to be averse to this proposal but, because of my past troubles with the generals during the Khanh period, I must say that I would view it with real concern.

Cabot quotes Tran Van Huong on the subject, who as Prime Minister shared my experience with the generals in 1965--indeed, he lost his job to their intervention in his struggle with the Tri Quang Buddhists. His view is that such a Council, if imbedded in the Constitution, may interfere in the government in a destructive way. I must say that he has ground for that fear because of the following background of experience.

In the fall of 1964, after the failure of his Vung Tau constitution, Khanh and his generals (including Thieu and Ky) determined to withdraw from active participation in the government and to let their civilian critics take on the problems which had baffled them. They did so and from the sidelines enjoyed the spectacle of the struggle and fall of the Huong and Quat governments before the attacks of the various minority groups--offering the civilian leaders no help and sometimes contributing to their plight./3/ Khanh could have saved Huong from the Buddhists but, instead, deliberately pulled the rug from under him.

/3/Huong's government fell on January 27, 1965; Quat resigned as Prime Minister on June 11, 1965. See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume II.

During this time, I often appealed to the generals to show more responsibility, to get behind the government and to accept appropriate posts in the cabinet. Their answer was that the Armed Forces should be outside the government and in a sense parallel with it, reporting only to the Chief of State. I often felt that many officers had in mind the Japanese pre-war pattern whereby the Armed Forces reported directly to the Emperor through their ministers who were professional military officers nominated by the Army and Navy. Khanh and his associates seemed to be seeking some similar arrangement for by-passing the civilian Prime Minister and his cabinet.

This problem disappeared after the exile of Khanh and the installation of the Ky Government with the backing of the military Directorate./4/ The rather surprising stability of the Ky Government has been due to the fact that it has been underwritten by the generals who have accepted open responsibility for it. Such support in quality if not in form is essential to the survival of any government growing out of the new constitution.

/4/This event occurred in June 1965; see ibid., vol. III, Document 9.

With these thoughts in mind, I am somewhat alarmed by the emergence of this proposal from Thieu for a High Council which suggests that the Directorate may wish to move from a position in direct support of the government to one along side it in the manner of the Khanh concept. It may have been this suspicion which led to the reaction of Tran Van Huong who has a vivid memory of the events which I have recounted.

My suggestion would be to call the Saigon Embassy’s attention to this past record and the implications which may lurk in the Thieu proposal and to urge our representatives to oppose this Council to the extent possible. If it cannot be shelved, it should at least be incorporated within the government--possibly by making it advisory concurrently to the Prime Minister, the National Security Council and the President in approximate analogy to the relationships of our JCS.

Having mentioned Tran Van Huong in the foregoing context, I might add a brief evaluation of the man since his name keeps turning up as a possible civilian candidate for President. I worked very closely with him during his troubled days as Prime Minister and developed a high regard for his character and integrity.

Having said that, I must quickly add that I do not think that he would make an adequate President if that official is to be a DeGaulle towering over a business manager-type Prime Minister on the Pompidou pattern. Huong has a record of a bad heart and as a consequence is physically weak and slow of movement. He looks and acts much older than his years--actually about 60, I believe. He would never be a vigorous executive. As a result, in part at least, of his tribulations in office, he is violently anti-Buddhist (of the Tri Quang-type), anti-northern and anti-military. I doubt that he is big enough to soften such prejudices in the national interest if he becomes President.

On the positive side, Huong is honest, courageous, patriotic and listens well to advice. As Prime Minister, the official closest to him was the present Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Nguyen Luu Vien, who complemented him very well./5/

/5/On March 2 Taylor discussed this issue with Komer. In a March 3 letter to U. Alexis Johnson, Komer mentioned the following: "General Taylor said he knew Tran Van Huong quite well, and had a rather mixed opinion of him. Huong was brave and determined, but was in quite poor health and moved slowly at best about the government's business. Taylor feared Huong would not make a dynamic, forceful President or Prime Minister. When I commented that the military might favor Nguyen Luu Vien as Prime Minister or Vice President, General Taylor gave Vien much higher marks than do our current interlocutors in Saigon. He recalled that Vien had done quite well as Huong's Interior Minister, had always been at Huong's side, and had been quite energetic. Admittedly, he has not seemed to show these qualities as Vice Premier in the current Ky regime, but this may be just because he lacks the power position." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Komer Files: Lot 69 D 303, Vietnam/Turkey) In a letter replying to Komer, March 10, Johnson rated Vien as superior to Huong in terms of ability. "If, as I gather, Thieu or Ky are likely to be President, I would think that from our standpoint a Huong as Vice President and a Vien as Prime Minister would be a good combination," he noted. (Ibid.)

In summary, I would say that Huong, supported by a vigorous Prime Minister, could be an excellent representational Chief of State. He is not equipped to run the show in the manner of DeGaulle.

Maxwell D. Taylor

 

101. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, March 6, 1967, 4:03 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, March 6, 1967, 4:03 p.m., Tape 67.08, Side B, PNO 3. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

[Here follows discussion between the President and Rusk about the defection of Stalin’s daughter and a proposed meeting with Pat Dean.]

President: What does U Thant bring back?

Rusk: Based on his public statements, nothing at all. I expect he got out of the Vietnamese what we have already had directly from them. But we will know by 8:30 tonight.

President: Has he communicated with us at all?

Rusk: No, sir. U Thant--no, sir.

President: Are we seeing him at Goldberg’s request?

Rusk: Yes, I think so.

President: What’s the answer to Mansfield’s charge that we ought to have a cease-fire with everybody? We offered to a dozen times, haven’t we?

Rusk: We have if it is comprehensive enough but that standstill idea is almost impossible to work out in a guerrilla situation because the forces are all mixed up with each other and we can’t give up access to all the district towns and provincial capitals and things of that sort. That is an extremely complicated matter to work out practically on the ground. I think we ought to really concentrate on the infiltration problem because that is the heart of the matter and take on this other business of the cease-fire in connection with amnesty and reconciliation and that kind of thing. Otherwise, we’d be in an impossible military and supply situation out there.

President: Have we ever gotten Bobby’s/2/ analyzed carefully where we were sure we’ve tried the identical thing during the pause?

/2/Reference is to the peace proposal Robert Kennedy made in his March 2 speech; see footnote 2, Document 96.

Rusk: I have gone over it pretty thoroughly and it’s quite clear that Hanoi would say that his proposal is an ultimatum. The same thing with Findley./3/ I don’t know whether you have seen the tickers, but Findley apparently dropped off a proposal to you today along the same lines--that we tell the other side that we have an Ambassador in Rangoon or some place that will talk with them, and if they don’t talk with us immediately during a short bombing pause, we just go all out and blast them off the face of the earth. Well, that’s the whole point here--the attitude of the other side toward what they consider to be an ultimatum. It just wouldn’t get anywhere at all and we know that from the most recent experience.

/3/Representative Paul Findley (R-IL).

President: Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow. We’ll have lunch tomorrow.

 

102. Telegram From the Ambassador to Vietnam (Lodge) to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)/1/

Saigon, March 10, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15 VIET S. Secret; Nodis. Sent through CIA channels. The text printed here is a re-typed copy sent under cover of a March 10 note from Rostow to Rusk.

CAS 3781. 1. Thanks for sending me the interesting memo from General Taylor to the President./2/ Following are my comments on it.

/2/Document 100.

2. I share Max’s concern that the military be positively involved in the new government with clearly stated responsibilities and that they not be allowed to become a separate, irresponsible and possibly hostile group on the outside. If the military are not properly employed by the new government, with both military nation-building skills and military loyalties well engaged, they will surely become a destructive element and will place the survival of the future government in jeopardy.

3. With regard to the Military Council which has now been written into the constitution, I see General Taylor’s point, and I think it well to keep in mind the unhappy experience of the Huong government. However, I do not think that the Huong experience should cause us to oppose the formation of the body as it is presently envisaged. In the first place, the Council as defined in the constitution now, has somewhat reduced functions from those specified in the Directorate’s letter. The Assembly has carefully put the Council on the same level as other advisory councils and called it a "Military Council" rather than a "High Council for National Defense and the Armed Forces." The function of the Military Council is to "advise the President in matters relating to the armed forces, especially the promotion, transfer and disciplining of soldiers of all ranks." In this sense it could be a step towards more civilian control.

4. Secondly, I think we are going to have some such body either as a part of the constitutional machinery or outside of it. The military feel the need for an organizational means to act on the political scene, and they will insist on having it. It seems to me that the chances of controlling and limiting the role of such an organization are improved if it is defined and embodied in the formal governmental structure.

5. The body which now plays this role is the Armed Forces Council. It is the organizational base for military-political power. It is also the chief structural means for maintaining military unity. As such, it has proved a major source of whatever stability and progress the Ky regime has realized. Folding this body into an elected constitutional regime will not be easy. A constitutional military council to advise the President seems to us to have the most chance of success, and it is the form which the Assembly has adopted.

6. It seems most likely to us that the winning candidate in the forthcoming elections will be a military man. If this is the case, the transformation of the present armed forces council into a constitutional body will be easier and safer. What we hope to see formed is a body which will bring military support and military talents to the regime while at the same time avoiding excessive military domination of the government. This is, of course, the military-civilian partnership which we have discussed in previous messages. At the outset the chances are that the military council will exercise rather more power than the language of the constitution might seem to provide. However, as institutions mature and the nation moves into a peacetime situation, the advice of the Military Council to the President could become a less weighty factor in his decisions.

7. General Taylor fears that the military may wish to move from a position of direct support for the government to a position "alongside it in the manner of the Khanh concept." It is unlikely that any elected government will enjoy the complete military support which a military government can command. But this is a matter of degree. While Huong got virtually no military support, we expect that the future government under the constitution will have considerable military backing, particularly if the winning candidate is a military man. The new government will in effect be sponsored by the military. This was previously not Huong’s situation. Constitutional arrangements for a military council should help to keep the military involved in the government rather than "alongside it" as a separate and undoubtedly hostile entity.

8. I am in general agreement with General Taylor’s estimate of Tran Van Huong as a political leader. He seems to be an honest, courageous man with much to recommend him. Although he is handicapped by poor health and by representational chief of state, [sic] leaving the business of government to a Prime Minister who is more vigorous and more capable or compromise. As a practical matter, however, such a formula seems to be ruled out by the fact that the constitution as it has been written virtually demands that the Chief of State be the effective Chief Executive. The constitution gives the Prime Minister very little power and vests all the important executive functions in the President.

 

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

Saigon, March 10, 1967, 1135Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Received at 10:13 a.m. and passed to the White House, DOD, and CIA at 10:40 a.m.

20060. 1. Ambassador and Bundy met alone with Thieu today. Following were highlights.

2. Bundy said GVN should have no doubt that President adhered to basic position he had stated at Manila,/2/ that pressure must continue to be applied before Hanoi could be expected to change its attitude, while at the same time we stayed completely alert for any implication of change in Hanoi’s position. It was now clear from December and January events that Hanoi was negative for the time being, so that we were proceeding with continued and somewhat increased pressures including additional measures against the North.

/2/Reference is to the Manila Conference; see footnote 3, Document 92.

3. Thieu expressed gratitude for these assurances and said he completely agreed with this analysis. He thought that if we were able to maintain military successes, go forward with pacification, and complete Constitution and elections, Hanoi might conceivably change its attitude during 1967. At same time, he repeated theme stated to Goldberg, that if we did not maintain pressures Hanoi would simply continue propaganda and stress guerrilla and terrorist operations during 1967 lying low in order to resume more significant military action to arouse US and other public opinion during 1968.

4. Thieu specifically asked that President be informed he definitely intended to proceed with reconciliation proclamation at time Constitution was promulgated. He said that advance work was proceeding well, and that this timing now appeared clearly right.

5. Thieu then dwelt at length on role of ARVN in pacification. He said that army officers now accepted vital importance of pacification and that this was real area where war would be won. Substantial battalions had already been committed, and retraining for all battalions to be devoted to pacification would be completed by July. He said regimental commanders in particular felt strongly that they should have wider responsibility than mere security, and that they were therefore working on a command system that would place regimental commanders in overall charge of given areas with RD cadre and other organizations under them. He appeared to be saying that province chiefs would be under regimental commanders in areas where ARVN forces were on regimental scale, but that province chiefs would have control where only single battalions were committed. In any case, he said vital thing was to have single man in charge in each area. He indicated this concept differed from proposals put forward by General Thang, but said that he had recently visited areas in First and Fourth Corps areas and had thereafter persuaded Thang these changes were necessary (apparently from Thang’s idea that had placed province chiefs in more control position throughout).

Thieu went over this ground at some length, and Bundy expressed understanding of this explanation. (Ambassador will comment separately on these issues including their possible relation to pending decree on command structure for pacification and to sudden Thang selection to head GVN mission to Brazil inauguration.)/3/

/3/Not further identified.

6. Thieu’s second major topic concerned behavior of ARVN and importance of new unit messing arrangements. He noted that previous system had given military men piaster allowance, which they had then passed on to their wives leaving themselves inadequate ration capacity which in turn led to local thievery of food and other bad behavior. He said this new arrangement, for which he took personal credit, will produce great improvement in ARVN relations with local populations, particularly as they stayed for long period in order to accomplish true pacification. Bundy noted that he had discussed issue with MACV, which of course wholly endorsed concept. He also noted that we understood DOD had pending proposal to assist in furnishing adequate rations.

7. Ambassador noted that even with military successes VC terrorism continued and assassinations of village chiefs were actually rising. Thieu agreed that this was so, and noted recent VC emphasis on attacks on RD cadres. He thought this was part of VC attempt to clog progress of pacification, which was of course fundamental to success.

8. Conversation did not touch on political situation. Thieu appeared in general very self-assured and relaxed.

Lodge

 

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

Saigon, March 10, 1967, 1136Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Received at 9:19 a.m. and passed to the White House, DOD, and CIA at 9:50 a.m.

20059. 1. Immediately following meeting with Thieu reported septel, Ambassador and Bundy met with Ky. Bui Diem was also present.

2. Bundy began by giving Ky same assurances of USG position that he had given Thieu. Ky expressed agreement and hoped that we would continue to apply increasing pressures against the North as well as in the South.

3. Ky then discussed with Ambassador current episode of released American civilians claiming they had obtained release through bribery of special court. Ky noted that release had of course been his own personal decision based on representations by Ambassador. He said GVN had now clearly confirmed total absence of any bribery element, and that this had been made clear to Vietnamese people. Ky said that he had also explained situation to UPI representative responsible for story. Bui Diem noted that he had sent facts to Washington to assist in setting record straight at U.S. end.

4. Ky discussed Constitution and election prospects at length. He and Bui Diem thought Constitution would be completed by end of March and that final negotiation with Directorate would permit promulgation toward end of April. Ky noted that Assembly members appeared to desire five-month period before Presidential elections and then additional period before Assembly elections, to permit them to get organized better. He himself favored three-month schedule, with further interval of at least two months between Presidential and Assembly elections, latter being minimum time required to get mechanics worked out properly. With these factors, he himself now thought clearly in terms of aiming at September 11 anniversary date for Presidential elections (he laughingly noted this was his own lucky day), with Assembly elections to follow so that by the end of the year a full constitutional government would be established. If this could be accomplished, and if elections could be conducted as honestly as last year (point which Ambassador and Bundy had interjected), he thought it must have major effect in weakening any remaining VC appeal to South Vietnamese. GVN would have demonstrated it had best program.

5. Ky then said that key to situation remained elimination from SVN of all elements sent down by Hanoi. This could only be worked out with Hanoi (clear implication being that any direct dealing with NLF as such could only come thereafter, although he, like Thieu, explicitly endorsed both general reconciliation appeal and efforts to persuade middle and high-level VC to defect). Ky said that if Northern forces of all types were withdrawn, GVN would definitely be in shape to handle remaining NLF/VC terrorists and guerrilla problem. Ambassador and Bundy noted that getting Northerners of all sorts out was in large part a question of good intelligence information, and told Ky about extensive photographs of North Vietnamese military and other leaders in VC which MACV had just reported captured in Junction City Operation./2/ It was noted that this material could also be put to excellent use underscoring again NVN role and control of VC.

/2/Operation Junction City, begun on February 22, was a massive combined U.S.-ARVN assault against the Viet Cong stronghold in War Zone C northwest of Saigon in the area of Tay Ninh Province bordering Cambodia.

6. Ambassador then asked Ky for his judgment as to validity of current intelligence estimates that VC remained capable of recruiting 7,000 men per month in the South. Ky responded that he thought VC might still be able to get these numbers, but that this was being done solely by force and intimidation and without any remaining affirmative appeal or conviction. In effect, recruits in the South were now simply terrorized into service, and results must become visible soon in terms of their performance. He also confirmed that recent recruits included substantial numbers of teenagers and even women. He (like Thieu) thought that VC was now under very heavy pressure indeed from casualties and general hardship, and he particularly noted serious morale impact of B-52 operations, of which he had just seen one vivid piece of evidence in the form of a poem captured with a medium-level NVA officer in Kon Tum, to effect that his condition was nearer death than life.

7. Finally, Ky referred to ARVN behavior, and said that he was directing increased use of summary discipline and even execution powers conferred by recent decree. He said these powers would be used against soldiers engaged in stealing or other crimes affecting the population.

8. In general, Ky appeared poised and self-assured, like Thieu.

Lodge

 

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

Washington, March 10, 1967, 3:45 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Sen. Robert Kennedy's Position on VN--Analysis of. Literally Eyes Only. The notation "L" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.

Mr. President:

1. As you instructed, I shall find an occasion to talk with Sec. Rusk about Sec. McNamara’s views as expressed in his paper on Senator Kennedy’s proposal./2/

/2/In light of the DRV's public and private statements, on March 2 Kennedy had called for the administration to cease bombing and offer to open talks with the North Vietnamese, after which both sides could then work toward a comprehensive and inclusive settlement as an international presence replaced U.S. ground forces. Rostow derided Kennedy's supposedly innovative proposal as a "conditional halt" that was "part of the same family of proposals we have made since the first bombing pause in May 1965." (Memorandum from Rostow to the President, March 9; ibid.) In a March 9 memorandum to the President, McNamara included a summation of his own doubts about the search for peace and a recommendation of a reduction in bombing that could overcome the distrust generated in Hanoi by the December raids. (Ibid., Country File, Vietnam, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy Speech 3/2/67 & the Today Show interview, 3/7/67) Rusk was opposed to the Kennedy plan, since North Vietnam had rejected all its stipulations numerous times. He advised implementing a temporary suspension when "a serious prospect of peace opens up." (Letter from Rusk to the President, March 10; ibid.)

2. Herewith the clearest view I can give you of Sec. McNamara’s thought, derived from many conversations over a considerable period of time.

3. First and above all, as I told you on the telephone, he is deeply troubled about the possibility that the war will run on into next year; and then political pressures will arise, in one form or another, that would force us into an unsatisfactory settlement unworthy of what the nation has put into the struggle. Therefore, he is in a great hurry--as are we all.

4. He is now even willing to contemplate the possibility of forcing a major crisis with the Soviet Union and Communist China by mining the Haiphong harbor and otherwise interdicting supplies from outside North Viet Nam. He has certainly not decided to propose this course of action to you. But he has talked to me about it at least three times as one possibility we should contemplate in the spring, after we have the Vietnamese constitution and the electoral slate settled. Like all of us, he hesitates to recommend this because of the risk of enlarging the war; although he keeps coming back to the CIA intelligence estimate that neither China nor Russia would go to war if we mined Haiphong.

5. But his main thrust is to seek a quick end to the war by action which does not run the risks involved in mining Haiphong. He has some hopes that the present high casualty rates being inflicted on the VC plus high levels of defection will force some kind of crack in the organizational and political structure of the NLF. But he is conscious that we have not sustained these high rates over a long enough period to give him confidence that the war will end in 1967 as a result of casualty and defection rates. He is frustrated but does not know what he can do from here about the slow pace of pacification.

6. Against this background--of one course of action which may be too dangerous and another which may be too slow--he is passionately interested in finding a way to negotiate an end to the war:

--He has pressed (and I have worked with him) to find a way of penetrating and making contact with the NLF. (I recently checked. This operation is being carried forward in a vigorous and imaginative way, although we don’t yet have any big fish on the hook.)

--He wants us to push hard on the KGB contact in New York as well as on U Thant’s approach.

--He is, as his memorandum to you of March 9 reveals, willing to cut down bombing in the North if it can induce a negotiation with Hanoi, notably bombing north of the 20th parallel.

7. This judgment, in turn, stems from a view that the positive effect of bombing in the northern part of North Viet Nam is not enough to outweigh its negative effects on public opinion here and abroad and on the leaders in Hanoi. He honestly believes--without independent evidence--that our bombing around Hanoi stiffens the resistance of the people in authority there and makes it harder for them to negotiate an end to the war. As his memorandum suggests, he tends to accept the theory that our bombing attacks of December 13-14 were damaging to negotiations.

8. In short, I don’t think Bob can be described as a "dove" in this matter. He wants the Viet Nam operation to succeed because of the nation’s stake in it; your stake in it; and--perhaps--his stake in it. He is afraid it is endangered by the passage of time. He is thrashing about for a short cut. Among the short cuts would be to use our bombing of the North--especially north of the 20th parallel--as a negotiating carrot since, in his judgment, it has very limited net value.

9. My main difference with him is that I am not sure his picture of the mind of the men in Hanoi is correct. I agree that they are probably split; but I cannot believe--until I see hard evidence--that our bombing in the northern part of Viet Nam is a decisive factor in determining when they would try seriously to get out of the war. Moreover, I do believe that if we are systematic about electric power we can do something significant about their war effort.

10. My advice would be to support Bob in his efforts to ensure that every possible negotiating track is explored; unleash his full energies--perhaps after the Guam meeting/3/--at trying to accelerate pacification; but exercise great caution in surrendering prematurely or without adequate compensation our bombing in the North. In addition, you may wish to look hard and afresh at a political-military diplomatic plan for forcing a major crisis some time late in the spring.

/3/See Documents 115 and 116.

Walt

P.S. Since dictating this, Bob called and talked at length about the scenario stated briefly in his memo of March 9:

--take out all eight power plants and cement in the next two weeks;
--go to the Russians and tell them we’re cutting back to the 20th parallel for a while;
--see if the Russians can start secret talks between Tommy/4/ and a very high Hanoi official.

/4/Llewellyn Thompson.

W.

 

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

Washington, March 13, 1967, 7:35 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 GUAM. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Eyes Only. Drafted and approved by Rusk and cleared by Read and by Walt Rostow over the telephone.

154248. For Lodge from the Secretary. I have discussed with the President your telegrams on the possible visit of Thieu and Ky to Guam. We do not wish to press the matter in view of your strong misgivings./2/

/2/In a March 10 memorandum to Rostow, Jorden also argued against the invitation. "If the Vietnamese leaders are invited, I am convinced the outcome will be detrimental for our President," he warned. The trip would be viewed as an intervention in Vietnamese politics, the GVN would appear as if "being summoned to report," and "resentment" would arise from allied nations that were left out of the conference. (Johnson Library, National Security File, International Meetings and Travel File, President's Trip to Guam (Conference) [II]) Regarding the Guam meetings, see Documents 115 and 116.

I do think you should consider the possibility that Thieu and Ky might themselves be offended if the President comes as close as Guam and does not give them a chance to see him. Please consider whether it would be wise for you to discuss this matter with them, go over the advantages and disadvantages so that they would fully understand why they have not already received an official invitation. I have some feeling that if they do not come it should be their decision. They are the leaders of the country which the fighting is all about, they have over 400,000 American troops in their country and the Commander-in-Chief of those forces would be some four to five hours flying time from Saigon. We might get the worst of both worlds if they now take offense publicly about not being invited. If your analysis is correct, we might get the best of both worlds if they consider the matter and decide not to come.

On balance, our view here is that there is some advantage in their coming but it is sufficiently close as not to cause us to press the matter against you who know most about it. I would appreciate one further indication of your views on this particular message./3/ Sometime one can even toss a coin. Regards.

/3/In telegram 20291, March 13, Lodge concurred with Rusk's view on the matter. He suggested that he tell the GVN leadership the following: "We have not extended a formal invitation because this is primarily a U.S. stock-taking on the state of our different programs, and it is not a meeting at which major new decisions are expected. I would not, therefore, expect a very full communiqué. On the other hand, if you do want to come, we will be delighted to give you a very cordial welcome." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 GUAM) In a March 15 speech, the President mentioned that the South Vietnamese could attend the Guam discussions but only "if it were convenient for them." Thieu and Ky did accept the "invitation." For text of the March 15 speech, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 348-354. The scheduled meetings did cause some turmoil inside Vietnam. Ky tried to counteract negative publicity stemming from the news of the conference by staging "spectacular" public protests against "false peace" on the streets of Saigon, which the Department requested that Lodge intercede to cancel. (Telegrams 20406 from Saigon and 155939 to Saigon, March 15; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 GUAM)

Rusk

 

107. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassies in Vietnam, Korea, Australia, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Thailand/1/

Washington, March 15, 1967, 1:20 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted and approved by Read. Repeated to Moscow, New Delhi, Warsaw, Ottawa, and London.

155315. Following is text of Aide-Mémoire handed Amb. Goldberg by Secretary-General, March 14, 1967:/2/

/2/U Thant asked the Indian Government to convey this aide-mémoire directly to Hanoi. (Telegram 4434 from USUN, March 16; ibid.) The Department of State publicly released the message on March 28.

Begin Text

On many occasions in the past the Secretary General of the United Nations has expressed his very great concern about the conflict in Vietnam. That concern is intensified by the growing fury of the war resulting in the corresponding loss of life, indescribable suffering and misery of the people, appalling devastation of the country, uprooting of society, astronomical sums spent on the war and last but not least, his deepening anxiety over the increasing threat to the peace of the world. For these reasons, in the past three years or so, he submitted ideas and proposals to the parties primarily involved in the war with a view to creating conditions congenial for negotiations which unhappily have not been accepted by the parties. The prospects for peace seem to be as distant today than ever before.

Nevertheless, the Secretary General reasserts his conviction that a cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam continues to be a vital need, for moral and humanitarian reasons and also because it is the step which could lead the way to meaningful talks to end the war.

The situation being as it is today, the Secretary General has now in mind proposals envisaging three steps:

(a) A general standstill truce

(b) Preliminary talks

(c) Reconvening of the Geneva Conference

In the view of the Secretary General, a halt to all military activities by all sides is a practical necessity, if useful negotiations are to be undertaken. Since the Secretary General’s three-point plan has not been accepted by the parties, he believes that a general standstill truce by all parties to the conflict is now the only course which could lead to fruitful negotiations. It must be conceded that a truce without effective supervision is apt to be breached from time to time by one side or another, but an effective supervision of truce, at least for the moment, seems difficult to envisage as a practical possibility. If the parties directly involved in the conflict are genuinely motivated by considerations of peace and justice, it is only to be expected that earnest effort must be exerted to enforce the truce to the best of their ability. Should a public appeal by the Secretary General in his personal capacity facilitate the observance of such a truce, he would gladly be prepared to do so. Appeals to that effect by a group of countries would also be worthy of consideration.

Once the appeal has been made and a general standstill truce comes into effect, the parties directly involved in the conflict should take the next step of entering into preliminary talks. While these talks are in progress, it is clearly desirable that the general standstill truce will continue to be observed. In the view of the Secretary General these talks can take any of the following forms:

(1) Direct talks between the United States of America and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam

(2) Direct talks between the two Governments mentioned in (1) above, with the participation of the two Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference of 1954

(3) Direct talks between the two Governments mentioned in (1) with the participation of the members of the International Control Commission

(4) Direct talks between the two Governments mentioned in (1), with the participation of the two Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference of 1954 and of the members of the International Control Commission.

The Secretary General believes that these preliminary talks should aim at reaching an agreement on the modalities for the reconvening of the General Conference, with the sole purpose of returning to the essentials of that Agreement as repeatedly expressed by all parties to the conflict. These preliminary talks should seek to reach agreement on the time, place, agenda and participants in the subsequent formal meeting--the reconvening of the Geneva Conference. The Secretary General deems it necessary to stress that the question of participants in the formal negotiations should not obstruct the way to settlement. It is a question which could be solved only by agreeing that no fruitful talks on ending the war in Vietnam could take place without involving all those who are actually fighting. Since the Government in Saigon as well as the National Front of Liberation of South Vietnam are actually engaged in military operations, it is the view of the Secretary General that a future formal conference could not usefully discuss the effective termination of all military activities and the new political situation that would result in South Vietnam without the participation of representatives of the Government of Saigon and representatives of the National Front of Liberation of South Vietnam.

In transmitting these proposals to the parties directly concerned, the Secretary General believes that he is acting within the limits of his good offices, purely in his private capacity. He hopes that the divergent positions held by the parties both on the nature of the conflict and the ultimate political objectives will not prevent them from giving their very serious attention to these proposals. Indeed, he takes this opportunity to appeal to them to give their urgent consideration to his proposal. End Text.

You will receive by septel interim US reply and draft final reply of USG for your consultation with GVN and allied governments.

For Seoul

Secretary Rusk gave Prime Minister Chung/3/ text of aide-mémoire in conversation held morning of March 15 but you may wish to duplicate with Foreign Ministry.

/3/Chong Il-Kwon, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea.

Rusk

 

108. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassies in Vietnam, Korea, Australia, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Thailand and the Mission to the United Nations/1/

Washington, March 15, 1967, 7:58 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Sisco; cleared by Eugene Rostow, Walt Rostow, Harriman, Unger, Read, and McNamara; and approved by Rusk. Repeated to Moscow, New Delhi, Warsaw, Ottawa, and London.

155940. On March 14 Secretary General U Thant handed Ambassador Goldberg Aide-Mémoire containing new Vietnam proposal, repeated to you septel./2/

/2/Document 107.

In view of significance of subject contained in Aide-Mémoire, Ambassador Goldberg is informing SYG on March 16 as set forth at end of this cable, that USG appreciates constructive efforts on his part to bring about a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam conflict, and we are consulting GVN and troop contributor allies.

We have studied SYG’s proposal carefully and agree that in light of fact it already in hands of ICC powers and Geneva Co-Chairmen, that Hanoi is expected to have it within 24 hours and will probably react soon, we should make prompt and constructive full reply to SYG in writing. Our draft reply is also contained herein. Request you to bring this matter promptly to attention action addressee governments.

Allies urged to hold this matter very tightly since leaks could jeopardize whatever chances of success proposals may have.

We recognize SYG has backed away from his three-point proposal which centered on US initiation cessation of bombing/3/ and has substituted new three-point proposal with reciprocal action to bring about a standstill truce.

/3/U Thant presented his original three-point proposal on June 20, 1966. In this earlier formulation, the first and most important step was the cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam; the second was the scaling down of all military activities by all sides; and the third was the likelihood of discussions between all belligerent parties to the conflict. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, p. 819.

We estimate it unlikely Hanoi would be able to accept SYG proposition. But even in unlikely event it were, we would still have gained advantage of Hanoi agreement to move towards a cessation of all hostilities and not just half the war.

There are, of course, practical difficulties in SYG’s proposal. In view of the general nature of the SYG’s Aide-Mémoire, we do not know clearly and precisely what he means by a standstill truce and how its various elements can be put into effect. For example, does his proposal include cessation of large unit activities and guerrilla activities alike? Does it include terrorist acts as well as cessation of the bombing? Does it include a cessation of infiltration? Will movement of large and small units within South Vietnam be precluded? What method is proposed for supervision of those aspects of a standstill which are not clearly observable, e.g., clandestine reinforcement or movement? Would it be possible to establish some type of international supervision of demilitarized zones and on the borders of South Vietnam to prevent violation of the agreement? These are obviously unanswered questions which can only be clarified by detailed discussions. Moreover, we would wish to make sure that any standstill did not interfere with the South Vietnamese Government’s authority to pursue normal governmental activities without interference throughout South Vietnam.

Nevertheless, we are ready as the President has said to go more than half way. We have drafted what we believe to be a forthcoming and constructive reply which we wish to make available to SYG promptly after consultations with GVN and Allies. You should bring draft letter to their attention, solicit their ideas, but make every effort to avoid any implication they will have veto of final text. Make clear we consider it necessary make early reply and therefore need their views promptly. Allies should understand draft has been developed on assumption this reply may have to be surfaced at an appropriate stage.

Suggested draft US reply:

"The United States appreciates the efforts of the SYG to help bring about a peaceful settlement and end the conflict in Vietnam. We have carefully studied the Aide-Mémoire transmitted to Ambassador Goldberg by the Secretary General on March 14, 1967, and we want to express our appreciation for the constructive proposals he has made.

"The United States agrees it would be desirable to establish as quickly as possible 'a general standstill truce’ which on the basis of the Aide-Mémoire of March 14 we understand to mean 'a halt to all military activities by all parties’. As the Secretary General appreciates, for such a truce to be effective, it is important that both sides understand precisely what its principal elements are and the steps to be taken by both sides to assure an end to all violence and effective supervision. The US believes, therefore, that it would be helpful if the full details were discussed with representatives of North Viet Nam, the Geneva Conference Co-Chairmen, other interested governments or the SYG, and the US is prepared to enter into such discussions promptly and constructively.

"The United States would also be prepared, as suggested by the Secretary General, to enter into preliminary talks.

"All four of the forms of preliminary talks described in the Secretary General’s Aide-Mémoire or other possibilities would be acceptable to the United States.

"You can be assured, Mr. Secretary General, as President Johnson has frequently said, that the United States will go more than half-way to achieve peace in Vietnam." End Text.

Addressees should also note SYG’s proposal contemplates preliminary talks only for purpose of reconvening Geneva Conference. We believe preliminary talks would be even more useful if they addressed themselves to difficult problem of SYG’s first proposal--a standdown. For this reason, we do not feel it necessary at this time to raise difficult problem re NLF representation at Geneva Conference in formal written reply.

Our suggestion for handling this is to have Goldberg in the course of his conversation with SYG state orally that if we reach the stage of a Geneva conference, the question of hearing the views of the NLF should not be insurmountable problem, as President Johnson has said frequently.

We note also SYG refers only to 1954 accord and we request Ambassador Goldberg to point this out today to SYG at time he provides him with interim reply given below./4/ He should note that Co-Chairmen at their recent London meeting included in communiqué reference to restoration of conditions contemplated in both accords of 1954 and 1962. We would see considerable difficulty in any settlement which would permit Communists to concentrate efforts against Laos.

/4/Goldberg delivered the U.S. aide-mémoire at 5:45 p.m. on March 16. He reiterated to Thant the necessity to refer to both Geneva accords so that a peaceful solution could be achieved for all of Indochina. (Telegram 4417 from USUN, March 16; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 Viet S)

In the meantime, we request Goldberg to present to SYG today following interim US reply in writing.

Begin Text. The US welcomes the proposal of the Secretary General which contains constructive and positive elements toward bringing about a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam conflict. The US is in the process of consulting the government of South Vietnam and its allies. We expect to provide the Secretary General with a full and prompt reply. End Text./5/

/5/The interim reply is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, p. 885. On March 18 Goldberg transmitted a statement to Thant which reads in part: "As the Secretary-General knows, the United States and other Governments have, over many months, approached Hanoi, both publicly and privately, with proposals to end the conflict in Vietnam. To date, all such efforts have been rebuffed. The Government of North Vietnam has refused to agree to discussions without preconditions or to take reciprocal actions leading toward a cessation of hostilities. For this reason, the Government of the United States would be most interested in learning whether Hanoi is willing to enter into such discussions or to take reciprocal actions leading to peace in Vietnam. The United States has been, and remains willing to enter into discussions without preconditions with Hanoi at any time. To this end, the United States accepts the three-step proposal in the Aide-Mémoire of the Secretary-General of 14 March 1967." The full text of this statement is printed ibid., pp. 886-887. Both U.S. replies were released by the Department on March 28.

For Saigon.

SYG has now given Aide-Mémoire to GVN observer in New York for transmission to his Government. You should say to GVN, in presenting foregoing, that we will also want to discuss with them their reply.

Rusk

 

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

Washington, March 17, 1967, 1:29 a.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 GUAM. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted and approved by Unger and cleared by R.L. Bruce (S/S) and Isham.

157069. Guam Talking Paper--Negotiations and Peaceful Settlement./2/

/2/The proposed agenda and the briefing papers for the conference are in a notebook prepared for Rostow on March 21. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVIII, Memos)

I. The Issue

We will have a restricted session at dinner the first day to discuss this topic and will wish to open discussions ourselves. Since the Manila Conference, Hanoi has opened an intensive propaganda and diplomatic campaign centering on the terms for initiating talks, and this has important implications for our own and the GVN’s handling of this issue, both publicly and in private. Although the GVN feels it is in a stronger bargaining position than a year ago, it is still apprehensive that it might appear to be outdistanced by the US in the peace offensive and is uneasy that the prospect of any premature or ill-considered negotiations might deflect military pressure from Hanoi, create new political complications at home, or otherwise work to the enemy’s advantage. Our own position on negotiations and settlement is considerably more developed than that of the GVN and our vulnerabilities less acute. Hence the need for reassurance and a frank exchange of views. (A separate talking paper will deal with the U Thant proposal; its preparation will be delayed to take account of last minute developments.)/3/

/3/Not found.

II. Proposed US Position

1. We are intent upon maintaining the closest possible degree of consultation during the coming period when the prospect for initiating negotiations appears to be rising, even though it is far from imminent.

2. We have noted with satisfaction that the GVN feels it is now in a better position to tackle this question and that it has made forthcoming statements of willingness to talk with Hanoi without conditions (e.g. Ky’s January 6 statement)./4/ The purpose of our sustained military measures and economic support is to provide a sound basis for a political statement.

/4/The Prime Minister stated that he would be willing to talk with a representative of North Vietnam in a third country. (The New York Times, January 8, 1967)

3. We agree with the GVN judgment that the Communists respect force and probably will be compelled to negotiate only when they are convinced they cannot win their objectives on the battlefield.

4. Without prejudice to continued military and pacification operations, we believe contingency planning on negotiations should be vigorously carried forward in order to have the best possible preparation should the other side make a serious move toward talks. There are many complicated and delicate issues involved and it is not too soon to bring our best joint thinking to bear.

5. Political and economic progress in South Viet-Nam is directly related to strengthening our hand on negotiations. It is vital that the forthcoming presidential elections be conducted in such a way as to support this objective. For the same reason we should move strongly ahead with National Reconciliation.

6. It is important for the GVN to play a conspicuous part in the search for peace. We would hope that more attention could be given to publicizing the six essential elements of peace put forward by the GVN at Manila, including (a) cessation of aggression, (b) preservation of the territorial integrity of South Viet-Nam, (c) reunification of Viet-Nam, (d) resolution of internal problems, (e) removal of allied military forces, and (f) effective guarantees.

III. Background

Elements within the GVN, notably Foreign Minister Do, are troubled by the Government’s lack of a coherent policy on the substance of negotiations and settlement. Others, particularly among the military, have reacted against the so-called "false peace" proposals by others which, they fear, might lead to an indefensible neutrality or NLF domination of a coalition. Thieu has reiterated GVN refusal to talk with the NLF. Some GVN leaders suspect that the pressure of 1968 elections will cause the US to soften its position prematurely. They have remained skittish about National Reconciliation although useful preparatory work has been done (see separate paper). For all these reasons it would be useful to present our own assessments, review our position including our pledge to consult them fully and urge the GVN to begin more systematic contingency planning in close consultation with us./5/

/5/In telegram 20623 from Saigon, March 17, Lodge reported the concurrence of the Mission in the views of the paper. The Ambassador did urge the inclusion of the GVN in planning for the contingency of negotiations, but warned that the Saigon leaders would consider any effort to incorporate the NLF into a new government as "mortal danger." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 GUAM)

Rusk

 

110. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp)/1/

Saigon, March 18, 1967, 0403Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIX, Cables. Top Secret. Received at the Pentagon at 0928Z on March 19. Repeated to the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Air Force, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army, Pacific, the Commanding General of the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

MACV 09101. Subj: Force Requirements (U). Ref: CINCPAC msg DTG 100445Z (U)./2/

/2/Not found.

1. (TS) Introduction

A. The purpose of this message is to provide an analysis of current MACV force requirements projected through FY 68. Last year, when we first developed out force requirements for CY 67, we stated a requirement for 124 maneuver battalions with the necessary combat and combat service support for a total strength of 555,741. As it developed, we did not reclama the 470,366 Program Four package because of adverse piaster impact and the realities of service capabilities. Subsequent reassessment of the situation has indicated clearly that the Program Four force, although enabling us to gain the initiative, will not permit sustained operations of the scope and intensity required to avoid an unreasonably protracted war.

B. Against the foregoing backdrop we have taken a new look at our requirements. We find, as was estimated in connection with development of CY 67 requirements, that the enemy has increased his structure appreciably. We are confronted for example with large forces in and above the DMZ and in the Laotian and Cambodian sanctuaries, plus major enemy groupings within SVN. Our new appraisal has established an immediate requirement for an additional 2-1/3 divisions, which in terms of personnel spaces, can be accommodated by restructuring the original 555,741 force package. In my view, this additional force is required as soon as possible, but not later than 1 July 1968. This, in effect, constitutes a six month extension of our CY 67 program, and would permit shifting of force programming from a calendar year to a fiscal year basis. This shift has long been needed to make force programming for Vietnam compatible with other programs and to provide essential lead time in the procurement of hardware.

C. Looking ahead, it is entirely possible that additional forces, over and above the immediate requirement for 2-1/3 divisions, will materialize. Present planning, which will undergo continued refinement, suggests an additional 2-1/3 divisions equivalents whose availability is seen as extending beyond FY 68.

D. Development of force requirements cannot of course be confined to an assessment in terms of US force alone. An improved RVNAF, whose growing commitment to the support of revolutionary

development is psychologically, politically and militarily vital is

fundamental to success of the overall program for Vietnam. A force ceiling on RVNAF is now in effect, however, [if its mission is] to be fulfilled in cadence with an expanded US effort, a selective increase in RVNAF capabilities is required as well. Among added rewards of such action is creation of a suitable base for establishing a GVN constabulary.

E. With respect to the relationship of free world forces to recomputation of requirements, it is the position of this headquarters that provision of any and all such forces to meet increased demands is welcomed as additive reinforcements. A ROK infantry division stands forth as particularly desirable in this regard.

F. The paragraphs that follow contain an analysis of the projected situation, together with a presentation of additive force requirements deemed necessary in the interests of suitable balance and generation of the strength necessary to accelerate fulfillment of the MACV mission.

2. (S) Intelligence: The enemy has altered neither his objectives nor his intention of continuing the protracted war of attrition. He continues to augment his forces by infiltration and in-country recruitment/conscription. He has introduced long-range, large calibre rockets. His basic force structure of nine divisions and supporting troops in RVN continues to pose a serious threat. Although enemy combat strength and effectiveness have decreased somewhat during the past few months, his force structure is not expected to be reduced. In fact, it is within the enemy’s capability to increase this force structure by 1968 to 12 division framework. This would require increased infiltration to offset losses and to compensate for diminishing in-country conscription.

3. (TS) Concept and force requirements FY 68.

A. Concept

(1) During 1966, our operations were primarily holding actions characterized by border surveillance, reconnaissance to locate enemy forces, and spoiling attacks to disrupt the enemy offensive. As a result of our buildup and successes, we were able to plan and initiate a general offensive. We now have gained the tactical initiative, and are conducting continuous small and occasional large-scale offensive operations to decimate the enemy forces; to destroy enemy base areas and disrupt his infrastructure; to interdict his land and water LOC’s and to convince him, through the vigor of our offensive and accompanying psychological operations, that he faces inevitable defeat.

(2) Military success alone will not achieve the US objectives in Vietnam. Political, economic, and psychological victory is equally important, and support of revolutionary development program is mandatory. The basic precept for the role of the military in support of revolutionary development is to provide a secure environment for the population so that the civil aspects of RD can progress.

B. Force requirements FY 68

(1) The MACV objectives for 1967 were based on the assumption that the CY 67 force requirements would be approved and provided expeditiously within the capabilities of the services. However, with the implementation of Program Four, it was recognized that our accomplishments might fall short of our objectives. With the additional forces cited above, we would have had the capability to extend offensive operations into an exploitation phase designed to take advantage of our successes.

(2) With requisite forces, we shall be able to complete more quickly the destruction or neutralization of the enemy main forces and bases and, by continued presence, deny to him those areas in RVN long considered safe havens. As the enemy main forces are destroyed or broken up, increasingly greater efforts can be devoted to rooting out and destroying the VC guerrilla and Communist infrastructure. Moreover, increased assistance can be provided the RVNAF in support of its effort to provide the required level of security for the expanding areas undergoing revolutionary development.

(3) Optimum force. The optimum force required to implement the concept of operations and to exploit success is considered 4-2/3 divisions of the equivalent: 10 tactical fighter squadrons with one additional base; and the full mobile riverine force. The order of magnitude estimate is 201,250 spaces in addition to the 1967 ceiling of 470,366 for a total of 671,616./3/

/3/This figure was adjusted to 678,248 on March 28.

[Here follows discussion of the tactical strategy necessitating force requirements in each CTZ, the minimum essential force requirements, the minimum manpower requirements by type of unit, logistics for the new increment of troops, and the financial impact of the accretion.]

 

111. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, March 18, 1967, 10:43 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, March 18, 1967, 5:30 p.m., Tape F67.09, Side A, PNO 2. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume. The President left that evening for the meeting in Guam.

Rusk: We have a telegram in from Saigon./2/ The South Vietnamese would like to put in their reply to U Thant before Guam so it would not look as though it was sort of dictated to them at Guam. Their reply accepts U Thant’s proposal in principle, but then it makes two suggestions. One, that a military truce ought to be worked out by the military commanders, perhaps meeting in the demilitarized zone between North and South, and secondly, that they suggest that we just go on to an international conference among the interested governments. They don’t reject the idea of preliminary talks, but they say, "Why don’t we just have a conference?" Now this is consistent with the various things that we have said but there is some point in their going ahead and putting in their reply before Guam. On our own reply, there’s nothing in it that we have not said many times before, and if Arthur Goldberg were to make clear to the Secretary-General that we’ve made many diplomatic approaches to Hanoi without success and they fail to agree to discussions, and we should not suppose that we’re going to take further pre-conditions which Hanoi might seek here, and that we are not prepared to accept the Secretary-General’s proposal and then negotiate down from them, I think there is some advantage in getting these things off. There is nothing in our reply that we haven’t said publicly on a number of occasions. So I would think we ought to go ahead and make it quite clear to the Secretary-General that he mustn’t try to negotiate us down without anything from Hanoi in his hands.

/2/Not further identified.

President: Well, I just have this thought. I proceed from one negotiation to the other constantly waiting for something that never comes and usually find myself in worse shape at the end of the proposal than I do at the beginning. I think that the time, after all these attempts, fifteen or twenty that we have agreed to, time ought to come sometime when one of these proposers, these guys that like to get into these acts all the time, would at least be told that "you bring us something and you’ll find a pleasant and favorable response, but you don’t take anything from us until you get something from them." I just think we ought to, because if we don’t I’m very fearful that you’ll be in here next week and say, "Now Mr. President, I just don’t think we ought to be doing this this week on account of so and so." Now, we constantly do that, three years of it, and we’re on borrowed time now and just a few months before the judgment day, and I don’t think that U Thant is our friend. I don’t think he’ll do much for us except embarrass us. I think the whole outfit up there is potentially a very embarrassing thing. So I just want to meet them as frankly as I can to begin with and say, "Now, you go and show us what you can deliver, and your problem will not be with us. We’ll be reasonable." But I do not want to be saying that we are willing to do so and so and so and so until we know what they’re willing to do. Now, heretofore we’ve been doing this. But that hasn’t produced anything, and I wish we could just one time say to them, "Tell us what you’ll do." That’s my feeling.

I’m afraid that you and Bob will be in next week saying, "Well, now, we agreed to do this; we told him to go ahead and we would do so and so," and I’m terribly afraid of these negotiations at this stage because I don’t think they want them and I don’t think they’re ready for them and I don’t think they’re prepared to give a damned thing. And if they were prepared, I’d be more frightened than I am because I don’t think they’re prepared to give what we must have. And I think the time, we have a limited time to go ahead and get ourselves in condition and I don’t want anybody interfering with it--with the Ronnings, or with the British Prime Minister, or with Kosygin or any of these folks--if we can. I’m prepared to pay the price with public sentiment going against me if U Thant does this. But I know this: that when U Thant makes a proposal or Bobby Kennedy makes one or somebody else one, although we are ready to do our part, it just costs us five or ten points [in the public opinion polls] next week. We get their hopes up, and then the people say, "Oh, good God, here it is," and then they’re nailed again each time we strike out. It’s just like Mickey Mantle coming to bat and we strike out, and I don’t want to give them enough hope I think if it’s going to be a strike out and I think it's going to cost me another five or ten points and a lot of criticism.

And so, I’d like to put him off until the atmosphere is a little better; until there’s some chance. I think that with this Constitution, if it comes through out there and if we can get an election in 90 days and have that work out well, I think that we’re going to be in a lot better condition than we are now. And I don’t want to just say, "No, we will not," but I think we could say, "We are ready and willing if you can show us anything from them" period. Now what we’ll do depends on what they ask, but if they bring us another Pope’s letter,/3/ why, you know what the answer’s going to be. Now, is he in a position to get a much better thing than the Pope? If he did, I’d be frightened because I might have to say no.

/3/See Document 42.

Rusk: No, I think our problem here is, or stems from, the fact that U Thant is not helpful to us and that he would parley this thing into an appeal over our heads to public opinion here and abroad unless we put something in that would just cut across that. Now, the substance of what is in our proposed reply is simply something that we’ve said many times before.

President: We had different conditions before, though, Dean. We had 80 percent before and we’re down to under 40 percent [in the public opinion polls] now, and we’re getting weaker all the time, and we’ve said before we’d have pauses and we’ve had three of them. But the situation is a lot different now and we just finished the last big negotiation with Wilson and Kosygin, and I think we came out of it worse than we went into it. And we just played with the mothers of this country indicating there’s some chance and this then there’s just one little eyelash and it would have been "a peace in the world" according to Wilson, and I think that’s gullible.

Rusk: Well, I think that with the press yesterday, when they asked me about all this business, all the rumors all point to one question: "Where is Hanoi and what are they doing?" Unless you got an answer to that question, you haven’t got any peace yet.

President: That’s right, that’s right. That’s what I want to tell U Thant and Goldberg because they’re not up to any good purpose. They just think it’s a problem with the hawks of Johnson and Rusk and the Generals and so on and so forth.

Rusk: You would have no problem about South Vietnam going into the conference?

President: Well, I want to give them any leadership that you think you can consistent with my feeling. I just don’t want you to get grabbed by the nape of the neck and hauled in to some kind of a meeting and go repeat Korea all over. And I think that you’re playing in an explosive mine field and I don’t trust these people that are leading us into it. I don’t think their motives are pro-Johnson.

Rusk: Is there any special point you want to emphasize with the governors this afternoon?/4/

/4/Reference is to the meeting of the White House Conference of Governors on Federal-State Relations held on March 18 from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m., followed by an evening dinner. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Dairy)

Johnson: Yes, I want that chart. I want to take that, and I want to--take the attitude I’m taking now--I want you to take the position--and I got it from you; usually I just repeat what you said a week before, but I want you to point out that they don’t hang up, they’ll answer you on the phone, and you’ve said it and you’ve said it and you’ve said it, and time comes if when you get out and you make your public pleas and you get on your knees and you walk, there comes a time when a proud country just thinks that they think they ought to keep their man standing and waving against those things, and until they show some seriousness, you see no reason why we ought to jump in and say "peace, peace, peace." Now, we want peace more than anybody, but the best way to get peace is to be just be a little bit firm and have a little dignity and support those men out there. You do that very well, but I would really go awfully strong on it and I would show your charts, go over them and say, "Now, here’s seventeen nations and we did it in one day; we met our Security Council and our President; we said 'yes, sir’ and they said 'no, no, no.’ Now, they’ve said 'no’ to seventeen of them, and here’s the last thing they’ve said, this is the Pope, now I want you to read these and I want all of you to remember, governors, its four things they told us: we had to get the hell out of there; we had to stop our bombing; we had to turn it over to the Viet Cong Communists. Now, we just can’t do those things, and that’s the last thing they said." Now all this private stuff, we don’t have to depend on Weinstein/5/ or Bill Baggs or any traveling people. We can talk directly to this man. This is his attitude, and he confirmed it to us and he confirmed it to the Pope. Now, on the Goldberg thing, it’s your judgment that I want to follow, but I sure want you to know in making your decision I want you to know my instincts.

/5/Rabbi Jacob Weinstein, President, Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Rusk: All right. Fine. Thank you, sir.

 

112. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, March 18, 1967, 2:15 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, U Thant Proposal 3/14/67. Secret.

Mr. President:

Herewith Secretary Rusk's redraft of a message to U Thant after your telephone conversation with him. I have gone over it with General Taylor.

Our preferred position would be that we not now make a substantive reply to the Secretary General because we have not in fact thought through the problems of a general cessation of hostilities and because some of the language in this message could rise up to haunt us; for example, "standstill truce."

On the other hand, Secretary Rusk's argument for a prompt response is quite strong; and Saigon will, apparently, be filing its response in any case./2/

/2/The GVN issued its own reply to Thant's aide-mémoire. It called for a meeting between ARVN and Viet Cong leaders in order to arrange the mechanics of the cease-fire and for the opening of "a Geneva-type international conference" rather than simply allowing for the beginning of preliminary talks. (Telegram 20715 from Saigon, March 18; ibid.) Lodge was strongly opposed to the "so-called stand-still." (Telegram 20591 from Saigon, March 16; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

At the minimum, General Taylor and I have indicated in pencil the changes we would make in this draft.

Our minimum changes reflect two substantive problems:

1. "Any place" could mean Hanoi or some other point of embarrassment. We ran into this problem in the Korean truce talks.

2. "Standstill truce" has overtones of freezing the sovereignty and limiting the police powers of Saigon which "cessation of hostilities" avoids. We are clear that any serious negotiation of a cessation of hostilities might involve, as part of a process, the reservation of certain areas for VC forces which would not be attacked; but that is a quite different thing from giving them the chance to define territorial control, which might be the basis for later political claims via a "standstill truce." In fact, the heart of a truce or cessation of hostilities negotiation is a political negotiation about the place of the VC in South Vietnamese society under the constitution. We should leave flexibility for that process and, in our judgment, not get frozen into the possibly dangerous "standstill" language of the Secretary General.

To give you an idea of the issues that are in fact involved, if we move towards a cessation of hostilities, I attach a memorandum done by General Taylor after conversations yesterday./3/ Whether or not we go forward with an answer to the Secretary General, I hope we shall budget some time during the Guam trip for talk about this matter.

/3/Not printed. In his March 18 memorandum to the President, Taylor proposed as a possible response to U Thant's initiative a simultaneous discussion of military and political issues in the DMZ under ICC auspices; he recommended that the proposal be considered at the upcoming conference in Guam.

Walt

 

Attachment

U.S. Aide-Mémoire to Secretary-General of the United Nations Thant/4/

/4/The revised aide-mémoire was sent to Thant that day. Goldberg strongly recommended immediately making the reply public. He feared that the Indians, the Canadians, the Poles, the Japanese, or the United Nations itself would pre-emptively release the record of the exchanges anyway. A prompt and public reply would buttress relations with Thant and allow an affirmation to be issued at Guam. (Telegram 4445 from USUN, March 17; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 GUAM)

As the Secretary General knows, the United States and other Governments have, over many months, approached Hanoi, both publicly and privately, with proposals to end the conflict in Vietnam. To date, all such efforts have been rebuffed. The Government of North Vietnam has refused to agree to discussions without pre-conditions or to take reciprocal actions leading toward a cessation of hostilities.

For this reason, the Government of the United States would be most interested in learning whether Hanoi is willing to enter into such discussions or to take reciprocal actions leading to peace in Vietnam. The United States has been, and remains willing to enter into discussions without pre-conditions with Hanoi at any time./5/

/5/The words "or any place" were deleted from the end of this sentence by Rostow.

To this end, the United States accepts the three-step proposal in the aide-mémoire of the Secretary General of March 1967 envisaging: (a) A general stand-still truce; (b) preliminary talks; (c) reconvening of the Geneva Conference.

The United States believes it would be desirable and contributory to serious negotiations if an effective cessation of hostilities/6/ as the first element in the three-point proposal, could be promptly negotiated./7/

/6/Rostow wrote "cessation of hostilities" to replace "standstill truce."

/7/The word "established" before "promptly" has been marked out by Rostow, and he added "negotiated" at the end of this sentence.

It would, therefore, be essential that the details of such a general cessation of hostilities/8/ be discussed directly by both sides, or through the Secretary-General, the Geneva Conference Co-Chairmen or otherwise as may be agreed. The United States is prepared to enter into such discussions immediately and constructively.

/8/Rostow again substituted "cessation of hostilities" for "standstill truce."

The United States is also prepared to take the next steps in any of the forms suggested by the Secretary General to enter into preliminary talks leading to agreement as to the modalities for reconvening of the Geneva Conference.

Of course, the Government of South Vietnam will have to be appropriately involved throughout this entire process. The interests and views of our allies would also have to be taken fully into account.

 

113. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Vice President Humphrey/1/

Washington, March 18, 1967, 5:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Humphrey, March 18, 1967, 5:30 p.m., Tape F67.09, Side B, PNO 1 and 2. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

President: Good speech you made./2/

/2/Reference is to Humphrey's remarks at the meeting of the White House Conference of Governors on Federal-State Relations, which was held on March 18.

Vice President: Oh, thank you.

President: I think that you've got to cut out a little special niche for yourself. If I were you in these briefings, which we'll be talking to, the editors, mayors, and the rest of them, I'd get myself a little fresh approach like you did today and just say, "Now here are many things I'd like to add to what the President said to the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, agriculture, and economics. I'm interested in every one of those subjects. But, you've heard that, and I agree with what's been said."

Vice President: Yeah.

President: "I've made three trips to Asia this year, the most since I've been President, and this is a pretty large bloc of people. This is where two-thirds of the world live, and a hungry two-thirds of them." Then I'd take the Rusk line on the Huks in the Philippines, then I'd move into Malaysia, then I'd move into the sixth largest nation in the world, Indonesia.

Vice President: Yeah.

President: Then I'd go into China, the largest one in the world with 700 million. I'd just say, "Now, if you think we got troubles because we've lost 5,000 men, think about the 500,000 men Indonesia's lost and she's lost her Communist system, and we've rescued it. Here's what they've lost in Malaya, and she's lost it and we've rescued that. Here's the Philippines; we've rescued that. And we're going to rescue South Vietnam and the Chinese are in a blood-bath with each other. Now, why are we raising so much hell and crying when we have saved the world from Communism." I just think that little approach tying it on like you did this afternoon, that's what they don't hear, they never see, they can't draw themselves, and why we don't want to claim that we brought about the Indonesia thing, if we hadn't given them the money we did, if we haven't supported the generals the way we did, if we hadn't been in South Vietnam the way we were, there wouldn't be any Sukarno demise.

Vice President: Yes.

President: Well, while you may not want to go quite that far, you can certainly say that the ones that are closest to it realize the danger, and we have saved Malaysia, and Indonesia, and the Philippines, and China is in a blood-bath and the North Vietnamese are running. Why in the hell we ought to be hollering "pause" or attacking our own men, you don't know. Now it's time to stand up and support our own men. Just get you a little patriotic one-minute ending there and I think you could really wrap it up pretty good.

Vice President: Well, I thank you, Mr. President. That's what I'd like to do. I hesitate a little bit to inject myself in on these meetings.

President: I would always wind it up as kind of like the ranking fellow and let me introduce you there at the end and get you a time limitation. We all talk too long, everyone of us. We ought to quit at four. The reason I didn't want you to talk at 1:15 was that I was afraid they'd raise hell about us talking too long.

Vice President: Right.

President: And I'd already busted in and talked too long on highways, but I, oh boy, you'd get knocked out because they would have made a platform all afternoon.

Vice President: That's right.

President: On top of that, they had an agreement they were going to give us hell.

[Here follows discussion of legislation on Latin America, the space treaty, and NATO issues in the context of the security relationship with West European allies.]

President: It looks like we have prevented a dismantling of NATO and we're in good shape. Now, I think there ought to be two or three things that you ought to do. The first thing I think you ought to do is get you a little chart and have the Defense Department make it in red, white, blue, and green, and colors like they make their charts, that would show, on a page 8 by 10 where you have a number of copies of it, all of the various pauses we've had and the reaction. Right under the first pause, the first Bobby Kennedy pause--he came April 22 and urged it. In May, we put it on. We told them a week ahead of time, and the first day they pitched it back at us. We ought to show that. And then the second pause, we ought to show what that is--37 days. They assured us it would be 12 to 20 days, not 15 to 20, it was 12 to 20. The Soviets put it on; they initiated with Mansfield, then with Fulbright, then with Morse, then with Clark, then with Bobby Kennedy, then with Mac Bundy, then with McNamara, then they all sold Rusk. I turned it down two or three times then finally went on with it. Had it go 37 days. And the last pause, 6 days. We told them way ahead of time when Tet was coming up, and we said to them directly, "Listen, now if you'll give us any indication whatever, we will reciprocate anything you give us." But they said "No, no, no, hell no" every time. Now I think you ought to say that to every one of these leaders and you ought to give them this chart.

Vice President: Yes, sir.

President: Before you give them the next chart and say: "Here's what the seventeen nations did. Here's what the Indians did. Here's what the British did."

Vice President: Yes sir. Just like we had there today, only I get those in small size.

President: In an 8 by 10 and leave it with them. And I might just take me one about half as big as this, about the size of my chart over there on inflation, in red, white, and blue, take one on pauses, and take one on peace initiatives, instead of putting them all on one. And get you one about a yard--about half as big as Rusk's; about the size of McNamara's--in color. You might take that on the plane so if you speak to any universities, you could show it to them, and say, "Now why is this such a one-sided affair? Why does my President have to say to the seventeen nations, yes, yes, yes, and then wait a week, then get denounced, and then have them say no? Why does he have to say to the British Prime Minister and Kosygin yes and have them say no? Why does he have to say this yes and them no? Now why in the hell don't you get Hanoi one time to say yes to anything and then come to us. Why do you always attack us and never attack them? They're the ones destructing." I'd just fight the hell out of Hanoi, prosecute the living hell out of them, and prosecute anyone else that won't make them. If they're interested in peace, by God, let them deliver their client.

Vice President: Uh-hmm.

President: I think it's a pretty good line to just say in your Democratic speeches, that you said the other night when Bobby gave his pause that some of you think that the administration's against it. But we're not at all. And since he's such a big [inaudible] man, we wish that by God he'd stop his bombing for 37 days and give us a pause for a little bit.

[Here follows continued discussion of Humphrey's European trip.]

President: Anyway, I'd just try to get me a damn good staff and really, really have a good, personal, dignified trip, but to try to really get some good publicity out of it that will make you look very substantive and working on these things and going at the President's request, and I wouldn't apologize for one Goddamn thing. I'd just take the offensive on everything.

Vice President: Yes, sir. That's what I want to do.

President: I'd just say our position is that we don't want to change NATO at all. That we'd like to stay right where we are, that we think every nation ought to do what it's agreed to do, and we're going to do it. But it's pretty hard when the rest of them haven't come up for us to keep from rotating one division, and our President doesn't believe we ought to change it at all. We don't think we ought to have an invitation for these sons-of-bitches to march. He doesn't forget what Khrushchev told Kennedy at Vienna.

Vice President: No, sir.

President: And we don't want to be encouraging them. But they do encourage them when they jump on us out in Vietnam and all that kind of stuff. And the weaker we are the weaker NATO is and they ought to have sense enough to know it. And if they think we're a bunch of country bumpkins, why, they're just a bunch of Goddamn fools, and they better quit attacking us. I'd get in. I'd tell Wilson to get every Goddamn back-bencher he's got--he's got the wildest and the radical.

Vice President: Yes, sir.

President: I just talked to him about the Goddamned bombing. They got in there last night and they bombed a bunch of our people there and killed them. But nobody says anything about their bombing. They'd stopped their bombing for awhile. Quit bombing the airport in Saigon. Quit bombing the Embassy in Saigon. Quit bombing our bases everyday with these Russian rockets. Goddamn it, if they quit bombing, we quit bombing.

Vice President: Well, I think I'll be able to do a bit of work on them.

President: I'd just take the back-benchers, just say you're not going to yield to any liberalism, not a Goddamned one of them, that you had this same fight when you were killing Fascists in Germany.

Vice President: Yes, sir.

President: Europe, when you had to go over there when the Battle of Britain was on, that you had the ship status with your state and the United States Senate, were raising hell then, and you've got them now. But the time's come when you've got to stand up to people who are trying to provoke tyranny and enslave folks and do it by aggression. You did it in Greece and Turkey, you did it in Berlin, you did it wherever it rears its ugly head. Just because it's not in their backyard there's no reason to think that by God they ought to let it go off in their brother-in-law's yard.

Vice President: Yes, sir. Very good.

[Here follows further discussion of Humphrey's itinerary.]

 

114. Editorial Note

As the U.S. military effort in Vietnam expanded, the South Vietnamese Government (GVN) incurred substantial foreign exchange holdings. With growing criticism of the benefit reaped by the GVN at U.S. expense, the long-standing issue of foreign exchange moved slowly toward resolution during 1967. The U.S. Government's position was to commit the GVN to the agreement of November 4, 1966, which limited the GVN's foreign exchange reserves to $250 million, but the GVN did not want such a drastic draw-down of its then rising reserves. It also objected to the transfer of commodities from the Commercial Import Program (CIP) to a direct import program, a measure designed to force down GVN balances but under which South Vietnam would lose the subsidies provided through the CIP. South Vietnam only wanted to be bound to a consideration of prepayment of its loans from the United States as the sole reduction mechanism. For the evolution of this issue, see U.S. House of Representatives, Armed Services Committee, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, Book 7, pages 27-29, 33, 36-38, 44-47.

Extensive negotiations were carried out between Ambassadors Henry Cabot Lodge (and his successor, Ellsworth Bunker), Robert Komer (later attached to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam), and Deputy Director of AID Rutherford Poats for the United States, and Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky and Bank of Vietnam Governor Nguyen Huu Hanh for the GVN. On March 19, 1967, Lodge and Ky signed an interim agreement on foreign exchange rate unification. See The Pentagon Papers, Senator Gravel Edition, Volume II, pages 395-396. On March 28 the State Department's classified periodical Current Economic Developments reported on the agreement:

"Vietnamese exchange reserves have risen over $200 million in the past year and a half--to a level of nearly $350 million at the end of February. To deal with this, arrangements have been made for: A) Prepayment in piasters of $40 million of outstanding US loans to the GVN. B) Establishment by the GVN of a $50 million development fund deposited in the US, tied to US procurement, and usable for economic development projects approved jointly by the USG and the GVN. C) Sale of 300,000 tons (worth approximately $50 million) of PL-480 rice for piasters, which the US can use for local expenses instead of these piaster proceeds going mostly for GVN troop pay as is the normal arrangement. This rice generates piasters from GVN importers at the rate of 118 per US dollar. This will reduce DOD purchases of piasters (at the less advantageous official rate of 80 piasters per dollar) by about $75 million, so this arrangement is highly advantageous to the US balance of payments." (Current Economic Developments, Issue No. 776, March 28, 1967, page 6; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, E/CBA/REP Files: Lot 72 A 6248, Current Economic Developments)

On August 29 notes were exchanged to establish a P.L. 480 agreement for the sale of a minimum of 500,000 tons of rice by the United States on a 100 percent uses basis of piaster proceeds (a situation that gave an advantageous rate of exchange to the U.S. Government) with 100,000 tons delivered in 1967 and 400,000 tons by mid-1968. However, the uses provision would reduce to 20 percent when the GVN applied to piaster purchases of the U.S. Government and American firms the exchange rate of 118 piasters per dollar (the previous rate had been 80 piasters per dollar). In order to maintain the past level of foreign exchange, the package included an additional $240 million in financing for agreed-upon and future economic development programs, $227 million of U.S. financing of CIP commodities, and funds for other non-P.L. 480 commodities. Also, the United States would establish a capital development fund for South Vietnam that would be held to finance GVN imports under the November 4, 1966, agreement. In turn, the GVN would hold to the reserves ceiling while making a 100 billion piaster contribution to the Free World forces and prepaying one of its major loans to the United States. On October 31 the Board of Directors of the National Bank enacted the rate regulation, but in November added a commission payment to reduce the exchange rate to 117.6 piasters per dollar. Documentation on these negotiations is ibid., Central Files 1967-69, E 1 VIET S, FN 10 VIET S, and AID (US) 15 VIET S.

 

115. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Agana, Guam, March 20, 1967, 3-5:30 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 GUAM. Top Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Carver, who transcribed these working notes of the meeting on March 23. Only three copies were made; one was sent to Rostow, another to the State Department Executive Secretariat, and the last kept by Carver and the DCI. (Memorandum from Carver to Rostow, March 23; ibid.) The President and his principal advisers left Washington late on the evening of March 19. Their flight landed at Agana Naval Air Station, Guam, at 10:44 a.m. on March 20 (local time), and the President greeted the arriving Vietnamese dignitaries at 11 a.m. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) The meeting was held in the Conference Room of the COMNAV/Marianas Headquarters Building.

SUBJECT
Working Notes on First Day's Session of Guam Conference

PARTICIPANTS
See attached lists/2/

/2/According to an attached list of attendees, not printed, among the American participants were the President, Rostow, Rusk, McNamara, Wheeler, Lodge, Bunker, Westmoreland, Harriman, Sharp, Komer, McNaughton, and Taylor. The Vietnamese side included Thieu, Ky, Cao Van Vien, Tran Van Do, Hanh, and Bui Diem.

The President opened the session by welcoming the Vietnamese delegation and noted that one of the main objectives of the conference was to provide him with the opportunity to introduce to the Vietnamese representatives the new American team which would soon be taking over in Vietnam. He then introduced Ambassador Bunker, Ambassador Locke, and Mr. Robert Komer. During the course of these introductory remarks, the President expressed high praise for Ambassador Lodge and the work he had done in Vietnam. The President then stressed the importance of the constitutional process now in train in Vietnam and the drafting work of the Constituent Assembly. He also underlined the importance of the task of preparing for and holding elections which would give SVN a truly democratic government with a popular base. This stress on the constitutional and electoral process of nation-building set the tone and theme for the entire session.

General Thieu (Chairman of the National Leadership Council and South Vietnam's present Chief of State) opened the Vietnamese presentation. He thanked President Johnson warmly for the latter's initial remarks and his support for the cause of Vietnamese independence. General Thieu added that the trend of the war was now running in our favor. The enemy, frustrated in the military field, was shifting his emphasis to the political front. Gen. Thieu felt that in the military area stronger pressure ought to be put on North Vietnam in order to persuade the Hanoi regime to cease its aggression in South Vietnam. Gen. Thieu then turned to the substantial results and progress that had been achieved in Vietnam since the Honolulu conference, noting that his remarks would be general and that Prime Minister Ky would provide amplifying details. He called attention to the Constituent Assembly elections held in September 1966 and to the work of that assembly as tangible proof of the kind of progress that had been made. He said the drafting of the constitution had been completed and the constitution would be promulgated within a few weeks. He noted that elections for village and hamlet councils would be held next month (i.e., April), promised that SVN would have a popularly elected government by the fall of 1967, and that "by the end of this year" would be well on the road to constitutional democracy. Gen. Thieu then asked his prime minister, Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, to make a detailed report on the present situation and progress in South Vietnam.

General Ky also expressed his personal pleasure and that of his government at the opportunity to confer with the President of the United States and the President's advisers on the situation in Vietnam. The full text of Ky's remarks is separately available and hence those remarks will not be recapitulated in detail here. Ky spoke of national reconciliation, of Revolutionary Development and constitutional progress, proudly waving a copy of the final draft of the new constitution handed him a few hours before he boarded the plane for Guam. He said that document was "now as good as the law of the land." The theme and principal thrust of Ky's presentation is summarized in his statement, "We are going to do everything possible to make our nation whole again. We are striving to provide an atmosphere in which all our citizens can have respect for himself, his fellow citizen, and his government and its institutions." Taken in context, his comments about the Front (no coalition) and the need to keep pressure on Hanoi contained nothing a potential Vietnamese presidential candidate would not have had to say. They did not--as the press inaccurately reported--strike a jarring note out of harmony with American views. Ky concluded by paying tribute to the American soldier and by welcoming Ambassador Bunker, Ambassador Locke, and Mr. Komer to Vietnam.

The President thanked Chairman Thieu and Prime Minister Ky for their fine presentation of the situation in Vietnam and the progress being made there. He welcomed the Vietnamese achievements both in the military field and, particularly, in the field of nation-building. He stressed strongly the US Government's desire to see the pacification effort intensified. The President also stressed the need for close military and civilian coordination--both US and Vietnamese--in this all-important pacification effort.

General Cao Van Vien (GVN Minister of National Defense) then gave a briefing on the military situation in South Vietnam. He noted that the Communists were under increased pressure and were suffering battlefield defeats. The Viet Cong, he observed, were trying desperately to regain stature by local initiatives such as the attack made on 15 February in Quang Ngai Province. The Viet Cong were also steadily increasing their use of rockets, mortars, and recoilless rifles in an effort to inflict psychologically impressive damage on Vietnamese and allied forces. General Vien observed that over the ensuing weeks and months the Viet Cong (VC) will probably adopt a three-fold strategy involving:

(1) Increased attacks on Vietnamese and allied base camps and installations in order to increase GVN and allied commitments of troops to static defense duties.

(2) Increased attacks on Revolutionary Development teams because the Communists feel it essential to thwart these teams' effectiveness.

(3) Increased attacks on district and provincial headquarters in order to terrorize local Vietnamese leaders, generate political pressure, and thwart South Vietnamese political development.

General Vien then presented a detailed view of current Republic of Vietnam and Free World armed forces' actions.

Following this, General Vien discussed the Vietnamese Army's wholehearted commitment to the support of the Revolutionary Development (RD) program, emphasizing that the GVN's military leaders completely understood this essential task. General Vien observed that the increasing level of attacks on RD teams proved that the RD effort was hurting the Communist cause and driving the VC to desperate measures.

General Vien stated that the primary mission of the Vietnamese and allied armed forces was threefold:

(1) To defeat the enemy's military force

(2) To surge ahead in Revolutionary Development

(3) To halt infiltration and the movement of men and supplies from North Vietnam to South Vietnam.

General Vien concluded his remarks with some specific comments on the infiltration problem, observing that the Communists could never be defeated so long as they were able to bring a continuing flow of supplies and manpower into the South. He noted that South Vietnam had a 935-mile border with Cambodia and Laos, a border that was ill-defined and impossible to make secure against infiltration. In order to stop this infiltration, the GVN had a specific proposal they wished to offer for American consideration, namely, that of placing forces along the alignment of Route 9 from the Vietnamese border to the Mekong River. The GVN was not proposing a Maginot Line, but, instead, a series of interlocking strong points created by an aggressive deployment of ground troops. The GVN recognized the political difficulties involved in this proposal and the problem it would create in regard to the 1962 Geneva agreement in Laos. Nevertheless, the GVN felt that it was a practical plan and noted that the Communists' use of Laotian territory itself constituted a complete violation of the 1962 agreements, and hence, an act of naked aggression which the Communists' opponents were perfectly justified in countering./3/

/3/Subsequent press comment indicated that General Vien was talking in terms of a five-division force, but my notes make no reference to specific numbers of troops and to the best of my recollection no mention of numbers was actually made in this context at the 20 March Joint Session. [Footnote in the source text.]

The President thanked General Vien for his review of the military situation and asked General Westmoreland if the latter had any additional comments to make./4/

/4/Both my notes and my memory indicate that the Vietnamese Route 9 proposal was not mentioned or discussed by any American speaker at the 20 March Joint Session. [Footnote in the source text.]

General Westmoreland added that the Communist enemy unquestionably had increasing problems. There was no evidence that the enemy's strategy was changing but his tactics were modified from time to time. His losses had doubled during the course of the preceding year. The enemy now had 54 maneuver battalions but only half of these were fully combat effective. Vietnamese and allied progress was obvious and was supported by much tangible evidence. For example, 18 percent more of SVN's road net was now open to daily traffic. Out of the entire ARVN, US advisers rate only seven battalions as not being fully combat effective at this time, and General Westmoreland was assured that this number would be reduced to zero in the near future. There was a steady and noticeable improvement in South Vietnamese combat leadership and performance. General Westmoreland also observed that there was a steady improvement in the pacification situation, particularly in the area immediately around Saigon. There was, in short, much to be encouraged about. What was most needed now was still better positive work on our side coupled with even more pressure on the enemy.

The President took up the theme of national reconciliation and the Vietnamese Government's program in this all-important sphere. He expressed his gratification at the fact that our Vietnamese allies manifestly felt the same urgency on this matter as did we.

The President congratulated Chairman Thieu and Prime Minister Ky on Vietnam's constitution and its successful completion./5/ He expressed his personal appreciation at the sense of urgency obviously felt by Chairman Thieu and Prime Minister Ky with regard to constitutional development.

/5/The National Assembly approved the draft Constitution on March 18, as did the National Leadership Committee (the Directorate) on March 19. The GVN Constitution was promulgated officially on April 1. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 897-909.

The President also welcomed the account of South Vietnam's progress toward elections. There followed an exchange of comments during which Ky again promised to move forward on elections with all possible speed, saying that he hoped the presidential and senatorial elections could be held by mid-August. The President noted that his birthday was on August 27 and said he could ask for no finer birthday present than an elected president and senate in Vietnam.

The President, again referring by name to the members of his new team, assured the Vietnamese delegation that the best men available in our country would be sent to help the Vietnamese people in their task of building a free nation. He also assured the Vietnamese that General Westmoreland would be given whatever he needed, wanted, and could use in the task of defeating the Communist enemy. The very best men who wore the uniform of the United States would be sent to Vietnam to help the Vietnamese defend their freedom.

The President noted how fine it was to watch a democracy being built and how anxious the United States was to assist in this exciting task. The President stressed the need for stability, complimenting the present Vietnamese leaders on the amount of stability they had brought to Vietnam during their period of trusteeship. He observed jovially that "you seem to be doing a better job of maintaining unity than I am," and used this well-received jest as a means for underlining the paramount importance of the Vietnamese military establishment's remaining unified.

The President then again praised the work of Ambassador Lodge in helping the Vietnamese along their road to political democracy. He commented that he was going to ask Ambassador Lodge to become his ambassador-at-large so that the Ambassador could explain to the American people the fine things the Vietnamese were doing and so that his counsel would continue to be available.

The President then turned to the subject of long-term planning, noting that since victory was on the way despite present difficulties, it was urgently important to begin now to make plans for the future. He invited Dr. Lilienthal to speak on what was being done in the post-war planning field./6/

/6/Lilienthal headed a group charged to initiate planning for the development of the Mekong Delta region in the postwar years.

Dr. Lilienthal stressed the importance of the task. He briefly reviewed the ideas and plans he has blocked out in concert with his Vietnamese colleagues, particularly his counterpart Dr. Vu Quoc Thuc (the GVN's Director of Post-War Planning).

Vu Quoc Thuc replied to Dr. Lilienthal's remarks on behalf of the Vietnamese delegation. He praised Dr. Lilienthal highly and, on behalf of the Vietnamese people and government, thanked the President for making Dr. Lilienthal's assistance available. He noted that he and Dr. Lilienthal had very similar views, which made working together a pleasure. Dr. Thuc explained it was difficult to do post-war planning when one did not know for sure whether to plan in terms of an isolated South Vietnam sealed off from the North or in terms of at least a limited amount of trade and commerce with South Vietnam's northern neighbor. He assured the President that the Vietnamese were working hard to develop responsible programs capable of meeting the needs of the post-war future.

The President then took up the subject of inflation and the critical need for land reform.

Mr. Komer called attention to the economic agreements recently concluded with the GVN, which would help in the anti-inflation field.

Mr. Hanh (Governor of the National Bank and recently named Minister of Economy and Finance) replied to Mr. Komer's remarks and assured the President of the GVN's continued cooperation in the all-important field./7/

/7/Mr. Hanh happens to be an old friend of mine. We talked for a few moments just after the Joint Session broke up. During our conversation Mr. Hanh said there were still some technical problems on the topics he had been discussing in Saigon with Mr. Komer but he had not wanted to raise them at the 20 March session. [Footnote in the source text.]

Prime Minister Ky assured the President that the GVN was well aware of the importance of land reform and of pressing further in this area as rapidly as possible. He noted that there were a number of complicated administrative problems, including the fact that Vietnamese law required detailed surveys before titles could be issued and in many areas security considerations precluded making the kind of survey the law requires. He said he had decided to cut through the red tape in this sphere and accept certification by hamlet and village councils that peasants owned given plots of land.

Chairman Thieu closed the session by reassuring the President and his colleagues, including General Westmoreland, that the Vietnamese would concentrate on both the military and the civilian side of the conflict and had every confidence in making continued progress. In these closing remarks, Chairman Thieu referred once more to the Route 9 proposal.

[Here follows a final note by Carver cautioning that these notes were solely for his own and the DCI's use and were never intended to reconstruct the meeting.]

George A. Carver, Jr./8/
Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs

/8/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

 

116. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Agana, Guam, March 21, 1967, 10:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 GUAM. Top Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Carver. The meeting was held in the Conference Room of the COMNAV/Marianas Headquarters Building. The President and his entourage left Guam at 5:40 p.m. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) For text of the Joint Communiqué issued by President Johnson and the South Vietnamese leaders on March 21, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 891-892.

SUBJECT
Working Notes on US Delegation Session of Guam Conference

PARTICIPANTS
US Delegation only. All US officials attending the joint session were there, plus some others whose names I did not record.

The President opened the meeting by giving a brief résumé of the 20 March joint session. "Yesterday," he observed, we had heard the Vietnamese report on their efforts and progress. "Today," we would take stock of our own efforts. The President then asked General Westmoreland to give a report on the US military effort.

General Westmoreland opened by noting that 70 percent of South Vietnam was covered by jungle or by marshland. Eighty percent of the South Vietnamese people lived on 40 percent of the country's territory, and 40 percent of the country's territory was virtually unpopulated. All of this meant the guerrilla enemy had many places to hide and was able to operate in a terrain environment advantageous to him.

General Westmoreland also noted that the eastern part of Laos, particularly the eastern part of the so-called "panhandle," was de facto North Vietnamese territory through which Hanoi could move troops and supplies at will. By land through Laos and across the so-called demilitarized zone, which was no longer demilitarized, and by sea along the coast, Hanoi was infiltrating men into the South at a rate of about 7,000 a month./2/

/2/In a March 22 memorandum to the President, Rostow criticized Westmoreland's use of this figure as too conservative, as it ignored a downward trend in infiltration statistics since the first quarter of 1966. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXVIII)

The Vietnamese-Cambodian border, undefended and ill-defined in many places, provided the Communists with other advantages, including ready availability of secure sanctuary from which they could sally forth to harass GVN forces. Hanoi, despite the Communists' mounting problems, is still confident of victory, still confident that the Communists can wear down the Free World's will to continue the fight.

General Westmoreland then sketched the Communists' over-all command structure, noting that operational control of Communist military activity in South Vietnam's two northernmost provinces (Quang Tri and Thua Thien) was exercised directly from North Vietnam's Military Region IV headquarters in Vinh, North Vietnam./3/

/3/General Westmoreland actually said Military Region III, but this was a slip of the tongue. [Footnote in the source text.]

General Westmoreland reviewed the many problems facing Free World forces including that of operational security. He noted that the enemy has infiltrated South Vietnamese ranks on both the military and civilian side to such an extent that it is difficult to keep the Communists unaware of any operational planning or information passed to our Vietnamese allies.

General Westmoreland stressed that the enemy's target was not terrain but people, and that he had the bulk of his forces concentrated in South Vietnam's populated areas.

General Westmoreland then reviewed the enemy's order of battle and present troop deposition, and the deposition of allied forces made to counter various Communist threats. He noted that the enemy presently had an eleven division force and estimated that the Communists were striving to achieve a twelve division force structure./4/

/4/General Wheeler (with whom I rode back from Guam) and I both feel that the eleven division figure was another unintentional slip of the tongue. Both MACV and the Washington intelligence community presently credit the Communists with nine headquarters complexes in or near South Vietnam capable of controlling division-sized operations. [Footnote in the source text.]

In his review of Communist troop depositions, General Westmoreland noted that the Communists had seventy-seven base areas in South Vietnam, three in Cambodia, and seven in Laos. The Laotian bases are marginally accessible by ground operations and could be struck by air. The Cambodian bases are not accessible because of political considerations. Several times during his presentation, General Westmoreland directed attention to the fact that two Communist divisions are presently located in Cambodia in secure sanctuary from which they could sally forth and from where they pose a constant threat against which we have to deploy.

General Westmoreland explained the importance of these base areas in Communist strategy and the success Free World forces have had in base clearing operations. He also pointed out the complexity and difficulty of such operations, noting Communist mastery of camouflage and concealment practices, and the extensive use the Communists made of well-hidden tunnel complexes. By way of illustration, he noted that in Operation Junction City (which is presently in train) we have run across what was obviously the headquarters of a major COSVN propaganda unit located in a tunnel. This particular tunnel complex included rooms at least half the size of that in which the Guam conference was being held. In one such room, US forces had recently discovered a complete underground broadcasting station.

General Westmoreland then made a corps by corps review of the current situation. He stated we were making progress in the Mekong delta. There are 91 districts in the delta (i.e., in IV Corps); we were making progress in 45, standing still in 42, and losing ground in four (one district in Kien Hoa Province, one in Vinh Binh and two in Sa Dec). There were three South Vietnamese Army divisions in the delta, two of which (the 21st and the 7th) were very good and--by Vietnamese standards--well led.

The III Corps region is the heartland of South Vietnam and is consequently the area where General Westmoreland had placed the greatest concentration of US troops. There were serious problems in III Corps, an area in which the enemy had also concentrated great efforts. The three South Vietnamese divisions located in that corps were the poorest in the South Vietnamese Army. To bolster Vietnamese efforts, General Westmoreland was deploying US troops in Gia Dinh and Long An provinces to protect Saigon and to improve security in the immediate vicinity of the capital. General Westmoreland said he was also placing US troops (elements of the 9th Division) in Dinh Tuong Province, where their initial efforts had been both good and effective./5/

/5/Dinh Tuong is actually in IV Corps, but General Westmoreland discussed it in the context of his III Corps operations intended to protect the southern approaches to Saigon. [Footnote in the source text.]

To meet the Communist threat, new tactics were constantly being devised. For example, General Westmoreland planned to use a "floating brigade" in the Communist stronghold of War Zone C. This brigade would be supplied by parachutes and helicopters, and would keep constantly on the move to harass the Communists and deny them the use of this key base area.

General Westmoreland then reviewed II Corps and his problems in keeping an adequate screen to protect against incursions by the Communist forces presently located in Cambodia.

General Westmoreland used Quang Ngai Province as a concrete illustration of the problems in I Corps. He cited an example of the damage caused by four Communist regiments located in that area, and explained how it could take a full allied division operation in that area for a year to clean it out.

After his detailed review of the situation, General Westmoreland summarized the over-all picture, noting progress and achievement but making the point that unless military pressure causes the Viet Cong to crumble and Hanoi to stop its support of southern insurgency, the war in Vietnam could go on indefinitely.

The President asked General Westmoreland whether he thought the Communists accurately reported their own defeats and losses and hence whether Hanoi had a true picture of the situation in South Vietnam.

General Westmoreland replied that in their reports up the chain of command, the Communists greatly exaggerated their successes and the casualties they inflicted on allied forces./6/

/6/My notes are sketchy here but I believe the point General Westmoreland was making was that the Communists report their own losses with reasonable accuracy but greatly inflate their claims of damage inflicted on allied forces, thus presenting a distorted view of the situation. [Footnote in the source text.]

Returning to the subject of infiltration, General Westmoreland called attention again to the importance of Communist movement through Laos and suggested the outlines of a plan that would involve recruiting and training tribal elements native to that area (Khas) as forces that could operate in the area and interdict Communist infiltrators.

The President then initiated a brief discussion of bombing pauses and asked General Westmoreland's opinion about their consequences. General Westmoreland wholeheartedly supported the political wisdom of the pauses ordered to date, but explained the advantage the Communists took of any suspension in the allied aerial interdiction campaign. After some gentle, skillful questioning by the President, General Westmoreland did admit that he hoped these pauses would not become a habit.

The President thanked General Westmoreland for his fine survey and asked Admiral Sharp to give a report on the aerial campaign against North Vietnam.

Admiral Sharp made a brief summary review during which he noted his belief that our bombing campaign had been successful in light of its limited objectives. It had not stopped infiltration, but no one had ever thought it would. It had made Communist infiltration immensely more difficult and costly for the Communists and also exerted a constant pressure on the North Vietnamese regime.

Admiral Sharp then asked two of his aides (Marine Corps Brigadier General Hutchinson and a Navy commander whose name I did not catch) to present detailed briefings on CINCPAC operational proposals with respect to aerial bombardment and mining operations.

General Hutchinson outlined an extension of the Rolling Thunder operation involving six target systems in North Vietnam:

(1) transportation
(2) military complexes
(3) petroleum storage and distribution facilities
(4) war supporting industries
(5) electrical power
(6) port complexes at Haiphong, Hon Gay, and Cam Pha

(Because of the sensitivity of the subject matter I specifically did not take detailed notes on the projected targets. [The JCS can almost certainly provide copies of the briefing folders handed the President, Secretary McNamara, and Secretary Rusk.]/7/ I do recall that the total proposal was presented in the context of an April-October 1967 time frame, involved seven target packages, and a total of 59 targets. It was estimated that the execution of this program would entail 1,715 civilian casualties in the DRV and the loss of 82 US aircraft.)

/7/Brackets in the source text.

General Hutchinson then outlined the MIG threat in North Vietnam, the general problems caused by North Vietnamese air defense capabilities and a proposal to cope with these threats. (Again, because of the sensitivity of the subject and its lack of relevance to CIA programs, I specifically did not take detailed notes.)

The Navy Commander then reviewed mining operations which have already been executed and offered a plan for mining the harbors of Haiphong, Hon Gay and Cam Pha. (Once more, I specifically avoided taking detailed notes on this sensitive topic which involved matters outside of CIA's concern.)

The President then turned to Ambassador Lodge for a report on civil activities in Vietnam, particularly in the field of nation-building and pacification.

Ambassador Lodge observed that because of the lateness of the hour he would discuss only the topic of elections and then ask two of his colleagues (Mr. MacDonald and General Humphreys) for short briefings on the important topics of land reform and civilian casualties.

Ambassador Lodge briefly reviewed the four elections coming up in the near future: the village and hamlet councils to be elected in early May, the presidential election tentatively scheduled for 3 September, the upper legislative house (Senate) election scheduled for 4 September, and the lower legislative house (Assembly) scheduled for one month after that.

The President noted that this was not the same schedule that Prime Minister Ky had presented the previous day.

Ambassador Lodge acknowledged this and pointed out that Ky may have been over-optimistic. The schedule just outlined (according to US Embassy's best information) was the one presently being planned. Ambassador Lodge emphasized the importance of this electoral process and the course of constitutional development presently in train. He explained the role and influence of Vietnam's military establishment in present South Vietnamese politics and estimated that if the military could agree on a single candidate, most likely Ky or Thieu, that candidate would probably win. He gave a frank assessment of both Ky and Thieu, and concluded by expressing his belief that the US Government could live and work with either one and should not interfere in the contest now discreetly being waged for the support of the military establishment. Ambassador Lodge pointed out that the constitution drafting process could never have gone so smoothly or been completed so quickly had Ky and Thieu not both genuinely supported the process. Ky's ability to wave the "coonskin constitution" at Guam was real triumph for Vietnam's present leadership and a profoundly significant indicator of progress.

The President asked if there were no civilians capable of being serious contenders for the presidency in Vietnam.

Ambassador Lodge explained that the course of recent Vietnamese history had produced a breed of politicians trained in the techniques of plot and conspiracy but ill-suited by background or experience to provide positive political leadership. Ambassador Lodge noted that Tran Van Huong and Pham Khac Suu were probably the two leading civilian figures, but explained that neither was likely to win a national election, and that neither would make a particularly good president, especially Suu.

General Taylor endorsed Ambassador Lodge's assessment of Suu. (Someone--I am not sure who, but I think Secretary Rusk--asked whether the Constituent Assembly had brought forth any new leadership.)

Ambassador Lodge replied that it had produced some potentially promising figues but no one presently capable of winning the office of president.

Secretary Rusk (I think) asked about Dr. Phan Quang Dan.

Ambassador Lodge replied that Dan had a certain measure of political skill and some following, and had performed quite credibly in recent months, but was not really presidential timber.

Ambassador Lodge then summarized the course of the electoral and constitutional process, stressed its importance, and the significance of the progress the GVN was making in this vital area. He then asked Mr. MacDonald to give a brief summary of current activity in the field of land reform.

Secretary Rusk interrupted to call everyone's attention to the great sensitivity of the just-completed discussion about possible Vietnamese presidential candidates and the names that had been brought up. The Secretary underlined the importance of protecting the secrecy of the fact that such a discussion was held by the American delegation. Mr. MacDonald (USAID Director) then gave a short résumé of current progress and problems in the field of land reform./8/

/8/A major problem was that under the new Constitution, an expensive and potentially crippling restitution program for expropriated land would be borne by the GVN in order to satisfy its major political base, the propertied classes. (Memorandum from Aldrich to Harriman, March 16; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, EA/VN Files: Lot 71 D 31, E-12 Land Reform, January-June 1967)

The President expressed his belief in the great importance of this issue, noting the universal appeal of land ownership and the deep emotions it arouses. The President asked if more use could not be made of photographs obtained from aerial reconnaissance, photographs which could be given to individual farmers with the borders of their land outlined on the picture. The President cited examples from his own experience in the early days of the New Deal which showed the impact such photographs could have.

Mr. Komer noted that the technical resources for providing such a photographic service existed and volunteered General Momyer's assets. (General Momyer smiled but did not comment.)

General Humphreys (USAID Medical Director) made a short presentation on the topic of civilian casualties, outlining what was being done to minimize the hardship of war on the civilian population but noting the difficulty in acquiring valid statistics. He called attention to the fact that--despite press comment and resulting public impressions to the contrary--much of the suffering in Vietnam, including burns, was not war-caused or necessarily war-related.

After this final presentation, the President made a few concluding remarks pulling the conference together and laying renewed stress on the central importance of making progress in the political nation-building sphere as well as in the military struggle./9/

/9/According to notes by Charles Flowerree of EA/VN, the President's concluding remarks involved a discussion with Westmoreland over logistical support for and the morale of the troops in the field. (Memorandum from Floweree to Unger, March 21; ibid., EA/VN Files: Lot 75 D 167, T.S. Trips, Meetings, Visits: President Johnson and Vietnamese and East Asian leaders in Manila, Guam--1966, 1967)

[Here follows Carver's postscript disclaimer that this record was based on "sketchy notes" and was incomplete.]

George A. Carver, Jr./10/
Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affairs

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


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