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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

Political Development in South Vietnam, May-June

153. Telegram From the Consulate in Hong Kong to the Department of State/1/

Hong Kong, May 1, 1967, 0809Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Received at 6:38 a.m.

7581. For Bundy From Rice. Ref: A. State 184833; B. Saigon 24361./2/

/2/Both dated April 29. (Ibid. and ibid., DEF 19-6 USSR-VIET N, respectively)

1. I have no doubt whatever about validity of proposition that atmosphere of tension resulting from escalation of bombing in North Vietnam provides kind of climate in which Maoism tends to flourish, is useful to Mao in his efforts to control populace and armed forces, and bears unfavorably on prospects for emergence of more pragmatic regime in China.

2. The people of China have been told that Mao's great Cultural Revolution is, among other things, preparation for war. Our ever-mounting attacks on contiguous territory of China's Communist neighbor lends plausibility to the thesis that China itself is our ultimate target, and that preparation for war is national necessity. We see many reports testifying to resultant tension, which is particularly marked in coastal areas opposite Taiwan.

3. Mao is of course also carrying on his great Cultural Revolution in ways which themselves generate very great internal tensions. I think this is highly deliberate injection of adrenaline into blood streams of China's 700 millions, designed release enormous energy which Mao seeks to direct and exploit for multiple, inter-related and mutually-supporting purposes of his great Cultural Revolution.

4. A businessman who has just returned from Canton tells me he came out depressed and apprehensive: environment into which he was plunged from moment train crossed border into China was one of incessant, noisy propaganda which built in him intolerable sense of pressure and tension. It was his conviction this current atmosphere of tension must surely lead to early explosion. My acquaintance may underestimate Chinese ability to live with noise and capacity to bend without breaking. But China today is in period which parallels in many ways that of 1900 and there is a mass hysteria like that which characterized the Boxers. Latter believed their mumbo-jumbo made them invulnerable much as Red Guards and other Chinese types of today believe that Mao's sayings will enable them individually to achieve the impossible and that a China armed with Mao's thought is invincible.

5. It is obvious that need to prepare for war can be used to justify and secure popular acceptance of austerity measures and personal sacrifices which regime imposes for multiple purposes of which war preparation is only one. It is similarly obvious that atmosphere of external danger and responsiveness of the military to their political masters are closely related. Even Mao's purge of his opponents is being justified on grounds which include allegations they either have already engaged in traitorous activity or are persons who would do so--like Wang Ching-wei during World War II--if foreign invasion afforded them the opportunity to turn against Mao's Communist state. If Mao succeeds in wholly discrediting or even killing off the pragmatists within what was the national leadership--and their ranks have taken heavy losses--the probable effect on prospects for emergence of more realistic top leadership seems clear. While things in China are not always what they seem, one would be unduly optimistic--in view of the way things have been going--confidently to expect emergence of a pragmatic regime in Peking while Mao is alive and in possession his faculties.

6. At the same time I am not confident that danger to U.S. posed by foregoing can be separated from contingency that escalation of our bombing will result in ChiCom military intervention in Vietnam, or--what seems to me more important--that latter contingency should be deemed remote in the sense of being an improbable final outcome. To deal with former point first: I think intentions of Chinese Communists under present circumstances are to engage our planes only when we approach or enter their air-space. But circumstances will not remain static and future Chinese decisions will be made against background of changes in overall situation and may be influenced also by the spirit of combativeness which is part of contagion carried by the Maoist revolution.

7. I realize that escalation of the bombing seems, given our basic assumptions, to have an inner logic: if one level of effort and range of targets does not achieve desired ends, we assume it did not do so because of insufficiency and we raise the level of our effort and increase the scope of our targets. The truth is that we probably cannot achieve through bombing the objectives we seem to be seeking, and that--paradoxical as that may seem--achieving them could in the end prove far more dangerous than failing to do so.

8. We can win against North Vietnam only by destroying either its will to fight or its ability to do so. What are our chances of doing either through bombing? First there is the matter of will. Some of the leading exponents of initiating the bombings believed the Vietnamese Communists were pragmatists who would draw back rather than see their modern industries destroyed. It is now clear that this assessment was wrong: the North Vietnamese leaders and people give much higher priority to other objectives than preservation of that modern sector, which is not vital to people's livelihood. When this became apparent, continuation of the bombing was justified on the grounds we might be able to inflict a level of pain which might make North Vietnam throw in the towel. This is a false analogy which flies in the face of experience during World War II: pain is personal, and it cannot be inflicted on everybody at once on the acute level which makes it unendurable. Below that level pain only increases the will to fight.

10. [sic] What of North Vietnam's ability to continue the war under the bombings? The most obvious aspects of the matter are in abilities to defend against air attack and to supply the effort in the South. Vietnam is shaped like a funnel and North Vietnam is serving as the mouth of the funnel. The Communist powers controlling the Asian land mass ought to be able at each stage to estimate how much they need to pour in the funnel, of matériel and if need be of manpower, to maintain air defense, to replace what we destroy, and to have enough left over for the South (ref B).

11. If such a situation continues we will feel increasing pressure to carry out strikes against port facilities and perhaps ships at Haiphong, as well as stockpiles and transport lines across the border in China. But if the present war frustrates us, the widened one we would thus be inviting could ruin us.

12. If the foregoing logic proved wrong and the North Vietnamese really felt themselves to be in dire straits, they would still have an ace in the hole. The Chinese Communists are publicly committed to sending their men if necessary and when requested. I hardly think the Chinese Communists could refuse to honor this blank check should the Vietnamese present it. Thus, it seems to me, the war against North Vietnam is one in which winning could be more dangerous than failing to achieve decisive results.

13. Does this mean we cannot win the war we set out to fight--that in the South? I do not think it necessarily does, provided we have the wisdom to reassess the situation in its total political context, of which military considerations are only one component, and make relevant changes in our plans for future action. I have seen reports indicating that bulk of people in North Vietnam largely equate their war with U.S. to air war which is the only part they see and in which they are engaged. If we de-escalated air war against North Vietnam, considerable steam might go out total popular effort. In addition, more of world would see our endeavor to help GVN bring security to its people as worthy of support if our efforts were concentrated there instead of being obscured by our bombing of North.

14. Our political aim should have been to achieve respect for right of South Vietnam to separate existence, whereas our military strategy has had effect of tending overtly merge all Vietnam into the unity which is one theater of war. Our total effort may have greater chance of success if we reverse our present course of ever-widening attacks against the wide part of the funnel which is North Vietnam and concentrate our efforts towards and in Vietnam's narrow neck in the South. In any case I think the road we are now on cannot be followed to its end except at disproportionate cost and grave peril. It is this, I think, which should give us concern rather than the effect of bombings on possibility of negotiations which, I have always felt, could lead to settlement satisfactory to us only after it became evident our efforts in South Vietnam were going to succeed.



154. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach)/1/

Washington, May 1, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Top Secret WPB Chron, May 1967. Top Secret.

Thoughts on Strategy in Vietnam

This sets down the line of thought that I expressed orally to Secretary McNamara, at his request, on Saturday./2/ It covers my present view on the questions you are considering. I submit it because I shall be necessarily absent from your meeting this afternoon, and you may wish to use this in any way you see fit./3/

/2/April 28.

/3/No record of the meeting has been found.

I. Factors Affecting Possible Changes in Our Military Action

A. Force Increases. In terms of contribution to our strategy over the next nine months, I believe any increase directly related to meeting the threat in the northern part of SVN, and at the same time not reducing our effort in II and III Corps unacceptably, must be considered essential. (I have just lunched with Paul Nitze, who gives an off-the-cuff estimate that we may need a total increase of 50,000 to meet this specification.)

To the extent that any increase is related to needs in the Delta, I would be most skeptical of the total advantage of such action at least this year. The Delta does not lend itself to the most effective application of our forces, and the Viet Cong in the Delta are in key areas so deeply dug in that in the end they will be routed out only by a major change in the over-all situation, and particularly in the prestige and effectiveness of the GVN. (For example, this is already Colonel Wilson's conclusion with respect to key areas in Long An.)

In sum, we should leave IV Corps basically to the GVN, trying to deny it as a source of food and men, but leaving it to be truly pacified more slowly and later.

Apart from the military merits, any force increase that reaches the "Plimsoll Line"--calling up the Reserves--involves a truly major debate in Congress. Under present circumstances, I believe such a debate could only encourage Hanoi, and might also lead to pressures to go beyond what is wise in the North, specifically mining Haiphong. Unless there are over-riding military reasons--which I do not myself see--we should not get into such a debate this summer.

B. Ground Action Against North Vietnam. I understand this to be only a contingency thought in any event. I would be totally against it, for the simple reason that I believe the chances are 75-25 that it would bring the Chinese truly into the war and, almost equally important, stabilize the internal Chinese situation at least temporarily.

C. Laos. Last Friday we went through General Starbird's plans for more effective action against the Corridor in Laos./4/ I think these make sense, although they cannot be expected to do more than make use of the Corridor somewhat more difficult. (We should at once get away from linking these with the true "Obstacle" planned in the eastern area of SVN next to the DMZ. The two are entirely different, and the words "obstacle" or "barrier" as related to Laos have very unfortunate political implications in both Laos and Thailand.) The small ground force teams Starbird needs in Laos can be handled, in Sullivan's judgment.

/4/The section of the barrier that ran through Laos would include small teams used for reconnaissance and interdiction.

Beyond this point, Sullivan and I would both be strongly opposed to any such idea as sending a GVN division into Laos. It would almost certainly be ineffective, and the cry would at once go up to send more. Sullivan believes, and I agree, that Souvanna would object violently and feel that his whole position had been seriously compromised.

D. Cambodia. Evidence in the last ten days does indicate that the Sihanouk Trail out of northern Cambodia and across the southern tip of Laos is indeed a substantial source of supply. It may be that there are other supply routes from Cambodia that cross into SVN. Nonetheless, I doubt very much at this stage if any significant change in our actions in Cambodia would really affect these supply routes or be worth the broad political damage of appearing to attack Cambodia. Essentially, I think Sihanouk is slowly moving to a more truly neutral position and is doing about all he can to ease the problem. I do not think, as I understand Westmoreland may have argued, that Sihanouk is at all inclined to join the other side. He might, however, do so if he thought we were really attacking him for its own sake. (The Holt visit made clear that he accepts what we are doing now and is really only protesting for the record so long as we keep it within bounds)./5/

/5/Holt visited Washington and met with the President July 13-14, 1966, to discuss the war in Southeast Asia. For text of a joint communiqué that summarized their talks, see Department of State Bulletin, August 8, 1966, pp. 212-213. Holt visited Washington again June 1-2, 1967; for statements at his arrival ceremony, see ibid., June 26, 1967, pp. 960-963.

E. Additional Action in the North. Of the major targets still not hit, I would agree to the Hanoi power station, but then let it go at that, subject only to occasional re-strikes where absolutely required. In particular, on the airfields, I think we have gone far enough to hurt and not far enough to drive the aircraft to Chinese fields, which I think could be very dangerous.

I would strongly oppose the mining of Haiphong at any time in the next nine months, unless the Soviets categorically use it to send in combat weapons. (It may well be that we should warn them quietly but firmly that we are watching their traffic into Haiphong very closely, and particularly from this standpoint.) Mining of Haiphong, at any time, is bound to risk a confrontation with the Soviets and to throw Hanoi into greater dependence on Communist China. These in themselves would be very dangerous and adverse to the whole notion of getting Hanoi to change its attitude. Moreover, I think they would somehow manage to get the stuff in through China no matter what we did to Haiphong.

II. Over-All Assessment of the Situation

A. A Steady, Firm Course. Since roughly the first of December, I think we have given a very jerky and impatient impression to Hanoi. This is related more to the timing and suddenness of our bombing and negotiating actions than to the substance of what we have done. I think that Hanoi in any event believes that the 1968 elections could cause us to change our position or even lose heart completely. Our actions since early December may well have encouraged and greatly strengthened this belief that we wish to get the war over by 1968 at all costs. Our major thrust must be now to persuade them that we are prepared to stick it if necessary. This means a steady and considered program of action for the next nine months.

B. The Real Key Factors in the Situation. I believe we are making steady progress in the South, and that there are things we can do--notably effort with ARVN--to improve the present slow pace of pacification. Over-all progress in the South remains the key factor that could bring Hanoi to the right attitude and actions.

The really important element in the South over the next few months is political. There could be a tremendous gain if the elections are honest and widely participated in, and if the result is a balanced civilian/military government that commands real support in the South. Such a gain would do more than any marginal action, except for the essential job of countering the Communist thrust in I Corps.

At the same time, if the election process is thwarted by a military coup or if it is turned into a military steamroller, the results could be sharply negative. We might even be forced to re-assess our basic policy. This is simply a measure of the vital importance of the political front for this year.

In addition, we must consider at all times the effect of the Chinese internal situation. We cannot affect whether convulsion resumes, but we should certainly avoid actions that might tend to reduce the possibility of convulsion. (This is argued strenuously by Edward Rice in Hong Kong 7581, received today.)/6/

/6/Document 153.

Argued in another way, I would now reckon that the odds are considerably better than 50-50 that there will be a renewal of convulsion in China in the next few months. In December and January, I think this was the added factor that caused Hanoi to give off a "tremor" and at least to make a significant tactical change in its position. If convulsion now occurs again, it will offset whatever encouragement Hanoi may have received from the apparent recent promise of additional Soviet aid and the easing of whatever transit [transient?] tensions may have existed between Moscow and Peking. In fact, renewed convulsion in China could at some point become a really major factor to Hanoi. This is a dubious effect on which we cannot and should not rely. But it serves to put into focus the relative importance of any additional military actions, particularly in the North. And it is a very strong argument indeed against any additional step-up in our bombing of the North, or mining Haiphong.

C. Over-All Estimate. If we go on as we are doing, if the political process in the South comes off well, and if the Chinese do not settle down, I myself would reckon that by the end of 1967 there is at least a 50-50 chance that a favorable tide will be running really strongly in the South, and that Hanoi will be very discouraged. Whether they will move to negotiate is of course a slightly different question, but we could be visibly and strongly on the way.

If China should go into a real convulsion, I would raise these odds slightly, and think it clearly more likely that Hanoi would choose a negotiating path to the conclusion.

III. Negotiating Strategy

While we need a thorough review of our whole objectives and negotiating position, I doubt very much if we shall find any points on which we now wish to change our public position or to take any new initiative vis-à-vis Hanoi.

Basically in line with the idea of conveying an impression of steady firmness to Hanoi, I think we should avoid new initiatives except as we have to respond to some significant third party such as U Thant or the Canadians. I would certainly not go into the UN or the World Court.

Behind this strategy lies the judgment that Hanoi is in all probability dug in at least until after the Vietnamese elections. After that, we could take another look, but I still doubt that any serious change will be indicated. If it is, some approach like the Ne Win one seems to me by far the most promising.

A key question is of course how we handle the Soviets. My own hunch is that Kosygin burned his fingers somewhat in February, but that they have built their position in Hanoi at least back to its former level. In the process, they will have almost certainly undertaken some additional aid. Knowing as they do all our peace moves, they may have a strong feeling that we are in a hurry and perhaps susceptible to change. This would argue against pressing them hard in the near future, as we did in early April in any event.

On the other hand, we certainly could impress upon them our belief that their own interest lies in getting the situation resolved, and that they should be exerting real influence to this end. But this should be coupled with a calm firmness in our own determination to go ahead and not to be thrown off by anything additional they may be doing or threaten to do. In the last analysis, they can judge whether they really have any leverage and how to exert it.

At any rate, the next major contacts with the Soviets--Dobrynin's return and Brown's visit to Moscow in late May--should in my judgment be played in this measured but essentially low key unless they come up with something. Brown is not himself inclined to try something new at the moment, and we should do nothing to encourage him. (He has a full plate anyway of other issues.)

IV. International Factors

My negative feeling on serious additional bombing of the North and mining of Haiphong is based essentially on the belief that these actions will not change Hanoi's position, or affect Hanoi's capabilities in ways that counter-balance the risks and adverse reaction in China and with the Soviets alone.

Nonetheless, I cannot leave out the wider international factors, and particularly the British and Japanese as bell-wethers. Both the latter have accepted our recent bombings with much less outcry than I, frankly, would have anticipated. But if we keep it up at this pace, or step up the pace, I doubt if the British front will hold. Certainly we will be in a very bad Donnybrook next fall in the UN.

Whatever the wider implications of negative reactions on a major scale, the main point is that they would undoubtedly stiffen Hanoi, and this is always the gut question.

Note: I am sending you copies of this, and retaining one in a totally private file. This memorandum has been seen and discussed with no one except the typist.


155. Editorial Note

Significant opposition to the expansion of the war in Vietnam existed within the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense. In a May 1, 1967, memorandum to Secretary of Defense McNamara (discussed with him in a face-to-face meeting that day), Alain Enthoven, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis, presented a gloomy forecast for the outcome of the war. He argued that a "dangerously clever" North Vietnamese strategy was coming to fruition: the Communists could sustain their current level of losses indefinitely; in turn, a perceived lack of progress would cause (and indeed was causing) the American public to reject continued support of the war effort. "Hanoi is betting that we'll lose public support in the United States before we build a nation in South Vietnam. . . . Our horse must cross the finish line first," Enthoven warned. The loss of public support had to be slowed; the development of South Vietnam had to be accelerated. However, another large increase in U.S. forces in Vietnam would not contribute to this dual goal, he insisted. In fact, it would intensify antiwar opposition and retard the nation-building effort in South Vietnam. Since U.S. forces in Vietnam exceeded by 28 battalions the minimal number necessary to counter the enemy's combat threat, according to Enthoven's estimation, there was no need for additional deployments in light of current analysis of the enemy's intentions. For text of the memorandum, see U.S. House of Representatives, Armed Services Committee, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, Book 5, pages 117-128 of volume II. In a May 4 memorandum to McNamara, Enthoven also statistically analyzed the results of ground engagements. He determined that "the size of the force we deploy has little effect on the rate of attrition of enemy forces." (Ibid., pages 114-116 of volume II)


156. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, May 2, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Eyes Only. A copy was sent to Katzenbach.

Bombing Program and UN Approach--Information Memorandum for Today's Lunch/2/

/2/The regular foreign policy Tuesday Luncheon was held 1:27-2:50 p.m.; the President met with Rusk, McNamara, Rostow, and Christian. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) No notes of the meeting have been found.

Since I am going to be in the House Foreign Affairs Committee all morning, I am putting my views on paper for whatever use they may be to you.

RT-56 Proposals. I have general sympathy with Secretary McNamara's proposal that we finish off major targets and then cut back to the 20th parallel, with a quiet indication to the Russians that we are doing so.

However, even in these terms I believe that the present RT-56 is just too big a dose to take quickly, and I have grave reservations whether we should hit the Doumer Bridge and the Phuc Yen airfield at all. Taking the latter first, I think our attacks on airfields to date have gone far enough to hurt but not far enough to cause them to move aircraft to Chinese airfields; if we hit Phuc Yen, particularly if we do it successfully, I should think Hanoi would almost inevitably conclude that it had better plan on the assumption we were going to make their airfields untenable and get in touch with the Chinese to move all or a part of their aircraft. The consequences could be most dangerous in terms of future incidents and in general in terms of the Chinese becoming involved and tensions going up so that their internal troubles ease off.

In the case of the Doumer Bridge, I would suppose the chances of really knocking it out were not truly great in any event. We should recall that this is the general area of the December reports of civilian damage, and I should think that this one alone could well blow the lid in Britain and elsewhere, if--as seems to me highly likely--there are reports (true or not) of major civilian casualties.

Even without these, I would space these attacks at least over two weeks and not--as present favorable weather makes likely--over a few days. We may know that we intend to lay off after these strikes, but the other side does not. I think we have already gone to the edge of precipitating serious decisions in Hanoi, Moscow, and Peking, and I have truly grave fears that another sharp burst could drive them over the edge and cause them to make serious decisions.

In short, I would put off Phuc Yen and the Doumer Bridge entirely and space the other strikes over 2-3 weeks. This need only postpone slightly the kind of cutback to the 20th parallel that Secretary McNamara has in mind./3/

/3/Included in the target package for RT56, authorized on May 2, were strikes on airfields, railway yards, and two small thermal power plants at Haiphong. Attacks on the airfield at Phuc Yen and the Doumer Bridge, as well as on the Hanoi Thermal Power Plant, were deleted from the target list. See Joint Chiefs of Staff, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam, 1960-1968, Part III, pp. 41-8--41-9.

The UN Proposal. I understand that this may not come up at lunch. Nonetheless, having gone over Sisco's careful analysis of the pros and cons,/4/ I come out overwhelmingly negative. I think the "pros" would evaporate against the "cons" and I really think the whole exercise--to whatever degree it came to light even in consultation--would give the wrong signal to Hanoi and tend to put our good faith in jeopardy in whatever quarters were consulted or heard of it. It simply has no serious chance of making a substantive contribution at present, and it would be regarded, in my honest judgment, as a rather cheap piece of theater that was really totally cynical in view of our bombing actions of these weeks.

/4/In a May 2 memorandum to Rusk, Sisco argued that the proposal to take the issue of Vietnam to the UN Security Council would widen public support for the administration, demonstrate the commitment of the U.S. Government to the United Nations, open new avenues for peace, and place the other side in a bad position in case the measure failed. However, in arguing against the proposal, Sisco pointed out that the required votes for the issue's adoption on the agenda of the Security Council would be difficult to obtain, and a failure would have ramifications for domestic international support for U.S. policy in Vietnam. In addition, the Communists would view the effort as a ploy, given the intensification of military measures at the time, or at the very least a sign of weakness. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

Most basically, my central feeling is that we have conveyed a terribly jerky and impatient impression to Hanoi since roughly the first of December. This relates to spacing and timing of actions more than to substance. It seems to me fundamental that we should now level out our pattern of action as much as possible. A continued bombing spasm is at variance with this need, and a spasm followed by resort to the UN would be doubly so./5/

/5/Clifford also advised the President against the proposal to submit Vietnam to the UN Security Council. He believed that it would compel Johnson to halt bombing unilaterally and limit offensive military options that "might interfere with the advantages which we believe will accrue" from the September elections. He recommended postponing such a move until after the vote in South Vietnam. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXX, Memos (A)) On May 11 Goldberg sent Johnson a draft resolution to be submitted to the Security Council which called for consideration of the Vietnam issue. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) President Johnson decided against proceeding with the submission of the issue until at least June. (Memorandum from Sisco to Rusk, May 12; ibid.)

Apologies for being so negative, but, as I have spelled out at greater length to the Under Secretary in writing--I just don't think these are the tactics that will get us the coon skin.

I have kept no copies of this.



157. Memorandum From McGeorge Bundy to President Johnson/1/

New York, May 3, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Viet Nam--W.W. Rostow (1 of 2). Personal. Notations on the memorandum indicate that it was received at noon on May 4 and that the President saw it.

Dear Mr. President:

First let me thank you most warmly for your kindness in letting me come in the other day to talk about the possible East-West center on management science and my forthcoming trip to Moscow. The guidance you gave me was very clear, and I am getting myself up to date on all the diplomatic background just in case there should be any serious talk on Vietnam. I will be in Washington for this purpose and for an invisible task force meeting (one of Ben Heineman's) on May 6, 7 and 8.

Meanwhile, I have been conscious of the fact that I did not give you much help when you asked what more I could suggest for us to do in Vietnam. I have now brooded over your question and done the attached memorandum. As you will see, it comes out pretty strong on the side of limiting the bombing in the North, but you know me too well to mistake this for a sudden switch to appeasement. I have been for bombing from the beginning and I am sure it has been and still is indispensable, but I just don't believe the people who think that a lot more of it brings us nearer to solution today. I think a middle course is better, and the memorandum attempts to suggest one, as well as to show where you can get some unexpected (to me) support for it.

I think we are in a time not unlike the spring of 1965 when the Baltimore speech/2/ did so much to bring our policy into focus and balance, and it is in the spirit of our discussions of that time that this memo has been drafted. I am not on top of all the relevant information, of course, and I know better than anyone that I could be wrong--but I sensed in our last talk that you were interested in alternatives to think about, and these pages suggest one.

/2/Reference is to Johnson's April 7, 1965, speech at Johns Hopkins University; see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. II, Document 245.

Bob McNamara knows my thinking a little, but no one else does, and even Bob has not seen this memo.






American opinion is increasingly uneasy about Vietnam because there appear to be no defined limits to the levels of force and danger that may lie ahead. Anyone who knows the President and his principal advisers will be confident that they are keeping a very sharp eye on the real risks involved, and the record of the two years since Pleiku does not suggest that the prophets of gloom and doom have a very good batting average--in fact, both Russian and Chinese reactions have been well within the limits of national estimates in all cases known to me. (In this connection the especially good record of the CIA estimators deserves note.) But the caution and restraint of the top men are better known to the few than to the many.

Since the Communist turndown of our latest offers in February, there has been an intensification of bombing in the North, and press reports suggest that there will be further pressure for more attacks on targets heretofore immune. There is also obvious pressure from the military for further reinforcements in the South, although General Westmoreland has been a model of discipline in his public pronouncements. One may guess, therefore, that the President will soon be confronted with requests for 100,000-200,000 more troops and for authority to close the harbor in Haiphong. Such recommendations are inevitable, in the framework of strictly military analysis. It is the thesis of this paper that in the main they should be rejected, and that as a matter of high national policy there should be a publicly stated ceiling to the level of American participation in Vietnam, as long as there is no further marked escalation on the enemy side.

There are two major reasons for this recommendation: the situation in Vietnam and the situation in the United States. As to Vietnam, it seems very doubtful that further intensifications of bombing in the North or major increases in U. S. troops in the South are really a good way of bringing the war to a satisfactory conclusion. As to the United States, it seems clear that uncertainty about the future size of the war is now having destructive effects on the national will.

On the ineffectiveness of the bombing as a means to end the war, I think the evidence is plain--though I would defer to expert estimators. Ho Chi Minh and his colleagues simply are not going to change their policy on the basis of losses from the air in North Vietnam. No intelligence estimate that I have seen in the last two years has ever claimed that the bombing would have this effect. The President never claimed that it would. The notion that this was its purpose has been limited to one school of thought and has never been the official Government position, whatever critics may assert.

I am very far indeed from suggesting that it would make sense now to stop the bombing of the North altogether. The argument for that course seems to me wholly unpersuasive at the present. To stop the bombing today would be to give the Communists something for nothing, and in a very short time all the doves in this country and around the world would be asking for some further unilateral concessions. (Doves and hawks are alike in their insatiable appetites; we can't really keep the hawks happy by small increases in effort--they come right back for more.)

The real justification for the bombing, from the start, has been double--its value for Southern morale at a moment of great danger, and its relation to Northern infiltration. The first reason has disappeared but the second remains entirely legitimate. Tactical bombing of communications and of troop concentrations--and of airfields as necessary--seems to me sensible and practical. It is strategic bombing that seems both unproductive and unwise. It is true, of course, that all careful bombing does some damage to the enemy. But the net effect of this damage upon the military capability of a primitive country is almost sure to be slight. (The lights have not stayed off in Haiphong, and even if they had, electric lights are in no sense essential to the Communist war effort.)/3/ And against this distinctly marginal impact we have to weigh the fact that strategic bombing does tend to divide the U. S., to distract us all from the real struggle in the South, and to accentuate the unease and distemper which surround the war in Vietnam, both at home and abroad. It is true that careful polls show majority support for the bombing, but I believe this support rests upon an erroneous belief in its effectiveness as a means to end the war. Moreover, I think those against extension of the bombing are more passionate on balance than those who favor it. Finally, there is certainly a point at which such bombing does increase the risk of conflict with China or the Soviet Union, and I am sure there is no majority for that. In particular, I think it clear that the case against going after Haiphong harbor is so strong that a majority would back the Government in rejecting that course.

/3/The President asked McNamara to get the Joint Chiefs of Staff to respond to McGeorge Bundy. In a May 5 memorandum to the President, Wheeler noted that Bundy had failed to mention a third original reason for enacting the bombing campaign; namely, to ensure that the DRV would "pay a price for its continued aggression against South Vietnam." The attacks on the electrical power system (at Haiphong), Wheeler countered, were not intended to deny lighting to major cities but to disrupt a power source needed for the North Vietnamese armament-supporting facilities. He also recommended tactical bombardment of the Hanoi Thermal Power Plant as well as Haiphong harbor. This memorandum was sent to the President at the LBJ Ranch as CAP 67398, May 6. (Johnsom Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Viet Nam--W.W. Rostow (2 of 2)) The President was at his ranch May 4-8. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

So I think that with careful explanation there would be more approval than disapproval of an announced policy restricting the bombing closely to activities that support the war in the South. General Westmoreland's speech to the Congress made this tie-in, but attacks on power plants really do not fit the picture very well. We are attacking them, I fear, mainly because we have "run out" of other targets. Is it a very good reason? Can anyone demonstrate that such targets have been very rewarding? Remembering the claims made for attacks on oil supplies, should we not be very skeptical of new promises?

The case against major troop reinforcement in the South is more complicated and I advance it with somewhat less conviction. In particular, the points I have to make do not say in any decisive way whether the limit should be set just where it is today or some tens of thousands higher. All that I can say is that I think there should be a limit and that it should be stated and understood fairly soon.

The American forces in Vietnam have been decisive in preventing defeat and in opening a hope of real success. They have been magnificently handled and their performance has been worthy of their leadership. Perhaps their most important achievement has been to buy time for the rehabilitation of the Vietnamese forces to which General Westmoreland paid such glowing tribute. But this war will have no end as long as it merely pits foreign troops against Communists. In the end, it is safety in the villages that is the object of the war. Cabot Lodge had it right when he quoted Ho Chi Minh on the decisiveness of the contest among the villagers of South Vietnam. I believe that a clearly defined limit on the American forces in South Vietnam would serve to focus the attention of all on this centrally Vietnamese task and on the continuing responsibility of the South Vietnamese themselves. The forces we have now on the scene can continue to give severe punishment to Communist main-force units, and even in the village war American troops can have a most constructive role, as some dispatches from the central area suggest. But where the requirement of 1965 was for proof of the American effort, the requirement of 1967 is for re-emphasis upon the role of the Vietnamese themselves, always with our advice and support.

Just as a recommendation against strategic bombing should not be confused with the "stop-the-bombing" campaign, so this suggestion of a troop ceiling should not be confused with the fatuous proposal that American troops be confined to "enclaves." The "enclave" proposal is a good way of losing first the countryside and then the country. My point is simpler and more limited: in the absence of major Communist escalation, we are reaching the point of diminishing returns from U.S. troop buildups.

So far I have been talking about the validity of limitation in relation to Vietnam. There is, I think, an equal validity when we look at the home front. The best observers agree that the only hope in Hanoi today is for American disunity and war weariness. On this point I think Westmoreland and Lodge are both right, and it seems to me the height of pettiness to criticize them for expressing these honest (and I think accurate) views. But their argument underlines the critical importance of holding the country together and giving it a solid basis for confident determination in its persistence. I believe that restriction of strategic bombing and a ceiling on troops are both entirely justified in terms of the overall situation in Vietnam itself; they are still more justified by their value in stabilizing American opinion. In April 1965, in his Baltimore speech, the President laid out a balanced program of military firmness and readiness for unconditional negotiation. In spite of all the costs and uncertainties of the last two years, that platform has worn well. Now we need a fresh and clear statement which will limit the fears of our own people and at the same time underline our national determination to stay the course.

It is true that some civil and military hawks would criticize any such policy of announced restraint. The criticism can be countered--in my judgment--by a powerful assembly of technical and expert opinion as to the lack of value of strategic bombing and the great importance of avoiding endless increases in American manpower. I am confident, on the basis of a recent conversation, that General Lauris Norstad would be willing to accept the task of rounding up senior Air Force heroes like Spaatz and Twining--and he thinks perhaps even Le May--to support a policy of bombing restraint./4/ (Norstad himself would actually stop the bombing in the North--at least for a while--but I think he would gladly fall in with the present proposal to restrict ourselves to the "tactical.") I suspect that a similar effort could be launched through General Bradley in favor of a policy of troop limitation. (Obviously, the position will be greatly reinforced as and when we are able to refer to a new and stronger military/technological barricade against infiltration.)

/4/Generals Carl Spaatz, Nathan Twining, and Curtis LeMay were all former Air Force Chiefs of Staff and architects of the doctrine of strategic bombing.

More generally, I think there is no one on earth who could win an argument that an active deployment of some 500,000 men, firmly supported by tactical bombing in both South and North Vietnam, represented an undercommitment at this time. I would not want to be the politician, or the general, who whined about such a limitation.

There is a major diplomatic scenario which could be developed to go along with a national decision of this sort. In essence, it would avoid any further public campaigns for negotiation, for the present, while maintaining every possible private diplomatic contact. It would anticipate a demonstration during the next 6 to 9 months that this kind of course--"steady as we go"--could be matched by political gains in the South and by increasing South Vietnamese self-reliance. It would be prepared to move dramatically once more in the field of negotiations sometime early in 1968. There is a great deal of underbrush that could be cleared away at the right time, so as to demonstrate plainly to all who will look that reasonable ways out are open for the taking to all who are fighting on the wrong side in Vietnam. There are also many unilateral steps that a more self-confident South Vietnamese government could take with the help of a man like Bunker.

It may seem queer that there should be room for such political action when we have said so much about our decent position on so many occasions. But there are more and busier lawyers among the doves--worldwide--than among ourselves, so that a strong new statement of our position--at the right time--could be helpful. Such a new statement, incidentally, need not contain any soft concessions of the sort Lodge fears; the fact is that we are--as we should be--ready to do anything at all that can really lead to free choice in the South.

A case can be made for a strong new diplomatic effort now. But my present view is that this effort should wait. I think we got a clear No in February and should wait a while before we go back to the well. I also think we ought to wait until after the South Vietnamese election. The present issue is not "negotiation." It is "escalation." What is undermining national unity now is the prospect of one more unrewarding debate between the advocates and the opponents of escalation, each shouting at the other against a backdrop of worldwide fear of a third war. The most valuable single step for all of us now would be a clear public demonstration, by a publicly proclaimed decision, of what the top of the government knows so well--that the President himself is a man of peace and determination, restraint and perseverance, who knows what the war is really about, and how to keep it in bounds while pressing it towards success. Above all we need a renewed demonstration that the President is in charge of the war, and not the other way around.

There is one further argument against major escalation in 1967 and 1968 which is worth stating separately, because on the surface it seems cynically political. It is that Hanoi is going to do everything it possibly can to keep its position intact until after our 1968 elections. Given their history, they are bound to hold out for a possible U. S. shift in 1969--that's what they did against the French, and they got most of what they wanted when Mendes took power. Having held on so long this time, and having nothing much left to lose--compared to the chance of victory--they are bound to keep on fighting. Since only atomic bombs could really knock them out (an invasion of North Vietnam would not do it in two years, and is of course ruled out on other grounds), they have it in their power to "prove" that military escalation does not bring peace--at least over the next two years. They will surely do just that. However much they may be hurting, they are not going to do us any favors before November 1968. (And since this was drafted, they have been publicly advised by Walter Lippmann to wait for the Republicans--as if they needed the advice and as if it was his place to give it!)

It follows that escalation will not bring visible victory over Hanoi before the election. Therefore the election will have to be fought by the Administration on other grounds. I think those other grounds are clear and important, and that they will be obscured if our policy is thought to be one of increasing--and ineffective--military pressure.

If we assume that the war will still be going on in November 1968, and that Hanoi will not give us the pleasure of consenting to negotiations sometime before then, what we must plan to offer as a defense of Administration policy is not victory over Hanoi, but growing success--and self-reliance--in the South. This we can do, with luck, and on this side of the parallel the Vietnamese authorities should be prepared to help us out (though of course the VC will do their damnedest against us.) Large parts of Westy's speech (if not quite all of it) were wholly consistent with this line of argument./5/

/5/A reference to Westmoreland's April 28 speech before Congress; see footnote 1, Document 149.

Moreover, if we can avoid escalation-that-does-not-seem-to-work, we can focus attention on the great and central achievement of these last two years: on the defeat we have prevented. The fact that South Vietnam has not been lost and is not going to be lost is a fact of truly massive importance in the history of Asia, the Pacific, and the U. S. An articulate minority of "Eastern intellectuals" (like Bill Fulbright) may not believe in what they call the domino theory, but most Americans (along with nearly all Asians) know better. Under this Administration the United States has already saved the hope of freedom for hundreds of millions--in this sense, the largest part of the job is done. This critically important achievement is obscured by seeming to act as if we have to do much more lest we fail.

At some point--probably not in connection with any decision to limit the bombing to tactical targets--we ought to get Peace Corps volunteers into Vietnam. It makes no sense for all these decent and energetic youngsters to pass by on the other side of the street when there are literally hundreds of good things for them to do in Vietnam. This idea has been explored in the past, and it has always run into bureaucratic resistance. But what the bureaucrats overlook is the good it would do at home. Almost all U. S. volunteers in village work in Vietnam have come home strong supporters of the war. Instead of battering at the disaffected young, we could begin to convert them with such an effort in Vietnam.


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

Saigon, May 3, 1967, 1130Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Passed to the White House. In a covering memorandum transmitting the telegram to the President, May 3, Rostow wrote: "Herewith Ambassador Bunker's first report. His orderly, judicious mind, plus the spirit in the last paragraph will, I believe, hearten you." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Nodis Vol. VI) This telegram is printed in full in Douglas Pike, The Bunker Papers: Reports to the President From Vietnam, 1967-1973, pp. 1-7.

24624. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my first weekly telegram.

A. General.

1. I have spent the major part of my first week here in on the job training trying to familiarize myself with organization and the activities of the Mission, getting briefed by members of the Council on the status of our major programs, and trying to get a feel for the situation here. In this connection, I have found that Ambassador Porter's willingness to continue on here until May 5 is of inestimable value. His vast store of knowledge about the situation here which includes the work of the Mission both here and in the field, personnel, and his personal relationships with members of the Vietnamese Government have been of inestimable value. Ambassador Locke, who arrived May 1, will be working closely with Ambassador Porter also until the latter's departure May 5.

2. General Westmoreland arrived yesterday and reported to me today on his talks in Washington, and we had a preliminary talk about organization of the pacification program, about which I shall report separately after Bob Komer's arrival and I have had an opportunity to talk further with him and General Westmoreland. In this connection, I have reported separately (Saigon's 24265/2/ and 24286)/3/ statements made by both Thieu and Ky relative to their views on pacification. Both have said the right words, and it remains to be seen whether deeds will match the words. I have no doubt of their intentions but I am sure that they and others engaged in the program which has to be primarily a Vietnamese effort will need the most effective and efficient support we can render.

/2/Dated April 28. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

/3/In telegram 24286 from Saigon, April 28, Bunker described his first meeting with Ky, whom the Ambassador described as being "keenly aware of our desire to see the ARVN properly motivated" on pacification. (Ibid.)

B. Political.

3. The political scene is mixed. To summarize: elections for village councils have now been successfully completed, with an over-all turnout of 2,511,455 or 77 percent. Although the Viet Cong killed 12 candidates and kidnapped 31, they were not able to disrupt or discredit the elections. At the national level, the critical question of the military candidacy remains unresolved, with some signs of tension increasing among certain of the military. The electoral law is nearing completion as the Assembly discusses the draft law in plenary session. While in general the draft appears to be a satisfactory document from our point of view, provisions to ensure that the winner has a respectable mandate and provisions to ensure equal means for all candidates are weaker than we had hoped. Moreover, relations between the government and the Assembly are uncertain, with resentments and suspicions continuing on both sides. In I Corps, morale has improved since the additional American forces arrived, but there is still much anxiety there over the possibility of a major enemy thrust. The militant Buddhists so far have proved unable to find either the issue or the allies to make trouble. May Day was marked by orderly meetings, and the effort to turn the meetings into anti-government and anti-American demonstrations failed completely. The rebel Montagnard leader, Y Bham, finally came to Banmethuot to meet with GVN representatives, and a preliminary agreement was reached.

[Here follows detailed discussion of the Thieu-Ky rivalry, local elections, the electoral law, the situation in I Corps, the GVN's talks with Y Bham, Chieu Hoi, casualties, the South Vietnamese economy, the port problem, and the matter of wives of American personnel.]

H. Conclusion.

35. During all of the talks which I have had over this past week, in my briefings, and in the many contacts I have had with both our civilian and military personnel, some things have impressed me deeply. I have found on the part of everyone with whom I have come in contact a universal spirit of cooperation, of dedication to the great effort in which we are engaged here, an awareness of its vital importance and a determination that we shall succeed. This is a heartening thing to experience and I wish that all our people at home could see and feel it. We have ability and talent here, we have conviction, and I have faith that we shall come through.



159. Telegram From the White House to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, May 5, 1967, 1950Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXX. Top Secret; Literally Eyes Only; Via CAS Channel.

CAP 67385. To Ambassador Bunker and Robert Komer from Walt Rostow.

The President wishes me to share thoughts which will be moving or have moved over parallel military channels at his instruction.

He wishes US military requirements to be recalculated by Westy after a most exhaustive effort to exploit fully the Vietnamese manpower pool. This includes not only engaging as many of those released from military services as can be induced to stay in functions relevant to total military manpower but also an examination of the possibilities of using Vietnamese and other non-Americans in functions which might release US military for combat tasks. This review should include all possible GVN military manpower policy revisions including age lowering, tour duty extensions, more effective draft system and further deserter reductions.

In this thorough comb-out you should engage the best manpower expert we can find, who may well be Ray Male. You will understand that, before a case can be made for additional US manpower, we must have an iron-clad case that the use of Vietnamese manpower is screwed up to the maximum.

Against this background you should also know that President is thinking in terms of asking our present fighting allies for increments in manpower on a basis proportional to population, to the extent that such an approach is realistic. Paramilitary and supply functions might enter into this community chest calculus.

In addition, he is thinking of approaching the Malaysians, Indonesians, and even the GRC. In the latter case, of course, we would be seeking men for functions which would be least inflammatory. Through this channel and on a completely private basis, we would be interested in your observations on this approach and, in particular, what kinds of GRC manpower might conceivably be introduced in a way not merely acceptable to the GVN but with minimum noise in the international system.

Bill Leonhart is with me as I draft and fully informed.

More generally, you should know that, as he faces the months ahead, the President is counting primarily on the stability of the political track and palpable progress in pacification to do the trick.

New subject. The President just called and asked if Ambassador Bunker would get to Ky and tell him he, the President, would be grateful if Ky would not discuss in public additional manpower requirements for Viet Nam.


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

Washington, May 5, 1967, 2201Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Papers of William C. Westmoreland, History File, 1-31 May 67. Secret.

JCS 3332. 1. As you would expect, there has been a considerable exchange between the Secretary, White House and me concerning MACV's troop requirements for FY 68 and FY 69. This afternoon, Secretary McNamara asked me to transmit the following message to


To assist in the evaluation of your request for additional troops, please consider whether additional Vietnamese manpower could be recruited for combat or combat support tasks thereby reducing the need for US troops. For example, how many men would be added to South Vietnam's military forces if:

A. The tours of duty for ARVN, regional and popular forces personnel were extended one year;

B. The men separated from ARVN, regional and popular forces in 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967 were returned to service;

C. The current draft age was reduced one year.

2. I suggest that you follow this guidance in transmitting your response:

A. Send it through the front channel identifying your reply as being answers to questions posed by me, presumably during our conferences here in Washington.

B. In addition to answering the questions as posed, please take into account equipment availabilities and other support which would be needed.

C. Costs to include any additional equipment required.

D. Impact, if any, on the Vietnamese labor force.

E. Any other pertinent factors.

3. FYI: The President wants Secretaries McNamara, Katzenbach and me to visit South Vietnam in June. As of now, earlier commitments by McNamara and Katzenbach indicate that the most likely time for a visit by us will be around 15 June. I emphasize that this is not a firm date but merely the best time I can fix on this far in advance. It will help both of you in planning your own activities.

Will advise.

Warm regards.


161. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (McNaughton) to Secretary of Defense McNamara/1/

Washington, May 6, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Papers of Paul C. Warnke, McNaughton Files, McNTN III Drafts, 1967 (1). Top Secret; Sensitive.

My Comments on the 5 May "First Rough Draft"/2/

/2/Reference is to an early draft of the Draft Presidential Memorandum by the ISA staff, not found. The May 19 draft memorandum to the President is Document 177.

These comments are for your eyes only:

1. I am afraid there is the fatal flaw in the strategy in the draft. It is that the strategy falls into the trap that has ensnared us for the past three years. It actually gives the troops while only praying for their proper use and for constructive diplomatic action. Limiting the present decision to an 80,000 add-on does the very important business of postponing the issue of a Reserve call-up (and all of its horrible baggage), but postpone it is all that it does--probably to a worse time, 1968. Providing the 80,000 troops is tantamount to acceding to the whole Westmoreland-Sharp request. This being the case, they will "accept" the 80,000. But six months from now, in will come messages like the "470,000-570,000" messages, saying that the requirement remains at 201,000 (or more). Since no pressure will have been put on anyone, the military war will have gone on as before and no diplomatic progress will have been made. It follows that the "philosophy" of the war should be fought out now so everyone will not be proceeding on their own major premises, and getting us in deeper and deeper; at the very least, the President should give General Westmoreland his limit (as President Truman did to General MacArthur). That is, if General Westmoreland is to get 550,000 men, he should be told "that will be all, and we mean it."

2. I think the paper underplays a little bit the unpopularity of the war in the US, especially with the young people, the underprivileged, the intelligentsia and (I suspect) the women. A feeling is widely and strongly held that "the Establishment" is out of its mind. The feeling is that we are trying to impose some US image on distant peoples we cannot understand (anymore than we can the younger generation here at home), and that we are carrying the thing to absurd lengths. Related to this feeling is the increased polarization that is taking place in the United States with seeds of the worst split in our people in more than a century. The King, Galbraith, etc., positions illustrate one near-pole; the Hebert and Rivers statements on May 5 about the need to disregard the First Amendment illustrate the other. In this connection, I fear that "natural selection" in this environment will lead the Administration itself to become more and more homogenized--Mac Bundy, George Ball, Bill Moyers are gone. Who next?

3. We should, as part of biting the bullet, decide that the US does not insist that the Congos, Bolivias, Greeces, and South Vietnams of the world must select their governments by elections. (Is it historically correct that only the highly industrialized nations have succeeded in using that process?) Specifically, I think we should recognize that civil wars are among the several ways that nations of cultures foreign to us employ to arrive at a government. We should obviously push for elections in Vietnam, but we should make clear that we do not rule out the bare-knuckle method if all else fails. This point is very pertinent in Vietnam because a fair election is totally unlikely and both sides know it. If we wait for an election to settle the issue there, we may never get out. And there is some merit to the position that the prize should go to the fellow who can come out on top in the rough-and-tumble.

4. The paper still lacks a good, full scenario. It needs more work. Two examples of points not covered are (a) whether we want to see that the September Vietnamese presidential elections go one way or another, in furtherance of the strategy, and (b) how we generate and sustain domestic support in the US for the strategy.

5. A smaller point: The paper pussy-foots a little with respect to the "redefinition of 'success'." That is exactly what the strategy tries to do. Perhaps, as a matter of tactics, the President should figure it out for himself. This point ties in closely with the one made in paragraph 1 above regarding getting the "philosophy" of the war decided (to avoid another diplomatic default and military misuse of the forces).

John T. McNaughton/3/

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


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

Washington, May 6, 1967, 3 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 2EE Primarily McNamara Recommendations. Top Secret. This memorandum was sent later in the day as telegram CAP 67400 to the President, who was at the LBJ Ranch in Texas May 4-8. Rostow sent the memorandum, with the first two sentences removed, to Rusk and members of Katzenbach's "Non-group" (a group that met on an unofficial basis): Katzenbach, Vance, McNaughton, Bundy, and Helms. The copy sent to Bundy is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. The covering memorandum for that copy notes that it was to be discussed by the group on May 8. Notes of this meeting have not been found. McNamara and Goldberg also attended this meeting at the request of the President. In telegram 5244 from USUN, May 11, Goldberg offered reasons for his support of McNamara's proposal, since he believed that the latest escalation in bombing would cause the DRV "to overcome its reluctance to receive outside help and invite direct support from Communist China and sharp increase in sophisticated Sov aid." (Ibid.)

Mr. President:

Herewith thoughts on the alternatives that face us in Viet Nam. First, a word about our general strategy:

I. U.S. strategy in Viet Nam

We have been seeking to frustrate the effort by the Communists to take over South Viet Nam by defeating their main force units; attacking the guerrilla infrastructure; and building a South Vietnamese governmental and security structure--rural and urban--strong enough to stand on its feet as a reputable, independent nation.

To hasten the decision in Hanoi to abandon the aggression, we have been trying to do two other things:

(i) to limit and harass infiltration; and

(ii) to impose on the North sufficient military and civil cost to make them decide to get out of the war earlier rather than later.

We have never held the view that bombing could stop infiltration. We have never held the view that bombing of the Hanoi-Haiphong area alone would lead them to abandon the effort in the South. We have never held the view that bombing Hanoi-Haiphong would directly cut back infiltration. We have held the view that the degree of military and civilian cost felt in the North and the diversion of resources to deal with our bombing could contribute marginally--and perhaps significantly--to the timing of a decision to end the war. But it was no substitute for making progress in the South.

II. What we agree upon

At the moment only a limited part of that strategy is subject to debate. We all appear to agree:

--We must use maximum influence to achieve a smooth transition to constitutional government in South Viet Nam;

--We must continue to constrict and harass all the lines of infiltration of men and supplies;

--We must encourage the South Vietnamese to the most forthcoming posture possible towards those fighting with the Viet Cong in the South and look to reconciliation and, ultimately, negotiation among the South Vietnamese to help settle the war.

--We must carry forward pacification at the maximum possible pace, including especially the improvement in the quality of South Vietnamese efforts in this field.

III. Policy decisions in the area where we agree

In this agreed area of policy, our task is to do what we have been doing better and faster than in the past. In effect, this is the assignment we have given the new team of Bunker-Locke-Abrams-Komer.

So far as Washington is concerned, we face:

--The question of enlarging our own military manpower in Viet Nam and deciding, with the Saigon team, how best it should be disposed;

--Enlarging the contribution of military manpower from others;

--Taking a fresh high-level, coordinated look at all our measures to inhibit or harass interdiction, with an eye to making them more efficient; bombing in Route Packages 1 and 2; inhibiting infiltration of manpower in the western part of the DMZ; enlarging and making more efficient our efforts against the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos; doing more about the flow of supplies from Cambodia; improving, if possible, the naval blockade;

--Pressing Ky to seek to defect high-level Viet Cong figures, and to consider more explicit offers about future political possibilities for those now fighting with the Viet Cong, within the framework of the constitution, both in the rural areas and in national politics.

IV. Policy issues in contention: Choices in bombing the North

Essentially there are three strategies we might pursue in bombing the North. I shall try to assess in each case the advantages and the risks:

A. Closing the top of the funnel/2/

/2/The funnel referred to the long and narrow mid-part of Vietnam. Bombing Routes I and II were in the southern part of North Vietnam, III and IV in the central territory of the DRV, V encompassed the northwestern part of the country, and VI the northeast portion that included restricted zones over Hanoi and Haiphong. There was a separate route for Laos.

Under this strategy we would mine the major harbors and, perhaps, bomb port facilities and even consider blockade. In addition, we would attack systematically the rail lines between Hanoi and mainland China. At the moment the total import capacity into North Viet Nam is about 17,200 tons per day. Even with expanded import requirements due to the food shortage, imports are, in fact, coming in at about 5700 tons per day. It is possible with a concerted and determined effort that we could cut back import capacity somewhat below the level of requirements; but this is not sure. On the other hand, it would require a difficult and sustained effort by North Viet Nam and its allies to prevent a reduction in total imports below requirements if we did all these things.

The costs would be these:

--The Soviet Union would have to permit a radical increase in Hanoi's dependence upon Communist China, or introduce minesweepers, etc., to keep its supplies coming into Hanoi by sea;

--The Chinese Communists would probably introduce many more engineering and anti-aircraft forces along the roads and rail lines between Hanoi and China in order to keep the supplies moving;

--To maintain its prestige, in case it could not or would not open up Hanoi-Haiphong in the face of mines, the Soviet Union might contemplate creating a Berlin crisis. With respect to a Berlin crisis, they would have to weigh the possible split between the U. S. and its Western European allies under this pressure against damage to the atmosphere of détente in Europe which is working in favor of the French Communist Party and providing the Soviet Union with generally enlarged influence in Western Europe.

I myself do not believe that the Soviet Union would go to war with us over Viet Nam unless we sought to occupy North Viet Nam; and, even then, a military response from Moscow would not be certain.

With respect to Communist China, it always has the option of invading Laos and Thailand; but this would not be a rational response to naval and air operations designed to strangle Hanoi. A war throughout Southeast Asia would not help Hanoi; although I do believe Communist China would fight us if we invaded the northern part of North Viet Nam.

One can always take the view that, given the turmoil inside Communist China, an irrational act by Peiping is possible. And such irrationality cannot be ruled out.

I conclude that if we try to close the top of the funnel, tension between ourselves and the Soviet Union and Communist China would increase; if we were very determined, we could impose additional burdens on Hanoi and its allies; we might cut capacity below requirements; and the outcome is less likely to be a general war than more likely.

B. Attacking what is inside the funnel

This is what we have been doing in the Hanoi-Haiphong area for some weeks. I do not agree with the view that the attacks on Hanoi-Haiphong have no bearing on the war in the South. They divert massive amounts of resources, energies, and attention to keeping the civil and military establishment going. They impose general economic, political, and psychological difficulties on the North which have been complicated this year by a bad harvest and food shortages. I do not believe that they "harden the will of the North." In my judgment, up to this point, our bombing of the North has been a painful additional cost they have thus far been willing to bear to pursue their efforts in the South.

On the other hand:

--There is no direct, immediate connection between bombing the Hanoi-Haiphong area and the battle in the South;

--If we complete the attack on electric power by taking out the Hanoi station--which constitutes about 80% of the electric power supply of the country now operating--we will have hit most of the targets whose destruction imposes serious military-civil costs on the North.

--With respect to risk, it is unclear whether Soviet warnings about our bombing Hanoi-Haiphong represent decisions already taken or decisions which might be taken if we persist in banging away in that area.

It is my judgment that the Soviet reaction will continue to be addressed to the problem imposed on Hanoi by us; that is, they might introduce Soviet pilots as they did in the Korean War; they might bring ground-to-ground missiles into North Viet Nam with the object of attacking our vessels at sea and our airfields in the Danang area.

I do not believe that the continuation of attacks at about the level we have been conducting them in the Hanoi-Haiphong area will lead to pressure on Berlin or a general war with the Soviet Union. In fact, carefully read, what the Soviets have been trying to signal is: Keep away from our ships; we may counter-escalate to some degree; but we do not want a nuclear confrontation over Viet Nam.

C. Concentration in Route Packages 1 and 2

The advantages of concentrating virtually all our attacks in this area are three:

--We would cut our loss rate in pilots and planes;

--We would somewhat improve our harassment of infiltration of South Viet Nam;

--We would diminish the risks of counter-escalatory action by the Soviet Union and Communist China, as compared with courses A and B.

V. Recommendations

I do not recommend at this time course A: closing the top of the funnel. The returns do not, on present evidence, seem high enough to justify the risks of Soviet and Chinese countermeasures and heightened world tensions. On the other hand, I do not believe it would lead to general war; and in this judgment I believe I am supported by the conclusions of the intelligence community.

It is a course of action which, if undertaken, should be pursued with great determination and against a background of highly mobilized U. S. strength so that Moscow and Peiping would be forced to decide whether it wished to take on total U.S. strength or bring about an early end to the war. While, as I say, I would not recommend it, it is a line of policy which deserves the most careful and professional staffing out in the government, perhaps for later application.

With respect to course B, I believe we have achieved greater results in increasing the pressure on Hanoi and raising the cost of their continuing to conduct the aggression in the South than some of my most respected colleagues would agree. I do not believe we should lightly abandon what we have accomplished; and specifically, I believe we should mount the most economical and careful attack on the Hanoi power station our air tacticians can devise. Moreover, I believe we should keep open the option of coming back to the Hanoi-Haiphong area, depending upon what we learn of their repair operations; what Moscow's and Peiping's reactions are; and especially, when we understand better what effects we have and have not achieved thus far.

I believe the Soviet Union may well have taken certain counter-steps addressed to the more effective protection of the Hanoi-

Haiphong area and may have decided--or could shortly decide--to introduce into North Viet Nam some surface-to-surface missiles.

With respect to option C, I believe we should, while keeping open the B option, concentrate our attacks to the maximum in Route Packages 1 and 2; and, in conducting Hanoi-Haiphong attacks, we should do so only when the targets make sense. I do not expect dramatic results from increasing the weight of attack in Route Packages 1 and 2; but I believe we are wasting a good many pilots in the Hanoi-Haiphong area without commensurate results. The major objectives of maintaining the B option can be achieved at lower cost.

The turn-around in policy can be managed, over a period of some weeks, in the context of Buddha's birthday, etc., fairly easily; but if we get no diplomatic response in that period--and I do not expect one--and if we set aside option A (closing the top of the funnel), we shall have to devise a way of presenting our total policy in Viet Nam in a manner which is consistent with diminished attacks in the Hanoi-Haiphong area; which is honest; and which is acceptable to our own people. Surfacing the concept of the barrier may be critical to that turn-around, as will be other measures to tighten infiltration, an improved ARVN effort in pacification, and the provision of additional allied forces to permit Westy to get on with our limited but real role in pacification--notably, with the defense of I Corps and the hounding of provincial main force units.

Air field attacks are only appropriate to the kind of sustained operations in the Hanoi-Haiphong area associated with option A.



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

Saigon, May 7, 1967, 1320Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 10:28 a.m. Rostow sent the telegram "Eyes Only" to the President at the LBJ Ranch as CAP 67407, May 7, where it was received at 3:02 p.m. A notation indicates that the President saw the telegram. Rostow prefaced the body of the cable with the following: "You will be interested in the following Nodis from Saigon which describes the latest on the political front. We will underline again the importance of the military staying together." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, NODIS Vol. VI)

24952. 1. There have been a number of highly important developments with respect to the military candidate for President and the future political role of the Vietnamese military which have occurred within the last 48 hours. Although the situation is not yet fully clear, certain facts have emerged from several accounts we have had.

2. There appears to have been another meeting among a number of top Generals on Friday, May 5, at which it was decided that General Thang should ask General Thieu to agree to withdraw from the Presidential race. Thang saw Thieu and the latter refused simply to withdraw and said he would make his final decision at some time closer to the deadline provided for the final selection of candidates, i.e. early July. There had been earlier reports from General Cao Van Vien that the candidacy question was not approaching resolution and that tensions were rising among the top military leaders which might lead to serious difficulties and destroy military unity beyond repair.

3. Following the Thieu-Thang meeting the latter flew to Da Nang on May 6 to join number of other Generals (presumably including those present on May 5) and to report on his talk. From our information at least the following Generals were present at the Da Nang meeting: Ky, Thang, Tri, Booh Viens (C/S and Security), Lam (I Corps) and Vinh Loc (II Corps). After lengthy discussion of the situation a decision was reached to announce that there would be no military candidate as such for the Presidency and the military would eschew participation in the Presidential and legislative elections as a unified bloc behind a candidate or candidates. Each military man would vote as he saw fit and the military command structure would not be employed for direct political purposes. C/S Vien was reportedly charged with formulating and announcing this decision.

4. At the same meeting, with this decision in hand and with knowledge of Thieu's refusal to withdraw from the race Prime Minister Ky made known his intention to present himself as candidate for President and to announce his candidacy promptly.

5. At my request General Westmoreland had a lengthy conversation Sunday morning, May 7, with General Thieu. After some discussion of his trip to the US and of the important tasks that lay ahead, General Westmoreland said that he had been struck by the vital importance placed by American opinion in the continuation of the political progress already achieved and of the stability that Vietnam had experienced for almost two years. He added that a second vital need in the future, from both an American and Vietnamese viewpoint, was the training and direction of the ARVN to carry on the many major tasks that it must successfully execute in providing security and continuing progress in the revolutionary development field. Westmoreland said Vietnam needed its best military leader at the head of the ARVN for these purposes and added that in his opinion Thieu was the man. Thieu said he agreed.

6. Thieu then elaborated at some length on how he saw things during the critical months ahead. He considered national unity and common purpose as the primary requirements and he thought regional differences should be put into the background. He believed that to meet these purposes a civilian President probably was needed. He believed Tran Van Huong was the strongest candidate and the one who could best pull the country together, since he was a Southerner and a respected leader. Thieu did not discuss his own role specifically beyond his earlier agreement that he was the General best qualified to lead the armed forces./2/

/2/In telegram 24732 from Saigon, May 4, the Embassy reported that Thieu told Foreign Minister Do that he would step aside if the Americans wanted a civilian President. The Embassy believed that the remark was "another effort to smoke out American views regarding the Presidential election."(National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S)

7. Comment: It is evident that the military leadership had been unable to find a way to break the impasse between Ky and Thieu except by trying to get Thieu to withdraw. They feared that failure to resolve the matter would lead to even more bitter rivalry and might rapidly undermine military unity and morale fatally. Faced with Thieu's refusal to withdraw and Ky's obvious intention to run, a decision that the military forces should not participate as a unified bloc in the political process ahead seemed the best way out. It provided a face-saving formula for Thieu not to have to take a public decision at this time and for Ky to announce his candidacy. On the part of certain of the Generals it no doubt represented a genuine desire to keep the army free from the political struggle and free to pursue its own important objectives.

8. The actual effect of this papering-over process remains to be seen. It may only put off the day when the political rivalry between Thieu and Ky will have to be faced and when the unity of the armed forces may again be subjected to severe strain. For example, if Ky mounts an effective campaign, as he is already doing, and allies himself with some powerful civilian support, Thieu may then decide that he should align himself with a civilian candidate or even declare himself as a candidate. In either case the military will be faced with a choice and may be divided into competing factions once again.

9. On the other hand, if General Vien can effectively prevent the military command structure from becoming deeply engaged in the election process and if the province chief-district chief military hierarchy can be politically sterilized in the months ahead, then it might be possible to prevent the military from becoming directly engaged. Recent Vietnamese political history does not inspire much confidence that such a powerful political element as the armed forces can be made political at a time when the biggest prize is at stake. If this could be achieved without nullifying the important stabilizing role which the military has played and must continue to play, it would be a highly desirable goal. In any case, these most recent developments should give us some time to see how the picture is most likely to emerge and what role we should play in it.



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

Washington, May 7, 1967, 3:03 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Nodis; Immediate. Drafted and approved by Unger and cleared by Jorden.

189491. Do not deliver to Ambassador Bunker before 7 A.M. Ref: Saigon's 24952./2/

/2/Document 163.

Your comments reftel reflect fundamental point that also pre-occupies us in present unsettled political situation and especially in connection events you have just reported. This is basic requirement that unity of armed forces be preserved so that military effort not be jeopardized and so that orderly process of government not be upset. We cannot accept renewed squabbling among the generals with the undermining of support here which would inevitably follow.

Having said this, we of course recognize that actions taken by Ky-Thang group may have been only way to avoid immediate military split growing out of Ky-Thieu impasse and we heartily agree with desirability disengaging military from election process and politics in general. If your assessment of unfolding events encourages you to believe that in their unique Vietnamese way the military are prepared to move this way without nullifying their stabilizing role, then this is trend to be encouraged. (Even if this should be true, however, we cannot imagine that Ky, or Loan acting for him, will fail to exploit at least some of governmental-military machinery.)

Westmoreland's visit to Thieu will no doubt convey to Thieu that US favors his not participating in elections and, by implication, that we favor Ky at least as between Thieu and Ky. Thieu's attitude surely is key factor in keeping military together and therefore suggest you consider urging Ky to make contemplated announcement about military non-involvement in elections only after having informed Thieu, perhaps in person, and sought his concurrence or at least acquiescence in this. To extent possible would also seem wise for Ky and his group to contact in same manner other military not in his group.

Finally, several further questions:

1. What relation might recent events have to Loan visit here? Was he bringing word of coming events to Bui Diem or did Ky wish to have him out of town in tricky period? We will be in touch with Diem to try to pick up any hints.

2. Is there any possibility that Ky might team up with some respected civilian figure, such as Huong? We have some sympathy with Thieu's observation (para 6 reftel) that civilian may have better chance achieving national unity and common purpose and consider that even if this is not in the cards a strong mixed civilian-military ticket would have great value.

3. What is status of two announcements mentioned reftel? We have thus far (2:30 p.m. Washington time) picked up nothing on tickers or otherwise.

4. Occurs to us it might be useful, if you concur, to have Gen. Westmoreland return to Thieu at appropriate time and underline what he has said (para 5 reftel) about Thieu role in making ARVN first-class force and make clear our readiness help out however useful.



165. Letter From the Ambassador to the Soviet Union (Thompson) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Rostow)/1/

Moscow, May 8, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Official-Informal.

Dear Gene:

I was glad to have your thoughtful letter of May 1./2/ I have of course been giving a great deal of thought to the problems you raise and would like to give you my frank views.

/2/In his letter to Thompson, Eugene Rostow urged that bombing be restricted to infiltration routes in order to avoid the risk of forcing a confrontation with the Soviet Union. He recalled the efforts of both Soviet and U.S. diplomats to end the hostilities in Korea and suggested that a like collaboration could occur with respect to Vietnam. (Ibid.)

In the first place, I think you give somewhat too much weight to the Korean precedent. I was not involved in that affair, but there are obvious differences between that situation and the Vietnam affair; e.g., I might mention the change in the relationship between the Soviet Union and Communist China. I think also the fact that in the case of Korea, the Soviets in the position of bucking the UN made considerable difference.

I think it is true that the fact that so many of our peace moves coincided with an escalation of our attacks against North Vietnam has caused the Soviets to wonder if our peace initiatives are not a cover for actions designed to achieve a military victory. I also believe they think that one of the motives of our moves toward détente is to exacerbate their quarrel with Communist China.

You suggest both a warning and an offer. To take the offer first, God knows we have made it clear to the Soviets that we are prepared to negotiate, and the only new factor which you suggest is an expression of our willingness to jointly guarantee a settlement. In the first place, I think the present situation is such that the Soviets would not believe us and, in the second place, I can see great difficulties both for the Soviets and ourselves. For them this means openly joining with us in a move largely directed against Communist China. While they would have no regard for how the Chinese might receive this, it would cause problems for them with the rest of the Communist world. Moreover, the Soviet objective is surely a Communist North and South Vietnam not dominated by China and, to the extent that the settlement left South Vietnam free, the guarantee would work against Soviet interests. So far as we are concerned, if we ever succeed in disengaging ourselves militarily, I would hate to see us committed to come back if the settlement were violated. For both of us there would be the problem of establishing when a violation had occurred. If it did occur, it would undoubtedly be by North Vietnamese support for Viet Cong elements in the South, and this would be very hard to establish.

This brings me to the subject of the settlement itself. Perhaps there have been some decisions in Washington of which I am not aware, but if the North Vietnamese did agree to negotiations, I cringe to think of what our position would be on the role of the NLF. Unless they were brought into the Government in some way, I think we would be even worse off in world opinion than we are now, and Ky's position seems to me tenable only in the event that we have achieved a military victory. It seems to me that you are suggesting that we agree to guarantee a settlement, the nature of which we do not know, and in short my view is that any settlement we could achieve now would be one which I would hate to see us have to guarantee. Despite the foregoing objections, I can see that at some stage we might sound the Soviets out on this, but I think surely it would have to be a guarantee in which others, and probably the UN, were involved.

I feel much more strongly about the warning. In the first place, the Soviets are well aware of the risks involved in the continuation of the present situation. You suggest it would not be difficult to work out a formula for a warning, but I can myself think of none that would be effective which would not be taken by them as a threat, and if there is one thing I have learned about this place it is that they react badly to threats. They should never be made unless we mean them and, because of their great inferiority complex, threats tend to make them dig in all the deeper.

It is clear that Dobrynin was brought back here in connection with a top level review of Soviet-American relations and particularly the Vietnam affair. I do not know what the outcome will be, but I suspect that as a minimum they will increase the quality and quantity of their military aid.

It seems to me that the most dangerous period will be when we really begin to win. At this time, the North Vietnamese will have to decide whether to negotiate or to cash the blank check which the Communist countries gave them in the Bucharest Declaration, that is to call for volunteers. They would be most reluctant to do this, because it would mean undoubtedly bringing in Chinese volunteers as well and they would have the problem of getting the Chinese out, but if the Chinese were balanced by Soviets and East European Communist forces, the North Vietnamese might hope to succeed in this. My present guess is that they would negotiate, but I worry that the odds are not very great, and I am afraid that our increased bombing is turning them against us.

The Danish Ambassador tells me that in saying goodbye to Chen Yi when leaving China about six months ago where he had been stationed, Chen Yi told him there were only three cases in which China would intervene in Vietnam: one was an attack on China, the second was the imminence of the downfall of a Communist regime in North Vietnam, and the third was an invasion of North Vietnam.

You have doubtless seen the INR study which gives greater credence than formerly to the view that the Soviets may prefer the continuance of the Vietnamese war to a settlement./3/ I still think the Soviets would like to see it settled, but I agree that this has recently become less clear than formerly. They appear to be tempted by the possibility of getting us out of Europe and breaking up NATO, and may well believe that our involvement in Vietnam contributes to this objective. Moreover, they are certainly aware of the damage to our image around the world. While they do not want a confrontation with us, they can always use the excuse that the Chinese made it impossible for the Communist countries, including the Soviet Union, to render effective aid.

/3/Not further identified.

My own view is that neither the Soviets nor the North Vietnamese hold the key to this situation. The Soviets do not want to take the blame for any settlement that would be acceptable to us, as this would greatly enhance the standing of the Chinese Communists in the whole area at their expense. Similarly, the North Vietnamese will not want to pull the rug out from under the Viet Cong. They have made enormous sacrifices in this affair, and if they move before the Viet Cong are willing to settle, they will have jeopardized their own position in South Vietnam. It seems to me therefore that the NLF and the Viet Cong constitute the key factor and I am afraid that the only satisfactory solution is for us to continue and step up our efforts in the South, although this involves heavy sacrifices on our part. I certainly do not think that the Soviets would be willing to cut off supplies in order to bring pressure on North Vietnam for fear that this would mean handing over North Vietnam to the Chinese. As long as our main effort is confined to the South, I think there is little risk of Soviet intervention and I only wish that we could have levelled off our bombing in the North sometime ago, and even better to have confined it to the southern part of North Vietnam, although I realize the pressures on the President from the military and others. I wish I could be more optimistic, but this is the way it looks to me.




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

Saigon, May 9, 1967, 0410Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Received at 1:54 a.m.

25112. Reference: State 189491./2/

/2/Document 164.

1. I do not believe it would be useful at this time for General Westmoreland to return to this subject with General Thieu. He spent two hours with him Sunday/3/ and they went over the ground thoroughly. General Westmoreland concurs with this judgment.

/3/May 7.

2. I will be seeing Thieu and Ky, separately, Tuesday to introduce Ambassador Locke and will see what, if anything, they may have to say on the subject./4/ As reported separately, General Cao Van Vien informed the ARVN staff the morning of May 8 about the decision that ARVN would not appoint a military man as its candidate for President and gave an interview to Vietnam press shortly thereafter. General Westmoreland saw General Vien afternoon May 8 and Vien stated that the proposal to divorce the armed forces from the political campaign had originated with him and he intended to follow through on it. We have no additional information at this time regarding the timing of Prime Minister Ky's announcement of his candidacy.

/4/Bunker and Locke met with both men on May 9. In telegram 25083 from Saigon, May 9, the Ambassador reported that Thieu concurred in the ARVN's declaration that it would not support a military candidate. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S) In telegram 25233 from Saigon, May 10, Bunker reported that in spite of his support of the declaration, Ky told him that he would run for the Presidency since he believed that he could best lead South Vietnam's social revolution. Ky also said that he had informed Thieu that morning of his plan to run. Thieu told Ky that he might retire or return to active duty in the army; Thieu agreed in any event that the military should remain united in the coming contest. (Ibid.)

3. It is difficult to speculate on the possible relationship of these events to Loan's visit to Washington. It is conceivable that he was bringing some word from Ky to Bui Diem about Ky's intentions but since events did not transpire as originally hoped and they could not be clearly foreseen, it does not seem likely this was a primary reason for his trip. We know that Loan's manner and tactics have irritated several of the top Generals in the past and it is therefore at least conceivable that Ky wished to have him away during the rather delicate meetings among the Generals and the subsequent talk with Thieu. In any event, it continues to seem likely that Loan's activities with Bui Diem will be related to seeking support in one form or another for Ky's candidacy, or at least the impression of support (Saigon 24733)./5/

/5/Dated May 4. (Ibid.)

4. We would imagine that Ky hopes to team up with some respected southern civilian figure who will bring in votes and Huong would obviously be the strongest combination with him. As the Department knows, there have been reports of soundings between Huong and Ky. We suspect that the question of any such combination, whether Huong-Ky or Ky-Huong, will not be settled for some time. (See our A-638 pouched Department May 8, which assessed Presidential candidates prior to these most recent developments.)/6/

/6/Dated May 5. (Ibid.)

5. We agree that a strong mixed civilian-military ticket would have great value and will be following events with this thought very much in mind.



167. National Security Action Memorandum No. 362/1/

Washington, May 9, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 273, National Security Action Memorandums (NSAM), NSAM 362. Confidential.

The Secretary of State
The Secretary of Defense

Responsibility for U.S. Role in Pacification (Revolutionary Development)

U.S. civil/military responsibility for support of Pacification (Revolutionary Development) in Viet Nam will be integrated under a single manager concept to provide added thrust forward in this critical field./2/

/2/Bunker wanted to keep this announcement "in low key" by including it in a press conference on personnel changes in the Mission's organization. Discussion of the announcement is in telegrams 25028 and 25029 from Saigon, May 8 (both ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) and telegram CAP 67411 from Rostow to the President, May 8. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, NODIS Vol. VI) Regarding Bunker's press conference, held on May 11, see footnote 3, Document 150. Komer received a report on May 9 asserting that the takeover of OCO's functions had been leaked "to force quick resolution of the situation in a favorable way." Speculation abounded that a significant number of civilians associated with the program would resign, and new hires would be difficult to find. (Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, Organization (CORDS/MACCORDS General): 1966-68) The President later told reporter Keyes Beech of the Chicago Daily News that even though he had given Westmoreland greater authority over pacification for "maximum efficiency," Bunker remained "still in charge" of all aspects of the Vietnam Mission. (Memorandum of conversation, May 13; Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Subject File, GC-1, Notes on Meeting--President 1967)

Because the bulk of the people and resources involved are military, COMUSMACV will be charged with this responsibility in Viet Nam, under the overall authority of the Ambassador.

To carry out these responsibilities, under COMUSMACV, Mr. Robert W. Komer will be appointed Deputy for Pacification (Revolutionary Development) with personal rank of ambassador.

To this end the present functions and personnel of the Office of Civil Operations of the U. S. Mission will become a part of MACV. For the time being its civilian components will continue to be supported with funds, personnel, and other requirements by the civil agencies involved, such as State, AID, USIA, CIA, and Department of Agriculture. COMUSMACV is expected to call on these agencies, as well as the relevant military agencies, for all resources needed for accomplishment of his mission. I hereby charge all U. S. departments and agencies with meeting these requirements promptly and effectively.

One purpose of unifying responsibility for Pacification (RD) under COMUSMACV is to permit logistic and administrative economies through consolidation and cross-servicing. I expect sensible steps to be taken in this direction. Any inter-agency jurisdictional or other issues which may arise in country will be referred to the U. S. Ambassador.

Ambassador William Leonhart will assume from Mr. Komer the Washington supervisory responsibilities already assigned in NSAM 343,/3/ and will be appointed Special Assistant to the President for this purpose.

/3/In NSAM No. 343, March 28, 1966, the President appointed Komer as his Special Assistant to coordinate and supervise the non-military programs in Vietnam. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 102.

This new organizational arrangement represents an unprecedented melding of civil and military responsibilities to meet the overriding requirements of Viet Nam. Therefore, I count on all concerned--in Washington and in Viet Nam--to pull together in the national interest to make this arrangement work.

Lyndon B. Johnson


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

Washington, May 9, 1967, 11 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Viet Nam--W.W. Rostow (2 of 2). Top Secret.

Mr. President:

This is an interim report on the meeting yesterday afternoon of the Katzenbach group. We considered policy towards bombing the North.

1. I will be sending up to you later today papers by Cy Vance and Bill Bundy./2/ You already received at the Ranch the paper I filed with this group./3/ The objective of submitting the three papers will be to let you get a feeling for thought on the bombing problem as a preliminary to receiving definitive recommendations from Secretaries Rusk and McNamara.

/2/Documents 169 and 170.

/3/Document 162.

2. All three papers reject mining Haiphong and the other harbors at this time as well as systematic attacks on the supply lines to China. All also recommend an increased concentration on Route Packages 1, 2 and 3--the latter included because of its relevance to Communist supply routes to Laos. All three papers recommend that we keep open the option of bombing in the Hanoi/Haiphong area--and continue some bombing there--but let the weight of that attack be determined by careful damage assessment of the targets we have already attacked, plus information on repair, etc.

3. All, I believe, will recommend that we strike the Hanoi electric power plant.

4. All address in one way or another the problem of making this shift in emphasis and the relative weight of our attack acceptable to our own public and the world; but I do not believe we have yet developed for you the best scenario.

5. Drawing back from these particular views, I believe what has happened is something like this:

--We expanded our target lists in the Hanoi/Haiphong area. CINCPAC, feeling a general go-ahead, began to propose targets which had two characteristics: they were either increasingly unimportant in relation to the losses sustained, or they began to foreshadow the mining of the ports and the cutting of supplies from China.

--Sect. Rusk began to worry about the Soviet and Chinese Communist reaction to what was happening and, especially, to what was projected.

--Sect. McNamara, who does not feel bombing in Hanoi/

Haiphong relates directly to the war in the South, became increasingly uneasy and felt that rational control over targeting was getting out of his hands.

6. At bottom, the problem is the limited number of first-class targets in the North unless we go for a blockade of the harbors and the attempt to cut the railroad lines to China.

7. As I say, the weight of opinion outside the JCS is that we now draw a line on going forward on the CINCPAC list; but that we do so without abandoning attacks in the Hanoi/Haiphong area except as part of a compensated deal. I believe there is also agreement that we apply tougher criteria to such attacks in the future if for no other reason than because we lose about five times as many pilots and planes per 1000 sorties in that area as we do in the southern part of North Viet Nam.

8. As for the turn-around, it can be done slowly or sharply: we could continue to hit a good many targets in the Hanoi/Haiphong area without "escalating," or markedly cut-back. But, I repeat, I don't think we have yet provided you with the best rationale and scenario for a shift from one bombing posture in the North to another. We will all be giving further thought to that in the days ahead.

9. One further thought: there is just enough suggestion that they might be hurting badly in the North that I have asked Dick Helms to answer the question: If we cut back now, would we be relieving pressure which, if sustained, might force a decision in a matter of weeks? I suspect the answer will be "no"; but, within the limits of objective intelligence, I would wish us to be sure./4/

/4/For the views of Helms and the CIA on this issue, see Document 180.


/5/Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.


169. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara and the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Vance) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, May 9, 1967.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Files: FRC 71 A 3470, Service and JCS Recommendations re Bombing of DRV. Top Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by McNaughton. Rostow sent a copy of this memorandum, his earlier memorandum (Document 168), and Bundy's memorandum (Document 170) to the President on the evening of May 9. The notation "L" indicates the President saw the memoranda. (Memorandum from Rostow to Johnson, May 9; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 2 EE Primarily McNamara Recommendations re Strategic Actions) McNaughton drafted an earlier version of this same memorandum on May 5. (Memorandum from McNamara to the President, May 5; ibid., Files of Walt Rostow, Viet Nam--W.W. Rostow)

Proposed Bombing Program Against North Vietnam

1. We face the question whether to continue the program of air attacks in the Hanoi-Haiphong area or for an indefinite period to concentrate all attacks on the lines of communications in the lower half of North Vietnam (south of 20 degrees).

2. In the northern areas, we have struck the POL targets, steel plant, cement plant, and (with one exception--which we recommend be attacked) all of the major thermal power plants. As General Wheeler said when General Westmoreland was here, "The bombing campaign is reaching the point where we will have struck all worthwhile fixed targets except the ports."/2/ We do not believe ports now should be struck nor closed by mining because of the confrontation this might cause with the Soviet Union.

/2/For the meeting with Westmoreland, see Document 149.

3. We have the alternative open to us of continuing to conduct attacks between 20-23 degrees--that is, striking minor fixed targets (like battery, fertilizer, and rubber plants and barracks) while conducting armed reconnaissance against movement on roads, railroads, and waterways. This course, however, is costly in American lives and involves serious dangers of escalation: The loss rate in Hanoi-Haiphong Route Package 6, for example, is more than six times the loss rate in the southernmost Route Packages 1 and 2; and actions in the Hanoi-Haiphong area involve serious risks of generating confrontations with the Soviet Union and China, both because they involve destruction of MIGs on the ground and encounters with MIGs in the air and because they may be construed as a U.S. intention to crush the Hanoi regime.

4. The military gain from destruction of additional military targets north of 20 degrees will be slight. If we believed that air attacks in that area would change Hanoi's will, they might be worth the added loss of American life and the risks of expansion of the war. However, there is no evidence that this will be the case, while there is considerable evidence that such bombing will strengthen Hanoi's will. In this connection, Consul-General Rice (in Hong Kong 7581 of May 1)/3/ said what we believe to be the case--that we cannot by bombing reach the critical level of pain in North Vietnam and that, "below that level, pain only increases the will to fight." Sir Robert Thompson, who was a key officer in the British success in Malaya, said here on April 28 that our bombing--particularly in the Red River basin--"is unifying North Vietnam."/4/

/3/Document 153.

/4/As reported in The New York Times, April 29, 1967.

5. Nor is bombing in the northern area necessary to maintain the morale of the South Vietnamese or of the American fighting men. While General Westmoreland has fully supported attacks against targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong area and has said that he is "frankly dismayed at even the thought of stopping the bombing program," his basic requirement has been continuation of attacks in what he calls the "extended battle zone" near the DMZ.

6. We, therefore, recommend that all of the sorties allocated to the Rolling Thunder program be concentrated on the lines of communications--the "funnel" through which men and supplies to the South must flow--between 17-20 degrees, reserving the option and intention to strike (in the 20-23 degrees area) as necessary to keep the enemy's investment in defense and in repair crews high throughout the country.

7. This proposed policy would not be done for the purpose of getting Hanoi to change its ways or to negotiate. But to optimize the chances of a favorable Hanoi reaction, the scenario should be (a) to inform the Soviets quietly (on May 15) that within a few (5) days the policy would be implemented, stating no time limits and making no promises not to return to the Red River basin to attack targets which later acquired military importance, and then (b) to make an unhuckstered shift as predicted on May 20. We would expect Moscow to pass the May 15 information on to Hanoi, perhaps (but probably not) urging Hanoi to seize the opportunity to de-escalate the war by talks or otherwise. Hanoi, not having been asked a question by us and having no ultimatum-like time limit, might be in a better posture to react favorably than has been the case in the past. Nevertheless, no favorable response from Hanoi should be expected, and the change in policy is not based on any such expectation.

8. Publicly, when the shift had become obvious (May 21 or 22), we should explain (a) that as we have always said, the war must be won in the South, (b) that we have never said bombing of the North would produce a settlement by breaking Hanoi's will or by shutting off the flow of supplies, (c) that the North must pay a price for its infiltration, (d) that the major northern military targets have been destroyed, (e) that now we are concentrating on the narrow neck through which supplies must flow, believing that the concentrated effort there, as compared with a dispersed effort throughout North Vietnam, under present circumstances will increase the efficiency of our interdiction effort, and (f) that we may have to return to targets further north if military considerations require it.



170. Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, May 9, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 2EE Primarily McNamara Recommendations re Strategic Actions. Top Secret.


This memorandum lays out the major options that appear to exist for bombing strategy in the rest of 1967. It does so in terms of (a) a rough definition of target categories; (b) a statement of optional strategies; (c) a discussion of factors relevant to choice of strategy; and (d) a summary evaluation and recommendation.

Obviously, bombing strategy cannot be considered in isolation from over-all strategy decisions. This memorandum assumes that there is general agreement on pressing forward in all possible ways with pacification, political progress in the South, and military pressures in the South. It recognizes that there remains the problem of major possible force increases, and this is not addressed.

Intelligence conclusions in this memorandum have been reviewed by Mr. Helms, Ambassador Kohler, and China experts in the State Department. The arguments and final recommendation reflect the views of Messrs. Katzenbach, Helms, and William Bundy. The memorandum as a whole is designed to be read alongside the memorandums by Mr. Vance and Mr. Rostow,/2/ and to discuss in more depth the factors that have led to an essentially similar conclusion and recommendation.

/2/Documents 169 and 168, respectively. Rostow sent all of these memoranda to the President on the evening of May 9. See footnote 1, Document 169.

Target Categories

There are four broad target categories that can be combined to produce options.

1. "Concentration on supply routes." This would comprise attacks on supply routes in the southern "bottleneck" areas of North Vietnam, from the 20th parallel south.

2. "Limited Re-strikes." This would comprise limited attacks on targets already hit, including unless otherwise stated sensitive targets north of the 20th parallel and in and around Hanoi/Haiphong, which were hit in the last three weeks.

3. "Continued Hammering north of the 20th parallel." This would comprise a few additional targets and a major and systematic program of re-strikes on targets already hit, including sensitive targets in and around Hanoi/Haiphong.

4. "Extremely sensitive targets." This would comprise targets that are exceptionally sensitive, in terms of Chinese and/or Soviet reaction, as well as domestic and international factors. For example, this list would include mining of Haiphong, bombing of critical port facilities in Haiphong, and bombing of dikes and dams not directly related to supply route waterways and/or involving heavy flooding to crops. Some of these targets would relate to a systematic attempt to deal with the sea and rail routes into North Vietnam; other targets--such as the Red River bridge and the Phuc Yen airfield--have strong military reasons but raise the same questions of exceptional sensitivity and risk as broad attacks on the sea or rail routes.

Optional Strategies

Option A would be to move up steadily to hit all the target categories, including the extremely sensitive targets.

Option B would be to continue hammering north of the 20th parallel.

Option C would be to cut back in the near future to concentration on supply routes and re-strikes north of the 20th parallel limited to those necessary to eliminate targets directly important to infiltration and, as necessary, to keep Hanoi's air defense and repair system in place. This option might include one major new target--the Hanoi power station--before the cutback.

[Here follows the final section of the memorandum in which Bundy listed and analyzed nine factors affecting the choice of strategy. These included the likelihood of involving China or the Soviet Union more directly in the war with increased bombing; the adverse impact expanded bombing would have in terms of extending Chinese leverage on Hanoi; conversely, the adverse impact of such bombing in terms of reducing Soviet leverage on the North Vietnamese; the lack of a military advantage from bombing North Vietnam north of the 20th parallel; the inability of the bombing to bring about a more conciliatory attitude on the part of North Vietnamese leadership; the domestic outcry in the United States from an extensive program of bombing; the lack of any boost to South Vietnamese morale that increased bombardment of North Vietnam would bring; the danger that an expanded program would cause allies to desert the effort in Vietnam and bring international criticism that would only encourage Hanoi; and last, the need to reach a decision on a strategy sometime around May 23, Buddha's birthday.]

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