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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Johnson Administration > Volume V
Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 222-239

Policy Decisions and the McNamara and Clifford-Taylor Missions to South Vietnam June-August

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

Washington, June 28, 1967, 1:51 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Vietnamese (South) Elections 1967. Top Secret; Priority; Nodis; Literally Eyes Only for Ambassador. Drafted by Katzenbach on June 27, cleared by Walt Rostow, and approved by Katzenbach. Repeated as telegram CAP 67599 from Rostow to the President at the LBJ Ranch, where it was received at 6:29 p.m. on June 29. (Ibid.) The President stayed at the ranch June 29-July 9. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) On June 27 Thieu filed his formal candidacy application, listing Trinh Quoc Khanh, a leading Hoa Hao politician, as his running mate; later that day Ky announced that when he formally declared his candidacy, Nguyen Van Loc would be his running mate.

217671. 1. We are increasingly concerned, as we know you are, about growing division of Ky and Thieu and consequences of this division to electoral processes, military unity, and American public opinion.

2. The President desires that you seek early meeting with Ky and Thieu, accompanied by Locke and Westmoreland. You should convey forceful and unequivocal message to both men reminding them that each personally assured President Johnson at Guam that they would so arrange things that they would support one man. You should tell them that acting on this assurance, and respecting the personal integrity of each, President Johnson has repeatedly assured Congressional leaders and the American public that there would be no division between Thieu and Ky, they would support only one candidate and that the present government would not permit the election to cause divisions among its leaders. Therefore, the present situation leaves the President in an impossible position which simply cannot be explained to the American Congress or the American people. The continuance of this situation would deliver a severe blow not only to the election process but to public and Congressional support in the United States for the Government of South Viet-Nam.

3. It is already clear that the continued failure of Thieu and Ky to achieve the understanding which they promised President Johnson so unequivocally now presents a grave threat to unity of the military and has already contributed to an atmosphere of doubt with respect to the honesty and integrity of elections and presents us with mounting dangerous political problems here.

4. President Johnson has the highest respect and esteem for both Thieu and Ky. The United States has not interfered in the election processes and has not supported one or another candidate and does not intend to do so. We have relied heavily on their positive assurances that whatever problems might arise they could and would be worked out by Thieu and Ky on the basis of common understanding and common dedication to the cause of free and independent South Viet-Nam. How they work out any personal differences for the good of their country is their responsibility, but President expects that it will be done and that they will honor their joint and individual assurances to him.

5. You may, in your discretion, deliver this message to Ky and Thieu jointly, or individually. But you should make it crystal clear that President Johnson feels that if commitments made to him, on which he has heavily relied, are not fulfilled our mutual efforts will suffer grave and devastating set back here which we cannot recover from soon./2/

/2/According to telegram LBJWH 7135, June 29, the President thought this message was approved on June 27, but it had not been delivered. He asked Rostow to "please urge Bunker to get it delivered." (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, White House Cables--Back Channels--Incoming, Outgoing)

Rusk

 

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

Saigon, June 29, 1967, 1000Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Vietnamese (South) Elections 1967. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Rostow repeated the text of this telegram as CAP telegram 67595 to the President at the LBJ Ranch. In his prefatory comments, he informed Johnson that Bunker proposed "to have Westy find out from Vien what happened at the Directorate meeting and the session of Division Commanders on June 28" and then "execute the instruction" separately with both Ky and Thieu. (Ibid.)

29167. Ref State 217671./2/

/2/Document 222.

1. I fully understand the concern expressed in reftel regarding the related matters of the Thieu-Ky rivalry, military unity and the electoral processes, and their potential effect on American opinion. I have discussed these problems with Locke and Westmoreland and we are fully agreed on the following views.

2. Dept will have seen Saigon 29152/3/ reporting on the series of high level GVN military meetings of the past two days. [We] have been discussing various aspects of this problem and the additional complicating factor of Big Minh's public entry on the stage. We understand that there are further meetings going on today. I think the reports of the meeting of the division commanders on July [June] 28 and of the Directorate meeting that evening are encouraging in that they indicate growing awareness of the need to work out a solution and some movement in that direction. This is a delicate and complicated process involving typically Asian questions of "face" and prestige. Our role in it can be critically important in helping to lead the way to a solution or conversely in injecting factors which make it more difficult to find a mutually acceptable answer. It is for this reason that we have been trying to lead them along to work out their own solutions. If we can do this, it will be good for them and good for us. I have an instinctive feeling that there is already some measurable progress towards removing the military from direct involvement in the electoral process. Our June 19 luncheon/4/ seems to have been helpful and its effect as well as General Cao Van Vien's efforts on the subject are being felt. Our objective at the moment should be to keep this process going and to avoid moves which might be counterproductive. We should, of course, be prepared to move in if a serious impasse seems to be developing.

/3/In telegram 29152 from Saigon, June 29, Bunker reported on the decision by the Generals of the Directorate not to permit Duong Van Minh to return from exile in Bangkok. They also acted to compel Ky and Thieu to come together and discuss their differences. In addition, at a separate meeting of ARVN division commanders on June 28, an agreement was reached that neither they nor their subordinates would become involved in election politics. Bunker concluded that "there has been some clearing of the air and probably some progress in the direction of sterilizing the military from the electoral process." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Vietnamese (South) Elections 1967) In telegram CAP 67596 to the President at the LBJ Ranch, June 29, Rostow informed him that the Embassy in Saigon reported that a press story of an impending military coup was false. The telegram then repeated the text of telegram 29152 from Saigon. Rostow characterized it as "the best account we have on the military meetings of the 28th," but noted Westmoreland would try to get more information from Vien. (Ibid.) For an account of Westmoreland's meeting with Vien, see Document 226.

/4/See Document 210.

3. With the foregoing as background, we believe that our first effort should be to get a clear and authoritative view of where things stand today. To this end Westmoreland will see Vien either this evening or tomorrow morning. He is the responsible military authority, is probably the most disinterested and apolitical of the key Generals, and we believe he is genuinely seeking the sort of solution we want.

4. Following this sounding we will consider what is the best next move. It is our judgment that a meeting of all three of us with Thieu and Ky together might only freeze the situation unduly and put one or the other in a position where his face or prestige becomes irrevocably involved. (This appears to be the chief factor behind Thieu's present stubborn insistence on running for the Presidency despite his own feeling that he will lose.) It would also inevitably attract public attention and that at a moment when the city is rife with rumors and speculation as the June 30 deadline for filing draws near and as the stories of Big Minh's move circulate in a variety of forms.

5. Because of similar considerations, believe we should give further consideration also to the desirability of all three of us seeing Thieu and Ky separately or whether I should see them alone./5/ Depending on Vien's comments and reactions, we should then consider when and how to see Thieu and Ky, separately, to discuss the situation and to convey the essence of the President's concern expressed in reftel. I would hope that the processes already at work may by then suggest the way in which our common objectives on this key question can best be achieved.

/5/See Document 225.

Bunker

 

224. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency to the Station in Saigon/1/

Washington, June 29, 1967, 7:13 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Vietnamese (South) Elections 1967. Secret; Immediate; Most Sensitive. Released by Carver who confirmed the transmittal at Bundy's request in an attached memorandum to Read, June 29.

CIA 0685. For Mr. Hart only. The Department of State has requested that we pass the following message from Mr. Katzenbach, the Acting Secretary, to Ambassador Bunker through our channels. Will you please hand it personally to Ambassador Bunker and cable us confirmation of his receipt of this message.

Begin Text: To Ambassador Bunker from Acting Secretary:

1. We have your message of June 26/2/ and have studied it carefully.

/2/Document 218.

2. We approve continuous consultation with Ky within the framework of advising him on ways to keep the election honest and giving him advice on acceptable uses of his present position. We would like to know immediately about all the contacts that take place under this arrangement, including particularly what is said on the US side. Please use a special reporting series with an appropriate code name.

3. We likewise concur in the use of covert Vietnamese assets as part of this channel. Obviously, every precaution should be used to insure security and to keep the record clear in case there should be any compromise.

4. We note that according to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]/3/ Ky has removed Loan as head of the MSS and has convened a meeting of all province and district chiefs. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]/4/ also reported Ky as preparing to convene all candidates, after July 5, to offer them facilities and guarantees of equal campaigning, and we understand that he has already announced his intention to hold this meeting. We believe that an immediate contact is needed to be sure that Ky is following up on the meeting of province and district chiefs and the meeting with the candidates and to confirm that Loan is indeed being kept under control.

/3/Not further identified.

/4/Not further identified.

5. We continue to be seriously concerned with the security aspects of any covert financial help to Ky. Pending further exchanges, no encouragement should be given in this direction./5/

/5/A June 29 memorandum from INR's Deputy Director of Coordination William Trueheart, to Hughes detailed a discussion among representatives of EA, INR, and the CIA which occurred on June 22. The section of the memorandum on Vietnam reads: "Mr. Colby said that his people had been doing considerable thinking both here and in the field about the upcoming elections in South Vietnam. While the Station had some covert capabilities, he was not actually recommending that anything be done. [3 lines of source text not declassified] Mr. Bundy said that he hoped that we could keep hands off in this election. Mr. Habib was vehement in his disclaimer of any interest whatsoever in trying to influence the outcome of the election in this manner. He argued that so far it did not appear that it would be necessary for us to take any action; even if we took action we might wish, instead of putting money in the elections, to put pressure on the various candidates and particularly Ky to conduct an honest election." (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, East Asia and Pacific General File, East Asia, FE Weekly Meetings, 1967)

 

225. Telegram From the White House Situation Room to President Johnson in Texas/1/

Washington, June 30, 1967, 0050Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Vietnamese (South) Elections 1967. Secret; Nodis; Eyes Only. The cable was received at the White House Situation Room at 9:33 p.m. on June 29. A notation on the telegram indicates that the President saw it. Jim Jones wrote a note on the telegram quoting the President as follows: "Yes send it, against it but nothing else I can do."

CAP 67601. For the President from Katzenbach.

Bob McNamara, Walt Rostow and I all believe that Ambassador Bunker fully appreciates the seriousness and urgency of your message,/2/ but is attempting to accomplish the result we desire in the manner least calculated to do damage to other relations. We all agree that he should be left discretion as to approach but that the message should be delivered as soon as possible. To make sure that this is accomplished expeditiously, I would send out the attached message which, I believe, reflects our views. It should go out tonight, since it is already Friday/3/ morning in Saigon. Message follows.

/2/See footnote 2, Document 222.

/3/June 30.

"You may use your own judgment in how best to present to Thieu and Ky the points made in our earlier message./4/ As you fully appreciate, the point is that the message should be gotten across in the most effective way possible. Our suggestion that you be accompanied by Locke and Westmoreland was designed to emphasize as strongly as possible the importance that we attach to the commitments made and the seriousness of any breach to President Johnson in the light of his assurances to leading members of Congress.

/4/Document 222.

We fully appreciate the delicacy of the issues raised and the dangers involved in such direct and forceful action. You are quite right in wishing to know exactly where things stand and in weighing the pros and cons of various approaches. But we feel very strongly that Ky and Thieu should be made aware in forceful and urgent terms of the importance that we attach to the points made. How you accomplish this is left to you but we feel the sooner it can be done the better."/5/

/5/The Department transmitted this message to Bunker in telegram 219435 to Saigon, June 30. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Vietnamese (South) Elections 1967)

 

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

Saigon, June 30, 1967, 1235Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Flash; Exdis. Received at 9:15 a.m. and repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD. Rostow sent the text of this telegram to the President at the LBJ Ranch as telegram CAP 67608, June 30, where it was received at 10:50 a.m. He prefaced the telegram with the observation: "Here is how they appear to have worked it out in their smoke-filled room." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Vietnamese (South) Elections 1967) The Directorate announced publicly later that day that Thieu and Ky would run on the same ticket as Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, respectively. In telegram CAP 67621 to the President in Texas, June 30, Roche observed: "So far our luck is holding in Saigon but I would urge that we take out immediate coup insurance. Suggest that General Westmoreland inform ARVN that U.S. will block any coups." A notation by Jones written on the telegram quotes the President's directive: "pass on to Walt." (Ibid.)

29258. Ref Saigon 29140./2/

/2/In telegram 29410 from Saigon, June 30, Bunker made an initial report on the meeting of the Directorate that lasted until late evening on June 29 and resumed early the next morning. Thieu had been offered a position as Chief of the Joint General Staff and the Ministry of Defense. Ky was not prepared to step down. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S)

1. I have just seen the Prime Minister and General Westmoreland has just talked with General Cao Van Vien. As a result of these two conversations, we have what appears to be a fairly reliable picture of the very interesting developments that have transpired in the last 48 hours.

2. Ky said he wished to give me a very frank account of what had happened. He declared that for two days and two nights the 50 or 60 officers in the Armed Forces Council had tried to persuade Thieu to drop his candidacy and agree to become Defense Minister and Chief JGS if Ky's ticket were elected. Ky said these sessions were extremely emotional with many of the Generals in tears, but with a deep common objective that the armed forces must find a way to unite and to avoid the divisions that were tearing them apart. Finally, at one o'clock this morning, Thieu agreed to this solution and it was left that the final arrangements would be worked out at a meeting this morning.

3. At that meeting, Thieu said he had changed his mind and had decided that he would resign and run for President as a private citizen. Ky then declared that the armed forces cannot have two candidates, that military unity came above everything else, and that they had given an absolute commitment to this effect at Guam to President Johnson. He then told them that he would retire from the race and return to the air force. The other Generals said that Thieu alone could not win the election and that they must run together. Ky said he finally agreed to their pleas, but he laid down the conditions that he would have the right to name the Cabinet and to control the armed forces. These conditions were accepted by all concerned. Ky commented to me in this connection that with this agreement he (Ky) could now move ahead immediately to improve the morale and effectiveness of the forces.

4. Vien confirmed Ky's account in his conversation with Westmoreland. Vien said that the corps commanders had carried the debate as they had insisted that the armed forces could not be held together if there were two candidacies. The final decision was reached before lunch today among the top Generals, and [when] the division commanders were informed after lunch, the division commanders cheered. Vien agreed that it would now be both possible and desirable to step up military operations during the pre-election period and this would be helpful in keeping the military separated from the electoral process.

5. Vien praised Ky's behavior during the meetings and said that the solution could not have been reached if he had not done what he did. Ky told me that after the meeting General Vinh Loc, a very proud man, had said that he never used the word "admire," but that he now wished to say that he admired what Ky had said and done. I told Ky that I also admired his attitude and congratulated him on what he had done.

6. We have learned that in a backgrounder to a few foreign newsmen late this afternoon General Thang described the foregoing in very general terms, giving Ky full credit for the move to run as Vice President. Thang added that there was never any question of a caretaker government. He believes that Thieu and Ky will really work together again as they have in the past. Vien also told Westmoreland this. Thang added that the Generals are very happy at the solution and see an end to the danger of a military split. Thang expressed his admiration for Ky's sacrifice and patriotism.

7. In his conversation with me Ky said that the decision not to permit Big Minh to return before September 3 was final. He added that if Minh were admitted then other Generals such as Khanh and Thi would have to be let back. Thang confirmed this decision in his backgrounder.

8. Comment: I believe Ky deserves full credit for his attitude and for his willingness to step aside in the face of Thieu's intransigence. I'm sure that his standing among the military has been greatly enhanced./3/

/3/In his next weekly cable to the President, telegram 305 from Saigon, July 5, Bunker continued to praise the Prime Minister's selfless act for national unity: "Ky, of course, played an essential role in the final decision and I have commended him for his part in it. He was well ahead of the other candidates at the time, a lead enhanced by the proliferation of civilian candidates and Thieu's own admission that he could not be elected. Consequently, Ky has made a very real sacrifice in the interests of unity of the armed forces and of the country. I have told him, however, that I feel certain that in the long run his stature and prestige will be increased by this patriotic action." (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S) This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 69-77.

9. There are certain obvious problems created by this compromise solution, but it should serve to end the growing tensions within the military and stabilize to some degree what was becoming a dangerously fluid situation. We will comment further on these matters tomorrow. It will now become the military versus the civilians and we are already giving thought as to how we should meet this problem and will be sending you our thoughts shortly.

Bunker

 

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

Washington, June 30, 1967.

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

SUBJECT
Possible Developments in Hanoi, and Their Implications for the Negotiating Situation

Two related strands of evidence have suddenly converged in the last three days, in a way that leads me to believe that Hanoi may be taking really serious stock of its negotiating situation.

The first is the recall of key North Vietnamese representatives overseas./2/ We learned last week from Pell that Mai Van Bo was going back on the 23rd for a month./3/ On the 28th, we got word from Djakarta that the Ambassador there was being recalled, and that he had told the key Indonesians that this had to do with his recent conversations with them on negotiations./4/ And today we learned, through the Norwegians, that the Ambassador in Peking went back in mid-June; he is both an Alternate Member of the Central Committee and the man who initiated a serious conversation with the Norwegian Ambassador on June 1./5/ All three of these had thus engaged in serious discussions on negotiations just prior to their return.

/2/DRV Ambassadors and Chiefs of Mission to major countries, including those in the PRC, France, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Indonesia, and Burma (but excluding those in the Soviet Union, Algeria, and Egypt) were recalled at the end of June for a "conclave" in Hanoi in order to review diplomatic tactics and their government's negotiating position. The result appeared to be a less vitriolic and more flexible line, as witnessed by statements by DRV representatives in the conference's aftermath. (Memoranda from Hughes to Rusk, July 7, and from Holdridge to Bundy, July 20; both ibid., Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET)

/3/See footnote 2, Document 214.

/4/A June 29 INR briefing note sent to Hughes reported that DRV Ambassador Pham Binh was recalled to Hanoi for "consultations" that were "in connection" to an ongoing diplomatic overture in Indonesia. (Department of State, EA/ACA Files: Lot 69 D 277, Vietnam File--DRV) Indonesian intelligence officials previously met with Binh during unsuccessful exchanges in 1966 that were designed to mediate the war. On May 25, 1967, a new round of secret negotiations began. From the nature of Binh's statements and his responsiveness to Indonesia's role in attempting to arrange direct talks with the United States, Colonel Ali Murtopo, Director of External Intelligence, concluded that recent military pressure against the DRV was apparently effective. Further documentation on this initiative is in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET.

/5/See Document 201.

We have put out an inquiry to other key posts to learn if other North Vietnamese Ambassadors have left their posts. Moscow could be a real indicator, as the Ambassador there is another Alternate Member of the Central Committee.

Joined together with these signs is the recent uncertainty about Ho's whereabouts and health. Our last report of anyone seeing him personally is April 13th, and there has been one report that he was out of Hanoi and another that he was sick. The evidence on this is tenuous at best, since he often takes a summer vacation. But it does add parsley to the more solid evidence of the recall of the Ambassadors, that some real gathering may be taking place.

Secondly, the "nibble board" has been lighting up in the past month in several ways that are quite at variance with the totally negative readings of February through April, and that I would not have expected on a reading of the over-all situation in the South. Specifically,

a. Mai Van Bo has been seeing Americans much more frequently and seriously since late May. He has said nothing really new, but he went to great lengths to see Pell. Moreover, following the Baggs/Ashmore/6/ and Pell conversations, his press officer (in the past a notably accurate harbinger) has spoken to an American journalist to the effect that Bo clearly sees that the US is offering the possibility of "preliminary conversations" if there is to be an ultimate stopping of the bombing and serious "talks". This last is as of June 26. Going back to the Pell conversation, I have done a long memorandum this morning, which I attach./7/ None of it is strictly new, but the tone and the absence of the stock line in some respects seems to me not without significance.

/6/See footnote 2, Document 214.

/7/Bundy attached two memoranda of conversation with Pell, June 29. Neither is printed, but see footnote 2, Document 214.

b. The Hanoi Ambassador in Indonesia at least made worried noises, although he refused any contact with an American.

c. The Hanoi Ambassador in Peking made his remarks to the Norwegian. Again nothing strictly new, but decidedly more flexible in tone.

Along with these have been the veiled but striking attack on Mao in a major Hanoi article, a relatively moderate Trinh interview of May 29 with the Japanese,/8/ and a report from Kissinger that the Czechs were claiming Hanoi did not necessarily reject reciprocity for the bombing stopping./9/

/8/In this interview, Trinh suggested that stopping the bombing and "other acts of war" on an unconditional basis could lead to a settlement. See The New York Times, June 3, 1967.

/9/Telegram 1965 from Prague, May 16, contained Kissinger's report that Antonin Snejdarek, a Czech social scientist closely associated with the top echelons of his government, claimed that "Hanoi would be ready for arrangement whereby cessation of bombing could be linked with initiation of talks which could lead to a standstill ceasefire" that would include a halt to infiltration from the DRV. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

None of this gives any clear handle, and three North Vietnamese have again specifically refused official contact with us--Bo through Pell, the man in Indonesia, and the Chargé in Vientiane approached on our instructions by Sullivan. Nonetheless, my over-all feel is that something is at work. It may be just an attempt to make the bombing/talks gambit seem more appealing. It may be just tactics. But it just might be an indication of some serious re-thinking.

What to do

All this suggests that the present might be an excellent time for us to push some button or to have a third nation push it. Yet we ourselves apparently cannot make direct contact, and our best current indirect channels, notably the Norwegians in Peking, are out of action.

This brings me back to Paul Martin's proposal, as amended by your suggestion to him./10/ In essence, that we could stop the bombing at least for a substantial period (through the wet season) if the Canadians could join with the other ICC members to put an effective force into the DMZ, and if Hanoi accepted this.

/10/See footnote 2, Document 133.

The present status is that this proposal has been submitted to the JCS for their over-all judgment and specifically for their view on the kind of force required to be "effective" in controlling the DMZ. JCS action was expected the end of this week, and I have checked without getting a clear picture. John McNaughton feels that the Chiefs may be strongly opposed, on the grounds that this is trading cessation of the bombing for at most a partial impairment of the infiltration routes. It is his further judgment that pressing the whole project to the point of Presidential decision would cause a major controversy.

This presents a fairly acute dilemma. The whole proposal has the virtue that it is a Canadian idea and could be put forward in its new form by the Canadians without requiring more from us than a general indication of approval.

But to get the Canadians to put it forward, in its new form, would almost certainly require not only (for our own protection) realistic discussion with them of the forces required--in the light of the JCS view--but at least an indication of receptivity. Paul Martin might well be unwilling to move without the latter, and indeed we ourselves would gain little in the eyes of the world or toward--the key question--putting Hanoi up to a significant policy choice, if we were not able to indicate general receptivity when the Canadians came up with it.

In short, it is hard even to talk to the Canadians unless we have a top-level decision that we could tolerate their launching it and would be prepared to make a favorable noise. All of us think that Hanoi is unlikely to accept. But this new and reasonably dramatic proposal, plus our favorable reaction to it, could gain us a lot at the present time, and if there should be real ferment in Hanoi this could be an excellent way to probe it. Finally, the proposal may realistically be as good a trade for ending the bombing as we could ever see.

Alternatives

I see no really useful channel through which to poke Hanoi privately at the present moment. The Soviets surely would not be willing to play, probably even as a transmission belt for any new suggestion, and we have no good third-country channel with the Indonesian and Norwegian channels temporarily dead.

One possible channel might still be the Canadian ICC man, if the timing fits. He was received at high levels in April and might go back again. Perhaps Paul Martin would be willing to have him try the bombing/DMZ proposal on Hanoi in private without our committing ourselves to it, for this has less risks than the degree of commitment we would have to make to get Martin to say it publicly, while the objective of injecting something plausible into the North Vietnamese cogitations might thus be achieved.

Finally, there is the possibility of some public statement of our position on the bombing/talks problem that might appear more forthcoming. The requirement of reciprocal military action could be put in its most general and persuasive form along the lines that we required assurances that the other side would not take military advantage of any stopping of the bombing. And we could note that if we are to stop bombing and have discussions, the situation would be much eased if we had any conception of what Hanoi envisaged as an ultimate settlement. I think a probing speech could be written that would tease Hanoi in this direction without actually changing our substantive position.

Conclusion

I come to no ringing conclusion, as you can see, but it would help us to have your feeling on the DMZ/bombing gambit and any thoughts that may hit you on other approaches. I do think this is a rare occasion where we might hit the other side at a time when it could really have an effect.

 

228. Memorandum of Conversation Between the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) and Secretary of Defense McNamara/1/

Washington, July 1, 1967, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Subject File, McNamara, Robert S. Top Secret; Personal; For Personal Files Only. A cover page includes the typed phrase: "Literally Eyes Only for Governor Harriman."

Bob McNamara said (1) it is impossible for us to win the war militarily; (2) that he hoped that the pressure on the President from the hawks wouldn't be so great that the war would be expanded into confrontation with the Soviet Union or China; (3) he felt that the most hopeful way of ending the war through negotiations would be for Saigon to negotiate with the NLF. He said that Dean Rusk had asked him to lay off this until after the Vietnamese election, but he thought that after the first of September we ought to come down with all our influence to force Saigon to begin to negotiate seriously with the NLF.

I said that it might be with the North Vietnamese or the NLF. He said he didn't care which, but he thought a solution would eventually require an agreement between the NLF and the Saigon Government.

He said Dean Rusk was much too optimistic over what could be achieved, much too rigid. He hoped that when negotiations started we could find some compromise. In his opinion, Rusk's objective could not be achieved. Some arrangement would have to be made between the Saigon Government and the NLF for a way in which they could live together.

I told him that I felt it was necessary to have Soviet participation in order to underwrite Hanoi financially to be able to accept the deal, since they might have to break with Peking. He said he would accept that, but didn't seem to understand its importance.

We did not discuss the Johnson/Kosygin conversations,/2/ but I stated that I was convinced the Russians wanted a neutral Southeast Asia as a buffer to Chinese expansion, and if we would leave North Vietnam alone they would give us a free hand in South Vietnam under our 14 Points,/3/ but unfortunately the Soviet Union couldn't deliver Hanoi on such a sweeping agreement as that, but would try to be helpful if we stopped bombing the North. He said that the Saigon Government would have to come to some compromise with the NLF on how to live together.

/2/See Documents 216 and 217.

/3/For a restatement of the Fourteen Points, the basis of the U.S. Government for a settlement of the war, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 856-858.

I asked him if there was any use in my talking to Dean Rusk. He said he thought it might perhaps be better to wait a bit. Rusk didn't seem to understand that his position was asking for unconditional surrender of North Vietnam and the VC, but Bob didn't believe at the moment it was worth arguing with him. It might be better to wait a bit later, because he agreed we would be in a stronger position after the elections.

We discussed the elections, and I urged him to insist with Bunker that if these two military were elected President and Vice President, that a civilian Prime Minister with other civilians in important Ministries be installed. Without that, the Government would be considered in world opinion a continuation of the status quo, a stooge of the U.S. He appeared to agree with this, and thought that Bunker would be able to handle the situation. He showed confidence in Bunker's political judgments.

I mentioned the political problem the President would have if we didn't make some progress in negotiation within a year. He didn't seem to be as concerned as I am. I said the Democratic Party was split in a way I had never seen it. With that division, it was going to cause more trouble than now appears in the polls. Conservative Democrats have often said that the liberals have no place else to go. That isn't true. It has always been my opinion that the Democrats could only be elected with the vigorous support of the liberals, who are the ones who really go out and work and bring out the voters. If the liberals are disaffected, they sit on their hands. He commented that if the fighting was ended, the Republicans need not bother to run a candidate.

W. Averell Harriman/4/

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

 

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

Saigon, July 1, 1967, 0911Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Received at 6:28 a.m. and repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD. Passed to the White House at 6:45 a.m. Rostow sent the text of the telegram to the President at the LBJ Ranch in CAP 67628, July 1, where it was received at 11:12 a.m. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, CAP Cables) The notation "L" on the telegram indicates that the President saw it.

80. Ref Saigon 29258./2/

/2/Document 226.

1. I would like to make a number of preliminary comments regarding the situation which led to the decision to have a combined Thieu-Ky ticket and with respect to some of the points we should be considering for the future.

2. Although the final step was taken by Ky to find a solution to the growing division within the armed forces, a number of elements contributed to it. One of the most important was certainly the commitment made by both of them to President Johnson and continuing reminders of this to both Thieu and Ky by General Westmoreland and me. Other factors clearly related to domestic political pressures and the inter-play of various elements within the armed forces. Exactly how these factors played their parts is not yet clear but it is apparent that there was an overwhelming feeling within the military that unity had to be achieved. If this was to be done, the final gesture inevitably had to come from Ky in the face of Thieu's attitude and since the forces supporting Ky were apparently unable to bring about a more acceptable solution. Ky presumably saw the overriding sentiment for unity and thus the need for sacrifice by himself. The effect, at least initially, within the military is one of relief and happiness that this chapter at least is closed.

3. Looking back at the way this matter developed I am more than ever persuaded that our approach to the problem was the right one, i.e., to exert continuing but careful pressure on the principals, but to bring them in the end to work out their own solution. As I said in an earlier message, if we can do this it will be good for them and good for us. I think that this conclusion has been proven out and that we should maintain this general approach in the future. I am persuaded that the problems which will inevitably arise in future can be handled in the same way if there is mutual confidence in the objectives we seek and patience regarding the way we try to achieve them on the spot.

4. As I have indicated, our initial soundings among the military on the morning-after indicate feelings of gratification and conviction that the unity that has been achieved must be continued in the difficult period ahead. The marrying of the elements supporting Thieu and Ky will be a difficult one but I believe it is by no means insufferable. There will be discontented elements, of course, and certain rumblings and unhappiness under the surface. Our objective with Thieu and Ky and their supporters will be to encourage them to work sincerely and honestly together for free and impartial elections. What they do to overcome the inevitably increased civilian fears of pressure and intimidation will be all the more important in this new situation. We will want to watch their moves closely in this connection and to continue quietly to encourage them to pursue a course that will meet our common goals.

5. The problem of giving the new ticket a solid civilian element as a basis for broad civilian-military cooperation after the elections will now be greater. The appointment of an able and popular civilian Prime Minister, or an arrangement for eventual cooperation with one of the leading civilian tickets in forming a government, will be all the more important. A publicly professed willingness to collaborate with the civilian elements and candidates in both the executive and the legislative branches would be a constructive step. We will seek to encourage them to pursue this general line and we will try to create a receptive attitude on the part of the civilian Presidential candidates and the members of the tickets for the Senate.

6. Our initial impression of reactions from the camps of the civilian candidates is one of surprise and confusion and certain premonitions as to the difficulties which face them. They had come to expect a divided military camp and now are faced with the probability of a unified military with all the advantages of incumbency. Once the initial confusion is over on the civilian side, we would imagine that there will be a greater tendency for the principal candidates to try to develop a more effective combination to compete with the Thieu-Ky ticket. We know there have already been soundings between the Suu-Dan and the Huong-Truyen slates and Ha Thuc Ky, possibly with the latter as Prime Minister. There may also be increasing flirtation between the leading civilian contenders and the military ticket, looking to future collaboration. On the other hand, there may also be a greater tendency to look for an excuse to call foul in connection with the conduct of the elections, as a basis for ultimate withdrawal.

7. We will be following all of these developments as closely as possible. I think it is important for us to give this situation time to settle down and not to press in prematurely on specific propositions. I believe we have a common understanding between us as to our general objectives in the period ahead and we will do our best to achieve them and to keep you informed regarding developments.

Bunker

 

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

Saigon, July 1, 1967, 1110Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Received at 7:28 a.m. and repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD. Passed to the White House at 8:26 a.m. Rostow sent the text of the telegram to the President at the LBJ Ranch in telegram CAP 67627, July 1, where it was received at 9:37 a.m. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, CAP Cables) The notation "L" on the telegram indicates that the President saw it.

52. Ref Saigon 29258./2/

/2/Document 226.

1. I called on General Thieu at noon July 1 and spent about one hour with him. Thieu was in a relaxed and cheerful mood. I expressed my satisfaction that a decision had been reached on one military slate.

2. Thieu recounted the events that led up to the June 30 decision, repeating much of what Ky had said to me the day before./3/ Thieu said that the talks among the Generals had been extremely frank. He had told them that some of the Generals had not given him sufficient consideration and had hurt his feelings deeply. Thieu said that he had finally informed the other Generals that he proposed to resign from the army and run as a civilian candidate, but this had brought a strong negative reaction on the grounds it would divide the military seriously. Thieu replied to them that he had not been the one who had divided the armed forces and that it was the actions of others among them that had led to this situation. He said that he had mentioned General Loan and General Nguyen Bao Tri specifically.

/3/Reported in Document 226.

3. Following these discussions, according to Thieu, the Generals had insisted that he must remain in the armed forces. Thieu said that he would agree to do so only on the following conditions: (1) that the solidarity of the armed forces would be maintained and (2) that the elections would be completely free and fair. He had then declared that it was not important whether the military candidate or a civilian candidate was elected provided it was a free election. Otherwise it would be impossible to unify the people. Thieu repeated this point several times to me and said that he had spoken to the province chiefs in the same sense.

4. I emphasized to Thieu that if the Thieu-Ky ticket were elected, it would be important to broaden the government and to have a substantial civilian element in it. Thieu said he entirely agreed. He believed that there should be a civilian Prime Minister and most of the Cabinet posts should be filled by good civilians. He thought only the Defense, Revolutionary Development, and perhaps Information/Chieu Hoi portfolios need be military.

5. Thieu also stressed the importance of an increased pacification effort. He thought that division commanders should play much more active roles and province and district chief staffs should be enlarged in order for them to cope with this priority problem satisfactorily./4/

/4/In a July 2 memorandum to Westmoreland commenting on telegram 52, Komer argued that simply encouraging division commanders to play a greater role in pacification would not "give pacification a push." He suggested that Thang be made Deputy Prime Minister in charge of all ministries relating to pacification as well as province and district chiefs. (Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, Project TAKEOFF: 1967-68)

Bunker

 

231. Memorandum From the Secretary of the Air Force (Brown) to Secretary of Defense McNamara/1/

Washington, July 3, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Papers of Paul C. Warnke, McNaughton Files, McNTN XIII, Memoranda 1967 (3). Top Secret.

This memo represents some further thoughts on possible courses of action in the air war in North Vietnam.

All proposals/2/ should be judged against the following standards: (a) the military effect on North Vietnamese infiltration of men and supplies of the VC/NVA forces in the South; (b) the collateral support of US/ARVN/FWF in SVN, including the morale of those forces; (c) the political effects, to include such factors as the influence upon the will of the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese, the chances for negotiation on reasonable terms, the reaction to de-escalation or escalation by China and the USSR, and the effects on our Allies and domestic opinion; and (d) the expected US air losses.

/2/Reference is to the three alternatives outlined in the attachment to Document 194.

The evaluation of various proposals against these standards requires us to be more specific with respect to the detailed nature of the proposed campaigns, the results of past efforts, and the estimated effects of proposed alternative actions. I have therefore compared "my" Alternative C with Alternative B relative to distribution of weights of effort and some of the expected results.

Both alternatives concentrate most of the sorties in NVN in the area south of 20 degrees and continue attacks north of 20 degrees to deny reconstitution of important fixed targets and maintain pressure against the northern LOCs. The primary difference is in relative weights of effort. Alternative C proposes 20% of attack sortie effort north of 20 degrees, whereas Alternative B proposes to accomplish its stated objectives with "occasional sorties (perhaps 3%)" in the North.

The following table contains a direct comparison between the specific objectives of the two alternatives.

COMPARISON OF OBJECTIVES

Item

Alternative B

Alternative C

1. Concentrate primary effort south of 20 degrees

Yes

Yes

2. Deny reconstitution of important fixed targets

Yes

Yes

3. Prevent men and matériel from flowing from NVN to SVN

Yes

Yes

4. Impede matériel from flowing into NVN

No

Yes

5. Attack LOC targets in Red River delta to keep enemy defenses and damage repair crews there

Yes

Yes

6. Weight of effort programmed north of 20 degrees (percentage of total effort and number of sorties given in terms of past average monthly effort and maximum authorized under Rolling Thunder program). Note: Average monthly effort is 8700 sorties in NVN (June 1966 to May 1967).

3% or 261-435 sorties

20% or1740-2900 sorties

Add non-attack combat sorties north of 20 degrees

900

2000

[Here follows Brown's analysis of the impact of the effort in four different areas of Alternative B (emphasis on bombing south of the 20th parallel) and Alternative C (the continuation of the current bombing program). The first was the military effect, for which he argued that Alternative C would provide the best means for reducing infiltration southward. Next, concerning collateral support, he concluded that Alternative C would stiffen the ARVN by continuing to inflict significant damage upon the enemy. Third, in terms of political impact, Brown noted that the partial reduction in the scope of the bombing might prove ineffective in encouraging the North Vietnamese toward de-

escalation, and resuming a full schedule of bombing would be difficult after a partial halt. Last, any residual decrease in loss of aircraft with the restriction of bombing to below the 29th parallel would erode when the North Vietnamese re-directed their air defense systems to that area.]

Conclusion:

Based upon the military and political considerations above, including the effects on US air losses, I continue to recommend Alternative C.

Harold Brown

 

232. Memorandum From the Ambassador's Special Assistant (Lansdale) to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker)/1/

Saigon, July 7, 1967.

/1/Source: Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, Lansdale (1967-1968). Secret; Sensitive. Copies were sent to Locke, Westmoreland, Komer, Calhoun, Hart, and Jacobson.

SUBJECT
Talk with Thang, July 6

I saw General Nguyen duc Thang the afternoon of July 6, largely at the request of Arch Calhoun who was compiling some information from Mission sources. Here are highlights of our talk:

Agreement. I probed for details of any agreement between Chief of State Thieu and Prime Minister Ky on how much authority Ky would have as Vice President, over the Cabinet and RVNAF. Thang said that there is only a vague understanding, to the best of his knowledge, and feels that Ky is uneasy about the vagueness. Thang recalls that, when this subject came up during the final hours of deciding the Thieu-Ky coalition, Thieu indicated that Ky would have a large say in Cabinet and RVNAF appointments "because we are brothers in the family." Thang knew of no further clarification. He guessed that there hadn't been any, since Ky and the four Corps Commanders, who were meeting with Thieu the afternoon of July 6, had implied in their talk at the Palace earlier in the day that Thieu owed them a debt. (I gave this information orally to Arch Calhoun.)

Disfavor. Thang commented that General Thieu could be expected to harbor a grudge against three individuals for a long time. Thieu will be unable to forgive General Loan for what he believes were threats against his life, General Tri for the way he belittled Thieu on radio and TV, and General Thang for what he believes were acts that made Thieu lose prestige in the Army (telling Thieu that the Generals wouldn't back him against Ky, and Thang's statements during the confrontation).

Proposal. Thang said that Prime Minister Ky had talked to him the morning of July 6 about staying on in the Army, rather than retiring at the end of the year. Ky asked Thang to consider taking over the Political Warfare Directorate, after the September elections./2/ Thang asked me what I thought of this idea. I replied that Thang already knew that I believed he must continue serving his country and should not retire. As for the Polwar Directorate, it was a nice but ineffective spot for a real leader, which I believe Thang to be--unless given some disciplinary authority. His opposite number, on the enemy side, would have equal authority with combat commanders, with a parallel chain-of-command, and participate in top policy decisions--and it would be unrealistic to expect to match his effectiveness with something not designed to match it. I expressed a personal opinion that Thang should be given a command position, where he could exercise leadership to help his country, if he returns to the Army.

/2/In telegram 347 from Saigon, July 5, Bunker reported that Thang had attacked Thieu for his "trickiness and indecisiveness" at the June 29-30 meeting of ARVN Generals. Bunker also reported that Ky suggested to Thang that he become Chief of the JGS if Vien became Minister of Defense. National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S)

Ministry. I pushed Thang again about considering staying on in the Ministry. He refused to budge from his decision to leave when an elected Constitutional Government takes office, although he admitted that he has no real thoughts yet on who might replace him and keep the fine work going after he has left. However, he reaffirmed his pledge to me that he would keep working hard at his Ministry tasks until the end.

 

233. Editorial Note

Secretary of Defense McNamara, along with Under Secretary of State Katzenbach and JCS Chairman General Wheeler, visited Vietnam July 7-11, 1967, at the request of the President to work out the Program V force package. The first briefing that the delegation received after arriving in Saigon was by Ambassador Bunker, followed in succession by General Westmoreland and his aides. For the record of these meetings, see U.S. House of Representatives, Armed Services Committee, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 5, pages 192-209. For McNamara's reaction to the briefings, see his autobiographical account entitled In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (New York: Times Books, 1995), page 283. The authors of the Pentagon Papers described the meetings as follows:

"The sum total of the briefings did not vary from what McNamara had heard so many times before: that there was an increasing NVA presence in control of the war; that it was increasingly becoming a main force battle; that the sanctuaries were becoming increasingly important to the enemy both for the logistics and the tactical advantages they offered. It was clear that MACV's view of the war in these terms, as increasingly a main force battle to be fought by American units, had considerable influence by the strategies that they pursued, as well as in their calculations of resources required to carry them out." (The Pentagon Papers, The Senator Gravel Edition, pages 522-523)

During the visit McNamara, relying on a July 5 study by Assistant Secretary of Defense for System Analysis Alain Enthoven, which concluded that the army could provide only 32/3 division equivalents, held the line on force increases. He compelled MACV to accept a general agreement-in-principle on additional deployments to Vietnam which would not exceed an overall ceiling of 525,000 men. (Ibid., pages 515-523)

 

234. Telegram From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson in Texas/1/

Washington, July 9, 1967, 1605Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Komer-Locke on Vietnam. Secret; Literally Eyes Only for the President. Received at the LBJ Ranch at 4:54 p.m.

CAP 67721. Herewith Bob Komer's personal Viet-Nam assessment, as requested.

Fm Amb Komer 164.
To the White House eyes only the President.

1. Herewith personal estimate VN situation you requested./2/ Am returning with McNamara for short consultation and will fill in orally if you desire.

/2/The President requested a similar report from Locke on the situation in Vietnam in telegram CAP 67697 from Saigon, July 7. (Ibid.) Locke's report, which echoed points put forth earlier by Bunker in his weekly summaries, was sent as CIA 9145, July 11. (Ibid.) Rostow summarized the recommendations of both men in lists which he sent to the President on July 12. (Ibid.)

2. No matter how many call me rosy optimist, I feel more confident than ever that at long last we are slowly but surely winning war of attrition in South. After fifteen months full-time on VN, including two months out here, I will stick to my guns despite more sceptical views SecDef and others who not as intimately familiar with myriad day-to-day details which add up to what really happening in VN. Moreover, after ten years as national estimator synthesizing all facets of various situations I have some experience at this business, as Walt Rostow can attest.

3. While other top brass here less willing go out on estimative limb than I, universal tenor of briefs to SecDef party one of sober optimism--even on electoral prospects. Westy clearly thinks we are winning military war. His real pitch is that the more you give him the faster he can reinforce success.

4. Regrettably our military have been their own worst enemies by succumbing in past to tendency build up enemy in order justify more troops. This has so added to press scepticism that when Westy told press two weeks ago that enemy losses probably exceeded crossover point in March and again in May, they wouldn't even print it.

5. Our own outdated figures are what convince press of stalemate. For example, no qualified observer--military or civilian--still holds to early 1966 vintage estimate that VC in-country recruiting averages 7000 per month. The new J-2's best guess is 3500, which would mean that with mounting losses we've inflicted on enemy in 1967 crossover point was reached some time ago. Yet until J-2 completes major study validating new figure,/3/ all official estimates are still based on old figure--thus daily widening credibility gap.

/3/See Document 397.

6. All here agree that VC visibly declining. This is becoming more and more of an NVA war. Main force war and even pacification going much better in II-IV Corps. But high level of conventional operations against NVA in I Corps obscures this picture of growing success in rest of country.

7. Now for NVA infiltration. Even if it remains as high as 6300 monthly average now estimated during 1966 there must be some reason why Hanoi doesn't put in even more in order prevent constant defeats it suffering. Answer probably lies in several factors which prevent Hanoi from supporting any larger force in South. One of these is undoubtedly our bombing of North. SecDef keeps pointing out that bombing hasn't stopped infiltration. But it equally valid to say that bombing plus logistic difficulties do in fact place some kind of ceiling on Hanoi's ability infiltrate South. Thus if we can keep grinding down VC/NVA, while preventing Hanoi from further buildup in SVN, Hanoi will be increasingly behind eight ball.

8. This factor, plus impressive air briefings for McNamara on sharply higher pain level we inflicting on NVN during last few months good weather, suggests that continued bombing of North desirable complement to military effort in South.

9. Another major change in situation is that our cutting off of seaborne coastal infiltration routes has forced Hanoi rely on much more difficult Laos-Cambodian corridor. Thus Bunker, Westy, and I see strong case for raids against Laos routes. It could reduce need for more US troops. We not talking here about seizing ground or employing US forces. Combination of continued bombing, the new barrier, and raids into Laos offers real hope of limiting NVA infiltration, thus complementing our growing attrition of southern VC.

10. Though McNamara still sceptical on pacification, I feel in much better position than he to see that we finally making some progress, with every prospect doing better given sizable and growing investment we at long last putting into it. True, countryside still insecure and infrastructure/guerillas still everywhere. But no one who sees as much as I do would deny that we doing much better than last year.

11. Biggest worry out here (and I won't downplay it) is that election will go sour. Thieu/Ky are running scared--because of Big Minh as much as civilians--which increases risk they'll rig elections. We can't live with a sham election, partly because resulting regime would simply be so lacking in popular support that it would be under constant pressure. Hence we must weigh in heavily (and publicly as means of pressuring Ky/Thieu) for reasonably fair election. If a civilian wins, I think we could live with him--and surely prevent military coup. Whatever happens, new regime will probably be even less effective than present one, largely because new Senate/Assembly will play independent role.

12. Provided we can make sure elections not a sham, and can sustain present military pressure, enemy summer/fall offensive will prove even more a fizzle than last year. This could lead Hanoi to rethink whether it can really afford to wait us out through 1968 elections. Even if it decides to outwait us, I am convinced that by mid-1968 we will be so visibly winning that even press here won't be able to deny it. Therefore I recommend:

A. Keep bombing North through remaining few months of good weather. Hold off pause or cutback to 20 degrees until fall, when onset monsoon will force some diminution anyway. I fear military would scream publicly if we cut back just when they claim they're finally getting results.

B. Allow up to brigade size ARVN raids into Laos as added means getting at infiltration routes.

C. Whatever added US forces you decide to give Westy, put positive public face on it. Also get him to say it's enough for now by promising to let him reargue case later if necessary.

D. Keep heat on to revamp ARVN. Westy has made real progress, but a lot more is possible and will reduce US troop needs.

E. Tell us in spades we'd better make sure elections clean. Add your own oral message to Thieu/Ky. If you authorize in time, McNamara could tell him Tuesday.

13. Above hasty thumbnail sketch adds up to my judgment that, wasteful and painful though it is, our massive investment out here is finally beginning to pay off. Will gladly elaborate at length in person but hope you will protect my candor.

 

235. Telegram From the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Saigon, July 11, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. This telegram was passed to Read under cover of a July 11 memorandum by George W. Allen, Vietnamese Affairs Staff, CIA, who noted that it was received at 5:45 a.m. (Ibid.)

CAS 9117. "For the Secretary of State from Ambassador Bunker.

"1. I have carefully examined the implications of recent political developments here culminating in the filing of the Thieu/Ky Presidential slate and their consequences in terms of U.S. interests. The Thieu/Ky alliance, however shotgun, removed the threat of a rancorous political fight within the military establishment during the election campaign, and this, in the long run, should prove a substantial net gain. Both men appear able and willing to keep their respective military supporters in line and handle the residual restiveness in both camps. It is unfortunate that the ticket lacks the civilian element we had hoped the military slate would have and we recognize that, if the Thieu/Ky slate wins, the charge will inevitably be made that the election process has done little but formalize present arrangements. Nonetheless, in the likely event that Thieu and Ky do win, the need for serious and significant civilian participation can be met through inclusion of civilian elements in the campaign, in the new government, and through the development of organized civilian support which can evolve in the direction of a broadly-based national party.

"2. It seems to me that a Thieu/Ky victory is probable and, more important, that it can be achieved in a reasonably honest manner in an honest electoral contest. Furthermore, in light of political realities here, I believe an honest victory by the Thieu/Ky slate would be in our national interests and would facilitate the effective prosecution of the many difficult tasks which we and the GVN face in a variety of spheres. The problem is to keep the election honest and to keep the military slate's campaign moving in acceptable fashion in the proper directions.

"3. All factors considered, I feel the best way to address this problem is to have [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] embark on a modest [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] political action and advisory effort with General Ky. Thieu [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]/2/ has informed Ky that he (Thieu) has neither a campaign organization nor plans for an election platform and said that he will rely on Ky to take the initiative in these matters. At their 10 July meeting, Ky informed his [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] contact that he was undecided whether to take the initiative in waging the campaign, or sit on his hands and allow the ticket to be defeated. I believe we should encourage Ky to act, but guide his actions and influence their directions in the manner outlined below. Using the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] channel, I am passing word to Ky encouraging him to campaign energetically. In addition, within the framework of the Department's message of 30 June via CAS,/3/ I am authorizing [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to proceed with a modest [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] program as outlined below.

/2/Not found.

/3/Document 224.

"4. A [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] channel for a continuing exchange of views with Ky (and hence a secure means of getting our advice to him) has been established. Ky has selected as his representative an individual whom he trusts implicitly, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], whose contact role will not be known to other members of Ky's entourage, and whose past experience does not include undue association with Americans. I am satisfied that this channel can be kept [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and that the risk of using it is acceptable. I plan to use it for the following purposes:

"A. To provide us with a comprehensive view of the GVN's campaign strategy and tactics and a means of influencing them.

"B. To monitor the evolution of the Ky/Thieu relationship. The last-minute creation of their joint ticket under stress-filled conditions has obviously made for an uneasy balance between these two rivals. Through the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] channel (and other [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] assets), we should receive early warnings of any serious rift developing between Ky and Thieu that could affect their continued candidacy or the election process itself.

"C. Through this channel, we can exert continuing pressure to insure that the military slate does not employ politically counterproductive campaign tactics, and that the government keeps its promise of affording equal transportation, communication, and other support services to the civilian candidates. Any abuses of military, police, or bureaucratic elements in the furtherance of the Thieu/Ky ticket can be brought immediately and forcefully to Ky's attention for immediate action.

"D. A properly-drafted platform for the campaign can go far beyond the simple and immediate objectives of voter appeal. Using this channel to provide platform guidance and advice will enable us to shape the position taken on questions of domestic and international importance (e.g., national reconciliation) and keep the military slate moving toward the democratic objectives we would want to see realized in Vietnam.

"E. In recent months, Ky and his immediate circle of Vietnamese advisors have laid the groundwork for an alliance composed of various Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, and VNQDD segments. This alliance has the potential for becoming a civilian group taking an active role in the campaign and attenuating the image of the Thieu/Ky slate as a military monolith. After the election, this group could conceivably evolve into the kind of genuine, broad political party Vietnam urgently needs. This [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] channel could be used to monitor and guide the development of this organization in ways that will civilianize a Thieu/Ky government and facilitate the creation of a true political party.

"4. The above program is one of guidance and advice in return for information and influence. I am not proposing that we support Ky's campaign in any substantial material way, although by separate message I shall request modest financial support for the rather hopeful effort described in paragraph 3E above. In addition I believe it will be desirable, quite independently of this effort with Ky, to give a limited degree of financial support to certain candidates for the new Vietnamese legislature, and will cover these in the separate message also./4/ I believe that the program we are undertaking with Ky, supplemented by modest [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] support to some worthwhile parliamentary candidates, will help us along the road to healthy democratic government in South Vietnam."

/4/Not further identified.

 

236. Memorandum for Record/1/

Saigon, July 11, 1967, 11:05 a.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Kissinger--1967. Secret. Prepared by General Wheeler on July 13 in Washington on letterhead of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In Wheeler's covering memorandum to Bundy, July 14, he wrote in part: "The interesting thing, in my judgment, was that neither Thieu nor Ky appeared to be particularly interested in the out of country bombing campaign."

1. At 1105 hours on 11 July 1967, Secretary McNamara, Secretary Katzenbach, Ambassador Bunker, General Abrams and I met with Chief of State Thieu, Premier Ky, General Vien, Ambassador Bui Diem and Foreign Minister Do in the Presidential Palace. Secretary McNamara led off by expressing greetings from President Johnson and his pleasure at the actions taken to maintain unity among Vietnamese military leaders at this time of upcoming elections. He went on to say that we must create and maintain an environment for free and honest elections. President Johnson wished him to express his strong support for the GVN and the war effort; however, there must be unity of effort and it must be made clear to the world that the elections are free and honest./2/ General Thieu responded that they on their side appreciated the opportunity for frank discussions. The GVN seeks better ways to work together. He added that they would like to know what subjects our party wished to discuss.

/2/In telegram CAP 67727 to McNamara, the President wrote: "If you and Nick concur, I would like you to see Ky and Thieu, either separately or together--as you and Ambassador Bunker may judge wise--and tell them in my name: (1) I am glad that they have honored their commitment volunteered to me at Guam for the military to stay together in the election process and I count on them continuing; and (2) It is absolutely essential to my ability to continue to back the struggle for South Vietnamese independence and self determination that the election be conducted with complete honesty and fairness, and that this honesty and fairness be apparent to all. Since I have always dealt with them together, I think it would be good if this message were delivered to them together. But I leave that decision in your hands." (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Vietnam Files: FRC 77-0075, Vietnam--(July and August 1967))

2. Secretary McNamara stated that the upcoming elections were really the most important subject before us. He called on Secretary Katzenbach to comment and the latter stated that US attitudes and support will be influenced by news media reports concerning the elections. If the reports are favorable, the burden on President Johnson will be lightened. Therefore, it is most important that the elections be honest. Thieu answered that they could assure us as to the unity of the Vietnamese forces. He and Ky are now joined together on one ticket as a symbol of the unity of the VNAF, even though two military men on the same ticket is not politically the wisest course of action. Indeed, the fact that they are on the same slate makes them (Thieu and Ky) even more anxious than before to have free and honest elections.

3. Secretary McNamara expressed his satisfaction with Thieu's response and stated that he would so report to the President. He then referred to recent statements by Thieu and Ky relative to negotiations with Hanoi and/or the NLF. He posed the following question: Are you receptive to peace talks after the elections? Thieu replied that the GVN has good will. After the elections they will be in a stronger position to talk; however, much will depend on the attitudes of Hanoi.

4. Mr. McNamara then raised the requirement to make more effective use of Vietnamese forces. On the GVN side, they must improve the Regional Forces and the Popular Forces and leadership over-all. He understood that the GVN is considering expanding their forces. This would be done, he had been told, by expanding the draft and lowering the draft age. They should understand that President Johnson has difficult problems arising from increasing US forces in Vietnam unless and until full use is made of the VNAF and its effectiveness is maximized. General Vien referred Mr. McNamara to the COMUSMACV briefings on programs to improve leadership. He stated that he had asked General Westmoreland for more advisors for Regional and Popular Forces. He believes that in some cases Province Chiefs have misused Regional and Popular Forces. In any event, he thought that with more US advisors and with implementation of current programs, the situation would be improved.

5. At Mr. McNamara's request to Ambassador Bunker concerning any other problems being raised, the Ambassador suggested discussing the exchange rates. Mr. McNamara then stated that he had great difficulty justifying to the US Congress the official exchange rate of 80 piasters to the dollar when individuals can obtain 118 piasters for a dollar. This problem is, of course, complex and he did not suggest that they discuss it at this time. However, he requested that the GVN study the problem of equalizing exchange rates in the near future./3/

/3/See Document 114.

6. A part of the discussion having been about increasing the effectiveness of the VNAF, when I was asked for my comments, I stated that VNAF troop units generally are under strength. I suggested that the quickest and most effective way of increasing the combat capability of the VNAF would be to keep troop units up to strength. General Vien replied that he is trying to do this, but was having problems related to the output of training camps and the casualty rate. General Vien then raised as a problem the adverse effect of the use of Cambodian territory as a sanctuary by the NVA and the Viet Cong forces. He stated that it is well known that the North Vietnamese Army units in II Corps are being supplied with food and ammunition from Cambodia. In his judgment, we must take action against these enemy forces. (There was no comment from the American side.)

7. Thieu asked if there are any signs that Hanoi wants to negotiate after the elections. Secretary McNamara responded that he really didn't know. He pointed out, however, that a number of North Vietnamese Ambassadors have been recently recalled to Hanoi. He conjectured that they would discuss with Hanoi leaders military and political futures. He asked Thieu if the Vietnamese had any information on this subject. Thieu responded simply "no."

8. Thieu then asked if it were true that the main military targets in North Vietnam had been destroyed./4/ Secretary McNamara stated that the war effort is supported from out of country; therefore, our bombing campaign has not been able to do other than reduce and obstruct the movement of war supporting matériel in North Vietnam. Nevertheless, this was not to say that the destruction of targets in North Vietnam has not hurt the North Vietnamese. About 80% of air effort has been directed at lines of communication. We estimate that some 500,000 men have been diverted to the maintenance of LOC's, air defense, etc. This is a very heavy price for a country such as North Vietnam to pay. Secretary Katzenbach intervened to say that North Vietnam is, in his judgment, making more mistakes recently than before. He considers that this is an encouraging factor.

/4/This was really a double-barreled question, the other part being whether or not we would undertake a bombing pause (main targets having been destroyed) to induce negotiations. McN responded to this in low key, saying that we would not want to stop the air campaign in such a way as to get ourselves into a Korean-type [following words illegible]. [Handwritten footnote in the source text by Wheeler.]

9. Thieu then asked if there had been indications at Glassboro that Kosygin would be helpful in seeking an end to the war. Mr. McNamara responded that Kosygin had come to the US to salvage Soviet face as a result of the debacle in the Middle East; he was in no mood to agree to put pressure on Hanoi leaders; however, President Johnson had been able to put across to Kosygin that the US is committed to the freedom of South Vietnam. Of course, US objectives are, in fact, limited, but we intend to reach those objectives; namely, a situation such that the South Vietnamese can choose their own way of life.

10. The conference adjourned at 1200 hours for lunch.

Earle G. Wheeler
Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff

 

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

Saigon, July 12, 1967, 1101Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Received at 10:35 a.m. The notation "L" on a covering note from Rostow to the President, July 12, 7:45 p.m., indicates that the President saw the telegram. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8B(1)[A], Bunker's Weekly Report to the President) This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 78-85.

893. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my eleventh weekly telegram.

A. General.

1. Secretary McNamara, Under Secretary Katzenbach, and their colleagues left yesterday afternoon after a five-day visit which included an intensive series of briefings and field trips. For me and my colleagues here, both civilian and military, this has proved to be an extremely useful exercise. It gave us an opportunity to review our objectives, to appraise what progress we may have made, where we have gone wrong, and to come up with definite proposals for future action and for accelerating the pace of progress here. It has been valuable to us also in providing a more intimate view of the Washington picture, and the problems you are facing there, for through contacts of this kind one can get a feel for the situation which telegraphic communications do not convey. Finally, meetings such as this help us to crystallize our thinking and force us to come to definite conclusions as to what new and definite steps we should undertake to get on with the job.

2. As a result of the meetings, I believe that Bob McNamara, Nick Katzenbach, and my senior colleagues and I have come to a meeting of the minds on how we ought to proceed in reinforcing the success we have already had here. They will be reporting to you, of course, in detail on the meetings and of our conclusions. I will therefore only summarize here what I believe are some of the more salient points:/2/

/2/According to a notation on the telegram, paragraphs A and B were deleted from all copies except those sent to the White House, the Under Secretary, and the Secretary of Defense.

A. That we should provide General Westmoreland with the number of maneuver battalions available without calling up the Reserves. Bob McNamara has indicated that he could provide up to 21 battalions.

B. Maintain our bombing of North Viet-Nam through the remaining months of good weather. We can then decide whether to cut back to the 20th parallel and whether we then think a pause to test out Hanoi's intentions would be advisable. The onset of unfavorable weather would provide the basis for a rationale for a decision on these points.

C. That we should intensify our efforts at interdiction of infiltration by the enemy in Laos through application of the measures envisaged in Illinois City and Compatriot. We should also allow brigade size ARVN raids into Laos. As I have mentioned in previous messages, I realize the political sensitivity of operations in Laos but I also feel that if necessary we should go beyond these proposed steps to choke off enemy infiltration, for I believe this is the crux of the military problem here. Since I have covered this in some detail in previous messages I will not repeat here the suggestion I have already made.

D. Continuing efforts to improve the ARVN/RF/PF. General Westmoreland has already an intensive program underway which I have previously reported in some detail. Considerable improvement in performance is already evident but much remains to be done, especially with the RF/PF forces; and also with ARVN's role in pacification. Secretary McNamara brought up the matter in our talks with Chairman Thieu, Prime Minister Ky and General Vien yesterday. They recognized the need for improvement. Ky said that the RF/PF especially needed better leadership and better living conditions to improve morale. The military and the civil service have been the chief sufferers from inflation while laborers and farmers have to a degree benefitted from full employment, increased pay and prices for farm products.

E. The maximum use of manpower and its more effective utilization. We are agreed that after the elections mobilization will be necessary. As I have mentioned previously, Ambassador Locke has this whole problem under intensive study. Secretary McNamara made it clear in our talks yesterday with Thieu and Ky that maximum use of RVN manpower and its more effective utilization was a prerequisite to the deployment of greater U.S. or free world forces.

F. Speeding up of pacification. Bob Komer will be reporting to you in detail on what is being done here. Although progress to date may have seemed rather slow, I am frankly encouraged, not only by the progress already made, but by the improved prospects which our own reorganization of our advisory and supporting role promise. Through it I am confident that we shall be able to bring greater emphasis and leverage to bear on the Vietnamese role, for no matter how efficient the organization of our role may be, unless the Vietnamese carry the main burden, the program cannot succeed. As Ky said in our talks yesterday, pacification really means nation-building and this is a big job, especially in wartime. But he also expressed confidence that their part in it would become increasingly effective. In this connection, it is encouraging that he mentioned a fact on which Gene Locke, Bob Komer and I are all agreed, that the Province Chief is a vitally important element in the process. He expressed dissatisfaction with the present quality of incumbents and is planning on setting up a training center for Province Chiefs and replacement of those who are unsatisfactory. He also expressed the view that Province Chiefs should have control of the ARVN/RF/PF forces assigned to pacification and should also have direct access to the central government instead of having to go through the Division and Corps Commanders as at present. We here are all in agreement on this also. General Thieu expressed a differing view, feeling that the Division Commander should have more responsibility for pacification.

G. The necessity that elections should be fair and honest. Secretary McNamara expressed very clearly and explicitly the importance you attach to the holding of fair and honest elections. He emphasized strongly the fact that unless the elections were free and fair public opinion in the U.S. undoubtedly will be adversely affected and this in turn would affect the support which the Vietnamese are receiving from the U.S. and other free world countries. As you know, I also have repeatedly stressed these points to Thieu and Ky. I hope and believe that this repeated emphasis is having some effect, but as I mentioned in last week's message/3/ the unfolding electoral process will have to have our close attention until the elections are concluded. One good sign is the general feeling that censorship, police harassment, and the pressures on the civil service to support the military candidate are greatly reduced. There is also general relief that the military have closed ranks and can now concentrate on fighting the Viet Cong instead of one another.

/3/See footnote 2, Document 232.

H. Economic stability and measures to restrain inflation. We are agreed on the need for a study of means for preventing an unacceptable degree of inflation while permitting an increase in military manpower and the initiation of other priority measures.

3. Some other points which came out of our meetings with Thieu, Ky and General Vien yesterday were:

A. On ARVN/RF/PF: Ky and General Vien advocated an increase in force levels of 65,000, lowering the draft age to 18 and extending the length of service. Discharges have been stopped. This will mean that 40,000 men who would have been otherwise eligible to discharge will be retained. This has been done administratively on the basis that additional forces will be needed to provide protection during the electoral process.

B. Ky and Vien believe that the Communists may try for one big victory before elections, that they will increase attacks on the pacification program, and attempt to disrupt the elections at the village and hamlet level.

C. They believe that the first three months of the new government will be a testing time for the new regime. During this period the Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Army will continue an intensified series of attacks but it will also be an opportunity to strengthen the government in South Vietnam by broadening its base, and an opportunity to convince the Viet Cong that a military victory is impossible.

D. On the question of negotiations, Ky emphasized the fact that the Government of Vietnam was willing to talk to Hanoi at any time but that an elected government would be in a stronger position to do so. This should be done at the "proper time" with adequate preparation. Ky mentioned the fact that two years ago the Government of Vietnam was "talking about going North," a year ago about two Vietnams, and now could talk about how to end the war. Thieu asked whether Secretary McNamara had information as to whether the main military targets in North Vietnam had been destroyed and if therefore a cessation of bombing would be an inducement to negotiations. The Secretary pointed out that we did not yet have enough information on this score and that except for manpower the North Vietnamese war-making potential was really not located in North Vietnam, but came from outside sources. He mentioned the fact that one thing we would not want to do is to get into Korean-type negotiations which continued for two years during which hostilities also continued. He pointed out that our losses were heavier during the negotiating period than preceding it.

4. Ambassador Locke will have reported to you in very considerable detail on plans and programs underway and contemplated in the military, manpower, pacification, economic and political areas. I concur in his observations and recommendations. I may add that all of us here--Gene Locke, Westy, Bob Komer, and I, together with our senior advisors, General Abrams, Don MacDonald, Barry Zorthian, John Hart and Arch Calhoun--are all working very closely together, keep in the closest contact and are in general agreement on how we ought to proceed. I am really very pleased with the way in which the organization is functioning here.

B. Political.

5. After the rather frantic political activity leading up to the filing deadline for both presidential and senatorial candidates, we are now in a bit of a lull. The principal candidates, including Thieu and Ky, are quietly assessing the meaning of the Thieu-Ky merger and the Big Minh bid. They are also looking over the Senate lists, most of which were put together with such haste that the political implications and ramifications are only now beginning to emerge.

6. Thus at a luncheon I had for the Under Secretary, the principal civilian candidates were in a rather relaxed mood. I gathered from them and from a number of other reports that they are rather more optimistic as a result of the Thieu-Ky merger. Their reaction to Big Minh's candidacy is cautious, but I believe they are for the most part hoping that the Assembly will decide to disqualify him.

7. There is considerable skepticism expressed by many of our contacts that Thieu and Ky will be able to work effectively in the future. Although some of these predictions are politically motivated and should be viewed as such, I feel, as I point out later, that we must recognize that the new arrangement places strains on their relationship which could cause us problems in the future.

8. The candidacy of Big Minh is the major unresolved political question at the moment. On July 6 General Cao Van Vien and all four of the Corps Commanders sent to the Assembly a joint complaint against Minh's candidacy, referring to the decision of the Armed Forces Council against permitting Minh to return on grounds of national security./4/

/4/ In telegram 418 from Saigon, July 6, Bunker reported that the Generals' complaint was based on reasons of "national security." Minh had been barred from returning to Vietnam after his June 28 announcement in Thailand that he would campaign for the Presidency. Minh's supporters requested that he be allowed to return by July 15. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S) In telegram 519 from Saigon, July 7, Bunker recommended against any overt American involvement in the Minh issue, since he foresaw "no reason to intervene and many reasons not to get involved." (Ibid.) The Department demurred, however, arguing that the "denial of Minh's candidacy in our view so deeply affects the election process that we believe we have a legitimate reason for entering into discussions about it with the [South Vietnamese] leaders." (Telegram 3374 to Saigon, July 8; ibid.)

9. Also on July 6 a citizen filed a complaint against Minh's running mate, Tran Ngoc Lieng, on the grounds that Lieng once held both French and Vietnamese citizenship. (The Constitution provides that candidates must have Vietnamese citizenship from birth, but says nothing about dual citizenship.) If Lieng is disqualified, Big Minh would automatically be eliminated from the race./5/

/5/Telegram 899 from Saigon, July 12, reported that according to a member of the election committee, the case against Minh "was supported by no documentation whatsoever" and that Lieng did in fact qualify as a Vietnamese citizen under the provisions of the Franco-Vietnamese convention of 1955. (Ibid.)

10. The top military leaders appear to be united in their opposition to Big Minh's candidacy; they are now on public record against it, and their prestige is thus engaged. In the past when the military leadership stood together on important issues, their influence on the Assembly was usually decisive. Assembly Chairman Phan Khac Suu has also told us that he is opposed to Big Minh's candidacy.

11. The issue is now before the Central Election Council and we are inclined to believe that it will find against him. If it does, the decision will be reviewed by the Assembly. There is considerable reluctance to take responsibility for the decision, however, and if a plausible legal case can be made against either Big Minh or his running mate, the decision would likely be much easier for both the Council and the Assembly.

12. If the Council and the Assembly should decide to throw out the complaint against Minh, the military would probably still try to stick to their decision to keep him out of the country. Press reports from Bangkok quote Minh as saying he is determined to "appear" in Saigon soon, one way or another, and there have been hints that he would try to slip back into the country secretly if the military continue to bar his return. This would pose a hard problem for the present military leadership, and the results would be difficult to predict.

13. I continue to think that Minh's candidacy could pose a serious threat to military unity. His bid for the presidency might also divide the nation in other ways. The Catholics are strongly opposed to his candidacy and would probably react vigorously if he continued to be a candidate. He has some Buddhist support, and while this strength is difficult to gauge, it could turn out to be enough to threaten a revival of religious tension and even open religious conflict such as that which erupted between Catholics and Buddhists in 1964. Thus, the Minh candidacy appears to me to pose a clear threat to the essential degree of political stability without which we cannot get further progress toward democratic government in this country.

14. The candidacy of Au Truong Thanh, the former Minister of Economy, is in quite another category./6/ We judge that he has very little support. If he is barred from running, there will be no significant popular reaction. If he is allowed to run, he will get few votes. Tran Van Huong has said flatly that he thinks Thanh is working with the Viet Cong and Ha Thuc Ky has also made it clear that he has no use for Thanh. Ha Thuc Ky, in fact, alleges that Thanh filed for the presidency mainly in order to avoid arrest for his leftist connections. The Catholic press has vigorously attacked his "peace-at-any-price" statements.

/6/Thanh ran on a peace platform calling for an end to military action and immediate negotiations. He was accused by the GVN of Viet Cong sympathies. In telegram 3372 to Saigon, July 8, the Department decried the effort to disqualify Thanh as "exceedingly dubious." (Ibid.) In a July 11 memorandum to Rusk, Harriman recommended that Bunker "take a firm stand on this issue with Ky, Thieu and members of the National Assembly pointing out that our good name as well as that of the GVN is at stake." (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Subject File, Bundy, William P. 1963-68)

15. The complaint against Thanh's candidacy was filed by an Assembly Deputy, Diep Van Hung, on the grounds that Thanh has had Communist connections in the past. (The electoral law bars those who "have directly or indirectly worked for Communist or pro-Communist neutralism or worked in the interests of Communism.") Hung claims that Thanh joined the Communist Party in 1952 and notes that he was arrested in 1954 and again in 1959 for activities which aided the Communists.

16. On July 7 the police held a press conference in connection with the arrest of some intellectuals charged with working with the Viet Cong. According to some press reports, Thanh was linked to those arrested and to the "intellectual proselytizing section of the Saigon Viet Cong organization."

17. While we have no hard evidence that Thanh is or was a Communist or "pro-Communist neutralist," he has certainly had many connections with the far left and near Communist factions in the past. Whatever his motives, he is now clearly trying to exploit the longing for peace in an irresponsible way. His campaign handout sheets (in themselves a violation of the electoral law) are without exception printed in both English and Vietnamese. This indicates to me that one of his targets--if not the main one--is the American press. Unfortunately, he has found a receptive audience in some correspondents.

18. I believe the precise terms of the Thieu-Ky alliance are still being defined and sorted out. This is likely to continue for some time. If they are elected, it will be a principal and crucial problem at the outset of the new government.

19. General Thang on July 6 told Lansdale that to the best of his knowledge there is only a vague understanding between Thieu and Ky on their future relationship. Thang said that when this subject came up during the final hours of deciding the Thieu-Ky coalition, Thieu indicated that Ky would have a large say in the Cabinet and Vietnamese armed forces appointments "because we are brothers in a family." However, we have a CIA report, the source of which is Ky himself, that says that Ky's future powers were spelled out in a July 6 written agreement between Thieu and Ky. According to this report, Ky must approve all important government decisions, in particular those dealing with major military matters and efforts to end the war. He is also to have the power to name the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. If this report is accurate, knowledge of the agreement is apparently limited to a very small group of officers. I shall be trying to run this down in the next few days. If not already done, I think it important that a definite understanding should be reached between Thieu and Ky on their respective roles, and that we should exert our influence to bring this about.

20. The Thieu-Ky merger has not pleased some of Ky's supporters. General Loan is known to be quite unhappy about the arrangement. Some of Ky's Catholic supporters in the Greater Solidarity Force are now reportedly hesitating to get behind the combined slate. CVT (trade unions) labor leader Tran Quoc Buu yesterday told an Embassy officer that the slate is now "too military," and it is too early to decide whether or not the CVT should back Thieu-Ky. It is probably not at all surprising that the main civilian candidates should be saying that the Thieu-Ky ticket is weaker than the Ky-Loc slate, but they are saying it with a good deal of conviction.

21. While most of the major candidates are still organizing their campaigns, some of them have also sketched out some platform ideas. We know that Ky intended to run on the record of his government, with promises of further economic and political progress if elected. Probably this will also be the basic line of the Thieu-Ky platform.

[Here follows discussion of economic and military conditions.]

Bunker

 

238. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, July 12, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings, 7/12/67. Top Secret; Literally Eyes Only. The notes were presented to the President as a memorandum from Tom Johnson at 7:30 p.m. There is an indication on the notes that the President saw them. According to the President's Daily Diary, the meeting was held in the Cabinet Room and lasted from 1:05 to 2:38 p.m. It was followed by a luncheon, 2:50-3:40 p.m., of which no record has been found. (Ibid.) Rostow prepared an agenda/outline for the 1 p.m. meeting, "Meeting With President on Vietnam," July 12. (Ibid., National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Meetings with the President, July-Dec. 1967) In addition to the participants who spoke at the meeting, Rostow, McPherson, and Tom Johnson attended. Afterward, McNamara held a press conference during which he stated: "I think some more U.S. military personnel will be required. I am not sure how many. I am certain of one thing: that we must use more effectively the personnel that are presently there." See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 942-944.

Notes from Meeting of the President with Secretary McNamara to Review the Secretary's Findings during Vietnam Trip

Secretary McNamara said he "reviewed all aspects of operations in Vietnam, economic, political and military."

On the economic front he reported:

--Progress was measurable since his last trip.
--The port situation was operating smoothly.
--The import situation has stabilized.
--Threat of "run away" inflation has been reduced.

The Secretary said that the number of barges which have been backed up in ports because of poor port operations had been reduced from 800 on his last trip to 30-40 on this trip.

On the political front, the Secretary reported:

--The "greatest danger" is facing us.
--A possible split between Ky and Thieu.
--There is "no real accommodation" between the two men.
--There is no real division of responsibility between the two men.
--Ky is restive, wants more authority.
--There currently is no means for Ky to attain authority.
--Ky may not support the ticket in the upcoming elections.

On the personnel area, the Secretary reported:

--The Embassy is operating "the best I have seen it."
--Bunker is in full control.
--Bunker and his staff are effective in dealing with Ky and Thieu.
--The senior military leadership is strong.
--Komer and his pacification program have exceeded expectations.
--Komer has motivated his people quite well.

On the military front, the Secretary reported:

--Operations are proceeding well.
--Reports on the scene are better than press reports at home.
--There is reason to expect significant military losses by the Viet Cong in coming months.
--"There is not a military stalemate."
--Long stretches of highways have been opened for travel and feeder roads are opening up.

On the pacification subject, the Secretary reported:

--There has been progress.
--The progress has exceeded his expectations.
--The progress is slow however.
--The Secretary expects nothing dramatic in the next six months.

On the military operations, the Secretary proposed that:

--There should be an increase to battalion size operations in Laos.
--U.S. forces must watch Cambodia and the infiltration routes in that area.

Secretary McNamara said the President had asked Secretary Katzenbach and him to ensure the need for complete unity among the South Vietnamese military leadership and emphasize that the elections must be free and honest.

Secretary McNamara: Ky and Thieu are of the attitude that they will do what we want them to do on the matter of negotiations. He said the U.S. will have no trouble with Ky and Thieu if bona fide negotiations have to be tied to stopping of the bombing in North Vietnam. He said, however, they would not settle for a Korean-type negotiation.

Secretary McNamara said the press in Vietnam is in a "very bad mood." They are cynical, skeptical and think we have a military stalemate. They believe pacification is at a standstill. They view the election with cynicism and skepticism. Secretary McNamara said Ambassador Bunker anticipates a bad press for the next six months.

Secretary McNamara said the press in Vietnam believes that the war isn't worth the price we are incurring. They believe the people to be corrupt. They believe that the Vietnamese Government cannot be stabilized politically.

Secretary Katzenbach made the following points on the press:

--He agreed with Secretary McNamara.
--The press does not feel the Vietnamese are doing their part of the job.
--Press feels that corruption is getting worse and worse.
--Press is cynical about the elections because they believe the same government will continue in office.
--He said many of the correspondents have "been out there too long."

On the subject of additional troops, Secretary McNamara reported:

--General Westmoreland and his staff want 100,000 troops.
--The General and his staff believe that we will continue to make progress without that large a number but that the progress will continue at a slower than optimum rate.

If U.S. troops tighten up, Secretary McNamara said "we can get by with less."

--There is some waste and slippage.
--Westmoreland and his people agree there is some slippage.
--McNamara said U. S. could put civilians in military jobs, particularly in construction battalions and by asking the Koreans to send more troops to support their 21 battalions which are currently in Vietnam.
--McNamara said 5,000 troops could be picked up by substituting Koreans for U. S. troops who currently are in support of Korean units.
--The South Vietnamese could do more by:

a. Extending tours of service beyond the current three-year requirement.
b. Reduce draft ages from 20 to 18.

The Australians, Thais, Koreans, New Zealanders and Filipinos should be asked to carry more of their share of the burden. The Secretary said he was referring to combat troops.

On the subject of morale, the Secretary reported that he is more impressed than ever by the U. S. forces there. He said that morale is superb and their fighting ability highly effective.

On the subject of food, the Secretary reported that there are no problems. The food is excellent. Men in remote combat units receive two hot meals per day.

On the medical front, the Secretary reported that there were absolutely no problems. He said the units are well equipped and that the supplies and medical items exceeded demand.

The Secretary said there were no shortages of clothes or other personal equipment items.

The Secretary's only suggestion for equipment change was for more Marine ground equipment. He said the field commanders would like more helicopters, but pointed out that during this year U. S. forces will add 800 more helicopters than U. S. forces will lose.

The Secretary said that there were two serious technical problems:

--Night vision is the single biggest problem. New technology is being developed, but nothing yet has offered any major breakthrough.

--There is poor targeting at night because of the night vision problem. Night air missions are primarily "noisy" because they often fail to hit the targets.

--Pacification is a serious problem because it is difficult to detect who is a Viet Cong and who is not. On this, the Secretary said the current means of identifying individuals and their loyalties is, at best, "sloppy."

On the subject of re-enlistments, the Secretary reported:

--Re-enlistments are higher than expected.
--Military advisors turn over more rapidly than we would like.
--The senior officers complain because they want their families with them. This is the reason many want to return home rather than re-enlist.

On the subject of R and R (rest and relaxation), the Secretary reported:

--There is very little.
--For the average combat unit their mission requires them to be in the field 7 days a week, 12 months of the year with only a 5 day out-of-the-country leave and some time back at base camp.

On corruption in Vietnam, the Secretary reported:

--It is widespread
--We do not have an effective program to counter it.

On psychological warfare, the Secretary reported:

--The program is not well managed.
--The forces are seeking to improve it.

On the bombing policy, the Secretary reported:

--The commanders want no restrictions.
--The commanders want an intensification and escalation of the bombing.
--The commanders want to mine the port areas.
--The military commanders want to attack the port areas.
--The military leaders would like to attack further the industrial base of Vietnam.

On bombing policy, the Secretary said that the military commanders think there have been much more results since the Secretary's last trip. The Secretary said he did not agree.

The Secretary said "we have destroyed more, but what we destroyed has less effect on the war effort in the South."

The Secretary said bombing of railways has had less effect because the capacity of the rail lines is greater than the flow requirements. He said that what has been destroyed in rail targeting also has had very little effect on the war in the south.

The Secretary said that the Air Commanders are doing a good job on tactical air programs. The Air Commanders want to reduce the circles of restriction around Hanoi and Haiphong. They want to hit the ports with mines and "shoulder the ships out."

The Secretary reported that U. S. forces had wiped out about 80% of the power capacity in North Vietnam, but that the North Vietnamese are using mobile generators.

The Secretary reported he had talked with Ky and Thieu about:

--Lowering the draft age
--Extending service tours
--Improving current programs underway

The Secretary said that Ambassador Locke is preparing a manpower program to increase the effective use of Vietnamese power.

II./2/

/2/There is no "I." on the source text.

General Wheeler reported to the President:

--There is no military stalemate.
--There has been an unbroken series of military successes.
--The enemy continues to be off balance.
--The North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong continue their initiatives in the demilitarized zone and in the central highlands but these initiatives are being effectively countered.
--The Marines in the DMZ clobbered Viet Cong units last week killing 900 and forcing a pull back by the opposing forces.
--The logistical arrangements are excellent.
--There are no great military problems in sight.
--In the 2nd Corps area the military commander reported to General Wheeler that 86% of the population is under control by allied forces and 85% of the roads.
--In the Delta, slow progress is being made.
--There is evidence that the Viet Cong are getting very "low in the barrel" in their recruiting.
--13 to 16 year old kids have been found among the corpses of Viet Cong units in the South, indicating the difficulties being faced by the Viet Cong in replacing their manpower.
--The South Vietnamese Army units are "spotty."
--The South Vietnamese are under strength.

On the subject of U.S. forces, General Wheeler reported:

--The morale of the U.S. troops is absolutely superb.
--The performance of U.S. troops under adverse climatic conditions is excellent.
--A new drug has been developed which takes care of 50% of the severe malaria cases.
--A close watch is necessary to prevent severe cases of trench foot. (Wheeler said after 48 hours of wet conditions, it is necessary to pull the men out of their situation in order for them to dry their feet.)
--The medical units are doing an excellent job.

On the matter of bombing policy, General Wheeler reported:

--Disagreement with Secretary McNamara.
--During the good weather of the first half of 1967, substantial destruction has been taking place in water craft, trucks, and railroad strikes.
--The northern railroad lines have been hit hard.
--The northeast line was struck 92 times, closed for 3 days, and much shuttling was required.

General Wheeler recommended:

--That bombing restrictions around Hanoi be reduced to a 10 mile limit.
--That bombing restrictions around Haiphong be reduced to a 4 mile limit.
--No attacks on shipping were recommended.
--Armed aerial reconnaissance from the Chinese buffer zone on down was recommended.

General Wheeler pointed out that the Mark 36 weapons were being used effectively in inland waterways to interdict forces.

Secretary McNamara pointed out the Mark 36 can be adjusted and detonated by the movement of metal objects above it and is much more effective than mines of earlier periods.

General Wheeler summed up his report by saying:

--There is no stalemate.
--The morale of the men is outstanding.
--The performance of the Army of the South Vietnamese is fair and must be improved.
--The U.S. and the allies should continue maximum pressure. The method is unrelenting pressure.
--There has been steady progress.

III.

William Leonhart reported to the President that there is a strong need for more people in AID programs and in pacification effort. The President directed Secretary Katzenbach to see what could be done on this in conjunction with AID Director William Gaud.

IV.

On pacification, Robert Komer reported to the President:

--That he was more encouraged than when he left about pacification in general.
--That recruiting of Viet Cong seems to be very much a case of attrition.
--That a study under way indicated it would show that the Viet Cong are recruiting about 3500 a month compared to 7000 a month when a previous study on recruitment was made.
--That under these circumstances it was becoming more of a "classical war" where north versus south rather than a situation where there was strong internal conflict in the south by the Viet Cong against the South Vietnamese.
--U.S. and allied forces are imposing some sort of ceiling on the numbers of individuals who are infiltrating.

On the political front, Komer reported:

--There is a lower level of competence in the GVN.
--Komer said it is a situation where they are "smart crooks, rather than dumb honest men."
--Komer said "We may not be backing the right horse."
--He suggested that perhaps the U.S. should be supporting civilian candidates for the ticket rather than military candidates.
--Komer suggested that a civilian leadership would "get the military back into the battlefield where they belong."
--Civilians would be perhaps less corrupt although not necessarily more effective.
--Komer said he was discouraged by the political outlook.
--He said there must be a half decent government in Vietnam to back the pacification effort.
--He said a military leadership is better, though not much better.
--He said we need more U.S. advisors in a more direct U.S. role in directing the Vietnamese military.

V.

Clark Clifford pointed out that public sentiment in this country sometimes calls the Vietnamese conflict "the war that can't be won." He asked Secretary McNamara, is that true.

Secretary McNamara reported:

--U.S. units will continue to destroy the enemy's main forces units.
--There is a limit to what the enemy can send in to the South.
--The U.S. units are destroying a significant capacity of the large units.
--For the first time Secretary McNamara said he felt that if we follow the same program we will win the war and end the fighting.
--Hanoi is testing the unity and patience of the American people.

VI.

Richard Helms said an important issue which should be considered by all of the individuals in the room is what kind of political program should be after the elections. He said more consideration should be given to a political program by the Vietnamese which eventually will permit the withdrawal of U.S. forces and U.S. direction.

VII.

Reporting on his findings during the Vietnam trip, Secretary Katzenbach reported:

--U.S. and allied forces can win depending on the performance, if we get it, of the government of Vietnam.
--Ambassador Bunker has taken firm control. He knows what he is doing.
--The service time of U.S. civilian personnel out there must be extended.
--Many of the senior officials feel, as Secretary McNamara said, that they need their wives and families with them in order for them to stay in Vietnam longer.
--There is a need for more young political officers. In general, our policy has not been aggressive enough in getting these people in.

The President asked Secretary Katzenbach to undertake a complete study of this subject, and to arrange for a meeting with the President on this topic next week./3/ Secretary Katzenbach said we have got to get more people out there, but it is a very dirty, very risky job. He pointed out how inspired he was by a meeting with some of the political officers in the field.

/3/There is no record of any meeting between the President and Katzenbach during the next week. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)

Secretary Katzenbach said he would rate the U.S. effort in Vietnam as a "B" in many areas. He said the political situation was "hairy." Continuing his report, Secretary Katzenbach reported:

--Ky is bitter.
--The government could fall apart.
--There are only about two to three weeks left for the U.S. to work on the political situation.
--Katzenbach said that this government must be "guarantors" of an agreement between Ky and Thieu which will be mutually satisfying and agreeable to the two men.
--He said, personally, he would rate the U.S. support behind the two men (Ky and Thieu) rather than one of the others.

In summarizing, Secretary Katzenbach made these points:

--He agreed with General Wheeler that the military pressure must be kept on.
--He said he did not want to expand the military activities to bomb the harbors.
--He said he would go along with General Wheeler's recommendations for similar restrictions around Hanoi and Haiphong.
--He said he did not favor a pause in the bombing without a further indication from Hanoi of what it would do in return.
--He said this is not the point in time for a bombing pause.
--At some point, Katzenbach said we may have to call their bluff and do it.
--The pacification effort is slow. You cannot do it instantly.

The President asked about the pay of the Vietnamese forces. Secretary McNamara pointed out that it was very poor, particularly that of the popular forces. The President directed Secretary McNamara to make a full study of this. Secretary McNamara reported that one was already under way./4/

/4/Measures to address the necessary renovation of the RVNAF appeared in the report entitled "Manpower Mobilization," July 7, prepared by a task force chaired by Arthur M. Ross. On July 17 Locke forwarded it to Wheeler and Rostow. The Ross report recommended the development of a program for the mobilization of civilian and military personnel resources by the GVN, which until that time had no such program on a national scale. In addition, it criticized the current structure of the GVN's manpower planning organization, which was not integrated with national defense, economic, or social requirements. It cited the need to incorporate previously neglected groups, such as the Chinese, refugees, defectors, and Montagnards, and recommended the establishment of a comprehensive system of statistical management relating to mobilization. (Department of Defense, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 911/100 (17 Jul 67), IR #1734, and Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 2 G, Manpower Mobilization in Vietnam)

VIII.

Secretary Rusk said that compared with Greece, Berlin, the early days of 1942, that the Vietnamese war is "past that stage."

He said, "We are going to come through this thing." He pointed out that we must get the American people to realize that the U. S. forces are going to come through this.

IX.

The President said that there is an attitude in this country today that we are not doing all we should to get the war over as quickly as it should be.

The President said that although we have lost 10,000 men in Vietnam that he is constantly reminded that the North Vietnamese have lost more in 60 days than we have lost in the past 6 years. The President said we cannot get it over in 60 days but we must make every effort to try to do what we can.

The President said the U.S. people do think, perhaps, that the war cannot be won. The President said he was more frightened by this than by the Thieu-Ky difficulties. He pointed out that Ky has been Number One and Thieu Number Two for several years, and perhaps some accommodation can be reached with a division of responsibility.

The President said he agreed that we need more troops, but he urged his advisors to "shave it the best we can."

The President said he would be talking with General Westmoreland later today on the troop matter./5/ The President said that more men will have to be put in but the question of how many will be discussed with a number of people, including General Westmoreland.

/5/Westmoreland attended his mother's funeral in South Carolina and arrived at the White House by helicopter at 10:30 p.m. He then attended dinner with the President and his wife. (Ibid., President's Daily Dairy)

The President said we must see what we can get out of the Thais, the Koreans and our other allies. The President said he may ask Clark Clifford and General Maxwell Taylor to go out on a Presidential mission to talk with the leadership of the allies, including Prime Minister Holt of Australia.

Secretary Katzenbach concluded by saying that if the American people gave us a chance here at home, that he had every reason to believe that we could win the war in the field.

 

239. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, July 13, 1967, 12:40-1:02 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings, 7/13/67. Top Secret; Literally Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room following the NSC meeting. Tom Johnson forwarded these notes to the President under cover of a July 13 memorandum at 5:30 p.m. (Ibid.)

NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING
WITH
SECRETARY McNAMARA
GENERAL WESTMORELAND
GENERAL WHEELER
GEORGE CHRISTIAN

The President said General Westmoreland was upset last night because of the press reports. The press indicated to General Westmoreland that Secretary McNamara had questioned the General's management of the war when the Secretary briefed the press at the White House on July 12.

The President said he told General Westmoreland Wednesday night:

--We would carefully review everything.

--Secretary McNamara, General Westmoreland, and the President feel that General Westmoreland's team in Vietnam is the best we have ever seen.

--The President said he has never heard anybody who has ever been critical of General Westmoreland in any way.

--The President said that Westmoreland has been assured that he will have the troops he needs. The President referred back to many earlier statements he has made which said that the General's suggestions would be reviewed in light of existing situations and the General would be given whatever he needed. The President said there is an acceptable area on the number of troops and that we will be announcing these numbers in a few weeks. This agreement is shared fully by General Westmoreland, Secretary McNamara, and General Wheeler of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The President said there is a question of what other countries will do in response to our request for additional manpower. They must answer two questions:

1) Do they give additional troops, and
2) When, where, and how will they be provided.

General Wheeler asserted that as a matter of military security and prudence the figures should not be disclosed. (He indicated this would be notifying the enemy in advance of our manpower program.)


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