1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967|
Released by the Office of the Historian
268. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
268. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, August 3, 1967, 7:15 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President, 8/3-27/67, Vol. II. Secret.
As instructed, I have checked Gen. Eisenhower's idea of trading Soviet "supplies" to Hanoi for a cessation of our bombing of the North./2/
/2/According to a memorandum of August 3, Goodpaster reported that Eisenhower had suggested an offer to be made to Moscow: "If you stop sending supplies to Hanoi, we will stop bombing the North." A covering note indicated that the President requested that Rostow obtain the recommendations of Wheeler, Nitze, and Rusk. (Ibid.)
1. Bus Wheeler is out of town; and I could not reach him on this issue.
2. Sec. Rusk believes that militarily it would be a good trade; but he wishes to think further about the implications for the balance of power and influence in Hanoi. He fears it might turn Hanoi over to the Chinese Communists. He is not sure, but wishes to consider the matter before giving a judgment. In addition, he would prefer to get some response from the Russians to his question: What would you do if we stopped bombing? In his last talk with Dobrynin/3/ he thought he detected some Soviet interest in the question and does not wholly rule out a response. It would be better if they put up a formula than if we put up a formula.
/3/Rusk last saw Dobrynin on July 26 in a meeting that lasted from 6:42 p.m. through 9:15 p.m. (Ibid., Rusk Appointment Book, 1967) No notes of the meeting have been found.
3. I raised the issue in Nick Katzenbach's small Viet Nam group which is now meeting regularly. Here are some of the reactions:
--Nick thinks it might work, but only if it were followed pretty promptly by negotiations. Moscow would have to tell Hanoi: You said you would negotiate if bombing stopped; bombing will stop; but we can only get bombing stopped if we stop sending military supplies.
--There was general agreement that we could get in trouble with the deal if North Viet Nam were to release some of its military manpower from dealing with bombing and put a massive assault across the DMZ. Under these circumstances the pressure to go back to bombing the North would be almost irresistible in the U.S.
--Paul Nitze thought the deal was good but he does not believe in negotiations as a way to end the war unless--as in Korea--the negotiations simply confirm a situation which exists on the ground. He thinks that we are moving toward a situation where we can master the situation on the ground and are moving in that direction in particular in II and III Corps. But, following Bob McNamara's views, he believes we could dispense with bombing the North and still proceed on the ground in the South successfully. Therefore, he believes the deal is sound; although he also was troubled at what we would have to do if they switched military manpower to the South in a big way.
--Dick Helms saw no trouble in putting the proposition to Moscow and getting their reaction.
4. My own preliminary conclusion is:
--We would, of course, have to get a fairly clear idea of what we mean by "supplies" and make sure that Eastern Europe did not pick up and send what the Soviets turned off. Do supplies, for example, include military trucks? Oil? How much oil?
--The Chinese influence question is complex; and I would be inclined to let the Russians decide the answer. They know better than we what they would gain and lose in Hanoi influence by making this deal.
--We would have to link the question to the issue of serious negotiations to end the war. In my bones I do not feel the deal would hold up for very long if the war continued at its present scale with violations of the DMZ and continued massive infiltration from the North.
5. I think we will want to have, before making such a proposition, a rather complete analysis from CIA as to precisely what the Soviets are sending into Hanoi. I shall make sure this is done./4/
/4/According to a memorandum to Rostow from Ginsburgh, August 4, and a memorandum from Rostow to the President, August 5, the CIA concluded that the Soviets would reject the offer because it would damage the standing of the Soviet Union among its allies, and the North Vietnamese would likewise reject it due to probable increased dependence on China. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President, 8/3-27/67, Vol. II)
6. My net recommendation is that we have a meeting to discuss this with you soon./5/ It is not a bad idea; and it may be a good idea--so good that Moscow, after checking with Hanoi, will not accept it. It certainly deserves careful staffing out and discussion./6/
/5/The President wrote in the margin: "I agree." The issue was discussed at the regular Tuesday Luncheon on August 8. Notes of the meeting have not been found.
/6/In a memorandum to Rostow the next day, Ginsburgh described the offer as a "bad trade" since, in light of reduced North Vietnamese military requirements due to the bombing halt, the drop in Soviet arms would have a minimal impact; a cessation of shipments was difficult to verify; other sources might be able to make up the difference; and it did not compel reciprocal action on the part of North Vietnam. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President, 8/3-27/67, Vol. II)
269. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Habib) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/
Washington, August 5, 1967.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. Drafted by H. Freeman Matthews of the Vietnam Working Group. An attached covering note from Read to Rusk, July 5, reads: "Free Matthews accompanied Clifford & Taylor, and he has prepared the attached summary of the Mission's views at my request. A copy of the Mission report for you will be at the WH lunch, but there will probably not be a copy of their private views on the bombing program (see p. 3 of the attachment). Matthews requests that Clifford & Taylor not be advised that he has given you a summary of the Mission's recommendations." In the "Clifford-Taylor Report to the President," dated August 5, both men presented the points listed in Habib's memorandum and recommended that the groundwork of their mission to Asia "must be exploited" expeditiously in order to ensure that the proposed troop contributions from the Allied nations were forthcoming. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 5D(1), Allies: Troop Commitments; ibid., Gen. Taylor (1 of 2); and ibid., Manila 4 Nations Conference/Clifford-Taylor Trip, Aug. 1967) According to an attached covering note, Rostow gave the President a copy of the report to examine 2 hours before the luncheon. A notation indicates that other copies were sent "eyes only/no distribution" to Rusk, Katzenbach, McNamara, and Smith.
The highlights of the report that Mr. Clifford and General Taylor will make to the President today are as follows:
1. They will review the type of presentation that they made to the heads of government in each country.
2. They will note the following responses of the governments they visited concerning the conduct of the war:
a. All the nations endorse the essentiality of the bombing program in North Viet-Nam with the Asians urging a considerable step-up including bombing of the dikes, and the Commonwealth countries favoring the present bombing program.
b. All countries generally opposed any additional bombing pauses on the grounds that they were pointless and Hanoi had many means of getting a message to us.
c. All countries also saw great military value in closing Haiphong Harbor, by mining if necessary, but the Asians were less inclined than the ANZACs to worry about possible consequences with the Soviets and Chinese.
d. With regard to extension of the war to other territory the Thai favored action against Sihanouk and the Koreans expressed the hope that China would enter the war, which they believed would result in the elimination of communism in China. Almost all the countries favored the use of troops to cut the infiltration from Laos. Some, particularly the Koreans, favored an Inchon-type landing behind the DMZ. However, when the need for additional ground forces for such activity was pointed out, their ardor for them waned rapidly.
e. All countries believed that we were losing the propaganda war and should put much more emphasis on stating our case to the world.
f. All countries favored a summit conference with the timing and site not settled, but most likely to take place in November or December.
3. With regard to additional troops for Viet-Nam the Mission is cautiously optimistic:
a. Viet-Nam has announced an increase of 65,000 men, reduction of the draft to 18, and extension of lengths of service.
b. Thailand. An additional 10,000 men, which we will have to equip, arm, train and replace.
c. Australia. The Mission asked for two battalion combat teams and believes Australia will send at least one.
d. New Zealand. The Mission asked Ambassador Henning to hold out for one battalion combat team and at least double the present 381 men.
e. Korea. President Park's political problems preclude any combat troops in the near future. However, the Koreans agreed to consider sending support troops and civilian manpower.
Questions of timing in all these cases will require resolution.
4. The Mission will make the following recommendations to the President:
a. A vigorous follow-up by our Ambassadors and care in Washington not to cause difficulties with these countries over seemingly unimportant issues, specifically the JCS guidelines on US facilitative support to the Thai internal security efforts, an issue in which Secretary McNamara has been personally involved.
b. Follow-up letters from the President to each chief of government perhaps including President Marcos.
c. Hold off for the time being on any decision about a summit.
d. The US should prepare a vigorous plan for getting our cause on Viet-Nam across to world opinion. This subject should be on the agenda for a summit, but we should in any case move ahead now.
Attached to the covering letter summarized above are individual reports on each country visited.
After the above presentation, Mr. Clifford and General Taylor will give the President privately a memorandum embodying their recommendations on the bombing of North Viet-Nam. They will present their view that the bombing must be stepped up considerably to bring as much pressure as possible against Hanoi and as the least dangerous and expensive means to shorten the war. They will recommend the bombing of all major targets presently not approved short of strictly civilian targets. They will recommend reductions in the size of the prohibited circles around Hanoi and Haiphong and will propose exceptions for specific targets within the 30 and 25 mile buffer zones along the Chinese border. They will also recommend careful re-examination of the closing of Haiphong Harbor, citing the military need to do so to cut off the influx of supplies. They have already asked CINCPAC to study carefully the possibility of blocking the Harbor by means other than mines, such as perhaps sinking a ship in the narrow channel. Both Mr. Clifford and General Taylor, but especially the former, believe that additional means must be found to bring pressure against Hanoi to keep the war from dragging on with continuing high casualties.
270. Notes of Meeting/1/
Washington, August 5, 1967, 1:49-4:08 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Literally Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Family Dining Room of the White House. President Johnson's diary indicates that the meeting ended at 3:55 p.m. and was attended by the President, former Under Secretary of State George Ball, Taylor, Rusk, Clifford, Nitze, Christian, Tom Johnson, and Walt Rostow. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)
NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING
The President read the text of a formal report by Mr. Clifford and General Taylor./2/ After reading it, the President said the report was very good.
/2/See footnote 1, Document 269.
Mr. Clifford said every country has very enthusiastic ideas about new ways to end the war. The Vietnamese have agreed to
(1) Add 65,000 more troops
General Taylor said it will take at least a year to get these troops into combat although the South Vietnamese say this can be accomplished during this calendar year.
Secretary Rusk said that the Vietnamese have agreed to keep troops in service now who would have been demobilized.
The President said that Prime Minister Holt had sent a very nice telegram concerning the Taylor-Clifford mission./3/ Mr. Clifford said that he believed it would be more difficult for the Australians to turn us down when they are in touch with the President directly.
/3/For a summary of the letter from Holt to the President, August 3, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XXVII, Document 27.
Mr. Clifford said that each head of government had to say publicly something which would show that there was nothing immediate on sending more troops. They also had to show through public statements that they were not "on the tail of the kite of the United States." There was unanimous agreement by the allies on the conduct of the war.
General Taylor said all the allies were glad that the President had sent the mission to ask their views.
The President said the worst thing we did was to announce that your visit was to discuss troops. Holt wanted us to let him suggest these things to the United States rather than our dictating to him.
The most important thing coming out of the mission, the President said, was that the allies now know what we are thinking. The President said it is important for these nations to have consultations with us.
Mr. Clifford said the head of each government used the trip because of elections in their countries. They arranged press briefings on arrival, before each meeting, and after each meeting.
Mr. Clifford said the Koreans emphasized the incidents along the parallel with North Korea more with the United States than they do in their country. He said the South Koreans are more concerned about infiltration of North Koreans into South Korea by boat than they are of the border incidents.
Mr. Clifford said the editorials and news reports obstructed their mission and in each meeting it was necessary to emphasize that they are not there to ask for troops. They pointed out that what was desired was an exchange of ideas across the board, including discussions on the conduct of the war, over-all strategy, the economy, and pacification.
The mission pointed out that the President faces a very high deficit in the area of $20 billion. (The President brought them more up to date with a $30 billion figure.) Mr. Clifford told the heads of state that the President could not manage that kind of deficit and that he has had to ask for a tax increase. He told them that the reaction in the United States would be "If we have to put this much money in the war, what are our allies going to do?" The President is not asking you to do anything. But he does want you to have these facts. For every man you put in there, the United States puts more. We have reached the point where you must help the President meet the demands in Vietnam.
Mr. Clifford said, as each argument was raised, it was "for them to do their part to enable us to do our part."
Mr. Clifford: The President wants to find out if this war is serious enough to you for him to go through what he's going through. Then they began to talk. It was stressed that the American people aren't going to believe this is important to us if it's not important to you.
Clifford said there was an enormous feeling of friendship and goodwill. There were very good statements about the Secretary of State.
The allies felt this was a personal message from the President to them. This gave them a flavor of the President's reasoning.
Secretary Rusk said it may be worth considering renewal of a practice begun during the Korean war of a weekly meeting between the ambassadors of the allied nations in the war.
General Taylor said he found a great deal in common in all the countries visited.
He made the following points:
(1) All the countries said they were for the bombing program. Some asked why we are so humane--that civilian casualties are inevitable during a war.
(2) All would like to see Haiphong harbor closed, although they understand the risk and see it a bit differently than do we.
(3) They favor an expansion of the war. They are not afraid of us moving north of the DMZ or into Laos, if necessary.
(4) They favored a summit, although no place or time was discussed. All of them have elections in the fall, and it was felt that December would be the earliest, but in any case after the Vietnam elections are held.
(5) All want a Foreign Ministers meeting prior to the Summit Conference in Saigon.
(6) One criticism was of our propaganda program. We are not doing an effective job of presenting our case to the world.
(7) All rejected the stalemate theory. The movement is not dramatic, and all felt we should increase our pressure to get movement.
(8) We're going up gradually; they're going down gradually.
There was a general discussion of casualties, with the President asking questions about the method of tabulation. It was agreed that Defense should study the tabulation method, perhaps discounting those who are not hospitalized or who return to duty after treatment without distorting the figures.
General Taylor reported that captured documents show that we are killing more VC than the body counts show.
It was agreed that the infiltration rate gives the most fuzzy figures. Secretary Nitze said we just do not know what the precise figures are.
Mr. Clifford made the following points:
(1) There were valuable visits with Ky and Thieu.
(2) There is a truce between Ky and Thieu now, but he does not know how long it will last.
(3) The worst thing they could do is to rig the elections. They were told this.
(4) On military front, they came through with a pledge to add 65,000 military and paramilitary troops.
(5) Vietnamese have asked for observers for the elections. President wanted to know if it would be wise course to put in 50 of leading businessmen and newspaper executives to report back on the elections.
(6) Clifford said he believes there will be honest elections.
(7) Clifford said his evaluation of Ky and Thieu was that "they know all the right answers. They know what we want them to say and often will say it before they are asked."
(8) Ky is shrewd. Thieu is possibly more discreet and more profound. Thieu doesn't have the flair for drama and exercises more caution. Thieu may be somewhat less popular, as a result.
There followed a discussion about the percent of non-American participation in South Vietnam.
Secretary Rusk said that the percentage of non-American participation in Vietnam is larger than the non-American participation in Korea.
There was a discussion of the effectiveness of South Vietnamese troops. General Taylor reported:
(1) There has been improvement in the ARVN.
(2) They now are taking three weapons for every one lost.
(3) The pacification troops are beginning to take hold.
The Vietnamese want to contract the circles of sanctuary around Hanoi and Haiphong and reduce the 30-mile buffer zone between Vietnam and China in the NVN bombing runs./4/
/4/ In a memorandum to Katzenbach on this proposal, August 8, Bundy stated that he regarded the narrowing of the circles around Hanoi and Haiphong as "modest" measures that were acceptable. However, a reduction of the border buffer zone could bring about "extreme reactions of some sort" from the Chinese or, at the very least, counteract the rising friction between China and North Vietnam and the political deterioration within China itself. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Top Secret WPB Chron., Jun./Aug. 1967; also ibid., Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)
The President said he did not mind including some but he was afraid of the fliers going over the Chinese border. It was pointed out that it takes only 1-1/2 minutes for an F-4 to cross the border zone and three minutes for subsonic aircraft.
The President asked Mr. Rostow to look into the matter of sanctuaries. Secretary Rusk said the Russians have every reason to blockade Berlin now, that it probably would do that right away and attribute it to Vietnam.
Then, Mr. Clifford gave a country-by-country rundown on their visits:
(1) There were two long visits with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
(1) Met all day Sunday.
(1) They had a long list of reasons they should do more.
(1) Park showed up well.
In summary, Clark Clifford said that if we continue at the same level of ground effort and bombing that he is unable to see that this will bring us to the point we want to be.
He said he believes that a year from now we again will be taking stock. We may be no closer a year from now than we are now.
As long as the supplies continue to reach the troops in the South coming in from Laos, over the Northeast Railroad, through Haiphong Harbor, and down from Cambodia we can't get the war over. As long as the faucets are on, we cannot reach our objective.
We have to give increased attention to stopping this flow. The attitude of the allies is that we must increase this pressure. As long as Hanoi continues, there seems to be no diminishing of Hanoi's will to continue the war. We must focus on the supply. There was no concern anywhere in the countries visited about Red China entering the war. There was the same reaction to the Soviets entering the war.
Clifford suggested that the margins be moved closer to Red China and that additional targets be approved. He said the rewards justified the risks.
General Taylor said that they had left a lot of work for the ambassadors in each country. He said troops will trickle in. But there is a very genuine need to improve our presentation of U.S. policies and position to the world.
The allies agreed that our cause is just but our story isn't getting out. General Taylor said the graduated application of force was working, but there is a very great need to keep the pressure on.
271. Memorandum Prepared by the Board of National Estimates, Central Intelligence Agency/1/
Special Memorandum No. 7-67
Washington, August 8, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, IG(1) Elections. Secret.
[Here follow material on the Thieu-Ky merger, an analysis of the civilian contenders, and a discussion of the pre-election period.]
13. As things now stand, the military slate has to be the favorite in the coming election because of its large and relatively united organization, the finances available to it, and its control of the government. However, it is not unbeatable, and the civilian candidates will in any event play a key role in the election process. Even if the civilians do not unite, there is just enough uncertainty about the strength of military unity and enough uncommitted groups of votes to make for some fluidity.
14. The chances that the election will be held on schedule appear fairly good. The generals would probably consider postponing the election only if they felt their chances at the polls were so poor that even extralegal pressures would not tip the voting in their favor. It is conceivable that such a situation might develop, but not likely.
15. We can be less confident about the chances for fair elections. If the leading civilians continue to pursue their individual candidacies and no crisis develops, the military slate should be able to win honestly. However, an attempt by the civilian candidates to unite would probably cause the military to react by exerting questionable pressures. If unfair tactics by the military began to affect campaigning seriously, the civilian contenders might withdraw in protest, thus rendering the election largely meaningless. If illegal tactics were employed on election day or immediately prior to it, the civilians could refuse to acknowledge the results, and instead charge fraud. Even if the civilians do not unite, the generals may tend to underestimate their own prospects and thus feel compelled to exert unnecessary pressures. Additionally, some province chiefs and other local government officials may independently become overzealous and ultimately do more damage than good. Further complicating the general issue is the possibility that the elections may be widely regarded as having been unfair even though the military leaders make no deliberate efforts in this direction.
16. Whether or not it were well-founded, a general belief that the elections were rigged would thwart the major purpose of constitutional development--that of establishing a legitimate mandate for the government which in turn would improve its prospects for rallying popular participation and support. To dispell such suspicions, the civilian contenders at a minimum would have to acknowledge tacitly that the elections were fair, and the constituent assembly--now acting as a provisional legislature--would have to ratify the election results without reflecting much doubt. Even more effective would be the appointment of the candidate who runs second as prime minister since it would considerably strengthen the government's claim to legitimacy. There are, however, many problems--including the question of military rivalries after the election--which are standing in the way of such a development, and it constitutes little more than a possibility at this point.
For the Board of National Estimates:
272. Note From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Members of the Department of State Negotiations Committee/1/
Washington, August 9, 1967.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S-AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, Kissinger Project. Secret; Exdis. This Committee included Harriman, William Jorden of the NSC Staff, Philip Habib, Heyward Isham, and Harriman's assistants Cooper and Daniel I. Davidson.
I have drafted the attached possible instruction to Henry Kissinger for his trip to Paris./2/ I suggest that Mr. Cooper be the focal point for comment and the preparation of a final draft by tonight or tomorrow morning. Kissinger comes to Washington tomorrow and will be leaving early next week.
/2/Not printed. Bundy's draft message, written on August 8, repeated a message contained in a memorandum from Eugene Rostow to Harriman, August 7, which proposed that Aubrac and Marcovich request on behalf of the U.S. Government that representatives of the United States and North Vietnam meet secretly in a third country such as Laos. Bundy's emphasis on caution in pursuing the Kissinger initiative received support from Heyward Isham of the Vietnam Working Group, who in an August 10 memorandum to Cooper warned that as a result of recent diplomatic activity, "We are now in some danger of having a proliferation of channels to Hanoi." (Ibid.)
The attached draft follows closely the independent suggestions of Gene Rostow. It is his feeling, as it is mine, that we do not wish--at least at this stage--either to endorse the Kissinger suggestion on what would be required to stop the bombing, or to be drawn into this subject through this rather tenuous channel. Instead, I believe we should take the more limited line stated in the draft, which I believe is entirely adequate to see if in fact this is a real channel that the North Vietnamese wish to use.
With this limited message, my own feeling is that Chet Cooper should not go to Paris personally. I think this would tend to dramatize things beyond what they presently deserve, and above all there is nothing of great substance in the present message, which would require his elaboration.
A part of my feeling, in drafting along these lines, arises from what I understand to have been a clear reaction at high levels yesterday--that the "no change in reinforcement" formula put to Pham Van Dong by the Frenchmen is not in fact an acceptable trade. This judgment is of course basic to our choice of approach. Another added element is the biographic data on Aubrac, which to me is quite unmistakable as to his political orientation./3/
/3/In the background message preceding the draft message, Bundy asserted that Aubrac was a Communist, and suggested that any message sent through Paris be given only to Marcovich.
William P. Bundy/4/
/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
273. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, August 9, 1967, 2:45 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President, Vol. II, 8/3-27/67. Secret. The notation "L" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
Herewith a CIA paper I asked to be prepared on North Vietnamese losses during infiltration.
They calculate that:
--losses increased from 1965 to 1966;
--losses averaged 20% in 1966;
--although sickness and defection were the major direct causes, bombing had a big indirect effect by lengthening routes, increasing time en route, etc.
--in my notes on Senator Mansfield I said: "Several prisoners report that bombing results in the loss of more than half those whom they try to infiltrate."
Although I would now use the average CIA figure, here are some of the reports which underlay that sentence:
1. North Vietnamese soldier detained on June 16, 1967, stated that of group of 300 men infiltrating, there were only 30 on arrival.
2. Desertion rate of North Vietnamese coming into Laos mounting daily, had reached 40% as compared to 5% in past years; but figure as high as 80% for Montagnards recruited into North Vietnamese forces.
3. A member of the 324th Division reported that 15 men out of his 170-man group deserted; another soldier reported that 26 out of his 52-man group deserted.
Without bombing of infiltration trails--with all their direct and indirect effects--these desertions, disease rates, etc., would not be occurring.
Moreover, if we weren't bombing, the total level of attempted infiltration would be much, much higher than it is.
With the greatest possible respect, I don't back away from my difference with Bob McNamara on this.
Washington, August 9, 1967.
NORTH VIETNAMESE LOSSES DURING INFILTRATION
The limited evidence available for 1966 indicates that a substantial number--perhaps as many as 20 percent--of the North Vietnamese who began infiltration to South Vietnam through Laos were lost en route. The total number lost was nearly 10,000 men if the 53,000 accepted total of infiltrators is used as a base or about 15,000 men if the 81,000 total of accepted and possible infiltrators is used. The loss rate for those who came through the Demilitarized Zone appears to have been somewhat lower, probably because of the lower incidence of illness during the shorter journey.
Evidence for 1967 is still too limited to permit comparison. It is clear, however, that en route losses during infiltration are continuing at a significant rate. As further information becomes available it should be possible to be more certain both of the total loss figure during infiltration and the percentages lost through various causes.
The 1996 Infiltration Losses and Their Causes
Three fourths of the losses of infiltrators via Laos in 1966 resulted from death or permanent incapacitation because of illness, mainly malaria. About 10 percent were killed by air attacks and 5 percent were permanently lost through desertion.
The 1966 loss rate appears to have increased several times over the 1965 rate. Evidence on losses in 1965 is very limited. There appears, however, to have been an increased incidence of serious sickness in 1966. In addition, available reports for 1965 attributed no losses directly to air strikes although undoubtedly some infiltrators were killed or seriously wounded in this manner.
Perhaps as many as half of all infiltrating troops suffer to some degree from malaria en route to South Vietnam. As a result of malaria and other health problems, it is possible that nearly 20 percent of those who arrive in the South are not immediately fit for combat. Most of these men, however, probably recover sufficiently for combat.
Although air strikes apparently do not directly cause many casualties, they have had other significant effects on the loss rate. One of the most important has been to force infiltrating units to change their mode of movement in North Vietnam from truck to travel on foot, thus increasing the time needed to infiltrate. This, in turn, results in a higher rate of sickness.
Some 53,000 North Vietnamese are accepted as having infiltrated into South Vietnam during 1966. About 75 percent of these--39,750 came through Laos--the rest through the Demilitarized Zone. Since the evidence shows that about 20 percent of those starting the trek never reached South Vietnam, this would indicate that some 49,687 left the North via Laos in 1966 and 9,937 were lost en route. A similar computation using the total of 81,000 infiltrators which includes both "accepted" and "possible" categories would indicate that about 15,000 may have been lost in 1966 en route through Laos.
Figures on infiltration through the Demilitarized Zone are inadequate to make a meaningful comparison. Reports on three units totaling 740 men have been received which mention losses en route. The loss rate for these three units runs at about ten percent.
Table I summarizes the data used for the estimates in this report./2/ Evidence on about 7,000 infiltrators in 11 units varying in size from company to regiment made up the data base for the Laos route. Four units with a total of 1,777 men infiltrated during the last half of 1965 and seven units with a total of 5,390 men infiltrated throughout 1966. The information on losses was derived from those interrogations of captured infiltrators which are immediately available. Poor interrogation methods caused gaps in information and, as a result, the data base for estimating each of the four categories of causes is considerably less than the total number of infiltrators. To produce estimates of permanent losses it is assumed on the basis of limited evidence that half of all deserters eventually are returned to duty and that two thirds of the men who drop out of their units during infiltration are eventually returned to duty.
274. Memorandum From the Deputy for Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Komer) to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker)/1/
Saigon, August 9, 1967.
/1/Source: Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, Bunker Memos to RWK, 1967-68. Confidential. Copies were sent to Locke, Calhoun, and Zorthian.
Our most urgent need is to cope with the abominable US press treatment of the election campaign. As we agreed on the phone, the press is managing to put the worst construction on everything. What is basically sheer inefficiency, endemic in Vietnam, they see as positive evil./2/
/2/In telegram 2972 from Saigon, August 12, Bunker reiterated this theme of "unfair" press criticism of the GVN. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)
Last year, to put the best face on the Constituent Assembly referendum, I formed a White House task group with Bill Moyers in the chair. My constant refrain was to emphasize one sensible theme about that referendum and to urge keying all of our press handling to it. We picked my theme that the size of the vote would be the best single indicator of success. We deliberately played down our own expectation of at least a 70 per cent turnout of registered voters (we even exceeded that). Instead, we opined that even a 50 per cent turnout would be regarded by us as a major demonstration of growing popular interest in the political process, and a defeat for the VC (who of course were attempting to disrupt the election). As it turned out, most of the press play was on the impressively large turnout. The result was a big plus.
Admittedly, it was easier to key the last election to the single theme of turnout than it is this election, where the candidates are predominantly politicians rather than mostly faceless men. But we must again pick a few basic points and keep hammering them home in every way in an attempt to provide the press a realistic appraisal of the election. I suggest the following:
1. Anything less than a 70-80 per cent vote for Thieu/Ky is a strong indicator of a reasonably fair election (if our hunches are correct, Thieu/Ky will probably win with less than a majority--thus we would lay the groundwork for a contention that they had hardly rigged an election in which they didn't even get half the vote).
2. In focussing almost exclusively on the presidential race, we tend to ignore a potentially far more important development--the diffusion of power between the executive and a new legislature, which under the constitution will have even greater power than the US Congress. Whoever gets elected president will have to deal with a powerful and independent senate/assembly. If the friskiness shown by the Constituent Assembly is any guide, the man in Independence Palace will have at least as much trouble with his congress as our Presidents do with our Congress. By focussing the issue on the advent of a civilian-dominated National Assembly, we will help diffuse the impact of the military retaining executive power.
3. We seem to be applying standards higher than those in the US to a country with no experience of democracy, and one barely a dozen years old. Incumbent American administrations take every reasonable advantage of their position. Can we expect the GVN to do less?
4. Although this is a country where nothing seems to work very well, we ascribe every mistake (such as at Quang Tri)/3/ to positive evil intent instead of sheer inefficiency. Experienced US correspondents should know better.
/3/According to Bunker's 15th weekly report, telegram 2686 from Saigon, August 9, on August 6 a government-sponsored plane supposedly ferrying the 18 nonmilitary candidates for President and Vice President to the first joint campaign appearance at Quang Tri was instead diverted to a U.S. Marine Corps base at Dong Ha. (Ibid.) This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 111-117.
Themes like the above, constantly played and embroidered upon, would go a long way toward putting the election campaign in perspective. Perhaps there are even better ones. But we are faced with a short-term emergency. We have about three weeks to get our points across. We'd better do so quickly.
R. W. Komer/4/
/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
275. Memorandum for the Record/1/
Washington, August 9, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Eisenhower. Secret. Prepared by Goodpaster on August 10.
I met with General Eisenhower for about three-quarters of an hour at Walter Reed Hospital in the late morning of 9 August. The purpose was to cover with him three topics which Mr. Rostow had asked me to bring to his attention. I had briefly met with General Eisenhower on the afternoon of 6 August, and had given him a brief report on the situation in Vietnam.
On 9 August I began the discussion by reporting the activity within the government relating to his recommendation to examine the possibility of "trading" a cessation of bombing of North Vietnam (or the northern part thereof) for a cessation by the USSR of inshipments of military material to the North Vietnamese. I drew upon the CIA assessment of a postulated agreement between the US and USSR on this matter, noting in particular the conclusion that the Soviets would be unlikely to agree without the prior agreement of the North Vietnamese and that the North Vietnamese would be likely to refuse to agree. I told him that the matter has been receiving consideration by an interdepartmental group at undersecretary level, and that Secretary Rusk is pondering the matter as stated to me by Mr. Rostow. I also reported that the US has put to the Soviets the following question: You say that if the US stops its bombing of the North, there would be talks; you also say that you can't get Hanoi to make a compensatory escalation; we would like to know what you, the Russians, would be willing to do as a compensatory action. I told him Mr. Rostow had informed me that the US is still waiting to see what the Russians give as an answer, and that we have jogged them once or twice for an answer.
I added that the current governmental thinking is that the proposition advanced by General Eisenhower would only work if the North Vietnamese want to end the war. In such case, it would have some face-saving value for them. At the same time it would meet the requirements stated by the President for some de-escalation from the other side. I further reported Mr. Rostow's feeling that this proposition may well prove to be worth a trial. We do, however, have to think out where the US would find itself if the Soviets were to accept, and then cheat on the agreement. Specifically, how could the President go about justifying resumption of bombing in such a case? Finally, as suggested by Mr. Rostow, I told General Eisenhower that there had been no decision in the matter, that the government is working hard on it, that it fits very well into other actions (such as the question posed to the Russians) and that there is great interest in it. I told General Eisenhower that if he had any further thoughts, now or later, the government would be interested in hearing them. He indicated he had nothing further to suggest at this time. He found particularly interesting the information in the CIA report that only a very small part of the material being utilized by the communists in South Vietnam is of Russian origin, and that the bulk (small arms, mortars and ammunition, as well as radios) comes from China. This would suggest that even if Russian supplies were halted (and bombing of the North stopped) the combat in the South could continue, including the battle with US forces. Some reduction of flow could, of course, be accomplished by continuing the air attack against the North Vietnamese panhandle.
[Here follows discussion of the Middle East.]
I then took up the third point raised by Mr. Rostow--the "stalemate" theme that is beginning to appear in connection with the war in Vietnam./2/ I told him that I felt that this is not a valid or useful concept and that, as Mr. Rostow had stated to me, although progress is painfully slow, the situation is moving favorably. I used the main points of General Momyer's briefing of 8 July together with a series of charts given me by Mr. Rostow./3/ I went through the Momyer briefing in some detail, covering the new flak suppression weapon, the introduction of a countermeasure Pod, the new tactics it has been possible to utilize, and the resulting reduction in attrition rates. I also noted the destruction, for practical purposes, of the North Vietnam Air Force at this time, and the readiness to destroy it again. General Eisenhower was keenly interested. He was especially interested in the mutually reinforcing effects of reduction of anti-air effectiveness, greater weight of effort against military and transportation targets reducing availability of ammunition, resulting further reduction of anti-air defenses, and further increase in destructive impact on lines of communication. He recalled from his own experience the appearance of such mutually reinforcing effects in Europe when the tempo and systems coverage of the bombing campaign were brought to the proper level. He indicated that this thought underlies much of his concern about a policy of "gradualism". On Mr. Rostow's charts he was interested in the level-off of VC/NVA strength since mid-'66, the generally rising ratio of VC/NVA KIA to friendly forces KIA, the generally rising trend of Chieu Hoi defectors and the sharply rising trend since 1965 of VC/NVA weapons lost to ARVN weapons lost. I also told him there is evidence--for example in the defection and testimony of a VC colonel--that the VC are encountering great manpower difficulties in trying to keep up the strength of their units. General Eisenhower said he agreed that the term "stalemate" is not a valid one to cover the present trend and situation of the war.
/2/The "stalemate" issue became one of widespread concern to U.S. Government officials during August. In telegram JCS 6105 to Westmoreland, August 1, Wheeler recommended counteracting reports in the press and in Congress that the war had reached a "stalemate" by presenting a counterfactual argument to the media. In his reply, telegram MAC 7180, August 2, Westmoreland concurred and noted the various public relations measures that he had already begun to take "to help clarify the situation in the mind of the public." (Both in Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President, Vol. I, 6/1-8/2/67) On August 7 Rostow sent to McNamara an outline refuting the stalemate thesis by noting the "heavy pressure" placed upon the VC manpower pool and the inability of the NVA's border operations to "divert" significant numbers of U.S. forces. Rostow concluded, "There is real momentum in the right direction; the task is to maintain and accelerate momentum." (Ibid., Vol. 2A, Misc. Memos)
/3/Not further identified.
276. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Research and Analysis for East Asia and the Pacific, Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Greene) to the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes)/1/
Washington, August 11, 1967.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA. Secret; Exdis. A copy was sent to Bundy.
In the past month there have been two contacts with NVN officials, one by two private French citizens and one by a Norwegian diplomat, which Hanoi may take to be authoritative representations of the US position because we have dealt with North Vietnam through "unofficial" or indirect channels in the past. In both encounters the North Vietnamese heard descriptions of an American position which, taken together, could lead them to conclude that Washington has begun to modify its previous stand regarding negotiations.
In the first instance, in late July, the Frenchmen told Pham Van Dong that the US would be prepared to stop the bombing provided that Hanoi kept its level of supply to the South at present levels and did not intensify its efforts as it had done in past bombing pauses./2/ Then, around the beginning of August, the Norwegian Ambassador to Peking informed his North Vietnamese counterpart that, on the question of representation during negotiations, the US would be prepared to have the NLF present its points of view either as part of the NVN delegation "or as a separate group."/3/ This American position might have been inferred in Hanoi from previous public and private statements by US officials, but it does not appear to have been stated this explicitly before.
/2/See Document 263.
/3/The conversation between Algard and Loan on August 5 is described in telegram 664 from Oslo, August 6. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 17 NOR-VIET N)
The North Vietnamese may treat both statements skeptically, since they were not made by American officials. Equally, however, they may conclude that we are reviewing our basic approach and are undertaking to define a new position on specific points, while carefully coordinating the component aspects of this effort. They may link this possible shift on our part to their own negotiating gambits, especially the apparent easing of their position regarding the degree of completeness and permanence of bombing pause and the muffling of earlier emphasis on an exclusive position of the NLF as our interlocutor on matters concerning the South. They may as a consequence want to probe further, to determine whether our position has changed, and if so to what degree.
277. Memorandum for Henry A. Kissinger/1/
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, PENNSYLVANIA. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. No drafting information appears on the memorandum.
You may give your contacts the following message and ask that they deliver it to Pham Van Dong:/2/
/2/Before the message's transmission, Kissinger translated it into French. A reprint of this message, which according to the authors of the Pentagon Papers was approved by the President, appears in Herring, The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, p. 726.
The United States is willing to stop the aerial and naval bombardment of North Vietnam if this will lead promptly to productive discussions between representatives of the US and the DRV looking toward a resolution of the issues between them. We would assume that, while discussions proceed either with public knowledge or secretly, the DRV would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation. Any such move on their part would obviously be inconsistent with the movement toward resolution of the issues between the US and DRV which the negotiations are intended to achieve.
You should say further to Messrs. Marcovich and Aubrac that the United States is prepared to negotiate either openly or secretly. It would seem, however, that a total cessation of the bombing is inconsistent with keeping secret the fact that negotiations are taking place. Accordingly, the DRV may prefer to consider the alternative of a cutback in the magnitude or scope of the bombing while secret negotiations are in progress.
The US is ready to have immediate private contact with the DRV to explore the above approach or any suggestions the DRV might wish to propose in the same direction./3/
/3/In an August 12 memorandum, Bundy suggested one semantic alteration to the message to which Katzenbach had agreed: replacement of the words "negotiate" and "negotiations" in the first and second paragraphs of the message with "enter into discussions" and "discussions," respectively. Their reason for the change was concern that the North Vietnamese would attach significance to the fact that the word "discussions" was not used consistently throughout the message in its original form. Presumably Rusk approved the modifications. Also in his memorandum, Bundy requested Rusk's approval for guidance in a meeting that Katzenbach, Harriman, and Cooper were planning to have with Kissinger on August 14. Bundy stated that Kissinger would be given this modification and additional instructions, including not to meet solely with Aubrac, at this meeting. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA) No record of this meeting has been found.
278. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/
Washington, August 14, 1967.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Top Secret WPB Chron., July/Aug. 1967. Top Secret; Nodis; Eyes Only. A copy was sent to Katzenbach.
Since I shall be out of action tomorrow morning, making a speech, I am setting down my thoughts on the continuation of attacks in the buffer zone. I have done so after consulting with our senior Chinese expert present here, Richard Donald, who is balanced, objective, and experienced./2/
/2/On August 9 strikes on ten targets in the DRV border area with China began. Donald was on the staff of the Division of Asian Communist Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
In brief, it is our feeling that it could become highly dangerous to continue the attacks. Even three days may have stretched things, but certainly a continuation for further days in sequence can only create the impression that we are engaged in an unrelenting upward movement in our actions.
We have tended to focus on the danger of major Chinese Communist intervention. I think the odds of this could be significantly increased by continuing our attacks for more days. It has for some months--and increasingly--been the firm conclusion of all experts that the irrational element in Chinese Communist behavior has grown markedly. The fact that they are in disorder may mean that they would be less effective in anything they did, but the odds on their lashing out must be considered to be far less predictable than they would in the past. The great point is that they could well see systematic attacks as an attempt by us to take advantage of their internal weakness and confusion, and this is the very thing that could drive them to action however irrational.
But secondly, there is the effect of systematic attacks on the internal confusion within China. In my own view, that confusion--and how it affects Hanoi--may quite well be the only hole card we have that could bring about peace between now and our 1968 elections. At present, there is every indication that the army in China is at odds with the Maoists. A picture of systematic attacks by us might be the one thing that could unite the two in common cause. The odds of this happening seem to me very much greater than the odds of major military intervention, but the consequences--from the standpoint of our reaching peace in Viet-Nam--seem to me almost equally serious.
In short, I think the over-all strategic (not just "political") arguments against pushing the attacks farther are terribly strong. I urge that we take stock of what the attacks have accomplished and give ourselves substantial breathing space before renewing them. A picture of our going back in the future once or twice would be an entirely different picture to the Chinese than the picture created by our continuing the attacks now on what they could only take to be a systematic and unceasing basis./3/
/3/In Intelligence Note 676 to Rusk, August 16, Hughes described the Chinese response to the initial attacks in RT 57 as muted. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)
William P. Bundy/4/
/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
279. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, August 14, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 1G(2). Secret. The notation "L" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. In an attached message to Rostow, August 14, Taylor noted that an August 3 editorial in The New York Times was based on the CIA report which was probably leaked to the Times. Taylor warned that the newspaper might publish a leaked copy of the document "at some dramatic moment when it can do the most damage."
Today's situation report on Viet-Nam politics noted a report that the generals have written a "Charter" for their planned Supreme Military Committee. The purpose of the committee is clear: to maintain military control over the government after the election./2/
/2/The "Charter" set up a mode for the operation of a military committee after the election. In a memorandum to Rusk, August 15, Hughes reported that the committee would include Ky as chairman, with Thieu, Linh Quang Vien, Cao Van Vien, and the Corps commanders as members. The group's organizational structure was intended to be extended throughout the government as a covert means of military control of the new regime. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S)
It is, in effect, a scheme for "guided democracy" in which a half dozen generals would decide finally what was good and bad for the country.
Our text of the alleged "Charter" (22 pages)/3/ came from a usually reliable source in the Vietnamese military. CIA is checking on the authenticity of the document. They are also checking on whether it is merely a draft, or whether it has actually been adopted by the generals (including Thieu and Ky).
/3/The "Charter" was disseminated in an Intelligence Information Cable, TDCS DB-315/03208-67, August 13. (Ibid.; also in Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 1G(2))
Ambassador Bunker notes that this plan is "completely at variance with Ky's statement to me on August 11 that any report of an intention to set up an inner military group to run the government could be flatly denied."/4/
/4/As quoted in telegram 3046 from Saigon, August 14. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S)
The Ambassador is clearly riled. He has said that if the report is verified, "I will plan to take this matter up in an appropriate way with Ky, since we cannot continue a relationship of confidence with him in such circumstances."
It is understandable that the military leaders should want a continuing role of importance in the affairs of their government and their country. It is quite another for them to plan to send down the drain much of the patient and constructive work of the past year and a half in the development of representative government. It is also shocking, if true, for the Prime Minister to lie to our Ambassador in this fashion.
I believe Bunker is in a mood to meet this one head-on and that he will do so in an appropriate way. We shall be following this closely.
280. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, August 16, 1967, 1240Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Received at 12:42 p.m. In the covering note transmitting a copy of the telegram to the President, Smith wrote: "Ambassador Bunker's weekly cable emphasizes election developments but contains a hopeful report on how the South Vietnamese plan to reorganize their pacification program." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8B(1) [A] Bunker's Weekly Report to the President) The notation "L" on the covering note indicates that the President saw the telegram. The telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 118-127.
3243. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my sixteenth weekly telegram:
1. While the tempo of the war abated somewhat during the last week the political campaign heated up largely due to the continuation of the controversy over the Dong Ha incident/2/ and to charges by certain of the candidates of harassment and of pressure on the part of some GVN provincial and district officials.
/2/See footnote 3, Document 274.
2. As a result however of Thieu's conciliatory attitude in the Dong Ha case and of two letters from the Commissioner of Special Administration Tuong to the special election committee, the second one couched in moderate terms and outlining what the GVN was prepared to do in assisting the candidates, the campaign, temporarily derailed, has gotten back on the track. Further investigation confirms the fact, I believe, that the Dong Ha incident arose chiefly from a series of unfortunate occurrences which led to misunderstandings between the candidates and the GVN. Despite many contradictory statements and charges I do not believe that the mixup was a premeditated action by the GVN to humiliate the candidates as the latter alleged but was rather a combination of bad weather and poor planning, execution, and judgment by some GVN officials, combined with impatience and suspicion on the part of candidates who subsequently decided to exploit the issue for political purposes. Both sides acted with a certain degree of childishness, "face" became involved, and therefore neither side acted in a way designed to settle the issue easily. Although delayed longer than seemed reasonably necessary the issue has been resolved and all of the candidates have resumed campaigning. In fact representatives of most of them continued campaigning in the provinces while the controversy was going on in Saigon.
3. All the candidates held press conferences on Monday and Tuesday of this week. Charges of harassment have been made by some of them, Huong making the most specific allegations in his conference yesterday (Saigon 3150)./3/ Certainly these charges should be investigated by the GVN and if substantiated, action should be taken to eliminate such practices to the extent possible. In the absence of intimidation some involvement on the side of the "ins" would generally be considered one of the accepted advantages of incumbency. We have evidence also that some officials will at least quietly support opposition candidates. We have been unremitting throughout the Mission in our contacts with the GVN, both civilian and military, to emphasize the prime importance of keeping the elections free and honest. I have continually kept this in the forefront of my talks with Thieu and Ky and have pointed out to them the adverse reactions which have appeared in the US press and in Congressional statements. I believe most of these criticisms stem from the acceptance of rumors as facts and a tendency to gauge the fairness of elections here against standards of perfection which do not prevail in the most advanced democracies.
/3/In telegram 3150 from Saigon, August 15, Bunker reported on Huong's press conference of that day in which he accused the GVN of "using threats and pressures to ensure the victory of the Thieu-Ky slate." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S) In his weekly report to the President contained in telegram 3824 from Saigon, August 23, Bunker stated: "I have the feeling that this issue is less appealing than it first appeared. The public has noted the charges and in many cases is no doubt prone to believe them. Still, I think the public is also taking note of the fact that despite such allegations the campaign machines of the major candidates are very active in the provinces, that the press is obviously quite unafraid to attack and criticize both the government and the military, and that the government has in fact done a good job of providing campaign facilities for the civilian candidates ever since the Dong Ha furor." (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)
4. Both Thieu and Ky have been greatly concerned by US press and Congressional reactions. Ky told me yesterday that he and Thieu had decided to send communications to all of the allied governments on what had been done and is being done by the GVN to insure that the elections would be free, fair, and honest. What they have in mind I think is outlining substantially what was reported in our 2869/4/ and 2972/5/ including such things as lifting of press censorship; instructions issued by the Minister of Defense to the armed forces to stay out of the elections and the written directive to armed forces commanders clearly stating rules governing participation of military personnel in election activity; General Thang's prohibition of political activity on the part of RD workers; instructions from Generals Thieu and Ky to province and district chiefs not to engage in politics; that pursuant to the election law all candidates are being provided certain funds for their campaign; that candidates are being furnished transportation although this is not required by law; that all candidates are being given free time on government radio and television; that invitations have been extended by the GVN for observers to come for the elections to various organizations, friendly governments, parliamentary groups, and the international press.
/4/Dated August 12. (Ibid., POL 14 VIET S)
/5/See footnote 2, Document 274.
5. I shall report in more detail in the political section on the aftermath of the Dong Ha affair, on the charges of harassment, and on other developments in the campaign./6/
/6/This section is not printed.
6. General Westmoreland, Ambassador Komer and I met yesterday with Prime Minister Ky, the Minister of Defense General Vien and General Thang, as the result of a request I had made to discuss our proposals on pacification, particularly Project Takeoff./7/ General Ky had informed me that the GVN was also contemplating some reorganization of its pacification program as well as of the Vietnamese armed forces. At the meeting yesterday he outlined to us what they had in mind. We will report these proposals in detail separately but I might summarize them briefly:
/7/A report on this August 15 meeting is in telegram 3223 from Saigon, August 16. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S) In a meeting with Ky on August 16, Komer expanded on his briefing of the previous day, emphasizing the need for land reform and internal security. (Memorandum for the Record, August 16; Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, Chron File: Komer (Aug-Dec '67)) Project Takeoff was authored by Komer to overhaul completely the pacification effort and make it a priority of the GVN. In a memorandum to Bunker and Westmoreland, July 30, Komer listed the following eight action programs: improvement in future planning, acceleration of Chieu Hoi, attacking the VC infrastructure, greater RVNAF support to pacification, expansion of the mission of the RD teams, increased capability to deal with refugees, renovation of the NP and NPFF, and land reform. (Ibid., Komer-Westmoreland File, 1967)
A. Making the province chief the key individual in the pacification program at the provincial level; giving him adequate authority to manage all civilian and military activities in his province; upgrading the quality of province chiefs.
B. Reorganization and improvement of the Regional and Popular Forces.
C. Improvement of leadership. Ky stated that "we must purify the army by asking poor officers to leave" and mentioned that General Vien had prepared a list of forty senior officers who would be asked to leave the army.
D. General Thang would return to the army as deputy to General Vien and would control the political department, the RF/PF, and the security forces. General Thang will also control the training of the RD teams, and will improve the coordination between RD teams and the military at local levels.
E. Appointment of a Deputy Prime Minister with overall control of the pacification activities of the Ministries involved. Ky remarked that if elected as Vice President he would have little to do so he would deal personally with pacification.
F. A more direct attack on the VC infrastructure along the lines outlined by Ambassador Komer.
7. Ky mentioned specifically that General Thieu was sorry that he could not attend meeting/8/ but he had specifically endorsed these GVN proposals which General Ky had outlined. General Westmoreland, Ambassador Komer and I felt that these plans for reorganization of the armed forces and the pacification program were constructive and along the lines we have been advocating.
/8/Thieu was on a tour of II Corps.
[Here follows discussion of political, economic, and military issues.]
281. Editorial Note
When the Republic of Vietnam promulgated a new constitution and held nationwide elections during 1967, the U.S. Government initiated a program of covert action to ensure that the electoral process would appear to be free and fair, that there would be a loyal opposition, and that the elected civilian government that emerged would enjoy popular support. The top contenders for the presidency were Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, the head of South Vietnam's military government, and General Nguyen Van Thieu, the nation's chief of state. Initially, U.S. Government policy was neutral in the increasingly bitter scramble between these two individuals. However, with Ky using the power of the government bureaucracy to undermine Thieu, Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker recommended in June 1967 that the U.S. Government offer covert support, consisting mostly of advice and a small amount of financial resources, to Ky's campaign in exchange for his agreement to run a fair electoral race. This request was obviated by the resolution of the Ky-Thieu dispute at the end of June when Ky acceded to the pressure of South Vietnam's military leadership to become the vice presidential running mate of the more senior Thieu. Still, the U.S. Government helped Ky establish a front organization, "the All-Vietnam Bloc," to help ensure the election of this military-backed slate. Although no covert funds were provided to Ky, a channel of advice and encouragement was established through a high-ranking Vietnamese official.
The U.S. Government continued to be involved in the general elections through late summer and fall, eventually providing more than $200,000 for political action programs. In August a representative of the principal civilian presidential candidate, Tran Van Huong, approached the U.S. Embassy in Saigon with a request for covert funding. To buttress the appearance of a fair election and in order to have some influence over the candidates, Bunker requested covert political and financial assistance for the Thieu-Ky campaign as well as for Huong's candidacy. Washington rejected the request for financial support, but approved providing covert election advice and support.
The 303 Committee also approved another request from Bunker to provide covert support for selected South Vietnamese parliamentary candidates, both before and after their elections, in an effort to build U.S. influence in the National Assembly and facilitate the validation of the presidential electoral results. In October the 303 Committee authorized Bunker to disburse funds to aid candidates for the National Assembly who were supported by the nationalist Dai Viet party and the Vietnamese Confederation of Labor, and on December 1 the 303 Committee approved funds for other nascent political parties and elected individuals in South Vietnam.
After the elections, the U.S. Government, in an effort to bolster popular support for the new civilian government, provided covert support to South Vietnamese veterans, labor, and student organizations and the media. Part of this campaign involved efforts on the part of the U.S. Government to create a left-wing, anti-Communist political group in South Vietnam, which would underscore the new political openness in the country as well as win over nominal supporters of the Vietnamese Communists. This program received approval by the 303 Committee in August. The group, however, was short-lived and was soon amalgamated into a broad anti-Communist political front.
In conjunction with political development in South Vietnam, the U.S. Government sought to drive a wedge between the National Liberation Front (NLF) and its North Vietnamese sponsor by following up contacts with NLF representatives. This effort resulted in prisoner exchanges.
282. Telegram From the Station in Saigon to the Central Intelligence Agency/1/
Saigon, August 16, 1967.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Most Sensitive. Carver forwarded the message to Read in an attached memorandum of the same day.
CAS 0685. Please pass the following message to the Secretary of State from Ambassador Bunker.
"In view of recent developments described below, I would like to recommend a proposal for your earliest attention and decision.
"On 12 August, an emissary who is a close associate of Presidential candidate Tran Van Huong contacted an Embassy officer and pleaded a strong case for financial support for Huong whom he described as being in severe financial straits. He asked whether there might be an American businessman whom Embassy officer could recommend and to whom appeal for funds could be directed. This development coupled with the increasing pressures upon Prime Minister Ky from our side as well as from the press and internal political events over past two weeks,/2/ leads me to propose that a covert political subsidy in the form of limited funds simultaneously be given to both the Thieu/Ky and Tran Van Huong tickets, the two main contenders in the race for the Presidency. In the case of Thieu/Ky, the funds would be passed securely [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] with whom CAS is in contact. In the case of Huong, funds could possibly be passed by an unofficial American citizen [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to Huong's close associate who contacted the Embassy officer to describe Huong's financial problems.
/2/After the Dong Ha affair, opposition candidates ceased campaigning. At the request of U.S. officials, who feared an anti-American backlash if political activity remained moribund, Huong persuaded the other major candidates to resume their active campaigns on August 12. (Telegrams 2945 and 2970 from Saigon, August 12; ibid.)
"My rationale for this proposal is that limited financial support provided now would give us both some degree of leverage on the winner as well as a degree of influence with the loser through which we would hope to obtain his cooperation with the winning candidate's new administration. While the problem would probably be more critical should Huong win and be faced with a hostile military establishment, a Thieu/Ky victory would on the other hand be more palatable nationally if the civilian contenders play an important role in running the country's affairs through the new government. An injection of financial aid to Huong's group now may help to induce Huong to continue to campaign as vigorously as possible between now and the election, perhaps thus helping to dispel the atmosphere that now surrounds the entire effort and projecting a more favorable image of the overall campaign. It would also be particularly useful for us to be able to 'do something' now for Ky, who appears to be smarting under the diverse pressures, some of which are described above. He is of course a crucial element in the present and future political mix in Vietnam, and his ego demands a certain amount of attention and reassurance from time to time to keep him aligned on a course of action acceptable to both the Americans and the Vietnamese. Finally, of course, our providing funds to these two groups, particularly the Thieu/Ky organization, will hopefully minimize their attempts to raise funds through unsavory techniques which might hit the press and cause scandal tainting what otherwise may be a reasonably honest election.
"The foregoing should be considered in light of Ky's also having recently approached us through the special CAS channel contact with a specific and detailed request for campaign fund assistance, a request which was politely but firmly turned aside by the CAS officer acting under our policy instructions."
283. Notes of Meeting/1/
Washington, August 16, 1967, 2:10-4 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the White House.
NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING
Director Helms: Read proposed letter from the President to Ky and Thieu on the Vietnamese elections./2/
[Here follows discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]
Secretary Rusk: We need to clarify our strategy on bombing policy.
The President: Our strategy, as I see it, is that we destroy all we can without involving China and Russia between now and September 1. I do not believe China and Russia will come in. The people will not stay with us if we do not get destroyed all we can. The targets we have authorized/3/ are in the Hanoi, Haiphong, and buffer zone areas. It's better to hit those targets authorized now rather than waiting six months.
/3/A reference to the RT 57 strikes which began on July 20.
Secretary Rusk: In the buffer zone there is a question as to whether these are specifically authorized strikes or repeaters. The larger the number of sorties in there, the higher the chances are of mistakes.
Secretary McNamara: I must point out that we could invade Chinese air space. Secretary McNamara said he proposed nothing new until next Tuesday./4/ "I would like to have a week go by to check the accuracy of what we are doing."
Secretary Rusk: There appears to be no ascertainable connection between some of these targets and winning the war. We are trying to wage the war without enlarging it and without causing the Soviets or the Chinese to give us problems in Berlin or Korea. I have no reservations except on these targets.
The President: Let us find the least dangerous and the most productive targets. I would like to be able to say that we have hit six out of every seven targets requested. We have some weather now that is my type of weather. I think we should get [hit] every target as quickly as we can. There are three areas that we are not going to hit. We are not going to hit Haiphong Harbor because we are not going to hit any ships. We are not going to bomb Hanoi because we are not going to hit civilians. And we must be careful about the buffer zone because of the danger in going over the border. But we have got to put more pressure on. It was then agreed that the targets more than eight to ten miles away from the buffer zone could be hit without danger.
Secretary McNamara: We took out more rolling stock in one day after the Hanoi bridge was bombed than in any other day in the war.
He [McNamara] said he could get the President 20 more targets.
Secretary Rusk: It's question of what do you ask a man to die for. Some of these targets aren't worth the men lost.
Secretary McNamara: The losses would be the heaviest in the MIG airfield.
The President: What about sending three representatives from each of these organizations.
The President then read a list of organizations representing labor, management, press, foundations, and other associations. It was agreed that this group could be invited to go to Vietnam as observers of the up-coming elections.
The President instructed Secretary Rusk to send the list to Ambassador Bunker for his reaction.
Secretary Rusk asked Secretary McNamara if he could space the air strikes so that it would not appear as a "Roman holiday." Secretary Rusk said that several strikes on the same day result in charges of escalation and acceleration which may not be in our best interest.
[Here follows further discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]
284. Letter From President Johnson to Chief of State Nguyen Van Thieu and Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky/1/
Washington, August 16, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence File, Vol. I, Gen. Thieu & Ky. No classification marking.
Dear Chairman Thieu and Prime Minister Ky:
I address you together, because at Honolulu, Manila, and Guam we did our work together./2/
/2/Reference is to the joint U.S.-Vietnamese conferences held at Honolulu in February 1966, at Manila in October 1966, and at Guam in March 1967.
I wish you to know how much you--and the people of South Viet Nam--have been in my thoughts these days. In my thirty-five years in political life, I have been through twelve elections--some of which I won, but I have also known what it is to lose. I understand something of the emotions and the problems that go with what we call "election fever."
It has been interesting--even exciting--for me to see your young nation going through this competitive electoral process. Thus far, I have seen few problems I have not also seen in my own country, and known in my own experience.
I believe also that the picture of the South Viet Nam election is beginning to fall into perspective in the United States.
As you come to the final intensive days of the campaign, I am sure you will continue to ensure fairness and equity to all the candidates.
I should like you to know that our government--and most of our people--have no inclination to interfere with or dictate the choice of leaders now being made by the people of South Viet Nam, as they move forward on the path of self-determination. In any democracy, of course, differences of view are extensive and intensive, vigorous and visible. But you should be aware that our resolve to defend Viet Nam against aggression remains firm; and the support for this course will be strengthened--here and elsewhere--by the free and fair elections we know will take place on September 3.
As you know, the election itself is only one phase in the building of effective constitutional government. Whatever the outcome, other critical tasks lie ahead: the formation of a broadly based government; the holding of parliamentary elections; the development of good working relations between the executive and the legislative; and, above all, making your constitution work effectively.
But I am writing you now not to offer advice but simply to say that I am following events in Viet Nam with interest, sympathy, and great respect for you both, for your colleagues in the government, for all the candidates who are venturing now into democratic politics, and --above all--for the gallant people of your country./3/
/3/According to an August 18 memorandum from Frank Wisner of CORDS to Calhoun, Ky faced "enormous" difficulties since acceding to Thieu's dominant position on the Presidential ticket, including being abandoned by former allies and being pressured by those remaining (such as Loan) to take a strong stand against Thieu, even if it meant "to prepare a coup d'etat." Perhaps the most vexing of the problems was the fact that the Thieu-Ky campaign had run out of funds; Thieu had already obligated all of the campaign's monies and Ky could find no alternative source. (Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, GVN Elections (General): 1967)
Lyndon B. Johnson
285. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, August 17, 1967, 0036Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted at the White House and approved by Francis J. Meehan of S/S.
22135. 1. Please deliver following Presidential letter to General Thieu as soon as possible.
"Dear General Thieu:
Clark Clifford and General Taylor have informed me of their useful discussions with you and your colleagues during their recent visit to Viet-Nam. They have also informed me of the conversations they have had with our other allies in Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Korea. As you know they were unable to visit the Philippines at this time. I am writing you now to share with you the information they have brought back and to let you have my suggestions on future courses of events.
Mr. Clifford and General Taylor reported that the leaders of each of the countries they visited remain united in their determination to proceed with the war in South Viet-Nam in as vigorous a way as possible. The leaders believe that the pressure against Hanoi and the Viet Cong must be maintained and increased, and they all agreed in principle that additional contributions from all countries will be needed to bring a successful end to the war. No specific commitments were made, but allied nations all agreed to examine urgently and most sympathetically the additional steps that they would be able to take to assist your government and people to defeat the communist aggressors. The decision of the South Vietnamese Government to increase its armed forces by 65,000 men was particularly heartening to them.
I have now presented to the Congress my proposal for imposing a surtax of 10% on the American people to help finance the war in Viet-Nam. We have also announced an additional 45,000 troops for commitment to the fight in South Viet-Nam./2/ The response of our Asian allies in this struggle will be of great importance to me in persuading the Congress and the American people that these additional sacrifices are part of the common effort to defeat aggression.
/2/This augmentation of U.S. forces in Vietnam was disclosed when the President's budget plan with a 10 percent surcharge on the tax liabilities of corporations and individuals was submitted to Congress on August 3. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 14-16, 948.
Messrs. Clifford and Taylor also discussed with the leaders of our allies the desirability of another summit conference. All agreed that another conference before the end of this year is desirable, but felt that a specific decision on the timing and site should await the conclusion of the important elections to be held in South Viet-Nam.
In this regard my emissaries found in each country great interest in the forthcoming elections in your country. The leaders of our allies were unanimous in their belief that a broadly representative government chosen with wide participation by the South Vietnamese people in free and fair elections will have incalculable value in increasing support for South Viet-Nam among the people in the allied countries as well as throughout the world. I want you to know that such elections will be of tremendous importance to me also in maintaining and increasing support among the American people and in the Congress for increased assistance to your country in its valiant struggle.
I wish to express my appreciation for the courtesies extended to my emissaries, Mr. Clifford and General Taylor. They have been most complimentary in their comments on the reception given them by you and your colleagues. I am highly gratified at the frank and forthright discussions that took place, and am confident that they have contributed to an even closer relationship and understanding between our two countries.
I hope the views in this letter are useful to you and your colleagues and I would be glad to receive your views about any of the matters discussed.
With best regards to yourself and your colleagues and in continuing admiration of the bravery of your people, I am
Sincerely, Lyndon B. Johnson"
2. Signed original being pouched.
286. Editorial Note
On August 17 and 18, 1967, Henry Kissinger met with his French intermediaries in the Pennsylvania channel, Herbert Marcovich and Raymond Aubrac. He gave them a message in which the U.S. Government proposed a bombing cessation of North Vietnam if it would "lead promptly to productive discussions" if the North Vietnamese would "not take advantage" of the halt. In light of the significance of the new U.S. position for negotiations, Marcovich and Aubrac agreed to take the message to Hanoi. (Memorandum from Kissinger to Katzenbach, August 21; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Katzenbach Files: Lot 74 D 271, A & M) They decided, however, that the use of the word "if" was too conditional when used in conjunction with the "not take advantage" phrase. They suggested an alternative clause that Kissinger translated as "with the understanding that," a phrase they believed would have greater appeal to the North Vietnamese hierarchy. Kissinger reported the change and recommended its adoption. The Department concurred in the revision. (Telegrams 1997 and 2017 from Paris, both August 17; telegram 2034 from Paris, August 18; and telegram 22969 to Paris, August 18; all ibid., Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA) A record of Kissinger's meetings with Aubrac and Marcovich as reported in these telegrams appears in Herring, The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pages 727-729.
287. Notes of Meeting/1/
Washington, August 18, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File, Folder #4, 1/67-11/67. Top Secret. The notes were typed by Jones and sent to the President on August 19. According to a covering memorandum from Jones to the President, August 19, those present at the meeting were the President, Rusk, McNamara, Wheeler, Rostow, and Christian. The notation "L" on the covering memorandum indicates that the President saw these notes. Jones indicated that the meeting lasted from 8:35 to 9:55 p.m.; President Johnson's diary indicates that it lasted from 8:45 to 9:50 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)
General Wheeler opened the meeting by showing the President a map of 10 targets. Three of them are proposed for a strike next week. Wheeler said information from the Navy is that the Oriskany will be on station tonight. He said Air Force will hit Hanoi thermal power plant tonight. TOT planned time is 1900 tomorrow or 7 p.m. Washington time. If the weather is good, these will go. That will leave three other targets.
McNamara said there are 7 targets authorized and he believes there is a good chance of doing that in the next 5 days.
The President asked how many targets had been approved to get behind us before September.
McNamara said 7 have been approved and he is asking for 3 additional (shown on the map) to be included as a package and thinks there is a good chance of getting them all out of the way by the 24th. McNamara pointed out 3 targets, including target 62 and 59 (depot).
The President asked if target 59 was in a populated area.
McNamara said 59 is a good target but close to a populated area, and that the other 2 were no problem.
Secretary Rusk asked if we have hit 59 before.
McNamara said no.
The President said we hit target 62 before--yes.
General Wheeler showed target 59 location at the northern edge of Hanoi. He calculates 30 civilian casualties.
McNamara said this is a high estimate compared to 5, 10 or 15 casualty estimates on other targets. He said this also shows the target is more critical. He said this is a large depot.
General Wheeler said it is not necessary to approve this target tonight.
The President said he should go ahead and approve it. "If we send a McNamara to talk to Ho Chi Minh, we don't want to approve it after he gets there."
Wheeler said the weather forecast is the best in 3 days. The cloud coverage is dissipating.
The President interrupted to ask how many strikes were made in one night.
General Wheeler said 2 or 3, sometimes 4. He said the Hanoi thermal power plant is based on a one strike basis.
Walt Rostow said this strike is not like a bridge,/2/ but it's like hitting a steel yard.
/2/U.S. planes bombed the Long Bien bridge in Hanoi on August 11 and 12.
McNamara recommended against approving this target tonight (59-depot). He said the target is too complicated, and it is in a populated area.
Rusk and McNamara agreed that the other two targets were okay.
The President asked how many more targets were in the Hanoi area.
Wheeler said about 10. Some of these he will want to think about because they are in highly populated areas. Wheeler said he'll prune the list of 12 targets in Haiphong area to 10. Wheeler recommended that the President approve 2 targets tonight and consider the other next week.
McNamara agreed delaying the decision on target 59 saying it's not that important as a supply depot and that it will be there, and the strike could come around September 5 or 6.
Wheeler told the President he would come in about Tuesday of next week/3/ asking that two other targets be hit--Phuc Yen Airfield and Cat Bi in the Haiphong area. Wheeler said he would justify them by Tuesday. He said Phuc Yen is a military airfield and has nothing to do with ICC or with international travelers using the airfield.
The President asked when should we finish up on the targets.
McNamara replied he and Rusk had minor differences in that Rusk thought it should be 24 to 4th and McNamara 25 to 5th. McNamara said however he had no problem accepting Rusk's idea. Rusk said "these fellows will get there on the 25th and it's not good to hit them when they get there."
The President commented that Congress will be recessing about that time.
McNamara said he testifies on the 25th./4/
/4/On August 9 Stennis, Chairman of the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, launched hearings into the bombing of North Vietnam. McNamara's testimony on August 25 followed and preceded that of several senior military officers. His testimony supported a continuance of the selective bombing policy while the Generals argued for the lifting of civilian-imposed restrictions on military targets. McNamara stressed that an expanded air effort against North Vietnam was unfeasible due to the minimal requirements necessary for the DRV to continue the struggle in the South and because of the lack of fixed targets in the North. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 961-970. According to McNamara's memoirs, his testimony had a divisive impact upon the top echelons of the Defense Department; see In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, pp. 284-291.
The President said they approved all but target 59.
Rusk said we can tell them--don't expect dramatic events on the 24th.
Rusk said a few days ago he felt there was one chance in 100--but today he feels there is one chance in 50 that out of this may come secret contacts. McNamara replied he felt there was one chance in 10 for such results.
Rusk commented that through a Norwegian source, we learned that the North Vietnamese Ambassador to Peking said that any negotiations that would fail would be a disaster./5/
/5/In an August 26 memorandum to Rusk, Hughes observed that as a result of the Loan-Algard dialogue, North Vietnam now appeared ready to engage in preliminary discussions through intermediaries. According to this memorandum, after the June 15 contact with Algard, Loan returned to Hanoi for consultations. Upon the return of both to Peking, they met three times: August 5, 15, and 19. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Ohio)
The President again asked why should we cut out the big ordnance plant--is it used for supplies?
Wheeler said the North Vietnamese are having trouble with supplies. But he said the ordnance plant is not important to the distribution of ammunition. He said this is mostly for rehabilitation of weapons, according to his intelligence, and for the storage of supplies for trucks and weapons.
McNamara summarized the reasons for not striking the depot:
a) it is in a highly concentrated population area; b) it is not that important; c) it can't be done in one strike.
The President asked what North Vietnam is short of--petroleum?
Wheeler said food. Wheeler said we have destroyed the major storage areas of petroleum, and that we have put a strain on the distribution of it, but it's carried in small tanks--600 metric tons--partly buried.
The President asked what is the answer to the stalemate issue. Wheeler responded there is no stalemate. The President said that's not a good enough answer. He said McNamara gets ridiculed when he says it. The President said he answered it today by saying it was pure Communist propaganda. The President suggested we should have some colorful general like MacArthur with his shirt neck open to go in there and say this is pure propaganda and cite them General Larson's figures.
Wheeler said Larson's report/6/ cited dramatic improvements.
/6/Not found, but summarized by the President below.
The President commented that Larson's report was three pages. This was boiled down to the point where finally he had five things that took one minute to say. The President also directed Walt Rostow to assign someone to digest and sanitize Westmoreland's weekly report.
The President said to get a colorful general to go to Saigon and argue with them (the press). He said we've got to do something dramatic.
Wheeler said he read Larson's report. He cabled it to Westmoreland and asked for a report along the same lines from the I, III and IV Corps areas.
The President sent J. Jones to get copies of the condensed Larson report for each person present. He read from the report concerning progress in II Corps area. He pointed out that two years ago there were no important roads open, today 90% are. Two years ago almost no operating railroads, today 53% are. The North Vietnam army lost about 7,000 killed in action to about 800 Americans killed in the last two years. The South Korean division has contributed magnificently. In Phu Yen Province, Vietcong controlled 75% of the rice growing land and about 80% of the population in 1965. Now the Province is almost completely under the control of the South Vietnam government.
The President said he used this information and other material in the last few days meetings with many newspaper people, bureau chiefs, columnists, magazine writers and broadcast men. He said he gave backgrounders to them all. He said they all practically surrender. Kilpatrick (Washington Post) has a son about ready to go to Vietnam. The President said he cites these reports, some of which are so optimistic that he believes Komer must be writing them. But the President said today we have no songs, no parades, no bond drives, etc. and he said we can't win the war otherwise.
The President said he may have brought on trouble today when he said in his press conference that Congress could take away his Tonkin Gulf Resolution./7/ He said Fulbright was quoted tonight saying he didn't think that would be practical.
/7/For the statement, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book II, pp. 788-796.
Rusk said that Senator Hugh Scott, who has been helpful, suggested that a group of moderates be brought down to the White House for a pep talk.
The President said you can't trust them. He said he met with 48 House Republican freshmen and took all their questions from Vietnam, to elections, to a question from Mrs. Heckler about Brad Morse's proposal. He said they applauded the President twice. He said tonight that they are all out telling what he said. The President relayed that he told the Republican freshmen that in war, politics stops at the water's edge. He said he supported President Eisenhower while Majority Leader 79% on foreign policy, even when the Republican Senate leader refused to help his President. He said he didn't expect these freshmen Republicans to vote 79% for their President (Johnson) but he did expect them to do so for their country.
The President said he also told Dirksen today. Dirksen had told the President he is worried by a great volume of mail he's getting saying someone in Washington is putting the reins on the military commanders and that the war could be won if the military wasn't held back.
The President asked when the bad weather sets in--around the 15th of September?
Wheeler said it starts to flip about the middle of September. From September 15 to October 15 the weather is bad. It stays mostly bad until early or late April.
The President asked if we get out of North Vietnam at that time and where do we put our planes.
Wheeler suggested that the operational commanders be allowed to permit planes to fly north of North Vietnam when the weather is good during this bad season. He also said that flying weather during this time is relatively good in Laos even though weather is bad in North Vietnam. Wheeler said we should apply pressure when we can in North Vietnam during this bad season, especially in the Haiphong-Hanoi area. But Wheeler says we should not set a number of sorties per week during this time.
Rusk commented that "it rains like hell during this period but between times there is some good weather."
Wheeler suggested that during the bad weather period, we have a high level of sorties in Laos and a low level number of sorties in North Vietnam.
McNamara said we have 2600 to 3000 sorties more or an increase in the last six months of about 600% in the Haiphong-Hanoi area.
Wheeler said we've put a heavy stress on their supply and distribution system. Pilots now report that they go into a defended area with a highway of flak one day and go back the next day and there is almost nothing.
Rusk said, "I'm convinced our bombing program has paid considerable dividends."
Wheeler cited a Navy research paper showing length of time for movement into the south from the Hanoi area for three periods--1965, early 1966, and late 1966./8/ There is a dramatic increase in the time it takes for this movement. The President asked how Wheeler fared before the Senate Committee and how many were present for the hearing./9/
/9/Wheeler appeared before the Stennis subcommittee on August 16.
Wheeler replied he got a friendly reception. There were seven members there. He started listing Senators Stennis, Symington, Cannon, Margaret Smith, Thurmond and Jack Miller./10/ Wheeler said the committee counsel is Kirbow (Charles) whom Wheeler described as not very good. Wheeler said Stennis likes Kirbow however. Wheeler said Kirbow's work was not thorough and this showed up in the questioning.
/10/Senators Howard D. Cannon (D-NV), Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME), Strom Thurmond (R-SC), and Jack Miller (R-IA).
Wheeler said he and General Momyer had hoped to do some educating of the members.
McNamara said Wheeler "did a helluva good job." He told them that bombing in the north is not a substitute, but a supplement for the activity in the south. McNamara said "Symington's thesis is that if you bomb hell out of the north you can forget the south." McNamara said he and Wheeler cannot support this.
Wheeler acknowledged that Symington was the roughest questioner at the hearing. Wheeler said Momyer could not support Symington's bombing thesis either. McNamara agreed and said Momyer was excellent at the hearing too.
McNamara said the Senate Committee was trying to prove: 1) we can win it by air and Naval power in the north; 2) there is a gap between the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Defense Secretary or between the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the President. McNamara acknowledged that "sure there are small differences but these are worked out." McNamara said the proof of what a good job Wheeler did was that there were no stories even though they were out to get stories.
Wheeler said "Symington is on Phuc Yen like a broken record."
McNamara said there are a total of 27 Migs in North Vietnam. These Migs aren't shooting down our planes. Why risk lives of American pilots over these?
The President asked when would we get our additional 45,000 men in there--in October?
Wheeler answered that a brigade of about 5,000 would be there in October. There will be an additional division around the first of the year, about February, 1968. The rest Westmoreland will get from in-country, etc. and everything should be there by the first of July.
McNamara said Westmoreland will get the 19 battalions by about the first of March.
The President asked when Vietnam will put in their 65,000 additional troops.
Wheeler said probably not until after the elections.
Rusk pointed out that they were freezing some in the ranks now, however.
The President asked if the election is cooling off a bit.
Rusk replied that Leonard Marks received a report from his man in Vietnam--Zorthian--which said there has been a real change in the civilian candidates exploiting the press.
The President suggested that some speeches be worked up to show how the Saigon politicians made dummies of the press corps there and how the politicians were leading the press around by the nose. President said Resnick might make this speech. The President directed Rostow to get up some speeches. The President told J. Jones if Rostow couldn't get this done to have Ben Wattenberg write up a speech.
The President inquired about the observers in Vietnam./11/
/11/In an August 11 letter to Rusk, Bui Diem expressed his government's desire to have the U.S. Congress dispatch observers to scrutinize the upcoming South Vietnamese elections. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 950-951.
Rusk replied that Bunker cabled for fewer than 25.
The President said to get a good group ready. He suggested 3 governors, 3 mayors, 3 veterans, 3 newspaper people, 3 radio-tv, 3 from labor. The President recommended the Chairmen of the Armed Forces and Foreign Relations Committees of both Houses to be invited. He said Fulbright won't go any farther than Hawaii.
Rusk added it's not safe for Fulbright to go farther than Hawaii because nobody in Asia wants to see Fulbright.
McNamara suggested three from League of Women Voters go. McNamara also recommended Archbishop Lucey of Texas. He said Lucey is terrific on Vietnam.
The President said Republican Governor Rhodes of Ohio is ready to go. President suggested Arthur Fleming, Archbishop Lucey and Billy Graham go./12/
/12/These men were prominent religious leaders.
Wheeler asked if the Secretaries of State and Defense should go.
The President said he didn't want Rusk or McNamara ever to go again. He didn't want any official "above the rank of first lieutenant" to go there because "I just catch hell for two weeks before they go and then after they come back." The President said he counted 15 crises in the last two months. He ticked some off--Westmoreland and troops, McNamara railroad strike, Middle East flareup, riots.
The President said Romney got the jump on us on the riots. Because of this, Romney's popularity goes up and the President's goes down. He said Romney took that one away from us. It was Romney's riot in Romney's state and Romney couldn't handle it even though he preaches local action. It will catch up with them, but Romney stayed with the press while Cy Vance and General Throckmorton did their job.
Wheeler says he counts the war in Vietnam as having gone on for 2 years. He counts the start of the ground war in October 1965.
The President asked how many in South Vietnam--12-15 million?
Wheeler said about 15 million and replied that the Vietcong are about 4 million.
The President wondered aloud, "it seems like with all of the South Vietnamese and all the American troops, we could whip 'em."
The President asked if the ICC will find anything in Cambodia.
"No" Wheeler replied, "it will be a whitewash."
The President asked when will the targets in Vietnam be cleared.
"Never," said Wheeler.
McNamara said "It's movement--about 90% are against moving targets."
The President commented on the picture in today's New York Times showing about 20 North Vietnamese troops in water re-building a bridge. He suggested this picture be blown up along with another picture of North Vietnamese troops shooting American soldiers. He said the two pictures can be shown to Congressional committees and you can ask, "do you want their boys doing this (repairing bridges) or shooting your men." (This is in answer to bombing critics.)
McNamara pointed to the map and said that much of the five divisions (North Vietnamese) have moved north of the DMZ--sometimes as much as 100 miles north.
Wheeler said this is because they have suffered heavy casualties in the DMZ and they are probably short of supplies. He said the drought has hurt them. They probably have moved north for re-
training and re-supply.
Rusk advised that Russia may say in the future that the United States always justified its bombing of the north in order to save the lives of American troops at the DMZ who were facing the North Vietnamese divisions. Rusk said Russia may say that we knew those divisions had moved, but yet we continued to bomb.
Wheeler said whole regiments had pulled back. He said that south of the DMZ today, there are not more than 10 or 12,000 North Vietnamese troops. These are mostly for reconnaissance or holding the line.
The President asked if their (North Vietnam) casualties amounted to 100,000.
Rusk replied that the population in the north never hears this.
Wheeler said he had evidence they (North Vietnam) have lowered their draft age to 16. He said a Vietnamese officer touring a battlefield noted that many of the dead were 13, 14 and 15 year old boys.
Rusk said their manpower is committed or being chewed up. He said North Vietnam is having a manpower shortage. Rusk and McNamara said we should watch the 300,000 enemy in the south because that's where the 100,000 casualties are. Rusk said Vietcong morale is low. Wheeler answered the President that of the 300,000 enemy in the south, about 55,000 are North Vietnamese. McNamara commented that these are the ones who have a ticket to death.
The meeting adjourned at 9:55 p.m. The President told Rusk and McNamara he wanted to move on a group of observers tomorrow.
288. Memorandum for the 303 Committee/1/
Washington, August 18, 1967.
/1/Source: National Security Council, Records of the 303 Committee, Vietnam 1965-1969. Secret; Eyes Only.
CIA proposes to establish and support covertly a left wing political group in Vietnam. The short run objective of establishing this group is to provide tangible evidence to leftists that political activity of this sort is tolerated in Vietnam. The real purpose is to persuade key members of the Liberation Front that they would have a political role to play on the non-Communist side if they should leave the Front. It is believed that a legal and overt left wing group would have some appeal for a variety of political elements in South Vietnam who are alienated from active political life by the predominantly anti-Communist character of present day Vietnamese politics. This activity will cost initially an estimated [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] which is available in the FY 68 CIA budget. Ambassador Bunker has approved his proposal. Earlier in May 67, it was discussed informally with Secretary McNamara, Mr. Walt Rostow and Mr. Unger of the State Department./2/ This proposal was approved by Assistant Secretary Bundy on 27 July 1967.
/2/No record of this meeting has been found.
In its efforts to penetrate and cause the defection of top level members of the Liberation Front, CIA believes it essential to provide a political inducement as alternative to the positions and political prominence that the target personalities now enjoy within the Front. While it is not possible to offer them positions of comparable rank and influence within the South Vietnamese government, CIA believes that tangible evidence must be provided to these persons that, after defecting from the Front they will be able actively to participate in the political life in South Vietnam. This proposal to establish an overt left wing political group is intended to provide that evidence.
3. Factors Bearing on the Problem
a. Origin of the Requirement
This requirement stems from CIA's efforts to penetrate and cause the defection of top level members of the Liberation Front.
b. Relationship to Previous 303 Committee Actions
c. Pertinent U.S. Policy Considerations
Given Hanoi's persistent assertions that the Liberation Front is the only legitimate representative of the South Vietnamese people, anything that can be done to split or otherwise tarnish the image of the Front will undermine the Front's position, both within and without Vietnam, and weaken Hanoi's position correspondingly.
d. Operational Objective
CIA's objective is to provide potential defectors from the Liberation Front with a political home on the non-Communist side of Vietnamese politics, thereby facilitating the process of defecting key leaders and splitting the Front.
CIA proposes to stimulate the formation of a focal point for left wing political sentiment in Saigon, initially though the formation of a left wing study center that would draw on persons of various political viewpoints who share a common alienation from the incumbent power structure and its political orientation. [4 lines of source text not declassified] As the study center legitimizes itself through overt programs relating to Vietnam's current problems, the basis would be provided for the ultimate formation of a leftist political party, hopefully with at least nominal representation within the National Assembly.
f. Risks Involved
The risks involved in this operation are two: revelation of U.S. involvement to the Vietnamese government, the North Vietnamese or the Liberation Front or capture of the movement by the Communists. Revelation could result from [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] hostile counter-intelligence activity. The CIA assessment [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] is that the risk of revelation from this source is minimal. Similarly, CIA believes that the threat from hostile counter-intelligence activity has been and will continue to be kept within tolerable by scrupulous security precautions. Revelation of U.S. involvement would result in some temporary embarrassment, but since the idea of attempting to establish contact with the Front has been cleared with Prime Minister Ky, CIA believes that this extension of the principle should not cause undue problems with the present Vietnamese leadership. The risk of the movement being captured by the Communists and being turned into an additional component of subversion is hard to determine at this time because it is directly related to the success of the venture. Overall, CIA is aware of both the risks and political sensitivity of this proposed activity. In addition to the use of meticulous security precautions in the development of the scheme, CIA will monitor the activity closely and is prepared to alter the pace and time of the effort if we obtain indications that the risks are becoming excessive. We will resubmit the proposal for 303 Committee review if unexpected developments cause the risk factor to increase to a marked degree.
g. Support Required from other Agencies
h. Timing of the Operation
CIA is prepared to undertake this activity when it is endorsed by the 303 Committee.
a. U.S. Departments and Agencies
This proposal has been discussed informally with Secretary McNamara, Mr. Unger of the State Department and Mr. Rostow of the White House on 6 May 1967. It was approved by Assistant Secretary Bundy on 27 July 1967 with the understanding that CIA would exercise special care with this sensitive operation.
b. U.S. Ambassador
Ambassador Bunker has approved this proposal.
c. Host Country
Prime Minister Ky and National Police Director Loan are aware of CIA's efforts to contact the top leadership of the Liberation Front, but they have not been and will not be briefed on this proposal.
It is recommended that CIA be authorized to proceed immediately with the establishment of the study center and to follow up this beginning with additional steps aimed at the ultimate formation of an overt and legal left wing political party, the pace of activity to be governed by how rapidly the various components of this movement can be brought together. The initial cost will be about [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] for FY 1968 which is available in the CIA budget.
/3/On August 22 the 303 Committee met to consider approval of covert actions in South Vietnam as well as in other areas. Attendees at the meeting included Rostow, Kohler, Nitze, and Helms. The Committee approved the proposal set out in this memorandum as "a worthwhile risk." (Several members had been briefed in Saigon on this project.) According to the record of the meeting, "Rostow observed that although we had wisely abstained from direct government subsidies in the present election campaign, once a viable government had been elected we should consider the subsidy of political party machinery to guarantee some continuity in this attempt at the democratic process." (Memorandum for the Record, August 22; National Security Council, Records of the 303 Committee, 303 Committee Minutes, August 22, 1967) In October the Committee authorized the spending of [text not declassified] to aid Dai Viet and Vietnamese Confederation of Trade Unions (CVT) candidates for the National Assembly. In November the Committee also approved [text not declassified] for the development of political parties in Vietnam. The fund was to be administered by Bunker and directed toward "nascent political parties and individual Assembly members." (Memorandum from Donald MacDonald, Deputy Director for Coordination, INR, to George Denney, Deputy Director, INR, July 26, 1968; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, East Asian Country File, Vietnam, 1968)
289. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency to the Station in Saigon/1/
Washington, August 19, 1967, 11:40 a.m.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Most Sensitive. An August 19 covering note from Carver to Read indicates that the telegram was sent via CAS channels, although no telegram number appears on the attached draft.
For Mr. Hart only. The Department of State has asked that we pass the following message from the Secretary to Ambassador Bunker. Please cable confirmation of the Ambassador's receipt of this message.
Begin text: To Ambassador Bunker from the Secretary of State:
1. Your proposal to provide financial support to Ky and Huong campaigns has been carefully considered./2/ After examining advantages and disadvantages we have concluded it is best to avoid such involvement.
/2/See Document 282.
2. Ky seems to have more than enough money already and we do not wish develop this sort of relationship with him. The success of your private advisory relationship [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] is well established and fruitful without such involvement.
3. As for Huong, we have serious doubts that passing money in way described could be kept secret. We also wonder whether Huong is aware of request. We suspect his associate who made contact with Embassy officer may be shopping around without Huong's knowledge. In any event we do not wish to engage in this sort of operation.
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