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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Johnson Administration > Volume V
Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 335-355

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

Saigon, September 23, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Vietnamese (South) Elections 1967. Secret; Most Sensitive; Immediate Director. Passed by Carver to Read the same day. An attached covering note from Kohler to Katzenbach, undated, reads: "I share the general allergy to intervention in elections. However, I think Viet-Nam is a special case; [I] find Ambassador Bunker's rationale persuasive and have confidence in his good judgment. Consequently, I would recommend approval." An attached telegram to Saigon transmitted approval of Bunker's proposal [text not declassified] on September 27. Approval was also transmitted in telegram Director 42657, October 11. (Central Intelligence Agency, DDO/ISS Files, Job 78-32)

CAS 2436. Ambassador Bunker released the following message late in the evening of 23 September and asks that it be passed to the Secretary of State:

"Although the hurdles of the Presidential and Senatorial elections are behind us, it is apparent that we will continue to experience for some time to come a variety of problems deriving from the change in power relationship between President Thieu and Vice President Ky. That, plus the continued development of the constitutional process as opposed to attempts by the military to maintain control, will probably cause some disturbance during the foreseeable future. Consequently, while I hope and expect that a reasonable adjustment of the Thieu/Ky relationship can gradually be achieved, a part of my continuing contact with the executive elements here will often be an effort simply to keep the peace.

"There is a potentially important ally in this effort--the legislature. I doubt that the legislature will develop real style or accrue genuine political authority in the near future. I am convinced, however, that from the outset, there will be times when we will need to call upon selected individuals in both houses to help bring political brushfires under control. Moreover, in the long run, it will be the development of an independent, responsible legislature that will create and maintain the basis for political stability and growth in South Vietnam.

"Thus, both immediate and future considerations strongly support a prudent investment of our talents and energy in an effort to assure that we have solid, reliable friends in the legislature. It is clearly in the nature of things out here that a portion of our responsibility for working with Parliamentarians must be carried out through CAS. In this regard, good political common sense indicates that the best way to develop a useful relationship with a Parliamentarian is to be of some value to him while he is still a candidate.

"Unlike the Senate elections where the candidates ran as members of a group and the number of groups involved--on a nationwide basis--made the whole process rather unpredictable; in the House elections, single candidates are running, for the most part on their own. [9 lines of source text not declassified]

"Clearly, the nature and scope of our election program will depend upon the resources available to the candidates chosen by us. In view of this, and the fact that the election is to be held just four weeks hence, I urge favorable consideration be given to a program of limited financial support to a group of selected House candidates. Successful establishment of a group responsive to our guidance in the house could represent an effective aid to the accomplishment of our political objectives in South Vietnam."


336. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, September 26, 1967, 1:15-2:35 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the second floor dining room of the White House.


President: Walt, did you get the information to Senator Dirksen and Senator Mansfield? They are battling with Senator Case today./2/

/2/Citing McNamara's testimony concerning the ineffectiveness of bombing North Vietnamese ports Case charged that morning in the Senate that the President's disingenuousness about progress in Vietnam caused a "crisis of confidence." He also criticized Johnson's "perversion" of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. During debate which followed, both Mansfield and Dirksen challenged Case's assertions and offered support for the administration's Vietnam policy. A discussion of the debate is in William C. Gibbons, The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War, pp. 824-827.

Rostow: Yes sir.

President: Nick, did you get that information on the Tonkin Gulf Resolution?/3/ I want the opinions and precedents on this. If Senator Russell were able, he could present this case very effectively. Russell said it was hypocritical to say they did not understand the resolution when it was passed.

/3/Presumably a request for a legal opinion on the resolution.

I had an interesting conversation with Prime Minister Menzies over the weekend./4/ He said he did not see how we could win the war without more public statements. He said there is a need to repeat statements over and over. He thinks we should repeat again how we got into Vietnam, why we are there, and what our purpose is. The luncheon group agreed that more of this needed to be done.

/4/The President met with former Prime Minister of Australia Sir Robert Menzies for lunch, 2:05-3:15 p.m. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)

Nick, isn't it bad for those newspapers to be closed down in Saigon?

Katzenbach: There are many newspapers out there. These are all small circulation papers, but yes, it does have some negative effects--more here in the U.S. than out there.

Helms: It's what our newspapers do to it that is critical.

President: What about peace negotiations? How are the contacts doing?

Katzenbach: The last message sounded more plaintive than negative./5/ The channel is still there. The question is will they talk to Henry while bombing continues. He will talk to a non-official rather than to officials.

/5/Document 334.

We suggest they start talking about either substance of stopping or how we get together for talks.

The odds are against talks at this time. I think there is a possibility, although not a very good one. The chances of getting Vietnam resolved before November, 1968, depends on our ability to get talks going.

We should try even if there is little hope for success. Even if you were to get them started and nothing happened it would be good. We would step down some if secret talks began. I do not see a better channel at the moment. I do not see anything better.

In South Vietnam, Helms' people have picked up a man and let him go./6/ This also may work.

/6/A reference to what became known as the Buttercup operation. See footnote 4, Document 341.

Rostow: Interrupted to mention that Senator Muskie had called concerned over a CBS report that 85% of the Vietnamese election overseeing group thought the Thieu-Ky election was a fraud. The President asked Director Helms to check this and if it is not true, get the information to the Senator.

Secretary Katzenbach: Reported on the Rusk-Gromyko talks which were underway in New York at the U.N. Secretary Katzenbach made the following points:

--Soviets will talk with us on ABM but no date has been agreed to.
--Soviets were not upset by the McNamara speech.
--There had been no talk on Vietnam between the two Foreign ministers.
--There was discussion of Middle East.

On other U.N. activities, Katzenbach reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban said the same thing privately he said publicly. Our problem is to hold onto our friends, including Britain on the issue.

President: Is there anything new on General Wheeler's condition?

Secretary McNamara: He is doing fine. He is in the hospital today for an examination.

Secretary McNamara: On targets, the JCS recommends elimination of restrictions around Hanoi. They recommend a strike on Phuc Yen airbase, and they want restrike authority on targets previously hit inside the 10-mile circle. There are 25 targets which have been authorized but not struck.

In my opinion, it would be harmful to the Paris talks if we were to intensify the bombing. It is unlikely that the military progress which they would produce would be great enough to change attitudes toward negotiations.

There have been two questions sent to Hanoi:

1. Do we understand that if we stop the bombing that within two days you will go to the conference table?

2. Will you talk to Kissinger if we hold the current level of bombing?

While there are these discussions I would recommend against additional bombing. We have enough targets for another week.

On Phuc Yen, I see no great risk of the Soviets reacting at this time. I will not strongly recommend against the strike.

We have only lost three aircraft to MIGs, yet we have downed seven of theirs. There are only 27 MIGs in North Vietnam at the present time.

I talked to Ambassador Thompson. He doubted that the Soviets would respond at this time. If we hit it once, we will have to hit it again.

Rostow: We are keeping them busy for the moment repairing the bridges and the thermal power plant. Let's give them another week to play out the string.

President: I see nothing coming from this.

Rostow: I do not see any connection between bombing and negotiations.

Katzenbach: I do not think we are going to get negotiations by bombing.

President: I do not see holding off again. What have we gotten out of this so far.

Katzenbach: We have gotten into communications with them. There have been no communications since February of this year.

The tone of the communications was less strident than before.

It is important to try to get them to talk.

It's worth doing, even at the price of not hitting within the Hanoi circle.

If you measure bombing against the possibilities of the channels, they have a better public stance than we do.

President: What are the arguments of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

McNamara: The power plant is 50% operative and they are rebuilding it. The two Hanoi bridges are again being used for traffic. They believe it is important to hit the industrial targets to help the war effort.

In my opinion, none of these are strong arguments.

President: Who is influencing Hanoi?

Katzenbach: We are making them believe they can't achieve their goals in the way they wanted.

The difficulty has been in bombing limited targets. There is enough destruction to make it look like we are trying to defeat Hanoi and can't.

I do not think we should stop bombing the North unless we can get to the bargaining table. A pause may help publicly.

I favor a pause between now and February.

President: I do too. But we are too quick to pick up what any professor may get going. I think we should get those targets now.

A pause won't change the political situation. It will give them an answer though that we are prepared to go the last mile.

But I do want to get all those targets before a pause.

McNamara: We are not going to be able to have a pause without the military saying there still are targets to be hit.

Katzenbach: Don't step up the bombing and then pause.

Helms: I do not agree that by not bombing in a particular location it will have any effect on talks.

President: History may make us look silly on this whole thing.

We pull out of Hanoi any bombing for six weeks to let people get in. Then they never go in.

McNamara: The serious problem is that you must show the American people that you are willing to walk that last mile. You sent a good formula. No American President could expect you to do more.

But we do not pay much for keeping this going.

President: I think they are playing us for suckers. They have no more intention of talking than we have of surrendering. In my judgment everything you hit is important. It makes them hurt more.

Relatively few men are holding down a lot of men. I think we should get them down and keep them down. We will give them an opportunity to speak and talk if they will.

If we believe that we should bomb, then we should hit their bridges, their power plants, and other strategic targets outside the ones which we have ruled off-limits.

We get nothing in return for giving all we have got. But I guess a pause won't hurt because the weather is bad anyway. But I do want to get all the targets hit that we dare approve./7/ Then we will make public the pause that Thieu had mentioned. If they do not talk we will have to go to more drastic steps.

/7/CINCPAC received authorization to bomb Phuc Yen airfield later the same day, but the authorization was withdrawn within 3 days.

We are losing support in this country. The people just do not understand the war. But nobody can justify holding off for five weeks. We must look at this thing very carefully.

I agree with Dick Helms. It makes no difference in their minds where we hit.

Hanoi alone will not do it. They still want permanent cessation, their four points, and what they have said.

How do you wrap up the channel if it is getting us nowhere.

McNamara: I would suggest, in that case, that the President authorize Phuc Yen today, then watch all replies from Bo or M & A so you can terminate the exchange if nothing comes of it.

President: I am ready to do that. Wait a week. If they give any indication I am ready to do it.

Katzenbach: Bo could say I'll talk with Kissinger. It makes a difference what we do and say. We should adjust our messages so they can do something or call it off.

President: Nick, give me a paper on what hopes you and State see in this thing. I just do not see them. But I want a paper on this./8/ You already have given them five weeks.

/8/See Document 337.

Katzenbach: But it did not cost us anything.

President: You built a big umbrella which gives them a chance to rebuild. I would deny them that. But let me see it. Write down what we have to gain.

Helms: I do not think it will pay to continue holding off hitting Hanoi. Let's get the public relations aspect out. Let Bob go ahead and tell his people that we will destroy every military target in North Vietnam with the exception of Hanoi and China restricted areas.

We have offered a formula related to bombing. This was unconditional. This could lead to talks. They said no. We regard this as their answer for the time being.

We must design a scenario that would lead to a pause.

President: I want Katzenbach to prepare me a memo on why he thinks we should continue this channel, a scenario for wrapping it up, because we have met twice with a firm no./9/

/9/In a covering memorandum to a draft speech on a negotiating position sent to the President on September 26, Rostow noted Katzenbach's desire to delay the speech until the arrival of Bo's response to Kissinger, expected on September 30 or, if the speech could not be delayed, at the very least not offer a formulation for negotiations. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Pennsylvania (continued))

We owe it to our men to do everything we can. We're not.

Katzenbach: We are talking about a very small area in exchange for what we are doing.

President: But all of this adds up. It is a question of which one of us can last the longest.

McNamara: On the day we gave a message to them we hit Hanoi harder that day than ever before. It was 21-22-23 of August when we hit Hanoi hard. It was the same time as the message was sent. Your formula was excellent. You have a good record since this.

President: We see nothing coming out of it.

McNamara: If the resumption of bombing does not terminate the talks you would want to keep it going in Paris.

Katzenbach: The tone of these talks is better than ever before. We know the amount of messages they have been sending Paris. We can't break the code. Bo has been careful not to slam the door. He has not been permitted to talk to an official American while the bombing is going on. He said to tell A & M.

There then was a discussion of signing the space treaty on October 10. Question was whether or not it should be in Washington or New York. President expressed interest in signing it in Washington because it shows that progress can be made while Vietnam is going on.


337. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Katzenbach to President Johnson/1/

Washington, September 26, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, PENNSYLVANIA (continued). Top Secret; Nodis; Personal.

Negotiations with North Vietnam

This memorandum attempts to answer the question you posed at luncheon./2/ It represents my own views and I do not know whether or not the Secretary would agree.

/2/See Document 336.

I. The Kissinger Exercise.

The significance of the Paris-Kissinger exercise lies in the fact that it is the closest thing we have yet had to establishing a dialogue with North Vietnam. It takes on particular significance in my view because, since last February, every attempt to get into communication with the North Vietnamese has been brutally and immediately rebuffed. This has been true in Moscow in April/3/ and in Vientiane in June./4/ By and large it has also been true of indirect communication. While Kissinger has not talked yet directly to Bo, he did succeed in establishing a dialogue with him, through intermediaries and written messages, and Bo's attitude has been consistently to keep the channel open and to encourage dialogue.

/3/See footnote 2, Document 127.

/4/See Document 227.

To refresh your recollection briefly, the sequence has been as follows:

(1) Our basic message was delivered to Bo on August 25./5/

/5/See Document 293.

(2) On September 11 Bo delivered a formal reply, repeating the standard Hanoi position and arguments, but pointedly declared he was anxious to keep the channel open./6/

/6/See footnote 2, Document 315.

(3) On September 13 we formally replied arguing that our proposal did not involve "conditions"./7/

/7/See Document 324.

(4) On September 23 Bo replied, apparently to our message of September 13, complaining about our intensified bombing which Bo gave as the reason for his refusal to see Kissinger./8/

/8/The text of Bo's reply is in a note of a telephone conversation between Read and Kissinger, September 24. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA) It is printed in full in Herring, The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 750-752.

(5) On September 25 Kissinger replied defending our bombing policy partially on grounds of secrecy./9/ On September 25 Bo also stated the following:

/9/The text of Kissinger's reply is in a note of a telephone conversation between Read and Kissinger, September 25. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA) It is printed in Herring, The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 753-754. According to an untitled and unsigned Department of State memorandum dated September 26, after presenting Kissinger's proposal, Marcovich added his suggestion that preliminary discussions could begin if the United States reverted to its August level of bombing. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)

"Bo replied that the DRV Prime Minister had made it clear that there could be no formal discussions between the US and DRV as long as any level of bombing continued in the North, but, Bo added, preliminary discussions between Bo and Kissinger might not fall under such prohibition. Bo said he would let him know whether such preliminary discussions were possible within a few days." (underscoring added)/10/

/10/Printed here as italics.

We should hear towards the end of the week whether or not there can be "preliminary discussions" between Bo and Kissinger. I find it significant that the phraseology "preliminary discussions" was employed by Bo. Preliminary to what? It would seem to me that these discussions could only be preliminary to formal discussion which could take place if our offer was accepted. Kissinger, if he talks to Bo, should pressure the modalities of formal discussions: time, place, date, possibly agenda.

This seems to me the easier because of the statement today from Hanoi that North Vietnam would be prepared to open "serious and significant talks" three or four weeks after the United States halted its bombing without formulating any conditions. (The three to four weeks is clearly negotiable in the light of other information if we can get into preliminary discussions.)

We know that Bo has been in constant communication with Hanoi. His demeanor has indicated that to a large extent he was acting under instructions. We know that we are dealing with a divided government in North Vietnam, and it is at least a reasonable inference that our offer has sufficient appeal for them not to reject it out of hand as they could have done by refusing further communication, and which they have done in the past. This hypothesis seems to be supported by the public statement from Hanoi today which, if nothing else, is certainly the most forthcoming statement they have made on the subject of negotiations.

If you are seriously considering a bombing pause to test Hanoi's intentions, it seems to me particularly important that the Paris channel not be abruptly ruptured. One thing that we have learned is that once communication is broken off, it takes considerable time to turn it on again. And it seems to me that the most effective pause would be one which followed some kind of dialogue--"preliminary discussions" --of the type contemplated by Bo.

II. Relationship of Pause in Bombing and Discussions.

Virtually every time we have had a contact, direct or indirect, with Hanoi, they or their spokesman have cautioned that an escalation of bombing would prejudice the condition of discussions. This was true with respect to the Polish operation, the Moscow operation, and the current Paris operation. Whether or not there is any merit or substance to the Hanoi statements the simple fact is that there have been actions widely regarded as escalatory which coincide with our efforts to enter into negotiations. It is entirely possible--I think probable--that these actions were seized upon as excuses by Hanoi. But it is not possible to prove that point and there is sufficient plausibility in their position to cast doubt in the minds of other governments and a substantial segment of American public opinion as to the sincerity of our efforts. Since I know that our efforts have been sincere and since I think these are merely excuses, I would like to eliminate all possible doubt with respect to the Kissinger negotiations. If Bo refuses to see Kissinger, then I see no problem with resuming the normal level of bombing in Hanoi. If Bo agrees to see Kissinger, I think it important to continue the circle at least until we see whether the Kissinger channel is leading towards prompt and productive discussions.

I do not believe that Hanoi is presently likely to enter into serious discussions. But I think that it is important in terms of both circumstances and public relations that we test that possibility to the hilt. I do not think we pay a heavy price in delaying hitting again a very small percentage of the targets in North Vietnam. We know that destruction of those targets this week or next week can have absolutely no significance in terms of the conduct of the war. There is an outside chance that it could have some impact on the search for peace. And I would play along with that chance--which I acknowledge to be very small indeed--because the consequences are so great.


Nicholas deB. Katzenbach




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

Saigon, September 26, 1967, 1130Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. There is no indication on the telegram when it was received.

6934. Ref: Saigon 6624./2/

/2/In telegram 6624 from Saigon, September 22, Bunker reported on a meeting with Thieu on that date in which they discussed the selection of a Prime Minister and development of an action program for the new government, including various measures such as the enforcement of land reform. (Ibid.)

1. I saw Thieu this morning (September 26) primarily to discuss with him our concern over the situation in the National Assembly with respect to the forthcoming vote on the validation of the Presidential elections. I told him that I had heard disturbing reports of division in the Assembly and mentioned that a number of Vietnamese had expressed concern to me and members of my staff over the possibility that the Assembly would vote against validation. I mentioned specifically the reports that the Democratic Alliance Bloc, which has been the government bloc in the Assembly and responsive to Ky, was split on this issue and might throw enough votes against validation to decide the issue.

2. I emphasized to Thieu that he and Ky together have a great responsibility to be sure that the Assembly acts in a responsible manner. I reminded him that U.S. reaction to invalidation would be most adverse and could in fact create major difficulties for continued U.S. support for Viet-Nam.

3. Thieu said that he was well aware of all of this and that he has been working on the problem and Ky has been working on it also. Thieu said that he saw Le Quang Liem of the Democratic Alliance Bloc yesterday and told him frankly that it is absolutely essential that the Assembly validate the elections. If it should fail to do so people would lose confidence in elections and indeed it would be uncertain whether elections would be held for a long time again. He said he emphasized to Liem that it was not a question of individuals but a question of preserving and continuing the progress that has been made here in the promotion of democratic institutions. Liem told Thieu that he believes the majority of the Assembly will vote for validation. Thieu emphasized a simple majority is not enough, there must be an impressive majority to affirm support of the elections. Thieu said that he was also going to talk to Security Minister General Linh Quang Vien later in the day to check up on all the National Assembly members and where they stood as individuals on the vote.

4. Thieu said that he plans today to see Colonel Dam Van Quy of the DAB and Nguyen Thien Nhon, a PAC member and insider of Ky's civilian entourage. He said that Quy and Nhon had both been reported to be active in stirring up the students to denounce the elections and he intends to warn them of the dangers of continuing such activities. He cited Le Phuoc Sang as possibly the prime troublemaker in the Democratic Alliance Bloc. Ky told Thieu that Sang was angry at him (Ky) for failing to support his Senatorial list during the election.

5. Thieu repeated that he is keeping in close touch with Ky on this whole matter and he thinks that the vote will come out all right./3/ The Movement for the Renaissance of the South (MRS) bloc has been against validation but has now switched their position and he believes that they will vote for validation. He also thinks the independents are going to be smart enough to understand that the issue is not one of individuals but of the fate of the nation. Also most encouraging is the report of the Central Election Council which has reported to the Special Committee of the National Assembly that none of the complaints filed with it have been substantiated. One important question not yet resolved however is the manner in which the Assembly will vote, that is by secret ballot, show of hands, or roll call. Thieu feels it most important that the vote be public so that each man will be publicly responsible for his vote.

/3/In telegram 7060 from Saigon, September 27 (Bunker's 22d weekly telegram to the President), Bunker reported that he had seen Ky later that day. The Prime Minister vowed to ensure that his DAB supporters would vote for validation of the elections. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S) also reported in telegram 7051, September 27; ibid., POL 15-1 VIET S) Bunker's weekly report is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 176-184. An INR memorandum entitled "Validation of the South Vietnamese Elections Likely But Impact Questionable," September 27, suggested that the DAB's opposition was due to "inadequate financial backing" from Ky and was a way for the Prime Minister to extract concessions from the President-elect for himself and members of the DAB. As a counter-measure, Thieu was attempting to bribe some of its membership. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 VIET S) On October 3 the Constituent Assembly voted 58 to 43 to validate the election results.

6. I turned then to the question of what progress he is making toward formation of the Cabinet. Thieu said that he still plans to announce his Cabinet shortly after the Senate is installed which he thinks will be October 5 or 6. He hopes by October 15 to have the new members working as a shadow Cabinet so that they can get familiar with their jobs and be ready to move into them by November 1.

7. Thieu said that he was still working on the question of Prime Minister and that at present he had under consideration Nguyen Luu Vien, Tran Van Do, Nguyen Huu Hanh, and Nguyen Van Tuong of the SCA. However, Thieu said, Ky has indicated to him that as a matter of personal pride and prestige he would like very much to have Nguyen Van Loc appointed as Prime Minister and indicated that if this should not work out after three to six months Thieu could of course replace him. Thieu said that the Generals also would like to have him take Ky's feeling in this matter into consideration. Thieu recognizes that Ky has been affected by being placed in position of No. 2 and giving in to him on the Loc appointment might help. Thieu said he recognizes also that it is essential that he have good relations with Ky, that they must work together and this might be beneficial in this regard.

8. I emphasized my full agreement with him on how essential it is that he and Ky have a good working relationship. I said that I thought this more important even than the question of who was Prime Minister, that I felt they must have a workable relationship and if he felt that the Loc appointment was necessary in order for him to achieve this relationship then we would be sympathetic to his problem.

9. Thieu said that he was giving it very serious thought. He said after all Loc is Southern, he is a Buddhist and though not an outstanding lawyer, he is honest, had presided skillfully over the People's Army Council and should be able to work well with the National Assembly. Thieu recognized that if he makes such an appointment he runs the risk of being accused of giving in to Ky but I have a feeling that he will be willing to accept this if it will bring about an effective working relationship with Ky.

10. Thieu thanked me for the draft platform memo which I had sent to him (reftel). He said he liked it and had sent it on to his "brain trust" asking them to incorporate the ideas into the draft of his own platform.

11. Briefly at the end of our discussion I took up with Thieu the question of Communications and Transportation Minister Truong Van Thuan. I reviewed for him quickly the question of the Caribous for PA&E still on the ground in Bangkok, the possible purchase of the Caravelles for Air Viet-Nam, the granting of overflight rights to Air France between Phnom Penh and Shanghai and the squeeze that Thuan is trying to put on us in general in connection with Continental Air. I said that we considered the man corrupt and extremely unreliable to work with. Thieu appeared to agree fully. He said that there is no question Thuan is corrupt and he will be the first man in the present government to go.



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

Washington, September 28, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Kissinger--1967. Top Secret/Pennsylvania.


We should very soon have a somewhat clearer picture whether Hanoi has any interest in our stopping the bombing altogether under "no advantage" circumstances on the military side, or whether Hanoi is interested in "preliminary discussions" if we simply refrained from hitting in the area of Hanoi and perhaps Haiphong. At the moment, the latter form of interest seems most likely to emerge, but it may be that the whole thing will die and leave us with a pretty clear picture that Hanoi is not interested in anything for the time being.

If Hanoi does move toward our stopping the bombing under "no advantage" circumstances, then we would of course virtually have to follow through on this, and any "pause" scenario would be in these terms.

If Hanoi shows the second type of interest in "preliminary discussions," then again we should follow through, being prepared to add a limited Haiphong restraint to our existing Hanoi restraint, but excluding any wider restraints, and any restraint in the DMZ particularly.

The key question for present analysis arises if Hanoi fails to follow through on either of the two possibilities, and thus indicates pretty clearly that it has no interest in moving at the present time. In this case, any "pause" would be in effect "blind." The pros and cons of such a "blind pause" need careful evaluation before we drift any further in that direction. This memorandum argues that there are two other options that might well be preferable:

First, a continuing degree of restraint and a new approach in the direction of "preliminary discussions" in a month or six weeks, and, second, a serious effort to follow up on the Canadian proposal. These two options are analyzed here, together with the pros and cons of a "blind pause."

Pros and Cons of a Blind Pause


1. We would get a lot of credit in some circles in the US, and in some key areas abroad.

2. We would be demonstrably making a serious try, so that if it failed we might be in a stronger position to keep public opinion level and to go ahead as we wish.

3. With the weather that prevails between now and the end of the year, the military disadvantages are at their lowest level.


1. Our gains at home and abroad could be nullified or even turned into losses if we had to resume.

2. It now appears highly likely that, unlike the 1965-66 long pause, Hanoi would do or say "something" that would vastly complicate the problem. They have shown themselves much more sophisticated in the last 12 months, and there are many gambits they could use to make it extremely difficult for us to resume and to prove that we have made a serious try without any response.

3. Whatever our objective view of the military consequences, we must reckon that any increased or even continued North Vietnamese activity in the South would be attributed by many circles, including our own military, to the pause. The picture would be painted that Marines were dying near the DMZ because of men and ammunition that would not have come down if we were still bombing.

4. If in fact we have had a negative reading from our present explorations, it would surely mean that Hanoi would be extremely unlikely to respond seriously. Their whole pattern of decision-making has been one of quite firm decisions that are then adhered to for a substantial period. They may or may not have now made a firm decision to hold on until our elections at all costs, but if they close down the existing channel the odds seem overwhelming that there must have been a politburo decision to stick it out at least for the next few months. Yet, this is not at all inconsistent with their playing games.

5. If we felt we had to resume, the pressures from the hawks would greatly increase, while at the same time the doves could never be persuaded that there might not have been something if we kept going. The net effect could be greatly to strengthen both extremes, and to narrow the middle-ground supporters of our policy.

Net Evaluation

On this assessment, a blind pause seems to have preponderant disadvantages.

The Option of Generalized Restraint

This option would consist of simply keeping the bombing at reasonable levels, with only the most occasional strikes in or near Hanoi and Haiphong. This may well be the pattern that weather would dictate in any event, and the striking point is that, when we went through somewhat the same pattern last fall, the Soviets at least have told us that we gave Hanoi the impression that there might have been some possibility of movement.

Against such a pattern, the option would visualize our holding off until mid-November and then trying again in the direction of "preliminary discussions."

This option is a much looser one than a "blind pause." It has none of the immediate advantages, but equally none of the very grave succeeding disadvantages. It could lay the groundwork for progress toward the end of the year, which might be our last clear chance before Hanoi decides that our election is an overriding timing factor and that it simply must hold on for the remaining months until that election. There may or may not be much of a chance of a change in Hanoi's attitude by the end of the year, and much would depend on political progress in the South. There is at least a chance of such progress, and it might well be reflected in the kind of upturn in the Chieu Hoi figures that we encountered at the same time last year.

Canadian Option

This is a somewhat longer shot. But the fact is that Martin's reiteration of the idea of stopping the bombing in return for demilitarization of the DMZ has given us the opportunity of following up on this./2/ From a practical military standpoint, the trade is in fact a better one than the "no advantage" formula as we have defined it to Hanoi.

/2/In conjunction with reissuing his offer, Martin stated that North Vietnamese Government officials had told him that they desired to initiate peace talks. See The New York Times, September 15, 1967.

Under this option, we could follow up publicly, but this has the disadvantage of forcing Hanoi into immediate rejection. Alternatively, and more effectively, we could encourage the Canadians privately and give them full support with the Indians, Poles, and others who would have to be brought in.

In addition to its lesser military disadvantages than the "no advantage" formula, this one has the additional point that it does not require Hanoi to admit anything or to take any specific action. The simple act of demilitarization of the DMZ does the job and, in the present circumstances, would help us greatly in our most difficult sector. Any chance that Hanoi would interpret our favorable actions as a sign of weakness would to a large extent be offset by the fact that this was a Canadian initiative.


340. Editorial Note

On September 29, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson spoke before the National Legislative Conference in San Antonio, Texas. His speech represented a major policy statement on Vietnam. In particular, the President put forth a new offer to the North Vietnamese, one that was based upon prior discussions conducted through North Vietnamese representative in Paris Mai Van Bo and unofficial U.S. envoy Henry Kissinger. What became known as the "San Antonio Formula" was Johnson's attempt to extend an olive branch to Hanoi: "The United States is willing to stop all aerial and naval bombardment of North Vietnam when this will lead promptly to productive discussions. We, of course, assume that while discussions proceed, North Vietnam would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation." For full text of the speech, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book II, pages 876-881.

Despite a simultaneous U.S. rescinding of the authorization to bomb Phuc Yen airfield and a scaling back of the overall level of bombing, the North Vietnamese eschewed the opportunity to enter into negotiations. In Paris the next day, Bo announced that his government had refused him permission to enter into direct exchanges with Kissinger in light of the increased bombing since July. (Telephone conversation between Kissinger and Read, September 30, 9 a.m.; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA) An October 3 article in the North Vietnamese official newspaper Nhan Dan, reporting on the Politburo's rejection of Johnson's formula for peace, asserted that the U.S. President had no right to insist on North Vietnamese military de-escalation while the United States escalated the bombing over Vietnam. See The New York Times, October 4, 1967.


341. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, October 3, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The meeting lasted from 6:10 to 9:32 p.m. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)


[Here follows discussion of the Middle East and arms control.]

The President: What do we know about the negotiations?

Secretary Rusk: We will know in two days. Kissinger told them that we are against waiting any longer, that we are getting impatient. Bo wrote a message which is on the way by air mail special delivery. In his phone call with Kissinger, Bo said something like talks will start after the cessation of bombing./2/

/2/According to summaries of telephone conversations between Read and Kissinger, October 2-3, Marcovich flew to Rome to confer with Aubrac (before telephoning Kissinger in the United States) about a message from Bo that they considered so important that they would not fully divulge it over the telephone. Kissinger's sense of the North Vietnamese position as suggested in the forthcoming message was that talks could begin immediately after a halt, although the DRV would not give any assurances of that. The notes taken at the meeting with Bo, which included his inter-lineated corrections, were mailed to Kissinger on October 3. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)

Rostow: To correct that, it was that talks could start but no other assurances were given.

Director Helms: There were some great difficulties because we had an American who does not understand much French talking to a Frenchman who does not understand much English over a trans-

Atlantic phone call. It is important that we wait and see what the written message actually says.

The President: What about the Shah and his efforts?/3/

/3/Since June the Shah of Iran was attempting to establish a new mechanism to bring about peace by organizing a "club" of Asian nations, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Japan, and Cambodia, which potentially could mediate between the principal adversaries in the Vietnam conflict. Documentation on this effort is ibid., POL 27-14 VIET and POL IRAN-US; and Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Fleming.

Secretary Rusk: He may make unilateral contact with Hanoi. I do not think he will get anywhere. He may get a group of countries together to push negotiations. The Shah is one of our good friends on this.

The President: Did you talk to Gromyko on the bombing?

Secretary Rusk: I told him nobody would tell us what would happen if the bombing stopped. The Russians have given up any attempt to try to influence Hanoi.

The Secretary discussed the prisoner who had been released to the NLF./4/ This prisoner, a woman, is the wife of one of the high ranking members of the Politburo. We need to stir Thieu and Ky up to probe around more with the NLF.

/4/On February 28 Pham Thi Yen, the wife of NLF Central Committee member Tan Buu Kiem, was released from GVN custody through the intervention of the CIA Station in Saigon in order to deliver a message to her husband requesting the establishment of covert contacts. The NLF's response was not apparent until August 15, when a Viet Cong intermediary, Sau Ha, was arrested in Saigon by the police when he tried to deliver a message from Tran Bach Dang of COSVN to Bunker. Dang's message contained an offer for a prisoner exchange which proposed that the NLF would release U.S. prisoners after the release of several captive Viet Cong. On September 9 one of the prisoners named in Dang's letter, Truong Dinh Tong, was released as a first step in initiating such an exchange. Within 2 weeks, Tong returned from VC-held territory with a message that Dang was ready to begin negotiations on the matter. Provided radio equipment by the CIA Station, Tong set out again on September 29 to meet with Dang. ("Operations Targeted at the National Liberation Front," attachment to message from Helms to the President, October 7; Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80-B01285A, Helms Chrono, Aug-Dec 1967, 01 Aug-31 Dec 67) The exercise was slugged Buttercup. See footnote 3, Document 369.

Bunker should ask Thieu and Ky to get something going. This one is purely our thing. We need to get them going on something.

Mr. Rostow: It would be excellent for Thieu to say in a very lucid inaugural speech that the NLF has a role in the political future of the country. It would help us too.

The President: With validation behind us, we should get Thieu to get the most progressive civilians in government. As I told Walter Washington in setting up the District of Columbia Government, there is a need to "get with it" out there.

We need programs for health and education and land reform. They have got to show that they know what they are doing.

We need to get General Westmoreland to get the South Vietnamese army in line. They have got to get in where the fighting is. We cannot have our fatalities running higher than they are on the Vietnamese side. I want to know it first if this is a white man's war, as so many people are charging.

On another issue, the President said that the leadership of Congress indicated to him in a meeting Monday night that it would not tolerate the large demonstration which is planned for late October./5/ I have told Secretary McNamara to get going on plans to protect the White House, the Pentagon and the Capitol.

/5/From 5:55 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on October 2, the President met with Representatives John W. McCormack (D-MA), Carl Albert (D-OK), Hale Boggs (D-LA), Senator Mike Mansfield (D-MO), and Postmaster General Lawrence O'Brien. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Representative George Mahon (D-TX) joined the meeting while it was in progress. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) Notes of the meeting are ibid., Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. During the period October 21-22, approximately 50,000 antiwar protesters participated in a march on the Pentagon and a rally at the Lincoln Memorial.

Secretary McNamara: Warren Christopher/6/ is heading up the task force which is meeting periodically on this. There are some very key questions which must be answered. They would include whether the President should be in Washington or not.

/6/Deputy Attorney General.

The President: Yes, I will be here, they are not going to run me out of town.

Secretary McNamara: The President's presence in Washington may do more to stimulate than to calm it. In any case, that is one of the questions we have to discuss. We have got to train the Washington police and the National Guard to handle this job. We also have to figure out how to arrest thousands and put them in jail if it is justified. The jails won't hold the numbers that could be arrested.

The GSA has done a magnificent job in training the guards at the Pentagon. You can't imagine how they are faced with provocations. They do anything which would further aggravate the situation.

If we are asked, I think we should tell the press that we are prepared to maintain order.

It is important to remember that they are not only after the Pentagon but will approach the White House.

They have not requested audiences with any of us but they most surely will. If they ask to see the President, I do not think it would be wise. It would be better for some of us, perhaps myself, to meet with them.

The President: I saw some leaks on my meeting with the Harvard educators last week./7/

/7/The President met with a group of Harvard professors in the evening of September 26. A record of the meeting, Notes of the President's Meeting with Educators, September 26, is in the Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings.

George Christian: I thought that the fact the President met with those people did us a lot of good.

The President: Bob, Did you see the New York Times story on resistance to the draft?

Secretary McNamara: Yes, I am concerned about racism in the military service. There is a movement of civilian dissatisfaction into the services. I am also concerned about resistance to the draft. There have been some cases, one in Dover, Delaware, which shows that there are problems of this type.

I met with a group of Negro publishers last week to discuss this matter.

The President: I want you to take the New York Times article and analyze it and let me know what you think of it.

What are we doing about Westmoreland's memorandum on the DMZ?/8/

/8/In a message to CINCPAC and the JCS, September 28, Westmoreland forwarded his plan for re-deployment of the forces under his command due to increased enemy activity in I CTZ. The document is excerpted in U.S. House of Representatives, Armed Services Committee, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 5, Vol. II, pp. 219-220.

Secretary McNamara: We are doing the following:

--We will accelerate sending out brigades.

--We will retain the 9th Marine Amphibious Units.

--We expect to increase the B-52 sorties from 600 to 1200 per month. This should be obtained by early next year. The Air Force is not sure they can meet this schedule.

--We are investigating the use of 2000 pound bombs, although the Air Force is not sure this is wise.

--We will check into the spacing of the M-36 weapons. This is a fuse which is applied to bombs to delay their detonation.

The President asked what happened in the DMZ, why were they no longer shelled at the Marine site at Conthien.

Secretary McNamara said he did not know if this was a result of our action or their decision.

The President asked if we should move our people back, as has been suggested?

Secretary McNamara: I do not know. There is a very detailed tactical decision, and I would prefer to leave that to the Joint Chiefs. In my opinion, however, I would move it around.

Secretary McNamara continued: --We are going to shave unit training but we are not going to shave any individual training. Unit training will be cut by four weeks, but General Westmoreland will give them four weeks of unit training when they get out there to make up for this.

--It will probably be July before the Vietnamese get their 60,000 to 65,000 more men into action. The problem is with non-commissioned officers and officers.

--The Thais have come in with a message through the Ambassador that they should contribute 5000 troops rather than 10,000 troops as had been previously discussed./9/

/9/There was confusion about the exact number of troops that the Thai Government wanted to dispatch to South Vietnam. Telegram 4302 from Bangkok, October 9, detailing a meeting between the U.S. Ambassador and the Thai Prime Minister, reported that the Thai Government only planned to send forces that would raise the number of its troops to 10,500. It had not been the intention of the Thai Government to send an additional augmentation of 10,000 men. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-3 VIET S)

The President said that he had told Australian Treasurer William McMahon that the President would be able to hold out longer in Vietnam if Prime Minister Holt would put in 5000 more men. I told him we need some more troops. He told me how he lost some elections and they were not in a good position at the moment./10/

/10/The President met with McMahon and John Keith Waller, the Australian Ambassador, on October 2. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) No record of the meeting has been found.

Secretary McNamara: I told him about the same thing. Our people will not permit us to stand around.

We would make a bad mistake. We signed an agreement with Australia last year without any provisos that we would supply credit for up to $90 million. Congress recently has denied us that authority. I told him that we would stand behind this somehow, although I am not sure how we will do it.

The President: Prime Minister Menzies said that everybody must speak on our policies frequently. He said that we should repeat ourselves frequently, because we never are speaking to the same audience twice./11/

/11/See footnote 4, Document 336.

He thought Senator Kuchel made a very good speech today on the consequences of stopping the bombing./12/

/12/In response to a speech in the Senate on October 2 by Senator John Sherman Cooper (R-KY) advocating a unilateral cessation, in a public statement the next day Senator Thomas Kuchel (R-CA) stated his opposition to what he termed a call for a unilateral halt. For a summary of its text, see The New York Times, October 4, 1967. On the Senate floor, Kuchel noted progress in Vietnam and accused dissenters of undermining the war effort. The text of his remarks is in Congressional Record, vol. 113, p. 27442.

A captured document from a North Vietnam Ph.D. showed that the Gallup poll in this country sustained them in Hanoi./13/ This Ph.D. also said, "How can we believe anything Johnson says if his own people do not believe him?"

/13/Not found.

Secretary McNamara continued: It is important for us to get extra free world troops into Vietnam. We need them. The people out there have got to know what is going on.

--We will accelerate the shipment of M-16's to the ARVN. We think we should put all these guns in Southeast Asia and not sell any outside of this area.

--We are also working on intensifying the training to provide better field accuracy in the use of artillery.

The President then mentioned a delegation which would be sent to the Vietnam inaugural. The President said he would talk to Vice President Hubert Humphrey about heading the delegation tomorrow. The President then mentioned a memorandum from Congressman Tip O'Neill of Cambridge, Massachusetts./14/ The information was that O'Neill had changed from a Hawk position to a Dove position with the help of two assistant secretaries, a CIA agent, and representatives of the Department of Defense. The President said he was astounded to find that there were several groups of people who were working to get Congressmen who are in agreement with our policies to make a reassessment. In this case, Senator Teddy Kennedy had approached Congressman O'Neill and asked him to review his position on Vietnam rather than risk political disaster. Congressman O'Neill talked with several people in the administration. A press article which mentioned Congressman O'Neill's change in position pointed out that it was the President's own people that were responsible for the change.

/14/Representative Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. (D-MA).

The President said we should remember that what we are saying today may change next week. We should never lock ourselves in positions publicly which would not allow us to change them.

Secretary McNamara: If we stop the bombing, I think that the Pennsylvania formula (the Kissinger formula) is appropriate.

The President: I wouldn't stop the bombing unless they agree:

1. To meet promptly
2. To push for a settlement.

Secretary McNamara: It is important that we know the facts about the bombing. It is not a fact that pauses have hurt the lines of communication in the North. He said a CIA report had been prepared on the request of the Department of Defense. The report was given to Secretary McNamara today. He said that the information contained in it was completely consistent with monthly DIA-CIA reports.

Secretary Rusk: If the bombing isn't having that much effect, why do they want to stop the bombing so much?

Mr. Rostow: The bombing and the other things are making it very unpleasant and very costly for them.

The President read aloud parts of a CIA analysis on the effect of Rolling Thunder./15/

/15/See footnote 2, Document 345.

Director Helms: We will have to do over all that we have done in Hanoi, particularly the power plants, the bridges, and the rail lines.

Mr. Rostow: If I could sum up, this is the effect of the bombing:

--Industrial and agricultural production has been cut.

--500,000 men have been diverted full and some part time as a result of the bombing.

--It is a heavy cost.

--But they have the kind of tactics that can still sustain them at this cost if they choose to.

--If we stop the bombing, it will bring their economy back up and permit them to increase their commitment in the South.

--No bombing means less strain and less cost.

Secretary McNamara: I do not agree with that.

The President: I want the best case from you, Walt, for bombing all targets and I want from Secretary McNamara a position on this.

There was then the discussion of the polls, including the New York poll. The President said that he believed we had lost people away from us in the last two weeks. He pointed out again the need to be making more speeches, although they may be rather similar in nature.

Secretary Rusk: I found in my own experience that you cannot say the same thing twice in Washington. But you can get out in other states and make the same speech and get a very good reaction.

The President: We have to get answers to all of these slogans which everybody is making up. We need a few slogans of our own. We need to answer the slogans:

"Stop the bombing; Negotiate now; Enclave Theory Stalemate."

Secretary McNamara: We have enough targets for the time being. We should have a separate meeting with the Joint Chiefs on bombing. They recommend Phuc Yen Air Field again.

Secretary McNamara: Not right now, I would defer that 24 hours until we get Pennsylvania out of the way.

The President read ticker items of Senator Dirksen's debate on the Senate floor today with Senators Fulbright and Mansfield and others./16/ The President said that the Ways and Means Committee shelved the tax message today.

/16/In a speech on the Senate floor, Dirksen defended the administration's Vietnam policy and argued against a proposed halt. Fulbright and Mansfield, among others, challenged his assertions. See Congressional Record, vol. 113, pp. 27576-27584.

The President said he did not want any of the information which he was about to discuss to go outside of the room. The President asked what effect it would have on the war if he announced he was not going to run for another term. He said if it were set either way today, the decision would be that he would not run.

The President said he thought it would be advantageous to welcome both the Democrats and the Republicans to come out with the programs and policies and let the American people decide who they believe should be their next President. He said the President is already in the goldfish bowl, so it might be good for all of those who want to have the job to express themselves to the people. He said he was considering welcoming all comers to come out with their programs.

Secretary McNamara: I do not think that the Democrats should get out on the block.

Secretary Rusk: You must not go down. You are the Commander-in-Chief, and we are in a war. This would have a very serious effect on the country.

The President: If I were to run again, I would be the first President to do it. That is, no other President who has served for part of a term, then for a full term has ever succeeded himself for another full term.

Secretary McNamara: I don't think you should appear too cute on this.

The President: What I am asking is what would this do to the war.

Secretary Rusk: Hanoi would think they have got it made.

The President: Our people will not hold out four more years. I want to get rid of every major target. Between now and election, I am going to work my guts out. I would be 61 when I came back in, and I just don't know if I want four more years of this. I would consider telling the American people that it is an awfully long period. But I am afraid it would be interpreted as walking out on our men.

We are very divisive [divided]. We don't have the press, the newspapers or the polls with us, although when I get out into the country it seems different than it is here.

Secretary Rusk: Victor Riesle, a labor columnist, said you would win by a bigger margin next year than you did before.

The President: What I really want to know is the effect of the announcement, what we say if we do decide that way, and the timing of it.

Secretary McNamara: Of course, there would be no worry about money and men. We could get support for that. I do not know about the psychology in the country, the effect on the morale of the men, and the effect on Hanoi.

I do think that they would not negotiate under any circumstances and they would wait for the 1968 elections.

The President then read Congressional reports on what various members of the Congress were saying about Vietnam. The President said that 95% of the people believe there has been a change of attitude on Vietnam. They all think that we will lose the election if we do not do something about Vietnam quick. They are all worried about expenses.

Secretary Rusk: In my opinion, the tax bill made many doves.


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

Saigon, October 4, 1967, 1100Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 8:20 a.m. In the covering note to a copy of this telegram sent to the President, Rostow wrote: "The reputation of generals in history depends on one or two key decisions they make right or wrong amidst the fog of battle. So with Ambassadors. Ellsworth's account of the situation he faced just before the validation vote and what he did (at the beginning of this report) indicates you picked the right man. The rest of the report will also interest you." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8B(1)[B]) 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. 185-195.

7619. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my twenty-third weekly telegram:

A. General

1. The political pot which was simmering the week before boiled over last week with the approach of the Assembly vote on validation October 2. Political infighting, attempted extortion, and blackmail reached a high crescendo. Some of the groups, notably some members of the Democratic Alliance Bloc (DAB), formerly supporters of General Ky, carried their efforts right down to the wire. Factors in these maneuvers were the prospective loss of jobs and income on the part of Assembly members, disaffection among the forty-eight Assembly members who were defeated candidates for the Senate as well as three defeated Presidential candidates, also Assembly members, and claims of broken promises and lack of support during the campaign.

2. On the afternoon of September 28, four members of the DAB, who were members of the Special Election Committee of the Assembly, and whose spokesmen were Le Phuoc Sang and Colonel Dam Van Quy, sent for a CAS contact and informed him that they wished me to transmit to General Thieu as a condition for voting for validation of the elections the following demands: (A) Ky to have the right to name the Prime Minister and three other Cabinet members (Sang and Quy indicating that they would expect Cabinet posts); (B) Ky to control the reorganization of the armed forces and the administrative organization; (C) Each member of the DAB to receive 300,000 piasters. They were considerate enough to add that they would wait until noon the next day for my answer. On Friday/2/ morning, through my liaison contact with Ky, I had the above information relayed to him saying that I thought he would want to be aware of this attempted blackmail to which, of course, I had no intention of responding and that I was sure he was aware what the repercussions would be should this become public knowledge.

/2/September 29.

3. Bui Diem came to see me Friday evening to say that he and General Ky were very concerned about the situation. While Ky had talked to some of the DAB members, he thought it important that General Thieu should talk to them also. The DAB had expressed concern about Thieu's feelings toward them and were apprehensive on two accounts: (A) that he might take some reprisals against them; and

(B) that he might attempt to fill up the government with Dai Viet members. I recalled to Bui Diem that Ky had twice given me definite assurances, and as late as three days before, that the members of the DAB would vote for validation and that I need have no cause for concern. I was, therefore, relying on him. I told Bui Diem of the blackmail attempt on the part of Sang and Quy and their colleagues and asked him to inform Ky that if the members of the DAB persisted in their threat to vote against validation, I intended to make public this attempt at blackmail. I added that they were playing a dangerous game in carrying this right down to the wire and I wanted it understood that they could not play fast and loose with us. I said that if Ky thought Thieu should talk to members of the DAB, he should say so to Thieu himself, but that I would undertake to see Thieu Saturday morning and urge him to get together with Ky on the problem.

4. I talked with Thieu the following morning/3/ and told him of Ky's concern about the attitude of DAB members, that I thought it was of critical importance that certainly a large majority of the Bloc should be lined up in support of validation and urged him to get together with Ky and the Bloc members. He promised to get in touch with Ky and did so immediately after my leaving him, and that afternoon he and Ky together met with all the DAB members. Thieu talked exceedingly well and persuasively to them. I think this may have been the turning point in lining up a substantial number in support of validation.

/3/Reported in telegram 7291 from Saigon, September 30. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S)

5. During a meeting which took place concurrently at Independence Palace, attended by Thieu, Ky, General Cao Van Vien, Chief of the JGS, and General Khang, III Corps Commander, Khang took Ky aside and told him privately that he did not know whether Ky had allowed the validation crisis to develop for his own political advantage, but if he had then he would have only himself to blame if the situation got out of hand, and he would lose the support of the armed forces. Ky angrily denied having engineered the crisis for his own political advantage. Khang said he believed Ky and he had no evidence to the contrary, but he felt that he should let Ky know that such rumors were circulating and the military would not condone such activity. Ky's explanation to me was that he did not wish to talk with members of the DAB without Thieu's permission since if, in spite of his efforts, things should go wrong, he would not want Thieu to feel that he had doublecrossed him. I am inclined to take Ky's word and as I have previously reported, I think there is good evidence that he and Thieu are working together well.

6. Thieu kept on talking with other members of the Assembly all through Saturday and into the early hours of Sunday. All through the day Sunday, he also got in touch with individual members. The vote was taken shortly before midnight Monday,/4/ when the Assembly validated the election by a vote of 58 for, 43 against, and 5 invalid ballots. The struggle for validation, and the efforts of students and Buddhists to influence the Assembly through demonstrations, I shall touch on in greater detail in the political section.

/4/October 2.

7. Suffice it to say here that the chief result of the demonstrations was to snarl up the traffic. While the press displayed considerable interest in them, the general public attitude was manifested in distinct apathy and lack of interest. This was also true of the demonstrations in Hue and Danang. Both Thieu and Ky have expressed the view that Tri Quang and his militant Buddhists have lost a great deal of influence since the Struggle movement of 1966. Then they had the support of some elements of the armed forces, now the latter have kept completely aloof from the politics and the religious questions involved. In my view, there was nothing in any of the demonstrations to warrant what seems to me the exaggerated attention given to them by the American press, especially the UPI report that these represented the most serious disturbances in the last four years. This was certainly a fantastically exaggerated evaluation, unfortunately typical of a good deal of the reporting here.

8. I reported last week/5/ that I had transmitted to Thieu suggestions for a government program which he might incorporate in a state of the union message at the time of the inauguration. The document is headed Democracy, Peace, and Social Justice. We have felt, however, that it is highly important that he should address the country before then with a shorter, more dynamic, hardhitting speech to arouse the enthusiasm of the people for their new government, calling for their support and outlining a program of specifics. Taking as a basis the longer document, Ambassador Locke has prepared an excellent short version./6/ I have put this in General Thieu's hands. He has said that it has come at an opportune moment, for he wants to make such a speech at the time of the installation of the new Senate, which has now been set for Oct 12./7/

/5/See Document 338.

/6/The longer text was sent to Washington in telegram 7153 from Saigon, October 2. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S) The shorter version was sent in telegram 7588 from Saigon, October 4. The shorter text harked back to Vietnamese traditions by comparing the GVN's program to the historical mission of earlier patriots in terms of furthering "the common objective of building a just government and social system and repelling the invader." (Ibid.)

/7/The Senate inauguration was moved forward to October 11.

9. While the struggle over validation of the elections has quite understandably engaged the energies and attention of Generals Thieu and Ky, they have not lost sight of the next step down the road, which is the appointment of a Prime Minister and designation of a Cabinet to work with the new National Assembly. On Sept 30, when I saw Thieu he told me that he and Ky have agreed that the Prime Minster will be Nguyen Van Loc, Chairman of the People's Army Council, a lawyer, and essentially Ky's nominee. Loc is rather colorless in personality, a considerable contrast with Ky. However, he has been active on the Board of the Bar Association, has a good reputation, and is well and favorably disposed to the United States. It was also announced officially on Oct 2 that General Nguyen Duc Thang, former Minister of Revolutionary Development, has been named Deputy Chief of Staff of the Joint General Staff, with responsibility for the regional VNND popular forces. General Nguyen Bao Tri, Minister of Information, will temporarily fill in for General Thang in the Ministry of Revolutionary Development until a permanent replacement is named.

10. Thieu said this morning that he and General Ky have prepared a list of names of the most competent available people whom they hope to include in the Cabinet. He remarked that unfortunately competence is in short supply and it was not a very large list.

11. I have reported previously that Thieu has three times offered the post of Prime Minister to Tran Van Huong, and that Huong each time has declined. He now proposes to offer Huong a post in the Inspectorate (the Consitution provides that one-third of the members be appointed by the executive and one-third each by the Senate and lower house). Thieu feels that Huong will be most prestigious member of the Inspectorate and as such it can be arranged that he be elected chairman. If Huong can be induced to accept this, I think it would be an excellent thing for the new government.

12. I believe that there is a feeling of general relief on the part of the public that the problem of validation of the elections is out of the way and that there is a spirit of hopefulness that the new government will carry on more vigorous programs in all fields, military, economic, and social, and take decisive action to end the widespread corruption. Preparations are going ahead for election of the lower house on Oct 22. Thieu expressed to me the view that there would be considerable interest in the elections in the provinces where the candidates are well known to the local population, but he expects a falling off in interest in the more sophisticated centers, especially Saigon, where he believes many people have become punchdrunk with a plethora of elections./8/

/8/Village elections began in April and balloting for chiefs continued into June; elections for the executive and the upper house of the National Assembly took place on September 3, and elections for the lower house on October 22.

13. In connection with our own relations with the new government, I believe that these may be more sensitive and perhaps in some ways more difficult than they have been with the present military government. During the past week, ten separate editorials dealt with the theme of American interference in Vietnamese affairs. For example, the military oriented Tien Tuyen newspaper replied to an article by Everett Martin appearing in the Sept 25 Newsweek, criticizing what it called his "brazen proposals." I imagine that we shall have to be more alert to Vietnamese pride and sensitivities and apply pressure and leverage in more subtle ways. This may require greater patience on our part, but in the end I am sure will be more productive of results.

14. In the midst of the alarms and excursions over the validation of the elections (and simultaneously with a Buddhist demonstration at the other end of the street), we dedicated our new Embassy Chancery the morning of Sept 29. It was a beautiful day with soft white clouds against a blue sky, and the brilliant sunshine that always sets the flag off so well. It is a most attractive and convenient building which has been commented on most favorably by many Vietnamese. As you intended it would be, it is a fitting symbol of our determination to stay the course in Vietnam. In my brief remarks at the ceremony, I renewed our dedication to the goals we share with the leaders and people of Vietnam: a permanent end to aggression, a just and durable peace, regional security, order, and expanding economic progress. I noted that this building stands as a symbol of our commitment to the Vietnamese people, but no less impressive are hundreds of smaller buildings, schools, hospitals, and other structures which we have built in time of war and dedicated to the cause of peace. In his remarks, General Thieu commented on the beauty of the building and the fair prospects in the longer range for international cooperation in Southeast Asia. However, he spoke also of more immediate problems, including the need to make clear to the Communists that they face a widely-respected, sovereign government in Vietnam which will play a major part in international discussions related to Vietnam. He also spoke of the need to increase the effort being made to gradually make South Vietnam economically self-sustained.

15. General Thang Reassigned. Climaxing two months of jockeying over the vigorous General Thang's future role, he on 2 Oct formally turned over the Revolutionary Development Ministry to General Tri as caretaker till the new government is formed. Thang is taking up a newly-created JGS slot and Deputy Chief of Staff, where he will be in charge of RF and PF as well as the RD teams.

16. Bob Komer finds Thang genuinely excited about the possibilities of his new job./9/ According to Thang, he will have much more influence than he would have had as Deputy Prime Minister. He will probably run the RF/PF (as a 300,000 man territorial security force), 30,000 RD cadre, the Political Warfare Directorate (to which all military province and district chiefs will be assigned), and the Military Security Service (which he intends to use to help clean up corruption in the provinces). I regard this as a very promising development, which will surely benefit the pacification effort by bringing the biggest local security forces under a vigorous and pacification-minded chief.

/9/According to an October 2 memorandum for the record of a September 29 meeting between Komer and Thang, "General Thang was also pleased that at the JGS he would be closer to Ambassador Komer and they could get together more often." (Memorandum for the record by Robert Montague (an aide to Komer), October 2; Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, RD Liaison: 1967)

17. General Westmoreland and I are pleased with the rapport between Komer and Thang. They agree on raising the 1968 RD hamlet goals from 1,100 to more like 2,000, on raising the RD budget from three billion piasters this year to five billion, and to assigning highest pacification priorities to IV and III Corps where the people are. Thang also intends to give personal attention to selecting good province and district chiefs and then giving them special training for these difficult jobs. Now that he controls them, Thang favors gradually drawing together RF/PF and RD teams into a much larger and better-trained pacification force.

[Here follows discussion of military and economic matters.]



343. Record of Telephone Conversation Between the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read) and Henry A. Kissinger/1/

Washington, October 4, 1967, 1 p.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA. Top Secret; Nodis; Pennsylvania.

K received in the mail this morning the typed, unsigned communication set forth below from Rome on blank white paper without letterhead./2/ The communication was in French, and K's verbatim translation follows:

/2/The original French texts of both the dictated version corrected by Bo and Marcovich's corrected copy are attached to a letter from Kissinger to Read, October 30. (Ibid.)

"The position of the RDVN remains always the same. If the United States really wished to talk, let them stop first without conditions the bombardment of the territory of the RDVN.

"Starting from that position there are several eventualities:

(a) A public declaration by the Government of the United States about the cessation. This declaration could take place either before or after the cessation.

(b) An official declaration but non-public preceding the cessation of the bombardment. This declaration could be communicated by the channel K/A-M (officieusement)--not quite officially, and after this indication it can be transmitted officially by an accredited person.

(c) An end of bombardment without preceding official declaration followed by an official but not public communication of the Government of the United States.

"Eventuality (a) would represent a public declaration replying to that made on the 28th of January by M. Trinh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the RDVN, which constitutes a solemn engagement to talk after the unconditional end of bombing. This public declaration would be followed by the transmission of an official text by an accredited person.

"Eventualities (b) and (c) reflect the propositions of M and A as they result from their understanding of their conversation in July in Hanoi with the Prime Minister. A confirmation is expected soon." (End of message)

Upon receipt K phoned M in Paris to ask two questions:

(a) Where is the handwritten original, showing Bo's interlineations? and (b) What is the precise interpretation of (b)? M said he had mailed the handwritten original from Paris yesterday (October 3) by airmail special delivery.

M said everything in the message except (b) was approved word for word by Bo, and point (b) is based on M's notes of his October 3 meeting with Bo. M believes he has correctly stated Bo's views in

(b) although that eventuality was reconstructed by M after the October 3 meeting. K asked M, who had not yet seen Bo today, to show formulation (b) to Bo immediately and get his views on its accuracy and meaning./3/

/3/According to a record of a telephone conversation between Read and Kissinger at 4:15 p.m. on October 4, Bo had confirmed the accuracy of Marcovich's draft with the exception of the phrase "solemn arrangement." Kissinger informed Marcovich that Bo's backing away from this phrase was "a serious substantive change." (Ibid.) Marcovich again met with Bo after the talk with Kissinger. Bo would not discuss his problem with the phrase "solemn arrangement." In Bo's presence, Marcovich wrote down a message to Kissinger which stated that "if the US really wants to talk it is necessary first to stop without conditions the bombing and all other acts of war against the DRV." Marcovich described the first step in such a scenario for enacting such a halt to be a message agreeing to halt the bombing through the Paris channel followed by a second message suggesting a date and site for talks. If the U.S. Government assented to this arrangement, it had to respond with a written confirmation. (Notes of Read/Kissinger Telcons, 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., October 4; ibid.)


344. Editorial Note

On October 4, 1967, President Johnson and Senator Everett Dirksen had a 6-minute telephone conversation which began at 5:33 p.m. The principal topic of conversation was Vietnam. Included were the following comments by Johnson:

President: What happens--I'll give you an illustration. Fulbright talks to Lucet, the French Ambassador--and we read a lot of this stuff that goes out--and he says that the reactionaries, and that's you and the Reagans and the Generals, have taken me over, and I'm a captive, and Eisenhower even warned against these complexes taking over a President, but that I am a warmonger and I'm really trying to get China destroyed and that the French ought to use any influence they can on me, that the country is kind of irresponsibly led and that the Fascists are taking over. Kind of the pitch that they made even [in 1964] against Goldwater.

Now, they come along then with Case, who is a brilliant, young, liberal moderate, and he says that you cannot have any confidence in leadership. That's the Communist line; that's what they put out in North Vietnam every day. They told the Canadians, who were there last week, that you got a program made in the USA and you cannot have any confidence in the USA. That's what the Communists always say to destroy the leadership.

Then they come along then with Morton and they have him say about the same thing, a little different approach, that the President's been brainwashed by--he doesn't say reactionaries, he says Generals and industrial complexes and so forth--and that we ought to stop the bombing. Now, they are being used, all these men are, and it's hurting our country and it's hurting it very, very bad. If we're going to ask these 500,000 men to stay out there, we can't have every Senator being a General and every Senator being a Secretary of State. We either got to support them and back them up and try to carry out our program, which is not a violent one, it's not a program of retreat and it's not a program of conquest, it is a program to deter aggression which we're doing very well.

But Westmoreland came in last night to me. He's very distressed. We've got a three-page, legal size, single-line, single-spaced teletype from him and he says that he has concentrated more firepower in bombing in the last week on the DMZ and they've concentrated more on us than has ever been concentrated in any equivalent period in the history of warfare, much more than was ever poured on Berlin or Tokyo, and that his only defense of the DMZ to stop this aggression up there with the North Vietnamese trying to come in is bombing their gun positions in the DMZ. And it would just be suicide if we stopped the bombing as these idiots are talking about. When you say "Stop the bombing" you say "Kill more American Marines." That's all it means. So he is asking us to give him more bombers and to give him more to try to knock this group out that's wanted for 2 years to have a big invasion of the DMZ and he has been able to deter them and they haven't had a military victory and they're not going to get one, except they're winning one here. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Dirksen, October 4, 1967, 5:33 p.m., Tape 67.14, Side A, PNO 3, and Side B, PNO 1)


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

Washington, October 4, 1967, 6:35 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Bombing. Top Secret. The notation "L" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.

Mr. President:

Herewith, the CIA analysis of the air campaign against lines of communication/2/--which I held up so you would have along with it my own view of how the problem should be posed.

/2/Not printed; it is an intelligence memorandum entitled "Rolling Thunder: The 1967 Campaign Against the LOC's," undated, which concluded: "Transport operations have been seriously disrupted, losses of transport equipment have increased sharply, and the costs and difficulties of maintaining traffic movements have multiplied. But as a result of countermeasures, the use of alternate routes, and foreign assistance, North Vietnam's logistic capabilities have not been reduced, and there is convincing evidence that the military and economic goods needed to support the war have continued to move." Another copy is ibid., Country File, Vietnam, 3H(2) Appraisal of Bombing.

In a subsequent talk with Bob McNamara, I further narrowed our differences.

As you can see from what follows, the way I put the case at the meeting yesterday is wholly consistent with the evidence of the report. The problem is that the analysis in the report is split into two arguments which are never coherently related:

--1. We have not and cannot reduce capacity so they can't get men and supplies through to the South.

--2. Very extensive consequences flow from our bombing of the North.

That split in analysis is why men like Dick Helms accept the report but oppose cessation of bombing. I hope that what follows is a basis for reconciling and unifying judgments within the government.

As indicated in the attached more detailed comments, the bombing campaign has achieved the following:

--At little cost in civilian casualties and at acceptable costs in our loss rates, the bombing has severely curtailed North Vietnam's industrial and agricultural production.

--Therefore, there has been a radical increase in North Vietnam's requirement for foreign aid in order to sustain her war effort and to sustain her economy at minimum levels (imports up from 2,100 metric tons per day in 1965 to 4,300 in 1967; Soviet aid up from $100 million to $700 million annually).

--It has required the diversion of up to 600,000 workers to defend against or counter the effects of the bombing.

--It has increased substantially the number of men and tons which must be dispatched from the North to get one man or one ton into South Vietnam. We don't know just how much but we do know that it has (1) caused them to resort to the shorter routes across the DMZ and (2) contributed to their abandoning large-scale operations within South Vietnam.

Although I have some personal reservations on whether the North Vietnamese could, if they wished, do as much more as the analysis indicates, I basically agree that bombing cannot reduce their capacity to support the South to the extent that they would be forced to abandon the war in the South.

There remain two significant, but unanswerable, questions:

--Is the present level of communist effort in the South what they consider their optimum strategy or is it the best they can or are willing to mount in the face of the bombing?

--What would they do if we stopped bombing?

Although we can't predict what the North Vietnamese would do, we can say that:

--They would be able to put men and supplies into the South at lower cost.

--The resources available to them would be increased, which would enable them to put more into the South or make life in the North easier, or both.

--It would be a lot easier for them to sweat out the war.



346. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, October 4, 1967, 7:02-7:55 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room.


The President: I received a report this afternoon from two Congressmen that will make every man proud who has served in the Air Force. The Congressmen said they talked with some Air Force personnel in Vietnam who said they would rather build than destroy./2/ Have any of you talked with Percy about his resolution?/3/

/2/Representatives Lester Wolf (D-NY) and Richard McCarthy (D-NY) had just returned from observing the elections in Vietnam. The President met with them from 6:22 to 6:50 p.m. (Ibid.)

/3/Senator Percy introduced Senate Resolution 173 which called for the President to request a greater contribution to the war effort from the non-Communist nations of Asia. For text, see Congressional Record, vol. 113, p. 28038.

Secretary McNamara and Walt Rostow said they had discussed his resolution, pointing out the flaws in it.

Secretary McNamara: The strongest argument we have for our presence in South Vietnam is that the other nations in that area want us there.

The President: I told Senator Dirksen today that we do not want to supplant South Vietnam but we do want to support it. I told him that I want him to go out there and look at it from stem to stern.

Secretary McNamara: Percy has a nasty resolution, but he says he wants to help us. He is saying that the Johnson Administration will not listen to him.

The President: Tell Percy that we will listen to him at any time and any place. There certainly is not any doubt about our willingness to have him heard. What do you say now about Bo?

Secretary Rusk: We received two messages today./4/ We ought not to hurry. We need our scenario. It's best to do it on a steady basis.

/4/See Document 343 and footnote 3 thereto.

We should keep the dialogue going and not let the matter come to a head quickly.

We ought to get M & A out on this. We need for Kissinger to see Bo on procedural matters.

An unconditional suspension was mentioned. I do not think it means they are changing from a position of permanent cessation to a different position, however.

A crucial phrase was withdrawn from the second message. They took out "solemn engagement to talk" after cessation of bombing. They are still weaseling on us.

The President: In view of that, why don't we leave the circle around Hanoi but clear up everything short of Hanoi. We need to get our target list down to the lowest level possible.

I know this bombing must be hurting them. Despite any reports to the contrary, I can feel it in my bones. The guns are not silent on the DMZ tonight because of anything due to the bombing damage. We need to pour the steel on. Let's hit them every day and go every place except Hanoi.

I want you to get me in shape to make a decision when I can.

Secretary McNamara: There are 24 targets remaining. I believe they hit five of them last night, which would get this down to 19. About half of these are in Hanoi and about half in Haiphong.

The President: What are the reasons for not hitting these?

Secretary McNamara: The basic argument in Hanoi is that the strikes would result in very high civilian casualties. The basic argument in Haiphong is the fear of hitting Soviet ships.

As far as the Bo-Kissinger discussions, Kissinger said to Bo through the two agents (M & A) that we would stop the bombing if they would talk. We said that we assumed they would not take military advantage of that halt.

Bo came back with two points:

(1) He seems to be anxious to have the contacts continue.
(2) He stops short of a flat commitment to talk.

Mr. Rostow: In their first message he said if you stop the bombing without conditions, we undertake a solemn pledge to talk. We do not have exact text of what Bo said. It is due to arrive in the mail. All we have is M's report.

Secretary McNamara: As I understand it, if we stop the bombing without conditions, the commitment is a solemn engagement to talk at the end of bombing.

Secretary Rusk: I said earlier that could be "prompt."

The President: Now I need to get all of this straight. What are they saying exactly? Is this it: We would stop the bombing if prompt and productive discussions began, assuming they would not take military advantage of it?

Secretary McNamara: Bo has not said anything very clearly.

(Secretary McNamara then showed the President exactly what Bo had said in the memos.)

The President: Well, where does that leave us now?

Secretary Rusk: What we delayed this meeting for, from 6:30 until 7, has not come in yet. We expect it any time.

The President: I'm not as encouraged by all of this as you all are.

Secretary McNamara: This isn't that simple. I could ask a thousand questions about each word they have used in these communications.

Secretary Rusk: They have used the words stop--cessation--and end. If you look these up in the dictionary all of these mean permanent.

Secretary McNamara: Yes, we may have to state the bombing halt as permanent in the public pronouncements to meet their conditions.

However, we have gained a very clear understanding that they want to keep talks going.

The President: Who exactly are M & A? They aren't our people, are they?

Secretary Rusk: No, A is a scientist; M is a Communist.

Secretary McNamara: Kissinger has been a very shrewd negotiator. He is the best I've seen in my seven years.

The President: Where is he today?

Mr. Rostow: Kissinger is in Boston.

The President: As I understand it, Bob, we now have twenty-four targets that are unauthorized. What percentage do these represent?

Secretary McNamara: Well, let me give you a few statistics:

--There are 9,000 targets in the bombing encyclopedia.
--5,000 of these are military targets.
--Many of these are worthless.
--1700 of these have been hit.
--The JCS consider 400 to 600, presently 412, as "important fixed targets."
--There are only 24 of these 412 not authorized (that is 5.8%)
--Nine of these targets are in the Haiphong area and about 15 in Hanoi.

The President: Hit all you can.

Secretary McNamara: You will never get it down to zero.

The President: I want the Defense Department to get its very best military information and make it available to the senior staff at the State Department. Likewise, I want the very best State Department information provided to the best people at the Department of Defense so that everybody knows what we are doing and what they should be saying. I am getting very good reaction from General Walt's speeches. We need to get more men around doing this.

Secretary McNamara: We must be very careful not to pressure the military to take on political tasks.

The President: Scotty Reston/5/ is doing a story on disloyalty in government. He says that disloyalty to a President has never been higher--not even President Lincoln--to senior government personnel. Once Reston writes that article, that is the line that many of the columnists and commentators are going to take.

/5/James "Scotty" Reston was a nationally-syndicated columnist.

If you want to oppose the President, that's O.K. but do not say he lied to anybody. I do not have several policies on Vietnam. If you look at the history of the decisions on Vietnam you will find that we have been consistent.

In any case this story has a theme that there is disloyalty in the highest ranks. It seems to make reference to the Newsweek story talking about various Cabinet members spreading anti-administration information around town.

We have got to sell our product to the American people. I want to counter these arguments about the South Vietnamese not fighting, about the value of an enclave theory, and about the pay-off to stopping the bombing.

As George Christian told me last night, and Christian is not a man to overstate anything, it is pathetic to see how well we agree in these meetings and our story does not get out because of what your people at the State Department and your people in the Defense Department are doing to you.

I do not want to change Zorthian unless you think he should be changed. Some of our people have been saying that he is rather cynical on our position.

Secretary Rusk: My press people tell me he has the complete faith of the press people in Vietnam.

Mr. Rostow: If I may, I have two sources who advise me that Zorthian has very bad relations with MACV. As some source of confirmation for press cynicism, I have heard this from two good sources. He has two big jobs.

The President: I understand he may not be handling the psychological warfare end of it very well. I am told he spends too much time on himself and not enough time helping Secretary McNamara and Secretary Rusk and the President. I've never known a press man yet who was any good when he built himself more than he did the President. We need press officers who say yes, I am protecting the President and my government. I want to see it do well and I am going to do everything I can to accomplish that objective.

We need an imaginative new man out there for the psychological warfare end of it. We need a good hard reporter to put out the news.

In any case let's analyze every argument that is being made against our current position and have the answers.


347. Memorandum From the Deputy for Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Komer) to President Johnson/1/

Saigon, October 4, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Komer, Robert W. Secret; Eyes Only. According to an attached October 4 letter from Komer to Rostow, Komer wrote separate letters to the President and to Rostow in response to a September 23 request from Rostow for Komer's views. In his letter to Rostow, Komer wrote: "There is no new way to end the war. Nor can one guarantee definitive results in 1968. But I am more than ever convinced that by pushing harder along the present lines we can at least show gathering success by July 1968 at the latest. To the trained eye, this picture is already visible." (Ibid.) Both of these letters were sent to the President under cover of a memorandum from Rostow, October 10, which reads: "At your instruction, I evoked these two letters from Bob Komer on a strictly private basis. You will find them worth reading." (Ibid.) A notation on the covering memorandum indicates that the President saw both letters.

Dear Mr. President:

Herewith, at your request, my urgent and literally eyes only assessment of what more we can do to "accelerate" the war. I suspect you are aware why, despite your earlier invitation, I've been reluctant to write directly. Westy and Bob McNamara are rightly sensitive on such matters. Besides, I feel that I can best serve you out here by producing results rather than reports.

To put things in context, let me say first that what I've seen in the last five months reinforces my long-held view that at long last we're forging ahead in Vietnam. Neither the trouble along the DMZ (where the poor Marines provide the shield behind which we're gradually cleaning up the rest of SVN) nor the perennial teapot "crises" in Saigon should be allowed to obscure this fact. Southern VC strength keeps declining, and Hanoi seems unable to replace it with sufficient NVA. So as more US troops arrive--and ARVN gets both bigger and gradually better--the force ratios are changing steadily in our favor. Our combat effectiveness is increasing too, as his declines. This shows not only in 1967's better kill and weapons ratios, but in a hundred little ways throughout the countryside. The whole trouble with analyzing this peculiar war is that it is so fragmented--so much a matter of little things happening everywhere--that the results are barely visible to the untrained eye. Also, enough things go wrong each week (and get sedulously reported) to obscure the larger number that go right.

Nor am I alone any longer in my optimism. Intelligence officers are by nature conservative, but Westy's new J-2 General Davidson (now here five months too) is equally convinced that we're grinding the enemy down much more rapidly than he can recoup.

I could expand on this for pages, but will cite only one key equation. Through 1965 this was a VC war, fought most intensely in the Delta. There were only about 10,000 NVA down here. Today it is more and more an NVA war, fought mostly in I Corps at the opposite end of the country. Today almost half the organized enemy units are North Vietnamese regular army. Since the Americans arrived, Hanoi has had to feed in ever more NVA to compensate for growing VC losses. But for many reasons Hanoi has been unable to maintain more than about 50-60,000 men in the South. We now think VC/NVA "main force" strength peaked out last November, and has declined somewhat since (from 126,000 to 117,000). VC guerilla strength has almost surely dropped much more. Thus, while McNamara is right that we can't stop NVA infiltration, somehow we have been able to clamp a sort of ceiling on Hanoi's ability to replace VC/NVA losses in the South.

A major reason, though no one can prove how major, is the bombing of the northern transport routes from the Chinese frontier right down through Laos. Another is the way we've forced Hanoi to shift from the easy seaborne supply route to the much more difficult overland one.

Hanoi's emerging strategy in South Vietnam also tends to validate my thesis. We out here see an evolving pattern of VC/NVA generally evading contact in most areas but northern I Corps, and partly breaking up into company-sized units in III and IV Corps. This ties in to Giap's 14-16 September articles which seemingly call for a protracted struggle, i.e. maintaining enough of a threat-in-being in the South to deprive us of early success. "Preserving our force" is Giap's new theme. All this suggests that Hanoi thinks its best bet is to wait us out through 1968. This would be all the more tolerable if he could get us to quit bombing the North.

Nevertheless, if we get our reinforcements and keep up pressure on the North, I am more convinced than ever that by mid-1968 at the latest it will be clear to everyone that we are "winning" the military war. We'll show solid progress in pacifying too. This is even harder to demonstrate convincingly, being even more fragmented than the big unit war. But you can depend on it.

With the election validated, I also foresee a period of relative political stability. At least we should do better than the last two months of political jockeying and electioneering. The real problem now is less one of stability than of getting Thieu off his duff and doing enough to convey a sense of GVN movement.

Now for what more we can do to frustrate Hanoi. Even though we are on the right track at long last, pushing yet harder on certain fronts would maximize our chances of early visible results:

A. Improving ARVN even more. Westy is now really hot on this. He's well aware that he's probably getting his last major US reinforcements. So he has Abrams full time on ARVN. He'll produce a better ARVN, but the next step must be to get all of it out fighting more. So keep prodding us. One good theme is how high US casualties are in proportion to ARVN/RF/PF. You might personally write not only Westy but Thieu as well. At a guess, we could get 25% better ARVN results in six months if we really went all-out.

B. Get some more ROKs and Aussies. Even one more ROK brigade and Anzac battalion could make a significant difference if we could get them soonest. Given the lead time needed, why not hit Pak and Holt/2/ personally right now?

/2/President Park (Pak) Chung Hee of the Republic of Korea and Prime Minister Harold Holt of Australia.

C. DOD slowness. I'm appalled by the slow response time of the US military machine--not the time it takes to train and ship troops or buy and ship equipment but the interminable decision-making process. For example, we're still waiting for final Defense OK on US military advisors that McNamara approved in July. The justification and re-justification process MACV must go through--with CINCPAC, the Services, and finally DOD level--may save money but doesn't help win wars quickly. Protect me on this as Bob McNamara will shrewdly suspect whence it comes, but Bob himself may not realize how long it takes--and how many man hours--to get even piddling requests approved.

D. Don't stop bombing the North--even for Tet. No one can prove it conclusively, but I am flatly convinced that the bombing helps greatly in keeping a lid on NVA ability to fight in the South. We need it for at least another six months--without the pauses which Hanoi utilizes so well. Why not get it ratified by the next Summit? A strong US declaration that we intend to keep bombing till Hanoi stops infiltrating would also clear the air (and maybe even cause some critics to lay off agitating the issue as futile).

E. Do more about Cambodia and Laos. Bunker and Westy make great sense on small ARVN raids into Laos, especially since the barrier seems to be delayed. When you see Souvanna, just convince him we're winning and he'll be a lot less edgy. As for Cambodia, State has been fudging for a year even on a psywar campaign to clue Sihanouk that we're on to him--and that he's foolish because we're winning. State will plead not guilty, but ask what they've done in a year. We might also use a little carrot and stick on Sihanouk--promises of goodies if he behaves better plus a few steps to worry him (such as delays on Mekong convoys). Only if you prod on this will we get anywhere. And I'm not advocating high-risk enterprises--simply enough action to help minimize enemy use of these invaluable sanctuaries.

F. Last but not least, exert much greater pressure on GVN to perform. Now that Thieu is solidly in the saddle--legally too--his passivity is our greatest obstacle. Thieu is no Ky. So if a bright, shiny new-model GVN is essential to attract the people, we have to work a lot harder at it than before. Bunker is superb (a great choice on your part), but needs more personal backing of the sort I used to draft for you to send Lodge. I know you'll take Thieu up on a mountain at the Summit, but a few private messages beforehand would help mightily. Thieu needs a dynamic program, top quality cabinet, and above all a little decisiveness. I'd almost say categorically that the GVN will do almost nothing into which we don't push it. Hence I'm breaking eggs out here (and may get in trouble because of it), but it's the only way to get reasonably prompt results./3/

/3/Komer added a handwritten marginal note next to this paragraph which reads: "This is critical, Mr. President. RWK."

Walt says you also want my views on Abrams./4/ From what he says there may be some concern lest Westy lacks "military imagination in pressing forward to get definitive results." I now feel able to size both up, having lived with them. Both are exceptional generals--either could in my judgment complete the job of grinding down the VC/NVA. Their styles are quite different, and Abe is a bit in Westy's shadow. He's more direct and less prideful than Westy. Once Abe made up his mind, he would doggedly work away at the goals he's set.

/4/General Creighton W. Abrams, Deputy Commander, MACV.

But I don't see Abe as any more dynamic than Westy, and certainly no more imaginative militarily--in fact probably less so. Indeed, he doesn't seem quite as flexible as Westy in adjusting to changing situations. Equally important, Westy has an intimate relationship with the ARVN leadership that I doubt Abe could duplicate. In a way, they respond better to a MacArthur type than to a solid no-nonsense soldier. Westy may coddle ARVN too much, but he really runs them more and more behind the scenes. Also, while Abe would be every bit as responsive to "political" guidance as Westy, he strikes me as more narrowly professional and likely to show less skill in dealing with the ARVN generals on political matters than Westy. Bunker now relies on Westy a lot to help out in this field, and rightly so. Lastly, Westy's experience seems to me invaluable. With Abe and me here now, Westy's less tired than he was and better able to focus on the big issues. In sum, he still nets out to me as the best man for this particular job, even on grounds of flexibility and imagination. But Abrams could unquestionably do the job well too.

All this is in haste, because Walt said to reply quite urgently. I won't attempt to polish my rambling prose, and will follow up later with any more ideas. You can depend on my candor as always, despite the dangers.


R. W. Komer


348. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, October 5, 1967, 6:55-8:25 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the President's office.


Secretary Rusk: Bill Bundy will see Kissinger in Boston Friday./2/ We propose to transmit the complete text of this message (a copy of which only the President, Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara had in their possession). This will be a message from Kissinger to Bo./3/

/2/October 6.

/3/See Document 349.

The President: It appears to me that we delete our assumption in here; if they attack us during the talks what would happen?

Secretary McNamara: We would open fire, of course.

The President: Wouldn't that be acting in bad faith if we do not state it in plain terms in this message that we assume they will not take advantage of the bombing cessation?

Secretary Rusk: If major operations began against us, we would be justified in striking back.

The President: I think it is important we know what we are saying, and they know what we are saying. For example, what does "cessation" mean?

Secretary Rusk: It is deliberately ambiguous.

The President: Is the only real danger to us at the DMZ?

Secretary McNamara: No, there are some dangers elsewhere.

The President: But if they do open up, we will be able to fire back?

Secretary McNamara: Yes, we would be well justified in the eyes of the world to resume bombing if they did that.

Secretary Rusk: Asked for a copy of the San Antonio speech./4/ The Secretary said it is a question of how precise we should be in the language of this.

/4/See Document 340.

The President: It still looks to me like you take out my assumption. I propose you delete the phrase "without the expression of conditions." What I want to know is that I will stop the bombing and enter negotiations which are prompt and productive. We have always assumed that they would not take advantage of the bombing. Let's not let them say that we have retracted our assumption.

This proposal may lead them to a meeting, but it may lead me into a trap.

Secretary McNamara: They have not contracted not to take advantage of the pause. In other words talks could go on while the level of current fighting continues--just so long as they do not increase it.

Secretary Rusk: They can come back after this message and debate anything they want to.

Mr. Rostow: None of us believe that the private assumption is forgotten.

The President: I know I will be charged with bad faith if they enter talks then begin firing at us. I must respond. I don't think this message gives me room to respond.

Secretary McNamara: Nothing says they cannot shell our troops at the present level, it's just that they cannot shell them at an increased level.

The President: I want talks which I can depend on. I think they would be taking advantage of it if they shell on the DMZ.

Secretary Rusk: Then I propose that we insert in the first paragraph "the U.S. government is prepared, in accordance with its proposal of August 25 . . ."

The President: If we cannot agree among ourselves we sure cannot get them to agree.

Mr. Rostow: I would prefer to have it expressly stated in the agreement.

Secretary Rusk: I think the matter is taken care of by inserting "in accordance with our position of August 25." Our proposal of August 25 would incorporate the assumption that they would not take advantage of the bombing cessation./5/

/5/See footnote 4, Document 293.

Secretary McNamara: I would agree with that, leaving in the phrase, "without expression of conditions."

Secretary Rusk: If they are not enticed by this, we do not see this (the bombing cessation) coming before the first week before November. So we have some time here to work with.

In the face of the August 25 proposal, Bo seems very anxious to keep the channel open. I do not believe Hanoi is doing this just for the fun of it.

The President: Well, they have escaped the bombing in Hanoi just because two professors are meeting. August 23 is the last time Hanoi was hit. Does that message (referring to the proposed message which was to be transmitted from Kissinger to Bo) include the halt of the August 25 assumption?

Secretary Rusk: It takes in the full proposal by saying "in accordance with."

The President: What if we sat down in Paris on Monday and they began shelling?

Secretary McNamara: You can shoot back or bomb in the vicinity of the DMZ if they shell us.

The President: Then we are trading all bombing for talks but we would expect to take any action necessary if they begin to shell us in the DMZ.

How long would it take? What if they re-arm, re-quip, or re-fortify?

Secretary Rusk: It would be just like another pause unless it turns into peace.

We will know within two weeks if they are beginning a major re-supply effort. The first thing we should demand if we get to negotiate is for the complete demilitarization of the DMZ. Remember, the bombing in Laos would continue.

The President: Rivers came down here this morning and gave me a report in which he said we have got to "give them everything we've got." He said in the last pause we permitted re-supply which cost many U.S. lives.

Secretary McNamara: There is just not one piece of evidence which would substantiate that, Mr. President.

Secretary Rusk: But we will have a problem of how to handle our own people.

Secretary McNamara: If you think you've got problems, you can imagine what sort of problems I will have with the military. All we can point to is the silence along the DMZ.

The President: What do you think is responsible for the silence there tonight?

Secretary McNamara: I believe it is a combination of artillery and the B-52s, but principally the artillery is responsible.

Mr. Rostow: But the B-52s laid down a very good carpet.

Secretary McNamara: Artillery is more effective.

Secretary Rusk: The effect of the B-52s on morale is very direct.

The President: What would General Wheeler say about all this?

Secretary McNamara: I believe he would be for it if no military advantage were taken.

The President: Have you discussed it with him?

Secretary McNamara: No, with his physical condition I would not think it wise.

The President: Well, I'm for stopping the bombing but I want them to know that we can get back into position if we need to.

Secretary Rusk: We'll shoot back if they shoot at us.

Mr. Rostow: I do not think we are dealing with children. They want one of four things:

(1) An umbrella under which to rebuild
(2) Peace and quiet in Hanoi for awhile
(3) Panmunjom-like discussions
(4) They really want peace in line with their earlier communication.

The President: We must put them on notice that the assumption still holds.

Secretary McNamara: But I would leave in "without expression of condition" because they want no conditions.

Secretary Rusk: I think it should stay in, too.

The President: I guess that is because it makes it a little more appealing to them.

Secretary Rusk: We should go at this thing on a day to day basis. We might have an announcement that there was no air activity over the North today and repeat the same thing for several days without getting ourselves into a bind.

The President: Bob, would you talk to General Wheeler about this? I want to get Wheeler aboard. On the last pause, he did not favor it but he was willing to defend the decision.

Secretary McNamara: I will talk to him first thing in the morning.

The President: Otherwise, I am a man without a country.

Secretary Rusk: I just want everybody to know that my sniffer doesn't smell peace yet.

The President: This is going to be much worse in terms of the pressure on us than the 37-day pause.

Secretary McNamara: Yes, much worse.

The President: I honestly do not see how Senator Dirksen, at 72, from Chicago, can stand up and be my defender the way he has been.

Secretary Rusk: He has a little stronger chemical in his system than others.

The President: Quoted parts of the James MacGregor Burns book on Kennedy's quotes about the toughness of the times ahead./6/

/6/Government by the People: The Dynamics of American National Government (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: 1966).

The President read his speech which is scheduled for Saturday night at a Salute to the President in Washington.

Secretary McNamara: Left before the speech was concluded because of another engagement.

Secretary Rusk: Said he thought it was an outstanding speech.

Secretary Rusk: Federal troops are making major headway in Nigeria.

Mr. Rostow: When should Senator Dirksen and Senator Mansfield be told about this track?

The President: Not until we have something.

Secretary Rusk: We do not know if we have anything yet.

Mr. Rostow: We are coming to a stage when we can begin to put the war to the American people in a new way.

We have achieved self-determination in South Vietnam. We have pushed the North Vietnamese into the North. There are no more interior bases in South Vietnam.

What we need to do is to stop the second war now. This is the war in the North. This is a need for the infiltration to stop. This is a second job.

We can split up the war into two pieces and give the war a new look by building up a new informational program.

The President: Speaking of information programs, we killed ourselves today with that announcement that we had 100,000 casualties. Why didn't they say 80,000 were returned to duty? I have been trying to get the correct figures out for a long time.

Secretary Rusk: Do you have any speech information on Rockefeller's/7/ position?

/7/Nelson Rockefeller, Governor of New York and a leading contender for the Republican Party's Presidential nomination in 1968.

The President: No. I think you (Secretary Rusk) should make a series of speeches and talk about "the birth of a nation" and the five elections that have been held in Vietnam this year. We should talk about Honolulu, when we asked them to draft a constitution; we should talk about Manila, when we asked them to elect a President; we should talk about Guam, when Ky and Thieu gave us their constitution; we should talk about the election of a Constitutional Assembly; and finally, we should talk about Thieu and Ky's election.

We should make speeches about the new government out there, and should show what has happened in your period as Secretary of State.

We need to get a program on speeches.

Mr. Rostow: State is working with Harold Kaplan/8/ on this matter. We believe the Inaugural will be a turning point.

/8/Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.


349. Editorial Note

The next round in the indirect probe of the North Vietnamese Government known as Pennsylvania consisted of a response to statements made by Hanoi's representative in Paris, Mai Van Bo. According to telegram 49772 to Paris, October 6, 1967, Henry Kissinger planned to telephone from Boston his intermediary in France, Herbert Marcovich, and alert him to receive the message for Bo at the house of a U.S. diplomat in Paris. The text of the note, which was transmitted in the telegram, read:

"The United States Government understands the position of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam to be as follows: That upon the cessation by the United States of all forms of bombardment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, without expression of condition, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam would enter promptly into productive discussions with the United States. The purpose of these discussions would be to resolve the issues between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Assuming the correctness of this understanding of the position of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the United States Government is prepared, in accordance with its proposal of August 25, to transmit in advance to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam the precise date upon which bombardment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam would cease and to suggest a date and a place for the commencement of discussions."

In addition, Marcovich was to add four points orally: this understanding was "consistent" with prior statements by both sides, Kissinger would have authority to discuss the times of the cessation and the venue for discussions, the administration requested a comment from the North Vietnamese Government with respect to secrecy in any resultant discussions, and since the U.S. Government had noted the reduction of Communist military activities around the demilitarized zone, it was suggested that the North Vietnamese Government note that bombing had not occurred around Hanoi for several weeks. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)

In a telephone conversation with Benjamin Read at 9:30 a.m. on October 8, Kissinger reported on the meeting of Marcovich and his compatriot Raymond Aubrac with Bo on October 8 at 9 a.m. in Paris. After receiving Kissinger's message, Bo promised to utilize the Pennsylvania channel if any reply was necessary. However, he characterized the message as conditional, especially the use of the words "prompt" and "productive" as well as the phrase "in accordance with the proposal of August 25," and labeled it as the "usual American double game." (Memorandum of telephone conversation; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Pennsylvania) A notation on an October 9 covering memorandum from Rostow transmitting this memorandum to the President indicates that he saw the record of the conversations. (Ibid.)

After hearing from Kissinger, Read discussed Bo's response to the message with Secretary Rusk, Under Secretary Katzenbach, Walt Rostow, and Secretary McNamara. An unattributed and undated note written after this discussion indicates that the senior advisers were not surprised by Bo's reaction. "He is making all the obvious points he knows his government would make and holding open all options," Read reported he had told Kissinger. Kissinger was directed to inform Marcovich that the message "represents an entirely reasonable suggestion for ending the bombing and moving forward to discussions resolving US/DRV differences"; the North Vietnamese Government had up to this point failed to adequately respond; and Kissinger might return to Paris by the end of the week depending on what type of response Marcovich received from Bo. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)

The next day, October 9, Marcovich again saw Bo. At that meeting, described in a telephone conversation between Kissinger and Read on October 9, Marcovich tried to impress upon a recalcitrant Bo the fact that for the first time the U.S. Government had offered to set a specific date for a cessation. Any response from the U.S. Government would be determined by the nature of the reaction from Bo and his government. Bo noted that he was available to meet with Kissinger if he came to Paris during the ensuing weekend. In addition, Bo seemingly confirmed Pham Van Dong's statement of July 26 intimating a brief interval between the end of bombing and the beginning of peace talks by responding: "He who does not say 'no', agrees." (Undated summary of a telephone conversation between Kissinger and Read of October 9, noon; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Pennsylvania) A covering memorandum from Rostow transmitting a copy of the record of the telephone conversation to the President on October 9 at 1:55 p.m., which bears a notation indicating that the President saw the record, reads: "Our intermediaries M and A are like a couple of Mexican jumping beans. I wish they would sit still for a bit." (Ibid.)

In subsequent telephone conversations with Read over the next 2 days, Kissinger acknowledged that he had refused Marcovich's prodding to come to Paris "in order to maximize pressures on Bo to get something back through the channel." Kissinger would only return to Paris when the North Vietnamese had clearly failed to respond; until that time, he had advised Marcovich that the U.S. Government "has nothing further to say." (Undated summary of telephone conversations between Kissinger and Read of October 10 and October 11; ibid.) The summaries of these telephone conversations are printed in part in Herring, The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pages 761-766.


350. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Coordination, Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Truehart) to the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes)/1/

Washington, October 9, 1967.

/1/Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, EAP Files, Far East Weekly Meetings. Top Secret.

Developments in Operations Against Viet-Nam/2/

/2/On September 1 Helms sent Rostow a memorandum entitled "U.S. Foreign Intelligence and Related Activities in Selected Areas of Southeast Asia and the Far East." An attachment to the memorandum detailed intelligence collection activities over the past 6 months against North Vietnam by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. The methods employed included [text not declassified], extraction of information from North Vietnamese diplomats abroad, interrogations of captured prisoners inside South Vietnam, and the use of insertion teams. A general increase in the quality of intelligence on North Vietnam and its intentions was noted, with the most important result being improved assessment of the damage inflicted upon North Vietnam by U.S. bombing. (Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Subject Files, Job 80-R01580R, PFIAB #14)

Maritime Operations

Although slowed down somewhat by bad weather recently, maritime operations against North Vietnam have averaged between 10 and 15 completed missions per month since mid-summer. Eight to ten junks have been destroyed and from 20 to 25 captives taken south for interrogation monthly.

Missions involving putting teams ashore to take prisoners for interrogation, to collect operational intelligence, or to harass the enemy have been scheduled more frequently recently. While several have been completed successfully, their intelligence value is low. Now scheduled are over-the-beach missions against Tiger Island to see if US airmen are held prisoner there and against the Dong Hoi area to assess the effectiveness of Mark 36 destructor mines sown there by air.

New enemy defensive tactics against the PTF/3/ missions have recently come to light through prisoner interrogation and through observation during missions. A "suicide" junk with TNT charges in its stern was blown up by its crew when a PTF came alongside. Fortunately, a crewman put aboard the junk by the PTF survived and the PTF itself was undamaged. The junk was destroyed along with most of its crew. Interrogation of captives from other junks has revealed that several junks have been equipped for suicide missions, although there has been difficulty persuading fishermen to volunteer as crewmen.

/3/Fast "PT" (patrol) boats.

Sampans are now serving in several areas as range markers for enemy coastal batteries. When PTF's come within a certain distance, these craft drop their sails and bombardment of the PTF's begins. These tactics, while unsuccessful in causing PTF casualties, are nonetheless effective in driving PTF's farther out to sea.

Many enemy craft, at the approach of PTF's, head for shallow water in which the PTF's cannot maneuver. To counter this tactic, the PTF's will soon begin to carry Boston whalers equipped with outboard motors. The whalers will be launched in shallow water to allow the pursuit of sampans which run for the coast.

PTF's are now given air cap on their infrequent missions north of 20, while carrier task force picket stations conduct air searches before all missions. Over-the-beach missions are coordinated with the carrier task force to ensure that there will be no coincidental illumination of the PTF operational area by flare ships.

In-place Teams

There are now six in-place teams and three singleton agents in North Vietnam. During September two of the singletons were parachuted into enemy territory and one team was dropped from the list after confirmation (through Hanoi radio) of its capture by the enemy. One of the six teams [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] still carried as active is suspected of being "doubled" and it is planned to parachute another team into the same vicinity under cover of a resupply drop to ascertain the status of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. The captain of the team to be infiltrated is acquainted by sight with all members of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] was instructed to walk out to Laos last March for helicopter pickup but has found a number of reasons for delay. The present plan takes the place of a proposal, happily rejected, which would have assembled the members of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] for a resupply drop, incapacitated them with a chemical agent, and picked them up by helicopter for return to South Vietnam. If anything went wrong, gunships were to go into action.

Of the three singleton agents now in place, one has been reporting for upwards of six years. One was recruited from the many prisoners taken from junks in the Gulf of Tonkin. An additional agent is now awaiting favorable weather for a drop into North Vietnam.

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Teams

One of the dozen or so trained [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] teams has recently been infiltrated into the area just north of the DMZ and along one of the routes leading into Laos. It will remain for about 20 days, reporting on road traffic and spotting convoys for air attack by the Seventh Air Force.

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] teams are landed in Laos by helicopter and walk into North Vietnam. At the end of their missions they are to walk out for pickup in Laos.

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified]

One [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] team was parachuted into North Vietnam along the Lao Kay-Hanoi rail line near the Chinese border in mid-September. It has not been heard from.

Radio Operations

Three black transmitters and one grey transmitter are now in operation providing respectively two, six, one, and twelve hours of programming daily. One of the black transmitters is airborne over the Gulf of Tonkin and either "ghosts" Hanoi broadcasts or repeats programs of the other transmitters. "Morale" messages from their families to in-place team members are frequently aired on one of the programs made up of messages from SVN civilians to relatives in the north.

In an average month over 30 million leaflets are dropped over North Vietnam by Op 34 aircraft. During the same period five hundred to a thousand gift kits (suited to the closest holiday) and several hundred radios would normally be distributed. Recent kits have had the fall festival as a theme and have included rice bowls.

From three to five hundred letters to individuals in North Vietnam are posted in third countries monthly.

The distribution of leaflets in North Vietnam by balloon is now being studied by the Special Operations Group. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] has made two experts available for the development and testing of suitable techniques. It is now contemplated that the balloons will be released from US Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.


351. Intelligence Memorandum/1/

No. 1391/67

Washington, October 9, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Bombing. Secret; Sensitive. The CIA Directorate of Intelligence prepared the memorandum in response to longstanding concerns by the President relating to the consequences of a bombing halt. According to a covering note from Rostow transmitting the memorandum to the President, October 9, Johnson agreed that Rusk and McNamara should be asked to comment on the memorandum. An October 24 memorandum from Helms to Rostow summarized among other things the CIA's assessment of effects on enemy logistics. This memorandum argued that the DRV would enter into talks of a preliminary nature if the bombardment of the North did in fact cease. It further pointed out that in spite of the fact that interdiction efforts "clearly have not placed a relevant ceiling on Communist force structures or levels of combat," the North Vietnamese almost certainly would use the respite of a halt "to improve their military capabilities." The enemy could and would endeavor to reinforce its forces in the South at significantly less cost during such a cease-fire period. (Ibid., Country File, Vietnam, 3 H (2) Appraisal of Bombing)



If the United States were to halt the bombardment of North Vietnam, and avoided saying that it was setting a time limit on the halt, Hanoi would probably be willing to enter direct talks. It would almost certainly take a cessation of longer than a month to elicit such a response, and none would be forthcoming at all if a reciprocal gesture of de-escalation were demanded.

Hanoi makes a distinction between talks, private, tentative, and exploratory, and negotiations, the formal settlement of outstanding issues. Thus its initial response would be cautious, and would be intended at the most to open the way to "talks." The opening of "negotiations" would depend on whether the US position, as revealed in these private conversations, was sufficiently forthcoming to give Hanoi hope of eventually achieving its goals in South Vietnam.

The North Vietnamese would see a cessation of bombardment without a reciprocal gesture on their part as a sign the US will was weakening, and would be greatly encouraged to believe that the course they had been following was correct. On the other hand, they would be highly suspicious of US intent, particularly in the context of the election of 1968. They would fear that the pattern of 1954 would be repeated, that the great powers might somehow deprive them of the fruits of victory. And they would expect to feel intensified and conflicting pressures from Moscow and Peking.

These factors would tend to strengthen Hanoi's determination to press for significant concessions from the US. Thus the outlook for the talks developing into more serious negotiations would be poor, unless the US was willing to accept terms it has hitherto ruled out. Nevertheless, the North Vietnamese would seek to prolong the talks, because they would probably believe the political pressures for US concessions would be greater than the corresponding pressures on them. They would expect that a continued erosion of the US negotiating position, combined with continued military attrition in the South, would eventually bring the US to accept a formula for settlement favorable to Hanoi's basic aims.

To this end, Hanoi would take advantage of any halt in bombardment to improve its military capabilities. It would move to restore and harden its transportation and industry in the North, and strengthen and reorganize its logistic routes to the South. A cessation of a week would enable the North Vietnamese to mount a stockpiling effort on the scale of their operations during the Tet pause of 1967; this would only yield them a short-term tactical advantage. For any longer period their gains would be proportionally larger. By the end of a year they would have been able to set their house thoroughly in order and to make themselves much less vulnerable to any future attacks. Although the bombing of the North has not been the limiting factor on the scale of their operations in the South, they could, if they chose, provide substantial reinforcements for their forces there with less risk and disruption than they now suffer.

[Here follow six pages of detailed analysis.]


352. Memorandum From the President's Special Counsel (McPherson) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, October 10, 1967, 5:10 p.m.

/1/Johnson Library, Office Files of Harry McPherson, Memoranda for the President, 1967. No classification marking.

I have been thinking about how to present our Vietnam case more convincingly. Bob McNamara thinks he and Secretary Rusk have pretty much lost their credibility on the subject, and I'm afraid I agree. I think you can reach the people with arguments such as you presented at San Antonio, but the question is, how often can you speak on the subject?

Often--if the format is right. Big speeches before big audiences have occasional value, primarily for the applause that signals agreement, but

--people accustomed to the conversational tone of TV tend to "turn off" when conventional crowd-rhetoric begins, and

--big speeches require big climaxes--hard sells--that make the home TV listener uneasy.

I believe you should consider this kind of format:

a) A regular--either monthly or bi-monthly--television report to the people.

b) You would speak first, for five or ten minutes. Then you would introduce Ellsworth Bunker, and then General Westmoreland, who would each give a five-minute report: Bunker on political progress, Westmoreland on military progress. Occasionally this could be varied to include a soldier's report of a combat operation, or a civilian pacification worker's report of a village operation, or a doctor, etc.

c) The purpose would be to "de-politicize" your reports on Vietnam--to make you more of a commander-in-chief, and less of a beleaguered political figure trying to defend what is happening.

d) If it is begun now, it will be a natural event by the Fall of 1968, and hence not subject to charges of "politics."

e) Bunker's and Westmoreland's reports would be filmed in Saigon, and flown here. Both theirs and yours should take a candid line, albeit hopeful. They should point out set-backs, incompleted actions, etc., as well as demonstrable progress. They must not be "snow-jobs", or people won't listen.

Do you think this is worth exploring?/2/

/2/The President checked the "yes" option. At the President's request, both Westmoreland and Bunker returned to the United States in mid-November for a series of public relations appearances.



353. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, October 16, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret. This meeting is not recorded in the President's Daily Diary.


The President: Dean, I want to know all you know and think about Pennsylvania.

Secretary Rusk: We haven't seen any serious response from Hanoi. They are not in the business of talking about negotiations at this stage. It has been a one way conversation.

Bo does want contacts to continue. I do not think this is just because of the ten mile radius around Hanoi.

There is little danger now that talks will break off. M and A and Kissinger see we are not getting anything back from Hanoi.

The President: Did the State Department insist on a letter from Ashmore when he got into his discussions over there?

Secretary Rusk: They (Ashmore and Baggs) were itching to win a Nobel peace prize and wanted it.

Secretary McNamara: I agree with Dean. I do not believe Bo's interest in continuing the talks is related to the ten mile bombing restriction. There has been no proposition to talk in any way about settling the conflict.

It now becomes a question of what we do next year in relation to Pennsylvania. I expect nothing in the next two weeks. What does matter is what we do in the next 3 to 4 months.

If the President does want a pause, I would suggest that we do it through the Pennsylvania channel.

If we do not want a pause, the President may want to draw this channel to a close. Renewing the bombing will, in my opinion, bring it to a close.

Walt Rostow: I believe they will say they are prepared to talk if we unconditionally stop the bombing. As I see it, there are three alternatives:

1) Play the string out

2) Have a pause and see what happens

3) Go to ICC countries and tell them that we have made this offer. See if we can get assurances of the kind required.

The President: What was General Wheeler's reaction to all of this?

Secretary McNamara: General Wheeler's reaction was one of concern if we pause and the North Vietnamese take advantage of it. He is not concerned if they do not take military advantage, although he does not believe it will bring about negotiations. General Wheeler was tolerant of our views given the domestic situation we have.

The President: What damage would we suffer with a pause?

Secretary McNamara: There is a possibility we will suffer no damage. We could develop our own talk-and-fight strategy.

I would recommend a pause because of the domestic plus it would be.

Secretary Rusk: How long a pause?

Secretary McNamara: You will never have a long enough pause to satisfy Fulbright and others. A pause of at least a month would be necessary.

Secretary Rusk: I talked with Hedley Donovan of Time-Life. As you know, they are coming out with an editorial next week in Life which calls for a halt in the bombing.

Donovan thinks a lot of people will have their minds changed with a pause. We would not get much out of a short pause with international public opinion.

The President: What if they resume military operations?

Secretary McNamara: We would resume military operations if they did.

Director Helms: I do not think anything will come out of the Pennsylvania channel. It will get information back to Hanoi. But I do not expect to get anything out of it.

Secretary Rusk: The proposal we made to them was almost too reasonable.

The President: How are we ever going to win?

Secretary McNamara: We are making progress. But it is slow. I have no idea how we can win it in the next 12 months.

We have to do something to increase the support for the war in this country. I know of no better way to do it except by a pause.

The President: We may lose if we have a pause. I do not think it would change any of these folks.

Secretary Rusk: Donovan says that it would change a lot of minds.

George Christian: A short pause which failed would lead to considerably more discouragement in this country than we now have.

Secretary Rusk: What effect would it have on the morale of the men?

Secretary McNamara: The effects would be bad if supplies were brought in and infiltration continued.

Director Helms: There is no question about the domestic political reaction. You win a war by doing what you are doing. A short pause will do no good. It will be very difficult to get started back again. If we have a pause, it must be a very long, deep breath.

The President: I do not see how we can get into a long one.

Secretary McNamara: We have got to be much tougher. If they do not take advantage of the pause, it would be a plus.

Secretary Rusk: I would trade the bombing for sealing off the DMZ and some of the action in the south.

Secretary Rusk: A pause ought to be connected with a promise to do something.

The President: Can't we do something to get these troop contributions wrapped up?

Secretary McNamara: We have a crash program going to get them out there.

Secretary Rusk: We will get 15,000 more men from Korea.

We need a meeting with Ambassador Goldberg on the Middle East. We are getting into a deadlock at the United Nations. We need to be fully briefed.

Director Helms: Ambassador Goldberg asked for a whole set of facts on arm shipments into the Middle East.

The President: What about their plans for an Asian summit?

Secretary Rusk: I do not know if anything good would come of it. Perhaps a meeting of the Foreign Ministers in Seoul would set the ground work.

Walt Rostow: Australia wants the last two weeks in November or the first two weeks in December.

Secretary McNamara: I don't recommend an Asian summit at this time. What is there to accomplish?

Walt Rostow: In wake of the troop contributions, you can dramatize that the other allies are doing more of their share of the work in Vietnam. We can dramatize that the rest of them are not only talking but are doing something out there. We also could put the heat on the South Vietnamese government to get them to do more. This would unify the allies on our basic negotiating stance.

The President: Let's send everything we have on to Mr. Bunker and get his recommendations. I said to the Thais and to the Australians that we are there with you and we will stay with you, but I do not know how long I can stay with that few men in the pot. It is good for them to think that so they want to contribute more troops. Let's leave it that way from now on.

Secretary Rusk: It is good to see the allies with troops in battle getting together to talk about their mutual problems.

The President: All of our past meetings produced more than we expected.

[Here follows discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]


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

Washington, October 17, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA. Secret. In an October 20 covering note transmitting a copy to Rusk, Rostow wrote: "The President wished you to have, on a personal basis, a copy of this memorandum by Mac Bundy." (Ibid.)

Vietnam--October 1967

I have talked today with my brother Bill, Bob McNamara, a knowledgeable Junior interdepartmental staff team, Dick Helms, and Bromley Smith. I am going to see the Vice President, Clark Clifford and Walt Rostow before the day ends, and when we talk I can make amendments orally to the following tentative conclusions.

Basically, I think your policy is as right as ever and that the weight of the evidence from the field is encouraging. I also believe that we are in a long, slow business in which we cannot expect decisive results soon. And while I think there are several things which we can usefully do to strengthen our position, my most important preliminary conclusions are negative. Because these negative conclusions define my affirmative recommendations, I begin with them:

1. At present I would be strongly against

(1) any unconditional pause;

(2) any extended pause for the sake of appearances;

(3) any major headline-making intensification of the bombing--such as a renewed bombing of Hanoi;

(4) any large-scale reinforcement of General Westmoreland beyond the totals already agreed;

(5) any major immediate change in the public posture established by your Texas speech and recent supporting efforts by Cabinet Officers;

(6) any elaborate effort to show by new facts and figures that we are "winning."

2. The argument which follows attempts first to spell out these conclusions in detail, and second to outline some things I would do now.

(1) No unconditional pause. The basic objection to an unconditional pause is simply that the odds are very heavy that you would have to resume, and that if the pause is truly unconditional, the circumstances of any such resumption would be very damaging to us both at home and abroad. Dean Rusk is absolutely right when he says that none of the advocates of such a pause have told us they would support a resumption, on any grounds (although Walter Lippmann acknowledged the impossibility of a permanent and unproductive pause a year ago). If we pause unconditionally, we impale ourselves on a terrible dilemma:

a. to accept continuing and visible reinforcement from the North without reply;

b. to resume on our own say-so, thus "destroying the hope of peace" by unilateral action.

(2) No extended pause for the sake of appearances. The argument against this kind of pause is somewhat different: it is that nothing which pretends to be a pause and has conditions attached to it is likely to have any useful effect whatever upon people like the New York Times. They will simply say once more that we have done it wrong, that we were insincere, and that we have proved again that we cannot be trusted by Hanoi. Since in fact Hanoi will not accept any such conditional or limited pause, we can only get the worst of both worlds by offering it. This means that any short standdown at Christmas or New Year's should be very carefully handled to prevent a false impression that we are quietly reopening a serious pause as we did--in all good faith--in 1965-66. We should not repeat the pattern of 1966-67.

There is one and only one condition on which I would order an extended pause--it is that there should be a recorded and acknowledged diplomatic position like the one which we have been stating to Hanoi through the Harvard professor. A quick review of this exchange persuades me that it has been extremely well handled and that it is to our advantage to keep it going. If it leads to a nibble, and we should get grounds for a bombing suspension, we would have a clear predicate on which to base any necessary resumption if the truce were not productive or if there were heavy reinforcement from the North. If, on the other hand, we get no response, we have certainly established a record which will show plainly that we were ready to stop the bombing on a still more forthcoming basis than any we have yet stated--even in the Texas speech. To me this exchange is a valuable and cost-free exercise, because even without it, as the next paragraph shows, I would be in favor of leaving Hanoi alone. While the exchange continues, we must stay away from Hanoi, but in my judgment we should stay away from there in any case. My reasons follow:

(3) No headline-making intensification of the bombing--and especially no more bombing in Hanoi. As you know, I think that the bombing of the North is quite intense enough as it stands. While I strongly support bombing of communications lines and supply depots--tactical bombing--I see no evidence whatever that North Vietnam is a good object for a major strategic campaign. Dick Helms told me solemnly today that every single member of his intelligence staff agrees with the view that bombing in the Hanoi-Haiphong area has no significant effect whatever on the level of supplies that reaches the Southern battlefields. Nor does any intelligence officer of standing believe that strategic bombing will break the will of Hanoi in the foreseeable future. This strategic air war engages our pilots and the pride of our air commanders; it also has a military life of its own, with its own claimed imperatives. But it does not affect the real contest, which is in the South. Its political costs are rising every week. We have everything to gain politically and almost nothing to lose militarily if we will firmly hold our bombing to demonstrably useful target areas.

The one great objection to this otherwise desirable restraint is that the top brass and their political friends disagree. I know you have thought in the past that we could not afford to break with them on this issue, but I believe that the balance of opinion is shifting rapidly against them and that it is more and more to our advantage to put a distance between ourselves and people like Symington, Rivers, Harvey--and even Russell./2/ They are overwhelmingly wrong, on all the evidence, and the belief that you are gradually giving in to them is the most serious single fear of reasonable men in all parts of the country.

/2/Reference is to Senators W. Stuart Symington (D-MO), Mendal Rivers (D-SC), James Harvey (R-MI), and Richard B. Russell (D-GA).

(4) No large-scale reinforcement beyond totals already agreed. I would hope that 525,000 would hold Westy through 1968. I would certainly try to meet this total early if that is now what he wants, because if there is to be hard fighting in the next fifteen months the sooner it comes the better. Indeed, my impression is that whatever we do, our casualties are likely to go up at the turn of the year because of operations now planned, and this seems to me one more powerful argument against an extended holiday pause.

(5) No immediate change in our public posture. The Texas speech is one of the most powerful you have given, and I think it is right in moving the emphasis a bit toward the whole of Southeast Asia and away from the details of Vietnam. I think we ought to do more of this later on, because as you know I think the strategic victory has already been won and is worth claiming. But I do not think the next month or two will be a good time for very extended additional argument. Neither Rusk nor McNamara states the matter quite the way you do, and you yourself need to save your breath until later.

(6) No elaborate effort to use new facts and figures to prove our case. There is a credibility gap and it really makes no difference that the press has done more to make it than we have. We do not gain with the mass of the people by what we report of progress in Vietnam. What we desperately need is that the newspaper men should begin to find progress for themselves. Joe Alsop, with all his weaknesses, is worth ten of our spokesmen. We should strive for a situation in which Reagan's charge begins to look plausible--that we really are hiding our successes--for whatever reason. It might cost us a few headlines and a few unbalanced television news reports to observe such a policy of reticence--but it would help to set a new stage for the necessary efforts we shall have to make next year.

I turn now to the things I would favor. As you will see, they grow out of what I am against.

1. I would favor a careful and considered exposition of the argument against an unconditional pause sometime in the next month or two. I think that the right man to do this would be Nick Katzenbach, and I think the arguments should be fully developed and firm. Once we have made an absolutely fixed decision on this point, we will end some of the chatter and we will lay a base for looking at other less categorical alternatives.

2. I think we should have a careful staff study of the possibilities for continuous bombing in the North which avoids startling targets and has the public effect of deescalation without seriously lightening the burden on the North Vietnamese. My conversations today persuaded me that there is a very promising possibility here that we can have both the essence of the present real military advantages of bombing and much of the advantage of seeming to exercise a new Presidential restraint. I would hope that this alternative could have as careful and complete a review as any other in the immediate future.

3. I would continue the effort to expand the visibility of Vietnamese participation in all forms. I understand that Bunker and Westy are tired of Washington prodding on the subject of ARVN performance, but I also understand that there is some real enthusiasm both in the Pentagon and in Saigon for brigading a few Vietnamese battalions with U.S. forces in offensive action. I would give prompt and strong encouragement to this idea because nothing would do us more good than a few battlefront reports of truly shared combat.

4. All the evidence is that our present team in Saigon is much the best we have had. But they are not getting the very best people to help them even yet. I think you might make progress with the assignment of both Army and CIA officers if you were to press the Army people directly (not through Bob) and Dick Helms too to tell you whether they are using every possible incentive to get their very best professionals into the work of pacification, intelligence collection, province leadership, and other such traditional unglamorous activities. My agents tell me that the Pentagon rewards the battalion commanders but that it is not really giving top priority to getting top men into other countryside jobs.

5. Finally, I would not listen too closely to anyone who comes from a distance and spends only one day looking at the evidence. What I think I might do instead is to find a way of widening the circle of those who talk regularly about overall policy choices in this area. I do get a feeling that while a number of different people are working on a number of different angles, only a few are trying to keep the whole picture together, and those few are not your least burdened men. My impression is that here, as in the Middle East, the best organizer of continued study is Katzenbach (whom I have not seen today) and you may wish to look for a way of sitting with him and his people every now and then.

McG. B.


355. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, October 17, 1967, 1:40-2:50 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The meeting was held at the White House.


The President discussed his visit with the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew./2/

/2/The President received Lee in the Oval Office in the afternoon and again at dinner. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

Rostow: We need to get him with Reston and Joe Kraft./3/

/3/James Reston and Joseph Kraft were nationally syndicated columnists.

Helms: He would be good.

The President: He is vulnerable on Senator Jackson's/4/ question on how many troops does he have in Vietnam?

/4/Senator Henry Jackson (D-WA).

It looks as though the news is all bad.

The President then read a memorandum about a large group of protesters in Oakland, California. The President also read a Situation Room report which showed in a battle late yesterday that 58 U.S. men were killed in Operation Shenandoah./5/

/5/The memorandum and situation report are not further identified. Operation Shenandoah was an effort to clear the VC from Phuoc Thuy Province.

General Wheeler: The battalion had about 100 casualties out of a battalion of 900. Of course, the battalion is still operational.

The President: They really worked on our planes yesterday, didn't they?

Secretary McNamara: Yes, they hit three of four. I think they were lucky hits rather than any refinements in their anti-aircraft defenses.

The President: Well, let's have it analyzed so we will know what to say.

What did you think of the McCarthy speech?/6/

/6/Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) asserted that Rusk was obfuscating by injecting the issue of a "yellow peril" into the debate over Vietnam. See The New York Times, October 17, 1967.

Secretary Rusk: It was a confused statement. I resent the "yellow peril" junk.

The President: I thought your press conference was excellent, Dean./7/

/7/In his October 12 press conference Rusk described Vietnam as vital to U.S. security. In addition, he discussed continued efforts by the U.S. Government to seek peace in Vietnam and described the September 29 San Antonio statement by the President as "an essentially reasonable and fair proposal for anyone who is interested in peace." See Department of State Bulletin, October 30, 1967, pp. 555-564.

Secretary Rusk: I have a problem with the Foreign Relations Committee. Fulbright asked me to come again for a public session. I do not like them saying that I am scared of them. That doesn't set well down in Cherokee county.

I think the appearance in 1966 was a plus, but I do not want seven hours of public debate. What is your judgment?

The President: I haven't talked to anybody who didn't think your press conference was the best you have ever had. Prime Minister Lee told me that today.

The Committee is entitled to a report and a response to their questions on our national interest. I do not think you need to have it televised. I resent that they did not carry your press conference on television.

Secretary Rusk: They wanted me to tell them in advance that I was about to announce a major new policy on Vietnam before they would carry it live.

The President: Well, I would go to the hearings and hit them hard and solid. I applaud your raising your voice. You speak for a lot of people, including 500,000 men out there who can't speak for themselves.

Secretary Rusk: The response from young people has been overwhelming. I've had a number of them ask for my autograph, and there have been many letters including one from Abe Fortas.

The President: Lee said the great mistake in Vietnam was not made in 1965 but was made in 1961.

[Here follows discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]

The President: What is the current feeling about Pennsylvania?

Secretary Rusk: There has been nothing back from Hanoi. We should get M and A to agree that we have had nothing back.

Secretary McNamara: I think we should keep our option of making this whole sequence of events public.

The President: I agree. We should let Secretary Rusk disclose it under strong questioning.

We should make the record clear that we said we would stop the bombing for productive discussions. They said no.

I think we should let our folks know that we have tried. We quit bombing August 22 inside the 10-mile perimeter of Hanoi. It has been two months.

Secretary Rusk: There is a difference here between stating the substance of what took place and identifying the individuals.

The President: I would not identify the individuals. I would say that we had outside, fresh new professorial minds at work on this.

Secretary McNamara: If you are not going to have a pause, let's make as much of this as we can.

The President: I would say it at executive session. It will take about two days for it to leak. After it does, we will be prepared to completely handle it.

Secretary McNamara: It would be good to have a white paper on this whole episode.

The President: Yes, we should say that we had good outside help. We have to have something to carry us in this country. Every hawk and every dove and every general seems to be against us.

Buz, your generals almost destroyed us with their testimony before the Stennis Committee. We were murdered on the Hearings./8/

/8/See footnote 4, Document 287.

The President then discussed a credibility analysis which he received last night.

The President then asked how long we should wait on Pennsylvania.

Secretary Rusk: We should wait at least until Friday./9/

/9/October 20.

Activity on Phuc Yen is high. The Joint Chiefs are anxious to get it out of the way. I would include it as part of the 10-mile perimeter and do nothing before Friday.

General Wheeler: We lost three aircraft to MIGs. We've taken out other air fields. We recommend Phuc Yen, the Hanoi bridges and canals and the Hanoi thermal power plant./10/

/10/In response to a September 12 request from the President for recommendations on the air war, the JCS submitted JCSM-555-67 on October 17, which recommended 10 new military measures against the DRV. See footnote 12, Document 357. On October 23 the President authorized a one-time attack on the Hanoi Thermal Power Plant as well as the specified targets in the Hanoi prohibited area, including two major bridges and the Phuc Yen and Gia Lam airbases. See Document 363.

The President: None of this can be hit until after we finish up on Friday.

Secretary Rusk: I am not for a big fireworks display. Some people have advised me that it would take a hundred aircraft on Phuc Yen.

Secretary McNamara: What is scheduled is for four groups of 24 attack aircraft each.

Secretary Rusk: I am running out of gas on this.

The President: We will open up the whole thing on Friday.

[Here follows discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]

The President ended the discussions with a review of his talks with Prime Minister Lee. Lee told the President that Singapore would be the first to go down the China chute if the U.S. gets out of Vietnam.

The President said he told Lee he intended to stay but the opposition in this country was steadily mounting.


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