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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 406-421

406. Telegram From the Deputy Ambassador to Vietnam (Locke) to the President's Special Assistant (Rostow), Secretary of State Rusk, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and Director of Central Intelligence Helms/1/

Saigon, November 20, 1967, 1525Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Buttercup; Exclusive; Via CAS Channels.

CAS 780. 1. In my meeting with President Thieu the afternoon of 20 November, I reviewed the general progress of the Buttercup case and made the following points:

A. That the GVN and USG are agreed on the general objectives to be pursued in this case and that actions taken thus far have been pointed toward that objective.

B. Described our theory that the NLF will not likely react favorably toward getting a dialogue going and a prisoner exchange started unless our side meets the basic requests contained in Buttercup/1's last message to us, specifically the release of Sau Ha et al, better treatment for prisoners now held in GVN custody and guaranteeing Sau Ha's security in his travel back to the NLF headquarters area. In fact, Buttercup/2 was told he would be considered a "spy" by Buttercup/1 if he were to return to the NLF without Sau Ha, and of course no further progress would be made.

C. Therefore, we felt it desirable to move ahead with the release of Sau Ha et al particularly since they are "not important" prisoners in any case.

D. I noted Vien's and Loan's concern over what would happen to GVN police morale if the prisoners were simply released without guarantee of NLF reciprocity, and suggested that Loan's idea of turning the prisoners over to the CIO for a "counterintelligence operation" might solve the problem of Loan's concern about police morale, etc.

E. Also mentioned Vietnamese concern over the United States dealing with the NLF, particularly if this were to become publicly known. Remarked that it is not a recognition of the NLF that is involved, but a simple prisoner exchange of benefit to both us and GVN, and that VC and GVN had previously released prisoners.

2. Thieu made the same points he has previously offered to the effect (A) that he agrees with the principle of prisoner exchange, (B) that he feels generally that there should be some guarantee of a reciprocal exchange of prisoners by the NLF, and (C) has authorized his representative Minister Vien to work out the procedural details./2/ Thieu stated that it is widely known that Sau Ha is now in prison and if he and the others were to be released without a specific guarantee of prisoners being released in exchange by the NLF it would be difficult to explain to his critics who might choose to propagandize the situation. Thieu commented that a prisoner exchange is "understandable" but that a unilateral step by the GVN for the release of Sau Ha et al without guarantee from the NLF is a much more difficult action to explain. He also commented that the GVN has recently shown additional good faith in not having executed the three Viet Cong scheduled before the firing squad on 17 November.

/2/According to telegram CAS 779 from Saigon, November 20, Thieu had already come to this conclusion by November 18. (Ibid.)

3. I made the point that if he fails to pursue the Buttercup case along the lines suggested in Buttercup/1's last message to us the NLF could still publicize its message to us, in which they speak of a prisoner exchange and discussions leading to broader matters, and claim that the U.S. Government has not responded to this message and that despite its statements about sincerely seeking peace in Vietnam has not taken the minor steps suggested by the NLF to get the ball rolling. The NLF could also claim that both the U.S. Government and the GVN are not even interested in working toward the release of their own prisoners now held by the NLF. I underlined the serious political repercussions this kind of a propaganda statement by the NLF could have in the United States where President Johnson is already having difficulties with the "peace" groups which would take maximum advantage of his having reportedly turned down such an offer from the NLF. I indicated that publicity of the negotiations with our lack of responsiveness now could be much more damaging and more difficult to explain than publicity after we had shown responsiveness.

4. I commented that if we do pursue the Buttercup case along the lines we are recommending and if there were to be a leak somewhere along the line or if the NLF should choose to propagandize it for their own purposes, we could claim correctly that the Buttercup case began at NLF initiative in sending the first message to our side. We could also show that the U.S. Government and the GVN are in complete accord in working out a prisoner exchange with the GVN obviously cooperating to the point of releasing the prisoners now held by the Vietnamese police. I also recalled our proposal that the prisoners be released by the GVN under the amnesty for political prisoners which it had granted at the outset of the new government. I commented that the three American prisoners recently released in Phnom Penh could also be considered as a gesture of good faith on the part of the NLF to which we have responded by a similar gesture, which is in keeping with reciprocal gestures (prisoner exchange) in the past./3/

/3/In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on November 11, the NLF released to the custody of antiwar activist Thomas Hayden three American prisoners, all of whom were U.S. Army sergeants. The group returned to the United States on November 13. Telegram 71461 to Saigon, November 18, contained a joint State/Defense message requesting that the Embassy attempt to get the GVN to release three VC prisoners as a reciprocal gesture. (Ibid., POL 27-7 VIET) The Embassy did manage to get the GVN to postpone a scheduled execution of three VC cadre held as prisoners. In telegram 71460 to Saigon, November 18, the Department directed that in light of the DRV's threat to place on trial three American prisoners if such executions occurred, the Embassy needed to "confirm with GVN clear understanding that any executions of VC will be subject to full prior consultation with USG." (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)

5. The one point that clearly emerges from my conversation with Thieu is that he has never agreed to our specific proposal on the release of Sau Ha et al as the next step in the Buttercup case. He does agree and continues to agree "in principle" that an exchange of prisoners is a desirable objective and that we should work toward that end. It is not clear at this point who originated the hard line position expressed by Vien and Loan of a "guarantee" from the NLF in the form of a concrete act by the NLF to release prisoners from their side before we release Sau Ha. Neither is it clear how far Thieu may be willing to depart from this view as a result of our urging. Thieu plans to discuss the matter again with Minister Vien and to contact me for another discussion after he has done so.

 

407. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State/1/

Paris, November 20, 1967, 1055Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Elmtree. Top Secret; Elmtree; Nodis. Received at 7:18 a.m. The Elmtree contact of 1966 involved efforts to secure contact with the NLF through former South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Khanh. Khanh alleged that he could get the NLF to release some American prisoners of war in order to validate his status. See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. IV, Document 179.

6778. 1. After complete silence of several months, Ray/2/ telephoned EmbOff (Dean) Nov 18 at home and asked to see him indicating through code words which were used in 1966 that purpose of meeting was to discuss his contact with NLF. At Nov 19 meeting, Ray said that on basis impressions gathered recently in Vietnamese circles Paris which have access to North Vietnamese and NLF authorities, he thinks Hanoi and NLF may possibly be more interested now in negotiated settlement than they were 4 or 5 months ago despite intransigent public position. However, before testing this sentiment, Ray would like to have reply to following question which he read from prepared paper: "Within framework of private and secret diplomacy whose goal is to bring peace to Vietnam, is USG ready to: (1) Take a peace initiative by confirming through an intermediary of Ray its willingness to send a qualified representative to meet (A) a qualified rep of GDRV and (B) a qualified rep of NLF? (2) If these meetings give rise to 'a hope,' would US accompany this desire for peace by concrete acts which would be well received by Vietnamese people such as, for example, extending holiday truce at end of year or extending Tet truce?"

/2/Khanh used the code-name "Ray" during the Elmtree contacts.

2. In off-the-cuff reply, EmbOff emphasized Secretary Rusk's complete sincerity when he mentions publicly again and again his willingness to meet with DRV reps anywhere and anytime but that it has been latter which has constantly refused to accept offer to talk with USG--in secret or publicly. Therefore EmbOff said he thought US remained willing send qualified rep to meet with GDRV. As for meeting with NLF rep, EmbOff said this would not raise insurmountable problem if NLF really wants to talk with official US reps. EmbOff said he could not comment on second half of Ray's question and even answer to first half of question represented EmbOff's personal views and not necessarily those of USG. Furthermore, EmbOff added he did not know whether USG wanted to use this channel of communication with adversary. EmbOff promised transmit question to Dept and agreed inform Ray when reply received.

3. Ray said that if Dept's reply is affirmative to first point--i.e., USG ready to meet with GDRV and NLF reps--and is agreeable in principle to second point--i.e., prolonging truce if previous discussions turn out to be useful--Ray would in second meeting with EmbOff give some details of how he plans to get word to GDRV and NLF through trusted intermediary. He thinks he could have authoritative reply within 2 to 3 weeks after obtaining green light from us whether on these terms Hanoi and NLF would be interested entering into secret discussions with USG. He wanted however not to be overly optimistic because even if US agreed to his taking soundings on Hanoi's or NLF's receptivity to talking secretly with USG rep, "nothing at this time guarantees success of his undertaking." When asked what makes Ray think that there may be some slight chance that he might be successful where others have failed, he replied that perhaps a well-connected South Vietnamese living outside own country may be in better position to be heard in Hanoi or by Front than a foreigner or Vietnamese official associated with GVN in Saigon. He also said that a possible willingness by Hanoi or NLF to talk secretly with USG should not be interpreted as a sign of their weakness or imminent collapse but rather as testing sincerity of US public statements.

4. In conclusion Ray suggested that in replying to his question, Dept may also wish to solicit views of Ambassador Alexis Johnson/3/ who knows him well and was associated with Ray's efforts to enter into contact with NLF during 1966.

/3/U. Alexis Johnson, Ambassador to Japan and former Deputy Ambassador to Vietnam.

5. Ray and EmbOff agreed that regardless of Dept's reply, complete secrecy would be preserved in this operation as had been the case in our dealings with him in the past./4/

/4/In light of DRV and NLF intransigence and NVA/VC attacks near Dak To, Dean was instructed not to give any specific advance assurances as Khanh wanted. (Telegram 73700 to Paris, November 23; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Elmtree) As reported in telegram 7072 from Paris, November 27, Dean told Khanh that he could undertake an exploration of views with the NLF "strictly on his own account and in no way on behalf of anybody else, including USG." Khanh agreed to report back in 2 weeks the results of his overture. (Ibid.) Khanh never followed up on his promise to inform Dean of the results of his "soundings." (Telegram 23868 from Paris, February 14, 1969; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET)

Wallner

 

408. Paper Prepared by the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, November 20, 1967.

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

JCS Recommendations, with OSD positions, and recommended State position:

1. Remove restrictions on all militarily significant targets in NVN.

OSD--No
State--No

2. Mine NVN deep water ports.

OSD--No
State--No

3. Mine inland waterways and estuaries in NVN north of 20oN.

OSD--Yes, with prohibition against mining within 5 miles of any deep water ports and within 25 miles of Chinese border.
State--Yes

4. Extend naval surface operations (Sea Dragon)./2/

/2/Operations along the North Vietnamese coast up to the 20th parallel.

OSD--Yes
State--Yes, but with careful restrictions.

5. Use US SAMs (TALOS)/3/ from ships against combat aircraft.

/3/A specific type of surface-to-air missile.

OSD--Yes
State--No

6. Increase air interdiction in Laos and along NVN borders.

OSD--No (since present arrangements with RLG are adequate)
State--No
Sullivan--believes more should be done, especially during the next two months, but under present arrangements with RLG. Notes that Souvanna would favor such an increase.

7. Eliminate operational restrictions on B-52s with regard to Laos.

OSD--Yes
State--check with Sullivan
Sullivan--Yes on night-time overflights, selected daylight bombing subject to clearance, and limited penetrations subject to clearance; No on blanket bombing authority or "indiscriminate" day-time overflights.

8. Expand operations in Laos (Prairie Fire)./4/

/4/Guerrilla and reconnaissance operations in the part of Laos closest to the border with Vietnam.

OSD--Yes "Examine sympathetically," have MACV and Sullivan coordinate on a selective basis.
State--Have MACV and Sullivan work out, subject to final approval here.
Sullivan--prepared to work with MACV, but wishes to retain final Washington approval; indicates clearly negative attitude on battalion- or company-size operations. No to the Gung-Ho warriors; and keep Washington involved as restraint.

9. Expand operations in Cambodia (Daniel Boone)./5/

/5/Clandestine ground reconnaissance into an area in Cambodia within 20 kilometers of the South Vietnamese border.

OSD--No.
State--No, at least for the present, but could be subject to review depending on Sihanouk behavior.

10. Expand and reorient NVN covert programs (Footboy)./6/

/6/The overall program of clandestine operations against North Vietnam; formerly known as Operations Plan 34-Alpha.

OSD--Yes (as means of getting more intelligence)
State--Yes in principle, but need more information to be sure proposals do not raise political problems.

 

409. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, November 21, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret. Those present at the meeting, which was held 8:30-10:30 a.m., were: the President, the Vice President, Rusk, McNamara, Bunker, Komer, Wheeler, Westmoreland, Helms, Rostow, Christian, and Tom Johnson. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

NOVEMBER 21 MEETING WITH SAIGON ADVISERS

The President opened the meeting by saying that he wanted periodic coordinated reports by Ambassador Bunker and the South Vietnamese leadership.

Ambassador Bunker said he had discussed a "Report to the Nation." He said there is a need for more non-military views.

The President showed the group a Christian Science Monitor article on the views of various dissenting Senators about Vietnam. "This is the type of thing which the American people are seeing every day. We need to get them more information of a factual nature."

Secretary Rusk said that Governor Romney/2/ is going to Saigon. The Secretary said he had a good meeting with Romney, urging him to visit the South Vietnamese units.

/2/Michigan Governor George Romney was considering a run for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1968.

The President said it was his judgment that Richard Nixon would capture the nomination.

The President asked if State and Defense had done all they could to get the additional troops from other allied countries--and also to get to Vietnam the additional troops from the U.S. which already had been approved in line with General Westmoreland's earlier request. "The clock is ticking." We need to get all the additional troops as fast as we can.

Secretary Rusk asked how much of the support for the Korean troops are we providing.

General Westmoreland said we provide most of the support for the Korean troops out of main supply depots.

Secretary McNamara said we should ask the Koreans for combat troops not support troops.

The President said we need somebody like Ambassador Harriman to sit down with the Koreans to talk about their additional troops.

Secretary McNamara said we need a B52 authorization from the Thais./3/

/3/These bombers were to be based at U Tapao and were to be used in the Arc Light campaign.

Secretary Rusk said that the Thais were nervous about the number of U.S. troops in their country.

The President asked Ambassador Bunker and General Westmoreland to find the best way to put the best troops in the best shape we can as quickly as possible. The President said that we should let it be known in the United States if indeed the South Vietnamese troops are as good as General Westmoreland and Ambassador Bunker have been saying they are.

General Westmoreland said he is assigning a U. S. Information Officer to each ARVN Commander to help improve the relations of the South Vietnamese troops with the American press.

The President asked about any additional needs in the pacification area.

Secretary McNamara said he would provide 500 additional officers for pacification work by February.

Bob Komer said he was for 3551 officers.

Secretary McNamara said the military is short of this type of man. He said there are officers in Vietnam who can be used in the pacification program, and the military will train the remaining 2600.

Secretary Rusk asked if any military reservists could be brought back to active duty to fill this need.

Secretary McNamara said no. He said, "These are fighting advisers" rather than officers who are involved in non-combat responsibilities.

Bob Komer said he has confidence that General Westmoreland's staff would assist in providing pacification personnel. General Wheeler said that these men were mostly Army and Marine Captains.

Secretary McNamara said you cannot get these officers any faster by calling up reserve personnel. Secretary McNamara said that $60 million have been requested for additional roads. He said he was not sure how this amount would be raised, but that it would be arranged./4/

/4/In a November 20 memorandum to McNamara, Komer, in addition to listing all of the major urgent pacification needs, fixed the requirement for roads and waterways at $27 million in military funds and $35 million from DOD/AID realignment funds for the next year. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 A 2468, Viet 380 Pacification) According to a memorandum from Leonhart to Rostow, November 8, a high-level meeting to address issues relating to the requirements and implementation of the ICEX program was scheduled for November 9. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 1 C (2)) Notes of this meeting have not been found. After this meeting, an interagency special working group under White House chairmanship was formed to accelerate the anti-infrastructure programs. (Telegram 67987 to Saigon, November 10; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

The President stressed the need to bring the South Vietnamese government to the center of the stage stressing tax needs, anti-corruption measures and a need for a reform image.

Bob Komer asked if the President would permit the Saigon aides to tell the South Vietnamese that these were the President's personal views in order to expedite action on these recommendations. The President approved this.

The President said a great deal of the ammunition for dissent in this country was a product of the Saigon press corps. He asked the status of Barry Zorthian.

Secretary Rusk said the State Department was working on that now.

The President said the main front of the war is here in the United States, and asked about the status of Buttercup.

Secretary Rusk said the South Vietnamese government is not too anxious to proceed on this matter.

CIA Director Helms said that the position of the South Vietnamese is that the Viet Cong ought to release somebody before the South Vietnamese government does.

The President asked if there is much hope that Buttercup will lead to something else.

CIA Director Helms said no. Helms said it could lead to additional prisoners being exchanged, but he doubted any negotiations would result.

The President asked if there is anything else that the United States government should be doing to bring about peace.

Ambassador Bunker said that we have tried everything. The more efforts we make now, the more Ho believes we want to get out.

General Westmoreland said that he believes that Ho interprets our efforts as a sign of weakness.

Secretary McNamara said we should push our view on the South Vietnamese to get them moving Buttercup.

Ambassador Bunker said that these things take time, that we cannot rush it. The Viet Cong are their enemy we must remember.

The President asked Walt Rostow to assemble the data on four or five peace efforts we have initiated. "I don't expect to do any more talking until I hear from them. There has been enough talk on this." The President asked that a speech be written which would outline the failure of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese to respond to any of our peace initiatives.

Ambassador Bunker said that the San Antonio speech was most forthcoming. "I do not see how we could have gone any further in our offer."

Walt Rostow said Buttercup is the most promising way if we are serious. The key for Buttercup is the establishment of confidence with Thieu about this type of dialogue.

The President said there are four areas for immediate attention. The first is the expediting of additional troops to Vietnam. The second is the equipping of the South Vietnamese army with the best equipment. Secretary McNamara said the Joint Chiefs of Staff are working on this presently.

The third area was the placement of B52's in Thailand. Secretary Rusk said he would discuss this with Ambassador Unger. The United States wants to place 25 rather than 50 B52's in Thailand.

The fourth area is the need for additional road money. Secretary McNamara said he would try to get this.

The President asked what would United States policy be on the proposal of pauses over the holidays. He pointed out that the Viet Cong had added to the number of days.

Secretary Rusk said that the government should announce an offer to meet Hanoi about extending the truce. As before, he does not expect that they will meet with us.

General Wheeler said that the U. S. troops have rules of engagement which will protect our troops. He pointed out that last Tet North Vietnam moved 23,000 tons of supplies just north of the DMZ.

General Wheeler said we must assume they will do everything possible to take maximum advantage of these pauses.

The President said, "We should announce what we are going to do and then let them have it" if they violate the truce. "We have been too tolerant of these people."

Bob Komer asked about the possibility of a reciprocal military standdown.

General Wheeler said we cannot do it.

The President said we make an agreement and stand by it. They make an agreement and break it.

The President asked why we are so silent about the Cambodian situation, particularly in light of recent press reports about base camps along the Cambodian border.

Secretary Rusk said that Prince Sihanouk has invited 20 newsmen to visit Cambodia and is also writing the United Nations on this matter. The Secretary said this will provide us a good opportunity to invite the United Nations to act on this matter of Cambodia being used as a sanctuary for North Vietnamese troops.

The President said he was tired of Sihanouk's actions.

Secretary McNamara said we need to surface more information about Cambodia.

General Westmoreland explained that his men had tipped off the two United States newsmen about the location of the camp which had been discussed in the press this morning. "This is the one thing on which we can get cooperation from the Saigon press."

The President said we should get Ambassador Goldberg to deliver some speeches on this.

The President asked about recommendations for operations inside Laos.

General Westmoreland said he was anxious to initiate action in base area 607. He pointed out that the missiles that hit Da Nang came through this base area. He said this action would require two Vietnamese battalions and a raid of three to four days.

Ambassador Bunker said he was anxious to see this act taken. "80% of their supplies come through Laos. To give them a free hand is suicidal."

General Wheeler said over the past 12-18 months the enemy has built a truck road through this area. He said the Joint Chiefs of Staff agree that within the next 60 to 90 days General Westmoreland should be authorized to initiate action in this area.

The President asked about the increase in the number of planes lost. "I am beginning to agree with Bob McNamara that it does not appear the targets are worth the loss in planes."

General Wheeler explained that the North Vietnamese have changed their tactics. They are firing SAMs in a barrage pattern. In addition the MIGs have developed new tactics. He said the United States forces are going to have to vary the pattern of attack.

The President emphasized "the clock is ticking." Get the targets you have to hit. The bombing arouses so much opposition in this country.

General Wheeler said that we lost 25 aircraft this month compared with 42 in May.

Secretary McNamara said it was his opinion that the raids were not worth the losses in aircraft. He pointed out that five aircraft were lost against Phu Yen.

Secretary [Rusk?] asked about a possible increase in the number of sorties being used in close support of ground troops.

General Westmoreland said it was no problem on this since B52's were used for mass bombing and he has pre-emptive authority over tactical air missions. "The B52's have done a fantastic job."

The President asked about the reports of large scale civilian casualties.

Secretary McNamara said we have killed a lot of civilians, but not as many as the enemy claims.

General Westmoreland said, "We have killed fewer civilians in this war than in any previous war in which America has been involved."

The President said there is a need to remove the emphasis on statistics in battle casualties./5/

/5/This discussion was prompted by an undated CIA analysis of VC casualty data that Johnson requested from Helms. The paper described methods used to compile casualty figures and concluded that despite risks of "inflationary" reporting, enemy casualties were actually being underestimated. This report was sent under cover of a November 22 memorandum from Helms to McNamara. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Vietnam Files: FRC 77-0075, Vietnam-November and December 1967)

Ambassador Bunker pointed out we report not only men killed in action and hospital cases, but casualties of a non-authorized nature. In contrast the North Vietnamese report only the ones who are hospitalized.

The President asked why do we continue to release these statistics, especially since they make it appear that U.S. troops are suffering more casualties than South Vietnamese troops.

General Westmoreland said we report these figures because the pattern was established, and because "we would catch hell from the press if we were to change the system."

The President said just because we have been doing something wrong for several years doesn't mean we can't correct our error.

Secretary McNamara said he dared not stop reporting these casualties because of the fear of a tremendous press attack.

General Westmoreland says he has the system of reporting under examination by his staff.

Ambassador Bunker said it would be good to bring out a comparison of the Vietnamese casualties which more accurately reflect the situation.

Secretary McNamara said it was a fact that our regular Army losses are higher than the South Vietnamese regular army losses, "but if you include popular and regional losses, their losses are higher than ours."

The American press believes that we are lying on any body counts.

General Westmoreland said that survey details have found that the United States counts of enemy dead are reasonable and the reporting system is "if anything, conservative."

General Westmoreland says he has hard evidence that the enemy KIA is larger than reported, since there is no way of determining how many die from artillery and aerial bombardment. "I have told the American press that I will investigate any incident in which they believe our counts are bad."

General Westmoreland said he was very skeptical of any proposal to eliminate or change the method of casualty reporting since this is not a live issue in Saigon now. We have more to lose than to gain by changing the system.

General Wheeler said that we are at an obvious disadvantage in that we cannot stop reporting our figures. If we were to stop we would have many charges that the war is being lost rather than the current accusation that there is a stalemate.

General Westmoreland said we cannot help that our casualties are reported since there are reporters with most of the large units in Vietnam. It would be a matter of our casualties being reported and the enemy casualties not being reported. I believe the press in Saigon are reasonably satisfied that we are trying to give an accurate record of casualties.

The President said that the press in this country does not believe this. They believe we are lying to them about these figures.

Ambassador Bunker agreed with the President.

Secretary McNamara said he believed that the press in this country was skeptical of the figures but that he agreed with General Westmoreland that we should not change the method of reporting.

General Westmoreland said the answer to this is to convince the press that the counts are reasonably accurate./6/

/6/In his November 22 memorandum recording this meeting, Westmoreland noted on this point: "I insisted that we continue to report enemy casualties (by body count) and do all possible to convince the press that these reports are valid." (U.S. Army Military History Institute, William C. Westmoreland Papers, History File 25-Nov. 13 to 28, 1967)

The President suggested that General Westmoreland appoint a four or five member committee of correspondents to investigate the system of body counts.

Secretary McNamara agreed with this recommendation indicating that it would strengthen our credibility with the press and the American public.

The President said no matter what others may believe, this is an issue in this country and we need a committee to investigate this.

General Westmoreland said that he has such a program to get reporters on teams to count bodies themselves. "We are on the right track on this."

General Wheeler said the best evidence of our figures come from the other side in the form of captured documents.

The President then asked plans for departure by Ambassador Bunker, Ambassador Komer and General Westmoreland.

General Westmoreland said he was leaving on Wednesday,/7/ Ambassador Bunker said he was leaving on Friday. Ambassador Komer said he was leaving with Ambassador Bunker.

/7/November 22.

General Westmoreland said we should encourage more groups, not less, to visit Vietnam and get a first hand check. He suggested that more preachers, more educators, more Congressmen be invited. The President added to that group, groups of women.

Ambassador Bunker summarized by saying that we have set our priorities for the United States program in Vietnam. He said that President Thieu and Vice President Ky have almost identical priorities which is encouraging.

The President asked if President Thieu planned to come to the United States.

Ambassador Bunker said yes at a later date when he settles down the government a bit.

Secretary Rusk said he favors President Thieu coming to the United States, but only if he brought Ky with him.

General Westmoreland said he had no fear of any coups taking place, but that if a situation should arise he thought he could handle it.

General Westmoreland summarized by saying that the quantities of men and matériel were fine. The M16's are coming in at a steady clip. There are a few shortages but nothing that cannot be taken care of easily.

Secretary McNamara said that we are going all out to get choppers and that the Colt Company was working around the clock to get M16s.

General Westmoreland said there is no problem with the number of fixed wing aircraft. He said there is a need for more one and a-half ton trucks. He said, "the men and matériel we are getting are all I can reasonably expect. I would have difficulty absorbing troops much faster."

General Westmoreland said that South Vietnamese troops would be equipped with the M16's.

The President said his main concern was that General Westmoreland get what he wants as soon as possible.

General Westmoreland said from a practical standpoint he had all he needed at this stage. Secretary McNamara said General Westmoreland would have 106 battalions--102 by December 31 and the others by April.

General Westmoreland said that 525,000 men will be a well balanced hard-hitting force.

The President said he hopes we will lower the boom to get the extra troops which they have promised.

General Westmoreland said the main problem is one of leadership, and that we must watch closely to strike a balance of quantity and quality among the Vietnam troops.

Komer stressed needs in two areas. The first was a need for an all out priority attached to Viet Cong infrastructure. He said he needed not more than $10 million for detention centers.

The second is the need for civil and military consolidation. We need more good military people. Komer said he would like Bill Colby, one of Dick Helms' top men, to go to Vietnam to assist in pacification.

The President said for him to get the best people available including Colby if Helms could spare him and Colby wanted to go.

The President said Ambassador Bunker and General Westmoreland should figure out a way to get Thieu to establish better rapport with the American press.

Secretary Rusk expressed his appreciation on behalf of the official Washington family for the excellent leadership being provided by Ambassador Bunker and General Westmoreland.

George Christian pointed out that the refugee problem was a big one. He mentioned that the American press was beginning to place a great deal of emphasis on this problem. Ambassador Komer said we would try to do better on this.

George Christian stressed the need to get a man with known prestige to handle the information duties within Saigon.

The President and Secretary Rusk agreed with Christian.

General Wheeler said he, Ambassador Bunker, General Westmoreland and Bob Komer went to see General Eisenhower at Walter Reed yesterday. "General Eisenhower expressed his strong support for our position."

The President said he wanted General Wheeler to tell General Goodpaster that we want to make available to General Eisenhower everything the President knows.

General Westmoreland asked for approval to take away from AID the responsibility for the war veterans advisory commission and place it under his responsibility. The President approved this action.

 

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

Washington, November 21, 1967, 3:50 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Vietnam, Conduct of War. Secret. The notation "ps" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. Another copy is ibid., Country File, Vietnam, March 19, 1970 Memo to the President.

Mr. President:

Late on Monday, November 20, 1967, I had an hour's session alone with Amb. Bunker. I took him through exactly the same questions I took Westy, derived from Bob McNamara's memorandum./2/ The results were as follows.

/2/Document 375.

1. A bombing stand down in North Viet Nam except in the tactical area across the DMZ if they continue to press at the DMZ. Ellsworth talked speculatively about the problem around these three points:

--He sees no reason to believe that a bombing stand down now would lead to serious negotiations, and he does not think we should trade bombing simply for talk;

--He is, however, interested in the barrier and in Southpaw/3/ (harassment on the ground in Laos) because he would like to put us in a position where we might put Hanoi to a test in the future with a bombing pause. Therefore, he feels it important that we get as good a grasp as we can on infiltration of Laos so that the costs of a pause designed to test Hanoi would be minimized.

/3/Southpaw was the code name for a plan to conduct U.S. Special Forces-led raids into the Laos panhandle using ARVN forces of 1-3 battalion strength.

2. Announce that our present U.S. troop ceilings are the limit of our commitment. Bunker is rather drawn to this proposition if we make it clear that an announced troop ceiling would assume that no one else would expand the war. He says that we are fighting a limited war for limited objectives and believes that we will not need more than 525,000 U.S. forces. He was not dogmatic on this point but, I would say, mildly favorable.

3. Forego ground operations in North Vietnam; Laos; and Cambodia. Bunker would make no statement committing us against such ground operations. His advice: keep them guessing. As for Laos, as indicated above, he actively supports Southpaw.

4. No mining of Haiphong. Bunker is against mining the harbors. We are doing almost as well by hitting transport around Haiphong. The international complications are worth avoiding.

5. No attack on dikes. Bunker is against the attack on dikes because of the international political repercussions.

6. Maintain progress with lesser U.S. casualties and destruction inside South Vietnam. Under this heading Bunker is worried about future operations in the Delta. He is afraid that an additional massive flow of refugees could turn the people of South Vietnam against us. He is skeptical of Komer's view that the refugees are churned up by enemy operations. He believes they are mainly trying to get away from our bombing. It is true that of 2 million refugees generated by the war, 638,000 have already gone back to their villages and another 600,000 have been resettled elsewhere. But he would like to see the total refugee number decline in 1968 and not increase. (I told Bunker that I had raised this question with the President and with Westy, so you would get a feel for it. I urged him to sit down with Westy and make sure that the actual tactical plan Westy proposes to follow in the Delta would not generate excessive refugees, pointing out that Westy himself seemed sensitive on this point as well as on the need not to induce a decline in Delta rice production by his military operations.)

7. Transfer functions to the ARVN. Bunker is, of course, all for this; but he says we must go slow and steady. We should not shove at them more than they can absorb at any one time. Like Westy, he regards the build up of the political and military capacity of the South Vietnamese as a central task.

Coming back to Bob McNamara's two basic propositions--about a new announced policy of stabilization and a bombing halt--Bunker said in general we should refuse to put the war in a time frame. He has carefully separated his own language in this matter from Westy's. In any policy announcement it would be good to indicate that we expect the GVN to take over increasing military and nation building responsibility, but we must avoid giving them the feeling that we are pulling out and leaving them alone, or that we are relaxing in our effort to bring the war to a conclusion as rapidly as possible. In general, we must keep flexible and try to conduct the war with maximum imagination within accepted limits. Bunker's position on bombing is set out in paragraph 1, above.

Walt

 

411. Editorial Note

Exchanges between the North Vietnamese and the Romanian Governments comprised the channel later termed Packers by the Johnson administration. In telegram 604 from Bucharest, October 25, 1967, Ambassador to Romania Richard Davis reported on Romanian Premier Ion Gheorghe Maurer's visit to Hanoi in early October. Maurer's two-point package presented to Ho Chi Minh consisted of an insistence that the United States "must stop immediately, unconditionally, and once and for all" the bombardment of the DRV and that the North Vietnamese "must declare its agreement to start negotiations with US on elimination of conflict." Maurer stated that U.S. flexibility strengthened moderates in Hanoi. Most important, he was convinced that the DRV would allow the South Vietnamese people to decide their own fate and would not insist upon reunification or an end to a U.S. presence in South Vietnam. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET)

As a result of instructions received in telegram 63057 to Bucharest, November 1, the next day Davis submitted to Maurer a number of questions about his conversations in Hanoi. (Ibid.) As reported in telegram 718 from Bucharest, November 15, Maurer further clarified his sense that the North Vietnamese would continue fighting concurrently with negotiations. In addition, he believed that they had not differentiated among talks, discussions, and negotiations, that they would accept the Geneva Accords as a basis for a settlement, and that they would request an unspecified time interval between the talks and the cessation of fighting. (Ibid.)

"Judging from his own account, Maurer appears to have done useful service in presenting to Hanoi an authoritative and forceful exposition of U.S. policy in South Viet-Nam, particularly with respect to the principle of full liberty for the South Vietnamese people to decide their own destiny," Ambassador at Large Harriman wrote in a November 20 assessment of Maurer's conversations in Hanoi, sent to Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bundy. (Ibid., S-AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, Maurer)

The following day Harriman began a trip to Near Eastern and East European countries as the next step in the Packers negotiating channel. On November 24 Harriman met with the Shah of Iran to discuss his proposal for a six-nation group to guarantee the peace process in Vietnam. Harriman also discouraged an effort by the Shah to contact Mai Van Bo to sound out the possibility of dispatching an Iranian intermediary to Hanoi. (Telegram 2008/Govto 7 from Rawalpindi, November 24; ibid., Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET)

Harriman's next stop was Pakistan, where he represented the U.S. Government at the dedication of the Mangla Dam. In telegram 807 from Karachi, November 1, Ambassador to Pakistan Benjamin Oehlert had reported that Prime Minister Ayub Khan informed him of remarks made to Khan by Maurer that Ho Chi Minh accepted that "the withdrawal of USG and Allied forces would have to be accompanied by both Vietnamese withdrawal and also by the creation of an international presence in South Vietnam to supervise a referendum and to keep the peace." (Ibid.) On November 25 Ayub Khan, pointing to flexibility in the position that the North Vietnamese put forth in recent discussions with the Romanian Government, underscored the importance of this channel and advised following through with it. (Telegram 2016/Govto 9 from Rawalpindi, November 25; ibid., S-AH Files: Lot 84 D 161, Governor Harriman's Trip, November, 1967) After a brief stop in Afghanistan, Harriman went to Yugoslavia, where he met with President Josep Broz Tito to discuss the Middle East and Vietnam. Unlike Ayub Khan, Tito did not foresee any promising results from the Romanian channel because of the unlikelihood that the Romanians could bring both the Soviets and the Chinese together on Vietnam. (Telegram 789/Govto 26 from Bucharest, November 28; ibid., EA/ACA Files: Lot 69 D 277, Vietnam File-North Vietnam)

The most important meeting Harriman had was with Prime Minister Maurer upon his arrival in Romania. As reported in telegram 803/Govto 33 from Bucharest, November 29, Maurer elaborated on discussions he held in Hanoi with North Vietnamese leaders during early October in which Premier Pham Van Dong had stated that discussions would follow (rather than could follow) the permanent cessation of bombardment. Harriman requested that Maurer undertake additional steps to bring about negotiations, adding that Maurer could inform the North Vietnamese that they could continue to re-supply forces in the South as long as such commitment did not increase above present levels. (Ibid., S-AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, Maurer; see also memorandum of conversation between Maurer and Harriman, November 28, in Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Packers II)

As a result, First Deputy Foreign Minister Gheorghe Macovescu and First Secretary of the Romanian Embassy in Washington Marin Iliescu visited Hanoi December 14-18. They met twice with Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh and once with Dong, on each occasion presenting the points made by Harriman in his November 28 conversation with Maurer. The Romanians saw signs of moderation of the previously intransigent North Vietnamese position on initiating negotiations. On December 26 Romania's Ambassador in Washington, Corneliu Bogdan, contacted Harriman and requested permission to send an envoy to the United States in order to inform the U.S. Government of the discussions in Hanoi. (Memorandum of telephone conversation, December 26; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Chronological File, December, 1967) Harriman did not meet with Macovescu, Iliescu, and Bogdan until January 5, 1968. For additional information on Harriman's mission, see Rudy Abramson, Spanning the Century: The Life of W. Averell Harriman, 1891-1986 (New York: William Morrow, 1992).

 

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

Saigon, November 22, 1967, 1700Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Seoul, Manila, Bangkok, Canberra, Wellington, and CINCPAC for POLAD.

11714. Ref: State 72671./2/

/2/In telegram 72671 to Saigon, November 21, the Department approved cease-fires for Christmas, New Year's, and Tet of 24, 24, and 48 hours, respectively, recognizing the need for flexibility in order to respond to additional cease-fire offers by the NLF but expressing concern that "any more protracted cease-fire periods would cause unacceptable risks to our forces." (Ibid.)

1. I saw President Thieu afternoon November 22 to discuss holiday ceasefire. I outlined our position as contained para 1 and 2 of reftel, pointing out that we agreed with the times proposed by the GVN, namely 24 hours for Christmas, 24 hours for New Year, and 48 hours for Tet.

2. Thieu said that in his public comment he had been mistaken about the number of hours proposed for each holiday ceasefire and had stated they should be same number of times used last year, incorrectly stating this was 24-24-48 hours. These periods were respectively 48-48-96 hours. Thieu said he had just been discussing this matter with Generals Cao Van Vien and DefMin Vy who wished to shorten these hours. They had therefore agreed on the following possible schedule: from 7 am December 24 to 7 pm December 25 (36 hours); from 7 am December 31 to 7 pm January 1 (36 hours); from 7 am January 29 to 7 am February 1 (72 hours). In addition they had agreed that New Year and Tet standdown would be contingent on NVN/VC "perform-ance" in complying with Christmas standdown. He mentioned the large number of NVN/VC violations of past standdowns.

3. I pointed out that General Westmoreland's preference had been for 24-24-48 hours. Thieu appeared to have no personal objection to our view, commenting that it was primarily a military matter, and that 24 hours was a bare minimum and 36-36-72 a maximum position.

4. In connection with the possibility of the GVN offering to meet with the other side to discuss a longer pause, I suggested to Thieu that he should follow the same procedure as was followed last year with respect to a GVN announcement about meeting with the NVN. Thieu said he was agreeable that an announcement be made of GVN willingness to meet with the NVN to discuss anything that might be useful.

5. Thieu was also agreeable to the idea of calling a meeting of the Ambassadors of the seven nations in Saigon to discuss these matters once the US-GVN position was settled. He did not seem to feel that this meeting was a matter of urgency, however.

6. Comment: I think that Thieu's suggestion that implementation of the New Year and Tet ceasefires should be dependent on NVA/VC good faith is a very useful one. I will discuss with General Abrams tomorrow whether the slightly longer hours suggested by Thieu are acceptable from a military viewpoint and you may wish to do the same simultaneously with General Westmoreland. If General Abrams thinks so, and if Ambassador Bunker and General Westmoreland agree, I recommend that we accept the GVN proposal of 36-36-72 hours and include in the announcement the condition for the subsequent ceasefires. This would appear to be responsive to GVN initiative and the announcement could be supplemented by any language you desire on NVN/VC not "taking advantage" of standdown to accelerate supply movements. If 24-24-48 appears clearly preferable to us, General Abrams can talk to General Vien, and I feel reasonably sure they will accept our position on this point.

7. Once we are agreed on our joint position we will follow up with the GVN regarding the actual calling of the Ambassadors' meeting and the exact terms of the subsequent announcements, including the GVN announcement about being willing to meet with the other side to discuss a longer pause, along the lines used during the 1967 Tet period.

Locke

 

413. Telegram From the Deputy Ambassador to Vietnam (Locke) to the President's Special Assistant (Rostow), Secretary of State Rusk, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and Director of Central Intelligence Helms/1/

Saigon, November 24, 1967, 1249Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Buttercup; Exclusive; Via CAS Channels. Also addressed to Ambassador Bunker. Received at 8:30 a.m.

CAS 852. 1. In 23 November discussion with [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Minister Vien agreed to release Sau Ha to American custody for one day debriefing and instructed General Loan accordingly./2/ Procedure outlined was for Loan's police to transfer the prisoner to CIO, ostensibly for counter-intelligence exploitation, and CIO in turn to pass him to American hands.

/2/In telegram CAS 809 from Saigon, November 22, Locke reported that Vien would submit a compromise to Thieu: Sau Ha and Tong would be released along with a message insisting upon a "good faith" release of two American prisoners before other VC on the list would be freed. (Ibid.)

2. Per arrangements made on Thanksgiving Day [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], Sau Ha was released from national police prison late morning 24 November, turned over to the custody of CIO and brought under guard to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] safehouse for four hour debriefing following which he was brought to CIO's national interrogation center where he will be held in "VIP" cell pending resolution his case re Buttercup operation.

3. Sau Ha was very nervous throughout debriefing, showed no physical condition though he had lost some weight and complained only of a bad tooth and difficulty in getting his eyes accustomed to daylight. Though he answered each question he probably withholding information and was, as expected, cagey and suspicious throughout interview. For example he said that he "was afraid of telling us things that police would get angry about."

4. According Sau Ha, who was arrested on 15 August 1967, for the first 25 days of his imprisonment he was kept in solitary detention cell located in special detention section of national police prison. After this he was moved into cell in another part prison with two other persons one of whom (Do Nhu Cong) remained while third person changed from time to time such as a "Tan," "Ba Kinh" and "Pham Loi." He remained in this cell until 22 November when he was again separated from other prisoners and kept alone until his release.

5. From date his arrest until end of August he said he was interrogated continuously, night and day. For first day or so he attempted to hold to his cover story, denying that he was in fact Sau Ha, which he held until police brought in three other prisoners (Buttercup/2, Ky Ninh and Vu Hanh) who identified him. Following this, interrogation continued and he was subjected to "water treatment" until he broke (at least partially) and commenced disclosing some of his operational contacts and activities. He said he was given, relatively speaking, "light" interrogation treatment in that he was not subjected to physical beatings with rods and whips nor the "electric shock" treatment. He received food and water throughout his imprisonment. After initial period of interrogation he was only sporadically questioned on specific points while starting circa 20 November he was asked by police to "cooperate" in a propaganda/publicity sense; this he refused to do saying that it was one thing to "declare" information under duress but quite another to betray the Viet Cong.

[Here follow a list of people arrested before Sau Ha, some of whom named him as their VC contact, and a list of persons he compromised during his interrogations.]

 

414. Memorandum From the Special Assistant to the Ambassador at Large (Sieverts) to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker)/1/

Washington, November 24, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP. Secret; Nodis; Buttercup.

Just as you left Saigon we sent a State-Defense message (State's 71461, attached)/2/ proposing that the release of the three sergeants by the Viet Cong in Phnom Penh should be publicly reciprocated by the release of three VC PW's by the GVN. Governor Harriman believes strongly that this should be done, and that it should be kept separate from Buttercup. (Most of the people who worked on this message are unaware of Buttercup.)

/2/Dated November 18. (Ibid., POL 27-7 VIET)

Under Secretary Katzenbach suggested I set down a few notes on this subject, with the thought that they may assist you in handling the matter when you return to Saigon.

1. The first point to note is that, up to now, the Phnom Penh release has not been related to Buttercup. Thomas Hayden, the young American "progressive" who played a role in the release, has told us that preliminary discussions for that release began six months ago. We have an indication that the VC planned to release these men earlier, but delayed because they had not shown the proper attitude. The VC previously released American PW's at Christmas and Tet last year and at Christmas, 1965. This month's release may have been their Christmas release for 1967, with the timing advanced because of Gus Hertz's death/3/ and Mrs. Kennedy's visit./4/ These are all circumstantial indications that the Phnom Penh release was not considered by the VC to be part of Buttercup.

/3/Gustav Hertz, an AID employee in Vietnam, was kidnaped by the VC on February 2, 1965. His September 24, 1967, death from malaria was suggested in a Radio Hanoi broadcast of November 2 and confirmed in a November 6 letter from Sihanouk to Hertz's wife. See The New York Times, November 9, 1967.

/4/Mrs. Kennedy visited Cambodia earlier that month.

2. If at some future time the VC claim it was part of Buttercup, our position will be much stronger if the GVN will have already publicly reciprocated that release. We would have firm grounds for insisting that the release of Sau Ha, et al. be matched by additional releases by the VC.

3. There is a considerable amount of interest in the press and among the families of PW's in the idea of reciprocal releases. Thus there is a degree of pressure for a prompt reciprocal release responding to the Phnom Penh release. While our public statements have avoided a commitment on this subject, we have responded to press questions by indicating that past VC releases have always been reciprocated by the GVN.

4. From Ambassador Locke's message,/5/ it appears that the main problem is that arrangements for a public reciprocal release could complicate our dealings with the GVN on Buttercup. One way to reduce this difficulty might be to propose to the GVN that this public release be handled by a military commander in a province, in a manner which, to the extent possible, avoids involving any of the GVN officials seized of Buttercup. Suitable releases could be pulled out of a PW camp and freed, with appropriate public ceremony, either at the place of release, or in their home province where they are to be reunited with their families. Under the circumstances, we could relax our past insistence that the VC to be released be likely to return to their units, and defer to the GVN's strong preference for picking men who have in effect switched sides and could be expected to return to their families.

/5/Document 413.

The above are no more than suggestions, which I hope may prove useful in your handling of this subject. Needless to say, you have my personal best wishes in this, as in your many other difficult tasks.

Sincerely,

Frank A. Sieverts/6/

/6/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

 

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

Washington, November 24, 1967, 11:41 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8 B (1), 6/67-11/67, Bunker's Weekly Report to the President. Secret. The President was in Texas November 21-26. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

CAP 671007. Herewith a summary of highlights from Ambassador Locke's weekly telegram from Vietnam. The complete text of the telegram will be available upon your return./2/

/2/Locke's telegram has not been found. According to an unattached covering note to the President, November 27, Rostow apparently submitted a complete copy of Locke's telegram to the President when he returned from Texas. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam 8 B (1) B) The notation "ps" on the covering note indicates that the President saw the telegram.

1. We are in process of discussing Christmas, New Year's and Tet cease fires with President Thieu. Whatever we agree to will be discussed with the Ambassadors of the seven troop contributing countries before release.

Thieu's idea (after talking with Generals Vien and Vy) was 36 hours Christmas, 36 New Year's and 72 Tet, with proviso that each cease fire would be contingent on the enemy's observance of preceding cease fire.

Our idea was the formulation 24-24-48 hour standdowns, which I feel sure President Thieu will accept if we wish.

2. The new Cabinet of Prime Minister Loc, installed in office November 9, is a symbol of the return to constitutional government in South Vietnam.

The new Cabinet has brought a substantial number of new faces into the government, only 7 previous members of the Cabinet remaining on.

President Thieu indicated to Ambassador Bunker on several occasions that the selection of the Cabinet was based on the need to find the best-qualified group of Ministers, who would work together as a team in resolving national problems. President Thieu is confident that the new Cabinet will be able to work together as a team.

Limited evidence would indicate that the new government is reasonably competent, honest and dedicated and there has been no evidence of serious differences between Thieu and Ky.

A framework exists for a slowly and carefully broadening of the base of the government. I would say so far, so good, but it is a little early to make definitive judgments.

3. Prime Minister Loc has made a good beginning, presenting a wide-ranging, though ambitious short-term and long-term, government program.

The program appears to be a rewritten, shorter and more modest version of the more ambitious top priority program and national policy described in Ambassador Bunker's 28th weekly telegram.

Implementation of the government program will be a major task, and only beginnings can be made on considerable parts of it in the near future.

4. The reaction of the Saigon press and the politically active public to the new Cabinet has been cautious and reserved. There is some doubt expressed that Prime Minister Loc will be able to get things moving, however, Vice President Ky told the new Cabinet he expects it to serve in office for four years.

5. We were encouraged by a conversation between Bob Komer and Vice President Ky on November 13/3/ in which Ky expressed his desire to do his best to help with current difficulties in the United States with respect to Vietnam.

/3/Memorandum for the record by Komer, November 13. (Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, Komer (Aug.-Dec. 1967))

Bob emphasized that progress in the political and military spheres during the next 6 months would be the most helpful antidote to United States criticism and frustration.

6. On November 20 the Viet Cong's Liberation Radio rejected recent public comments by President Thieu that he may soon send a letter to Ho Chi Minh, proposing direct peace talks.

The radio scorned the statement saying Thieu does not have the capacity to represent anyone. The broadcast continued that "peace negotiation arguments definitely cannot deceive anyone."

President Thieu is proceeding with his plans to send a letter to Ho sometime before Christmas and has apparently decided to ask the Japanese to transmit it to Hanoi. The Japanese Government has not responded to his request yet./4/

/4/See footnote 4, Document 402.

 

416. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Westmoreland) to the Deputy Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Abrams)/1/

Honolulu, November 25, 1967, 2203Z.

/1/Source: U.S. Army Military History Institute, William C. Westmoreland Papers, History File 25-Nov. 13 to 28, 1967. Top Secret.

HWA 3445. Subj: Concept of situation portrayed during recent visit to Washington.

1. During my recent visit to Washington, I was required to present my views on the situation in Vietnam to Highest Authority, Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Senate Armed Services Committee, and the House Armed Services Committee. In addition, I appeared on several nationwide television programs, addressed the National Press Club, and held an on-the-record press conference in the Pentagon. On each occasion, I presented in full or in part the following concept: we are grinding down the Communist enemy in South Vietnam, and there is evidence that manpower problems are emerging in North Vietnam. Our forces are growing stronger and becoming more proficient in the environment. The Vietnamese armed forces are getting stronger and becoming more effective on the battlefield. The Vietnamese armed forces are being provided with more modern equipment. These trends should continue, with the enemy becoming weaker and the GVN becoming stronger to the point where conceivably in two years or less the Vietnamese can shoulder a larger share of the war and thereby permit the US to begin phasing down the level of its commitment. This phase-down will probably be token at first.

2. On my own initiative, I took this position after considerable thought, based on the following considerations: I believe the concept and objective plan for our forces, as well as those of the Vietnamese, is practical and as such it should serve as an incentive. The concept is compatible with the evolution of the war since our initial commitment and portrays to the American people "some light at the end of the tunnel." The concept justifies the augmentation of troops I've asked for based on the principle of reinforcing success and also supports an increase in the strength of the Vietnamese forces and their modernization. The concept straddles the Presidential election of November 1968, implying that the election is not a bench mark from a military point of view. Finally, it puts emphasis on the essential role of the Vietnamese in carrying a major burden of their war against the Communists but also suggests that we must be prepared for a protracted commitment.

3. The concept lends itself to a programmatic approach, and I would like the staff to proceed with studying the specific areas and time frames in which responsibility might be transferred from the US to the Vietnamese. Based on these studies, I visualize a program that would initiate and manage the multiple actions necessary to put the Vietnamese in a posture to make possible some transfer of responsibility at the earliest practical time.

4. Please have the staff come to grips with this matter. We will explore it in depth following analysis and upon my return.

 

417. Memorandum to the 303 Committee/1/

Washington, November 27, 1967.

/1/Source: National Security Council, 303 Committee, Vietnam, 1965-1969. Secret; Eyes Only. No drafting information is provided. A notation on the memorandum reads: "Approved by the 303 Committee on 1 Dec. 1967." In a covering memorandum of November 28 transmitting a copy of this memorandum to Kohler, sent through William Trueheart, Deputy Director for Coordination of INR, and concurred in by Habib, Bundy wrote: "I have reviewed the proposal of November 27, 1967 that [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] be made available to Ambassador Bunker for the support, at his discretion, of individual members of the Assembly and certain nascent political parties in South Vietnam and recommend that you support it in the 303 Committee. CIA would serve as action agent in dispensing any funds." Kohler indicated his approval on the memorandum. A notation on it reads: "Jessup notified by W[illiam] T[rueheart]. 11/28/67." Peter Jessup was a member of the NSC Staff. (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, East Asia Country Files, Vietnam, 1967)

SUBJECT
Proposal for Political Party Development in South Vietnam

1. Summary

Despite the recent Presidential and National Assembly elections, Vietnam today is without political parties in any meaningful sense of the word. Although parties of one sort or other probably will evolve in time, it is urgent that this process be accelerated and guided where possible, both to help overcome Vietnamese inertia and inexperience in this area and to enable various political nuclei to contribute more effectively to the process of making the Vietnamese Government an effective instrument which is responsive to the will of the Vietnamese people. It is proposed, therefore, that [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] be made available to Ambassador Bunker to be used selectively and at his discretion in support of individual Assembly members and of certain nascent political parties, with CIA serving as the action agent in dispensing these funds. This proposal was endorsed by Messrs. Bundy and Habib of the State Department and by Ambassador Bunker during the week of November 20th.

2. Problem

Although Thieu has recognized the need for forming a political party which will support the government program (and the desirability of a constructive opposition), he has expressed to the Ambassador the need for advice and assistance. Civilian politicians--even those recently elected to the Senate and the Assembly--have thus far demonstrated little talent for political organization of more than the most rudimentary sort. There is at present no functioning institutional link between the structure evolving in Saigon and the bulk of the Vietnamese people. We are thus faced with the disquieting possibility of a government and legislature which conducts its business in the capital in a manner irrelevant to the aspirations of the people in the provinces and, hence, incapable of engaging the support or positive identification of those people.

3. Factors Bearing on the Problem

a. Origin of the Requirement--This proposal was initiated by Ambassador Bunker during his recent visit to Washington.

b. Relationship to Previous 303 Committee Actions--To a degree this proposal is further development of the program previously authorized by the Department and the White House to provide financial assistance to selected Assembly candidates and groups during the Lower House elections. In both cases, a major objective is to foster political development through political parties.

c. Operational Objective--Our objective is to foster the growth of organized national political activity in South Vietnam, both in the Vietnamese National Assembly and in the countryside, so as to involve and engage the interest of the average Vietnamese citizen in the political life and developments of his country.

d. Proposal--It is proposed that Ambassador Bunker be given discretionary authority to stimulate and encourage the evolution of Vietnamese political groups and eventually parties through a combination of the following two approaches:

(1) Work with the various blocs within the Assembly, encouraging them to cooperate and coalesce, both to facilitate the work of the Assembly and to provide possible nuclei for the subsequent formation of political parties.

(2) Work with individual members of the Assembly who have demonstrated some understanding of the need for maintaining close ties with their constituencies so as to strengthen their local political organizations and encourage the consolidation of various local organizations.

CIA would be the action agent, working under the Ambassador's direction. In selecting groups and individuals with whom to work, the basic guidelines would be two-fold: potential for constructive work within the Assembly, whether in support of the government or in opposition to it, and potential to develop viable political activity rooted in the countryside. This activity is not aimed at the immediate formation of nation-wide mass political parties but at the initial necessary step of development of political forces and organizations which would eventually evolve by a process of coalescing and expansion into full fledged political parties. It is proposed that [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] be put at the Ambassador's disposal over the next year.

e. Risks Involved--Given the oft-stated American position in support of political development in South Vietnam and the assumption by most Vietnamese that the Americans work in both overt and covert ways, we believe that the embarrassment resulting from revelation of this activity would be minimal in Vietnamese eyes, although it could be blown up to considerable proportions if it came to the attention of the foreign press. Since we propose to work selectively, only with a few individuals who can demonstrate their capacity for discretion, besides meeting the guidelines noted above, we believe that these risks can be kept within tolerable limits.

f. Support Required from Other Agencies--None

g. Timing of the Operation--CIA is prepared to undertake this activity when it is endorsed by the 303 Committee.

4. Coordination

a. U.S. Departments and Agencies--This proposal was endorsed by Messrs. Bundy and Habib of the State Department during the week of 20 November 1967.

b. U.S. Ambassador--Ambassador Bunker endorsed the proposal during the week of 20 November 1967.

c. Host Country--This is a unilateral effort and no briefing of Host Country officials is planned.

5. Recommendation

It is recommended that the Ambassador be given discretionary authority to spend [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] during the next year within the guidelines noted above. Funds in the amount of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] are available in the CIA FY 68 budget. An additional [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] will be programmed for this purpose in FY 69. The Station would be expected to report periodically to the 303 Committee on the actions taken and funds expended in implementation of this proposal. Prior approval of Washington level would not be required for the expenditure of these funds./2/

/2/For the 303 Committee's discussion of this proposal, see Document 424.

 

418. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara/1/

JCSM-663-67

Washington, November 27, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S-AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, Military Plans. Top Secret; Sensitive. An attached note from McNamara to Rusk reads: "Dean, attached are the Chiefs' recommendations for the '120 Day Program for Southeast Asia.' You may want to start your staff analyzing it. I hope to be in a position to discuss my views with you before the end of the week. Bob." A message at the end of the note indicates that Rusk approved a request for Bundy to prepare an analysis of the planned actions. Bundy's commentary that the JCS proposals "inevitably portend steady pressures for expansion" that would have little impact on North Vietnam but would have "a serious negative and unsettling effect on opinion here and abroad" are in a memorandum to Rusk, November 30. (Ibid.) See also Document 426.

SUBJECT
Policies for the Conduct of Operations in Southeast Asia over the Next Four Months (U)

1. (TS) The purpose of this memorandum is to provide the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on planned and recommended military operations to be conducted in Southeast Asia over the next four months.

2. (TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the progress and status of military operations in Southeast Asia and conclude that within the current policy guidelines, the single integrated strategy governing military operations in Southeast Asia is sound and will eventually lead to achievement of US national objectives as stated in NSAM 288/2/ and the US military objectives stated in JCSM-307-67, dated 1 June 1967, subject: "Draft Memorandum for the President on Future Actions in Vietnam (U)."/3/

/2/Dated March 17, 1964; see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. I, Document 87.

/3/See Document 187.

3. (TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff also have reviewed the plans for the coming months and further measures which might be taken in Southeast Asia. They conclude that there are no new programs which can be undertaken under current policy guidelines which would result in a rapid or significantly more visible increase in the rate of progress in the near term. There are some programs which are being intensified or accelerated. These are primarily related to expansion, modernization, and other improvements in the effectiveness of the RVNAF and Revolutionary Development. However, while desirable, such acceleration of these programs cannot be expected to provide substantially greater results within the next four months.

4. (TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff have previously recommended against a standdown in military operations for any of the forthcoming holidays. They continue in the opinion that any standdown or bombing pause would be disadvantageous to allied forces in proportion to its length. Progress during the next four months is dependent upon the maintenance of pressure upon the enemy. Any action which serves to reduce the pressure will be detrimental to the achievement of our objectives.

5. (TS) Operations to support the stated objectives for the next four months will continue to be in consonance with the US national objectives. The various major programs which comprise the strategy involved in the total effort are discussed in the Appendix./4/ While progress toward the military objectives is expected to be sustained during the period under consideration, additional gains could be realized through the modification and expansion of certain current policies as indicated in the Appendix.

/4/Not printed.

6. (TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered other proposals for operations to be conducted during the four-month period. Among these is Operation York II, which is strongly advocated by COMUSMACV. This operation, directed principally to establish a necessary lodgment in the Ashau Valley in Vietnam during February-March 1968, has as an essential part a raid operation by two to three ARVN battalions against Base Area 607. This base area, though a part of the enemy's Ashau Valley complex, is located principally in Laos. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the proposal has merit and appears militarily necessary. However, they point out that, while the intent is to mount the operation clandestinely, there is a possibility that it will become public with attendant political problems./5/

/5/On November 17 Westmoreland discussed with the Joint Chiefs his plans for an operation called York, a measure that would start in February 1968. One part of York would involve action against the enemy command center in the VC's Military Region 5 in the central highlands, while the second phase would consist of eradicating VC munitions stockpiles specifically in the Ashau Valley. For the third phase of York, Westmoreland envisaged preparation of the capability of amphibious assaults north of the demilitarized zone, which included utilization of C-130 aircraft from the field at Khe Sanh as transports for units of the U.S. 1st Air Cavalry Division, in order to launch an attack at the enemy's rear. Although this part of the plan did not appear to be politically feasible, a build-up of such a capability would allow for implementation of a secondary strategy that involved a sweep of the provinces from Quang Tri to Quang Ngai within a year using the 1st Air Cavalry. This effort would be supported initially by the base at Khe Sanh and then by a supply line along Highway 9. In the central area of South Vietnam, the Army's 101st Airborne would assault the VC's Military Region 6 from Phan Rang beginning December 1. In addition, the 25th Division would initiate action in War Zone C. All of these movements would constitute a pincer action with "floating" brigades in reserve. The addition of Program 5 forces would bring the troop level up to 525,000, a number adequate for the job. "For the first time I will have enough troops to really start grinding them down," Westmoreland told the military leadership. This plan would be a methodical way of grinding down their bases, instead of "moving troops all over the country putting out fires and reinforcing here and there and working on a day-to-day basis to keep ahead of the enemy." Westmoreland's scheme formed the basis of planning requirements for 1968. (Note of November 17 meeting attached to memorandum to the Joint Chiefs, November 21; Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 911/520 (21 Nov 67), IR 3685; further documentation is ibid., 907/520 (10 Nov 67), IR 3935, 3936)

7. (TS) The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that:

a. The pressure on the enemy be maintained during the period to sustain allied progress and to prevent any military exploitation resulting from standdowns or truces.

b. The current policies for the conduct of the war in Southeast Asia during the next four months be modified and expanded to permit a fuller utilization of our military resources in accomplishing the tasks set forth in the Appendix.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Earle G. Wheeler
Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff

 

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

Saigon, November 29, 1967, 1155Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 8:33 a.m. According to a November 30 covering note attached to a copy of the telegram, Rostow sent it to the President that day. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8B(1)[B]) The notation "ps" on the covering note indicates that the President saw the telegram. This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 242-250.

12129. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my twenty-ninth weekly telegram:

A. General

1. I had a long talk with President Thieu yesterday. My purpose was to provide him with my impressions of the mood in Washington and elsewhere in the United States as it related to the situation here; a summary of the main subjects I had discussed with you during my consultations; and the need for definite signs of progress during the next few months.

2. I said that one of the principal themes evident in almost all of my meetings, public and private, was the degree of commitment by the government and people of Viet-Nam to the war effort, whether the Vietnamese were carrying their full share of the load and were making the necessary sacrifices. This overall query then broke down into more specific questions as:

A) Were the Vietnamese armed forces doing their share of the fighting and what was the quality of their performance;

B) Was the government committed to a serious attack on corruption and was anything being done about it;

C) Concern over the creation of refugees through our joint military actions and concern regarding their care and rehabilitation;

D) Land reform, how much had been done and what did the government propose to do;

E) Economic stabilization and the related problem of taxes;

F) Progress in pacification and what was being done to root out the infrastructure;

G) Attitude of the GVN toward negotiations and especially toward approaches to the NLF.

3. I said that General Westmoreland, Bob Komer and I had endeavored to give a balanced and objective report of the situation here and had tried to counter what we felt had been much subjective and erroneous reporting of developments by the press. Recognizing that much remained to be done and that there were many problems still to be solved we had reported there had been nevertheless steady progress, militarily, politically, and in pacification and nation building. We also reported that we believed that the progress made in all these areas had established a base from which together we could now accelerate the forward movement.

4. I then said that I knew that he shared our view of the importance of some early moves on the priority programs that he and I had discussed and on which there was general agreement among ourselves and the GVN. He had made this clear in his inaugural address as had Prime Minister Loc in his statement of government policy. I recognized the fact that there would probably be exaggerated expectations of progress here on various fronts and that the new government had to have time to get itself organized and functioning. On the other hand I thought it important that some early and constructive moves be made. Two had already been taken, namely the mobilization decree. Lowering or extending the draft age, extending the service of those within the draft brackets and recalling certain personnel to service; and secondly, the decree transferring the collection and administration of all land taxes to local governments. It seemed to me that a logical sequel to the land tax decree would be the promulgation of an ordinance transferring the administration of land reform to the village councils. I recalled that I had already provided him and Vice President Ky with a memorandum on this subject as well as his public remarks on the need for "massive" land reform. Thieu replied that he had this in mind and that the Minister of Agriculture was presently studying the problem.

5. I remarked that I understood that plans were also underway to restructure the provincial administration and for the training and appointment of new province chiefs. Thieu confirmed the fact that this was already in process and said that at the Cabinet meeting to be held Thursday this week, the restructuring of the provincial administration would be taken up, the relations between the province chiefs and the Ministry representatives in the provinces defined, and the responsibility of the province chief to the central government established. This would result in a reduction in the authority of the corps commanders over administrative matters and in restricting their authority to the military field. Thieu felt that this would also have a further beneficial effect in limiting opportunities for corruption. As a further move in the GVN austerity program the Cabinet will also take up the matter of closing our nightclubs and bars in Saigon.

[Here follows discussion of rice distribution and tax collection.]

9. I took up question of the holiday cease fires and referred to Ambassador Locke's talk with him on November 22/2/ in which ideas were exchanged as to the exact span of times the stand-downs would be observed on the allied side, as well as procedures to be followed in arriving at an agreed US/GVN position and in coordination with the other members of the seven nations. I said that we continue to believe that 24-24-48 hour stand-downs are the best interest of all the allied forces in Viet-Nam and would hope that we could agree on this position; that fulfillment of the stand-downs after Christmas should be based upon examination of NVN/VC performance during previous stand-downs, in light of all the circumstances at the time; and that we believe the GVN should keep open the possibility of offering to meet with the other side to discuss a longer pause, in much the same terms as was done during the 1967 Tet period.

/2/See Document 412.

10. Thieu replied that he had no objection to this proposed formula, what he had intended to suggest was that for Christmas and New Year's the maximum stand-down should be 36 hours and that for Tet 72 hours might be agreed to "in principle" if the performance of the NVA/VC during earlier stand-downs had been satisfactory. What he had in mind also was that the Tet stand-down could be extended if it could lead to a "fruitful result" but obviously representatives of both sides would have to meet and confer on the matter. He added that the opposing forces are too close at three points--the DMZ, the Dak To-Kontum front and in Phuoc Long and Binh Long Provinces in III Corps--to run the risk of a long stand-down which might give the enemy an opportunity for a surprise attack. He suggested that General Westmoreland confer with General Vien and agree on the terms of the stand-downs, to be followed promptly by a meeting of the seven nations' Ambassadors. Do not believe that we shall have difficulty in having our view prevail.

President Thieu has referred publicly on several recent occasions to his plans to send a letter to Ho Chi Minh regarding peace negotiations, despite the hostile comment on the idea broadcast over the Viet Cong and Hanoi radios. Thieu told the press Nov 25 that he was asking several nations, including Japan, to transmit the letter. The departure Nov 25 of Japanese Ambassador Nakayama for reassignment was the occasion for further press speculation that Nakayama would carry Thieu's letter to Ho Chi Minh. However, Nakayama told Political Counselor at the airport that no final decision or commitment to transmit Thieu's letter to Ho had been made. He pointed out the difficulties which face the Japanese Government in dealing with this question and emphasized the likelihood that the letter would be rejected by Hanoi. He made clear that he had informed Thieu of this in his final call on Nov 24 but also said that this was not a final answer by the Japanese Government.

Thieu confirmed in general Nakayama's statement but added that Nakayama had said that the Japanese "in principle" would be glad to act as intermediary. Nakayama added that Sato did not believe that he could establish contact soon with Hanoi in view of his recent visits to the United States and to Australia; that he would wish to have some favorable indication in advance that Hanoi would be willing to receive the letter; and that while up to now Japan has had no contact with Hanoi he would endeavor to make contact./3/

/3/According to an unnumbered CIA intelligence information report, November 27, political considerations in Japan might convince Prime Minister Sato to reject the initiative. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, EA/ACA Files: Lot 69 D 277, Vietnam File-Japan)

Thieu then ruminated on the possibility of having the letter delivered through the Pope noting that the Vatican has various ways of getting in touch with NVN authorities or through the United Nations, perhaps through the Soviet Ambassador there. I suggested to him the possibility of using the Indian Chairman of the ICC since he has direct access to the government in Hanoi. Thieu replied that he has the feeling that the Indian believes that a first step should be a bombing pause which should precede delivery of the letter and is therefore somewhat reluctant to approach him but agreed that the possibility was worth looking into. I expect to see Ambassador Lukose within the next few days and will try to feel him out.

Knowing of Thieu's concern as well as the general concern expressed publicly here over Ambassador Goldberg's testimony with reference to the NLF, I informed Thieu that I had an opportunity to talk with Ambassador Goldberg and clarified once again the fact that this move was tactical and did not represent a change in the US position. I added that we continued to believe that prospects of accomplishing inscription as a result of the GVN initiative would be very poor whereas some additional Security Council members might support a US initiative. In these circumstances I thought the best approach would be for the GVN to react positively to any US initiative to convene the Council, perhaps sending a letter to the President of the Security Council requesting a GVN participation and suggesting principles similar to those in the US draft resolution. I assured Thieu that Ambassador Goldberg would wish to consult closely with the GVN Representative in New York and would be in touch with him prior to any Security Council move. I added that I thought it was very much in the GVN interest to be represented at the UN by an able and competent individual who could present their views convincingly and forcefully. This is not the case with the present incumbent./4/

/4/Bunker reported on this conversation in greater detail in telegram 12115 from Saigon, November 29. (Ibid., S-AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, Saigon Cables-Incoming, Outgoing) In a December 6 meeting with Bunker, Thieu said that the Japanese Government had informed him that while they would continue their contact with the DRV and would deliver the letter "if their probes establish that it can be delivered," it would not object to Thieu's seeking other channels through which to accomplish this task. Bunker and Thieu discussed using other possible intermediaries such as U Thant, the Pope, or the Indian Chairman of the ICC. Thieu also stated that while his proposed letter to Ho Chi Minh had yet to be drafted, in its final form it would resemble the formulation suggested by Bunker on November 28. (Ibid.)

[Here follows discussion of additional political, military, and economic matters.]

Bunker

 

420. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, November 29, 1967, 1:40-2:37 p.m.

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

NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING
WITH
SECRETARY RUSK
SECRETARY McNAMARA
GENERAL WHEELER
CIA DIRECTOR HELMS
MR. WALT ROSTOW
MR. GEORGE CHRISTIAN
MR. TOM JOHNSON

[Here follows brief discussion of Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus.] The President asked what response had the government received on its request about stationing additional B-52s in Thailand.

General Wheeler said that Air Force Chief of Staff McConnell was in Thailand. He said Ambassador Unger sent a message to the Thai Prime Minister and that "we are on the right track." General Wheeler said the Air Marshal is "relaxed" about it.

The President asked about the over-flight of B-52s over Laos.

Secretary Rusk said Souvanna Phouma/2/ had some problems with this. Secretary Rusk recommended night-time flying if this is possible.

/2/Lao Prime Minister.

General Wheeler said there are three aspects involved:

(1) Recommends doing away with restriction against flying over Laos during the day and night. This will shorten the turn-around time, will permit the B-52s to get up to their twelve hundred sorties per month, and will cut down on operational cost.

(2) Even trained eyes cannot identify B-52s flying at 20,000 to 30,000 feet, and tell them apart from KC-135s which are permitted to fly over Laos now.

(3) It is no longer necessary to couple strikes in South Vietnam with the flights out of Thailand since B-52s stationed on Guam are hitting areas in South Vietnam already.

The President approved the over-flights.

The President urged State and Defense to step up additional troops from allied countries.

Secretary McNamara said Buttercup is proceeding slowly and needs a shove.

Secretary Rusk said he told Ambassador Bunker to move the operational aspects of Buttercup from Saigon.

Director Helms said he favors some operational movement.

Walt Rostow said he thought the Viet Cong release of three of our soldiers was enough to set loose three of the enemy soldiers./3/

/3/In telegram 76237 to Saigon, November 29, the Department transmitted a personal message from Rusk to Bunker that reads: "You should know that we have had highest level discussion here in which Buttercup came up and that there is a strong feeling among us that we should not let Buttercup shrivel up because of reluctance or fear on the part of your Vietnamese colleagues. An exchange of prisoners would itself be a most worthwhile result. A method of contact with NLF could prove to be extremely important as the future develops. We would hope that you could get Thieu's approval for a sufficient gesture, in terms of releasing a few individuals, to get Buttercup moving." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP)

Secretary Rusk said the L.A. Times is about to publish a book by Stuart Loory and David Kraslow./4/ The book will include the code names of some of the peace probes. Secretary Rusk suggested that Bill Bundy make a speech rather than putting out a white paper. This would take a lot out of the book, particularly if Bundy used the code names.

/4/After a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times, the study by these two journalists was published as The Secret Search for Peace in Vietnam (New York: Random House, 1968). Marcovich and Aubrac advised Kissinger that the journalists were attempting to contact them in December; Marcovich complained that Kraslow was "after me." (Letter from Kissinger to Read, December 6; ibid., POL 27-14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA) Kissinger suggested that Marcovich and Aubrac not meet with the reporters, but instead await his return to Paris on January 3, 1968, at which time they would attempt to re-open contact with Bo. (Memorandum for the record, December 11, and letter from Kissinger to Aubrac, December 20; both ibid.)

The President suggested Bundy be put on Issues and Answers.

Secretary McNamara said the Canadians, the Italians and the Poles have "spilled their guts." He said there also have been leaks from the Executive Branch people.

He said he talked with the two writers and was surprised to learn how much information they have on Warsaw and on the connection between some of the peace offenses and the bomwbing. The Secretary suggested we "take some of the juice out of the story by using the code names prior to publication. We could torpedo them since the code names are not important except to people who have never heard them."

The Secretary pointed out, however, that it would have a lot of material which could prove to be embarrassing.

There was a discussion of the Perkins Committee and a decision not to approve the request.

The President said Kosygin wrote me a letter, had his ambassador bring it in, and Chal Roberts writes most of it in the Washington Post this morning. He said it is inconceivable how this could happen.

[Here follows a brief discussion of personnel matters.]

 

421. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson/1/

Washington, November 30, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET/UN. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Sisco and cleared by Bundy and Katzenbach. The date is handwritten on the memorandum.

SUBJECT
Security Council Initiative on Vietnam

The Mansfield Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that we should proceed with a renewed Vietnam initiative in the Security Council was adopted today, 82-0./2/ Both Ambassador Goldberg and I recommend that a move next week is preferable to one after January 1, at which time a new Council is constituted with a less favorable membership.

/2/See footnote 2, Document 373. The Mansfield Resolution was reported to the Senate by the Foreign Relations Committee on November 21 and adopted by the Senate as Resolution 180. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 1038-1039.

Ambassador Goldberg has developed a brief resolution, with some slight modifications of our own, (copy attached),/3/ based on a personal suggestion made to him by Paul Martin. The resolution calls for discussions within the Geneva Conference machinery. This draft has the merit of being brief, non-prejudicial, and is no different substantively from the resolution we submitted to the Security Council in 1966. This formulation, with its stress on the Geneva framework, should make the expected opposition of the Soviets and the French more embarrassing to them.

/3/Not printed; it reads: "The Security Council, Deeply concerned about the situation in Vietnam: 1. Expresses the view that the principles on which hostilities were brought to an end by the Geneva Accords should provide a basis for the restoration of peace; 2. Urges that appropriate steps be taken to reactivate the Geneva Conference machinery as the international context in which it appears that fruitful discussions looking to a settlement are most likely to take place."

Ambassador Goldberg would like to begin discussions promptly with the members of the Security Council, including the Soviets, and we would also concert closely in New York and in Saigon with the South Vietnamese. Ambassador Bunker has already had a preliminary discussion with Thieu regarding the UN approach, and we do not anticipate any major difficulties with him.

We will not request the Secretary Council to inscribe a new item. Rather, we will seek a renewal of discussion based on the item submitted to the Council and inscribed in 1966. Nevertheless, nine votes are required for "adoption of the agenda" and for a substantive discussion to take place. Ambassador Goldberg estimates, and we concur, that the nine necessary votes will probably be there. There are two principal reasons: some members who hold serious reservations about involving the Security Council may be equally concerned not to embarrass the United States; moreover, we expect the reasonableness of the resolution may influence some doubters to support discussion (adoption of the agenda). Special efforts may be necessary with Ethiopia to provide the ninth vote.

There could be a resolution or an amendment submitted calling for unilateral U. S. cessation of the bombing without reciprocity from the other side. We have some very confidential information that the Indians are thinking along these lines, and we will wish to make it abundantly clear to Prime Minister Gandhi at the appropriate time that we would consider such a move inimical to our interests. We believe this could be countered effectively by a proposal based on the formulation you used in your San Antonio statement. Under such circumstances, a bald appeal for a bombing cessation probably would not pass. The likely vote is: Yes (7)--France, India, Mali, Ethiopia, Nigeria, USSR, Bulgaria; No or Abstention (8)--Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, U.S., U.K., Denmark. By an appeal from you to the Emperor, Ethiopia might be persuaded to abstain. Finally, even though we do not expect it will be necessary, there is always the veto.

We have also weighed whether the attached resolution should be sponsored by the United States, by Canada, or by some others. Our judgment is that U. S. sponsorship of the resolution is desirable both domestically and internationally and assures greater control over the results.

Ambassador Goldberg concurs.

Dean Rusk/4/

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


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