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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 422-452

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

Washington, December 1, 1967, 8:45 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Buttercup, Vol. 1(B). Secret; Sensitive.

Mr. President:

As the attached/2/ indicate, Buttercup is in bad trouble.

/2/CAS telegram 005 from Saigon, December 1, not printed. It discussed the Associated Press story by Barry Kramer (AP 27; also attached) which suggested that the arrest of Sau Ha was a power play by Loan. CAS 005 also reported that Loan "resigned" as the director general of the National Police because he was pressured to release an NLF emissary by the Americans. (Ibid.) The story was also carried in The New York Times, December 2, 1967. CAS telegram 5393, December 5, reported that the Saigon Daily News had printed the name of the intermediary (Sau Ha), which it had received from "police sources." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP) News accounts from Saigon on the episode were confused; the U.S. Embassy only confirmed that the thwarted effort as well as other meetings between Embassy officials and NLF representatives had occurred within the last few months. See The New York Times, December 2, 1967, and American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, p. 1040. For the original sequence of events, see footnote 4, Document 341.

The Vietnamese security services, combined with Loan's reaction to the release of prisoners, led the whole matter to surface.

How the next moves are made may be quite important; and I am sure you will wish to have your senior advisers focus hard on the matter today. The issues appear to be these:

--What we in Washington, our people in Saigon, and especially the South Vietnamese government, say about AP 27 and the stories which will follow;

--Whether we insist that the South Vietnamese regard the three U.S. prisoners released as sufficiently face-saving for our side for them to release Sau Ha and a few others to continue a contact;

--How Thieu should move to unite his government on this policy and deal with Loan. (Here the critical man to get to is Ky, to whom Loan appears to have a deep personal loyalty. This may be a good time for Loan to get some training at the Leavenworth Command and General Staff School.)/3/

/3/In a December 4 memorandum to Vice President Humphrey, Helms listed several reasons for Loan's resignation, among them his resentment at the appointment as Secretary General in the Office of the Presidency of Nguyen Van Huong, a man regarded by Loan as "soft on Communism," Loan's recurrent health problems stemming from a stomach ulcer, and Loan's dissatisfaction with the Buttercup operation. Loan's resignation was not accepted. (Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Subject Files, Job 80-R01580R, Peace Talks)

Behind all this is a truly great unresolved issue: What should be the GVN's attitude towards the future political role of the NLF; and how can a South Vietnamese governmental consensus be achieved without splitting the non-Communists.

As you know, my own view has been that we should work to persuade them to take the view that those now fighting with the VC have the right to engage in organized politics under two conditions:

--they stop the fighting;

--they recognize the legitimacy of the Constitution.

The underlying problem for the South Vietnamese is that they have not yet achieved enough organized political unity--and a big national political party--to face the Communists in an election. (This came out quite clearly in the Clifford-Taylor discussions with the Foreign Minister, Do.)/4/

/4/Regarding the Clifford-Taylor mission, see Document 253.

It is most unlikely that Hanoi, via the NLF agents, is now prepared to accept a southern solution on the basis of the two principles set out above. As the talk of the NLF program, coalition government, etc., develops, it is essential that we and the South Vietnamese develop soon a clear, firm and common position on which to stand before the world (and the U.S. public) as well as in such private contacts as may generate.

Again, let me underline, I do not believe that the Buttercup contact reflected a firm determination in Hanoi and the NLF to negotiate a solution in the South now, which would be acceptable to us and the South Vietnamese. One of their probable objectives, in fact, was to produce the kind of division among the South Vietnamese and between us and them which appears to be surfacing. But that fact does not relieve us from formulating a position that is lucid; and using all our skill to persuade Thieu and the political leadership in the Vietnamese executive and legislative branches to line up with us. We shall only be able to do this if we make it clear that by backing the constitutional process firmly, we are backing them; and we are not looking for some face-saving way to turn political power in the South over to the Communists.

W. W. Rostow/5/

/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

 

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

Washington, December 1, 1967.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP. Top Secret; Buttercup. A copy was sent to Katzenbach.

Phil Habib and I have discussed this situation, including Walt Rostow's memorandum./2/ Our key conclusions are these:

/2/Document 422.

1. The handling of Buttercup does depend on Thieu working things out with Ky, and either directly or through Ky with Loan. Thieu will almost certainly see this as clearly as we do.

2. While Buttercup is in trouble, we are by no means without hope on it. Our latest [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] information is that Ky has persuaded Loan to stay, and there might quite well be enough give in Loan's present views to permit at least the release of Sau Ha. The press leak conceivably could reflect the kind of muttering and spreading of the story depicted in the two [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reports I gave you, which so far as we can tell ante-dates the information--apparently reliable--that Loan is back aboard.

3. In any event, quiet discussion between Bunker and Thieu will give us a much clearer reading, and this is obviously what Bunker intends to do without any further instructions from us.

4. We believe Walt Rostow is way ahead of the game both in the suggestion that anything be done to get Loan clean out of the picture at this stage, and in the suggestion that Bunker try to press Thieu on the whole GVN attitude toward the future of NLF supporters. On the former, it seems entirely possible that Loan is back in the fold, and in any event his forced departure might deepen the very split that it is essential to heal. As to the GVN basic attitude toward the NLF, Bunker has already made crystal clear his belief that any pressure on this point is wholly premature. He did this in September in rejecting Walt's draft letter from the President, and he has repeated this view during his recent consultations with both Phil and myself. Bunker has made leading comments in this direction in his talks with Thieu and Loc since his return, and it seems apparent to us that he knows what he is doing and is handling this aspect at just the proper pace.

W.P.B.

 

424. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Washington, December 1, 1967.

/1/Source: National Security Council, 303 Committee Minutes, 1967. Secret; Eyes Only. The portion of the memorandum dealing with South Vietnam was excerpted and transmitted to Bundy in a December 4 memorandum from Trueheart. (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, East Asia Country File, Vietnam, 1967)

SUBJECT
Minutes of the Meeting of the 303 Committee, 1 December 1967

PRESENT
Mr. Rostow, Mr. Kohler, Mr. Nitze, and Mr. Helms.
Mr. William Colby was present for Item 1.

[Here follows a list of the persons present for non-Vietnam items.]

1. South Vietnam--Proposal for Political Party Development

a. In regard to the South Vietnam proposal for political party development,/2/ Mr. Nitze raised an issue of principle: The requested slush fund would appear to run counter to the anti-corruption crusade, particularly if accomplished by individual handouts.

/2/See Document 417.

b. Mr. Kohler stated that he had examined the matter carefully and recalled that the committee had turned down handout-type funds at the time of the election and that the policy intent this time was clearly understood to be for institution-building purposes only. Ambassador Bunker, himself, had described the funds as seed money.

c. Mr. Rostow asked if there was a specific plan for the expenditures. Mr. Colby replied that there was not, but the thinking had been in terms of recent favorable developments in the Assembly, in the coalescing of "think-alikes," in regional beginnings, identifying leaders and local talent, organizing cadres, and in the use of media.

d. Mr. Rostow warned against taking a long-range, the-election-is-still-four-years-off point of view and urged getting to work right away determining which groups in the society might coalesce, what indigenous money sources existed, and planning party organization. He insisted that a professional plan was needed and asked for regular reporting on developments.

[Here follows discussion of unrelated matters.]

Peter Jessup

 

425. Memorandum of Conversation Between the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) and President Johnson/1/

Washington, December 2, 1967.

/1/Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Subject Files, Johnson, Lyndon 1967. Absolutely Personal and Secret. Drafted by Harriman on December 12.

I reported to the President regarding my trip/2/ in the early afternoon, Saturday, December 2nd. He came to the car to meet me on the road in front of the Rose Garden. TV and reporters were there and he asked me to say a word to them, and then we went in to his office for a talk. No one was present.

/2/See Document 411.

[Here follows discussion of Harriman's trip to Pakistan.]

On the rest of the trip I underlined the unanimous information I got--Ayub, Tito and Maurer--that the Russians would increase their assistance to North Vietnam in order to permit them to "hold out" to offset any U.S. escalation. I explained that the Soviets considered their vital interests to be at stake in North Vietnam paralleling our stake in South Vietnam. I said this should be weighed in connection with our policies. I told him I thought we ought to keep in close contact with the Russians because we could get into greater confrontation, which would become harder and harder for us to unwind. I explained Tito's view that the Kremlin leaders and he agreed that the U.S. and USSR had common interests in Southeast Asia. He then showed me the message he had received from Kosygin in June, which was a very rough telegram threatening catastrophic war unless fighting was stopped. I commented that the Russians were off-balance at the time, and I would discount it in our long-run relations. I said I had told all the men I had talked to of the importance that the Russians should realize they should use their influence in Hanoi or we would have increasing difficulties. All agreed that the Soviets didn't have sufficient influence at the present time, but would go along with Hanoi if Hanoi decided to negotiate. I also explained Tito's readiness to help in the Middle East and information that he had already communicated with Nasser.

I told him two things that I thought I had cleared up in my talks on the trip. One was that the Soviets definitely wanted to end the fighting in Vietnam if it were possible, even though they would increase aid if we escalated; and secondly, that there was no basic difference in foreign policy between Brezhnev and Kosygin. They had decided to work together, and when one spoke, he had the agreement of the other.

The President remarked that there was nothing to do now but to go on with our policy (cleaning up a few targets that had not yet been approved) and hold on until the Communists gave in, in accordance with the opinions expressed at the elder statesmen's meeting, and that we shouldn't talk any more about negotiations. This was at the very end of the talk and as we were standing up, I didn't have a chance to argue about it except to say all the evidence I had received was that Hanoi doubted U.S. sincerity in negotiations offers and not that they were a sign of weakness.

[Here follows discussion of the death of Francis Cardinal Spellman and a tentative replacement for Goldberg if he left the UN Mission.]

W. Averell Harriman/3/

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

 

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

Washington, December 5, 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.

ANALYSIS OF WESTMORELAND PROPOSALS/2/

/2/Reference is to the proposed courses of action Westmoreland made to the JCS, which the Chiefs addressed in JCSM-663-67, Document 418. In a November 30 memorandum to Rusk, Bundy assessed these proposals and appended a spreadsheet analysis of them. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Top Secret WPB Chron., Nov.-Dec. 1967)

Basic Policy Questions

1. The proposals would be a complete departure from our present policy of "self-defense" in a continuing action. The concept of "hot pursuit" is itself a misnomer and has no standing in international law--whereas "self-defense" does. Any concept of hot pursuit by "fire" has no standing of any sort under any name.

2. Action in accordance with the proposals would be seen everywhere as a deliberate attack into Cambodia. Whatever the justification in our minds, we would incur a serious net minus.

3. Such action would be seen as "escalation" and would be taken to confirm that President Eisenhower was in some sense speaking for this Administration./3/ It would thus redouble speculation that we have in mind invasion of North Viet-Nam and some major drastic further action in Laos.

/3/In a televised interview of November 28, Eisenhower advocated a limited invasion of North Vietnam to destroy artillery positions near the DMZ and pursuit of enemy forces retreating into Cambodia and Laos. See The New York Times, November 29, 1967.

4. Since the initiative would appear to lie to a major degree with us, the action would undercut our position that we seek no wider war.

5. Even in military terms, the advantages of such action must be weighed against the military reactions of Sihanouk and of the VC/NVA. Sihanouk might well switch to stronger and even overt assistance, and the VC/NVA have the easy option of simply putting their rest areas a little further away.

Immediate Problems

1. The time urgency of this action, even in its own terms, is not clear.

2. With our note and evidence just delivered to Sihanouk yesterday,/4/ he would undoubtedly make our action public and depict it as a cynical prelude to larger action. He would be believed.

/4/The text of the U.S. note transmitted by Australia is printed in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XXVII, Document 212.

3. The idea of B-52 strikes is particularly objectionable.

4. By an exchange of messages, we may be able to work out some form of authority that will substantially assist Westmoreland to meet his problem with a minimum of drawbacks. For example, patrols on the South Vietnamese side could be intensified, with artillery ready to fire if these patrols ran into action. If there is an accompanying action and contact, artillery could be used to at least limited ranges into the areas Westmoreland wants to hit. While this could hardly be more than harassing, it should have much of the effect Westmoreland wants to achieve. It would do so without destroying our basic rationale. But we should be clear just what we are doing and try to reaffirm certain basic guidelines to Westmoreland at the same time.

 

427. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Washington, December 5, 1967, 10 a.m.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Cheslaw, Desk Officer for the United Kingdom, and approved in S on December 8. The meeting was held in Rusk's office.

SUBJECT
Viet-Nam and the United Nations

PARTICIPANTS

Sir Patrick Dean, British Ambassador
Mr. Michael Wilford, Counselor, British Embassy

The Secretary
Irving Cheslaw, EUR/BMI

Sir Patrick Dean said that Foreign Secretary Brown has always been in favor of Security Council action if this could clearly help promote negotiations or lead to a reduction in fighting. Whether the present moment was right could only be judged when action was initiated. He recognized, however, that the U.S. Government was bound to take very serious account of the Senate resolution./2/ The Foreign Secretary was also under constant pressure to take some initiative either through the UN or through the Geneva machinery, and interest would increase once it was evident that the USG was making another attempt through the Security Council.

/2/See footnote 2, Document 421.

Sir Patrick added that he had instructions to tell the Secretary that, in these circumstances, Mr. Brown would help all that he could, both generally and with the Russians, when any U.S. initiative got underway.

Specifically, he would help on inscription and by supporting a simple resolution to get the Geneva machinery going. U.S. and UK delegations in New York would need to keep in close touch if there were moves towards a resolution referring to a cessation of bombing, which Foreign Secretary Brown thought was very probable. HMG might be able to resist a simple demand for a cessation of bombing in standard Communist terms. But Mr. Brown thought it more likely that we would be faced with an outwardly reasonable resolution calling for bombing to stop so that talks could begin. If a resolution or amendment in these terms came to a vote, Mr. Brown would find it difficult to oppose or abstain.

The British Ambassador also gave the Secretary the drafts of both an "inspired" parliamentary question and a proposed reply on this general subject. The question would ask what was HMG's policy toward further consideration of the Viet-Nam conflict by the UN. The Foreign Secretary would reply that he was in favor of action through the UN as soon as it was possible for the organization to play a part in promoting a negotiated settlement or in encouraging effective negotiations, either through the Geneva Conference of which the British Foreign Secretary was co-chairman or through any other machinery which might lead to a solution./3/

/3/Attached but not printed is an unofficial and undated excerpt of an answer to Parliament in which the British Government pledged Brown's support for the U.S.-led effort on the UN initiative, particularly in connection "with the Russians." The British Government would state that it would not oppose an "outwardly reasonable" resolution calling for a halt in order to start talking. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET) NSC Staffer Nathaniel Davis cautioned, however, that it would be very difficult for the British to go along. "We have already made the British uncomfortable with our Middle East position, and they may become more so," he asserted in a December 4 memorandum to Rostow. "A Vietnam debate would add still another strain in our relationship." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Meetings with the President, July-December 1967)

The Secretary said that he would not object if HMG thought it would be useful to talk privately with Kuznetsov in New York or with its contacts in Moscow.

The Secretary observed that a San Antonio formula was reasonable, i.e., that bombing would stop with the assurance of talks without undue delay and without seeking any military advantages. A proposal to stop bombing permanently for the possibility of talks would be "too thin."

The Secretary pointed out that the President had not yet made a final decision, and that there would be full consultation before we moved in New York. Meanwhile, he noted that two divisions were reportedly on the move from North to South Viet-Nam.

 

428. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, December 5, 1967, 1:18-2:37 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. No classification marking. The meeting was held in the White House.

NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING
WITH
THE VICE PRESIDENT
SECRETARY McNAMARA
SECRETARY RUSK
CYRUS VANCE
CIA DIRECTOR HELMS
WALT ROSTOW
GEORGE CHRISTIAN
TOM JOHNSON

[Here follows discussion of the Cyprus crisis.]

The President then discussed with Secretary Rusk Mr. George Brown's current attitudes, particularly related to a resolution before the United Nations./2/

/2/See Document 427.

The President said this might get you where I had feared we would get. I have feared that we would be asked to stop the bombing with nothing in return. We must anticipate the worst and prepare for it.

Secretary Rusk said that no decision had been made whether to do anything at all.

The President said he thought that it was possible to get nine votes in the Security Council.

Secretary Rusk said that Ethiopia agreed to put the matter on the agenda if the United States wished./3/

/3/In telegram 2925 from USUN, December 9, Goldberg informed the Department that there were a "sure eight votes" in support of putting the resolution on the agenda (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States), but that "the ninth vote, Ethiopia, is still doubtful, although the Permanent Representative tells me he personally would favor re-inscription of the question." At the time, the Ethiopian Representative still had no instructions from his government on the issue. Goldberg believed that the Representative would not get such instructions "until we take a move which would force the Ethiopian Government to take a stand." Goldberg added that the Republic of China was the only member of the Security Council "strongly opposed to inviting representatives of the NLF." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) In a December 9 discussion with Senator Gale McGee (D-Wyoming) regarding his possibly replacing Goldberg, the President commented on the UN consideration of the Vietnam situation: "If they get a resolution and make us stop the bombing, we're in one hell of a shit." (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and McGee, December 9, 1967, 11 a.m., Tape F67.15, Side A, PNO 1 and 2)

Secretary Rusk said that he doubts that much will happen on NPT. He said the question of safeguards is a sticky one and that the Germans have political problems on it.

Secretary McNamara said two cables came in from General Westmoreland concerning possible campaigns in Laos and Cambodia./4/

/4/Not found.

General Wheeler said that there are 5,000 troops and supplies in the Tri-Border area. There are three regiments and bridges which are important to the resupply of the enemy operating out of Cambodia. The first North Vietnamese division withdrew. Its headquarters is a mile from the border and 15 miles from Dakto.

General Wheeler said the enemy is not to go in. They are refitting and replenishing their manpower.

We propose the use of B-52s and tactical aircraft for 72 hours. The B-52s could operate at night.

General Wheeler said that General Westmoreland discussed this operation with Ambassador Bunker. Ambassador Bunker concurs.

General Wheeler pointed out that there is no question that all of this is in Cambodia.

"We have known for two years that these people have been there."

Secretary McNamara said this action raises very serious political problems which outweigh the military gains. Secretary Rusk said he would draw a distinction between operations in Laos and operations in Cambodia. He said he would also draw a distinction between full-scale operations and a raid.

Secretary Rusk said that if we hit the enemy in Cambodia and possibly kill Cambodian personnel, this may give them reason to commit their forces against us.

Secretary McNamara said that the President could veto a "stop the bombing" resolution in the United Nations because of world and domestic reaction. The Secretary said the action against Cambodia would destroy us in the U.N.

In addition, the Secretary said that the U.S. cannot run B-52s around the clock without public knowledge of that.

Dick Helms said he would like to look at this before making a recommendation. Secretary Rusk asked if U.S. forces were going on with night and day raids against infiltration routes used by the regiment which is being brought into South Vietnam.

General Wheeler said yes, to the best of our ability. General Wheeler said the proposal was to use a South Vietnamese Airborne Brigade in area 607 to destroy troops and ammunition. He said it is occupied by supply centers and troops. He said the raid would take three days and would involve 1,500 to 1,600 South Vietnamese troops along with about 30 U.S. advisors.

Secretary McNamara said the Laos situation is different. He said the border is ill-defined. He said the chances of getting caught are much different.

Secretary Rusk said there is not a fraction of as much a problem in Laos as there is in Cambodia.

Secretary McNamara said he recommended going ahead with the Laos operation. Secretary Rusk agreed.

The President approved./5/

/5/The President and his advisers continued the discussions on the proposed actions in Cambodia in the evening of December 5. After Rusk, McNamara, and Clifford expressed concern and opposition, the President decided to require Westmoreland to justify his proposed offensive operations in Cambodia and to have Bunker discuss why he supported this action. (Notes of Meeting in Cabinet Room, December 5, 6:02-7:15 p.m.; Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings) For an account of the meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XXVII, Document 216.

 

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

Saigon, December 6, 1967, 1055Z.

/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. Received at 8:02 a.m.

CAS 095. In my meeting with Thieu today I expressed the desire to have a serious talk with him about the Buttercup case, especially in view of the events of recent days. I noted the great importance which President Johnson attached to this matter and said that the recent leaks in the press have raised a serious question about our ability to work together closely and confidentially on such matters in the future.

I expressed my appreciation to the President for the talks which he and Minister Vien and General Loan had held with our [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] officer./2/ These have been most useful in achieving better understanding on both sides. Now, however, the situation is confused and disrupted, perhaps the opportunity for moving ahead has been destroyed by the actions of General Loan who has obviously been talking to the press. The question which confronts us now is whether there is some way which we can follow through on this case and still achieve some useful aim.

/2/In meetings with Loan on November 27 and 28, reported in CAS telegrams 017 and 018, both December 2, and with Vien on November 29, reported in CAS telegram 020, December 2, [text not declassified] found them firmly insistent upon releasing only Sau Ha and Tong, but no other prisoners. (All ibid.)

Two points in particular were noted as being of serious importance. First is the matter of prisoner exchange which is a subject of intense interest to all Americans. The position of the American Government with its own citizens would be most difficult were we to fail to pursue every avenue that might result in the release of American prisoners of war, especially the sick and wounded. I recalled my talks with President Johnson on this subject. Further, the interests of neither of the two governments would be served by a disclosure on the part of the enemy that we were procrastinating or holding back in any way on exchange of prisoners of war. To appear to be holding back is running the risk of being embarrassed by Hanoi and the Viet Cong which would to them be a psychological victory.

Secondly, the situation with which we were presented offered what was really the first possibility of entering into a dialogue with members of the Front and determining whether there are any fissures in the Front which we might exploit. To discover whether such potential exists seems to us a matter of great importance both to the GVN and to ourselves. If subsequent developments should confirm such possibilities, it is evident we would both have much to gain.

While stressing the significance we attached to these matters, I emphasized that the U.S. Government has no intention of entering into talks with the NLF of which he, President Thieu, is not informed; that responses to political overtures would take place only after fullest consultation on both sides.

Our disappointment is the greater because this matter could have been quietly and discreetly handled without posing difficulties to either of our governments. On the American side, knowledge of this affair has been closely controlled and restricted to a very few officials. Now, as a result of these most unfortunate leaks and rumors, it is a question whether this avenue to prisoner exchange and possibly the establishment of some kind of dialogue is still open.

Finally, I advised President Thieu that it was my intention always to deal with him frankly and openly and that I expected that he would deal with me in the same way. In this case a confidence has been violated by General Loan who by his actions had in effect taken GVN policy into his own hands and frustrated a matter of great sensitivity and importance to us all.

Thieu stated that he feared, in view of the unfortunate press revelations, it was not possible now to release all of those on whom action had been requested by Buttercup/1. This would be construed as action by the GVN under pressure from the Americans. Regretful therefore as this is, the action which the Mission requested him to take (as reported in CAS-021)/3/ is not possible at this time. President Thieu then asked me if I had any ideas on how we might now proceed.

/3/Dated December 2. (Ibid.)

I suggested that in spite of the difficulties which had been imposed, we still ought to do whatever is possible in an attempt to salvage this line of communication and to get on with the discussion of prisoner exchange. Because of the discussion in the press, there is no assurance at this point that we can persuade Buttercup/2 and Sau Ha to return to COSVN. The minimum we can do at this time is to release Sau Ha if he is willing to return and we propose that Mai Thi Vang, the wife of Buttercup/1, be released to accompany him. She is not well and of no real importance to anyone except her husband, and her release could be justified on humanitarian grounds. It is possible that her release along with Sau Ha just might enable us to keep open this line of communication. The President took note of my proposal and said that we would consider it carefully.

I said that in view of all the current publicity and speculation in the press, it probably would be advisable to let the matter rest for a few days until the public interest in it subsides; I would then wish to take up the matter again to see whether we could not move it ahead. Thieu agreed that this would be advisable.

We then discussed my suggestion that he issue a press statement clarifying misleading statements which have been reported in the local press. This matter will be covered in other channels.

 

430. Telegram From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker)/1/

Washington, December 6, 1967, 2227Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 1B(1), Economic Activity & Planning. Confidential; Via CAS Channels.

CAP 671027. You should know we had a most engaging day here with David Lilienthal. He saw the President, met the press, and told the Cabinet about the 135-page program put in by the Vietnamese./2/

/2/Lilienthal met with the President twice on December 6: alone from 11:41 a.m. through 12:12 p.m., and then with the full Cabinet from 12:12 p.m. through 1:22 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) Lilienthal headed the American side of a joint U.S.-South Vietnamese non-governmental team planning for postwar development in Vietnam; see footnote 1, Document 91. The report, prepared by Vietnamese professors and graduate students, included an analysis of a variety of technical projects and economic measures to assure sustainable and long-term growth in Vietnam. Lilienthal described the specifics of the report in a December 6 press conference that followed the Cabinet meeting. See Department of State Bulletin, December 25, 1967, pp. 864-867.

In addition he happened to put his head in when I was having lunch in my office with Jean Monnet. You would have been charmed to see Jean's eyes come alive at this kind of practical planning, engaging the members of the Senate as well as young graduate students, etc. It clearly brought back his immediate post-war days in setting up the French modernization plan.

I cannot assess the quality of the program, of course, from this distance. But as a father of the idea of starting this kind of planning while the war was on--and from my experience in developing nations/3/--I should think it would be wise for the Vietnamese Government to consider the following:

/3/Rostow's academic expertise was in development policy; in 1960, then a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he published The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, a book that became the basis for the nation-building programs adopted during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

--Thieu should try to make the program a living part of the government. You know very well how a plan can die if the responsible Ministers treat it as some intrusive piece of paper.

--The government should try to engage the Senate and lower house in studying the plan and making recommendations. It is one way of getting them all to focus on their future and to give the plan political life.

--The government should consider publishing the program and then generating discussions in the cities and towns of the country as well as in trade unions, universities, etc.

This assumes, of course, that there is enough meat and potatoes in it to stir people's imaginations.

You will be clear that this is a personal view which you will feel wholly free to ignore if it doesn't make sense.

 

431. Memorandum From the Counsel to the President (McPherson) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, December 7, 1967, 12:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Office Files of Harry McPherson, Rusk Testimony. No classification marking.

I saw Senator Mansfield this morning. After going over the reasons for Secretary Rusk not testifying,/2/ I said "This is really a procedural matter. The President knows how you feel about Vietnam. But he hopes you can support him on this procedural question." He said, "All right, I'll try to support him. I think he's wrong, but I'll try to support him. But you ought to be aware that this could develop into a Constitutional crisis." He said he thought the Gore motion would "probably" fail; not enough Senators were worked up over it, although Morse, Gore and others will doubtless talk about it on the Senate Floor.

/2/On November 30 Fulbright sent Rusk a letter suggesting that the Secretary participate in public hearings. (Ibid.)

I talked to the Secretary later. The question was, whether he would decline on the merits, or temporize by saying that he would be out of the country beginning Sunday./3/ We decided he should reply on the merits, and I believe he plans to send a letter to Fulbright today./4/

/3/December 10.

/4/In the letter to Fulbright, December 7 (sent the next day after approval by the President), Rusk refused to testify in open session, preferring instead to address the Vietnam issue in executive session. (Johnson Library, Office Files of Harry McPherson, Rusk Testimony) In commenting on the letter in a memorandum transmitting it to the President, McPherson noted that "the question is whether the Secretary just waffles it now--since he is going to be out of town for the balance of the session--or answers it directly. I have been inclined both ways; I'd like to avoid giving Morse and Gore ammunition with which to tie up the Senate with long 'Constitutional' speeches on whether the Executive Branch must testify in open session. At the same time, a 'delaying' answer would suggest that he might go up for an open session in January. I think it's probably better to bite the bullet now rather than to give that impression. Rusk agrees, and hence this letter." (Ibid.)

Harry C. McPherson, Jr./5/

/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

 

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

Saigon, December 8, 1967, 1121Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP. Secret; Nodis; Buttercup; Exclusive; Via CAS Channels. Received at 8:21 a.m.

CAS 140. 1. At Vien's request [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] met with him on 8 December. Vien began the conversation referring to Ambassador Bunker's recent talk with President Thieu on the Buttercup case./2/ Vien indicated he had then met with President Thieu, discussed the various ramifications of the Buttercup case and the many press reports relating to it, and that President Thieu had concluded the conversation by agreeing "in principle" to the release of both Sau Ha and Buttercup/1's wife. Vien remarked that Thieu and he considered the timing of the release of Sau Ha and Buttercup/1's wife to be important and that the release should not take place for "one or two weeks." In addition to allowing time for the press stories to die down and general curiosity to abate, Vien also feels additional time before their release is necessary for General Loan's emotional feelings on this case to simmer down before Vien discussed the release of Buttercup/1's wife with Loan. Vien feels that Loan will, undoubtedly, become quite excited about this release of Buttercup/1's wife and will react much as he has in the past several weeks on the Buttercup case in general. Vien, therefore, plans to wait until 11 or 12 December before discussing the next Buttercup move with Loan. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] commented that it would be most desirable for us to launch the next step of the operation no later than about one week from now since to wait much beyond that would make it more likely that Radio Hanoi or Liberation Radio will come out with a propaganda exploitation of the Buttercup operation.

/2/See Document 429.

2. Vien queried whether it was the American feeling that we should release both individuals to go to Buttercup/1 at the same time and was given an affirmative answer. In discussing details of how to arrange the release and our American requirement to have Sau Ha in our custody for at least 48 hours as well as having Buttercup/1's wife in our hands for one or two days both for briefings and for medical examinations, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] proposed the following time schedule: release of Sau Ha to American custody on Wednesday, 13 December, release of Buttercup/1's wife on Friday, 15 December and launching them on their mission along with Buttercup/2 on Saturday or Sunday, 16 or 17 December. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] suggested the weekend would be a quiet period during which these activities could take place while arousing a minimum of attention. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] indicated he would like to fix these dates with Vien so that the American side could begin planning for such things as the helicopter lift and making arrangements with the U.S. military regarding the area through which the individuals would pass enroute to the NLF headquarters. Vien stated he agreed generally to this timing.

3. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] described the need to revise our next outgoing message to Buttercup/1 and asked Vien if he personally would like to participate in drafting the message. Vien suggested that [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] work instead with Acting Commissioner of CIO, Colonel Huan, in drafting the message, describing Huan as discreet and trustworthy. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] requested Vien stress the need for tightest security when Vien discusses this with Colonel Huan and Vien assured [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] he would do so, citing the way he himself has closely held this Buttercup information to the point where only he and President Thieu are knowledgeable of the details of the case at the top echelons of the GVN and that even the Prime Minister is only generally aware of the nature of the case. The Prime Minister was briefed by Vien in connection with the issuance of the GVN communiqué of 7 December relating to the Buttercup case./3/ Vien remarked that the communiqué appeared to be effective in satisfying the interests of both the GVN and the USG even though, of course, it was not possible to make a flat denial of all aspects of the Buttercup case.

/3/In a December 6 statement, Prime Minister Loc confirmed that the National Police had arrested a VC cadre who claimed to be trying to contact the U.S. Embassy but did not specify exactly when the arrest occurred.

4. Vien commented that he anticipates an unpleasant session with Loan on the release of Buttercup/1's wife, that Loan has very strong views on this case and, undoubtedly, is still very much opposed to the release of Sau Ha as a result of American pressure on the GVN to do so. Vien did indicate, however, that if it should come to the point he will simply order Loan to release Buttercup/1's wife and will also insist that it be done in such a way that no security leaks spring from it.

5. Next steps in the Buttercup case will be for Vien to see Loan on either 11 or 12 December and for [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and Colonel Huan to work up a draft of our next outgoing message to Buttercup/1./4/

/4/The U.S. Government already had a draft message to send to Dang. It assured the NLF that despite the recent publicity surrounding the contacts, "sustained good will by all parties" would bring about prisoner exchanges. (CAS telegram 120 from Saigon and telegram 57993 to Saigon, both December 7; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP) In a closed session appearance on December 14, Katzenbach briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on both the Buttercup case and the issue of NLF representation at the United Nations. (Ibid., Katzenbach Files: Lot 74 D 271, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 12/14/67)

 

433. Memorandum for Personal File/1/

Washington, December 12, 1967, 5:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Subject File, Acheson, Dean. Confidential; Personal.

Governor Harriman's call on Mr. Dean Acheson at his home, 2805 P St., N.W.

I stopped in to see Dean Acheson late Tuesday, the twelfth, for about an hour's talk. I found that he was not as rigid as I had supposed from his broadcast (attached)./2/ I emphasized the difference between the present-day Vietnam situation and that of Korea: (a) monolithic Communist bloc split, with deep antagonism between Moscow and Peking and my belief--confirmed by Tito--that Moscow desires to end the war and objective, similar to ours, to achieve a nonaligned Southeast Asia policy; (b) guerrillas had taken hold in South Vietnam--not true in Korea--and they would be impossible to stamp out completely by military means (I referred to revival of Huks in the Philippines).

/2/Not printed; it is a transcript of Acheson's televised interview with college students, broadcast on December 3 over public television, in which Acheson insisted that no possibility existed for the United States to negotiate its way out of Vietnam.

On policy, I underlined two things that concerned me: (a) the President's alleged fear that his difficulty came from hawks (Dean said that that was not true. That his danger came from the other side); and, (b) the constant pressure of the military to expand the war with the support of certain individuals outside the Administration, such as Clark Clifford and Abe Fortas. He indicated complete contempt for the judgment of both. He is opposed to expansion into Cambodia and feels the military should be held in check as Truman did.

He said his own relations with the President were not as they used to be because he had a row about a year ago about NATO, the details of which I didn't quite gather. The President evidently criticized his and Jack McCloy's position, which Acheson resented and the President exploded. I suggested he forget the incident and go back to his old relationship as the President needed his advice to offset bad advice he got from others. We agreed to compare notes again before long.

I am attaching to this memorandum Acheson's TV discussion with certain college students.

 

434. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State/1/

Brussels, December 12, 1967, 1823Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET. Secret; Nodis. Received at 2:43 p.m. Secretary Rusk was in Brussels attending the North Atlantic Council Ministerial meeting.

1005. Secto 013. For the Acting Secretary from the Secretary.

During the NATO meeting this afternoon Paul Martin came over and handed me a short piece of paper which he said represented the latest proposal by Mr. Ales Bebler, President of the World Federation of United Nations Associations. Text of proposal follows:

"Whether negotiations can start while the bombing continues or whether the bombing can stop while there are no negotiations." To this end he has put forward three propositions which read as follows:

"1. The heads of government of the five powers and the Presidents of USA and DRV agree to choose a date in the near future to be the date of the beginning of the end of the war in Viet-Nam.

2. The President of USA agrees that he will order the bombing of the territory of DRV to be definitely stopped on that day.

3. The heads of government of the five powers agree to hold on that day the opening session of the five power meeting with the sole object of organizing without delay negotiations and/or a conference on peace in Viet-Nam."

Martin wanted my reactions on the spot but I told him I would have to refer it to Washington. I would like to give him some response before I leave Brussels.

My own first comments are:

(A) Bebler's proposal takes care of the word "prompt" in the San Antonio formula. It does not, however, take care of the assumption that North Viet-Nam would not take military advantage of the cessation of bombing.

(B) Our knowledge of the movement of additional major forces by North Viet-Nam is highly relevant.

(C) The grouping of the five powers, including the two Co-chairmen and the three ICC countries, is a logical way to involve the Geneva machinery without getting into complications about the composition of the conference or the possible Soviet reluctance to have China.

(D) Perhaps we should include in what we say to Paul Martin that paragraph 2 is imbalanced. Perhaps Martin should say to Bebler that paragraphs 1 and 3 are all right but that Bebler should ascertain from both sides what military measures each side will take to give substance to "the beginning of the end of the war in Viet-Nam."

(E) I doubt that this formulation would get anywhere with Hanoi especially if it is to include the most minimum element of military reciprocity included in the San Antonio formula.

(F) I have told some of my colleagues at NATO that the San Antonio formula is the minimum US position, and that it is as fair and reasonable as any proposition ever made in the course of conflict. I think we should begin to make it clear that there is no point in people knocking on our door to dilute the San Antonio formula and that if they want peace they should knock on the door of Hanoi for a change.

Would appreciate any advice as to what I should say to Paul Martin./2/

/2/In response, the Department advised that Martin be told to pass on to Bebler the sense that his second proposition "is lacking in balance" since it required the U.S. Government to halt the bombing while "it makes no mention whatsoever of any corresponding military action to be taken by North Viet-Nam." In addition, Bebler had excluded the GVN from his propositions. "It would be our judgment that the GVN would take most unkindly to its omission from this kind of grouping and for this reason alone we believe that the point must be made, as the Bebler approach, if made, might well become public," the Department noted. (Telegram 83910/Tosec 28 to Brussels, December 13; ibid.)

Rusk

 

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

Saigon, December 13, 1967, 1205Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL US-VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Received at 1621Z. Repeated to USUN.

13356. 1. During a meeting with President Thieu December 12 I went over a number of matters relating to reported US-NLF contacts and the Vietnam question in the UN Security Council./2/

/2/In telegram 12892 from Saigon (Bunker's 30th weekly telegram), December 7, Bunker reported that the GVN was greatly concerned that the NLF would represent itself as a government to the United Nations. (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S; printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 259-268) In a discussion with Bundy, reported in telegram 80846 to Saigon and USUN, December 7, Bui Diem "stressed that any invitation to the NLF would cause some problems in Saigon in any event, and that an invitation on a parallel basis to the GVN and NLF would raise particularly serious criticism in Saigon." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) Two days earlier, Foreign Minister Tran Van Do had publicly stated that the GVN was opposed to any role for the NLF in possible talks at the United Nations. See The New York Times, December 6, 1967. In a statement released on December 8, the Department affirmed the U.S. Government's willingness to grant visas to NLF representatives to come to the United Nations "when they are officially invited for official business," but stated that it would not deal with the NLF without first consulting with Saigon. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, p. 1041.

2. I read Thieu the UPI item about the forthcoming Newsweek issue alleging that meetings of American and Viet Cong representatives have taken place with increasing frequency./3/ I told him that to my knowledge there was no truth in these reports and I had no idea of the source for these allegations. I gave him copies of the Department's Dec 8 statement and the summary of Ambassador Goldberg's December 7 press conference (which had earlier been sent to the GVN Foreign Office for circulation to the principal GVN offices)./4/ In discussing the story on USUN contacts, I referred specifically to the Department's assurance that we would consult with the GVN on any change in our current policy with regard to the UN and to my own public statement about consultation with the GVN regarding any such contacts.

/3/The article, entitled "What's In a Word? Meetings Between Spokesmen of the United States and the Viet Cong," appeared in the December 18 issue of Newsweek.

/4/In this statement, Goldberg said that the NLF inquired about sending public spokesmen and not diplomats to the United Nations in September; since that time, the U.S. Government had not opposed NLF representatives coming before the General Assembly on "official business" but did not want such a visit to turn into a propaganda campaign. See The New York Times, December 8, 1967.

3. I then brought Thieu up to date on developments in New York relating to possible consideration of Vietnam by the Security Council, noting that Ambassador Goldberg was keeping in close touch with the GVN observer there. I summarized the main points made by Goldberg to Chi, as reported in USUN 2934./5/

/5/According to telegram 2934 from the USUN, December 11, Goldberg informed Chi, the GVN observer at the United Nations, of the U.S. Government's intention to first consult other members of the Security Council before proceeding on the matter of letting the NLF go before the international body. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET/UN) In a December 14 document circulated by the Romanian delegation to various other UN delegations, the NLF put forth a platform statement calling for the establishment of a coalition government and the holding of "free elections" in South Vietnam, economic and land reform, and eventual reunification with North Vietnam. In response, Goldberg noted that the new document did not alter the opposition of the Vietnamese Communists toward the prospect of settlement within the framework of the United Nations. See The New York Times, December 15, 1967, and American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 1042-1043.

4. Thieu asked my opinion as to the probability of any action being taken by the Security Council. I said that I thought it was unlikely that there would be any Security Council action since the Soviets appeared still to be opposed to UN consideration of the Vietnam question. I pointed out, however, that the Mansfield resolution required that we explore this question very carefully and that we were engaged in doing this. During this discussion I noted that Hanoi Radio had reported an NLF denial that there had been any attempt to send representatives to the UN and called attention to U Thant's statements about this./6/

/6/Two days after the adjournment of the UNGA on December 20, USUN released a summary of actions taken during the 22d Assembly, which reads in part: "On several occasions before and during the General Assembly, the United States again consulted with other members on a possible renewal of Security Council consideration of Viet-Nam. Such consultations were held during the Tet bombing pause in January 1967; shortly before the Assembly met for its regular session; and in December, following the Senate's passage of the Mansfield resolution. On none of these occasions did we find any change of attitude by those opposing United Nations involvement." See Department of State Bulletin, February 5, 1968, pp. 181-182.

Bunker

 

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

Saigon, December 13, 1967, 1215Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 9:45 a.m. Rostow sent a copy of this telegram to the President under cover of a note of December 14. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8B(2)) 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. 259-268.

13288. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my thirty-first weekly message:

A. General

1. The past week has been marked by an intensification of military activity throughout the country; by progress of both houses of the Assembly in organization, the Senate having completed approval of its rules; by apprehension and sensitivity on the part of the public, press and officials concerning the US attitude and intentions toward the NLF; and by continued progress in the GVN priority programs.

2. RVNAF and free world forces have given a good account of themselves and the Communists have suffered a series of heavy military setbacks in the past week. Performance of RVNAF has been a further encouraging demonstration of the improvement in the quality of these forces. They have more than held up their end.

3. The Senate having completed approval of its rules and regulations is expected to elect officers this week, to proceed with the formation of committees and should soon get down to serious work. The house has lagged behind but is making steady though slower progress.

4. Sensitivity about US relations with the NLF was heightened by the report of the arrest of an NLF emissary, by the false newspaper accounts that high officials of the Embassy had been in contact with NLF representatives in Saigon, and by reports on the possibility of NLF representatives coming to New York. In my talk with President Thieu on December 6/2/ I called his attention to these unfounded and false statements in the press, to widespread editorial comment based on false assumptions and my very definite feeling that some GVN officials were in part responsible for the rumors. I added that I knew it was not necessary to assure him that no consultations would be undertaken with the NLF without full consultation with his government. I said that I thought that a statement by the GVN to allay these false reports, which could only be damaging to our relations, would be in order. Forthright statements by Prime Minister Loc and Foreign Minister Do on the next day, December 7, and the helpful statement made by the spokesman of the Department of State on December 8th have helped to abate these suspicions. I held a press reception for Vietnamese editors on December 7, at which I made the same point, with beneficial effects in the Vietnamese language press the next day. The statement by the Department spokesman on our view of the situation at the UN and a future political structure in the South also helped to clear the air. The Vietnamese continue however to be highly sensitive about the NLF and our attitude toward it.

/2/See Document 429.

5. The situation of course is not helped by such things as the article in the forthcoming issue of Newsweek alleging that there have been increasing numbers of contacts between American and VC representatives. The substance of the story has already appeared in the Saigon newspapers. I told Thieu there was no truth in these reports and I had no idea of the sources of the allegations.

6. We have virtually completed coordination of the Christmas stand down question with the GVN, with agreement reached on a 24 hour ceasefire at Christmas and in principle on 24 and 48 hour ceasefires respectively at New Year's and Tet holidays, provided the Christmas stand down is carried out satisfactorily./3/ I expect that this will be fully resolved in a few days. Foreign Minister Tran Van Do expects that the announcement can be made this week, when coordination with our other allies is completed.

/3/As reported in telegram 13232 from Saigon, December 12, Bunker and Westmoreland requested that the GVN accept an 1800 December 24-1800 December 25 cease-fire period instead of a 1200-1200 one due to military considerations; in addition they deleted any reference in the cease-fire announcement (to be issued by the GVN) to "substantial logistical resupply or major troop repositioning by Free World military forces." Do saw no difficulty in the GVN's acceptance of the changes. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET S) The JCS restricted military operations for 24 hours at Christmas and New Year's and for 48 hours during Tet except in response to enemy-initiated actions. (Telegram JCS 5343 to CINCPAC and CINCSAC, December 16; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 6F 1967-1968 Holiday Cease Fires)

7. General Westmoreland told me on December 11 that during a meeting between him and Minister of Defense Vy on December 9 the latter had said that President Thieu and General Cao Van Vien had agreed that GVN forces, in "hot pursuit" of enemy forces near the Cambodian border, should be permitted to pursue them across the border. GVN forces would not remain in Cambodia but would withdraw as soon as contact was broken or the enemy forces defeated. I discussed the matter with President Thieu on December 12, pointing out the difficult problems that the proposed GVN policy would raise for us. I recommended to him that he hold in abeyance any final decisions on this policy and make no further public statements on the subject until our positions have been clarified, saying that we hoped that we might have some influence on Sihanouk and that we wanted at least to make an effort with him. Thieu said he understood our concern and agreed with what I proposed.

8. I took Senator Percy/4/ to call on President Thieu December 12. The Senator said he wished to make clear to Thieu that no responsible people in either the Democratic or the Republican Party favored U.S. withdrawal from Viet-Nam. He asked Thieu what he thought the prospects were for negotiations. Thieu replied that he felt he knew the political thinking of Hanoi pretty well and that he saw no chance of meaningful negotiations before the U.S. elections. He thought the enemy would keep up military pressures against us and try to achieve some victories which would have an impact on American opinion. Senator Percy discussed foreign support for the GVN and commented that there is a feeling in the U.S. that if other Asian nations also thought Viet-Nam was important, we would like to see a greater degree of support from them. Thieu mentioned the planned increase in Thai, Australian and New Zealand forces. Senator Percy suggested that nations such as Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Japan might do more. Thieu reviewed Japan's contribution on the non-military side and commented that the GVN would welcome any additional Asian aid that might be offered.

/4/Senator Charles Percy (R-Illinois).

9. The afternoon of December 12 Senator and Mrs. Percy and their party at the Senator's insistence flew up to Dak Son in Phuoc Long Province near the Cambodian border, the unfortunate village which the Communists attacked Dec 5, killing a large number of civilians with grenades and flame throwers. While visiting there, the VC fired several mortar rounds at the town. The Percy party was unhurt, though the Senator was scratched when he dove for cover. Even though the Senator insisted on visiting Dak Son I think we should not have permitted him to go and we are tightening up our procedures. I'm sure he doesn't have to be told that those Communists out there are not "peaceful agrarian reformers," as some of our critics would have us believe.

[Here follows discussion of priority programs for 1968, including mobilization measures, military and civilian administrative reorganization, pacification, economic stabilization, the peace effort, and land reform, as well as a general discussion of other political, economic, and military matters.]

Bunker

 

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

Saigon, December 15, 1967, 0859Z.

/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 308. In my meeting with President Thieu on December 12th I expressed my appreciation for his agreement to the release of Sau Ha and Mai Thi Vang. Referring to the disclosure of information on the Buttercup case by General Loan and his apparent desire to see these efforts come to naught, I said that despite our skepticism we need to pursue this case not only in the interests of freeing prisoners of war but also to see if there are any cracks or fissures in the NLF which we can exploit. This is extremely important to both the GVN and to the U.S. Government; in fact it might be worth several victories on the battlefield for both of us.

In response, President Thieu discussed the situation concerning General Loan and his remarks are reported in Saigon Embtel 13292./2/

/2/Dated December 13. (Ibid.)

In my meeting with President Thieu on 13 December, I told Thieu that we hoped to launch Sau Ha and Mai Thi Vang with Buttercup/2 by the weekend of December 16-18. The President expressed no objection to this schedule.

I also advised him that I thought it was important, particularly in view of the difficulties we had had with General Loan in this case, for me to bring Vice President Ky up to date in the near future. President Thieu replied that the Vice President was generally aware of developments and suggested that I cover the matter with the Vice President on the first occasion when I have other subjects to review with him. I intend to accomplish this at the earliest opportunity.

 

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

Saigon, December 15, 1967, 0742Z.

/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. In a covering memorandum transmitting a copy of the telegram to the President, Rostow wrote: "The latest Buttercup report is as follows: 1. The attached message was cleared by the government of Vietnam (GVN) to be passed back to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], the NLF official who originated the message to us. 2. The GVN agreed on 16 December as the date for launching Sau Ha, Mai Thi Vang, and Buttercup/2 (the bearer of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]'s message). Sau Ha and Mai Thi Vang (Mrs. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]) were to be handed over to American custody on December 15 (today). The latest message does not report the actual transfer. In short, if nothing goes wrong, the countermove will be initiated this week end." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Buttercup Vol. I (A))

CAS 309. 1. Our next message to be carried by courier Tong to Buttercup/1 was cleared with the GVN on 13 December. Text follows:

"As we have sought to communicate to you by radio on a number of occasions, Mr. Tong returned safely and conveyed your message to us on 26 October. Since then events have occurred which seemed to endanger hopes for achieving a satisfactory basis for a prisoner exchange. Restraint shown in the face of these events, however, encourages us to believe these difficulties will be overcome, given continued goodwill on both sides.

"Senior officials on our side have deliberated carefully over the message conveyed to us by Mr. Tong and have arrived at a decision. This decision is to release and return to you, under Mr. Tong's escort, Mr. Sau Ha, and provide improved treatment for other persons named by you. The question of the release of other prisoners was a major subject of our deliberations. The decision was to release Madame Mai Thi Vang, although you had not requested it, along with Sau Ha as a demonstration of our goodwill and interest in the matter of prisoner exchange. The viewpoint which prevailed during our deliberations is that other prisoners will be released when you have given a more substantial indication of your willingness to release some prisoners on your side than you have indicated in the message conveyed by Mr. Tong. This indication could be given most expeditiously through the radio link which has been established between us. Your mentioning the names of the prisoners you would release would be helpful. To obtain your reply, we will monitor this link on the scheduled dates and times. We would then respond with a transmission notifying you of the dates we will release the other prisoners. Ensuing procedural steps for the transfer of prisoners could be arranged most efficiently through use of the radio link. As an alternate means of communication, you may of course continue to use Mr. Tong as your intermediary.

"We trust you will see in our above actions a convincing demonstration of our intent to achieve a satisfactory basis for a prisoner exchange. We hope that this contact with you will permit us to work out arrangements for a continuing exchange of prisoners, and also serve as a useful background to the examination of the broader political topics reviewed in your message." End of text.

2. Colonel Huan told [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] on 13 December that Minister Vien "does not object" to our proposed message, but does not wish to be quoted as "agreeing to it" or "approving it." Huan indicated that Vien's feelings are that, as long as Americans observe GVN policy which opposes contact, direct or indirect, with the NLF in the text of messages sent to the NLF, the GVN "will not object to the messages."

3. Huan stated that Vien feels our projected launch date of 16-17 December is "too soon," and Vien needs more time to prepare the people involved in the release of Mai Thi Vang, specifically General Loan. When [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] pointed out, as in previous conversations with Huan, that, in the American view, to delay much beyond the end of this week will be to take the rather serious risk that the NLF will despair of our responding and elect to proceed with the propaganda exploitation of the Buttercup case, Huan suggested that the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] "speak to Vien to accelerate the launch date and present all of the arguments in favor of moving ahead soon on the operation." Huan feels that Vien will understandably procrastinate, but that [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] discussion with Vien may facilitate his coming to grips with problem sooner than he might otherwise and making the moves and decisions involved to get the operation launched. Huan suggested that it is most important for the Americans to be prepared to discuss specifically the American response to an NLF propaganda exploitation of the Buttercup case./2/

/2/According to CAS telegram 325 from Saigon, Sau Ha, Tong, and Mai Thi Vang were remanded to officials of the CIA Station in Saigon on December 15. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP) In CAS telegram 447 from Saigon, December 20, Bunker reported that officers of the U.S. Army's 25th Division launched the group on its journey on December 19, although without Mai Thi Vang, who was too debilitated by the rigors of her captivity under the GVN to travel. (Ibid.)

 

439. Editorial Note

On December 15, 1967, the JASON Division of the Institute of Defense Analysis, a Washington-based policy analysis center closely associated with the Pentagon, submitted to Secretary of Defense McNamara an assessment of the effectiveness of the bombing campaign in the war effort. In a highly critical account, the JASON report argued that the impact of the bombing campaign upon the enemy's ability to wage war in South Vietnam was negligible. The bombing had mixed results in terms of meeting the three objectives previously outlined by McNamara: the interdiction of men and arms flowing southward, boosting the morale of the South Vietnamese Government, and compelling Hanoi to pay a high price to continue its military struggle. The study's conclusions relating to the first objective read:

"As of October 1967, the U.S. bombing has had no measurable effect upon Hanoi's ability to mount and support military operations in the South. North Vietnam supports operations in the South mainly by functioning as a logistical funnel and providing a source of manpower, from an economy in which manpower has been widely under-utilized. Most of the essential military supplies that the VC/NVA forces in the South require from external sources are provided by the USSR, Eastern Europe, and Communist China. Furthermore, the volume of such supplies is so low that only a small fraction of the capacity of North Vietnam is required to maintain that flow."

The study added that although the North Vietnamese economy was heavily damaged, infiltration southward had increased during the years of the bombing campaign. While virtually all targets of military and economic significance had been attacked, the North Vietnamese had managed to build a stronger military force and to continue economic activity at sufficient levels.

Nor had the other two objectives been met successfully, the reported asserted. While South Vietnamese morale had been bolstered initially by the bombing, this effect declined as the bombing became more routine. On the third objective, the JASON study offered a similarly pessimistic analysis:

"The bombing campaign against NVN has not discernibly weakened the determination of the North Vietnamese leaders to continue to direct and support the insurgency in the South. Shortages of food and clothing, travel restrictions, separations of families, lack of adequate medical and educational facilities, and heavy work loads have tended to affect adversely civilian morale. However, there are few if any reliable reports on a breakdown of the commitment of the people to support the war. Unlike the situation in the South, there are no reports of marked increases of absenteeism, draft dodging, black market operations or prostitution. There is no evidence that possible war weariness among the people has shaken the leadership's belief that they can continue to endure the bombing and outlast the U.S. and SVN in a protracted war of attrition."

Although the study examined nine different ways to improve the effectiveness of air power, its authors could determine no way in which to reduce North Vietnamese infiltration into South Vietnam. The final version of the report was revised and submitted to McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Commander in Chief of Pacific Forces on January 3, 1968. The JASON study is excerpted in U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Armed Services, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 6, Volume II, pages 122-127.

 

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

Washington, December 16, 1967, 3:15 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Vol. 54 (1 of 2). Secret. The notation "ps" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.

SUBJECT
Are the Next Four Months Decisive?

I asked Saigon to collect and analyze all the captured documents they have on the present winter-spring offensive and negotiations, including the coalition government.

They did a good, long paper./2/

/2/Attached but not printed were three papers that constituted the assessment: "Overview of Viet Cong Strategy," "The Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Winter-Spring Campaign," and "The Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Position on Coalition Government," all dated December 8 but originally submitted to MACV on November 27.

I then asked CIA to reproduce it and comment on it. The comment and the Saigon paper are attached./3/

/3/Carver's December 15 commentary is attached but not printed; it is summarized below.

Taken together, they reveal an interesting difference of emphasis and judgment between Saigon and CIA Washington.

The Saigon people read these documents as saying (see p. II, 5-8, paper clipped):

--the Communists are simultaneously making a maximum military effort and preparing their people for an early negotiation;

--if they achieve some tactical success, they are likely to negotiate in the late winter or spring;

--if they do not, they are likely to scale down the war;

--"the war is probably nearing a turning point and the outcome of the 1967-68 winter-spring campaign will in all likelihood determine the future direction of the war."/4/

/4/In the attached paper entitled "The Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Winter-Spring Campaign," [text not declassified] of the Saigon CIA Station argued that based upon captured enemy documents, the North Vietnamese and the VC hoped to force re-deployment of U.S. forces near the border areas in order to weaken the cities wherein a "general uprising" was envisioned. The effort was considered "decisive" by the Communist hierarchy as it sought to take advantage of political dissent within the United States during the ensuing election year. Specific captured documents generated by the Combined Document Exploitation Center upon which the Saigon Station's assessment was predicated are in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vietnam 1967 Winter-Spring Campaign.

Our CIA people (as you can see in the marked passages of the covering note) are inclined to believe the present military campaign, combined with emphasis on a negotiated coalition government, is less "decisive" than Saigon. They see the war going on for several years.

At the end, however, they accept an important point: having gotten the Viet Cong to accept these months as "decisive" and moving towards peace and victory "this situation could have serious effects on Viet Cong morale and lead to a substantial increase in defections" if the campaign fails.

In any case, I thought you'd like to know the terms in which experts are debating the present evidence.

Walt

 

441. Memorandum for the File by President Johnson/1/

Washington, December 18, 1967, 1:40 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Vietnam, Conduct of War. No classification marking. An attached note to Rostow reads: "The President asks that you read the attached very carefully for him."

The memorandum of Secretary McNamara dated November 1, 1967, attached hereto,/2/ raises fundamental questions of policy with reference to the conduct of the war in Vietnam.

/2/Document 375.

I have read it, and studied it, with the utmost care. In addition, I have asked certain advisers to give their written reactions to the memo. These reactions are attached./3/

/3/See Documents 378, 381, 387, 388, 403, and 410.

I have consulted at length with Ambassador Bunker and General Westmoreland on their recent trip to Washington.

At my suggestion, a group of senior advisers attended a lengthy briefing at the State Department and then met for a full discussion with me./4/

/4/See Document 377.

I have carefully considered the questions presented and the individual views expressed, and I have reached the following conclusions:

With respect to bombing North Vietnam, I would wish for us to:

--authorize and strike those remaining targets which, after study, we judge to have significant military content but which would not involve excessive civilian casualties; excessive U.S. losses; or substantial increased risk of engaging the USSR or Communist China in the war;

--maintain on a routine basis a restrike program for major targets throughout North Vietnam;

--strive to remove the drama and public attention given to our North Vietnamese bombing operations.

I have concluded that, under present circumstances, a unilateral and unrequited bombing stand-down would be read in both Hanoi and the United States as a sign of weakening will. It would encourage the extreme doves; increase the pressure for withdrawal from those who argue "bomb or get out"; decrease support from our most steady friends; and pick up support from only a small group of moderate doves.

I would not, of course, rule out playing our bombing card under circumstances where there is reason for confidence that it would move us towards peace. But with the failure of the Paris track and the opening of Buttercup--at a time when the North is being bombed--I do not believe we should move from our present policy unless hard evidence suggests such a change would be profitable./5/

/5/In a televised interview on December 19, the President stated that the war could end "within a matter of days" if the Vietnamese Communists accepted Thieu's offer of informal talks, abided by the Geneva Accords of 1954 and 1962, ceased infiltration into Laos, respected the DMZ, and committed to democratic government in South Vietnam. The interview is printed in full in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book II, pp. 1158-1173.

With respect to operations on the ground, I do not believe we should announce a so called policy of stabilization. An announced change would have, in my judgment, some of the political effects in Hanoi and in the United States of a unilateral bombing stand-down.

On the other hand, at the moment I see no basis for increasing U.S. forces above the current approved level.

As for the movement of U.S. forces across the frontiers of South Vietnam, I am inclined to be extremely reserved unless a powerful case can be made. There are two reasons: the political risks involved, and the diversion of forces from pressure on the VC and from all the other dimensions of pacification. But I believe it unwise to announce a policy that would deny us these options.

The third recommendation of Secretary McNamara has merit. I agree that we should review the conduct of military operations in South Vietnam with a view to reducing U. S. casualties, accelerating the turnover of responsibility to the GVN, and working toward less destruction and fewer casualties in South Vietnam.

Lyndon B. Johnson

 

442. Editorial Note

On December 19, 1967, President Johnson began an international trip with the primary purpose of attending the memorial services for Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt (who disappeared while swimming on December 17). The President arrived in Australia on December 21. That morning, from 11:13 a.m. to 12:03 p.m., he discussed the war in Southeast Asia with Prime Minister John McEwen and other senior Australian Government officials. According to notes taken by Presidential aide George Christian, during the conversation the President assessed the enemy's plans for the immediate future:

"Hanoi, thinking of the French, is testing the will of the U.S. and its allies. He believes they will wait until after the U.S. election. In the meanwhile, we must maintain our posture; not widen the war; not cut and run. We must avoid flirting with either extreme, and keep the pressure on. The President said that he felt that Hanoi was under extreme pressure to achieve some tactical victory. Northern forces were being infiltrated into the South. He foresaw kamikaze attacks in the months ahead. That is one reason why he is pressing so hard for additional allied manpower. The President foresaw a sequence in which we maintain pressure without widening the war; imposed upon North Vietnamese increased losses; and then in time they would have to decide what to do in the face of the high cost and the continued frustration of their objective. Then, he believed, they would talk." (Meeting of the President with the Australian Cabinet, 11:13 a.m., December 21; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, March 19, 1970 Memo; the full text of the notes is printed in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume XXVII, Document 35.)

The President also used the occasion to meet with a number of other Asian leaders who had come to Australia, including President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam, with whom he dined on December 21 from 8:14 p.m. through 10:04 p.m. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) While no notes of the Johnson-Thieu meeting have been found, in telegram CAP 671170 to Ambassador Bunker in Saigon, December 27, Walt Rostow described the main points covered by the two leaders as "not permitting domestic political forces in each country to pull the two Presidents apart" and initiating a "Vietnamese priority program" of various domestic political, agrarian, and economic reforms. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, I E (1), Post Inaugural Political Activity) In addition, during a December 18 telephone conversation, the President mentioned to Senator Mike Mansfield that he would tell Thieu "that this thing is so rough in this country that if he doesn't take these steps that Bunker's trying to shove on him, namely with the Viet Cong and others that can form a coalition and some of things we're working on, that this is just too rough, and he's just got to do it. Bunker's been unable to shove him yet and they think maybe that I could let him see the urgency of it pretty strong." (Ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Mansfield, December 18, 1967, 8:55 a.m., Tape F67.15, Side A, PNO 3)

In telegram 14445 from Saigon, December 27, Bunker reported on a discussion that he and Thieu later had regarding Thieu's meeting with Johnson: "He noted that President Johnson had been interested particularly in plans for land reform, raising of taxes, progress in pacification, and the development of the joint U.S./Japanese educational TV project. Thieu said he described his plans on land reform to the President. These include a comprehensive land reform plan on which the GVN has been working, which Thieu expects to discuss in detail this week with the Minister of Agriculture, and which they hope will form the basis for substantial progress in the field. Thieu said he had also explained to the President the political factors bearing on the timing of any increase in taxes, noting particularly the inadvisability of such a move before the Tet holidays, especially with the normal upward pressure on prices generally during this period. . . . Thieu also said he had assured the President that the GVN was making every effort to move ahead on the new pacification plan and that he anticipated more rapid progress in the months ahead." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL US-VIET S)

After their discussion in Australia, Johnson and Thieu issued a joint communiqué calling for national reconciliation and the right of self-determination in Vietnam and assuring a willingness on the part of the South Vietnamese Government to talk to individual members of the NLF (although the organization as a whole would never be recognized nor dealt with on an official level). Also in the communiqué, the leaders expressed regret that the North Vietnamese had refused to follow up on any of the peace overtures made to them and Ňagreed that in these circumstances there was no alternative to continuing appropriate military actions." For the full text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 1046-1047.

Immediately following the memorial for Holt on December 22, the President flew to Khorat air base in Thailand. There, in the early hours of the next morning, he decorated several combat pilots and praised American steadfastness in pursuing the "just" cause in Vietnam. He then flew to Cam Ranh Bay in South Vietnam on a visit that Ambassador Bunker believed would "give great boost to morale of all here." (Telegram CAS 402 from Bunker to Walt Rostow, December 19; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 84, Files of Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, Book 4-Vietnam Telegram Chrono.) The President reviewed troops along with Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker and General William Westmoreland and presented medals and ribbons to numerous soldiers and commanders. In his informal remarks to the assembled servicemen, he promised, "We're not going to yield and we're not going to shimmy" while adding that the enemy had met its master and the American people were firmly behind the war effort. For the full text of the remarks of the President to the troops, see Department of State Bulletin, January 15, 1968, pages 73-76.

Johnson left Vietnam by 10:30 a.m. en route for Rome and a meeting with Pope Paul VI. Arriving in Rome by way of Pakistan on December 23, the President met with the Pope at the Vatican later that evening. At the meeting Johnson noted his opposition to a unilateral pause, although he was prepared to halt bombing if he could obtain acceptable guarantees from North Vietnam. He also discussed the plight of U.S. prisoners of war held by the enemy. In turn, the Pope personally requested an extension of the New Year's truce. For an account of the meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume XII, Document 310. The meeting was also reported to Bunker by Rostow in telegram CAP 671171, December 27. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Walt Rostow, Memos to the President, Vol. 55 [2 of 2]) For the President's public statement relating to his meeting with the Pope, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 1048-1049. For text of the aide-mémoire that the President gave the Pope after their meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volume XII, Document 309. The Pope issued a public statement calling for a true commitment to peace. See The New York Times, December 24, 1967. On December 24 the President recorded a Christmas message to the public which detailed his trip to Asia and the Vatican. For its text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book II, pages 1190-1191.

 

443. Editorial Note

Direct warnings of an upcoming major offensive by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were transmitted in messages sent by General William Westmoreland, Commander of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, to General Earle Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In telegram MAC 11956, December 19, 1967, Westmoreland argued that the enemy would attack along the border areas "so that he can launch major attacks against SVN to gain a psychological and political victory, while at the same time retaining the best hope of disengaging when defeated." In a message dispatched the next day, Westmoreland made the case that the concentration and effectiveness of his troops near the borders had compelled the leadership in Hanoi "to undertake an intensified country-wide effort, perhaps a maximum effort, over a relatively short period." He also noted that enemy forces in other areas of the country had been weakened and he did not propose any counter-measures against them since it was likely that any attack in the lowlands would be of a diversionary nature. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Material re Vietnam and Pueblo, Jan-Feb 1968) For an assessment of these messages, see James J. Wirtz, The Tet Offensive: Intelligence Failure in War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), pages 186-190.

As a result, Westmoreland's strategy was to concentrate on defending the outposts in the area around Khe Sanh in Quang Tri Province. He had correctly assessed North Vietnamese and Viet Cong strategy for a "General Uprising" but was unaware that the enemy planned to use its forces to attack Khe Sanh and to liberate Hue and Danang after breaking through U.S. lines. By confronting the North Vietnamese regular forces at Khe Sanh, Westmoreland would prevent them from becoming the second wave of the Tet Offensive. See Ronnie E. Ford, Tet 1968: Understanding the Surprise (London: Frank Cass, 1995), pages 192-193. For additional discussion of Westmoreland's prediction, see Samuel Zaffiri, Westmoreland: A Biography of General William C. Westmoreland (New York: William Morrow, 1994), and William C. Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1976).

 

444. Memorandum From the President's Special Consultant (Taylor) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, December 26, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8I, Taylor Memos (2 of 2). Secret. In an attached covering note to Rostow, December 26, Taylor wrote: "Walt, I would appreciate an opportunity to discuss this with you."

SUBJECT
A Coalition Proposal from the Viet Cong

There are many signs indicating that during the coming months we may have to consider seriously the proposition of a political settlement in Viet-Nam based on some kind of coalition government. It is not clear what form such a proposal may take but the New York Times editorial of December 24/2/ is an example of what it might be. While we are informally on the record as opposing a coalition government, I think that we should be considering what variations of this theme we may encounter and how best to respond to an overture under conditions when there is sure to be a great clamor for a quick, affirmative reply and impatience over any delay to look for booby traps.

/2/The editorial asserted that military victory was unachievable and that a settlement involving a temporary coalition government would be in line with U.S. war aims. See The New York Times, December 24, 1967.

Since a coalition government is only one way to provide a political role for the Viet Cong in postwar South Viet-Nam, it should be considered along side other alternatives which are within the bounds of feasibility. Starting with the coalition concept in its most unattractive form, there are at least four formulas which need to be taken into account.

a. Abolish the new constitution and the recently elected government in South Viet-Nam. Choose up sides again under some agreed formula, probably under some sort of international supervision, assigning certain government positions to the Viet Cong, the others to non-Communists (probably excluding Thieu, Ky and their principal associates). General elections to be held later under ground rules established by the coalition government. Just what is happening to the war in this period is not clear. The Times editorial indicates that the coalition government would restore peace prior to the elections.

b. As a result of negotiations and following a cease-fire, hold a new general election under international supervision. NLF to participate as a party in the election and to join the ensuing coalition government as a bloc in numbers based on the outcome of the election.

c. Reject the concept of a coalition government on the ground that it is the historic Communist ploy to bring government to a standstill and to prepare an eventual Communist takeover. Counter with the offer of a special general election held one year after the termination of hostilities during which time repentant Viet Cong receive amnesty and economic assistance in establishing themselves in South Vietnamese society. These rehabilitated Viet Cong to be permitted to participate as a party in the election if they desire. Whatever they can win by the ballot will be theirs.

d. Same as c but with any Communist party barred from the election. Amnestied Viet Cong to be permitted to participate as individuals but not as a political party.

Any initial Communist offer will probably be something like a. They may regard b as a possible fall-back position to be taken only under extreme duress.

From the U.S. point of view, either a or b should be viewed as a sell-out and a strong case prepared for public use setting forth the reasons why both are unacceptable. Alternative c looks to me like the preferred solution from our point of view and one susceptible of a strong public defense. However, it is not likely to receive ready acceptance by the South Vietnamese who are afraid to take on the cohesive and disciplined Viet Cong in a political campaign because of their sense of weakness in their own ranks arising from internal divisions.

Thus, the South Vietnamese will not want to go beyond alternative d and it will take some doing on the part of our representatives in Saigon to soften their position. But I believe that it is essential to do so if we are to be able to defend our case before U.S. and international opinion. It simply will not do for our Vietnamese allies to stymie a reasonable political settlement on the ground that they are afraid to contest a Communist minority party of less than 20 percent in a free election.

I am submitting this memorandum from a feeling of concern that, as a government, we have not made up our minds as to how to respond to a Communist overture directed at a coalition government and have not concerted adequately with our Vietnamese allies. (I am not aware of what may have taken place during your recent trip which bears on this matter.) We need to know what political formula we would prefer (or at least would accept), prepare public opinion for the rejection of such alternatives as a and b, and get a concurrence from Saigon to a proposition which we could jointly espouse.

If such work is going on at the present time, I have no knowledge of it. I am always afraid of a tendency to delay our preparations until we have the Communist proposition on the table in front of us. Then we are committed to a defensive response which abandons all the advantages inherent in the initiative.

M. D. T.

 

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

Saigon, December 28, 1967, 0945Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 5:52 a.m.

14540. Ref: State 90178./2/

/2/In telegram 90178 to Saigon, December 28, the Department advised the Embassy of the Pope's request for a New Year's truce extension. The GVN accepted the extension. The truce then would run from 6 p.m. on December 31 to 6 a.m. on January 2, 1968 (Saigon time). In order to prevent the enemy from "taking advantage" of the cease-fire, the extension would not be announced until after it had commenced. (Ibid.)

1. I discussed reftel with General Abrams, who is acting in General Westmoreland's absence, and he said that he saw no serious military problems that would be raised by an extension of 12 hours on the New Year's truce, i.e., until 0600 hours January 2 Saigon time. Both General Abrams and I believe it would not be desirable, either militarily or politically, to seek an extension beyond this hour as suggested in para 4 reftel./3/

/3/This paragraph reads: "Would your problems be materially increased if the truce period were extended by an additional 6 to 12 hours beyond 0600 January 2 Saigon time to permit expiration of January 1 day of prayer throughout the U.S. prior to resumption of hostilities."

2. Subsequent to my talk with Abrams, I took the matter up urgently with President Thieu. He saw no major problems with the proposal and said that he would instruct the Acting Foreign Minister to check with the other troop-contributing countries. Since there is a Cabinet meeting today chaired by President Thieu which will run into the evening hours here, it is doubtful that Acting Foreign Minister Lam can initiate this check before December 29.

3. As to the manner of handling such an extension, the language of the GVN announcement issued before the Christmas truce (Saigon 13232 and 12975)/4/ would make it difficult for the GVN to wait until the truce comes into effect before announcing the extension. As Department will recall, announcement provided that any extension of the truce would be a matter for agreement between GVN and NVN representatives. GVN will therefore wish to make any announcement of an extended truce prior to the time it comes into effect. Thieu thought there were two possible ways of handling it. The easier way would be if the Pope could request the GVN directly to extend the truce for this period, which would allow the GVN to act without any difficulty. If this were not feasible, a second way to handle it would be simply to say that the extension was decided on in order to give the forces a further respite. Thieu commented that this would be customary, noting that at Tet, for instance, any truce shorter than 48 hours would be meaningless.

/4/For telegram 13232 from Saigon, December 13, see footnote 3, Document 436. Telegram 12975, December 8, is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET.

4. Department will be able to judge whether it is feasible to have the Pope send such a message urgently to President Thieu. If not, I suggest that we use the general line recommended by Thieu and refuse to elaborate on it further. We are already receiving queries about when the announcement of the New Year's truce will be made. We will for the present merely say that we have no information, noting that the eventual announcement will be made by the GVN.

Bunker

 

446. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Deparment of State/1/

Saigon, December 28, 1967, 1200Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 10:32 a.m. This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 269-276.

14556. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my thirty-second weekly message:

A. General

1. The twenty-four hour Christmas stand-down brought momentary respite to this beleaguered country and, in major urban centers at least, there was a genuine holiday atmosphere despite the immediate prospect of renewed hostilities. Your visit to Cam Ranh on December 23rd was an encouragement to all of us; that you should have added many thousands of miles to your journey to come here and to speak generous words of appreciation and support has been an inspiration to all of us who are engaged in this great task on the soil of Viet-Nam. And your working session with President Thieu and other free world leaders in Canberra served to reassure the Vietnamese of our commitment here./2/ Public expressions of concern that we may be unilaterally changing our posture vis-à-vis the NLF have measurably diminished.

/2/See Document 442.

2. While your December 19 interview with three major television networks/3/ at first was interpreted in some local political circles as an indication of differences between ourselves and the GVN on the subject of NLF recognition, when President Thieu returned to Saigon on December 24, he reassured the press that there were no differences of view between us and the Vietnamese on this subject; Thieu emphasized that while the GVN would not recognize the NLF as an organization he reiterated his willingness to "listen" to anyone who wants to come in from the other side. Thieu added that the policy of Viet-Nam and its allies remains the same as elaborated in the 1966 Manila communiqué.

/3/See footnote 5, Document 441.

3. In my talk with President Thieu day before yesterday he expressed his pleasure at the opportunity to talk with you in Canberra and said that from his viewpoint he thought that the meetings had been very worthwhile. Having in mind the growing impression that the new GVN was not giving much public indication of progress, I stressed to him the need for action and leadership; that I sensed an air of expectancy among the people who were waiting and hoping that the new government would move ahead. I suggested to him that it might be timely for him to make some kind of public statement of government actions and intentions, follow up on his fine inaugural address and Prime Minister Loc's summary of government plans and programs. I was happy to have him say that he was already working on a major address which he planned to make to a joint session of both houses when he would present the budget for the coming year. In it he would deal with the principal problems facing the nation and the government's planned actions to meet them. Thieu mentioned that you had expressed particular interest in the GVN's plans for land reform, raising of taxes, progress in pacification, and the development of the joint US/Japanese educational TV project. Thieu said that as he had told me previously the Minister of Agriculture was working on a comprehensive land reform program and that he expected to bring this up for consideration at the Council of Ministers' meeting at which he will preside today. He repeated again that he was aware of the need to increase taxes but noted the inadvisability of such a move before the Tet holidays in view of the upward pressure on prices generally during this period. He expressed confidence that the pacification program could be materially accelerated during the coming year.

4. As I mentioned in my last message/4/ I think that more progress is being made than appears on the surface in preparatory work in putting action programs in definitive form. But it is time to get these moving and on the road and let the people know that the government is prepared to act. Hopefully if Thieu keeps to his plan to address the joint session of the Assembly in the first week in January it will be the cue for moving ahead.

/4/Document 436.

5. The Christmas stand-down lasted from 6 pm local time December 24 to 6 pm December 25. Seven free world combatants were killed and 45 wounded as a result of enemy action during the truce period. Of these casualties, 26 were U.S. (2 killed and 24 wounded). Enemy casualties were 33 killed.

6. It is difficult to make meaningful comparisons of this stand-down with previous ones on the basis of statistics, although there were more incidents and deaths this year in 24 hours than there were last year in 48 hours. As before, many incidents have been reported during the stand-down that might not have been reported during active hostilities. And a large percentage of incidents were reactions to patrol and reconnaissance activities on our part. There was no major military action during the 24 hour period nor were there any terrorist actions in Saigon. There were, however, a number of evidences of bad faith on the part of the enemy. The most flagrant of these were a mortar attack on the province capital of Bac Lieu and an attack on a CIDG camp in Phu Yen Province.

[Here follows discussion of military pursuit into Cambodia, Romney's visit, and priority measures for the GVN.]

D. Pacification

20. Attack on infrastructure. The Prime Minister has finally signed the order setting up the GVN anti-infrastructure organization along the lines I mentioned three weeks ago./5/ This is a long awaited breakthrough and we can now move into the operational phase of this top priority program. Bob Komer has long made this a personal project and deserves full credit./6/

/5/In telegram 12892 from Saigon, December 7, Bunker reported a "minor breakthrough" when on December 5 the GVN unveiled plans for a joint intelligence system to carry out the anti-VCI campaign. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S) Officially established on December 20, the program was termed Phuong Huong, which translated as "Phoenix." Phuong Huong was based on the U.S. counterpart program termed ICEX, which brought together CIA, MACV, and AID efforts against the VC. ICEX was developed during 1967 in order to selectively target full-time VC cadres rather than round up entire suspected hamlet populations as the army was doing in the so-called "county fair" operations. A "counterpart relationship" with the GVN had been viewed as the best means of accelerating the program. Phuong Huong consolidated the anti-VC operations of the NP, the Police Special Branch, MSS, RF/PF, Chieu Hoi, PRUs, RD teams, Census Grievance Cadre, Self-Defense Forces, and the ARVN. (Memorandum from Leonhart to Rostow, November 8; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, I C (2))

/6/In a conversation with Bunker and Komer, Thieu mentioned that pacification would be run at the division instead of at the corps level and outlined plans for increasing ARVN responsibility for pacification, especially in III and IV CTZ. (Memorandum for the Record by Komer, December 30; Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, Komer GVN Liaison File: 1967) Komer also went to great efforts to ensure that Thieu would retain Thang despite the latter's open criticism of the corruption and inefficiency of the newly-elected regime. (Telegram CAS 359 from Saigon, December 17; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, IE(1) Post Inaugural Political Activity) Thang eventually made good on his long-standing threat to resign from the RD Ministry in January 1968.

[Here follows discussion of pacification planning, refugees, anti-corruption measures, planning for 1968, peace moves, and political and economic matters.]

Bunker

 

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

Washington, December 28, 1967, 2115Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Habib; cleared by Bundy, Walt Rostow, Read, Nitze, and Katzenbach; and approved by Rusk.

90441. Ref: Saigon 14540./2/

/2/Document 445.

1. Please take steps from your end by your secure communication with Clark Field to make sure that General Westmoreland concurs in extension of standdown until 0600 January 2 Saigon time. When such concurrence obtained, please flash us, and then take following actions to effect such extension.

2. Do not believe it desirable seek special message from Pope. Suggest you follow alternative approach to GVN announcement but with reference to Pope's December 15 public appeal that New Year's Day be a "Day of Peace throughout the world." Extension by 12 hours then could be related to GVN desire to respond to His Holiness' plea, rather than referring to "respite" for troops which seems less forthcoming and convincing.

3. If it is not possible to work out foregoing formula, you should proceed as you deem desirable in arranging for announcement by GVN of 12 hour extension. Please inform us when date and form of announcement are decided.

4. Above drafted before receipt your 14564./3/ We still prefer no direct approach to Pope. Hope you can persuade Thieu to hold off on seeking personal request from Pope. You could plausibly state that request from Pope might involve longer period than we believe prudent.

/3/In telegram 14564 from Saigon, December 28, Bunker reported that Thieu had instead chosen to wait for the Pope to request directly that the GVN extend the truce rather than to unilaterally declare such an extension. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET)

Rusk

 

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

Saigon, December 29, 1967, 1200Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Flash; Nodis. Received at 2:55 a.m.

14610. Ref: State 90441./2/

/2/Document 447.

1. I have met with President Thieu (who was on a field trip with General Abrams this morning) and he has agreed to the approach suggested in paragraph 2 of reftel. He will not get in touch directly with the Pope and agrees to announce the extension based on the Pope's public appeal, provided the other troop contributing countries agree. This information has been conveyed to Acting Foreign Minister Lam who will immediately call in representatives of the other five nations and request their early concurrence in a 12 hour extension. Anticipate announcement can not be made before Saturday, December 30, and possibly morning December 31, depending on speed with which other governments respond.

2. Have also communicated by Flash message with General Westmoreland who has concurred with 12 hour extension. Westmoreland would prefer truce from 1200 December 31 to 2400 January 1, which he considers would come within the January 1 "Day of Peace" concept, but give the enemy less advantage since he would have fewer hours of darkness for movement. Although consultation with other powers is proceeding on basis extension to 0600 January 2, we will see if we can work out the hours desired by General Westmoreland with the GVN, if the Department so desires. Westmoreland recognizes that the matter may have progressed too far to make this modification but recommends that it be considered./3/

/3/The truce was not modified, remaining confined to the original period of 6 p.m. December 31 through 6 a.m. January 1. A dramatic increase in fighting occurred in the aftermath of the cease-fire; the NVA and VC suffered their highest recorded weekly death toll of 2,968 killed in the period from December 30 through January 6.

Bunker

 

449. Telegram From the CIA Station in Saigon to the President's Special Assistant (Rostow), Secretary of State Rusk, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and Director of Central Intelligence Helms/1/

Saigon, December 29, 1967, 2052Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP. Secret; Nodis; Buttercup; Exclusive; Via CAS Channels. Received at 4:45 p.m.

CAS 6462. 1. Review Buttercup files indicates need for expansion our report re briefing, preparation and first launch of Buttercup-2 and Sau Ha on 17/18 December.

2. During final briefing of B-2 evening 17 December he informed that this mission would probably be more risky than his last since there had been general step up military activity in area within triangular points of Ben Suc on east, Cu Chi on west and Dau Tien on north. With this in mind [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] proposed that: A) though B-2 and not Sau Ha was the emissary between us and B-1, might be prudent have Sau Ha sit in on final discussion and briefing re our response and related matters; B) Sau Ha also carry copy (Vietnamese and English language versions) of our written response to

B-1 which had been photocopied, miniaturized and concealed in back cover of Vietnamese notebook small enough to be carried in shirt pocket. B-2 readily agreed, noting that on his first trip into zone he came close to getting zapped by allied artillery fire called in by spotter plane; in addition B-2 felt that given the established relationship of trust between B-1 and Sau Ha, Sau Ha's impressions, opinions, experiences and reporting would go long way towards removing any doubt in B-1's mind re objectivity and reliability of B-2 in role of intermediary.

3. Thusly both Sau Ha and B-2 carry our written response plus verbal commentary/discussion to other side. In addition being able confirm each other's statements especially re Madame B-1, one or the other, if not both, should get through with our message.

4. New subjects: A. Since departure B-2 and Sau Ha from Saigon on 18 December we have moved Madame B-1 into new safe house where she has [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] female staffer (linguist) as companion; in addition two other [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] linguists and/or [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] meet with her almost every day for general discussions which leads into elicitation session on her, her husband and family, background and their role with the Viet Cong, etc. These conversations have reaped interesting insight into her and her husband's thinking, motivation, personal problems, plans etc. B. Though unlikely it possible that we may have to move Madame B-1 along either through "disputed" area SVN or onto Cambodian soil to get her back to her side. With this in mind have locally fabricated SVN identity card plus Cambodian alien registration document either of which we will issue to her just prior to her launch. She insists that she knows no route into MR-4 and would be equally helpless in getting through to COSVN; however she did live in Phnom Penh and says she retains some Khmer language facility. C. Madame B-1 well understands that she has no "role" nor "mission" and that she is being simply released as was her old friend Sau Ha. However, whenever we find her in a receptive frame of mind we have discussed with her possible advantages of face to face secret talks between her husand and/or other responsible Viet Cong officials and a representative of U.S. Government. We have suggested that if she wishes to do so she could mention this to B-1 when she rejoins him and add that in our view these unofficial meetings could be held in a third (unspecified) country or even in SVN at a place where the U.S. could guarantee the safety and security of the Viet Cong reps; in this context she has been informed that the Dau Tien/Ben Cui region looks close to the ideal since it is militarily quiet, VC abound in the proximity and there are no ARVN elements or GVN check points for the Viet Cong reps to concern themselves about. She has promised to relay this personally to her husband and has the personal hunch that he just might be interested when he hears of the sincerity and reliability of our side as demonstrated to her and Sau Ha.

 

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

Washington, December 29, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 55 (1 of 2). Secret.

SUBJECT
Prisoners of War in Vietnam

Herewith a State memorandum on the prisoners of war situation and what we have been doing about it./2/ In summary, here is what we have done:

/2/Not printed. A number of "displays" of U.S. "war criminals" were arranged and statements about potentially convening war crimes trials were made by the North Vietnamese during June and July 1966. The official assertions that such trials would take place ended after the President's news conference of July 20, 1966, when he implied that strong action would take place in the carefully worded statement: "I think that the people of this country and the peaceful people of the world would find this action very revolting and repulsive, and would react accordingly." See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, Book II, p. 745.

1. Persuaded the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) repeatedly to

--call Hanoi's attention to its obligations under the Geneva Convention;
--request lists of prisoners;
--request improved mail facilities;
--request right to visit prisoners.

2. Persuaded the UAR to offer itself as the Protecting Power for our prisoners in Vietnam. Hanoi refused.

3. Persuaded the ICRC to offer itself as substitute Protecting Power. Hanoi refused.

4. Generated storm of official, press and public protests when Hanoi announced its intention to try American pilots as war criminals. Ho Chi Minh publicly set the trials aside and stated that the prisoners would be humanely treated./3/

/3/Not found.

5. We have also generated a good deal of pressure protesting the Hanoi practice in late 1966 and early 1967 of pressuring our prisoners to make public statements criticizing our actions and sympathizing with the North Vietnamese. As a result, these statements have stopped and Hanoi has permitted selected prisoners to be interviewed by journalists and other travelers.

6. We continue to press for better mail facilities (80 letters a week going forward through the ICRC with no indication that they are being delivered to the prisoners--and Christmas packages from the American Red Cross, all of which were returned).

7. We have put great effort into ensuring that the GVN treatment of prisoners meets all the requirements, thus focussing world humanitarian concern for the welfare of prisoners on Hanoi and the VC.

8. We continue to keep the record clear that we are interested in a prisoner exchange (the Manila Communiqué, the White House statement of July 17,/4/ and the actual release of North Vietnamese prisoners last February)./5/ We are now attempting to arrange a further release of some sick and wounded prisoners in GVN hands.

/4/The statement called on the NLF and the DRV to treat American prisoners humanely and invited prisoner exchanges. See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book II, p. 702.

/5/Two North Vietnamese sailors were released from a group captured during a July 31, 1966, naval attack and subsequently held at Danang.

9. We responded to the few prisoners released by the VC (nine in two years) by getting the GVN to make reciprocal releases.

10. We are also encouraging U.S. commanders in Vietnam to try to arrange battlefield exchanges, but so far without success.

11. Finally, the Pope's assistance has been enlisted through your appeal to him last week./6/

/6/See Document 442.

W. W. Rostow/7/

/7/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

 

451. Editorial Note

On December 29, 1967, North Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh issued a statement that seemed to refine earlier official remarks and that categorically affirmed the single condition under which his government would enter into discussions on peace in Vietnam. The key paragraph of Trinh's statement reads:

"The U.S. Government constantly leads public opinion to believe that it wants to talk to Hanoi but receives no reply. If the U.S. Government really wants to talk, then, as clearly stated in our 28 January 1967 declaration, the U.S. must first of all unconditionally end the bombing and all other acts of war against the DRV. After the U.S. unconditionally ends the bombing and all other acts of war against the DRV, the DRV will talk to the U.S. about the problems concerned."

The statement was made during a reception for a visiting official delegation from Mongolia to North Vietnam but was not released publicly until broadcast on Radio Hanoi on January 1, 1968. For full text of the statement, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 1055-1057.

The operative term used in Trinh's statement was that talks "will" follow a halt rather than "could" occur, as mentioned in previous proclamations. The statement, however, was not a radical departure from Hanoi's past intransigence. In a news conference of January 4, 1968, Secretary of State Rusk admitted that the "use of the word 'will' instead of 'could' or 'would' seems to be a new formulation of that particular point, but that leaves a great many questions still open." He noted that the sincerity of the Hanoi regime was suspected in light of the fact that the North Vietnamese ordered an offensive for the winter season and already violated the holiday truces. See Department of State Bulletin, January 22, 1968, pages 116-124. President Nguyen Van Thieu stated that he "saw no real change" in the North Vietnamese Foreign Minister's formulation for peace. (Telegram 14927 from Saigon, January 3, 1968; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL US-VIET S) The Consulate in Hong Kong, the primary post for "China-watching" by the U.S. Government, described the Trinh statement as "a flat contradiction" of Peking's position on Vietnam and thus a reflection of the policy differences between the North Vietnamese and the Chinese. (Telegram 3774 from Hong Kong, January 3, 1968; ibid., POL 27 VIET S)

 

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

Saigon, December 31, 1967, 0949Z.

/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. Received at 6:24 a.m. In telegram CAP 671267, December 31, Rostow reported to the President: "Buttercup/2 is back in Saigon having delivered Sau Ha and our message. He returns North on January 5 for meeting with higher official. Other side requests dispatch of Buttercup/1's wife to Phnom Penh. They are surprised and pleased that we overcame difficulties in responding to their initiative. Channel is, therefore, still open." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Buttercup Vol. I (A)) Tong and Mai Thi Vang were released on January 5 and successfully made their way into VC-held territory. Tong returned to Saigon on January 20, having been instructed by Dang and his secretary to do so in order to be in contact with the Americans should COSVN decide upon an exchange of prisoners. The text of Tong's written report given to the CIA Station is in telegram CAS 7321 from Saigon, January 23; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP.

CAS 747. Ref: Saigon 716./2/ Following additional information obtained from debriefing of Buttercup/2:

/2/In telegram CAS 716 from Saigon, December 30, Bunker related the difficulties that Sau Ha and Tong faced traveling back to COSVN in Cambodia and that Tong faced in returning to Saigon. (Ibid.)

A. Although Sau Ha was warmly received and greeted by Anh Ba and Tan Duc,/3/ he was scorned by both for his lack of discretion and carelessness which resulted in his arrest (August) by the police. When B/2 was asked what disciplinary or punitive action Sau Ha could expect from the Front, B/2 stated that Sau Ha would most likely be purged from the party, either permanently or temporarily, and that Sau Ha would not be entrusted with any significant tasks or classified information in the future. Anh Ba related to B/2 a previous comment by B/1 that Sau Ha will be "writing newspaper articles."

/3/Dang's secretary and Director of National Liberation Front Radio, respectively.

B. B/2 and Sau Ha were both strongly rebuked for the manner in which they sought re-entry to the Dau Tieng U.S. military installation on 19 December (their reference to being on a POW exchange mission) when attempting to recontact CAS Saigon. They were told that both the American and Front sides were making serious effort to keep this operation as secret as possible and that they would have been much wiser to have stated simply that they were "CIA agents from Saigon".

C. B/2 was similarly rebuked for giving information about the Buttercup operation to a police lieutenant (Bach) when the latter approached B/2 in a coffee stand in Saigon in late November. (Comment: This lieutenant was B/2's chief inquisitor during B/2's incarceration.) B/2 was again reminded that both the Front and Americans were trying to maintain secrecy and that too many GVN personnel already knew too much.

D. Anh Ba and Tan Duc told B/2 that they desired to have Madame B/1 moved from Saigon as soon as possible. Admittedly this was without the concurrence of B/1. They then asked B/2 to return to Saigon and "further impose" on the American side for another act of "good will" that of delivering Madame B/1 to Phnom Penh. They told B/2 that, although such delivery would be very helpful and much appreciated, this is a request only, i.e., if it is not possible for the American side to fulfill this request, B/2 should proceed alone to the arranged rendezvous at Dong Lon on 5 January and the details for the delivery of Madame B/1 to the zone can be worked out later between B/1 and B/2. Nonetheless, they expressed a strong desire that Madame B/1 be delivered to Phnom Penh and said this would be greatly appreciated by the Front.

E. During the course of the oral report to Anh Ba and Tan Duc on the night of 24 December, Sau Ha mentioned that Madame B/1 was confined to a "cachot" approximately up to the date of her release from prison. B/2 was told that B/1 will surely become very irritated to hear this in light of his request for better treatment of prisoners made two months ago. B/2 was directed by Anh Ba to tell the Americans that they recognized the difficulties of coordination between the Americans and the GVN to obtain better treatment for the POW's. Anh Ba further instructed B/1 to recommend in strong terms to the Americans that they continue to try to influence the GVN to give better treatment, including medical care, to VC prisoners, especially for those whom B/1 named in his message. Anh Ba stated that this point is very important; he cited Madame B/1's poor physical condition and inability to travel at the time of her release as an illustration of the need for improved treatment. This would eliminate the problem of being faced with "a Madame B/1 situation" each time a prisoner is released.

F. B/2 was asked if, during the course of their conversations with Anh Ba and Tan Duc, either had stated or implied that the release of Madame B/1 would cause embarrassment for B/1. B/2 replied that although no such statements were made by either per se, Anh Ba commented that though B/1 was concerned about Madame B/1's release, he was much more concerned about the release of more senior-level and more deserving cadre, such as Madame Le Thi Rieng and Chin K.

G. B/2 reported that his return trip to Saigon was slightly delayed on the afternoon of 29 December by a mining incident which overturned a bus and killed a number of people on National Highway One slightly north of Phuoc Hiep. B/2 said that traffic was backed up on both sides of the mining incident, and he alighted from the car shuttle and walked around the congestion to pick up a three-wheeled Lambretta and proceeded to Saigon.

H. B/2 reported that when he returned home evening 29th December he learned from his wife that she and their house had been under close and constant surveillance throughout period of B/2's absence. This had become some sort of a "joke" in the neighborhood as the local kids were pointing at policeman disguised as ice cream salesman etc. and telling everyone within earshot that the ice cream man was actually a cop. B/2 reported that morning of 30th December, en route from his home to place telephone call to his [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that he was clearly under surveillance; however neither B/2 (nor [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]) noted any surveillance at vehicular pickup site an hour after B/2 had made his call. B/2 again pointed out that he does not mind being surveilled as much as he is concerned that his neighbors will put two and two together and come up with approximate story relating to his operational role in Buttercup operation and his relationship with the "infamous" Sau Ha.

 


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