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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 VII
Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 44-62

October 2-15, 1968: The Breakthrough in Paris

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

Saigon, October 2, 1968, 1200Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 9:25 a.m. Repeated to Paris for the Vietnam Mission. This telegram is printed in full in Pike (ed.), The Bunker Papers, Vol. 2, pp. 588-593.

39276. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my sixty-ninth weekly message.

A. General

1. For some weeks we have been developing our concept of a "counter-offensive," with emphasis on pacification, moving from the improved allied military position and the growing political strength of the GVN to more extensive and more secure control of the countryside./2/ At our October 1 joint meeting with President Thieu and his principal advisors on military and pacification matters, it was most encouraging to have confirmation that they have been working along generally similar lines toward these objectives./3/

/2/Komer outlined the principles of the pacification "counter-offensive" in a September 22 memorandum to Abrams. He noted: "the idea of an all-out counter-offensive is a natural. We are apparently largely pre-empting Hanoi's 'third-phase' offensive, which lays the enemy open for a counter-stroke. Moreover the political need for increased momentum makes it imperative that we seize the opportunity. We may have until a new administration takes over next January to prove that this war is no longer stalemated. If we can, we may have bought the time to achieve a favorable settlement. If we don't, we may be up the creek without a paddle. If we start at the top (the only way to get things started quickly in this country), it will be easy to sell Thieu and Huong on a general counter-offensive. They will surely go so far as to say the right words. But this solves less than half the problem! Unless we also sign them on to a quite systematic plan and program with time-phased goals and deadlines, we will end up like the VC/NVA--long on words but short on performance." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Komer Files: Lot 69 D 303, Vietnam/Turkey)

/3/Bunker transmitted detailed notes of this meeting in telegram 39342 from Saigon, October 3. (Ibid., Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S)

2. Thieu not only has the keenest interest in pacification but the most thorough knowledge of the problems involved of any of the GVN officials. He has demonstrated his personal leadership in the seminars he has held for top officials in each of the corps areas in the past few weeks, the final one to be held in II Corps today. He is determined to launch a broad pacification offensive that should move substantial numbers of hamlets from the "contested" to the "relatively secure" category. The extent of GVN homework on the new planning concepts was evident in our October 1 meeting.

3. The concept targets primarily the some 3800 contested hamlets where approximately 3 million people live rather than the VC held areas with the remaining 3 million of a total population of 17-1/2 million. As Thieu points out, adding these 3800 hamlets to the 5,000-odd already relatively secure would bring over 82 percent of South Viet Nam's population under reasonable GVN control. It would forestall any VC effort to partition the country or justify any claim to coalition government. It would involve a shift of regional forces, and the creation of new local defense forces in the areas to be secured plus a concerted attack of the VC infrastructure as an intensified Chieu Hoi program. The plan would also stress strengthening hamlet and village administration to compete with VC "Liberation Committees." We are all agreed here that the concept is basically sound. Thieu and his advisors have been thinking in terms of a year-long campaign to begin in December. At our suggestion, however, Thieu agreed to a two-phase approach, the first phase with a goal of 1,000 hamlets to start hopefully within one month and to be completed by Tet, in order to take advantage of the opportunities that now exist to expand the GVN's control in the countryside, for the enemy is clearly faltering in his efforts to keep the initiative.

4. Friendly forces continued to forestall the enemy's efforts at mounting offensive operations. In I Corps, the 3rd Marine Division continued to seize large caches of ammunition, weapons, food and supplies which had been prepositioned to sustain multi-regimental size attacks by the enemy against our position south of the DMZ. In III Corps a series of unglamorous operations northwest of Saigon in Hau Nghia Province discovered similar caches, and also uncovered dispensaries which had been set up to care for thousands of wounded, complete with generators, operating tables, and refrigeration equipment. In the same area our forces have destroyed over a thousand bunkers and over 2500 more have been identified. These are all indications of the magnitude of the enemy's preparation for large scale attacks. He was clearly preparing to support sustained offensive action against Saigon.

5. The level of fighting did not change greatly with enemy killed increasing slightly to 3,782 (47 percent by RVNAF, 48 percent by US) and friendly killed down slightly to 501 (67 percent RVNAF and 30 percent US). I have tried in my recent messages to highlight the growing number of examples of fine ARVN performance. I think nothing better illustrates the full ARVN participation in the successful blunting of Communist offensive action than these figures, especially when one recalls that the ARVN fights without the same firepower in their battalions, without the same lavish artillery and air support that our forces have. As General Abrams has put it, "They are in the fight and they are doing well. They are paying the price and they are exacting the toll." There are of course still weaknesses in ARVN to be overcome. But not only are these weaknesses being corrected, the ARVN in its present state has turned in a truly fine performance in recent weeks. As General Abrams has said, in some cases "heroic."

6. Enemy strategy continues unchanged. Although he made battalion-sized attacks only against Special Forces camps and RF/PF posts in I Corps and III Corps during the week, it is clear that he wanted and intended to do much more with the vast stores we have seized from him, but he was unable to bring it off. He was undoubtedly trying, without success, to clear the way to Saigon and other cities.

7. There is one view that sees the enemy bound to continue this same course, largely by his doctrinal approach which to a large degree determines his long-term goals and which tends also to shape his view of the situation. There are some striking parallels between the strategy pronounced in the COSVN 6th resolution, the principal current statement of strategy, and the pronouncements of Truong Chinh prior to the shift to the "general offensive" in 1954. The Communists apparently see us in the same position that the French were just before Geneva. The emphasis on loss of morale of US and GVN forces, on the adverse effects of the war on the US economy, its divisive effect in the United States, and the movement of world opinion against the United States all find parallels in the earlier documents relating to the French war against the Viet Minh.

8. Other doctrinal points which might incline the enemy towards continuing the offensive are the belief that the negotiations will only ratify what he must win on the battlefield; and the belief that the "balance of forces" shifts in his favor continually as the fighting goes on. His determination to bring about the "popular uprising" might lead to increasingly reckless--and costly--attacks spearheaded at the "puppet forces" in the belief that this will lead to the destruction of the GVN.

9. Great claims are made by Hanoi for the progress this strategy has brought about since Tet, while, as I have pointed out previously, his cadre who are doing the fighting on the ground are increasingly questioning whether the effort has been worth the cost. It is claimed that we have been forced to adopt a defensive posture, concerned only with the protection of major urban centers. At the same time fantastically exaggerated claims are made about the defeats which are allegedly being inflicted upon us. I suppose it is possible that someone in Hanoi may be persuaded by these claims.

10. However while support for this view abounds in the enemy's current strategic pronouncements, it may well exaggerate the rigidity of the enemy's strategic thinking. For example, while the COSVN resolution parallels Truong Chinh's language, it seems likely that Truong Chinh, who reportedly adheres more closely than some others to the classic Maoist line, probably feels that the attempt to move to the general offensive was made prematurely, and that it may be necessary to return to the second stage offensive and the concept of "protracted war." Further, there may well be those in the Hanoi hierarchy who believe that gains can be made at the negotiating table without further heavy battlefield sacrifices. In other words, I think it possible that the use of rhetoric traceable to Truong Chinh's 1954 writings and in some cases to Mao Tse-tung's work serves in part to conceal a considerable range of differences among the leaders in Hanoi, and I believe that it is quite possible that the advocates of continuing the present strategy may be under considerable pressure.

11. In my last message I reported on the likely return from exile of General Duong Van Minh. Thieu told me yesterday that he will return on Saturday, October 5. Thieu sent his Interior Minister to Bangkok to discuss "Big" Minh's future role which may be that of advisor to the President. Most knowledgeable Vietnamese consider Minh's return as a positive factor making for greater nationalist unity and I am inclined to agree, although working out a proper role for him will not be easy. The same beneficial results are not likely to be obtained, however, from the return of some of the other exiled Generals and I am planning to make some remarks along these lines to Thieu at the next appropriate occasion. I think he already shares these views./4/

/4/In telegram 37862 from Saigon, September 14, the Embassy noted while Minh could play a constructive role in the South Vietnamese political scene, he also could become a "liability" if he threw his support behind dissident Buddhist groups. The Embassy also noted that Minh's return to Vietnam was imminent: "President Thieu has told us that he is in touch with Big Minh and has asked a friend to explain the 'facts of life' to him. Presumably this means that Thieu is seeking some kind of understanding with Minh before agreeing to his return. While clearly worried by Minh's reputation for naivete, Thieu likes him personally and is well aware of the possible benefits of his return. If Big Minh supports the government in one way or another, he can contribute to popular backing for the Thieu regime in the critical days ahead. This is worth a gamble, and Thieu is clearly thinking about taking it." (Ibid., POL 30 VIET S) In telegram 246778 to Saigon, September 28, the Department assessed the risks associated with Minh's return as minimal: "We are inclined to view that, despite obvious risks, his return is not likely to be particularly disruptive and may actually add to nationalist unity and strength at this time." (Ibid.)

12. In our joint meeting yesterday I referred to the problem of land tenure as it applied to farmers who had been cultivating lands under Viet Cong control. In response to a question I had raised during Thieu's visit to Ba Tri in Kien Hoa Province, he had described a three point GVN policy: A) that landlords would not be permitted to collect back rents from such tenants; B) that farmers given land by the Viet Cong would not be expected to pay taxes for several years; C) that farmers given land by the Viet Cong would be allowed to keep the land they are farming and would be given titles to regularize possession of it. I pointed out that the third point differed from the provisions of the ordinances now in effect but that I thought that if carried out it would have far reaching consequences in gaining the allegiance and support of farmers who had been cultivating lands under Viet Cong control. Thieu reaffirmed his statement and said that the farmers would definitely be allowed to keep these lands and that a government committee was now working out the details. This I believe can prove to be a highly constructive development and a useful weapon in gaining the adherence of the peasant.

[Omitted here is discussion of political, military, and economic matters and the pacification effort.]

Bunker

 

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

Paris, October 2, 1968, 1410Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan/Plus. Repeated to USUN for Secretary Rusk.

21737/Delto 788. From Harriman and Vance.

1. Thuy and Lau joined us at the tea break which lasted 42 minutes. Tho was absent from today's meeting./2/

/2/The summary account of the 24th formal session was transmitted in telegram 21742/Delto 789 from Paris, October 2. (Ibid.)

2. After non-substantive conversation, we asked Thuy whether he had anything new to add to our conversations. He replied they had nothing new for their part but that they had just heard of statement by Vice President Humphrey./3/ Thuy said as they read the statement it demanded reciprocity.

/3/See Document 40.

3. We asked if they had a copy of the speech and offered to make one available to them. Thuy said they would like a copy. We said we had not talked to Humphrey about the speech and that Thuy could read the speech and judge it for himself.

4. We emphasized that until Jan. 20th, President Johnson is responsible for US foreign policy and what candidates say is not important during this period. What is important from the standpoint of the DRV is what they are prepared to do to make it possible for us to stop the bombing. We said it was a mystery to us why the DRV wanted to go on fighting.

5. Thuy replied President Johnson has all the power in his hands. Why doesn't he stop the bombing to settle the Viet-Nam problem?

6. We replied that the President has said that we would stop the bombing when we have reason to believe that the DRV is seriously interested in joining with us in de-escalating the war and is seriously seeking peace. We emphasized that we had told Thuy and his colleagues what we would do in and around the DMZ if the bombing were stopped and that we had heard what they had said and had concluded they knew what they would have to do on their part in and around the DMZ. We said we had also discussed with them the serious consequences which would happen if attacks were to take place against major cities. We said we had also discussed at length the fact that if there were to be serious talks after the cessation of bombing, represent-atives of the GVN would have to be included in such negotiations and the DRV could have whom they wanted on their side. We said this is a reasonable position.

7. Thuy asked for clarification of what we had said about DMZ. We said we had told them what we would do and we had heard what they had said and that we expected that they will know what to do in and around the DMZ if the bombing were stopped.

8. We said that they had repeatedly stated that they wanted serious talks, but their refusal to agree to the inclusion of representatives of the GVN in future negotiations has had an adverse effect on our belief that the DRV is ready for serious talks. That bothered us very much in our last meeting./4/

/4/See Document 32.

9. Thuy replied that as Tho, Lau and Thuy had said before, they came with a serious attitude and have wanted to have serious discussions, but it was a matter of principle. They could not accept reciprocity. Accordingly, they had said that the United States should stop the bombing and then we can discuss many questions. We could even discuss the question of participation first.

10. We asked whether they had anything new which they wanted to say as Vance was going back to the United States this afternoon. Thuy replied that they thought their position was clear. They are prepared to talk with us after the cessation of bombing and, regarding the problems we have raised, to discuss the question of participation right away. We said as we recalled it, they had said that they would be willing to discuss it the next day, and Thuy replied that was correct. Thuy said he was convinced there were questions on which we will come to immediate agreement and others where through discussion we may come to agreement. We asked if the first question on the agenda was one on which we could reach quick agreement. Thuy replied that it is possible that it will be quick if both sides take into account the views of the other.

11. We said that Vance's trip was routine but, if they had anything new, this was a good time for them to state it. Thuy said he would like Vance to tell the US side that the DRV wants peace, but that it wants a negotiated political settlement. Thuy said it is against the DRV's will to make war, but if it is obliged to make war, it is their duty to do so and they will be resolute in the struggle. Thuy added that they wanted to end the war and the sooner the better, but on the basis that both sides take into account the views of the other. He said that their view is that there should be no reciprocity concerning the cessation of bombing. We then ended the conversation./5/

/5/In a memorandum to the President, which Johnson saw, October 2, 10:15 a.m., Rostow reported: "The classified telephone to Paris was not very good today, but this is what we have on this morning's talk: during the tea break, Averell delivered, without the slightest ambiguity, our three points; the Hanoi delegation said it was interested in rapid progress after a total cessation of the bombing; they said that the question of GVN participation could be 'the first order of business'; no private meeting was set for Friday." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. VI, 8/68-9/68)

Harriman

 

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

Washington, October 2, 1968, 1:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Nixon, Richard--Vietnam. Secret; Sensitive. A notation on the memorandum by the President reads: "Walt--Call me about last paragraph. L."

Mr. President:

As you were talking to Richard Nixon the other evening/2/--and putting our three points on Vietnam to him--there seemed to me to be a certain ambiguity which required clarification. You recall he asked you if any one of the three conditions would satisfy us--or all three. Your answer was purposefully fuzzy. I don't think we've made up our minds exactly what the "fact of life'' formula you gave Harriman means operationally. And it is conceivable that some clarification is required in our conversations with the North Vietnamese in Paris.

/2/See Document 38.

In the argument that follows we would deal with all three conditions, but in different ways.

1. GVN Participation

It is absolutely essential that we have prior agreement that the serious talks that would follow a bombing cessation should include the GVN. I believe you now have unanimous agreement among your advisers that nothing could be more dangerous than for us to have a bombing cessation and then a prolonged wrangle with Hanoi as to whether the GVN could participate. For Hanoi to have a veto, under the circumstances of a bombing cessation, over GVN participation could produce a major political and military crisis in Saigon. Therefore, the participation issue must be nailed down before the event.

2. On the DMZ, in the Vance-Lau talk of July 16,/3/ Lau said the DRV "will know what to do" about shelling across the DMZ in the case of a bombing cessation. The point of Oslo was to go further on shelling and say they would not shell across the DMZ if we stopped bombing. This is obviously insufficient. But it is doubtful that we can negotiate a full detailed DMZ deal before a bombing cessation, at least at the present time. You have formulated your position--for example, to Harriman--in the form not of prior agreement but "facts of life." Specifically, Hanoi must be made to understand that the violation of the DMZ would meet an instant response. And we must mean that. For example, if they shelled across the DMZ, the post-bombing rules of engagement would have to require that we fire back instantly, at, say, three times the level of the incoming. And Abrams should have that right, before the event. If they began to mass major forces at the DMZ, we should be prepared to bomb them with B52's or anything else. If they tried to send across the DMZ--as they have been doing--substantial military units, we would have to return, in my judgment, to full-scale bombing of their supply routes through the panhandle.

/3/See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. VI, Document 299.

Therefore, on the DMZ, we might live with:

--a "fact of life" statement;

--a very clear definition of the DMZ behavior we would require to maintain a bombing cessation;

--rules of engagement agreed between Saigon and Washington in case of violation.

Personally, I have never ruled out some retaliatory bombing of the North during negotiations if they cheated; and I don't think they would blow serious talks, if they ever started.

3. With respect to attacks on the cities, Hanoi takes the view that this is a matter for the NLF. With 80% of the main forces North Vietnamese, this is clearly nonsense. But again, that is an item in which they should know, as a "fact of life," that substantial attacks on cities, especially Saigon, would meet with prompt response. And we would have to mean it to maintain our credibility in Moscow as well as Hanoi.

4. Therefore, you may wish to consider with Cy, for the next round in Paris, a formula in which we seek an absolutely firm assurance of GVN participation before the bombing stops plus "fact of life" statements by us on the DMZ and the cities, with all preparations made to back our play if they violate.

5. Although I am not enamoured of the device for a one-day bombing cessation, to give them a chance formally to agree to GVN participation on that day, that device might also be considered in your talks with Vance. (A clear paper will be coming to you on the two devices later in the day.)/4/

/4/Paper, by Bob Ginsburgh, attached, at Tab A. [Handwritten footnote in the source text by Rostow. In the attached October 2 memorandum to Rostow, Ginsburgh expressed reservations about the so-called Bundy plan of enacting a stand-down to gain DRV acceptance of GVN participation, including the necessity to resume bombing if the effort failed to bring in the GVN and the need to consult with allies beforehand. Ginsburgh expanded upon his assertions in a memorandum to Rostow of October 3. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. VI)]

Walt

 

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

Washington, October 2, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Re: Communications to Soviet Union on Vietnam, 10/2-4/68. Top Secret; Literally Eyes Only.

Mr. President:

1. Here is the critical passage to the Soviet Union:/2/

/2/Reference is to a memorandum that Rostow handed to Ambassador Dobrynin on September 16; see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XIV, Document 300.

"The President has noted with interest and respect the judgment of the Soviet leaders that they continue to believe that they have grounds for the view that a complete cessation of the bombardment of North Vietnam would create a turning point at the meetings in Paris and open possibilities for serious negotiations on political aspects of a settlement.

"The leaders of the Soviet Union should know that the President is prepared to try to solve the matter on a de facto basis. Setting all political arguments aside, the simple fact is that the President could not maintain a cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam unless it were very promptly evident to him, to the American people, and to our allies, that such an action was, indeed, a step toward peace. A cessation of bombing which would be followed by abuses of the DMZ, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attacks on cities or such populated areas as provincial capitals, or a refusal of the authorities in Hanoi to enter promptly into serious political discussions which included the elected government of the Republic of Vietnam, could simply not be sustained.

"If, after appropriate exploration and consideration by the leaders of the Soviet Union, they are prepared to advise the President to proceed on the basis of what is now being said, the President would take their advice with the utmost seriousness.

"The President believes that the leaders of the Soviet Union will understand the elementary requirements which any man in the President's position would face. The President respects the deep interest of the Soviet Union in its fellow socialist country, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. He believes that the Soviet leaders, in turn, understand the interests and responsibilities of the United States toward the Republic of Vietnam.

"The President would like to emphasize his readiness to stop the bombardment of North Vietnam just as soon as it can be done with integrity, as a move toward peace and not as a unilateral concession of military advantage to those who wish to continue the battle."

2. Here is the reply from the Soviet Union:/3/

/3/Gromyko gave Rusk the message on October 2; for the full text, see ibid., Document 308.

"There is agreement in Moscow that the achievement of progress towards a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam problem would be highly desirable.

"Our understanding of what is required to secure such progress has already been communicated to the President and we are forming the impression that our position in this regard has, in general, been correctly understood by the American side. However an exchange of views during the meeting on this topic as well could, we feel, prove useful."/4/

/4/In an October 4 memorandum to the President, Rostow wrote: "In re-reading the communication which Gromyko gave to Sec. Rusk on Wednesday night, it appears that they are suggesting a meeting which would be guaranteed before the event to be modestly fruitful with regard to strategic weapons talks. But they are saying that a Vietnamese formula probably cannot be established before the meeting and, therefore, the Vietnamese question should be discussed at the meeting." This memorandum is printed ibid., Document 309.

3. If you wish to get into it (I recommend against at this time), here is Sec. Rusk's account of Gromyko's two questions:

"He said he had two questions to put to me about Viet-Nam. The first was whether the presence of the South Vietnamese at the conference table was the sole obstacle to stopping the bombing. I told him that this was a most important issue and, in some respects, might be the most difficult for Hanoi to accept. . . . The President could not maintain a cessation of the bombing if there were abuses of the DMZ, if there were rockets and mortars slamming into population centers such as Saigon, Danang and Hue and if North Viet-Nam did not sit down promptly in negotiations at which the GVN would be present. I emphasized that it was not necessary to talk about 'conditions', 'reciprocity' or 'quid pro quos'. It was simply an elementary fact that no President of the United States could maintain a cessation of the bombing under certain circumstances and we had tried to be explicit to the Soviet Union about such circumstances.

"His second question was whether we could eliminate Thieu and Ky as parties to the situation. He said we should not draw any conclusions from the question--he was merely asking a question. He said that the authorities in Hanoi took a very strong view toward these individuals and that the character of the regime in the South was a major obstacle. I replied very firmly that we could not go down this path. President Thieu and Prime Minister Huong together represented 45 percent of the votes cast in the last Presidential election in South Viet-Nam. They, too, had some strong views about the authorities in Hanoi but they were willing to negotiate with them and were willing to let them have the NLF on their side of the table. I made it very clear that there was no possibility that we would bring about a change in government in Saigon to accommodate Hanoi."

4. You may wish to bear in mind this security warning by Sec. Rusk to me: "Under no circumstances must Harriman know of these exchanges, he would resign." I don't know if his assessment is accurate; but if you bring Cy into this, I believe it wise that you swear him to secrecy.

4. Thursday/5/ is tennis morning; but I'll be available close to 9:00 a.m.

/5/October 3.

W.W. Rostow/6/

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

 

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

Washington, October 2, 1968.

/1/Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, East Asia Country Files, Vietnam 1968. Top Secret. Drafted by Richard K. Stuart of INR/DDC.

SUBJECT
Covert Diversionary Operations in North Vietnam

The Special Operations Group is now conducting a number of diversionary operations against North Vietnam and additional operations are under consideration. Objectives of the operations are to divert North Vietnamese military, security, and intelligence resources and to create opportunities for psychological exploitation by making the North Vietnamese regime and people believe that there is much more agent activity in the North than in fact exists.

National Teams.

Eighteen notional teams have been created by message traffic since September 1967. Four additional teams are planned by January 1969. Directives and family messages are sent to the teams by one way voice link or, on occasion, poorly concealed in black and white radio Sacred Sword Patriotic League broadcasts. Resupply is carried out in the same manner as with actual teams. The addition of new personnel to the teams is suggested by parachuting ice blocks into tree tops. The ice melts, leaving a parachute and harness. Occasionally a "pseudo agent," i.e. a North Vietnamese soldier who wants badly to get back to North Vietnam is recruited from among North Vietnamese army prisoners and trained a few days. He is dropped as a "reinforcement" to a notional team. Traveling in the aircraft with him are Vietnamese he assumes to be reinforcements for other teams. The fact that actual in-place teams have been captured or "doubled" by the North Vietnamese probably gives an aura of credibility to these notional operations.

Use of Ralliers and Prisoners.

While ralliers and prisoners are recruited in the hope that some will be useful intelligence agents, it is recognized that others will reveal their assigned mission as soon as they are returned to Viet Minh controlled area or to North Vietnam. Prisoners who are judged to be suitable are collected from detention facilities as soon as possible after capture and indoctrinated on South Vietnamese prosperity and freedom for two weeks. They are then given one week of agent training and infiltrated into Viet Minh controlled territory in South Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia, or into North Vietnam./2/ They are charged with collecting intelligence and inducing defection. Those who prove unsuitable during the orientation or training periods are returned to regular detention facilities to spread purposely revealed false project information to other detainees for eventual transmission to North Vietnamese intelligence analysts.

/2/In an undated memorandum to Trueheart, Stuart discussed plans by the Special Operations Group to infiltrate defectors into the North Vietnamese city of Vinh to obtain information on NVA bases, equipment, and personnel operating there. (Ibid.)

Redemption Coupons.

Leaflets containing a coupon redeemable for cash after hostilities are over are distributed in North Vietnam through returned junk captives, pinpoint air drops or Strata teams. The leaflet thanks the bearer for supporting the Sacred Sword Patriotic League, a notional movement which purportedly operates both the black and white radios beamed to North Vietnam.

Incrimination of NVN Officials.

Although not yet begun, an SOG plan exists to divert North Vietnamese security agency efforts to the detection and interrogation of North Vietnamese officials suspected of traffic with the South. Letters with easily detected secret writing and messages which can be deciphered easily will be sent to selected North Vietnamese officials. Uncooperative junk captives will be put ashore far from home with secret messages concealed in their newly provided clothing.

Rube Goldberg Devices.

Another nascent plan involves the air-dropping of obsolete beacons, weather sensors, electronic devices made of unrelated parts soldered together, apparent agent equipment, empty crates with appropriate markings, etc. It is expected that North Vietnamese intelligence agencies will soon conclude that these devices are decoys but will feel that they cannot be ignored.

 

49. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Washington, October 3, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [1 of 3]. Secret; Harvan. Prepared by Rostow. In an attached covering memorandum transmitting this memorandum to the President, October 21, Rostow wrote: "Herewith memoranda for the record on your talks with Harriman (September 17) and with Vance (October 3). Also attached are the outgoing and incoming cables which confirm Harriman-Vance support for a bombing resumption if 'our understandings' are violated. You will note that I included the very sensitive reference to the Dobrynin communication of September 16. This means, of course, that these memoranda for the record should be handled with the highest security." The notation "ps" on the covering memorandum indicates that the President saw the attached memoranda.

Meeting with Ambassador Vance, October 3, 1968, 9:00-10:30 a.m.

Ambassador Vance reported to the President in his bedroom on the course of the negotiations in Paris./2/

/2/The President met with Vance over breakfast in his bedroom from 8:30 a.m. to 10:10 a.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

The President asked Amb. Vance if he was optimistic. He said he was. The President asked him for his reasons, and also put the same question to Mr. Rostow. They both suggested to the President that it was possible that Hanoi regarded itself in a military position and a political position vis-à-vis the government in Saigon in which its bargaining power was diminishing. Whatever the advantages might be in waiting for a new Administration on January 20, they might assess their problem as one in which the military situation was likely to deteriorate over coming months; the ARVN would expand, improve its equipment, and increase its confidence; and the Thieu government would gain in stability, acceptability, and legitimacy. Therefore, it was possible they might wish to settle the war sooner rather than later. The President expressed some skepticism. He then laid out his position under three headings:

--there must be private understanding of GVN participation in the negotiations after a bombing cessation;

--Hanoi must understand that the DMZ must not be violated;

--Hanoi must understand that the cities must not be attacked.

As with Amb. Harriman, the President said to Amb. Vance that it would be essential that the whole government be very close together and agreed on the resumption of bombing if these understandings were violated. Amb. Vance, without hesitation, indicated his agreement with this position. (See attached cables for confirmation of Harriman-Vance positions on resumption of bombing communicated to the President.)/3/

/3/See Document 45. In an undated letter to Ball, Harriman wrote: "Dear George, I am convinced that we can work out a situation which in my judgement would justify the risk of a San Antonio formula cessation of the bombing before the end of this month. This could have been done in latter part of July or early August but I believe we are somewhat better off militarily & psychologically in Vietnam now than then. The third wave attacks have failed & NVA/VC have suffered heavy losses. This will be our last chance before the election and I feel action now is essential to give Hubert a fighting chance. I hope you will give Cy enough time to fill you in on things here & get agreement on how we can cooperate. I am greatly disappointed to have missed you--send me any message through Cy." He added a postscript: "We here all agree that if NVN 'takes advantage' President would have wide support for bombing again. I would certainly recommend it." (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Trips and Missions, Paris Peace Talks, 1968, Chronological File, Dec. 1968-Jan. 1969)

The President then suggested that Amb. Vance and Mr. Rostow go to Mr. Rostow's office and make sure the position as outlined by the President was perfectly clear between them.

W

 

50. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/

October 3, 1968, 10:15 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, October 3, 1968, 10:15 a.m., Tape F6810.02, PNO 4-5. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. Rusk called from New York, where he was attending the UN General Assembly. The President was in Washington. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

President: Dean? Dean--

Rusk: Yes. Good morning, Mr. President.

President: I'm rather distressed at the papers this morning. I don't guess you've seen the Washington papers?

Rusk: No, I haven't.

President: But Kraft/2/ says that this whole thing was worked out--Ball and Harriman--Ball went over and saw Harriman, and really that Ball and Harriman wrote the speech for Humphrey/3/ and then that Nixon fell into a trap by saying that they laid for him--saying it hurt the negotiations. So Averell started commenting on the speech and saying it didn't hurt the negotiations, and now Nixon has been trapped and Humphrey is really--

/2/Joseph Kraft, syndicated columnist.

/3/See Document 40.

Rusk: Did Averell comment publicly on the speech?

President: Yes, yes. He's a damned fool. He's been playing politics, I found out from Cy, he didn't want to tell it, and I was just shocked to death. And I asked him, I said, "Did anybody discuss this speech with you all?" And he choked and hung up. And I said, "Were you consulted about this speech?" And he said, "Yes, sir." And I said, "Who consulted you?" And he said, "George Ball."

Rusk: For heaven's sake.

President: And so that just ruins it for the other side, when that comes out, in my judgment. Then, he's got a new proposal. I'm sending him back up there to get him away from these columnists and out of this town--so you can talk to him if you want to.

Rusk: All right.

President: Don't think it's essential but you'll probably want to give him a ring sometime on the weekend, whenever you can.

Rusk: He's coming to New York?

President: Yes. I don't think it's necessary you come down here until you find out more than you know.

Rusk: All right.

President: But--here's what Kraft said: "The Vietnam speech had a carefully prepared public build-up. A major speech was announced by the Vice President three days in advance. Leading advisers Under Secretary Ball and Postmaster General O'Brien were on hand. The text itself, while not altogether clear, was artfully wrought. The Vice President moved toward a total halt of the bombing of North Vietnam in a way that placed his position far in advance to that laid down in the most recent statements by the President and Secretary of State Rusk. The speech was hardly over before Mr. Ball was pointing out to various press people how the Vice President stands different from the current posture of the administration. At the same time, a halt in the bombing was made conditional in a way that protects the Vice President against the one man whose public disapproval he fears. That man is the chief Paris negotiator, Averell Harriman, whose views had been recently sounded by Mr. Ball. As to organizing a reaction, Senator Kennedy's chief aide David Berg was briefed in advance on the speech by Van Dyke and Ira Kapenstein,/4/ O'Brien's man. Kennedy followed the speech with an immediate telegrammed approval. Senator McCarthy was given an advance by [Thomas] Finney, a Washington lawyer, formerly top hand of McCarthy. So the Senator has not said anything because he is committed to remaining neutral while reporting the World Series, but the way is open to him to express approval of the Vice President's advance position. Lastly, a trap was prepared for Nixon. It was expected the Republican candidate would reply to the Vice President by raising the question as to whether Humphrey's advance toward the total cessation of the bombing would not adversely affect the Paris negotiations. Mr. Nixon did as expected. Arrangements were immediately made for Ambassador Harriman to deny the Nixon insinuation. All this does not mean, of course, that the Vietnam speech was a major triumph. On the contrary, the Vice President is still way behind, but he is beginning to show the qualities that could make the campaign a serious contest. And if he keeps it up, he begins to focus sharply on the issues" and so forth.

/4/Theodore Van Dyke, speechwriter for the Humphrey campaign, and Ira Kapenstein, executive assistant to the Democratic National Chairman.

Now, Evans and Novak/5/ has got the same Ball briefing apparently. "Ball has complained bitterly to close friends about what he regards as a stiffening with Johnson on the question of the bombing. He is convinced that this stiffening has compromised the negotiating team in Paris. Specifically, Ball has said that the President's actions in Honolulu wrecked the careful diplomatic probe by Harriman, the President's chief agent. Although precise details are confidential, there is reason to believe that a break in the Paris talks was imminent before Johnson went to Honolulu. These culminated in an extraordinary hour and a quarter tete-ˆ-tete between the two heads of state. If there was a memorandum of conversation of this long and private talk, it is a closely guarded document./6/ In Washington, the details of the long talk are known only by very few of the President's most intimate advisers. Thus, the agreements made by Johnson in return for concessions by Thieu are still a state secret. But Ball and other members of the President's official family believe the conversations contained certain agreements that convinced the Communists in Hanoi that the United States was not bargaining in good faith. Accordingly, the careful diplomatic initiative nurtured by Harriman and his aides in Paris was pulled up by the roots. Partly as a result of this, Ball has confided to intimates that Humphrey was placed in an intolerable political bind. Further, this bind was closed tighter by Johnson's repeated contradictions of Humphrey whenever the Vice President claimed to see some glimmer of light. That then is the background of Ball's much-criticized decision to desert the United Nations. Only one day after his confirmation by the Senate, Ball's first job for Humphrey was to help write his Vietnam speech so as to minimize charges Humphrey is selling out the Paris negotiations. Ball first talked with Humphrey about this speech two days before he quit the United Nations. He spent much of last weekend conferring with Humphrey on the West Coast. He then returned with Van Dyke and O'Brien. He was in fact indispensable as Humphrey spelled out the difference between his position and Johnson's. And while the President demands specific de-escalation or a quid pro quo from Hanoi as a condition to stopping the bombing, Humphrey is willing to assume good faith without Hanoi spelling out a quid pro quo. Although the difference is a major one in the careful diplomatic language of Paris, the immediate political reaction at home to Humphrey's speech raises doubts whether he went far enough to accomplish its purpose to persuade the McCarthyites to work for Humphrey. As Humphrey's newest adviser, in short, it is possible Ball may soon yearn for the peace and quiet of the United Nations."

/5/Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, syndicated columnists.

/6/See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. VI, Documents 303 and 304.

Then Murrey Marder's/7/ got another story, "HHH Parried the Price for the Bombing Halt." And he says that they told him over there--Harriman and company--how they feel and they're much softer than we are. Now, then, that's very bad. What's really bad, though, that I just can't justify at all 'cause they're in politics, I wouldn't comment on it, but here's a headline, "Humphrey Didn't Impair Talks, Harriman Says." "Chief negotiator Harriman sees no basis for thinking Humphrey's Vietnam speech could jeopardize the peace talks here, a spokesman said today. Harriman authorized the spokesman to disclose this position and thus appeared to be rebutting indirectly the criticism of Humphrey's speech by Nixon. Today at the 24th session of the deadlocked talks, Harriman's counterpart said," and they quote him, "with regard to Mr. Nixon, the warlike presidential candidate." Wait a minute now. "Harriman's comments surfaced when U.S. delegation spokesman Harold Kaplan was asked at his briefing whether the American negotiators had any feelings along those lines, referring to remarks by Nixon and sharper criticism by Tower. 'No,' Kaplan replied, 'I don't think there is,' but then insisted they should not be taken as a comment on Humphrey's speech. Kaplan said he did not 'discuss the general notion with Governor Harriman and he specifically authorized me to say that he sees no basis for the speech having any adverse effect on our negotiations.' Harriman, himself a one-time Democratic governor, told a newsman earlier, 'We're engaged in negotiations and in that capacity I'm taking no part in the campaign.'" So forth and so forth. I told Cy there's no use saying you're taking part in the campaign and then start interpreting one man's speech and then answering another man. You'd better just say you're taking no part, period. I also gave him a pretty good lecture about the leaks and I find out that Ball has been over there and talking to him and they've been being martyrs to Ball. And Ball, that's when he decided to quit after he'd had conversations over there. So I told Cy that I just didn't think negotiators ought to be taking such wide latitude. They ought to carry out their President's--

/7/Murrey Marder, reporter for the Washington Post.

Rusk: The truth is, Mr. President, that the combination of these stories--I haven't seen them, the ones you've talked about, I'll get them later in the day--but the combinations of these stories will hurt our negotiations.

President: Of course, it hurts it. It'd be hell. You take it from me. I'm not a diplomat, you've been in on Southeast Asia for 25 years, but they're not going to do anything until after the election. That's period. If Humphrey's elected, they're in clover. If he's not elected, then they can look and see what they want to do between me and Nixon. So you can just forget everything until then, in my judgment. Now, and I think it's done that, I think Humphrey's fuzzy speech saying--and having Ball background everybody--that it did change. And don't I think there's any question but what this agreement between our negotiators and Ball and the Pentagon--they've been talking behind our back, that's clear from my discussions here. And now they've all settled on this one Clark Clifford pitch the other day, if you saw it. It's a Ball pitch. Ball knew about it but Ball just said, well, he thought he'd be a little more peaceful than Clifford, you know, he just said he wouldn't require anything--Clifford requires the GVN--and then they kind of laugh off the other. That is the Harriman-Ball-Pentagon approach now that I called about from down in Texas. They're working that end and the rest goes on assumptions. So now Cy has got a proposal this morning--he'll be calling you about it in a moment. His proposal is that you say to your friend--and Rostow made a mistake indicating that your friend had said something to you, and I didn't acknowledge it, I just didn't say a word, I didn't discuss any of your conversations with Cy with Gromyko because I know he's got to talk to Harriman, and Harriman is like a hydrant--but Cy is going to say to you that he thinks you ought to say to Gromyko, and he's doing this with Averell's approval, that the real block to stopping the bombing is the GVN thing, that if they agree, the GVN, that is the one thing we need. I said, "Okay, what do we do about the DMZ and what do we do about the cities?" "Well, we assume that, and we tell them that we have to go back if they did that." I said, "Well, I don't buy that, but you can tell Rusk that and I'd be willing to be guided by his putting those assumptions a little stronger than you put them. I don't want to have any doubt that in effect they're agreeing to the three if they agree to one." I don't think they'll do a damn thing until November, but for the purpose of satisfying Cy's vanity, that's something I think you ought to explore.

Rusk: Yes. Well, I've wondered, Mr. President, I've thought about it, I thought it--the conversation of last night/8/--and maybe it might be well, if you think well enough for me to say to Gromyko, "Now look, you should be clear in your own mind that these three things are of fundamental importance. One of them has to be a matter of a political agreement--that's the GVN. The others are facts of life that will be determined by events on the ground. Now we can understand that you may not yourselves go to Hanoi on these factual points. But if you can get them to move on the GVN, we will take up directly with them the question of the DMZ and the cities and you yourselves don't have to emphasize that particular point. But you should be clear in your own minds so that we don't mislead you about what is our view."

/8/See Document 47.

President: That's right. And then I'd further say to him that you just think that you ought to know, tell him the political system--he's got pretty good intelligence on it--but you think you ought to tell him that no President can survive 48 hours if they're moving in the DMZ--

Rusk: Told him last night, and I also told him--

President: Or shelling the cities.

Rusk: He asked me about the election. I said, "One thing you should be aware of is that there is a strong conservative movement in this country now and that anybody who thinks the ultra-liberals are getting anywhere in this election can think twice about it because when you put together the Nixon and Wallace vote it means that the American people are fed up with some of the fooling around here by some of these demonstrators and things like that, and the demonstrators are not speaking for the American people. Just look at the polls."

President: That's right. Now, the second thing is--Averell's thought is--you've got Cy's clearly, haven't you?

Rusk: Yes, sir.

President: The GVN will do the job. It'll stop the bombing--it is the chief thing. Then we'll assume on the cities and the DMZ, and we'll retaliate if they violate either, promptly. Now I don't think he would, I think he'd be out of town and not answer the phone, but any way, that's what they say. Second thing is Averell--Averell thinks that this might be the way to do it: Tell them Wednesday we're going to stop Sunday. Stop Sunday and meet them Monday. Tell them we want the GVN in here Tuesday. If they don't come Tuesday, then we can act. That's Averell's point. Now, what I think you ought to do with Cy, just as insurance, I think you ought to make clear to him that you think the real key is the GVN and you've got to get locked on tight. Now he agrees with that. Tell him that they ought to quit putting out this stuff, that there's a difference between us, that this is awfully weak for the country and it helps the Communists. That's the first thing. The second thing you say, that Cy, I don't want to mislead you, and you've got to know what the position is, what the government's is. Number one--the President thinks when this speech is made, we're not going to do anything until November. Now if we can, that's good, but that's his judgment. He thinks that you've got to wait until the election now to see. If Humphrey is elected, they can move; if he's not elected, they'll decide whether they want to move on the President's terms or wait for Nixon--probably move on the President's terms, but he thinks that. Now the second thing is, you might as well know here and now, and you and Averell better be signed on, that you're not talking about one thing--you're talking about three. And if you get an agreement on one--he's got to think, and you've got to make him think that he's got to believe that your judgment is sound--that the other two are in effect agreed because if they're not agreed in 24 hours, you're going to get some action.

Rusk: Yes.

President: So you ought to know and carry out and anticipate its consequences.

Rusk: Right.

President: Now, Walt will call you, but you'll be prepared and you don't need to tell him I've talked to you.

Rusk: All right.

President: He's over with Cy now. But if I were you, I'd certainly get the three articles--Murrey Marder, Joe Kraft, Rowland Evans--and I believe that you ought to talk to Ball sometime in the next day or two. Don't tell him what's going on with Gromyko, but just tell him that you're exploring this thing and just say that you're awfully disturbed that we're going to get some criticism of the Republicans about Harriman commenting and about Harriman in effect writing the speech. You know, they're putting it out now that Harriman wrote the second paragraph so that he could defend it.

Rusk: Yes. I think, well, I think that Cy ought to come clean with us in terms of exactly what happened.

President: You'd better. I think you better just be a prosecuting attorney when you sit down with him. Just say, "Now, I'm Secretary of State here, and I've stayed religiously out of politics, and what I've said to one I've said to the other, but I'm very concerned that when Dirksen is coming in demanding to see Johnson this morning, I've got to know--when did Ball come in? What did he say? Who talked to him?" He says he came over, he talked to Averell, he talked to him and he talked to him about his resignation. He asked for their advice. He counseled them. That's the way to put it. Then I said, "Well, did he discuss this speech with you?" He didn't say he did on the trip. "No," I said, "was this speech discussed with you?" And he hesitated and he flushed and he just--he honestly didn't know what to say. He had to make up his mind whether he was going to lie or not. He decided, of course, he wouldn't. So he came back and said, "Yes, yes, we knew about the speech." I said, "Who discussed it with you?" He said, "I--I don't remember now."

Rusk: [Laughter]

President: I said, "Now Cy, an important speech like that, and you're telling me you don't remember?" I just kind of laughed at him [and] said, "You're kidding." And he said, "Well, George Ball."

Rusk: [Laughter]

President: That's pathetic. But I think you'd better go over that with him. Then I think you'd better furthermore say there are two things; we'd better tighten up our operation; that you're in charge of it. One is our relations with the press showing the division between them and us--that's number one. Number two--if they're going to be talking to any of these people, just please refer the ball to the State Department, and just anybody else, Nixon, Humphrey, or Ball, or I don't know, Ellsworth--I'd guess that if Ball can do it for Humphrey, Ellsworth has a right to do it for Nixon, hasn't he?

Rusk: Yes. Well, I'll call you again as soon as I know when my appointment with Gromyko is.

President: Thank you. But you talk to Cy.

Rusk: Yes, sir.

 

51. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/

October 6, 1968, 10:49 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, October 6, 1968, 10:49 p.m., Tape F6810.02, PNO 6-7. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. Rusk called from New York, where he was attending the UN General Assembly. The President was in Washington. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

President: [Reading a statement by Kaplan] "I discussed the general notion with Governor Harriman and he specifically authorized me to say that he sees no basis"--

Rusk: His man called, Ellsworth called, and asked if Mr. Nixon could see me tomorrow, and I said my only chance was to drop by to see him between a breakfast I have [and the] swearing in of our mission to the General Assembly. So that'll mean probably about 30 minutes or something like that. What I did not know until just a few moments ago was that the message was that if he was not able to see me in New York, he would hope very much to have a chance to see you. So we have it open to transfer this down to you, if you want to.

President: Yes. I think that's what I would do because I think we're in serious trouble. I don't know what we're going to do about it. I'm worried--I want to talk to you. But our whole outfit is deep in this political thing, and I think if we don't recall Averell, we've got to find some explanation to give to him. Ball sent a man/2/ over there to counsel with Averell and Averell was part of this whole ploy. And I don't think we can have people working for us that are writing campaign speeches and getting themselves involved with private citizens and breaking out to the nation speeches that neither the Secretary of State nor the President know anything about.

/2/George Fitzgibbon of Lehman Brothers.

Rusk: Yes. I wonder if that doesn't mean we should get Averell to come back out?

President: I rather think so.

Rusk: Yes.

President: Yes, I rather think so. What I'm going to do is to go to Honolulu. I hope we can get out Wednesday/3/ night or Thursday and spend some time with Abrams and try to figure out with him what his situation is and really what he thinks about all these proposals and what he thinks the next 3 months hold for him, what he can do about it. Then I want to get Bunker's judgment too. Then I thought I'd just ask Bunker to go on over there. And while they're two old men, I think he might be a little bit realistic with Averell by pointing out the problems that they have and what would happen if the GVN were ignored and how the other two matters are just facts of life--if they start bombing the cities or if they use the DMZ--and see what came out of just 2 or 3 days of bringing them up-to-date on South Vietnam. If at the end of that period if we have any more static here, I think we just might ask Averell to come back. I think it's just another MacArthur deal. I think it's terrible that he would do a thing like this. I'm told that he felt he thought he just had such an obligation to the Democratic Party that nominated him for governor. Well, hell, I've been in the Democratic Party longer than he has, and I don't feel an obligation to any party above my country and I don't think he ought to be playing politics as a negotiator.

/3/October 9.

Rusk: And certainly not without our knowledge.

President: And certainly not without reporting it. And I think it's a dirty trick that George Ball is not to tell us what he's done. He was talking to me all the time and was sending his men across the ocean to talk to our people. And it's all going to turn up. Nixon is going to expose it all and I think we're going to look pretty bad if we're not careful--appearing to be neutral and saying that we don't want to get political and the Secretary of State is not going to make any political observations, the President wants him to speak with one voice beyond the water's edge, and all the time we're conniving around here with a speech trying to trap somebody. And the very day it happens, Joe Kraft tells it all. They've leaked it to him. Now I don't know, I thought maybe--I'm surprised that they haven't denied either the Murrey Marder story or the Hedrick Smith/4/ story. I asked about it today and Cy said that he had told State Department yesterday. They said you were denying it very strong and he had told them again to deny it. But I'm told when they got any of them at Camp David to deny it, but I'm told that when I got into Camp David tonight, they just blew it up.

/4/Reporters Joseph Kraft of the Chicago Daily News, Murrey Marder of the Washington Post, and Hedrick Smith of The New York Times.

Rusk: Well, I saw a statement that Cy made--now, I didn't see it on the ticker, have to double-check--but that statement ought to be available to the press.

President: Well, Cy, according to what I'm told, thought it was outrageous. First, he told Walt Rostow that he was in terrible shape because he worked for one man and he was loyal to the President and he just didn't think these things ought to be going on this way. Did he tell you that?

Rusk: He made it very clear. He didn't say that in so many words, but he was very troubled about the whole business.

President: Well I just asked him outright. I said, "Did you know about this speech?" He said, "Yes." I said, "How did you know about it?" "Well," he said, "I got it from one of Ball's associates." And I said, "Were you consulted?" He said, "Yes." I said, "By a fellow who lives there in Paris?" "No," he said. "By a fellow they sent over." Now what do you think we ought to do in a thing like that? I had written this letter and I told them to check it with you because I had a little doubt, but I thought it might bust up things some. But--

Rusk: Yes, I think probably it's a thing that ought to be said direct, personally, rather than in a communication.

President: You see, he was here last week, Averell, and he didn't mention any differences to me or didn't make any new recommendations.

Rusk: Nor did he to me.

President: And Cy has been here and he hasn't done it. So I don't know what the hell they're doing recommending to Hedrick Smith and Murrey Marder without talking to us. I told Cy to talk to you after this meeting tonight--talk to you tomorrow.

Rusk: I'm not sure but that some of this tipping off to people like Murrey Marder might come from the kind of people who might have given Howard K. Smith/5/ certain papers and withheld others. And I know, I think, some of that stuff could have come out of Washington.

/5/Howard K. Smith, reporter and commentator for ABC News television.

President: Well, I don't know, though. Its headed "Paris" and--

Rusk: That's the Smith story, isn't it?

President: Yes, and I don't know what they know. I haven't been seeing any cables along that line. He wrote you a letter.

Rusk: Yeah, yeah.

President: But I don't believe--have they ever recommended that we just stop bombing per se, do nothing without anything else?

Rusk: No, no.

President: Doesn't everybody agree the Government of Vietnam ought to be in?

Rusk: I think everybody, including Clark Clifford, Cy Vance, and Averell Harriman, agree that this is utterly fundamental, and that when Averell left here he also agreed to the other two points as fundamental.

President: Well, you've had more experience than I have with these diplomats. I don't know what to do with them. But I thought a negotiator followed his instructions and the first instruction I gave him was to stay out of politics.

Rusk: Yeah, yeah. Well, let's see now, Mr. President.

President: You think about it and tell me what you think we ought to do.

Rusk: I think I would just get Averell back here after the next Wednesday meeting or toward the end of the week, get him back here when you get back from Honolulu.

President: Well, you might tell Cy that tomorrow. I think Cy ought to come down here before he leaves and maybe see me. And I think he ought to have a press conference. And I think he ought to just flatly say that Harriman has been back here but he hasn't made any new recommendations. Our position is basically what it has been, and that he's back and he hasn't brought any recommendations, and that these two stories are just without any foundation, and that he doesn't want Hanoi to get the conception that they're accurate because if they believed them, it would affect--and nobody can really--I think we ought to say when they say, "Does this affect the peace negotiations?" I think we ought to say, "God only knows what affects Hanoi?" I don't know what affects them. I don't know whether it affects them or not. I know if I were in their place. I think the simple question is this, Dean: if I were Hanoi, I'd say, "Can I get a better deal out of Humphrey than I can Johnson?"

Rusk: Um-hmm.

President: How would you answer that question?

Rusk: Well, if I were listening to the backgrounding some of the people around Humphrey have been giving, I'd think maybe I could.

President: Or just anything. I just think it's pretty evident from everything you see, read, hear, who supports him, folks line up with him. I just think you're bound to. Well now, if they do, that's bound to affect it, isn't it?

Rusk: I think it is.

President: Why would you pay 10 million [dollars] for something you could buy for 5 million 3 weeks from now? And I'm afraid that's what Nixon wants to do. I'm afraid we're going to get him to demagoguing and both of them will be here before it's over with. And I think this is just a part of the Kosygin letter he wrote me--he had "reason to believe"--and then India, then the Mansfield speech, then the Ogden Reid group, then the Javits and Cooper and Curtis./6/ And now, it culminates in my negotiators saying it, everybody but me and you and Rostow, according to him. Now I think we'd better find out from our folks if this is true. I understood that Nick Katzenbach felt very strongly that in this little committee he meets with--

/6/Senator Mike Mansfield, Representative Ogden Reid, and Senators Jacob Javits, John Sherman Cooper, and Carl Curtis.

Rusk: On these three points--he never wavered on these three points.

President: All right. Doesn't Bill Bundy feel the same way?

Rusk: Yes, he does.

President: That's what Walt tells me. Well, then, who in the hell are they talking about?

Rusk: I would be--

President: The Joint Chiefs are certainly with us. Bunker is certainly with us. Abrams is with us. I don't know who they're talking about. Could they be talking about some of the civilians at Defense?

Rusk: It's possible. I don't know. I don't know them. Averell may be trying to make his contribution to the campaign at this point in his own way. I just don't know the facts about that. But I'd be surprised if he went as far as some of these stories because, pretty generally, he's been a pretty loyal fellow.

President: Yes. But I gather from both Jorden and Cy that they've been troubled by these conversations with the press.

Rusk: Maybe, maybe Cy has made a contribution to this?

President: I would expect so. All the time. Does he have any cables in on it from time to time?

Rusk: No. He wrote me a little private note here sometime ago enclosing an editorial from The New York Times. And I wrote him back and said, "Well, just tell me what you think Hanoi ought to do to make peace," and I haven't heard from him again.

President: What was the editorial from The Times?

Rusk: That was the one--

President: Stop bombing?

Rusk: Yes, that was the one. About a month ago. But I haven't heard from him again. Cy tells me he's not taking part in the action of discussions very much.

President: Pardon me?

Rusk: Cy tells me he isn't taking part in the action of the discussions much.

President: He oughtn't to be. I'd tell Cy that he ought to be very cautious about that because we've got the Bill Moyers running back and forth, you know.

Rusk: Well now, on two points on this, Mr. President. Suppose I can get ahold of Mr. Nixon and suggest that he transfer this from me to you--

President: That's right. Just tell him you're going to be--just tell him that you've talked to me and I'll be here and I'll be delighted to see him and talk to him about it, and that if it's necessary, you'll join him anytime later, but to just come on here anytime he wants to in the early part of the week.

Rusk: All right. Now, secondly, I have a heck of a problem if I myself leave the latter part of next week. I've got Stewart and Hasluck and Holyoake,/7/ and two other Foreign Ministers that are all landing on me in Washington the end of next week. How essentially do you think it necessary for me to go to Honolulu with you?

/7/British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart, Australian External Affairs Minister Paul Hasluck, and New Zealand Prime Minister Keith Holyoake.

President: Well, I'd hate not to have you. Can we--I'm getting rid of most of those folks by Wednesday.

Rusk: I know you are, and it's a good idea, but it's another problem for me to do the same.

President: Well, I'll give you my appointments. You just--Holyoake is going to be here, you know, Wednesday, and we're having the dinner and so forth.

Rusk: He and Hasluck had insisted on a so-called meeting the next day, and Michael Stewart is coming down. Debré is going to be in town for 3 days./8/

/8/French Foreign Minister Michel Debré.

President: Well, I wouldn't stay here for 3 days with them. I'd just tell them that you'll see them Wednesday or Thursday, if we want to stay Thursday. I was hoping we'd get out Wednesday. We've got to attempt to. You've got elections on the 5th and I don't think these guys are going to contribute much to it. But I think that what we do is going to be pretty damned important, and I'd hate to, with Clifford in Europe, to go just alone, although I will, but I'd hate to do it on the grounds that you're staying here to see Holyoake, and I'd just arrange those appointments where you can spend an hour with them, four of them for four hours, on Wednesday, if you have to, Wednesday evening or Thursday. I'm going to try to get rid of Holyoake Wednesday and spend all the time talking about meat imports.

Rusk: If you go to Honolulu, when would you announce it?

President: I thought I'd do it in the morning. I thought we'd start preparing early in the morning.

Rusk: Because as soon as it's announced, then I would have a basis on which I could talk to them about rearranging.

President: I think we ought to tomorrow, and I would say to them along sometime Thursday on, "The reason I want to do this, I want to see these things that we have and talk to Abrams and see what he really thinks is happening there and what he can do and how far he can go without any dangers, so if we're confronted with anything, why we can make a decision based on not killing Americans, period. That's about that simple. I would like for Bunker to go over there because if we recall Averell, we might want Bunker to spend some more time there.

Rusk: Well, if you make the announcement.

President: And I'm not going to tolerate Averell one more week of these stories, whether they're coming out of him or they're not, if he doesn't deny them. I'm amazed that he hasn't denied them now, and I think you ought to be sure to tell Vance in the morning that he ought to come on down here and have a press conference and deny it himself. I don't know, they say your public affairs people over there stopped him--he said he wanted to yesterday and he wanted to again today, and they told him no, not to do it.

Rusk: Let me check and see what happened on that.

President: What happened tonight?/9/

/9/Reference is to a discussion between Rusk and Gromyko earlier that evening. The memorandum of this conversation is printed in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. XIV, Document 310.

Rusk: I urged my man to concentrate on that one point and said that we would concentrate on the other two in direct contacts in Paris. He didn't give me any answer on it. We agreed that this special channel ought to be kept open, but I think he was thinking about it. But I left him under no illusion that in some combination we've got to have a legion of confidence on all three points, and if they were willing to work on the one point, we'd work on the others in our own way.

President: You mean, on the big one, the one that Clifford--

Rusk: That's right.

President: Oh, yeah.

Rusk: He didn't give me a categorical answer, but I had the impression he was at least interested in the problem. On the Middle East, I think we made a little headway on that in terms of supporting Jarring/10/ on a number of points--refugees, opening of the [Suez] Canal--and things like that. He asked me what the reaction was about a meeting. I said that I couldn't give him an answer on that, that we'd be in further touch with him through the same channel, but there are obviously some complications in our situation. And I hit him very directly on Berlin, and he gave me a categorical assurance on Berlin, for whatever that's worth, so that I think we chopped a little wood but we didn't make peace. Well now, if you announce this trip to Honolulu, Mr. President, I think that if you could not announce it at the same time that I'm going with you--that is, on the first announcement--then I'm going to try to touch base with these Foreign Ministers and we'll rearrange things.

/10/UN Special Representative Gunnar Jarring.

President: All right. Now, what are your dates with them--Thursday, Friday?

Rusk: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. In other words, I'd have to do a good deal of juggling around, so I'll get busy on that right away.

President: Well now, of course, I'll have to go out to Bunker. What time is it out there now--10 or 11 in the morning?

Rusk: Yes, sir.

President: I'll get Walt to talk to him and see what suits their pleasure. Okay.

Rusk: All right. Fine.

 

52. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/

October 7, 1968, 10:02 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, October 7, 1968, 10:02 a.m., Tape F6810.02, PNO 8. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. Rusk called from New York, where he was attending the UN General Assembly. The President was in Washington. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

Rusk: [Nixon] asked about the Paris talks and in particular these stories, and I knocked him down very hard and told him that Vance and Harriman had not recommended that we stop the bombing, and I went over again what we expect from the other side to stop the bombing and how important it was to get the South Vietnamese to the conference table. He seemed to agree with all of that. He then spoke rather thoroughly about Vietnam. He said that he thought the decision to make a fight for it was the right decision; that he thought we had had a bad deal on the public support for that basic decision, which he thought was right. He thought it was very important that we come out of that situation with something we could live with even if it takes another year or two. He was really quite sober and thoughtful about the discussion of it./2/ I touched on two or three other things. [Omitted here is brief description of Rusk's discussion with Nixon on Czechoslovakia and NATO.] But on the whole he did not get into any matters of real suspicion or things of that sort. He seemed to be kind of relaxed about his relations with you and me on the kind of briefings he's been getting.

/2/Rusk met with Nixon that morning in New York. No other record of the meeting has been found. See also Document 53.

President: That's real comforting. That's comforting. I was real concerned that he might be wobbling like our other friends had.

Rusk: Well, I saw no evidence of it today. Now, I don't know what he is going to say in his speech in the next 2 weeks. But today he could not have been more solid and wanted to be helpful on Vietnam and said he thought after the election the President-elect would want to make himself available to you so that you could do everything that you could to get this thing over with on a tolerable basis. But we had to have a tolerable basis or the whole situation in the Pacific would roll up and then we would have a terrible situation. So I think you'll find him reasonably relaxed on it and just wanted to be informed and wanted to know that there was no trickiness around the corner in connection with these stories he has been hearing about. And we talked a little about The New York Times. I think he will agree with you on The New York Times.

President: You didn't say anything about going to Honolulu?

Rusk: No, I didn't. I thought I better not.

President: Now, have you looked at your schedule--what the worst days are for you?

Rusk: Well, now there--I would have great trouble in getting away before Thursday night. What you might consider, Mr. President, because I don't want to pay too heavy a cost in our relations with these people--

President: Sure, sure.

Rusk: If you go out on Thursday and have your military discussions on Thursday/3/ and let me come out on Friday and let me be there for political discussions, that might be one way to do it.

/3/October 10.

President: All right.

Rusk: That would mean I would have to reschedule Mr. Debré of France in my schedule. But I think that would be possible, and then I could take care of all of these others and you would have a day of military discussions with Abrams and then let me join you for the political side of it./4/

/4/The President did not attend the proposed weekend meeting with Abrams, Bunker, and McCain in Honolulu, traveling instead to his Texas Ranch, where he stayed October 11-13. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)

President: You don't think, then, that I'll have any problems with these folks if, say, I leave here Wednesday night or Thursday?

Rusk: I don't think so. I think that as soon as you announce you're going we'll just say this has completely changed your schedule and you'll have to cancel other appointments.

President: We haven't, I don't think, firmed up that.

Rusk: I think I can explain that all right.

President: Well, then, we might conclude that you will come out Friday. You don't know when Clark's coming back, do you?

Rusk: Well, let's see. He might be getting back about that time. We can check that or Walt can check it. I think he might be getting back about that time.

President: Okay.

Rusk: All right. Thank you.

 

53. Editorial Note

At 5:11 p.m. on October 7, 1968, President Johnson received a telephone call from Republican Presidential candidate Richard Nixon. Nixon reported his positive reaction to a personal briefing that morning by Secretary Rusk. Both Nixon and the President then moved into a wider discussion of the peace negotiations in Paris, including the domestic public reaction to the conditions for a full bombing cessation. The following is a transcript prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian of a portion of this conversation:

President: Now our basis is this, and I will tell you when it is otherwise. Our basis is three-fold. One, they must agree to recognize the GVN. We cannot take a chance on losing this million-man army. They've got to let them come in on any talks that we have on subjects that matter. They've not agreed to that yet. They also have got to recognize the facts of life that we could not, if we stopped the bombing, carry out that stoppage very long if they did either of two things--if they shelled the cities or if they had mass infiltration. And we have said that to them constantly. Now, we don't know what they are going to do. They've given us no indication. We've said that to the Russians. It is right at a stalemate now. My judgment is that it'll stay that way until election unless they're hurting worse than we think they are, and we think they're hurting pretty bad. I rather think that before long I'll be seeing Bunker and Abrams and will be brought up-to-date and I will keep you informed.

Nixon: Well, the one thing I want to say is this, Mr. President. My statements will continue to be, I hope, responsible. The only reason that I--when I was talking to the Secretary this morning--you know, the goddamn New York Times, they had three dopey stories in there. Rusk told me that they were all fabrications. I don't know what to believe anymore, you know.

President: Well, the Vance story was, certainly. I don't know what the others are referring to, but--

Nixon: Well, the others involved the fact that both Harriman and Vance were pushing for a bombing pause. He said that that is not true--that Vance had been rushed back here.

President: Well, Dick, I think this is true. I think this is true. I think everybody is pushing for a bombing pause. I think you are. I think I am. I think everybody is.

Nixon: But for the right deal.

President: That's right. So far as I know, Vance or Harriman or Rusk or Katzenbach or Clifford or Bundy or Johnson or Wheeler or all the Joint Chiefs or Bunker or Abrams. Now, as far as I am aware, I believe every one of those men would recommend to me that we not stop bombing unless they would agree to let us take the GVN into the meetings. Now, they've told us definitely they will not do that. Now, we think that if we did and the GVN quit us, we would just be out of business. Or if we had a coup out there, we just couldn't physically do it. We also think they've got to understand the facts of life about these other things--about the DMZ and about shelling the cities. Now, we might, without getting an agreement from them, without getting reciprocity, if they agreed with the GVN, we would consider that reciprocity. But we might then say to them that we will stop the bombing on Sunday, but if Tuesday or Wednesday or any other day they shelled the cities, we would have to respond.

Nixon: Yes. Well, that makes sense. We wish you well. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Nixon, October 7, 1968, 5:11 p.m., Tape F6810.03, PNO 1) The portion of the conversation printed here was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

 

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

Paris, October 9, 1968, 1400Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan/Plus. Received at 11:25 a.m. On a covering note transmitting a copy of this telegram to the President, October 9, 1:15 p.m., Rostow wrote: "the most forthcoming business yet with Hanoi--but still utterly inconclusive." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I, [3 of 3]) In a memorandum to the President, October 9, 10:15 a.m., Rostow summarized Vance's initial telephonic report on the tea break meeting. (Ibid., Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. VII) Jorden's notes of the formal session are ibid., William Jorden Papers, William J. Jorden Notes, 25th Meeting. The delegation summarized the formal session in telegram 22109/Delto 807 from Paris, October 9. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968)

22106/Delto 805. From Harriman and Vance.

1. Le Duc Tho, Xuan Thuy and Lau joined us during the tea break, which lasted about 30 minutes.

2. After a few minutes of non substantive conversation, they said they would like to hear about Vance's visit to the United States.

3. We said that Vance had returned directly to Washington where he met with the President and subsequently with Secretary Rusk./2/

/2/See Document 49.

4. We said Vance had reported on the various matters which have been discussed in our private meetings here in Paris.

5. In accordance with understanding between Vance and Secretary Rusk to hammer first on issue of GVN representation, we followed the outline Vance had worked out with Secretary Rusk.

6. We said we could confirm as a result of Vance's conversations in the US that the issue of the inclusion of GVN in the negotiations which would follow a cessation of bombing was utterly indispensable.

7. We said that each of us recognizes that the other has strong views on this matter. But the question is not whether the two sides like each other, but rather whether they are prepared to sit down together and talk about how to make peace.

8. We said we had already opened the door by agreeing to have the NLF or anyone else the DRV wishes on their side. We have made it clear that it is indispensable that the GVN participate on our side.

9. We said it was up to the DRV now to understand the realities of the situation. We added that all the crises that we have known about in recent years have been resolved by contact between the parties. We saw no reason why this situation should be any different from all the others.

10. We said we would like to know whether they had anything new to say on this subject.

11. Thuy said that we did not have enough time to discuss this subject at the tea break and suggested a private meeting. Tho then said, "If you want to discuss this matter further we are prepared to do so." He added that speaking in the Majestic would not be convenient--gesturing toward the walls and ceiling. He suggested we fix a date immediately. Thuy said in this connection the position of the two sides are clear but since we wished to further discuss the matter, the DRV is willing to do so. Tho concluded by saying that what is necessary is goodwill and serious intent and that the DRV has such an attitude.

12. We then fixed the time and place of the meeting for Friday at 9:30 am at our house [1 line of source text not declassified].

13. We then gave Thuy a memorandum septel concerning Christmas packages for the captured pilots./3/ Thuy said they would study it and give us their comments later./4/

/3/The text of this memorandum is in telegram 22111/Delto 808, October 9. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Delto Chron.)

/4/In telegram 252815/Todel 1247 to Paris, October 9, the Department wrote: "It occurs to us that even if Tho is prepared to talk business on Friday, he may come up with conditions of his own that we have not yet considered, ranging from demanding some form of U.S. 'recognition' of the NLF as the price for including the GVN as part of our side, or proposing that the U.S. and GVN negotiate only with the NLF 'but not Hanoi' on matters pertaining to SVN, down to peculiar seating arrangements. Obviously, some conditions would pose greater difficulties than others, and we would want a chance to study any arrangement other than 'our side/your side' before indicating any U.S. position." (Ibid., A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968)

Harriman

 

55. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, undated.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. VII. Secret; Nodis; Harvan/Plus.

Herewith the summary of the current state of play in the negotiations, which you requested, including this morning's teabreak discussion,/2/ our position and Hanoi's stands as follows:

/2/See Document 54.

1. DMZ. In the last six private meetings, starting with the first Harriman/Tho session of September 6 [7]/3/ we have stressed the importance of re-establishment of the DMZ: the stopping of artillery fire from or across the DMZ; no ground attacks from or across the DMZ; and no massing of troops near the DMZ in a way threatening to the other side.

/3/See Document 7.

The DRV has agreed only to the point on artillery fire--which they conceded in the Oslo talks, but not in the Paris exchanges. However, they have questioned us closely and repeatedly (going back to the early Vance/Lau meetings) and while making no commitment, clearly understand our point of view.

Based on their statements and their silences in the crucial moments in their discussions with Tho, Harriman and Vance stated to Tho that, "we have concluded that, if the bombing of North Viet-Nam were stopped, and the US respected the DMZ, then the DRV would respect the DMZ."

Therefore, Hanoi has in effect been told on three successive occasions that we would expect them to respect the DMZ if we stopped the bombing and we respected the DMZ, and they have not demurred.

2. Cities. Our major representations on this point were made in late May and early June when Saigon was being shelled. At that time Harriman stated publicly and privately that a conclusion of such attacks would have "the most serious adverse consequences on progress in Paris." At that time also, you made clear in several public statements your deep concern with these attacks.

Shelling of Saigon stopped on June 20. On July 3, when Harriman asked Thuy if this was significant, Thuy replied "I think this is understandable to you. The rockets have stopped. What is your attitude?" (The DRV announced the release of three pilots at the same time, and Thuy also referred to this action during the same conversation.)/4/

/4/See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. VI, Document 291.

In the Vance/Lau conversations, Vance asked for agreement on the absence of attacks against major population centers such as Da Nang, Hue, and Saigon. Lau's answer was to refer Vance to the NLF if he wanted to discuss matters in the South.

In subsequent meetings, Harriman and Vance have referred to attacks on the cities, varying the intensity of their remarks in part in relation to communist behavior on the ground in the South. At today's teabreak, Harriman and Vance repeated our position.

3. GVN Representation. Since the beginning of the Vance/Lau talks, we have been stressing the importance of GVN representation on our side of the table during any substantive talks concerning political settlement in the South. We have put forward the "our side/your side" mechanism as our device to meet our own requirement, while allowing the NLF or the Alliance to sit with Hanoi.

At first, the DRV may not have recognized the primacy of this point in our position. Furthermore, they appeared to have believed that we were demanding DRV recognition of the GVN. In the latter part of August, Vance and Harriman clarified our position. They pointed out that this was a question not of recognition but of representation at the conference table. Then, in the first Harriman/Tho meeting (September 7), Harriman added that GVN participation in plenary sessions would not rule out continuation of private conversations on matters of mutual concern to the US and the DRV.

In reviewing the North Vietnamese delegation's statements on this matter, I find that throughout July and August the North Vietnamese invariably reacted to a statement of our position by a lengthy polemic attacking the GVN as puppets. More recently, however, the North Vietnamese (while still attacking the GVN) have laid greatest stress on an attempt to defer this question to the post-cessation agenda. They have made explicit that they have not yet expressed their position on this issue. Today, they said that they would be willing to discuss the question of GVN participation the day after cessation, and have said that quick agreement could be possible "if both sides take into account the views of the other." I don't know what this means.

B. Summary/5/

/5/There is no section marked "A" in this memorandum.

In summary, I note that the only item the DRV has so far given us explicit assurances on is artillery fire across the DMZ. At the same time, they have clearly avoided an outright rejection of any of the US requirements for cessation. They may have concluded that we are satisfied on the DMZ point; the question of cities has been less emphasized lately (until today) and it is difficult to judge its importance to Hanoi--their capability for massive attacks is undoubtedly diminished as a result of our intensified military pressure on them; and, on the question of GVN representation, I conclude that they have been backing away from this issue, looking for ways around it, and in general softening their rhetoric without yet giving us what we want.

Nicholas deB Katzenbach

 

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

Washington, October 9, 1968, 12:50 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 3 F, Memos on Bombing in Vietnam, 3/67-10/68. No classification marking. The notation "ps" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. A separate notation in an unknown hand reads: "To Rostow for comment."

For the President

The CIA summary for the past few days has reported substantial movements of NVN troops out of forward positions in I Corps, II Corps, and III Corps. In some cases the disengagement appears to be total, and the NVN forces have moved back into Laos and Cambodia. I understand current estimates are that between 1/8 and 1/10 of NVN forces formerly in I Corps have left in recent weeks.

It may well be that these units have decamped only in order to re-fit for further action. Or that Abrams and the monsoons have harassed them so successfully that they are simply retiring from a bad situation for a while. Nevertheless our intelligence seems too uncertain for us to make a positive judgment that the North Vietnamese are only preparing for another round of attacks.

In these circumstances, perhaps we should consider scaling down the number of bombing attacks on North Vietnam.

The daily sortie rate has been in the 420 range for a long time now--with the exception of yesterday, when there were 324. By dropping the number of sorties into the 200's or high 100's, we might give some indication that we are prepared to scale down as they do. If they continue to move troops out of contact and out of country, we would further reduce the number of sorties. If they renew heavy activity with troops that have returned to action, we would scale up the number of sorties again.

Harriman could suggest this to them in Paris, reminding them that stopping the bombing altogether will take some assurance on the DMZ and participation by the GVN in the next round./2/

/2/In an October 10 memorandum to Rostow commenting on this memorandum, Ginsburgh wrote: "Harry McPherson suggests that, in view of recent withdrawals of NVN troops, we should consider scaling down the number of bombing attacks on North Vietnam. I can't think of a worse way to fight a war--or to negotiate a peace. If the North Vietnamese were to initiate such a suggestion--either directly or indirectly--it would at least be worth considering. Lacking such an initiative on their part, I can see no basis for thinking that a scaling down of the bombing might open up any new avenues toward peace. Hanoi already knows by our word and deed that we are prepared to scale down as they do." (Ibid.)

Harry

 

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

Washington, October 10, 1968, 0025Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 23-9 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by John Burke of the Vietnam Working Group, cleared by John Walsh of S/S, and approved by Bundy.

252908. For Ambassador Bunker from Bundy.

1. As you know, the information media have been making as much as possible from the coup rumors that are apparently circulating in Saigon, and from the red alert which the GVN declared on Oct 8. We have been responding to press queries by taking the line that we are aware of GVN's declaration of a state of alert, but have avoided comment on such speculative stories as that carried by AP reporting wholesale arrest of marine officers and the prediction attributed to "a high government source" that many people will be arrested within the next few days.

2. From certain indicators, notably Minister of Interior Khiem's conversation with Sam Berger (Saigon 39695),/2/ as well as recent CAS reporting, it does appear that President Thieu is somewhat concerned about political activity against the government. We would hope that he and his colleagues are on top of this situation. (We do feel, by the way, that Khiem may have been inclined to accept, without sufficient skepticism, former police chief Doan Cong Lap's version of plotting in I Corps by RDV cadres and others.)

/2/Dated October 9. (Ibid.)

3. Obviously, it would be most helpful if during the course of Oct 10 GVN were in position and disposed to make an authoritative, public statement which would put the events and rumors of the last few days in some sort of perspective and which would indicate to the public at large that the constitutional government remains firmly in control and that there was never any important threat to its stability. This would seem to us to be the best way of dampening down excessive speculation and depriving Hanoi and others of the opportunity of embarrassing GVN and ourselves./3/

/3/In telegram 253254 from Saigon, October 10, the Embassy speculated that "Thieu himself may be over-reacting for our benefit and trying to signal something to us about his position towards peace possibilities or any fresh developments in Paris" and advised: "It seems to us absolutely essential that another major effort be tried at this time to bring the two together. If we were to see some sort of break in Paris within the near future, the GVN's position as well as our own would be seriously weakened if an open and obvious rift existed at the highest levels in Saigon and was apparent to one and all. By the same token, evidence of a closer collaboration between Thieu and Ky would aid our cause markedly." (Ibid.)

4. We understand just how difficult it is to piece together all aspects of a situation such as this. At times such as this the Vietnamese can be at their most Byzantine. We assume that you will let us know if we can be helpful in any way.

Rusk

 

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

Paris, October 11, 1968, 1520Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968. Secret; Flash; Nodis/Harvan/Plus. Received at noon. In a covering note transmitting this telegram to the President, October 11, 1:20 p.m., Rostow noted: "Herewith Harriman and Vance's report of their conversation. The marked para. 12 is, perhaps, the critical statement." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [2 of 3]) An 11-page memorandum of conversation containing literal notes of the meeting drafted by Davidson is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG59, S/AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, Sept. 11-Meeting XXI)

22253/Delto 817. Distribution only as directed by the Secretary. From Harriman and Vance.

Subj: Oct 11 private meeting with Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy.

1. We met with Le Duc Tho and Xuan Thuy for one hour and three-quarters morning Oct 11 at location provided [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] in suburb of Sceaux. Tho and Thuy were accompanied by an interpreter and two notetakers. Lau was not present. Davidson and Negroponte accompanied us. Formal discussion lasted one hour.

2. Thuy opened meeting by asking Vance to repeat again what he had said at Wednesday's tea break on GVN representation./2/ We did so using same language as at tea break. Tho then said he wanted to raise two questions. First, whether we would stop the bombing when we had a clear answer to the question of GVN participation as a party in the negotiations that would follow a cessation. Second, whether after a clear answer to this question has been given we will consider the answer to be a condition or reciprocity for stopping of bombing.

/2/See Document 54.

3. We answered the second question first, saying it was not a demand for reciprocity or a condition but, as we had said many times, was our definition of serious talks. We said that as we had stated, we do not believe there could be serious negotiations without inclusion of representatives of GVN on our side.

4. Turning to the first question, we said that we could not answer the question and that it would have to be answered in Washington. We then made the following statement: "In responding to your question, it is very important that there be no misunderstanding between us. It is important to understand that we are not talking about reciprocity or conditions but the simple fact that after a cessation of all bombardment the President's ability to maintain that situation would be affected by certain elemental considerations.

5. "We do not look on them as a condition for stopping the bombing but as a description of the situation which would permit serious negotiations and thus the cessation to continue. You will understand, therefore, that the circumstances we have discussed in our various private meetings about military activity in and around the DMZ are essential to the maintenance of that situation. And, of course, you know from our various discussions that indiscriminate attacks launched against major cities would create a situation which would not permit serious talks and thus the maintenance of a cessation." We said that we had said this before, and that it was specifically confirmed when Vance was in Washington.

6. Le Duc Tho asked whether we had finished. He then said that they took note of our statement that cessation of bombing and all other acts of war would be unconditional. Tho continued, but suppose that the DRV agrees to participation of GVN at negotiations after the bombing ceases. You cannot yet assert that bombing will be stopped. You have to report to Washington. We confirmed that this decision could only be made by the President and asked him why he could not indicate his own answer now.

7. Tho said suppose the DRV agrees to participation of the Saigon government. The DRV does not know that the US will stop bombing so how could the DRV agree to GVN participation. Tho said he agreed that there would be no reciprocity for cessation of bombing and also agreed that the US wanted to have reason to believe, but what, he asked, is the condition raised by the US? Is it agreement on the representation of the Saigon government? If so, Tho was prepared to discuss the issue, but first they had to know if US would stop the bombing if the DRV responded affirmatively./3/

/3/In telegram 22279/Delto 819 from Paris, October 11, the delegation commented on Tho's response: "We believe it is consistent with Tho's question as to whether we would call agreement on GVN participation a condition [or] reciprocity. In that case we said it was not reciprocity, but our definition of serious discussions." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968)

8. We asked whether if we gave an affirmative answer they would agree to GVN participation. Tho turned the question around, saying that he wondered whether if they agreed we would stop the bombing. We replied we were not authorized to answer that question. Thuy said he agreed with what Le Duc Tho had said and wanted to add the following thought: If the DRV gives us their answer first and we reported that to Washington, the US might merely note that response, raise other factors and make propaganda of the North Vietnamese acceptance. We said we would not make propaganda if they answered. We asked Tho and Thuy whether we would be mistaken if we reported to our government that on the basis of our discussions we believed the North Vietnamese answer would be favorable. Tho replied that he suggested we report as follows: If North Vietnam accepted the participation of the Saigon government, would the President immediately stop the bombing?

9. We said we would prefer them to tell us now that they would accept participation of the Saigon government if we stopped the bombing. Le Duc Tho replied, "It is the same thing." (As what he had said.) We asked what his statement meant and Tho replied, "The substance is the same."

10. Tho said he would like to repeat once again that regarding a peaceful settlement, North Viet-Nam had a serious intent and that he hoped we also had a serious intent. He said North Viet-Nam knows how to look at the problem realistically and so would we. And only in this way could the matter be settled peacefully. He said, suppose we formally answer what you are now requiring and you don't stop the bombing--then you would have no goodwill and would not have looked realistically at the matter.

11. Tho said he was convinced that if we both had serious intent and goodwill, a peaceful settlement can be reached. We said that nothing would be worse than to have the talks start and then break down and that that was the reason why we have been completely frank with them.

12. Tho said when you give us an answer we will express our view. He said "We should be positive and you should be positive. If we are positive and you are not, or vice-versa, then no progress will be made."/4/

/4/In a memorandum summarizing a secure telephone call from the Paris delegation, October 11, 9:20 a.m., Read noted that Vance had reported this part of the meeting as follows: "Tho then said if the U.S. gave a positive response, the DRV would give a positive response." (Ibid., Top Secret Miscellaneous Documents--1968)

13. We said we would communicate with Washington the substance of today's conversation and would meet with them on Monday if we had an answer. If we had no answer, we would let them know.

14. This concluded our formal talk. Over tea, Le Duc Tho and Thuy both said that they believed that rapid progress could be made if we were really determined to move toward peace./5/

/5/In a separate memorandum discussing the delegation's telephone call, October 11, Read noted the following comments that would not be included in the telegram reporting on the meeting: "Vance: The fewer people who know about this in Washington the better. Secrecy is essential. Vance is satisfied that the DRV knows what to do regarding the DMZ and cities. We should give an early affirmative reply to their first question. Harriman got on the line. He said he endorsed Vance's comments and recommendation fully. There is no doubt that the DRV understands our views. 'There is nothing to do but to give an affirmative response to the first question. The sooner the better.'" (Ibid.)

Harriman

 

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

Washington, October 11, 1968, 12:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [3 of 3]. Top Secret; Literally Eyes Only. The notation "ps" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.

Mr. President:

I have been in and out of government for 27 years, in the intelligence-foreign policy business.

I have learned this rule: if something unexpected happens, stop in your tracks and ask this question:

What has been wrong in my picture of the situation which led to the unexpected event?

I told you the chances were 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 that we would get the kind of exchange we did in Paris today. I was wrong.

There was an additional element I did not report: Tho said at the end: "with a positive response we can move rapidly to peace."

We must now face the possibility--even likelihood--that they wish to wind up the war fast. No matter how sugar-coated, the DMZ and city deals and GVN participation mean, they are probably prepared for a quick settlement on, roughly, our terms.

Why is this possible?

First, the military situation. It is very bad for them. After their experience with the August offensive (preceded by 60,000 infiltrators) they may have concluded that even another 100,000 warm North Vietnamese bodies brought in during November-January would not get them anywhere on the ground in the face of Abrams and the expanding, more confident ARVN. (You should know that a good many North Vietnamese units in South Vietnam are now either:

--outside the country;

--at the border;

--or moving towards the border.)

Second, the political situation. They may have concluded that Thieu-Huong could not be unseated by them; would not be unseated by us; and that a Ky coup was not enough to count on.

Third, possibly the desire for a settlement with you rather than Nixon played a part.

In short, it is now more likely rather than less likely (but, of course, not sure) that they have decided:

--to accept an unsatisfactory political settlement in the South;

--to negotiate U.S. troops out rapidly;

--to save face, as an intelligence report I sent you this morning/2/ suggests, by claiming they forced the aggressive U.S. imperialists out of Vietnam;

/2/Not found.

--and then to turn vigorously to trying to win in South Vietnam by political means.

If this is so, we have a monumental job of fast negotiation ahead, in which the most critical job will be to help Thieu keep his country stable as the new situation unfolds.

Two major caveats:

1. Until the next session, when we put the final proposition loud and clear, we shall not know the full meaning of this morning's exchange.

2. We must keep our eyes on Laos where the military-political position is dangerous and a cave-in could take away a high proportion of what we have gained in South Vietnam.

Walt

 

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

Paris, October 12, 1968, 1143Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-October 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan/Plus. Received at 8:35 a.m.

22313/Delto 820. Distribution only as directed by the Secretary. From Vance.

1. This morning Minister Oberemko called on me at his request. The meeting lasted about 30 minutes, including five minutes for a cup of coffee. Oberemko telephoned last night requesting the meeting for 10 am this morning, saying that he wished to discuss a very urgent matter.

2. Oberemko opened the meeting by saying that as he had indicated in his message last night he had come on a very urgent matter. He said that what he was about to say was not to be considered a reply from the Soviet Government. He then said he wished to repeat what I had said to him previously. Oberemko said that I had told him in the last few weeks that the US attaches great importance to the issue of the participation of the representatives of the Government of South Viet-Nam in future negotiations and that it is necessary for the US to be sure that serious talks will start and start promptly. He said that I had said there could not be serious talks without the participation of the representatives of the GVN. Oberemko said that I had further stated that an agreement or understanding between the DRV and the US on the issue of GVN representation could be a major factor in facilitating a decision of the cessation of bombardment of the DRV. Oberemko said I had subsequently told him that the word "could" should be changed to "would."

3. Oberemko said that I had further stated to him that the action of the delegation of the DRV on the issue of GVN participation was sharply negative, and that it had produced suspicion on our part as to the seriousness of the DRV in the Paris talks. Oberemko added that I had said that the issue of GVN participation was not a condition but rather a test of the seriousness of the DRV.

4. Oberemko said that I had further stated to him that we had discussed the matter of military action in and around the DMZ and the matter of attacks on major cities with representative of the DRV and that we had concluded that they would know how to act if the bombing were stopped.

5. Oberemko then asked me if this correctly summarized what I had stated to him. I said that it did. Oberemko said "I would now like to give you a statement and I am sure you will want to take it down verbatim." He then gave me the following statement:

"I have good reason to believe that if the US stops unconditionally and completely the bombardments and other acts of war against the DRV, the delegation of North Viet-Nam will agree to the participation of the representative of the Saigon government in the talks on the problem of political settlement in Viet-Nam. Thus these talks would be held by the representatives of the DRV, of the United States of America, of the NLF, and the Saigon government." I asked Oberemko who the "I" was, and he said, "It is I, Oberemko." Oberemko said "The wording is a little awkward but that is the way I got it from them."

5. Oberemko then said that he hoped that what he had just said would help move the talks off dead center and that this view was shared by the North Vietnamese. He told me that he had met with the North Vietnamese yesterday afternoon after our meeting with them. Oberemko then said "We consider now is the right time to act. The situation is most favorable right now and this opportunity should not be lost." Oberemko then digressed to say that as we undoubtedly knew, there were factions with different views in Hanoi and that if positive action was not taken now it would be a major setback for those who wanted peace and that it would then be a very long time before peace could be reached. Oberemko added that if we advanced any new conditions it might bring many difficulties. Indeed, he said, "it may provoke reversal of the whole DRV position." Oberemko said, "What I have told you is the rock bottom to which the DRV can go." Oberemko said, "I have another statement which I would like to give to you verbatim if you would care to take it down." He then said:

"I can tell you also on good authority that if the question of the unconditional and complete cessation of bombardments and all other acts of war against North Viet-Nam is resolved positively and promptly, the delegation of the DRV is ready to discuss seriously and in good faith other questions relating to the political settlement in Viet-Nam, provided of course that the other side would also act seriously and in good faith."

6. Oberemko said that he understood that we had told the North Vietnamese yesterday that we were communicating with our government and would be back in touch with them./2/ He asked me whether I knew when we would have an answer. I told him that I did not know but doubted that we could answer on Monday./3/

/2/See Document 58.

/3/October 14.

7. Oberemko got up to leave and expressed the hope that what he had said would be constructive and would bring about positive action which would lead to a settlement.

Harriman

 

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

Saigon, October 12, 1968, 1145Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bunker Files: Lot 74 D 417, Vietnam Telegram Chrons--1968, 1969. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan/Double Plus.

40117. From Ambassador Bunker and General Abrams. Ref: State 254365./2/

/2/In telegram 254365 to Saigon, October 11, the Department transmitted the Paris delegation's report of the October 11 private meeting. (Ibid., A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968) For the report, see Document 58.

1. The stand taken by the Hanoi delegates at the 11th private meeting indicates a clear desire to shift their main effort from the battlefield to the conference table. This has come as no surprise to us. We were drafting a paper which thought this was a likely early move by Hanoi, and much of the following is taken from that paper.

2. There has been a steady deterioration in Hanoi's position in South Vietnam ever since the military defeats which overtook their general offensive at Tet and again in May/June. The August/Sept offensive could not even be got off the ground and was the weakest of all three attacks. After ten months of enormous effort, Hanoi and the NLF have nothing to show for the loss of over 150,000 killed, plus the thousand killed by B-52 and other air attacks, or who died of wounds or disease, or were captured, or defected, or were eliminated by arrest.

3. At the same time Hanoi has seen the emergence in the South of a stronger and more confident government under Thieu and Huong; a stronger and more effective and aggressive South Vietnamese military and para-military force; a growing bitterness and hostility toward Communism among the people; and an arming of the people themselves in the Civilian Self-Defense Corps. There have been no mass defections to the Communists from the nationalist side in the South--civil or military.

4. We have been gradually accumulating evidence since about April/May that Communist supporters and cadres in military and civilian ranks were beginning to doubt victory and to lose faith in their leaders. More and more time of the leaders in recent weeks has been devoted to maintaining faith in victory and to overcoming the argument that the South Vietnamese and their allies are "too strong to be attacked." Moreover, the NLF has been having more and more trouble recruiting in the South as people left controlled or threatened areas for govt-controlled areas, and the government increased its mobilization and deprived the Communists of manpower resources.

5. The loss of Southern-born cadres was particularly worrying, as these cadres were shifted in large numbers from guerrilla, proselytizing and civil work into the regular forces, where they were chewed up in battle. Others deserted, or were killed, captured, arrested or defected. The 75/25 ratio of Southern to Northern troops in the regular forces was reversed within the year, and could not be concealed. As husbands, sons and brothers left their hamlets not to be seen or heard from again and there were no signs of peace, restiveness and resistance began to be reported in some Communist controlled areas.

6. Beginning with Khe Sanh, our B-52 strikes became a devastating tactical weapon. These strikes and other air bombing of the northern panhandle, in new bombing patterns and designs, have significantly constrained the movement of supplies through the DMZ and into Laos. This, and the wholesale uncovering of caches in the last couple of months--a product of improved intelligence, greater cooperation of the people in the countryside, and information supplied by POW's and defectors--have created supply difficulties for the enemy.

7. A record number of enemy battalions were withdrawn into North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the last days of Sept and early October, signifying an end to the "third offensive." We therefore conclude that Hanoi has had to seek a respite on both military and morale grounds.

8. What else may be motivating Hanoi in this latest move at the eleventh private meeting, we can only speculate about. It may be that Hanoi assumes that if it can get the bombing stopped and keep it stopped until Jan 20, the next President will find it very difficult to resume the bombing. Meanwhile it will have time to rest and resupply and prepare for a renewed struggle in the spring. Gen Abrams believes that [after?] a bombing cessation it will take at least two or three months for Hanoi to rebuild for another attack.

9. Another possible explanation for the sudden switch by Hanoi is that it sees itself as in the relatively strongest position it is ever likely to be for purposes of negotiations, and if it waits any longer to negotiate there may be an erosion of its support in the South or a further weakening of its relative position as the Thieu government moves into more offensive operations on the several fronts--military, Chieu Hoi, anti-VC infrastructure, revolutionary development and pacification.

10. A third possibility is Hanoi's fear of a Nixon victory and what that might portend.

11. Finally, it may well be that Hanoi has drawn the conclusion that the US will not disengage in Vietnam no matter who is elected, and that it must now make the best possible bargain while it is still in a comparatively strong position to negotiate.

12. We personally feel that some or all these factors have played a part, but what is significant is that each of these factors put Hanoi in a defensive position. Hanoi did not take the stand they did at the 11th meeting because victory was in their grasp, but because victory has eluded them and they must now seek the best possible terms. For this reason we venture to predict that Hanoi will soon propose a cease-fire.

13. A complete cessation of bombing will cause some apprehension here, but I do not think it need worry us excessively. We shall maintain a military offensive in the South, the stepped up pacification campaign to extend control over more contested hamlets will be announced on Oct 21, and the intensified Chieu Hoi and Phoenix program attacking the VC infrastructure will be pressed simultaneously.

14. We expect that the NVA/VC will try to intensify the fighting as the serious negotiations start, but we do not think they have a capability for sustained action during the next two or three months and will need that time to repair their supply base.

15. We do not want to leave the impression that we think the war is over or that the North Vietnamese or VC forces are about to collapse. Their fanatical faith in the rightness of their cause, the fear of reprisal and retribution in both the South and the North in the event of defeat, the professionalism of men who have made revolution their life and career, the extraordinary investment of lives and hope over so many years, the tradition of discipline, and the Asian, coupled with Communist, indifference to lives, all suggest that Hanoi and the NLF will continue to fight with undiminished fervor.

16. Up to now Hanoi's political effort has been secondary to its military effort as Hanoi sought a military breakthrough. What we now expect is that the major effort will shift to the political front, with the military in a secondary and supporting role. We believe that there will be very heavy fighting up to the time a cease-fire is arranged or other steps are agreed to diminish the conflict.

Bunker

 

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

Washington, October 12, 1968, 1410Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan/Double Plus, Vol. I. Secret; Sensitive; Literally Eyes Only. Received at 1438Z at the LBJ Ranch, where Johnson stayed October 11-13.

CAP 82546. Herewith the lucid, firm Bunker-Abrams response./2/

/2/In telegram 254364 to Saigon, October 11, the Department requested comment from Bunker and Abrams on proposed instructions to Harriman and Vance. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968) For the instruction as sent, see Document 65.

1. General Abrams and I interpret the exchange with Hanoi at the eleventh private meeting as a fairly clear indication that Hanoi is ready for a tactical shift from the battlefield to the conference table.

2. We concur in the instruction to Harriman and Vance, and believe Hanoi will give indications that it finds para one "acceptable," and paras two and three "understandable." We would regard such a response as meeting our essential requirements for a cessation of the bombing.

3. We welcome the assurance that Thieu and other key allies will be consulted.

4. I believe that Thieu will find the instructions acceptable, despite the fact that he has been under some pressure from the hardliners to toughen his stand on negotiations. His main concern, I think, will be that he will see this as the precursor to an early cease-fire, which he would prefer to put off as long as possible./3/

/3/See Document 64.

5. We believe that Thieu must be given time to inform VP Ky, PriMin Huong, MinDefense and possibly one or two others, shortly before our action becomes known, so that their full cooperation will be enlisted. If they first hear news from public sources it would arouse suspicion, certainly in Ky and others.

6. Our further comments on significance of Hanoi's position at October 11 private meeting, and why it looks from here as though Hanoi is at last ready to move to the conference table, are in a separate message./4/

/4/See Document 66.

 

 


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