U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
 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 170-192

November 1-12, 1968: South Vietnamese Abstention From the Expanded Peace Conference; the Anna Chennault Affair

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

Saigon, November 1, 1968, 0440Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 12:20 a.m.


41688. For Secretary from Ambassador Bunker.

1. After talking with you/2/ I immediately went to see President Thieu to report on my final conversation. The Vice President, Foreign Minister, and Presidential Assistant Duc were still with him.

/2/See footnote 4, Document 167.

2. I told Thieu the President would not make the announcement as originally planned for 0900 Saigon time, but would make a nationwide speech. The President had decided that he must go ahead. He had informed the three Presidential candidates who all enthusiastically endorsed the course. "The President asked me to say to you that you should not be disheartened or discouraged. He would say some very fine things about Viet Nam in his speech and he wants me to assure you that we intend to continue our firm support of your country and your government. We intend to continue to work together with you to achieve what we set out to do. We are all sorry that we could not be together on this."

3. Thieu asked me if the TCC countries had been informed of the decision, and I said they were being informed.

4. His further remarks were somewhat disjointed, and I will give them to you as he gave them to me:

A. "I cannot guess whether we will achieve the result we hoped for. Our firm purpose is to have serious talks directly with Hanoi to achieve peace and progress. The most legal right of our government is not to accept serious talks with Hanoi with the NLF as an independent entity.

B. "I never doubted the sincerity of President Johnson and the US Government not to recognize the NLF and its promise to support us in the talks. We have our own problems here. If we had gone into these talks with the NLF it would have meant the disintegration of the nation. The state must have stability, not trouble, not instability; that is our gravest concern.

C. "I am sorry I cannot join the joint announcement. I look forward to the speech of President Johnson before I make any speech to the nation. Please assure President Johnson that I will continue to have the greatest gratitude to him and the US Government. I think we have to await developments now of the situation after we see how we could proceed to find the way to peace with Hanoi."

5. To this I replied I hope we will find a way out of this situation. We are faced with a practical situation with the NLF, and that is why we proposed the our side/your side formula. It is a fact of life. The NLF is not recognized by you or us, and our whole purpose is to find a way around this problem so as to get on with serious peace talks. That is what we will try to do in the period which lies ahead./3/

/3/In telegram 41698 from Saigon, November 1, Bunker reported the verbatim account of an exchange in which Thieu charged that the United States would "not support our position that the other side is one delegation." In response, Bunker denied this statement and Berger replied: "I said that if you make this a condition for your attendance at the talks, we will not support you. But we will support you in the position that in the negotiations the other side will be treated as one delegation." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET)

6. Thieu asked the Vice President if he had anything to say, and he shook his head.



171. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Robert McNamara/1/

Washington, November 1, 1968, 8:31 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and McNamara, November 1, 1968, 8:31 a.m., Tape F6810.09, PNO 6. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. A summary of this conversation is ibid. The Daily Diary described the conversation in the following manner: "congratulating the President on his speech last night, discussion of comments made by candidates." (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

President: Bob?

McNamara: Good morning, Mr. President.

President: How're you doing?

McNamara: I knew you'd be the only other person in town working this morning.

President: No, no, but we have been working, you know.

McNamara: I know it. I know it. I just wanted to call--I won't take a second, but I just wanted to call and say--

President: Please do.

McNamara: Congratulations. I think it was terrific, Mr. President./2/

/2/Reference is to the President's announcement of the bombing halt; see Document 169.

President: Well, God knows. I don't know what will come out of it. We might just really have shambles, but we had to try it.

McNamara: Well, I think you're absolutely right, and it wasn't an easy decision, and I just wanted you to know that I've been thinking of you and sending you my best wishes.

President: Old Abrams sure has worked out good, Bob.

McNamara: Oh, he's terrific, Mr. President. He's just solid as a rock.

President: He just came in here like a man, and not only said that it could be done, but urged it be done, and recommended it be done, and took the ball himself.

McNamara: Well, he's just as solid as a rock, Mr. President. I'm sure that he's with you all the way, and you can always depend on him there. In a time like this, that's the kind of a man you need.

President: What we are in trouble about, you see, are these candidates. They have been playing with them. One said he would stop the bombing--no comma, no semi-colon--period.

McNamara: Yeah.

President: So they get that and they think that if they'll wait 10 days he'll stop the bombing everything will be over with--that's what Hanoi thinks. Then Nixon comes along and his people tell them that I'm not stopping the bombing and I'm not selling you out and I'm not for letting them take you over and this crowd will sell you out just like they did China, and you better wait until I get in. Now you've got all the South Vietnamese and maybe the Koreans thinking that. The damned trouble we're going to have. We had this thing wrapped up, signed, sealed, ready to go two weeks ago, and we got this speech of stopping the bombing, period. So [Le Duc] Tho took off for Hanoi, and we couldn't get him back. Then we got this ready, and we found out that they've been playing with the South Vietnamese, and we started watching their messages. It's the damndest mess you ever saw. It's just almost--well, it's just heresy. It's just unbelievable. So we tried to get them aboard. We had a joint announcement that they agreed on with us. But then they all got to fighting and they wouldn't do it. So today, the last thing I heard, I was up late, was that Thieu said that this was entirely unilateral./3/

/3/Thieu's comment was in a communiqué issued by the GVN on November 1. A second communiqué issued by the GVN noted the lack of "any sufficiently strong reason for associating itself with the U.S. Government in this decision." In addition, in a statement that evening to journalists, Thieu noted: "South Vietnam is not a truck to be attached to a locomotive which will pull it wherever it likes." These statements are excerpted in Keesing's Contemporary Archives, September 6-13, 1969, pp. 23549-23550.

McNamara: Oh, really? I didn't see that.

President: Yeah. So we got a--you talk about guts, it took a lot to leave them, but Korea and--we've been watching what Korea said to South Vietnam. Korea and Thailand and South Vietnam were ready to go if South Vietnam would go. And we cleared it with everybody. But then the damned politicians got in it and started telling them to wait awhile, they'll do a lot better. And so they may stay aboard or not stay aboard, I don't know.

McNamara: Oh. I think they will, Mr. President. They're not strong enough not to stay on board.

President: That's right. But so what. Then we all come out and we've lost everything we've fought for.

McNamara: Well, that's right. I thought Thieu's statement that I read in the Times this morning didn't sound too bad. But that may have been earlier than the one you referred to.

President: Maybe, I don't know. All I--last we heard of him, poor Bunker worked for days and nights.

McNamara: How's he doing?

President: Just fine, he's just a million percent, and Abrams is just right with him. And we sent Abrams back and told him to really just tell them that this was it, and then we waited 2 or 3 days until we could try to get him aboard. Then we gave him a deadline, and then he came back to me and said well, he might go if I would guarantee to him that this would bring the war an end.

McNamara: [Laughter]

President: I told him I couldn't guarantee the Communists and I don't know what they'd do, but I had reason to believe they would. The Russians had told me they would do this. The North Vietnamese said, "Just try us and you'll see." In any event, we can't do a damned bit of good bombing now because the monsoon is on. I told him it's like I'm running a freight line from New York to Atlanta, and have a big flood and wash out all the bridges in Baltimore and Pittsburgh and New Jersey, and I can't get my trucks through, there's no use running them up there and parking them, so I just better put them all between here and Atlanta, get some extra business. And I said that's what we've got to do. We've got a lot of stuff in Laos we need to do and South Vietnam, but no use going to North Vietnam now. And, oh, he was pretty well aboard until the Nixon people got in it and I don't know what will come out of it.

McNamara: Well, you better take care of yourself. You sound like you have a bad cold.

President: I have the worst one I've ever had.

McNamara: Don't waste your time talking to me, Mr. President. I was just thinking of you and I just wanted you to know it.

President: Appreciate it, Bob. Thank you.

McNamara: Bye-bye.


172. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell/1/

November 1, 1968, 11:38 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Russell, November 1, 1968, 11:38 a.m., Tape F68.08, PNO 5. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. A summary of this conversation is ibid. Johnson, in Washington, reached Russell at Winder, Georgia. The description of the meeting in the Daily Diary reads: "Asking his reaction to last night's statement. Ran through developments leading to the statement, and discussed possibilities for the future." (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

Russell: Yes?

President: Lyndon Johnson. How are you, Senator? Dick, how are you?

Russell: Pretty good, Mr. President. How are you?

President: Fine. I just wanted to figure out what you thought over night and what bases you thought were untouched, what your reaction was, to the statement,/2/ and what we should have said, we didn't.

/2/See Document 169.

Russell: Well, I thought you made a fine statement, Mr. President.

President: We talked to the three candidates,/3/ I think I told you.

/3/See Document 166.

Russell: Yes, sir.

President: I didn't see any of them come out in the paper and say this. I'm afraid Humphrey'll brag a little.

Russell: I thought Wallace made a magnificent statement.

President: I didn't see it. I haven't seen it.

Russell: Well, he's just--in the paper here, he said that "I couldn't care less how it affects my campaign. All other matters pale into insignificance and how it affects me or any other candidate." He said he "prays and hopes that the bombing halt ordered--that you ordered--is the beginning of the end of hostilities in Southeast Asia." He said he agreed on your action--about 6 p.m.

President: Well, that's wonderful. He's said--he made the finest statement both times we've talked to him of any of the three. He said last night, "Mr. President, I'll back you. Mr. President, I'll be praying for you every hour, and I just want you to know that."

Russell: Well, he went a little further. I just got that part here before me. He said that you're the commander in chief, none of them could question that now, and had to support you and so forth. I thought that's as far as he could go.

President: Uh--

Russell: I hadn't seen where Nixon said anything specific.

President: Nixon just said, "We'll back you." He's the first one that said it last night. And then Humphrey and Wallace followed. And then Humphrey--uh, I think Nixon is worried that he's floundering; he's fearful that it'll have some effect. And, uh, I don't think that he's quite sure--I don't think he trusts us because he doesn't trust himself. That's my judgment. I think that he's had these people engaged in this stuff. And I told all the candidates that yesterday. I said that there've been folks messing around with both sides. And speaking of Humphrey, I said, "Some folks're saying--making speeches that where Hanoi thought they could benefit by waiting. And then South Vietnam now is beginning to think they can benefit by waiting by what people're doing." So he knows that I know what he's doing. And this morning, they're trying to close it up. Some of his agents are not so active. The other side that-I noticed that one of the Embassy's refused to answer their call.

Russell: Well, do you have any idea what kind of response you're going to get out of the North Vietnamese or when it's coming, I guess?

President: They'll blast us and raise hell and keep fighting. The great danger in this for us is that they will not let up at the DMZ and they will shell the cities, in which event I'll have to go right back. I have given--I have given Creighton [Abrams], though, the rules of engagement, and he doesn't even have to come to us. And he says he's going to give them two tits for one tat. And in the meantime, he's taken every plane we've got, every bomb we've got, every man we've got, and he's putting all the firepower that he can on Laos, where it's dry and where they're coming--coming in. And there's not anything coming through North Vietnam--they're all going out now. They're pulling out. But he's going to take this same firepower and concentrate it in South Vietnam and Laos. And then, if they're not hitting the cities, and he doesn't have to defend those cities, he's going to spread out over the countryside, and try to clean them out pretty good. He was in hopes that he'd have a great psychological advantage, and he'd mount a masterful psychological warfare, saying, "Now's the time to come on in and give up. You see, they've recognized your government, they've recognized your leaders, they've got President Thieu coming to the conference table, so now's the time to give up." And he would have North Vietnam protected--the DMZ protected, he'd have his cities protected, he'd be free to turn all of his power in Laos and South Vietnam with his planes, and then he could release his men--several thousands that are protecting these places like Saigon--and really have a sweep. Now, the damn fools in Saigon, we don't know what they're going to do. Last night, they came back and made three demands on me. One was, we set no date for the conference. Well, I can't do that, because the main thing I'm getting out of this is they let GVN come to the table. That's what I've been demanding all these years, and now they've agreed to it. So I've got to have a date. And we so told--no date for the conference. Well, I can't do that, because the main thing I'm getting out of this is they let GVN come to the table. That's what I've been demanding all these years, and now they've agreed to it. So I've got to have a date. And we so told--

Russell: I thought that they already agreed they're we going to meet and talk on Wednesday./4/

/4/November 6.

President: They all agreed 2 weeks ago. And then they agreed to one day a week ago. But after Nixon's operatives got busy with them, they started playing for January. And the first statement that South Vietnam put out was that this was a unilateral action by the President. And old man Bunker stayed with them all night. They put out another one this morning that said that they hoped it would lead to peace, that you couldn't tell what if it was good, that he really didn't know whether any good would come from it or not, just wouldn't predict. Now, what he did, at the last minute--I spoke at 8 [p.m.], and I guess he came in at 7--maybe 7:15, he said he would go along and issue a joint announcement if I'd cut out the date in my speech where I said they're going to meet regularly next Wednesday, and they'd be free to be there--I didn't say they'd be there, I said they'd be free to be there. He said that if I'd eliminate that--well, I couldn't eliminate it from the tape, and I wouldn't anyway. That was the first thing. The second thing, if I would give him a guarantee that the North Vietnamese would not cross the DMZ and shell the cities. I told him I couldn't give him a Communist guarantee; that I'd tell him I had good reason to believe that they had told us that, "You stop the bombing and we'll show you, and you'll see it soon." The implication is that clearly they will. We told them that about a dozen times. And we told them the talks can't go on if they're doing either. And they won't talk. So we must, when we say, "Do you get it?", they say, "Yes, we get it." That must mean that they really understand us. Then the Russians told us--I told the Russians I really doubt it that they would live by this--by the DMZ and by the cities. And the Russians--Kosygin came back and said, "Mr. President, I can assure you your doubts are not justified."/5/ Now, I don't know. I thought I left myself plenty of running room last night. But I couldn't get--

/5/See Document 138.

Russell: You left yourself--

President: But I couldn't guarantee him--get back to him and say, "Yes, I will agree to this." I tried to play him like [John F.] Kennedy did to Kosygin. I said, "I will assure you that I have no reason to believe that they will not. No one can guarantee a Communist statement. But I have reason to believe." But he wouldn't take that.

Russell: Well, you mean, who wouldn't take it?

President: Thieu.

Russell: Yeah.

President: Thieu asked three things of me. One was I eliminate the date completely. The second thing that I give him a guarantee--

Russell: Yes, I understood those things.

President: And I've forgotten what the other one was. It's something that--

Russell: The last one that--

President: I don't remember myself, even. But--

Russell: Of course, you couldn't agree to either one of those. He'll be there, though. I don't mean he'll be there, but his representative will be there.

President: He's making a big speech tonight--9 o'clock--to all of his [National] Assembly./6/ And I'm worried about Pak [Chung-hee] too because all these people out there get awfully exercised. Every damn one of them cleared this 2 weeks ago, but after they think they can get a better deal--

/6/See footnote 4, Document 178.

Russell: That's right.

President: They all get independence, you know, after you do. But we may have to start back bombing, or we may not get any more. But I think this ought to put the cap on the climax--every son-of-a-bitch that says, "Stop the bombing, it'll be lovely," they got a chance to see now. And I don't believe we're going to lose anything 'cause I asked Abrams this question, "Can he assure me?" In August he told me they would increase their capability five-fold if we stop the bombing and he'd have to move his men out of the I Corps." "Now," I said, "this is October/November. Can you assure that if we stop the bombing that it will not result in increased casualties?" He said, "I most certainly can." He said, "First place, I hadn't got anybody north of Danang. Second place, they can't get anybody down there without violating any rules where I'd be back bombing again. The damn roads are so bad, and 22 inches of rain in 24 hours, all that kind of stuff, and not 2 days a month that we can get through," and so on and so forth. And he said, "He's whipped, and he's been whipped since September, your people just don't know it." But he said he knows it. And Westmoreland says identically the same thing and Palmer says the same thing. Do you feel that--or do you know enough about it?

Russell: I don't know enough about it to evaluate that.

President: I wish you did.

Russell: I didn't seem to think so, and--

President: I wish you'd come up here. You can sit around and let them show you where they've got their divisions, and where they've moved, and what's happened--see what the hell you think about it. Are you going to come back before the first of the year?

Russell: Yes, sir, I'll be there before the first of the year. Yeah.

President: First time you do, you make Palmer and Westmoreland sit down with you, and Buzz Wheeler, and see just what they've done. They claim they've got less than 75,000 North Vietnamese left--that they've moved 40 or 50 [thousand] of them out.

Russell: Well, they said that the other day, though.

President: Yes. That's right.

Russell: I mean, Westmoreland said that.

President: That's right. They're still moving them out. And Westmoreland is just as cocky as you are that you know how to make a point of order--he's just as sure that they've had 'em whipped since September. He said it's over.

Russell: He repeated that a couple times there the other day.

President: Did you think that we were weak in any point on our statement--we left anything that ought to be--

Russell: I think that when you consider what you had to go on, it was a fine statement. You couldn't make them any guarantees, just like you couldn't tell that fellow in South Vietnam that you promised that there'd be no shelling, no activities, in the DMZ.

President: Where do you think I'm weak? What do you think my danger is?

Russell: I don't--the only danger I see at the present is purely from an historical standpoint and has no relation to the present day. That is, a big flare-up, say, on election day, of bombing Saigon, Hue, and all those other places, and shooting torpedoes in there, and they get active in the DMZ, you're going to have to hit them. And then you'll be accused of this being a purely political maneuver. That's all that I can see. But from a standpoint of just day-to-day, I--I think that you have closed all the holes up awfully well.

President: I think that if these three candidates take the position that they do what they could--that we can keep it out of politics altogether--if every damn one of them say, "I support it."

Russell: I think that's true, because there ain't going to be much of any--there ain't gonna be no politics after next Tuesday, except the recriminations and the funeral services and all that.

[Omitted here is discussion of domestic politics.]


173. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and James Rowe/1/

November 1, 1968, 1:58 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rowe, November 1, 1968, 1:58 p.m., Tape F6811.01, PNO 1. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. A summary of this conversation is ibid. Johnson, in Washington, reached Rowe at Peoria, Illinois, where he was campaigning with Humphrey. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

President: Jim?

Rowe: Yes, Mr. President.

President: I don't want anybody to know that I called you if I can avoid it because it just leads to a lot of complications.

Rowe: I think only your Secret Service people know.

President: You just speak on your own now, and not quoting me or implying otherwise. You just keep the candidate from mentioning Vietnam until Tuesday/2/ night.

/2/November 5.

Rowe: Yeah. He isn't talking about it anyway.

President: This is the most explosive thing you have ever touched in your life. And his statement that he would stop the bombing of Vietnam, period, North Vietnam, period, no comma, no semi-colon/3/--it took us 2 weeks to get around that one.

/3/See Document 40.

Rowe: Mm-hmm.

President: Then Mac Bundy's./4/ Then you know he said he would veto Thieu. That got Thieu mad. Now, Nixon picked up that ball right quick and started going right into them through your China Lobby friend.

/4/See Document 63.

Rowe: Mm-hmm.

President: So he is in deep telling Thieu and them and Korea and all of them not to go along with me on anything because Humphrey said here that he wouldn't pay a damn bit of attention to them, and so what they better do is wait for him and he'll never sell them out, that he'll stay with them. Hell, he didn't think we ought to have sold out China.

Rowe: Yes.

President: And they got your little friend, Mrs. Chennault, and the whole outfit is working in it.

Rowe: Working at it?

President: Yes, working at it. So, as a result, we had them signed up when Hubert made his last statement about the veto--not--going to stop bombing, no comma, no semi-colon, just period. That is, without any condition.

Rowe: Yes.

President: Well, we worked on it 2 weeks and we got them back on the ship again. And in the meantime, Nixon got them off. So, I had to proceed unilaterally last night, which I don't want to because it could be shambles if President Thieu said tonight he is pulling his army out. You see, then we would just have to come home and it is all over. And it's just so delicate. Now all the reporters are saying that Humphrey is being very jubilant and very enthusiastic, and all the aides are saying that this is the difference in the election. Now, if you do, and you are going to get a political issue out of it, and you are going to have these folks--they're getting them answering--you got Hickenlooper and Tower and all the Republicans. And what I would say is just please bar him from mentioning Vietnam.

Rowe: I'll get that done.

President: If I had to have one statement, I'd just say like--like Nixon and Wallace and every other American, I pray for peace every night, period. That's all I would say. I'll do the rest of it if they'll just not be enthusiastic and jubilant and so forth, because if we had to order them back to bombing tomorrow--

Rowe: We're in the soup. That's right.

President: So I just wanted you to know the facts. Now, you have to act on your own judgment.

Rowe: Yes, I will get it done. But let me make this one point. Our staff people--

President: Rusk is just scared to death. He wrote me a memo in longhand/5/ which I read to Hubert and said tell him not to open his damn mouth.

/5/Not found but summarized in Document 168.

Rowe: Yes. We've got about 150 press and every one of them are on everybody's back. One thing we did do is we had a staff meeting and said, "Play this thing down--you don't know anything." They are only asking us one question--"What is the political effect?" We just say we don't know. And when they press too hard, I say I haven't heard anybody make a comment about it except Arthur Schlesinger./6/ Did you see him on the "Today" show?

/6/Former Special Assistant to the President, 1961-1964.

President: No, no, no.

Rowe: Well, he was on this morning. And the first question was, "Are there any politics in this?" And, in his usual way, he said, "While I have had many differences with President Johnson, this is obviously not political." And I said that is the only comment I have heard on the politics of this, and we don't know. And the local politicians are in it, but one thing we can't control is the local "pols," is the--say, I think it is helpful, even there they're saying they don't know how much. Our people aren't saying anything except we don't know, and sticking to that pretty damn closely. Maybe some of them are breaking it, but I don't think so, and I'll go around and lecture them again.

President: I just--it is for your good. It is not--I am not going to get any votes Tuesday. But I just know, and Rusk knows, and Clifford knows, and we have two real explosive things. One, if Hanoi invades the DMZ or hits the cities, we are going back in a minute. Just--they trigger the motion. Abrams has got his orders. So, that could leave you pretty dry if you're very jubilant about this move. The second thing is we do not know where our allies are because as a result of the statement 2 weeks ago, we've lost Thieu.

Rowe: Yeah.

President: Because he thinks that we will sell him out, and Nixon has convinced him, and this damn little old woman, Mrs. Chennault, she's been in on it.

Rowe: Yes. I wouldn't doubt it.

President: Well, I know it. Hell, I know it. I'm not doubting it.

Rowe: Do you want me to get Tommy/7/ to pull her out?

/7/Thomas Corcoran, Washington lawyer, prominent Democratic Party insider, and social escort of Anna Chennault.

President: I don't know. I don't care now. I've already done it. I took the action at 8 o'clock last night, and they've pulled the planes out. Now, we have to wait and see what they do. If they--we can tell them 48 hours--if they don't do anything, it will be very evident we had a deal and it worked.

Rowe: Yeah.

President: If they do do it, then we are in trouble. But I have just got a letter here from Clifford./8/ He is relieved. He said, "Mr. President, there have been times without number in the past 5 years when I have admired you for your fortitude and determination and very unique effectiveness. As of this moment, however, I feel it more deeply than ever before. Your performance on the Vietnam cessation has been magnificent. It was handled with courage, with rare distinction, and the most admirable statesmanship. I was aware of the myriad difficulties that confronted you and I drew comfort and inspiration from the masterful manner in which you met and overcame all of them. I have a profound sense of pride in your performance and in your success." Now--

/8/Clifford's letter, dated November 1, is in the Johnson Library, Clark Clifford Papers, Correspondence: President [1].

Rowe: Well, you're hearing this, for what it's worth, you're hearing this kind of comment on the street. It ought to please you. They are saying that this guy's been tough. We think he must be getting us a good, tough deal. They are saying, "By God, he's been holding them." That's the man on the street talking.

President: If we get it, we've got three things. They said they'd never sit with these puppets. Now they have said they would. That's number one. Number two, we told them there's no use coming to the room if they either bomb the cities or abuse the DMZ. Now, if they don't do either, we have got these two. If they do do them, we are right back where we started.

Rowe: Mm-hmm.

President: Now, we are gambling on the latter. We don't know. The Russians tell us they'll be all right. We've told them twelve times. But I just have a hell of a problem between two candidates and Averell. Averell cusses the generals everyday. And, of course, everything--they pick it up and their Ambassador wires their President and says, "Harriman said today you are a bunch of puppet generals." So, of course, if you were President and you had a million men out there and you were losing twice as many as the United States, how would you feel about that?

Rowe: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

President: Then, the next day here comes a flash. Humphrey says you'd never veto anything he does. So Nixon just picked that one up and went out the same night and said, "By God, I won't veto you. We'll work closely together." So then this guy quit me and went to Nixon.

Rowe: Yes.

President: Now, Bunker has worked all night for the last two nights trying to clean this thing up. And so I told Hubert last night in the long-hand note that Rusk has written which I will show you someday in my memoirs--let you have a copy of it. Rusk said tell Hubert not to brag, please not to be exuberant. Just say I pray for peace. Period. And what the others--they will know what it does if we don't jump up and down about it.

Rowe: Yes.

President: So you watch that.

Rowe: I will. I think his line has been pretty much, "This is the President, the President is handling this," and so forth. The only time he had any jubilation was a little on the plane, and I am afraid a couple of the pool reporters saw him in the back.

President: They described him as going up and down the plane being jubilant and exuberant. And, of course, that just puts the John Towers--let me show you what they're saying about it. It's a good excuse for them.

Rowe: That was the only mistake. Publicly, he didn't make any. But the pool fellows saw him doing it.

President: Here is LeMay. He's talking about the politics of it. General Walt--he's put his mouth in it. "One of Nixon's key advisers and a military expert called for further explanation from Johnson. Tower said Johnson's announcement unconditional cessation raised several questions. He is a member of the [Senate] Armed Services Committee. Nixon has consistently supported the President's efforts in Paris, but he added that bombing announcement raised questions concerning what the United States received. Very recently Abrams said the unconditional cessation would let the enemy increase his capability. I believe it is incumbent upon the President to assure America immediately the circumstances have changed--that General Abrams' contention is no longer valid. 'I think some explanation should be given to the timing of his announcement,' the Senator said. 'Everyone hopes the bombing halt would lead to peace. Let us be hopeful there will be some reciprocal gesture. It should be adequately understood by the American people that this unilateral action on the part of America to refrain from the bombing has not ended so far.'"

Rowe: Yeah. The only real problem we have got that you can handle is that the reporters come off these planes for the rallies--they don't pay a bit of attention to Humphrey. These just start looking for local politicians they know. They don't trust the staff people. They all tell them the same thing. They realize this is a line now.

President: You know better than I do. All I know are the facts on two things. I want you to know the Asian allies may dump us any minute. If we do, we've got pandemonium. The second thing--that Hanoi might not go through with it. That's the second thing. The third thing--I think that he could very properly say, and you all could say, is all three candidates said the same thing to the President: "We will back you." This is not any politics. All of them said "We will back you." And that is all there is to say.

Rowe: Yeah. He said yesterday, after the call, you know, what you had already said--I mean you hadn't, but you would say later--that we had a conference call. We had one on October 16th./9/ The President informed us. He informed us again.

/9/See Document 80.

President: That was good.

Rowe: And then they started to pursue and he said: "That's all." He said: "That's all we know--is what he told the three candidates."

President: What he ought to do now is--

Rowe: He's doing quite well except that one thing you have got there. You know, he just--he happened to make a good speech and a good crowd. And this thing occurred, and he just thought--he just got a little jubilant about it.

President: You just tell him on your own, just don't mention Vietnam and what he does. Just use two things. Say all of us said they would back the President, as every American ought to, because if you have them all backing, that helps him.

Rowe: That is right.

President: That we all--all candidates told him, each one of them--Wallace, Nixon, Humphrey--we'd back you up on this. Number one. All the Joint Chiefs of Staff backed him up.

Rowe: We ought to say that?

President: Yes. I don't know how public. I don't think in a public speech. But I'd tell everybody that asks me, and then I wouldn't go any further because I would say: "I don't want to comment any further."

Rowe: Yeah.

President: And if I were you and the strategists around him, say: "I don't know what effect it has. I think the effect is when Johnson withdrew in March." I just think that--because they are going to see if history says we threw an election.

Rowe: That's right. Now let me give you this one other thing the press is saying that you can put in your press back there. There's some kind of rumor you are going to Texas on the 3d, and they are saying, "Is he going to do it?" And I say, "I don't know." And they say, "Is he up on the mountain as President or is that old campaign spirit of his coming out?" Well, I said, "I think he can do both, you know."

President: Well, I am going home this afternoon in the next hour,/10/ and I'm going to make a television speech Sunday night that I worked on a week here, and that is going to be my finale.

/10/The President left for his Texas Ranch at 3:36 p.m. that day, remaining until his return to Washington on November 7. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)

Rowe: You're not going to do the Houston [campaign rally]?

President: No, no. I told them--

Rowe: I think it might be helpful with all this churning around that that can sort of--that he, you know, the President, is too busy with this problem--he can't get to Houston. He's going to make a television speech--he's not going to turn up at that big rally, or something like that.

President: Yes. I went on the network night before last and on radio the night before that, and I just don't want to be doing it every night as a kind of barn-stormer. I just think it loses a good deal of the effect./11/ Okay.

/11/The President did in fact make a speech at the Democratic Party Rally at the Houston Astrodome on November 3. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968-69, Book II, pp. 1107-1110.

Rowe: All right, sir. Thank you.


174. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassies in France and Vietnam/1/

Washington, November 1, 1968, 1813Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968. Secret; Immediate; Priority; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted and approved by Rusk and cleared by Read.

265246/Todel 1445. For Harriman and Vance from the Secretary. For Bunker from the Secretary. The President wants to be sure that all of us understand that we must now give highest priority to close and friendly working relationships with the South Vietnamese. They are our allies, they have been subjected to a brutal invasion, and they and we have shared great sacrifices in men and treasure. If there is to be peace in Southeast Asia, the full rights of South Viet-Nam and Laos must be respected. The South Vietnamese have some problems in maintaining reasonable unity after so much violence, several coups, and religious, regional and other differences. We must help them just as much as we can as staunch allies and not let unnecessary gaps open up between us.

With the cessation of the bombing we are now in a position to insist upon the most simple and fundamental demands we have to make upon the North Vietnamese. They must stop their aggression. We can no longer accept any sensitivities on their side about such words as "reciprocity," "conditions" and other such nonsense. They must liquidate their aggression in South Viet-Nam and Laos. The fact that they have sent men with guns in hand into South Viet-Nam gives them no basis on which to make demands about the internal political structure of South Viet-Nam any more than we would support South Vietnamese demands for changes in the political structure of North Viet-Nam. The time has come for us to be tough with Hanoi and deal with our friends in Saigon with the utmost consideration and understanding.



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

Washington, November 1, 1968, 1951Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted by Bundy; cleared by Rostow, Katzenbach, and Read; and approved by Rusk. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance as Todel 1447.

265320. Notify Ambassador Bunker not later that 0700 and Ambassador Berger not later that 0600 of receipt of this cable and its importance.

1. While we are not wholly clear here whether Thieu and others have been having second thoughts after their marathon session with you and the last-minute failure to achieve agreement on the joint announcement, we wish to give you every possible ammunition to prevent Thieu from taking unwise positions in his speech tomorrow and to insure that the GVN goes ahead to participate in Paris on reasonable ground rules that simply insure no distortion of the basic understandings we have with the North Vietnamese.

2. Accordingly, we have expressed our thoughts in the form of a letter from the President to Thieu. This letter may be used entirely as you see fit, as an oral message, or with such editing, addition, and amendment as you think would make it most effective, advising us subsequently what you have done.

3. The text is:

November 1, 1968

Dear President Thieu:

I know these days have been difficult for you. A major turn in the road is always complex in the political life of democratic societies. But I do believe that, as we take stock this morning, we have every reason to go forward together with hope and confidence.

I understand Ambassador Bunker has conveyed to you my assurances of continued strong support as well as specific assurances with respect to the way the negotiations in Paris will be handled.

I am sure that when you saw the text of what I said to our people last night, you knew that I had much in mind the interest of your people and the political problems you face.

I trust that you will make every effort now--in public and in the work between our two governments--to narrow and to eliminate whatever gap there may be between us so that we can go forward as brothers in arms in Paris, as we have been so long in Vietnam.

You should know that in these weeks no comment or piece of advice rendered to me was wiser than our observation to Ambassador Bunker when he and General Abrams in October went over with you those proposed instructions to Harriman. As I remember, you said this: "After all, the problem is not to stop the bombing but to stop the war. And we must try this path to see if they are serious." It was in that spirit that I spoke last night. It is in that spirit of hope, tempered by caution, that I trust we shall shortly move forward together in Paris.

I know that in these difficult but also hopeful times I can count on your statesmanship and your courage.

(Signed) LBJ End Text



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

Washington, November 1, 1968, 2314Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted and approved by Bundy and cleared by Read. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance as Todel 1452.

265600. 1. Bui Diem asked to see Bundy this afternoon our time. He had no instructions, and no information other than the fact he himself was making no comment whatever to newsmen, and was letting the GVN statements in Saigon speak for themselves. (Press evidence is that he was telling the truth.)

2. Bundy took the occasion to run over the story of events during the day and night of Thursday,/2/ and the basic problems that had prevented final agreement on a joint announcement. Bundy said that President Thieu's insistence that the judgment on de-escalation be that of President Johnson alone would not have caused significant difficulty here, provided it had been stated in the form of "good reason to believe." However, we had not been able to agree to language that would have suggested that we did not have a firm date in mind for the Paris meetings, or that might have been taken to indicate that major "procedural" problems remained to be resolved.

/2/October 31.

3. Bui Diem and Bundy agreed that the problem now was not the past, but what position the GVN would take toward the Paris talks. Bundy noted that preliminary talks on procedure might begin at any time in Paris between us and the North Vietnamese. He then said that, in terms of Thieu's speech tomorrow morning in Saigon,/3/ and of other GVN actions, there were three fundamental points with which the speech and actions must be consistent and affirmative:

/3/See footnote 4, Document 178.

a. That the GVN would in fact participate in the Paris meetings as set up.

b. That the meetings should convene on November 6 or at most a day or so after.

c. That, while we could of course work very closely together with the GVN on genuinely procedural problems such as number and type of seats, name plates, etc., we could not expect to delay the first Paris meeting, or dig ourselves in, on any proposition that in effect reopened the whole understanding on participation. This related particularly to any effort to get Hanoi to say expressly that it would talk to the GVN, or that the NLF were simply members of the DRV delegation. It was hopeless to expect acceptance of either of these two points, and the US Government could not delay the meeting on their account.

4. Summing up, Bundy said that Bui Diem was free to report these three points to Saigon as Bundy statements, based on the central judgment that American public sympathy for the GVN would be sharply eroded if the GVN failed to cooperate along these essentially agreed lines. Bundy also suggested that Bui Diem might wish to add his own judgment of the effect on public opinion of GVN failure to act in this way, and Bui Diem pretty clearly implied that he agreed with what Bundy had said.



177. Memorandum of Conversation Between Secretary of State Rusk and the Soviet Ambassador (Dobrynin)/1/

Washington, November 1, 1968.

/1/Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Trips & Missions, Paris Peace Talks, Nodis for Harriman/Vance, HARVAN Plus: Cables Outgoing, #54-91. Secret; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Rusk met with Dobrynin from 5:15 p.m. to 5:35 p.m. (Johnson Library, Dean Rusk Appointment Books, 1968-1969)

Ambassador Dobrynin came in to give me the attached unofficial translation of his own of a letter to the President from Chairman Kosygin. An official translation of the Russian original is now being prepared.

I called his attention to the use of the phrase "bombings and other military actions against the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam" in the first paragraph and told him of the significance of the distinction we drew between the phrase "bombing and all other acts of war" and "bombing and other acts involving the use of force." He asked if the Hanoi delegation understood the significance of this in relation to reconnaissance and I said that they did. He merely said that he thought that the wording of Mr. Kosygin's letter was not intended to convey anything specific on that point.

I told him I would want to see him early next week to have a full talk about where we go following the cessation of bombing. I emphasized the great importance of respect of the DMZ and the absence of attack on the cities and he said he thought that everyone was quite clear about those points. He added "you have certainly made that clear in Moscow."




Letter From Chairman Kosygin to President Johnson/2/

Moscow, October 31, 1968.

/2/No classification marking.

Dear Mr. President:

My colleagues and I have received with satisfaction the news that an agreement has been reached at the Paris talks on the cessation of bombing and other military actions by the United States against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and about the commencement during the next few days of political negotiations with the participation of representatives of DRV, NFLSV, US and the Saigon administration in order to seek a peaceful solution of the Vietnam problem.

We are deeply convinced that a great deed has been done (and) an important step taken in the right direction.

We have frequently and frankly expressed our view, and among others to you personally, about the unpromising attempts to solve the Vietnamese problem by force of arms. Presently, when finally a decision has been made by the United States to stop military actions against DRV, it seems to us that there are grounds to hope that other aspects, too, of this problem will find their solution on the basis of respect for the lawful rights and aspirations of the Vietnamese people.

As we see it, it is very important for the success of the forthcoming political negotiations with the participation of the four sides to show the necessary endurance and composure in order that any incidentally occurring moments do not complicate the attainment of the said goal. In this connection we were glad to note the assurances contained in your letter dated October 31, 1968,/3/ that the USA will in good faith strive to conduct negotiations about the political settlement in Vietnam. There is no doubt that the cessation of the still continuing bloodshed in South Vietnam on the basis of mutually acceptable decisions would be received with relief by the people of the world and the role of those whose actions have allowed to reach this positive result would be properly appreciated not only today but also in the future.

/3/Document 164.

We would like to think that this course of events in Vietnam, namely, the complete end of the war there, giving the Vietnamese people the opportunity to solve for themselves their internal problems would have a very positive effect also on the relations between our two countries. We have always believed and do believe that the relations between the Soviet Union and the USA should be determined by long term, fundamental interests in the cause of strengthening peace and cooperation between all peoples. We hope that you, Mr. President, also hold the same point of view.


A. Kosygin/4/

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


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

Saigon, November 2, 1968, 0345Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968. Secret; Flash; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 11:18 p.m. on November 1. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance.

41746. Ref: State 265320./2/

/2/Document 175.

1. President Thieu refused to see me despite urgent messages and attempts to reach him personally by telephone. I was told that he had closeted himself in his private apartment in Independence Palace and did not wish to be disturbed. A message did come back to talk to the Foreign Minister.

2. Although this was obviously unsatisfactory I immediately called on the Foreign Minister and in the briefest terms told him that I had a message from the President and that it was imperative that I see President Thieu before he made his address to Parliament at 10 o'clock. I summarized a talking paper prepared for my interview with Thieu and finally persuaded Thanh to try to penetrate the barrier around the President. I gave him a copy of my talking notes (see septel)./3/ I followed Thanh's car to the Palace.

/3/In his talking paper, transmitted in telegram 41753 from Saigon, November 2, Bunker again made the point that the North Vietnamese would never admit that the DRV and the NLF were the same. This paper closed with the following points: "Victory is now within our grasp, both in the fighting which lies ahead in the South and at the conference table. I beg you not to throw away victory. I plead with you not to say anything in your speech that will cause American support of the war to be further reduced. I urge you not to say anything which will make this more difficult. If the American people have any feeling that you fear Hanoi and the NLF, it will shake their confidence in the situation here. The American people will never understand your failure to take part." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan/Double Plus, Vol. V)

3. Thanh took my talking paper and said he would use it to make the principal points himself to the President after which he would try to have me asked in. We (myself, Berger and Herz) waited until 10:15 when Thanh emerged and said he had failed in his attempt to see Thieu but had managed to give the talking paper to Thieu's brother, Nguyen Van Kieu, who had taken it to the President.

4. Thanh assured me at the same time that he knew the President's speech would be moderate and inoffensive, etc. I did manage to impress Thanh before he went into the Palace that the critical point concerned what the President would say about the other side having to be one delegation.

5. I said if Thieu would say that the GVN would treat the other side as one delegation, he could add that the US had given assurances that it would do the same. On the other hand, if he said that Hanoi must acknowledge that its side is only one delegation, this would in effect mean "closing the door" to GVN participation and could have the disastrous consequences against which I had intended personally to warn Thieu.

6. Under the circumstances outlined above it was not possible to deliver the President's letter to Thieu before he made his speech./4/ I had of course expected Thanh to open the way for me to talk with the President personally before he made the speech.

/4/The President's letter was transmitted in Document 175. In Thieu's November 2 speech to the National Assembly, he imposed conditions upon South Vietnamese attendance at the expanded peace talks, insisting especially that his government would not send a representative to a peace conference if the NLF participated as a separate delegation. See Keesing's Contemporary Archives, September 6-13, 1969, p. 23550.



179. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassies in Thailand, Australia, the Philippines, Korea, and New Zealand/1/

Washington, November 2, 1968, 0658Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968. Secret; Immediate; Priority; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted and approved by Bundy and cleared by Director of the Executive Secretariat Staff Jeanne Davis. Repeated to Paris as Todel 1459 and to Saigon.

266087. 1. This is interim guidance for your handling of the Thieu speech in Saigon today./2/ We are anxious at all costs to avoid public or private expressions of support for Thieu's position from TCC countries, and we leave it to your discretion whether initiative is necessary to head off this possibility.

/2/See footnote 4, Document 178.

2. Essentially, Thieu has now surfaced the matters that in the end prevented agreement on a joint announcement Thursday night, our time./3/ He wished us at that time to agree that if Hanoi did not give express assurances that it would deal directly with the GVN, and that the NLF would be present only as part of the Hanoi delegation, the new Paris meetings would not get underway. The first of these two points is now explicit in Thieu's speech, and the second seems to be implied in Thieu's third point.

/3/October 31.

3. We have given the GVN clear assurances, in writing, that the practical situation, including the fact that the GVN plays a leading role, makes it inevitable that Hanoi will be talking to the RVN--Hanoi has over and over again assured us that it will talk seriously, and it cannot do this without talking to the RVN. At the same time, we have pointed out again and again to the GVN that Hanoi will never give an express assurance to this fact, at least without demanding that either we or the GVN, or both, give a parallel assurance that we will talk directly with the NLF. We gain by letting the practical situation speak for itself. We would only lose in an exchange of express assurances. This point has been clear in our discussions with the GVN over weeks and months, and it has been clear (by silence) in our talks with Hanoi. Although we are not unwilling to do so, we think it would be fruitless to raise this question with Hanoi at this stage, and we most certainly are not prepared to make this a condition for going ahead with the talks.

4. Precisely the same considerations apply to any effort to get Hanoi to admit that the NLF is part of its delegation only. The way that we have handled this with our talks with Hanoi is to make absolutely clear that the GVN will be a separate delegation from the US delegation. At the same time, we have deliberately refrained from even raising the question whether the NLF will be a separate delegation from Hanoi. This leaves the way clear for us to join with the GVN in treating the other side as a single side--that of Hanoi--but it is perfectly clear that, if we do ask for assurance, Hanoi will say categorically that the NLF is a separate delegation and we will be stuck with it or forced to make this a condition--which would upset the whole formula on which we and the GVN have been in accord for months.

5. It is not wholly clear whether Thieu's reference to ruses to elevate the NLF goes as far as the point just discussed. Insofar as it refers to devices (such as Hanoi leaving the room) to force us to address the NLF as such, or as an independent entity, we have again given the GVN clear assurance that, in the event of any such ruses or maneuvers, we would at once consult with them with a view to action (including termination of the meeting) which would make clear that such tactics could not continue. In other words, this point is buttoned down so far as it relates to ruses./4/

/4/In telegram 266088 to Bangkok, Canberra, Manila, Seoul, and Wellington, November 2, the Department noted that "Thieu's speech does not demand explicit assurance from Hanoi that the NLF is present only as a part of the Hanoi delegation." It stressed that the DRV delegation could bring with it to the table NLF representatives as part of its side but that "we do not regard the NLF as anything but a tool of Hanoi and in no sense an entity independent of North Vietnam." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968)

6. The second of Thieu's points--about the direct talks constituting a "completely new phase" is of much lesser difficulty and importance. In our earlier agreements with the GVN on a joint announcement, we had agreed to refer to the next phase as simply "Paris meetings on the substance of a peaceful settlement", or words to that effect. They had in mind, and we accepted, that this was a new designation designed to show a new phase. At the same time, we have strenuously opposed such terms as "four-party-conference" and have been leery even of the term "conference", which tends to elevate those present and especially the NLF. In any event, we have no doubt that the world press will christen the meeting what it chooses and that the sense of that christening will be in the direction of "a completely new phase". Indeed, this has already taken place for practical purposes, in large part, and we will certainly do nothing to discourage it.

7. In short, Thieu's key points are an effort to reopen matters that have long been understood as being left deliberately vague, so that the practical situation could be developed to our common advantage.

8. In any conversations you may have, you should be as discreet as possible to avoid any impression of US pressure. Moreover, you should refrain from any public comment whatever and take your cue from what is said here. Our general posture should be that these matters can and will be ironed out between ourselves and the GVN, so that the meetings will go ahead in the general manner contemplated./5/

/5/In telegram 41752 from Saigon, November 2, the Embassy recommended against GVN participation in the preliminary talks on procedure since, in light of Thieu's speech, "their participation would mean the instant precipitation of 'Three-Power' vs. 'Four-Power' issue, which would only make it more difficult to obtain the initial procedural arrangements that are so important for them." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan/Double Plus, Vol. V) In telegram 266086 to Paris, November 2, the Department concurred in the recommendation against GVN participation in the procedural talks and instructed Vance to meet again with Lau on November 2. (Ibid.) In telegram 23320 from Paris, November 2, Harriman reported that Vance had postponed the first procedural meeting with Lau until the following day. (Ibid.) See also footnote 2, Document 182.



180. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, November 2, 1968, 9 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, George M. Elsey Papers, Van De Mark Transcripts [1 of 2]. No classification marking. This meeting was a regular meeting of Clifford's "0830 Group" of senior Defense Department officials. There is no list of participants.

CMC . . . goes to Saigon situation analysis of Thieu--CMC reviews, SVN--He can't understand why Thieu is so double-crossing & walks away from our agreement.

Nitze says it's clear as day! Thieu is scared that Humphrey & Democrats will force a coalition on him & the Republicans won't & he's sure this is an LBJ plot at the dying hours of the Admins.

CMC argues at length (to convince himself) that we are right & that Thieu has no basis for double-crossing LBJ & walking away from the agreed-upon position of S.V.Nam participation at Paris.

Nitze keeps trying--in vain--to get CMC to see that there is a

rational explanation for Thieu's behavior.

Nitze pointed out the fact that their prior agreement probably didn't mean anything, because they never thought Hanoi would agree to their going to Paris anyway & so it was lip service.

(The longer CMC talks the madder he gets at S.V.Nam--he's disgusted & ready to dump SVNam. "Screw You" is all he says he'd tell them.)

CMC now gets blunt--Max Taylor & Rusk & Rostow have an enormous personal stake in seeing a "beautiful democracy" there; they're committed so to SVNam they'd let Saigon run the whole show for us.

At Kay Graham's house last night Reston, Geyelin, Joe Kraft, Joe Alsop/2/ tried to get CMC to describe the ultimate "political settlement". He said that's their (SVN's) job; we're interested only in getting war over with.

/2/Publisher of the Washington Post Katharine Graham, The New York Times columnist James Reston, reporter Philip Geyelin of the Washington Post, syndicated columnist Joseph Kraft, and syndicated columnist Joseph Alsop.

We all agree that S.V.Nam attitude will change after next Wed./3/ election results are in.

/3/November 6.


"I do not believe we ought to be in V Nam

"I think our being there is a mistake

"This demonstrates to me why I think it was a calamity"

Nitze--I thought it was a mistake in 65 & I said so, but that's irrelevant history. But we are there & we have had 29,000 men killed & we have a military success & now I don't want to throw it away by angry, ill-chosen reactions!

Long philosophical discourse CMC + PHN re why we're there & what kind of an outcome.

PHN says he thinks we can negotiate North V Nam out of S.V.Nam.

CMC disgusted, he says, with it all.

[Omitted here is discussion of arms sales to Israel.]


181. Editorial Note

At 9:18 p.m. on November 2, 1968, President Johnson telephoned Senator Everett Dirksen. The Daily Diary records that "Secy. Clifford suggested the President call Sen. Dirksen re stories going around that Nixon people spreading rumors to wait on peace negotiations." (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) The President explained to Dirksen that he had called him because "we're skirting on dangerous ground, and I thought I ought to give you the facts and you ought to pass them on if you choose. If you don't, why then I will a little later." He emphasized that several times during mid and late October Thieu had agreed to the bombing halt understanding, but pointed out to Dirksen that actions on the Republican side had impacted upon the negotiations: "Then we got some of our friends involved, some of it your old China crowd, and here's the latest information we got. The [FBI] agent says that she's--they've just talked to the 'boss' in New Mexico, and he says that 'you must hold out'--just hold on until after the election. Now, we know what Thieu is saying to them out there. We're pretty well-informed on both ends. Nixon's man traveling with him today said quote 'that he did not understand that Thieu was not aboard.'"

Johnson stressed that he had requested that both Dirksen and Nixon have Republican supporters cease their overtures to the South Vietnamese Government. "Now, I'm reading their hand, Everett," Johnson noted. "I don't want this to get in the campaign. And they oughtn't to be doing this. This is treason." He criticized Republicans like Bryce Harlow for making the public statement: "We had the impression that all the diplomatic ducks were in a row," a statement that implied a political motive on the administration's part. The conversation continued:

"President: Now I can identify them because I know who's doing this. I don't want to identify it. I think it would shock America if a principal candidate was playing with a source like this on a matter this important. I don't want to do that. But if they're going to put this kind of stuff out, they ought to know that we know what they're doing. I know who they're talking to and I know what they're saying. And my judgment is that Nixon ought to play it just like he has all along, that I want to see peace come the first day we can, that it's not going to affect the election one way or the other. The conference is not even going to be held until after the election. They have stopped shelling the cities. They have stopped going across the DMZ. We've had 24 hours of relative peace. Now, if Nixon keeps the South Vietnamese away from the conference, well, that's going to be his responsibility. Up to this point, that's why they're not there. I had them signed on board until this happened.

"Dirksen: Yeah, OK.

"President: Well, now, what do you think we ought to do about it?

"Dirksen: Well, I better get in touch with him, I think, and tell him about it.

"President: I think you better tell him that his people are saying to these folks that they oughtn't to go through with this meeting. Now if they don't go through with the meeting, it's not going to be me that's hurt. I think it's going to be whoever is elected, and may be--my guess--him. And I think they're making a very serious mistake, and I don't want to say this, and you're the only one I'm going to say it to.

"The conversation concluded:

"President: I know this--that they're contacting a foreign power in the middle of a war.

"Dirksen: That's a mistake.

"President: And it's a damn bad mistake. Now I don't want to say so, and you're the only man I have confidence in to tell them. But you better tell them they better quit playing with it. And the day after the election I'll sit down with all of you and try to work it out and be helpful. But they oughtn't to knock out this conference.

"Dirksen: Whoever they are, I'll try to get ahold of them tonight.

"President: Well, there are two things they ought to do. One is--they ought to stop this business about trying to keep the conference from taking place. It takes place the day after the election. The second thing is--we can all sit down and talk about it after that time. And I'm not a bitter partisan here. You know it.

"Dirksen: I know. Well, I'll try to find them, wherever they are tonight.

"President: Well, you just tell them their people are messing around in this thing, and if they don't want it on the front pages, they better quit it, number one. Number two, they--we better sit down and talk about it as soon as this thing is over with, and we'll try to work it out. And they ought to tell their people that are contacting these embassies to go on with the conference.

"Dirksen: Right.

"President: OK.

"Dirksen: I agree.

"President: OK. Bye."

This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Dirksen, November 2, 1968, 9:29 p.m., Tape F68.09, PNO 1)

In a note to the President, November 2, 5:55 p.m., Special Assistant Jim Jones noted that Secretary of State Rusk believed that the press should be given a background briefing on the China Lobby's interference as the reason for the uncertainty regarding South Vietnamese participation at the Paris conference. He also recorded the view of Special Assistant Walt Rostow:

"Walt's opinion is that: a) there should be a press backgrounder tonight; b) then if the story is played significantly tomorrow, Mansfield and Dirksen should be brought in and shown all the evidence we have concerning Saigon playing the U.S. political game; and that someone in the Nixon entourage (but not accuse Nixon himself) is playing with South Vietnam. Mansfield and Dirksen should be told this is a most serious national and constitutional problem and both Senators should be asked to go to Nixon and urge him not to press forward saying he was misled by the President. They should tell Nixon that if he does press forward in this, then he will reveal the evidence which will destroy him and any effectiveness he would have if he's elected. His first duty is to tell Saigon to get their delegation to Paris as fast as possible." (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. IV [2 of 3])


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

Saigon, November 2, 1968, 2020Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan/Double Plus, Vol. V. Secret; Flash; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 4:17 p.m. Repeated to Paris.

41743. Ref: Paris 23320./2/

/2/In telegram 23320/Delto 916 from Paris, November 2, the delegation noted that it had postponed that day's meeting on procedural arrangements between Vance and Lau in order to note and receive guidance on the matters to be discussed at that meeting. Paragraph 7 of the telegram read: "As we have pointed out, physical arrangements for a procedural meeting should be simpler to arrange. If it is to be a plenary meeting we have two choices: (A) to attempt to hammer out the physical arrangements directly with Lau, or (B) to suggest that we work through the French to establish physical arrangements in a manner acceptable to both sides. This was the procedure used at the opening of the Official Conversations." (Ibid.)

1. The GVN has made it a point, especially during the last ("marathon") session October 31/November 1,/3/ that they want to be included in discussions of procedures. However, they also made it clear that the reason they wanted to discuss "ground rules" was that they wished to establish that the NLF is to be considered part of the DRV delegation.

/3/See Documents 159, 162, 165, and 170.

2. They have told us that they will not come to the substantive meetings until there is agreement on procedures. Therefore, it seems to us that it is to our advantage as well as theirs if we can work out the procedural matters with Lau or through the French, and without them, as long as we do so along the lines of the desiderata that we have established in our discussions with the GVN during the last weeks.

3. However, we think we should not hold the first meeting of the "direct and serious talks" without clearly giving the GVN an opportunity to participate. Accordingly, while we have no objection to bilateral talks with the DRV about procedural matters, we urge that the date for the "first meeting" on November 6 be postponed.

4. Our difficulty with having the first meeting appointing a committee to draw up the rules of procedure is that when we tell the GVN what we plan and invite them, they may protest the inclusion of the NLF and not come; or they may come and inject into that meeting their demands that Hanoi admit they are one delegation, and withdraw when Hanoi refuses, only making matters worse. However, we must at all costs invite them to such a procedural meeting, even though this may happen. Otherwise they will charge that in our negotiations here we were opposed to having them come to our preliminary discussion of procedure with Hanoi, yet we were prepared to enter into discussions of procedure with the NLF. We must avoid being put into this position.

5. In view of the negotiating record, which shows a DRV preference for a later plenary meeting, we think it should be possible to persuade them to accept their own erstwhile position with respect to a later date. If they press us, we can simply say that we are not prepared to meet November 6 because the GVN is not yet ready. This has additional merit of being the simple truth.

6. It is of course imperative that there be no flags and name plates on the tables. If in the judgment of our delegation this is better accomplished by working through the French, then we favor the suggestion in paragraph 7(B). The GVN is exceedingly nervous about the press being at the first meeting, and if arrangements can be made to rule this out, it would be helpful here.



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

Washington, November 3, 1968, 0710Z.

/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted and approved by Bundy and cleared by Rostow, Katzenbach, and Dirk Gleysteen of S/S. Repeated to Saigon.

266151/Todel 1466.

1. The parallelogram of forces set up by Paris 23327 and Saigon 41765/2/ leaves little doubt of the answer in terms of Sunday/3/ meeting.

/2/In telegram 23327/Delto 922 from Paris, November 3, Harriman and Vance suggested that the tentative November 6 meeting proceed strictly on procedural matters "if the GVN cannot be brought on board by that time." In telegram 41765 from Saigon, November 3, Bunker noted his concurrence "that we should propose to Lau a bilateral meeting on procedures," but recommended that "if this fails I don't think we need to fix a date for a meeting including the NLF." (Both in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan/Double Plus, Vol. V)

/3/November 3.

2. Paris should propose that a bilateral meeting be held on Wednesday to discuss the procedures applicable to substantive meetings in the new format. Any broader meeting for any purpose should be postponed on the simple and true ground that we are not ready. We should propose that the bilateral meeting be in the smaller format used in May, but you have latitude for whatever size and level you think most effective.

3. In terms of arguments, there seem to us to be many:

a. Hanoi agreed to bilateral talks on procedure.

b. Even these turn out to be complex and require careful review of existing rules.

c. The agreement on a substantive meeting was not earlier than the 6th, as Xuan Thuy has now affirmed.

d. The GVN is not ready (and, as reports from Saigon make clear, the last-minute mortaring of Saigon did contribute to the atmosphere there on going along at once).

4. On the question of including the DMZ, you should make clear, as Saigon suggests, that an additional purpose of bilaterals at this time is to review exactly what is going on in SVN. You should make clear that the DMZ is a subject on which we could nail down what both sides are doing and how to be sure of it, and on a bilateral basis--but without pressing for an agenda item, so to speak, for Wednesday.

5. One purpose in raising this general subject and establishing its legitimacy (or at least our intent to keep it up), and doing so on the basis of the DMZ (in addition to the latter being a clear Hanoi responsibility and least a GVN one), is that we are reluctant here to adopt Saigon's suggestion of hitting them at this meeting on the mortaring of My Tho, Vinh Long, and Quang Tri. The question of whether these are "major cities" within the meaning of our understandings is one on which we need further research and exchanges with Paris in any event; it may be that the record, and what the GVN understands, are both internally inconsistent and at variance with each other, and that we have some hard thinking to do. But even if these cases are within the understandings, the feeling here is that we should be acting and not bellyaching, if we really know our minds.

6. If Lau should fail to accept a bilateral meeting on procedure for Wednesday, you should say that you must urgently seek instructions. But you should give him the toughest possible time, for it seems difficult to see how he can legitimately refuse, even though he may do some taunting at our delay after our earlier insistence on speed and the GVN. As Saigon notes, that is inherent in the hand at this point, and adherence to the letter of what we had in mind in the last stages of the private talks is viewed here as wholly secondary to taking our time to bring Saigon aboard, along the lines of the strategy stated in Saigon 41738./4/

/4/In telegram 41738 from Saigon, November 2, the Embassy recommended various steps that might compel the GVN to attend the expanded peace conference. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968)



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

Paris, November 3, 1968, 2000Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN/DOUBLE PLUS, Vol. V. Secret; Flash; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 3:42 p.m. Repeated to Saigon.

23330/Delto 923. From Vance.

1. I met with Ha Van Lau and Nguyen Minh Vy at our place in Secaux for two hours afternoon November 3. Habib and Negroponte accompanied me. They had an interpreter and notetaker on their side./2/

/2/Rostow transmitted a summary of this meeting in telegram CAP 82664 to the President, November 3, which was received in the LBJ Ranch Communications Center at 12:55 p.m.

2. I said that we were meeting to consider the next steps and we had a practical suggestion which we would like to outline. In order to approach the problem of arrangements and procedures in an orderly fashion, I proposed that Lau and I meet next Wednesday, November 6, at 10:30 at the Majestic Hotel accompanied by any of our advisors that we need. We could then discuss arrangements and rules of procedure which will be applicable to the substantive meetings which will be held in the new format. I said our meeting on Wednesday should be a working session in which we exchange views on various questions of arrangements and procedure in an effort to reach agreement. I asked for Lau's response to my proposal.

3. Lau said that before commenting on our suggestion he was authorized by Minister Xuan Thuy to express the DRV's views about President Johnson's October 31 speech./3/ Lau said that as it had been previously agreed, the President would at such-and-such a time issue the order to stop all air, naval and artillery bombardment and all other acts involving the use of force against the entire territory of the DRV. But, Lau said, the President's speech did not contain such a sentence as had been agreed upon and, therefore, the President's statement was not fully consistent with the agreement which had been reached.

/3/See Document 169.

4. Secondly, Lau said, in regard to the date of a meeting for the four delegations, the DRV side noted that the President's statement was not consistent with our agreement. We no doubt recalled that at our last private meeting the US representative had made the proposal that the first meeting of the four representatives be held not before November 6. Therefore, the date of the meeting had not been agreed upon and, at that same meeting, Vance and Lau had made an appointment for November 2 to fix a date for the first meeting. Thus, the date of November 6 had not yet been fixed and yet, Lau said, the President fixed it unilaterally in his speech. This Lau said, was another element of the President's speech which was not consistent with our agreement. Lau said it was regrettable that the President had announced a date without agreement of the DRV side and it was on this basis that he came to discuss with me today the holding of a meeting on November 6./4/

/4/In a note to the President, November 4, 10:20 a.m., Jones wrote: "Walt Rostow reports on your question--we acted unilaterally with the DRV. He says we did not clear November 6 with the Hanoi delegation in Paris. We went to that date because Bunker said we should give Thieu a little more time than three days. Rusk and others, based on the history of the negotiations, said we could do this because we had been crowding Hanoi to three days. Therefore, we presumed the additional time would be agreeable to Hanoi." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. IV [1 of 3])

5. Lau said that as far as he understood it our meeting today was to discuss how the first meeting with four delegations will be held on November 6. As for the procedures of this conference, that will be decided by the meeting of the four delegations. At this point Lau noted parenthetically that the DRV side understood the forthcoming meetings between the DRV, the NLF, the US and the GVN would be a conference, although whether we use the word "meeting" or "conference," it made no difference to the DRV.

6. Therefore, Lau said, my suggestion of today had surprised him a little because he found it inconsistent with the agreement we had reached the other day. Lau said that the purpose of today's meeting was to discuss at what time the four-delegation meeting would take place on Wednesday, what the formalities would be, how the delegations would take the floor and so forth. As for rules of procedures, that would be discussed and agreed upon by the four delegations.

7. Why, asked Lau, did he have such an understanding? It was because the DRV had agreed that after the cessation of bombing we would shift into a new phase of negotiations in which a conference to find a peaceful settlement to the Viet-Nam problem would take place with the participation of representatives of the DRV, NLF, US and RVN. Therefore, Lau said, the DRV side believes that at the November 6 meeting the representatives of the four above-mentioned participants should be present. Lau said he knew that the NLF representative would be in Paris before November 6. It was possible that full delegations of the NLF and the RVN might not reach Paris in time. Therefore, the representatives would be present to discuss procedures of the conference. Lau said that the representative of the NLF will be Mrs. Nguyen Thi Binh, a member of the NLF Central Committee.

8. Therefore, Lau continued, the time of the meeting was to be fixed here today between us. As for the date and the participants, President Johnson had already mentioned them in his speech. Lau said he thought the whole world is now looking forward to such a meeting and, as far as the DRV side was concerned, it was prepared to carry out its agreement. As far as Lau knew, the NLF was also prepared to do the same. Lau said he had finished and at my request we recessed briefly.

9. Upon resuming, I said that I would first like to deal with the two points that Lau had made regarding the President's speech. The order issued provided for the cessation of all bombardments and all other acts involving the use of force against the entire territory of the DRV. That order was issued at the time we said it would be and that those actions became fully effective within 12 hours of the order, as we had said they would be. The important fact is that the order was issued and there is no inconsistency between what the President said and that order.

10. As far as a naming of the date for the meeting, I agreed that we still have to come to an agreement on this subject. At the time of the President's announcement, it was assumed that the date was reasonable for all concerned. Now it appears that the representatives of the GVN cannot make that date. In that connection, the indiscriminate rocketing of Saigon on November 1 complicated the problem, making it difficult for the GVN to come along promptly. Therefore, to proceed with the necessary matters, I had made the suggestion outlined above.

11. The suggestion I had made was not inconsistent with our agreement of the other day, because we both recognized at that time that we would have to make the necessary arrangements for that meeting to be held in an orderly manner. These are complex matters requiring full consideration and necessary consultation. We think these matters can be handled efficiently in the same manner as the beginning of our official conversations. This is properly something that the DRV and US sides should do. As I recalled our previous conversation, the DRV side recognized the need for full consideration and discussion of the manner in which the first meeting would be conducted. And by "full discussion" I meant discussion between the US and DRV.

12. I said that a matter which we might also usefully discuss Wednesday would be the state of affairs along the DMZ. It would be helpful to know what each side is doing there so as to avoid any misunderstanding or incidents. Therefore, I suggested again that Lau accept the proposal that I had outlined at the beginning of our meeting this afternoon.

13. In response, Lau said that the DRV side had taken note of Harriman's and my communication on October 31/5/ regarding the order to be issued by the President. The DRV side recognizes that this order has been issued and carried out. But whether it is effective over the entire territory of the DRV has not yet been confirmed. As for the inconsistency, Lau said that he was referring to the wording used by the President in his speech. The President had only mentioned the order to stop all air, naval and artillery bombardment. Therefore the DRV side maintained its remark regarding the inconsistency between the President's announcement and our agreement. Whether the order of the President has been realized in accordance with the agreement, this cannot be affirmed now, Lau said. He would have to await a report from the DRV. The DRV was following the situation closely.

/5/See Document 158.

14. Lau remarked that I agreed with him that the date of the first meeting should be agreed upon between us. Lau said that since the President had named a date, the DRV accepted it. However, according to what I had said, it appeared that the representative of the Saigon government cannot come in time, and I had mentioned the rocket attack against Saigon as the reason. This question Lau said is related to the NLF. Lau said he did not feel this question was the substance of our discussion today and, as for the rocketing of Saigon, he did not feel that this was the reason for the Saigon representatives being unable to come to Paris in time.

15. Lau said that he was prepared to discuss with us the matters regarding the convening of the first meeting, but he would like to say that our proposal is not consistent with our agreement that the four delegations would meet on November 6. Lau then said that he would like us to tell him formally whether we can have a meeting with the four representatives on November 6 and, if not, when could such a meeting be held? He said he would like to repeat that he was prepared to discuss the manner of holding the first meeting, but that procedures for the conference should be discussed by the four delegations.

16. Lau said he agreed with me that the problem has its complexities and it is necessary to have full discussions and considerations, but the full discussions should be by the four delegations. Lau said he thought that if the four representatives and all parties concerned had good will he believed we could come to agreement on procedural questions. If the representatives of the Saigon administration can come here November 6 he saw no problem.

17. Lau then said he had the following concrete procedural proposals that the two of us could discuss. He proposed that we discuss what we shall do at the first meeting of the four representatives, how each side would take the floor regarding procedural matters, and the order in which they would take it. On May 13 when the official conversations began, it was a simple matter because there were only two delegations. But now there were four delegations and the order in which they spoke should be discussed. It was not a very important matter, but there should be agreement in advance so that the meeting would be orderly and disciplined.

18. Next, Lau said, was the question of physical arrangements. How many people would be in each delegation and what would be the seating, so that we can propose to the host government that it make the necessary arrangements. We should also think about the question of press representatives attending the meeting. These Lau said are practical questions we could discuss today and come to an agreement. If the others concerned come and agree, then we can begin. Lau proposed that we begin the discussion and that if we could not finish today, then we could continue tomorrow. In any event, we should reach agreement before November 6.

19. I said I had some preliminary comments. First, I wanted to ask whether Lau had any information that the orders issued by the President had not been complied with. Lau said that he had no word that it had not, but, as he had said, he could not confirm this now because he had not yet had any report from Hanoi.

20. I then said that the representatives of the GVN simply would not be able to get here by November 6. I said that as I had previously said the rocketing of Saigon had complicated the problem and made it difficult for the GVN representatives to come along promptly. I said we still believed the appropriate place and time of discussion of the matters Lau had just listed would be at the meeting on Wednesday between Lau and myself and any advisors we wished to have in the same form as we had followed at the outset of our official conversations.

21. I said that, without abandoning that position, I would listen to any suggestions Lau had regarding the items he had listed and how his side would organize itself.

22. Lau replied that first of all, if we insisted on the proposal we had made at the outset, then the DRV side feels that it is not consistent with our agreement, that is to say, that a meeting of four delegations will be held to find a peaceful settlement to the Viet-Nam problem and the first meeting will deal with items such as procedure and agenda. In the spirit of that agreement, Lau said he would like to await the arrival of all four delegations and then discuss these matters.

23. Lau said he remembered that we had told him at previous meetings that we would like to have prompt meetings and that the DRV representative was already in Paris. As for the full delegation of the Saigon administration, it could come later because it needed time to make the necessary arrangements. In that spirit, the DRV side had accepted that the NLF representative come to Paris first to discuss procedural items pending the arrival of the full NLF delegation. Lau said that he understood that the full-fledged Saigon delegation may be late, but a GVN representative was already in Paris and, therefore, there was no problem if we have to meet immediately. Moreover, Lau said, he would like to recall that at our last private meeting we had said that we were good for our word and that we would do what we promised. Lau said he hoped we would keep our word.

24. As for the first meeting, Lau said that he would propose that we inform him of what date it could be held if that date was not November 6. At that meeting will be present the NLF, the RVN and our two delegations. As for procedures, each side may express its views as a basis for discussion, because each side has the right to make proposals on what the procedures should be.

25. As for the location of the meeting, Lau suggested that for the first meeting we propose to the French Government that it let us use the largest conference room in the Majestic. Lau said he also proposed that we allow the press 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning of the first meeting to take photographs, and have correspondents present, as had been done on May 13. Lau said the DRV side had received many requests from the press to do this. The foregoing, Lau said, were his preliminary views.

26. I said that I wanted to point out first that the important thing was that all bombardment and all other acts involving the use of force against the entire territory of the DRV have stopped. We said this would happen and it did, and at the time we said it would.

27. Second, we have run into complexities regarding the first meeting. These complexities are matters beyond our control. On matters over which we have control, we have complied with our word. I then suggested that we recess again briefly.

28. Upon resuming, I said I would like to summarize the situation. Before we can hold the first meeting in an orderly manner, both sides recognize the necessity of reaching agreement on arrangements and procedures for that meeting. It is further agreed that these matters should be discussed between us. This is precisely what we proposed to do in an orderly manner in a meeting between us at the Majestic on November 6. These matters can be appropriately discussed in such a meeting under regular circumstances. Regarding Lau's suggestions, I said I had taken note of them and would be in touch with him and I asked that he do the same regarding our suggestions.

29. Lau said that he had provisionally come to the conclusion that we can not yet hold the first meeting as agreed on November 6, that is to say, a meeting including the representatives of the DRV, NLF, the US and the RVN. The reason for this is the complexities beyond the control of the US.

30. Lau said it was necessary to prepare for the first meeting, that discussion between our two delegations be held and for this reason he had come to meet us today. Now we were making a new proposal. Lau said he would report it to Xuan Thuy and he would get in touch with us.

31. I concluded by saying that for the purpose of clarity, as of today I can not say that the representatives of the GVN will be present November 6 because of the complexities to which I had referred.

32. Comment follows septel./6/

/6/Document 185.



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

Paris, November 3, 1968, 2000Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN/DOUBLE PLUS, Vol. V. Secret; Flash; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 4:05 p.m. Repeated to Saigon.

23331/Delto 924. From Harriman and Vance. Following is our comment on today's meeting between Vance and Lau:/2/

/2/See Document 184.

1. As we see it, there are two practical alternatives:

A. Go forward on November 6th as stated in the President's October 31 statement, with the GVN free to attend if they want to come;

B. Ask for a postponement of the November 6th date to a date certain and be prepared to go forward on that day whether or not the GVN is present. We note that it is not certain that the DRV will accept a proposal which does not include the GVN, although we believe they probably will.

2. The DRV made clear that it will continue to reject the proposal we made today, quoting back our own words that we wanted prompt and serious talks, and that they are ready to proceed on November 6th. They will add, as they did today, that they are prepared to discuss with us in informal bilateral meetings the necessary arrangements and procedures for the first meeting and reach agreement, subject to ratification by NLF and GVN. They said today that if we came to such agreement, the other parties could have no objection.



186. Editorial Note

In a conversation beginning at 1:25 p.m. on November 3, 1968, Senator George Smathers and President Johnson discussed Republican actions relating to the Paris negotiations. Smathers noted that he had heard from Republican Presidential candidate Richard Nixon on the issue. He told the President that Nixon was concerned that "you were getting ready to charge him with the accusation that he connived with John Tower and Anna Chennault to bring about the action of the Saigon government not participating." Nixon insisted that "this was first not supported by the truth, and secondly, unfair, and thirdly, unfortunate." In fact, Nixon vowed to offer to Johnson "his full cooperation, and he would offer to go to any place that you might want him to go" to bring about a successful resolution of the impasse at Paris. "The problem is not his traveling somewhere," the President countered. "The problem is the people on both sides of this fence getting the impression that they can get a little more for the house if they'll wait a week to sell it." He allowed that the September 30 speech by Vice President Humphrey had seemingly encouraged North Vietnamese intransigence. "But," Johnson noted, "the former Vice President, his folks get into it, and they say that they know how to deal with these Communists, and they're not going to be soft on them, and if they're elected, they'll see it right on through with them, and that they'll get a whole lot better deal with Nixon than they will with Johnson."

The President insisted that he had proof of Republican involvement with the South Vietnamese Government. He had "started personally watching the traffic" and intercepted telegrams revealed that the South Vietnamese were being told "that Nixon is going to win; therefore, they ought to wait on Nixon." Johnson observed: "So what he's doing--my judgment is--he was--on the surface he was playing that he didn't want to undercut me. Under the table, his people--and this I think you can tell him for sure, there's no doubt about it--his people, A--business-wise, and B--political-wise, were saying that you ought to wait on Dick. Now, that's got it pretty well screwed up. . . . And my judgment is we'll have to wait until Wednesday [November 6], and if he, instead of traveling, all he's got to do is just go back through the same sources and tell them, 'You go on, I'm gonna support the President, and you better get on to that damn conference, because these people are not going to support you if you refuse to even go talk when you've got a chance to.' . . . I may be wrong, but I don't believe the people of America will support me or Nixon or anybody else if these generals out there won't talk when we got them recognized."

Johnson also contended that Nixon had used individuals from his campaign staff to insinuate publicly that the administration was playing politics with the bombing cessation. While Nixon always denied these charges, in Johnson's mind the damage had already been done. "And that's dirty pool because I have told him everything and been very frank and honest with him," he noted. The President had secured a firm commitment of support from all three of the leading Presidential candidates on October 31. Consequently, he believed that the actions of the Republicans violated Nixon's assurances.

Smathers offered both an explanation for the situation and a defense for Nixon. "You seem to think--your people think--that Tower and Chennault have made these contacts," he explained. "But he [Nixon] said he doesn't know whether they have or they haven't. He doesn't think that they have. But he said that he didn't think they had more influence than Bunker and that Bunker should be able to keep everything straight, and that as far as he was concerned, that finished it." But the President countered: "They want to wait for him, because he will never be soft on the Communists, and I am. . . . That's the point." The President insisted that he knew "that the South Vietnamese have gotten the word that Nixon feels that it's better to wait on him, and I know their President has taken that and reversed himself. . . . Now, it's that simple." But Smathers assured him that Nixon guaranteed that he "had been playing it straight and he wanted you to know that he was still playing it straight." The President responded: "Well, you tell him that what I wanted done, I want it just the way it's always been, as you discussed with me some time before, and as some of his other friends have. He's got to keep his Finches and his Lairds and his Chennaults and the rest of them from running around and messing up this broth. And it's messed up--there's no question about that." Smathers replied: "Well, I'll pass this word back to him, that, goddamnit, you had it set, and that someone--his people--are screwing it up." (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Smathers, November 3, 1968, 1:25 p.m., Tape F68.09, PNO 2-3; transcript prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume)


187. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Richard Nixon/1/

November 3, 1968, 1:54 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Nixon, November 3, 1968, 1:54 p.m., Tape F6811.01, PNO 7. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. Nixon called from Los Angeles to the President at his Texas Ranch. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

President: Hello?

Nixon: Mr. President?

President: Yes?

Nixon: This is Dick Nixon.

President: Yes, Dick.

Nixon: I just wanted you to know that I got a report from Everett Dirksen with regard to your call,/2/ and I just went on "Meet the Press," and I said that--on "Meet the Press"--that I had given you my personal assurance that I would do everything possible to cooperate both before the election and, if elected, after the election, and that if you felt, and if the Secretary of State felt, that anything would be useful that I could do, that I would do it, that I felt Saigon should come to the conference table, that if you felt it was necessary to go there, or to go to Paris, either one. I just wanted you to know that I feel very, very strongly about this, and any rumblings around about somebody trying to sabotage the Saigon government's attitude certainly--certainly have no--absolutely no credibility, as far as I am concerned.

/2/See Document 181.

President: That's--I'm very happy to hear that, Dick, because that is taking place.

Nixon: No, I--

President: Now here is the history of it. I didn't want to call you, but I wanted you--

Nixon: That China Lobby thing is something that--

President: I wanted you to know what happened. The UPI ran a story, quoting, I guess it was [Robert] Finch, [who] said "a highly placed aide to Nixon today said the South Vietnamese decision to boycott the Paris talks did not jibe with the assurances given the major Presidential candidates by Johnson." Then it says, "Nixon said the advisor felt that Saigon's refusal to attend the expanded negotiations could jeopardize the military and diplomatic situation in Vietnam and domestically reflect the credibility of the administration's action to halt the bombing of North Vietnam."/3/ Now, I went back--I want to give you the dates of these things. This has been going on, as I told you before, since June, on this three-point basis. Number one, that they take the GVN into the conference, and two and three, that they not shell the cities and that they not abuse the DMZ.

/3/For text of Finch's November 3 comment, see The New York Times, November 4, 1968.

Nixon: Right.

President: We knew we could never get them to agree to it. You asked me one time, "Do they have to agree to all three?" And I said, "I don't want to put it that way, but they have to know that if they do it, that we'll resume the bombing." Now, I don't know what led to this, but in the early part of October, they came in and said, "Now, if we would let the GVN come in, would you need anything else? What else would you need?" We, of course, we came back with these other points. They ran off, then, to Hanoi. I thought it was because they had heard some speeches made in this country that indicated that that was to their interest, and that they just wouldn't take it up. I told you that, in effect, in the October 15 [sic] talk--these three points./4/

/4/See Document 80.

Nixon: That's right.

President: Now, the other day, we had talked--we had talked to Thieu on October 13 and stressed that we had to have these points, and he agreed./5/ On October 15 we reviewed it with him again. And he balked at a 36-hour period between stopping the bombing and the conference. On October 23 he agreed to a 3-day delay./6/ On October 28 we agreed to the communiqué--that we would both make a joint announcement--

/5/See Document 64.

/6/See Document 114.

Nixon: Right.

President: When and if we could clear it with them--get them signed on./7/ Then the traffic goes out that Nixon will do better by you. Now, that goes to Thieu. I didn't say, as I said to you the other day, I didn't say that it was with your knowledge. I hope it wasn't.

/7/See Document 136.

Nixon: [Laughter] As a matter of fact, I'm not privy to what you were doing, of course. The whole point is this. I think one thing we have to understand here is this. You know and I know that within the hawk-dove complex out there, as there is here, and that everybody is saying, now after the election, what will happen. And, of course, there is some thought that Hanoi would rather deal now than deal later.

President: Oh, yes.

Nixon: They think Nixon will be tougher, and I understand that. That's one of the reasons you felt you had to go forward with the pause. But the point I'm making is this. My God, I would never do anything to encourage Hanoi--I mean Saigon--not to come to the table, because basically that was what you got out of the bombing pause. Good God, we want them over in Paris. We've got to get them to Paris, or you can't have a peace.

President: Well, I think that if you take that position, you're on very, very sound ground, and--

Nixon: That's what I said.

President: And I think it's very much in the interest of your--

Nixon: I said that the major thing that the President insisted upon and got was the right of Saigon to be at that conference table, and they must be at the conference table, and I believe they should be, and that's why I said, I just felt, I felt I ought to emphasize it. Nobody knows who is going to win this, but if I do, I said, if I'm President-elect, I personally pledge to President Johnson I would do anything. And I want to amplify that by--emphasize it--by saying that I will do, if he and Secretary Rusk indicate that my presence in Paris, or Saigon--and incidentally, I want you to know that I'll do that, I'll go out there and talk to Thieu if it's necessary.

President: Well, I think--

Nixon: Or whatever you want.

President: My judgment is, now, that from what I see and hear, that--let me read you what I said to you the other day,/8/ because apparently, I don't know whether you remember it or not: "While this was going on," talking of these moves on these three points, "we had gone out and talked to all of our allied countries, and they had tentatively agreed. Now, since that time, with our campaign going on here, we have had some minor problems develop. First, there have been some speeches that we ought to withdraw troops, or that we should stop the bombing without obtaining anything in return."

/8/See Document 169.

Nixon: I remember that.

President: "Or, some of our folks, including some of the old China Lobby, are going around and implying to some of the folks that they might get a better deal out of somebody that was not involved in this. Now that's made it difficult on me, and it's slowed things down some. I know that none of you candidates are responsible for it because I'm looking at what you said to me when we talked last October 15." [sic] Now, that's what I said. And I thought the Finch remark was very much out of place, saying that I had left a wrong impression, because, I thought, and I think now, that Thieu will come to the conference. But I had a firm agreement with him two or three times on the joint communiqué and everything else until he got this word. When I talked to you, I still thought that we could get him, and I think we can. But I tell you, we had problems.

Nixon: That was the impression I had when the three of us talked--the impression I had when you talked to the three of us--that you were confident he was going to come, you know, that Thieu was going to come, and of course, that was what the backgrounder in Washington indicated, too. And I just assumed he would come.

President: Well, we knew we had problems, Dick.

Nixon: You still think he's going to come?

President: Well, we don't see what else he can do. If we stay together, we just think that no people are going to support an effort where a man will not talk to anybody.

Nixon: Well, one thing I said, and I thought you would be interested in this. I made the point, which I feel very strongly about--let's suppose I win. Now, all right, then you've got Johnson and Nixon. I pointed out that I have stood fairly close to you, as I said in answers to Larry Spivak./9/ I said I have disagreed with the conduct of the war, but I agree that, and I use those terms, that I think President Johnson has got a bad rap on terms of the commitment; that we're there to try to stop aggression and avoid another war. And I said--then I went on to say--I said the critical period could be the 60 days before the inauguration. And at that point, if we can present a united front, the--it seems to me that we might make the breakthrough that couldn't be made later. And I honestly believe that.

/9/Moderator of the interview program "Meet the Press."

President: Yes, I--

Nixon: These people, I think you will agree, well, I think you've told me earlier, that these people over in Hanoi, to a certain extent, hold on because they think we're divided in this country. Now, once we've had an election, and you have, if it's Nixon, and you have a Republican, and Johnson, a Democrat, it seems to me that's an awful, awful strong case.

President: Yes, Dick--

Nixon: I just want you to know that I'm not trying to interfere with your conduct of it. I'll only do what you and Rusk want me to do. But I'll do anything--

President: Well, that's good, Dick.

Nixon: Because anything--we've got to get this damn war over with. I also want you to know this. I said to our mutual friend George [Smathers] today--I'm going down to Florida after the election, and I really feel this, and I feel this very deeply--that I think you've got the bad rap on this thing. I think the war apparently now is about where it could be brought to an end. And if we get it down now, fine, that's what we ought to do. The quicker the better, and the hell with the political credit. Believe me, that's the way I feel.

President: Well, that's fine, Dick, and we'll talk about it right after. I don't think they're going to do anything now. The important thing is for your people not to tell the South Vietnamese. If they tell them just what you tell me, why it'll be the best for all concerned.

Nixon: I said publicly, on "Meet the Press" today, I said, look, and that's the only thing, I don't talk to anybody else, I said publicly, I said that South Vietnam ought to come to the conference table, and if the President feels that I can be helpful in getting them to come, I'll go there.

President: That's fine. You tell brother Finch that I told all of you the other day that we did have problems with these folks, and just what I said, because I didn't mislead you. I told you that we had--

Nixon: You didn't mislead me. I told the press today that I felt that--I got the impression that they were coming.

President: We want them to come, and hope they'll come, and really believe they'll come. I just don't think they can. But I--

Nixon: It's really a question of when they'll come.

President: That's right. I said, "Now, this has made it difficult and it has slowed things down a bit." I don't--I know that none of you candidates are responsible for it, because I'm looking at the transcript. And then I said--the Vice President said, when I asked for comments, "Thanks much." Mr. Nixon said, "Well, as you know, this is consistent with my position. I made it very clear. I'll make no statements to undercut the negotiations. So we--I will stay right on that and hope that this thing works out." Then Mr. Wallace said, "Mr. President, that's my position all along. You've stated and I agree with you that we shouldn't play politics so it might foul up the negotiations."

Nixon: Incidentally, Wallace has been very good on that.

President: Yes he has. Both of you. I gave you the three quotes.

Nixon: LeMay has popped off, but Wallace has been good.

President: Well, I didn't want--when he said, "Nixon, said the senior advisor, felt that Saigon's refusal to attend would jeopardize the diplomatic situation and reflect the credibility of the Administration's action--"

Nixon: That's his point of view.

President: That his "highly-placed aide said the South Vietnamese decision to boycott did not jibe with the President's assurances."

Nixon: I'd hit that right in the nose today. Herb Kaplow of NBC asked me the question. I wish you could have seen the program, because most of them thought it was pretty good.

President: Good. Good, Dick. Well, you just--

Nixon: Good gosh, you've got people on your own staff over there that don't, you know--George Ball and some of those guys are saying these God-awful things.

President: Well, George Ball is not on my staff. [Laughter]

Nixon: You know what I mean.

President: But what I've got, I've got both sides. Hanoi will look at one statement and the South Vietnamese will look at the other. You just see that your people don't tell the South Vietnamese that they're going to get any better deal out of the U.S. Government than a conference.

Nixon: Yeah, and also, we've got to make sure that Hanoi knows they're not going to get a better deal.

President: That's exactly right, and I'm doing that.

Nixon: And the main thing that we want to have is a good, strong personal understanding. I mean, after all, I trust you on this, and I've told everybody that. And that once this thing is over, there's nothing I would rather do, if I win the election, than to do anything that you think we have to do.

President: Dick, you noticed--you must--you must have noticed that when we proposed the date, the date was not November 2, as suggested, but November 6--

Nixon: Yeah, yeah, I know.

President: Before any meeting occurs.

Nixon: Yeah. Incidentally--

President: Smathers understands that.

Nixon: I visited Austin for the first time, and it's a beautiful city, I must say. We spoke in that new auditorium, the circular thing, and I didn't get over to your [Presidential] Library. That's where your Library is?

President: We haven't got it built yet, but you have to come. We're just starting on it.

Nixon: You talked about it. Oh, you're building it now?

President: We're building it now.

Nixon: But in Austin?

President: Yes.

Nixon: I see, I see.

President: Well, I'll be in touch with you after Tuesday./10/ And you see that your people that are talking to these folks make clear your position.

/10/November 5.

Nixon: You understand, of course, that this business--some of Humphrey's people have been gleeful. They said the bombing pause was going to help them, and so forth, etcetera, and our people say it hurts.

President: I'll tell you what I say. I say it doesn't affect the election one way or the other, because--

Nixon: I don't think it does.

President: I've asked all the candidates to please support me, and the other day all three of them said, and you led it off, but all three of them said, "We'll back you, Mr. President."

Nixon: Right.

President: So, I say it ought not affect the election and I don't think it will change one vote.

Nixon: Well, anyway, we'll have fun.

President: Thank you, Dick.

Nixon: Goodbye.


188. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary Rusk/1/

November 3, 1968, 2:18 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, November 3, 1968, 2:18 p.m., Tape F6811.01, PNO 8. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. A summary of this conversation is ibid. Johnson called Rusk, who was in Washington, from his Texas Ranch. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

President: [I told Dirksen] generally that Nixon ought to tell his people to quit sending word out; that it'd be better for him; and he ought to just stay with the position he's taken all along. He said Nixon very distressed by what I told Dirksen about this China Lobby. I read him what I had said to Nixon the other day, and also told him that what this fellow Finch--Lieutenant Governor--had quoted Nixon as saying he'd been misled.

Rusk: Right.

President: So Nixon called me--I told Dirksen that last night and Smathers that at noon today--and Nixon just hung up./2/ Said he wanted to make it abundantly clear that he knew nothing about anybody'd been talking to them; and he knew George Ball and some of the others, the Humphrey people, were very gleeful, and said they pulled all this off--well, he knew that wasn't right; and that they were appealing to Hanoi and it was naturally guessed that some of his friends thought that he might be harder on Hanoi than I was; therefore, Hanoi ought to meet now; and some of his friends might think that I would be harder on the South Vietnamese than he would be; but that that did not represent his view; and that he was willing to go to Saigon and see Thieu immediately after the election or to go to Paris or to do anything that I ask him to do or anything that you wanted him to do.

/2/See Documents 181, 186, and 187.

Rusk: Yeah. Did you see him on "Meet the Press"?

President: No, no.

Rusk: He said that on "Meet the Press."

President: That he wanted to be sure that there's just one voice; and that he felt that they were about out of the war; and that he felt that it could be wound up; and so on and so forth. So, I told him that I hope that his position would be, with all of his people, tell them to quit telling any of the sympathizers one way or the other, that there was but one American position, that's the one that we'd taken and he supported. He said all right, that he would do that.

Rusk: Uh-huh.

President: Now, I don't know whether he knows, and I don't want to question his sincerity, whether he knows of what they're doing or not. But it's pretty obvious to me that they've had their effect.

Rusk: Yeah. Did Smathers ever say about what effect it's having down his way?

President: No. He didn't think it had an effect one way or the other. He said a lot of people thought it was political--that we had done it for political reasons.

Rusk: Yeah.

President: And I think that everybody I've talked to here, I thought they would interpret it that way, and a good many of them have. I saw the leading papers here yesterday morning had lead editorials saying they were disappointed in me that I would hold out this long but then I would cave into the NLF the day before election, and things of that kind.

Rusk: Yeah.

President: And I want him to advise--I knew that they would charge that. And the other side would've charged that after the election. And I just thought that we had to take it up while we had it if we could get it. But--

Rusk: I thought myself that any of this wasn't going to change a thing.

President: I don't think it's going to change a hundred votes. But I think a lot of people think that motivates us.

Rusk: Yeah.

President: That's the question. Now, how do you see it, as of now?

Rusk: Well, I, um, I don't know how to estimate the effect here. My guess is, as I said in the press conference the other day, I don't think it's going to have much effect. But I don't really think there's much we can do to change the situation between now and Tuesday./3/ In any event, I don't think there's much chance really of getting Saigon to announce publicly during today or tomorrow that they're going to Paris, that kind of thing.

/3/November 5.

President: I told Nixon today, and I think I'm right, I said we thought that Thieu would come to this conference. He had signed on two or three times, even agreed to a joint communiqué.

Rusk: Yeah.

President: But we knew we had problems, and I stated to you that we had problems. And I read him the paragraph where I said even the old China Lobby's operating again and causing us some problems out there. And he said--

Rusk: On "Meet the Press," he absolved you personally of any motives of this sort. He managed to get in some of what some of his advisors had said, and he said he dissociated himself from them. And then he said he would go--he thought that Saigon ought to go to the table in Paris; that he was willing to go to Paris or to Saigon, or to do anything else that you wanted him to after the elections; that he thought you were doing the right thing, and he was supporting you on it. So, he managed to get in these other wrinkles.

President: Yes. I don't think they say these things without his knowledge.

Rusk: Yeah.

President: Of course--

Rusk: Well, certainly not without active knowledge of something that's put out there out somewhere.

President: Ah--was Agnew doing the telephoning from New Mexico?/4/

/4/On November 2 Agnew stopped in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during a campaign trip. Following a telephone conversation between Agnew and Rusk, a call from Agnew's plane was placed to the Nixon-Agnew campaign headquarters in Washington. See Document 212.

Rusk: Walt--Walt said he was the only top man in New Mexico that he could find--that Agnew was in New Mexico. And if he did do this, just after my telephone call with him, then he and I have got a problem.

President: Did he call you from New Mexico?

Rusk: I don't know where he called me from, because I didn't have to check that with him. At the time, I thought nothing of it. I had so little information.

President: See if your operator hadn't got that tomorrow.

Rusk: All right, I'll see if I can.

President: Ah, well, what do we do now--just say nothing?

Rusk: I would think we--we ought to hunker down and say nothing at this point.

President: What about Cy's talk today?/5/ What'd you think about that?

/5/See Document 184.

Rusk: Well, Cy and Averell are very embarrassed by this situation. But--and it's obvious, I think, that Hanoi's gloating a little bit over this situation. But I think Hanoi--that Harriman and Cy ought to relax a bit until we get it straightened out and not feel defensive. And we've done everything that we said we were going to do, and if we don't collect on the side of it quite as soon as we hoped to, Hanoi can--doesn't have to--we don't have to trigger anything from Hanoi on that.

President: Didn't we have an agreement with Hanoi on the 6th?

Rusk: Yes. They were ready to meet on the 6th.

President: That cable indicated today that they--I thought that they didn't understand. They were angry because I mentioned the 6th. You know--

Rusk: Oh, well, I wouldn't pay attention to that. But no, we indicated not before the 6th.

President: Yes, that's what I thought.

Rusk: That's right. Yeah.

President: Is that what I said in the speech?

Rusk: Ah, that's right--that they'd be--that the GVN would be free to be there on the 6th. And they had agreed on a sooner date than that. So they had no right to depend on them then. Because we said, "Fine, if you don't like that, what do you want us to do? Start the bombing again?" It's a deal-breaker on something like that.

President: Are Cy and Averell irritated at us?

Rusk: No, I think they're--in the first place, they've had as strenuous a week as we have. They've been on the phone 24 hours a day, and I think both of them are a little tired at this time. But they are as disappointed as we are. And since they are the ones that have to face these fellows across the table, I think they feel a little embarrassed, which professional negotiators should not have to feel--but I think they do. It's inevitable, I think.

President: Just their giving South Vietnam a little hell.

Rusk: Well, I expect that they have some strong thoughts on that--South Vietnam--yeah.

President: Mm-hmm. What do you think Thieu's going to do? Do you think that he's--

Rusk: That he's coming to the table? Yes. Regardless of which one of these fellows is nominated--is elected, I think that he'll come to the table when Nixon says "I'm with the President, and I want you to do what he wants to do," or if Humphrey's elected, he'll come to the table because he has no other alternative. I think he'll come.

President: I think you ought to see that that transcript of "Meet the Press" goes out to Bunker.

Rusk: Right.

President: Nixon's "Meet the Press."

Rusk: Right.

President: What do you think I say? Just I got--just we're just watching things, and I'm not going to say anything until I get back to Washington.

Rusk: I don't think I'd make any statements down there on the--

President: I'm not gonna make any, but I'll be running into hundreds of reporters. I'm speaking at 4 o'clock./6/

/6/See footnote 11, Document 173.

Rusk: Well, I think you just tell them, in the last hour that the matter became unhooked. We had a good, solid agreement with the South Vietnamese. But then they had some internal problems of their own, all these secondary questions. And then at the very closing hours, the arrangements came unhooked. But we had been working with them and had been in full agreement with them for about--for several weeks before this.

President: Okay. Thank you. All right.


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

Washington, November 3, 1968, 11:16 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. IV [1 of 3]. Secret; Sensitive. Received at the LBJ Ranch in Texas on November 4 at 0411Z. Repeated to Christian. The three messages excerpted in this telegram were transmitted on November 3.

Cap 82666. Herewith an account of what is about to be leaked out of Saigon.

A. Bunker's recommendation

B. Secretary Rusk's recommendation

Saigon 41837

1. Keyes Beech of Chicago Daily News asked see Berger last night saying he had story of last week's developments from Viet-Nam sources and would like to check it out. Berger and Beech are old friends and Berger said we are unable to say anything. Beech said he knew that but he had detailed and intimate account of what transpired during meetings here of last three weeks and in fairness to us, we ought to have chance to comment if we wished.

2. He came to Berger's house and Berger listened with horror as he went through pages of notes giving details of meetings going back to October 13 and fragments from joint communiqué, from one of President's letters to Thieu, Lam's cable misrepresenting Harriman's remarks, the aborted cessation announcement of Oct 14/16, exchanges during marathon session including Thieu-Berger exchange, issues raised, etc. Much of info was accurate, although given in distorted frame. Much was slanted or erroneous.

3. Beech said he talked with a number of persons including Ky, but from contents it is clear that main source was Ky.

4. Berger called me to join them, and Beech went over his material again with me. It was impossible to let him publish in this distorted form and it was useless asking to suppress, since Vietnamese are leaking to others as well. I corrected flagrant errors and worst distortions and misrepresentations under arrangement that there will be no attributions of any kind to US sources here. But story, with all its gory details, will be damaging in the extreme, especially to them, and complicate our problems.

5. Story will show that by their own account only saving grace is that there was agreement on joint announcement and GVN concurrence in bombing cessation, and they balked at the last minute on grounds they wanted clarification of NLF status and procedures. Beech said he plans to interpret this backing out in terms of their expectation of a Nixon victory and hopes they will find Nixon a hawk. (Comment: Prepared, presumably, to take any measure to press war to victory.)

6. We obviously will never again be able to repose any confidence in Ky, and indeed it is difficult to know how we can deal in future with this govt, given this kind of irresponsibility at top.

7. Story will be filed about 1100 hours local today. When you have story I suggest Bui Diem be called in and protest made in the strongest possible terms. If protest is in written form, suggest copy be sent me which we would leave at the Foreign Office without comment. It is probably advisable not to identify Ky by name since others were talking as well. I do not know whether Thieu himself has been leaking, but it is obvious stories are coming from someone intimately associated with the actual negotiations, and protest can be cast in these terms. We propose not to comment here. If Dept chooses different course, please inform us of what you will say or want us to say.

Saigon 41838

Ref: Saigon 41837

At reception given by Newsweek last night, we learned major part of substance reftel known to US and foreign press. One US bureau chief told us Ky henchman made sudden "courtesy call" on NY Times bureau chief Roberts and used this as means of giving him rundown on events of days and nights prior to President Johnson's speech. Roberts said he understood similar visits made to other US newsmen by Ky follower. In view this I feel I should give a backgrounder to selected correspondents, unless you feel to the contrary. Please reply flash.


Ref: Saigon 41837, 41838

You are authorized to proceed with backgrounder or in any other appropriate way as you see fit./2/

/2/In a November 4 memorandum to Rostow, Lou Schwartz of the NSC Staff reported that Bunker had briefed 18 correspondents in Saigon that morning. (Ibid., 6 I, 11/68 Bombing Halt (Reactions, Memos, etc.)) In telegram 26713 to Saigon, repeated to Paris, November 5, the Department reported on Beech's story as it was printed in the Chicago Daily News and as it was broadcast on television in a report by anchorman Walter Cronkite. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-November 1968) In telegram 42169 from Saigon, November 7, Bunker reported on a telephone call that Berger had received from Beech: "He charged that Berger and I had somehow interfered with transmission on first day. Berger told him he was absurd, and then said after reading his account, we wondered what his purpose was in coming to us since he had swallowed the GVN's story hook, line and sinker, and had ignored virtually every fact we had supplied him so that he could write an objective story." (Ibid.) In telegram 42409 from Saigon, November 11, Bunker noted that Beech later apologized "for his unfortunate accusations." Bunker added: "We have closed the book on this episode." (Ibid.)


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

Saigon, November 4, 1968, 0800Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN/DOUBLE PLUS, Vol. V. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 6:40 a.m. Repeated to Paris.

41853. Ref: A. Paris 23330; B. Paris 23331./2/

/2/Documents 184 and 185.

1. I think there is a third alternative, and that is to stall with respect to fixing the date for the first meeting.

2. It seems to me that the same argument that has been used to explain why we cannot meet on Nov 6, namely complexities beyond our control, can be used to explain why we require more time before we can fix a different date. We could also say that the US and DRV have arranged this conference on the basis of certain understandings and we must translate our understandings into procedural practice. I note that they are already in our conversations referring to the talks as a "four-sided" conference. I was under the impression that we would not allow such statements to go unchallenged./3/

/3/In telegram 23348/Delto 928 from Paris, November 4, Harriman and Vance wrote: "We do not think this is a good alternative as it may end up with the worst of both worlds. The GVN has already dug in its heels and is divulging the differences between our governments in a distorted and vicious manner. We believe that the time has come for us to set a deadline for the meeting and force the GVN to face up to living up to their prior agreements with us." They proposed the date of November 13 for the first meeting. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, HARVAN/DOUBLE PLUS, Vol. V)

3. While it will be unpleasant to stall, it is necessary for a while if we are to bring the GVN along in orderly fashion. Setting a date now, and telling them that we will go ahead without them, carries the risk that they will dig in their heels. Cooler heads are beginning to be heard here, and given a little time and perhaps a sop to their pride, I think they will decide to come.

4. I would add that I do not have in mind postponing the first meeting indefinitely, or for a long time. That would give the GVN the veto that we have all along said we cannot concede to them.

5. I am concerned by Lau's observation in para 14 Ref A that the rocket attack against Saigon is related to the NLF. I had always thought Hanoi might seek to exonerate itself from responsibility for attacks on cities on the grounds that the NLF is separate entity, and we now have the first evidence of this.



191. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, November 4, 1968, 8:40 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, George M. Elsey Papers, Van De Mark Transcripts [1 of 2]. No classification marking. This meeting was a regular meeting of Clifford's "0830 Group" of senior Defense Department officials. The complete list of participants is not indicated.

62.5% critical wires to W Hse, LBJ upset. That's why last Sat's calls to leading Congressmen was so impt.

CMC tries to figure our meaning of Wash. Post editorial today.

CMC reads aloud a proposed message from LBJ to Gen. Abrams that Rostow sent to his house Sunday./2/ LBJ urging Abrams to get out & "sell" U.S. commanders on what was done last week--saying LBJ not going to sell SVNam down the river.

/2/The draft message to Bunker and Abrams from the President, as transmitted to the President by Rostow in telegram CAP 82658, November 3, and received at the LBJ Ranch at 11:40 a.m., reads: "From here it looks as if it might be useful for Abe to call in the senior U.S. and ARVN military commanders to make the following points: I've personally talked with the President and want to pass directly to you how he views the situation. He is not going to sell out what we--the U.S., ARVN and other Allies--have won on the battlefield. He will have no part of imposing a coalition government on the South Vietnamese. He will live by the Honolulu Communiqué which promises a leading role in the negotiations to the GVN. You and I know that militarily we've got a good deal: (A) During the bad weather over the NVN panhandle the bombing halt doesn't hurt us; we're going to put a maximum effort over Laos; (B) Enemy observance of the DMZ is a net military advantage to us; (C) Our job is easier if cities like Saigon and Danang are free from attack. So, as soldiers, let us go on about our job while the diplomats try to do theirs--in confidence that our strong military position won't be thrown away at the conference table--with the knowledge that early diplomatic success depends on our keeping maximum military pressure on the battlefields. You, in Saigon, of course, must be the judge of whether such an approach would be helpful." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. IV [2 of 3])

GME speaks out--so do Pursley & Goulding--too late, too little "me thinks the lady doth protest too much".

CMC, it turns out, agrees with us. He's against it--he's worried--this proposed message is one more manifestation of Rusk & Rostow's desire to fight on & on & on so long as Saigon wants us to.

The mess we're in now is wholly of Saigon's making--& is solely due to Republican pressure on Viet Nam thru Bui Diem (SVNamese ambassador to U.S.).

(Republican channel is Mrs. Claire Chennault. Chinese-born widow of Gen. [Clair Chennault], whose code name for this action "Little Flower"!!)

CMC thinks he's got it stopped.

0900--CMC turned to Nitze: who opens with an oral report on reconnaissance over N. VNam since the bombing halt.

0901--Walt Rostow phones to argue for the message. CMC arguments:

1) The action LBJ took on 31 Oct was one he had been trying to take for 6 months & was no surprise--no departure from what LBJ has been saying, in effect, since San Antonio in Sept '67./3/

/3/See footnote 6, Document 35.

2) LBJ shldn't be defensive about his decision. Thieu had agreed to this--worked out a joint communiqué.

3) Message is apologetic--Nothing to be apologetic about!

4) LBJ has not suggested he was changing his position on any fundamental point--it looks as though he has by this defensive message?

(Rostow whams back for 6 mins. while CMC listens in silence)

Then CMC opens up again: It's all wrong for LBJ to try to get to Thieu by a message via Abrams to SVNamese generals. It's a screwy way to get out & do business.

Finally, LBJ & Nixon have talked. If Nixon is elected, then a jt. message from those 2 could go. That's the way to press Saigon--not an apologetic, defensive message from LBJ to SVNamese via Abrams.

CMC notes that only reason Nixon went along with the deal of LBJ's because LBJ tricked him into it by telling him--lying--that Thieu had agreed; Thieu had never agreed.

That's what Nixon's staff is now telling all reporters!!!!

Nitze opens up discussion:

--We're fuzzy on what constitutes a strike on a city--& how we retaliate.

--As of now, the talks on [November] 6th in Paris are off because we can't agree.

LBJ told Dirksen we knew the score & Dirksen told Nixon & so Nixon called LBJ at Ranch. Nixon promised LBJ support & did so publicly./4/

/4/See Document 187.


192. Telephone Conversation Among President Johnson, Secretary of Defense Clifford, Secretary of State Rusk, and the President's Special Assistant (Rostow)/1/

November 4, 1968, 12:27 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation of Johnson With Clifford, Rusk, and Rostow, November 4, 1968, 12:27 p.m., Tape F68.09, PNO 5-6. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. The conference call, placed by the President from his Texas Ranch, ended at 12:53 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) The Diary records a telephone conversation at 11:37 a.m. between Johnson and Rostow and summarized it as follows: "Walt wanted the President to know that Saville Davis of the Christian Science Monitor had a story from their Saigon correspondent that says that Nixon got to Thieu to change his attitude. Saville Davis wants to know if we can confirm this. The President told Walt that he couldn't confirm anything. He had his suspicions, but just didn't know. Told Walt not to talk to him, but to have him referred to the State Department." (Ibid.)

President: Hello, Dean? I think you and Clark and Walt ought to meet on this Saville Davis thing./2/

/2/For concerns about a similar problem, see Document 189.

Rusk: Yes sir.

President: It concerns me a great deal. I don't want to be in the position of me being a McCarthy. I don't know much more than I told the candidates themselves the other day, which my notes will reflect there. Namely, these folks had tentatively agreed out there to go along and then they started having doubts because we had reports of some folks--the old China Lobby--contacting embassies, et cetera. Now, I can't get much more specific than that, A, because of the sensitivity of the source--

Rusk: Right.

President: --and B, because of the limited nature of the information. I told Smathers that, Senator Smathers, who called saying that he understood from what I told Dirksen that I was likely to make public this information if it were confirmed and if they kept interfering with it./3/ I also told Dirksen that I believed that the friends of one of the candidates was reporting to the folks out there that they ought to wait./4/

/3/See Document 186.

/4/See Document 181.

Rusk: Right.

President: I did that on the basis of two things--one, the intercept from the Ambassador--

Rusk: Right.

President: --saying that he had had a call and the boss said wait and so forth, and second, this China Lobby operation, the Madame involved.

Rusk: Yeah, that's--

President: Now, I don't want to have information that ought to be public and not make it so. At the--on the other hand, we have a lot of--I don't know how much we can do there and I know we'll be charged with trying to interfere with the election. And I think this is something that's going to require the best judgments that we have. I'm rather concerned by this Saville Davis conversation with the Embassy this morning.

Rusk: Now, which conversation?

President: The Christian Science Monitor man called the Embassy this morning and wanted to see the Ambassador and he was unavailable. He told the party answering that he wanted to check out a story received from his correspondent in Saigon; that he planned to come to the Embassy and wait until he could see him; that the dispatch from Saigon contained the elements of a major scandal which involves the Vietnamese Ambassador and which will affect Presidential candidate Nixon if the Monitor publishes it. Time is of the essence inasmuch as Davis has a deadline to meet if he publishes it.

Rusk: Right.

President: He speculated that should the story be published it will create a great deal of excitement.

Rusk: Right.

President: Now, what he gets from Saigon is well and good and fine. But if he gets it from us, I want to be sure that A, we try to do it in such a way that our motives are not questioned and that if the public interest requires it, and two--and that's the only thing I want to operate under, I'm not interested in the politics of it--the second thing is I want to be sure that what we say can be confirmed.

Rusk: Well, Mr. President, I have a very definite view on this, for what it's worth. I do not believe that any President can make any use of interceptions or telephone taps in any way that would involve politics. The moment we cross over that divide we are in a different kind of society.

President: Yeah.

Rusk: Now, if this story is coming out of Saigon, I don't myself see how it could have come from American sources in Saigon because we've been extremely careful not to pass along details of this sort of thing out there. It could have come from South Vietnamese sources--I don't know. Did Saville Davis say from what kind of sources it came?

President: No. He just says that he informed the Ambassador he wanted to check out a story he received from a correspondent in Saigon, and he planned to come to the Embassy and wait for the Ambassador to see him. Now, he has also tried to see the White House.

Rusk: Well, I would think that we are--that since we are not involved in any contacts that the Republicans might have had with the South Vietnamese Ambassador, that this a matter on which only the Republicans could comment, and that we stay out of it completely. I really think that it would be very unwise. I mean, we get a lot of information through these special channels that we don't make public. I mean, for example, some of the malfeasances of Senators and Congressmen and other people, that we don't make public. And I think that we must continue to respect the classification of that kind of material. And I think that all of what--all we can say is that we are not going to comment on such matters; that's for others to comment on if they have anything to say on it. But be very sure that we ourselves are not ourselves putting out this story.

President: Clark, do you have any reaction?

Clifford: I couldn't--I could not hear what Dean said.

Rusk: I can't hear whoever that is.

Clifford: I can hear the President very clearly, but all I can hear is Dean's voice, and I can't get his words.

President: Well, Dean just says he doesn't think that we can confirm or say anything or have any comment in connection with it on the basis of the sensitivity of the information.

Clifford: Well, I would think that there would be a good deal of merit to that. I'd go on to another reason also. And that is, I think that some elements of the story are so shocking in their nature that I'm wondering whether it would be good for the country to disclose the story, and then possibly to have a certain individual elected. It could cast his whole administration under such doubts that I would think it would be inimical to our country's interests.

President: Well, I have no doubt about that. But what about the story being published and our knowing of it, and our being charged with hushing it up or something?

Clifford: Oh, on that, Mr. President, I don't believe that would bother me. I think that the amount of information that we have--that we don't think we should publicize--it has to do with the sensitivity of the sources, it has to do with the absences of absolute proof. So, I don't believe we have the kind of story that we'd be justified in putting out.

President: All right. I think both of you should have a paragraph from this report so you can look at it, and also a question from Nixon in the light of what his people are doing again today. They are going back over this thing, and he's having Senator Tower to say it's politics and stuff like that. But in this conversation the other day at which you were present, I said to him that this thing--we've had these three propositions up to them for some time, since certainly the early part of October they were nibbling--that because of some of some speeches--I had in mind the Bundy and Humphrey speeches, and Humphrey was on the other end of the line, and certainly McCarthy's type of stuff--because of certain speeches that were made at that time, I don't know what effect they had--but anyway they went off and kind of let up for a week or so to Hanoi. Since that time, we had gone out to our allies and got them to tentatively agree--emphasize tentatively agree--that this would be a wise move. Then the old China Lobby starts operating, contacting some Embassies and others, and that interferes with the situation. That I knew from what they had said to me previously--the three candidates--that they were not being responsible for this, but that I thought they ought to know that it created some minor problems and we were trying to work them out. A little later, Nixon asked a question whether we would stop bombing the South, and then said, "Of course, Mr. President, I know you don't know whether the conference will come off or not," implying that I had made my point that they had these problems. But--"Would you stop bombing the South?," and I told him, "No, I wouldn't," and so forth./5/

/5/See Document 166.

Now, he takes the position that he was under the impression that South Vietnam was going to be at the conference, and I told him yesterday, "We are all hoping it would be at the conference, and we had believed, up until this China thing got into it, that we had reason to believe that on two or three separate occasions that the President [Thieu] shared our view, but after this got into it, it created some doubt," and I told him of that doubt. He would keep running away from it. I reminded him of that a time or two. I noticed that a little bit later he said in California, something that kind of confirmed what he said on "Meet the Press," that all of us thought South Vietnamese'd be there and so forth. But he didn't say that he had been warned./6/ Now he has been warned. That may be a little too strong a word for it, but we told him we did have a problem with it, and he knew that, and I confirmed that with Humphrey yesterday too./7/ So I think, Walt, you ought to get--I'll get Jim Jones to put on the wire to you, Walt, the two paragraphs I have in mind. You see that they get two--one for you and one to Rusk and one to Clifford.

/6/See Document 187.

/7/On November 3 the President met Humphrey at a campaign rally in Houston. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)

Rostow: I have them. I can send them very quickly, sir./8/

/8/See Document 194.

President: Well, you get the Nixon question and you also get--there's a good part there. I'll try to get it to you because I specifically want to show you what I want them to see.

Rostow: Yes, sir.

Rusk: All right. I'll wait for it.

President: What did you say, Dean?

Rusk: That's right, that's fine. I just think our strongest position here is--if such a story is going to run, and my guess is they'll publish it anyhow--is for us to say that we're in no position to get into that kind of thing; not confirm it. But even no comment from us would tend to leave open the possibility there might be something in it. But I just think it's not for the President or the Secretary of State to appear to get into that story at all.

President: Is that your opinion, Clark?

Clifford: See, I still can't hear Dean, Mr. President.

President: Dean says that it's his opinion that we should just say we cannot get into that at all, period.

Clifford: Well, I better have a talk with Dean about it. I think that would indicate that maybe we had information and chose not to get into it. Maybe we would want to say that we're looking into the story if they publish the story, that we're looking into it, or something of that kind. Why don't--after we hang up, why don't I talk to Dean directly. Then I can hear him.

President: You do that, and--

Rusk: I can't hear Clark from here, sir.

President: Okay, you do that, and I'll get this information to you. You three get together right away. And I will proceed on the assumption that we just do nothing and say nothing and stay out of it, and you all do the same thing. And I don't think Walt should see Saville Davis. He wants to see Walt now.

Rostow: I told him I would not see him, sir.

President: That's good.

Rostow: My secretary told him that I would not.

President: Okay.

Rostow: Okay.

Clifford: Are you still on, Walt?




Return to This Volume Home Page

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.