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 193-212

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

Washington, November 4, 1968, 2119Z.

/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, Clifford, and Read; and approved by Rusk.

266372/Todel 1473. Paris for Harriman and Vance. Saigon: Ambassador Bunker's comments on this cable will be needed by 11:00 a.m. Tuesday Saigon time. This message has not yet been cleared by highest USG authorities.

1. We have weighed carefully the recommendations in Paris 23331, Saigon 41853, and Paris 23348./2/ Our basic conclusions are that:

/2/Documents 185 and 190 and footnote 3, Document 190.

a. There must be no wider meeting in Paris on Nov. 6 nor should we now set a firm date of Nov. 13.

b. We should make every effort to go forward with bilateral talks in Paris on procedures for a wider meeting, during the week. This would be designed to open the way for a wider meeting on Nov. 13.

c. We should prepare for the possibility of agreeing to a wider meeting on Nov. 13 or shortly thereafter, on the assumption that the GVN may still not be ready to attend, but that we may wish to go ahead nonetheless and show them that there are certain subjects we can discuss without them, for example, mutual withdrawal and de-escalation in the DMZ.

d. Meanwhile, Saigon should be taking every possible measure to bring the GVN around.

These central conclusions are reflected in the instructions below. They reflect our considered views, but are of course subject to Paris and Saigon comment.

2. Paris has scheduled (at Lau's request) the next Vance/Lau meeting at 1000 Paris time on Tuesday. We plan now that at this meeting Vance would make the following points:

a. We are not ready for a wider meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 6.

b. We continue to believe that bilateral discussions on procedures are essential, and note that we have never agreed with the DRV that procedures should be worked out in the wider meeting itself, or should be the first item discussed. Indeed, the procedural agreement reached last May expressly provides that those ground rules will continue until we and the DRV agree to change them. (This leaves open the possibility--depending on how the GVN comes around--of ratification or confirmation of the procedures in a wider meeting.)

c. Bilateral discussions on the procedures for a wider meeting should aim to work out agreed procedures so that the first wider meeting could take place in the week of Nov. 11-16. At the same time, we cannot commit ourselves to a date for such a wider meeting until there has been a discussion and at least provisional agreement on the essential procedures.

d. Accordingly, we renew our strong view that there should be a bilateral meeting on Nov. 6 and further bilateral discussions as necessary. We also continue to believe that it is appropriate for such bilateral meetings to take up the question of de-escalation on either side in the DMZ area and what can be done to assure this.

In short, we plan that a meeting on Tuesday/3/ should definitively knock down any meeting on Wednesday other than a bilateral on procedures./4/

/3/November 5.

/4/In telegram 41932 from Saigon, November 4, the Embassy concurred with the strategy and tactics outlined in these first two paragraphs. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968)

3. On the task of preparing for a possible wider meeting without the GVN, we would like Paris recommendations on how this should be done including how we should handle the presence of an NLF representative and the topics we would plan to raise. We would also like your judgment on whether Hanoi would accept such a meeting without the presence of the GVN, or what tactics you think Hanoi might employ if we were to appear at such a meeting without the GVN. This is a matter requiring less urgent comment than the instructions above, however.

4. Meanwhile, Saigon should be acting along the following lines:

a. As you deem most effective, the word should be going out to all influential quarters that the American public will not support a situation in which talks are delayed for any significant time by GVN insistence on the kind of assurances Thieu has mentioned, that Hanoi will formally and explicitly agree: -1- to talk directly with GVN and -2- that the NLF will participate only as part of the DRV delegation. We here are already assembling editorial comment that can be used as ammunition in support of this argument.

b. Also as you deem most effective, you should start to get across the idea that, if the GVN refuses to attend on its present grounds, the US Administration will have to proceed with the wider meetings at which it will discuss appropriate issues without the presence of the GVN.

c. On both scores, you should be getting across the idea that this is a matter of American public opinion as a whole, and has little or nothing to do with who is elected President tomorrow. You should also be getting it across that the present Administration, under our system, has decisive responsibility until January 20. (We infer that some South Vietnamese do not understand this rather basic point.)

5. In short, you should be moving to shorten as much as possible whatever face-saving period the more constructive elements in the GVN regard as necessary. (We have noted Thieu's assistant, Huong, commenting that two weeks would do it. We want to make this less.)

6. In laying out this course of action, we have in mind Saigon's suggestion (Saigon 41738)/5/ that word from the President-elect may become an important element in bringing the GVN around, after the election. We share Bunker's judgment that this could be of crucial importance. Obviously, it cannot be done in the next 48 hours, at least.

/5/See footnote 4, Document 183.

7. Finally we would like Saigon and Paris comment--on a less urgent basis but hopefully in the next 24 hours--on the following possible variations:

a. An offer to cement the GVN's "leading role" by explicitly making the GVN the "chairman" of our side. Would this invite Hanoi to make the NLF "chairman" on the other side? Or would Hanoi emphasize NLF independence by retaining "two delegates"? Does it unduly tie our hands into the future? Would it help?

b. If the GVN is unwilling to come to a wider meeting, our attending with private SVN representation--from the Lien Minh perhaps--as a way of showing how we regard the NLF being present on Hanoi's side.

We emphasize that these are both ideas to probe the possibilities and we would welcome any ideas from Paris and Saigon.

Rusk

 

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

Washington, November 4, 1968, 2214Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. IV [1 of 3]. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Deliver Direct to the President. Received at the LBJ Ranch at 5:10 p.m. The notation "ps" on the telegram indicates that the President saw it.

CAP 82683. I have just returned from a meeting of over an hour with Sec. Rusk and Sec. Clifford on the China matter.

1. With respect to the passage of the transcript which I had them read, they agreed that Nixon appeared clear in mind that the talks might not begin and you had made clear that they might not begin. We noted, however, that the immediately following statement could have induced some further ambiguity which Nixon did not follow up at the time: "Dick, the talks will be held. We have a firm agreement that the North Vietnamese will bring the NLF in and the South Vietnamese will be permitted to attend."/2/

/2/See Document 166.

2. With respect to McCloskey,/3/ pursuant to your instructions Sec. Rusk and Sec. Clifford agreed to instruct him to say to Saville Davis: "Obviously I'm not going to get into this kind of thing in any way, shape or form." He was so instructed in the presence of the two Secretaries and myself. Having returned to my office, I have just received a report from McCloskey on his interview with Saville Davis. Saville Davis began by saying: "I assume you will not be able to comment on this." He then showed McCloskey the story which was along the lines familiar to you. The story was headed by Beverly Deepe: "This must be checked with the Nixon people before publication."/4/

/3/Robert J. McCloskey, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

/4/Telegram 268107/Todel 1500 to Saigon and repeated to Paris, November 7, transmitted the Department's analysis of an article entitled "Recalcitrant Saigon Hopes for Better Deal" by Beverly Deepe, Saigon correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IS/OIS Files: Lot 90 D 345, Paris Peace Conference, Todel Chron., November 1968)

Saville Davis volunteered that his newspaper would certainly not print the story in the form in which it was filed; but they might print a story which said Thieu, on his own, decided to hold out until after the election.

Incidentally, the story as filed is stated to be based on Vietnamese sources, and not U.S., in Saigon.

3. With respect to the body of information that we now have available, all three of us agreed to the following propositions:

--The information sources must be protected and not introduced into domestic politics.

--Even with these sources, the case is not open and shut. On the question of the "public's right to know," Sec. Rusk was very strong on the following position: we get information like this every day, some of it very damaging to American political figures. We have always taken the view that with respect to such sources there is no public "right to know." Such information is collected simply for the purposes of national security.

--So far as the information based on such sources is concerned, all three of us agreed: (A) Even if the story breaks, it was judged too late to have a significant impact on the election. (B) The viability of the man elected as President was involved as well as subsequent relations between him and President Johnson. (C) Therefore, the common recommendation was that we should not encourage such stories and hold tight the data we have.

Immediately following is a further item which just came in. (I assume that Bui Diem brought her in to tell her about Saville Davis' visit.)

"On the morning of November 4, 1968, Mrs. Anna Chennault traveled in her Lincoln Continental from her residence to the Vietnamese Embassy where she remained for approximately thirty minutes and thereafter went to room two zero five, seventeen zero one, Pennsylvania Avenue, arriving shortly after eleven am.

Room two zero five, seventeen zero one Pennsylvania Avenue is unmarked; however, pretext inquiry of a nearby office elicited response that room two zero five is a Nixon office.

A source who has furnished reliable information in the past advised that at eleven thirty five am, a representative of the Vietnamese Embassy talked with Mrs. Chennault and said that the Ambassador would like to see Mrs. Chennault in ten or fifteen minutes. Mrs. Chennault stated she could be reached at telephone number two nine eight nine zero one six.

Shortly after noon, Mrs. Chennault departed seventeen zero one Pennsylvania Avenue and proceeded via cab to the Vietnamese Embassy where she remained for approximately ten minutes. Upon leaving the Vietnamese Embassy, she walked to the Chinese Embassy, twenty three eleven Massachusetts Avenue, arriving twelve twenty pm.

A second source who has furnished reliable information in the past advised that at twelve twenty one pm a representative of the Chinese Embassy summoned a cab. The same source advised that several minutes later, Mrs. Chennault contacted her own office stating that she would come to her office in a few minutes.

A cab picked up Mrs. Chennault shortly after twelve thirty pm and took her to the Investment Building, fifteen eleven K Street, Northwest.

A third source who has furnished reliable information in the past advised that telephone number two nine eight nine zero one six is listed to the Women's Advisory Committee, Suite ten forty two, Investment Building, fifteen eleven K Street, Northwest, and is an auxiliary line from a private branch exchange (switchboard) at seventeen zero one Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest. It is an unlisted number.

Ten forty two Investment Building is the office of the Claire L. Chennault foundation."

 

195. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, November 5, 1968, 8:30 a.m.

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

Gossip on election--the surprising tightness/closeness. CMC's disgust with Nixon's TV shows.

Comments on SVNam--Thieu's "treachery"--his desire to keep on fighting to keep us there. CMC repeats his frequent comment that Thieu wants the war to go on forever. His gov't is getting richer & richer. CMC mad & wants us to get out.

His hope, however, being reasonable, that cessation of bombing will lead to a very much lower level of combat.

We should get on with the negotiations & start pulling out. Thieu will just "pee away" our substantial military victory.

Warnke points out 2 utterly opposing schools of thought in U.S. Gov't

--one saying we shld root out the infrastructure (Rostow, Max Taylor, Rusk, JCS).

--other, be satisfied with stopping hostilities (CMC, Warnke, etc).

CMC + Warnke: We're for "Ceasefire in place"--we see no reason "to try to make the whole country safe for Thieu."

CMC wants to get out now; [Thieu's] not ready to fight until we've secured the country for G.V.N.

The problem is--as we all admit--this is not U.S. Gov't policy! The hard-liners--Walt Rostow is the major apologist for the S.V.Nam gov't. LBJ has had a confused conglomeration of motives--he's seen it as a war--"Nail the coonskin to the wa[ll]"--he doesn't want be to be the 1st Pres. to "loose [sic] a war." The concept [is] wholly wrong. He still thinks in terms of wars--like WWI & WWII. (He's never understood the complexities of the situation.)

CMC then talks again of the Republican Party efforts to sabotage any progress--the FBI telephone taps, the intercepts of messages from Bui Diem to Saigon, the surveillance & taps on Mrs. Claire Chennault, etc.

Warnke, points out the real issue is--Does U.S. remain in Asia?

--Whether or not we win in S.V.Nam, this is the long-term future.

CMC: "Excruciatingly unbearable awful advice" to LBJ for 5 years, for us to have gotten in so deeply, without realizing what our national interest is.

Let these countries learn to work together. Let's us draw down, as we did in Korea, to the "limited partner" role.

(CMC thinks aloud at length--15/20 minutes--on future of U.S. in Asia.)

[Omitted here is discussion of Israel.]

 

196. Situation Report by the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read)/1/

Washington, November 5, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam, Harvan/Double Plus, Vol. V [1 of 2]. Secret; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. In telegram CAP 82696 to the President, November 5, transmitting a copy of this report to the LBJ Ranch in Texas, Rostow described Vance's meeting that morning as "frustrating." (Ibid., Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. IV [1 of 3]) Vance's full report of this meeting was transmitted in telegram 23419/Delto 934 from Paris, November 5. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968)

Cy Vance called on the secure phone at 8:40 a.m.

1. Vance had a two hour meeting with Lau on procedures this morning in Paris.

2. Lau said that Thuy and Mrs. Binh were prepared to go forward with the new wider discussions tomorrow, whether or not the GVN was represented.

3. Vance replied that the GVN would not be represented in Paris tomorrow and that we would let the DRV know when our side was prepared for the first meeting with wider participation. We could not agree to meet in the new format until there were agreed procedures for going forward. Vance proposed a bilateral meeting with the DRV tomorrow for further procedural discussions, and he further proposed that the fact of today's meeting and subsequent meetings be made known publicly without disclosure of content.

4. Lau rejected a proposal for a US/DRV meeting tomorrow and repeated his view that there should be a three delegation meeting on the 6th. There was a prolonged argument about the different views of the US and the DRV on the "our side/your side" approach and the DRV "four delegation" approach. Lau said no matter what we called it there would be representatives of four different parties present in the new phase of the talks and their side would be organized as two separate delegations. On specific points of procedure the following points emerged.

(a) There was agreement that the first meeting with wider participation would discuss rules of procedure.

(b) On the order of speaking the two sides will alternate and neither side placed importance on who speaks first.

(c) The present language translation procedures will continue in the next stage.

(d) On physical arrangements the US proposed continuation of the talks in the same room with the same number (9 or 10) on each side and the actual arrangements to be worked out through the French. The DRV agreed to work through the French but preferred a larger room and 12 on their side "because there would be two delegations".

(e) There was sharp disagreement on press coverage at the first broader meeting.

5. At the conclusion of the meeting Vance again suggested meeting tomorrow on a bilateral basis to discuss procedures for the first wider meeting. Lau would not agree but took note of Vance's proposal and it was left that if either side had something new to discuss it would get in touch with the other.

6. Comment

Vance and Harriman intend to make public the fact of today's meeting. They do not expect the DRV to agree to a bilateral meeting tomorrow, but Harriman and Vance are thinking of proposing procedural points to the DRV, such as agreeing ad referendum on 12 to a side, which might permit the holding of a bilateral meeting on November 6.

Benjamin H. Read/2/

/2/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

 

197. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Saigon, November 5, 1968.

/1/Source: U.S. Army Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Papers, Pacification Program (Planning): 1968. Confidential. Copies were sent to Bunker, Abrams, and Colby.

In my farewell call on President Thieu/2/ I made much of my firm conviction that we were steadily winning the war. I recalled to Thieu that he had some months ago told Ambassador Bunker how the enemy was headed for military defeat and would have to switch soon to a political phase.

/2/Komer was appointed Ambassador to Turkey October 28.

However I didn't waste much time on generalities. I told the President that the greatest weakness in his arsenal and ours in this critical juncture lay in the propaganda field. When the enemy was losing, he claimed he was winning. When we were winning, we acted as if we would lose. I severely criticized the psyops and information agencies of both our governments here in Vietnam. I said that I had recommended to General Abrams that the psychological aspect of our new accelerated offensive should receive command rather than staff supervision; I would make the same recommendation to the President. He listened intently and took several notes. Encouraged, I pressed the need for themes which would convey "the smell of success", which I attributed to General Abrams.

Secondly I told the President that our one mistake was to undershoot the mark on the special pacification offensive. Practically every province had indicated it could upgrade security in many more contested hamlets than its quota. I urged that if by 1 December the offensive seemed to be moving nicely, double the ante to at least 2,000 hamlets by Tet./3/

/3/Beginning with a declaration on November 1, Thieu implemented an accelerated pacification campaign, which he called the Le Loi campaign in honor of a Vietnamese patriot. The ostensible goal of this broad effort was to increase rapidly the percentage of the South Vietnam's population under the control of the GVN. Richard A. Hunt, Pacification: The American Struggle for Vietnam's Hearts and Minds (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995), pp. 154-207, provides additional information.

Third I strenuously urged an order of the day, or speech by the President (or PM), or TV broadcast to officially launch the special offensive, and to describe all of its facets--including Phung Hoang, self-defense, Chieu Hoi, etc. I said I felt that many province and district officials were confused by the bombing halt, etc. What was needed was a strong, clear call by the top leadership of the GVN to consolidate the victory we were well on the way to winning.

The President took notes on all of the above points. He seemed particularly interested in my propaganda proposals and an order of the day or speech on the special offensive. He ended by expressing warm appreciation of my help to the GVN and presented me with a fabulous piece of lacquer and an inscribed picture of himself.

R.W. Komer/3/

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

 

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

Paris, November 5, 1968, 1925Z.

/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 2:59 p.m. Repeated to Saigon.

23468/Delto 937.

1. DRV delegation delivered following note verbale to USDel for Ambassador Vance at 1900 Paris time November 5:

"At this morning (November 5, 1968) private meeting, there are two points on which we have not yet reached agreement:

1) The conference room.

2) The press representatives.

Now, we would like to inform you that we temporarily agree to your proposal:

1) The first meeting of four delegations will be held in the room which we have so far used as our meeting place.

2) The press representatives will not be admitted in the first meeting of four delegations.

Thus, there is no disagreed question left with regard to the procedure and arrangement for the first meeting.

Therefore, with the consent of the representatives of the South Viet Nam National Front for Liberation, we propose to hold the first meeting of four delegations tomorrow November 6, 1968, at 10:30 hrs, at the Centre des Conferences Internationales, Paris.

In case the representatives of the RVN are not available, we propose to hold meetings of three delegations: DRVN, FNL, and USA. When the representatives of the RVN come, they will participate in the meeting."

2. We have replied as follows:

"In reply to your note verbale, we wish to inform you as follows:

1. The United States representatives do not believe that we have yet reached agreement on all questions of procedures and arrangements for the first meeting in a wider format. For example, even if the meeting is held in the small conference room as we proposed, agreement has not been reached on all the physical arrangements involved.

2. Moreover, as Ambassador Vance said earlier today, the representatives of the Republic of Viet-Nam will not be present and we cannot have a meeting in the wider format on November 6. We said we would inform Ambassador Lau as soon as our side would be prepared to meet with your side in the wider meeting."

Harriman

 

199. Editorial Note

On November 5, 1968, Republican candidate Richard Nixon was elected President of the United States. He received 43.4 percent of the total vote, which represented a margin of victory over the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey, of a scant seven-tenths of one percent of all votes cast, or a difference of a little more than one-half million ballots. While independent candidate George Wallace finished well behind the major candidates, his tally of 13.5 percent of the total vote was considerable. The next day, President Johnson sent a congratulatory telegram to Nixon and one of encouragement to Humphrey. The texts of these messages are in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968-69, Book II, pages 1114-1115.

Also on November 6, the United States announced the indefinite postponement of the first meeting of the expanded four-party talks on Vietnam. The text of the statement as released in Paris is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, November 25, 1968, page 538.

 

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

Saigon, November 6, 1968, 0915Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan/Double Plus, Vol. VI [2 of 2]. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 5:10 a.m. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance. On this copy of the telegram, which was sent to the President, Rostow wrote: "For the President From Walt Rostow--Herewith Bunker's cool and thoughtful analysis of factors that made Thieu draw back at last minute."

42066. For Secretary from Ambassador Bunker. Subj: Thieu's Decision.

1. I thought it would be useful to set down my thoughts on what transpired here that led Thieu to make his decision not to go with us into the Paris talks. These thoughts are substantially based on evidence and solid impressions, except for Ky's motivations, where what we say is somewhat speculative. We shall continue to collect and analyze the evidence. However, it is important to start evaluating this performance, which came so unexpectedly, so that we will know better how to deal with its consequences, as well as with Thieu and his government in the future.

2. The key issue on which everything turned was the NLF status in the talks. During the last days nothing we could say, no assurance we could give, was able to shake Thieu from the position that Hanoi had to be made to agree that the NLF was part of its delegation, else he would not come into the talks. This came as a surprise since at several points until the very last day we thought we had the fullest understanding of, and his agreement to, the our side/your side formula and how it would be applied. A second but less persistent theme, but one which has been subsequently emphasized, was that Hanoi had to say it agrees to talk directly to the GVN.

3. If at any point prior to the last crucial days Thieu had given us any inkling that he would break agreements reached, or that he would reopen the formula, or wanted stronger guarantees than those we had given him, we might have had time to overcome his opposition by working further on the joint announcement, adding perhaps even stronger assurances that the GVN will deal with all domestic political matters, a reassurance that we will not press them into coalition, etc., but he did not become utterly intransigent until toward the end.

4. The sudden turn of the final 48 hours of our negotiations with Thieu prompts the initial questions: did Thieu deliberately mislead us earlier? Did he hold back his real (and extreme) position until the very end to extract concessions on the central NLF point? Such a tactic would have been based on the twin assumptions of our anxiety to move into talks immediately and of our not daring to move without the GVN. Thieu was, of course, correct with respect to our anxiety to move, but wrong about our unwillingness to move without him despite repeated warnings. In any case, we believe it unlikely that Thieu was deliberately misleading us; he was, however, misreading us.

5. Our own elections and a possible Nixon victory played an important part in Thieu's approach to the problem and reflects another miscalculation. He assumed, and we could not persuade him otherwise, that our haste reflects a political motive, namely, to assist Humphrey. He reasoned that a Nixon victory was probable and would be, on balance, more in the GVN's interest. Thus, if he could prevent our decision to cease the bombing until after the election, pressure from the United States Government might ease. He would then have a new "ball game." Thieu may even expect that Nixon would follow a "hawkish" policy, possibly even threaten to resume full bombing of the North to force Hanoi to capitulate or, at least come to the conference in a weaker bargaining position. We do not say that this factor was decisive, yet we do not doubt that it was a major factor in his intransigence.

6. But we must give strong weight to additional and more substantive explanations for Thieu's final turning away from the bombing halt and serious talks. There are two mutually reinforcing elements here: one reflects a sense of gathering success in the war, and the other reflects fear and suspicion of us:

A. Thieu felt strongly that the timing of the bombing halt and serious negotiations was not propitious. We were proposing to do this--and inviting the probability of an immediate subsequent proposal from the enemy for a cease-fire--just at the moment when we were girding to follow up recent military successes with a concerted aggressive drive against the Viet Cong's control of the countryside. Why rush to a solution at the conference table, which inevitably means compromise, when more and more reports were coming in that the enemy was weakened and discouraged, when the smell of victory was in the air?

B. Thieu's suspicion of, or at least lack of confidence in, our motives and intentions regarding the talks, was also at work. We have already noted his belief that the timing of cessation was a ploy related to our elections. Much more serious is the fact that conscious as he is of the American people's determination to wind up the fighting and withdraw, he almost certainly fears that once we have him at the conference table we would lead him step by step into a cease-fire, and then press on him a coalition, if that is the price we have to pay for a settlement. We know now that an intelligence report was in his hands that the NLF intended to press quickly for a cease-fire and coalition and this reinforced his anxiety and fears. The Laos settlement, and Harriman's association with it, was also in his mind. Certain as he was of a Nixon victory, he saw in that victory the replacement of Harriman in the negotiations. The Lam telegram misrepresenting Harriman/2/ could not have come at a worse time.

/2/See Document 149, and footnote 7 thereto.

C. I would rate suspicion of us and fear of what negotiations will lead to as the second major factor in causing him to back away at the fateful hour of decision. It is an attitude we shall have to keep in the forefront of our thinking in the months ahead.

7. I think all the elements of paras 4-6 were present in Thieu's thinking, but it is an open question to what extent each one entered his calculations. There were times during the last 48 hours when he seemed clearly to move with no sense of urgency, repeating the same argument in a score of different guises, instead of seeking a way out. His argument that the army and the country would "disintegrate" because the other side claimed to have two delegations, however illogical this may seem to us, because it made no allowance for his and our ability to combat Hanoi's propaganda with our own, was a real concern of his as well as the members of the Security Council. The Prime Minister repeated this same concern yesterday. I pointed out that this concern seems to us to be greatly exaggerated but, in the atmosphere of emotion and suspicion, it was difficult to deal with this argument by an objective weighing of its validity. The argument also betrays a deep sense of insecurity and fear of coming to a quick decision that involved some elements of a domestic political criticism.

8. This brings us to the contributing factors of Thieu's style and the matter of "face." Thieu does not generally make quick decisions. He tends to delay the big decisions, especially when he feels insecure. The overreaction to the coup scare of October 8 provides evidence of that persisting sense of insecurity. In this context we confronted Thieu with the biggest decision of his administration. We put him under tremendous time pressure and under bonds of secrecy preventing adequate consultation with his senior colleagues. He was unable to prepare and educate them for the plunge. Although he was on clear notice that we would move quickly once we had Hanoi's agreement, Thieu himself was mentally unprepared for the fact that on the day after we had obtained agreement on a joint declaration, we would come to him with the news that the bombing would stop the following day and negotiations begin three days later. Moreover, Vietnamese, we should remember, are not as efficient as we in lining up their political forces, making contingency plans and waiting with "execute" messages. They require some time to thrash things out and line people up and talk matters over. They are perhaps not alone in this. If we had been less concerned with avoiding discussion with his senior colleagues, perhaps Thieu might have brought his Parliamentary and other opinion leaders along. As it turned out, the pressure also ultimately involved the ever present question of face, so important in this part of the world. I do not wish to exaggerate this point but merely add it to the list of factors. Standing up to the Americans, resisting their imposed deadlines, demonstrating Vietnamese sovereignty became, if not an end in itself, at least a welcome by-product of the affair. I deal with this phenomenon in more detail in paragraph 14 below.

9. I have not thus far mentioned Ky's role. It is a difficult one to assess and one is tempted to raise provocative questions. We must assume that some of the same considerations which passed through Thieu's mind also passed through Ky's. Ky is far more suspicious of us than Thieu. He is far more reckless, and he sets great store by a Nixon victory. He asked us several times, "What's the great hurry?" yet told us he would do what he could to persuade Thieu and the Security Council to go with us. But did he?

10. Our early reports of the first NSC meeting show him taking a hard line, which later became equivocal. One, and probably two factors were at work:

A. We think Ky was pretty certain we would not dare to move unilaterally, although he had no reason to make this miscalculation. And if we did not move, then President-elect Nixon could come into the picture on the side of toughness. He therefore acted in such a way as to reinforce Thieu's hesitations and the serious doubts of those on the National Security Council, instead of counteracting them.

B. But there may have been a second factor. The suspicion inevitably arises that he saw in Thieu's stand an opportunity to destroy Thieu as a result of Thieu's break with the US. If this was indeed his plan, then he certainly miscalculated, for in the short run Thieu's defiance of us has vastly increased Thieu's stature in the country. From the start Ky took the position with us that in principle they are opposed to the NLF presence, but that one must be realistic and face the fact that they will be present. He has consistently said he can handle Hanoi and the NLF; he has no fear of talking with the enemy; he can bargain with them and make concessions, for he is known as a hawk and is trusted. He was ready and anxious to go to Paris, yet in our meetings with him and Thieu his interventions were neither helpful nor constructive.

C. Was it because he wanted Thieu to box himself in on this issue? Was it because he sensed that while the initial emotional reaction may support Thieu, there will be many who will later come to think that Thieu has made a colossal mistake in failing to go with us in pursuit of a settlement, and that Thieu will be discredited and forced to resign in favor of Ky? We do not know, and we tend not to believe that Ky's ambition would carry him to such lengths. Still, we will be on the alert for rumors emanating from Ky and his entourage condemning Thieu for his refusal to join the talks and his break with the US at a time when Ky was quite willing to go to the talks and deal with the NLF or anyone else.

11. Does Thieu realize the full magnitude of the complications he has created for himself and for us, and the way he has isolated himself from foreign support? We think the answer is a qualified yes. Thieu thinks clearly, and said at one point he knows he will be vilified and castigated in US and in world opinion if he does not join the talks. Does he realize that if he persists in his absence he may drive the US to negotiate unilaterally? This I made clear to him, although I did not press it.

12. He must certainly have thought about it, and he received from us ample indications of how American opinion could react and what might happen. But he may see us trapped here, or still see in Nixon's possible election hope of eventual relief from these pressures. Or he may be gambling that Hanoi will come to his rescue by attacks on the cities and across the DMZ. Alternatively, he must realize that he cannot hold out indefinitely, and is buying domestic political support for a future move to the conference table at the cost of a short-run alienation of the US and his foreign friends. A risky and shortsighted course, but one he may have thought necessary.

13. What will Thieu do next? He has made his speeches to the legislature and to the nation. And while he went far out in his conditions, he stopped just short of using the precise words on which he bargained with us, "Hanoi must admit that the NLF is part of its delegation and must admit that it will talk to us." He is also keeping a lid on anti-US demonstrations.

14. Many Vietnamese have observed after his Assembly speech of November 1, Thieu "has really become our President." Some have said, "He is greater that Diem."/3/ It was profound emotional experience for the Assembly and for the country at large. Thieu shed the image of the American-appointed, American-supported chief executive and became a leader in his own right. By catering to a relatively low denominator of nationalism, he has acquired the aura of a courageous patriot who is standing up to the foreigner. By the same token, if he moves wisely and firmly Thieu has perhaps now acquired a freedom of action and an image of independence in the matter of GVN participation that he did not have before. He is now better able to accept a face-saving formula that would permit him to claim that his conditions had been met. And he may now be better able to handle the man in Viet-Nam against whom he harbors the deepest suspicions--Ky.

/3/Ngo Dinh Diem, President of the Republic of Vietnam, 1955-1963.

15. Can Thieu be persuaded to change course--and hopefully soon? We think this may be possible. The essential element is that the President-elect, especially if it is Nixon, will have to make clear to him that GVN attendance at the conference is essential to a continuation of American public support of our Viet-Nam policy. A TCC summit conference thereafter with a carefully worked out and agreed joint communiqué beforehand could be the vehicle for bringing him to Paris with a minimum loss of face. There are already signs of leaders here having second thoughts, and there are reports that Ky is picking his delegation.

16. As a footnote to the above, the three rocket attacks on Saigon during the night of October 31/November 1, while we were in session with him, while not a major factor in his inflexibility during these crucial hours, certainly made him more stubborn. He said, "You say they are ready for serious discussion. But look what they are doing tonight."/4/

/4/In a November 5 memorandum for the President, Rostow conveyed the language of telegram CAP 82707, which was sent to Bunker in accordance with the President's instructions: "You should know that the President does not easily enter into relations of confidence nor does he easily withdraw confidence once given. The President believes he established with Thieu and Ky a basis for confidence over these difficult years. You should also know--and they should know--that the President's confidence in them is deeply shaken--very deeply shaken. Specifically, the President is in no mood for reassurances to them. If a viable relation is to be re-established, it is their task--and they should set about it promptly--very promptly. You will know best how to convey this message without any ambiguity." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. IV [1 of 3]) Bunker planned to see Thieu on November 6 but the meeting was postponed when Thieu claimed to be "too busy" to see Bunker. He did agree to meet with him on November 8. (Telegram 42029 from Saigon, November 6; telegram 42172 from Saigon, November 7; telegram 42270 from Saigon, November 8; and telegram 42329 from Saigon, November 8; all ibid., Harvan/Double Plus, Vol. VI [2 of 2])

Bunker

 

201. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency to the Stations in Saigon and [place not declassified]/1/

Washington, November 6, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan Misc. & Memos, Vol. VII. Secret; Sensitive. Carver passed the text of this telegram to Bundy on November 7. In an attached covering note transmitting a copy to Rostow, November 8, Helms wrote: "You will find this report topical and timely."

CAS 48668. For [2 names not declassified]/2/ only from Mr. Carver.

/2/[name not declassified], Chief of Station in Saigon, and [name and less than 1 line of text not declassified].

1. At Assistant Secretary Bundy's request, I used occasion of 6 November lunch with GVN Ambassador Bui Diem to probe his views on South Vietnamese intentions and, simultaneously, to convey bluntly some home truths about American politics that Mr. Bundy felt might be better transmitted via a personal friend than in an official meeting.

2. Our conversation inevitably commenced with a discussion of election results which provided a natural opening to stress that Mr. Nixon was most unlikely to adopt or follow a Vietnam policy materially different from that of President Johnson who, in any event, remained President until 20 January. Bui Diem concurred emphatically with this view. He acknowledged that some Vietnamese political figures (unspecified) labored under the delusion that Mr. Nixon would take a harder, more hawkish line, but said he had sent a series of long messages home trying to explain why this was simply not the case. He also acknowledged that the President and President-elect were certainly going to work in harmony on pursuing an American policy that transcended domestic political partisanship and, again, insisted he had so informed his own President in Saigon.

3. We then turned to the reciprocal interaction of domestic political factors in both Vietnam and the US. (Throughout our conversation I refused to discuss or comment on recent events that had led to current differences between Saigon and Washington.) Thieu had real political problems at home and limited room for maneuver. His recent actions had unquestionably produced at least short run political benefits for him in Vietnam. These, however, could swiftly sour if Thieu did not now act in a manner that furthered our common aims and not the aims of our common enemy./3/ On the US side, the paramount political task of this administration and its successor was the achievement of national unity. The Vietnam war was one of our primary sources of political divisiveness. Should the American public come to believe that the GVN was blocking the road to honorable settlement of that war, neither the executive nor the legislative branch of our government could turn a deaf ear to the American people's discontent. Somewhat reluctantly, Bui Diem agreed that this was the case.

/3/In CIA telegram 47828 to Saigon, November 4, Helms wrote: "It seems to us that in their own interests (and ours), there are at least three facts of real world life the South Vietnamese simply must hoist aboard: A. President Johnson's publicly enunciated commitment of the U.S. to a bombing halt and quadripartite negotiations in Paris is not going to be reversed (unless Hanoi's military violations are persistent and flagrant). B. The next President (whoever he may be) and, particularly, the next Congress will give the GVN and the Vietnam struggle short shrift if Saigon's leaders refuse to cooperate with Washington. C. Given the real world as it is now, Saigon's leaders will scuttle themselves if they do not put aside their suicidal fixation on the NLF's role in the Paris conversations and, instead, concentrate on the considerable mileage to be made out of the fact that Hanoi has been forced to accept an arrangement in which it is compelled to acknowledge the GVN's existence and puissance, something Hanoi heretofore has adamantly refused to do. We believe it essential that our Vietnamese colleagues face up to the facts of life outlined above. We also believe they might be receptive to the plausibly arguable (even if not irrefutably demonstrable) thesis that the Communist cause is floundering under increasing military and political pressure and that the only hole cards left in Hanoi's hand involve exacerbating Saigon-U.S. relations and setting non-Communist Vietnamese at each other's throats. If the South Vietnamese let themselves be suckered into playing Hanoi's game, the Communists may yet win the pot. If our Vietnamese refuse to play this game, however, Hanoi's remaining cards become worthless. Somehow, we must get South Vietnam's leaders to start thinking and acting along these lines." (Central Intelligence Agency, DDO/ISS Files, Job 78-32, [name not declassified] Chrono. File, Vol. 3)

4. We then took up Hanoi's strategy and current objectives. I argued that the Vietnamese Communists had fallen on very evil days. They and their cause were suffering severe defeats as a result of allied military pressure, South Vietnamese political progress, and the GVN's increasingly effective attack on the Communists' political apparatus in South Vietnam. Hanoi's only hope of victory now lay in dividing Saigon from Washington and in setting non-Communist Vietnamese at each other's throats. With all we had achieved together at such great cost, it would be suicidal folly to let ourselves be euchred into playing Hanoi's game. Again Bui Diem agreed, but he said we (the Americans) had to appreciate Thieu's problems and internally limited room for maneuver.

5. Thieu had taken the public position (on 2 November) that conditions did not now permit the GVN to take part in the Paris talks. Vietnamese political realities, therefore, required that there had to be some development(s) Thieu could point to as changes creating a new situation. Why could the US not pressure the DRV delegation in Paris to downplay the NLF's role? Emphasizing my lack of official authority to speak on this topic, I answered that while we certainly might lean on the DRV negotiators, I saw no chance whatsoever of their giving ground on this point. Instead, the best riposte to their attack was counterattack. Rather than fretting about Hanoi's propaganda line, Thieu should take a leaf from De Gaulle's book and treat Hanoi's claims for its NLF puppets with indifferent disdain, making it clear through his confident actions that what counted was not Hanoi's persiflage but the fact that Hanoi had been compelled to acknowledge (if not admit) his government's control over South Vietnam.

6. Bui Diem noted that Thieu was a cautious man beset by conflicting advice: some realistic, some not. (Bui Diem here digressed to praise Ky for his current realism and constructive posture.) Thieu was also under great emotional stress. Those around him with cooler heads had to work out a "mise en scene" that would permit Thieu to cooperate in Paris without losing face. Most reluctantly, Bui Diem agreed that the time available for doing this was short. For a few days the American people would be preoccupied with sorting out the election results. After that, trouble could soon develop if there was no sign of movement in the negotiation arena. In realistic terms, something had to break within the next week to ten days.

7. Bui Diem raised the idea of a TCC summit conference but recognized that any such affair, hastily convened, could create more problems than it solved. He did think it would be useful, however, if after Thieu had decided what to do, he touched base with all his TCC allies so he could say publicly he was acting in consultation with his fellow heads of state. Bui Diem also asked about the possibility of public statements, or a joint statement, by President Johnson and President-elect Nixon reaffirming American opposition to the concept of enforced coalition government. (One of Thieu's main problems, Bui Diem observed, was his concern that a GVN delegation's participation in Paris in a status equivalent to that of the NLF's delegation inevitably started Vietnam down the slippery slide to coalition government, which meant Communist victory and rule.) Again emphasizing my lack of official authority, I said I was sure my government would give careful consideration to any such suggestions Thieu wanted to make through Ambassador Bunker.

8. Toward the end of our conversation, Bui Diem began to wonder if it would not be a good idea for him to return to Saigon to brief President Thieu on American political realities and offer some suggestions impossible to relay by cable. I encouraged these thoughts. Bui Diem was afraid if he returned to Saigon now it might be misread as a sign of a chill in US-GVN relations. I opined that this would not be the case if his Saigon visit was short and he returned promptly to Washington. Under the circumstances, it would be perfectly natural for him to go home to give his masters a post-election briefing on the American scene. Time, however, was short and the clock was ticking. Bui Diem said he would ask Saigon for permission to return this weekend.

9. As our lunch closed, we discovered we had a mutual fondness for sailing. We agreed that Thieu had recently taken a tack that gave him domestic political advantage of potential overall utility in competition with our common opponents. The GVN was now headed straight for a reef, however, and it was time to come about. On that note we parted.

10. Mr. Bundy requests that the above report on our 6 November lunch be passed to Ambassador Bunker and Governor Harriman.

 

202. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, November 7, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. No classification marking. The meeting, which was held in the Family Dining Room of the White House, lasted from 1:05 to 2:30 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) Read's agenda for this meeting is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 74 D 164, Presidential Luncheon Memoranda. Notes of the Secretary of Defense's "0830 Group" meeting on the morning of November 7 by George Elsey read: "CMC--Luncheon agenda 1:00 W.Hse. today all revolve around how to get Saigon into line? The problem: Thieu followed instructions from Republicans not to agree but he has taken such a strong stand. The problem--How to get talks started--Really, only Nixon & Kosygin can help. The Pres. needs to get a good stiff message to Thieu & be able to say it has Pres. Elect Nixon's blessing. 'I don't know what Nixon's game is going to be. He's scored his points by screwing up LBJ's deal. Maybe LBJ can get Nixon to stop here on his way back up from Florida.' Also Kosygin might help by taming Hanoi's propaganda machine down. Also, get all the Troop Contributing Countries to put pressure on Saigon--except it's doubtful they all will." (Ibid., George M. Elsey Papers, Van De Mark Transcripts [1 of 2])

NOTES ON FOREIGN POLICY MEETING

THOSE ATTENDING THE MEETING

The President

Secretary Rusk

Secretary Clifford

General Wheeler

General Taylor

CIA Director Helms

Walt Rostow

George Christian

Tom Johnson

The President: What do we have from Saigon?

Secretary Rusk: A new peace plan. Thieu won't see Bunker until tomorrow./2/ We should see how Nixon can get out of this as soon as possible. Bill Bundy or I could go down to Key Biscayne.

/2/See Document 203.

I would be opposed to Nixon going to Saigon. He may want to send an emissary like William Scranton./3/

/3/Former Governor of Pennsylvania.

He may want to send a message to Thieu. I can't imagine Nixon wanting to stand in the way./4/

/4/Rostow sent the President a draft letter by Nixon in telegram CAP 82724, November 6. The letter read: "Dear President Thieu: President Johnson and Secretary Rusk have now briefed me in the greatest detail on the evolution of the negotiations in Paris over recent months and on the consultations and the negotiations with the Government of Vietnam and its constitutional leaders. This review included especially the discussions and agreements with your government from October 15 through the negotiation of the draft joint communiqué on October 28 and the subsequent withdrawal of your government from that agreement. In the light of this knowledge, I wish to urge you, with all the emphasis I can, quickly to resolve whatever problems may remain in getting your delegation to Paris and finding ways, in collaboration with the Government of the United States, to come to grips promptly with substantive issues on which a peace settlement depends. You should know that I fully share President Johnson's concern that any further delay on this matter could endanger public support for the Government of Vietnam in the United States and thus endanger the struggle for the independence and freedom of South Vietnam and for a stable and honorable peace in Southeast Asia. As you know, I share President Johnson's view that in the Paris talks there will be, from our side, no recognition of the NLF as an independent entity; and that the U.S. Government will not attempt to impose on South Vietnam a coalition government with the NLF. I have also reviewed with President Johnson, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the military situation in Vietnam, including reports from General Abrams in the field. It is my impression that, if we proceed with present military plans, there is no reason that we cannot move forward in Paris from a position of negotiating strength. But, I would emphasize again, this requires an appearance in Paris of a GVN delegation within the next few days, ready to go to work seriously in the search for an early and honorable peace. In short, I can see no gain and potentially much loss from any efforts by your government to postpone decisions with respect to the Paris talks until January 20, 1969." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. V)

The President: Are things quiet along the DMZ, Bus?

General Wheeler: Absolutely quiet on the DMZ. Only 2 incidents on the first day--mortar fire. Nothing since that time.

There were a couple of small attacks against small population centers in the last 24 hours.

The President: I figured they would do this to save a little face.

General Wheeler: The North Vietnamese understand about Saigon, Hue, and Danang.

The propaganda from Hanoi stresses attacks against "military facilities." No action against any reconnaissance planes--drones or manned reconnaissance planes. Apparently they have passed the word.

General Taylor: I agree we should play it loose. We are trying to protect urban population centers.

CIA Director Helms: We have had 24 attacks since November 1.

Secretary Rusk: I would draw a distinction between isolated attacks and major attacks.

General Taylor: We have trouble defining what attacks are.

General Wheeler: Bunker blames attack on Saigon for Thieu backing off.

The President: I think Hanoi has done unexpectedly well. I don't trust them, though. If it's not calculated, substantial attack I would do nothing more than talk a hard game. I think it has been a good trade.

I was amazed with the disapproval it got throughout the country. The polls show 65% against it. The telegrams against it--mail is running 50-50.

Chuck Robb said every man approved of it.

General Wheeler: The message Abrams sent showed the men in I Corps applauded it.

Secretary Clifford: I have a memo on the increase in bombing in Laos. Our men are going about their work with great will.

Walt Rostow: Don Hornig/5/ has a memo on new interdiction devices for use in Laos--including laser bombs.

/5/Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology.

The President: I was proud of all of you on backgrounding--particularly Dean Rusk, Clark Clifford and General Wheeler.

Secretary Clifford: The bombing in Laos up from 181 sorties to 405-456 between November 1 and November 5.

November 1--181

November 2--393

November 3--407

November 4--456

November 5--405

Walt Rostow: They will feel it in Laos.

The President: Let's point out how quiet it has been in the DMZ and the cities.

It justifies our action on the bombing.

Secretary Clifford: Our casualties are up.

The President: The Marines are out there chasing them.

Secretary Rusk: They are from our own initiative.

George Christian: A lot of casualties were a result of one booby-trap.

General Wheeler: Marine engineers were caught in a trap.

The President: We had a party last night for the military people from Randolph and Bergstrom [Air Force Bases]. I am proud of their dedication to duty.

Told story about one fireman whose father worked in a coal mine. Said his father did it: Saw the ocean, rode in airplane, met a President.

Secretary Rusk: I would like all of us to go out to Andrews [Air Force Base] and thank them.

Secretary Clifford: We are under pressure to get the New Jersey back to [Subic] Bay.

The President: I have been thinking about how to handle Nixon. I think he wants both Rusk and Humphrey in his Administration. (laughter)

I think Rusk should talk with him. You may want to go down or talk with him on the phone.

I will see Dirksen this afternoon./6/

/6/The President met privately with Dirksen in the Oval Office from 6:05 to 6:26 p.m. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) No other record of the meeting has been found.

Secretary Rusk: It is a question of how Nixon communicates with Thieu.

A. Send Cable.

B. Call Bui Diem--telling him he will send a messenger to Saigon.

Secretary Clifford: At some stage the President and Nixon should talk. We should by then have a set course of action for President Thieu to take.

Now we are getting a lot of stalling.

The President: The message is the first thing we should get through.

How are we with troop-contributors?

Secretary Rusk: We have marginal problem with Thailand and South Korea--because of Thieu. We need to get this thing ironed out before all of them are called together.

The President: I agree. The Press would have a field day otherwise.

What is our situation in Paris?

Secretary Rusk: There is not much they can say until Thieu is aboard.

I am inclined to let Paris mark time while we are getting Thieu aboard. The NLF are getting all of the news.

Secretary Clifford: During the next 70 days--if the GVN still won't go--can we go into bilateral meetings?

Secretary Rusk: Hanoi might object to public meetings.

Secretary Clifford: We might have leverage to meet bilaterally with Hanoi--not suck up to Saigon.

Kosygin might help.

General Taylor: We can't sit 70 days and let Saigon hold us up. We should start moving after a reasonable period of time.

Secretary Clifford: Fundamentally, we are faced with the fact that we and South Vietnam have different goals.

We--want to finish fighting, get peace and get out.

I believe they prefer fighting go on:

a. Winning militarily.

b. Keeps the government going.

c. Keeps them from facing tough negotiating problems.

d. Psychologically important.

Secretary Rusk: During the GOP administration, the North Vietnamese began to roll in Laos. During the GOP administration, Vietnam was divided.

In 1960 Eisenhower said we would never let a Communist regime be established in this hemisphere. At that time we had on Ike's desk an intelligence report that Cuba was Communist.

Secretary Clifford: I reported on my last trip to Vietnam that the GVN did not want the war to stop.

1. They are content to have the U.S. present.

2. No danger.

3. The flow of money goes on. Thieu and Hong are honest, but there are a lot of them with their hands in the till.

4. We are equipping, arming and training the South Vietnamese army.

We do have separate goals.

We have prevented subjugation of South Vietnam by force; we have strengthened the government.

The President: What do you think of briefing all leaders?

Secretary Clifford: It's profitable to keep them informed.

[Omitted here is discussion of a meeting of NATO Ministers, relief for Biafra, and efforts to secure Senate approval of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.]

 

203. Situation Report By the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read)/1/

Washington, November 8, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. V. Secret; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. In an attached covering note transmitting a copy of the report to the President, November 8, 1:15 p.m., Rostow wrote: "As background, you may wish to have the fact stated by Berger in a phone call plus Harriman-Vance views on Thieu's latest." The notation "ps" on the covering note indicates that the President saw the report.

Secure Phone Calls, 9:30-10:30 a.m.

Sam Berger

1. Berger informed me that Bunker had been unable to see Thieu at any time on November 8 before or after Thieu's public statement. An appointment had been requested for tomorrow but no definite time had been set.

Ambassador Vance

1. Vance gave me Harriman, Habib and his preliminary views about the Thieu public proposal for two "unique" delegations with the GVN heading our side and the DRV heading the other side. Our delegation believes that Thieu's proposal is "unacceptable and unworkable" from the point of view of both sides in Paris.

(a) The Thieu proposal is untenable from the USG viewpoint because if the GVN were Chairman of our side the GVN representative could take a variety of steps and actions which could prejudice our interests and over which we would not have control, e.g., "breaking up" a meeting, giving fast reactions to DRV/NLF views on matters of basic concern to us without adequate "consultation", etc.

(b) The reference by Thieu to inclusion of TCC representatives on our side "if necessary" would raise a number of complications if our allies chose to take advantage of it in the early stages of expanded talks.

(c) The proposal is almost certain to be rejected by Hanoi because it purports to dictate how Hanoi will organize its side of the expanded discussions. The DRV is apt to note that the GVN proposal is inconsistent with the views expressed by Saigon just a few days ago which insisted on two delegations on our side and one on the other.

2. For consideration at Secretary Rusk's 11:30 meeting today/2/ at the Under Secretary's request I asked Vance for his and Harriman's views on the question of whether the DRV would be willing without the NLF being present to negotiate substantive bilateral questions with us (e.g., mutual withdrawals, prisoner exchanges, Laos), if it became evident that the GVN would not come to Paris on an acceptable basis.

/2/See Document 204.

Harriman and Vance believe that if they put this proposition to the DRV representatives as hard and persuasively as possible Hanoi's initial response would be that circumstances had changed and they would not be prepared to go ahead bilaterally with us, although they were prepared to sit down with us on such issues with the NLF representatives present. Harriman and Vance think that the DRV would cling to this pattern for "a considerable period".

Benjamin H. Read/3/

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

 

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

Washington, November 8, 1968, 1:05 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. V. Secret; Harvan Double Plus. A handwritten notation on the memorandum reads: "Put on desk."

Mr. President:

We have just completed a meeting at Sect. Rusk's office, which included Sect. Clifford, Nick Katzenbach, and Bill Bundy, as well as myself./2/

/2/The meeting, which began at 11:25 a.m. and lasted until 12:25 a.m., also included Read. (Ibid., Dean Rusk Appointment Books, 1968-1969) No other record of the meeting has been found.

It was agreed that we would draft for your consideration a message to Thieu, via Bunker, which would not, at this stage, be a direct Presidential letter but rather an oral message from the highest levels of the U.S. Government.

The message would, essentially, make these points:

--Thieu's proposal of today that South Vietnam chair the delegation in Paris is not acceptable;

--On the other hand, we can offer an agreed statement underlining a leading role for the GVN and the leading role in matters affecting the future of South Vietnam itself. Such an agreed statement could also include reference, once again, to the fact that we shall not recognize the NLF as an independent entity, etc.

--We would underline strongly the necessity for Saigon to get its delegation to Paris next week;

--We would tell them that if they cannot get to Paris next week, we are prepared to open talks with the other side on our own, on the issues of direct concern to the U.S.

The line-up of opinion was:

--Clark Clifford: Tell them we're going to open up with the other side in Paris next week, and let them sweat;

--Sect. Rusk: Give them one last face-saving way out, but tell them that we shall go it alone if they can't quickly find an acceptable formula;

--Nick Katzenbach: Same view as Sect. Rusk;

--Bill Bundy: More cautious about telling them bluntly that we shall go it alone. Bundy thought that the President should first get Nixon aboard on that proposition.

I shall be giving you the draft text as soon as I receive it./3/

/3/For the message to Thieu, see Document 206.

Walt

 

205. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Everett Dirksen/1/

Washington, November 8, 1968, 2:54 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Dirksen, November 8, 1968, 2:54 p.m., Tape F6811.02, PNO 11. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. According to an entry in the President's Daily Diary, Dirksen called Johnson "re the Senator's talk w/Nixon this morning, South Vietnamese reactions, China lobby, and Saigon delegation to Paris." (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

Dirksen: Hello?

President: Yes?

Dirksen: I talked to Dick this morning.

President: Yes, Everett.

Dirksen: Now he's coming to see you at 1:30 p.m. Monday,/2/ as I understand.

/2/November 11.

President: Yes.

Dirksen: And he asked for your backgrounder. Now, I gave him the works. I said, "It seems that they send some of the boys out to stiffen Thieu's spine and tell him to wait and not send anything," so you'll know that he knows the story.

President: Well, what was his reaction?

Dirksen: Well, he said he didn't send anybody. Well, maybe not, but maybe somebody else sent somebody.

President: Well, what was his reaction to the request that he tell somebody to tell them to go on and get to that Paris meeting?

Dirksen: He didn't give me very much reaction. He just thinned it a little by saying "We didn't do anything." Well, that may well be, but there are a lot of people in camp, as you might know. So you'll know the kind of background you'll have to talk into.

President: Well, now, the point is, though, that this is not going to wait until Monday.

Dirksen: Won't wait until Monday?

President: No, no, no. Hell no. This ought to go right now because if they don't go in there this week, we're just going to have all kinds of problems, you see.

Dirksen: I thought that from the arrangements that were made that coming up here on Monday would be satisfactory.

President: No. I thought I told you last night--I ought to--I thought I'd hear early this morning because we want Thieu to get a message so he can get a delegation from Saigon to Paris next week. We think we're held up just everyday. We're killing men. We're killing men.

Dirksen: Yes, he called. Said that this arrangement for Monday was made through Jim [Jones].

President: Yes, he called. His man talked to Jim Jones and said they were coming this way and they'd be here Monday. So we told them to come in and have lunch. They're coming for lunch. But what I'm hoping that he will do--I think it would be better if he didn't have it direct from me--but I think what he ought to do is just this simple thing: Say "I have said I'm supporting our President. Now, he thinks that the South Vietnamese should be at that Paris conference, and I'm supporting that, that's my position." And he ought to tell the Chennaults and the rest of them that, by God, to get the word out.

Dirksen: He said he would go to Paris, if you wanted him to, or Saigon.

President: No, I don't want any travels. All I want him to do is just tell them to get to Paris, to get the delegation there. That's the way I'd--it doesn't do any good for me to go there or for him to go there. We just need the Saigon delegation because you can imagine what you and Mansfield are going to have if we've got a peace conference and this fellow won't even attend it. Now, what he does at that conference is another matter. We have told him that we will not be for a coalition government. We've told him that we will not be for recognizing the NLF. But he must go to the conference because we can't get him one vote in the Senate if he refuses to even talk.

Dirksen: Well, I sensed that he said that after he made the arrangements through Jim that you would have been informed about it.

President: No, no, he didn't mention this at all. I just told Jim to tell them, when he wanted to see me, that I would be delighted to see them, but that I had given you a message last night that was urgent, that we're killing men everyday while they're sitting there and doing nothing. Now if Saigon doesn't come to that meeting, I don't know what we'll have to do. Rusk is ready to brief Dick if he wants a briefing. But Saigon now thinks that they will play this out and keep this thing going on until January 20th and we think that's a mistake.

Dirksen: I had to shop over all of hell's creation to find him, and only got him, here, I guess it was 12 o'clock.

President: Well, you can call him and you tell him that I think this is urgent enough that he should send word to the South Vietnamese, either through me or through them. If he wants to give me a message, I'll carry it, if he wants to go through the Embassy, he can do it--

Dirksen: I told him I was going to call you.

President: And say to them that he supports the President and they should send a delegation there and do it quick.

Dirksen: I'll do my best.

President: All right. Thank you.

 

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

Washington, November 8, 1968, 2144Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. V. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Drafted by Bundy; cleared by Rostow, Katzenbach, and Read; approved by Rusk. Repeated to Paris as Todel 1509 for Harriman and Vance. On a memorandum from Rostow, November 8, 4:50 p.m., the President indicated his approval of "a draft statement which Bunker could use with Thieu, along with our threat to proceed on our own in Paris, summarizing our positive understandings as a basis for Thieu's getting off the hook." (Ibid.)

269234. For Ambassador from Secretary.

1. You should continue to seek appointment with Thieu. We leave it to you how hard to press, or whether a touch of aloofness might be more effective. Obviously, we need to get forward as rapidly as we can.

2. For the meeting, you should convey the following points as an oral message from the President:

(a) We note with surprise that President Thieu announced a position on the negotiations involving the United States without any consultation with us. Even though we were not able to reach agreement at the last moment on all matters involved in the cessation of the bombing, there can be no question but that we consulted intimately and at length with President Thieu before our action was taken and public statement made. Please ascertain from President Thieu his answer as to whether this procedure of his is to be followed in the future. If so, we will have to adjust our own attitudes accordingly.

(b) As far as President Thieu's proposals are concerned, they should be followed up by a GVN delegation in Paris. It is for the GVN to try to reach agreement with the DRV on the modalities of talks. We cannot undertake to represent Thieu in seeking agreement from Hanoi along the lines of his public announcement. This does not mean that we ourselves reject them as far as the United States is concerned. But we have just come from a recent experience in which we have engaged the good faith of the United States on the basis of what we had every right to believe was a common position of the United States and the GVN, only to have President Thieu repudiate our understanding at the last moment. We cannot again undertake to involve our good faith and make it subject to the whims of Saigon. The emphasis in President Thieu's proposal is GVN primary responsibility. They should therefore exercise it and get a delegation to Paris at once to probe the possibilities in whatever way is open to them.

(c) On the substance of President Thieu's proposal, he should understand that, whatever the form that is eventually agreed, the United States will speak for itself and will not delegate this responsibility to someone else. No other attitude is possible under our Constitution.

(d) President Thieu wishes a negotiating format in which the United States and the NLF are in the same relative position. Even if we could live with it, we wonder if President Thieu could in the light of what it would do to dignify the NLF.

(e) Finally, it should be emphasized very strongly that the problems President Thieu has in mind are problems with which his delegation should wrestle in Paris in the procedural phase of the new meeting. Unless a GVN delegation is in Paris in the course of next week, the United States will feel free to discuss its own interests with any delegation available to it. The American people, under whatever President, will simply not support the war effort if the GVN attempts to sabotage serious talks about peace, or if there is significant delay on issues they regard as secondary. We have never asked the GVN to be a satellite of the United States; we are not prepared to permit the United States to be a satellite of the GVN.

(f) The President bases his judgment of American public opinion not only on unanimous expressions in all media that seating arrangement is only practical solution, but on views expressed by leading Senators and Congressmen of both parties that GVN must take its place, or US should go ahead without them.

3. Having delivered this stiff message, you might perhaps await Thieu's reaction. In the light of it, you should be prepared to go ahead and state that we are perfectly willing to issue a statement covering the exact agreement reached in Paris, the role of the GVN, how we propose to treat the NLF, our continued rejection of any "coalition," and similar matters. Some of the points, such as the exact agreement reached in Paris, must necessarily come from the USG, but we could try to work out some form of joint statement, or agreed separate statements, if these would help Thieu's domestic political problem. The gist of your whole presentation should be that we are not unsympathetic, but that action is imperative.

Rusk

 

207. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and President-elect Nixon/1/

November 8, 1968, 9:23 p.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Nixon, November 8, 1968, 9:23 p.m., Tape F6811.02, PNO 12-13. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. Nixon called the President at Washington from Key Biscayne, Florida. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary)

President: Hello?

Nixon: Mr. President?

President: Yes, Dick?

Nixon: How are you? Did I interrupt your dinner?

President: That's all right. I was eating with some folks, but I came in another room./2/ That's why I didn't want to talk.

/2/The President had been at dinner with Lady Bird Johnson and guests. (Ibid.)

Nixon: That's too bad. I am just sitting here with your old friend [Bebe] Rebozo.

President: Oh, give him my love. I think he is one of the finest persons I ever knew.

Nixon: I want you to say hello to him.

President: I would love to.

Nixon: He is a great admirer of yours.

President: He has been awfully sweet to me.

Nixon: Let me say this that--

President: I am glad that you have got Rebozo because he gave me a lot of comfort when I needed it lots.

Nixon: Right. I had a nice visit with the Vice President today.

President: Good.

Nixon: And, uh, and Muskie, and they went on down to the Virgin Islands. And I want you to know how much we appreciated your wire and also Lady Bird's call to Pat [Nixon]. It was awful nice.

President: Good.

Nixon: And then, as I understand it, we worked it out so that it won't inconvenience you. We'll see you Monday at 1:30 at the White House./3/

/3/See Document 211.

President: That's good. That's right.

Nixon: Good. Now, getting to the key point, if there is anything I can do before that on this business of South Vietnam. If you want me to do something, you know I'll do anything because we are not going to let these people stop these peace things, if you think I could do something.

President: Dick, I told Dirksen last night I thought it would be better to do it that way than to be calling on the trips./4/ I think this: These people are proceeding on the assumption that folks close to you tell them to do nothing until January 20th. Now, we think--

/4/See footnote 6, Document 202.

Nixon: I know who they are talking about too. Is it John Tower?

President: Well, he is one of several. Mrs. Chennault is very much in there.

Nixon: Well, she is very close to John.

President: And the Embassy is telling the President [Thieu] and the President is acting on this advice. He started doing it back about the 18th following our talk on the conversation on the 16th./5/ I had two breaks in the month of October. The first one came from the other side. Hanoi felt that because of what Bundy had said--Mac Bundy--that to withdraw troops, and what Humphrey had said that he wouldn't--/6/

/5/See Document 80.

/6/See Documents 63 and 40.

Nixon: They can wait.

President: Well, he just said, "I will stop the bombing, period, I don't mean comma or semi-colon." So, Hanoi picked up the next day and went home for 2 weeks. We had it all wrapped up there and then for the meeting. Now, I don't know what'll come out of the conference. But that was the way it was. They went off. In the meantime, these messages started coming out from here that Johnson was going to have a bombing pause to try to elect Humphrey and that they ought to hold out because Nixon will not sell you out like the Democrats sold out China. And we have talked to different ones. I think they've been talking to Agnew--I think they think they've been quoting you indirectly--that the thing they ought to do is just not show up at any conference and wait until you come into office.

Nixon: Right.

President: Now, they started that, and that's bad. They're killing Americans everyday. I have that documented. There's not any question but what that's happening. Now, I said to you in that last talk that I don't believe you know it or you're responsible for it. I said--you know when I talked to all three of you that time--but I said we have problems. I looked over that transcript the other night. We have problems. I think we can work them out. I believe Thieu will ultimately come, but there are problems. Now, there are problems because these people are telling them that. Now, I think the wise thing to do from the standpoint of your country and from the standpoint of your Presidency--and I hope you believe me. I want to help you. I want to help you. I don't want to trick or deceive you.

Nixon: I do. Oh, I know that.

President: I want peace. And I don't want to get some Democrat in a favorable position over you. But I think they ought to go to that conference. Now--

Nixon: Let me ask you this--is there anything we can do right now?

President: Yes. I think you ought to have whoever you trust the most in Washington, whoever you're--

Nixon: Go to the Ambassador [Bui Diem]?

President: Yes, sir. Go to the Ambassador and say to him, "I told the President when he proposed these three points: number one, he assured me that he would not be for a coalition government. The President assured me that."

Nixon: That's right.

President: "The President assured me he would never recognize the NLF. So I have those assurances from him."

Nixon: Right, right.

President: "The President is going to be as strong on this as I am, but the President thinks that if we are to support South Vietnam on through the years ahead that we must be willing to meet at a conference table. Now, that's all we are asking. Now, you cleared that on the 7th and on the 16th and on the 28th." At least that's what the South Vietnamese did--they all cleared it.

Nixon: Right.

President: "Therefore, Mr. Ambassador, I think you ought to tell the President that I support our President on going to the conference, and I think you ought to go. And if they try to sell you out, you don't have to agree. But you ought to go because the Fulbrights and the Mansfields and even the Dirksens will not go along with anybody that won't go to a conference table." Now, that is where they are tonight.

Nixon: Let me ask you this--about the Ambassador, is--I met him about 5 or 6 months ago--does he have any influence with that government?

President: Yes. He is giving them these signals and he is telling them that he has just talked to New Mexico, and he has just talked to the Nixon people, and they say, "Hold out--don't do anything--we are going to win--we'll do better by you." Now, that is the story, Dick. And it is a sordid story. I told you that Sunday when I talked to you./7/ You remember when I talked to Smathers and Dirksen?/8/

/7/For this November 3 conversation, see Document 187.

/8/See Documents 186 and 181.

Nixon: Right.

President: Now, I don't want to say that to the country because that's not good.

Nixon: Right.

President: But they are playing that game. I don't think you're playing it, and I'd get off that hook. I'd just say to them, "You go to that conference and you protect your country, and I'm going to support our President as long as he doesn't recognize the NLF, as long as he stands on the conditions he does, and we're united, and don't depend on me to give you a better deal."

Nixon: We'll do that. Now, let me ask you this. Who would be the best one--who do you think the Ambassador--who should I have talk to him? Have you got anybody in mind?

President: No, I don't.

Nixon: Could Dirksen do it?

President: Yeah. I don't know whether Dirksen has any contacts or not. I-I-I trust Dirksen. I think Dirksen--he is not for any Communist take-over, and at the same time he is intelligent.

Nixon: Well, also, he is considered to be a--why don't we--let me try this out. Why don't I get--see if I can get Everett to go over to the Ambassador and lay it on the line with him?

President: That is what I would--

Nixon: And say that this is--say that he speaks for Nixon and Johnson. So let me do this, Mr. President. There's nothing I want more than to get these people to that table. As a matter of fact, as I told you on the phone tonight, I will even go out there if it's necessary to get them there. I think that would be a grandstand stunt. It would not be the best way. However, if you think the Ambassador has influence, I will have Dirksen talk to the Ambassador, or I could do it myself, if you think that will help.

President: I think it would help. I would just call him on the phone. Say, "I want you to know this. I don't want your people to get off-key. I'm talking to the President every day."

Nixon: Right.

President: "And the President has assured me that he is not going to do anything that we don't understand."

Nixon: Oh, I know that.

President: "And you tell your President that he better get his people to that conference and get them there quick. And what he does there is a matter for his judgment, but he oughtn't to refuse to go to a room and meet."

Nixon: Okay, we'll work on it.

President: Okay, Dick.

Nixon: Now, let me ask you this. One other thing. Tell me about Helms. What do you think about Helms?

President: I think he is a career, former UPI, man I never heard of. I appointed an Admiral [Raborn] when John McCone left because I wanted to be sure I didn't get a patsy or a soft guy in there, and we had too many of them here. The Admiral took it over and this Helms was the Deputy. I consider him--

Nixon: Let me ask your candid opinion. Would you continue him?

President: Yes, I would. Yes, I would. If I were you, I'd continue him, and if I were taking over from you, I'd continue him. He's objective. He's a reporter. He was an old UPI man. He's fair. He's not an advocate. He's anti-Communist.

Nixon: Oh, I know. When I met him out at the Ranch,/9/ I was very impressed by him, and I remember--you feel that way, do you?

/9/Nixon met Helms during a visit to the LBJ Ranch on July 26.

President: Yes. I never heard of him until I appointed him. He was a deputy to this Admiral that I had and he's extremely competent. He's succinct. He tells you as it is, and he's loyal.

Nixon: Let me ask you to do this as a personal favor. Would you mind--I think it would be a nice way to work out our positions--could you tell him sometime before we meet Monday that we have talked. Well, I don't want to say now that we plan to continue him. Will you do that?

President: Yes, yes. I will be glad to.

Nixon: Because I think it is good that we have a, you know, a good transition. Now, on this fellow, the Ambassador, he speaks English pretty well?

President: Yes, yes.

Nixon: Yeah. Well, we could talk to him. I don't think we ought to on the phone. Maybe I--and I don't want him to come down--maybe I can see him when I come up to Washington. That might be a better thing. No, I might get to him before that, though. Maybe Dirksen is the best one.

President: I would write out whatever I said, and what I would say is what Rusk said yesterday, and Rusk is the best adviser you can have until you get a man you have that much confidence in. He will play fair with you--I'll bet my life on it--as he will with me. He's a good man. Rusk said if I were Nixon I would write out one sentence, and I would say: "I support the President of the United States in going to the conference as soon as you can, and thereby there discussing the problems at issue, and we are united on that. Now, the President has given me assurances that he's not for recognizing the NLF as an independent entity and he's not for a coalition government, and that's what you said you want too. So you go on and talk it over, and if you can settle it, I'll be the happiest man in the world. If you can't, when I come in, I'll assure you that the President will work with me in trying to settle it."

Nixon: Actually, if we can get them to talking before that, that'll be much better.

President: It certainly will, because you want--

Nixon: This 60 days is the best time to get the damn thing going.

President: It certainly will, because you won't have 10 men in the Senate supporting South Vietnam when you come in if these folks refuse to go to the conference.

Nixon: Absolutely. Well, I'll get on it. As a matter of fact, uh, we'll try to get--I'll try to get Dirksen on the phone now, and see if we can arrange to have this fellow--well, I'll work it out. You don't need to worry about that. We'll try to get to him, and, uh, and I can just put it quite directly that we want him to go to the conference, period, and that you and I agree completely on what ought to be done.

President: I would do it, and I would say we will be in touch each day, and--

Nixon: Yeah.

President: And that he can be sure--he can tell his President that this government is going to operate as one before and after.

Nixon: Right.

President: And I am not going to make any decision there that will adversely affect those people without talking to you and without talking to them.

Nixon: Well, of course.

President: I haven't stayed in this thing 5 years to throw it away the last 5 weeks.

Nixon: The point is, too, that your position has always been, basically, as I told you, uh, you have taken the position which was extremely unpopular and which was right, and therefore I want to support you on it, and I am going to do it. No question about that. I want you to know that.

President: Thank you, Dick. Thank you.

Nixon: Great. Now, the only difficulty is, there is Rusk. Does Rusk think this fellow, the Ambassador--I don't know the fellow, I met him in New York about, oh, in April or May,/10/ and he is--

/10/Bui Diem dated his meeting with Nixon as July 12. (Bui Diem with David Chanoff, In the Jaws of History (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), pp. 236-237)

President: Rusk told me last night that Nixon ought to do one or two things, that "I'll go see Nixon if you want me to." I said, "I think that will highlight a problem and there will be a lot of press around and it will embarrass Nixon and embarrass you." And he said that you ought to do one or two things. You ought to pick out whoever you are going to have for Secretary of State, or whoever your closest friend is, to go tell him, or you ought to say in writing just two sentences that "I want you to know"--pick up the phone and tell him--"I want you to know that I believe your country ought to go to this conference. It's going to make it hard for all of us if you don't. The President talked to me about it before we had the conference and he's going to talk to me about what happens at the conference and you don't need to feel insecure. We're going to stay with you and be fair. I can give you that assurance." And you ought to tell them that they are going to hurt themselves if Fulbright and Mansfield--

Nixon: Yes. The country will not support--

President: Mansfield's coming in to me tomorrow to say to them to go straight to hell and go on and negotiate--or get out--with Hanoi. That's why he is coming. He's the Leader of the Senate.

Nixon: You can't do that because we--because that way you would leave all those boys out there alone.

President: No, sure can't. Or pull them out and leave them there all alone.

Nixon: That is what I mean. Yes.

President: But if this damn fool just sits back and says--today he says he wants to go and head the United States delegation and tell us what to do, and under our Constitution, I couldn't do that.

Nixon: No, that's right.

President: So, what he's doing, Dick--these people--they thought that we were going to trick you and try to pull a bombing halt to defeat you. So, their judgment was that they ought to take out insurance and get them to screw the thing up where no good would come. Now, we're not trying to do that, and I'm not. And I think that American boys are being killed every day. We ought to tell these folks to go to the conference and we're going to support South Vietnam after the election just like we did before.

Nixon: And if they go, then there's a better chance for them than if they don't go.

President: Oh, of course. [Break in the recording] That Abrams--they trigger Abrams' reaction, so it is just on again, off again, just a matter of hours the bombing will be resumed. So then we went back to the Soviets and said we don't want to deceive anybody. This is close to the election. It is a very delicate period. I have told Nixon and Wallace and Humphrey all the same thing that I'm telling you now. Nixon said, "Do you have to have all three of them?" and I said, "No, I really don't have to have any if I thought that--I have said--if they do nearly any little thing, I would stop the bombing. But I would like to have all three, and I'm going to try to get all three." Well, in effect, that is what we are likely to get. So I went back to the Russians and said, "Now, we don't want to be deceitful, and if we should stop the bombing--" [Break in the recording]

Nixon: Because otherwise they would be deserted. Okay, I'll get on it.

President: Okay. You let me know what you do and what you do so I will know.

Nixon: What time is it now?

President: If I were you, I would call him right now and I would just say, "I have just talked to the President, period. I want you to know that I think your President should send a delegation there next week, period. I can assure you that I have assurances that this government, before and after January 20th, is going to play it straight and fair with you, but you will lose if you don't get a delegation there and soon, period, because Hanoi and the NLF are having a propaganda field day." Rusk told me that the great social charm in Paris is the NLF woman [Nguyen Thi Binh].

Nixon: Oh, God, yes. She's horrible.

President: And that they're just sitting back and saying that the U.S. can't even deliver.

Nixon: Right. Okay.

President: What I would say, there is nothing dangerous about it--you have said it publicly--that you support the President. "I support the government"--and I would just say--"Mr. Ambassador, some people have raised the question and I just think you ought to tell your President that I have an agreement with our President that we're going to act in unison--just two partners."

Nixon: Right. Will do it./11/

/11/See Document 209.

President: Okay.

Nixon: Goodbye.

 

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

Saigon, November 9, 1968, 1100Z.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. V. Secret; Immediate; Nodis/Harvan Double Plus. Received at 8:05 a.m. Repeated to Paris for Harriman and Vance.

42368. 1. I saw Pres Thieu at 1100 am Nov 9 and gave him the President's message contained in State 269234./2/ Thieu was in a rather subdued frame of mind and in answer to my direct question whether he wished to work with us on a proper and confidential basis in the future, gave an unqualified yes. He was very interested in exploring the idea of a joint statement, and in response to my strong urgings that he send a delegation to Paris, he asked how he could get into a dialogue with Hanoi "discreetly." Further exploration of this question resulted in his remark that he would like to consider a way in which to have "discreet preliminary talks" on the modalities with the US, the GVN, Hanoi "and possibly the NLF." This represents at least a modicum of progress.

/2/Document 206.

2. I began the conversation by saying I had hoped to see Thieu two days ago because I had wanted to have an opportunity to talk with him about finding a way out of his dilemma. I had had in mind that he might issue some statement to which we could agree, or alternatively that we might work out a joint statement which would make clear our position on the various matters that we had discussed earlier such as the our side/your side formula, how they and we would treat the NLF together and separately, our attitude toward coalition, making clear once more that we strongly reject the idea of imposing any form of government on South Vietnam. I said I and everyone in Washington had been very surprised that he had made a public statement on the negotiations without any previous consultation with us. I had a personal message from Pres Johnson for him on the subject.

3. Thereupon I spoke explicitly and at great length along the precise lines of State 269234. Thieu took notes and heard me through without interruption.

4. He then said he had never expected us to agree with his proposal. In fact, he had thought we would reject it and that we could then get together and find "a middle way." He fully realized it would be very difficult for us to accept the position he had publicly expressed yesterday./3/ I replied that it seemed to me that a public disagreement between us would only result in eroding support for him when he had to recede from his position, and it especially had the effect of eroding support for the war and for the GVN in the US. I said it was very unfortunate that we had to try to have negotiations in public, which is never a satisfactory way of conducting diplomatic business. Thieu asked, rather contritely, whether we couldn't discuss matters, and I replied of course, this was one reason why I was here. I wanted to find out whether he was prepared from now on to discuss these matters with us on a confidential basis. I said we needed a specific answer to that question. I said Pres Johnson wanted to know on what basis you propose to deal with US in the future.

/3/On November 8 Thieu proposed that his government's boycott of the Paris talks would end if the parties agreed that the GVN would head a joint U.S.-South Vietnamese delegation and the DRV would take the lead over the NLF. See Keesing's Contemporary Archives, September 6-13, 1969.

5. Thieu said he wanted to make clear, in response to the remark about the US and the NLF being put in the same position (para 2D reftel), that he obviously never intended that we should have a position comparable to that of the NLF. I said this was what his formula seemed to imply and that it would only serve to dignify the NLF, as Pres Johnson had pointed out. Thieu said this had been furthest from his thoughts. I stated again that the US would speak for itself and would not delegate this responsibility to anyone else.

6. Thieu then said it seemed to him that the basic problem was whether Hanoi would continue to insist that the meetings in Paris would be on a "four delegation" basis. I said this was no problem at all since we had made it clear that Hanoi's position would be countered by us in the strongest terms, jointly and separately. We had already rejected Hanoi's claim that negotiations are on the basis of "four delegations." I reminded Thieu that we had been prepared to make a joint statement about non-recognition of the NLF, signed by him and Pres Johnson in the text on which we had agreed on Oct 28,/4/ and I added that we were prepared to repeat our position whenever we thought necessary.

/4/See Document 128.

7. Thieu said he would like to work this problem out with us. The question that kept arising in his mind was whether substantive talks could be serious as long as Hanoi insisted on a separate position for the NLF and persists in propaganda to this effect. I replied that I saw no reason to fear Hanoi's propaganda if the SVN was as strong as he professed it to be when he said SVN would fight on alone if they could not have the assistance of their allies; and that we certainly ought to be able to counter any Hanoi propaganda. I said the thing to do is to put them to the test by sending a delegation to Paris. Ever since Honolulu we had urged them to get in touch with the DRV. Hanoi had said they wanted to talk seriously. Pres Johnson had said that we expect productive, serious and intensive negotiations. The only way to find out whether the other side was willing to engage in such negotiations was to start talking with them. As Pres Johnson had said in the message that I had just delivered--Thieu had made his proposals, now it was for him to follow them up by sending a delegation to Paris.

8. I then gave Thieu an aide-mémoire containing the text of the memorandum given by Habib to Col An (Paris 23606),/5/ showing where we stood in the matter of procedures. I said this showed what we had been doing in Paris and made clear that, as we had told him here, if we don't agree to certain procedures they cannot be put into effect. I added that we visualized that the first meeting on the our side/your side basis would be a preliminary one to deal with matters of procedure.

/5/Dated November 8. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan/Double Plus, Vol. VI)

9. It was at this point that Thieu asked how he could get into such discussions "discreetly," and wanted to know whether the GVN could get into the private talks between Vance and Lau. I said Thieu should understand that if the GVN attended these talks, Lau would bring along someone from the NLF. Thieu tried to say that if Hanoi continued to insist that there were two delegations on their side, this would show they weren't serious. I reminded him that we had always assumed that the other side would make all kinds of propaganda. The GVN could reject such claims, and so would we, and the world would know that we had rejected them. Thieu then again said he would like to explore the possibility of participating "discreetly" in the preliminary talks. As he put it, there were two possibilities. One was for them to talk with us and agree on procedures and for us to talk with the DRV; the other to talk with the US, GVN, Hanoi, "and possibly the NLF."

10. I said I wanted to come back to the fundamental question of how we were going to do business in the future, since I needed to give a clear reply to Pres Johnson. Did Thieu intend to work with us on a confidential basis as before? Thieu said, "Yes, I want to continue on that basis." I thereupon turned to the idea of a statement that we might work out together, and said we would be willing to cover all the points that were giving the GVN trouble, including a statement about the agreement reached in Paris and how we would propose to treat the NLF, our rejection of coalition, etc. Thieu remarked that nobody was concerned about the coalition idea anymore. I said we had heard statements by his people, and the very fact that he had referred to it in his Nov 2 declaration/6/ seemed to show that this fear was still in his mind. Thieu protested that he trusted us completely. I said some of his people apparently didn't, and that I found this incomprehensible in view of the statements we had made time and again.

/6/See footnote 4, Document 178.

11. I said we would consult Washington about a statement and expected to come up with some suggestions soon. Thieu seized on this with apparent relief and encouraged me to go ahead and try to have a text and said he would like to meet as soon as we were ready. He said he also wanted to have our ideas on how he might participate in the preliminary talks.

12. I then discussed with Thieu briefly the outcome of our elections, putting heavy emphasis on Nixon's complete endorsement (Nov 3) of Pres Johnson's policy with respect to negotiations./7/ Finally, I reminded Thieu again of what I had told him in all frankness before the bombing halt announcement, that we would make every effort to go forward together with the GVN, but that if we couldn't move with reasonable promptness we would have to go ahead alone. I said I wanted to be entirely frank with him, not in an unfriendly way, but I would not be performing my function for either side properly if out of politeness I obscured this point: the temper of the American people is such, I said, that we cannot wait very much longer for a GVN delegation to appear in Paris. I said that I thought this was perhaps the most important point in Pres Johnson's message, and he should be absolutely clear about it.

/7/On November 3 Nixon pledged his support for Johnson's peace effort and suggested that he would travel to either Saigon or Paris to get the talks moving forward. See The New York Times, November 4, 1968.

13. Comment: It seems clear to me that Thieu wants to find a way out of the situation in which he finds himself, and that he views the statement he made yesterday as an initial move. He has obviously talked too much and he has taken positions which have threatened to paint him into a corner. In the process, he has gained wider support and more popularity than he has ever enjoyed. He may also feel that when he gets into negotiations he will have gained some advantage vis-à-vis the DRV's persistent claim that his regime is a puppet of the US. But if now he can find some formula, and if we can help him to find it, that will enable him to move to Paris and at the same time save face, I feel sure he would welcome it. I think it can be done, but that it will take a little time and that we shall have to move with "deliberate speed."/8/

/8/Bunker reported in telegram 42376 from Saigon, November 10, that, in an effort to present such a face-saving solution, he had submitted to Thieu two different proposed statements: one to be issued by the United States and one by the GVN, which were designed to resolve any outstanding differences. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968) The statements included the text of one transmitted by the Department in telegram 269936 to Saigon, repeated to Paris, November 10. (Ibid.)

Bunker

 

209. Telegram From the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Hoover) to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Smith)/1/

Washington, November 10, 1968, 7:12 a.m.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. V. Secret; Priority; No Foreign Dissemination. Received at 1225Z. In an attached memorandum transmitting a copy of this telegram to the President, November 10, 10:55 a.m., Rostow noted: "It looks as though with no coalition and no recognition of the NLF as a separate entity--points Thieu had all along--he is ready to go." Rostow added: "Bui Diem has called the State Department's Vietnam Desk officer (John Burke). He reported that he had spoken to Thieu about his conversation with Dirksen. He reported also, with the points about coalition and no separate entity assured, he believes Thieu will be ready to move to Paris after suitable statements are drafted. Bui Diem will be coming in to see Bundy this afternoon. Bui Diem plans to return to Saigon shortly." As a postscript, Rostow added: "The Bui Diem-Thieu conversation, over an open line, we can probably assume was meant to be heard." For the subsequent discussion between Bundy and Bui Diem, see Document 210.

Embassy of Vietnam.

On November ten instant a confidential source who has furnished reliable information in the past learned that Ambassador Bui Diem was in touch with President Thieu and advised him that Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois had come to see him today on behalf of both President Johnson and President elect Richard M. Nixon/2/ and that Dirksen had assured Ambassador Diem that the U.S. could give positive assurances that: one, there would be no coalition, and two, there would be no recognition of the NLF as a separate entity.

/2/The President discussed the Dirksen-Diem conversation of 8:30 a.m. on November 9 in two telephone conversations with Rusk that same day. In a 10:35 a.m. call, Johnson told Rusk what had happened immediately before the Dirksen-Diem meeting: "Well, Bui Diem called your desk officer, and said that Dirksen was coming in to see him today, and what advice did the State Department have. Bill Bundy told the desk officer to tell him he didn't have any. Walt just told me." He later added: "So, Bui Diem called y'all and said, 'What advice do you have for me?' I'd let Bui Diem not know what Dirsken's going to talk about except that he can say confidentially that Mansfield's coming in to see the President today and the President thinks that Mansfield's going to tell him that nobody in Congress is going to support this war one more step if they won't go." (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Rusk, November 9, 1968, 10:35 a.m., Tape F6812.02, PNO 15) The earlier discussion between Johnson and Rusk on the same subject occurred at 8:31 a.m. (Ibid., November 9, 1968, 8:31 a.m., Tape F6812.02, PNO 16) Johnson met with Mansfield in an off-the-record session at the White House from 1:55 to 2:35 p.m., followed by an off-the-record lunch among the President, Mansfield, Rusk, Clifford, and Rostow. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) Notes of these meetings have not been found. For further discussion of the Dirksen-Diem meeting at the South Vietnamese Embassy, see Bui Diem with David Chanoff, In the Jaws of History (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), pp. 244-245, and William P. Bundy, A Tangled Web: The Making of Foreign Policy in the Nixon Administration (New York: Hill and Wang, 1998), pp. 48-49.

Ambassador reported that Dirksen emphasized several times that he was speaking on behalf of both President Johnson and Nixon.

The Ambassador said he had told Dirksen that the Government of Viet Nam's reasons for not attending the Paris conference were based on its own interests and had nothing to do with the internal political situation in the U.S., vis-à-vis a Nixon victory at the polls or anything of that nature.

President Thieu confirmed that this is true.

Ambassador said that Dirksen assured him that U.S. policy will remain the same under Nixon; that Dirksen feared there might be some misunderstanding, but that there should be no misunderstanding about that.

Ambassador said he told Dirksen it was not a matter of (at this point informant was unable to furnish exact words of Thieu), but that it is the basic point of his government and is a reaction to the statement made here: that they did not think of it in terms of U.S. policy.

Ambassador reported that Dirksen said that the Vietnam President could consider this an unequivocal assurance on these two points: no coalition, and no recognition of the NLF as a separate entity. Ambassador continued that Dirksen said that Thieu could base his actions on this absolute assurance on these two points in considering the matter of Paris.

President Thieu asked, Can they make these assurances in some explicit way?

Ambassador said, Probably yes, I've talked to Bundy about this and Bundy said if it is necessary it could probably be done./3/

/3/See Document 176.

Thieu said, As far as the problem is concerned, on the part of the Vietnamese population there has been a distrust of the U.S., some distrust which comes from having the Front represented at Paris. Thieu said that the U.S. should not do anything to encourage the Communists, and that the more the U.S. can say, the better, because the NLF follows closely what the U.S. says.

Ambassador said, I told Bundy that and Bundy said that they will do whatever is necessary.

Thieu said, The Communists are claiming it is a four delegation conference. Why doesn't the U.S. deny that?

Thieu continued that if the U.S. would give assurances on the two conditions mentioned and on a third point (at this point informant was unable to furnish exact words of Thieu).

Thieu said that the lack of agreement has been based on principle and was not meant to sabotage the talks. Thieu said that the attitude of the U.S. has created mistrust in Vietnam on the part of the Vietnamese people.

Thieu continued that the assurances on the part of the Americans must have two aspects: one, there should be positive assurances such as the Ambassador has mentioned and two (at this point informant was unable to furnish exact words of Thieu).

Thieu continued that those are two aspects which should reassure public opinion here, in Vietnam, that the Americans will not pull out.

Ambassador asked if he could return to Vietnam to consult Thieu.

Thieu replied (at this point informant was unable to furnish exact words of Thieu) or in a few days?

Ambassador indicated he understands.

 

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

Washington, November 10, 1968, 1823Z.

/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 John Burke of the Vietnam Working Group, cleared by Dirk Gleysteen of S/S-S, and approved by Bundy. Repeated to Paris as Todel 1523 for Harriman and Vance. In a covering note transmitting a copy of the telegram to the President, November 11, 10:10 a.m., Rostow wrote: "Herewith the account of Bill Bundy's talk with Bui Diem after the latter had talked with Dirksen and Thieu." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI [2 of 2]) The notation "ps" on the covering note indicates that the President saw the telegram.

269960. 1. Ambassador Bui Diem called on Bundy at 10:00 a.m. November 10 to inform him that he had spoken by phone with President Thieu at approximately 2:00 p.m. Saigon time (1:00 a.m. Washington time). According to Diem purpose of call was to convey to his President substance of message which he (Diem) had received during course of November 9 from high-ranking spokesman for President-elect Nixon: that there was bipartisan agreement that no coalition government would be imposed on Viet-Nam and NLF would be not given status as a separate entity in Paris. At same time, Bui Diem had been cautioned that Congressional and public opinion in US did not understand Saigon's refusal to go to Paris and as consequence negative reaction was building which could create difficulties if Paris talks were delayed indefinitely due to continuing GVN refusal to participate.

2. President Thieu, according to Diem, was pleased to receive this information because he is principally concerned about obtaining specific assurances that there will be no coalition government and that NLF would not be treated as a separate entity in Paris.

3. Bundy informed Diem that Ambassador Bunker was in possession of a draft statement/2/ and would be presenting it to GVN which would appear to meet President Thieu's two points.

/2/See footnote 8, Document 208.

4. Bui Diem expressed gratification that there now seemed to be way of moving out of present impasse. He said that he came away from his conversation with President Thieu convinced that latter was most eager to move off present dead center. He said that President Thieu had emphasized that this was a matter of principle and there was no intention on the part of Saigon to sabotage Paris talks./3/

/3/The telegram bears no signature.

 

211. Notes of Meeting/1/

Washington, November 11, 1968.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. No classification marking. The meeting lasted from 2:58 to 4:15 p.m. Nixon, along with his wife, had arrived at the White House at 1:20 and remained until 5:02 p.m. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) Rostow took notes for the first part of the meeting and Tom Johnson for the last part; their notes were combined to produce the final document. Rostow's notes are marked Secret. (Ibid., Walt Rostow Files, Nixon and Transition)

NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH THE PRESIDENT-ELECT RICHARD NIXON

PRESENT AT THE MEETING WERE

The President

President-elect Richard M. Nixon

Secretary Dean Rusk

Secretary Clark Clifford

General Earle G. Wheeler

Director Richard Helms

W.W. Rostow

The President and President-elect came in at 3:00 p.m.

The President began by telling Mr. Nixon that the Secretaries of State and Defense would brief him on Vietnam. Secretary Rusk would also touch on problems in other areas. General Wheeler was available to deal with the military situation; and Mr. Helms would contribute intelligence data and make arrangements for keeping Mr. Nixon informed from day to day.

Secretary Rusk immediately suggested that it would be wise if Mr. Nixon would appoint a man in whom he had absolute confidence and adequate background to be stationed in a room next to Secretary Rusk's office for immediate liaison purposes.

Mr. Nixon said that, despite observations in the press, he had made no decisions on his Cabinet. He hopes to have his Cabinet appointed by December 5. He would naturally like to have someone keep in touch on Vietnam. To this end he had contacted Cabot Lodge. He found Lodge's views close to his own and those of President Johnson. In general, he found no significant difference between his views on Vietnam and those of the present Administration. Cabot said he did not wish to be considered for any permanent position in the new Administration.

Nixon said he accepted that view but would use him for special chores. He said that if it were acceptable to the present Administration, he would like Cabot Lodge to be his observer on Vietnam. He had great confidence in him. The only question he would raise is whether it would disturb the Germans if he were pulled out of Bonn for this special immediate task.

Secretary Rusk said immediately that Cabot Lodge would be wholly acceptable to him.

Mr. Nixon said that he needed someone for this task who had a deep knowledge of the Vietnam situation. He could not begin an education on Vietnam now. [Omitted here is brief discussion of personnel matters.]

Mr. Nixon said he would say and do nothing about this until he had a chance to hear from Secretary Rusk. He would discuss it further with Cabot in whom he had great confidence. He hoped the matter could be settled soon.

The President then asked Secretary Rusk if he would review the diplomatic situation. Working from the attached chronological paper,/2/ Secretary Rusk said that for the first two months there was no progress in Paris. The U.S. held to the President's position of March 31. Hanoi held to its position of April 3; namely, that the only purpose of the meeting in Paris was for us to stop the bombing unconditionally.

/2/Not printed.

During June, the your-side, our-side formula was talked over with Thieu. By the end of June Thieu and Ky had agreed that this was the best practical way to proceed. In July, Vance spelled out the your-side, our-side formula to Lau./3/ Nothing came of it, however, at that time.

/3/See Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. VI, Document 285.

In mid-September the President, through a special channel, put his basic three points to the Soviet leadership. On the 9th of October the delegation from Hanoi in Paris indicated an interest in the question of GVN participation and its relation to a bombing cessation./4/ On 11 October they asked bluntly, would the bombing stop if the GVN were to participate in the Paris talks. Harriman said he would have to refer it to Washington, but reaffirmed the facts of life about the DMZ and the cities./5/

/4/See Document 54.

/5/See Document 58.

We then checked with Bunker and Abrams, who agreed to Harriman's instructions based on the President's three points.

A Soviet diplomat in Paris affirmed to us that Hanoi would accept GVN participation.

On 13 October Thieu fully agreed to the proposed instructions to Harriman./6/

/6/See Document 64.

There were then meetings at which the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State expressed to the President their agreement. The JCS were polled individually and agreed. We then went out to the troop contributing countries who accepted the proposition.

On October 16 the President briefed the three candidates and received their support./7/

/7/See Document 80.

When the proposition was put to the Hanoi delegation in Paris, however, they raised other issues.

First, they proposed that the new, enlarged meetings be called a "four-power conference." This we refused. They also proposed that we state the bombing cessation was "without conditions." This we also refused because the President's "facts of life" represented, in effect, "conditions subsequent." Finally, there was the question of the time that would elapse between a bombing cessation and the first meeting. Hanoi offered "several weeks." We pressed them back towards a period of about three days, because the South Vietnamese government had steadily insisted that the time interval should be minimal. They thought that a gap might be politically awkward for them; and it might be awkward here as well, because the opening of the wider talks was the one concrete action in the wake of bombing cessation we could talk about frankly.

On October 27 there was a breakthrough. Hanoi dropped all the unacceptable points it had been pressing upon us and accepted a gap of three days and sixteen hours between the bombing cessation and the first meeting./8/

/8/See Document 128.

The President then requested General Abrams to return.

Secretary Rusk: We insisted on three points:

(1) That Hanoi recognize the GVN and let them participate in the talks.

(2) Restore the DMZ to its demilitarized state.

(3) No shelling of the cities of South Vietnam.

We checked with Dobrynin. On October 13 President Thieu agreed. All of the Joint Chiefs of Staff concurred. On October 15 all the troop contributing countries agreed.

We got locked up on some points with Hanoi. They dropped the "unconditional" clause. There was a breakthrough on October 27 when they dropped the word "unconditional."

Then General Abrams was ordered home for consultations.

We agreed with President Thieu on a joint announcement. It was short and simple. Thieu raised the points about having a session with his legislature; said more time was needed to get the delegation present.

The your-side, our-side formula was to give different views about the status of the four delegations. It has taken several months to sweep these things under the rug.

Issues have cropped up in Thieu's mind. Still it was thought possible that Thieu would join the talks after the President's announcement. On the basis of an agreement with Thieu earlier we had locked on to an agreement. We couldn't go back.

We think we can meet most of Thieu's demands.

It does not concede that South Vietnam heads the delegation. We can't have them speaking for us. We will give them anything short of speaking for us.

We met in Paris this morning.

Artillery and rockets came out of the DMZ. We met with the DRV and protested strongly. This is in direct violation of the agreement on no abuse of the DMZ.

General Wheeler: This is the second incident since the President's statement of October 31./9/

/9/See Document 169.

Secretary Rusk: On October 27th we went to the Russians and reminded them of our three points./10/ The Russians said our doubts on this were unfounded.

/10/See Document 130.

They more or less underwrote this agreement.

Mr. Nixon: As far as Bunker is concerned, he has good rapport?

Secretary Rusk: Yes, he does. Their nerves have gotten frazzled.

Mr. Nixon: It is best to leave matters with him then. Any talk about being of help should be through him.

Secretary Rusk: Dirksen's talk with Ambassador Bui Diem was helpful./11/

/11/See Document 209.

Mr. Nixon: My position has been to do nothing unless the President and Secretary of State thought it would be helpful. I will do nothing unless it is seen to be helpful by you. You would want me to stay where I am?

The President: Yes. I thought that travel wouldn't come into it. It would be better if this talk in Paris is private. The basic decision comes out of this room.

What you did here in Washington could be very helpful.

My judgment is that in the month of October the election campaign came at a bad time--delayed us from getting substantive talks.

The first two weeks we were charged by the Democrats. The last two weeks we were charged by the Republicans.

You should pick the man closest to you to participate or be informed on the decisions and instructions.

Mr. Nixon: We must be a united front. There must be a conviction there will be a continuation of policy after January 20 in both Saigon and Hanoi.

Do you feel an observer in Paris would not be helpful--have him where the decisions are being made and instructions issued?

Secretary Rusk: Washington is the site of highly discreet contacts with the Soviets.

Mr. Nixon: What are Lodge's credentials with South Vietnam?

The President: Excellent. He left of his own choosing.

Mr. Nixon: I don't want anybody messing it up.

The President: I would want it--if he has access to you and will be your man.

Mr. Nixon: He would be. I can see you ought to have a man here.

Secretary Clifford: I think it is a practical necessity to have a man here. You can be very helpful in next 65 days--I know you want to wind this up as soon as we.

Mr. Nixon: The quicker the better.

The President: I think in this period you should keep him informed. Lodge will have my confidence.

Secretary Rusk: Bring Lodge back on temporary duty.

General Wheeler: All the principal military men--General Abrams, General Brown, General Goodpaster, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff--say we are in a strong military position in Vietnam today. We can cope with anything they try.

There has been a withdrawal of twelve regiments in I and II Corps. There is a threat in III Corps from Cambodia.

Mr. Nixon: I Corps is up along the DMZ.

General Wheeler: None of us have any worry about it.

Mr. Nixon: Are we keeping the pressure on?

General Wheeler: Yes, if anything, the pressure is up. They're going after the enemy hammer and tong.

There has been no effect on the South Vietnam military by this current political imbroglio.

There is no sign of any breech between the United States and South Vietnam military.

Secretary Clifford: In order to understand present military situation, you must know:

(1) For three years North Vietnam had guerrilla strategy.

(2) In 1967 they found this was not succeeding. The Military in South Vietnam was more effective.

(3) In 1967 they met and decided to change strategy. They decided to mount an offensive to destroy the South Vietnam government.

(4) By January 1968 they mounted the Tet offensive. 50 to 60 cities were attacked including Saigon. They penetrated the U.S. Embassy compound.

(5) It was a military disaster. They lost a great many elite men. They withdrew--refitted--re-equipped.

(6) They launched the May offensive. It was less successful than the January offensive--they had huge losses.

(7) They attempted another in the last of August--the so-called third offensive. We had much better intelligence--we hit them with

B-52's. This was even worse.

(8) They withdrew again. They may have taken 40,000 men out of South Vietnam further distances. This shows where they are today. They have tried that from January through November.

I think this accounts for their presence in Paris. They don't know where else to go militarily.

Since November 1, part of the understanding was not to violate the DMZ. We have not entered but one violation--Saturday/12/ evening they launched 16 artillery rounds. They also launched rocket rounds: 8 122 millimeter rocket rounds; 4 U.S. Marines killed in action, 41 injured. This is a violation of the DMZ.

/12/November 9.

I do not take it too seriously. We thought they might test us out--to see if we really would respond. Abrams fired back immediately. It may not happen again.

We went from November 1 to November 9 without violation. There have been no other violations since Saturday night.

Secretary Rusk notified Ambassador Harriman and Mr. Vance. They took it up with North Vietnam. They said they would look into it.

Our understanding with North Vietnam is an excellent understanding from our standpoint. We do not have to worry about men coming across the DMZ or hitting the cities.

We are giving them fits in Laos. The weather is good in Laos. The weather is bad in North Vietnam. We are not going up much.

From the military standpoint it would be good for South Vietnam to appear in Paris. We need to resolve this uncertainty. We need to do everything we can do to get South Vietnam to the table.

[Omitted here is discussion of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Czechoslovakia, NATO's 20th anniversary, the Middle East, and the Presidential transition.]

 

212. Editorial Note

In a telephone conversation on November 12, 1968, President Johnson discussed the Anna Chennault affair with FBI Deputy Director Cartha Dekle "Deke" DeLoach. Johnson told DeLoach that he had "some pretty good information" and "hard" evidence that the most significant directive from the Republican campaign to the South Vietnamese Government occurred by way of a November 2 communication between Vice Presidential candidate Spiro Agnew and Anna Chennault. The President therefore requested that DeLoach check all of the telephone calls originating from the telephone connection in Agnew's chartered campaign plane at the Albuquerque airport. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and DeLoach, November 12, 1968, 8:30 p.m., Tape F6811.03, PNO 1)

The next day, DeLoach called the President with a report on these calls. One of the phones on the plane had been used five times. The first call was made at 11:59 a.m., a personal call from Agnew to Rusk that lasted 3 minutes. The next call was made to Texas and another two calls were made by Agnew staffer Kent Crane to New York City. A fifth call was made to the Nixon/Agnew campaign headquarters at the Willard Hotel in Washington at 1:02 p.m.

The President verified that Rusk had talked with Agnew. He added: "We think somebody on the plane talked to the woman. We think pretty well that they talked to her and talked to Rusk, and talked on the same thing. And we think that they told Rusk--that they wanted to know what was happening in these relations. And Rusk made notes of it, he didn't exactly know what time, but he estimated that it was about 2 o'clock. And hers, it was immediately followed by a call to her, we think. And what we want to know is what time that was and when it was."

Johnson asserted that Agnew had passed to Chennault the word from Nixon "to hold off--do nothing." He related his assessment of the affair as follows: "I know this, and I don't think there's anything startling about it, because I'll just proceed on the assumption, I believe I'm right, that she--that he called Rusk, and he said what is going on in South Vietnam, the very question that he and she were talking about. Rusk told him--he didn't think anything of it, but he made notes on the conversation, and he made notes of the time, just the approximate time; he reported this to us. Then she comes along and she says to the South Vietnamese Embassy--she was a carrier, that's what she was--she said, 'I have just heard from my boss in Albuquerque who says his boss says we're going to win. And you tell your boss to hold on a while longer.' And that's the nut of it." Johnson concluded: "So I know that she told the Ambassador that. I know that the Ambassador told Saigon that. I know that Agnew--Rusk told Agnew what the facts were. Now I believe that Agnew told her that, because she says 'I have just talked,' and there must be an incoming call to her."

The President further noted that if the United States had not had physical surveillance on Chennault and a wiretap on the South Vietnamese Embassy, it would not have been able to secure a statement from Nixon encouraging the South Vietnamese to attend the Paris peace conference.

DeLoach then requested the following clarification: "Now did you say, and just to confirm what you've just said, we did intercept that phone call that she made to Ambassador Bui Diem, and she said specifically that, that 'my boss says to hold off, that we're going to win, hold it off.' The President replied: "Well, Ambassador told his President that. And the President told a bunch of people that. We were watching him pretty close, as you can imagine, in Saigon, and he repeated--this went all the way through the chain of command. The only thing I've got to do is see who her boss is, which we think is Agnew, because Albuquerque's the place. We ought to look at it carefully, because she talked to Agnew." DeLoach speculated that the 1:02 p.m. call to campaign headquarters actually was to Chennault from Agnew. Johnson agreed. "She got the message from Albuquerque," he noted. "That's logical that he was the one [who] gave it, because when he called Rusk, that's what we thought, because that's the only way he could get information to give her, was from Rusk." (Ibid., Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and DeLoach, November 13, 1968, 5:15 p.m., Tape F68.09, PNO 8) These transcripts were prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

For additional information on the electronic and physical surveillance measures relating to this episode, see U.S. Senate, Subcommittee on Intelligence Activities, Final Report, Vol. VI (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1976); ibid., Senate Select Committee on Governmental Operations, Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans: A Final Report, Book 2 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1976); and Cartha D. DeLoach, Hoover's FBI: The Inside Story By Hoover's Trusted Lieutenant (New York: Regnery Publishing, 1995).

 

 

 


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.