December 2, 1963
[President Johnson had a "Dictaphone" system to record many but not
all of his telephone conversations during his presidency;  as well,
from late November 1967 until the end of his presidency he had a
system for recording meetings held in the Cabinet Room of the White
House.  In 1992, recordings and some written transcripts began to
be released by the LBJ Library.]
"Telephone conversation between the President and Senator Fulbright
(to Sen. Fulbright)"
     President: Bill?  You got anything to talk to me about?
     Fulbright:  What?
     President:  You got anything to talk to me about?
     Fulbright:  Well, lots of things.  What do you have in mind?
     President:  Well, just anything you want to talk to me
about...I want to talk to you.
     Fulbright:  Well, I don't want to bother you, but if you've
got something...
     President:  You don't bother me...I always feel a little
better after I talk to you...learn something.
     Fulbright:  (Chuckle) I wish that were so. [Discussion
followed of plans for what ultimately became the Kennedy Center in
Washington, staff problems, and the annual foreign aid bill.] 
     President: (...) I wish you'd tell me what you think we ought
to be doing in Cuba.
     Fulbright:  Well, I don't think you ought to stir that up any.
     President:  Well, they're shipping arms all over the damned
     Fulbright:  Well, that we ought to stop.  I thought you meant
about going into Cuba.
     President:  No, I'm not getting into any Bay of Pigs deal, I'm
just asking you what we ought to...why don't you give me a one-page
memo on what you'd do if you were President...about Cuba.
     Fulbright:  Well, you mean, exclusive of any...
     President:  I mean, what you'd do if you were President about
Cuba...inclusive or exclusive...of anything.  Just what you'd do. 
And get your good brain to working.  I'd like to look at it and
     Fulbright:  Well, I'd rather wait until I get this foreign aid
     President:  All right.  Now what about Vietnam?
     Fulbright:  Well, I just think that is a hell of a is hopeless.  I'm not really aware of the new
characteristics of it, but I think the whole general situation is
against us as far as a real victory is concerned.  I think that
this idea of some kind of semi-neutralized area in which they'll
keep that, I mean the Chinese...but I think we ought to
give this new man a chance to see what he can do for a little
while.  I don't think I would do anything.
     President:  Why did you send Lodge out there, for God's sake?
     Fulbright:  (Inaudible reply)
     President:  I just think he's got things screwed up
good...that's what I think.
     Fulbright:  Well, that is a hell of a situation.  Some things
you can't do anything with (...) we had that in Laos.
     President:  Okay, my friend.  God bless you and I'll be
talking to you later and come in and see me when you get a moment.
     Fulbright:  Okay, well, anytime...anytime that you have a
moment...why we'll get our thoughts together.  I've been so
preoccupied with foreign aid...
     President:  Well, spend some time on Cuba for me.
     Fulbright:  Okay.
     President:  A little bit on Vietnam, too.  What would happened
if I moved Lodge?
     Fulbright:  I wouldn't do it right away.  I don't
see...I'm not current on this exact situation.
     President:  Who does he satisfy?
     Fulbright:  Well, I assume some elements of the Republican
party (...).  I wasn't consulted about that post.
[LBJ Library]
[A measure of the importance attached to Vietnam is the prominence
of many of the officials considered as replacements for Lodge as
Ambassador to South Vietnam.]
June 6, 1964
To: The President
From: McGeorge Bundy
Re: "Possible Successor to Lodge"
     Partly because I think you ought to have a person right from
the center of the present management, and partly because these are
the people I know, my own nominations for Lodge's successor are the
following.  I do not put these men in any particular order because
they are good at different things.
     1.  Sargent Shriver - I think this is more important than
poverty, and the right man harder to find.  Shriver has energy,
skill, a peaceful imagination and determination.  He would have
great standing in Vietnam and his reputation here is excellent.  I
do not think he speaks French and he has less experience in
international politics and military matters than my other nominees.
Nevertheless, I recommend him strongly.
     2.  Ros Gilpatric - I think Gilpatric has standing, style and
judgment.  I doubt just a little whether he has the energy and the
political insight to take the call to the provinces and the case to
the people.  It would be hard to pry him loose from the Kravath
firm, but I think he would come at your call.
     3.  Bob McNamara - You know everything I can tell you about
him.   My one reservation is that he has been trying to think of
ways of dealing with this problem for so long that he has gone a
little stale.  Also, in a curious way, he has rather mechanized the
problem so that he misses some of its real political flavor.
     4.  Robert F. Kennedy - I come back to this suggestion,
although I know you have thought it wild in the past, for two
reasons: the first is that the Attorney General has tremendous
appeal to younger people and to non-Americans all around the world. 
He would give a picture of idealism and peace-seeking which our
case will badly need, especially if we have to move to stronger
measures.  I have heard it said that he would take this challenge
with some relish, but I have never talked to him about it myself.
     5.  William Gaud - Among people at the next level down in the
Administration, he has the right combination of qualities to a
greater degree than anyone else I know (...).
     6.  Myself - I am no judge of my own skills, and it is
certainly true that I have never run an embassy or a war.  On the
other hand, I think I do understand the issues.  I know I care
about them.  I speak French and I have a heavy dose of the ways of
thinking of all branches of the U. S. team in South Vietnam.
[LBJ Library]
June 11, 1964
[Handwritten] To: The President 
From:  Attorney General Robert Kennedy
Dear Mr. President,
     I just wanted to make sure you understand that if you wished
me to go to Viet Nam in any capacity I would be glad to do so.  It
is obviously the most important problem facing the United States
and if you felt I could help I am at your service.
     I have talked to both Bob [McNamara] and Mac [Bundy] about
this and I believe they know my feelings.  I realize some of the
other complications but I am sure that if you reached the
conclusion that this was the right thing to do then between us both
or us all we could work it out satisfactorily.
     In any case I wished you to know my feelings on this matter.
[LBJ Library]
December 9, 1964
To:  The President
From:  Sen. Mansfield
Re:  "Developments in Viet Nam"
Commentary on Policy
     We remain on a course in Viet Nam which takes us further and
further out on the sagging limb.  That the Viet Cong, a few weeks
ago, pinpointed a major raid at Bien Hoa on an American
installation and American personnel scarcely a dozen miles from
Saigon may be indicative of a graver deterioration in the general
military situation than has heretofore been apparent.  It is also
indicative of a growing boldness in the Viet Cong.
     At this point, therefore, the Communists are not likely to be
in the mood for a bonafide peaceful settlement, even if the
wherewithal for such a settlement were to exist on our side.  It
would appear that the government in Saigon, at this point, is not
adequate even for negotiating a bonafide settlement, let alone for
going ahead into North Viet Nam.  When Ngo Dinh Diem was in power
there was at least a government with some claim to legitimacy and
some tangible roots in its own people.  Even when "Big Minh" was
momentarily in charge there might have been something to work with
since he came fresh from a revolution with some claim to popular
approval.  But we are now in the process of putting together
makeshift regimes in much the same way that the French were
compelled to operate in 1952-54. 
     If developments continue in the present pattern we are sooner
or later going to have to face up to the fact that the preponderant
responsibility for what transpires in South Viet Nam really rests
with us even as it once had with the French.  We will find
ourselves saddled in South Viet Nam no matter what we will, with a
situation that is a cross between the present South Korean
quasi-dependency and the pre-independence Philippine colony and at
the 1964 level of cost in lives and resources.
     This grim prospect, moreover, presupposes no major extension
of the war beyond South Viet Nam.  But it would still be the best
that we would have to look forward to for the next decade or more
unless there is a significant improvement in the situation, an
improvement which is not and has not even been in sight for a year
or more.
     If a significant extension of the conflict beyond South Viet
Nam should occur then the prospects are appalling.  Even short of
nuclear war, an extension of the war may well saddle us with
enormous burdens and costs in Cambodia, Laos and elsewhere in Asia,
along with those in Viet Nam. 
[LBJ Library]
January 27, 1965
To: The President
From: M. Bundy
Re: "Basic Policy in Vietnam"
     1. Bob McNamara and I have asked for the meeting with you at
11:30 in order to have a very private discussion of the basic
situation in Vietnam.  In a way it is unfortunate that we are
meeting the morning after a minor coup, because that is not the
present point.  All of us agree with Alexis Johnson that nothing
should be done on that until we have particular recommendations
from Saigon (though at that point we may well want to urge Taylor
and Johnson to make the best of the matter and not try to undo it).
     2.  What we want to say to you is that both of us are now
pretty well convinced that our current policy can lead only to
disastrous defeat.  What we are doing now, essentially, is to wait
and hope for a stable government.  Our December directives make it
very plain that wider action against the Communists will not take
place unless we can get such a government.  In the last six weeks
that effort has been unsuccessful, and Bob and I are persuaded that
there is no real hope of success in this area unless and until our
own policy and priorities change.
     3.  The underlying difficulties in Saigon arise from the
spreading conviction there that the future is without hope for
anti-Communists.  More and more the good men are covering their
flanks and avoiding executive responsibility for firm
anti-Communist policy.  Our best friends have been somewhat
discouraged by our own inactivity in the face of major attacks on
our own installations.  The Vietnamese know just as well as we do
that the Viet Cong are gaining in the countryside.  Meanwhile, they
see the enormous power of the United States withheld, and they get
little sense of firm and active U. S. policy.  They feel that we
are unwilling to take serious risks.  In one sense, all of this is
outrageous, in the light of all that we have done and all that we
are ready to do if they will only pull up their socks.  But it is
a fact--or at least so McNamara and I now think.
     4.  The uncertainty and lack of direction which pervade the
Vietnamese authorities are also increasingly visible among our own
people, even the most loyal and determined.  Overtones of this
sentiment appear in our cables from Saigon, and one can feel them
also among our most loyal staff officers here in Washington.  The
basic directive says that we will not go further until there is a
stable government, and no one has much hope that there is going to
be a stable government while we sit still.  The result is that we
are pinned into a policy of first aid to squabbling politicos and
passive reaction to events we do not try to control.  Or so it
     5.  Bob and I believe that the worst course of action is to
continue in this essentially passive role which can only lead to
eventual defeat and an invitation to get out in humiliating
     6.  We see two alternatives.  The first is to use our military
power in the Far East and to force a change of Communist policy. 
The second is to deploy all our resources along a track of
negotiation, aimed at salvaging what little can be preserved with
no major addition to our present military risks.  Bob and I tend to
favor the first course, but we believe that both should be
carefully studied and that alternative programs should be argued
out before you.
     7.  Both of us understand the very grave questions presented
by any decision of this sort.  We both recognize that the ultimate
responsibility is not ours.  Both of us have fully supported your
unwillingness, in earlier months, to move out of the middle course. 
We both agree that every effort should still be made to improve our
operations on the ground and to prop up the authorities in South
Vietnam as best we can.  But we are both convinced that none of
this is enough, and that the time has come for harder choices.
     8.  You should know that Dean Rusk does not agree with us.  He
does not quarrel with our assertion that things are going very
badly and that the situation is unraveling.  He does not assert
that this deterioration can be stopped.  What he does say is that
the consequences of both escalation and withdrawal are so bad that
we simply must find a way of making our present policy work.  This
would be good if it was possible. Bob and I do not think it is.
     9.  A topic of this magnitude can only be opened for initial
discussion this morning, but McNamara and I have reached the point
where our obligations to you simply do not permit us to administer
our present directives in silence and let you think we see real
hope in them.
[LBJ Library]
June 18, 1965
To: The President
From: Under Sec. Ball
Re: "Keeping the Power of Decision in the South Viet-Nam Crisis"
                    I. The Need to Keep Control
     Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "Things are in the saddle, and
ride mankind."
     Your most difficult continuing problem in South Vietnam is to
prevent "things" from getting into the saddle--or, in other words,
to keep control of policy and prevent the momentum of events from
taking command.
     The best formula for maintaining freedom of decision is (a) to
limit our commitments in time and magnitude and (b) to establish
specific time schedules for the selection of optional courses of
action on the basis of pre-established criteria.
                II. Outline of Specific-Proposals
     The North Vietnamese are apparently using the monsoon season
as a test period to determine whether they can impose enough local
defeats to demoralize the South Vietnamese and discourage the
United States.
     I propose that we also treat the monsoon season as a test
period since we do not yet have enough experience with the direct
employment of American combat forces to appraise our chances for
military success in the south.
     But in launching a vigorous effort to halt the Viet Cong
offensive during the monsoon period you should at the same time
make it clear to your key advisers that, at the conclusion of that
period, we will take a serious look at our accumulated experience
and decide whatever long-range course of policy or action is
     For the fact is--and we can no longer avoid it--that, in spite
of our intentions to the contrary, we are drifting toward a major
war--that nobody wants.
     I recommend therefore, the following program:
     1.  Decide now to authorize an increase of American forces in
South Viet-Nam to an aggregate level of 100,000--but no more--
additional forces.  These should be deployed as rapidly as possible
in order to deal with the Viet Cong offensive during the rainy
     2.  Instruct your top advisers--limited in this case for
security reasons, to the Secretaries of State and Defense (and
possibly also the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs):
     (a)  that you are not committing US forces on an open ended
basis to an all-out land war in South Viet-Nam;
     (b)  that instead you are making a controlled commitment for
a trial period of three months;
     (c)  that on the basis of our experience during that trial
period we will then appraise the costs and possibilities of waging
a successful land war in South Viet-Nam and chart a clear course of
action accordingly;
     (d)  that, during the test period, in publicly stating
American aims and purposes, American spokesmen should emphasize our
willingness to stay in South Viet-Nam so long as we are wanted (a
qualification that has tended to become submerged in recent
months); and
     (e)  that, in carrying out this limited decision, your
advisers should--during the three-months period--press the war on
the ground in South Viet-Nam as vigorously as possible, while
seeking quietly and effectively to avoid those longer-term actions
and commitments that would reduce your freedom of decision at the
end of the period.
     3.  Direct your top advisers to prepare the following plans:
     (a)  A plan for continuing the land war in South Viet-Nam on
a stepped-up basis;
     (b)  A plan for conducting a vigorous diplomatic offensive
designed to bring about a political settlement; and
     (c)  Plans for bringing about a military or political
solution--short of the ultimate US objectives--that can be attained
without the substantial further commitment of US forces.  These
last should be regarded as plans for cutting losses and eventually
disengaging from an untenable situation. (...)
     Before we commit an endless flow of forces to South Viet-Nam
we must have more evidence than we now have that our troops will
not bog down in the jungles and rice paddies--while we slowly blow
the country to pieces.
     A review of the French experience more than a decade ago may
be helpful.
     The French fought a war in Viet-Nam and were finally
defeated--after seven years of bloody struggle and when they still
had 250,000 combat-hardened veterans in the field, supported by an
army of 205,000 South Vietnamese.
     To be sure, the French were fighting a colonial war while we
are fighting to stop aggression.  But when we have put enough
Americans on the ground in South Viet-Nam to give the appearance of
a white man's war, the distinction as to our ultimate purpose will
have less and less practical effect.
     Nor is our position in Viet-Nam without its historical
ambiguities.  From 1948-1954 we identified ourselves with the
French by providing almost $4 billions of United States aid to help
the French in Indochina wage war against the Viet Minh.  As soon as
our aid contributions began to mount, Ho Chi Minh denounced
American "imperialism". (...)
     They [the French] quoted the same kind of statistics that
guide our opinions--statistics as to the number of Viet Minh
killed, the number of enemy defectors, the rate of enemy
desertions, etc.  They fully believed that the Vietnamese people
were on their side, and their hopes received intermittent shots of
adrenalin from a succession of projects for winning the war--the
DeLattre de Tassigny Plan, the Salan Plan, the Navarre Plan, etc.
     This does not mean that we cannot succeed where the French did
not; we have things running for us that the French did not have. 
But we cannot yet be sure--and that is the reason for the trial
period. (...)
     A.  Actions if the Fight Goes Well.
     If--on a careful appraisal of all the evidence accumulated
during the test period--you are satisfied that United States
military power can stop and throw back the Viet Cong without
unacceptable United States losses, you are then in a position to
decide on a longer-term aggressive strategy of which the elements
would be:
     (a)  to commit whatever force is needed to do the job in South
Viet-Nam as quickly and cheaply as possible;
     (b)  to continue our air attacks on North Viet-Nam but
avoiding the Hanoi-Haiphong complex and keeping well south of the
Chinese border;
     (c)  to renew your assurances to the South Vietnamese and the
world of our intention to stay the course; and
     (d)  to initiate the Acheson plan and increase our diplomatic
probes through third parties and a judicious use of pauses--while
encouraging efforts of friendly countries to bring the North
Vietnamese to the conference table.
     All of this is, of course, contingent on the continued
maintenance of a minimum level of political stability in Saigon.
     B. Actions if the Fight Goes Badly.
     If the evidence accumulated during the test period provides no
reasonable assurance that the United States can conduct a
successful land war in South Viet-Nam without a vast protracted
effort, you should seek means of limiting the American commitment
and finding a political solution at a level below the total
achievement of our declared objectives.
     There are several ways of achieving this--none fully
satisfactory.  But a good general picks his own terrain and is
prepared to execute tactical redeployments when events require it. 
Similarly, it is a part of good statesmanship to cut losses when
the pursuit of particular courses of action threaten (a) to lead to
a costly and. indeterminant result; or (b) to produce an escalation
of violence that could result in a major war.
     The technique of cutting our losses requires intensive study. 
No one has yet looked at the problem carefully since we have been
unwilling to think in those terms.  I would suggest, however, that
there are several alternative possibilities which should be
carefully examined.
     (a) Reducing Our Military Commitment
     The first is to devise a plan for limiting the defense
perimeter within South Viet-Nam to the cities and major
towns--particularly those having access to the sea.  This would
deny to the Viet Cong the administrative, commercial and industrial
heart of the country.
     (b) Letting Nature Take Its Course
     A second approach is subtly to withdraw moral and political
support from the Government in Saigon.  In this way the
non-Communist and neutralist forces might be encouraged to work out
some sort of compromise with the Viet Cong.
     Such an operation would require great finesse.  However, the
Saigon Government is becoming more and more a fiction--in real
terms South Viet-Nam has an army but no government.
     While putting in train any operation of disengagement we
should, of course, simultaneously take steps to strengthen our
position in Thailand and to create a diplomatic atmosphere around
the world that would minimize the costs of US withdrawal.  To do
this, we would rely heavily on the qualified nature of our
commitment--to help defend the South Vietnamese so long--but only
so long--as they wished our help.
     (c) Other Possibilities
     As a third possibility, we might consider variant means by
which there might emerge a South Vietnamese determination to go it
alone.  One approach might be to encourage our friends to call for
elections in South Viet-Nam in order to permit self-determination
by a people engaged in civil war.  Another might be to let our
friends crank up a fourteen-nation conference. (...)
     The above suggestions are of the most preliminary kind.  I am
sure that other possibilities could be developed.
[LBJ Library]
July 22, 1965
"Cabinet Room, July 22, 1965;  Meeting began at 12 noon; Present:
President, McNamara, Vance, Gen. Wheeler, Gen. Johnson, Secy.
Resor, Gen. McConnell, Gen. Greene, Adm. McDonald, Clifford, Secy.
Nitze, Secy. Zuchert, Secy. Brown, Bundy"
     President:  I asked McNamara to invite you here to counsel
with you on these problems and the ways to meet them.
     Hear from the chiefs the alternatives open to you and then
recommendations on those alternatives from a military point.
     Options open to us:
     1.  Leave the country--with as little loss as possible--the
"bugging out" approach.
     2.  Maintain present force and lose slowly.
     3.  Add 100,000 men--recognizing that may not be enough--and
adding more next year.
     Disadvantages of # 3--risk of escalation, casualties will be
high--may be a long war without victory.
     President:  I would like you to start out by stating our
present position and where we can go.
     Adm. McDonald:  Sending the Marines has improved situation. 
I agree with McNamara that we are committed to extent that we can't
move out.  If we continue the way we are it will be a slow, sure
victory for the other side.  By putting more men in it will turn
the tide and let us know what further we need to do.  I wish we had
done this long before.
     President:  But you don't know if 100,000 will be enough. 
What makes you conclude that if yo don't know where we are going--and what will happen--we
shouldn't pause and find this out?
     McDonald:  Sooner or later we'll force them to the conference
table.  We can't win an all out war.
     President:  If we put in 100,000 won't they put in an equal
     McDonald:  No. If we step up our bombing...
     President:   Is this a chance we want to take?
     McDonald:  Yes, when I view the alternatives.  Get out now or
pour in more men.
     President:  Is that all?
     McDonald:  I think our allies will lose faith in us.
     President:  We have few allies really helping us.
     McDonald:  Thailand, for example.  If we walk out of Vietnam,
the whole world will question our word.  We don't have much choice.
     President:  Paul, what is your view?
     Nitze:  In that area not occupied by US forces, it is worse,
as I observed on my trip out there.
     We have two alternatives--support VN all over the country--or
fall out from secure position we do have.  Make it clear to
populace that we are on their side.  Gradually turn the tide of
losses by aiding VN at certain points.
     If we just maintained what we have--more the Pres. problem
than ours--to acknowledge that we couldn't beat the VC, the shape
of the world will change.
     President:  What are our chances of success?
     Nitze:  If we want to turn the tide, by putting in more men,
it would be about 60/40.
     President:  If we gave Westmoreland all he asked for what are
our chances?  I don't agree that NVN and China won't come in.
     Nitze:  Expand the area we could maintain.  In the Philippines
and Greece it was shown that guerrillas lost.
     President:  Would you send in more forces than Westmoreland
     Nitze:  Yes.  Depends on how quickly they...
     President:  How many?  200 instead of 100?
     Nitze:  Need another 100 in January.
     President:  Can you do that?
     Nitze:  Yes.
     McNamara:  The current plan is to introduce 100,000--with
possibility of a second 100,000 by first of the year.
     President:  What reaction is this going to produce?
     Wheeler:  Since we are not proposing an invasion of NVN,
Soviets will step up material and propaganda--same with Chicoms. 
Might have NVN introduce more regular troops.
     President:  Why wouldn't NVN pour in more men?  Also, call on
volunteers from China and Russia.
     Wheeler:  First, they may decide they can't win by putting in
forces they can't afford.  At most would put in two more divisions. 
Beyond that they strip their country and invite a counter move on
our part.
     Secondly, on volunteers--the one thing all NVN fear is
Chinese.  For them to invite Chinese volunteers is to invite
China's taking over NVN.
     Weight of judgment is that NVN may re-inforce their forces,
they can't match us on a build-up.
     From military view, we can handle, if we are determined to do
so, China and NVN.
     President:  Anticipate retaliation by Soviets in Berlin area?
     Wheeler:  You may have some flare-up but lines are so tightly
drawn in Berlin that it raises risks of escalation too quickly. 
Lemnitzer thinks no flare-up in Berlin.  In Korea, if Soviets
undertook operations, it would be dangerous.
     President:  Admiral, would you summarize what you think we
ought to do?
     McDonald:  1. Supply forces Westmoreland has asked for.  2.
Prepare to furnish more (100,000) in 1966.  3. Commensurate
building in air and naval forces, step up of air attacks on NVN. 
4. Bring in needed reserves and draft calls.
     President:  Any idea what effect this will have on our
     McNamara:  It would not require wage and price controls in my
judgment.  Price index ought not go up more than one point or two.
     McConnell:  If you put in these requested forces and increase
air and sea effort--we can at least turn the tide where we are not
losing anymore.  We need to be sure we get the best we can out of
SVN--need to bomb all military targets available to us in NVN.  As
to whether we can come to satisfactory solution with these forces,
I don't know.  With these forces properly employed, and cutting off
their supplies, we can do better than we're doing.
     President:  Have results of bombing actions been as fruitful
and productive as we anticipated?
     McConnell: No sir, they haven't been.  Productive in SVN, but
not as productive in NVN because we are not striking the targets
that hurt them.
     President:  Are you seriously concerned when we change targets
we escalate the war?
     They might send more fighters down.  Can't be certain if it
will escalate their efforts on the ground.
     Would it hurt our chances at a conference if we started
killing civilians?
     McConnell:  We need to minimize civilian killings.
     President: Would you go beyond Westmoreland's recommendations?
     McConnell:  No sir.  (...)
     Zucker:  It's worth taking a major step to avoid long run
consequences of walking away from it.
     President: Doesn't it really mean if we follow Westmoreland's
requests we are in a new war--this is going off the diving board.
     McNamara:  This is a major change in US policy.  We have
relied on SVN to carry the brunt.  Now we would be responsible for
satisfactory military outcome.
     President:  Are we in agreement we would rather be out of
there and make our stand somewhere else?
     Johnson:  Least desirable alternative is getting out.  Second
least is doing what we are doing.  Best in to get in and get the
job done.
     President:  But I don't know how we are going to get that job
done.  There are millions of Chinese.  I think they are going to
put their stack in.  Is this the best place to do this?  We don't
have the allies we had in Korea.  Can we get our allies to cut off
supplying the NVN?
     McNamara:  No, we can't prevent Japan, Britain, etc. to
charter ships to Haiphong.
     President:  Have we done anything to get them to stop?
     McNamara:  We haven't put the pressure on them as we did in
Cuba, but even if we did, it wouldn't stop the shipping.
     Brown:  It seems that all of our alternatives are dark.  I
find myself in agreement with the others.
     President:  Is there anything to the argument this government
is likely to fail, and we will be asked to leave?  If we try to
match the enemy, we will be bogged down in protracted war and have
the government ask us to leave.
     Brown:  Our lines of communication are long.
     President:  How long?
     Brown:  7,000 miles from the West Coast, but not too much
greater than China's.  Biggest weakness of political base is lack
of security they can offer their people.
     President:  Are we starting something that in 2-3 years we
can't finish?
     Brown:  It is costly to us to strangle slowly, but chances
of losing are less if we move in.
     President:  Suppose we told Ky of requirements we need--he
turns them down--and we have to get out and make our stand in
     Brown:  The Thais will go with the winner.
     President:  If we didn't stop in Thailand where would we stop?
     McNamara: Laos, Cambodia, Thailand,Burma, surely affect
Malaysia.  In 2-3 years Communist domination would stop there, but
ripple effect would be great--Japan, India.  We would have to give
up some bases.  Ayub [of Pakistan] would move closer to China. 
Greece, Turkey would move to neutralist position.  Communist
agitation would increase in Africa.
     Greene:  Situation is as tough as when it started.  But not as
bad as it could be.  Marines in 1st Corp area is example of
     Stakes:  1. National security Stake.  Matter of time before we
go in some place else.  2. Pledge we made.  3. Prestige before the
rest of the world.
     If you accept these stakes, there are two courses of action: 
     1. Get out.  2. Stay in and win.
     How to win:
     1. South--
     2. North
     The enclave concept will work.  Would like to introduce enough
Marines to do this.  Two Marine divisions and one air wing. Extend.
28,000 there now--additional 72,000.
     McNamara:  Greene suggests these men over and above the
Westmoreland request.
     President:  Then you will need 80,000 more Marines to carry
this out.
     Greene:  Yes.  I am convinced we are making progress with the
SVN--in food and construction.  We are getting evidence of
intelligence from SVN.
     In the North--we haven't been hitting the right targets. We
should hit POL storage--essential to their transportation.  Also
airfields destroyed, MIGS and IL28's.  As soon as SAM installations
are operable.
     President:  What would they do?
     Greene:  Nothing.  We can test it by attacking POL storage.
     Then we should attack industrial complex in NVN.  Also, they
can be told by pamphlet drop why we are doing this.  Then we ought
to blockade Cambodia--and stop supplies from coming down.
     How long will it take?  5 years--plus 500,000 troops.  I think
the US people will back you.
     President:  How would you tell the American people what the
stakes are?
     Greene:  The place where they will stick by you is the
national security stake.
     Johnson:  We are in a face-down.  The solution, unfortunately,
is long-term.  Once the military solution is solved, the problem of
political solution will be more difficult.
     President: If we come in with hundreds of thousands of men and
billions of dollars, won't this cause them to come in (China and
     Johnson: No. I don't think they will.
     President:  MacArthur didn't think they would come in either.
     Johnson:  Yes, but this is not comparable to Korea.  Same
situation--China bares and communications--
     President:  But China has plenty of divisions to move in,
don't they?
     Johnson:  Yes, they do.
     President:  Then what would we do?
     Johnson:  (long silence)  If so, we have another ball game.
     President:  But I have to take into account they will.
     Johnson:  I would increase the build-up near NVN--and increase
action in Korea.
     President:  If they move in 31 divisions, what does it take on
our part?
     McNamara:  Under favorable conditions they could sustain 31
divisions and assuming Thais contributed forces, it would take
300,000 plus what we need to combat VC.
     Resor:  I'm a newcomer--(interrupted by President)
     President:  But remember they're going to write stories about
this like they did the Bay of Pigs--and about my advisers.  That's
why I want you to think very carefully about alternatives and
     Looking back on the Dominican Republic would you have done
anything any differently, General?
     Johnson:  I would have cleaned out part of the city and gone
in--and with the same numbers.
     President:  Are you concerned about Chinese forces moving into
     Johnson:  There is no evidence of forces--only terms involved
in logistics.  Could be investigating areas which they could
control later.
     President:  What is your reaction to Ho's statement he is
ready to fight for 20 years?
     Johnson:  I believe it.
     President: What are Ho's problems?
     Johnson:  His biggest problem is doubt about what our next
move will be.  He's walking a tightrope between the Reds + Chicoms. 
Also, he's worrying about the loss of caches of arms in SVN.
     President:  Are we killing civilians along with the VC?
     Wheeler:  Certain civilians accompanying the VC are being
killed.  It can't be helped.
     President:  The VC dead is running at a rate of 25,000 a year. 
At least 15,000 have been killed by air--half of these are not a
part of what we call VC.  Since 1961 a total of 89,000 have been
killed.  SVN are being killed at a rate of 12,000 per year.
     Resor:  Of the three courses the one we should follow is the
McNamara plan.  We can't go back on our commitment.  Our allies are
watching carefully.
     President:  Do all of you think the Congress and the people
will go along with 600,000 people and billions of dollars 10,000
miles away?
     Resor:  Gallup poll shows people are basically behind our
     President:  But if you make a commitment to jump off a
building, and you find out how high it is, you may withdraw the
commitment.  (...)
     I judge though that the big problem is one of national
security.  Is that right?
     (Murmured assent)
     President:  What about our intelligence?  How do they know
what we are doing before we do it?  What about the B-52 raid--
weren't they gone before we got there?
     McNamara:  They get it from infiltration in SVN forces.   
     President:  Are we getting good intelligence out of NVN?
     McNamara:  Only reconnaissance and technical soundings.  None
from combat intelligence.
     President:  Some Congressmen and Senators think we are going
to be the most discredited people in the world.  What Bundy will
now tell you is not his opinion nor mine (I haven't taken a
position yet) but what we hear.
     Bundy:  Argument we will face:  For 10 years every step we
have taken has been based on a previous failure.  All we have done
has failed and caused us to take another step which failed.  As we
get further into the bag, we get deeply bruised.  Also, we have
made excessive claims we haven't been able to realize.
[LBJ Library]
[Undated, from the first half of August, 1965]
To: The President
From: Bill Moyers   
     I have been working the past few days on steps we can take to
improve coverage of the Vietnam war--steps in Saigon and
Washington. (...)
     We will never eliminate altogether the irresponsible and
prejudiced coverage of men like Peter Arnett and Morris Safer, men
who are not Americans and do not have the basic American interest
at heart, but we will try to tighten things up.
[The President wrote on this memo, in handwriting, "Good! L"
[LBJ Library]
January 22, 1966
"Meeting in the Cabinet Room, Date: January 22, 1966, Time: 12 noon
to 2:12 p.m.  Present: President, Rusk, Helms, McNamara, Harriman,
Taylor, Ball, Raborn, Thompson, Goldberg, Mac Bundy, Valenti"
By: "From notes by J. Valenti"
     President: Want to survey what has happened--and see what is
ahead of us.  Want to feel I have options to proceed on what is the
best interests of the United States.  Hope we can keep what we say
totally secret.  
     Rusk, what are we waiting to hear from?  What suggestions do
you have?
     Rusk: Only live contact still open is Laos. [words sanitized
(by the U.S. government)]  This is delicate contact--has become
known.  Souvanna dropped it at dinner party.
     [words sanitized]
     If you ask continuous pause and discontinues force buildup,
North Vietnam will talk.
     But doesn't say what North Vietnam will do in regard to
military side. 
     Goldberg: I have confirmation of Rusk and McNamara.  U Thant
anxious to make a proposal.  His public statement was not good but
could have been much worse.  He said he would like a coalition
government reflecting his French conversations.  Privately, he is
willing to propose the five powers plus North and South Vietnam--
including the National Liberation Front.  This very best we can get
him to do.  U Thant has feeling something may come of all this.
     Have checked Ambassadors at UN.  UK wants pause continued. 
Italy has crisis.  Moro has been loyal friend.  Needs pause to
shore him (up) domestically.
     Canada for pause.
     Thailand doesn't want U.S. to show weakness.
     France push pause for three months.
     Bloc countries need time, they say.
     Latin Americans support pause longer if military situation
     Indians talk about initiative on their part.
     Yugoslavs believe Soviets need more time.
     U Thant places great importance on Laos move.  Thinks it is
definite forward step.
     Friends want us to go along more--nonaligned want more.
     Bloc countries stress you need more time from communist
countries than other countries.
     President: General Taylor, what do you think?
     Taylor: Events have developed about as we anticipated. 
Profitable move but now at resumption point.  I think the longer we
wait to tidy up loose ends, the harder it is to resume.
     President: Therefore, you recommend...
     Taylor: We ought to resume bombing.
     President: (...) Do we have pledge to tell anyone what we do?
     Rusk: Notify British, Canadians, one or two others if we
     President: Tell them today we feel free to move whenever we
judge it to be required since others have not responded.
     We can't impose hardships on our soldiers much longer.  How to
do this is what I want State to work on.
     Now I gather we gave no indication that we haven't done what
we promised.  I think we have gone much longer than we said.
     Bundy: We said 12 to 20 days.
     Goldberg: I want to add Pope and U Thant to those we consult.
     President: Are we keeping in touch with the Pope?
     Bundy: Yes, within 48 hours.
     McNamara: Unanimous view of military commanders we must resume
bombing. If not, can expect higher level of infiltration.
     My impression is Lodge feels this way.  All officers from
second level feel this way.  Even getting emotional.  They see
North Vietnamese actions to reconstruct bridges, moving substantial
units through Laos.
     All indications are of substantial buildup during pause--and
preparing for intensified action in South Vietnam.  My own
appraisal--they overestimate the effect of North bombing in
stopping infiltration.
     Helms: May I interrupt? We have report of economist. Increased
bombing in the North would not stop movement of supplies to the
     McNamara: We need to really search this out.  I think it
essential to resume the bombing.  We've had good fortune with the
pause.  Consider more peace moves, but unless we resume bombing, we
will give wrong signal to Hanoi, Peking and our own people.
     Strongly recommend bombing resumption.
     Raborn: Our reports support McNamara.  View about wrong
     Ball: Let me utter minority view.  Only one systematic way to
resolve this--list pros and cons.
     President: I would think you are wrong.  I read your excellent
brief.  Is the pause continuation a sign to Saigon that we are
pulling out?
     Taylor: Yes.  I think they are beginning to suspect things and
it is causing them difficulty.
     McNamara: Also my opinion.  Seen signs of it in the cables. 
We haven't told Saigon anything at all about our buildup.  They
also see controversy in this country.  They don't understand why we
don't punish those who foster the war.
     Ball: If that is the case, why don't we sit down with Ky and
tell him.
     McNamara: Because it would leak.  We haven't told the U.S.
     Rusk: I think we'll see a drop in morale if we don't resume. 
Ky told me we talk about their country without telling them.  It
embarrasses them.
     President: I have a feeling Ky, Lodge, Westmoreland were
against the pause.  We did it.  Overdone.  They were good soldiers
and enduring it as long as they can.
     I'm distressed when I see frantic attitude on part of some of
our Senators and Congressmen.  I've always known we're on thin ice. 
I'm aware of this.  Go ahead, George.
     Ball: Question: On evidence I've seen, bombing is not
effectively going to interdict supply requirements.  Needs are too
     What effect bombing on will of Hanoi? Experience in the past
shows it doesn't erode will of a people.
     Comes down to this: most reasonable argument is that it gives
a bad signal to Hanoi.  That is a possibility.
     Rusk: Sat around the table during Korean War.  Was with
MacArthur when he made mistake about China coming in.  But because
we have moved slowly, we have been able to do a great deal.  If we
don't resume, China will think a sanctuary has been approved and
they can do more than ever.   This could be important.
     Ball: Must do what we can to make an independent peace with
Hanoi.  This is more difficult if North Vietnam becomes more
dependent upon on China.  Hanoi under pressure from China to do
more.  To extent we direct an attack on Hanoi, we build up pressure
to continue war and achieve Chinese objectives.
     Realistically, we are not going to let Ky make a separate deal
with Hanoi.
     Eventually, if we bomb, we'll see Chinese--not fighting men
but coolie workers--all over Hanoi.  There is a difference between
bombing in the North and fighting in the South.
     President: I feel that we have given away a trading point
without getting anything in return.  Next, the cry will be not to
bomb in the South.
     Ball: There is a fundamental difference.  We are in South
Vietnam--we are helping them.  But we bomb in the North to punish
them.  We are big, powerful; they have no air force and are small. 
It's like Italy bombing Ethiopia.
     If we make clear this is not done from weakness, and that we
are going ahead--it is supportable.
     Taylor: If we give up bombing, we will seriously hurt the war
effort.  We should punish Hanoi, else we will (be) there 20 years.
     Goldberg: But evidence shows that rate of infiltration
continues with bombing.
     Rusk: In the Korean War, we destroyed everything east of Yalu. 
Every time they attacked they had to wait and restock.  Prisoners
told us it took them five days to go 45 miles.
     Taylor: I confirm the Secretary's comments about Korea. 
Bombing has an effect on the number of troops the enemy can commit
on the front lines.
     W. Bundy: I believe we should resume.  Believe we need a few
days to tidy up though I'm in sympathy with Taylor's remarks.
     President: We ought to get out to all the countries we need to
     Now, George, go on.
     Ball: You have made it clear we are searching for peace.  I
think there would be value for you to write the six governments and
tell them Rusk is willing to meet with them.  This would be a
formal act by you--not just a speech.
     President: Let the State Department get together and see if
there's anything we can do along this line.  And have this back at
our next meeting.
     End of Meeting.
[LBJ Library]
July 12, 1967
"President's meeting in the Cabinet Room today to hear Secretary
McNamara report on his mission to Vietnam.  Attending the meeting:
The President, Secretary Dean Rusk, Secretary Robert McNamara,
Under Secretary Nicholas Katzenbach, Mr. Richard Helms, General
Maxwell Taylor, Mr. Clark Clifford, Mr. Walt Rostow, Mr. Harry
McPherson, Mr. William Leonhart, Mr. Robert Komer Mr. Tom Johnson,
Mr. George Christian.  The meeting began at l:05.  It ended at 2:38
p.m.  (...)"
By: Tom Johnson [Note: Usage of these and other notes by Tom
Johnson, former deputy press secretary (and no relation to the late
President Johnson), in forthcoming book Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam
Papers: A Documentary Collection is done with the permission of Mr.
     Secretary McNamara said he "reviewed all aspects of operations
in Vietnam, economic, political and military.
     On the economic front he reported:
--Progress was measurable since his last trip. --The port situation
was operating smoothly.
--The import situation has stabilized. --Threat of "run away"
inflation has been reduced.
     On the political front, the Secretary reported:
--The "greatest danger" is facing us.  --A possible split between
Ky and Thieu.
     On the personnel area, the Secretary reported: --The Embassy
is operating "the best I have seen it." --Bunker is in full
control. --Bunker, and his staff are effective in dealing with Ky
and Thieu.  --The senior military leadership is strong.  --Komer
and his pacification program have exceeded expectations. --Komer
has motivated his people quite well.
     On the military front, the Secretary reported: --Operations
are proceeding well.
--Reports on the scene are better than press reports at home. --There is reason to expect
significant military losses by the Viet
Cong in coming months. --"There is not a military stalemate."  --Long stretches of highways
have been opened for travel and feeder
roads are opening up.
     On the pacification subject, the Secretary reported: --There
has been progress. --The progress has exceeded his expectations. --The progress is slow however.
--The Secretary expects nothing
dramatic in the next six months.
     On the military operations, the Secretary proposed that: --There should be an increase to
battalion size operations in Laos.
--U.S. forces must watch Cambodia and the infiltration routes in
that area.
     Secretary McNamara said the President had asked Secretary
Katzenbach and him to ensure the need for complete unity among the
South Vietnamese military leadership and emphasize that the
elections must be free and honest.
     Secretary McNamara: Ky and Thieu are of the attitude that they
will do what we want them to do on the matter of negotiations.  He
said the U. S. will have no trouble with Ky and Thieu if bona fide
negotiations have to be tied to stopping of the bombing in North
Vietnam.  He said, however, they would not settle for a Korean type
     Secretary McNamara said the press in Vietnam is in a "very bad
mood."  They are cynical, skeptical and think we have a military
stalemate.  They believe pacification is at a standstill.  They
view the election with cynicism and skepticism.  Secretary McNamara
said Ambassador Bunker anticipates a bad press for the next six
     Secretary McNamara said the press in Vietnam believes that the
war isn't worth the price we are incurring.  They believe the
people to be corrupt.  They believe that the Vietnamese Government
cannot be stabilized politically.  (...)
     On the subject of additional troops, Secretary McNamara
reported: --General Westmoreland and his staff want 100,000 troops.
--The General and his staff believe that we will continue to make
progress without that large a number but that the progress will
continue at a slower than optimum rate.
     If U. S. troops tighten up, Secretary McNamara said "we can
get by with less." --There is some waste and slippage. --Westmoreland and his people agree there
is some slippage.
(...) --The South Vietnamese could do more by: a. Extending tours
of service beyond the current three-year requirement.  b. Reduce
draft ages from 20 to 18.
     On corruption in Vietnam, the Secretary reported: --It is
widespread. --We do not have an effective program to counter it.
     On psychological warfare, the Secretary reported: --The
program is not well managed.
--The forces are seeking to improve it.
     On the bombing policy, the Secretary reported: --The
commanders want no restrictions.
--The commanders want an intensification and escalation of the
bombing. --The commanders want to mine the port areas. --The
military commanders want to attack the port areas. --The military
leaders would like to attack further the industrial base of
     On bombing policy, the Secretary said that the military
commanders think there have been much more results since the
Secretary's last trip.  The Secretary said he did not agree.
     The Secretary reported that U.S. forces had wiped out about
80% of the power capacity in North Vietnam, but that the North
Vietnamese are using mobile generators.
     General Wheeler reported to the President: --There is no
military stalemate.
--There has been an unbroken series of military successes.--The
enemy continues to be off balance. --The North Vietnamese and the
Viet Cong continue their initiatives in the demilitarized zone and
in the central highlands but these initiatives are being
effectively countered.
--The Marines in the DMZ clobbered Viet Cong units last week
killing 900 and forcing a pull back by the opposing forces. --The
logistical arrangements are excellent. --There are no great
military problems in sight.  (...) --There is evidence that the
Viet Cong are getting very "low in the barrel" in their recruiting.
--13 to 16 year old kids have been found among the corpses of Viet
Cong units in the South, indicating the difficulties being faced by
the Viet Cong in replacing their manpower. --The South Vietnamese
Army units are "spotty." --The South Vietnamese are under strength. 
     On the matter of bombing policy, General Wheeler reported:
--Disagreement with Secretary McNamara.  (...)
     General Wheeler recommended: --That bombing restrictions
around Hanoi be reduced to a 10 mile limit. --That bombing
restrictions around Haiphong be reduced to a 4 mile limit.
--No attacks on shipping were recommended. --Armed aerial
reconnaissance from the Chinese buffer zone on down was
recommended.  (...)
     On pacification, Robert Komer reported to the President: --That he was more encouraged than
when he left about pacification in
general. (...) --That under these circumstances it was becoming
more of a "classical war" where north verses south rather than a
situation where there was strong internal conflict in the south by
the Viet Cong against the South Vietnamese.
     On the political front, Komer reported: --There is a lower
level of competence in the GVN. --Komer said it is a situation
where they are "smart crooks, rather than dumb honest men." --Komer
said "We may not be backing the right horse." --He suggested that
perhaps the U.S. should be supporting civilian candidates for the
ticket rather than military candidates.
(...) --He said we need more U.S. advisors in a more direct U.S.
role in directing the Vietnamese military.
     Clark Clifford pointed out that public sentiment in this
country sometimes calls the Vietnamese conflict "the war that can't
be won."  He asked Secretary McNamara, is that true.
     Secretary McNamara reported: --U.S. units will continue to
destroy the enemy's main forces units. --There is a limit to what
the enemy can send in to the South. --The U.S. units are destroying
a significant capacity of the large units. --For the first time
Secretary McNamara said he felt that if we follow the same program
we will win the war and end the fighting.
--Hanoi is testing the unity and patience of the American people.
     Richard Helms said an important issue which should be
considered by all of the individuals in the room is what kind of
political program should be after the elections.  He said more
consideration should be given to a political program by the
Vietnamese which eventually will permit the withdrawal of U. S.
forces and U. S. direction.
     Reporting on his findings during the Vietnam trip, Secretary
Katzenbach reported:
--U.S. and allied forces can win depending on the performance, if
we get it, of the government of Vietnam. --Ambassador Bunker has
taken firm control.  He knows what he is doing.  (...)
     Secretary Katzenbach said he would rate the U.S. effort in
Vietnam as a "B" in many areas.  He said the political situation
was "hairy."  Continuing his report, Secretary Katzenbach reported:
--Ky is bitter. --The government could fall apart. --There is only
about two to three weeks left for the U.S. to work on the political
     In summarizing, Secretary Katzenbach made these points: --He
agreed with General Wheeler that the military pressure must be kept
on. --He said he did not want to expand the military activities to
bomb the harbors. --He said he would go along with General
Wheeler's recommendations for similar restrictions around Hanoi and
Haiphong. --He said he did not favor a pause in the bombing without
a further indication from Hanoi of what it would do in return.
     Secretary Rusk said that compared with Greece, Berlin, the
early days of 1942, that the Vietnamese war is "past that stage." 
He said, "We are going to come through this thing."  He pointed out
that we must get the American people to realize that the U.S.
forces are going to come through this.
     The President said that there is an attitude in this country
today that we are not doing all we should to get the war over as
quickly as it should be.
     The President said that although we have lost 10,000 men in
Vietnam that he is constantly reminded that the North Vietnamese
have lost more in 60 days than we have lost in the past 6 years. 
The President said we cannot get it over in 60 days but we must
make every effort to try to do what we can.
     The President said the U.S. people do think, perhaps, that the
war cannot be won. The President said he was more frightened by
this than by the Thieu-Ky difficulties.  (...)
     The President said he agreed that we need more troops, but he
urged his advisors to "shave it the best we can."
     The President said he would be talking with General
Westmoreland later today on the troop matter. 
[Tom Johnson's Notes, Box 1, LBJ Library]
January 31, 1968
To: Gen. Westmoreland
From: Gen. Wheeler
     (...) The President desires that you make a brief personal
comment to the press at least once each day during the current
period of mounting NVA/VC activity.  The purpose should be to
convey to the American people your confidence in our capability to
blunt these enemy moves, and to reassure the public here that you
have the situation under control. (...)
[LBJ Library]
March 14, 1968
"Memorandum of Conference with Senator Robert Kennedy and Theodore
C. Sorensen"
By: Sec. Clifford
     At 11:35 p.m. on March 13, Senator Edward Kennedy called me at
my home and stated that his brother Bob, was deeply concerned about
our present policy in Vietnam and about President Johnson's
attitude toward the crisis in our cities.
     He stated that Senator Robert felt that some action should be
taken on these two subjects, particularly Vietnam.  He had had a
long discussion with Senator Robert, and Senator Robert indicated
that he would like to talk to me, mainly about Vietnam.  I said I
was available to see him and Senator Robert could set the time and
place.  The time of 11:00 a.m. on March 14 was agreed upon and the
appointment was set for my office in the Pentagon.
     At 11:00 a.m. today Senator Robert Kennedy appeared with Ted
Sorensen.  Senator Robert stated that he wished to devote the
conversation mainly to a discussion of the President's policy in
South Vietnam.  He felt that the policy was a failure, and both
because of his conscience and pressure from others, he felt
compelled to take action in this regard.  He stated that one way to
correct the policy would be for him to become a candidate for the
Democratic nomination for President, and if elected he could then
change the policy.  The other alternative was for him to find the
means to persuade President Johnson to change the policy.
     He said that he had talked to Dick Daley in Chicago and had
also talked to Ted Sorensen and his brother, and they thought that
consideration should be given to a plan that he had evolved.  He
suggested that Sorensen present the plan.
     Sorensen said that if President Johnson would agree to make a
public statement that his policy in Vietnam had proved to be in
error, and that he was appointing a group of persons to conduct a
study in depth of the issues and come up with a recommended course
of action, then Senator Robert Kennedy would agree not to get into
the race.  I at once said that it was very clear that President
Johnson could not issue a statement to the effect that this
country's policy in Vietnam was a failure.  Senator Kennedy agreed
with this and said that he felt the statement need not go that far.
     Senator Kennedy said that if the President would issue a
statement that he had reached the conclusion that the time had come
to re-evaluate, in its entirety, our policy in Vietnam, Senator
Kennedy would feel that this language was sufficient, if coupled
with an appointment of a Board consisting of persons recommended by
Senator Kennedy.  I asked what men they had in mind, and Senator
Kennedy and Sorensen offered the following names: Edwin Reischauer,
Kingman Brewster, Roswell Gilpatric, Carl Kaysen, Senator Robert
Kennedy, General Lauris Norstad, General Matthew Ridgway, Senator
Mike Mansfield, Senator John Sherman Cooper, Senator George Aiken.
     At this point in the conversation, Senator Kennedy asked for
any reaction that I might have.  I said I thought there were three
major points he should consider.
     1.  It was my opinion that the possibility of his being able
to defeat President Johnson for the nomination was zero.  I had
gone through a similar situation with President Truman in 1948 when
the South was against him.  Liberals had left him.  Both his
domestic and foreign policies were under attack.  The newspapers
and magazines were against him.  Democrats were attempting to
persuade Gen. Eisenhower to run.  Henry Wallace was in the race,
and yet, in spite of all these handicaps, President Truman was
renominated at the Philadelphia Convention in July 1948.
     2.  That I thought Senator Kennedy would be making a grave
mistake if he assumed that the situation in Vietnam would be the
same in August of this year as it is now; that I personally
anticipated an improvement between now and then.  In addition to
that fact, there were a number of factors which remained under the
President's control, such as the decision as to when to start
negotiations.  That if Senator Kennedy was depending on the Vietnam
issue to gain him the nomination, I thought he would be grievously
disappointed as events transpired in the next five months.
     3.  That if by chance he were able to gain the Democratic
nomination, I thought it would be valueless because his efforts in
displacing President Johnson would so split the Democratic Party
that the Republican nominee would win easily.  I thought he must
judge with the greatest care what it was worth to go through what
he would have to endure for the nomination which, in my opinion
would be valueless if he won it.
     Senator Kennedy replied that he had considered all these
elements and still felt that he would have to run unless President
Johnson would agree to the proposition that he was presenting.
     I informed Senator Kennedy and Sorensen that I would present
the matter to President Johnson, get his reply and then phone it to
     I telephoned President Johnson and said I was ready to report
to him on the conference.  The White House called later and asked
that I be there at 3:30 to meet with The President.  Present also
were Vice President Humphrey and Justice Fortas.  The matter was
discussed at length and the President reached the conclusion that
he could not accept the proposition for the following main reasons:
     1. No matter how the arrangement was handled, it would still
appear to be a political deal.
     2. The President had important outside advisors who would feel
that they had been completely ignored if a public committee of this
kind were appointed.
     3. The President could not put Senator Kennedy on the
committee without creating a great deal of difficulty and
opposition on the Hill from other Senators and Congressmen.
     I was instructed by President Johnson to phone Sorensen to
report to him that although the President believed in consulting
outside advisors, this particular proposition was unacceptable.
     I called Sorensen, spoke to him and Senator Kennedy together
and gave them the President's message.  Senator Kennedy asked what
the President's reaction would be if Senator Kennedy were not
included as a member of the group.  I said that I had understood
very clearly from President Johnson that his major opposition to
the arrangement was that it would be considered to be a political
deal, and therefore, removing Senator Kennedy from the list would
really not change the situation.
     They raised no questions regarding the matter, but accepted my
comments as constituting the President's decision.
[LBJ Library]
October 12, 1968
To:  Ambs. Harriman and Vance
From:  Sec. Rusk
     The Drew Pearson column today (...) containing point that "on
at least two occasions, (you) have been on verge of real success in
negotiating with the North Vietnamese only to have the rug pulled
out from under you in Washington" has been troublesome.  If you can
find appropriate way to get out press denial or let spokesman here
do it on your behalf, it would be helpful.
[LBJ Library]
October 30, 1968
To: Sec. Rusk
From: Amb. Bunker
Re:  "Meeting with Pres. Thieu, Oct. 30"
     1. Thieu received Berger and me at 1300 hours (...) and we had
an hour and half's talk.  It ended with a statement by him that he
must talk with his senior colleagues and will give us an answer
     2.  I opened by saying I had instructions to deliver an oral
message from the President, and then transmitted the whole of the
message almost verbatim.
     3.  Thieu reacted emotionally and disjointedly, "You are
powerful.  You can say to small nations what you want.  We
understand America's sacrifice for Vietnam.  All Vietnamese know
our life depends on US support.  But you cannot force us to do
anything against our interest.  This negotiation is not a life or
death matter for the US but it is for Vietnam.  I intend to make a
speech to my people and I will express my gratitude, and that of my
government and my people, for what President Johnson has done for
     4.  He then said the difficulties which stood in the way of
our agreement for a meeting were not secondary but crucial.  He
referred to differences in what was said here and in Paris and then
defined the two issues which were crucial:
     A. We must get from Hanoi an agreement beforehand that they
will negotiate directly with the GVN.
     B. We must also get their agreement that the NLF is not a
separate delegation.
     5.  Using the memo of conversation provided by Paris (...) we
showed Thieu that Lam had misunderstood Harriman and there was no
difference in what was said in Paris or here on these two points. 
We both had said it was impossible to obtain such assurances from
Hanoi, and that our strategy and tactics were designed precisely to
overcome these difficulties.  We then again went over the whole
ground of our position on these two points, indicating our
inability to control the other side, but our ability to defend our
own side and views and the strong public stands we were taking and
would continue to take in support of the GVN.
     6.  Thieu kept circling around the problem.  I finally told
him point blank that since we cannot get these assurances, if he
insists on making his agreement conditional on such assurances, we
shall have to go our separate ways.  I warned him of the
consequences if he forced us into this position.  I then asked him
if he was or was not prepared to go with Pres. Johnson on the two
     7.  Thieu said he needed a week between the joint cessation
announcement and the first meeting, but the important thing is
"agreement between us on the assurances he needs from Hanoi," which
will permit him to join in the cessation announcement.  I repeated
it was impossible for us to get these assurances he had asked for. 
I asked him if he would let me know today if he is prepared to go
along with the Oct. 31 and Nov. 4 dates.  He said Nov.4 was
unreasonable, and he would need a week from the time we agree on
cessation.  If it was up to him he could say yes [to] tomorrow's
date for the joint announcement on cessation with a meeting a week
later, but he had to consult his colleagues.  He had to convince
them and bring them along, not only the Vice Pres. but the others,
otherwise he would be vilified and isolated.  I said I saw no great
difficulty in bringing them along.  We had given them assurances of
our support and cooperation, and had made pledges and statements of
the strongest kind on the question of the NLF, and how we would act
if Hanoi tried any ruses and devices to avoid dealing with the GVN. 
I said if all this is known to his colleagues it should be
     8.  He said he would confer with the others and would inform
me later, and he would also give me today a letter to the President
setting out his position.  He asked if I could give him a copy of
the President's message which I had read.  I said my instructions
were to give him this message orally.
     9.  Comment:  I frankly do not know what we may get tonight by
way of an answer.  I think they may take us right to the brink, and
they may refuse to go with us tomorrow at 0800 local.  In that case
I think we should say to them that we are prepared to seek a week's
delay for the first meeting, but that I am under instruction to say
that we cannot delay the cessation announcement beyond say 2400
hours local Oct 31 and will put out the order and statement
unilaterally at that time if they are unable to go with us.
     10.  I have sent the Pol counselor to call on the Formin (...)
     11.  There is no point in having Gen Good Paster talk to Gen.
Vien, who in these matters carries no weight (...)     
     12.  I am firmly of the view that however difficult Vice Pres.
Ky may be, it would be constructive from our point of view to have
him in Paris.  There are few people around here who are willing to
make decisions and take stands.  He is one who is, and he is also
one with whom one can reason, and argue.  (...)
[LBJ Library]
December 18, 1968
"Absolutely Personal"
By: Averell Harriman
     To me, the great tragedy of President Johnson is that he had
a superlative record which out-achieved Roosevelt, Truman, and
Kennedy put together, on domestic issues, civil rights, education,
medical care, poverty, cities, etc., etc., issues which were never
hit squarely before.  He said they must be achieved now.  However,
he got bogged down and was sold the idea that it was his duty to
fight Vietnam through.
[Harriman Papers]
December 31, 1968
To: The President
From: Gen. Maxwell Taylor
     Most Americans succeeded in convincing themselves that Korea
was a defeat in spite of the fact that we repulsed the North Korean
invasion and the armistice line today is generally well north of
the line of departure of the invading forces.
     You have brought this country a long way in Vietnam to the
point that victory is in our grasp if we don't let a few trembling
hands allow it to escape.
[Taylor Papers]
     The above are among over 600 documents included in a
forthcoming book tentatively titled, Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam
Papers: A Documentary Collection, edited by David M. Barrett,
Villanova University, Political Science Department.  The book is
copyrighted to David M. Barrett and will be published in 1997 by
Texas A + M University Press.