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 hemisphere. 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 see. Fulbright: Well, I'd rather wait until I get this foreign aid out... President: All right. Now what about Vietnam? Fulbright: Well, I just think that is a hell of a situation...it 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 out...by 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 know...you 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. Respectfully, Bob [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 seems. 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 circumstances. 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 indicated. 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 season. 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 number? 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 requests? 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 economy? 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 Thailand. 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 benefits. 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 Russia)? 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 plans. 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 NVN? 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 commitment. 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 permits. 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 resume. 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 South. 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 signal. (...) 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. people. 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 small. 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 notify. (...) 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. Johnson.] 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 negotiation. 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 months. 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 Vietnam. 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 situation. (...) 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 them. 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 today. 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 us." 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 dates. 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 convincing. 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.