312. Memorandum for the Record of Discussion at the Daily White House Staff Meeting1

Mr. Bundy presided throughout the meeting.
Vietnam. Someone mentioned the Halberstam attack on General Harkins in the New York Times.2 Both Bundy and Forrestal thought it was very unfortunate. When Dungan jokingly asked Forrestal if he didn’t like to overthrow established order, Forrestal replied that he did not like to do it in public, and added that certainly no one wanted Halberstam driving General Harkins around Saigon in an APC. Everyone seemed pleased that Halberstam would be leaving Saigon soon for another post.

The discussion then turned to the forthcoming Honolulu meeting. Bundy remarked that the agenda seemed to be full of briefings and asked Forrestal if something could be done about that or whether they would have to have some dinners on the side to do some real talking. [Page 594] Forrestal replied that the only way to break it up was to do as McNamara did, which was to interrupt loudly in the middle of any mechanical briefing. From this exchange, it became clear that at least Bundy and Forrestal now plan to do most of their work outside the meetings. When someone asked Bundy why he was going, he replied that he had been instructed.

Mr. McCone is going out early to see Ambassador Lodge before the meeting starts. Bundy thought this was a fine step, and remarked that if we could just get the ax-Eisenhower Administration people together, everything would be fine.

The newspaper report in the Times3 this morning on the Honolulu meeting gave the impression the [that] important work may be going on out there, making it unnecessary for Lodge to come to Washington. This is to be cleared up today, with the purpose being to explain that Lodge will still have good reason to come to Washington.

USIA may send someone to the meeting, and there is also talk of having Maechling also be present.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-646-71. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by W. Y Smith.
  2. In his front-page article, “Saigon Coup Hurts Position of Harkins,” Halberstam stated the military junta considered Harkins “a symbol of the old order.” They resented his earlier assessments that the Buddhist crisis and the politics of the Ngo family were not adversely affecting the war effort and did not trust him with their coup plans. Conversely, Halberstam claimed Lodge’s position among the Generals had risen since the coup. Halberstam reported policy differences between Lodge and Harkins over support of the Ngos, claimed Harkins was taken unaware by the coup, and cited “Embassy members” as saying that Harkins had dominated former Ambassador Nolting.
  3. See The New York Times, November 13, 1963, front-page article by Jack Raymond, entitled, “High U.S. Officials Meet on Vietnam in Hawaii Nov. 20.”