116. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the Secretary of State, at Taipei 1

The President has asked me to emphasize again the importance which he attaches to your conversation with Ambassador Lodge and the opportunity which this conversation gives for the most candid discussion of our policy toward the struggle in South Vietnam. The President sets the highest possible importance on maintaining the effective understanding with Ambassador Lodge which has been established ever since November, and he thinks it of the greatest importance that this cooperation should be sustained, especially in the light of the possibility that others may try to inject partisan politics into the matter.

The President therefore reiterates his hope that you and Bill will examine closely with the Ambassador any recommendations which he may have which in any sense go beyond current policy positions of the USG. The President will wish to give the most sympathetic and careful study to any specific recommendation which the Ambassador makes, and will go to very considerable lengths to assure full harmony. It does remain possible, of course, that there may be some particular recommendation from the Ambassador which the Administration will not be able to accept, but in any such case the President will himself review with the Ambassador the reasons for the Administration’s decision and will do his best on his side to work the matter out amicably with the Ambassador.

In this connection President is asking Ambassador to take up with you the possibility presented in his Secret 8 of April 16 to the President.2 We need to develop before decision here a more complete [Page 242] picture of proposed “tit for tat” operations, as well as implications of any warning to Ho.

In summary, the President hopes that any specific new recommendations will be pinpointed, and that you will convey to the Ambassador the President’s strong desire to have a fully agreed common policy between Washington and Saigon. The President continues to recognize the distinguished service which the Ambassador is giving in this most difficult post.

New Subject: While the President has repeatedly insisted that no one in the Administration should appear to be pressing the Ambassador to give up his present post because of any domestic political involvements, George Ball and I both believe that it would be entirely appropriate for you as Secretary to ask the Ambassador to share with you his own present thinking on any possible early change in his assignment. The nomination of any possible replacement will be your responsibility and will be a matter of great importance, and in the present situation in South Vietnam any significant gap between Ambassador’s return and the assignment of his successor would be most undesirable.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, Vietnam, Rusk/Lodge, WM. BUNDY Correspondence. Top Secret; Eyes Only; Personal; No Other Distribution. There is no indication on the source text how this memorandum was transmitted to Rusk in Taipei, which he visited after the SEATO Council Meeting.
  2. Reference is to telegram 8 from Lodge to the President, April 16, which reads as follows:

    • “1. Through [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] we have had report from source judged by the police to be reliable of a VC plan bomb American community school. We can get no information as to date.” [1 line of source text not declassified]
    • “2. Such a terroristic act would completely justify ‘tit for tat’ retaliation NVN. There could be no target more precious and more deserving of retaliation.”
    • “3. It also points to desirability of notifying Ho as a preventative measure that any terroristic act against Americans will bring instant retaliation. This, however, should not be done in a way to destroy our existing sources of information.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S) In telegram 1710 to Saigon, April 16, 7:14 p.m., the President informed Lodge that he was “authorized to take whatever action you and General Harkins see fit to meet the threat to the school.” (Ibid.)