155. Message From the President to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge)1

McNamara and Sullivan have reported fully this morning regarding their conversations with you and your colleagues.2 I was particularly struck by Sullivan’s report of his conversation with you in which you indicated your concept of a strategy for moving against the North.3 While you had discussed this matter with Dean Rusk and Bundy earlier, they had not understood that you were proposing that a sequence of actions be initiated in the near future.

I consider it vital that you and I at all times fully and clearly understand each other’s minds and would therefore greatly appreciate it if you would send me urgently your precise present recommendations with respect to the North including the Canadian aspect, the timing, and the degree of visible U.S. participation at each stage. With respect to the Canadians, I feel it important to know whether you contemplate their being informed of the full range of the actions you propose and being advised at this time of the precise nature of the messages you would wish them to convey to the North Vietnamese.

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Bob McNamara also reports that in his discussion of-these matters General Khanh indicated his own present belief that action of this sort will become necessary later but that he will not be ready for such action before the end of the year.

Khanh also emphasized that any action of this kind must require a U.S. decision and a U.S. promise of protection against any reprisal. I would appreciate your estimate both as to the prospect of reprisal and of the need for advance protection.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Sent as telegram 1942 to Saigon, which is the source text. The message was drafted in the White House and, according to a May 14 note from McGeorge to William Bundy, it was approved by the President and McNamara. Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IX)
  2. See footnote 1, Document 154.
  3. See Document 148.
  4. Telegram 1942 does not bear President Johnson’s signature.