167. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the President1


  • Planning Actions on Southeast Asia

A small, tightly knit group meeting at my call has now had two long sessions in working forward the two basic plans which you asked [Page 350] for Wednesday afternoon.2 Today’s session had the benefit of the full-scale participation of both Bob McNamara and George Ball.

A group under William Sullivan is now preparing a basic statement of a three to six month program for major stiffening of our effort in South Vietnam, essentially by marrying Americans to Vietnamese at every level, both civilian and military. (The direct military aspect of this stiffening is being studied by General Goodpaster and members of the Joint Staff.) The object of this exercise is to provide what Khanh has repeatedly asked for: the tall American at every point of stress and strain. This cannot be done overnight, but for the first time there is agreement that we must prepare a means to do it. The persuasion of Lodge and his relation to such an effort are tricky problems to which outline answers are being prepared.
An integrated political-military plan for graduated action against North Vietnam is being prepared under John McNaughton at Defense. The theory of this plan is that we should strike to hurt but not to destroy, and strike for the purpose of changing the North Vietnamese decision on intervention in the south. This is easier said than done, but McNamara has confidence that we have the military means as long as we have the political will.
An estimate of enemy reactions to both of these plans is being prepared on a crash basis by a task force of the intelligence community under Chester Cooper. This task force will examine in particular such sensitive questions as whether the Chinese or the Soviets would intervene and the equally edgy question whether the North Vietnamese reply to air strikes might be an irresistible increase of action against the shaky regime in South Vietnam. (Bob McNamara thinks this is not likely, but others are more worried.)
A small group under George Ball is drafting alternative forms of a Congressional resolution so as to give you a full range of choice with respect to the way in which you would seek Congressional validation of wider action. The preliminary consensus is that such a resolution is essential before we act against North Vietnam, but that it should be sufficiently general in form not to commit you to any particular action ahead of time. Our hope is that you might be able to persuade Dick Russell to accept a three-day truce in Civil Rights on straight patriotic grounds.
I am meeting this afternoon with Douglass Cater to make sure that he understands this whole situation and to ask him to begin drafting a speech or statement which would precede any new action on any of the above fronts.
Drafts of all of these plans and papers are to be submitted to my office in time for duplication and distribution the first thing Sunday [Page 351] morning.3 The working group plans to meet on Sunday morning and will be ready to report to you in a preliminary way at any time after lunch. My suggestion is that you might wish to have such a consideration in the latter part of Sunday afternoon.
McG. B.4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Vol. IV. Top Secret. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1979, 473A.
  2. May 20.
  3. May 24.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.