192. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the President 1


  • The Honolulu Team Returns
I have now talked with Dean Rusk, Mike Forrestal, and my brother Bill, and I am on my way to see Bob McNamara, to whom I have talked briefly on the phone. The first reading is that no one is recommending any major decision today or, indeed, in the next few days.
Lodge and Westmoreland are marginally more optimistic than McNamara, McCone, Forrestal, and Bill Bundy, and they have moved Dean Rusk a little toward their view. Lodge thinks that we can “jog along” for some undefined period, and Westmoreland would probably be happy with a relatively low-key decision to take military action (imperfectly defined) in Southern Laos.
Rusk and McNamara, with different emphases, are also inclined to push military action ahead of them, at least for several weeks, and possibly for quite a lot longer. Lodge remains in favor of selective bombing of the North, but he has a much better understanding than before of the necessity for facing a large amount of noise and the possibility of serious escalation.
The plan for selective addition of American advisers, military and civil, in critical provinces is moving ahead and has general support. At the same time, you need to know that Lodge, and to a much [Page 441] less extent Westmoreland, are very wary of major U.S. “encadrement” or “interlarding” and are accepting this plan more because Washington urges it than because of deep belief in it.
Rusk reports that Lodge is very eager to have his Political Officer, Manfull, as Deputy Chief of Mission, and shows no desire for any more ambitious reinforcement. The Secretary obviously did not press the question with him, and reports his own conviction that since Lodge will probably be leaving in a few months, it is not worthwhile to make an issue of this. Forrestal and, I think, McNamara strongly disagree with this way of handling it, but I do not yet have any idea as to how you can get past the combined reluctance of Rusk and Lodge.
The one major new agreement growing out of Honolulu is that we need to centralize authority for public information on Vietnam, both in Saigon and in Washington. Moreover, there is agreement on the names of the men to do this job: Zorthian of USIA in Saigon, and Bob Manning back here. Manning may need some White House standing in order to control Sylvester and his goons, and I am sure it will be in our interest to give it to him.
The political and diplomatic course of action with respect to Laos is probably still the most immediate possible trigger of larger decisions. For the moment, we are doing quite well in our negotiations with and on behalf of Souvanna, and our relatively affirmative position on the Polish proposal has been helpful, but it is agreed that we need to discuss possible further actions with respect to Laos, both among ourselves and with the Thais, the British, and the French.
Finally, I believe George Ball will bring a draft of a talking paper for his meeting with De Gaulle.2
Unless I learn something more before the meeting, my personal recommendation is that the public statement after the meeting should be quite simply that you have received the report, that there will be further discussions in the coming days, and that no startling new statement need be expected in the immediate future.
McG.B. 3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File. Memos to the President. McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 5. Top Secret
  2. See Document 196.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.