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


  • Your 6 PM Meeting with Taylor, Johnson et al2

The main purpose of this meeting is to meet with Alexis Johnson before he leaves. His plane goes from Andrews at 10:30 AM tomorrow. The subjects are three: (1) Ambassador Taylor’s basic directive; (2) Staff; (3) Your reassertion of basic policy.

(1) Ambassador Taylor’s basic directive.

Attached at Tab A is a letter3 which is worth reading aloud before you sign it. What it does is to give Max full control over everything in South Vietnam. This is something the military never let the Ambassador have before, and now that we have a man whom the military cannot refuse, it is time to establish the principle. This letter represents Taylor’s own desire and has been checked with State but not with McNamara.

(2) Staff.

Taylor and Johnson have been working on this very hard in the last 24 hours and can give their own report. The two key questions are: head man for AID and a new DCM.

(3) Basic policy.

If I understand your feelings correctly, the following is a possible outline of what you might want to say.

You want the strongest possible U.S. effort to move ahead within South Vietnam. Large-scale moves “to the North” are not the present answer, though we will be ready to consider new decisions at any time, as we did in the case of reconnaissance over Laos.

We all know that two things are needed:

an effective government in South Vietnam;
an absolutely first-rate team.

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We are now getting an absolutely first-rate U.S. team, for the first time since the situation became acute.

The first task of this U.S. team is to strengthen the effectiveness of Khanh and his colleagues, at every level, and by every means.

We have had plenty of plans and proposals; what we now need is execution. (This is what Taylor and Johnson want to hear.)
But there is still need for all the good ideas we can get. We count on initiative at every level. We shall send out our ideas for comment, and we shall expect energetic demands for support from the field. (This is what they are less eager about but need to hear from you. Today is not the day for a catalogue of new proposals.)
You particularly want the new team to get life and energy into Vietnamese efforts to bring other flags in. And the U.S. team too must show imagination and hospitality in making such allies feel welcome and useful. (Max Taylor is bearish on this and needs a spur.)
You also particularly want to carry out an information and propaganda effort twice as big as what Eisenhower has asked for
But an ounce of real progress is worth a pint of propaganda and a peck of threats.
Washington will back you up.
The spirit of Taylor and Johnson, who said “Yes” at once. will be the spirit of the whole U. S. effort.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 5. Secret.
  2. This off-the-record meeting took place at the White House from 6:20 to 6:50 p.m. on June 25, with the following in attendance: the President, McNamara, Taylor, U. Alexis Johnson, Bell, William Bundy, Forrestal, Rowan, McGeorge Bundy, McCone, and Sullivan. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)
  3. For the letter as sent, see Document 228.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.