432. Notes on a Meeting, White House1


  • President, Humphrey, M. Bundy, Taylor, Rusk, W. Bundy, McNamara, Wheeler, McNaughton, McCone

T: Pacification bogging down. VC activity in north SVN. Govt instability. DRV infiltration up. Two problems: weak govt & VC strength. Won’t collapse immediately, but losing game. Papers suggest acting to boost GVN & weaken VC. (Talked from attachment J.)2

Pres: How many groups have to talk to?

T: 1. Military (Khanh & senior generals—Ky + 2 or 3); 2. Catholics (Archbish + Quinn + few); 3. Buddhists (2: Tam Chao; Tri Quang); 4. Labor (Buu, but splits).

Pres: Where are the Coms? In Buddhists?

T: Reds using Bs.3

Pres: French?

T: No monkey wrenches.

T (continuing): 5. HNC. Pain in the neck.

Pres: How did Diem do it?

[Page 966]

T: Tight ship. No cement in the people. All factions enjoying taking part. Never worked together. Need army behind govt & courageous man. Huong is courageous. Better off today than 1 or 2 mos ago.

Pres: Most essential is a stable govt. Looks like Huong on newspaper in mid Atl & if moves, gets wet & sinks. Need to pull all groups together—put on concrete. We did in US post-assassination. Basic to anything is stability. (“You know my views of Diem. Don’t want another Diem”) How bring these people together—if it takes all 50 [states?] & Rockefeller money. They do it or else. No point hitting North if South not together. What can we do? We thought Khanh pretty good, but gone. Ditto Huong.

T: We’ve warned them before.

Pres: Why not say “This is it!”? Not send Johnson City boys out to die if they acting as they are.

T: Maybe emphasize that our offer is for Huong govt.

Pres: Must face problem of how to keep problem from looking worse here than it is. What resources have we? Pope? Cld he straighten it out with Catholics.

McC: Talked to Pope & Sec State.

Pres: Anything to do with Buddhists? Econ? Social?

T: Minds of 3 or 4 people; CIA sees no way to work on them. Don’t want to exile them. Know them.

Pres: Can’t we get the ambitious politicians into the act?

T: More than 100 in the cabinet. 14 (too big) now. Pretty good. Vien (Kin’s uncle) may be white hope. He is close to Huong. He skid succeed Huong.

Pres: Let’s get thinker to work on A B C D’s to Buddhists. Now, Army?

T: Done pretty well. [Khanh] will go back, as indicated.

Pres: Have we oversold them on our necessity of being power in the Pacific. “Are they drunk on Alsop”.

T: Politics tend to think VC is US problem. If Huong govt falls: 1. Another civilian govt, 2. US take over operational control, 3. Mil dictatorship, 4. Shrink our role (retreat). Mil wants increased strength.

M:4 2–4 squ5 effective strength.

Pres: Easy to get in or out. Hard to be patient. Anything more we can do to VN, making them good Rangers. Jet plane can’t interdict VC. Better guerrillas?

T: This is what we’re doing in SVN. 80-100g VC (34,000 hardcore & 60–80 regl6 & part-time). Armed forces 550,000 (200,000 real).

Pres: How [can] 34,000 lick 200,000?

[Page 967]

T: Ratio in other areas 10:1 to 20:1 for guerrilla situations. Means 20 b[illion] piastres; $175 m[illion].

Wh: Excellent program (guerrilla).

Pres: But failed. If dollars [are needed], give ‘em. Not want to send widow woman to slap Jack Dempsey. DRV will bomb Saigon once. Then we are off to the races. Maybe we’ve given them best training, so all [we] can do is more people. Day of reckoning is coming. Want to be sure we’ve done everything we can. Got to be some things still to do. What? We cld have kept Diem.

T: We need one. Maybe Huong & Vien together may be a Diem. May be progressing. But progress will be slow. Also we must get Hanoi out of the business.

Pres: But hadn’t we better shape up before we do anything. Also dependents should be out.

M: There are 4000.

T: Can do on short notice. Do it when needed.

Pres: I have looked at summary of our efforts re strong desire re 3rd country help—more than chaplain & nurse. If [government?] fails, we want them in with us. UK can’t [because of] Malaysia, Germany has Berlin, Australians a “shirt tail frill”. If as serious as [we] believe, need new approach & get big numbers from them.

R: Will review this. UK can do more. May use Hubert.

Pres: Why not use Chinats. Want promptly [to] fire any leaker.

R: Combat Chinats wd merge SVN problem with whole Chinese problem. Chiang wld exploit contrary to our interests.

McC: Can do much more.

Pres: Can we tell them they can’t exploit. Wh will ask to hit North.

R: Chiang may be reluctant to make troops available.

M: 1000 Phil, Aust. & UK not make much cliff militarily, but much politically.

R: Canadians on ICC & carrying burden elsewhere (Cyprus). Hit Wilson, Germans.

M: Germans—unpopular domestically, opposed to image.

T: Don’t need combat troops unless go North.

[2 paragraphs (2 lines of source text) not declassified]

Pres: List from T in a week of Utopian need. A. Under present conditions & B. anticipated conditions. Give thot to who shld make request respectfully, diplomatically & get job done. Then R, H37 or self go get ‘em. Anything out of India? Tell Bowles so. Pakistan?

Can see forces at work with $4 b[illion] a yr, & they not doing anything. Referred to poll.

[Page 968]

Purpose of this mtg: 1. To pull stable govt together. Bell put in anything he can. Rice. Fertilizer. Before Wh saddles up, try anything. 2. After T’s report in wk or 10 days, pitch at 3d countries. 3. Try to get better press. Hesitant to sock neighbor if fever 104. Want to get well first. We’ve never been in position to attack. Easy to sock. Easy to follow Morse. They’ll be back in January. We want to be prepared to answer the questions. If need be, create a new Diem, so then [we] tell Wh to slap, we can slap back.

T: Doubt that Hanoi will slap back.

Pres: Didn’t MacArthur say the same.

T: All measures mentioned [are] needed. But not enuf. 2–3 mos can keep this govt going. Fumbling. Not much time to put new factor in except lift from hurting enemy.

Pres: Papers generally satisfactory. Never reluctant to stand up. But must do damndest in SVN. As many allies in as possible. Plan to get dependents out. “Plans you’ve got now, all right.”

M: Language changes in.

McC: Don’t expect first 30 days or transition to produce much. Reprisals important; could escalate fast.

Pres: “Policy decision that there will be reprisals but decide exactly what at the time.”

Wh: Gave JCS view re hard knock.

Pres: Interrupted to ask if RSM shared view that it’s downhill slide in SVN no matter what we do in country.

M: Yes.

Pres: “I agree with that (start under our own volition), but better if allies with us, dependents out, done all we can.” “Want conditions as favorable as we can get them.”

M: Cited Westy on need for base first.

Pres: We are undertaking some of this in our plan, but want to give T one last chance, McC (Pope), R (Allies). “If more of the same, then I’ll be talking to you, General.”

Pres: Not bad.

R: Do it pre airport.

Pres: T touch base with Hill. Come here to say goodbye & then see press here. “R out 2; RSM ditto; T in 2; Lodge.” Going to do this [from] time to time. Stick to statement & not go into ifs. No speculate. Other decisions time to time & tell when. Not[hing] to be gain[ed] from spelling ifs. Stick to announcement. More effective. Sorry built up to war.

Press at 1:30

Pres left at 1:43.

M: Re infiltration, let’s not release them now.

Pres: & shoot at sunrise if leak.

[Page 969]

Reedy: (1) Did Max recommend stikes (2) Did Max recommend mil activity (3) Decisions on new moves (see statement)8 (4) Further meetings w T (Yes). Wh H statement.

Pres: Shld talk to Hill.

R: Ful, Hick, Salt,9 Russell.

Pres: Yes, small mtg so not want it spread, Eyes & Ears only. Give good & bad; cld hope inside, with 3d nations; ask for suggestions. RSM & R decide re House. Mahon if here. Ford maybe

Reedy: Backgrder bad. Either press conf or not.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File, 12–1–64. Top Secret. The source text is handwritten notes taken by McNaughton. A similar but shorter set of handwritten notes, taken by William Bundy, is in Department of State, Bundy Files, Master Papers, Late Nov 1964. The meeting is also described in Bundy’s manuscript, Chap. 19, pp. 13–17. (Ibid.) The President had met with Rusk, McNamara, and William Bundy at 10:30 a.m. Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. Not further identified. Presumably this is Document 426.
  3. Buddhists.
  4. McNamara.
  5. Presumably squadrons.
  6. regulars.
  7. Vice President Humphrey.
  8. For text of the statement issued on December 1, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1964, pp. 1001–1002.
  9. Fulbright, Hickenlooper, and Saltonstall.