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

I appreciated your 15942 which corresponds to much of my own thinking. Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, with my approval have already begun preparing specific plans for pressure against NVN, both in the diplomatic and military fields. Secretary McNamara will be visiting you early in March to review with you that subject and other aspects of the counter-insurgency campaign. Then or very soon thereafter we should make definite decisions.

I agree that any announcement of the evacuation of dependents must be made in such a way as to show we are getting tougher, not softer, and Bob McNamara will take this up with you also. In the meantime, the policy you have suggested in your paragraph 6 is just what I have already instructed the Departments to implement.

I value these direct exchanges with you on top policy matters. We should keep them up.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Transmitted as telegram 1281 to Saigon, which is the source text. McGeorge Bundy sent a draft of this telegram and the text of Lodge’s message, supra, to Palm Springs, California, where the President was vacationing. The text of Bundy’s covering cable to the President reads as follows:

    “Next two following messages are an incoming from Lodge on enlarging our effort in North Vietnam and a draft response for the President. I send these now because of the President’s desire to be very quick and effective in responses to Lodge’s messages. The draft answer is being cleared with Rusk and McNamara, and we can get it out as soon as we have the President’s own comments.”

    “The memorandum to Harriman which Lodge refers to [see footnote 3, supra] is sensible but tentative in form, and does not show strong advocacy of anything different from what we have been doing. My own notes on the President’s November meeting with Lodge show nothing significant on North Vietnam. We therefore believe that the draft answer is fully responsive, and we assess the incoming message as sincere and reasonable, as far as it goes.” (Telegram CAP 64050, February 21; Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. IV)

  2. Document 55.
  3. Telegram 1281 does not bear President Johnson’s signature.