70. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President,1

[Here follows discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]

He then opened the subject of our coming trip to Saigon and asked what course I was inclined to recommend at this moment. I told him that, in general, I felt our program should consist of two main parts; one, an intensive continuation of the counterinsurgency campaign within South Vietnam and, second, a progressive program of selective air and naval attacks against North Vietnam using means beyond those employed in the past. The other Chiefs expressed themselves generally in accord. They also were of the opinion that it was unlikely that the ChiComs would intervene in strength. However, once embarked on the program the US must carry it to success, cost what may.
The President accepted the need for punishing Hanoi without debate, but pointed to some other practical difficulties, particularly the political ones with which he was faced. It is quite apparent that he does not want to lose South Vietnam before next November nor does he want to get the country into war.
The President is impressed with the danger of another coup. He feels we must make General Khanh “our boy” and proclaim the fact to all and sundry. He wants to see Khanh in the newspapers with McNamara and Taylor holding up his arms.
He directed a check made on all requests from Harkins for help since November to see if any have been rejected or significantly curtailed. He anticipates queries from Congress on this score.
He asked that we initiate a State/DOD/CIA/COMUSMACV examination of the realism of Senator Mansfield’s plan for a neutralization of North and South Vietnam. He expressed indignation over the Saigon article by Keyes Beech dated 22 February (attached)2 which [Page 130]revealed US military thinking on an expansion of the war. He directed me to talk to Harkins about it.3
Maxwell D. Taylor4
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T–36–71. Top Secret. Drafted by Taylor.
  2. Not attached.
  3. A handwritten note on the margin reads: “Done, MDT, 13 March ’64.”
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.