The Foreign Relations of the United States series the presents official documentary historical record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity of the United States Government, including the reports and intelligence that contributed to the formulation of policies and the documentation of supporting and alternative views to the policy positions ultimately adopted.
The Historian of the Department of State is responsible for the preparation of the Foreign Relations series. The editing of the series in the Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, is guided by principles of historical objectivity and accuracy. Documents are not altered or deletions made without indicating where changes have been made. Every effort is made to identify lacunae in the record and to explain why they have occurred. Certain omissions may be necessary to protect national security or to condense the record and avoid needless repetition. The published record, however, omits no facts that were of major importance in reaching a decision, and nothing has been excluded for the purpose of concealing or glossing over a defect in policy.
At the time of the compilation of this volume in 1984, the Department was guided in the preparation of the Foreign Relations series by official regulations first promulgated by Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg on March 26, 1925. A new statutory charter for the preparation of the Foreign Relations series was established by Title IV of Public Law 102–138, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993, which was signed by the President on October 28, 1991. That new charter requires that the Foreign Relations series “shall be a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity.” The new charter also requires that the Foreign Relations series be published “not more than 30 years after the events recorded.”[Page IV]
Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations of the United States Series
This volume is the first in a comprehensive subseries that will document the most important issues in the foreign policy of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration. The subseries covers the years 1964 through 1968, although the editors may in a few cases include documents from 1963 or 1969 to round out and make more understandable the documentation regarding particular topics.
Continuing the longstanding tradition of the Foreign Relations series and in compliance with the legislation of October 28, 1991, the editors have planned a comprehensive subseries of volumes to record the most important issues in the foreign affairs of the United States during the Johnson administration. The diplomacy of U.S. involvement in the civil war in Vietnam during the decade of the 1960s was a matter of overwhelming importance in the conduct of foreign affairs and is a primary topic documented in the Foreign Relations volumes covering the years 1964 through 1968. Volumes I through VII in the subseries for 1964–1968 are devoted to U.S. policy toward Vietnam. These volumes focus on that nation alone and do not record activities throughout the remainder of Indochina except as they may relate immediately to the conduct of the war in Vietnam. The record of U.S. relations with and policies toward Laos and Cambodia is the subject of a separate volume in the Foreign Relations series.
In preparing the volumes of Foreign Relations regarding U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the editors have given the highest priority to the inclusion of documents on:
- The formulation of U.S. national goals regarding policy toward Vietnam.
- The international diplomatic background of the conflict.
- The search by the United States for international support for its war aims.
- U.S. relations with the Republic of Vietnam.
- Major political-military decisions regarding U.S. involvement in Vietnam and strategies to be followed, including military assistance to the Republic of Vietnam.
- The search for a peaceful end of the war, including direct and indirect contacts with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and with various Communist powers.
- Economic assistance and social reform programs for Vietnam.
The record of military operations in Vietnam, operational intelligence activities, the conduct (as opposed to the policy considerations) of covert actions, the broad range of Foreign Service activities and the administration of overseas posts, and routine or ceremonial diplomatic exchanges are outside the terms of reference of the Foreign Relations volumes. Important military and intelligence activities bearing upon [Page V] the diplomatic context of U.S. involvement in Vietnam are, however, covered in the many high-level papers and discussions that are included in the volumes of the series.
Sources for the Foreign Relations Series
The longstanding 1925 charter of the Foreign Relations series and the law of October 28, 1991, on the series require that the published record reflect all major foreign policy decisions and activities and include necessary documentation from all government agencies and entities involved in foreign policy formulation, execution, or support. The historical records of the Presidents and their national security advisers together with the still larger body of documentation in the Department of State are the principal sources of the Foreign Relations series. The National Archives and Records Administration, including the Presidential libraries which it administers, is the main repository and coordinating authority for historical government documentation.
The official documentary record on U.S. foreign affairs available for preparing the published Foreign Relations volumes must on occasion be supplemented by information from private collections of papers of historical significance and from interviews with U.S. officials who were involved in the events documented. This was particularly true in research for the volumes documenting U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war. Interviews by Department historians are conducted in accordance with professional scholarly practices and existing government procedures regarding their preparation and preservation. Oral histories, where already available, are also reviewed and used.
In the case of the volumes documenting U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war, the editors reviewed the documents included in the 12-volume study prepared by the Department of Defense, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, printed for the use of the Committee on Armed Forces of the U.S. House of Representatives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1971), the so-called “Pentagon Papers.” Particular documents from this version of the “Pentagon Papers” are included in Foreign Relations volumes, in their most authentic version, when their inclusion is vital to understanding the published record. Not all of the diplomatic documentation in the “Pentagon Papers” will, however, be reprinted or even accounted for in the Foreign Relations series.
Particular sources used in preparing the volume presented here are described in detail in the List of Sources.[Page VI]
Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, Volume I
On the basis of preliminary research and review of already-published documentation, including the 1971 “Pentagon Papers,” the editors developed the following five areas of focus for the research and selection of documents for inclusion in this volume: 1) discussion and formulation of policy in Washington; 2) missions of high-level Johnson administration officials to South Vietnam and their recommendations; 3) planning for military operations against North Vietnam and the actual implementation of U.S. military operations in Vietnam; 4) the relationship among the U.S. Government, the Khanh government, and opposition elements in South Vietnam; 5) the implementation of policy in South Vietnam.
Discussion and formulation of policy in Washington: President Lyndon B. Johnson made the important policy decisions on Vietnam. He received advice from the Washington foreign affairs community, either orally at meetings or in documents. The records of these meetings with the President and advice provided to him in writing are the primary focus of this volume. The editors are confident that they have had complete access to all the Presidential written records bearing on important decisions relating to Vietnam.
The most important repository for records on the formulation of U.S. policy toward Vietnam in 1964 is the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. The records of the Department of State, to which the editors also had complete access, include a large segment of Presidential and National Security Council documentation, but the Johnson Library remains the single most comprehensive source. Department of Defense records located at the Washington National Records Center, especially the files and papers of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, are also an important source.
Missions of high-level Johnson administration officials to South Vietnam: Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor each made two fact-finding visits to Vietnam in 1964. The recommendations resulting from these missions provided President Johnson with a means of focusing on the problems in Vietnam. They also forced the competing elements in the government in Washington to negotiate their different policy alternatives. The approval of recommendations of these missions by the President and his national security advisers provided guidelines for government-wide policy. Records at the Johnson Library, McNamara’s files, Taylor’s papers at the National Defense University, and records in the Department of State provided the principal sources for these missions and their results.[Page VII]
U.S. military involvement in Vietnam: The editors sought to include documentation that illustrates the relationship between military planning and strategy and the conduct of relations with the Republic of Vietnam and other countries. The editors have concentrated on policy discussions of the feasibility and desirability of covert or overt action against North Vietnam. Overt military action superseded policy deliberation and planning with the U.S. response to the incidents in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964. The documents presented on the Gulf of Tonkin episode do not resolve the question of whether the second North Vietnamese attack actually took place, but they do indicate that the Johnson administration at the time believed that the attack had occurred. Subsequent U.S. military action was based on that presumption. The Johnson Library, files of the Secretary of Defense and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs at the Washington National Records Center, and the decentralized files of the Department of State’s Vietnam Working Group are the principal sources for this topic.
The relationship among the U.S. Government, the Khanh government, and opposition elements in South Vietnam: In 1964, the United States supported the Republic of Vietnam, but never felt totally at ease with General Nguyen Khanh who took power in late January 1964. The extensive reports of U.S. Embassy relations with the Khanh regime come primarily from the central files of the Department of State. In addition, the editors have included a considerable number of telegraphic reports from the Embassy in Saigon on relations with dissident and opposition Vietnamese. The Central Intelligence Agency records on these contacts were obtained from the Johnson Library and Department of State files.
Policy implementation in Vietnam: The editors have also selected documentation that covers the implementation of policy established by the President and a small range of lesser policy decisions that did not reach the President or were resolved in the Department of State or other agencies of the foreign affairs community. The files of the Department of State, the Johnson Library, and the United States Information Agency are the primary documentary sources for these decisions.
For this volume, which was prepared in 1984, the editors have not attempted to document particular U.S. intelligence operations or any significant contribution that U.S. intelligence made to the formulation of foreign policy. The editors closely reviewed the intelligence documentation, including records originated by the Central Intelligence Agency, included in the Johnson Library. That research was accomplished with the full cooperation and assistance of the CIA. It resulted in the inclusion in this volume of some key intelligence analyses that contributed to major political and diplomatic actions.[Page VIII]
Completion of the declassification of this volume and the final steps of its preparation for publication coincided with the development of procedures since early 1991 by the Central Intelligence Agency in cooperation with the Department of State that have expanded access by Department historians to high-level intelligence documents from among those records still in the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Department of State chose not to postpone the publication of this volume to ascertain how such access might affect the scope of available documentation and the changes that might be made in the contents of this particular volume. The Department of State, however, is making good use of these new procedures, which have been arranged by the CIA’s History Staff, for the compilation of future volumes in the Foreign Relations series.
The editors of the volume are confident that the documents printed here provide a comprehensive and accurate foreign affairs record of U.S. policy toward and involvement in Vietnam during 1964. The declassification review process for the documents originally selected for this volume, outlined in more detail below, resulted in withholding from publication only 2.5 percent of the original manuscript.
The editors wish to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the National Archives and Records Administration’s Lyndon B. Johnson Library, in particular David Humphrey. Susan Lemke at the National Defense University and Sandra Meagher at the Department of Defense deserve special thanks, as do former government officials who consented to interviews for this volume.
The documents are presented chronologically according to Washington time. Incoming telegrams from U.S. missions are placed according to time of receipt in the Department of State, and memoranda of conversations are placed according to the time and date of the conversation. President Johnson maintained regular contact with both Ambassadors Henry Cabot Lodge and Maxwell Taylor in messages sent to and received from Saigon as telegrams. These are printed as messages to and from the President, and information about the telegrams is included in the first footnote.
Editorial treatment of documents published in the Foreign Relations series follows Office style guidelines, supplemented by guidance from the Editor in Chief and the chief technical editor. The source text is reproduced as exactly as possible, including marginalia or other notations, which are described in the footnotes. Obvious typographical errors are corrected, but other mistakes and omissions in the source text are corrected by bracketed insertions: a correction is set in italic type; an omission in roman type. Bracketed insertions are also used to [Page IX] indicate text that has been omitted because it deals with an unrelated subject (in roman type) or because it remained classified after the declassification review process (in italic type). The amount of material not declassified has been noted by indicating the number of lines or pages of source text that were omitted. The amount of material omitted because it was not related to the subject, however, has not been accounted for. All ellipses and brackets that appear in the source text are so identified by footnotes.
The first footnote to each document indicates the document’s source, original classification, distribution, and drafting information. The source footnote also provides the background of important documents and policies and indicates whether the President and/or his major policy advisers read it. Every effort has been made to determine if a document has been previously published, and this information has been included in the source footnote.
Editorial notes and additional annotation summarize pertinent material not printed in this volume, indicate the location of additional documentary sources, provide references to important related documents printed in other volumes, describe key events, and summarize and provide citations to public statements that supplement and elucidate the printed documents. Information derived from memoirs and other first-hand accounts have been used when applicable to supplement or explicate the official record.
Declassification Review Procedures
Declassification review of the documents selected for publication was conducted by the Division of Historical Documents Review, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Department of State. The review was made in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, the criteria established in Executive Order 12356, and the act of October 28,1991, regarding:
- military plans, weapons, or operations;
- the vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, projects, or plans relating to the national security;
- foreign government information;
- intelligence activities (including special activities), or intelligence sources or methods;
- foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States;
- scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to national security;
- U.S. Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities;
- cryptology; and
- a confidential source.
Declassification decisions entailed concurrence of the appropriate geographic and functional bureaus in the Department of State, other concerned agencies of the U.S. Government, and appropriate foreign governments regarding documents of those governments. The principle guiding declassification review is to release all information, subject only to the current requirements of national security and law.
Edward C. Keefer and Charles S. Sampson compiled and edited the volume under former Editor in Chief John P. Glennon. General Editor Glenn W. LaFantasie supervised the final steps in the editorial and publication process. Suzanne E. Coffman and Jeffrey A. Soukup prepared the lists of names and abbreviations. Rita M. Baker and Althea W. Robinson performed the technical editing. Barbara A. Bacon of the Publishing Services Division (Natalie H. Lee, Chief) oversaw production of the volume. Max Franke prepared the index.
Bureau of Public Affairs