20. Memorandum From President Johnson to Secretary of Defense McNamara1

I would hope that you could develop a new plan for volunteer fighting forces that would proceed with a minimum of overhead and a maximum of energy in direct contact with the Vietnamese at all levels.

I constantly hear, re Vietnam, we have too much staff, too much administration, too much clerical work, too much reporting, too much rotation and not enough action. Taylor and Westmoreland are probably the ablest regulation officers we have but that, apparently, is not all we need from the results we are getting. Much of the trouble may be here in Washington which sets the policy on rotation and reporting and other forms of paper work.

I expect you and Max are right in opposing larger U.S. Forces, but let’s develop some alternatives.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, International Meetings and Travel File, McGeorge Bundy—Saigon, Vol. III. No classification marking. Drafted by the President. Written in the bottom margin in McGeorge Bundy’s hand is the following notation: “Chet Cooper: Keep an eye on this—it’s LBJ’s own baby. MB.” Attached was a copy of an article entitled “Can U.S. Win in Vietnam?”; see footnote 2, Document 2.
  2. Johnson’s initials appear in an unidentified hand, indicating Johnson signed the original.