26. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1
- Our last exchange with Taylor
Taylor still resists the immediate withdrawal of dependents. He says that it would not be practicable to cover it with hints of a reprisal policy in Saigon, and he says that if we tie the GVN to reprisals in this way, they will feel a right to request reprisals after nearly any small act of provocation. So he goes back to his own recommendation that we wait on dependents until after the reprisal is ordered. Rusk, McNamara and I agree that we should go back to him with another proposal, but because [Page 54]we think this is a poor week to ask you for any major decisions, I suggest we send this one over Rusk’s name without committing you at this stage. Our suggestion is that we stick to the notion of immediate withdrawal of dependents, by proposing to him that he sound out the Prime Minister on this matter and authorizing Max to propose to Huong that the withdrawal be covered and explained by a Presidential statement here. The object of this statement would be to indicate our firmness and determination without explicitly discussing reprisals. The experts think it might well do the job, but we need to give Max a chance to comment.
The statement4 we suggest is as follows:
“I have asked Ambassador Taylor to arrange for the evacuation of the dependents of all official American civil and military personnel in South Vietnam. In taking this action I recognize the personal hardships that will be imposed on these loyal Government servants who are already working in trying circumstances. Nevertheless, I feel a personal responsibility for the safety of the wives and children involved and consider that in view of the ever-present danger of indiscriminate attacks, and the irresponsibility of the Communist terrorists, they must depart. We continue to seek peace in South Vietnam as in all Southeast Asia, but as long as the Communists persist in their efforts to take over the country there will be danger to Americans as, of course, there also are to the long-suffering Vietnamese people themselves. I also regard it as essential that American officials and military personnel in South Vietnam be relieved of every duty or responsibility unrelated to the effective execution of aid to the GVN and also that that Government not be asked to bear any burdens of support or protection which are not absolutely essential to its own safety. This evacuation therefore will begin at once and will, of course, be carried out in a manner to minimize hardship and difficulty for all those concerned.”
Max’s incoming also tries to tighten your commitment to Phase 2 operations. (Air attacks against North Vietnam that are not specifically reprisals.) We would propose to answer by saying that you would not be ready at this stage to go beyond the position stated in your last message, namely, that you are willing to have joint planning but must make it very clear that any decisions by the President on Phase 2 will “necessarily be affected by performance” in reprisal actions, in military efforts within Vietnam, and in the struggle for political stability.
If the truce of the tea party holds and this line of action seems reasonable to you, we would try to keep Vietnam quiet until after Wednesday.