292. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam 1

2557. Strictly eyes only for Ambassador from Secretary. Deptel 2553; Embtel 3731.2 Congratulations on your excellent presentation as well as your analysis of factors affecting proposal.

[Page 636]

We have decided here to go ahead commencing on Thursday3 for period of approximately 5–7 days. Orders through military channels will place stand-down on basis “in order to observe reaction of DRV rail and road transportation systems” and will order increase in photo recce of DRV and bombing within SVN.4 You should tell Westmoreland true basis for his personal use only so that you and he and Alex Johnson remain the only three Americans in Saigon aboard. We have informed Dobrynin tonight and are instructing Kohler to convey message to Hanoi through DRV Ambassador in Moscow. I will also be telling British and Canadian Foreign Ministers personally tomorrow and we will convey message to Menzies through Embassy here. However, each of these being informed only at highest levels and their Saigon representatives will not be witting.

You should take following actions:

Inform Quat we are going ahead. You should not specify period but let us know if he raises question or still insists on as short a period as 4–5 days. Tell him we will definitely refrain at all times from associating action with Buddha’s birthday and that our initial plan will be to refer all press queries to Washington and to hold as long as possible simply to operational factors as explanation. You should raise with him question of what he will tell generals urging in strongest terms that he tell them only what we are saying through military channel and preferably delay even this until question arises. If Quat raises question of what we are saying to Communist side, you will have copies tonight’s talk with Dobrynin and instructions to Kohler by septels5 and may draw generally on these for his personal use only.6
To deal with any possibility adverse Catholic reaction you should inform Archbishop and/or Nuncio very privately that any variation in actions in forthcoming period will be USG decisions not related in any way to Buddha’s birthday or any appeal or issue connected with it. You may of course also reiterate that any such variations have no effect whatever on our determination as clearly shown in recent months. We leave timing this approach to you but believe it should be done earliest before any speculation arises.7
At appropriate time you should instruct Zorthian to report simply that no operations other than reconnaissance were conducted on each day and to refer press queries, preferably by indirection, to Washington.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 Viet S. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by William Bundy, cleared by McGeorge Bundy, and approved by the Secretary.
  2. Documents 288 and 289.
  3. May 13.
  4. Orders to this effect were conveyed from Secretary McNamara to Ambassador Taylor and Admiral Sharp in telegram DEF 1900 to Saigon and CINCPAC, May 11. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  5. Documents 293 and 294.
  6. In telegram 3737 from Saigon, May 11, Taylor reported that he had called on Quat to convey this information. Quat agreed with the plan as outlined, without any specific reference to the duration of the pause, but Taylor felt that Quat and his colleagues would become uneasy if it extended beyond 5 days. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  7. Taylor responded that he and Johnson felt that it was unnecessary to approach Archbishop Binh or the Nuncio at that time. (Ibid.)