82. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Viet-Nam


  • Ambassador Dobrynin, USSR
  • Ambassador Thompson

I told the Ambassador that I had asked him to come by my house in order that I might discuss with him the events that had taken place in Viet-Nam over the week-end. As he knew, a sneak attack had been made on American personnel in an American compound and at an airfield as well as other attacks in South Viet-Nam. I told him that a destroyer patrol in the Gulf of Tonkin had been scheduled but that we had cancelled it when we had learned of Mr. Kosygin’s visit to Hanoi in order not to embarrass him or cause any misunderstanding. I said we had also asked the South Vietnamese to suspend some actions which might have been misinterpreted. As he knew, the President had sent McGeorge Bundy to Saigon and the other side had made this attack on our personnel which had killed seven and wounded a very large number. These were not the first attacks of this kind, but in the circumstances in which these took place, and by their nature, we believe that our failure to act would have [Page 173] been misunderstood. We believed in fact that this was a deliberate attempt on the part of Hanoi to, as we would put it, “mouse trap” Mr. Kosygin. We believed they thought their action would enable Hanoi and Peiping to say that they had demonstrated that the United States was a paper tiger.

I said that as he knew, the President had suggested an exchange of visits with the Soviet leaders in order to try to resolve our problems. The President was very sincere in this and our policy with respect to Southeast Asia remained as it had been, namely, that if the North Vietnamese aggression in this area was ended and if North Viet-Nam would respect the integrity of its neighbors, we would be delighted to withdraw our forces from that area.

Ambassador Dobrynin asked if I had been authorized by the President to make these remarks and I replied that I was acting under his instructions.

Dobrynin asked whether the President would be making a statement to the nation or holding a press conference about the matter and I said that a report on what had happened would be made by the Pentagon, but I did not think that the President intended to hold a special press conference.

Dobrynin said that he would, of course, inform his government of my remarks. He said that our action in hitting another state was different from a guerrilla action and he thought that his government would consider our action as a deliberate provocation. I pointed out that it was not we that had taken the first action and on the contrary we had taken steps to avoid this development. All we are asking is for the carrying out of the Geneva Accords.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Drafted, approved, and initialed by Thompson.
  2. On February 9 Dobrynin, on instructions from his government, made a formal oral reply to Thompson regarding the U.S. reprisals against North Vietnam. The Soviet Government refused to accept U.S. justifications for the bombing. Thompson’s memorandum of their conversation, in which he quotes Dobrynin’s oral statement, is ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163, 1965. The memorandum of conversation is scheduled for publication in volume XIV.