155. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Luncheon Meeting with the President, Ball, McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Raborn, Moyers, and Califano2

Level of Forces in Vietnam

McNamara reviewed his memorandum of September 22, 1965, (attached)3 concerning the need to increase the level of forces in Vietnam. He said that the original estimate of 175,000 was now increased to 210,000. The proposed 35,000 increase did not involve any increase in combat troops; they were support troops, such as communications personnel and refugee relief units. McNamara requested an interim authorization to go to 195,000 men and indicated that he would be back to the President about November 15 with a request for the remaining 15,000 men. The President commented that it was a situation in which he had no choice but to approve the increase. McNamara confirmed the President’s comment and the President approved the increase to 195,000 men.

McNamara said that the public announcement of increased troops would be made from Saigon as the troops arrived there. While he admitted that this would encourage rumors, he said that this was important for the security of our men and in line with previously announced policies.

Tear Gas

Bundy noted that Secretary McNamara had authorized a one-time use of tear gas by General Westmoreland.4 He said that the question of the continuing use of tear gas was still up in the air, although the authority to use tear gas technically remained with the field commander, General Westmoreland. Ball said it would be desirable for Westmoreland to use tear gas before the end of the week because of the Red Cross conference next week in Geneva, which might make some statements opposing the use of tear gas. McNamara said that the use of tear gas must be handled carefully in the right operation and that he was opposed to pushing [Page 420] Westmoreland to use it within the next few days unless Westmoreland felt such action was desirable. Bundy said that the President might get a press query about tear gas if he held a press conference tomorrow. McNamara suggested that the President respond by stating (1) tear gas is a humane way to restore order under certain circumstances and (2) Westmoreland is authorized to use it in those circumstances. Bundy underscored the importance of using the words “tear gas” rather than “non-lethal agents” or “riot control agents”. Moyers said that we had been too defensive in our public handling of the tear gas situation, that we should remind the world that the Viet Cong slit throats and bomb children and that any human being in one of the Vietnam caves would prefer to cry from tear gas rather than be killed by hand grenades. Ball and Raborn agreed.

Rice Shipments

Bundy said Lodge had requested 100,000 tons of rice as fast as possible. Bundy proposed to make the rice available in four shipments of 25,000 tons each, rather than in a single shipment. The President approved this. McNamara said that no matter how we were shipping the rice, we were not sending enough rice to South Vietnam and that we should be sending three or four hundred thousand tons of rice. The President agreed and Bundy said he would make sure there was a continuing program for the purchase and shipment of rice to South Vietnam.

Possible Press Conference Statement

Bundy said he was inclined to the view that the President should make a statement at his press conference about the non-military elements of our Vietnam effort. Bundy said that only when the President makes such statements did they get any substantial coverage. He believed it was important to obtain such coverage in view of the world opinion and forthcoming student demonstrations. Bundy said he would submit a statement to the President for his consideration this afternoon.5

[Here follows discussion of the Dominican Republic, foreign visitors to Washington, India-Pakistan, foreign aid, and Cuba.]

[Page 421]

The Shipping Question

The meeting adjourned to the President’s office with McNamara, Ball, Moyers, Bundy and Califano.6 McNamara presented the proposed Rolling Thunder program.7 He also discussed the question of Hanoi’s hardening attitude. He noted that there was a National Intelligence Estimate indicating that Hanoi’s attitude was hardening, largely because we were not rough enough in our bombing.8 McNamara pointed out that the estimate was made without the benefit of advice from experts in the government such as Llewellyn Thompson, Maxwell Taylor, et al. He urged a special study of the problem of Hanoi’s hardening attitude and the reasons for it. Ball concurred and pointed out that it may well be that some aspects of the bombing program were responsible for Hanoi’s hardening attitude. The President approved the Rolling Thunder program proposed by McNamara as well as the recommended study by Taylor, Thompson, McNamara, Ball, Bundy, et al. on the reasons for Hanoi’s hardening attitude.

Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, President’s Appointment File, Sept. 29, 1965. Top Secret. Prepared by Califano.
  2. The meeting was held from 12:29 to 1:20 p.m. in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) An agenda for the meeting is ibid., Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. XV.
  3. Document 147.
  4. See Document 150.
  5. At 7:30 p.m. on September 29, McGeorge Bundy sent the President a statement that he entitled, “The Works of Peace in Vietnam.” Bundy stated that he had learned from Bill Moyers that a press conference was unlikely, but Bundy thought the President might be interested in reading the statement and might consider releasing it in conjunction with publicity for Dr. Howard Rusk’s mission to Vietnam. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. XV) The statement was not issued.
  6. This portion of the meeting took place in the Oval Office from 1:22 to 1:30 p.m. Despite the heading, this discussion had nothing to do with shipping 50 percent of U.S. wheat to Communist nations in U.S. carriers, which was the item on the agenda.
  7. Rolling Thunder 34/35 (Oct 1-Oct 14). (Memorandum from William Bundy to Rusk, September 28; Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 72 D 219, Rolling Thunder Memos, 1965)
  8. Apparently a reference to SNIE 10-11-65, Document 148.