103. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk1

[Here follows discussion of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.]

LBJ: Now in this Westmoreland wire.2 I just feel like we just havenʼt done enough to prevent losing that government out there yet. I donʼt know what else we can do, but I just—itʼs gonna be so much more difficult to rebuild a government than it is to hold the one weʼve got. If we could do it, I thought that maybe in view of the fact that Lodge concurred in Westmorelandʼs wire, that we might say to Lodge, “This is excellent. Weʼre glad to see that youʼre getting Westmoreland to do that and we [Page 304] hope that you will say substantially the same thing to every Buddhist element there.” Really put up to ʼem high handed because we canʼt take this back home. If anybody ever knows beside you and me that Westmoreland says “abuse of United States military presence in northern reaches of the Republic is inconsistent with the spirit of solidarity that unites our forces” and “such abuse not only degrades troop morale but places me in a difficult and embarrassing situation in attempting to explain it,” and the “unjustified abuse to United States policy reflected in a succession of radio broadcasts, with display of English language signs intended to provoke US military personnel, the same personnel whose sacrifice of life and limb has played an important role”—if our people got the idea that the Vietnamese are insulting our men—Marines up in that northern area that are dying for ʼem—why theyʼll jump ahead of Bill Fulbright and Morse and tell us to get the hell out of there, and Lodge better let these damn Buddhists know that and straighten it out damn quick or we better make our plans accordingly.

DR: Iʼve got Alex Johnson in the next room. Let me go over this telegram with him and see what we can say to Lodge on it.3

LBJ: All right.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation between Johnson and Rusk, Tape F66.13, Side A, PNO 3. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared by the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.
  2. Westmorelandʼs telegram, forwarded to President Johnson by Arthur McCafferty on March 28, contained the text of a letter Westmoreland sent to General Vien the same day. The letter sought Vienʼs assurance that appropriate steps would be taken to halt the “abuse of United States military presence” in Hue carried on through radio broadcasts and signs “obviously intended to provoke” U.S. troops. (Text of retyped telegram from Westmoreland, March 28; ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, vol. XLIX)
  3. See Document 107.