104. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Special Consultant (Taylor) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

As you know, on March 17 General Westmoreland cabled an urgent recommendation2 to increase at once the air effort against targets in North Viet-Nam and Laos in order to limit the accelerated influx of war materiel into South Viet-Nam in anticipation of the monsoon rains beginning [Page 305] in May. His cable is causing a comprehensive review of the past effectiveness of our air campaign and a consideration of possible changes in future target systems and levels of attack.3

I presume that recommendations on this subject will soon reach you—indeed, a reply to General Westmoreland, in view of his sense of urgency of the situation, is now overdue. My own conclusion is that the time has now come to raise significantly the level of pressure on North Viet-Nam by attacking POL stocks, interdicting effectively the two railways linking Hanoi with China and mining Haiphong and the two secondary ports in the area. In the eyes of the Hanoi leaders, the ground war in South Viet-Nam must now appear to be going rather badly and it is important that they receive an equally discouraging impression from the air war. Not until they get a gloomy composite from both is there much hope of bringing them to negotiations. The risks involved in this course of action appear to me to be acceptable and, in my judgment, should be undertaken in view of the probable advantages accruing from a significant increase of pressures on the will of the leaders in North Viet-Nam.

Whatever the decision, I feel that General Westmoreland should have an early answer to his pending request.4

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, vol. XLIX. Secret. Komer forwarded the memorandum to the President at 6:15 p.m. on March 29. (Ibid., Memos to the President—Robert Komer, vol. 21)
  2. Summarized in Document 98.
  3. On April 2 the Joint Staff prepared a 5-page status report on Westmorelandʼs recommendations. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, McNamara Vietnam Files: FRC 77–0075, Vietnam, 1966)
  4. Wheeler provided Westmoreland with a status report on his request in a front channel message, JCS 7643, April 4. (Ibid.) Goodpaster advised Westmoreland in a back channel message, JCS 1759–66, April 4, that Wheelerʼs telegram would not “add much” to what Westmoreland already knew but was being sent at the Presidentʼs request so that Westmoreland would know his request was getting “high-level attention.” (Johnson Library, Westmoreland Papers, COMUSMACV Message Files) The President advised Taylor of Wheelerʼs message in an April 5 letter; Johnson also indicated that he was “seriously considering” Taylorʼs recommendations. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Box 260, Gen. Taylor)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.