112. Notes of Meeting1
- President, Vice President, Rusk, McNamara, Rostow, General Taylor, Bill Bundy, Justice Fortas, J. Valenti
President said Westmoreland thinks [there is] “prospect of success in Danang.” Said he didnʼt think so. McNamara and Rusk agree with President.
President thinks it important to keep our troop and equipment out of riot area. We donʼt want to become involved.
President approved telegram (first one)2 on what posture our Vietnam people should take—hands off.
President wonders about (second telegram)3 on political situation. Says appeasement never wins. Worried about a constitutional assembly—rather have someone we can control rather than a communist takeover at the Assembly.
Rostow: Government has not been credible.
President: Why and how?
Rostow: Ky was going to call a group to draft a constitution—and hasnʼt done so.
President: What are problems in calling it?
Rostow: Not getting agreement on total list.
Bundy: Working on a list since January.
When I was in Saigon four weeks after Honolulu, difficulty in getting groups organized to take part. Now we urge something to get the government off dead center.
Vice President: Who is in touch with Thi?
Bundy: No one, really.
What about Cochran, Consul General at Danang?[Page 324]
President gave approval for second telegram to go out (Now he looked at third telegram on alternative governments).4
General Taylor: Worried about Thi. Tri Quang is back of him and we cannot take a Tri Quang government. He will tear down everything.
(President said to insert this caveat in the telegram.)
Rusk: Alternatives are less desirable than what we have now, so we are trying to save what we have.
President: Need to do more planning on how to pick a man before he takes over so we wonʼt have to get out when the wrong man gets in.
Time has come when the alternative is to get out—or do what we need to do to get the government shored up—move in with power and stay there.
Vice President wanted to know more about Thi. Taylor says he is flamboyant, rash, and an associate of Tri Quang—but a brave commander—troops like him.
Vice President: Thi is pleasant, Buddhist and clever. Ky is jealous of Thi. Some of our Mission people think Thi is able. Sam Wilson thinks he is competent.
President: Isnʼt he out of our hands now?
Vice President: I donʼt know. But we ought not let him get out of our hands. We need to know more about the Buddhists.
President: We need a Garcia-Godoy type—with an advisor by his side.
McNamara: We need a Bunker in Vietnam.
President: Donʼt rely on polls on D.R. (Dominican Republic). Theyʼre not very accurate 60 days from now. Keep Camano in London. Donʼt let him out. Camano could win. Keep that poll going. Know every week what is happening. Donʼt lose an hourʼs contact.
The way I see it, Ky is gone, the last gasp. Doubt he can pull it off. When he goes, thereʼll be hell in this country. Letʼs get a government we can appoint and support. We need a tough advisor.
President: What do we tell the world?
General Taylor: We can minimize our losses if Ky goes and the Directory stays. We have to take sides this time.[Page 325]
President: Thought Ky made bad judgment in saying the Mayor of Danang ought to be shot.5 Any other bad judgment we know about?
Taylor: The Hitler statement6—but I thought he had matured.
- Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File. No classification marking. Valenti took the notes. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room. The President returned to the Oval Office from the Cabinet Room at 8:42 p.m. (Ibid., Presidentʼs Daily Diary)↩
- Telegram 2965 to Lodge and Westmoreland, transmitted at 9:03 p.m. on April 4, stated that “US forces should not be used in any way within Da Nang or Hue or against dissident GVN forces.” Nor should any endorsement be given to the GVN claim that the Struggle Movement was “Communist-dominated,” a claim “contrary to any evidence we have.” (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, NODIS, vol. 3)↩
- Not found.↩
- Telegram 2966 to Saigon, transmitted at 9:05 p.m. on April 4, discussed “Possible Alternative Governments,” stating that “if worst comes to worst, our first choice would be the one you suggest, keeping the Directory united and bringing in someone else to replace Ky,” with “Chieu at top of tentative list for this purpose.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, NODIS, vol. 3)↩
- While speaking at a news conference in Saigon on April 3, Ky threatened to shoot the Mayor of Danang, Dr. Nguyen Van Man. (New York Times April 4, 1966)↩
- Not further identified.↩