14. Notes of Meeting1


  • President Johnson, Rusk, McNamara, Bundy, Taylor, Helms, Ball, Wheeler, Moyers, Valenti


  • Peace Offensive, discussions with Congressional leadership, next steps, diplomatic and military

Rusk: Will brief Congressional leadership. Need to work out some procedures in conjunction with peace. Some hardening of Soviet position since Chicom attacks on them.

President: Have 25 men who advise on foreign policy. Lippmann, Alsop, etc. All these fellows will be speaking their judgment.

A minority will recommend their own too.

535 members have to give their report. Hardest thing is to say: “I donʼt [know] anything.”

Ought to give serious thought not to getting the leaders down here but have the men around this table to appear at as many hearings as possible—and give them something to have to chew on before their mind hardens. To lay our case before them.

We have asked each person who has come back to town (Congressmen). Of the 104 who have been queried, only 8 or 9 have problems economically. What most interests him is Viet Nam; 80 feel we ought to follow current course, 10% want out, 10% want to go on.

Rivers wants us to go on with bombing. Morse wants us to get out. and youʼll have this dichotomy. Think Russell will be less likely to comment on his opinions after Rusk testifies.

People will be upset and AP and UPI will provoke them.

Sat down with Dirksen and Mansfield—and if we can get our story over to appropriate committees, it would be better.

McNamara: Supposed to start the 19th.

President: I guess thatʼs all right. They will start talking the Mansfield report2 on Friday 14th.

[Page 38]

What better way do we have to tell our story except through the Secretaries and the Committees?

Rusk: Perhaps give a luncheon for official leadership of two Houses—and talk with them.

President: That is excellent:

  • Speaker
  • Boggs
  • Long
  • Ford
  • Dirksen
  • Kuchel
  • Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Appropriations
  • Mansfield
  • Albert
  • Russell
  • Fulbright
  • Hayden
  • Rivers
  • Morgan
  • Mahon

Now what about our military and diplomatic situation? When do we announce Harrimanʼs visit to Viet Nam?

Bundy: Weʼd rather have VN Government announce this.

President: Iʼd like to get it out today.

Bundy: If we go out there right now, it will be out here this evening.

President: Should we say anything about a proposal in VN in our Soviet message?

Rusk: No, unless we get something concrete today from Goldberg.

President: Can we summarize where we are now?

Rusk: Good deal of activity on the other side. Some statements are aimed at each other as well as us. Some Soviet statements have been aimed at Peiping. Donʼt have clear answer to what weʼve been doing. Donʼt think we are going to get a clear cut answer—probably some complicated answer. 5–10% chance weʼll get something less than a harsh rejection.

Will take a few days to get anything. Shelepin will wind up by Wednesday3 I believe. Leave SOTU4 for revision pretty close to actual delivery in case of Hanoi and Shelepin developments. About 3:00 p.m. will be satisfactory.

Bundy: You can announce Harriman this afternoon—if you choose.

President: Good.

Rusk: We have word of 600–700 suspects picked up by Koreans—how many are actually guilty?

Wheeler: About 10–15% turn out to be VC or sympathizers. Vietnamese and village chiefs do the interrogating.

[Page 39]

President: What do you think about VN, General Taylor?

Taylor: Extension of bombing pause after Christmas was good—if only to show Government sincerity. But now value is wearing off—danger of extending it—and get trapped into premature negotiations. We need to get word of caution out—2 years of negotiating in Korea. Being successful in getting a conference might be a failure.

President: Why canʼt we get on with bombing after Shelepin leaves?

Rusk: Serious political disadvantages if we break the Christmas through Tet pause. If we start bombing again, we would have to start all over again. There is no political advantage. There may be military advantage to bombing again.

McNamara: Donʼt think there is a military disadvantage in starting up 3 or 4 days earlier. We are ready to bomb again within 12 hours. We are running all sorties over Laos instead of NVN. Weather.

President: Reconnaissance show anything alarming?

McNamara: Renewing daytime operations—building bridges. Even during bombing they were building up infiltration.

Wheeler: Disagree, Bob. Every day makes a difference. We know both arms of railroad are operational. Assume getting full benefit of supplies. Full scale daylight operations are going on. Every day increases their capability in the South. Chiefs conclude we should make policy decision to resume air operations against Hanoi as soon as Shelepin leaves. They are improving anti-aircraft defenses.

Rusk: We have to keep this on a day-to-day basis. Keep looking.

Bundy: Real problem is we decide on interval basis to bomb again. We need to put out the Wheeler info before we bomb again. While it was right to get the pause going, we need now to be saying all these things to clear the way for bombing resumption. As you pointed out, we have done enough to satisfy the world, but no matter when we start someone will say we should have waited one week longer. At least 30% of our accredited nations will protest bombing resumption.

Taylor: We have 3 blue chips—bombing—large number of troops—withdrawal.

Under what circumstances do we continue cessation of bombing—which means no way of pushing pressure on the other way. No way of proving cease-fire violations.

Wheeler: We simply cannot prove that NVN are there—until we absolutely capture them.

Taylor: We could adjust our bombing to the ratio of incidents.

President: Whatʼs the net of your testimony to the Congress, Dean?

[Page 40]

Rusk: On VN, run over the summary of diplomatic negotiations. Key question is how much we tell them in so far as sensitive info is concerned. Problems posed by Lynd.5

Pres: I would answer “No good purpose to be served by going into details. Lynd is uninformed man.”

Ball: We have avoided official confirmation of any direct contact in VN.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File. No classification marking. Valenti took the notes.
  2. Presumably a reference to a report made by Mansfield and Aiken on a trip that they and three other Senators took to Vietnam in December 1965. Mansfield and Aiken reported to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in excutive session on January 11. For text, see Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Historical Series), vol. XVIII, pp. 3–38. Mansfield sent the President a written report, “Vietnam: The Situation and Outlook,” December 17, 1965. (Johnson Library, Confidential File, MC/CO) A modified public version, “The Viet Nam Conflict: The Substance and the Shadow,” was published as a committee print by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January 1966.
  3. January 12.
  4. State of the Union message.
  5. Telegram 1947 to Saigon, January 9, reported: “New York Times today carried Moscow story of Lynd interview in which Lynd claims that he and others asked Pham Van Dong whether USG had approached DRV through Ambassadors or directly since Dec. 20. Pham Van Dong is quoted as answering in categorical negative.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S) Staughton Lynd elaborated on his interview with Pham Van Dong in a debriefing by James Leonard of INR on January 11. (Memorandum of conversation, January 13; ibid.)