173. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Rusk, in Kyoto, Japan1

1773. Tosec 169. To Secretary from Acting Secretary. Bob McNamara and Walt Rostow are going to the Ranch tomorrow2 and I am proposing to send through them the following memorandum to the President.

“Bob McNamara, Walt Rostow, Tommy Thompson, Alex Johnson and I have discussed further the Italian-Polish approach on Viet-Nam and concur in recommending for your approval the following line of action:

Tell the Italian Ambassador here that:3
We are very appreciative of his governmentʼs role and are interested in the approach, but there are obviously aspects that require clarification.
In view of the Polish representativeʼs statement that he would be willing to meet any place to follow up on the matter, we suggest that Ambassador DʼOrlandi, in Saigon, seek discreetly to arrange a meeting between himself, the Pole and Ambassador Lodge. At that meeting Ambassador Lodge would seek the necessary clarifications directly from the Pole.
Instruct Ambassador Lodge at such a meeting to:4
State that the United States shares the desire for an over-all political settlement.
Inquire when, where, and with what parties Hanoi contemplates that negotiations would take place.
Inquire what if any action Hanoi on its part would propose to take or not to take during the period of suspension of bombing. (This is of course an implied reference to infiltration.)
Inquire whether Hanoi believes it realistic to keep negotiations secret if the United States suspends bombing with the inevitable speculation this would entail.
We would await outcome of foregoing action before making any XYZ approach. If these actions led nowhere or disclosed that initiative of the Pole was not well founded, we would seek to confirm this fact through XYZ. In other words, we would inform Hanoi, through XYZ, of the supposed approach and ask for their confirmation or denial.

This course of action has the advantages of:

Keeping the Italians in the act for the time being and, if nothing comes of it, satisfying them that it was through no fault of our own. At the same time we would avoid too great a dependence on communications by the tortuous channel of the Italian Ambassador in Saigon to Rome to the Italian Ambassador here.
Directly engaging Ambassador Lodge in a matter with which he is already fully familiar and for which he has expressed some enthusiasm.
Keeping the XYZ channel in reserve either to confirm a negative result or to follow up on a positive result from the Polish channel.

If anything positive comes from Lodgeʼs talk with the Pole we will have to decide whether or not to cut out the Italians. We will also have to face the hard decision as to what role we will give the NLF and how we can make that palatable to the GVN, what performance and degree of verification on cessation of infiltration we will require to suspend bombing, how we can best maintain our freedom to resume bombing if negotiations are unsuccessful, et cetera.

We feel that, if Lodge does meet with the Pole, it will be desirable that he say something of a general nature to Ky in order to anticipate the inevitable rumors in Saigon.5 However, I think that this is manageable with Ky, who will at this point probably see in it the signs of a change of heart by Hanoi.”

If you have any comments or suggestions I would like very much to have them before 10:00 a.m. Washington time Wednesday.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by U. Alexis Johnson and Ball and approved by Ball. From July 4 to July 7 Rusk attended meetings of the U.S.-Japan Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs in Kyoto and Tokyo. Rusk approved the course of action proposed in this telegram in telegram Secto 113 to Katzenbach, July 6. In telegram 2673 to Tokyo, July 7, Ball informed Rusk that the President had approved the script and added that it was felt that, carefully nurtured, the approach might develop into something. Neither telegram has been found; telegram 2673 is printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, p. 243, and both telegrams are summarized in the Marigold Chronology prepared by the Department of State in 1967. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Box 147, Marigold Chronology)
  2. Rostow, Harriman, Unger, and Goodpaster flew to the LBJ Ranch on the morning of July 6 to meet with the President, and departed about 1:30 p.m. for Los Angeles to brief the Governors Conference on Vietnam. McNamara arrived later that afternoon and departed the next morning. No record of the discussions at the Ranch has been found. (Johnson Library, Presidentʼs Daily Diary)
  3. A memorandum of Ball and U. Alexis Johnsonʼs conversation with Fenoaltea on July 7 is in Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD.
  4. These instructions were transmitted to Lodge in telegram 2626 to Saigon, July 7. In telegram 604 from Saigon, July 9, Lodge reported that he had “stated the four points in your 2626” to Lewandowski at a meeting on July 9 and that Lewandowski had responded that he would seek to get answers “as soon as possible.” Telegram 604 is ibid. and both telegrams are printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 244–245.
  5. Lodge reported in telegram 642 from Saigon, July 10, that he made an oblique reference to Marigold as he was leaving a meeting with Ky, to which Ky responded “that he was sure that North Vietnam could not stand much more of what they were getting.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD; printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 247–248)
  6. July 6.