284. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (McNaughton) to Secretary of Defense McNamara 1


  • McNaughton in Manila, October 23–25, 1966

Herein: Key items on (1) Manila Conference, (2) Westmorelandʼs thoughts, (3) Thai-related problems, and (4) more ROK troops:

Manila Conference. The Conference went well. I think we got what we wanted: Display of not-US-aloneness, of resolve, of beginnings of an awakening responsible Asia, and of concern for the miseries of the [Page 783] Asian billions. Not least, the Heads really got to know each other, we clarified some stands (for the world and for the enemy), and we tacked Saigon down to some useful propositions. (The Presidentʼs extemporaneous statement2 was particularly moving. He was tough and determined, saying, e.g., that he did not expect success on the economic or diplomatic front until we won the military front. But he also had a lot of “peace” and “Great Society” in it.) Most important Conference specifics—
  • Withdrawal within six months. This sentence (in para 28 [29] of the Communique, DOC/3 attached)3 had to be negotiated by the President himself. Iʼll tell you the tale later.
  • US commitments not expanded. It was a continual battle to keep language out of our own drafts either hooking us to enlarge our treaty commitments or adding preconditions to our withdrawal of forces from Vietnam. The issue arose in the first form in Part I of the Declaration (DOC/4 attached);4 and in the second form in the Communique, paras 3, 4, 27(1), 27(5) and 28 [29]. I would not allow “end of all terror” or “peace assured” language; in all cases but one, our position is protected by words such as “externally supported” or “aggression” (which implies “from without”). My failure was partial in para 28 [29] of the Communique. It resulted from the Presidentʼs having to negotiate the language himself. The offending language involved is “and the level of violence5 subsides.” We also succeeded in avoiding giving South Vietnam any bilateral post-war guarantees (para 27(6)) or promising to do more than to consult with our allies regarding settlement of the war (see paras 28 and 29 [and 30] of the Communique).
  • Message to the enemy. Among the messages to the enemy are (1) a display of resolve (statements of resolve, the fact and aura of the meeting, the attention paid to long-term concerns); (2) a reference to conversion of military installations (para 18 of Communique); (3) tabling of the six-point South Vietnamese “essential elements of peace” (para 27 of Communique); and, probably most important, (4) the public undertaking to have our forces out within six months of the time North Vietnam “turns herself off” (para 28 [29] of Communique).
  • Specific Vietnamese commitments. In the Communique you will find specific references to treatment of POWs (para 9); to allocation of forces to RD (para 11); to fighting corruption (para 14); to holding down inflation [Page 784] (para 16); to forward political steps (paras 21 and 22); to national reconciliation (paras 23 and 27(4)); to staying south of the 17th Parallel (paras 27(2) [29] and (3); and to withdrawal of US forces (paras 18, 27(5) and 28 [29]).
Westmorelandʼs thinking. Westy sought me out twice to give me his thinking on force levels, Rolling Thunder, the barrier and RD. His thoughts—
  • Force levels. He is thinking of an end-CY 67 strength of 480,000 filled out by end-CY 68 of 500,000. Barring surprises, he would plan to hold it there. He believes that this will be what the US can sustain over time without mobilization and without calling up reserves and what the Vietnamese economy can bear. (In this latter connection, he said he could not live within P42 billion; but in further conversation he said he meant that he could not “plan” on that basis—that “reasonable” (conservative?) assumptions led him to P46 billion, but that as he moved along he might end up using no more than P42 billion.) He said the 480–500,000 men would be enough even if infiltration goes on at a high level—at one point he said that “we have great mobility and fire power” and that “there is only so much geography” (but at another he said, “I canʼt say now whether I will have enough troops to take on the Delta”). He said with respect to air power that he wants more B–52 strikes, but that, when he gets the presently programmed TAC air capability, he will need no more TAC air. He wondered if he got across to you his need also for a “Corps contingency force” to back him up in case of emergency. “It could be located in Hawaii, Okinawa or CONUS, and could be part of the rotational base.” His strategy is to create and maintain “a balanced, powerful force that we can sustain indefinitely.” He believes (perhaps as a result of my, or your, suggestion) that such a posture will be of critical importance in convincing the North of our resolve.
  • Rolling Thunder . He says he “shudders” at the thought of our stopping bombing the North. He called RT our “only trump card—our only pressure on the North.” He said that it has slowed down the movement of supplies, has been costly to the North, and has diverted enemy manpower. He favors reducing the restrictions on the program (“more flexibility”), noting that “you are asking for a very bad political reaction.” He was referring to the large aircraft losses when our aircraft are after “low-value targets.” (He mentioned the “most hostile environment weʼve ever operated in—AAA at low level, SAM at medium level, and MIG at high level.”) His recommended targets: The missile assembly area, the motor (truck) maintenance facility, the MIG bases, the Haiphong docks, the 12 thermal power plants (“which would cripple their war-making potential”), and the steel plant (“where we think they are making POL drums”). I did not, for obvious reasons, press Westy hard on this. But I did say that whenever I write a paper in support of RT strikes I have [Page 785] trouble developing the reasoning clear through, connecting recommendations with payoff. I noted that CIA says that, even with enlarged strikes, the enemy could supply several times the amount of materiel required to support a much-increased level of combat in the South. I asked how, for example, hitting the power plants would end up in fact helping him in the South. He said, “Iʼm not responsible for the bombing program. Admiral Sharp is. So I havenʼt spent much time on it. But I asked a couple of my best officers to look into it, and they came up with the recommendations I gave you.” At another point he reported that the President had asked him his views in front of Ky and Thieu, and that he had given them; that Walt Rostow had asked him to put them down in a memo for the President and that he was doing that.6 It turns out that he favors some targets because they are directly related to air defense, some because he relates them to infiltration, and all of them because of their “shock” and “bargaining” effect. He said that, in any event, we should not shut off bombing in the “extended battle area” up to Vinh. He said the North will merely use a pause to improve their air defenses and air fields (“I would”).
  • The barrier. Westy seems to be fighting the barrier less (although he obviously fears that it is designed mainly to justify stopping RT, at which he “shudders,” as reported above). He seemed reconciled to an air-delivered area-denial system at the west end. He did comment that you may have too much time pressure on the Starbird program—“it may cause us to make some bad mistakes.” His only specifics, though, related to the need in Vietnam to evacuate people, to condemn real estate, etc., “all of which takes time.” He mentioned, in connection with the barrier, the possibility of using a Nike battalion in a surface-to-surface all-weather function. He said the conventional warhead, if authorized, could be ready in six months, but he had not done a cost-effectiveness study of the idea.
  • Revolutionary development. He plans for 75% of ARVN and perhaps 25% of US to be devoted to RD. What the mix will be as between ARVN and US, he cannot now say—in some cases, US might comprise 90% of the forces, in another case it might be the other way around. He thinks the new arrangement should be in operation by July 1, 1967.

    [Here follows a paragraph on Thailand.]

  • Korean troops. Ambassador Brown advised against bumping Park now for more troops for Vietnam. So far as I know, the President did not do so. But (1) the Presidentʼs off-the-cuff remarks on Monday hit hard at the “weʼre all going to have to get in there and do more” theme. The theme was so strong that word had to go out to all hands afterward to deny that the President had put the bite on the other six for more troops. [Page 786] And (2) Park was the one who asked Westy in the Monday session whether more troops would be needed. Westy said yes.

John T. McNaughton 7
  1. Source: Johnson Library, Warnke Papers, McNaughton Files, VNS 2, Vietnam 66–68. Secret; Eyes Only. Copies were sent to Vance, Hoopes, and Steadman.
  2. For Moyersʼ notes of the Presidentʼs extemporaneous statement, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, Book II, pp. 1256–1259.
  3. Attached but not printed. Paragraph 28 in the attachment was divided into two paragraphs, 28 and 29, in the final text printed ibid., pp. 1259–1265. The sentence in question appears in paragraph 29 in the printed text.
  4. Not attached; printed ibid., p. 1259.
  5. McNaughton added here in hand the word “thus,” which appears in the final text.
  6. Attachment to Document 282.
  7. Printed from a copy that indicates McNaughton signed the original.