340. Editorial Note

During a telephone conversation with President Johnson that began at 12:36 p.m. on December 12, 1966, Secretary McNamara informed the President that he was sending General Starbird to Vietnam to talk with General Westmoreland about plans to build a barrier. McNamara continued:

Westmoreland would like to do it, I think, but he wants additional forces to monitor it, so Starbirdʼs going to go out and talk to him and see what he thinks, and heʼll be back the end of this week or early next and Iʼll be able to give you a much better report at that time. Basically the military leaders, with the possible exception of Westmoreland and Wheeler, are opposed to it because philosophically they are opposed to static defense. And this of course is static defense, and they use the analogy of the Maginot Line and so on. There are some who are opposed to it because they think it might in some way or other reduce the arguments in favor of bombing of North Vietnam. But, Mr. President, when we donʼt have a winning plan for you, and we canʼt tell you how and when weʼre going to win, it seems to me we need to buy a little insurance, and thatʼs the way I look upon this, and I think we definitely should go ahead and take this preparatory step so that you later can have the option of putting it in, and basically thatʼs what Iʼve asked Starbird to try to work out with Westmoreland. I donʼt want to have us sit here in the position of ordering this to be done over the objection of all the military leaders. Weʼre trying to avoid that situation.”

The President then said “OK,” and the conversation ended. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation between Johnson and McNamara, Tape F6612.01, PNO 001)