345. Telegram From the Embassy in Poland to the Department of State1

1508. Ref: Warsaw 1506.2

To save time of transmission after 1400 Dec. 19 meeting with Rapacki, following is advance text of my oral presentation to Rapacki (as derived from Stateʼs 102960,3 103342,4 103586,5 and 83786).6 Any variations [Page 953] or interspersed comments by Rapacki will be included with report of meeting.
“I would like to begin with a brief recapitulation of recent events. Before Lewandowski went to Hanoi we had discussed with him quite fully and frankly our position with regard to undertaking of negotiations, bombing suspension and other types of de-escalation, terms of settlement, and related matters. After his return from Hanoi, Lewandowski outlined to us on Dec. 1 what he said he had conveyed to Hanoi as the U.S. position. Amb. Lodge confirmed to him that this statement, despite the general language in which it was couched, represented our position, subject of course to interpretation which, to use your own terms, meant merely hammering out greater precision in negotiations. Following this, Lewandowski proposed, and we agreed, to meet with North Vietnamese representatives in Warsaw, something which it was strongly implied the North Vietnamese were prepared to do.
Before, during and after all this was taking place, the conflict in Viet-Nam continued, including the bombing of NVN, the infiltration of NV men and supplies into SVN, Viet Cong terrorist bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and so on. In the conversations in Saigon leading up to the proposal to meet in Warsaw, nothing was said to relate this continuing waging of the war to efforts to get underway talks to work out a peaceful settlement. Those talks, of course, were expressly intended to bring the fighting, bombing and terrorist activities to an end. It was precisely for this reason that we had been at such pains to elaborate a possible procedure, the package proposal with Phases A and B, to facilitate the arranging of a process of de-escalation as soon as possible after we and the NVN began to talk.
In any case, in a desire to promote a peaceful settlement, we responded quickly to Lewandowskiʼs suggestion, on Dec. 3, and were ready to talk in Warsaw.
As soon as we began to talk with the Polish Govt in Warsaw, pre-sumably preparatory to our meeting directly with the NVN representatives, we found that new terms and conditions seemed to be put forward, with the opening of direct talks contingent on our fulfilling them. It was stated that we had escalated our bombing during these most recent conversations, in contrast to a de-escalation which the Poles through the NVN had detected and favorably noted during Lewandowskiʼs last visit to Hanoi.
Regarding your recent comments on intensification of bombing of NVN, we wish to remind you once more that there has been no such escalation, or de-escalation; that there are variations that result from weather conditions and other technical factors; and that continued Polish references to the bombing have introduced a new issue which was [Page 954] not involved in the arrangements leading up to the opening of discussions in Warsaw.
There has been neither escalation on our part, allegedly to put pressure on Hanoi, nor has there been any de-escalation in NVNʼs infiltration and terrorist activities in the South. In fact, if there has been a change in the South it has been an increase in mortaring of not only military but also civilian targets and in assassinations, including that of an important individual. The bombing of NVN has proceeded on essentially the same pattern as before with no significant changes in intensity, proximity to Hanoi or type of targets. All targets are military and a good number of those struck recently had also been struck before; as long ago as last June a target closer to Hanoi than any of the current ones was struck. Great care has been and is being exercised to avoid civilian casualties. No raid has taken place on “a residential area in Hanoi.” Absolutely no target within Hanoi city limits was bombed. The nearest target was more than two miles from city limits and more than five miles from the point where it is claimed damage was done. We have inspected with the greatest care all our reports of the pertinent bombing missions and find no evidence to support your charges.
The latest strikes near Hanoi were Yen Vien railroad yard and Van Dien vehicle depot, which are five nautical miles northeast and south of Hanoi respectively, and well outside of Hanoi city limits. Both of these targets were struck on Dec. 13 and 14 but this was not the first time in either case. The Van Dien vehicle depot is a major military transportation center for operation, storage and support of trucks and other vehicles used for movement of men and materiel to the war in SVN. The Yen Vien railroad yard is the largest railroad classification yard in NVN. It controls all of the countryʼs rail traffic north of Hanoi and so represents a vital transportation link for all military equipment and supplies coming into NVN from this direction. This important yard services over a third of the nationʼs military cargo handling capacity. Our effort against both targets is part of our continuing program to strike against major facilities that support Hanoiʼs war against SVN. These strikes represent no departure from policy. The types of targets are in categories struck previously and this targeting constitutes no change in purpose or procedures. The Hanoi oil facility struck last June is closer to Hanoi than either of these two targets.
I want to comment specifically on the allegation that our aircraft bombed a built-up area of Hanoi at the west end of the Red River Bridge and the suburb of Dhatram to the southwest. Nothing received in detailed follow-up reports has substantiated this; this area of the alleged attack is nowhere near the areas targeted for attack. It is important to note that there was heavy surface-to-air missile, anti-aircraft and MIG activity and that our aircraft took action against these missile sites. Missiles were fired [Page 955] at our aircraft; an objective observer should not overlook the possibility that stray missiles or anti-aircraft shells could have caused the damage cited.
Careful review of specifics, as well as the general pattern of our bombing attacks against NVN over the past several months, brings out the following points which must be quite clear to Hanoi:
U.S. bombing is directed against military and military-related targets, with an obvious effort to avoid civilian population centers, large and small. This, I might add, is in stark contrast to Viet Cong activities in SVN, which expressly include terrorism against civilian population as part of their tactics to gain control.
U.S. attacks against NVN have consisted entirely of tactical, precision bombing against military and military-related targets, avoiding (except on a few occasions against infiltration routes at the NVN frontier which is away from settled areas) “carpet bombing” technique such as was used in World War II. This clearly shows that our intention is not to bring the Hanoi regime to its knees, but rather to direct attacks solely at destroying Hanoiʼs capability and willingness to support and supply the Viet Cong effort in the South.
There is no basis for charging U.S. with escalation of the conflict over the past few days, either in geographic terms or as to types of targets. Hanoiʼs oil facility three nautical miles from the center of Hanoi was struck on June 29, and oil facilities on the edge of Haiphong were struck on June 29, July 7, and August 2. The two targets of Dec. 14 are both five nautical miles from Hanoiʼs center and both had been struck earlier.
U.S. aircraft have attacked a number of targets close to Hanoi and Haiphong (ranging from 33 to 3 nautical miles away from the center of Hanoi) since early July and even before. These targets have been struck repeatedly, at least since early July. U.S. aircraft have not at any time struck cities themselves or civilian populated areas.
The Hanoi-Haiphong area is heavily defended by surface-to-air missiles and regular anti-aircraft defenses, reflecting the concentration of military and military-related installations. Our aircraft are authorized to strike these installations in self-defense and have frequently been required to do so since early July and even before.
It must be as clear to the NVN as to us that weather factors affect our pattern of air activity, and that this pattern in December and late November could not reasonably be interpreted by Hanoi as escalation or conscious effort to exert pressure on the NVN authorities. In comparable periods of good weather, such as Nov. 22 and 23, Dec. 2, 3, 4 and 5, and Dec. 13–14, essentially the same type of targets were struck and the same intensity of air activity in and around Hanoi took place as has frequently been the case during the last six months, and the same general areas of NVN were affected.
When you referred on Tuesday, Dec. 13, to complications having arisen, these have been introduced by the Polish side which has in Warsaw changed the basis of our discussions from what had been worked out with Lewandowski. This applies not only to the question of escalation and de-escalation of military activity but also to the exaggerated importance attached to Amb. Lodgeʼs perfectly natural statement about interpretation and also to the observations about statements of American officials—the Navy spokesman and Secy Rusk.7 If the Polish Govt is concerned about public statements, it should review the monotonous consistency with which Hanoi has publicly declared its total unwillingness to take even the first minor steps toward opening up explorations for possible peaceful settlement.
We have been waiting now in Warsaw for almost two weeks to get started on discussions, and your govt must bear the responsibility for the fact that these have yet to get underway. You well know that one important subject for such discussions would be to arrange for mutual de-escalation, including bombing of NVN. You also know that in all of the discussions leading up to the Polish proposal and our agreement to meet with the NVN in Warsaw, there was no condition relating to bombing. All of the increasingly indignant charges we have heard here, including the threat to terminate the conversations, are based on events subsequent to the agreement reached with the Polish Govt on Dec. 3, events which are extraneous to what was the basis of our agreement at that time.
We are deeply concerned over the gravity of Polish actions which serve the basic, long-run interests of neither of the parties whom you say you mean to be helping. We regretfully find ourselves being led to the conclusion that the Polish Govt, whether on its own or in response to promptings from the NVN Govt, is seeking to make a case which is based on false premises and does not relate to the facts as we know them. This gives us concern not only because of the damaging effect it could have on prospects for working out a peaceful settlement in Viet-Nam but because we would find it difficult not to have our attitude about our relations with the Polish Govt also affected.
But our desire is to move toward peace and our conviction is that the best road to take is one of direct discussion with Hanoiʼs representatives. We are somewhat confused as a result of our conversations here as to what Hanoi has said and what represents the views of the Polish Govt. Our strong impression is that, in spite of our readiness both in Saigon with Lewandowski and now in Warsaw to present quite fully and frankly our position, we have not received any communication at all from the NVN Govt. The issues that stand between us and a peaceful settlement [Page 957] are exceedingly complex and difficult and we despair of progress being made until the way is open for an exchange of views rather than a unilateral declaration from our side.
Nevertheless we want to leave no stone unturned in our search for peace and would like to turn for a moment from the total picture to one sector of it in which conceivably we might begin to move. This is with respect to the possible beginning of de-escalation through a two-phased arrangement referred to in Lewandowskiʼs eighth point. This, you will recall, involves a package deal, to be worked out, which in its totality would represent what both we and Hanoi could agree to as a reasonable measure of mutual de-escalation, but which would have two separate phases in its execution. Phase A would be a bombing suspension, while Phase B, which would follow after some adequate period, would see the execution of all the other agreed de-escalatory actions. Hanoiʼs actions taken in Phase B would appear to be in response to our actions in Phase B rather than to the bombing suspension.
We are ready to sit down with NVN representatives tomorrow to see whether an arrangement along these lines could be worked out. On the other hand, the NVN may prefer in the initial stages to deal through the Polish Govt. In that case we are ready to consider whatever proposals the NVN would wish to put forward as to the elements which would go into such a two-phase package arrangement. Agreement here would solve beyond cavil the problems, real or imagined, which you present repeatedly.
On the other hand, if Hanoi officials wish to proceed promptly to a total agreement representing the terms of an agreed settlement, we are prepared to move along that track, including de-escalation as the final item.
Perhaps the coming holidays and the truces associated with them offer an opportune occasion to take some useful steps along these lines. This in turn should make it easier for the authorities in Hanoi to proceed then to discuss the other matters standing between us and a peaceful settlement.”
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Top Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Marigold. The source text does not indicate a time of transmission; the telegram was received at 9:44 a.m.
  2. In telegram 1506 from Warsaw, December 19, Gronouski briefly discussed his meeting with Rapacki set for later that day. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 102960 to Warsaw, December 14, the Department of State responded to telegram 1458 (Document 341). The Department wondered whether the Poles “ever had any NVN commitment to a meeting in Warsaw.” In any event, in further conversation with the Poles, the Department wanted “to keep the door open as long as there seems to be any possibility of talks developing” while refuting the Polish contention that U.S. actions and statements had thrown a roadblock in the way of talks. Gronouski was instructed to ask for a further meeting with Rapacki and present him with the position statement spelled out in the telegram. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD; printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 300–302)
  4. In telegram 103342 to Warsaw, December 14, the Department of State notified Gronouski that telegram 1471 (Document 343) did not alter the basic assessment conveyed in telegram 102960. Therefore its arguments should be conveyed to Rapacki as soon as possible, supplemented by several points discussed in telegram 103342. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD; printed in part in Herring, Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War, pp. 305–306)
  5. Telegram 103586 to Warsaw, December 15, provided material on the air war used by Gronouski in paragraphs 8, 9, and 10 A–F of telegram 1508 printed here. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD)
  6. Document 305.
  7. See Document 341.