93. Notes of Meeting1

PRESENT

  • President, Rusk, McNamara, Vance, Wheeler, Komer, Gardner, Marks, Helms, Raborn, Bell, Ball, Bromley Smith, General Goodpaster, J. Valenti 2

Goodpaster: March 4–10 ground operations (briefed group on latest military action).

[Page 281]

President: What accounts for substantial difference in KIA (killed in action)?

Wheeler:

1.
Heavier fire power—fighter bombers and artillery.
2.
Mobility—choppers.
3.
Good troop leadership and aggressiveness.

Killed around 8,000 men since first of year—close to 30,000 casualties.

Taylor: Fair to reduce casualties from 3 to 1 to 2 to 1 because of seriously wounded.

President: How many casualties before they feel it?

Taylor: When casualties are above infiltration.3

McNamara: What parts are coming from main force units? Others are porters, messengers, etc.

Number of battalions are increasing in spite of casualties.

President: If this keeps up for the year?

McNamara: Donʼt think so. His strength at end of year should be stronger.

They can increase from 105 to 155 (presumably battalions) at this rate.

Rusk: It would require 10,000 a month casualties. Is that right?

McNamara: They are infiltrating at rate of 8,000 a month.

Taylor: All our plans are based on road nets in Laos—and difficult to know about forward supplies.

Marks: (Read report of defectors saying food and material was short—malaria (35 per cent carrying malaria).)

McNamara: But they carry malaria and fight. They will continue to fight hard.

President: What about malaria for our people?

McNamara: Down dramatically. About 25 per cent rate. Meningitis has dropped, too.

President: Spreading out camps do it?

McNamara: No. Medical help mostly.

Goodpaster: (Continued on air operations.)

McNamara: First time weʼve had attacks by IL–28s. Shows theyʼre more aggressive and are attacking. They have not attacked in South Vietnam. [Page 282] Would not recommend knocking out IL–28ʼs now. They are not that much of a threat.

Goodpaster: As of March 5, strength was:

216,400 (presumably U.S. strength)
690,900 (presumably South Vietnamese)
23,000 (presumably other free world forces)
930,000 Total
225,000 Viet Cong
13,100 North Vietnam

President: Gardner will be leaving tomorrow.

Rusk: How specific can we put to other governments medical assist-ance and health? More detail on kinds of personnel needed.

Gardner: Assembled 22 people—ready to go. Covers all health and education facilities.4

Komer: Have General Williamson on hand. Should he brief the Governors?5

President: Yes. Outline agenda and have him speak and answer questions.

McNamara: General Thi has been removed as I Corps commander.6 Under control, looks as though itʼs coming out alright. I believe he will come out.

Helms: GVN paratroopers marched in Saigon in Thiʼs favor.

McNamara: Some bad taste in mouths of our people. Looks like weʼre weak in GVN Government.

President: Do our people want him to leave?

McNamara: I do.

Taylor: Heʼs a bad character and good riddance.

Wheeler: General Walt got on well with him. But a conniver. Had to keep eye on him.

President: How do we get Lodge and Westmoreland to stop giving out Top Secret information? The press is saying they have to go to Saigon (for) Top Secret information and itʼs available there.

[Page 283]

Rusk: Will get a wire off to Lodge.

President: What about inflation problem there?

Bell: Theyʼre carrying out some of our ideas, but not enough. New man in charge is bright. Has announced one step—but not enough. Reaction to first step is good and the Minister is encouraged.

IMF to take mission out there. One assurance from IMF: If this mission finds that radical steps are needed, will we back him up?

Fowler and Bell believe log jam may be beginning to break. Some evidence of good chance but still insufficient.

[Here follows discussion of China and NATO.]7

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File. No classification marking. Valenti took the notes. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room and Bromley Smith also took notes. (Ibid., National Security File, Bromley Smith Files)
  2. Moyers also attended. (Ibid., Presidentʼs Daily Diary)
  3. Smithʼs notes state: “General Taylor pointed out that when we are really hurting the North Vietnamese is when we are destroying a larger number of their forces than are being infiltrated into South Vietnam. In answer to the Presidentʼs question as to when this situation will be realized, Secretary McNamara predicted it would take more than a year.”
  4. Smithʼs notes state: “Secretary Gardner commented that the trip his group was taking was the first step in a continuing effort to see how measures of education and health could improve the situation in South Vietnam.”
  5. Smithʼs notes state: “There was a brief discussion of the Vietnam briefing to be given by Rusk, McNamara and General Wheeler to the Governors who will be attending a conference in the White House on Saturday [March 13].”
  6. According to Smithʼs notes, McNamara stated that Thi was removed because he “did not cooperate with the Directorate and was running the First Corps area as if it were his fief.”
  7. According to Smithʼs notes, prior to the close of the meeting, “Secretary McNamara noted that he felt that we had broken the back of congressional criticism of shortages of material in Vietnam and he predicted that critics would now try to prove that there were shortages of personnel.”