130. Memorandum for the Record1
Palm Desert, California, April 6, 1967.
- Meeting with General Eisenhower, 6 April 1967
- I met with General Eisenhower for two and one-half hours, 6 April 1967, at his residence at Palm Desert, California. The purpose of the meeting was to give him a current report on the war in Vietnam, reflecting therein principal matters touched on at the recent conference of the President in Guam. For the latter purpose, I drew primarily upon a summary recently given to me orally by General Wheeler, having in mind my visit to General Eisenhower.
- Beginning with South Vietnam, I reviewed recent major operations, noting particularly Operation Junction City in War Zone C.2 I indicated the military operations are going well. Overall, the military situation continues to improve. The Communists show signs indicating they desperately desire a victory, but each effort to achieve one results in heavy losses to them. I also covered river and coastal operations, and the continued use of B–52s. General Eisenhower referred to press reports he had seen regarding large numbers of defectors under the Chieu Hoi program. I told him they ran more than 1,000 a week in March—some 5,000 for the month—and this may reflect the impact our sustained operations are having, especially on those other than dedicated hard-core Communists.
- General Eisenhower discussed at length the pacification phase, and the emphasis this should receive. In response to his questions, I told him this is showing progress, although movement is slow. He said he regards this phase and the military operations as intertwined. I told him General Westmoreland also considers that military operations and local security form a single war. In further discussion, I said that further steps are being considered to strengthen pacification efforts and [Page 309] their tie-in to the military campaign. It was my impression that he felt a solution to the problem of organizing effectively for pacification was long overdue, and that he would favor placing it under General Westmoreland. Referring to the appointment of Ambassador Bunker, he said he has an extremely high opinion of him. Ambassador Bunker’s experience in India, and understanding of Asians, should stand him in good stead.3 In further discussion, I indicated General Wheeler believes that Ambassador Bunker, like Ambassador Lodge, will carefully avoid getting into military operations. General Eisenhower expressed his strong endorsement, and reiterated his strong view that officials in Washington, 10,000 miles from the conflict, should not attempt to control the conduct of operations. He recalled that General Marshall, during the Battle of the Bulge, had sent him a personal message stating that he had issued instructions that General Eisenhower was not to be bothered, and that if he nevertheless received messages from the War Department, he should discard them.
- I next covered operations against North Vietnam. In the air campaign, heavy pressure continues, and thermal power plants are included in the targetting. The weather has been bad, and has restricted actual strikes. His principal comment was that a course of “gradualism” in conducting air operations is bound to be ineffective, and that operations within the scope now conducted would have been vastly more effective if employed from the outset. He referred to the example he has previously given of attacking a battalion with two battalions, and taking heavy losses, while an attack with a division would suffer far fewer losses. He also expressed concern over the amount of public discussion of what targets we will or will not hit, since such discussion is bound to be of advantage to the enemy.
- Turning next to Laos, I reported on continued air attacks against the Communist LOC. The southwest monsoon should be beginning during the next month or six weeks, and this will curtail the Communist movement of matériel. I also reported that covert ground operations into Laos continue to expand (I have previously indicated to him that these, if carefully expanded and intensified, can be of strategic value in impeding Communist logistical throughput).
- General Eisenhower asked about troop strengths and whether additional forces are contemplated. I told him the Joint Chiefs of Staff are reviewing possible additional forces in connection with operations in the delta, or against the two NVA divisions estimated to be in Cambodia, or the three NVA divisions estimated to be in the general area of the Demilitarized Zone. I stressed that there has been no decision on this matter—it is simply under examination. General Eisenhower [Page 310] asked whether our forces go into Cambodia. I told him they do not. The NVA forces in and near the DMZ are being pounded hard by air and artillery, and by ground action south of the DMZ. I also reported on the progress being made in developing and producing weapons for use in barrier-type operations along the DMZ and adjoining infiltration routes in Laos.
- I next touched on the political situation within South Vietnam. Here also there is improvement as pacification proceeds. Also, the adoption of the constitution, and the excellent turn-out in the local elections to date are highly encouraging. On the international side, the intemperate response by Ho Chi Minh to the President’s sober and constructive letter has tended to clear the air.4 I added that the President has made clear he has no intention of stopping any military action unless or until there is a substantial quid pro quo. I told him there is some evidence that the authorities in Hanoi are receiving vastly inflated reports of U.S. losses from their fighting forces, and that they may believe that opposition within the United States to the President on the Vietnam war is far more effective and influential than it is, and could cause the United States to give up the fight as the French did, and that this may be leading them to fight on despite their steadily worsening military situation.
- General Eisenhower asked concerning NVA logistic use of the DMZ. I said this has been well established. Our air and naval interdiction is having a heavy impact, however. Although this cannot be determined in exact terms, the best professional judgment is that it has been of major importance in limiting the frequency, scale and intensity of Communist attacks on our forces in South Vietnam.
[Here follows discussion of China, NATO, Cyprus, and Iran.]
Lt General, USA
Lt General, USA
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Eisenhower. Top Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster on April 7.↩
- Beginning on February 22 through May 14, MACV launched Operation Junction City against Communist strongholds in War Zone C, the area northwest of Saigon to the Cambodian border. The goal was to inflict extensive casualties upon the enemy by the utilization of concentrated air power, artillery barrages, and pitched battles. This practical application of attrition strategy had mixed results, for although 164 enemy base camps were destroyed and 2,728 enemy KIAs were inflicted, the headquarters of COSVN was never found. See Joint Chiefs of Staff, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam, 1960–1968, Part III, pp. 42–5–42–7.↩
- Bunker was Ambassador to India, 1956–1961.↩
- Reference is to the President’s February 2 letter (see Document 32). For Ho’s response, see Document 82. Hanoi released the exchange on March 21. See Department of State Bulletin, April 10, 1967, pp. 595–597.↩