157. Memorandum From McGeorge Bundy to President Johnson1
Dear Mr. President:
First let me thank you most warmly for your kindness in letting me come in the other day to talk about the possible East-West center on management science and my forthcoming trip to Moscow. The guidance you gave me was very clear, and I am getting myself up to date on all the diplomatic background just in case there should be any serious talk on Vietnam. I will be in Washington for this purpose and for an invisible task force meeting (one of Ben Heineman’s) on May 6, 7 and 8.
Meanwhile, I have been conscious of the fact that I did not give you much help when you asked what more I could suggest for us to do in Vietnam. I have now brooded over your question and done the attached memorandum. As you will see, it comes out pretty strong on the side of limiting the bombing in the North, but you know me too well to mistake this for a sudden switch to appeasement. I have been for bombing from the beginning and I am sure it has been and still is indispensable, but I just don’t believe the people who think that a lot more of it brings us nearer to solution today. I think a middle course is better, and the memorandum attempts to suggest one, as well as to show where you can get some unexpected (to me) support for it.
I think we are in a time not unlike the spring of 1965 when the Baltimore speech2 did so much to bring our policy into focus and balance, and it is in the spirit of our discussions of that time that this memo has been drafted. I am not on top of all the relevant information, of course, and I know better than anyone that I could be wrong—but I sensed in our last talk that you were interested in alternatives to think about, and these pages suggest one.
Bob McNamara knows my thinking a little, but no one else does, and even Bob has not seen this memo.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Viet Nam—W.W. Rostow (1 of 2). Personal. Notations on the memorandum indicate that it was received at noon on May 4 and that the President saw it.↩
- Reference is to Johnson’s April 7, 1965, speech at Johns Hopkins University; see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. II, Document 245.↩
- The President asked McNamara to get the Joint Chiefs of Staff to respond to McGeorge Bundy. In a May 5 memorandum to the President, Wheeler noted that Bundy had failed to mention a third original reason for enacting the bombing campaign; namely, to ensure that the DRV would “pay a price for its continued aggression against South Vietnam.” The attacks on the electrical power system (at Haiphong), Wheeler countered, were not intended to deny lighting to major cities but to disrupt a power source needed for the North Vietnamese armament-supporting facilities. He also recommended tactical bombardment of the Hanoi Thermal Power Plant as well as Haiphong harbor. This memorandum was sent to the President at the LBJ Ranch as CAP 67398, May 6. (Johnsom Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Viet Nam—W.W. Rostow (2 of 2)) The President was at his ranch May 4–8. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)↩
- Generals Carl Spaatz, Nathan Twining, and Curtis LeMay were all former Air Force Chiefs of Staff and architects of the doctrine of strategic bombing.↩
- A reference to Westmoreland’s April 28 speech before Congress; see footnote 1, Document 149.↩