244. Notes of Meeting1

The President said to Clark Clifford that he wanted Clifford and General Maxwell Taylor to go to Saigon, be briefed on the operations there, then go to the nations fighting with us in Vietnam to see what additional assistance could be rendered.

More importantly, the President said he wanted the mission to review with the allies what we are doing in Vietnam. In short, to give them more information about the war effort.

President said that he wanted the effort to be kept extremely quiet, that he wanted no advance publicity on the mission, and that he wanted it handled under the cover of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

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The President added:

  • —The Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board is a good cover, since Clifford is chairman and Taylor is a member.
  • —The reports to the heads of governments will let them “know that we are thinking about them, make them feel informed.”
  • —It would be an effort to determine how much more the allies could do in Vietnam in troop additions.
  • Clifford can be advised by McNamara and Wheeler how much each nation can supply in troops before the Presidential mission departed.

Clark Clifford asked these questions:

  • —Should we make any new contacts with nations who are not represented in Vietnam now? Malaysia was mentioned. (Secretary McNamara said he did not think any troops could be arranged from Malaysia.)
  • —Should the allies be advised in advance of this mission?

It was agreed that a cable would be prepared to indicate the fact that Taylor-Clifford would be visiting. The President would send it.2

Clifford cautioned against expecting the team to return with any signatures on the line.

The President warned that the mission should get into the troop question slowly.

Rostow indicated that the toughest area would be the Philippines. Secretary Katzenbach said that Holt and the South Vietnamese [Australians?] will be willing to give additional troops.

General Wheeler added:

  • —The Australians will give one battalion and one battery now and would give one battalion and one more battery by September, if asked.
  • —The Australia politicos are ready to be asked.

The President said the generals—both in the Pentagon and in Vietnam—must be told not to talk about the level of troops. He mentioned the lead on troops in morning newspapers, and the speculation on numbers (by Max Frankel of the Times).

The President said “we are going to send Westmoreland the troops he needs. I told him that. That has been our policy and will continue to be.”

The President said that the details on numbers of troops must be worked out. “We have a general idea and a general meeting of the minds on numbers.”

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The President continued:

  • —“We want to see what these people are willing to do.
  • —“I would hope that the South Vietnamese would
    Drop their draft age to 18.
    Put in an extra 65,000 troops after the September elections.

Clark Clifford concluded by saying he did not want to leave the impression any firm commitments would be brought back.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings, 7/14/67. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The President met with Clifford, McNamara, Katzenbach, Wheeler, Rostow, and Tom Johnson from 12:51 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)
  2. See Document 253.