247. Notes of Meeting1

[Here follows discussion relating to the Middle East, the Congo, and Latin America.]

On the matter of Viet Nam bombing policy, the President read a letter to the group from a man in Arizona and quoted such in saying that U.S. people do not think the U.S. is sincere in its desire to end the war. The letter said, “People believe that civilian heads have ignored the advice of the military.” The President said he read the letter only because he believes it is symptomatic of what we will be facing on the Hill and around the country in coming months.

Secretary McNamara then reviewed targets which CINCPAC have recommended. Secretary McNamara said that there are 129 targets which have not been authorized, some of them in the 25 mile China buffer zone. Secretary McNamara said they are largely unimportant targets, many within the ten mile radius of Hanoi and some within the four mile circle of Haiphong. He said there is a very strong potential for civilian casualties if these targets are struck.

Secretary Rusk asked to look at the specific targets. Secretary McNamara provided him with a list and the Secretary said he would need until noon Wednesday before his judgment could be given. Secretary McNamara said the targets near the center of Hanoi are not worth the loss of a single U.S. plane or pilot. The Secretary said the military commanders in Viet Nam are interested in “free bombing.”

The Secretary said twenty three targets would be proposed within the four mile center of Haiphong. The Secretary said if these targets are permitted, ships will be hit. The Secretary said he would recommend at least seventeen targets which are outside of the Hanoi-Haiphong perimeters except one MIG base, because the MIG base is heavily defended and the MIGs are of no threat to us at this point. There was a general discussion of the bombing strategy.

Secretary McNamara said, “Mr. President, your responsibility is to the people of this country. Whatever you feel we must do, let’s do it.”2

On the Taylor-Clifford mission, the President read a proposed draft of a message to be sent to the U.S. Ambassadors in the six other nations fighting with the U.S. in Vietnam.3

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The President made changes in the draft and returned it to Walt Rostow for editing and cabling.

The President then asked if a seven-nation Summit could be held in the Pacific before the Vietnam elections. Walt Rostow said he did not believe there should be one until “we have a government in Vietnam.” The President said, “We may need a Summit for them to win their elections.” No decision on this matter was reached.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings, 7/18/67. Literally Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room from 6:06 to 7:30 p.m.
  2. On July 20 the execution of RT 57 began.
  3. See Document 253.