253. Editorial Note

From July 22 through August 5, 1967, General Maxwell Taylor and Clark Clifford, members of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, visited allied nations contributing troops to the war effort in Indochina, as well as South Vietnam itself. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs William P. Bundy discussed the nature of the mission in a memorandum of July 15. Although the official purpose of the trip was to consult the other member nations of the Manila Pact, Bundy acknowledged that a more vital yet privately-held aspect was to secure additional force contributions from these governments. Bundy noted the problem of public and international reaction to the U.S. Government’s requests for military assistance from third countries. He suggested that the schedule might have to be adjusted in order “to avoid an impression of great urgency.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Top Secret WPB Chron., Jun./Aug. 1967) In a memorandum written 2 days earlier to Rusk, McNamara, Rostow, and Katzenbach, Bundy outlined the inherent difficulties in making such an approach. Careful consideration had to be taken, especially since additional contributions would open up the administration to charges of recruiting “mercenaries.” Also, some governments, like that of the Philippines and the Republic of Korea, “could pay significant domestic political prices for new contributions.” (Memorandum from Bundy to Rusk, McNamara, Rostow, Katzenbach, July 13; ibid.)

Telegram 9005 to Bangkok, Canberra, Manila, Saigon, Seoul, and Wellington, July 18, contained the text of a Presidential message that Taylor and Clifford would take to the leaders of Thailand, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand, requesting their concurrence in the purpose of the mission. The message reads:

“I have now had the opportunity to review fully Secretary McNamara’s findings from his recent visit to Vietnam, and I have sent you a summary of the highlights.

“In the meantime, it seems evident to me that Hanoi has been reviewing its position. While we think it unlikely that they have reached any serious decision in the direction of peace—and may indeed be headed in just the opposite direction—it seems entirely possible that we shall be confronted in the near future with some new tactical move. In any event, there is much to discuss concerning Hanoi’s attitude, including the question of the possible effect in Hanoi of the apparent steady deterioration and increasing extremism in Communist China.

“In light of these developments, I have been giving thought to the need for full consultation among all the Seven Nations with forces in Vietnam. The April meeting of our Foreign Ministers was most helpful, but I believe we should plan on the next occasion to cover all the major strategic and diplomatic issues.

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“Accordingly, I have asked my most experienced and trusted advisors, Mr. Clark Clifford and General Maxwell Taylor, to travel to Saigon for a review of the situation, and then to make their observations available to my colleagues in the capitals of the other nations with forces in Vietnam. Mr. Clifford and General Taylor have participated fully in our review here of the McNamara findings, and have been intimately associated over a long period with the whole situation. I repose the fullest trust and confidence in them.

“The fundamental purpose of the trip would be, then, interim consultation on all aspects of the Vietnamese problem.

“With the momentum we have achieved, it is more than ever vital to convince Hanoi that we mean to keep up the pressure. We must meet and defeat whatever Hanoi may do in the South, while continuing to deal effectively with thrusts across the border by North Vietnamese forces and with the infiltration routes and sources of supply in North Vietnam.

“The Vietnamese themselves fully recognize that they must do more, and General Westmoreland feels substantial additional need for external help. Accordingly, Messrs. Clifford and Taylor will be in a position to review these questions with you on a totally private basis as fully as possible, and to indicate the actions that we ourselves have in mind.” (Ibid., Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S)

Additional documentation on the trip is ibid., POL 7 US. Both Clifford and Taylor discussed their trip in a news conference at the White House on August 5. The text of their remarks is in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 948–950.