300. Memorandum From William J. Jorden of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) and the White House Press Spokesman (Christian)1
- Information Teams on Viet-Nam
This memo summarizes our discussion of yesterday.2
- George Christian
- Walt Rostow
- General Taylor
- William Jorden
- Harold Kaplan
- Robert Miller
- Tom Johnson (for part of discussion)
The meeting was based on General Taylor’s memo of August 25 to the President.3
Point 1 of the memo—better coordination among allied nations of information policy—is being handled. A 7-nation group has been formed and is now meeting regularly.
Main focus of the meeting was on Point 2 of the Taylor memo—organizing a team or teams to travel around the country to explain the Viet-Nam situation and our policy there.
There was general agreement that one or more civilian/military teams should be organized immediately. They would hold off-the-record meetings with newspaper editorial boards, key editors, TV and radio executives concerned with news and editorials. The team(s) could also be used for briefing influential individuals—governors, Congressmen, presidential candidates, etc.
There was discussion of forming three teams—each one to cover one part of the country, Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast.[Page 739]
Care should be taken to mesh this activity with other similar efforts—e.g. Secretary Rusk’s meeting with the Editorial Board of the Baltimore Sun.
It was agreed that the new Kaplan shop operating under Rostow and Jorden would be responsible for supplying the teams with the necessary facts and up-to-date material.
General Taylor stressed the importance of having the teams:
- go out as Presidential representatives, with at least one team member being a well-known figure;
- making sure that the teams are supplied with cogent answers to all the questions being widely asked by the American people.
Names mentioned as possible members of the team(s) were:
Ambassador Lodge, Clark Clifford, General Taylor, Phil Habib, Generals DePuy, Walt, Krulak, and Kinnard; also, Roy Wehrle on the economic side.
Mr. Rostow suggested the following main themes:
- the war is being won; no “stalemate;”
- the war can only be lost in the U.S; Hanoi cannot win in the field; it counts only on the prospect of weakening and withdrawal by the U.S;
- the meaning of Viet-Nam to Asia; economic developments in countries on the rim of China; development of regional cooperation; progress based on confidence in the U.S. commitment to Southeast Asia;
- the consequences—to Asia and the world—of an American pull-out or retreat to “enclaves;”
- the relationship between Viet-Nam and the turmoil inside China.
Added to the above were:
- The reasons we are in Viet-Nam.
- Bombing—reasons for and results from.
- The status of ARVN—how good are the Vietnamese troops, progress in the past year.
There was discussion whether as part of their job—or as “cover"—the panels should undertake public appearances, especially on TV, as part of their field activities. The consensus was in favor of keeping to off-the-record sessions.
Mr. Christian said his office could prepare schedules and write letters asking that meetings be arranged with editors, and others.
There was a brief discussion of trying to get a TV network interested in a regular (biweekly or monthly) TV show that would be a report from the Government on Viet-Nam. High level officials would present material and answer questions on matters then attracting interest among the general public or press.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Misc. Memos, Vol. 3B. Confidential.↩
- Rostow also reported on the results of the meeting in a separate memorandum to the President, September 2. (Ibid., Vol. 3A)↩
- In his August 25 memorandum to the President, General Taylor cited the need to defend more resolutely the administration’s policy in Vietnam. As a result of his recent trip to Asia, Taylor found that while allied leaders believed in the need to support South Vietnam, they faulted the administration for “failing to get the message across” in terms of world public opinion. Taylor proposed the establishment of a comprehensive information campaign. (Ibid., Taylor Report of Overseas Operations and Misc. Memos)↩