34. Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) to President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk1


  • “Negotiations Committee”

At the Negotiations Committee meeting this afternoon, I raised the question of the extension of the bombing pause beyond the four-day Tet period.

As this subject is so serious a matter of policy, I did not ask for an expression of opinion on whether the pause should be extended, but rather on how it might be dealt with, if the President should decide to take this action.

[Page 80]

The following procedures were suggested:

Hanoi should be informed through Moscow channel prior to the beginning of the Tet period that bombing would not be resumed after Tet. No indication should be given of the duration of the pause. Hanoi should also be informed that we would watch with interest what Hanoi did during the Tet period and beyond in the movement of supplies to the South by road and sea, and other indications of positive reaction in de-escalation, as well as take into account their reply to our messages of January 20 and 31.2 Hanoi should be given this advance notice of the pause since otherwise the North Vietnamese may not recognize its significance and use it automatically for their military advantage.
We should request Brown to inform Kosygin in London of the above, and ask him to point out on his own initiative the opportunity the Soviets have to use their influence in Hanoi for a favorable response in reciprocal de-escalation and in willingness to begin immediate discussions.3

I strongly recommend that the pause be extended for the full seven-day Tet period and beyond for a sufficient length of time to permit a reaction from Hanoi.

My reasons for urging this action now are:

The Tet period will be the last chance the President will have for another year to extend a pause which has been begun during a season of good will. This pause may encourage Hanoi to start serious negotiation.
With the recent diplomatic and propaganda build-up, the world is looking for some response from the US. This pressure will increase. By extending the pause, the President will place himself in a strong position abroad as well as at home to show again that he is in the lead in seeking a peaceful settlement. If Hanoi abuses the pause, it will strengthen the President’s hand in the prosecution of the war. If it becomes desirable to resume bombing, the DRV/VC will undoubtedly provide credible public justification by some terrorist or military action.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. II. Top Secret; Nodis; Sunflower. In the February 3 covering note transmitting the memorandum to the President, Rostow wrote: “Herewith Averell Harriman suggests an extended unilateral bombing pause during Tet; and reports further arrangements to debrief Baggs.” The handwritten “L” on the covering note indicates that the President saw Harriman’s memorandum. Harriman’s assistant, Chester Cooper, also took notes of the Negotiations Committee meeting. (Memorandum of meeting, February 2; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Chronological File, Feb. 1967 General)
  2. See Documents 18, 29, and 32.
  3. On February 2 Rusk discussed with Cooper the points that he should go over with Wilson and Brown. (Notes of meeting, February 2; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Subject Files, Vietnam, General, Jan.–March 1967) In addition, on February 3 Ambassador Dobrynin informed Kohler that he had been told of the Moscow contacts with the DRV. (Telegram 131591 to Moscow, February 4; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. I)