341. Notes of Meeting1

NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT’S MEETING WITH SECRETARY RUSK, SECRETARY McNAMARA, MR. ROSTOW, CIA DIRECTOR HELMS, AND GEORGE CHRISTIAN

[Here follows discussion of the Middle East and arms control.]

The President: What do we know about the negotiations?

Secretary Rusk: We will know in two days. Kissinger told them that we are against waiting any longer, that we are getting impatient. Bo wrote a message which is on the way by air mail special delivery. In his phone call with Kissinger, Bo said something like talks will start after the cessation of bombing.2

Rostow: To correct that, it was that talks could start but no other assurances were given.

Director Helms: There were some great difficulties because we had an American who does not understand much French talking to a Frenchman who does not understand much English over a trans-Atlantic phone call. It is important that we wait and see what the written message actually says.

The President: What about the Shah and his efforts?3

Secretary Rusk: He may make unilateral contact with Hanoi. I do not think he will get anywhere. He may get a group of countries together to push negotiations. The Shah is one of our good friends on this.

The President: Did you talk to Gromyko on the bombing?

Secretary Rusk: I told him nobody would tell us what would happen if the bombing stopped. The Russians have given up any attempt to try to influence Hanoi.

[Page 839]

The Secretary discussed the prisoner who had been released to the NLF.4 This prisoner, a woman, is the wife of one of the high ranking members of the Politburo. We need to stir Thieu and Ky up to probe around more with the NLF.

Bunker should ask Thieu and Ky to get something going. This one is purely our thing. We need to get them going on something.

Mr. Rostow: It would be excellent for Thieu to say in a very lucid inaugural speech that the NLF has a role in the political future of the country. It would help us too.

The President: With validation behind us, we should get Thieu to get the most progressive civilians in government. As I told Walter Washington in setting up the District of Columbia Government, there is a need to “get with it” out there.

We need programs for health and education and land reform. They have got to show that they know what they are doing.

We need to get General Westmoreland to get the South Vietnamese army in line. They have got to get in where the fighting is. We cannot have our fatalities running higher than they are on the Vietnamese side. I want to know it first if this is a white man’s war, as so many people are charging.

On another issue, the President said that the leadership of Congress indicated to him in a meeting Monday night that it would not tolerate the large demonstration which is planned for late October.5 I [Page 840]have told Secretary McNamara to get going on plans to protect the White House, the Pentagon and the Capitol.

Secretary McNamara: Warren Christopher6 is heading up the task force which is meeting periodically on this. There are some very key questions which must be answered. They would include whether the President should be in Washington or not.

The President: Yes, I will be here, they are not going to run me out of town.

Secretary McNamara: The President’s presence in Washington may do more to stimulate than to calm it. In any case, that is one of the questions we have to discuss. We have got to train the Washington police and the National Guard to handle this job. We also have to figure out how to arrest thousands and put them in jail if it is justified. The jails won’t hold the numbers that could be arrested.

The GSA has done a magnificent job in training the guards at the Pentagon. You can’t imagine how they are faced with provocations. They do anything which would further aggravate the situation.

If we are asked, I think we should tell the press that we are prepared to maintain order.

It is important to remember that they are not only after the Pentagon but will approach the White House.

They have not requested audiences with any of us but they most surely will. If they ask to see the President, I do not think it would be wise. It would be better for some of us, perhaps myself, to meet with them.

The President: I saw some leaks on my meeting with the Harvard educators last week.7

George Christian: I thought that the fact the President met with those people did us a lot of good.

The President: Bob, Did you see the New York Times story on resistance to the draft?

Secretary McNamara: Yes, I am concerned about racism in the military service. There is a movement of civilian dissatisfaction into the services. I am also concerned about resistance to the draft. There have been some cases, one in Dover, Delaware, which shows that there are problems of this type.

I met with a group of Negro publishers last week to discuss this matter.

[Page 841]

The President: I want you to take the New York Times article and analyze it and let me know what you think of it.

What are we doing about Westmoreland’s memorandum on the DMZ?8

Secretary McNamara: We are doing the following:

  • —We will accelerate sending out brigades.
  • —We will retain the 9th Marine Amphibious Units.
  • —We expect to increase the B–52 sorties from 600 to 1200 per month. This should be obtained by early next year. The Air Force is not sure they can meet this schedule.
  • —We are investigating the use of 2000 pound bombs, although the Air Force is not sure this is wise.
  • —We will check into the spacing of the M–36 weapons. This is a fuse which is applied to bombs to delay their detonation.

The President asked what happened in the DMZ, why were they no longer shelled at the Marine site at Conthien.

Secretary McNamara said he did not know if this was a result of our action or their decision.

The President asked if we should move our people back, as has been suggested?

Secretary McNamara: I do not know. There is a very detailed tactical decision, and I would prefer to leave that to the Joint Chiefs. In my opinion, however, I would move it around.

Secretary McNamara continued: —We are going to shave unit training but we are not going to shave any individual training. Unit training will be cut by four weeks, but General Westmoreland will give them four weeks of unit training when they get out there to make up for this.

  • —It will probably be July before the Vietnamese get their 60,000 to 65,000 more men into action. The problem is with non-commissioned officers and officers.
  • —The Thais have come in with a message through the Ambassador that they should contribute 5000 troops rather than 10,000 troops as had been previously discussed.9

[Page 842]

The President said that he had told Australian Treasurer William McMahon that the President would be able to hold out longer in Vietnam if Prime Minister Holt would put in 5000 more men. I told him we need some more troops. He told me how he lost some elections and they were not in a good position at the moment.10

Secretary McNamara: I told him about the same thing. Our people will not permit us to stand around.

We would make a bad mistake. We signed an agreement with Australia last year without any provisos that we would supply credit for up to $90 million. Congress recently has denied us that authority. I told him that we would stand behind this somehow, although I am not sure how we will do it.

The President: Prime Minister Menzies said that everybody must speak on our policies frequently. He said that we should repeat ourselves frequently, because we never are speaking to the same audience twice.11

He thought Senator Kuchel made a very good speech today on the consequences of stopping the bombing.12

A captured document from a North Vietnam Ph.D. showed that the Gallup poll in this country sustained them in Hanoi.13 This Ph.D. also said, “How can we believe anything Johnson says if his own people do not believe him?”

Secretary McNamara continued: It is important for us to get extra free world troops into Vietnam. We need them. The people out there have got to know what is going on.

  • —We will accelerate the shipment of M–16’s to the ARVN. We think we should put all these guns in Southeast Asia and not sell any outside of this area.
  • —We are also working on intensifying the training to provide better field accuracy in the use of artillery.

The President then mentioned a delegation which would be sent to the Vietnam inaugural. The President said he would talk to Vice President Hubert Humphrey about heading the delegation tomorrow. [Page 843]The President then mentioned a memorandum from Congressman Tip O’Neill of Cambridge, Massachusetts.14 The information was that O’Neill had changed from a Hawk position to a Dove position with the help of two assistant secretaries, a CIA agent, and representatives of the Department of Defense. The President said he was astounded to find that there were several groups of people who were working to get Congressmen who are in agreement with our policies to make a reassessment. In this case, Senator Teddy Kennedy had approached Congressman O’Neill and asked him to review his position on Vietnam rather than risk political disaster. Congressman O’Neill talked with several people in the administration. A press article which mentioned Congressman O’Neill’s change in position pointed out that it was the President’s own people that were responsible for the change.

The President said we should remember that what we are saying today may change next week. We should never lock ourselves in positions publicly which would not allow us to change them.

Secretary McNamara: If we stop the bombing, I think that the Pennsylvania formula (the Kissinger formula) is appropriate.

The President: I wouldn’t stop the bombing unless they agree:

1.
To meet promptly
2.
To push for a settlement.

Secretary McNamara: It is important that we know the facts about the bombing. It is not a fact that pauses have hurt the lines of communication in the North. He said a CIA report had been prepared on the request of the Department of Defense. The report was given to Secretary McNamara today. He said that the information contained in it was completely consistent with monthly DIA-CIA reports.

Secretary Rusk: If the bombing isn’t having that much effect, why do they want to stop the bombing so much?

Mr. Rostow: The bombing and the other things are making it very unpleasant and very costly for them.

The President read aloud parts of a CIA analysis on the effect of Rolling Thunder.15

Director Helms: We will have to do over all that we have done in Hanoi, particularly the power plants, the bridges, and the rail lines.

Mr. Rostow: If I could sum up, this is the effect of the bombing:

  • —Industrial and agricultural production has been cut.
  • —500,000 men have been diverted full and some part time as a result of the bombing.
  • —It is a heavy cost.
  • —But they have the kind of tactics that can still sustain them at this cost if they choose to.
  • —If we stop the bombing, it will bring their economy back up and permit them to increase their commitment in the South.
  • —No bombing means less strain and less cost.

Secretary McNamara: I do not agree with that.

The President: I want the best case from you, Walt, for bombing all targets and I want from Secretary McNamara a position on this.

There was then the discussion of the polls, including the New York poll. The President said that he believed we had lost people away from us in the last two weeks. He pointed out again the need to be making more speeches, although they may be rather similar in nature.

Secretary Rusk: I found in my own experience that you cannot say the same thing twice in Washington. But you can get out in other states and make the same speech and get a very good reaction.

The President: We have to get answers to all of these slogans which everybody is making up. We need a few slogans of our own. We need to answer the slogans:

“Stop the bombing; Negotiate now; Enclave Theory Stalemate.”

Secretary McNamara: We have enough targets for the time being. We should have a separate meeting with the Joint Chiefs on bombing. They recommend Phuc Yen Air Field again.

Secretary McNamara: Not right now, I would defer that 24 hours until we get Pennsylvania out of the way.

The President read ticker items of Senator Dirksen’s debate on the Senate floor today with Senators Fulbright and Mansfield and others.16 The President said that the Ways and Means Committee shelved the tax message today.

The President said he did not want any of the information which he was about to discuss to go outside of the room. The President asked what effect it would have on the war if he announced he was not going to run for another term. He said if it were set either way today, the decision would be that he would not run.

[Page 845]

The President said he thought it would be advantageous to welcome both the Democrats and the Republicans to come out with the programs and policies and let the American people decide who they believe should be their next President. He said the President is already in the goldfish bowl, so it might be good for all of those who want to have the job to express themselves to the people. He said he was considering welcoming all comers to come out with their programs.

Secretary McNamara: I do not think that the Democrats should get out on the block.

Secretary Rusk: You must not go down. You are the Commander-in-Chief, and we are in a war. This would have a very serious effect on the country.

The President: If I were to run again, I would be the first President to do it. That is, no other President who has served for part of a term, then for a full term has ever succeeded himself for another full term.

Secretary McNamara: I don’t think you should appear too cute on this.

The President: What I am asking is what would this do to the war.

Secretary Rusk: Hanoi would think they have got it made.

The President: Our people will not hold out four more years. I want to get rid of every major target. Between now and election, I am going to work my guts out. I would be 61 when I came back in, and I just don’t know if I want four more years of this. I would consider telling the American people that it is an awfully long period. But I am afraid it would be interpreted as walking out on our men.

We are very divisive [divided]. We don’t have the press, the newspapers or the polls with us, although when I get out into the country it seems different than it is here.

Secretary Rusk: Victor Riesle, a labor columnist, said you would win by a bigger margin next year than you did before.

The President: What I really want to know is the effect of the announcement, what we say if we do decide that way, and the timing of it.

Secretary McNamara: Of course, there would be no worry about money and men. We could get support for that. I do not know about the psychology in the country, the effect on the morale of the men, and the effect on Hanoi.

I do think that they would not negotiate under any circumstances and they would wait for the 1968 elections.

The President then read Congressional reports on what various members of the Congress were saying about Vietnam. The President said that 95% of the people believe there has been a change of attitude [Page 846]on Vietnam. They all think that we will lose the election if we do not do something about Vietnam quick. They are all worried about expenses.

Secretary Rusk: In my opinion, the tax bill made many doves.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The meeting lasted from 6:10 to 9:32 p.m. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. According to summaries of telephone conversations between Read and Kissinger, October 2–3, Marcovich flew to Rome to confer with Aubrac (before telephoning Kissinger in the United States) about a message from Bo that they considered so important that they would not fully divulge it over the telephone. Kissinger’s sense of the North Vietnamese position as suggested in the forthcoming message was that talks could begin immediately after a halt, although the DRV would not give any assurances of that. The notes taken at the meeting with Bo, which included his inter-lineated corrections, were mailed to Kissinger on October 3. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA)
  3. Since June the Shah of Iran was attempting to establish a new mechanism to bring about peace by organizing a “club” of Asian nations, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Japan, and Cambodia, which potentially could mediate between the principal adversaries in the Vietnam conflict. Documentation on this effort is ibid., POL 27–14 VIET and POL IRAN–US; and Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Fleming.
  4. On February 28 Pham Thi Yen, the wife of NLF Central Committee member Tan Buu Kiem, was released from GVN custody through the intervention of the CIA Station in Saigon in order to deliver a message to her husband requesting the establishment of covert contacts. The NLF’s response was not apparent until August 15, when a Viet Cong intermediary, Sau Ha, was arrested in Saigon by the police when he tried to deliver a message from Tran Bach Dang of COSVN to Bunker. Dang’s message contained an offer for a prisoner exchange which proposed that the NLF would release U.S. prisoners after the release of several captive Viet Cong. On September 9 one of the prisoners named in Dang’s letter, Truong Dinh Tong, was released as a first step in initiating such an exchange. Within 2 weeks, Tong returned from VC-held territory with a message that Dang was ready to begin negotiations on the matter. Provided radio equipment by the CIA Station, Tong set out again on September 29 to meet with Dang. (“Operations Targeted at the National Liberation Front,” attachment to message from Helms to the President, October 7; Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80–B01285A, Helms Chrono, Aug-Dec 1967, 01 Aug-31 Dec 67) The exercise was slugged Buttercup. See footnote 3, Document 369.
  5. From 5:55 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on October 2, the President met with Representatives John W. McCormack (D–MA), Carl Albert (D–OK), Hale Boggs (D–LA), Senator Mike Mansfield (D–MO), and Postmaster General Lawrence O’Brien. Senator Robert Byrd (D–WV) and Representative George Mahon (D–TX) joined the meeting while it was in progress. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) Notes of the meeting are ibid., Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. During the period October 21–22, approximately 50,000 antiwar protesters participated in a march on the Pentagon and a rally at the Lincoln Memorial.
  6. Deputy Attorney General.
  7. The President met with a group of Harvard professors in the evening of September 26. A record of the meeting, Notes of the President’s Meeting with Educators, September 26, is in the Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings.
  8. In a message to CINCPAC and the JCS, September 28, Westmoreland forwarded his plan for re-deployment of the forces under his command due to increased enemy activity in I CTZ. The document is excerpted in U.S. House of Representatives, Armed Services Committee, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, Book 5, Vol. II, pp. 219–220.
  9. There was confusion about the exact number of troops that the Thai Government wanted to dispatch to South Vietnam. Telegram 4302 from Bangkok, October 9, detailing a meeting between the U.S. Ambassador and the Thai Prime Minister, reported that the Thai Government only planned to send forces that would raise the number of its troops to 10,500. It had not been the intention of the Thai Government to send an additional augmentation of 10,000 men. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–3 VIET S)
  10. The President met with McMahon and John Keith Waller, the Australian Ambassador, on October 2. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) No record of the meeting has been found.
  11. See footnote 4, Document 336.
  12. In response to a speech in the Senate on October 2 by Senator John Sherman Cooper (R–KY) advocating a unilateral cessation, in a public statement the next day Senator Thomas Kuchel (R–CA) stated his opposition to what he termed a call for a unilateral halt. For a summary of its text, see The New York Times, October 4, 1967. On the Senate floor, Kuchel noted progress in Vietnam and accused dissenters of undermining the war effort. The text of his remarks is in Congressional Record, vol. 113, p. 27442.
  13. Not found.
  14. Representative Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. (D–MA).
  15. See footnote 2, Document 345.
  16. In a speech on the Senate floor, Dirksen defended the administration’s Vietnam policy and argued against a proposed halt. Fulbright and Mansfield, among others, challenged his assertions. See Congressional Record, vol. 113, pp. 27576–27584.