42. Editorial Note
On February 7, 1967, Pope Paul VI sent a letter to President Johnson expressing the hope that the Tet truce would lead to negotiations. The Pope also transmitted similar messages the next day to Chief of State Nguyen Van Thieu of the Republic of Vietnam and President Ho Chi Minh of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. For the text of these letters, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 850–852, and telegram 4106 from Rome, February 8. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S) President Johnson responded to the Pope’s appeal in a February 8 letter, which reads:
“I deeply appreciate your message, which is a great source of spiritual support. I devoutly share your wish that the suspension of hostilities over the Lunar New Year may be extended and may open the way to negotiations for a just and stable peace.
“The Governments of the United States and the Republic of Vietnam, together with others, are devoting intensive efforts to this end. As you know, the Government of Vietnam has twice signified its readiness to discuss an extension of the truce with representatives of the other side.
“We are prepared to talk at any time and place, in any forum, with the object of bringing peace to Vietnam; however I know you would [Page 97]not expect us to reduce military action unless the other side is willing to do likewise.
“We are prepared to discuss the balanced reduction in military activity, the cessation of hostilities, or any practical arrangements which could lead to these results.
“We shall continue our efforts for a peaceful and honorable settlement until they are crowned with success.
“With great respect, Lyndon B. Johnson”
This message was transmitted in telegram 133530 to Saigon, February 8. (Ibid.) The February 13 reply to the Pope from Ho Chi Minh reads as follows:
“I wish to thank Your Holiness for his message of February 8, 1967. In his message Your Holiness expressed the wish to see an early peaceful solution to the Viet-Nam question.
“Our people sincerely love peace in order to build our country in independence and freedom. However, the U.S. imperialists have sent to South Viet-Nam half a million U.S. and satellite troops and used more than 600,000 puppet troops to wage a war against our people.
“They have committed monstrous crimes. They have used the most barbarous arms such as napalm, chemical products and toxic gases, to massacre our compatriots and burn down our villages, pagodas, churches, hospitals, schools. Their acts of aggression have grossly violated the 1954 Geneva agreements on Viet-Nam and have seriously menaced peace in Asia and the world.
“To defend their independence and peace the Vietnamese people are resolutely fighting against the aggressors. They are confident that justice will triumph. The U.S. imperialists must put an end to their aggression in Viet-Nam, end unconditionally and definitively the bombing and all other acts of war against the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, withdraw from South Viet-Nam all American and satellite troops, recognize the South Viet-Nam National Front for Liberation and let the Vietnamese people settle themselves their own affairs. Only in such conditions can real peace be restored in Viet-Nam.
“It is my hope that Your Holiness, in the name of humanity and justice, will use his high influence to urge that the U.S. Government respect the national rights of the Vietnamese people, namely peace, independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity as recognized by the 1954 Geneva agreements on Viet-Nam.
“With my high regards, Ho Chi Minh”
The text of Ho’s reply is in telegram 137496 to Saigon, February 15. (Ibid., POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)