420. Notes of Meeting1

NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT’S MEETING
WITH
SECRETARY RUSK
SECRETARY McNAMARA
GENERAL WHEELER
CIA DIRECTOR HELMS
MR. WALT ROSTOW
MR. GEORGE CHRISTIAN
MR. TOM JOHNSON

[Here follows brief discussion of Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus.] The President asked what response had the government received on its request about stationing additional B–52s in Thailand.

General Wheeler said that Air Force Chief of Staff McConnell was in Thailand. He said Ambassador Unger sent a message to the Thai [Page 1083]Prime Minister and that “we are on the right track.” General Wheeler said the Air Marshal is “relaxed” about it.

The President asked about the over-flight of B–52s over Laos.

Secretary Rusk said Souvanna Phouma2 had some problems with this. Secretary Rusk recommended night-time flying if this is possible.

General Wheeler said there are three aspects involved:

(1)
Recommends doing away with restriction against flying over Laos during the day and night. This will shorten the turn-around time, will permit the B–52s to get up to their twelve hundred sorties per month, and will cut down on operational cost.
(2)
Even trained eyes cannot identify B–52s flying at 20,000 to 30,000 feet, and tell them apart from KC–135s which are permitted to fly over Laos now.
(3)
It is no longer necessary to couple strikes in South Vietnam with the flights out of Thailand since B–52s stationed on Guam are hitting areas in South Vietnam already.

The President approved the over-flights.

The President urged State and Defense to step up additional troops from allied countries.

Secretary McNamara said Buttercup is proceeding slowly and needs a shove.

Secretary Rusk said he told Ambassador Bunker to move the operational aspects of Buttercup from Saigon.

Director Helms said he favors some operational movement.

Walt Rostow said he thought the Viet Cong release of three of our soldiers was enough to set loose three of the enemy soldiers.3

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Secretary Rusk said the L.A. Times is about to publish a book by Stuart Loory and David Kraslow.4 The book will include the code names of some of the peace probes. Secretary Rusk suggested that Bill Bundy make a speech rather than putting out a white paper. This would take a lot out of the book, particularly if Bundy used the code names.

The President suggested Bundy be put on Issues and Answers.

Secretary McNamara said the Canadians, the Italians and the Poles have “spilled their guts.” He said there also have been leaks from the Executive Branch people.

He said he talked with the two writers and was surprised to learn how much information they have on Warsaw and on the connection between some of the peace offenses and the bomwbing. The Secretary suggested we “take some of the juice out of the story by using the code names prior to publication. We could torpedo them since the code names are not important except to people who have never heard them.”

The Secretary pointed out, however, that it would have a lot of material which could prove to be embarrassing.

There was a discussion of the Perkins Committee and a decision not to approve the request.

The President said Kosygin wrote me a letter, had his ambassador bring it in, and Chal Roberts writes most of it in the Washington Post this morning. He said it is inconceivable how this could happen.

[Here follows a brief discussion of personnel matters.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, OSD’s Notes of Meetings. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the White House.
  2. Lao Prime Minister.
  3. In telegram 76237 to Saigon, November 29, the Department transmitted a personal message from Rusk to Bunker that reads: “You should know that we have had highest level discussion here in which Buttercup came up and that there is a strong feeling among us that we should not let Buttercup shrivel up because of reluctance or fear on the part of your Vietnamese colleagues. An exchange of prisoners would itself be a most worthwhile result. A method of contact with NLF could prove to be extremely important as the future develops. We would hope that you could get Thieu’s approval for a sufficient gesture, in terms of releasing a few individuals, to get Buttercup moving.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP)
  4. After a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times, the study by these two journalists was published as The Secret Search for Peace in Vietnam (New York: Random House, 1968). Marcovich and Aubrac advised Kissinger that the journalists were attempting to contact them in December; Marcovich complained that Kraslow was “after me.” (Letter from Kissinger to Read, December 6; ibid., POL 27–14 VIET/PENNSYLVANIA) Kissinger suggested that Marcovich and Aubrac not meet with the reporters, but instead await his return to Paris on January 3, 1968, at which time they would attempt to re-open contact with Bo. (Memorandum for the record, December 11, and letter from Kissinger to Aubrac, December 20; both ibid.)