43. Summary Notes of the 568th Meeting of the National Security Council1

Bombing of North Vietnam—North Africa

In opening the meeting, Walt Rostow summarized the history of U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, citing:

The Kennedy statement at Fort Bragg referring to the U.S. Government’s position at the time of the Geneva Conference.2
The Taylor Report, 19613—that part which discussed what might be necessary if current moves did not work in Vietnam.
The Geneva Accords of 1962.4
The February, 1965, decisions.5
The Johns Hopkins speech.6

General Wheeler briefed on the military objectives of our bombing of North Vietnam. His statement, verbatim, is attached.7 It is an accurate and complete record of what he told Council members. He concluded by saying that bombing of North Vietnam is an integral part of the U.S. war effort. A North Vietnamese promise to talk is not enough to lead us to halt the bombing.

Secretary McNamara: Bombing of North Vietnam could be stopped if we got in return a symmetrical de-escalation.

Secretary Rusk: Responded to the President’s request to review our peace probes:

We have undertaken dozens of probes. We have been in touch with the Pope, with Secretary General U Thant, and the United Nations. Our position is entirely clear and it is summarized in the fourteen-point paper which we have now made public.8 The other side is not interested. We have had no comeback from them. We have used third parties without success. There is a readiness of the North Vietnamese to receive our position, but there is no indication of their changing their public position.

[Page 99]

The Poles have put out fragmentary and false accounts of a probe which is called “Marigold”. All our efforts have encountered silence. We have had no serious response, private or public.

We have come to feel that the North Vietnamese may think we are panicking. This risk we took. There is no evidence that Hanoi is ready to stop the fighting. The North Vietnamese want sanctuary in the north without giving anything, at the same time continuing the war in South Vietnam.

The President: We have our people all over the world who are ready to listen. We have pursued every hint that the North Vietnamese were willing to give up something if we give up something. Hanoi is trying to force us to give up the bombing of North Vietnam. We will keep on until we get something from the North Vietnamese.

The Council then turned to the second item on the agenda, i.e., North Africa. Notes of this discussion follow on the next page.9

Bromley Smith
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Meetings File, Vol. 4, Tab 50. Top Secret; Sensitive; For the President Only. According to the President’s Daily Diary the meeting lasted from 10:32 to 11:08 a.m. (Ibid.)
  2. Not further identified.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. I, Document 210.
  4. Text in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 1075–1083.
  5. See in particular Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. II, Document 98.
  6. See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, Book I, pp. 394–399.
  7. Not found.
  8. See footnote 2, Document 7.
  9. Printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXIV, Document 4.