76. Editorial Note

On February 13, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson met from 8:29 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. with a group of his senior foreign policy advisers, including General Earle Wheeler, Robert McNamara, Cyrus Vance, Walt Rostow, Nicholas Katzenbach, Hubert Humphrey, William Bundy, Maxwell Taylor, and Foy Kohler. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) The meeting concerned the attempt by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin to broker an arrangement that would lead to an opening of peace talks on Vietnam. According to handwritten notes of the meeting taken by Presidential aide Tom Johnson, the following exchange occurred:

“Buz Wheeler: Following a presentation describing the increase in North Vietnamese infiltration, Wheeler added: Have not suffered any ill effects. Movement of supply has been substantial. W/O it could move 1/5 of it. Postponement—Yes, I favor it because this is the 1st time Soviets have been in like this.

“VP: Chinese sit(uation) may mean they can’t hold this power over Hanoi. Time element is very desirable, if even for a couple of hours.

“Bill Bundy: Use open line to Thompson. Russians will intercept. Announce here at 12 o’clock.

Rostow: Favor proposal made. Have reacted to Kosygin request.

“Pres.: Asked Nick to draft cable to Wilson. Add another 7 hours on bombing but will try to minimize movement of supply by naval forces. Following comments by Bundy and McNamara, the President added: Don’t want to get involved in another extension if not doing any good.

Rostow: (No indication of a response)

Bundy: Urged until 3 p.m. for naval gunfire.

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McNamara: Thro British put proposals to Kosygin. K sent to Hanoi. If they stop infil. we will cease bombing of N. on Sat. Hanoi told embassy had transmitted our Kosygin to Brezhnev. Have transmitted our proposal. Soviet has endorsed our proposal. Wilson wanted five more hours. Gave until 11 a.m. this a.m. Planned to resume at noon. Now to 7 p.m. tonight. Execute message at 3. Naval gunfire start at noon. Does Hanoi distinguish between gunfire and bombing.

Wheeler: Another 2–3 hours won’t have any effect.

“Pres: Stand on alert until 3 p.m. our time. Bombing starts at 7. Naval gunfire to be moved back.

“VP: Argued with McN—1st time Soviets began. This is risk worth taking. Ought to give extra hours.

“Pres: If military people are satisfied.

“Buzz: This is a political decision. Not going to make that much difference militarily.

Bundy: We’ve gone more notches.

Max Taylor: No prob. in postponing mil. gunfire.

Tom Johnson noted: At 12—resumption of mil. action authorized. Announcement of resumption & bombing falling at same time.” (Ibid., Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings)