77. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara1

McNamara: Mr. President, may I call Walt Rostow and ask him to work up a contingency press release that would respond to allegations that we screwed up another peace effort and that would make reference to the 10-mile restriction, the Polish talks, the bombing of the 13th, 14th, the current discussions, etc.? Wilson has just put out a statement that is likely to raise questions later. It says that based on his talks with Kosygin, he claims a peace could be arranged. I don’t have it right in front of me, but that’s the essence of it. And our public relations people feel they’re going to be pressed very hard after we put out the announcement [Page 166]this afternoon as to whether there were peace talks, and what they were, and why they failed, and why didn’t we continue with the [restriction on] bombing Hanoi.

President: I don’t think that we’d want to get into the London conversations too much though now, do you?

McNamara: I’d stay away from them. But I’d just like to see the best possible statement from your point of view protecting you written down so we have it available, because we don’t know what Wilson is going to say. He’s going to try to make himself a hero and if things didn’t succeed it was really not his fault but ours, which is what I fear will come out of all this. I’ll call Walt.

President: Yeah, okay, I think that’s all right. Now, he’s landed, I assume, by now.

McNamara: Yes, he should have. Five minutes ago.

President: Have you heard anything back?

McNamara: No, I haven’t, although …

President: From Buzz?

McNamara: No, I talked to Buzz just a moment ago, but we don’t have anything on the bombing yet, but the naval gunfire is due to start in 5 minutes. And we may of course be queried as a result of a Hanoi statement that gunfire has started, and I’ve already given our people a statement they can make under those circumstances.

President: When do you think the other thing will come on?

McNamara: Well, my guess is that it will start around 2:30 or so and we’ll hear about it 3:00 to 3:30.

President: Okay.

McNamara: Goodbye. Thank you.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and McNamara, February 13, 1967, 11:55 a.m., Tape F67.06, Side A, PNO 2. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.