82. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

Mr. President:

Attached is our translation of Ho’s flat no, plus the comments made in transmittal.2 They are breaking off the Moscow contact.

We cannot know what is running through their minds, but we must assume that “no bombing for the possibility of talk” was as much of a consensus as Ho could get out of his split government; it may have shaken and, even, frightened them that Moscow would consider a formula involving the end of infiltration; and we must assume that they have decided to sweat us out to the 1968 election and, if they lose, withdraw silently rather than to negotiate—although the latter judgment is clearly premature.

Therefore, I recommend a stock-taking of Viet Nam policy designed to:

  • —decide what we do in the North (electric power; steel; cement; mining of ports; naval gunfire to shore; or what?).
  • —how to accelerate all aspects of military and political action in the South.
  • —and, in particular, how to shift the peace effort to the South via amnesty, contacts, Saigon-NLF dialogue, etc.

In any case, Nick, Cy, and I will be putting our heads together; and next week—perhaps Tuesday lunch, when I believe Sect. Rusk will be back—we can go into it and move.3

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Lyndon B. Johnson

President of the United States

Your Excellency:

On February 10, 1967, I received your message.5 Here is my reply:

Vietnam is thousands of miles from the United States. The Vietnamese people have never done any harm to the United States, but contrary to the commitments made by its representative at the Geneva Conference of 1954, the United States Government has constantly intervened in Vietnam, has launched and intensified its aggression against South Vietnam for the purpose of prolonging the division of Vietnam and of transforming South Vietnam into an American colony and an American military base. For more than two years now, the American Government, using its military planes and its navy has been waging war against the sovereign and independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The U.S. Government has committed war crimes and crimes against peace and against humanity. In South Vietnam, a half million American soldiers and soldiers from satellite countries have used the most inhuman and barbaric methods of warfare such as napalm, chemicals and toxic gases to massacre our compatriots, destroy their crops and level their villages. In North Vietnam, thousands of American planes have rained down hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs destroying towns, villages, factories, roads, bridges, dikes, dams and even churches, pagodas, hospitals and schools. In your message you seem to deplore the suffering and the destruction in Vietnam. Allow me to ask you: who is perpetrating these awful crimes? It is the American and satellite soldiers. The United States Government is entirely responsible for the critical situation in Vietnam.

American aggression against the Vietnamese people is a challenge to the countries of the Socialist camp, menaces the peoples’ independence movement and gravely endangers peace in Asia and the world.

The Vietnamese people deeply love independence, liberty and peace. But, in the face of American aggression, they stand as one man, unafraid of sacrifices, until they have gained real independence, full liberty and true peace. Our just cause is approved and supported strongly by all the people of the world, including large segments of the American people.

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The Government of the United States is aggressing against Vietnam. It must stop this aggression as the only way leading toward the re-establishment of peace. The Government of the United States must stop the bombing, definitively and unconditionally, and all other acts of war against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, withdraw from South Vietnam all its troops and those of its satellites, recognize the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and allow the people of Vietnam to settle their problems by themselves. This is the essence of the Four Points of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as well as the expression of the principles and essential provisions of the Geneva Accords of 1954 on Vietnam. It is the basis for a just political solution of the Vietnamese problem. In your message, you suggested direct talks between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States. If the Government of the United States really wants such talks, it must first unconditionally halt the bombing as well as all other acts of war against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Only after the unconditional stopping of the bombing and all other American acts of war against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam can the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States enter into conversations and discuss the questions in which both parties are interested.

The Vietnamese people will never yield to force nor agree to talks under the menace of bombs.

Our cause is entirely just. It is our hope that the Government of the United States acts with reason.

Sincerely yours,

Ho Chi Minh
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower & Sunflower Plus. Top Secret; Sunflower Plus; Literally Eyes Only for the President.
  2. The comments are printed as Document 81.
  3. The Department apprised Rusk, who was at the Punta del Este Conference of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of American States, of Ho’s letter in telegram 137496 to Buenos Aires, Tosec 35, February 15. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)
  4. The attachment, which is marked “Informal Translation,” is a retyped copy of telegram 3502 from Moscow, February 15. (Ibid.)
  5. See Document 40.