94. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Mike Mansfield1

Mansfield: “The Congress hereby declares—one: its firm intention to provide all necessary support for members of the armed forces of the United States fighting in Vietnam; two: its support of efforts being made by the President of the United States—the President was not in the Clark second resolution—and other men of goodwill throughout the world to prevent an expansion of the war in Vietnam and to bring that conflict to an end through a negotiated settlement which will preserve the honor of the United States, protect the vital interests of the country, and allow the people of South Vietnam to determine the affairs of that nation in their own way; and three: its support of the Geneva Accords of ’54 and urges the convening of that conference or any other meeting of nations similarly involved and interested as soon as possible for the purpose of formulating plans for bringing the conflict to an honorable conclusion in accordance with the principles of those Accords.” You have said every one of those things.2

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President: Yeah. Is that it?

Mansfield: That’s it.

President: Now what’s going to be your argument—just say rather than declare war we just substitute this?

Mansfield: That’s right. The other argument goes too far; it infringes upon the executive, it has a lot of loopholes in it, and we’re up facing an accomplished fact, and we have to go through with it. We cannot withdraw, we will not withdraw, and we’ll continue our efforts, and this is it.

President: What we want to do now out there—I’ve talked to you I think once before and then I’ll be through—I’m giving serious thought, I’ve got to meet with them sometime, our 6 months is about up, and we’re trying to get Ky to come on and have an election as quickly as we can after the Constitution comes in. Lodge will be moving out; he can’t stay, we’ve got to move him somewhere else. We are thinking seriously of making Westmoreland, who has the leadership qualities and the respect of everybody with whom he has ever dealt, and particularly our AID people and particularly our State people and the military people, giving him overall command. He just wears the uniform and he’ll be our number one man in Vietnam until they have their presidential election and get a man elected. He’ll replace Lodge in effect and replace Westmoreland in effect. But we’ll have under him that we expect to develop, the younger men—Abrams, who would be Chief of Staff of the Army here if he stayed here, but we want to send him out there to try to see if we can’t put a new touch on our pacification and get a new approach to try to get this country of South Vietnam back on its feet. We’re going to make a desperate effort to move Sullivan out of Laos in there to take Porter’s job—Porter is tired—and probably move Bob Komer out to do work on the other side of the war: the pacification, schools, and hospitals. And then we’re going to make one desperate pitch if we can to get Ellsworth Bunker to go there as Ambassador at Large to really be the midwife like he did with the Dominican Republic—to try to get the civilian election held, to try to see that it’s fair, to try to get the generals to have a civilian viewpoint and understand that that’s more important to have a good election than it is to win a big battle and try to guide them like he did. He’s in perfect health now, he feels good, he’s younger than I am, but he does have 72 years old. But I, look, last night, I was talking to Mac Bundy, he said, “Well, Secretary Stimson3 came down here as the greatest Secretary of War at 73 and stayed 5 years, and this fellow oughtn’t have to stay over [Page 219]5 months in this transition period.” And we’ve got Westmoreland there so if something happened to the older man, he got a little senile or something, we wouldn’t be caught. At the same time, we think he has enough stature and enough respect of the whole world, and certainly Westmoreland would respect him enough, that he in effect would be the political man and diplomatic man, and we’d just use Westmoreland’s stars to keep Ky in line, and we’re doing that, and doing it pretty effectively since Honolulu. We’ve made him go with a Constituent Assembly, and Westmoreland’s worked his heart out and we’ve got him going now with a presidential election, and he’s agreed to move it up 4 or 5 months. I want to get your reaction to that.

Mansfield: It sounds like it has a possibility. I’d sort of like to think it through, Mr. President.

President: All right. I don’t know that he’ll do it. The weakness is, I don’t know whether Westmoreland will want to take on a little more responsibility, it’s kind of to supervise the other. We think we need to do that because of his position there. I don’t know that Bunker would want to work under somebody, you see, as an older man, but he is not familiar with all these things. But he has an approach that nobody in the government has.

Mansfield: He’s been a good soldier too.

President: That’s right. He does, that’s right. He just goes wherever the ball is. If it’s going around end, he’ll go there, if it goes through the line, he goes. He doesn’t seem to pick up any barnacles or hurt anybody’s feelings or he doesn’t get in any fights. Most of the State Department people got problems, but he doesn’t seem to get any. Think it over. Say nothing about it. I’m thinking it over this weekend. I’m going to send for him and see if I can talk him into it. But I’ve got to do something and I’ve got to find something for Lodge. I don’t know where I’ll put him.

Mansfield: Uh-huh. Okay, Mr. President, do that. Thank you.

President: Bye.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Mansfield, March 1, 1967, 9:53 a.m., Tape 67.08, Side A, PNO 1. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.
  2. After being reported out of the Armed Services Committee on February 23, the Senate began debate on the supplemental authorization bill for fiscal year 1967 known as S665. The amendment that Mansfield read to the President was a substitute for two amendments to the appropriations bill, introduced by Senator Joseph Clark (D–PA). Clark’s first amendment prohibited funds for operations against the DRV or augmentation of forces in South Vietnam and included a statement of support for a negotiated settlement. The second resolution affirmed Congressional support for U.S. troops in Vietnam and included a statement of support for a negotiated settlement and a declaration that the 1954 Geneva Accords should serve as the basis for settlement of the conflict. For text of Clark’s resolutions, see Congressional Record, vol. 113, pp. 5279–5284. The Mansfield amendment, which also included a reference to the 1962 Geneva Accords, passed by a vote of 72–19 on February 28 and was attached to the final authorization bill approved by the Senate 89–2 on March 1. On March 2 the House of Representatives passed HR4515, as reported from the House Armed Services Committee on February 24, and substituted its language for the provisions of S665, which was passed by voice vote. The bill went into conference on March 7; both the House and Senate adopted S665 on March 8. See Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. XXIII, 1967, pp. 204–209. On March 12 the President discussed the issue of appropriations for the war effort with his advisers. (Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings) The President signed Public Law 90–5 on March 16 authorizing an additional $4.5 billion in supplemental expenditures in Vietnam. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 885–886. The total amount of the funds needed for the remainder of fiscal year 1967 was reduced by $80 million by Congress; the total appropriation of $12.2 billion was reported on March 17 and signed into law by the President on April 4. See Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Vol. XXIII, 1967, pp. 209–211.
  3. Henry Stimson, Secretary of War, 1911–1913, Secretary of State, 1929–1933, and again Secretary of War, 1940–1945.