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

Mr. President:

Herewith my judgment on today’s New York Times article on troops.2

The materials were mainly gathered from medium-level officials in both State and Defense, who oppose the sending of more troops to Vietnam.
These officials either made available, read, or summarized—probably the latter—from one of the working papers prepared for the Clifford Committee, which made the argument against more troops.
I find no evidence that officials who worked directly on the Clifford Committee spoke to the writers of the article; and some indication that they did not. I regard the article as the product of dangerous [Page 359] insubordination which can only be met by an early decision by the President and a full account of where we stand in the winter-spring enemy offensive and what we intend to do.3

Incidentally, my impression of the Westmoreland counteroffensive, described in a dispatch, March 3, to General Wheeler,4 is that it is going quite well in I Corps and around Danang. Thang has taken hold in the Delta. He deserves all the support we can give him. In III Corps we have not yet engaged the divisions near Saigon; but I presume this is imminent.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 7 D (2), 12/67–3/68, News Media Coverage of Viet Nam. Confidential. The notation “ps” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. The continuing debate within the administration over further troop deployments became public on March 10 when reporters Neil Sheehan and Hedrick Smith published an article in The New York Times that extensively revealed details of the policy assessment. For full text of the article and discussion on it, see The Pentagon Papers: The Senator Gravel Edition, pp. 584–589.
  3. There was some indication that these reporters were on the trail of the story 2 days earlier. Smith told his friend Richard Ullman, who worked in Warnke’s office, that “a comprehensive account of what had been happening within the U.S. Government since the Tet Offensive” would soon be published. (Memorandum from Ullman to Warnke, March 8; Johnson Library, Clark Clifford Papers, Vietnam (1 Feb 68–15 Mar 68) [1]) In a note to Clifford, March 8, Goulding wrote: “Nick Katzenbach called me this afternoon to say that Neil Sheehan—who covers the Pentagon for the Times—had been calling various State people with the 206,000 figure, but without the detail that Smith apparently has. That indicates how they are operating—the State men for the Times are working this building and the Pentagon men working the State Department. Paul, Nick and I are all surprised that it has taken this long for something to surface. I see nothing constructive we can do about it.” (Ibid.)
  4. See Document 101.