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

Mr. President:

The Apostolic Delegate, the Most Reverend Luigi Raimondi, asked to see me this afternoon. He carried a memorandum which proposed that, without the prior knowledge of Hanoi or Washington, a legitimate neutral source invited the following to appear at a conference at a certain time and place: U.S., GVN, Hanoi, and NLF. The three members of the International Control Commission (India, Canada, and Poland) would also be invited. The inviting neutral country would also ask both sides to de-escalate the violence, including a cessation of bombing of North Vietnam.

The Holy See, after examining the project, said that it was impossible to back it without both sides, at least, being informed. Therefore, Rev. Raimondi was willing to have me read the memo; make any remarks I cared to make; but not keep and circulate the memo.

I read it and told him that he should ask for a session with Secretary Rusk; let him read and return the memo; and get his observations. My own observations were these:

  • —The memo is based on the assumption that both sides wish to negotiate, but cannot find a way to do so without believed disadvantage. It was unlikely that this was the case; but no idea or hypothesis that might bring peace should be excluded.
  • —The proposal called for a “gradual reduction” in the violence; but called for a flat “cessation of bombing of North Vietnam.” Whatever proposals were made should be well balanced and symmetrical, in my judgment.
  • —The memo suggested Sweden as an ideal authentic neutral—I noted that out of its own political life, Sweden had gotten itself into a somewhat awkward relation to Vietnam. He immediately said that Switzerland would certainly be better.
  • —I concluded by repeating that he should regard my remarks as personal; and should seek out Secretary Rusk.2 I told him that anything coming from the Holy See or from himself personally would always be taken most seriously by this government.

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I told him that I would, of course, inform the President; but I would not circulate a piece of paper about this project within the government beyond that.

He asked me to convey his respects and best wishes to the President.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 66. Literally Eyes Only.
  2. See Document 139.