139. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Vietnam Peace Proposal


  • Archbishop Luigi Raimondi, Apostolic Delegate to the U.S.A.
  • The Secretary
  • Daniel I. Davidson, Special Assistant to Ambassador Harriman

Archbishop Raimondi told the Secretary that last February a person connected with the official and diplomatic sector, a specialist in international law, presented a solution for breaking the impasse preventing the two parties to the Vietnamese conflict from meeting. This idea was for a third party to issue an invitation to talk at a specific time and place. This would get around the current situation where no one feels free to take the first step although both sides say that they are ready for talks.2 The Archbishop handed a memorandum, prepared by the person he had referred to above, to the Secretary.3

After slowly reading the memorandum the Secretary said that it contained a very important idea that touches on many things which have been done or attempted. The Secretary said he did not want to give an off-the-cuff reaction.

The Archbishop said that he had not expected an immediate reaction but did wish to inform the Secretary that he would welcome suggestions the Secretary might have. For example the role given to Sweden could be given to Switzerland or to any other country. Archbishop Raimondi emphasized the importance of the two parties technically remaining unaware of the proposal and said that he was [Page 407] somewhat hesitant with leaving a copy with the Secretary but would trust his judgment.

The Secretary said that the U.S. had thought of trying variations of the plan at various times. We had been thinking of suggesting that the two co-chairmen or the three ICC nations send representatives to a site such as Geneva who would be present to talk to anybody who came to the site. This method could avoid procedural difficulties such as the role of the NLF. As the various groups converse with the representatives it might lead to suggestions on how to move to peace.

One of the problems that requires close attention said the Secretary is the proposal for a reduce fire without a previous understanding or arrangement. The Secretary pointed out that the GVN holds all provincial capitals, six autonomous cities and all the district capitals and asked whether it could make use of the road network connecting these towns during a reduce fire. The Secretary repeated that he was not in any way judging the proposal.4

The Archbishop said that the Holy See would not go ahead unless exploration revealed the possibility of success since the Holy See was not interested in academic exercises.

The Secretary told the Archbishop that the Holy See’s interest is greatly appreciated and that the memorandum would get immediate and careful study.5

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S-AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, Lions. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Davidson. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office. Raimondi also saw Harriman the previous week at the time Rusk was testifying before Congress. (Memorandum from Harriman to Rusk, March 12; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, General-March 1968)
  2. The source of the idea was Harvard University law professor Roger Fisher. According to Kissinger, Fisher said that he had contacted officials of the Polish, Swedish, and Papal governments. Fisher was told by Polish UN delegate Bohdan Tomorowicz that Hanoi would accept the essence of the San Antonio formula but not make direct assurances to the United States. Only the Apostolic Delegation had agreed to act as an intermediary. (Memorandum of conversation between Davidson and Kissinger, March 21; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S–AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, Lions)
  3. Not found. Several detailed analyses of the memorandum are ibid.
  4. In telegram 133723 to Saigon, March 21, the Department informed Bunker of the proposal but cautioned him not to mention it to Thieu. (Ibid., Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/LIONS)
  5. Harriman suggested that Raimondi be told that a Polish commitment to attend the meeting was required before the United States would proceed on the initiative. (Memorandum from Harriman to Rusk, March 27; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, General-March 1968) According to a March 28 memorandum of conversation, Harriman, with Rusk’s concurrence, suggested that Raimondi sound out the Poles on this matter. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S–AH Files: Lot 71 D 461, Lions)