162. Notes of Meeting1


  • —Build-up of NVA Battalions: Attack force was 85,000—of that, KIA was 42,000
  • —Areas hit.

Abrams: For every one man we count dead, he loses 1/3 to injury. Saigon wasn’t taken. They did get near Tan Son Nhut.


  • —Losses: NVA-VC—500/day; weapons—16,000 enemy.
  • —Movements: Buildup near Saigon & Hue.
  • —Force level of SVN: March ’68—647,000; June ’68—685,000; June ’69—779,154; June ’70—801,215.
  • —Equipment modernization.
  • —Combat death.

P[resident]: Were 80,000 KIA?

H[elms]: What kind of soldiers were they?

A[brams]: Mixed group, but armed men.

D[ePuy]: Low estimate of enemy force under arms.

153,000—250/day = 98% KIA.

270,000—500/day = 85% KIA.

DePuy: At what point does attrition catch up w/infiltration? They don’t.

P[resident]: If we knock off 80,000/yr., can they sustain it?

H[elms]: How many NVA were killed?

Wheeler: I am studying the matter now. Westmoreland believes they could bring in 2 divisions in next 30–60 days. For next several months, he will take more & more chances because he is attacking Americans here at home.

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President: Everybody is recommending surrender. What are estimates—input of VC; NVA held down in NVN; how many are available from N.; how fast we can kill them?

Wheeler: Giap’s theory is there (are) always going to be people dying.

Carver: Communists want to take South Vietnam. Keep VN state structure from developing.

Decision to put in line elements—late Spring 1964; Autumn 1964—moving in; showed up in early 1965.

Their escalation—March 1965—1st U.S. troops to Danang; Feb. 1965—bombing; May–June; July—Decision by LBJ—100,000 put in.

Are we relatively much stronger today than a year ago/2 years ago?

Abrams: Yes.

P[resident]: From July ’65 to July ’70. If you take 5-yr. period, are we as far along proportionally as we were in W.W.II?

W[heeler]: Yes. Better off.

P[resident]: How many (do) they have (actual count)?

W[heeler]: 100 (thousand).

P[resident]: How many (do) we have?

W[heeler]: 1,000 (thousand).

P[resident]: You seen any Chinese men?

W[heeler]: No.

P[resident]: Has M–16 problem subsided?

A[brams]: Yes.

Carver: Decisions made last summer in Hanoi. They think they can take us in guerrilla war & that we will not start conventional war. They decided to exploit differences between (not SVN) & (SVN & people) & stop(ping) pacification. Major trends going against them. Had to move off of protracted war status—collapse (of) GVN; destroy pol(itical) basis; collapse our will to carry on struggle in election year. We know all our imperfections. Have an imperfect picture of their losses. They wanted to create fear psychosis. They did take casualties. Controversy over how many.

Abrams: CIA says we lump cab drivers, messengers, couriers, together & call them VC-NVA.

[Omitted here is a list of those present.]

We can’t afford to kid ourselves on figures. B–52s and Tac Air (tactical air support) isn’t counted.

P[resident]: Any pressure from Washington on body count?

W[heeler]: No. They lost more in 3 months than we have in whole war.

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Carver: GVN has been thrown back to district & province towns. Expect 2nd effort. Select individual units. Kontum & Ban Me Thuot.

Abrams: Agree they could hit west of Kontum.

Carver: Still can play with negotiations. Always can make some gesture. Accept S(an) A(ntonio). Prediction—make 1968 a decisive year. Next 2–4 months will be decisive. Political balance may tip. Our contribution must be one of attitude. In next 2–3 months will be decisive.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. No classification marking. Those present at the meeting, which lasted from 4:15 p.m. to 5:37 p.m., were the President, the Vice President, Helms, Carver, DePuy, his assistant Lieutenant Colonel H.H. Perritt, McPherson, and Tom Johnson. An hour after the meeting began, Fowler and Zwick entered and were seated at the back of the room. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) An attached cover sheet reads: “CIA-DOD Briefing by General DePuy and George Carver.” A transcript of a recording of the meeting is ibid., Transcripts of Meetings in the Cabinet Room.