167. Editorial Note

From 4:13 to 7:27 p.m. on March 30, 1968, the President met with his advisers at the White House. Those attending included Secretary of Defense Clifford, General Wheeler, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bundy, Walt Rostow, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Harry McPherson, George Christian, and Tom Johnson. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) On their advice, the President decided against announcing a call-up of reservists either to fill units going to Vietnam or to replenish the strategic reserve (save for medical and other specialized support units). The President conceded: “Okay, I am willing to do it any way that you all want to. I’m just worn down on it. I don’t want to leave the impression that they are going to be called up. When they are called up they will get the notice,” he stated. He later added: “Well, I am convinced we will have to call up 48,000 people within the next few months. Now the question is whether you want to hit one belly-buster and put it in here or not. I would think that’s ill-advised, but how to deal with it I’m not sure.” (Ibid., Transcripts of Meetings in the Cabinet Room)

The President was convinced of the necessity of minimizing the public reaction to the call-up as much as possible, as Wheeler explained in telegram JCS 3564 to Westmoreland, March 31: “At a White House meeting this evening the President cited the fact that we have been accused in the past of always accompanying peace initiatives with increased military operations. He is aware, of course, of your operations leading to clearing Route 9 and eventually operating against the enemy in the vicinity of Khe Sanh. The purpose of this message is not to have you stand down those operations. However, it is desired that you, your subordinate commanders and your PA people play them in low key. By this I mean, since the press is always with you, you and your people should take care to describe these operations as being merely in the usual run of offensive operations against the enemy.” (Ibid., William C. Westmoreland Papers, #30 History File, 1–31 Mar 68 [II])