174. Notes of Telephone Conversation1


Gov. Harriman called Mr. Katzenbach concerning the military reports on bombing deep in NVN; H said had talked to Clark Clifford, but was sorry at that time did not know of “military spokesmen”.2

K. said was having lunch today and discussing the subject.

H. said he is strongly recommending to the President that he make public statement for the press clarifying—said would send K. a copy.3 H. continued that Clifford had told him the JCS were reluctant approve 20th parallel; if the President wants to overrule the Chiefs that’s certainly within his power. K. said Clifford is sitting with a 3 to 2 vote on the 20th parallel. H asked who, to which K replied apparently Navy and Air Force go along but not the Army and Marines; it was 2 to 2.

H. said he thought these fellows are trying to sabotage it and try to make a liar of the President; the President has to at least answer with something very clearly and if later on gets specific information, agree. H. said had been talking to INR and they told him details—if found traffic on Route 7 increased or if found accumulation of military units or material, or supplies then revise the decision.

K. said he thought that made sense. H. added that he was using word “disastrous”. That Clifford defends military because they were told 20th parallel and he calls this “fuzzy” language. Unfortunately I didn’t know what had gone. Perhaps it is better for K. to give him (Clifford) what we have from Rome and Canada. Hanoi is going to be let off the hook completely that H. impression was that 20th parallel was the maximum.

K. When they looked at the language of the speech the orders had not yet gone out. The President approved the orders after approving the language; K supposed that that is essence of Clifford’s argument.

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Harriman But the Chiefs have a responsibility to the Commander and Chief—and they will make the President, our Commander and Chief, a liar.

Katzenbach Give me a copy and I’ll take it to lunch and give it to the President.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Chron./Sched.—April 1968. Secret; Personal; Nodis.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 173.
  3. Attached but not printed is an April 2 memorandum to the President from Harriman, in which Harriman called bombing so far into North Vietnam a “disastrous trend,” which he urged the President to reverse, and requested that the President issue “an immediate clarification of the bombing restraints.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Chron./Sched.—April 1968)