186. Notes of Meeting1
NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT’S MEETING WITH GENERAL WESTMORELAND
The President: General Westmoreland will visit with General Eisenhower. Let’s not make him late.
Walt Rostow: General Westmoreland will discuss future deployment at the DMZ.[Page 546]
General Westmoreland: We want to move ahead on strong-point obstacle system. The enemy artillery and rockets forced a deferment in this program. Khesanh has been relieved.
The President: Can we replace U.S. troops there with Vietnamese?
General Westmoreland: Yes, sir. First link-up of troops at Khesanh was a Vietnamese battalion.
Clark Clifford: We must look into the M–14 utilization.
Secretary Rusk: You may want to give them to RF and PF.
The President: Get the answer on M–14’s as soon as you can.2
Walt Rostow: Point 2 is a discussion of operational plans under conditions of a total bombing cessation.
General Westmoreland: We need a better company level-battalion level radio. Want recommendations on this.
On general offensive operations, I have talked to Thieu and Vien to get South Vietnamese moving on all intelligence.
I will have another meeting to give South Vietnamese another spur. Intelligence must be sharpened. We must have a psychological war campaign.
Operational plans under conditions of total bombing cessation would be no different than those we now have.
Secretary Rusk: We must make sure assumption of not taking advantage holds during bombing stand-down.3
The President: Should we give the message we sent to Hanoi.
Nick Katzenbach: No, we gave a digest of it yesterday.4 Let’s get rid of Baggs and Ashmore.
The President: We will name Abrams as Westmoreland’s successor.[Page 547]
Have Cy Vance and General Goodpaster drop in and out of negotiations as military.
Send Goodpaster as Abrams’ successor temporarily.5
General Wheeler: Let Services nominate the Deputy.
The President: Talk to Averell about this. I will talk to Cy. Get Vance to replace Thompson.6
The President: I am ready to announce Abrams now.
General Wheeler: I am ready.
Clark Clifford: I am ready.
The President:7 We talked about morale of troops. You keep a constant check on that.
General Westmoreland: I will.
The President: Resumption of reconnaissance flights.
Clark Clifford: We stopped reconnaissance north of 20th parallel during delicate period.
When do you want us to resume it?
General Westmoreland: My opinion is that we need good intelligence
- —New roads
- —Traffic into Haiphong
We must resupply agent teams in North by air.8[Page 548]
Clark Clifford: We need to keep our reconnaissance going. Unless we do we are working from blind hand.
Secretary Rusk: We must have occasional reconnaissance flights up there.
Clark Clifford: We will start an occasional reconnaissance program.
The President: What have we agreed to do that we haven’t done?
Clark Clifford: Callup 24,000 reserves.9 We are all in agreement on this callup. We will proceed on that basis.
The President: I am ready. I want them to have something to do.
Clark Clifford: We will be ready to assure you they have guns, equipment, training program.
General Wheeler: I am going to see General Johnson and check on this today.
The President: You want extra men and fighter squadrons.
General Westmoreland: I would like to have 3 squadrons and 2 squadrons as part of 13,500 program.
General Wheeler: We need to get these carriers rehabilitated.
Clark Clifford: I have got to cut $3 billion out of DOD budget.
Clark Clifford: We will have last report on question of bombing by 7:00 a.m. tomorrow. I am willing to make a flat, categorical statement that no U.S. planes hit N.W. North Vietnam.
The President: What else do we need to do?
General Westmoreland: I like the idea of stationing men in Hawaii.10
The President: What do you plan to put in Hawaii?
General Wheeler: If callup is limited to 24,000 we can’t put troops in Hawaii.
The President: Any SAMs around Khesanh or in DMZ?
General Westmoreland: No, I put no credence in that report.
General Wheeler: There are two just above DMZ.
The President: When is Bunker coming in?
Nick Katzenbach: Wednesday,11 10:00 a.m.[Page 549]
General Westmoreland: We will either meet in Hawaii or not.12
ATTENDING THIS MEETING WERE
- The President
- The Vice President
- Secretary Rusk
- Clark Clifford
- Nick Katzenbach
- General Westmoreland
- General Wheeler
- Walt Rostow
- George Christian
- Tom Johnson
- Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. Top Secret. The notes were prepared on April 8. The meeting, which was held in the Cabinet Room from 3:05 to 4 p.m., followed the President’s luncheon with Westmoreland and Rusk. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) A complete transcript of the meeting and a summary are ibid., Transcripts of Meetings in the Cabinet Room. A list of participants is at the end of the notes. ↩
- According to the transcript of the meeting, the group discussed the M–14 rifle, noting that a large number were on hand but were not being to sent to Vietnam because of a problem with the powder charge in the cartridge, an issue that was being resolved. The President stated: “If we should get the right answer on M–14s, we’ve got it made because you’ve got a million of them that are ready, so that’s what we want to get the answer on, and then start hauling. And then get Thieu and Ky and all their crowd and get things boosted up and show them how much better equipment we are going to get them and then say, ‘God damn it, let’s go, because we are going out of office in January here. Wheeler has just got one year term left and I’ve just got nine months and Westy hasn’t got but three or four months, and we want to get this thing as far along as we can. You fellows have got to carry on.’”↩
- According to the transcript, Rusk said: “Hanoi supported the action that you took last Sunday, but if you go into a complete bombing stop without insisting upon the assumption you stated in the San Antonio formula, we’ll have deep trouble all of our own. so we’ve just got to make it clear that assumption remains in effect, and if they think they are going to be able to go full-blast while we are stopping our part of the war, then we are in real trouble.”↩
- See footnote 8, Document 185.↩
- According to the transcript, on this point the President stated: “I would, if it is at all feasible, have [Westmoreland] say to General Eisenhower today that we would like for Goodpaster to start out—my thought would be to have a diplomatic, political head of the negotiating team and a military department representative too, and I would suggest that we try to have Averell since he has been designated, and anybody else we designate, they resign. I want them to resign to me instead of Averell. Have Averell there, and then ask Cy Vance to take Goodpaster for the military operations, and Cy can drop in and out because if he has to come home, it’s not too long. He wouldn’t be able to go a year or two, but he would be able to go a month or two and back and forth, and Dean says he thinks that would work out all right. He is free to do this without being encumbered anywhere else. I believe he might get along with them. Then, we use Goodpaster and whoever else that backed him up until July in these things, and then we could send him on out to be Abrams’ deputy when Abrams moves up, and that would cover both waterfronts. Even if this thing got deep and we couldn’t carry him, we would have to make a choice which we could make—which is more important. But that would be the tentative plan.” In his news conference of April 10, the President announced Abrams’ appointment as COMUSMACV. See Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968–69, Book I, pp. 504–507.↩
- Thompson returned to Moscow on April 17.↩
- According to the transcript, at this point the President received a call from Califano, who reported on rioting in Washington and elsewhere and a request from Governor Spiro Agnew for the dispatch of federal troops to Baltimore.↩
- Documentation on the Special Operations Groups operating inside North Vietnam is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXVIII.↩
- This figure included the 13,500 previously promised to Westmoreland with the balance constituting replacements for units rotating home.↩
- These troops were to form a strategic reserve.↩
- April 10.↩
- After this
meeting the President and Westmoreland met with the White House press corps to
discuss the General’s report on Vietnam. For text of their
statements, see Public Papers of the Presidents of
the United States: Lyndon B.
Johnson, 1968–69, Book I, pp. 498–499. In
telegram 24137 from Saigon, April 6, Bunker described Thieu’s uneasiness, which was “based on fear and
suspicion that the U.S. in its anxiety for peace will concede too
much”; Thieu also warned
about “a morale collapse here in two or three days” if it appeared
that the United States was willing to make concessions in the
negotiations with the DRV. (Johnson
Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 71) As a result,
Rostow recommended that
the President send a “reassuring message” to Thieu through Westmoreland. (Memorandum from
Rostow to the President,
April 6; ibid.)
The President gave Westmoreland a letter for Thieu dated April 7 in which the President proclaimed: “At the same time I want it clearly understood by you and the South Vietnamese people that my offer Sunday night does not in any way dilute our commitment to our goal of peace and self-determination. We are ready to seek an honorable peace but at the same time a vigilant America stands ready to defend an honored cause whatever the price, whatever the burden, whatever the sacrifice that duty may require. As I have said, the United States will never accept a false solution to this war.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence, Pres. Thieu Correspondence) The Embassy was notified of the letter in telegram 143730 to Saigon, April 9. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S) Bunker reported in telegram 24409 from Saigon, April 10, that Westmoreland had discussed with Thieu that morning his meeting with the President and the letter. (Ibid.)↩