187. Notes of Meeting1


  • The President
  • Secretary Rusk
  • Secretary Clifford
  • Walt Rostow
  • George Christian

The President examined a proposed reply to Hanoi’s message which arrived through our Ambassador at Vientiane at 4:00 a.m.2

Secretary Rusk said that the South Vietnamese would have a strong preference for New Delhi as the site of the talks. He said there was something to be said for Rangoon. The President said he would prefer Rangoon or Djakarta. Mr. Rusk proposed that we suggest a range of four cities.

Secretary Clifford pointed out that the President and others have said that we would meet anywhere, anytime. The President said, “We have to assume there is drinking water there.” He was referring to the need for communications and other facilities necessary for discussions.

Secretary Rusk said the North Vietnamese might choose Vientiane and this would not be a bad place for us. The President said that from their selfish standpoint he would think they would take New Delhi. Secretary Clifford said if he were the North Vietnamese he would stick [to] Phnom Penh because it is their first choice and they are trying to test us.

[Page 551]

The President said he had heard General Westmoreland’s views for many hours, was still sorting it out in his mind how to interpret them.3 He said he did not accept Westmoreland’s view that North Vietnam is crying for peace because of battle wounds. He said he saw some bitterness in the General, who feels he has been made the goat and has been pulled out because he didn’t get support in Washington.

Secretary Clifford said that General Wheeler had reported that Westmoreland had some bitterness but none toward the President.

The President said that Westmoreland was Marshallesque and reserved, but he did tell Mrs. Johnson on the telephone that he got full support from the Commander-in-Chief.

The President said that Westmoreland reported that he had a good meeting with President Eisenhower.

The President and the two Secretaries discussed the method of bringing Cyrus Vance into the talks as a companion of Ambassador Harriman. The President said he wanted Vance’s participation to be on a joint basis with Harriman.4

The President then discussed the possibility of bringing Ambassador Bunker to Camp David tomorrow. The two Secretaries thought this would be a good idea. Neither felt the President should attend the King funeral.

The President said Bunker’s big job is going to be to work on the South Vietnamese. He said they have to realize we’ve got to finish up by January 20. The President said Bunker is highly important in achieving this.

The President urged Secretary Clifford to solve “the gun problem.” He said, “If you can’t shove the M–16’s, shove the M–14’s as fast as you can.”

Secretary Clifford said he understood the ARVN did not want the M–14 because it was too heavy, but he would get onto the situation again.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File. Secret. Drafted by Christian. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room.
  2. The North Vietnamese response was transmitted to Washington by Sullivan in telegram 5697 from Vientiane, April 7. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE) In an attached covering note transmitting the telegram to the President, April 8, Rostow noted: “Here is the official reply to our message of April 3–4. It is virtually identical with that given independently to Baggs and Ashmore, on the one hand, and Collingwood on the other.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Crocodile, General, Chronological Summary, Vol. I [2 of 2]) The DRV reply preempted a message to the DRV Embassies in the Soviet Union, India, and Laos, which noted that communications passed through Ashmore and Baggs or Collingwood, or to the Swiss Government through the DRV Ambassador in Peking were not considered official by the U.S. Government. In addition, the DRV was requested to clarify its position through the Embassy in Vientiane “or through an official communication in any manner it desires.” (Telegram 143098 to Vientiane, New Delhi, and Moscow, April 7; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE) During a brief press conference at the White House on April 8, the President publicly confirmed receipt of the DRV message through Vientiane, and indicated that he would meet with Bunker at Camp David the next day. For text of his statement, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968–69, Book I, p. 500.
  3. See Documents 185 and 186.
  4. Earlier that morning, the President met with Vance to discuss the peace negotiations. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) Notes of the meeting have not been found.