216. Notes of Meeting1


  • The President
  • Secretary Rusk
  • Secretary Clifford
  • General Wheeler
  • CIA Director Helms
  • Walt Rostow
  • George Christian
  • Tom Johnson

Secretary Rusk: On site problem, Rumanian Ambassador said they expected to hear today on whether they would accept other representative.

We need third party to propose Rumania: British-U.N.-India. I prefer India to suggest Rumania. Algerians want to get into this.2

The President: Let’s talk about that later. Let’s be prepared for three or four places. Bucharest is okay.

Walt Rostow: The bombing targets are between 19th and 20th parallels.

Secretary Clifford: The flow is increasing. Captured documents do not indicate an enemy moving toward peace.

[Page 615]

There are four targets south of the 20th with military value, but there is a serious political situation. This could indicate failure on quest for sites. It could also show them we mean business and bring them back to reality.

(General Wheeler showed photographs of four sites.)

The President: Dean, (Secretary Rusk) do you have any trouble with it?

Secretary Rusk: No.

General Wheeler: Do locks bother you?

Secretary Rusk: No.

General Wheeler: No civilian casualties would result.

Secretary Rusk: Time is running out.

The President: Do you recommend it, Buzz?

General Wheeler: Yes.

Secretary Clifford: I would not recommend it immediately. Let’s wait and get response from Hanoi. It could disturb relationship we are trying to build with them.

Let’s hold up for a reply.

Secretary Rusk: Is that airfield getting muddy?

General Wheeler: Yes. There are significant military implications to the airport.

The President: I do not want to go to Paris. I think they are not in the least interested genuinely in peace. We need to find out what my March 31 speech has done to us.

I do not think Bunker’s proposal3 will get us to the peace table by the elections. I believe they are giving us same treatment they did at Tet.

This is the 30th day of the pause. We are going into our fifth week. We counseled patience, but you have to look at the calendar. We have to start laying the groundwork for what may come.

[Page 616]

Do you think, Buzz (General Wheeler), that time is limited when we can continue to keep the area above the 19th off limits without hurt?

General Wheeler: Yes sir. They are moving men and equipment south quite rapidly.

(CIA Director Helms gave paper on infiltration into South.)4

The President: Can’t we hit anything in water between 19th and 20th?

General Wheeler: No sir.

The President: What is answer that you use to counter hitting them in nose only rather than going way up?

General Wheeler: There is no nose. There is a network of roads. Plus there is no way to get them all at the “gate.”

Secretary Rusk: The boys in Laos want us to extend bombing East.

The President: Is Sullivan worried?

Secretary Rusk: He is for it.

Secretary Clifford: Sullivan favors alternative A. We prefer alternative B to hit area in Laos.5

CIA Director Helms: A is ten miles from 20th. B is 15 miles from 20th.

The President: Let’s take out B now. See how it looks.

Walt Rostow: MACV wants a briefing on what is going on in Haiphong-Hanoi area.

We have three questions: (See Question 8—Section marked).6

Let’s lay it out in matter of fact way.

George Christian: We should show the photos and give facts on increase in infiltration.

Secretary Rusk: I do not think we should show pictures. It looks like military pressure on you. We should have quiet backgrounding.

Secretary Clifford: There should be backgrounding in both Saigon and in Washington. I do not think the pictures should have been used. We want to go on with reconnaissance.

The President: Is there anything on Ike?

General Wheeler: He is resting comfortably. Nothing serious at the moment.

We can get benefit without showing pictures. Information on infiltration would be good to get out.

The President: I do not want Ho to get impression he can take this country away from us. We are not reeling under the Doves’ attack. I have [Page 617] talked with a number of people. We have left Ho with the impression that we are leaving the country.

We have got to be very careful.

I am going to have a televised news conference later this week. I am not going to give them the impression we are tied down or running out.

President Park agreed to give 5000 military or 6000 civilians.

The State Department reporters’ notes were terrible. I told him we would get him an additional $100 million over the $300 million we had already given him. Park said July 1 was target date.

I would like to look again at expediting supplies.

General Wheeler: He has 10,000 support troops for men from Korea.

Secretary Clifford: Gave the President a brief memorandum on $100 million—how it is to be used.7

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. No classification marking. The meeting was held in the White House. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)
  2. Other intermediaries involved with the site selection included India, Indonesia, Switzerland, and the Vatican. In telegram 155877 to New Delhi, April 30, the Department requested that Bowles assess whether India could play a role in finding a mutually agreeable site, such as Bucharest, Algiers, Dar es Salaam, and Cairo, but any such proposal would have to be submitted by the Indian Government “as its own idea.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files, 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE) In telegram 13492 from New Delhi, May 1, Bowles expressed confidence that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi would undertake the request. (Ibid.) Bowles subsequently delivered such a message to the Indian Government. (Telegram 13617 from New Delhi, May 2; ibid.) The administration also received an offer from the Indonesian Government, which had been encouraged by Poland, for the use of one of its naval cruisers, to be stationed in the Tonkin Gulf, as the site. (Telegrams 6312 from Djakarta, April 26, and 6360 from Djakarta, April 28; ibid.) In addition, in consultations with North Vietnamese representatives in Peking, Switzerland concluded that the Hanoi leadership most likely would accept either Geneva or Paris as the site for talks. (Memorandum of conversation between Swiss Ambassador Felix Schnyder and Harriman, May 1; ibid.) Finally, in an April 30 message delivered by the Apostolic Delegate Luigi Raimondi, the Pope proposed the Vatican as a site. (Ibid., POL US–VAT) The President’s letter of appreciation to the Pope was transmitted in telegram 158496 to Rome, May 5. (Ibid.)
  3. Bunker requested ICC representatives to convey to the North Vietnamese categorical U.S. rejection of Warsaw and the need to continue to search for additional sites. (Telegram 25903 from Saigon, April 29; ibid., POL 27–14 VIET/CROCODILE) In backchannel telegram Saigon 339 to Rostow, April 30, Bunker noted: “In conclusion, I believe that what is most needed is a continuation of the present U.S. attitude of firmness and patience combined with announced willingness to meet with the other side on reasonable terms. I see no need for dramatic or hasty actions to demonstrate our reasonableness and the genuineness of our intentions. On the other hand, I believe that we should make known in accurate but non-polemical terms the military advantage which Hanoi is taking of this prolonged period of haggling in order to reinforce Communist elements in the South through the infiltration of unprecedented quantities of men and supplies. In another week or so, we may be forced to indicate to Hanoi that, in the absence of progress on talks, we shall have to re-examine our bomb restriction policy. This may jar loose a decision on their side, but we should be serious in issuing this warning, and not do it as a bluff.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 84, Ellsworth Bunker Papers, Vietnam Telegrams—Chronological)
  4. Not found.
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXVIII, Document 361, footnote 3.
  6. Presumably an attachment distributed at the meeting; not found.
  7. Not found.