231. Memorandum From the President’s Special Consultant (Taylor) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

In his cable of May 10 (Section II, Saigon 26928),2 Ellsworth Bunker makes a case against a total cessation of bombing of North Viet-Nam for an inadequate return to which I heartily subscribe. To gain the advantages from a total cessation which he seeks and to avoid the adverse consequences he foresees (suspicion and despair in South Viet-Nam; encouragement to increased violence in North Viet-Nam), I would suggest the adoption of the following negotiation position, immediately or progressively as the talks develop:

a. Tacit or overt disavowal of the San Antonio formula.

While insistence on evidence of “productive” discussions as a price for a total cessation of bombing offers possibilities for maneuver under the San Antonio formula, the “no advantage” condition has always been difficult to use to advantage. To equate “no advantage” to the maintenance of normal levels of infiltration poses impossible problems of establishing what is normal and of proving departures from that normal after we have stopped the bombing.

However, we now have the possibility of getting rid of the San Antonio formula on the ground that it has been invalidated by subsequent events which make it impossible for us to assume that no advantage would be taken of a total cessation of bombing. Since March 31, we have instituted a unilateral geographical restraint on our bombing and the enemy response to it has been to take the fullest advantage of it by conducting infiltration at an ever increasing rate and by resuming the [Page 662] attack of South Vietnamese cities after the pattern of the Tet offensive. It is impossible to consider a further reduction of our bombing until these escalatory acts of the enemy cease and we receive some tangible evidence indicating the adoption of appropriate restraints in compensation for the present restrictions on our bombing,

b. Resumption of bombing between 19th and 20th parallel.

We have this action available to us at any time. We would be justified in taking it now but I would prefer holding it for use at some point during negotiations when it will produce maximum effect. If our adversaries reject our demand for the restraints mentioned in the preceding paragraph, that would be an excellent time to renew our bombing up to the 20th parallel.

c. Discussions of total cessation of bombing.

The foregoing actions would not preclude a continuing discussion of a total cessation of bombing but we should try to keep it within the confines of the total package of issues to be negotiated. The bombing is our primary “persuader” and should be retained to the last to make a maximum contribution to “prompt and productive” discussions and agreements. We should not be reluctant to resume bombing in the Hanoi-Haiphong area whenever it becomes apparent that the enemy is increasing his activities in the South or deliberately stalling the negotiations.

If you see any merit in the foregoing views, I would suggest that they be passed to our negotiators in Paris.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8I, 1/67–12/68, Taylor Memos—General. Secret. In an attached note transmitting the memorandum to the President, May 16, Rostow wrote: “Herewith Gen. Taylor’s thoughts, in support of Amb. Bunker, on the need to go slow on total bombing cessation.” A notation by the President on the covering note reads: “Walt—Review with Rusk & Clifford. L”
  2. Document 228. Commenting on the views of both Bunker and Taylor in a May 18 memorandum to Rostow, Ginsburgh noted that they “involve potential pitfalls if not properly related to the total talking-fighting scenario.” He advised against any public disavowal of the San Antonio formula and equating attacks on Saigon with those in the Hanoi-Haiphong area. He recommended that the administration “use the very next occasion of any significant enemy offensive action to resume bombing between 19 and 20” parallels or, even if the NVA/VC did not attack in South Vietnam, resume bombing anyway if several weeks of no progress at Paris elapsed. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Harvan, Misc. & Memo’s, Vol. I)