301. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Mr. Vance’s Meeting with The Chiefs, Wednesday, 17 July 1968

During the initial part of the meeting attended only by the Joint Chiefs, Mr. Vance and myself, Mr. Vance reviewed his private conversations with Van Lau and Vy. He went through an exposition of the Phase I, Phase II Proposal and the other side’s reaction thereto using his reporting cable as a talking paper. He said that in a post mortem on these talks, Habib and he had come to the following conclusions:

The other side thoroughly understood our Phase I, Phase II Proposal.
They had not rejected the Proposal.
They wanted to find out what was our minimum position, but following his instructions, he had discussed only the DMZ part of the Proposal in detail.
The other side was interested in the DMZ, although they might find difficulty in formally agreeing to this in advance. After about two [Page 874] weeks, we might want to consider handling this through the “assumption” route.
They may be prepared to accept some of our other proposed actions in Phase II.
They understood our force level proposal and may be interested in it.
The portion of our Proposal dealing with the GVN presence in the further talks seemed to give them the most problem.

In the subsequent discussion with the Chiefs, Mr. Vance indicated that he thought the other side was prepared to accept the “no indiscriminate attacks on Saigon” point because they realized the serious propaganda loss to them from such attacks.

The Chiefs wanted to know Mr. Vance’s views on the Soviet attitude and Mr. Vance described his discussions with Zorin and drew the conclusion that the Soviets were attempting to be helpful.

In the middle of the session, Admiral Jack McCain and Vice Admiral Nels Johnson joined us. During this portion, the discussion revolved around actions north of the DMZ. Mr. Vance said he thought that B–52 strikes north of 17° 10 could well be prejudicial to the negotiations, and recommended against them. He thought bombing north of the 19° would impinge negatively upon the chance for success in the talks and, in any case, he understood that the bombing south of 19° was being effective. He thought hot pursuit by fighter aircraft north of 19° to 20° would not present a problem in that one could argue it was connected with self defense. He thought the use of Talos between 19° and 20° would be less defensible because it could not be directly connected with self defense. Admiral McCain and Vice Admiral Johnson then left the meeting.

Mr. Vance asked the views of the Chiefs with respect to a 5,000 man troop reduction if tied to agreement on the DMZ. The Chiefs took the view that it might well be possible to pull out two battalions of the Marine Corps Special Landing Force and some support troops totaling 5,000 and move them to Okinawa. They would then be in a position for rapid re-entry if they were needed. The Chiefs indicated that they would not be opposed to this action if it were tied to agreement on the DMZ. General Westmoreland said that it was his view that such an action would be favorably received by the GVN Government—they would view this as a vote of confidence in the increasing strength of the ARVN.

The discussion then turned to the ICC. The Chiefs urged that planning and discussion with the Indians and the Canadians would be helpful in order to cut down the lead time for an ICC presence in the DMZ. They were also interested in assuring that the ICC would accept [Page 875] American helicopters. The Acting Chairman said he would put this problem to the Sea Cabin group in the Chairman’s office.2

There was further discussion of the importance of having a strong GVN delegation if they were to hold their own in discussions with the DRV representatives.

Paul H. Nitze
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Nitze Papers, Vietnam War, Courses of Action—Post Paris Peace Talks 1968. Top Secret; Nodis; HARVAN/Plus. In an attached note transmitting a copy of the memorandum to Clifford and Wheeler, Nitze wrote: “Cy Vance and I met for one hour and thirty minutes with J.P. McConnell, Tom Moorer, Westy, and Lew Walt in Executive session yesterday afternoon. CY had previously obtained approval from highest authority to discuss with the Chiefs all aspects of his assignment in Paris. Herewith follows a Memorandum for the Record which I prepared following our meeting. J.P. has reviewed it and it has his full concurrence.” The memorandum was transmitted to Clifford and Wheeler in telegram WDC 10622 to Honolulu, July 18.
  2. Sea Cabin was the code name for an ad hoc group consisting of representatives of the Joint Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs which examined the major military issues that would arise from the President’s ordering of a bombing halt. See Historical Section, Joint Secretariat, Joint Chiefs of Staff, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Vietnam War, 1960–1968, Part III (Washington: unpublished mss., 1 July 1970), pp. 47–8–47–10.