304. Notes of Meeting1

Notes for U.S. briefing on Honolulu meetings and Joint Communique

Secretary Clifford and General Wheeler reported to the President on the military situation in Viet Nam.2
  • —They noted the present lull, which is similar to that in the second half of April preceding the May attacks on Saigon.
  • —They found no evidence whatsoever that the enemy was engaged in an effort to match our de-escalation beginning on March 31, but a vast amount of evidence that he was absorbing infiltrators from the North to fill up his units and re-equipping for another major series of attacks.
  • —There is no firm evidence on the exact timing of such attacks which could come any time in the weeks ahead.
  • —They noted the remarkable success of the Vietnamese mobilization effort. In June the armed forces of South Viet Nam reached a level of 765,000, 48,000 more than the original goal for this date. It is expected the total will exceed 800,000 by the end of 1968.
  • —They reported to the President on the accelerated schedules of re-equipment of the ARVN with M–16 automatic rifles and schedules for [Page 885] equipping paramilitary forces down to hamlet level on a high priority basis.
  • —They reported U.S., Vietnamese, and allied forces were fully prepared for the enemy’s forthcoming offensive and in high morale.
The President went over these matters with President Thieu who also reported at some length the progress of the new government, including its enlarged tax measures; the unified organization of the defenses of Saigon; the effective cooperation of the legislative and executive branches on the difficult issues of mobilization and increased taxes.
They also reviewed the talks in Paris. They noted that there had been no substantive progress and no response from the other side to the President’s action on March 31 which lifted bombing from 90% of the population and 78% of the land area of North Viet Nam. (Contrary to rumors which appear to be circulating, there was no discussion of an unrequited total bombing cessation.)

With heavy fighting in prospect and no evidence that the other side was prepared to engage in serious substantive negotiation, there was no discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Viet Nam. As the communique states, “as North Viet Nam takes its men home and ends its aggression against South Viet Nam, U.S. forces will be withdrawn”—a position agreed among all the allies at Manila. The communique also notes that “President Thieu stated his Government’s determination to continue to assume all the responsibility that the scale of the forces of South Viet Nam and their equipment will permit, while preparing the Vietnamese nation and armed forces for the importance and decisive role that will be theirs in the coming stage of the struggle.”

In general, the evident Communist preparations for another major attack, and the failure of the Paris talks to exhibit progress after more than 3–1/2 months required the two Presidents to focus primarily on the urgent tasks of continuing to deal with Communist aggression.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, George Christian Papers, Classified-George Christian (1 of 2). No classification marking. These notes were transmitted to Harriman and Vance in telegram 206919/Todel 725 to Paris, July 22. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S)
  2. Clifford and Wheeler reported to the President in a meeting on July 18, 2:45–4 p.m. Also present were Rusk, Rostow, Bundy (who had accompanied Clifford on the trip to South Vietnam), Helms, Bunker (who had left Saigon with Clifford’s delegation), Temple, Jones, Christian, and McPherson. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) A record of the meeting by McPherson, “Notes from a Honolulu meeting before the Johnson-Thieu Conference,” undated, is ibid., George Christian Papers, Classified-George Christian (1 of 2). Wheeler’s briefing was based on his memorandum CM-3489–68 to the President, July 19, entitled “Military Situation in Vietnam,” in the Washington National Records Center, Department of Defense, OSD Files: FRC 330 73 A 1304, 1968 Secretary of Defense Files, VIET 385. Clifford’s written report to the President is printed as Document 302.