316. Notes of Meeting1
NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT’S MEETING WITH FOREIGN POLICY ADVISERS
ATTENDING THE MEETING WERE
- The President
- Secretary Rusk
- Secretary Clifford
- General Taylor
- General Wheeler
- CIA Director Helms
- George Christian
- Bromley Smith (in Walt Rostow’s absence)
- Tom Johnson
The President: I want a report from General Taylor on the whole situation regarding this new wave of demands to stop the bombing and all of the facts about enemy activities and the level of fighting.2
General Taylor: I will do that, sir.
The President: I believe the International Communists have a movement under way to get me to stop the bombing. What is the situation on infiltrators?
General Wheeler: As of July 24, there were:
- 28,400 infiltrators who started down in March
- 37,700 infiltrators who started down in April
- 30,600 infiltrators who started down in May
- 16,900 infiltrators who started down in June
- 44,200 infiltrators who started down in July
The President: What effect would a complete bombing halt have?
General Wheeler: It would permit 30% more troops and supplies to reach South Vietnam.
Secretary Rusk: It would add 50% to what is getting through now.
The President: Let’s say that. I would like General Wheeler to summarize the reasons we should not stop the bombing.
General Wheeler: We have 120 miles of attack zone to hit enemy supplies now. We have had good luck, getting 30% of the traffic. This increment would move into the DMZ and up to the DMZ if the bombing stopped.
General Wheeler: We have hit them hard in this area. There would be loss of morale in the U.S. forces in the DMZ area. It gives the military disadvantage.
The President: Give me a paper on it.3
General Wheeler: The JCS does oppose a complete bombing pause.
[Omitted here is discussion of the Czech situation.]
[The President:] I would like to see Bill Bundy for a report on his talks with the Allies.4
Now, Bus, I read about all this offensive they plan for us. What are we doing?
General Wheeler: Abrams is trying to pre-empt their attacks. He is using B–52s to hit their staging areas. He wants U.S. commands to intercept these people.
Secretary Clifford: When we were in South Vietnam, we asked all U. S. field commanders if they have all the men, equipment, and supplies needed for any offensive. All field commanders said yes. Our men want them to go ahead with the offensive.
The President: I would like to see us knock the hell out of them.
General Taylor: Is it to our advantage to keep a third attack from coming out?
The President: Westmoreland said it is to our advantage for them to go ahead with the offensive.
Director Helms: It would permit us to concentrate against them in large numbers.
General Wheeler: I would open up the area between the 19th and 20th parallels. We could hit logistic targets, operate Sea Dragon, conduct air-to-air operations and hit their airfield.[Page 922]
The President: Let’s review that Friday5 morning to see how we would react if they hit Saigon.
I want to get back up to the 20th parallel. Let’s get ready for that if they hit us.
Dean, you go out to Vance and Harriman and tell them to hold on to their hats if attacks against our forces occur.
General Wheeler: Saigon, Danang and Quang Tri are possible targets of major attacks, Abrams says.
General Taylor: Should Vance and Harriman tell opposite members?
Secretary Rusk: It might be seen as a threat. They may see it as a dare.
The President: I would like for them to know they will be hit and hit hard if they attack us.
Secretary Rusk: They would see us telling them that we would hit them as a threat.
Secretary Clifford: On Cambodia, here are the bases in Cambodia—“Parrots Beak” area is of much concern. (Shows maps of the area.)
General Wheeler: Two years ago there were only 200 people there. Now there are 2,000 people there. The 9th Viet Cong division goes back in there to rehabilitate and rest. There may be prisoner of war camps in there.
Secretary Clifford: We will send reconnaissance flights in.
General Wheeler: We will have five low-level flights.
The President: Senator Mansfield says Sihanouk is a great statesman. I would show him these maps and photos of the enemy positions.
General Wheeler: It is 25 miles from Saigon. They can get in sampans and hit us easily in Saigon.
Secretary Clifford: It appears that diplomatic efforts will not get the release of our men the Cambodians are holding.
We could discourage the U. S. tourists to Cambodia as “dangerous under present conditions.” We could not protest.
Secretary Rusk: U.S. tourist trade amounts to 1/4 of Cambodia’s tourist trade ($1 million).
Secretary Clifford: We could supervise the Mekong traffic and make it difficult for Cambodian ships. We might apprehend a Cambodian ship if it violates GVN territorial waters.
We could increase surveillance and as the last alternative, we could attack the VC staging area.
The President: I look with favor on showing these pictures to Sihanouk. Give them a strong statement.[Page 923]
Director Helms: There is another staging area up north.
The President: Bring those photos in.
- Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the Mansion of the White House. Rusk, Clifford, Wheeler, and Smith left at 2:05 p.m. and Taylor and Helms at 2:20 p.m. Christian and Tom Johnson remained until 3:05 p.m. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)↩
- See Document 321. A July 30 memorandum for the record by Taylor summarizing the meeting reads: “At the outset, the President expressed the view that the Soviet Union, Hanoi and many political elements in the U.S. were bent upon forcing him to give up all bombing of North Viet-Nam, preferably prior to the Democratic convention. He noted an apparent divergence of views within CIA with regard to Hanoi’s intentions in relation to the apparent lull in combat. I expressed feeling the need for a thorough paper analyzing all the evidence and suggesting courses of action to counter the campaign which the President had mentioned. He immediately charged me with the task and told me to get Bunker’s views. After the luncheon, I followed him to his bedroom to get further guidance as it was not clear from the previous conversation whether he wanted me to pay a visit to Viet-Nam. He indicated that a trip was not necessary although I should go out whenever I felt it necessary. The immediate need is a paper by this weekend which will give him all the argumentation that can be used to frustrate the pressures to stop the bombing. He expressed dissatisfaction with his senior officials in not speaking out publicly in support of his position. He thinks that the JCS should do more public speaking. He is clearly distressed by evidence of division within his official family on matters relating to the war in Viet-Nam and the peace talks in Paris.” (National Defense University, Maxwell Taylor Papers, Project Lull)↩
- See footnote 5, Document 319.↩
- The President received a half-hour briefing from Bundy regarding his consultations on Vietnam with allied nations and the Paris delegation that evening at 5:10 p.m. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) Notes of the meeting have not been found.↩
- August 2.↩