332. Editorial Note

Maintaining the Nation’s stand in Vietnam was the primary topic of President Johnson’s speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization in Detroit on August 19, 1968. The President laid out the components of the peace that he was seeking in Southeast Asia: reinstitution of the demilitarized zone, removal of foreign forces from Laos and the implementation of the Geneva Accords of 1962, withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam subsequent to the withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces, and self-determination in South Vietnam in accordance with its constitutional framework. Following a specific reference to his March 31 withdrawal speech, Johnson noted: “We have made a reasonable offer and we have taken first a major step. That offer has not been accepted. This administration does not intend to move further until it has good reason to believe that the other side intends seriously to join us in de-escalating the war and moving seriously toward peace. We are willing to take chances for peace, but we cannot make foolhardy gestures for which your fighting men will pay the price by giving their lives.” In an allusion to the impending third enemy offensive of 1968, Johnson added: “So, my friends, let’s not be hoodwinked. Let’s not be misled. In short, our people and their people must understand one thing: We are not going to stop the bombing just to give them a chance to step up their bloodbath.” For the full text of the speech, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968–69, Book II, pages 896–903.

As a result of this speech, members of the North Vietnamese delegation in Paris for the first time personally attacked President Johnson during and after the formal negotiating session held on August 28. An analysis of their reaction to the President’s stiffened policy is in Intelligence Note No. 688 from Thomas Hughes of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research to Secretary of State Rusk, August 30. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET)