338. Editorial Note

From 1:07 p.m. to 3:06 p.m. on August 23, 1968, President Johnson, his foreign policy advisers, and key Executive Branch officials, including Secretary of Defense Clifford, Secretary of State Rusk, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Wheeler, and Army Chief of Staff Westmoreland, met with the bipartisan leaders of Congress in order to brief them on world developments. While the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was the major topic of discussion (see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XVII, Document 85), the subject of Vietnam was also addressed:

“Secretary Rusk then gave a summary of developments in Viet Nam.

“The President called on General Westmoreland for his views. He reported that one of the chief worries was the possibility of a third general offensive by the enemy. At the Tet offensive a new psychological victory was achieved, but the communists suffered a very severe military defeat. He likened the Tet offensive from the standpoint of the American troops to the Battle of the Bulge. To the Vietnamese this was their Pearl Harbor. This woke them up like nothing else had before and in this sense it was a blessing in disguise. This created a political atmosphere that permitted national mobilization, the drafting of 18 and 19 year old youngsters which traditionally had not been done in Vietnamese society. It permitted us to weed the men from the boys among the officer, non-commissioned officer ranks and the poor ones released. It gave confidence to the ARVN because they fought bravely and well in general, and it gave them that confidence that they needed which has served them well since that time. It also served to accelerate the modernization of our men with better weapons. He then gave a brief summary as to what might be expected in the future.

“The President then called on Secretary Rusk to give his concluding observations on the situation in Vietnam.

“The President said that he wanted to make one observation before the meeting concluded. He said as follows:

“‘Because you are confronted with and because we are deeply concerned with the welfare of our men and our country and the lives of our men who are committed to our custody, I just thought I’d share with you just one paragraph from a cable I have received from General Abrams:

[Omitted here is the text of Abrams’ answer to Question 5 in his telegram MAC 11409, Document 337.]

“The President continued:

“‘So that’s a sample of what the responsible career Commander in the field has to say about some of the plans that are proposed and the Commander-in-Chief has to constantly bear these recommendations in [Page 973] mind in making these judgments.’” (Summary of Meeting in the Cabinet Room, August 23; Johnson Library, Transcripts of Meetings in the Cabinet Room)