42. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to Secretary of State Rusk 1

Herewith a rough working outline of the headings for the Presidential speech about which we talked.

The Setting. A widespread, desperate and dangerous Communist effort along the whole front in Asia to divert us from Viet Nam, upset the progress made in Viet Nam, and discourage and split the American people.
Elements in Communist thrust: [Page 95]
  • —the Pueblo: why we were there; what we propose to do about it.
  • —mounting attacks across the 38th parallel, including the attack directed against President Park;
  • —the extension of the war in Laos and Cambodia;
  • —the VC raids throughout South Viet Nam during Tet; the build-up at Khe Sanh and the DMZ.
Peace proposals.
  • —The San Antonio formula—as far as any American President can go: rock bottom.2
  • —a serious intermediary has been trying to find out if the other side is prepared to accept it. I must conclude that they have not. Let us stop talking about a bombing cessation and keep clearly in our minds the bombings in Saigon, Danang, and all over South Viet Nam. When they are ready to talk about peace, they know where to get us. We shall be ready.

What are we seeking in Asia?3

We seek an end to a double standard:

  • —where we obey the laws of the sea, and the other side feels free to behave as pirates;
  • —where we defend the 38th parallel, and the other side feels free to attack;
  • —where we keep our ground forces out of North Viet Nam, and they feel free to send them across in defiance of the 1954 parallel;
  • —where we honor the Geneva Accords of 1962, and they feel free to violate them and to violate Cambodia as well;
  • —where they ask us to stop our bombing for the privilege of talking to them, while continuing to bomb throughout South Viet Nam.

We want an Asia in which both sides obey the law, both sides honor international agreements, and the nations in the area turn to their development in cooperation.


In order to meet the pressures against us, and demonstrate the unity and will of the American people at this critical time, I am asking the Congress to do the following:

  • —help protect the dollar by passing a tax bill immediately;
  • —lift the gold cover immediately;
  • —allocate funds for the Price Stabilization Board and, through voluntary means, make sure wages are properly related to productivity and prices are kept as low as possible;
  • —freeing of the exchange stabilization fund to defend the dollar;
  • —give the President the right to extend tours of duty and call up individuals with special technical qualifications;
  • —add an extra $200 million to our funds for military aid, most of which would go to support Korea.

Call for unity and responsibility in the face of this Communist challenge despite an election year.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC History of the March 31st Speech, Vol. 7, Meeting Notes. Confidential.
  2. In a January 27 memorandum to the President, McPherson suggested eliminating the use of the term “San Antonio Formula.” He argued that “it might be hard for us if we had to accept a ‘Haiphong Formula’ or a ‘Vinh Formula.’” The President noted on the memorandum: “Harry, That’s fine. Bear that in mind in writing.” (Ibid., Office Files of Harry McPherson, Memoranda for the President (1968) [3 of 3])
  3. A marginal note in an unknown hand referring to the next three paragraphs reads: “This is WWR not LBJ.”