46. Letter From President Johnson to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker)1

Dear Ellsworth:

I recently directed the Secretary of State and the Budget Director to undertake a program to reduce United States personnel overseas.2 Because of the special problems you face, Viet Nam was specifically excluded from this program.

I believe very strongly that you and General Westmoreland should have the resources necessary for the difficult tasks before you. But I also believe we must accomplish these tasks with the minimum number of Americans in Viet Nam.

To this end, I want you to develop with General Westmoreland ways to reduce American and other U.S.-financed personnel in Viet Nam, other than those directly associated with combat activities. This will not be an easy job. But it is highly important to the effectiveness of our efforts in Viet Nam.

I am purposely setting no target figure for the civil or military aspects of this exercise. I expect you to take a hard and careful look at what can be done. I want you to report your findings and recommendations to me by June 1. Your efforts will have my complete support.


Lyndon B. Johnson
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 1 E (2), 1/68–2/68, Post-Inaugural Political Activity. No classification marking. The President underlined the words in the letter printed in italics and wrote at the top of the page: “Personal Attention Please.” In an attached memorandum to the President, February 1, Charles Zwick, Director of the Bureau of the Budget, advised sending the letter but withholding its public release; the President indicated his concurrence on the memorandum. (Ibid.)
  2. In memorandums to the heads of the Executive branch departments and to Rusk and Zwick, both released publicly on January 18, the President directed the reduction of the number of U.S. employees overseas and curtailment of official travel abroad. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968–69, Book I, pp. 34–35. In a November 6 memorandum to Johnson, Zwick reported on the measures taken along these lines. See Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Vol. 4, p. 1579. In a January 31 memorandum to Rusk, McNamara, and Zwick, the President despaired over the international situation: “In general, it appears to be the judgment of our enemies that we are sufficiently weak and uncertain at home, sufficiently stretched in our military dispositions abroad, and sufficiently anxious to end the war in Viet Nam so that we are likely to accept, if not defeat, at least a degree of humiliation,” to which he attributed events in Korea and the Tet offensive in Vietnam. Thus he recommended that they consider extending tours of duty, a selective call-up of reservists, additional military aid to South Korea and Thailand, and various financial measures including a tax bill and currency exchange stabilization. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 US/JOHNSON)