102. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

For the Vietnamese meeting at 12 o’clock, here are some points on the timing of the first your-side-our-side session: [Page 281]

Oberemko’s proposition this morning was nothing more or less than the final position taken yesterday by Thuy:
  • Thuy fell back from a “four-power conference” to naming the four participants;
  • Thuy fell back from a meeting some weeks after the bombing halt to one week.
It was the DRV which suggested that “serious talks” could start the next day after a bombing cessation; and they have now accepted the view that “serious talks” involve the participation of the GVN. On Sept. 15 Le Duc Tho told Harriman and Vance “the DRV would be willing to meet the next day after a bombing cessation and discuss the agenda items with ‘serious intent and good will.’”2
A week’s bombing halt without visible GVN participation in Paris would put the greatest possible strain on the GVN. Its participation is the one solid and overt sign of the understanding at which we have arrived.
We will, of course, have to background on the DMZ, and we can either point to that or point to Abrams’ executing his standing orders on rules of engagement in case of DMZ violations. But we need the change in the character of the meetings in Paris to validate the deal in South Vietnam and keep the politicians quiet.
Much the same is talk at home where you have emphasized to all three candidates the critical nature of GVN participation as part of the quid pro quo for a bombing cessation.
I have put the question on the military implications to Gen. Wheeler. He will formulate his views. In general, I suspect that the military effects of political uneasiness will rank higher in Abrams’ mind than anything the enemy might do to take advantage in one week of the bombing cessation; although we should be conscious that there are some reports of an attack on Saigon scheduled for late October or early November.
We told the TCC’s, “since whole objective of bombing cessation would be to move on to serious talks, we must have clear understanding that such talks would get under way at once and would include the GVN on our side of the table. …”

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [1 of 3]. Secret; HARVAN Double Plus. Rostow transmitted the memorandum, which is marked “For noon meeting,” to the President; see footnote 1, Document 101.
  2. See Document 14.