139. Notes of Meeting1


  • Secretary Rusk
  • Secretary Clifford
  • General Wheeler
  • Director Helms
  • Walt Rostow
  • General Taylor
  • Tom Johnson

Secretary Rusk: We must carefully prepare the briefings for the candidates and the T.V. speech.

Secretary Clifford: Hanoi chose Sunday2 as the day to relent and accept the GVN at the conference table.

Walt Rostow: Mid-month was time.

General Taylor: He should say he hasn’t settled the war. It is just another step.

Walt Rostow: Should Bunker inform Thieu alone that you might make a decision tomorrow?

The President: How does this differ from before when he leaked it?

Secretary Rusk: We must have Thieu aboard.

[Page 396]

The President: A burnt child dreads fire.

Secretary Rusk: So do I.

The President: I will not make a decision until Tuesday morning.

The suggested cessation time is 0800 hours, October 30. The President has made no decision on this proposal.

When do you want to make the announcement?

Secretary Clifford: An extra 14 or 16 hours does not bother me. If Abrams gets here and is aboard, you notify Wheeler. He’ll notify McCain that bombing is to stop, as of 7 p.m. tomorrow evening.

General Wheeler: It will leak in Washington and in Saigon. I would make the announcement as soon thereafter as possible.

Secretary Clifford: Will it be on TV?

The President: That depends on Secretary Clifford’s speech. “I want to know what kind of dress I have before I agree to go to the dance.”

Walt Rostow: Should Thieu be sent a Presidential letter?

The President: Only if a decision to go is made.

General Wheeler: If I can get the red-rocket message by 6 a.m. they can stand down by 7 p.m.—a total of 13 hours.

I would have to set up the red-rocket system for between 0500 and 0600 tomorrow. Can we do that?

The President: What is Abrams’ schedule?

General Wheeler: At 5:15 he was in Alaska. At 0330 a.m. he arrives at Andrews.

Secretary Rusk: The ground forces should pull out of the DMZ. It is a three mile area.

General Wheeler: We move in only on patrols.

The President: Should the battalion be pulled out of the DMZ?

General Wheeler: It is O.K. with me.

Secretary Clifford: If we have boys in there they will shoot at us.

Walt Rostow: Not if they are serious.

The President: I do not want to abandon the DMZ. We need information.

General Wheeler: We can include the DMZ.

The President: Let’s take this up with Abrams.

General Wheeler: “You should position your forces south of the southern boundary of the DMZ”; this language could be inserted.

The President: What do we do if he comes across the DMZ?

General Wheeler: He has immediate authority to respond.

The President: Do you assume that North Vietnam will move out of the DMZ?

[Page 397]

General Wheeler: Yes, sir. That’s the language.

We do not go across PMDL.

Secretary Clifford: Have we ever been across it?

General Wheeler: Only on a covert basis.

General Taylor: What about the attack on reconnaissance planes?

General Wheeler: Two phases below 19¼.

Make shallow, short, high-speed penetrations.
Regular reconnaissance program.

Tab D3 has to do with covert operations.

The President: When do we go to the troop-contributors?

Secretary Rusk: After the decision.

The President: Do we have everything we want?

Secretary Rusk: The message said: What is your view. Do they understand the facts of life? Do the Viet Cong and Hanoi think they would abide by the facts of life?

They responded “events will give our answer.”

The record is as hard as it can be short of a contract.

I told the Soviets last night you know what the three facts of life are.4

They came back and said we should stop the bombing. North Vietnam understands these matters and that our doubts were “groundless.”

We didn’t want anybody to charge us with deception.

The President: What about the leadership and the candidates?

Secretary Rusk: I would see them separately between 4 and 6.

I would start with Vice President Humphrey.

Secretary Clifford: Only one factor remains—has a deal been made?

General Taylor: Walt’s paper is a good one.5

Secretary Rusk: Don’t try to “interpret” the other side. Don’t try to read their minds.

The President: Should the candidates come in the same room?

Secretary Clifford: It increases the level of the event.

The President: We haven’t gone into this much with the candidates.

[Page 398]

Secretary Clifford: Hanoi finally yielded on the question of the GVN.

General Taylor: Are we going to touch base with Hanoi-Vietcong again?

Director Helms: If the candidates called to Washington, they would flash the President has stopped the bombing.

The President: Have you looked at the speech?6

Secretary Clifford: I think it is a good speech.

The President: We have got to say moments of encouragement were wiped away with time of encouragement.

We must say that the timing was in their hands.

General Taylor: Say this is not the final victory—only a step on the way.

The President: I’ll see Abe as soon as he gets here.7

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. No classification marking. The meeting lasted from 6:40 to 7:55 p.m. and was held in the Cabinet Room. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) A summary and full transcript of the meeting is ibid., Transcripts of Meetings in the Cabinet Room.
  2. October 27.
  3. Not attached.
  4. See Document 130.
  5. Document 130.
  6. Reference is to drafts of the President’s October 31 speech; see Document 169.
  7. See Document 140.