142. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

262983. For Ambassador Bunker Only. The following message from President Johnson to President Thieu should be delivered at earliest appropriate opportunity:

Begin Text

October 29, 1968

Dear President Thieu:

As we come to this critical but hopeful moment in our joint struggle, I wish to tell you directly what is on my mind and heart.

  • First, that we have come so far is due to the efforts of yourself, Vice President Ky, and your other colleagues in building the constitutional government, expanding the armed forces of Vietnam, and gathering strength after the shock of the Tet attacks. I’m sure you would also agree that the armed forces of your allies, led by General Westmoreland and now by General Abrams have helped.
  • Second, I have told General Abrams, and I am sure you have instructed your forces, that we must maintain every bit of military pressure [Page 419] we can summon within South Vietnam and in Laos. This is a time for more military pressure on the enemy, not less.
  • Third, I trust you will mount a major political and psychological effort in the days ahead to bring the VC over to your side. After all, Hanoi has recognized that there can be no peace in South Vietnam without the assent of your government. The DMZ will be closed—if, the bombing cessation is to continue. The enemy forces have suffered one tactical defeat after another. Surely the basis must be there for a drawing of the VC to your side.
  • Fourth, I know the question of the NLF in the Paris talks is awkward for you. But you can feel sure that we shall make clear that no question of recognition by the U.S. is involved. And you can do so. Your people can also be sure that we have no intention of imposing a coalition government upon them. On the other hand, I count on you to move towards reconciliation and peace in South Vietnam in the spirit of our talks at Honolulu in July and of our communiqué.
  • Fifth, I trust that we shall now work together in Paris in the same spirit of brotherhood in which we have stood side by side in the battle. You, Vice President Ky, and I have seen some rough times together. You both honored your commitment to me at Guam. Now we must reaffirm that commitment as the possibility of the honorable peace we all want becomes more real. At Paris Hanoi gave us thus far—in the end—all we demanded. I deeply believe that if we continue to stand together we can get all the essentials we both seek.

Finally, I count on you to lead all South Vietnamese nationalists towards that political unity that will be necessary if we are to consolidate the victory our fighting men have brought within our grasp and make worthwhile the suffering of the people of Vietnam and the sacrifices of their allies.

You can count on Ambassador Bunker, General Abrams, and me to be at your side in the days ahead as we have been in the years that are behind us.

Sincerely, Lyndon B. Johnson. End Text

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Outgoing)-October 1968. Secret; Flash; Nodis/HARVAN Double Plus. Text received from the White House and cleared by Read.