169. Editorial Note

In a speech broadcast nationally at 8 p.m. on October 31, 1968, the President announced that the bombing of North Vietnam would cease at 8 a.m. Washington time on November 1. He also noted that four-party discussions could begin at the next plenary session in Paris on November 6, an occasion “at which representatives of the Government of South Vietnam are free to participate.” For the full text of the speech, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968-69, Book II, pages 1099-1103. Special Counsel Harry McPherson finished drafting the speech only that afternoon; the President recorded the final parts of it between 1:35 and 1:53 p.m. The President watched the speech with family members in the Oval Office of the White House. His Diary records: “He said it was the most important decision he had ever made. He further said he was not sure it was the right decision but was what he felt had to be done. Said he couldn’t guarantee Thieu what Thieu wanted. ‘I could only tell him I was taking them on faith—that the times demanded this action. This is a step toward peace.’” (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)

In a press conference the following day, Secretary of State Rusk commented on the speech: “President Johnson stated clearly last night that his decision to stop the bombing of North Vietnam was based upon specific expectations that the Government of South Vietnam will participate in the discussion of an honorable peace and that the action will bring about a de-escalation of the fighting. Some governments and [Page 494] leading personalities have, over many months, undertaken to tell us that something good would happen if we would stop the bombing of North Vietnam. It is now incumbent upon all of those who have taken that view to make a maximum effort to insure that their advice has substance to it. We have our own reasons to believe that our action is a constructive step, will open the way to serious talks, and will not endanger our own and allied forces in the field. But we shall also be interested in what others may do to insist upon actions by Hanoi that will move us toward peace.” See Department of State Bulletin, November 18, 1968, pages 520-525.