21. Memorandum of Conversation1

  • Walt Rostow, White House
  • W. Averell Harriman

After speaking with the President, I went back to Walt’s office and we had about a half-hour’s talk (the President had to go to General Ware’s funeral).2

We talked a lot about “Your side and our side”. Walt wondered if that was as important as the details to get them to accept the GVN in the negotiations even though it might be on some other basis. He had been impressed with Bunker’s ideas that there might be talks among the Vietnamese in some place other than Paris, or if in Paris without our participation. Rusk, however, feels strongly that we should stick to “your side and our side” formula as we would have impossible problem with the GVN if they Don’t sit in formal talks in Paris. This would not preclude the alternative of our having private talks elsewhere at our official level. Walt expressed what he called the hopeful view that Hanoi theologians could claim success in having forced the United States out but they might want to have the NLF conclude a deal with the GVN which would not be as satisfactory. They might not want to take the onus of this less than satisfactory deal. I allowed I didn’t know, but I said I had no idea what Hanoi had in mind but as far as I was concerned I thought the GVN should deal with the NLF; they were southerners; they were people. It would be better for them to deal with each other. I realized this was political problem for GVN but perhaps this problem could be surmounted at a later stage. Walt Rostow also hopefully suggested that in some of the mass of material he’d been through there were indications that Hanoi was not as anxious to get us out of SEA as they appeared—even a base in SVN. I said, I disagreed. I couldn’t see SVN but the Russians might be happy with our continuing to have some base facilities in Thailand. They would certainly like to see us continue to take an interest in SEA just as they had in the South; eventually hoped to come to some sort of understanding or at least parallel action with regard to China.

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Rostow agreed and so did the Secretary that it probably would be better off to inspect and enforce the DMZ than to stick back an incompetent ICC. Both said that if we had the right kind of overflights we could decide the facts for ourselves. Walt had some ideas about getting Asia into the ICC or some other supervisory organization.

He did not disagree with my statement we had gone about as far as we could get with military actions in the demilitarized zone. I told him we had spoken of ending all action in the DMZ simultaneously with the cessation of bombing. We didn’t discuss in any detail either with the President or with Rostow the President’s second point on attack on the cities. I had, however explained what had happened in the middle of June on the shelling of Saigon. World public opinion had, I believe, induced Hanoi to desist. I said that this question should be dealt with in the statement the President might make at the time he announced he was going to end the bombing. We went into no detail on the kind of statement the President should make except that it was implicit that consideration must be given to the manner and content.

W.A.H. 3
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Confidential File, July-December 1968. Top Secret; Nodis.
  2. Major General Keith Ware, Commander of the 1st Infantry Division, was killed September 13 when his helicopter crashed near the Cambodian border. The funeral was held at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia. The President left the White House at 12:50 p.m. and returned at 1:43 p.m. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary)
  3. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.