71. Information Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

Cy Vance called from Paris to report the following:

Thuy called him personally on the telephone—the first time he has ever done this. He asked: Are you ready for a meeting this morning? (Paris time.) Cy said no. Thuy then asked, could you be ready for a meeting at 3:00 p.m.? (Paris time.) Cy said no. Cy then said he would be willing to set up a meeting, tentatively, for 9:00 p.m. (Paris time; 4:00 [Page 199]p.m. our time). He did so on the assumption that we would then have the TCC replies and an execute order from us in hand on his instructions, which are now pre-positioned in Paris for a go ahead.

Cy does not know what Thuy has in mind. He and Harriman believe that Thuy has the authority to agree on GVN participation and express “understanding” on the DMZ and the cities. He does not know how they will make out on reconnaissance, but is implicitly optimistic.

(Habib, on the other hand, rather doubts that Thuy will have the authority to give a final assent without a check with Hanoi. In fact, Habib's theory is Tho is going back to Hanoi to help explain to and persuade his colleagues if we should come through.)

Vance is very much worried about a leak in the wake of our informing the TCC's.

Vance would like to be able to tell Thuy—if he agrees on the GVN, understands on the DMZ, cities and recce—that we would stop the bombing tomorrow.

Attached is a possible scenario which Bob Ginsburgh and I have worked out this morning, made up before Cy Vance's telephone call, but roughly consistent with it.

This scenario is based on the notion that we would announce tonight that the bombing will cease tomorrow.

You should know that Bus Wheeler wants 24 hours for two reasons:

  • —To make sure that everyone gets the word and there are no mistakes;
  • —To try to get out of North Vietnam (south of the 20th parallel) certain agents we have put in there, to whom we owe something.

As between waiting 24 hours and announcing the “bombing has stopped” and saying the “bombing will stop tomorrow,” I favor the latter to minimize the possibility of leaks.

All of this is, of course, based on the assumption that Harriman and Vance are right; that is, Thuy has positive pre-positioned instructions on all our points. There are ample opportunities in this scenario for a holdup—or worse.


P.S. We have no TCC responses yet but expect them very soon.2

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Possible Sequence of Events

Saigon Paris EDT Washington
1. DRV agrees to GVN participation. 15 0400 15 2100 15 1600
2. Issue orders to stop bombing. (16 EDT 1700) 16 0500 15 2200 15 1700
3. Tell Paris to inform DRV of time. 16 0500 15 2200 15 1700
4. Inform Marcos. 16 0500 15 2200 15 1700
5. Inform TCCs of timing. 16 0500 15 2200 15 1700
6. Brief candidates. 16 0600 15 2300 15 1800
7. Brief leadership. 16 0700 15 2400 15 1900
8. Joint announcement. 16 0800 16 0100 15 2000
9. Presidential statement. 16 0800+ 16 0100+ 15 2000+
10. Backgrounder. 16 0900 16 0200 15 2100
11. Bombing stops. 17 0500 16 2200 16 1700
12. Paris meetings—GVN included. 17 1700 17 1000 17 0500
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 9/30-10/22/68, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [3 of 3]. Secret; HARVAN/Double Plus. The notation “ps” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. Rostow added the following handwritten note: “Correction: Thanom now aboard. W.”
  3. This attachment was handwritten by Rostow.