73. Notes of Meeting1



  • The President
  • Secretary Rusk
  • Secretary Clifford
  • Walt Rostow
  • Bill Bundy
  • Ben Read
  • Harry McPherson

Ben Read: Hanoi said they could not get the NLF to Paris a day after the bombing stopped if this were done now. Hanoi said it is impossible to get the NLF representatives to town that soon. They said they are not authorized to speak for the NLF. They would not agree to seating the NLF press representatives who are in Paris because “We do not speak for the NLF.”

Vance and Harriman say the announcement should state that talks should begin as soon as the NLF and the GVN get to Paris.2

The President: When did they say the bombing should stop?

Ben Read: Vance and Harriman did not say. I did not ask.

Secretary Rusk: We do not know if the NLF will send a delegation.

The President: Does the NLF have to send a delegation?

Secretary Rusk: Yes.

The President: Why Don’t we say that we will stop the bombing 24 hours after the GVN and the NLF are at the table?

Secretary Rusk: We do not know if we really have this thing buttoned up.

The President: We will not stop the bombing if I do not know that serious talks will start with the GVN at the table.

Secretary Rusk: Why Don’t we get a certain date?

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Ben Read: Vance and Harriman think we should go ahead. Their exact quote was: “Don’t hang up on this.”

The President: No.

Secretary Rusk: We must flash the Troop Contributors and tell them that we will not move on this until a day is certain when the talks will begin with the GVN and NLF present.

The President: I think we should do that. Say to them that anytime the NLF can get there and the GVN are seated we are prepared to stop the bombing 24 hours in advance.

Secretary Rusk: That is good. We will say that the United States Government will stop the bombing 24 hours in advance of the time the GVN delegates are there, and when Hanoi can get the NLF delegates there.

Bill Bundy: I agree. It is the only way to keep the Armed Services with us.

Secretary Clifford: We must make it clear that we have no intention of stopping the bombing until we know the date of the meeting at which the GVN will be present.

Walt Rostow: We do not care about the NLF.

Secretary Clifford: We will stop the bombing 24 hours before such a meeting.

For Cy Vance and Averell Harriman, we say that the presence of the GVN there at the first meeting is only symbolic. We just need a warm body.

Secretary Rusk: They said that too.

The President: Let’s do everything possible to make sure that this thing is held tightly. I hope all of you will just close up the State Department and lock the doors.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. No classification marking. The meeting was held in the Oval Office, where the President and McPherson had been since 7:25 p.m. Rusk, Clifford, and Read arrived at 7:32, Tom Johnson at 7:33, and Bundy at 7:34. The President called Rostow at 7:55 p.m. Rusk, Read, Tom Johnson, and Bundy left at 7:50, and Clifford remained until 8:12. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary)
  2. In telegram 22466 from Paris, October 15. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I)