8. Notes of Meeting1
[Omitted here is discussion of the North Korean seizure of the Pueblo and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.]
We do not know if this is the beginning of the enemy’s third offensive. General Abrams has been conducting spoiling operations.2
The first two weeks in August there were 2 bn attacks.
The second two weeks in August there were 11 bn attacks.
First 2 weeks in August, there were 71 small unit attacks.
Second 2 weeks in August, there were 145 small unit attacks.
First two weeks in August there were 4200 enemy killed in action.
Second two weeks in August there were 9700 enemy killed in action.
First two weeks in August the statistics were (5X1 and 6X1 enemy vs. friendly): 801 friendly, 332 U.S.
Second two weeks in August: 1600 friendly, 716 U.S.
There is an increased effectiveness on the part of ARVN which has been noted.
Ambassador Bunker says these attacks differ. They did not start at once.
The enemy command is now trying to hold down casualties.
They need a dramatic victory badly.
General Abrams has been able to blunt the offensive.[Page 22]
[Omitted here is discussion of Latin America, the Korean peninsula, Israel, and NATO.]
We have tried to offer Hanoi quite a menu. 1. Troop levels. 2. DMZ. 3. Attacks on cities. 4. Political settlement. 5. Laos. 6. Cambodia.
They won’t talk. Hanoi won’t talk to Saigon. We have not been able to do any business. If North Vietnam would do almost anything we might be able to get something going.
Both candidates want peace before January if we can get it. Nobody can tell us what would happen if we stopped the bombing.
It is hard to say Don’t hit the enemy while they are seven miles away—that’s rude—hit them when they are two miles away. If there is one shred of interest in peace on the other side, we are ready to talk. Hanoi is rigid in its stance.
The enemy has had 76% of casualties of the May offensive.
The enemy has three options:
- Increase the tempo of attacks for limited period—all out effort.
- Curtail offensive—pull back.
- Maintain offensive posture. Stretch it out.
The military commanders believe he is likely to choose alternative 3. The enemy’s major goal is Saigon—to weaken South Vietnam’s people’s confidence in their government. They must gain a psychological advantage over the United States here in the U.S.
They aim to weaken our will here at home.
At no place was there a request for more men or material from our men in Vietnam.
[Omitted here is discussion of European strategic security.]
Secretary Clifford: 1. Some North Vietnamese commanders are getting orders they know they cannot carry out. 2. North Vietnamese troops are defecting. 3. The number of weapons the enemy is abandoning is going up. 4. The level of troop training is lower.
Yet they can still conduct a military effort against us.
[Omitted here is discussion of budgetary matters.]
- Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson’s Notes of Meetings. No classification markings. This was an off-the-record meeting with the bipartisan Congressional leadership. Attending were the President, Rusk, Clifford, Rostow, Special Assistant Harold Barefoot Sanders, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Arthur Okun, Director of the Bureau of the Budget Charles Zwick, Tom Johnson, and Congressmen McCormack, Albert, Ford, Melvin Lair, and Leslie Arends. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) A full transcript of the meeting is ibid., Transcripts of Meetings in the Cabinet Room.↩
- Abrams reported on the military situation in Vietnam in telegram MAC 12129 to Wheeler, September 8. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 407, Westmoreland v. CBS Litigation Collection, MACV Backchannel Messages to Westmoreland, 1-30 September, 1968 [Folder 1 of 2]) In memorandum CM-3465-68 to Rusk, September 11, Wheeler relayed Abrams’ assessment of the likelihood of a unilateral cease-fire by the NVA and Viet Cong. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET)↩