The Foreign Relations of the United States series presents the official documentary historical record of major foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity of the United States Government. The Historian of the Department of State is charged with the responsibility for the preparation of the Foreign Relations series. The staff of the Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, under the direction of the General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, plans, researches, compiles, and edits the volumes. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg first promulgated official regulations codifying specific standards for the selection and editing of documents for the series on March 26, 1925. These regulations, with minor modifications, guided the series through 1991.

Public Law 102-138, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993 established a new statutory charter for the preparation of the series, which was signed by President George Bush on October 28, 1991. Section 198 of P.L. 102-138 added a new Title IV to the Department of State’s Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22 USC 4351, et seq.). The statute requires that the Foreign Relations series be a thorough, accurate, and reliable record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity. The volumes of the series should include all records needed to provide comprehensive documentation of major foreign policy decisions and actions of the United States Government. The statute also confirms the editing principles established by Secretary Kellogg: the Foreign Relations series is guided by the principles of historical objectivity and accuracy; records should not be altered or deletions made without indicating in the published text that a deletion has been made; the published record should omit no facts that were of major importance in reaching a decision; and nothing should be omitted for the purposes of concealing a defect in policy. The statute also requires that the Foreign Relations series be published not more than 30 years after the events recorded.

Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the 5 years (1964-1968) of the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. The subseries presents in 34 volumes a documentary record of major foreign policy decisions and actions of President Johnson’s administration. This volume documents U.S. policy toward Vietnam [Page IV] from August 1968 to January 1969. Volumes I-VI cover Vietnam from 1964 through August 1968.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume VII

The editor of the volume sought to present documentation that explained and illuminated the major foreign policy decisions and problems on Vietnam faced by the President and his key foreign policy advisers during the last 4 and 1/2 months of his administration. The documents highlight the Johnson administration’s slow and agonizing internal deliberations on how to achieve formal four-party peace negotiations on Vietnam in Paris. A good part of this search for peace was carried out during the 1968 Presidential election amid suspicions by the Democratic and Republican candidates, and President Lyndon Johnson himself, that the respective Presidential candidates were using the peace process to influence the election. In addition, both the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) had their own demands for the procedures and modalities of the formal peace process, all of which had to be reconciled. This volume is the account of how the Johnson administration achieved the opening of formal four-party peace talks in Paris.

President Johnson and his principal foreign policy advisers, Secretary of State Rusk, Secretary of Defense Clifford, Assistant to the President Rostow, and other official and unofficial advisers became almost exclusively concerned with the goal of starting the peace negotiations in Paris. The administration was split between hard liners, including the President himself, and so-called doves. The hardliners refused to stop U.S. bombing of North Vietnam without a promise from Hanoi that it would withdraw from the Demilitarized Zone, cease its attack on South Vietnamese cities, and accept South Vietnam represent-atives at the peace table. The doves, Secretary of Defense Clifford and Chief Paris negotiator Averell Harriman, favored stopping the bombing in the hopes of moving the peace process forward. A main theme of the volume is how the doves eventually convinced the President that North Vietnam, under heavy pressure from the Soviet Union, would agree to his demands.

A second major theme of the volume is the interaction between the peace negotiations and the Presidential election. Vietnam was a major campaign issue debated strenuously by Republican candidate Richard Nixon, Democratic candidate Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Independent candidate Governor George Wallace. The prospect of imminent peace talks had the potential to influence the elections. This theme is developed principally through the extensive use of transcripts of Johnson’s phone calls as the President sought to convince the three [Page V] candidates to support his conditions for a bombing halt and for opening the formal peace talks.

The volume’s third major theme is how the Johnson administration had to persuade, cajole, and coerce the Republic of Vietnam and President Thieu to accept the deal that the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, with the help of the Soviet Union, essentially worked out at the end of October 1968. Much to Johnson’s dismay, South Vietnam refused to agree to terms before the Presidential election. Not until January 16, 1969, did all four parties agree to the modalities of the talks—size of the table, use of flags or nameplates, and speaking order. On January 18, 1969, just 2 days before the Johnson administration left office, the peace talks officially began.

Editorial Methodology

The documents are presented chronologically according to Washington time or, in the case of conferences, in the order of individual meetings. Memoranda of conversation are placed according to the time and date of the conversation, rather than the date the memorandum was drafted.

Editorial treatment of the documents published in the Foreign Relations series follows Office style guidelines, supplemented by guidance from the General Editor and the chief technical editor. The source text is reproduced as exactly as possible, including marginalia or other notations, which are described in the footnotes. Texts are transcribed and printed according to accepted conventions for the publication of historical documents in the limitations of modern typography. A heading has been supplied by the editors for each document included in the volume. Spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are retained as found in the source text, except that obvious typographical errors are silently corrected. Other mistakes and omissions in the source text are corrected by bracketed insertions: a correction is set in italic type; an addition in roman type. Words or phrases underlined in the source text are printed in italics. Abbreviations and contractions are preserved as found in the source text, and a list of abbreviations is included in the front matter of each volume.

Bracketed insertions are also used to indicate omitted text that deals with an unrelated subject (in roman type) or that remains classified after declassification review (in italic type). The amount of material not declassified has been noted by indicating the number of lines or pages of source text that were omitted. Entire documents withheld for declassification purposes have been accounted for and are listed by headings, source notes, and number of pages not declassified in their chronological place. All brackets that appear in the source text are so identified by footnotes.

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The first footnote to each document indicates its source, original classification, distribution, and drafting information. This note also provides the background of important documents and policies and indicates whether the President or his major policy advisers read the document.

Editorial notes and additional annotation summarize pertinent material not printed in the volume, indicate the location of additional documentary sources, provide references to important related documents printed in other volumes, describe key events, and provide summaries of and citations to public statements that supplement and elucidate the printed documents. Information derived from memoirs and other first-hand accounts has been used when appropriate to supplement or explicate the official record.

The numbers in the index refer to document numbers rather than to page numbers.

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, established under the Foreign Relations statute, reviews records, advises, and makes recommendations concerning the Foreign Relations series. The Advisory Committee monitors the overall compilation and editorial process of the series and advises on all aspects of the preparation and declassification of the series. The Advisory Committee does not attempt to review the contents of individual volumes in the series, but it makes recommendations on problems that come to its attention.

The Advisory Committee has not reviewed this volume.

Declassification Review

The Information Response Branch of the Office of Information Resources Management Programs and Services, Bureau of Administration, Department of State, conducted the declassification review of the documents published in this volume. The review was conducted in accordance with the standards set forth in Executive Order 12958 on Classified National Security Information and applicable laws.

The principle guiding declassification review is to release all information, subject only to the current requirements of national security as embodied in law and regulation. Declassification decisions entailed concurrence of the appropriate geographic and functional bureaus in the Department of State, other concerned agencies of the U.S. Government, and the appropriate foreign governments regarding specific documents of those governments.

The final declassification review of this volume, which began in 2000 and was completed in 2002, resulted in the decision to withhold no [Page VII] documents in full, excise a paragraph or more in 1 document, and make minor excisions of less than a paragraph in 7 documents. The information was excised to protect intelligence sources and methods, in keeping with requirements of Executive Order 12958. The editor is confident, on the basis of the research conducted in preparing this volume and the result of the declassification review process described above, that the documentation and editorial notes presented here provide an accurate account of U.S. policy toward Vietnam from August 1968 through January 1969.


The editor wishes to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library of the National Archives and Records Administration, especially Regina Greenwell and Charlaine Burgess, who provided key research assistance. The editor also wishes to acknowledge the assistance of historians at the Central Intelligence Agency, especially Scott Koch, the staff of the Center of Military History, Sandra Meagher at the Department of Defense, and the staff of the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, for their valuable assistance in expediting research of this volume.

Kent Sieg collected documentation for this volume and selected and edited it, under the supervision of Edward C. Keefer, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. Rita M. Baker and Vicki E. Futscher did the copy and technical editing, and Susan C. Weetman coordinated the declassification review. Max Franke prepared the index.

Marc J. Susser
The Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs

June 2003