40. Memorandum for the Record1

SUBJECT

  • Meeting of the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 31 July 1964

The following were present at the meeting:

  • President Johnson
  • General Wheeler
  • General Johnson
  • Admiral McDonald
  • General LeMay
  • General Greene
  • Major General Clifton
1.
Prior to the meeting, the Chiefs went out with the President and were photographed together in a formal picture on the steps and later on the grass with the White House as background.
2.
General Wheeler opened the meeting with a briefing on High Heels III, which will take place Sept. 7–28, the preliminary phase of it taking place Sept. 7–20, in which the situation is developed. This exercise, which is a command post exercise involving senior government officials, somewhat coincides with a NATO exercise called Fallex 64 and a NATO naval exercise called Teamwork. In High Heels on September 21, certain Soviet moves are made which precipitate action and consultation on our part; and finally on Sept. 24 the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State displace to the National Military Command Post afloat which will be just off Annapolis.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff requested that the President participate with them, leaving the White House by helicopter about 8 a.m. and arriving at Annapolis at 8:20, returning to the White House no later than noon. They want his participation because it will give him a chance to supervise the command and control functions that would be used in an emergency.

The President said he would like to do anything the Joint Chiefs of Staff wanted him to do but that they must think about this in the atmosphere of the campaign, that there are aspects of this, in spite of the public relations preparation for it, that could be misinterpreted.

On the international scene, he also pointed out that it could precipitate a certain amount of uneasiness and even drastic action unless it were very carefully explained that this is a normal exercise which is held regularly [Page 109]and that other Presidents have participated in similar ones. The President made it clear that even in spite of their best public relations efforts, certain people would draw certain conclusions that would not be beneficial.

The President directed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to give this careful consideration, outline the public relations approach they would choose and consult with Secretary McNamara, then come back to him with a further recommendation.

General Wheeler pointed out that there could be some positive results from this participation in that people would know that in spite of the preoccupation with the campaign, the President was still vitally concerned with his obligations as President and Commander-in-Chief.

The President directed General Clifton to mention this to Mr. Valenti and if possible to make sure that this was programmed into the President’s schedule on that date so that if he finally decided to do it we will be available.

[Here follows discussion of unrelated topics.]

C.V.C.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, JCS, Filed by the LBJ Library, Box 29. No classification marking. Drafted by Clifton.