120. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson 1

On November 20, Arthur Goldberg reported (Tab A)2 an urgent phone call from Fanfani, and when he called on him he received a handwritten letter reporting certain conversations of Italians in Hanoi. Fanfani’s letter is at Tab B.3

We have spent a week studying Fanfani’s letter and watching the other reports from Hanoi. It is now clear that the conversations there were held by the Mayor of Florence, La Pira, a rather fuzzy-minded non-Communist leftist who has been critical of our position in Vietnam. Moreover, it is quite clear that Ho Chi Minh managed to fold in his unacceptable conditions, while giving an appearance of interest in peaceful negotiations. This is not at all a real feeler for negotiations.

At the same time, conscious of the Sevareid affair,4 State Department is determined to make it clear that we remain ready for unconditional discussions. Dean Rusk has prepared the attached letter to Fanfani (Tab C)5 which makes that point clear, while at the same time giving a patient but careful analysis of what La Pira heard. The letter leaves the door open for further discussions between Goldberg and Fanfani. It represents a compromise between the somewhat hard-boiled view of George Ball and my brother Bill, on the one hand, and the desire to be fully forthcoming which Arthur Goldberg and I have shared. We all support it in its present form.

Goldberg would like to be able to deliver the letter to Fanfani tomorrow—Monday—so as usual we have spent the week in staff work, and now ask for a prompt approval. In this case we do have the excuse that we had to wait for Dean Rusk’s return. Moreover, the world will not come to an end if Arthur has to wait another day or two.

McG. B.

Letter Approved6


  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, United Nations. Secret. A notation on the memorandum reads: “Recd Ranch 11-28-65, 8:15 p.”
  2. Not printed.
  3. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. III, Document 205.
  4. Reference is to Sevareid’s article “The Final Troubled Hours of Adlai Stevenson,” which appeared in the November 30 issue of Look on newstands beginning on November 15. See ibid., Document 203.
  5. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1965, pp. 918-919.
  6. This option is checked and a notation indicates that the Department of State (Sisco) and McGeorge Bundy were informed by telephone.