289. Message From President Johnson to Prime Minister Wilson 1

Dear Harold:

I have just learned from Dean Rusk of your plans for total British withdrawal from the Far East and the Persian Gulf by 1971.

[Page 609]

I know you are close to a final decision and that there is not much time for reconsideration. I also can guess at what soul-searching you and your colleagues have been going through in trying to find the means for restoring health of the British economy and still carrying as much as possible of the financial burdens which you have so courageously borne thus far.

This having been said, I cannot conceal from you my deep dismay upon learning this profoundly discouraging news. If these steps are taken, they will be tantamount to British withdrawal from world affairs, with all that means for the future safety and health of the free world. The structure of peace-keeping will be shaken to its foundations. Our own capability and political will could be gravely weakened if we have to man the ramparts all alone.

Although the decision must, of course, be your own, I can only wonder if you and all of your associates have taken fully into account the direct and indirect consequences.

While the hour is late, I urge you and your colleagues once more to review the alternatives before you take these irrevocable steps. Even a prolongation of your presence in the Far East and the Persian Gulf until other stable arrangements can be put in place would be of help at this very difficult time for all of us.

With warmest personal regards,


Lyndon B. Johnson 2
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 6 UK. Secret. An attached January 11 note from Bromley Smith of the NSC Staff to Benjamin Read, Executive Secretary of the Department of State, stated that the message was sent “via private wire” and authorized its relay to Bruce “eyes only.” In a January 11 memorandum to the President reporting the substance of the Rusk-Brown conversation, Under Secretary Katzenbach recommended the dispatch of this message, adding: “While I do not think it will do any good, I believe we cannot fail to express our views at the highest level and in the strongest possible terms.” (Ibid.)
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.