305. Letter From President Johnson to Pope Paul VI1

Your Holiness:

You have, I know, been following with prayerful concern the course of events in Vietnam and the efforts we have been making to bring to an end through peaceful means the tragic hostilities there.

I want to assure you that we have explored every avenue, responded to every offer, and followed every lead that held out any hope that this tragic conflict might be settled at the conference table. Our efforts have so far been in vain.

The South Vietnamese have, instead, been subjected to intensified infiltration from the North, and I have therefore had to make painful [Page 648] decisions to counter this by intensified air strikes. The steps we chose were carefully limited, and I have seen to it that every precaution was taken to keep to an absolute minimum the damage to civilians and to non-military property. I want personally to assure you that these steps were taken only after the most searching review and assessment of all of the factors involved and only after determining that such action was required by the circumstances.

You are fully aware of my desire to end the conflict in Vietnam as quickly as possible. I can only hope that the leaders in Hanoi are beginning to realize that their aggression cannot succeed.

At the same time, let me reaffirm the determination I expressed to you in my letter of December 292 that I will never cease my exertions until an honorable peace has been achieved in that troubled part of the world. I shall continue the search for a negotiated settlement without conditions. As Ambassador Goldberg, who will deliver this letter to you, told the members of the United Nations Security Council on June 30,3 we will continue to press for a peaceful solution either through reconvening the Geneva Conference or in some other forum.

I deeply appreciate your own efforts to bring peace to Vietnam. We share this goal, which must be the ultimate goal of all men of good will.4


Lyndon B. Johnson
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence, Vatican, Vol. 1. Secret.
  2. The text was transmitted in telegram 1363 to Rome, December 29, 1965. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 27 VIET S)
  3. No record of the speech was found. The Security Council did not meet that day. A June 30 letter to the President of the Security Council outlining U.S. positions is in Department of State, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Subject Files, Reel 326, Frame 45.
  4. In a July 9 reply, Pope Paul expressed thanks for the President’s letter and urged him to make all possible diplomatic efforts to secure an end to the conflict. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence, Vatican, Vol. 1)