4. Editorial Note
At approximately 6:35 p.m., January 28, 1964, Acting Secretary of State George Ball called President Johnson with the outline of a “plan” for Cyprus that would involve sending to Cyprus a contingent of 1,200 U.S. soldiers as part of a 10,000-man NATO peacekeeping force designed to facilitate mediation of the crisis by separating the warring parties. Ball indicated that the plan had the approval of Secretary of Defense McNamara. The President expressed continued skepticism about the utility of sending U.S. troops to the island:
LBJ: Why do we want to put something in?
GWB: I think that, the word we’ve had all through the day is that there’s danger of a blow up. That the situation.
LBJ: That’s the danger. They’re just trying to make us move and get into something we can’t get out of, I think.
GWB: Well, the point of this plan is that if we move in a very limited liability manner.
LBJ: I’d like to move you or Harriman or somebody—Bobby Kennedy, or Bob McNamara or somebody—I’d like to move them over there and let them make an all out diplomatic effort. Maybe put an airplane carrier or two there, but not. That island’s already overcrowded.
In response Ball stressed that the United States should avoid becoming the mediator in Cyprus: “Anyone who settles this is going to come down hard on the Greeks.” The United States should stay in the background. Ball then outlined a proposal for a Western European mediator, a 3-month cease-fire to permit mediation to proceed, and the inclusion of a 1,200 man U.S. contingent in the peacekeeping force. After answering a number of questions regarding the activities of U.S. officials, the President authorized further exploration of the Ball plan. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Acting Secretary Ball, January 28, 1964, 6:35 p.m.?, Tape 64.08, Side B, PNO 1)
At 6:45 p.m. the President telephoned Secretary McNamara to get his views on the Ball plan. The Secretary of Defense suggested that no decision be made until “we’ve heard from Lem” [General Lyman Lemnitzer]. (Ibid., Recording of Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary McNamara, January 28, 1964, 6:45 p.m., Tape 64.08, Side B, PNO 2)
The President telephoned Ball to relay McNamara’s views at approximately 6:48 p.m. Ball responded: “Fine.” (Ibid., Recording of Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Acting Secretary Ball, January 28, 1964, 6:48 p.m.?, Tape 64.08, Side B, PNO 3)