150. Editorial Note

At 5:09 a.m. on June 5, 1967, Secretary of State Dean Rusk telephoned President Johnson. He read a draft message to Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko, saying that he thought it was better to send a message of this sort without waiting until the question of responsibility for the war was clarified. The President agreed. (See Document 157.) Johnson asked Rusk whether it seemed to him “reasonably sure that these tanks kicked it?” A reference to an Israeli report indicates that a UAR armored force had initiated the fighting. Noting that the fighting occurred initially over Egypt, Rusk said it was “a little hard to sort out”, but they had intelligence that five Egyptian airfields in the Sinai were not operational. He added that he would put more weight on the Israeli claim that there had been a large number of Egyptian aircraft headed for Israel from the sea, but he thought it was too early to say. He continued, “My instincts tell me that the Israelis probably kicked this off, but I just don’t know yet. And I don’t think we ought to make a preliminary judgment on that because it’s just hard to say.” Johnson asked if the Israelis were saying the Egyptians “kicked it off.” Rusk replied that each side was claiming publicly that the other started it but that no direct message had been received from Eshkol or Eban. He thought the Israeli claim of a tank advance looked “just a little thin on the surface” but he thought they would soon have more information. He stated that the Department had asked U.S. representative on the NATO Council Harlan Cleveland to keep a group of permanent members available for consultation, and he noted that the Security Council would meet and would probably call on both sides for an immediate cease-fire. He repeated, “My guess is the Israelis kicked this off.” He suggested that they might want to arrange a meeting of the Congressional leadership to bring them up to date on the situation. Johnson agreed, and the conversation concluded. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of a telephone conversation between Johnson and Rusk, June 5, 1967, 5:09 a.m., Tape F67.11, Side B, PNO 1) According to the Johnson Library, the dictabelt, with a June 7 note stating that it might have been made the previous day, was found with post-Presidential material. The date and time were taken from the President’s Daily Diary. (Ibid.)