152. Editorial Note

At 6:15 a.m. on June 5, 1967, Walt Rostow telephoned President Johnson and read to him a draft Presidential statement Rusk sent to the White House, expressing distress at the outbreak of fighting in the Middle East, noting that each side had accused the other of aggression, stating that the facts were not clear, and calling on all parties to support the UN Security Council in bringing about an immediate cease-fire. Rostow said he had read the statement to McNamara, who approved. The President agreed that the statement was all right. Rostow said that the evidence on who had started the fighting was not definitive, but that there was an interesting report from Cairo of indications of unusual activities in the UAR forces before the first Israeli strike at 9 a.m. Cairo time, including a report that a large number of pilots in uniform had been seen at the Cairo airport at 4:30 a.m. Rostow commented that this was “not much but it’s something, the only evidence that this is a UAR put-up job.” He added that McNamara was inclined to feel the same way because of the reports, and because he thought a UAR public announcement of the plan to send UAR Vice President Mohieddin to visit the United States would be a “good cover.” Rostow reported that Foreign Minister Eban said the Israelis had been attacked and he then gave orders to counter-attack. Rostow said that according to Eban, the Israelis were drafting a message to Johnson that would state Israel had no intention of taking advantage of the situation to enlarge its territory and hoped that peace could be restored within its present boundaries and that the conflict could be localized; in this regard, the message would ask U.S. help in restraining any Soviet initiative.

Rostow returned to the subject of the press statement. The President told him to send it to George Christian, and he would talk to Christian about when to release it. He suggested that McNamara and [Page 296] Rusk go to Capitol Hill and brief the leadership there rather than having them come to the White House. He also suggested “we might ask some of our good friends that might be helpful to come in from the outside and give us some help here.” He told Rostow he thought that “just for public appearance’s sake” they should ask former Secretary of State Dean Acheson. He wanted Rostow to ask Rusk and McNamara what they thought of this idea “just on your own without [it] coming from me.” In addition to Acheson, Johnson suggested asking former Under Secretary of State George Ball, Chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board Clark Clifford, and former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs McGeorge Bundy. He definitely wanted Bundy to come. He wanted Rostow to call Bundy and tell him the President would like to talk to him about this and other matters and “I wish he’d come down here and be prepared to stay as long as he can.” (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) This conversation was on the dictabelt with the earlier Rusk conversation. (See Document 150.) The date and time were taken from the President’s Daily Diary.

The press statement, with minor changes and an additional paragraph stating that the President would meet with Rusk, McNamara, Walt Rostow, and George Christian at 8:30 a.m. and that Rusk and McNamara would brief Senate and House leaders, was issued by Christian shortly after 7 a.m. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, June 26, 1967, page 949. The report from Cairo to which Rostow referred was transmitted in telegram 8504 from Cairo, June 5. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR) The report of Ambassador Barbour’s conversation with Eban is in telegram 3928 from Tel Aviv, June 5; ibid.