254. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President, Foreign Minister Quaison-Sackey, the Ambassador of Ghana, Mr. Bill Moyers, Mr. McGeorge Bundy
The President greeted the Foreign Minister warmly, and took him and the Ambassador into his small office. He opened the conversation by a friendly reference to the Ambassador’s recent trip to Lake Jackson in Texas. The Ambassador reported that he had enjoyed the trip very [Page 448]much and that he looked forward to an opportunity to show this same work on desalinization to the Minister of his Government mainly concerned with these matters. The President told the Foreign Minister that the Ambassador was going to be regarded as a citizen of Texas, and then turned to the Foreign Minister attentively and expectantly.
The Foreign Minister said that he brought the President the very warm greetings of President Nkrumah, and a letter.2 He handed the letter to the President. The President joked about the large number of red seals on the letter, produced a pocketknife, opened it carefully, and read it aloud.
As soon as he had finished reading the letter, the President gave the Foreign Minister a categorical assurance that no U.S. military operations would interfere with any visit to Hanoi by President Nkrumah. The President said (1) we are not bombing Hanoi, (2) we have not intensified our bombing of North Vietnam, (3) the President will be in no danger, and (4) who is he kidding? (probably referring to Ho, not Nkrumah). The President continued that a peaceful settlement would never be blocked because of any action of the United States. If the aggression ceases, our resistance ceases. Nobody wanted peace more than the United States, and if the efforts of Ghana could get the aggressors to stop, we would stop resistance to the aggression. The President repeated that no one needed to be worried about getting hurt in Hanoi—there was no danger in a visit to Hanoi in search of peace.
The President told the Ghanaians that they knew what he thought—that he thought all nations should be happy together—that the world should look forward to a time of peace and progress. The President noted that this had been a great day for progress in the United States, with the signing of the voting rights bill, and his guests enthusiastically agreed, saying that they had seen the ceremony on television and been greatly moved by it.
The Foreign Minister said that the reason for the letter was the report of the Ghanaian mission to Hanoi which had experienced some difficulties. It had been given military escort from Peking to Hanoi in a flight which gave rise to some concern. It had heard the sounds of guns on many occasions in Hanoi, and it had advised President Nkrumah not to go to Hanoi at this time. But President Nkrumah wanted very much to go, and he therefore asked whether bombings could not cease for three or four days. Then perhaps he could work for a cessation of all hostilities during peace talks. President Nkrumah felt that he must do all he could for a cease-fire, and this was the explanation for what the Foreign Minister [Page 449]had come to call “the fever-heat diplomacy” of his sudden visit to Washington.
The President replied that he was happy to see the Foreign Minister and repeated that the Foreign Minister should return to his President and say (1) that we have not bombed Hanoi and that he need not be frightened, and (2) that if he can get the aggression stopped, there will be peace overnight.
The President repeated again that no one wanted peace more than the United States, but he said that no one would be allowed to gobble up little countries. We would stay there and ensure the right of self-determination. We would not run out of there. But the President said once again that President Nkrumah need not be concerned by the bombs that had never fallen on Hanoi.
The Foreign Minister raised very gently the question whether the President would wish to receive President Nkrumah either before or after his visit to Hanoi. The President said he thought we should wait until after President Nkrumah got back from Hanoi, and then we would see. So far, visitors in Hanoi had produced no hope from the other side. This matter was left entirely open, but it was made quite plain by omission that the President did not expect to see President Nkrumah before his visit to Hanoi.
The President, in closing, made it very clear that he himself thought the North Vietnamese suggestion that President Nkrumah would be in danger was a fraud, and the friendly chuckles of his guests made it appear that they personally did not disagree. It was agreed that the meeting would not be discussed in detail, but that the Press Secretary would give a brief summary of the contents of President Nkrumah’s message and of the oral reply which the President had given. The President would send a written reply promptly,3 and it was tentatively agreed that the two letters would be released after the Foreign Minister had carried the reply back and delivered it to President Nkrumah.
With exchanges of further best wishes and expressions of regard and satisfaction, the meeting ended. The two visitors had clearly been both impressed and pleased by their reception.
McG.B. 4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Ghana, Vol. II, Cables, 3/64–2/66. Confidential. Drafted by McGeorge Bundy on August 11.
  2. The text of Nkrumah’s message to Johnson was sent in telegram 72 to Accra, August 7. (Ibid., Nkrumah Correspondence, 1/64–2/66) A copy is also in Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S.
  3. Johnson’s brief reply to Nkrumah was telegraphed to Accra and released to the press on August 7. (Ibid.)
  4. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.