13. Memorandum for the Record1



  • McNamara-Hasluck Conversation, 1630–1715 Hours, 12 April 1966

The conversation was held in Secretary McNamaraʼs office. Present were: Australian Foreign Minister Paul Hasluck, Sir James Plimsoll, Permanent Secretary for the Department of External Affairs, Sir Edwin Hicks, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Defense, Ambassador Waller, Secretary McNamara and I.

Vietnam. Secretary McNamara said that the military situation in Vietnam was going well, but the political side is discouraging; Ky may not survive; the military could fragment. Minister Hasluck remarked that perhaps there should be a reshuffle of the present power structure, or possibly a turn to some formula for civilian rule. McNamara said a question the American people are asking is, “Why die for people who canʼt discipline themselves?” Hasluck asked what would be done if we were asked out of Vietnam? McNamara thought that it would not come in that clear a form, but more likely in the form of (1) anti-US demonstrations or in (2) South Vietnamese weakness. Hasluck suggested that our best “cover” is that we are helping at their request, while our real reason is that we simply canʼt let the Communists succeed. McNamara said that to prevent such success, the people must want you; based on reports of I and II Corps activities, McNamara is convinced that ground operations from March are off 25–40%; as for bombs being dropped, we are running three times the Korean war rate; we are hitting the enemyʼs bases. McNamara went on that the buildup is not affected by the political situation, but we have doubts being expressed by the Congressional leadership; we have 200,000 US men there now and 20,000 in the pipeline, with 385,000 planned by yearʼs end; however, we would stop the next day and reverse the flow in the pipeline if Australia reversed its position as to its commitment. Hasluck said, conversely, that they are committed to go ahead, but it would be “politically calamitous if Australia appeared more hawklike and the US more dovelike.” McNamara assured him that the US would consult with Australia if there was a change on our part. Hasluck said that Vietnam will be the issue during their elections in early December (in connection with the first deployment of National Service men). Hasluck feels it is extremely important to coordinate US and Australian planning very closely.
4-Power Consultation. Hasluck left a paper with Secretary Rusk concerning the question of four-power consultation on defense arrangements in the Indo-Pacific area.2 Hasluck thinks these discussions should be just that and not deal with command and planning arrangements, political or military. McNamara expressed his deep concern over the possibility that these four-power discussions might appear to Asians as a “White Manʼs Club”; as for the decisions as to the sort of arrangements which may be necessary, he prefers to await the results of the discussions in June. Hasluck feels it is important to talk, in order to achieve a common strategy concept and common effort; the UK wants to drive bargains. McNamara said that he is anxious for the discussions to get under way, when we all should examine each otherʼs hand; our people believe that the US is bearing too large a share; the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cut military assistance, and “I had to lobby it back”; this year our economic and military requests are in jeopardy; people ask, “Why are there four times more US than Australians in Vietnam per capita of population?” Hasluck said they had 30,000 in Malaysia. McNamara reported that we have 225,000 in Europe; we need to aim and plan for 5–10 years ahead; we are glad that the UK in their White Paper on Defence expressed their commitment to a role East of Suez. Hasluck was concerned that some British might want to fall back to pre-Indonesia Confrontation levels. McNamara said that that would involve movement by India, Japan and the Philippines; the US people wonʼt tolerate a quadripartite arrangement leaving out Asians. Hasluck said India wonʼt join yet, but asked that McNamara thought about Japan. McNamara explained that Japan wants to run Okinawa, but we need the base; Japan must accept responsibility for US being there as control of Okinawa passes from the US to Okinawa and Japan; we would prefer this sooner rather than later; for our own defense, we can return to Hawaii. He continued that what we need are (1) bases (refueling on Okinawa base, nuclear submarine calls in Japanese ports, etc.) to help defend her; (2) overall political support of our defense of Asia; (3) Japan take over more of the cost of her defense (pay for bases, troops, etc.); (4) Japan help offset our foreign exchange costs; and (5) Japan contribute forces to joint defense outside the Japanese islands. He said India, too, should do some of these things. McNamara referred to Europe noting that there we have twice the number per capita in military service and twice the FRG percentage of GNP spent on defense.

Hasluck asked how can they cooperate in Indian Ocean matters. McNamara replied that that is the UK area; if carriers are out, F–111s are in; he did not know where they would be based; the UK would need alternative bases in northern Australia for the F–111s; there is danger of [Page 30] Singapore becoming untenable for the British, but it is not clear whether the UK wants out of Singapore or not. Hasluck remarked that the UK does not say “How can we stay in Singapore?” But “What do we do when we get out?” McNamara cautioned that we should not encourage or facilitate their getting out. He noted that Australia wants bases in northern Australia too. Hasluck mentioned that he had told Healey that the Australians are reviewing the Australian needs for bases and the possibility of sharing them.

Hicks said that it may be better to have F–111s in Darwin rather than Singapore.

McNamara envisaged the four-power talks covering political as well as military issues. Hasluck thought we must determine if there is a complete difference between US–UK views and trying to resolve them in order to achieve our objectives. McNamara said it is not clear if the UK thinks China should be allowed to dominate Southeast Asia. Hasluck asked how can security exist if there is a string of small unaligned states? He feels it unlikely that it can. McNamara commented that security might be able to exist best with guarantees, and that we should talk about it; an aligned SVN is not an objective; but we need guarantees to have stability—perhaps US–UK-Australia-international arrangements of some kind; without it, non-alignment will not last long; there would be a susceptibility to Communist domination and an alignment with China.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 70 A 6648, Australian 333, January 1966. Secret. Drafted on April 18 by McNaughton who also approved it.
  2. See attachment to Document 12.