239. Memorandum for Record1
- Telephone conversation with General Eisenhower, 27 January 1968
As requested by General Wheeler on 26 January, I talked by telephone with General Eisenhower on the 27th. General Wheeler had asked me to raise with him, at the President’s request, several key questions concerning the North Korean seizure of the Pueblo.
The President was concerned over problems that might face him if he were impelled at the end of diplomatic efforts concerning the Pueblo to take some kind of military action. The two key questions would be: What actions could be taken; how should the Congress be associated with these actions (the experience in the Dominican Republic and in Vietnam is pertinent). In presenting these questions to General Eisenhower I stressed that the discussion was entirely confidential and that he was in no sense being put “on the spot”.
His initial comments were exploratory and tentative. Later he offered specific suggestions. He first asked if North Korea has much [Page 551] maritime trade. I told him it was limited but that they do a good deal of fishing. He then asked if any thought was given to a quarantine, commenting that this would be about the least provocative of any military action and that, if it did not suffice the Congress would then have to consider stronger action. He thought it was important to act “while the iron is hot” and while the Pueblo affair is fresh in peoples’ minds. He said we should be careful not to demand or threaten anything that we can’t back up. Next he raised the possibility of bombing the bridges over the Yalu. I pointed out that these lie on the border with Red China, and that this action would tend to be a challenge to the Chinese. I suggested that there might be critical points on the communications routes south of the Yalu. He commented that a key question is whether we would be prepared to use atomic weapons, particularly since these would give assurance of destruction of bridges, for example, and could be utilized in places where no civilian losses would be involved.
General Eisenhower said that if he were sitting in the President’s place he would have the staffs consider every possible thing that might be done, not excluding anything out of hand, as a basis for top level consideration and decision. He commented that he doesn’t see much danger of a nuclear holocaust arising over this affair. (I had previously mentioned to him the treaties of the USSR and the ChiComs with the North Koreans.) He thought that the Russians and the Chinese would be guided by their own interests.
After further discussion he said his idea would be to take action generally as follows and generally in the order indicated:
- Strengthening of defense arrangements along the DMZ (possibly including some patrolling into North Korea).
- Attack of some critical targets along the North Korean main lines of communication.
- Movement of U.S. air reinforcements into Korea; action to bring the whole command in South Korea to a feasibly high state of readiness; ground units should be brought up to strength, but without bringing in additional major units.
He did think that the plan to take these actions should be spelled out to the Congressional leadership. It could be pointed out that some of them at least could be initiated on the President’s own authority but that, in a matter of this kind it is important to have the Congress associated with the President, and that this is why he is consulting them. The Congressmen should be asked to keep specific details confidential, although the general intentions would of course become known.
Finally, General Eisenhower said that we should do everything possible to press for action on the diplomatic front and in the U.N. Security Council, and should even ask for a special session of the [Page 552] General Assembly if we thought anything useful could be achieved. He would intensify the bombing in Vietnam to a maximum at this time, and let it be known that this step up was related to the North Korean incident.
He concluded by asking me to convey to the President his personal hope for the President’s success in this matter.
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, Eisenhower, Dwight D. Secret. The memorandum indicates that President Johnson saw it.↩