130. Editorial Note

On January 19, 1968, Department of State Executive Secretary Read forwarded to Walt Rostow a draft Presidential letter to all U.S. Chiefs of Mission abroad. In a covering memorandum, Read described the letter as “restating their fundamental role and stressing several themes which the Secretary is anxious to have our Ambassadors abroad urge with greater vigor and effectiveness.” Read also noted that both Secretary of State Rusk and Under Secretary Katzenbach had concurred in the draft letter. Rostow forwarded it to the President on February 27, with about half the lines crossed out. In a covering memorandum, Rostow characterized the letter’s purpose as two-fold: “1. To state clearly the Ambassador’s responsibility as your agent to supervise and coordinate all the work of his Embassy. 2. To instruct each Ambassador to speak up often and firmly about our role in Southeast Asia and the importance to the entire Free World of our commitments in Vietnam.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, State Department, Filed by LBJ Library)

Several times during 1964 and 1965, Deputy Under Secretary of State Crockett had urged that a new Presidential letter be sent to Ambassadors restating their authority and responsibility as the President’s representative (see Documents 13 and 19). In 1966 Special Consultant to the President Taylor proposed that the President send such a letter in connection with issuing National Security Action Memorandum 341, and the President indicated that he wanted Secretary of State Rusk to draft one (see the attachments to Document 50 and footnote 1 to Document 56). A letter was drafted in March 1966 and revised (see Document 248); however, no such letter, including the letter proposed in January 1968, was ever sent during the Johnson Presidency.