380. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

Secretary Rusk informed me as follows on the U Thant matter.

He shares your view of U Thant.
He has personally boxed the compass in recent weeks looking for an alternative in ways that would avoid a leak.
The central problem is the Soviet veto. This eliminates: a Western European; a Latin American; or an Asian ally.
An African was conceivable; but the Secretary is convinced a good African would not be acceptable to Moscow; for example, Robert Gardner, able head of the Economic Commission for Africa.
The Secretary and Arthur Goldberg reluctantly concluded that U Thant was better than a weak African acceptable to Moscow.
As for a Presidential letter, the Secretary was initially skeptical. He felt a verbal message of U.S. support would suffice. Goldberg argued strongly that a letter would:
  • —earn us a little future credit with U Thant;
  • —convince U Thant he was in and would not have to accept any conditions from the British and French on his trip to Europe beginning Monday.
Secretary Rusk would be pleased to discuss this further, if you desire. I’m, of course, at your disposal.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 3. Confidential.