“If the US really wants to talk it is necessary first to stop without conditions the bombing and all other acts of war against the DRV.”—Message to Kissinger through the French intermediary, Marcovich. (memo, Read/Kissinger Telecons 8 p.m., 10/4/67, #18a, “Vietnam, Pennsylvania,” Vietnam Country File, NSF, Box 140.)
“Presencia, October 9, reports capture “Che” Guevara. Guerrillas reported lost three dead and two seriously wounded and captured, including “Che” in six hour firefight on October 8 with unit of 2nd Rangers, seven kilometers north of Higuera.”—Memo, Rostow to LBJ, 10/9/67, #102, “Bolivia, Volume 4,” Country File, NSF, Box 8, LBJ Presidential Library.
“Monday, Sept. 25, 1967. Last night was one of those bleak nights when the shadows take over. We both woke up about 3:30 AM and talked and talked and talked about when and how to make the statement that Lyndon is not going to be a candidate again.”—Lady Bird Johnson, A White House Diary, New York: Dell Books, 1971, pg 627.
September 16, 1967. Marcovich and Aubrac deliver the US response to the previous communication from Hanoi on September 11th. The response had actually been ready since September 13th, but Kissinger had been holding onto the message in hopes of delivering it to Mai Van Bo, the Delegate General and Commercial Representative in France of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, personally.
The message reiterates the message from August 25th and claims that the US proposal did not contain conditions and that the US has since ceased the bombing of Hanoi, while waiting for a response from the DRV. In addition, the message leaves the proposal from August 25th open.
—Read a draft of the text of the September 13th message here.
Q. Mr. President, there seems to be, at least in public, some dispute going on within the administration on bombing policy in North Vietnam, with Secretary McNamara’s representatives taking one position and the military another…
THE PRESIDENT. The President is the Commander in Chief under the Constitution. His principal deputy in military matters is the Secretary of Defense. The Joint Chiefs are his military advisers.
The Joint Chiefs are a group of very able men. They are the finest in character and the best trained soldiers and sailors that we have. Their judgment is requested and respected, and certainly always carefully considered.
No two men ever see everything alike. Throughout our history there have been differences among Army leaders and naval leaders, between members of the Joint Chiefs and the civilians, between the civilians and the Congress. That is really the strength of our system….
Very frequently you find that men of strong minds do not always agree. When they do, you have to consider their individual viewpoints and then act in the way you think is in the best interest of the Nation. That is what we have done.
But six out of every seven targets recommended have been authorized. As of now, I think that we are operating effectively, efficiently, and in the national interest.
Q. Has Secretary McNamara recommended to you that the rate of bombing in the North be reduced?
THE PRESIDENT. The recommendations that we get from time to time are to authorize specific targets. When those meetings conclude, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the President have as of now been in agreement with each other.
On September 12, 1967, Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms submitted to President Johnson a report ….[that] dealt with the impact of the failure to sustain the non-Communist state in South Vietnam. This failure would not come as a result of a complete military and political collapse of the U.S. effort in Vietnam, but would evolve from the likely compromise solution that would result from a peace settlement negotiated within a relatively brief period of time and to the advantage of the Vietnamese Communists.
The risks of an unfavorable outcome in Vietnam were considerable. The authors of the report described the permanent damage that would result to the United States in the international arena, the internal dissension that would follow, and the destabilization that would arise in other areas of Southeast Asia.
They mitigated their conclusions, however, by suggesting that “such risks are probably more limited and controllable than most previous argument has indicated.”