April 1967. Al DeMailo, a Huey gunship pilot with the 1st Cavalry Division, arrives in Vietnam for the first time.
Q: In terms of your understanding of Vietnam and what the United States was trying to do in Vietnam, before you left, what did you understand was going on?
A: Very naïve. Thought it was good against bad. We were there to stop the red hordes and Communism. Of course we had no plan as I found out later. That’s what I thought. We were there to do something good. My second two tours I found out that maybe it just wasn’t that way.
April 6, 1967. LBJ presents a posthumous Medal of Honor to Specialist Four Daniel Fernandez, US Army. The President and First Lady met in the Oval Office with members of the Fernandez family, along with guests from the Dept. of Defense, Congress, Veterans’ Administration, and other agencies.
LBJ Presidential Library photo #C4970-8, public domain.
He [LBJ] also read an editorial in the Sunday Star-Bulletin & Advertiser (of Honolulu, Hawaii) by William F. Buckley, Jr—“Anti-American Theme”— He told mary s and mf to be sure and read the article to see what “your young friends on the left” are doing. He was upset by the references to his own inadequacies in contrast to the glories of the JFK myth and explained that in JFK’s three years little had been done, and went on to enumerate his own successes in the legislative field.
Then the President took two equanil and said that if he couldn’t sleep, he’d get up and work, but he hoped that sleep would come.
March 18, 1967. 10:43 AM. Secretary of State Dean Rusk calls LBJ to report on South Vietnamese response to UN Secretary General U Thant’s peace proposal. LBJ responds with skepticism and says (at about 3.22) “I don’t think U Thant is our friend.. I don’t think he’ll do much for us except embarrass us.”
Starting at about 6.36, when Rusk suggests a reply to U Thant and South Vietnam, LBJ’s response indicates how aware he is that he is losing popular support for the war:
‘We had different conditions before, though, Dean. We had 80% before and we’re down to under 40 now and we’re getting weaker all the time.”
LBJ also refers to the Pope’s peace initiative and the negotiations with Harold Wilson and Chairman Alexei Kosygin, both last month. He does not believe that Hanoi truly desires peace, despite the perception in the UN that the problem is “the hawks and Johnson and Rusk and the generals.”
March 1, 1967. 3:04 PM. An irritated LBJ complains to Sen. Richard Russell about a speech by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s in which he proposed a bombing halt in Vietnam. Referring to the Tet bombing pause of last month, LBJ says:
“Now we just finished doing that.. I don’t know where in the hell he was.”
March 1, 1967. LBJ attends a Cabinet Meeting. According to the Daily Diary:
“The President followed the agenda including a report by Secy Rusk on foreign affairs and by Secy McNamara on the military situation in VietNam. The President reviewed with each Cabinet Member, except for Secy Rusk who had left to meet the press, the status of the legislation before the Congress. He asked for reports by Friday of authorizations, appropriations and the status of Bills so that he might study them at the ranch this weekend.”
LBJ Presidential Library photo #C4652-13, public domain.
February 14, 1967. It is Bill Moyers’ last day in the White House. Moyers calls the President at 9:50 AM to say goodbye, and in response to LBJ’s query “What do you know that I need to know?” he briefly discusses his support for the resumption of bombing in North Vietnam, and press coverage of the administration.
Moyers dropped off his letter of resignation, pictured, at 1:14 PM that afternoon, according to the Daily Diary.
February 11-13, 1967. The Tet truce is running out:
“It ended on February 11, but with Kosygin still in the United Kingdom, we agreed to extend the bombing stand-down until he returned to Moscow on the 13th. At their final meeting with Kosygin on February 12, the British made a new proposal: If the Soviets could obtain North Vietnam’s assurance that infiltration into the South would end the next day, the British would get U.S. assurance that the bombing, which then had been stopped for five days, would not be resumed and, further, that the build-up of American forces would end. We had agreed to this British approach before it was put to Kosygin. The Soviets in turn passed the offer on to Hanoi. By the time Kosygin left London the following day, there was still no word from Hanoi. Nor was an answer waiting when Kosygin got back to Moscow.”
President Johnson orders that the bombings resume.
—Lyndon Baines Johnson, The Vantage Point, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971), 254.
February 7-8, 1967. President Johnson receives a letter from Pope Paul VI expressing hope that the bombing halt will allow the United States and North Vietnam to begin peace negotiations. President Johnson then sends a reply to Pope Paul VI.
Cable, Pope Paul VI to LBJ, 2/7/67, #42, “Vatican, Pope Paul, et. al., Volume 1,” Head of State Correspondence, NSF, Box 11, LBJ Library.
Cable, LBJ to Pope Paul VI, 2/8/67, #40, “Vatican, Pope Paul, et. al., Volume 1,” Head of State Correspondence, NSF, Box 11, LBJ Library.
February 6, 1967. Chairman Alexei Kosygin arrives in the United Kingdom for an 8-day visit. While there, Kosygin and Prime Minister Harold Wilson engage in meetings and serve as mediators to try and negotiate peace between the United States and North Vietnam.
In The Vantage Point, LBJ says:
“At the outset of the London talks, it became clear to me why the Soviets were willing to discuss Vietnam. Kosygin was pressing Wilson hard to use his influence to persuade us to accept Hanoi’s vague offer of possible talks in exchange for a bombing halt. When the Prime Minister asked for our reaction to this proposal, I replied: ‘If we are asked to take military action on our side, we need to know what the military consequences will be—that is, what military action will be taken by the other side.’ I concluded my message to Wilson by saying: ‘I would strongly urge that the two co-chairmen [of the Geneva Conference] not suggest a stoppage of the bombing in exchange merely for talks, but instead appeal to Hanoi to consider seriously the reasonable proposals we are putting before them, which would take us not merely into negotiation but a long step towards peace itself.’”