Q. Mr. President, have you had any message from anyone in the Far East since your speech last night?

THE PRESIDENT. I don’t understand the full import of your question.

Q. Well, I wondered had there been any diplomatic response from Southeast Asia as a result of what you said last night?

THE PRESIDENT. Are you asking if I have heard from the North Vietnamese?

Q. Among other people, yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven’t read everything that has come in. To my knowledge, we haven’t heard from them.

But if some rancher from Australia had wired me congratulations, I wouldn’t want to be caught in a credibility gap by saying I hadn’t heard from that part of the world.

If you are asking about North Vietnam, the answer is, to my knowledge, no.

The President’s News Conference at the LBJ Ranch, September 30, 1967

September 29, 1967. In the midst of the ongoing attempts at peace negotiations, President Johnson delivers a speech before the National Legislative Conference in San Antonio, Texas. He outlines what will become known as the “San Antonio Formula”: 

“I am ready to talk with Ho Chi Minh, and other chiefs of state concerned, tomorrow.
I am ready to have Secretary Rusk meet with their foreign minister tomorrow.
I am ready to send a trusted representative of America to any spot on this earth to talk in public or private with a spokesman of Hanoi.
We have twice sought to have the issue of Vietnam dealt with by the United Nations-and twice Hanoi has refused.
Our desire to negotiate peace—through the United Nations or out—has been made very, very clear to Hanoi—directly and many times through third parties.
As we have told Hanoi time and time and time again, the heart of the matter is really this: The United States is willing to stop all aerial and naval bombardment of North Vietnam when this will lead promptly to productive discussions. We, of course, assume that while discussions proceed, North Vietnam would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation.”

—Read the full speech at the American Presidency Project. Photo: Ho Chi Minh and East German President Wilhelm Pieck in 1957. Via Wkimedia Commons. 

September 29, 1967. In the midst of the ongoing attempts at peace negotiations, President Johnson delivers a speech before the National Legislative Conference in San Antonio, Texas. He outlines what will become known as the “San Antonio Formula”: 

“I am ready to talk with Ho Chi Minh, and other chiefs of state concerned, tomorrow.

I am ready to have Secretary Rusk meet with their foreign minister tomorrow.

I am ready to send a trusted representative of America to any spot on this earth to talk in public or private with a spokesman of Hanoi.

We have twice sought to have the issue of Vietnam dealt with by the United Nations-and twice Hanoi has refused.

Our desire to negotiate peace—through the United Nations or out—has been made very, very clear to Hanoi—directly and many times through third parties.

As we have told Hanoi time and time and time again, the heart of the matter is really this: The United States is willing to stop all aerial and naval bombardment of North Vietnam when this will lead promptly to productive discussions. We, of course, assume that while discussions proceed, North Vietnam would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation.”

Read the full speech at the American Presidency Project. Photo: Ho Chi Minh and East German President Wilhelm Pieck in 1957. Via Wkimedia Commons. 

Sept. 28, 1967. 9:54 AM. On a phone call with Republican Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, LBJ complains about public criticism about Vietnam from Senators Thruston MortonWilliam Fulbright, and Clifford Case

At about 8:38, the President says: 

"Now, we don’t have a single military man or a single civilian man who thinks that these people are ready to talk now. We think they’re relying on the Senate—these speeches up there. And I think somebody’s just got to tell these Senators, ‘If you want to have some influence, come down here and we’ll expose you and debate with you right in the Cabinet Room. But for God’s sake, don’t tell Ho Chi Minh that if he holds out another month we may stop hitting him, because that what he’s hoping he can do.’”

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 29, 1967. In the midst of the ongoing attempts at peace negotiations, President Johnson delivers a speech before the National Legislative Conference in San Antonio, Texas. 

"I am ready to talk with Ho Chi Minh, and other chiefs of state concerned, tomorrow.
I am ready to have Secretary Rusk meet with their foreign minister tomorrow. 
I am ready to send a trusted representative of America to any spot on this earth to talk in public or private with a spokesman of Hanoi.
We have twice sought to have the issue of Vietnam dealt with by the United Nations—and twice Hanoi has refused.
Our desire to negotiate peace—through the United Nations or out—has been made very, very clear to Hanoi—directly and many times through third parties.
As we have told Hanoi time and time and time again, the heart of the matter is really this: The United States is willing to stop all aerial and naval bombardment of North Vietnam when this will lead promptly to productive discussions. We, of course, assume that while discussions proceed, North Vietnam would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation.”
—Read the full speech at the American Presidency Project.

Photo from CPS Energy. 

September 29, 1967. In the midst of the ongoing attempts at peace negotiations, President Johnson delivers a speech before the National Legislative Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

"I am ready to talk with Ho Chi Minh, and other chiefs of state concerned, tomorrow.

I am ready to have Secretary Rusk meet with their foreign minister tomorrow.

I am ready to send a trusted representative of America to any spot on this earth to talk in public or private with a spokesman of Hanoi.

We have twice sought to have the issue of Vietnam dealt with by the United Nations—and twice Hanoi has refused.

Our desire to negotiate peace—through the United Nations or out—has been made very, very clear to Hanoi—directly and many times through third parties.

As we have told Hanoi time and time and time again, the heart of the matter is really this: The United States is willing to stop all aerial and naval bombardment of North Vietnam when this will lead promptly to productive discussions. We, of course, assume that while discussions proceed, North Vietnam would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation.”

—Read the full speech at the American Presidency Project.

Photo from CPS Energy

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.

The President’s News Conference,  September 1, 1967.

Fall 1967. 

“Dick Helms’s secret memo shows that, in the fall of 1967, the CIA;s most senior analysts believed we could have withdrawn from Vietnam without any permanent damage to U.S. or Western security. At the same time they were expressing that view, I was stating to the Stennis subcommittee the judgment—supported by CIA/DIA analyses—that we could not win the war by bombing the North. And my May 19 memo had reported that we would continue suffering heavy casualties in South Vietnam with no assurance of winning their either.
"How, in the face of such factors, does one explain the administration’s failure to push harder for negotiations and contemplate withdrawal? The answer is that the Joint Chiefs and many others in the government took an entirely different view of the war’s progress, that influential members of Congress and the public, and that the President was heavily swayed by their opinion."  

Robert S. McNamara with Brian VanDeMark, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, New York: Random House, 1995, p. 294-295. Photo from 2/7/1968, LBJ Library. 

Fall 1967. 

Dick Helms’s secret memo shows that, in the fall of 1967, the CIA;s most senior analysts believed we could have withdrawn from Vietnam without any permanent damage to U.S. or Western security. At the same time they were expressing that view, I was stating to the Stennis subcommittee the judgment—supported by CIA/DIA analyses—that we could not win the war by bombing the North. And my May 19 memo had reported that we would continue suffering heavy casualties in South Vietnam with no assurance of winning their either.

"How, in the face of such factors, does one explain the administration’s failure to push harder for negotiations and contemplate withdrawal? The answer is that the Joint Chiefs and many others in the government took an entirely different view of the war’s progress, that influential members of Congress and the public, and that the President was heavily swayed by their opinion."  

Robert S. McNamara with Brian VanDeMark, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, New York: Random House, 1995, p. 294-295. Photo from 2/7/1968, LBJ Library. 

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.”

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Volume V, Vietnam, 1967, Document 316. Office of the Historian, State Department. 

September 11, 1967. Henry Kissinger receives an official response from Hanoi, through French intermediaries Marcovich and Aubrac. Secretaries Rusk and McNamara immediately start working on a reply.

This memo from Kissinger includes the Hanoi response. It also indicates some interesting uncertainty surrounding the expectation of a reply to the message.

—Memo, from Kissinger, 9/11/67, #74a, “Vietnam, Pennsylvania,” Vietnam Country File, National Security File, Box 140.

September 7, 1967. In a memo to the President, CIA Director Richard Helms provides background information and an update on the continued attempts at peace negotiations with North Vietnam involving Henry Kissinger as an intermediary. 

“Hanoi’s failure to date to respond to the US initiative could well be related to a combination of factors of timing and interpretation, reinforced by its deep-seated distrust of US motives in the area. The tone of the premier’s remarks to the intermediaries in July suggests a greater interest in getting talks started than we have noted in the past. This may represent merely a tactical shift, however, for we see nothing in his private statements or in his recent public pronouncements indicating a significant change in Hanoi’s position. North Vietnamese leaders continue to insist on an unconditional stop to the bombing and a settlement based on their ‘four points.’ They show no sign yet of any readiness to compromise these objectives.”

Read the rest of the memo here. LBJ Library photo # B6275-20a; public domain.

September 7, 1967. In a memo to the President, CIA Director Richard Helms provides background information and an update on the continued attempts at peace negotiations with North Vietnam involving Henry Kissinger as an intermediary.

“Hanoi’s failure to date to respond to the US initiative could well be related to a combination of factors of timing and interpretation, reinforced by its deep-seated distrust of US motives in the area. The tone of the premier’s remarks to the intermediaries in July suggests a greater interest in getting talks started than we have noted in the past. This may represent merely a tactical shift, however, for we see nothing in his private statements or in his recent public pronouncements indicating a significant change in Hanoi’s position. North Vietnamese leaders continue to insist on an unconditional stop to the bombing and a settlement based on their ‘four points.’ They show no sign yet of any readiness to compromise these objectives.”

Read the rest of the memo hereLBJ Library photo # B6275-20a; public domain.

September 3, 1967. Nguyen Van Thieu is elected President of South Vietnam. In an attempt to counteract criticisms that the U.S. government was manipulating the vote, President Johnson sent a mission comprised of Governors, Senators, labor and business leaders, and journalists to South Vietnam to observe the general elections.
Governor Bill Guy of North Dakota reported:

“Too much attention has been placed on the possibility of irregularities, and not enough on the other aspects. These people with great courage came out with a moving and profound example of desire for self determination as much as I have seen anywhere. We visited a precinct at which a bomb went off and killed three and wounded six during the voting. They closed it for 45 minutes and then reopened it for more voting. I was very impressed.”

—Memo, Jim Jones to the President, 9/6/67, #3, “[September 6, 1967 - 11:09 a.m. Meeting with Vietnam Election Observers],” Meeting Notes File, Box 2, LBJ Presidential Library.
More about the elections in the Foreign Relations of the United States Series here. Photo: LBJ with Nguyen Van Thieu in 1966, # A1906-15; public domain.

September 3, 1967. Nguyen Van Thieu is elected President of South Vietnam. In an attempt to counteract criticisms that the U.S. government was manipulating the vote, President Johnson sent a mission comprised of Governors, Senators, labor and business leaders, and journalists to South Vietnam to observe the general elections.

Governor Bill Guy of North Dakota reported:

“Too much attention has been placed on the possibility of irregularities, and not enough on the other aspects. These people with great courage came out with a moving and profound example of desire for self determination as much as I have seen anywhere. We visited a precinct at which a bomb went off and killed three and wounded six during the voting. They closed it for 45 minutes and then reopened it for more voting. I was very impressed.”

—Memo, Jim Jones to the President, 9/6/67, #3, “[September 6, 1967 - 11:09 a.m. Meeting with Vietnam Election Observers],” Meeting Notes File, Box 2, LBJ Presidential Library.

More about the elections in the Foreign Relations of the United States Series here. Photo: LBJ with Nguyen Van Thieu in 1966, # A1906-15; public domain.

August 31, 1967. The Senate Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee issues a summary report on aerial war against North Vietnam.
 In its report, the Subcommittee discusses the limitation of air bombing target lists and the difficulty involved in getting targets approved. The Subcommittee argues that the “air campaign has been crucial and vital in saving many American and allied lives in South Vietnam.” In addition, the summary report also points a division between opinions of civilian authorities and military authorities regarding air bombing.
In its conclusion, the report states, “It is high time, we believe, to allow the military voice to be heard in connection with the tactical details of military operations.”
The document above is an example of a request for approval of Arc Light Strike Targets dated August 13, 1967.
—Congressional Record, Volume 113, part 19, page 25179-25182. Document: Message, Request for target approval, 8/13/67, #64b, “ 3 I Targets, 7/67 - 3/68,” Vietnam Country File, National Security File, Box 84.

August 31, 1967. The Senate Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee issues a summary report on aerial war against North Vietnam.

In its report, the Subcommittee discusses the limitation of air bombing target lists and the difficulty involved in getting targets approved. The Subcommittee argues that the “air campaign has been crucial and vital in saving many American and allied lives in South Vietnam.” In addition, the summary report also points a division between opinions of civilian authorities and military authorities regarding air bombing.

In its conclusion, the report states, “It is high time, we believe, to allow the military voice to be heard in connection with the tactical details of military operations.”

The document above is an example of a request for approval of Arc Light Strike Targets dated August 13, 1967.

—Congressional Record, Volume 113, part 19, page 25179-25182. Document: Message, Request for target approval, 8/13/67, #64b, “ 3 I Targets, 7/67 - 3/68,” Vietnam Country File, National Security File, Box 84.

The United States is willing to stop the aerial and naval bombardment of North Viet-Nam with the understanding that this will lead promptly to productive discussions between representatives of the United States and the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam looking toward a resolution of the issues between them.

Excerpt from a message delivered to North Vietnamese representative in France, Mai Van Bo, through French intermediaries, Marcovich and Aubrac, on 8/25/67. (Summary, Timeline summary of negotiation attempts as presented by Kissinger, 9/8/67, #1a, “Pennsylvania,” Vietnam Country File, NSF, Box 140.)

August 25, 1967. Robert McNamara delivers a statement as part of the Stennis hearings in the Senate Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee. On August 30th, McNamara’s statement is then read into the Congressional Record. 
As part of his statement, McNamara lists the three primary objectives of the bombing in North Vietnam: to reduce the flow and/or increase the cost of infiltration of men and supplies from North to South Vietnam; to raise the morale of the South Vietnamese people, who have been under severe military pressure; and to make clear to the North Vietnamese leadership that the bombings are the result of their continued aggression against the South. 
To those arguing for increased bombing, McNamara states that the limited bombing objectives “…were and are entirely consistent with our limited purposes in Southeast Asia. We are not fighting for territorial conquests or to destroy existing governments. We are fighting there only to assure the people of South Vietnam the freedom to choose their own political and economic institutions.”
—Congressional Record, Volume 113, part 18, page 24533. Photo: LBJ Library, C7636-15A; image is in the public domain.

August 25, 1967. Robert McNamara delivers a statement as part of the Stennis hearings in the Senate Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee. On August 30th, McNamara’s statement is then read into the Congressional Record.

As part of his statement, McNamara lists the three primary objectives of the bombing in North Vietnam: to reduce the flow and/or increase the cost of infiltration of men and supplies from North to South Vietnam; to raise the morale of the South Vietnamese people, who have been under severe military pressure; and to make clear to the North Vietnamese leadership that the bombings are the result of their continued aggression against the South.

To those arguing for increased bombing, McNamara states that the limited bombing objectives “…were and are entirely consistent with our limited purposes in Southeast Asia. We are not fighting for territorial conquests or to destroy existing governments. We are fighting there only to assure the people of South Vietnam the freedom to choose their own political and economic institutions.”

Congressional Record, Volume 113, part 18, page 24533. Photo: LBJ Library, C7636-15A; image is in the public domain.