February 3, 1965.
Discussion with The President re South Vietnam
I told the
President that I was exceedingly worried about the developing
situation in South Vietnam and that reports received today indicated
the prospect of a more serious and immediate political crisis
in Saigon than was earlier anticipated. I explained that all reports
from the Embassy and the Station indicated that Khanh's arrangements
with the Buddhists had come unglued and he apparently was in serious
trouble with most of the Generals. Therefore I felt the reports
that Khanh's "days or even hours" were numbered were
probably true. I therefore concluded that there was a high probability
of immediate trouble.
I then pointed
out to the President the composition of the Kosygin mission, indicating
that with the Chief of the Soviet Air Force, the Chief negotiator
for aid, and the Chief Civilian Aviation Minister included in
this party, leads me to the conclusion Kosygin would offer military
equipment, at least for air defense such as surface to air missiles,
supplies and materiel to continue and intensify insurgency and
would provide logistic support. In the final analysis we felt
that Kosygin would encourage Hanoi to intensify what they were
doing now in the way of subversion, political action and guerrilla
to avoid overt military action which would bring a confrontation
with the United States. The President read the 2 February Watch
Committee Report (2) and then said, "If
you were President of the United States, what would you do about
that we must produce a viable Government by breeding acceptable
military leadership with the Buddhists and other civilian segments
to produce the best possible Government and while this appeared
difficult, I did not think it was impossible.
I said even
with this we could not win the way we were going and therefore
we must take military action against North Vietnam. I advocated
bombing of selected targets in North Vietnam, starting in the
south and working north and carrying the raids on intensively,
that is at least one a day. I said that we should gradually work
towards the north but should not strike deeply into North Vietnam
territory (as advocated by the JCS) at the start.
asked if this would not bring in the Chinese Communists in the
air or on the ground. I said there was a possibility that they
would come in on the ground but they had little capability in
the air. I said we had to face this contingency and be prepared
to handle any possible development but added that while Chinese
Communist ground intervention was a possibility, I did not estimate
it as a probability under the course of action advocated.
then asked that I communicate with Bundy through our Chief of
Station and develop immediately a cast of characters that might
formulate a compatible Government, i.e., military, Buddhists,
etc. With respect to Catholics, I said they would be difficult
to handle but I did not think they would resort to extreme measures
unless the Government established in this way represented a threat
to the Catholic community.
questioned me concerning consequences of our withdrawal from Vietnam
and I said that it would pave the way toward Communist takeover
of all of Southeast Asia. I mentioned current moves in Thailand,
the situation in Indonesia, and the probable developments in Malaysia
under such circumstances.