June 11, 1965, 12:15 p.m.
opened the meeting by discussing the Administration's authority
to act in Vietnam which is now based on the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.
(2) The debate now going on in the Senate was
We have a treaty obligation and we intend to keep our commitment.
Some say we should get out of Vietnam while others say we should
do more. We should seek ways of holding the situation so that
we can carry out what we are committed to do.
It has been two months since my last personal report to you. General
Quat is still in power. He managed to handle the South Vietnamese
generals in such a way as to get General Khanh ousted and to end
the Military Council. Political life is still determined by three
groups--the generals, the southerners, and the Catholics. Minor
or even major changes are possible because the political impasse
still continues. Elections last Sunday (3) turned
out well, with a large number of voters registering. There was
no effective VC opposition.
As to the
military situation, the recent tranquility was due to retraining
and re-equipping. Ten days ago, the monsoon campaign began. Its
intensity will be greater than in years past. The South Vietnamese
manpower shortage in their military forces is serious. Their problem
is to raise the total military force and substantially decrease
desertions. The superiority of South Vietnamese military forces
over the Viet Cong has dropped from 5.4 : 1 to 3.9 : 1. This lower
ratio is the justification for the introduction of additional
U.S. forces. There are about 50,000 U.S. forces which will soon
go to 70,000.
VC campaign will be terminated without serious losses. With more
U.S. combat troops and more U.S. air power, the hope is that we
will be able to push Hanoi into negotiations.
U.S. force levels are now: 12,000 ground combat men; 7,000 attached
to air combat; and 30,000 supporting including advisers, communication
forces and logistic support for the GVN.
We estimate the Viet Cong forces at 42-50,000.
McNamara: Our estimate of the future Viet Cong strength is 64,000--a
huge increase over last year.
The increase in the Viet Cong forces came before our bombing.
North Vietnam infiltration has been slowed down by our bombing.
Our bombing has slowed down the entire North Vietnamese transportation
Rusk: We have listed 13 channels which have been used to probe
enemy intentions. There are now few tracks open or operating.
A Geneva type conference proposal is still alive. One thought
would be to have the seventeen-nations (4) issue
invitations to a conference of governments for talks without preconditions.
The other side will turn down such a proposal, awaiting the outcome
of the monsoon campaign.
Today we see
no possibility of talks. Although we are alert to all tracks,
none appear promising. We should not be too timid about the present
U.S. position on North Vietnam. We have more support than the
Communists say we have. (Summary of the peace probes (5)
was handed by Secretary Rusk to several Council members, including
We should get out the contents of this summary to the public by
means of speeches and TV appearances. We should show what we have
tried to do.
Stevenson: The UN Secretary General should be asked to call for
a cease-fire during negotiations. The Secretary General's proposal
would probably be turned down by Hanoi. Even so, taking this initiative
would prove that we have tried everything.
This proposal should be explored with Secretary Rusk. When we
tried a bombing pause, I didn't believe it would work, and it
didn't. It did relieve the pressure of public opinion.
McNamara: General Westmoreland has sent up a proposal for the
deployment of additional U.S. forces in Vietnam. (6)
He recommends that the 13 battalions--70,000 man level now authorized
be increased to 23 battalions--123,000 men. The Chiefs are opposed
to the deployment of U.S. forces in the highlands of South Vietnam
and want the new forces to be used as a mobile reserve near the
The ARVN forces did not do as well as we expected. The Chiefs
are impressed by General Westmoreland's presentation of the need
for more U.S. forces. The ratio between friendly plus U.S. forces
as opposed to Viet Cong forces is now unfavorable. The Defense
Department's proposal calls for deploying fewer troops now than
either General Westmoreland or the Joint Chiefs recommend. The
Chiefs favor taking a decision now on sending the number of troops
recommended by General Westmoreland. The McNamara plan (8)
would send fewer forces now and keep our
option open to send additional forces later.
[Attorney General] Katzenbach: There is no doubt of our legal
position to increase force deployments in Vietnam. It is doubtful
that we should go back to Congress to get additional authority
every time we take a new action. The President already has, under
the Constitution, all the power he needs to deploy additional
forces abroad. (9)