1. This meeting
which ran from 1300 to 1430, with the President joining it at
1330, consisted of a rather wide-ranging discussion of the Vietnamese
problem. No decisions were made, it being agreed that Mr. Bundy
would convene a meeting with General Taylor on Wednesday afternoon
(2) to prepare points for decision which could
be raised with the President at a session to be held on Thursday
morning. (3) This procedure may, of course, be
changed, but this was what was forecast as of 1430, 8 June.
2. There was
considerable discussion of General Westmoreland's recommendations
for United States military increases contained in telegram COMUSMACV-19118
of 7 June. (4) Mr. McNamara informed the President
that if these recommended increases were put into effect, it would
raise the total of United States forces in Vietnam to 151,000.
This figure is made up of 70,000 in place by the end of August,
plus 46,000 more requested in the Westmoreland telegram, plus
35,000 recommended for later decision. This total figure would
go up to 170,000 if Korean, Australian, and other national units
were included. General Taylor explained that the Westmoreland
telegram grew out of MACV's concern over the poor fighting performance
of the ARVN in recent battles and fear that a break-down of fighting
morale might occur among the South Vietnamese. He pointed out
that the principal failure was on the part of the Second Division
and that steps had already been taken to relieve its commander.
General Taylor also noted that desertions in the ARVN were of
such a rate that between mid-February and mid-May there had been
a net gain of only 11,000 in ARVN total strength. In other words,
desertions were off-setting recruitments to a degree which had
not been accurately forecast. (There seemed to be some disagreement
between Mr. McNamara and General Taylor over the monthly rate
of desertions, Mr. McNamara using the figure of 10,000 and Taylor
using the figure of from 3,000 to 4,000.) By the end of the meeting,
it seemed to be reasonably agreed that the logistics of the situation
were such that only a certain number of American troops could
be introduced into South Vietnam prior to September and that this
in and of itself would tend to defer and to limit the basic decision
as the whether the strength of American forces should be allowed
to climb to any figure like 150,000. Mr. McNamara was advocating
what he referred to as a "limited cost and limited risk"
option, and this turns out to be almost identical with what the
logistics will in any event permit.
3. The Department
of State representatives asked at what point in a build-up of
United States forces does this war become a "white man's
war". General Taylor replied that he did not know and that
it was for this reason that he preferred a slow, "incremental"
build-up. Mr. Bundy pointed out that a progressive build-up might
develop to a size that was unacceptable, at which point the President
discussed the problems we will have with the Congress and with
our allies as we add substantial numbers of troops.
4. On the
political side, General Taylor discussed the current squabble
between Suu and Quat and indicated that he could well do without
Suu right now. He said that Suu was constantly welshing on agreements,
that he had no particular attributes or political base. General
Taylor indicated that if the present government were to fall,
the next one would doubtless be a military dictatorship.
5. Mr. McNamara
received approval for Rolling Thunder XVIII. One question was
raised as to whether this should include Target 43 or Target 28.
It was decided to go for Target 28. Otherwise, there was no disagreement
6. Mr. Rusk
asked if there was any evidence of substantial military movements
in either Communist China or North Korea. I answered in the negative.
(I have asked Mr. Jack Smith to report regularly on this query.)
7. The President
asked General Taylor, upon his return to Saigon, to get the South
Vietnam Government "on the record" as being opposed
to any negotiation between it and the Viet Cong. In response to
a question as to what the bombing in the North has achieved aside
from giving the South Vietnamese Government some stability for
the last ninety days, General Wheeler pointed out that there has
been a sizable military benefit in the form of the difficulties
which the North Vietnamese have had in moving men and supplies
into the South. He said he was convinced that it had thrown a
distinct block into the time-table of Viet Cong attacks.
8. The President
asked that all options be reviewed, that our objectives in Vietnam
be specified, and that recommendations be made later in the week
as to how we should proceed with the Vietnamese war.