U.S. Dpeartment of State
FRUS, Vol. II, 1964-68, Vietnam, January-June 1965
Office of the Historian
Office of the Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
Department of State
(This is not an official statement of policy by the Department of State; it is intended only as a guide to the contents of the volume.)
Since 1861, the Department of State's documentary series Foreign Relations of the United States has constituted the official record of the foreign policy and diplomacy of the United States. Historians in the Office of the Historian collect, arrange, and annotate the principal documents comprising the record of American foreign policy. The standards for the preparation of the series and the general deadlines for its publication are established by the Foreign Relations of the United States statute of October 28, 1991. (22 USC 4351, et seq.) U.S. policies in the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson are the subject of 34 printed volumes. Volumes in the Foreign Relations series are published when all the necessary editing, declassification, and printing steps have been completed.
This volume is the first of two for 1965, the year in which the United States committed large-scale combat forces, prestige, and resources to Vietnam, continue the Department of State's expanded coverage of the documentary history of the Vietnam war. The Vietnam volumes for 1965 are extensive and intensive, each documenting 6 months of policy deliberation and decisions. The Foreign Relations volumes on Vietnam are the most comprehensive published collection of documents on the war, surpassing the "Pentagon Papers," which were made public with much controversy during the war. Unlike the "Pentagon Papers," whose authors did not have access to White House files, these Foreign Relations volumes rely heavily on the records of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his aides. They continue the tradition, begun with the first volumes on President Eisenhower's Vietnam policy, of using expanded sources. In addition to extensive research at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas, the editors examined and selected records from the Departments of State and Defense and Central Intelligence Agency, as well as the papers of key officials such as General William Westmoreland, Averell Harriman, General Maxwell Taylor, General Harold Johnson, John McNaughton, and Senator Mike Mansfield.
Most of the documents were originally classified. The Historical Documents Review Division of the Department of State, in concert with the appropriate offices of other agencies and foreign governments, carried out their declassification.
The following is a summary of the negotiations and policy discussions documented in the volume. Parenthetical citations are to numbered documents in the text.
During the first half of 1965, the administration of President Lyndon Johnson debated the feasibility of sending U.S. troops into mainland Asia. The President decided to intervene with a major deployment of ground troops coupled with an intensive bombing campaign, actions that marked a key turning point in American involvement in Vietnam. Several factors, including the deteriorating military situation against the Communist insurgents, the instability of the South Vietnamese Government, and the rising consensus within the leadership circle of Washington to make a stand in Vietnam against the spread of Communism, contributed to intensified American involvement. A Presidential decision to engage the Communists militarily in Vietnam was not a foregone conclusion in 1965. The U.S. Government sought alternative means to shore up the South Vietnamese Government (known as the GVN), to increase the regime's authority in the countryside, and to initiate negotiations with the North Vietnamese in order to end their infiltration southward. When these political and diplomatic efforts to reverse the negative course of the war faltered, the administration moved closer to assuming the leadership of the military struggle against the Viet Cong (VC).
Complicating U.S. efforts to protect South Vietnam was the political crisis that had plagued that nation since 1963. The "Young Turk" Generals, with the support of militant Buddhists, challenged the civilian government of Prime Minister Tran Van Huong and the real source of power, General Nguyen Khanh, head of the Armed Forces Council. (1, 4) The Embassy in Saigon reported a "seriously deteriorating situation," which could result in the installation of a "hostile" government in Saigon which might not persist in the war against the Communists. Unstable political conditions, the lack of physical security, and widespread "war-weariness" among the people made the situation more tenuous.
Ambassador Maxwell Taylor, Deputy Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson, and the Chairman of the State Department's Policy Planning Council, Walt W. Rostow, suggested remedial measures including intensified action against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and the possible introduction of U.S. combat forces in the south. (9, 11, 13) As the situation worsened, an immediate concern to U.S. officials in Saigon was the safety of dependents. (11, 16) The possible reactions of China and the Soviet Union to the increased American role in the war also raised serious questions. (15, 61) Given these concerns, possible U.S. actions included reprisal bombings for terrorist incidents, intensified pressure on the north through the use of air and naval assets, and evacuation of American dependents (for this last point see 3, 15, 25, 38, 64, 123).
U.S. policy also awaited the resolution of the internal crisis in Saigon. Tired of the inabilities and ineffectiveness of the civilian bureaucracy, Khanh acted to eliminate what he considered to be the irritation of civilian rule. On January 19, he called off the integration of the military into the Huong regime, and tried to force the Prime Minister to resign. (29, 39) When this failed, the Armed Forces Council withdrew its support for Prime Minister Huong and Chief of State Phan Khac Suu. (40, 41) Khanh then entered into a series of machinations designed to install himself as the supreme power in the nation. (46, 47, 49, 59, 63) The U.S. Government did not approve of the changes being made. Taylor saw "no good coming out of a Khanh government." (59) Khanh was seen as a destabilizing force and a possible block to progress against the insurgents. Washington considered the threat of not recognizing his new regime in order to forestall its formation. (59, 60, 63, 68, 73)
On January 27, Khanh formally ousted Huong, but temporarily continued the facade of a civilian administration. Phan Huy Quat became Prime Minister on February 16. Overall, these events underscored the intrinsic weakness of South Vietnam's political structure as a nation and, in the view of the Johnson administration, increased the necessity of a substantial military involvement to salvage the Saigon regime. (42) Only with a durable government in the south would the successes of the VC be reversed. To bolster South Vietnam, Americans would have to take a larger role in the struggle.
Taylor argued for the urgent dispatch of additional U.S. troops, since the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) could not provide for the security of American personnel and their facilities. (11) A new decision had to be made. The head of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), General William C. Westmoreland, contended that allowing U.S. forces to engage in direct combat without being under Vietnamese command and control would be the most effective way to bring about success. Remaining as static targets defending bases would not contribute to victory, and it would eventually lead to defeat.
Westmoreland did not recommend immediate deployment but suggested an increase of the U.S. role in areas of "least political liability." For the present, he wanted to retain the advisory system with a greater American role only at the district level. (13) Nevertheless, a significant number of troops eventually would have to bolster the GVN. McGeorge Bundy, the President's National Security Adviser, informed Secretary of State Dean Rusk that the situation in South Vietnam was deteriorating more rapidly than predicted the previous November, and "some stronger action" was required to save South Vietnam. (15) This thinking was not disseminated outside the top echelons of government. The President told congressional leaders that "more U.S. forces were not needed in South Vietnam short of a decision to go to full scale war," and that the war must be fought by the GVN. (30)
Communist attacks were on the rise. (36) The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), fearing that the lack of response to such attacks could be misconstrued by the other side, wanted immediate reprisals. (51) One such reprisal was the resumption of the covert De Soto patrols off the coast of North Vietnam, a retaliatory mission intended to provide the Americans and South Vietnamese with a "priceless advantage" in terms of intelligence. (53) Rusk supported the reprisal policy, but wanted to avoid a firm commitment. (19, 20) Taylor believed that the reprisals should be undertaken without warning in order to keep the Communists in a state of tension. (22) VC military and political success was of grave concern to the Johnson administration and drove the course of the debate over intervention toward the eventual decision. Escalation, it seemed, might be the only way to stiffen the GVN to a point where it could survive the VC onslaught.
In the midst of the discussions over a response, in early February McGeorge Bundy traveled to South Vietnam on behalf of the President to assess the situation and recommend action. During Bundy's visit, the Viet Cong attacked an American barracks at Pleiku on February 6. Upon his return to Washington, Bundy told the President that the situation was grim, and he recommended sustained reprisals. The American reaction to the Pleiku aggression came in the form of air strikes against North Vietnam. (76, 77, 78) The attack became the justification for a stronger program of retaliation for which policymakers had been waiting. (80, 81, 87, 88) Soon thereafter, the VC attacked a U.S. installation at Qui Nhon, with resultant loss of American life. An immediate reprisal air attack followed. (106) Despite the assault, North Vietnam remained bellicose. On February 16, the GVN seized a DRV vessel loaded with munitions off the coast. (140)
A major concern of the administration was the response of the Soviet Union to the increased use of U.S. military power in Vietnam. The White House showed restraint when Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin visited Hanoi in February. (55, 61, 70) Hoping to keep the Soviet role in Indochina limited, Ambassador at Large Llewellyn Thompson warned Soviet Ambassador Anatoli Dobrynin that Hanoi was trying to "mousetrap" Kosygin and get him to support the DRV aggression. (82) The administration recognized the necessity for avoiding an open conflict with the Soviets, and so explained to them why U.S. planes were attacking North Vietnam. (87, 89) However, some like Senator Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) were concerned that the bombing would force the Soviets' hand. (92) In an effort to moderate an expected angry reaction by the Soviets, the Americans wanted to make clear that it was the other side that was escalating; the United States had even canceled the De Soto patrols. (120) Also, Washington would consider any solution that the Soviets proffered to deal with the problem. (135,136, 138, 150, 151) The desire for Soviet cooperation was paramount for administration officials, who believed Chinese intervention a real danger. (89)
In November 1964, the Vietnam Working Group of the State Department had established a phased scheme for the application of force against the DRV. Phase I consisted of the incremental retaliation for each VC incident, while Phase II involved a sustained program of reprisal with more severe, graduated strikes against DRV territory. By early February 1965, discussions within the U.S. Government focused on the implementation of a Phase II program of concentrated air strikes against North Vietnam. (93, 109, 111) After Pleiku, the administration did not intend to continue its retaliation on a case-by-case basis. It would implement the graduated pressure as conceived in the second phase. Taylor supported the program of reprisal. Graduated pressure, he thought, would cause the DRV to cease its infiltration and would make domestic and international public opinion more manageable. (93)
Perceiving that this piecemeal approach to countering VC attacks was not deterring the Communist insurgency and was undermining the will of the GVN to fight, Johnson administration officials hoped reprisals would boost South Vietnamese morale while bringing world-wide pressure on Hanoi to agree to negotiations. On February 13 the President confirmed the transition to Phase II by giving final approval to the sustained bombing of North Vietnam (limited up to the 19th parallel). There were no objections among his staff. (98, 99, 104) Political strife within South Vietnam delayed the commencement of the bombing program, code- named Rolling Thunder, until March 2. (110)
The VC attacks and the U.S. response represented "a major operational change." The President felt he had to clearly communicate the decision on systematic bombing to the public without unnecessarily alarming the nation. (124, 127, 128) He and his closest advisers realized that despite the use of force, no quick resolution to the war was likely, nor would any one strategy bring about a settlement. Therefore, officials within the administration proposed various non-military measures to secure peace. "We sh'd be looking at diplomatic tracks to a bad end," Under Secretary of State George Ball told the President at the start of the year. (17) Through the spring, Ball, who opposed the drive toward military solutions, continued to note the risks attendant to each step in escalation and alluded to the dangers inherent in bombing. Political action was required in conjunction with military undertakings, a combination that would allow the President to opt for a settlement at any point. (113) Rural reconstruction was another effort that had promise. Ball supported a program of pacification, measured military action, and peace talks as the three-pronged way to achieve a resolution. (115)
Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey joined in Ball's effort to dissuade the President from committing troops, underscoring the need to develop non-military tracks immediately. (134) The President did approve a number of economic and political efforts to mobilize South Vietnam's populace, and authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to explore the feasibility of intensifying covert action. (242)
The President did seek a diplomatic solution while pursuing military measures, but negotiations proved inconclusive and no satisfactory alternative to military escalation. His advisers warned that the DRV leadership was so obstinate that it might never be induced to cease its struggle against the south. (126) If anything, they argued, the negative fallout from bombing might even buttress Hanoi's international political position and serve as a cover for its infiltration into South Vietnam. (139) One diplomatic effort came from the French Government's official contacts with Chinese and North Vietnamese diplomats in Paris, but the French obtained no definitive statements in response to their queries about specific terms of settlement. (48) In the end, there was little evidence to support the contention that the DRV favored a political solution.
Another suggested step toward a settlement was to take the matter of Vietnam to the United Nations. U.S. Representative to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson presented the rationale for American actions in Vietnam to the Security Council, and he pressed Secretary-General U Thant to undertake an initiative. His talks with Thant had begun in 1964. (115, 118, 122, 137, 145, 146, 149) Thant suggested a five plus two nation arrangement for U.N.-sponsored negotiations of all interested parties. He insisted that Hanoi wanted to negotiate privately and directly with the United States, but felt it was Washington that was reticent. (162) Frustrated with his failure to get movement, the Secretary-General made public the discussions that he had carried out with Stevenson, and insisted that the U.S. Government was deliberately deceiving its people about the possibilities for peace in Vietnam. (164) Henceforth, the Johnson administration felt it could no longer fully trust Thant (173), yet it still managed to view Thant's comments as an "inadvertent assist" in terms of generating favorable domestic public opinion that would allow the United States to hold out for meaningful negotiations. (183)
In a related measure, British Ambassador Lord Harlech proposed a revival of the cooperation achieved at the 1954 Geneva Conference by reconvening a conference under its co-chairmen, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. The Soviets were wary of engaging in this role, since the United States had not made public its objectives. (135) No middle ground existed between the United States and the DRV. The CIA contended that the DRV was not flexible, had not changed its position since 1963, and would not do so now. (156, 158) The Johnson administration simply found no way to bring about the proper conditions for direct negotiations. (144, 156)
While the frustrating search for peace continued, South Vietnamese political affairs became even more shaky. On February 19, an attempted coup against Khanh and Quat occurred. The power behind it was Tran Van Don, a former Defense Minister. (141) The U.S. Government hoped to preserve the Quat government, which had the support of militant Catholic elements. (142, 147) The coup against Khanh was suppressed, but the Generals who had put down the insurrection then ousted Khanh. General Nguyen Van Thieu, Quat's Defense Minister, assumed leadership of the armed forces. (148, 152, 153, 154) The Americans persuaded Khanh not to challenge the new clique and instead go into exile with an appointment as ambassador at large. (166, 177) Officially, Quat remained the Prime Minister, although in reality the position was now strictly nominal. The Embassy characterized the Quat government at this point as "cohesive," and reaffirmed the need for U.S. support for the GVN. (169)
The Saigon regime still faced significant challenges. (167) At one point, the administration tried to get the Vatican involved in decreasing the pressure of Vietnamese Catholics on the Quat government. (348) A coup masterminded by a number of elements and led by Catholics was beaten back on May 21. The end was near for the civilian government. After the dissolution of the Armed Forces Council, a series of military reversals in the countryside and a paralyzing struggle between Quat and Suu over the replacement of some cabinet ministers, the military ended the facade with its resumption of power on July 12. The military dissolved the Legislative Council and put Quat into a caretaker capacity. (349) A stable civilian government in Saigon, so long a goal of the Johnson administration, now seemed unattainable.
The physical security of the GVN declined correspondingly with its civilian government. U.S. Information Agency Director Carl Rowan believed that the lack of protection afforded to Vietnamese citizens by the ineffective government in Saigon was exacerbated by the VC's standing with the peasantry, among whom it enjoyed "a substantial degree of approval." (172) There were indications that VC strength had risen some 20 percent, to 40,000. (177) The administration received reports that the VC held the initiative, were rearming and recruiting, could move at will, and were accelerating the tempo of their attacks on the ARVN. (180, 182) Rumors of American war crimes did not help either. A false report about the use of poison gas in South Vietnam against the VC provoked world-wide protests. The White House went to great lengths to counter the charge, but the denial fell mostly on deaf ears. (210, 211, 216)
U.S. intervention no longer hinged on South Vietnam's stability. Administration officials now interpreted the apparently increasing failure of the struggle against the VC as the principal justification for the use of American combat units, because U.S. troops would have to take over from the ineffective ARVN if the Communists were to be stopped. This reasoning dominated the internal debate over intervention that took place during the rest of the spring. Strong action, it was believed, would deter further Communist aggression. Secretary Rusk, for example, called for a comprehensive effort to bring about the end of the insurgency, which would include the stationing of Marine combat units at Danang, a move which along with air strikes hopefully would stiffen the GVN. (157)
On February 26, the President decided to land Marines in Vietnam to secure Danang airfield. (168, 170) The next day, the administration released its White Paper, an attempt to rationalize the increasing U.S. profile in the war and to win over public opinion. (171) The Rolling Thunder bombing program, approved earlier but delayed by the tumult in Saigon, began on March 2. The Johnson administration hoped that this use of American power might cause North Vietnam to give up its goal of conquering the south. (175, 188) Assistant Secretary of State William P. Bundy stipulated that bombing would end only if the North Vietnamese stopped their southward infiltration of men and matériel. (181)
In spite of these measures, VC strength grew. According to an assessment by Westmoreland, the VC were making the maximum effort possible against the GVN. (180, 181) They were not being destroyed, and, according to Taylor, the GVN was unable to cope. (186) As U.S. troops were introduced into Vietnam, differences of opinion as to how best to utilize them to reverse the decline continued. Bundy and McNamara saw the chances for a turnaround as "less than even." They recommended the replacement of Taylor and the development of "contingency thinking" in the case of a sharp deterioration of the counterinsurgency program. (183) On March 8, Henry Cabot Lodge, former Ambassador to South Vietnam and now a special consultant to the President, submitted a report advocating an increased pacification effort, economic development, and the establishment of enclaves along the coast as various means for salvaging the mission in Vietnam. (189) John McNaughton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, tried to clarify U.S. priorities in the war. He outlined as the principal American war aim the avoidance of the loss of American prestige, with secondary goals being the prevention of China's expansion into mainland Southeast Asia and the improvement of the lives of the South Vietnamese people. He argued that the administration needed "a contingency plan to downgrade the apparent stakes" when necessary. (193)
A key turning point was the trip of General Harold K. Johnson, Army Chief of Staff, to South Vietnam in early March. The President asked him to determine how to improve the ground situation. (179) General Johnson concluded that U.S. troops had to compensate for the deficiencies of South Vietnamese forces. He recommended the deployment of American forces to defend several air bases and to secure three highland provinces, a significant change in mission but essential because of the ineffectiveness of the ARVN. (197, 199) The President approved Johnson's additional recommendations for increased bombing in Indochina, but held off on the introduction of large numbers of troops. The change in mission also had a political importance. To achieve an honorable peace, the U.S. Government could only negotiate with the Communists from a position of strength. Thus, the current deteriorating situation in South Vietnam had to be offset by the deployment of U.S. combat troops. According to the JCS, a large contingent of troops could be useful in bargaining with the DRV. (198, 208)
Weighing the respective advantages and disadvantages of placing troops into static enclaves or sending them inland to the exposed highlands, Taylor recommended careful consideration before taking any action. (204) Most agreed that some bold step was necessary. Taylor supported MACV's recommendation for a 50,000 man force to allow for "territorial clear- and-hold missions." (218) On March 29, the Ambassador returned to Washington where he successfully recommended that American forces already in Vietnam should assume an "active and aggressive posture." (219, 224, 231, 232, 237) In National Security Action Memorandum No. 328 of April 6, the President approved a more active role for the Marines inside South Vietnam and increased the tempo of Rolling Thunder. (237, 242)
It was still not clear whether this action would be enough. Washington policymakers concluded that the bombing program had hardened DRV attitudes. (233) The limited bombings would do little to prevent the burgeoning U.S. ground forces in the south from becoming "mired down in combat in the jungle in a military effort that we cannot win," noted Director of Central Intelligence John McCone. The only way to avoid such a calamity, he argued, was for the President to order a dramatic widening of the air war against the north and a massive campaign against the VC insurgents in the south. (234) The JCS supported this view by reporting that the air strikes, "while damaging, have not curtailed DRV military capabilities in any major way" over the last month. (241) Air power alone, these advisers agreed, would not bring about a settlement to the conflict. In addition, there were more foreboding developments. Not only was the bombing program disappointing, but heightened concern arose over drawing Communist bloc powers into the conflict. On March 26, Dobrynin informed Rusk about the Soviet decision to send substantial amounts of military assistance to North Vietnam. He warned that a greater U.S. role in the conflict would adversely impact U.S.-Soviet relations. (217) The President also worried about the less discernible but potentially more dangerous Chinese reaction to the expansion of the war. (230)
Decisions on force levels were still pending. In April, McGeorge Bundy informed Taylor that the President considered additional troops an "important if not decisive reinforcement" given the danger faced by the GVN. (256) U.S. soldiers at least could bolster the ARVN while building up strength inside South Vietnam. At Honolulu on April 20, Taylor, McNamara, Westmoreland, the JCS, and the Commander in Chief, Pacific, agreed to recommend an increase in the scale of bombing, an introduction of nine new U.S. battalions, and allied nation involvement. Total allied troop presence in Vietnam would rise to 115,000 men. (264) McNamara sent a report on the Honolulu meeting to the President explaining that the new increment of troops was necessary to protect those already in South Vietnam now exposed to VC attack and that a significant offensive combat role was now envisioned. (265) A series of meetings followed to consider action on the basis of the McNamara report of the findings at Honolulu. (266, 269) On April 30, the President decided to deploy six battalions, with the decision on further battalions delayed until June. (280) Within the week, Johnson had requested an additional $700 million for the military effort in Vietnam.
In the face of these decisions to commit combat units, the administration's diplomatic efforts to secure a political compromise with the DRV continued with a new emphasis on public diplomacy. In an April 7 speech at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, President Johnson made a major public relations proposal with his statement of U.S. objectives. He vowed to do "everything necessary" to preserve South Vietnam while affirming that he would also undertake anything required for "unconditional discussions" to begin. In an effort to entice the DRV politburo, he offered a $1 billion development program for the Mekong River Valley.
DRV Premier Pham Van Dong responded with a four-point declaration of settlement: U.S. withdrawal, no foreign alliances for South Vietnam, the implementation of the program of the National Liberation Front (NLF) in South Vietnam, and reunification to be decided upon solely by the Vietnamese without outside interference. (245) The President believed that Dong had rebuffed his Baltimore overture, but Ball countered that the statement presented an opportunity to explore a possible negotiated settlement. It was also a chance to take the initiative in the battle for international opinion that Hanoi's rejection of other appeals for peace had allowed. The United States had to search for common ground with the DRV since their positions were so far apart. (267)
The President in fact already was giving Ball's ideas a chance. William Bundy advocated accepting the offer of a peace conference made by Cambodian leader Prince Norodom Sihanouk. (272) The Soviets were lukewarm to the idea, preferring not to negotiate on the DRV's behalf. (263) In any case, a mistaken bombing of a Cambodian village by U.S. planes caused Sihanouk to cancel the conference and to break off diplomatic relations altogether. (284) Other peace moves failed. Ambassador Blair Seaborn, a Canadian member of the International Control Commission, visited Hanoi periodically beginning in April in an attempt to ascertain the DRV's willingness to enter into peace talks. (245) Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh showed little interest in negotiations and remained vague on the significance of the Four Points, which was the DRV's standard response to peace initiatives. (335, 336) Indian President Radhakrishnan unsuccessfully put forth a plan that involved a cessation of hostilities in Indochina followed by the policing of the area by an Afro-Asian force. (285) Nor would the DRV countenance U Thant's idea of a cease-fire at the 17th parallel (233) or a 17-nation appeal for peace. Also, at the end of May, a British initiative with the Chinese Foreign Minister turned out to have little promise for resolving the situation. (321) A significant handicap in this regard was the inability of the Saigon regime to put forth a statement to counter the Four Points. (320)
The most important peace move occurred in conjunction with a brief bombing halt code-named Mayflower. The administration had decided to implement a bombing pause before employing greater force in Vietnam. It was believed that a halt around the time of Buddha's birthday might stir the DRV to soften its hard line. (297) On May 1, U.S. Embassies in London, New Delhi, Ottawa, and Paris received instructions to sound out their host governments concerning the usefulness of a halt to the Rolling Thunder bombings, especially as to whether Hanoi would cease its military activities in the south. (283) The response suggested that a pause could be put to good effect, and so the administration ordered a holiday stoppage. (288, 291, 293, 294) It would test the DRV's intentions about talks, demonstrate U.S. commitment to peace, assuage domestic political criticism, and buttress the decision to send more troops.
The administration viewed Soviet help as indispensable. In Moscow, Ambassador Foy Kohler tried to establish contacts with his DRV counterpart. (298, 299) The DRV Ambassador spurned a meeting with Kohler, preferring instead that the message come through the Soviets, but the Soviets did not want to be intermediaries. They viewed the bombing halt and the peace message as ruses and would not negotiate on behalf of the United States. Rather, they insisted that Washington had to deal directly with Hanoi. (304) An official message from the President was handed directly to an employee of the North Vietnamese Embassy, (299) but the North Vietnamese never replied to the note. In conjunction, journalist Pierre Salinger met with a former TASS Washington bureau chief, Mike Sagetallyan, and an unidentified Soviet representative on several occasions in an attempt to garner their assistance. The administration believed that the Soviet offer to help was "genuine" but did not establish a basis for negotiations. This channel collapsed by mid-May. (301, 302)
Stevenson also engaged Thant in conversations about the significance of the pause. He told Thant that the pause would only be extended if there were no leaks. Thant replied that it was necessary to offer NLF representation in the Government of South Vietnam before Washington could get a satisfactory response from Hanoi. (297) The Saigon mission believed the plan to be disadvantageous to the GVN's cause as it would allow the NLF a voice in the governmental apparatus. (310) Even President Johnson doubted the impact of the bombing pause on world opinion or on restraining the Communist insurgency. "No one has even thanked us for the pause," the President noted with chagrin. (304) Bombing resumed on May 18.
The VC continued their offensive while the GVN remained static. (332) Hanoi's unrelenting commitment to the struggle in the south required the administration to employ greater military pressure. Some officials voiced opposition to what seemed inevitable. Ball and former Secretary of State Dean Acheson had devised a settlement plan that focused on economic and cultural programs for strengthening the GVN. (287) In this manner, Ball wanted to move the conflict from the military to the political arena, the only way in which the United States would achieve a lasting and favorable settlement. He favored a suspension of military operations and a general amnesty. (300) Some argued that this would lead to increased infiltration and urged a probe of every opening that would lead to a possible settlement. Military escalation "could be a quagmire," Presidential adviser Clark Clifford stated. "It could turn into an open end commitment on a part that would take more and more ground troops, without a realistic hope of ultimate victory." (307) On June 5, Senator Mansfield asked the President to limit the bombing and not expand the war. He urged instead that the administration pursue the negotiating track. (341, 344)
But the President would deploy at least some combat troops to Vietnam. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach assured the President that congressional authority was unnecessary for the proposed massive troop dispatch. As Johnson was the commander in chief, he had the authority to commit troops and there was "no need" to go to Congress. (345) The debate at this point centered solely around the numbers of troops that the United States would commit to Vietnam and the specifics of their mission. The military leaders at the Pentagon and MACV recommended doubling the number to over 150,000. On June 7, Westmoreland asked for a 44 battalion force, 34 of which would be American, 9 from Korea, and 1 from Australia and New Zealand, to be sent to his theater of operations due to rapid deterioration in the military situation. (337) The Westmoreland request was discussed by the President's principal foreign policy advisers on June 8. According to Taylor, there was a need to build up the necessary force gradually or the commitment might get too large and unwieldy. (340) Nevertheless, the top U.S. military leaders supported and approved of Westmoreland's request. (346)
In addition, Westmoreland had asked for a great expansion of his tactical responsibility. He already had the authority to begin minor offensive operations. On June 5, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and the Joint Chiefs directed him to commit U.S. troops to combat situations, although the White House publicly stated there was no change in mission. MACV troops could now operate with South Vietnamese forces. The administration tried to minimize the momentous nature of this new role by describing it as in aid of South Vietnamese soldiers "faced with aggressive attack." The overriding necessity for the role change was to support South Vietnamese morale. (339) Further expansion of the air war also followed as the administration considered a proposal to utilize B- 52 strikes to destroy IL-28 and surface-to-air missile sites. (342) Deep patrolling and reaction operations in conjunction with the South Vietnamese were needed. "We have reached a point in Vietnam where we cannot avoid the commitment to combat of US ground troops," Westmoreland stated, and U.S. troops had to be deployed in large numbers to aid the ARVN in the fight against Communist subversion. (351)