Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower on 2 July 1965


Transcript

Edited by David G. Coleman and Marc J. Selverstone, with Kieran Matthews

Eisenhower is difficult to hear throughout the conversation.

Dwight Eisenhower

Hello?

President Johnson

Yes.

Dwight Eisenhower

General Eisenhower.

President Johnson

Yes, General. Lyndon Johnson.

Eisenhower

Oh, my goodness! I didn't know it you [unclear].

President Johnson

[Laughs.]

Eisenhower

I was just trying to get [unclear].

President Johnson

[Laughs.]

Eisenhower

My—Mr. President, I—you know, I rarely try to bother you with a financial—with a domestic [unclear]. But there's one where I got very . . . quite badly involved sometime back there, sentimentally. It—tell you what it involves. A great friend of mine came out and he went to the president of a bank, Manufacturers Trust of New York. And finally there was a merger with the Hanover Trust, and everything seemed to go all right, everybody approved [unclear] Justice Department. The Justice Department went after the thing and they got a ruling out from the . . . Supreme Court that did not seem to accord with the original intent of the . . . law. And so [A. Willis] Robertson [D–Virginia] [unclear] and [William] Proxmire [D–Wisconsin], collaborating with him, wrote a bill to space out the actual meaning of the original bill.[note 1] Sen. A. Willis Robertson [D–Virginia] chaired the Senate Banking and Currency Committee; Sen. William Proxmire [D–Wisconsin] was a member of the committee. See “Revision of Bank Merger Act Debated,” CQ Almanac, accessed 13 June 2015. URL: http://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/document.php?id=cqal65-1257994.

Now, everything has gone all right [slight chuckle], and they're getting their things straightened out, except that, apparently, [Wright] Patman, over in the House, will not have—but you see the Senate passed the bill.[note 2] Wright Patman [D–Texas] was chair of the House Banking and Currency Committee. But Patman won't have hearings. They . . . I'm involved for the simple reason that I had encouraged—when they talked to me about it, I thought it was fine, to get a real, [unclear] of these two big cities and, you know, three big ones [unclear] kind of, you know, Bank of America, the Chase National, Chase of Manhattan, and these cities and their banks. Here's another competitor and now the . . . only the Justice Department, of all the governmental officials—government agencies—objects to it. But now, the only thing is to get the hearing, just all [unclear] people that he's talking to me about now, is can they get hearings. [Unclear] Patman's [unclear] not like [unclear] banks of any kind. Why, he . . . he doesn't want to have hearings. I don't know what you can do a thing about it, sir, and I just—

President Johnson

I'll sure look into it right away and I'll get back to you and tell you. It is a problem. And I don't—I'm not . . . I really don't believe I could do any more with him than you could [Eisenhower attempts to interject] because of his deep feeling. But I'll sure try it and I'll get back to you early part of the week.

Eisenhower

Well, I tell you, you don't need to call me, Mr. President. [President Johnson acknowledges.] The only thing is—

President Johnson

I'll sure try to.

Eisenhower

I just don't—the point is, it does seem that they ought to have the [unclear] hearings—

President Johnson

I'll talk to both the Attorney General, and to the chairman, and try to get some background on it, and be helpful any way I can.

Eisenhower

But all they want is hearings. [President Johnson acknowledges.] [If] they get a hearing, they can [unclear].

President Johnson

[with Eisenhower acknowledging throughout] Let me go over—I'm having a meeting this morning with my top people. There are only going to be about five there.[note 3] Johnson was meeting that morning with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Under Secretary of State George Ball, and National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy. According to the Foreign Relations of the United States, the meeting began at 11 A.M.; the Lyndon B. Johnson library lists the time of Johnson's call to Eisenhower at 11:02 A.M., with the call lasting for just under 11 minutes. "Editorial Note," U. S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968: Vietnam, June–December 1965 (hereafter FRUS), ed. David C. Humphrey, Edward C. Keefer, and Louis J. Smith (Washington, D.C.: 1996) , 3:118-19. The . . . there are three or four viewpoints. [Robert S.] McNamara recommends, really, what [William C.] Westmoreland and [Earle G.] Wheeler do: a quite expanded operation and one that's really going to kick up some folks like [Gerald R.] Ford [R–Michigan].[note 4] "Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson: Program of Expanded Military and Political Moves with Respect to Vietnam," 1 July 1965, ibid., 97-104. He says that . . . he doesn't want to use ground troops; he thinks we ought to do it by bombing. We can't even protect our bases without the ground troops, according to Westmoreland. And . . . we've got all the Bobby Kennedys [D–New York] and the [Mike] Mansfields [D–Montana] and the [Wayne] Morses [D–Oregon] against it. But he recommends an all-out operation. We don't know whether we can beat them with that or not. But the State Department comes in and recommends a rather modified one through the monsoon season to see how effective we are with our B-52 strikes and with our other strikes, and with taking the present recommendation Westmoreland has urged, which [is] about double what we've got there now.[note 5] "Paper by Secretary of State Rusk: Vietnam," 1 July 1965, ibid., 104-106. But if we do that, we've got to call up the reserves and get authority from Congress, and we've got to extend the terms and get authority from Congress. That will really serve notice that we're in a land operation over there.

Now, I guess it's your view that we ought to do that.

Eisenhower

I think that's right. Now—

President Johnson

You don't think that we can just [Eisenhower attempts to interject] have a holding operation from a military standpoint, do you?

Eisenhower

Mr. President, when you gradually go into a place and then [unclear] that you might call bases or enclaves.

President Johnson

Mmm.

Eisenhower

Well, you're paying the price of a war. And I'm not really—I [unclear] to say we're going to help the [unclear] with our own military force, I don't see how you can [unclear]. And I believe you've got to go along with your military fighters, because otherwise you are just trying to get the enemy's casualties for . . . you've got them, and you don't know whether they're right. Gradually, without any improvement, there's bound to [unclear]. Remember the [unclear] to war. And this is a war. As long as they're—

President Johnson

Yeah.

Eisenhower

[unclear] soldiers.

President Johnson

[Unclear.]

Eisenhower

My advice is do what you have to do, and I'm sorry that you have to go to the Congress with it, where I brought it under that bill, but I guess you really [unclear] call up reserves.

President Johnson

Yes. And we're out of them, you see. We've got to call them up. And if they move on other fronts, well, we'll have to increase our strength, too, and . . . But I thought that it was your judgment—I know it's General Wheeler's—and I'd just like to get your military judgment.

Eisenhower

And I usually go to [unclear] that [unclear] the State Department [unclear]. What do they know about the military? How do they know, what do they know about these things? They are talking about political things, but you're talking about winning a country. And they, they just, just need . . . a history of war. [Unclear] I've got enough to do the job. It’s a long, weary, and possibly, unsatisfactory [unclear].

President Johnson

What they really do, they go by all of McNamara and Wheeler's and Westmoreland's stuff. They alert them, they issue everything except the executes on them, and then they say that they think we ought to avoid bombing Hanoi until we can see through the monsoon season. Whether with these forces there we can . . . make any progress, and really, before we go out and execute and everything. Of course [Eisenhower attempts to interrupt], McNamara's people recommend taking all the harbors, and we got a lot of free-world shipping, and they recommend mining and blowing the hell out of it. And they go all out. The State Department people say they're taking too much chance on bringing China in and Russia in, that they ought to try to proceed during the monsoon season to hold what they've got and to really try to convince Russia that if she doesn't bring about some kind of understanding, that we're going to have to go give them the works. But that they believe that she doesn't really want an all-out war.

Eisenhower

Well, I agree with that last statement. But here with—it seems to me [unclear] pointed out that they must agree to some kind of negotiation. You held the door open as wide as you possibly can or else we're going to hit and . . . win this thing. I think that it's always foolish to say, "We will not—we don't intend to fail and we won't fail and that's that."

President Johnson

Do you think we can really beat the Vietcong out there?

Eisenhower

Well, I—I tell you. Now, this is a hard [unclear] because you can't finally find out how many of these Vietcong have been imported down there and [President Johnson acknowledges] how many of them are just the rebels.

President Johnson

We killed 26,000 this year and we killed 300 yesterday; killed 250 of them the day before. But they just keep coming in from North Vietnam and they're in North Vietnam divisions and the boys we pick up say they just left there 60 days ago. And they're just pouring them in there. Now, how many they're going to pour in from China, I don't know. We've counted 150,000 weapons, 137,000 of them came from China.

Eisenhower

Well, my own—my own feeling is I would go ahead with the plan and I would do it just as . . . quickly as I could, promptly, and not [unclear]. Because we are not going to be run out of a free country or where we've established. And what good is [unclear]? You had discussion. You had the treaty of 1954 and [195]5 at Geneva [President Johnson acknowledges] and now they're just trying to take it all over.[note 6] Eisenhower is referring to the 1954 Geneva conference, which divided Indochina in the states of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and which further divided Vietnam into northern and southern territories along the 17th parallel. [Unclear] of the Communists. And I think [unclear] way we can do except win.

President Johnson

Now, they say that when we do this, when we go in on a stepped-up scale, we're going to lose the British, and we're going to lose the Canadians, and they just won't go with us. Of course, the Indians and all of them are going to be raising hell and we're going to be alone in the world.

Eisenhower

Well, you've still got Australia.

President Johnson

[Laughs.]

Eisenhower

[Laughs.] Australia and Korea.

President Johnson

I want you to put your head to this a little bit, 'cause I got to talk to you the next two or three weeks again, ‘cause this is—this troubles me. [Eisenhower acknowledges.] And I want the best judgment I can get.

Eisenhower

Well, I will—

President Johnson

You watch it and I'll have [Andrew J.] Goodpaster talking to you.

Eisenhower

I'll tell you, I'll have Goodpaster come in to [unclear]. And I won’t let it—I . . . under my skin, because [unclear]

President Johnson

No, no. But I want you thinking. I want suggestions. [Eisenhower acknowledges.] You're the best chief of staff I got. I don't think you—I think you feel like you've had your day, but I've got to rely on you on this one.

Eisenhower

By the way, I just wanted to [unclear].

President Johnson

Yes.

Eisenhower

In this last [unclear] about that hearing, and the importance of having it promptly, because he wanted to [unclear].

President Johnson

I'll do it. I'll get right on it.

Eisenhower

All right.

President Johnson

All right. Bye.

Eisenhower

Thanks a lot. Bye.

Cite as

“Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower on 2 July 1965,” Conversation WH6507-01-8303, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Lyndon B. Johnson: Civil Rights, Vietnam, and the War on Poverty, ed. David G. Coleman, Kent B. Germany, Guian A. McKee, and Marc J. Selverstone] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4002518