Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower on 23 July 1965


Transcript

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

Operators connect the call.
President Johnson

Hello?

Dwight Eisenhower

Hello?

President Johnson

Yes, General.

Eisenhower

Mr. President?

President Johnson

Glad to see you. [speaking over Eisenhower] I wrote you a letter yesterday. I didn't know you were out touring. I told you I wanted you to take Mrs. [Mamie] Eisenhower and get some of your old friends and use Camp David once in awhile.

Eisenhower

Oh, well, I'd like to. [Unclear.]

President Johnson

Well, I just told them. And you just let us know, so I don't think you'd want to—you don't want to have me listening over your shoulder. But we might both run into each other. And you just let me know when you're coming and we won't be there, or vice versa.

Eisenhower

OK. Well, that's very kind of you.

President Johnson

But you can handle 20 up there, and I'll have them all set for you. And they got a nice swimming pool, and they got [a] nice bowling alley. You know about it, though.

Eisenhower

Yes.

President Johnson

But you—I just want—thought you'd have some old friends you'd like to see while you're around here.

Eisenhower

That'd be very nice. Thank you.

Why, Mr. President, I had a call yesterday, from the spokesmen, you might say, for the Republican leadership in both the Senate and the House. They apparently had some kind of a joint leadership meeting and voiced to me some concerns. I told them I'd talk to you because it's about Vietnam.

President Johnson

Yes.

Eisenhower

And I said, "Now, let’s—I want to make it clear, I have always been with the President when he [unclear]. You have to have enough strength to win. The American—America's obviously put its prestige on the line down there, and we just cannot dilute it." I think he recognized that [unclear]. Now, [unclear]. They said, "Look, we have been supporting the president as well, and we want to continue. But now, we said, we are living down here on Capitol Hill, which is just a bunch of rumors we hear—rumors that reserves are going to be called up, and a greater strength needed in the Armed Forces, and a lot of troops going to Vietnam. And we would . . . we'd really like to be informed so we ourselves can"—he commented on . . . what did he say? "On an informed basis and assure the president of our support." Well, I said, "So far as I know, he's always tried to do this on a bipartisan basis." And so I don't think they're concerned. [Unclear] just—"The trouble is, we are being bombarded by our own constituents, and we have nothing now but rumors to deal with." And I said, "Well, I would let”—as a matter of fact, I just at that time promised them that I would call you tomorrow.

President Johnson

Right. Well—

Eisenhower

But ideally, I just—I'm so anxious that whenever there's a period of crisis that you would have the backing of the country. So I just want to call you and show you and tell you what this conversation [unclear].

President Johnson

General, you're very helpful and I appreciate it very much. Now, here's our problem: General [William] Westmoreland has made some recommendations that he had ordered to hold the bases that he has and to release the South Vietnamese who are now guarding them.

Eisenhower

Yeah.

Brief break in the recording.
President Johnson

[Unclear] he wants 100,000 people in there between now and the first of the year, or as soon as he can get them. He thinks he may need that many more at that time, but he wants to see what effect the monsoon has.

We have a Communist conference going on in Bucharest, Rumania, at the moment. The Chinese and the Russians and the Eastern Europeans are all talking.[note 1] At the time of this conversation, Rumania was the conventional spelling of what is now known as Romania. See, for example, David Binder, "Rumania Affirms Independent Line," New York Times, 20 July 1965; Anatole Shub, "High-Level Reds Gather in Rumania," Washington Post, 18 July 1965. We have been a little bit fearful that we were driving them a little bit closer together, because of the Vietnam. [Eisenhower acknowledges throughout.] Vietnam calls—every time we announce that we're going to do something in South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh runs to Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong and says, "Look what the Americans are doing. They're going to send a 100,000 [troops] and 3 billion [dollars], or 10 billion, or whatever it is, and you do the same for us." Then they go to the Russians and they do the same thing. And both of them read what we've said, and some speeches that folks have made, including Wayne Morse [D–Oregon]. And the intelligence indicates that a good many of them out there think we almost got a Civil War Congress again with all of them telling every day what ought to be done and how to do it, and a good many of them are sympathetic with the Communists, they think! Now, they're not, but they're . . . day before yesterday, Ho Chi Minh said he'd fight on for 20 years if he needed to, because he had the support of the world, including a good many Americans. Now, they misinterpret these fools' statement[s].

[with Eisenhower acknowledging] Now, I just finished an hour and a half with Everett Dirksen [R–Illinois]. He and [Mike] Mansfield [D–Montana] were here. We have reached no conclusions on what action to take on Westmoreland's recommendations, although . . . although the odds are 99-1. You know what they'd be without my telling you. But I called in the Joint Chiefs, because I wanted each one of them to evaluate Westmoreland's recommendations. I wanted the Marine man, the chief of staff of the Air Force, the admiral in charge of the Navy, and the admiral—General Johnson of the Army.[note 2] The Joint Chiefs of Staff included Marine Corps Commandant General Wallace M. Greene, Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis E. LeMay, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral David L. McDonald, and Army Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson.

Eisenhower

Right.

President Johnson

I went around the table [with] each one of them; we spent four hours yesterday. "We need this many helicopters, we need this many this." And the net of it was, they all supported, unanimously, Westmoreland and [Maxwell] Taylor's recommendations, and the field recommendations.

So then the civilian secretaries, they charge [Robert S.] McNamara has computerized the department, and that he is a fair-haired boy and he's a quiz kid—whiz kid—whatever they call him, and that I'm downgrading the military. Now, I don't want to do that, because the Congress sent them up to advise me. So I had all of them come in, and then this morning I got the secretaries in. I'm supposed to have a meeting with them at 11:45, and I'm running about five minutes late, but I'm having them then pass upon the Westmoreland recommendations.

In the meantime, while I'm doing that, there's no great emergency for a day or two. We want to get the Communists out of session at Bucharest. They're supposed to adjourn this week.

Then I told Dirksen and them this morning, that if he'd just quit [Gerald R.] Jerry Ford [R–Michigan] and [Melvin R.] Mel Laird [R–Wisconsin]. Laird is trying to get Ford's job; they're fighting each other on the television every day. Charlie Halleck [R–Indiana] is—he's trimmed down a little bit and looks fine—and he's the best leader they've had, but they ran over Charlie up there. And these two so-called modern boys are fighting. And Dirksen tells me that he thinks that Charlie is in the wing waiting to come back—

Approximately 20 seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration in accordance with the deed of gift.
President Johnson

—and what we're going to do is Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, when we reach our conclusions and decide what we ought to recommend—and I think everybody will be together, every Democrat or Republican. I told them yesterday to be sure to get General [Andrew] Goodpaster to review the details with you. I called in John McCloy. I got in Arthur Dean. I have reviewed with them these recommendations. Then I will call in the leaders. The moment I call them in, though, it's going to be in the papers. They will not come down here, from [Otto] Passman [D–Louisiana] on up or down, when you tell them how much money you need, but what they go to the papers. [Eisenhower acknowledges.] And I have tried to get the generals and the admirals, and the leaders out there together before I brief them, although I have briefed Dirksen some. Dirksen is an old war horse, and he's strictly for his country, and he's about the best thing I've got. In other words, he [Eisenhower attempts to interject]—Dirksen supports me pretty well, like [Sam] Rayburn [D–Texas] and I supported you on matters that affected the nation.

Eisenhower

Well, yeah, and usually what, after those meetings, it was said that because I always told you people to make whatever statements you please. [Unclear] “No decisions were taken here [unclear] thoroughly briefed on [unclear]."

President Johnson

[speaking over Eisenhower] That's right. That's right. That's right. That's right.

Eisenhower

Now, I wonder if you can just do this one thing, Mr. President.

President Johnson

Sure.

Eisenhower

If you can call Everett [President Johnson acknowledges throughout] or have someone call Everett, and ask Everett to calm Ford down—at least this week, I know you calmed him down yesterday. That I have talked to you, and that I do know that you are trying to get all your ducks in a row with all the military and [unclear]. So before you have a conference of this kind, because this is the thing that [unclear] out in the open. [Unclear]

President Johnson

Sure. I'll be very—

Eisenhower

I think that would be . . . I—

President Johnson

I'll do that. I'll—

Eisenhower

You don't like to get in their business. It takes so long [unclear].

President Johnson

[speaking over Eisenhower] Oh, I know that. I know that. Well, you're doing just what you ought to do, and I appreciate your calling me, and I appreciate their calling you. As long as they're calling you, they're not going to be too erratic.

Eisenhower

I told them, I said, "Now, make no mistake." I said, "Whatever the President [unclear], if he has to go to the [unclear] to the Congress for more authority, more money, more [unclear], why, he's the only person I know will do it and—but he will certainly inform you before he has to make—

President Johnson

We surely will. Now, we've got authority to call up the reserves, but Ford got into a political thing yesterday. He said, "Well, you called up the reserves in the Cuban missile crisis. You called up the reserves in . . . the—after [Nikita] Khrushchev's meeting in Vienna."[note 3] In June 1961, President John F. Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev met for a summit meeting in Vienna. In the wake of that meeting, at which Khrushchev presented Kennedy with an aide-memoire demanding resolution of the Berlin crisis, Kennedy called up national reserve forces and increased the authorized size of the U.S. armed services. And he said, "We never had to call up the reserves in eight years of Eisenhower. So I think Johnson ought to come down here and he ought to be questioned why it is that he has to call up the reserves when we didn't have to call them up under Eisenhower."Approximately 14 seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration in accordance with the deed of gift. Dirksen is sound and able, and old man Charlie Halleck is, and these boys got a short run. But I'll tell Dirksen to call them and tell them that Mel Laird and Jerry, just not to get excited, that this is going to be a long, drawn-out affair. And I have had more meetings with the leadership in the first six months of this year than any president has had with any leadership in the history. And as a matter of fact, the last time we had them in here on the Dominican crisis, Ford was criticizing because we had them too often. [Eisenhower laughs.] And I busted up a Republican dinner out here the night I sent the Marines into . . . they had a $100 dinner. And he's quarreling about that.Approximately 15 seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration in accordance with the deed of gift. And Dirksen came over this morning, sat down with me for over an hour, and I told him, "Now, are you going to be here tomorrow?" And he said, well, he'd like to take off tomorrow. I said, "Well, I'll try to get with y'all Monday or Tuesday, when we have made up our minds, when we get the Communists busted up out there." I don't want to overplay this thing and I may put them in, the 100,000. I may put in 40[000] at one time and 40[000] at another and 20[000] at another, so that it doesn't scare the British and scare hell out of everybody else that we're going into a world war. What we're going in with is what every commander says we need to hold what we've got so that they can launch some offensives.

Eisenhower

Well, as a matter of fact, I don't know what the general tenor of this planning was and how we were—how it was [unclear] in that direction.

President Johnson

We talked this over with you when you were at lunch that day.

Eisenhower

That's right. That's right. And I think—I feel that you've given it all that you can do. But I just wanted to calm these people down by telling them I talked to you.

President Johnson

Well, I'll just sure tell them, and tell Everett to tell them, and if you happen to talk back to him you tell him you had a talk. That, of course, I'm going to talk to all of them before we do anything. That they're going to know every bit of it, and that when they leave here, they can come back on their own motion anytime they want to. And I . . . I don't want to keep any secrets. I want all of them in on it with me.

Eisenhower

That's right.

President Johnson

Thank you.

Eisenhower

As a matter of fact, when it comes down to it, what we need is to stop a lot of these people that are telling us we ought to run or ought to negotiate when there's nothing to negotiate. And there's just too many voices—

Approximately 40 seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration in accordance with the deed of gift.
Eisenhower

[Unclear.]

President Johnson

Yeah, what they ought to do is not try it in the newspaper. And they just put water on Mansfield's and on Morse's paddle when they answer it. If they want to see the president, give him any advice, their door—my door is open anytime, day or night. I welcome them with open arms, and they can come tell me. But they oughtn't to be answering. Morse gets up and makes a speech, and nobody pays any attention to it. The next day, Ford gets up and answers Morse, then everybody pays attention. You see what I mean?

Eisenhower

I do, yes.

President Johnson

And our Joint Chiefs of Staff just shook their heads yesterday when we were talking about these things. If we could get Morse and Ford to quit talking, it'd be a lot better.

Eisenhower

[Unclear] [President Johnson laughs] [unclear].

President Johnson

Thank you so much.

Eisenhower

OK.

President Johnson

Bye.

Eisenhower

Thank you.

President Johnson

Bye.

Cite as

“Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower on 23 July 1965,” Conversation WH6507-06-8371-8373, 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/4002535