AG: The study in 1965 grew out of a request... or a question by President Lyndon Johnson, he said he wanted to ask the question, can we win in Vietnam? He was meeting with his principal advisers, Secretary MacNamara came back to the Pentagon, asked for such a study to be made and asked General Wheeler, who was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to set up a study group. I was assistant to the Chairman at that time and Wheeler asked me to do that. I put together a study group and we decided that it was necessary to lay out a strategy of... that would aim to accomplish that, to achieve... freedom in which we could have confidence in Vietnam. We did that. I set up a number of assumptions as the basis for this study and submitted it. Our conclusion was that if the strategy that we proposed were to be pursued with vigor and real effort, that it would be possible to win in Vietnam. Secretary MacNamara, questioned the study, because he questioned some of the assumptions and one of the assumptions was that we would do what would be necessary in the way of providing forces and supporting those forces. He said we should not make assumptions about what we would do. on the other hand, it was an essential premise of the study and it was essential to the conclusion that we reached and that was that if we combined maximum sustained pressure in South Vietnam, with a well-targeted and sustained air operation against the logistic routes that were supporting the effort in South Vietnam, we could, over a period of time, achieve a result similar to what had been achieved in Korea. And it would be possible to do that and then to sustain it the American force contribution could be quite limited.
INT: This was in the middle of 1965?
AG: Middle of 1965.
INT: And was the report acted on or not?
AG: It was not. I don't think that the administration wanted to be confronted with what the possible costs would be. we had had an assessment made by the General Harold Johnson, the Chief of Staff of the army, when he took over that post from General Wheeler, he made a very thorough study out in Vietnam, spent about three weeks in all parts of South Vietnam. He came back and said that it could be done. It could take up to five hundred thousand troops and last as much as five years. That was squelched because that was more of a jolt than the administration wished to give the American Congress for American people. it did take five hundred thousand troops, it did take five years. At that point we had a situation that could have been sustained, but the public and congressional support had collapsed in the meantime.
INT: Could you just sum up what the main recommendations were of your report and what actually happened, what actually was implemented?
AG: We studied what additional forces would be required. I've forgotten the numbers, the exact numbers, but I think we saw the need for perhaps two or three hundred thousand additional American troops there. The Americans, with South Vietnamese participation, would take the fight to the enemy. for a period of time that fight would be pushed out into the high jungle area and back into the... southern area of.. the... water area of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese with the participation of the Korean and the Thai forces would take responsibility for maintaining local security, using the regional and the popular forces, as well as their main units. The Americans, with the South Vietnamese, would conduct air operations in South Vietnam and the Americans would conduct air operations against North Vietnam.
INT: Did you have sit-down sessions with Johnson on this or just MacNamara?
AG: I've never known just what use was made of this study. people in the White House were aware of it and I know that a memorandum was provided... a memorandum commenting on it was provided to Mac Bundy, who was the assistant to President Lyndon Johnson at that time.
INT: But you didn't actually personally see...
AG: I did not.
INT: Perhaps this is difficult in hindsight, but do you think would it have made a difference if your recommendations had been implemented?
AG: Oh, I think it would have. But that's a big if, because I think it would have been necessary to lay out in a very explicit and open way what the possible cost would be to give assurance that we could attain that final (unintelligible) and whether that would have been accepted and supported by the American people, I think is a matter of question.
INT: But at that time did it cause a big rift between the administration and the military about how it should be done?
AG: We had, I would have to say, on going differences about how the separation would have to be conducted. The administration - I don't want to put it in a pejorative way - but they were hoping that a result could be attained on the cheap, that the North Vietnamese would buckle and... accept a cease-fire and accept a peace. Our assessment was that that might happen, but there was no sign of such a move on the part of the North Vietnamese and they might fight it out to the full extent of their ability, in which case that could be the requirement.
INT: The JCS must have been pretty frustrated about all this?
AG: The Joint Chiefs of Staff were very much in accord with the results of the study and it fit into their continued view that if we were to continue to be engaged there, we should use our forces with full effectiveness and not engage in the piecemeal and the tit for tat and other processes that didn't bring our full force to bear.
INT: Then you compiled that report with close co-operation with the Chiefs of Staff?
AG: Yes, I had representation from the Joint Staff and of course it was submitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their information.
INT: Moving on to the Paris peace talks, which I understand you went to with Averell Harriman and Cyrus Vance. How hard did you actually push for peace in 1968?
AG: Oh, I think Harriman pushed very hard for peace, to the extent that... he and I had a continuing difference which was submitted to President Lyndon Johnson and the difference was that he really would like to see us slack off in our operations and as he put it, not engage in all out or heavy attack. And my view was that... if we were engaged in this kind of a fight and we had troops that were committed, they should be employed in what was militarily the most advantageous to accomplish the mission that had been sent out and I opposed quite strongly any idea of cutting back on what our troops were free to do in conducting their operations. But he tried all kinds of devices to engage the North Vietnamese. Essentially, they showed no interest other than surrender of South Vietnam to them. They were strongly committed to that. After about three months participation in the peace conference, I was ordered to go to Vietnam as the Deputy Commander in Chief there and then I was succeeded by another representative of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
INT: But whilst you were there... (unintelligible) peace talks, whawere the mechanics? Did you sit down every day with people from North Vietnam, people from South Vietnam, mediators, how does it work?
AG: There was a great deal of about the shape of the table. the North Vietnamese would not meet with people from South Vietnam. they never accepted South Vietnam as a country, they would always refer to it as the south part of Vietnam, and they were just adamant in holding to their position that they would not compromise in a way that would allow the continued existence of a separate South Vietnam.
INT: So is that why the talks failed?
AG: Yes. I think the North Vietnamese by that time felt that the United States would buckle, as the French had finally. They felt that they had won their war against the French in Paris and they felt they would win their war against South Vietnam and the United States in Washington, as indeed they did.
INT: What did you feel about your adversaries on the North Vietnamese side? Did you have pleasant meetings with them or was it all just very matter of fact?
AG: The meetings with them were very stiff. We did have tea with them afterward. they were formal. they were respectful, professional, but they were very tough, very smart. They had worked up answers to every proposal, every statement that we might make from our side and they would use these prepared statements in the formal meetings. During the tea, Harriman and Vance in particular would explore to see is there any way by which some engagement and real negotiation could be begun and but there was really no opening. And Harriman also talked to Russian representatives to see if something could be done through that channel and again, nothing real was accomplished.
INT: So neither the Russians nor the Chinese could do anything to help?
AG: I don't recall that we were in touch with the Chinese at all.
INT: But with the Russians? And at the end of '68 it did look like peace was going to be there, as I recall it was the South Vietnamese President Chu who held out against the agreement, wasn't it?
AG: Chu was very adamant, very strong that nothing would be done that would endanger South Vietnam. And there was, as I recall, there were differences then between what Harriman was proposing and what Chu was prepared to accept or to join with. And then of course came the election and the election of President Nixon and the appointment of Henry Kissinger to be his security adviser and Melvyn Laird to be the Secretary of Defense. With that I might mention there was a shift and it was called the Vietnamisation of the war, in a way that went beyond anything that had been authorized or carried out before, in terms of turning over responsibility, turning over major weapons to the South Vietnamese, with the idea that American forces were going to be reduced and the role of the Americans would be reduced.