Remarks to the Press at Camp David With Ambassador Bunker Following the Ambassador's Report on the Situation in Vietnam
Admiral Sharp will be coming at 5:30 or 5:45.
These gentlemen are returning to Washington tonight. Ambassador Bunker will be my guest while he is there, at the White House. I will be seeing him tomorrow. He will probably be returning Thursday.
We spent the afternoon hearing from Ambassador Bunker and going over a series of questions that we raised with him largely relating to the relationship between our Government and the South Vietnamese Government. We talked to him about what progress had been made since he had been there and what his general observations were.
His review was on the political front, diplomatic and economic front, very similar to what General Abrams and General Westmoreland and Admiral Sharp will go over with us on the military matters.
I don't know if this is the place for any extravaganza press conference, but I asked the Ambassador if he would point out some of the high points and give you his judgments for such consideration as you may care to give them or pass on to the American people on the situation there from a political and economic standpoint.
I think I need not recall to you that Ambassador Bunker is one of our most experienced and trusted and most highly regarded Ambassadors in the entire service. He has held a number of the most critical assignments that any Ambassador has ever undertaken.
His most recent assignment was the Dominican Republic, where he went and spent many months seeing a new government born and helping it through its early stages.
I thought I knew most of what was happening in Vietnam and felt very encouraged about the relationship between our Government and their Government and their people; but Ambassador Bunker's report today uncovered a lot of things that I had not realized or recognized or appreciated.
So maybe he will want to touch on some of those things for your general edification. Ambassador Bunker.
AMBASSADOR BUNKER. As the President said, I have come to report on the situation, as I see it, after Tet. If Tet was a psychological and a political success abroad, it certainly was a resounding military defeat for them in Vietnam.
I am beginning to think it was also a psychological and political defeat as well. It did create, obviously, many thousands of refugees and much economic damage. But there are other elements of strength which have developed and become evident there since the Tet offensive.
Although the Vietnamese forces, for example, many of them, were only at half strength, nevertheless with our assistance, they did smash the attacks. They inflicted very heavy casualties and drove the Communists from every city in the country.
The Government did not collapse, but turned to--with great will and determination-its recovery program. The ARVN forces did not defect. The people, after the initial shock, emerged strengthened in their anger and their hatred for Communists and their determination to resist.
The rate of volunteers for the forces rose dramatically. The Government is drafting 18- and 19-year-olds and has more than doubled the number of men it is going to take into the Armed Forces this year. Students are flocking to the gaining centers-certainly in a very surprising turnaround of attitude.
There is a new sense of danger, of urgency and patriotism taking hold in the country. The legislature is behaving in a responsible way. The President is going about improving the governmental administration and machinery, attacking corruption, and has replaced some 14 provincial chiefs since Tet.
Finally, I may say that Khe Sanh has not turned into another Dienbienphu. The news, as you know, has come in that the siege has been lifted. This will certainly have a very dramatic and favorable impact throughout South Vietnam.
So, I think the Government is much more self-confident than before Tet and there is much greater unity in the country today, I think, than we have ever seen before--a turning-to with the will. And I think it has made very substantial progress since this Tet offensive.
As you know, also, our forces now are on the offensive--our forces and the Vietnamese, throughout the country.
President Thieu is in the process of reorganizing the Government and making many improvements so that I am very much encouraged with what has happened there and look to the future with a good deal of confidence.
Q. May we ask some questions?
AMBASSADOR BUNKER. Yes.
Q. Mr. Ambassador, what impact psychologically has the possibility of talks looking toward negotiations had on the people and the Government? Are they disturbed by this or are they favorably impressed by it?
AMBASSADOR BUNKER. No, I don't think they are disturbed by it. Their position on talks, on negotiations, as you know, has been similar to ours.
Q. Mr. President, has anything new come in on what you told us about earlier today?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Reporter: Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 4:17 p.m. at Camp David at a press briefing held with Ellsworth Bunker, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam.
During his remarks he referred to Adm. U. S. Grant Sharp, Jr., Commander in Chief of U.S. Forces in the Pacific, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, Commander, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, Deputy Commander.
On the same day the White House released the text of two press pool reports on the Camp David meetings. The reports were given at 11:20 a.m. and 4:52 p.m. at the American Legion Hall in Thurmont, Md.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to the Press at Camp David With Ambassador Bunker Following the Ambassador's Report on the Situation in Vietnam Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237994