WH6502-04-6852

Participants: 
Lyndon Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower
Location: 
Oval Office
Listen: 


Dwight Eisenhower: Thank you.
 
Unidentified: Ready, sir.
 
President Johnson: How was your trip?
 
President Dwight D. Eisenhower: Well, very fine, Mr. President.
 
President Johnson: I appreciate so much your giving up that sunshine and coming to this God-forsaken country.
 
Eisenhower: Well, I tell you, I just—I had a little plan that I wanted to see whether you’d have any objection to it. This is just about my time for my monthly check, and I thought late this evening after I’d gotten my business done here—I’m in New York—I would run out the hospital—
 
President Johnson: That'd be good.
 
Eisenhower: —and be there [unclear] before breakfast, which I have to be. [Unclear comment by President Johnson] And then come to be available to you anytime up—oh, I can get there by 9:00 or 9:30 [A.M.], and I’m available all day.
 
President Johnson: That's just wonderful. That’s good.
 
Eisenhower: By the way, as I understand it, this would be a rather confidential, between, say, not over two to four of us, or something.
 
President Johnson: That’s right. That’s right.
 
Eisenhower: If you have anybody else, I think this man [Andrew] Goodpaster would be good because of the facts he can provide us.1
 
President Johnson: What I thought I might do, if it’s all right with you. I thought I might have . . . General [Earle]Wheeler, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
 
Eisenhower: Yes.
 
President Johnson: He’s a very level-headed fellow.
 
Eisenhower: Yes, he’s a fine—I admire him very much.
 
President Johnson: A friend of yours.
 
Eisenhower: Yeah.
 
President Johnson: General Goodpaster.
 
Eisenhower: Yeah.
 
President Johnson: And we might have [Robert] McNamara unless you had some reason not to. He has—he wants—he’s searching for opinions and guidance.
 
Eisenhower: Good.
 
President Johnson: [with Eisenhower acknowledging] And Goodpaster knows the picture about as well as anybody. And I’d never heard of Goodpaster until you talked to me about him. And when they got ready to go out there—we’ve had [Henry Cabot] Lodge in here, and we’ve had [Dean] Rusk out there, and we’d had McNamara out there. We’d had nine governments in a year, so I just told him to take Goodpaster with them. And they asked me why and I said, "Well, just because General Eisenhower said he thinks he’s the best man, one of the best men in the military, if not the best," and I remembered it a year or so ago. So they all agreed and they took him, and they all—[McGeorge] Bundy and all the underlings that went with him swear by him and so forth. So I thought I’d just probably have Wheeler—just keep it military so we don’t get over in the political angle. And I’m talking to you [for] two reasons. One, because of your great experience in military matters, and second because you’ve been president, and third because you’re my friend and I just want your personal judgment for my personal judgment.
 
Eisenhower: Well, I’m very happy to do it, Mr. President. And I’ll tell you, there’s one—after we get those done, the business, whenever or whatever time in the day we do it, I’d like to have at least, say, 15 minutes with you alone.
 
President Johnson: You can have as much time with me. I wish you’d stay all night with me.
 
Eisenhower: Well, just a couple—a couple little things that bothered me.
 
President Johnson: Well . . .
 
Eisenhower: As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you, I was writing you a long letter when you called me last night.
 
President Johnson: Now, I just want you to sit down. I wish you’d bring your suitcase and stay all night. I just wish you would.
 
Eisenhower: Well, I tell you, I’d like to go to the hospital, and then after we get done and either, say, the Thursday morning or something, or Wednesday night. [President Johnson acknowledges.] I’d like to go back to Mamie [Eisenhower] as soon as I can.
 
President Johnson: All right, OK, you go back anytime you want to. You’ll just—
 
Eisenhower: Well, we’ll take the whole day then, tomorrow—
 
President Johnson: That’s right. That’s good.
 
Eisenhower: And I’ll have them call up your secretary so they can know when I’ll be done at the hospital.
 
President Johnson: You just tell them, and I would shoot at 10:00, if that’s free, and it can run over 30 minutes either way you want to. And tell them to have a car. Just tell General Goodpaster [to] have my car pick you up and bring you to the Southwest Gate. And just come in and tell him—is he with you now?
 
Eisenhower: He’s with me now.
 
President Johnson: Just tell him to tell Wheeler and McNamara I want them present. And then you and I will talk before we go in with them, and then we’ll talk after we go in [Eisenhower acknowledges] with them. And I just appreciate your coming very much.
 
Eisenhower: I'm delighted.
 
President Johnson: And then that plane will be at your service [Eisenhower attempts to interject] as long as you live.
 
Eisenhower: Well, I’ll tell you, they really did the job for me today.
 
President Johnson: Well, now. Good.
 
Eisenhower: They were really right there as we got started. OK, what did we do? We did we went to a military field, we landed here at a military field, and then I, of course, here I've got some business [President Johnson acknowledges] so it all makes a good story.
 
President Johnson: Well, that’s good, and we’ll figure out what we say after you’re here. I don’t know, but my thought, my thinking is the thing I didn’t want the whole country to be 24 hours of speculating.
 
Eisenhower: Yes.
 
President Johnson: And I thought, but you be the judge and you talk to Goodpaster. My thought would be that I understood that you were coming in to Walter Reed [Hospital] and that I asked you to come by. That I wanted to visit with you and talk to you [Eisenhower acknowledges] and get your counsel on a good many things, just like I did when I came into the Oval Office.
 
Eisenhower: You know, Mr. President, I’ve had one rule always: If I go into the White House, I say, "I have nothing to say. This is a White House responsibility."
 
President Johnson: Well, anything you say will suit me. I’ve never found you indiscreet yet.
 
Eisenhower: That goes both ways. I’ll abide by what you say.
 
President Johnson: Well, thank you so much, sir.
 
Eisenhower: All right, sir.
 
President Johnson: Bye.
 
Eisenhower: Good night. Thank you.
 
President Johnson: Bye.2
  • 1. General Andrew Goodpaster had been White House Staff Secretary and Defense Liaison Officer to Eisenhower during his presidency.
  • 2. For General Andrew J. Goodpaster's account of the 17 April Eisenhower meeting, see "Memorandum of a Meeting with President Johnson," FRUS, 1964-1968, vol. 2: Vietnam, January-June 1965 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1996), pp.298-308.

Original tape courtesy of LBJ Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.