Saturday, April 6, 1968 - 5:50pm - 5:57pm
Lyndon Johnson, Ramsey Clark

Ramsey Clark: -- [unclear] Governor [Samuel H. Shapiro] called at 6:40 [P.M.]. I've just--

President Johnson: 5:40 [P.M.]?

Clark: --hung up. Yes, 5:40 [P.M.]. He said that he had just heard from the [Chicago] Mayor [Richard J. Daley]. He's in Springfield. The Mayor says he wants troops, that he said he doesn't really know anything about it, but--and he doesn't know how to know anything about it, so he is requesting troops. And he didn't know how many. I told him that we would confirm this back to him.

President Johnson: He wants 5,000 troops.

Clark: I know how many he wants, Mr. President. The point was that the Governor didn't know how many he wanted, and he's supposed to ask us for them, or we'll get [unclear].

President Johnson: I told the Governor--I told the Mayor that you would dictate to the Governor the form wire--

Clark: He's got it, Mr. President. He's got it.

President Johnson: Just tell him to send it on. I'm sitting here with a proclamation. I'll sign it just as soon as I get it.

Clark: Well, Mr. President, I don't think you ought to sign the proclamation right away. You'll get the--

President Johnson: Yeah.

Clark: You will get the telegram on the ticker.

President Johnson: [Unclear.]

Clark: I think--I told the Governor that we are beginning the movement of troops right now. I had already talked to General Johnson, and he will have troops airborne beginning at 6:00 [P.M.] tonight.

President Johnson: That's good.

Clark: Now, the troops will not close at O'Hare [Airport], the first contingent coming from Fort Hood [Texas] , until--they'll begin to be airborne at 18:00 and they won't close at O'Hare for 7.5 hours. So, that--and t'll be 2:00 [A.M.] before the ones from Fort Carson [Colorado] close. 2:00 tomorrow morning. Seven and a half hours would be 1:30 [A.M.]. It will be 2:00--which would be 12:30 [A.M.] their time. It'll be 2:00 before they close at the Naval Air Station [Denver, Colorado] , the ones coming from Fort Carson. We had already talked, [Deputy Attorney General] Warren Christopher had, to the people at the Pentagon. They had sent, but they had not yet arrived, a military team out there, in civilian clothes, to begin reconnoitering. We should not move now because we won't have command capability for quite some time. We should not federalize the [National] Guard yet, because then we would be responsible for what it does, and we wouldn't even be there to tell them what to do. In addition, we've got to protect ourselves from [Michigan] Governor [George] Romney, and we can do it without losing any time. But to do it we've got to hold off signing this thing.

President Johnson: Yeah. We're not--I'm going to--I'm not going to act until we get his request, as you dictated to him if you get it, and then we'll talk about it after you get it.

Clark: Yeah, but you're going to have to--we need to reconnoiter and make the judgment, like we did in Detroit [Michigan] , to keep Romney from saying, "Well, he takes care of his buddies like [Richard] Daley, but he doesn't take care of his political enemies like Romney." You won't lose any time, but you don't want to sign that thing until we can say that we had troops moving all the time. We didn't lose a second, that we had military men there in advance, and they reconnoiter and they made their own judgement, just like [Deputy Defense Secretary Cyrus R.] Cy Vance made his judgment in Detroit.

President Johnson: That's right. Unless the Governor would make the judgement. That's why Cy had to make it, because the Governor refused to sign that kind of wire, you know?

Clark: No, that--we had plenty of problems with the Governor, but he asked for the troops, and this was hours after he asked for them, and we said, if you remember, that we had a responsibility too, and our responsibility was to make our own judgment. Now, we know, just as we knew then, that we ought to send them in right away, I think. We know that we're going to decide to send them in. We know we're sending them in. But we want to give the appearance of reconnoitering and having a fact basis to make our own judgment.

President Johnson: Yeah, that's good.

Clark: Otherwise, we will do [unclear]--

President Johnson: Have you got your team on the way out there?

Clark: Well, we've got a military team. Now, I think I should send Warren Christopher and a staff from here to play the civilian role.

President Johnson: Yeah. Yeah.

Clark: And we'll have them airborne within an hour.

President Johnson: All right. That's good. Well, they'll be there a lot closer, a lot before the boys get there.

Clark: And, then I'll be in touch with you on signing this, and the timing and all.

President Johnson: All right. I want to be sure be sure that we're getting all we need here.

Clark: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: As I gather it, what they told me, they had 2,000, and they had a few hundred [Military Police] MPs, then they had another 2,000. I gather from you that all of that group, those three, have already been ordered in.

Clark: Everything that we have air capacity to lift in here--

President Johnson: All right.

Clark: [with Johnson acknowledging] --is here or on it's way. And, the total, including the [Washington,] D.C. National Guard, which is 1,263 men, is 1,000--I'm sorry, 11,492. The two units that are en route are the 503rd Military Police Batallion, from Fort Bragg [North Carolina], which is 550 men, and the Second Brigade is of the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, which is 1,995.

President Johnson: Uh huh. Yeah. And, then, prior that, you had the 82nd group that came in this morning, didn't you?

Clark: That was the First Batallion.

President Johnson: Yeah, that's what it was. That's right. Now--

Clark: I'm sorry, that's a brigade.

President Johnson: Yeah. Is that about all now we have of 82nd that's available?

Clark: That's the 82nd.

President Johnson: Do we have anymore available for Washington if we need them?

Clark: We've got two groups that have quite a long delay time getting here that we will have as soon as the planes that are bringing the Second Brigade of the 82nd are free will be available to bring.

President Johnson: Where do they come from?

Clark: They come from--I have to look back at my notes. They come--they've got a long delay time, but they come from Fort Knox [Kentucky], I think. I'm not really sure. I can look back if you want me to.

President Johnson: But, they wouldn't be here tonight?

Clark: I think, realistically, based on my experience of the Army, that they would not be here tonight.

President Johnson: Are we requesting them, or are we just waiting to see? Have to wait until the planes anyway to--

Clark: We have to wait until the planes are free, and I would assume that we would have a judgment then. I assume the judgment would be we'd bring them on it, but--

President Johnson: Well, why don't we--maybe we want to consider civilian planes.

Clark: Well, I've asked them to look for all National Guard planes and look for commercial jets. I haven't heard back. That was about 2:00.

President Johnson: Was that [General] Johnson?

Clark: I beg your pardon?

President Johnson: Who did you ask?

Clark: David McGifford.

President Johnson: OK. All right.

Clark: All right, sir.

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