155. Editorial Note

At 7:57 a.m. on June 5, 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara telephoned President Johnson. He said:

“Mr. President, the Moscow hot line is operating and allegedly Kosygin is at the other end and wants to know if you are in the room in which the receiving apparatus is located. Now, we have a receiving station over here in the Pentagon and you also have a hook-up over in the Situation Room in the White House. My inclination is to say that you—to reply that you can be in the room if he wishes you there within a few minutes. Here is what has come in: [Page 299]

‘Dear Mr. President, having received information concerning military action between Israel and UAR, the Soviet Government is convinced the responsibility of all the great powers is to attempt to end the military conflict immediately.’ Then the question, ‘Are you in the room?’”

Johnson said he could be there in 10 minutes. Then he asked McNamara, “And what, what do you think they’ll want to do then?” McNamara paused, then replied, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I, from this, I think they would want you to indicate that you agree the responsibility of all the great powers is—” Johnson broke in, “We’ve done that in our message to them, haven’t we?” He was referring to Rusk’s message to Gromyko (see Document 157), which McNamara had not seen. Johnson then asked about procedures. They agreed that McNamara and Rusk would be at the White House in 20 minutes. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of a telephone conversation between Johnson and McNamara, Tape F67.11, Side B, PNO 3) This conversation was on the dictabelt with the earlier Rusk and Rostow conversations; see Documents 150 and 152. The date and time were taken from the President’s Daily Diary. (Johnson Library)

The message (Document 156) was the first substantive message sent on the “hot line,” established August 30, 1963, to provide a channel for rapid communication between U.S. and Soviet leaders. Between June 5 and June 10, there were a total of 20 hot line messages. The messages were filed in a notebook kept in the President’s desk. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence, USSR, Washington-Moscow “Hot Line” Exchange, 6/5–10/67; copies are ibid., NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. 7, Appendix G)

None of the outgoing messages include drafting information, and no records were made of the meetings at which they were drafted. According to a memorandum of conversation between McGeorge Bundy and Nathaniel Davis on November 7, 1968, recording Bundy’s recollections of the meetings, they were “pretty frenetic, with drafts, redrafts, and more redrafts.” Bundy said the President watched the drafts with great care, and Rusk did a great deal of the drafting, especially of the earlier messages. He said there were “no real debates in the hot line meetings in the sense of choosing up sides with one group in favor of this language and another group in favor of that.” (Ibid., NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, 1967, Vol. 7, Appendix G) Some drafts of outgoing messages and variant translations of incoming messages are ibid., Rostow Files, President-Kosygin Correspondence.