The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By Jaromír Navrátil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 109: Minutes of the U.S. National Security Council
Meeting on the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia, August 20,1968

Source: National Security Council Box No. 3, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings, August 20,
1968, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.

This document records an emergency meeting on August 20, 1968, of the U.S. National Security Council,
called by President Lyndon Johnson. The discussion reflects the surprise, dismay, and caution of U.S.
officials in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.

None of the officials appears to have anticipated a Soviet invasion. Most of the president's senior
advisers voice opposition to any forceful response for fear of damaging relations with the Soviet Union
or of provoking a Soviet retaliatory blockade against West Berlin. Vice President Hubert Humphrey
represents the majority opinion when he declares that in this "delicate" situation "we need to show
caution "and should do little more for the time being than "snort and talk." That view appears to be shared
by President Johnson himself. The only time the possibility of a U.S. military response is addressed is
when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle Wheeler, flatly rules out any such options:
"There is no military action we can take."

The NSC meeting notes were taken by White House Aide Tom Johnson.

SECRET

NOTES ON EMERGENCY MEETING OF THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL

AUGUST 20,1968

THOSE ATTENDING THE MEETING WERE:3

The President

Secretary Rusk

General Wheeler

CIA Director Helms

The Vice President

Ambassador Ball

Walt Rostow

Leonard Marks

George Christian

Tom Johnson

Secretary Rusk: This surprises me.

Secretary Clifford: It does me too.

General Wheeler: Ambassador Bohłen was uneasy about this.4

3 In order, these were: President Lyndon Johnson; the Secretary of State Dean Rusk; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff General Earle Wheeler, the CIA Director Richard Helms; Vice President Hubert Humphrey; the U.S. Ambassador
to the United Nations (and former Under Secretary of State) George Ball; the Assistant to the President for National
Security Walt Rostow; the Director of the U.S. Information Agency Leonard Marks; the Presidential Press Secretary
George Christian; and a Top Personal Aide to the President Tom Johnson. Another participant in the meeting, who for
some reason was not listed here, was the Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford

4 Charles Bohlen, the deputy under secretary of state for political affairs, had previously served as U.S. ambassador
to the Soviet Union.

-445-

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