Robert Sid Ahmed,
INTERVIEWER: I mean aid...
ROBERT MCNAMARA: I'd rather not get into the military aid, because there wasn't much of it as I remember I don't really recall and I don't want to go into that story of supplying the attack aircraft afterwards.
INTERVIEWER: But may I ask you as to how you heard the news of the pre-emptive strike.
ROBERT MCNAMARA: No I'd rather not get into that either and to tell you the truth I don't recall, it was, they, they to act on the fifth, was also on the fifth I had the hot line, that I remember but I don't recall when I got the news of their attack.
INTERVIEWER: So could you tell me about the first use of the hotline?
ROBERT MCNAMARA: The Israelis attacked on the 5th of June we had not been persuasive in our conversations with Eban which the Israelis did pre-empt on the 5th of June. I arrived at my office that morning at 7 a.m. as I always did, about 7.15 the telephone rang. It was the duty officer in the war room, we maintained the war rooms 24 hours a day 7 days a week with a general or admiral in charge and the general said, General Smith said in fact said "Mr. Secretary Prime Minister Kosygin is on the hot line and he wishes to speak to the President, what should I tell him?", and I said "why do you call me General". And he said "Well the hot line ends at the Pentagon". Now that hot line had been installed as a result of the Cuban missile crisis which was October 1962 and had been in the Pentagon for say 5 years I didn't even know it ended there. The hot line of course wanot then a telephone it was a telegraphic one at any event it ended in the Pentagon and I said well General you'd better take a few thousands of dollars of our huge military budget and get this thing extended over to the White House quickly and I'll call the press and decide what to do. So I called the president and I knew he was asleep but he had an airforce sergeant outside his door that received calls while he was asleep and the Sergeant came on the line and I said Sergeant I want to talk to the president. He said "he's asleep" I said "hell I know he's asleep but waken him". He said " He doesn't like to be awakened." " I said waken him" So the president came on the line and he said in effect "God dammit Bob what are you calling me for at this time in the morning?" I said "Mr. President Prime Minister Kosygin's on the hot line, how do you wish to respond?" "He said what did you say" I said "Prime Minister's on the hot line and how do you wish to respond?" Well he said "what do you think we should do ?" Well I respond and say "you'll be down in the situation room in 15 minutes in the meantime I'll call Secretary Rusk and we'll meet you down there." And that's what we did.
INTERVIEWER: And there were massive Israeli advances.
ROBERT MCNAMARA: The Israelis very quickly in a sense won the war in a matter of hours if you will they totally defeated Egypt. And then during that short period of time President Nasser called on King Hussein for support, misled as to what was happening. Nasser lied to Hussein, told him that US aircraft from the six fleet carrier, the six fleet were attacking Cairo, a lie which by the way he admitted a year later, but in any event Jordan came in the war and Israel attacked Jordan and defeated it. So we then had 2 defeated nations in the meantime on the 9th of June Israel attacked Syria and the hotline was used again and this time Kosygin in a sense said to the President "I've expressed it " Kosygin said if you want war you're gonna get war, he didn't actually use those words he said in effect "if you don't stop this action, that is to say if you don't stop Israel attacking Syria we will have to respond and we will consider " and I think his words were "unilateral military action".
INTERVIEWER: What position would that put the United States in.
ROBERT MCNAMARA: We figured in that case we would have to introduce US military force particularly air power to support Israel defending itself against a combination of Syria and the Soviet Union. The sixth fleet was the steaming on a training exercise in the Mediterranean toward Gibraltar. We turned it around and sent it back toward Israel, not, not to support an Israel attack on Syria, but to be prepared to defend Israel against a potential Soviet attack. Very dangerous.
INTERVIEWER: Can we just pause, just a follow up question in fact, was there a real fear in that case, that America would be facing on the ground Soviet troops in the middle East.
ROBERT MCNAMARA: We feared we would face Soviet support of Syria not necessarily theSoviet Ground troops and probably initially Soviet Air and in any event we feared the involvement of US air forces air support either from the sixth fleet or otherwise in support of defending Israel against a combined Syrian Soviet threat.
INTERVIEWER: Can we just, I'm sorry to jump around can you just tell me before the beginning of the war, the conversation you had with the Israeli Intelligence chief Ahmet and his 3 requests.
ROBERT MCNAMARA: The Israeli intelligence chief met me before the war started in my office and he said he wanted to tell me certain things he didn't expect answers. And in fact I didn't give him any answers. But he said Israel, wanted only 3 things from the US it did not wish US military support, in the event of a conflict with Egypt. It wanted replacement of any military equipment Israel lost during the war, it wanted the US to isolate the Soviet Union, meaning prevent the Soviet Union in some fashion from entering the war in support of Egypt and it wanted US support of Israel and the United Nations, which was then debating how to respond to the closure of the Gulf of Aquaba.
INTERVIEWER: Just after the war can you tell me how, how much influence America had in persuading Israel to agree to a cease-fire.
ROBERT MCNAMARA: I don't want to get into that
INTERVIEWER: Can I ask you one other thing, what was the impact of this war, of the 6 day war on East West relationships, on the cold war.
ROBERT MCNAMARA: I don't wanna answer that
INTERVIEWER: Do you wanna just pause then. It's very, I think that's more or less it isn't it.