Author Topic: JFK, Vietnam and Laos  (Read 36058 times)


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JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« on: July 17, 2013, 08:12:18 PM »
For many years after his assassination, conventional wisdom was that LBJ was only continuing JFK's policies in Vietnam. Barbara Tuchman and Gore Vidal subscribe to the view that Kennedy would not have pulled out of Vietnam. Only in recent years have revisionist views on Kennedy and Vietnam begun to take hold.

JFK told Sen. Mansfield in Kenny O'Donnell's presence that he wanted to completely withdraw from Vietnam but "I can't do it until 1965--after I'm reelected." When Mansfield left the office,  Kennedy said to O'Donnell: "In 1965, I'll become one of the most unpopular presidents in history. I'll be damned everywhere as a Communist appeaser. But now I don't care. If I tried to pull out completely now from Vietnam, we would have another Joe McCarthy red scare on our hands, but I can do it after I'm reelected. So we had better make damn sure that I am reelected."  (Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye p16) When O'Donnell asked JFK how he planned to withdraw from Vietnam, he answered, "Easy. Put a government in there that will ask us to leave."

2/24/1968 Gen. James M. Gavin wrote an article in the Saturday Evening Post: "There has been much speculation about what President Kennedy would or would not have done in Vietnam had he lived. Having discussed military affairs with him often and in detail for 15 years, I know he was totally opposed to the introduction of combat troops in Southeast Asia. His public statements just before his murder support this view. Let us not lay on the dead the blame for our own failures."

As a young congressman in 1951, Kennedy went to Vietnam to look over the situation. He got the standard embassy briefing, but then "asked sharply why the Vietnamese should be expected to fight to keep their country part of France." This upset both the US diplomat in charge and the French commanding general. On returning to Washington, he complained, "In Indochina, we have allied ourselves to the desperate effort of a French regime to hang on to the remnants of empire...To check the southern drive of communism makes sense but not only through reliance on the force of arms. The task is rather to build strong native non-Communist sentiment within these areas and rely on that as a spearhead of defense rather than upon the legions of General de Lattre. To do this apart from and in defiance of innately nationalistic aims spells foredoomed failure."

He told Meet the Press, "Without the support of the native population, there is no hope of success in any of the countries of Southeast Asia." (A Thousand Days 321) Ted Sorensen recalled how Kennedy had watched the French collapse and wondered how the US could step in and do any better. (Ibid. 654)  Sorensen recalled that Kennedy wanted to "both raise our commitment and to keep it limited...despite being pressed along both lines by those impatient to win or withdraw. His strategy was essentially to avoid escalation, retreat or a choice limited to those two, while seeking to buy time." (Ibid. 651-2) Kennedy liked the idea of strengthening Diem's regime, but resisted sending in troops: "But it will be just like Berlin. The troops will march in; the bands will play; the crowds will cheer; and in four days everyone will have forgotten. Then we will be told we have to send in more troops. It's like taking a drink. The effect wears off, and you have to take another." (Ibid. 547) Sorensen said, "Kennedy recognized far  more clearly than most of his advisors that military action alone could not save Vietnam." (Ibid. 655) He wanted to  buy time so that the south could build up a competent government, supported by the people, and develop a counterguerilla force capable of keeping the insurgency under control. He envisioned a long, but relatively small, American commitment to this effort. (Ibid. 652)

Dave Powers and Ken O'Donnell wrote: "The President's order to reduce the American military personnel in Vietnam by one thousand before the end of 1963 was still in effect the day he went to Texas. A few days after his death, during the morning, the order was quietly rescinded." (Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye)

Sen. Mike Mansfield told the Washington Post 8/3/1970, "He had definitely and unequivocally made that decision [to withdraw.]"

Malcolm Kilduff recalled "There is no question that he was taking us out of Vietnam. I was in his office just before we went to Dallas and he said that Vietnam was not worth another American life. There is no question about that." (4/17/1991 interview with Livingstone, High Treason 2 503)

William Manchester remarked in the 1988 edition of his book, Death of a President: "...genuine detente with the Russians had begun...Kennedy had inherited a small US commitment to South Vietnam, but after much waffling he realized that it was failing, and he was cutting American losses....His withdrawal operation, which had already begun at the time of his death, would have ended this country's Vietnam commitment in 1965 with the evacuation, as he had put it to me, of 'the last helicopter pilot.' After his funeral Johnson countermanded these orders." (p xix-xx)

Daniel Ellsberg told Rolling Stone (12/6/1973): "A very surprising discovery to me in the fall of '67, as I began to study the documents of '61 in connection with the McNamara study project, was that the major decision Kennedy had made was to reject the recommendation made to him by virtually everyone that he send combat troops to Vietnam. Kennedy realized that most of the people in the country, whatever their politics, would have said, 'If it takes combat troops, or if it takes heavy bombing or nuclear weapons, it's obviously not worth it for us. We won't succeed.'"

JFK was to have met with Henry Cabot Lodge 11/24/1963 to nail down some of the final details on withdrawing from Vietnam. (JFK and LBJ, Wicker) Instead, that Sunday, LBJ was told in a meeting that "if Vietnam was to be saved, hard decisions would have to be made." (Ibid)

JFK told Arthur Krock 10/1961 that US combat troops had no business being on the Asian mainland, and he wanted to stall the military by sending Taylor and Rostow to South Vietnam. (In The Nation 1932-1966 p324-5, 447)

Max Taylor later recalled, "The last thing he wanted was to put in our ground troops. And I knew that. I had the same feeling he had on the subject. But all the way, starting with CINCPAC, the feeling was that we'd better get something into South Vietnam." When he recommended 8000 US combat troops, "I don't recall anyone who was strongly against, except...the President." (RFK and his Times 760)

Henry Brandon: "By the autumn of 1963, he seemed sick of it, and frequently asked how to be rid of the commitment....Just before his death, he gave Mike Forrestal...odds of a hundred-to-one that the US could not win. But he also knew that he could not get out of Vietnam before the elections in November, 1964..." (Anatomy of Error 30)

1/19/1961 JFK met with Eisenhower; also present were McNamara, Herter, Gates, Robert Anderson, Ike's staff aide Gen. Wilton Persons, Rusk, Dillon, and Clifford. Most of the discussion was about Indochina (particularly Laos). Rusk and Clifford recalled that Ike advocated US military intervention in Laos if absolutely necessary, but McNamara and Dillon remembered Ike sending mixed signals about that. (In Retrospect 35-6) Eisenhower warned him that if Laos fell, the US could "write off the whole area [Southeast Asia]." He also warned against a neutralist government that would permit Communists to share power. (Pentagon Papers) But JFK had long felt that neutralization was the only answer. (Promises to Keep p394) Ike also told him to support guerrilla operations against Cuba "to the utmost."  Treasury Sec. Robert Anderson added, "Large amounts of United States capital now planned for investment in Latin America are waiting to see whether or not we can cope with the Cuban situation." (Portrait of Power 32) Ike also told JFK that there was no missile gap working against the US, and warned that he would publicly oppose him if he tried to recognize China and allow it a seat in the UN. (Ibid. 33) Ike and Herter told JFK that Laos was the key to the whole of Southeast Asia, and that if necessary, the US must be willing "to intervene unilaterally." He also warned against a coalition government there. (A Thousand Days 156)

When he was given a transitional briefing by President Eisenhower on January 19, 1961, the president-elect asked an unexpected question. It pertained to the rising conflict with Communist forces in Laos, Vietnam's western neighbor. Which option would Eisenhower prefer, Kennedy asked, a "coalition with the Communists to form a government in Laos or intervening [militarily] through SEATO [the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, to which the U.S. belonged]?" Eisenhower was taken aback by his successor's gall in raising the possibility of a coalition with Communists. He said it would be "far better" to intervene militarily. As his Secretary of State, Christian Herter had already said, any coalition with the Communists would end up with the Communists in control. Even unilateral intervention by U.S. troops was preferable to that. It would be "a last desperate effort to save Laos." Kennedy listened skeptically. He thought he was hearing a prescription for disaster, from a man who in a few hours would no longer have to bear any responsibility for it. "There he sat, "he told friends later, "telling me to get ready to put ground forces into Asia, the thing he himself had been carefully avoiding for the last eight years." (Foreign Relations of the United States (FR US), 1961-1963, Volume XXIV, Laos Crisis (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1994), p. 21; Kenneth P. O'Donnell and David F. Powers, "Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye " (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970), p. 244)

1/20/1961 JFK commented, "This is the worst one we've got, isn't it? You know, Eisenhower never mentioned it. He talked at length about Laos, but never uttered the word Vietnam." (The Diffusion of Power 265) Or: "This is going to be the worst one yet...Eisenhower never mentioned the word Vietnam to me." (The Diffusion of Power 264) Walt Rostow had just shown him a report written by Edward Lansdale showing the deteriorating situation in that country. (Rostow would later recall incorrectly the date Kennedy received the report as being 2/2/1961)
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 08:58:59 PM by TLR »


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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2013, 08:13:43 PM »
2/2/1961 Walt Rostow gives JFK a memorandum about Vietnam written by Brigadier General Edward Lansdale. After reading it, JFK says: "This is the worst yet." He then adds, "You know, Ike never briefed me about Vietnam."

2/3/1961 On February 3, 1961, two weeks after he became president, Kennedy met alone with the U.S. ambassador to Laos, Winthrop Brown. The diplomat had a hard time believing his new president's desire to hear only the truth about Laos. As Brown was explaining the official policy, Kennedy stopped him. He said, "That's not what I asked you. I said, 'What do you think,' you, the Ambassador ? " (Winthrop Brown, oral history interview in 1968 by Larry J . Hackman, 14-15, JFK Library. Cited by Edmund F. Wehrle, '' 'A Good, Bad Deal': John F. Kennedy, W. Averell Harriman, and the Neutralization of Laos, 1961-1962, " Pacific Historical Review (August 1998) , p.355) Brown opened up. With the president concentrating intently on his words, Brown critiqued the CIA's and the Pentagon's endorsement of the anti-communist ruler General Phoumi Nosavan. The autocratic general had risen to power through the CIA's formation, under the Eisenhower administration, of a Laotian " patriotic organization," the Committee for the Defense of the National Interest ( CDNI ) . (Roger Hilsman, To Move a Nation: The Politics o f Foreign Policy i n the Administration of John F. Kennedy (New York: Delta, 1964), p. 115.) Brown told Kennedy frankly that Laos could be united only under the neutralist Souvanna Phouma, whose government had been deposed by CIA-Pentagon forces under Eisenhower. JFK questioned Brown extensively about the possibility of a neutral government under Souvanna that Britain, France, and the Soviet Union could all support, if the United States were to change policy. Years later, Brown recalled his hour-long conversation with the president on a neutralist Laos as "a very, very moving experience."

3/9/1961 In a March 9 meeting at the White House, JFK peppered his National Security Council with questions that exposed contradictions in U.S. policy and pointed the way toward a neutralist Laos. His questioning uncovered the uncomfortable truth that the United States had sent in much more military equipment in the past three months to aid Phoumi Nosavan than the Soviets had in support of the Communist Pathet Lao forces. The president then pointed out that it was "a basic problem to us that all the countries who are supposedly our allies favor the same person (Souvanna) , as the Communists do. " JFK was about to join them. The next day, Kennedy's Soviet ambassador Llewellyn Thompson told Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow that the United States was now seeking a "neutralization of Laos accomplished by a commission of neutral neighbors. " Khrushchev was surprised at Kennedy's turnaround. He said the new American position differed agreeably from the old one.

3/23/1961 At a March 23 news conference on Laos, Kennedy made his policy change public by stating that the United States "strongly and unreservedly" supported "the goal of a neutral and independent Laos, tied to no outside power or group of powers, threatening no one, and free from any domination." He endorsed the British appeal for a cease-fire between General Phoumi's army and the neutralist-communist forces arrayed against them. He also joined the British in calling for an international conference on Laos. The Russians agreed. Kennedy's new direction enabled the Russians to come together with the British, the Americans, and eleven other countries in Geneva on May 11 in an effort to resolve the question of Laos. In the meantime, however, Kennedy was being led to the brink of war. The Communist forces continued to advance in Laos. They seemed to be on their way to total victory before the Geneva Conference even convened. The president was determined not to let them overrun the country. At the same time, as his special counsel Ted Sorensen pointed out, he was unwilling " to provide whatever military backing was necessary to enable the pro-Western forces [of General Phoumi] to prevail. This was in effect the policy he had inherited-and he had also inherited most of the military and intelligence advisers who had formed it." (Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy (New York: Konecky & Konecky, 1966) , p. 641) These men kept pressing him to turn back from the neutralist coalition he was pursuing, which they saw as a foolish concession to the Communists.

3/30/1961 In spite of the president's turn toward neutralism at his March 23 press conference, on March 30 General Lemnitzer told reporters that the neutralist leader Souvanna Phouma was not to be trusted. While Souvanna might not be a Communist, Lemnitzer said, "he couldn't be any worse if he were a communist." (Chalmers M. Roberts, First Rough Draft: A Journalist's Journal of Our Times (New York: Praeger, 1973), p. 194) Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs were resisting the president's new direction. They urged him instead to support Phoumi with U.S. combat troops to halt the Communist offensive before it was too late. Otherwise there would be nothing left to negotiate in Geneva, even in the direction of neutralism. As the crisis deepened in March and April, Kennedy agreed to preparations for a military buildup. However, he emphasized to everyone around him that he had not given a final go-ahead to intervene in Laos. (Sorensen, Kennedy, p. 643) Moreover, the Joint Chiefs kept revising upward the number of troops they wanted him to deploy there: asking initially for 40,000; raising the number to 60,000 by the end of March; hiking it to 140,000 by the end of Apri1. (Charles A. Stevenson, The End of Nowhere: American Policy toward Laos since 1954 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1972 ) , p.151) Kennedy began to balk at their scenarios. General Lemnitzer then cabled the president more cautiously from a trip to Laos, recommending a "more limited commitment" there. A suspicious JFK backed away from the entire idea of troops in Laos. As he told Schlesinger at the time, "If it hadn't been for Cuba, we might be about to intervene in Laos." Waving Lemnitzer's cables, he said, "I might have taken this advice seriously." (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965)

4/9/1961 British PM Macmillan wrote to Eisenhower: "President Kennedy is under considerable pressure about 'appeasement' in Laos...I should however be very sorry if our two countries became involved in an open-ended commitment on this dangerous and unprofitable terrain. So I would would not encourage those who think that a military solution in Laos is the only way of stopping the Communists..."

4/12/1961 Walt Rostow, in a memo to JFK, says that the time has come for "gearing up the whole Vietnam operation" with increased aid to Diem and more US Special Forces.

4/27/1961 A day of crisis meetings; JFK's advisers gave him conflicting advice, with the JCS advocating a massive intervention in Laos to block China. Burke argued for intervention regardless of the circumstances: "...if we do not fight in Laos, will we fight in Thailand where the situation will be the same sometime in the future...Will we fight in Vietnam? Where will we fight? Where do we hold? Where do we draw the line?" Many others were adamantly opposed to intervention; LBJ supported Burke. (The End of Nowhere p152) Rostow said it was the worst White House meeting of the entire Kennedy administration. (A Thousand Days 315) Kennedy had already decided privately not to intervene.

4/28/1961 At an April 28 meeting, Admiral Burke said to the president, "Each time you give ground [as he thought JFK was doing in Laos], it is harder to stand next time." Burke said the U.S. had to be prepared somewhere in Southeast Asia to "throw enough in to win-the works." Army general George H. Decker seconded Burke, saying, "If we go in, we should go in to win, and that means bombing Hanoi, China, and maybe even using nuclear weapons. " (Lawrence Freedman, Kennedy's Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 302.)

4/28/1961 The Joint Chiefs of Staff added an annex to the Vietnam Task Force plan to include a US troop commitment to South Vietnam. (JFK and Vietnam 18-19)

4/28/1961 JFK wrote a memo of his conversation with Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who told him it would be a "mistake" to fight in Southeast Asia: "He thinks our line should be Japan, Formosa and the Philippines..." A military authority who reinforced Kennedy's resistance to the Joint Chiefs was retired General Douglas MacArthur, who visited him in late April. MacArthur told the president, "Anyone wanting to commit American ground forces to the mainland of Asia should have his head examined." (Schlesinger, 1000 Days) Kennedy cited MacArthur's judgment to his own generals for the duration of his presidency. General Maxwell Taylor said MacArthur's statement made " a hell of an impression on the President . . . so that whenever he'd get this military advice from the Joint Chiefs or from me or anyone else, he'd say, 'Well, now, you gentlemen, you go back and convince General MacArthur, then I'll be convinced. "' (Schlesinger, RFK and his Times) MacArthur made another statement, about the political situation Kennedy had inherited in Indochina, that struck the president so much that he dictated it in an oral memorandum of their conversation: " He said that 'the chickens are coming home to roost' from Eisenhower's years and I live in the chicken coop. " (JFK, memorandum of conversation, April 28, 1961, JFK Papers; cited by Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, p. 759.)

4/29/1961 JCS cabled Adm. Harry Felt to be ready to send one brigade with air elements to northeastern Thailand and another to Da Nang as a threat to intervene in Laos.

4/29/1961 A National Security Council meeting of this day deals with Viet Nam. Prior to this session there is a “brainstorming” meeting which includes: McNamara, Rusk, RFK, Bowles, U. Alexis Johnson, and other State Dept. officials. There are repeated references to the use of nuclear weapons. The use of nuclear weapons is discussed without reservations. McNamara points out that if their decision is to intervene it has to be done right away. The situation is deteriorating so rapidly that each passing day means a higher price in American lives. Rusk also argues for a quick decision.

With his customary insolence toward the president, Air Force general Curtis LeMay told JFK before a room full of national security advisers that he did not know what U. S. policy was on Laos. He underlined his disdain by adding that he knew what the president had said, but "the military had been unable to back up the President's statements." At another meeting, General Lemnitzer provoked deeper questions in Kennedy about the Joint Chiefs by outlining a strategy of unlimited escalation in Southeast Asia, concluding, "If we are given the right to use nuclear weapons, we can guarantee victory." (Schlesinger, 1000 Days) The president looked at him, said nothing, and dismissed the meeting. Later he commented, "Since he couldn't think of any further escalation, he would have to promise us victory."  In light of the Bay of Pigs and the chiefs' push for war in Laos, Kennedy told columnist Arthur Krock he had simply "lost confidence" in the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  (Stevenson, End of Nowhere, p. 150)

5/8/1961 Task force headed by Roswell Gilpatric issued its report, calling for vastly increased US military personnel in Vietnam. JFK wrote a letter to Diem pledging his support to South Vietnam, and asked LBJ to deliver it in person. (Johnson, Vantage Point p53)

5/9/1961 LBJ leaves for his trip to Vietnam.

5/10/1961 On May 10, and again on May 18, the Joint Chiefs had recommended that combat troops be sent to Vietnam. (Pentagon Papers)

5/11/1961 JFK ordered 400 Green Berets and 100 military advisors to South Vietnam. The Green Berets (Special Forces) were trained in guerilla warfare at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Also ordered clandestine warfare to be waged against the North by South Vietnamese agents trained by the CIA and Green Berets; this includes infiltration of Southern forces into Laos to disrupt Communist bases and supply lines.

5/23/1961 LBJ reports to Kennedy on his Asia trip; urges that US must aid Vietnam and Thailand or "pull back our defenses to San Francisco and a 'Fortress America' concept." JFK tried to reassure Diem by sending Vice President Lyndon Johnson in May 1961 to visit him along with other anti-Communist Asian allies who were dismayed by Kennedy's turn toward neutralism. Johnson's written report back to the president was a rebuke of his policy. Johnson described what he thought was the disastrous impact of the decision to neutralize Laos:
"Country to country, the degree differs but Laos has created doubt and concern about intentions of the United States throughout Southeast Asia. No amount of success at Geneva can, of itself, erase this. The independent Asians do not wish to have their own status resolved in like manner in Geneva.
"Leaders such as Diem, Chiang [Kai-Shek of Taiwan], Sarit [of Thailand], and Ayub [Khan of Pakistan] more or less accept that we are making 'the best of a bad bargain' at Geneva. Their charity extends no farther . . .
"Our [Johnson's] mission arrested the decline of confidence in the United States. It did not-in my judgment-restore any confidence already lost. The leaders were as explicit, as courteous and courtly as men could be in making it clear that deeds must follow words-soon.
"We didn't buy time-we were given it.
"If these men I saw at your request were bankers, I would know-without bothering to ask-that there would be no further extensions on my note."
Johnson then summed up for Kennedy a belligerent Cold War challenge to his policy that came not only from the anti-Communist allies whom LBJ had just visited but also from the Pentagon and from the vice president himself:
"The fundamental decision required of the United States-and time is of the greatest importance-is whether we are to attempt to meet the challenge of Communist expansion now in Southeast Asia by a major effort in support of the forces of freedom in the area or throw in the towel. " (Pentagon Papers)

At the June 3-4, 1961, summit meeting in Vienna, John Kennedy succeeded in negotiating with Nikita Khrushchev for their mutual support of a neutral and independent Laos under a government to be chosen by the Laotians themselves .  (Stevenson, End of Nowhere, p . 1 54.) It was the only issue they could agree upon. Khrushchev's apparent indifference toward the deepening Cold War threat of nuclear war had shocked Kennedy. Kennedy had had to push Khrushchev at Vienna to get him to agree on Laos. At first Khrushchev taunted his American counterpart with Cold War history, saying Kennedy " knew very well that it had been the US government [under Eisenhower] which had overthrown Souvanna Phouma. " JFK conceded the point. He said, "Speaking frankly, US policy in that region has not always been wise." Nevertheless, he went on, the United States now wanted a Laos that would be as neutral and independent as Cambodia and Burma were. Khrushchev said that was his view as well. He then became as amused by the U.S. policy about-face on Laos as Kennedy's military and CIA advisers were upset by it. He said wryly to Kennedy, "You seem to have stated the Soviet policy and called it your own." Kennedy immediately ordered his representative at the Geneva Conference, Averell Harriman, to seize the time and resolve the Laos crisis peacefully. He phoned Harriman in Geneva and said bluntly, "Did you understand ? I want a negotiated settlement in Laos. I don't want to put troops in. " (Averell Harriman, interview by Charles A. Stevenson; cited in Stevenson, End of Nowhere, p. 154)

6/9/1961 Diem asks for US advisers to increase the ARVN by 100,000 men. Diem sent Kennedy a June 9 letter with a more modest request, for "selected elements of the American Armed Forces to establish training centers for the Vietnamese Armed Forces." As the Pentagon Papers point out in this connection, " the crucial issue, of course, was whether Americans would be sent to Vietnam in the form of organized combat units, capable of, if not explicitly intended for conducting combat operations. "  Kennedy would agree to send military support to Diem, such as U.S. advisers and helicopters. However, no matter what pressures were put upon him, he would always refuse to send "American units capable of independent combat against the guerrillas." The author of this section of the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, puzzled over why Kennedy took such a stand. Why wouldn't John F. Kennedy send combat units to Vietnam? The focus of Ellsberg's question in his Pentagon Papers analysis was the fall of 1961, when Kennedy had advisers on all sides urging him to send U.S. troops before it was too late to stop a Viet Cong victory. The pressure on the president began to build in late summer. 

8/1/1961 RFK memo on meeting with hawkish congressman; JFK and Douglas MacArthur were present. The General "said that we would be foolish to fight on the Asiatic continent and that the future of Southeast Asia should be determined at the diplomatic table." Alexis Johnson would later recall that while he himself disagreed with MacArthur's views, his thinking "tended to dominate very much the thinking of President Kennedy with respect to Southeast Asia. (RFK and His Times 759)
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 09:01:43 PM by TLR »


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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2013, 08:14:41 PM »
8/11/1961 NSAM 65: supplement to NSAM 52, dated 5/11/1961, to the Sec. of State. "SUBJECT: Joint program of action with the Government of Viet-Nam...the President on August 4 made the following decisions: 1.The President agrees with the three basic tenets on which the recommendations contained in the joint action program are based, namely: a.Security requirements must for the present be given first priority. b.Military operations will not achieve lasting results unless economic and social programs are continued and accelerated. c.It is in our joint interest to accelerate measures to achieve a self-sustaining economy and a free and peaceful society in Viet-Nam. 2.The United States will provide equipment and assistance in training for an increase in the armed forces of Viet-Nam from 170,000 to 200,000 men...the United States and Viet-Nam should satisfy themselves before the time when the level of 170,000 is reached on the following points: a.That there then exists a mutually agreed upon geographically phased strategic plan for bringing Viet Cong subversion in the Republic of Viet-Nam under control. b.That on the basis of such a plan there exists an understanding on the training and use of these 30,000 additional men. c.That the rate of increase...will be regulated to permit the most efficient absortion and utilization of additional personnel and materiel in the Vietnamese armed forces with due regard to Viet-Nam's resources...a decision regarding the further increase above 200,000 will be postponed until next year when the question can be reexamined on the basis of the situation at that time...the Ambassador should seek discreetly to impress upon President Diem that he should see the total US program for the greatest political effect in his achievement of maximum appreciation of his government by the people of Viet-Nam and the people of the world...McGeorge Bundy."

8/29/1961 John Kennedy contradicted his commitment to a peaceful settlement of the Laos crisis by his decision to deploy CIA and military advisers there and to arm covertly the members of the Hmong tribe (known by the Americans as the "Meos"). On August 29, 1961, following the recommendations of his CIA, military, and State Department advisers, Kennedy agreed to raise the total of U.S. advisers in Laos to five hundred and to go ahead with the equipping of two thousand more "Meos." That brought to eleven thousand the number of mountain men of Laos recruited into the CIA's covert army. From Kennedy's standpoint, he was supporting an indigenous group of people who were profoundly opposed to their land's occupation by the Pathet Lao army. He was also trying to hold on to enough ground, through some effective resistance to the Pathet Lao's advance, to leave something for Averell Harriman to negotiate with in Geneva toward a neutralist government. But he was working within Cold War assumptions and playing into the hands of his own worst enemy, the CIA. The Agency was eager to manipulate his policy to benefit their favorite Laotian strongman, General Phoumi Nosavan. Aware of this danger, Kennedy went ahead in strengthening the CIA- " Meo " army, so as to stem a Communist takeover in Laos, while at the same time trying by other means to rein in the CIA.

9/21/1961 US Army's 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces, is activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Kennedy authorizes the group to wear green berets, which became their symbol. One of Kennedy's worst decisions as president would be to develop the role of counterinsurgent warfare by enlarging the U.S. Army's Special Forces, then re-baptizing them as the Green Berets. Kennedy promoted the Green Berets as a response to communist guerrillas, failing to recognize that counterinsurgent warfare would turn into a form of terrorism. The idea that the United States could deploy Green Beret forces in client states "to win the hearts and minds of the people" was a contradiction that would become a negative part of Kennedy's legacy.

10/11/1961 At a NSC meeting, Kennedy is asked to accept "as our real and ultimate objective the defeat of the Vietcong." JCS estimated that 40,000 US troops could accomplish the job, and another 120,000 could deal with possible North Vietnamese intervention. JFK decides to send Max Taylor to Vietnam.

10/18/1961 Maxwell Taylor's visit to Saigon 10/18-24; Diem does not renew his request for US combat troops, but asks for military support.  Taylor wired Kennedy from Saigon that the United States should take quick advantage of a severe flood in South Vietnam by introducing six thousand to eight thousand U.S. troops under the guise of " flood relief, " including combat units that would then " give a much needed shot in the arm to national morale. " (Pentagon Papers) In a follow-up wire from the Philippines, Taylor acknowledged that those first eight thousand troops could well be just the beginning: " If the ultimate result sought is the closing of the frontiers and the clean-up of the insurgents within SVN, there is no limit to our possible commitment (unless we attack the source in Hanoi ) . "  On the other hand, regardless of the number of troops needed, Taylor thought "there can be no action so convincing of U.S. seriousness of purpose and hence so reassuring to the people and Government of SVN and to our other friends and allies in [Southeast Asia] as the introduction of U.S. forces into SVN. " Taylor's enthusiasm for troops was seconded in a cable by Ambassador Frederick Nolting, who cited " conversations over past ten days with Vietnamese in various walks of life " showing a " virtually unanimous desire for introduction of U.S. forces into Viet-Nam. " (Pentagon Papers)

10/19/1961 James Reston wrote in the NYT: "Reports...that the United States is about to plunge into the guerrilla warfare of Southeast Asia...should be taken with considerable skepticism...General Maxwell Taylor is not only a soldier but a philosopher...He is not likely to favor plunging blithely into a jungle war 7000 miles from home."

11/7/1961 When Undersecretary of State George Ball warned JFK that getting deeper into Vietnam "could lead in five years' time to an involvement of 300,000 men," Ball told JFK that committing US troops "would be a tragic error. Once that process is started, there would be no end to it." JFK replied, "George, you're just crazier than hell.  That just isn't going to happen." (Dynasty and Disaster 446-7; The Best and the Brightest)

Kennedy did agree in November 1961 to increase the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam. What he chose to send instead of combat troops were advisers and support units. According to the advice he was being given, Kennedy's military support program for South Vietnam would almost certainly fall far short of anything that could stop the Viet Congo This was what puzzled Daniel Ellsberg so deeply when he analyzed JFK's decision in the Pentagon Papers, as he has written more recently in his memoir, Secrets: " Kennedy had chosen to increase U.S. involvement and investment of prestige in Vietnam and to reaffirm our rhetorical commitment-not as much as his subordinates asked him to, but significantly while rejecting an element, ground forces, that nearly all his own officials described as essential to success. In fact, at the same time he had rejected another element that all his advisers, including [Secretary of State Dean] Rusk, had likewise described as essential: an explicit full commitment to defeating the Communists in South Vietnam. Why ?"

While Ellsberg was trying to figure out JFK's odd stand, he had the opportunity to raise the question in a conversation with Robert Kennedy. As a U.S. senator in 1967, Kennedy had invited Ellsberg, a Pentagon analyst, to talk with him in his office about a mutual concern, the escalating war in Vietnam. Ellsberg had boldly seized the chance to question RFK about JFK's decision making in 1961. Why, Ellsberg asked him, had President Kennedy rejected both ground troops and a formal commitment to victory in Vietnam, thereby " rejecting the urgent advice of every one of his top military and civilian officials " ? Robert Kennedy answered that his brother was absolutely determined never to send ground combat units to Vietnam, because if he did, the U.S. would be in the same spot as the French-whites against Asians, in a war against nationalism and self-determination. Ellsberg pressed the question: Was JFK willing to accept defeat rather than send troops ? RFK said that if the president reached the point where the only alternatives to defeat were sending ground troops or withdrawing, he intended to withdraw. "We would have handled it like Laos , " his brother said.

Ellsberg was even more intrigued. It was obvious to him that none of President Kennedy's senior advisers had any such conviction about Indochina. Ellsberg kept pushing for more of an explanation for Kennedy's stand. "What made him so smart ? " he asked John Kennedy's brother. Writing more than thirty years after this conversation, Ellsberg could still feel the shock he had experienced from RFK's response: " Whap ! His hand slapped down on the desk. I jumped in my chair. 'Because we were there!' He slammed the desktop again. His face contorted in anger and pain. 'We were there, in 1951. We saw what was happening to the French. We saw it. My brother was determined, determined never to let that happen to US. "'  Ellsberg wrote that he believed what Robert Kennedy said, " that his brother was strongly convinced that he should never send ground troops to Indochina and that he was prepared to accept a 'Laotian solution' if necessary to avoid that. " (Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (New York: Viking, 2002 ) , p. 1 9 3)

11/8/1961 McNamara sent a memo to JFK saying he was "inclined to recommend" committing the US to preventing a communist takeover of South Vietnam and using whatever military means necessary to achieve this. On November 8, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, his deputy Roswell Gilpatric, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff all recommended to Kennedy in a memorandum that "we do commit the U.S. to the clear objective of preventing the fall of South Vietnam to Communism and that we support this commitment by the necessary military actions, " including Taylor's proposed "U.S. force of the magnitude of an initial 8 ,000 men in a flood relief context" and expanding to as many as six divisions of ground forces, " or about 205,000 men . " (Pentagon Papers) Kennedy rejected the virtually unanimous recommendation of his advisers in the fall of 1961 to send combat troops to Vietnam. Taylor reflected later on the uniqueness of JFK's position: "I don't recall anyone who was strongly against [sending ground troops] , except one man and that was the President. The President just didn't want to be convinced that this was the right thing to do . . . It was really the President's personal conviction that U.S. ground troops shouldn't go in. " (Maxwell Taylor, in recorded interview by L . J. Hackman, November 13 1969, 47; cited by Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy, p. 761)

11/10/1961 In Khrushchev's November 10, 1961, letter to Kennedy, he dismissed the infiltration of North Vietnamese troops through Laos and emphasized the weakest link in U.S. policy in Southeast Asia, namely Ngo Dinh Diem: " I think that looking at facts soberly you cannot but agree that the present struggle of the population of South Vietnam against Ngo Dinh Diem cannot be explained by some kind of interference or incitement from outside. The events that are taking place there are of internal nature and are connected with the general indignation of the population at the bankrupt policy of Ngo Dinh Diem and those who surround him. This and only this is the core of the matter. "
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 09:03:04 PM by TLR »


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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2013, 08:16:11 PM »
11/13/1961 Arthur Schlesinger wrote in his journal that President Kennedy told him, "The troops will march in [to Vietnam]; the crowds will cheer; and in four days everyone will have forgotten. Then we will be told we have to send in more troops."

11/15/1961 In an NSC meeting, JFK expressed doubts about becoming deeply involved in Vietnam. (In Retrospect p40)

11/16/1961 JFK wrote to Khrushchev about Laos and Vietnam; this letter was not declassified until 1984. He disputed Khrushchev's stand that there was no attempt by the Hanoi regime to take over South Vietnam. Kennedy pointed out that from 1954 to 1959 "the situation in Vietnam was relatively tranquil. The country was effecting a limited recovery from the ravages of the civil war from which it had just emerged. The Government enjoyed the support of the people and the prospects for the future appeared reasonably bright. However, in 1959, the DRV, having failed in the elections which had been held in Vietnam and in the attempt to arouse the people against their legitimate government, turned to a calculated plan of open infiltration, subversion and aggression....Our support for the government of [Diem] we regard as a serious obligation..." Kennedy shrewdly bypassed Khrushchev's critique of Diem to reemphasize the " external interference " of North Vietnam: "I do not wish to argue with you concerning the government structure and policies of President Ngo Dinh Diem, but I would like to cite for your consideration the evidence of external interference or incitement which you dismiss in a phrase. " After drawing on a South Vietnamese government letter to the ICC, Kennedy concluded that " Southern Vietnam is now undergoing a determined attempt from without to overthrow the existing government using for this purpose infiltration, supply of arms, propaganda, terrorization, and all the customary instrumentalities of communist activities in such circumstances, all mounted and developed from North Vietnam. "

11/22/1961 NSAM 111 "TO: The Secretary of State. SUBJECT: First Phase of Viet-Nam Program. 1.The US Government is prepared to join the Viet-Nam Government in a sharply increased joint effort to avoid a further deterioration in the situation in South Viet-Nam....the US would immediately undertake the following actions...Provide increased air lift to the GVN forces, manned to the extent necessary by United States uniformed personnel and under United States operational control. Provide such additional equipment and United States military personnel as may be necessary for air reconnaissance, photography, instruction in and execution of air-ground support techniques, and for special intelligence. Provide the GVN with small craft, including such United States uniformed advisers and operating personnel as may be necessary for operations in effecting surveillance and control over coastal waters and inland waterways. Provide expedited training and equipping of the civil guard and the self-defense corps with the objective of relieving the regular Army of static missions and freeing it for mobile offensive operations. Provide such personnel and equipment as may be necessary to improve the military-political intelligence system beginning at the provincial level and extending upward through the Government and the armed forces to the Central Intelligence Organization. Provide such new terms of reference, reorganization and additional personnel for United States military forces as are required for increased United States military assistance...Provide...increased economic aid...Provide individual administrators and advisers for the Governmental machinery of South Viet-Nam...Provide personnel for a joint survey with the GVN of conditions in each of the provinces to assess the social, political, intelligence and military factors bearing on the prosecution of the counter-insurgency program...the GVN would initiate the following actions: Prompt and appropriate legislative and administrative action to put the nation on a wartime footing to mobilize its entire resources. (This would include a decentralization and broadening of the government so as to realize the full potential of all non-Communist elements in the country willing to contribute to the common struggle.)...Overhaul of the military establishment and command structure so as to create an effective military organization for the prosecution of the war and assure a mobile offensive capability for the army. McGeorge Bundy."

11/28/1961 McNamara told Adm. Harry Felt and Gen. Lionel McGarr (senior US military man in Saigon) that "we must adjust ourselves to a perennially unclear political framework and to...limits on military action." The next month, McNamara told the two men in Hawaii that US combat troops would not be sent to South Vietnam. (In Retrospect p40)

11/30/1961 NSAM 115 "TO: The secretary of state; the secretary of defense. SUBJECT: Defoliant Operations in Vietnam. The President has approved the recommendation of the Secretary of State and the Deputy Secretary of Defense to participate in a selective and carefully controlled joint program of defoliant operations in Viet Nam starting with the clearance of key routes and proceeding thereafter to food denial only if the most careful basis of resettlement and alternative food supply has been created. Operations in Zone D and the border areas shall not be undertaken until there are realistic possibilities of immediate military exploitation....McGeorge Bundy."

12/20/1961 NY Times reported that about 2000 uniformed US advisers were "operating in battle areas with South Vietnamese forces" and had the authority to fire back if fired upon.
Laos: In early 1962 General Phoumi built up the garrison of Nam Tha, only fifteen miles from the Chinese border. Phoumi used his reinforced base to launch provocative probes into nearby Pathet Lao territory. For a time the Pathet Lao ignored Phoumi, aware that he was trying to create an international incident. Eventually they did engage in a series of fire fights with Phoumi forces, but refrained from attacking Nam Tha. However, Phoumi's troops abandoned Nam Tha anyhow, claiming they were under attack, and fled across the Mekong River into Thailand. Then they waited for the United States to intervene in the conflict they had choreographed. As the Times of London reported, " CIA agents had deliberately opposed the official American objective of trying to establish a neutral government, had encouraged Phoumi in his reinforcement of Nam Tha, and had negatived the heavy financial pressure brought by the Kennedy administration upon Phoumi by subventions from its own budget. " Emboldened by his knowledge of his CIA backing, Phoumi was brazen in his defiance of President Kennedy's policy. The Times correspondent stated: "The General apparently was quite outspoken, and made it known that he could disregard the American embassy and the military advisory group because he was in communication with other American agencies. " The CIA's Phoumi ploy failed, however, to create a crisis that would push Kennedy to intervene and kill the developing coalition in Laos. Instead the president did nothing more than make a show of force, first to the Communists by deploying troops to neighboring Thailand, and second to his advisers by having contingency plans drawn up for a Laotian intervention that would never happen. But JFK also authorized Averell Harriman to transfer Jack Hazey, the CIA officer closest to Phoumi. Hazey had been the Agency's counterpart in Laos of David Atlee Phillips in the Caribbean, who would deploy anti-Castro Cubans in raids designed to draw JFK into a war with Cuba. In neither case did the president bite.
Walt Haney, "The Pentagon Papers and the United States Involvement in Laos , " in Pentagon Papers, vol. 5 , p. 264. Hugh Toye summarizing the Times' articles of May 24 and 31 , 1962, in his Laos: Buffer State or Battleground ( London: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 184 . The Times (May 31, 1962), cited by Toye, Laos, pp. 184-85 . Haney, "Pentagon Papers , " p. 264. Stevenson, End of Nowhere, p. 170 .

1/5/1962 NBC Vietnam correspondent James Robinson told his colleagues on the program Projections '62: "American troops in battle uniform, fully armed, are being killed [by] and killing Communist-led rebels in South Vietnam. American officers are in full command authority of important military operations there. And our active military participation in this war is on the increase...We are involved in a shooting war in Southeast Asia."

1/13/1962 The Joint Chiefs gave McNamara a memo to pass on to the President, arguing that US should send combat troops to South Vietnam. He forwarded the memo to JFK on 1/27, adding: "I am not prepared to endorse the views of the Chiefs until we have had more experience with our present program in South Vietnam." (In Retrospect p41)

1/15/1962 Tom Wicker recalled: "After long and solemn deliberations around [Scotty] Reston's desk on January 15, 1962, I was entrusted with a question for President Kennedy that perhaps ten Times reporters had honed to what we thought was a fine point. Kennedy could not entirely evade it, we were sure. So as soon as he recognized me later that day, I arose...and demanded in my sternest voice: 'Mr. President, are American troops now in combat in Vietnam?' Kennedy looked at me - six feet away and slightly beneath his elevated lectern - as if he thought I might be crazy. 'No,' he said crisply - not another word - and pointed at someone else for the next question." (On Press p92)

2/8/1962 US Military Assistance Command (MACV) is set up in South Vietnam, headed by Paul Harkins; about 4000 US military men are already serving secretly in Vietnam, though publicly the Pentagon implied that the 685-man Geneva agreement ceiling was still in effect.

2/14/1962 JFK tells a news conference that the US has enlarged its training program and logistics support for the South Vietnamese. US advisers will fire back if fired upon, "but we have not sent combat troops in [the] generally understood sense of the word."  The GOP National Committee accused Kennedy of not being honest with the American people about US "advisers" in Vietnam. (New York Times 2/14/1962) JFK shot back that "We have not sent combat troops there - in the generally understood sense of the word. We have increased our training mission and our logistics support..." and cited "our security needs in the area." James Reston responded the same day, "The United States is now involved in an undeclared war in South Vietnam. This is well known to the Russians, the Chinese Communists and everyone else concerned except the American people." (March of Folly p299)

2/18/1962 RFK, briefly stopping over in Saigon on his way to Thailand, told the press, "We are going to win in Vietnam. We will remain here until we do win." (NYT 2/19)

3/24/1962 AP reported, in a story by Malcolm Browne, that US officials in Vietnam were trying to deceive the press about the supposedly non-combat role of US servicemen in that country.

4/4/1962 On April 4, 1962, John Kenneth Galbraith, the ambassador to India, raised a ruckus among JFK's advisers by proposing in a memorandum to the president that the United States explore with North Vietnam a disengagement and mutual withdrawal from the growing war in South Vietnam. Galbraith suggested that either Soviet or Indian diplomats " should be asked to ascertain whether Hanoi can or will call off the Viet Cong activity in return for phased American withdrawal, liberalization in the trade relations between the two parts of the country and general and non-specific agreement to talk about reunification after some period of tranquility. " If the United States instead increased its military support of Diem, Galbraith wrote Kennedy, " there is consequent danger we shall replace the French as the colonial force in the area and bleed as the French did. " Galbraith's warning echoed what John Kennedy remembered hearing as a congressman from his friend Edmund Gullion in Saigon in 1951. Predictably, the Joint Chiefs were furious at Galbraith's proposal. To McNamara they argued that "any reversal of U.S. policy could have disastrous effects, not only on our relationship with South Vietnam, but with the rest of our Asian and other allies as well. " (Cited by John M. Newman, JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power (New York: Warner Books, 1992 ), p. 236) A Defense Department memorandum to the president dismissed Galbraith saying, " His proposal contains the essential elements sought by the Communists for their takeover . . . " But the State Department also opposed Galbraith. Even Averell Harriman, JFK's advocate for a neutral Laos, was against a neutral solution in Vietnam, as he told the president.

4/6/1962 JFK, Harriman and Forrestal discuss the Galbraith memo; JFK tells them to "be prepared to seize upon any favorable moment to reduce our commitment" in Vietnam. Kennedy considered Galbraith's proposal feasible. He tried unsuccessfully to explore it. In a conversation with Harriman in the Oval Office on April 6, he asked his newly appointed Assistant Secretary of State to follow up Galbraith's memorandum. He told Harriman to send Galbraith instructions to pursue an Indian diplomatic approach to the North Vietnamese about exploring a mutual disengagement with the United States. Harriman resisted, saying they should wait a few days until they received an International Control Commission report on Vietnam. Kennedy agreed but insisted, according to a record of their conversation, " that instructions should nevertheless be sent to Galbraith, and that he would like to see such instructions. " Harriman said he would send the instructions the following week. (The official State Department volume that published the memorandum recording the Kennedy-Harriman conversation on April 6, 1962, states in a footnote: " The instructions referred to here [as ordered by the President] have not been found. " FR US, 1961-1963, vol. II, p. 309)

In fact Averell Harriman sabotaged Kennedy's proposal for a mutual deescalation with North Vietnam. In response to the president's order to wire such instructions to Galbraith, Harriman " struck the language on deescalation from the message with a heavy pencil line , " as scholar Gareth Porter discovered by examining Harriman's papers. Harriman dictated instructions to his colleague Edward Rice for a telegram to Galbraith that instead " changed the mutual de-escalation approach into a threat of U.S. escalation of the war if the North Vietnamese refused to accept U.S. terms, " thereby subverting Kennedy's purpose. When Rice tried to re-introduce Kennedy's peaceful initiative into the telegram, Harriman intervened. He again crossed out the de-escalation proposal, then " simply killed the telegram altogether. " (Gareth Porter, Perils of Dominance ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), p. 158.)
As a result of Harriman's obstruction, Galbraith never did receive JFK's mutual de-escalation proposal to North Vietnam. (John Kenneth Galbraith confirmed to a Boston Globe reporter in 2005 that he never received President Kennedy's instructions for the mutual de-escalation proposal for North Vietnam. Bryan Bender, " Papers Reveal JFK Efforts on Vietnam, " Boston Globe (June 6, 2005). The president continued to remind his aides of the need to move in the direction Galbraith recommended . He told Harriman and the State Department's Michael Forrestal that, in Forrestal's words, " He wished us to be prepared to seize upon any favorable moment to reduce our involvement [in Vietnam] , recognizing that the moment might yet be some time away. "
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 09:05:09 PM by TLR »


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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2013, 08:17:15 PM »
5/8/1962 In the spring of 1962, as Kennedy moved steadily toward a Laotian settlement, he instructed Robert McNamara to initiate a plan to withdraw the U.S. military from Vietnam. The first step was taken by McNamara at a Secretary of Defense ( SECDEF) conference on the Vietnam War held in Saigon on May 8, 1962. When the Saigon conference was almost over, McNamara said there would be a special briefing for a few of his top decision makers. Those he asked to remain in the room included Joint Chiefs chairman General Lyman Lemnitzer, Admiral Harry Felt, General Paul Harkins, Ambassador Frederick Nolting, and the Defense Intelligence Agency's top expert on Vietnam, civilian analyst George Allen. It was George Allen who would describe this closed-door meeting in an interview and an unpublished manuscript decades later. (George Allen, interview by John M. Newman, August 10, 1987; cited by Newman, JFK and Vietnam, pp. 254, 264-66 . Also George Allen, The Indochina Wars: 1950-1975 (unpublished manuscript)) When the door had shut, McNamara began examining the men on how each thought the United States should respond to an imminent Communist victory in Laos. The question, not on the conference agenda, took them by surprise. Admiral Felt's response was typical of the group's big-bang attitude that John Kennedy knew all too well. Felt said they could " launch air strikes immediately, and in forty-eight hours, for example, we could wipe the town of Tchepone right off the face of the map. " (Newman, JFK and Vietnam, p . 265) McNamara pointed out that such an assault could easily provoke nearby North Vietnamese and Chinese forces to counterattack. What then? Should U.S. forces strike the North Vietnamese and Chinese bases, too? And what next? The men remained silent. By his quick examination the Secretary of Defense had demonstrated the president's position that the United States had nowhere to go militarily in Laos. The choice they had to make was between the negotiated compromise JFK was seeking (which the military regarded as a sellout to the Communists) and an absurd commitment to wage an ever-escalating war in Laos, North Vietnam, and China. With the necessity of negotiating a neutral Laos as his preamble, McNamara introduced the military leaders to an even more unthinkable policy - withdrawal from Vietnam. He said, " It is not the job of the U.S. to assume responsibility for the war but to develop the South Vietnamese capability to do so. " (Allen interview cited by Newman, JFK and Vietnam, p. 254) He asked the men in the room when they thought the point would be reached when the South Vietnamese army could take over completely. George Allen has described the response to this question by the general in charge of U.S. forces in Vietnam. He said, " Harkins' chin nearly hit the table. " General Harkins told McNamara they " had scarcely thought about that. " They had been much too busy, he said, with plans to expand their military structure in South Vietnam " to think about how it might all be dismantled."  But that is what McNamara told them they now had to do. They not only had to think about " how it might all be dismantled, " but to prepare a concrete plan to do so. He ordered Harkins, as the commander of MACV [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam], "to devise a plan for turning full responsibility over to South Vietnam and reducing the size of our military command, and to submit this plan at the next conference. " (Allen, Indochina Wars, p. 192; cited by Newman, JFK and Vietnam, p. 254.) JFK knew the depth of their hostility. The previous fall he had told Galbraith, in reference to the Bay of Pigs and a neutral Laos, " You have to realize that I can only afford so many defeats in one year. " (John Kenneth Galbraith, A Life in Our Times ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981) By McNamara's order to Harkins, Kennedy was telegraphing a punch to the stomach of his military-withdrawal from Vietnam. He was thereby provoking them to launch a preemptive punch at himself.

5/12/1962 NY Times reported that McNamara had said that US aid to South Vietnam had reached a peak and would start to level off; he also said he doubted US personnel in that country would be increased. "After 48 hours in South Vietnam Mr. McNamara was tremendously encouraged by developments...'I found nothing but progress and hope for the future,' he said."

6/1962 Pentagon spokesman admitted that "several thousand" US military men were in Vietnam on "temporary duty." US forces in Vietnam numbered 8000.

7/23/1962 Second Geneva Conference adopts neutrality policy on Laos which theoretically would stop the North Vietnamese from using that country to infiltrate South Vietnam. 14 nations, including the US, USSR, China and North & South Vietnam, signed the pact.

Honolulu conference: McNamara sounded more optimistic in a report about the military situation in Vietnam. That day he also asked Harkins how long he thought it would take to neutralize the Vietcong. McNamara decided that three years, including a phased withdrawal of US advisers, would do the job. (In Retrospect p48-49) On July 23, 1962, the day on which the United States joined thirteen other nations at Geneva in signing the "Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos," Robert McNamara convened another Secretary of Defense Conference on the Vietnam War, this one at Camp Smith, Hawaii. McNamara's May 8 order to General Harkins to submit a plan for withdrawal from Vietnam had been ignored. On July 23, the Defense Secretary repeated the order, directing Harkins once again to lay out a long-range program for the completion of training for the South Vietnamese army, so that U.S. advisers could be withdrawn. McNamara specified what he called a "conservative" three year time line for the end of U.S. military assistance. He also indicated an early awareness in John Kennedy of what an antiwar movement would demand if the United States did not withdraw. McNamara said, "We must line up our long range program [for withdrawal] as it may become difficult to retain public support for our operations in Vietnam. The political pressure will build up as U.S. losses continue to occur. In other words, we must assume the worst and make our plans accordingly. "Therefore," he concluded, "planning must be undertaken now and a program devised to phase out U.S. military involvement."

7/26/1962 The Pentagon Papers note that on July 26, 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff formally directed the commander in chief of the Pacific to develop such a Comprehensive Plan for South Vietnam (CPSVN). The plan's stated objective reads like an elephant trying to tiptoe through a mine field so as to avoid an explosion into the word "withdrawal." The Joint Chiefs said the plan's objective was to " develop a capability within military and paramilitary forces of the GVN [Government of Vietnam] by the end of Calendar Year 65 that will help the GVN to achieve the strength necessary to exercise permanent and continued sovereignty over that part of Vietnam which lies below the demarcation line [of the 1954 Geneva Agreement, which established no separate "South Vietnam"] without the need for continued U.S. special military assistance." Although the Joint Chiefs refused to identify Kennedy's plan for withdrawal as what it was, the plan had at least begun to move through military channels-like molasses.

8/22/1962 Administration officials tell the NY Times that there are 20,000 communist guerillas in South Vietnam and a stalemate may have developed. Newsweek's Francois Sully reported that the war was "a losing proposition" and Diem's government was inadequate. Diem exploded over the article and forced Sully to leave the country 9/1962. He had also described Madame Nhu as a "detested" figure in Vietnam. 

10/2/1962 Kennedy was making piecemeal concessions to the military on Vietnam. That fall marked one of the worst. On October 2, 1962, he authorized a "limited crop destruction operation" in Phu Yen Province by South Vietnamese helicopters spraying U.S.-furnished herbicides. Dean Rusk had argued against the military's push for crop destruction, saying that even though "the most effective way to hurt the Viet Cong is to deprive them of food, " nevertheless those doing it "will gain the enmity of people whose crops are destroyed and whose wives and children will either have to stay in place and suffer hunger or become homeless refugees living on the uncertain bounty of a not-too-efficient government." While sensitive to Rusk's argument, Kennedy had yielded to the pressures of McNamara, Taylor, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and approved a criminal action. By going along with the military on crop destruction, Kennedy was violating both his conscience and international law. In August he had already approved a separate herbicide operation whose purpose of defoliation, as recommended by McNamara, was to "deny concealed forward areas, attack positions, and ambush sites to the Viet Cong." However, in his August approval, Kennedy had asked "that every effort be made to avoid accidental destruction of the food crops in the areas to be sprayed." In October, the actual purpose of the program he approved was crop destruction. Why did he do it? According to Michael Forrestal, "I believe his main train of thinking was that you cannot say no to your military advisors all the time."

10/8/1962 JFK's order to McNamara, and from McNamara to the generals, to open up the opposite option of withdrawal from Vietnam, was going nowhere. General Harkins continued to drag his heels on a withdrawal plan. A report on McNamara's next SECDEF conference, held October 8, 1962, in Honolulu, states: "General Harkins did not have time to present his plan for phasing out US personnel in Viet-Nam within 3 years." At this meeting McNamara did not push Harkins, probably because Kennedy did not push McNamara. At the time JFK was preoccupied with the Cuban missile situation.

11/1962 Gen. Wheeler said publicly, "It is fashionable in some quarters to say that the problems in Southeast Asia are primarily political and economic rather than military. I do not agree. The essence of the problem is military." (To Move a Nation)

12/18/1962 Sen. Mike Mansfield was in a unique position to advise Kennedy on Vietnam. When Lyndon Johnson became Vice President, Mansfield succeeded him as Senate Majority Leader, thereby becoming one of the most influential people in Washington. Like John Kennedy, Mansfield had for years taken a special interest in Southeast Asia. He had visited Vietnam three times in the 1950s. He was known as the Senate's authority on Indochina. Moreover, he had been singularly responsible for convincing the Eisenhower administration to support the rise to power of Ngo Dinh Diem. Mansfield had endorsed Diem as a Vietnamese nationalist independent of both the French and the Viet Minh. The Senator's support proved so critical to the survival of Diem's government in the late fifties that Mansfield was known popularly as "Diem's godfather." (Gregory Allen Olson, Mansfield and Vietnam: A Study in Rhetorical Adaptation (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1995), p. 2. Nevertheless, by the fall of 1962, Mansfield had become opposed to the increasing U.S. commitment to a war in support of that same government. His reversal moved JFK to ask him to investigate the situation firsthand. Mansfield's December 18, 1962, report was uncomfortable reading for the president. Mansfield wrote that Vietnam, outside its cities, was "run at least at night largely by the Vietcong. The government in Saigon is still seeking acceptance by the ordinary people in large areas of the countryside. Out of fear or indifference or hostility the peasants still withhold acquiescence, let alone approval of that government. In short, it would be well to face the fact that we are once again at the beginning of the beginning. " While continuing to praise Ngo Dinh Diem, Mansfield questioned the capacity of the Saigon government-under the increasing dominance of Diem's manipulative brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu-to gain any popular support.
Mansfield cautioned Kennedy against trying to win a war in support of an unpopular government by "a truly massive commitment of American military personnel and other resources-in short going to war fully ourselves against the guerrillas-and the establishment of some form of neocolonial rule in South Vietnam . " To continue the president's policy, Mansfield warned, may " draw us inexorably into some variation of the unenviable position in Vietnam which was formerly occupied by the French. " Kennedy was stunned by his friend's critique. He was again confronted by his own first understanding of Vietnam, shared first by Edmund Gullion, repeated by John Kenneth Galbraith, and now punched back into his consciousness by Mike Mansfield. The Senate Majority Leader's comparison between the French rule and JFK's policy stung the president. But the more Kennedy thought about Mansfield's challenging words, the more they struck him as the truth-a truth he didn't want to accept but had to. He summed up his reaction to the Mansfield report by a razor-sharp comment on himself, made to aide Kenny O'Donnell: "I got angry with Mike for disagreeing with our policy so completely, and I got angry with myself because I found myself agreeing with him. " (O'Donnell and Powers, "Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye, " p. 15)
Isaiah Berlin, the British philosopher, once observed of Kennedy: "I've never known a man who listened to every single word that one uttered more attentively. And he replied always very relevantly. He didn't obviously have ideas in his own mind which he wanted to expound, or for which he simply used one's own talk as an occasion, as a sort of launching pad. He really listened to what one said and answered that. "(Isaiah Berlin oral history, John F. Kennedy Library. Cited by David Kaiser, American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 41)
Mike Mansfield said of Kennedy's response to his critique: "President Kennedy didn't waste words. He was pretty sparse with his language. But it was not unusual for him to shift position. There is no doubt that he had shifted definitely and unequivocally on Vietnam but he never had the chance to put the plan into effect." (Cited by Roberts, First Rough Draft, p . 221.)

Jan 2-3 1963: Battle of Ap Bac (a village in the Mekong Delta) saw 2000 ARVN troops, well-equipped with US arms, pinned down by 200 Viet Cong. Although debatably a draw in a relatively minor battle between Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) regulars and Viet Cong main force units, it was the first indication that the South Vietnamese army might be unable to defeat the Viet Cong in spite of massive U.S. military aide and advice. It was also the public debut of John Paul Vann, the relatively unknown adviser who criticized the ARVN's performance in the battle. The ARVN shelled their own men and almost killed American Brig. Gen. Robert H. York. The Viet Cong shot down five US helicopters, killing three Americans. US reporters wrote home, quoting Lt. Vann about how well the VC had fought and how cowardly the ARVN forces were.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 09:06:30 PM by TLR »


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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2013, 08:18:37 PM »
1/25/1963 JFK phoned Roger Hilsman, the head of State Department intelligence, at his home to complain about a front-page box in the New York Times on a U.S. general visiting Vietnam. In what Hilsman remembered as "decidedly purple language, " (Roger Hilsman, letter to the New York Times, January 20, 1 992) Kennedy took him to task. He ordered Hilsman to stop military visits that seemed to increase the U.S. commitment in Vietnam. Kennedy said, "That is exactly what I don't want to do. Remember Laos," he emphasized. "The United States must keep a low profile in Vietnam so we can negotiate its neutralization like we did in Laos . " (FR US, 1961 - 1963 , Volume III: Vietnam, January-August 1963 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991) , p.63. Hilsman letter to the New York Times.) After listening to the angry president, Hilsman pointed out that he had no authority as a State Department officer to deny a Pentagon general permission to visit Vietnam. "Oh," said Kennedy and slammed down the phone. That afternoon the president issued National Security Action Memorandum Number 217, forbidding " high ranking military and civilian personnel " from going to South Vietnam without being cleared by the State Department office where Hilsman worked. This action by JFK, reining in the military's travel to Vietnam, for the sake of a neutralization policy, did not please the Pentagon.

2/24/1963 A presidential report on US aid to Indochina is submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "there is no interest of the United States in Vietnam which would justify, in present circumstances, the conversion of the war...primarily into an American war to be fought primarily with American lives."

2/24/1963 Jacques Vallee diary entry: at the National Bureau of Standards in Colorado, he saw a French scientist warning his American colleaques against deeper involvement in Vietnam: “The Vietnamese will push you out, he said, just like they threw us into the sea. They responded angrily, suspiciously, nearly accusing him of being in league with international communism. He tried to explain: ‘Don’t give me that garbage, I fought in the Mekong Delta long before you did, I was a French officer…You don’t understand the situation. You can’t even imagine the conditions there.’ They wouldn’t listen to him. America is so much more powerful, they said with quiet arrogance, ‘you can’t compare what happened to the French with what would happen if we went in there.’” (Forbidden Science p73)

3/5/1963 Gen. Paul D. Harkins, commander of US forces in South Vietnam, declared: "Victory is in sight." (The Experts, Pettit)

3/5/1963 Ngo Dinh Nhu told U.S. embassy official John Mecklin in Saigon on March 5, 1963, that the Mansfield report was " treachery. " Nhu added that " it changes everything. " When Mecklin objected that the report was not US government policy, Nhu, he thought, doubted the explanation "on the assumption that [the report] could not have been released without the President's approval. " President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother-adviser, Ngo Dinh Nhu, were both deeply aware that Mike Mansfield had for years been Diem's greatest supporter in the U.S. Senate. For Mansfield, now as Senate Majority Leader, to give such a stinging report to his close friend, President John F. Kennedy, was for the Ngo brothers more than a hint of a change in U.S. policy. They surmised correctly that the president was deciding to withdraw from Vietnam. Diem and Nhu therefore began to make their own adjustments to a U.S. withdrawal. (April 3, 1963, Memorandum by Assistant Secretary of State-designate Roger Hilsman to Frederick G. Dutton, Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Affairs. FR US, 1961-1963, vol. III, p .124)

3/6/1963 JFK told the press that the fall of Southeast Asia would affect "the security of India" and "begin to run perhaps all the way toward the Middle East." He also expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of Soviet troop withdrawal from Cuba. Even as Kennedy turned toward a withdrawal from Vietnam, he continued to say publicly that he was opposed to just such a change in policy. At his March 6, 1963, press conference, a reporter asked him to comment on Mansfield's recommendation for a reduction in aid to the Far East. The president responded: "I don't see how we are going to be able, unless we are going to pull out of Southeast Asia and turn it over to the Communists, how we are going to be able to reduce very much our economic programs and military programs in South Viet-Nam, in Cambodia, in Thailand..." As Mansfield knew, Kennedy was in fact changing his mind in favor of a complete military withdrawal from Vietnam. However, JFK thought such a policy would never be carried out by any of his possible opponents in the 1964 election, and that its announcement now would block his own reelection. Neither of the two most likely Republican presidential candidates, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller or Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, had any tolerance whatsoever for a possible withdrawal from Vietnam. In the context of 1 963 presidential Cold War politics, a Vietnam withdrawal was the unthinkable. President John F. Kennedy was not only thinking the unthinkable. He was on the verge of doing it. But he wanted to be able to do it-by being reelected president. So he lied to the public about what he was thinking. Kennedy made all this explicit in a conversation with Mike Mansfield. It happened in the spring of 1963 after Mansfield again criticized the president on Vietnam, this time at a White House breakfast attended by the leading members of Congress. Kennedy was annoyed by the criticism before colleagues, but invited Mansfield into his office to talk about Vietnam. Kenny O'Donnell, who sat in on part of their meeting, has described it: "The President told Mansfield that he had been having serious second thoughts about Mansfield's argument and that he now agreed with the Senator's thinking on the need for a complete military withdrawal from Vietnam. '' 'But I can't do it until 1965-after I'm reelected,' Kennedy told Mansfield. "President Kennedy explained, and Mansfield agreed with him, that if he announced a withdrawal of American military personnel from Vietnam before the 1964 election, there would be a wild conservative outcry against returning him to the Presidency for a second term. "After Mansfield left the office, the President said to me, 'In 1965, I'll become one of the most unpopular Presidents in history. I'll be damned everywhere as a Communist appeaser. But I don't care. If I tried to pull out completely now from Vietnam, we would have another Joe McCarthy red scare on our hands, but I can do it after I'm reelected. So we had better make damned sure that I am reelected. "' (O'Donnell and Powers, "Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye, " p. 16 .)

4/3/1963 The Diem government in South Vietnam was alarmed by the Mansfield report, as the U.S. government knew. Diem's brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, whom Mansfield had singled out for criticism, understood precisely what the report meant. As a State Department memorandum noted, " The reaction [to the Mansfield report] within the GVN [Government of Vietnam] , particularly at the higher levels, has been sharp. We are informed by Saigon that the GVN, and in particular Counselor Ngo Dinh Nhu, sees the report as a possible prelude to American withdrawal. " (April 3, 1963, Memorandum by Assistant Secretary of State-designate Roger Hilsman to Frederick G. Dutton, Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Affairs. FR US, 1961-1963, vol. III, p. 124)

4/4/1963 On April 4, 1963, President Diem told U.S. ambassador Frederick Nolting that the US  government had too many Americans stationed in South Vietnam. Nolting reported to the State Department in a telegram the next day that Diem had become convinced that Americans, by their very number and zeal, were advising his government in too much detail on too many matters. The Vietnamese people were thereby being given the impression that South Vietnam was "a U.S. protectorate. " The remedy, Diem said, was to gradually cut back the number of u.s. advisers, thus restoring his government's control over the situation. To Nolting's dismay, Diem also said that he would no longer allow the United States to control any of the counterinsurgency funds that came from the South Vietnamese government. (Also Francis X . Winters, The Year of the Hare: America in Vietnam, January 25, 1 963 -February 1 5, 1964 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999), p. 26) Nolting said in his State Department telegram that he was " gravely concerned and perplexed" by Diem's abrupt declaration of independence from the United States. The South Vietnamese president even seemed to have a sense of peace about taking a stand that could prove threatening to himself. Diem "gave the impression," Nolting wired, " of one who would rather be right, according to his lights, than President."

4/12/1963 Diem's brother, Nhu, sounded the theme of independence when he met on April 12 with CIA station chief John Richardson. Nhu said the Americans should recall that Diem " had spent a great part of his life in reaction against and resistance to French domination. " Nhu was reminding the U.S. government of that trait in his brother's character and beliefs that had so impressed Senators John Kennedy and Mike Mansfield a decade earlier Diem's stubborn nationalism, which had once kept him independent of both the French and the Viet Minh. It was therefore not surprising, Nhu pointed out, that Diem was now deciding to resist U.S. controls that implied a protectorate status. Nhu, like Diem, wanted fewer Americans in Vietnam. He told the Saigon CIA chief " that it would be useful to reduce the numbers of Americans by anywhere from 500 to 3,000 or 4,000. " Nhu was delivering this unwelcome message directly to a key representative of the institution most involved in trying to control the South Vietnamese government: the CIA. It was the CIA that, operating under its front organization, the Agency for International Development (AID ) , had already managed to put advisers in at least twenty of the government's forty-one provinces. William Colby, Richardson's predecessor at the CIA's Saigon station, said that even by early 1962, " the station had contacts and influence throughout Vietnam, from the front and rear doors of the Palace, to the rural communities, among the civilian opponents of the regime and the commanders of all the key military units." (William Colby, Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978) , p. 178) In April 1963, when the Ngo brothers declared their intent to reassert control over their own government, the CIA was pushing hard to have a controlling agent working alongside every province chief in South Vietnam. Just as the U.S. military wanted total control over the South Vietnamese army, so did the CIA want total control at every level of the civilian hierarchy. That was why Diem and Nhu used the all-inclusive term " Americans " for what they wanted many fewer of-fewer American advisers of every kind: CIA, military, whatever. Our Vietnamese were getting tired of being told by Americans what decisions they had to make to keep themselves free from domination by other Vietnamese. As of mid-April 1963, Diem and Nhu were suddenly steering the South Vietnamese government in a more independent direction, asking that Americans of every stripe be withdrawn from Vietnam. The Pentagon had already become aware of Diem's resistance to a widening of the U.S. military presence in Vietnam. Diem had been telling more and more people that he would never agree to the new air and naval bases the United States wanted to establish in his country. In July 1 962, during an inspection of Cam Ranh Bay, he pointed to a mountain and said to his aides, " The Americans want a base there but I shall never accept that."  (Cited by Do Tho, Diem's aide-de-camp, in Hoa Binh (July 5, 1970) ; Ellen J . Hammer, A Death in November: America in Vietnam, 1963 ( New York: E. P. Dutton, 1987) , p. 12l.) Diem also shared his rejection of U.S. military bases with the French ambassador. But by April 1963, Diem wasn't just resisting more bases. Now he wanted the U.S. to withdraw thousands of its people who were already in South Vietnam.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 09:08:40 PM by TLR »


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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2013, 08:20:21 PM »
May 1963, the first coordinated Vietnam War protests occur in London and Denmark. These protests are mounted by American pacifists during the annual remembrance of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.

5/6/1963 Harkins told McNamara that progress was being made in Vietnam; McNamara then directed the military to prepare to withdraw 1000 advisers by year's end. (In Retrospect p49) In the SECDEF conference on Vietnam chaired by Secretary McNamara at Camp Smith, Hawaii, the Pacific Command finally presents President Kennedy's long-sought plan for withdrawal from Vietnam. However, McNamara has to reject the military's overextended time line, which was so slow that U.S. numbers would not even reach a minimum level until fiscal year 1966. He orders that concrete plans be drawn up for withdrawing one thousand U.S. military personnel from South Vietnam by the end of 1963. President Kennedy issues National Security Action Memorandum 239, ordering his principal national security advisers to pursue both a nuclear test ban treaty and a policy of general and complete disarmament.
The Defense Secretary said he wanted the pace revised " to speed up replacement of U.S. units by GVN units as fast as possible. " The May 1963 meeting in Honolulu took place one month before Kennedy would give his American University address. It is in the context of that dawning light of peace in the spring of 1963, when Kennedy and Khrushchev were about to begin their rapprochement, that McNamara again shocked his military hierarchy on Vietnam. He ordered them to begin an actual U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam that fall. As the Pentagon Papers described this change of tide, McNamara " decided that 1 ,000 U.S. military personnel should be withdrawn from South Vietnam by the end of Calendar Year 63 and directed that concrete plans be so drawn Up. "

5/8/1963 Diem's troops fire on thousands of Buddhists protestors gathered in Hue; 9 are killed. They were demonstrating against the government's order banning parades and the display of Buddhist flags on Buddha's birthday. At a protest in Hue, South Vietnam, by Buddhists claiming religious repression by the Diem government, two explosions attributed to government security forces kill eight people, wounding fifteen others. The government accuses the Viet Cong of setting off the explosions. A later, independent investigation identifies the bomber as a U.S. military officer, using CIA-supplied plastic bombs. The Buddhist Crisis touched off by the Hue explosions threatens to topple Ngo Dinh Diem's government, destroying the possibility of a Diem-Kennedy agreement for a U.S. military withdrawal from Vietnam. On May 8, the fateful Buddhist crisis of South Vietnam began to simmer in Hue, as thousands of Buddhists gathered to celebrate the 2507 birthday of Buddha. The South Vietnamese government had just revived a dormant regulation against flying any religious flags publicly. That public honor had been reserved by the Diem government exclusively for the national flag. It was a part of Diem's " uphill struggle to give some sense of nationhood to Vietnamese of all faiths, " as the New York Herald Tribune's Marguerite Higgins wrote.  (Marguerite Higgins, Our Vietnam Nightmare (New York: Harper & Row, 1965) , p. 9l.) It was claimed later that the enforcement of Diem's nationalist order was provoked ironically by fellow Catholics who had flown the Vatican flag in Da Nang a few days earlier. In any case, the edict from the Catholic president of South Vietnam was proclaimed in Hue on the eve of the Buddha's birthday, when Buddhist flags were already flying. In response the next morning, the Buddhist monk Thich Tri Quang gave a spirited speech to a crowd at Hue's Tu Dam Pagoda protesting the order. Tri Quang accused the government of religious persecution. The crowd responded enthusiastically. What happened next, as described here, is based on Ellen J. Hammer's A Death in November, Marguerite Higgins's Our Vietnam Nightmare, and testimony received by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission to South VietNam in October 1963. (Hammer, Death in November, p  112; Higgins, Our Vietnam Nightmare, p. 93 . 180. Report o f the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission to South Viet-Nam (United Nations Document AJ5630, December 7, 1963).

On the evening of May 8, encouraged by Tri Quang and other Buddhist leaders, a crowd gathered outside the government radio station in Hue. At about 8 :00 P.M., Tri Quang arrived carrying a tape recording of his morning speech. He and the people demanded that the tape be broadcast that night. When the station director refused, the crowd became insistent, pushing against the station's doors and windows. Firefighters used water hoses to drive them back. The station director put in a call for help to the province security chief, Major Dang Sy. As Dang Sy and his security officers were approaching the area in armored cars about fifty meters away, two powerful explosions blasted the people on the veranda of the station, killing seven on the spot and fatally wounding a child. At least fifteen others were injured. Major Dang Sy claimed later that he thought the explosions were the beginning of a Viet Cong attack. He ordered his men to disperse the crowd with percussion grenades, crowd-control weapons that were described by a U.S. Army Field Manual as nonlethal. However, from the moment the armored cars drove up and the percussion grenades were thrown, Major Dang Sy and the South Vietnamese government were blamed for the night's casualties by Thich Tri Quang and the Buddhist movement. The Buddhists' interpretation of the event was adopted quickly by the U.S. media and government. Dr. Le Khac Quyen, the hospital director at Hue, said after examining the victims' bodies that he had never seen such inj uries. The bodies had been decapitated. He found no metal in the corpses, only holes. There were no wounds below the chest. In his official finding, Dr. Quyen ruled that "the death of the people was caused by an explosion which took place in midair, " (Cited by Higgins, Our Vietnam Nightmare, pp . 90-91.) blowing off their heads and mutilating their bodies. Neither the Buddhists nor the government liked his verdict. Although Dr. Quyen was a disciple of Thich Tri Quang and a government opposition leader, his finding frustrated his Buddhist friends because it tended to exonerate Diem's security police. They were apparently incapable of inflicting the kinds of wounds he described. On the other hand, the government imprisoned Dr. Quyen for refusing to sign a medical certificate it had drawn up that claimed the victims' wounds came from a type of bomb made by the Viet Cong-something Quyen didn't know and wouldn't certify. (UN Report) The absence of any metal in the bodies or on the radio station's veranda pointed to powerful plastic bombs as the source of the explosions. However, the Saigon government's eagerness to identify plastic bombs with its enemy, the Viet Cong, was questionable. As Ellen Hammer pointed out in her investigation of the incident, " In later years, men who had served with the Viet Cong at that time denied they had any plastic that could have produced such destruction. " Who did possess such powerful plastic bombs ? An answer is provided by Graham Greene's prophetic novel The Quiet American, based on historical events that occurred in Saigon eleven years before the bombing in Hue. Greene was in Saigon on January 9, 1952, when two bombs exploded in the city's center, killing ten and inj uring many more. A picture of the scene, showing a man with his legs blown off, appeared in Life magazine as the " Picture of the Week. " The Life caption said the Saigon bombs had been " planted by Viet Minh Communists " and " signaled general intensification of the Viet Minh violence. " In like manner, the New York Times headlined: " Reds' Time Bombs Rip Saigon Center. " ("A Bomb Makes a Shambles of a Sunny Saigon Square," Life (January 28, 1952), p. 19. Tillman Durdin, " Reds' Time Bombs Rip Saigon Center, " New York Times (January 10, 1952) , p. 2 .) In Saigon, Graham Greene knew the bombs had been planted and claimed proudly not by the Viet Minh but by a warlord, General The, whom Greene knew. General The's bombing material, a U.S. plastic, had been supplied to him by his sponsor, the Central Intelligence Agency. Greene observed in his memoir, Ways of Escape, it was no coincidence that " the Life photographer at the moment of the explosion was so well placed that he was able to take an astonishing and horrifying photograph which showed the body of a trishaw driver still upright after his legs had been blown off. " (Graham Greene, Ways of Escape (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1980) , p. 171.) The CIA had set the scene, alerting the Life photographer and Times reporter so they could convey the terrorist bombing as the work of "Viet Minh Communists" to a mass audience. (H . Bruce Franklin explained the historical events underlying The Quiet American in his article " Our Man in Saigon," The Nation (February 3, 2003) , pp. 43-44.) Horrified and inspired by what he knew, Graham Greene wrote the truth in his novel, portraying a quiet American CIA agent as the primary source of the Saigon bombing. In The Quiet American, Greene used the CIA's plastic as a mysterious motif, specifically mentioned in ten passages, whose deadly meaning was revealed finally in the Saigon explosions blamed falsely on the communists. (In the 2002 Penguin paperback edition of The Quiet American, Greene's references to the CIA's plastic explosive appear on pages 72, 74, 96, 129, 133, 143 (twice) , 154, 160, and 183. At the time of the Saigon bombing in 1952, the CIA was only five years old and virtually unknown. Thus, the novel's narrator, Fowler, at one point asks a well informed Saigon contact what U.S. agency the quiet American, Pyle, is really working for: "What is he? O.S.S.? " [Office of Strategic Services, U . S . predecessor to the CIA] The man responds: "The initial letters are not very important. I think now they are different" ( Penguin edition, p. 173).

When Greene discussed The Quiet American in 1979 in his conversations with French writer Marie-Francoise Allain (published later in English as The Other Man) , he named the CIA as the source of the Saigon bomb: " One could put a finger on a number of operations set in hand by the CIA (the CIA was behind the bomb attack in the Saigon square which I mentioned in the novel, for example). " Marie-Francoise Allain, The Other Man: Conversations with Graham Greene ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983) , p . 96.) A decade later, plastic bombs were still a weapon valued in covert U.S. plots designed to scapegoat an unsuspecting target. In March 1 962, as we have seen, General Lyman Lemnitzer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, proposed "exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots " in the United States, then arresting and blaming Cuban agents for the terrorist acts. In May 1963, Diem's younger brother, Ngo Dinh Can, who ruled Hue, thought from the beginning that the Viet Cong had nothing to do with the explosions at the radio station. According to an investigation carried out by the Catholic newspaper Hoa Binh, Ngo Dinh Can and his advisers were " convinced the explosions had to be the work of an American agent who wanted to make trouble for Diem. " In 1970 Hoa Binh located such a man, a Captain Scott, who in later years became a U.S. military adviser in the Mekong Delta. Scott had come to Hue from Da Nang on May 7, 1963. He admitted he was the American agent responsible for the bombing at the radio station the next day. He said he used " an explosive that was still secret and known only to certain people in the Central Intelligence Agency, a charge no larger than a matchbox with a timing device." (Hammer on the Catholic newspaper Hoa Binh's reconstruction of the May 8 , 1963, events; Death in November, p.116. Hammer wrote that she had "been unable to prove or disprove the truth of this account. ") Hue's Buddhists were incensed by a massacre they attributed to the Diem government. The U.S. Embassy in Saigon acted quickly in support of the Buddhists. Ambassador Frederick Nolting urged Diem to accept responsibility for the May 8 incident, as the Buddhists demanded. Diem agreed to compensate the victims' families, but said that he would never assume responsibility for a crime his government had not in fact committed.

On May 9, the day after the Hue explosions, Roger Hilsman had been confirmed by the Senate in his new State Department position as the primary officer responsible for Vietnam. During the next month, President Kennedy ordered Hilsman to prepare for the neutralization of Vietnam. Hilsman said later in an interview: " [Kennedy] began to instruct me, as Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs, to position ourselves to do in Vietnam what we had done in Laos, i.e., to negotiate the neutralization of Vietnam. He had made a decision on this. He did not make it public of course, but he had certainly communicated it to me as I say, in four-letter words, good earthy anglo-saxon four-letter words, and every time that I failed to do something [in a way] he felt endangered this position, he let me know in very clear language. " (Michael Charlton and Anthony Moncrieff, Many Reasons Why: The American Involvement in Vietnam (New York: Hill & Wang, 1 97 8 ) , p. 84.) When he said that one day to his aides Dave Powers and Kenny O'Donnell, they asked him bluntly: How could he do it? How could he carry out a military withdrawal from Vietnam without losing American prestige in Southeast Asia ? " Easy, " the president said. " Put a government in there that will ask us to leave. "  (O'Donnell and Powers, "Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye, " p.18 .)

5/1963 Diem publicly calls for a reduction of US military presence in South Vietnam.

5/22/1963 JFK said in a press conference: "We are hopeful that the situation in Vietnam would permit some withdrawal in any case by the end of the year, but we can't possibly make that judgement at the present time. There is a long hard struggle to go."  The only person in the administration who seems to have welcomed Nhu's encouragement of a U.S. withdrawal was President Kennedy. Asked about it at his May 22 press conference, JFK said all the Ngo brothers had to do was make their request official, then the process of withdrawal would begin: "we would withdraw the troops, any number of troops, any time the Government of South Viet-Nam would suggest it. The day after it was suggested, we would have some troops on their way home. That is number one. " Kennedy then took advantage of the opportunity to introduce the public gingerly to his own closely held withdrawal plan: "Number two is: we are hopeful that the situation in South Viet-Nam would permit some withdrawal in any case by the end of the year, but we can't possibly make that judgment at the present time . . . I couldn't say that today the situation is such that we could look for a brightening in the skies that would permit us to withdraw troops or begin to by the end of this year. But I would say, if requested to, we will do it immediately. "

6/12/1963 Kennedy's advisers were running ahead of him. Rusk's instructions to the Saigon Embassy led Acting Ambassador William Trueheart to convey an ultimatum to Diem on June 12 that the president had not authorized. JFK found out by reading a CIA Intelligence Checklist on June 14. A White House memorandum that day emphasized: " The President noticed that Diem has been threatened with a formal statement of disassociation. He wants to be absolutely sure that no further threats are made and no formal statement is made without his own personal authorization. "

In the early summer, Kennedy had kept his military and CIA advisers out of his discussions on Vietnam. This significant fact was mentioned years later by his Assistant Secretary of Defense William P. Bundy in an unpublished manuscript. According to Bundy, during the early part of Kennedy's final summer in office, he consulted on Vietnam with j ust a few advisers in the State Department and White House, thereby leaving out representatives of the Defense Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the CIA. (William P. Bundy, unpublished manuscript on the Vietnam War Decisions, chapter 9, "The Decline and Fall of Diem (May to November 1963) , " p. 8; Papers of William P. Bundy, Box Number 1, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.)

Aug 1963 Time's Charles Mohr and Merton Perry wrote a story from Saigon saying that "the war in Vietnam is being lost." When the story appeared in Time, this line was deleted. (The First Casualty p379)

9/2/1963 Kennedy said in a prime-time interview with Walter Cronkite: "I don't think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government [of South Vietnam] to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam against the Communists. We are prepared to continue to assist them, but I don't think that the war can be won unless the people support the effort and, in my opinion, in the last two months, the government has gotten out of touch with the people." Kennedy also added, "I don't agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake. We must be patient. We must persist...These people who say we ought to withdraw from Vietnam are wholly wrong because if we withdrew from Vietnam, the Communists would control Vietnam, pretty soon Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaya would go, and all of Southeast Asia would be under the control of the Communists, under the domination of the Chinese." At no time did he give an indication of sending in US combat troops. Asked about De Gaulle's proposal for a united, neutral Vietnam, he said, "we are glad to get counsel but we would like a little more assitance, real assistance...It doesn't do us any good to say: 'Well, why don't we all just go home and leave the world to those who are our enemies.'"   

9/6/1963 In a NSC meeting, RFK urged a fundamental reassessment of what the US was doing in Vietnam and even suggested the idea of withdrawing from Vietnam; Rusk and Taylor disagreed vigorously with him. (In Retrospect 63; RFK and his Times 770)

9/9/1963 JFK told David Brinkley and Chet Huntley on NBC-TV that he believed in the domino theory: "China is so large, looms so high just beyond the frontiers, that if South Vietnam went, it would not only give them an improved geographic position for a guerilla assault on Malaya, but would also give the impression that the wave of the future in Southeast Asia was China and the Communists...we can't expect these countries to do everything the way we want to do them...We can't make everyone in our image, and there are a good many people who don't want to go in our image...We would like to have Cambodia, Thailand and South Vietnam all in harmony, but there are ancient differences there. We can't make the world over, but we can influence the world...What I am concerned about is that Americans will get impatient and say because they don't like events in Southeast Asia, or they don't like the government in Saigon, that we should withdraw. That only makes it easy for the Communists. I think we should stay."
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 09:10:20 PM by TLR »


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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2013, 08:22:41 PM »
9/10/1963 Krulak and Mendenhall make their report to JFK, giving completely different assessments of the situation in Vietnam.
Memo of a White House meeting 9/10/1963 at 10:30am on Vietnam; present were JFK, Bundy, Forrestal, Bromley Smith, McNamara, Gilpatric, Taylor, Gen. Krulak, Gen. Harriman, Hilsman, Amb. Nolting, Mendenhall, RFK, McCone. General Krulak briefed his written report, "Visit to Vietnam, 7-10 September 1963".[2] His general conclusions were as follows: The shooting war is still going ahead at an impressive pace. It has been affected adversely by the political crisis, but the impact is not great. There is a lot of war left to fight, particularly in the Delta, where the Viet Cong remain strong…The U.S./Vietnamese military relationship has not been damaged by the political crisis, in any significant degree. There is some dissatisfaction, among Vietnamese officers, with the national administration. It is focused far more on Ngo Dinh Nhu than on President Diem. Nhu's departure would be hailed, but few officers would extend their necks to bring it about. Excluding the very serious political and military factors external to Vietnam, the Viet Cong war will be won if the current U.S. military and sociological programs are pursued, irrespective of the grave defects in the ruling regime. Improvements in the quality of the Vietnamese Government are not going to brought about by leverage applied through the military. They do not have much, and will probably not use what they have.” Mr. Mendenhall gave his report: [3] Mr. Mendenhall stated he had found a virtual breakdown of the civil government in Saigon as well as a pervasive atmosphere of fear and hate arising from the police reign of terror and the arrests of students. The war against the Viet Cong has become secondary to the "war" against the regime. There is also the danger of the outbreak of a religious war between Buddhists and Communists [Catholics] unless the GVN ceases oppression of the Buddhists. Nhu is held responsible for all the repressive measures, but Diem is increasingly identified as sharing responsibility.

Mr. Mendenhall said he also found a similar atmosphere of fear and hate in Hue and Da Nang. In the northern coastal area the Viet Cong have made recent advances in Quang Tin and Quang Nam. It is not clear whether this is attributable to the Buddhists, but it is clear Buddhist agitation extended to the rural areas of Quang Nam and Thua Thien and that reports have come from Hue of villagers in Thua Thien opting for the VC. Students in Hue and Saigon are also talking of the VC as a preferred alternative to the GVN.

Mr. Mendenhall concluded that he was convinced by his visit that the war against the Viet Cong could not be won if Nhu remains in Vietnam.[4]

The President said, "The two of you did visit the same country, didn't you?"

General Krulak said that he thought the difference was that Mr. Mendenhall was reporting on the metropolitan and urban attitudes, while he, Krulak, was reporting on "national" attitudes.

Ambassador Nolting said that it might be true that there was paralysis in the civilian government as Mr. Mendenhall had reported, but there was also paralysis in 1961 and we came through that time. Further, Mr. Mendenhall has held the opinion that we could not win the war with Diem for some time.[5]

Mac Bundy said that in 1961 we overcame the paralysis by strengthening the effort against the Viet Cong; now it was the government that was causing the fear and paralysis and it was a little difficult to strengthen a war against the government.

Rufus Phillips reported as follows:

He had many friends in Viet-Nam as a result of long years of working there. He knew Diem well, Nhu well and many of the officers and Generals well. He had an opportunity to know the mood of the rural areas since he was in charge of the strategic hamlet program. He said that Nhu has lost the confidence and respect of both the officers and the civil servants. They do not support the government with Nhu in it and would not support the government if they had an alternative. He said there was not a crisis of
confidence in Viet-Nam not only between the Vietnamese people and their government but between the Vietnamese people and the Americans. As far as the Vietnamese are concerned, we have supported Diem and they have no evidence that we have changed our views. Therefore, people are reluctant to
stick their necks out since Nhu would move against any individual who did. Everyone is looking to the U.S. and here we stand. The Vietnamese do not lack the guts to move against the government once they are sure of the U.S. position.

The President recalled that we had made a number of public statements condemning the Vietnamese Government's actions but this has ignited nothing. Mr. Phillips said that we have criticized the government before. What the Vietnamese people are looking for is a concrete action illustrating the U.S. position. He said that he would recommend a middle course of action - a series of moves in a psychological and political warfare campaign to isolate the Nhus and destroy the current impression that they were all-powerful. Most Vietnamese would like to see President Diem remain but they are unalterably opposed to the Nhus. In Phillips' judgment, we cannot win the war if the Nhus remain. He has this from Thuan, from Lac, the Vietnamese head of the strategic hamlet program, and from many military officers whom he has known over the years. All of them have come reluctantly to this conclusion.

Mr. Phillips said that we need a man to guide and operate a campaign to isolate the Nhus and to convince the government and people that the U.S. will not support a government with Nhu in it, thus encouraging the military to do the job if Diem won't come around. He thinks there is one man who could guide and operate this campaign as a special assistant to the Ambassador and it was Ed Lansdale.
1 Source: Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Countries Series - Vietnam, White House Meetings, State memcons. Top secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Hilsman. Bromley Smith's record of this meeting, published in part in Declassified Documents, 1982, 650A, is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and memoranda, Meetings on Vietnam. Krulak's record of this meeting is in National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Trip to Vietnam, September 7-10.
2 Supra
3 Based on Document 78.
4 Krulak's record of this meeting cites Mendenhall as saying "that it was his [Mendenhall's] view, supported by Mr. Trueheart, the Deputy Chief of Mission in Saigon, that we will lose the war with the Diem Government. "
5 Krulak's record of this meeting presents the following account of this portion of the discussion:
“Ambassador Nolting reminded Mr. Mendenhall that in 1961 he had made the same statement, forecasting that the VC would soon defeat the GVN. He asked Mendenhall to rationalize how, in the ensuing years, so much progress had been made by a government which he forecast could not survive. Mendenhall did not respond, because he was interrupted by the President, who asked how it could be that two people who had observed the same area could have such divergent reactions. After a period of silence, when it became evident that no one else was going to respond, I suggested to the President that the answer was plain - that Mr. Mendenhall had given him a metropolitan viewpoint on Vietnam; that I had given him a national viewpoint. "

10/2/1963 McNamara explains in his book that at a ""very important'' National Security Council meeting on Oct. 2, 1963, President Kennedy made three decisions: (1) to completely withdraw all U.S. forces from Vietnam by Dec. 31, 1965; (2) to withdraw 1,000 U.S. troops by the end of 1963 to begin the process; and (3) to make a public announcement, in order to put this decision ""in concrete.'' After the Oct. 2 meeting, Kennedy asked McNamara to issue these recommendations as a ""report'' from himself as secretary of defense along with Gen. Maxwell Taylor. McNamara made the announcement personally from the steps of the White House. As he headed off to face the reporters, JFK yelled after him, ""And tell them that means all of the helicopter pilots, too.''

10/2/1963 "Memorandum for the President. Subject: Report of McNamara-Taylor Mission to South Vietnam. The military campaign has made great progress and continues to progress. There are serious political tensions in Saigon (and perhaps elsewhere in South Vietnam) where the Diem-Nhu government is becoming increasingly unpopular...It is not clear that pressures exerted by the US will move Diem and Nhu toward moderation...But unless such pressures are exerted, they are almost certain to continue past patterns of behavior." It was recommended that "A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by US military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of US personnel by that time....the Defense Department should announce in the very near future presently prepared plans to withdraw 1000 US military personnel by the end of 1963. This action should be explained in low key as an initial step in a long-term program to replace US personnel with trained Vietnamese without impairment of the war effort." After meeting with Kennedy about the report, the president had a press release issued that evening: "by the end of this year, the US program for training Vietnamese should have progressed to the point where 1000 US military personnel assigned to South Vietnam can be withdrawn."

The New York Times, October 3, 1963 In the Nation [column] "The Intra-Administration War in Vietnam" by Arthur Krock
  WASHINGTON, Oct 2 The Central Intelligence Agency is getting a very bad press in dispatches from Vietnam to American newspapers and in articles originating in Washington. Like the Supreme Court when under fire, the C. I.A. cannot defend itself in public retorts to criticisms of its activities as they occur. But, unlike the Supreme Court, the C. I. A. has no open record of its activities on which the public can base a judgment of the validity of the criticisms. Also, the agency is precluded from using the indirect defensive tactic which is constantly employed by all other Government units under critical fire.
  This tactic is to give information to the press, under a seal of confidence, that challenges or rebuts the critics. But the C. I. A. cannot father such inspired articles, because to do so would require some disclosure of its activities. And not only does the effectiveness of the agency depend on the secrecy of its operations. Every President since the C. I. A. was created has protected this secrecy from claimants Congress or the public through the press, for examples of the right to share any part of it.
With High Frequency
  This Presidential policy has not, however, always restrained other executive units from going confidentially to the press with attacks on C. I. A. operations in their common field of responsibility. And usually it hasbeen possible to deduce these operational details from the nature of the attacks. But the peak of the practice has recently been reached in Vietnam and in Washington. This is revealed almost every day now in dispatches from reporters in close touch with intra-Administration critics of the C. I. A. with excellent reputations for reliability.
Disorderly Government
  WHATEVER ELSE THESE PASSAGES DISCLOSE, THEY MOST CERTAINLY ESTABLISH THAT REPRESENTATIVES OF OTHER EXECUTIVE BRANCHES HAVE EXPANDED THEIR WAR AGAINST THE C. I. A. FROM THE INNER GOVERNMENT COUNCILS TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE VIA THE PRESS. [My emphasis]. And published simultaneously are details of the agency ís operations in Vietnam that can come only from the same critical official sources. This is disorderly government. And the longer the President tolerates it the period already is considerable the greater will grow its potential of hampering the real war against the Vietcong and the impression of a very indecisive Administration in Washington.   The C. I. A. may be guilty as charged. Since it cannot, or at any rate will not, openly defend its record in Vietnam, or defend it by the same confidential press "briefings" employed by its critics, the public is not in a position to judge. Nor is this department, which sought and failed to get even the outlines of the agency's case in rebuttal. But Mr. Kennedy will have to make judgment if the spectacle of war within the Executive branch is to be ended and the effective functioning of the C. I. A. preserved. And when he makes this judgment, hopefully he also will make it public, as the appraisal of fault on which it is based.  Doubtless recommendations as to what his judgment should be were made to him today by Secretary of Defense McNamara and General Taylor on their return from their fact-finding expedition into the embattled official jungle in Saigon.

10/4/1963  Armed Forces' Pacific Stars and Stripes, "White House Report: U.S. Troops Seen Out of Viet[nam] by '65"

10/11/1963 President Kennedy issues National Security Action Memorandum 263, making official government policy the withdrawal from Vietnam of "1 ,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963" and " by the end of 1965 . . . the bulk of U.S. personnel. " NSAM 263 Signed by McGeorge Bundy to the Secretaries of State & Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Subject: "South Vietnam." "At a meeting on October 5, 1963, the President considered the recommendations contained in the report of Secretary McNamara and General Taylor on their mission to South Vietnam. The President approved the military recommendations contained in Section I B (1-3) of the report, but directed that no formal announcement be made of the implementation of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963. After discussion of the remaining recommendations of the report, the President approved the instruction to Ambassador Lodge which is set forth in State Department telegram No. 534 to Saigon. Copy furnished: Director of Central Intelligence; Administrator, Agency for International Development." Leslie Gelb argues that JFK may have made this decision because of optimism on the how the war was going, or to scare Diem into making reforms.

10/31/1963 JFK, in a press conference, made further reference to the withdrawing of advisers from Vietnam. He was also asked if he wanted LBJ on the ticket and if he would keep him on; Kennedy answered quickly, "Yes to both questions."
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 09:11:26 PM by TLR »


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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2013, 08:24:04 PM »
11/1-2/1963 Nov 1-2: military coup in Saigon; Diem and his brother Nhu were killed in the back of a US-built M113 armored personnel carrier. Just before the coup began, Diem had told Lodge to tell JFK that he was willing to cooperate to get US aid. McNamara recalled that when JFK heard about the death of Diem, he was deeply shocked. (In Retrospect 84); Mike Forrestal said in 1971 that the deaths "shook [JFK] personally...shook his the kind of advice he was getting about South Vietnam." Taylor recalled that JFK "rushed from the room with a look of shock and dismay on his face which I had never seen before." (Swords and Plowshares) In Saigon, prisoners are released and there is celebrating in the streets; peasants in the rural areas tear down their strategic hamlets. Lodge is optimistic that the war will be shorter now. JFK asked McNamara to chair a meeting on the subject in Honolulu 11/20.  Rebel South Vietnamese army units, supported by the CIA, encircle and bombard President Diem's presidential palace in Saigon. Diem and his brother Nhu flee from the palace in darkness. They take refuge in the Saigon suburb of Cholon. In Vietnam, a coup d'etat has commenced against the Diem government, led by South Vietnamese General Duong Van Minh (Big Minh). Minh has already ordered the executions of an influential pro-Diem naval commander as well as the commanders of South Vietnam's special forces. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge has chosen a clandestine operative for the CIA, Lucien Conein, to be his secret middleman between the insurgent generals and Lodge's office. Conein is also in steady cable contact with McGeorge Bundy at the White House Situation Room. Lodge meets with Diem this morning. Diem mentions the rumors of a coup but just as quickly dismisses them. Diem even promises to meet again soon with Lodge and finally clear up their differences.

11/6/1963 Henry Cabot Lodge sends what will be the last of his private cables to JFK concerning Vietnam. "Eyes only. Now that the revolution has occurred, I assume you will not want my weekly reports . . . I believe prospects of victory are much improved, provided the generals stay united . . . There is no doubt that the coup was a Vietnamese and a popular affair, which we could neither manage nor stop after it got started and which we could only have influenced with great difficulty." "...It is equally certain that the ground in which the coup seed grew into a robust plant was prepared by us, and that the coup would not have happened [as] it did without our preparation."

11/14/1963 JFK said in a press conference: "We do have a new situation there [in Vietnam], and a new government, we hope, an increased effort in the war" and his goal was "to bring Americans home, permit the South Vietnamese to maintain themselves as a free and independent country, and permit democratic forces within the country to operate - which they can, of course, much more freely when the assault from the inside, and which is manipulated from the north, is ended." He talked about the upcoming Honolulu conference: "How we can bring Americans out of there. That is our object, to bring Americans home." He said that the exact number of men to be brought home would be determined at the conference, and he added, "I don't want the United States to have to put troops there."

11/16/1963 New York Times reports "1,000 U.S. Troops to Leave Vietnam." The Pentagon Papers, a revealing Defense Department history of the Vietnam War that was made public by defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg, points out: "Plans for phased withdrawal of 1 ,000 U.S. advisers by end-1963 went through the motions by concentrating rotations home in December and letting strength rebound in the subsequent two months. " The Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of United States Decision Making on Vietnam, Senator Gravel Edition, S vols. ( Boston: Beacon Press, 1972) , vol. 2, p. 303.

11/21/1963 Before leaving on his trip to Texas, President Kennedy, after being given a list of the most recent casualties in Vietnam, says to Assistant Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff: "After I come back from Texas, that's going to change. Vietnam is not worth another American life. " Kennedy tells Forrestal that when he returned from Cambodia, "I want to start a complete and very profound review of how we got into this country [Vietnam]; what we thought we were doing; and what we now think we can do...I even want to think about whether or not we should be there." (JFK and Vietnam p487)   

11/21/1963 Draft version of NSAM 273; this document was released by the JFK Library in Boston 1/31/1993. Researcher Frank Mather quickly turned it over to H.E. Livingstone, who had it verified by McGeorge Bundy.
A draft copy of NSAM 273 is prepared for LBJ's signature as President. The draft copy is prepared by William Bundy and will not be discovered until 1991 in the archives of the LBJ Library in Texas. This National Security Memorandum effectively invalidates the withdrawal of troops and commits American support to the South Vietnamese government. NSAM 288, which will be signed three months from now, reaffirms the commitment and explains in more conclusive terms that America must become personally involved in order to keep South Vietnam from falling to communism. Perhaps the most powerful evidence indicating that select Senior Administration Officials and Senior Military personnel may have had foreknowledge of the plot to assassinate Kennedy is found in the DRAFT of National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) Number 273. There are several smoking guns, but the one that initially stands out as the most obvious is the date of the DRAFT, which was subsequently signed by McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security. The DRAFT was written and dated November 21st, 1963 less than 24 hours before the assassination. It was ostensibly the result of the meetings that took place the previous day at the Honolulu Conference.
    The first sentence is indeed quite revelatory of its dubious nature: "The President has reviewed the discussions of South Vietnam which occurred in Honolulu, and has discussed the matter further with Ambassador Lodge."
    That is false. The majority of those who attended the Honolulu Conference arrived on the 19th and the remainder arrived in the early morning of the 20th. The conference itself took place on the 20th and part of the 21st. The DRAFT was written on the evening of the 21st. JFK and Jackie left Washington aboard Air Force One for their 2-day, 5-city 'whirlwind' Texas trip on the 21st. So, the conference took place all day on the 20th and part of the 21st in Hawaii without the President in attendance. Since he and the First Lady were en route to Texas from Washington on the 21st, it is therefore quite clear that the President could not have reviewed the discussions conducted in Honolulu in depth, nor could he have spoken with Ambassador Lodge in a meaningful way about the conference before the DRAFT of NSAM 273 was written. After all, the attendees were still in Hawaii and JFK was still in Texas on a very tight schedule. The next day he was dead (on the 22nd). So, to which President does this document refer in its first sentence?
    The official record can aid us in answering this question. The Gravel Edition of the Pentagon Papers states, referring to the Honolulu Conference: "But the meeting ended inconclusively. After [Ambassador] Lodge had conferred with the president a few days later in Washington, the White House tried to pull together some conclusions and offer some guidance for our continuing and now deeper involvement in Vietnam.".
    As shown above, it could not have been the sitting president, JFK, as he was in Texas at the time. The record confirms that the first and only President to ever review the discussions conducted at the Honolulu Conference and further discuss them with Ambassador Lodge in Washington was LBJ. How do we know with certainty? JFK never survived Dallas. He never returned to Washington to meet with Lodge or anyone else. He returned to Washington in a casket. The only person to whom this DRAFT document could therefore refer by implication, is LBJ. Although he was not yet president at the time it was written - LBJ is the one who met with Ambassador Lodge in Washington and is the one who signed the final version of NSAM 273 on the 26th.
    Moreover, in the above quote from the Pentagon Papers, note the almost palpable impotence of the President as expressed in the words: "...the White House tried to pull together some conclusions and offer some guidance to our continuing and now deeper involvement in Vietnam." That does not even remotely resemble the relationship between the military and their Commander-in-Chief as envisioned by the authors of the Constitution. Instead, it appears to be an act of patronization. JFK may have been many things...but he was not one who would tolerate patronization. But, that is a moot point. He was already dead.
    The next sentence says: "He [POTUS] directs that the following guidance be issued to all concerned..."
    Insomuch as the policy changes contained in this document, written the day before his assassination, serve to begin the undermining of JFK's recently established Vietnam withdrawal strategy, its authors remain suspect. The deception is obvious.
    As of October 11, 1963 it was the policy of the USG to withdraw the bulk of all US personnel from Vietnam as per an EXISTING National Security Action Memorandum (263). Yet, this DRAFT of NSAM 273 states:
        "It remains the central object of the United States in South Vietnam to assist the people and Government of that country to win their contest against the externally directed and supported Communist conspiracy. The test of all decisions and U.S. actions in this area should be the effectiveness of their contribution to this purpose."
    Again, consider the simplicity of NSAM 263 -- JFK, after reviewing the McNamara-Taylor Report, approved only the recommendation to WITHDRAW. Done deal. Are we really to believe that just over a month later, the central object of the US would shift from total withdrawal to total commitment? Yet, Bundy's NSAM 273 draft directs that the central object of assisting the South Vietnamese so that they will "win their contest against...the Communist conspiracy" be given precedence over all other considerations! There's only one looming problem with this scenario. No such "central object" as described by Bundy existed on November 21, 1963 as such a plan was in direct opposition to the then Commander-in-Chief's (JFK) standing order to his military to withdraw.
    Once again, relying on the official record serves to confirm these conclusions. Note what the purpose of the Honolulu Conference was, as stated in the JOINT STATE / DEFENSE Department Cable, reproduced below. It is dated November 13th 1963. It directs the participants as to the topics that were to be discussed at the conference. It does NOT indicate discussions of any reversal or modification of JFK's Vietnam withdrawal policy, quite the contrary. The part of the cable discussing the military (item 2) refers to implementation of the recommendations contained in the McNamara-Taylor Report. If you recall, the only part of the McNamara-Taylor Report that the President approved concerning US military policy is the section incorporated by direct reference in his National Security Action Memorandum Number 263 which called for the withdrawal of the bulk of all US Personnel by the end of 1965. See Gregory Burnham's Introduction to NSAM 263
    Therefore, the author(s) of the DRAFT of NSAM 273 either: 1) disregarded the content of the actual discussions from the Honolulu Conference "assuming the discussions were consistent with JFK's withdrawal policy" and falsely represented them in this draft, or... 2) perhaps this document is the product of discussions that were conducted in a manner inconsistent with JFK's Vietnam withdrawal policy.
    We may never know which way this went, but it can't be both ways. However, either scenario indicates foreknowledge. In the first case, foreknowledge by the majority of attendees. In the second case, foreknowledge by only a few of them - perhaps only one. If the document accurately indicates the nature of the discussions in Honolulu, it implicates more of the attendees. However, if the DRAFT was based on discussions whose content is fictitious, then only a few attendees necessarily had foreknowledge of the assassination that would take place less than 24 hours after McGeorge Bundy's signature appears at the bottom. At the absolute very least: that one individual seems quite suspect.
    Lyndon Johnson signed the final version of NSAM 273 on November 26th, 1963, just four days after the assassination and one day after the funeral.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 09:17:00 PM by TLR »


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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2013, 08:25:00 PM »
3/27/1964 Pentagon formally nullifies the withdrawing of US advisors by the end of 1965.

4/30/1964 In an oral history recording, RFK told John Bartlow Martin that JFK had felt "we should win the war" and there had been no consideration of pulling out of Vietnam. Arthur Schlesinger says that RFK was barely kept informed of JFK's real feelings about the war. Of the 8/24/1963 cable authorizing anti-Diem actions in Saigon, RFK said that his brother thought the cable "had been approved by McNamara and Maxwell Taylor and everybody else, which it had not...I became much more intimately involved in it then." He recalled that "the government was split in two" over whether to oust Diem.  He said that his brother didn't want to remove Diem unless they could be sure that the government that replaced him would be better. (RFK and his Times 748, 768)

5/27/1964 LBJ phone call to McGeorge Bundy (the recording was released in 1997): "I stayed awake last night thinking about this thing [Southeast Asia] and the more I think of it, I don't know what in the hell...It looks to me like we're getting into another Korea, it just worries the hell out of me, I don't see what we can ever hope to get out of there with once we're committed....I don't think it's worth fighting for and I don't think we can get out, and it's just the biggest damn mess."

6/8/1964 LBJ ordered strikes on Pathet Lao anti-aircraft positions near Phongsavang, Laos. Radio Hanoi announced the attack to the world, and the next day the administration was forced to admit it.

6/11/1964 RFK wrote LBJ that he was willing to go to Vietnam "in any capacity" to help the administration there. Jack Valenti later recalled that LBJ didn't want him to go out of fear that he might be assassinated by Vietnamese seeking revenge for Diem's death. (A Very Human President p141)

6/15/1964 Joseph Alsop came to the White House and told LBJ that if he didn't commit troops to Vietnam, he'd be presiding over the first real defeat for the US in history. He explained that there was no honorable way out of our commitment there. (White House Diary p168)

6/30/1964 New York Times quoted a recent interview with Henry Cabot Lodge: "Now, the overthrow...of the Diem regime was a purely Vietnamese affair. We never participated in the planning. We never gave any advice. We had nothing whatever to do with it...I shall always be loyal to President Kennedy's memory on this, because I carried out his policy...When I arrived in Saigon...there was a great deal of police brutality and oppression and everything was pretty much at a standstill." When asked about defoliation, he replied, "Well, we're defoliating every day...You kill the bushes and the trees and it broadens it out and you can't be ambushed." He explained that the VC in the northern part of the South Vietnam were dependent on Hanoi for aid, but the VC in the southern part were self-sufficient because of the “fantastically rich food-growing areas...There are such tremendous long coastlines and tremendous long frontiers - tremendously rough country. There isn't a superhighway that you can blow it up with bombs and stop...the supplies..."   Yet, only five days after Diem and Nhu were executed after the coup on November 1, 1963, Lodge had sent a cable to the White House which read, "... the ground in which the coup seed grew into a robust plant was prepared by us and the coup would not have happened without our preparation."

7/13/1964 Adm. Arleigh Burke was interviewed by US News & World Report. He stated, "Do we really believe that a nation that's starving can field a more powerful force in South Vietnam than we - the most powerful nation in the world?"

7/19/1964 South Vietnamese president Khanh made an impassioned public speech demanding that he be given the equipment to launch an invasion of the North. LBJ fumed, "Can't this man shut up for awhile? If Khanh marches north, Lyndon Johnson isn't marching with him." This week, Air Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky off-handledly revealed to reporters that for three years the South had been sending "combat teams" on hit-and-run raids against the North "by land, air and sea."

7/30/1964 A covert-action plan carried out by South Vietnamese patrol boats shelled two North Vietnamese islands in the Tonkin Gulf. This plan (Op Plan 34-A) was approved by LBJ in early 1964. The boats left Da Nang and attacked Hon Me and Hon Ngu shortly after midnight on 7/31. The boats had only 40mm and 20mm guns. 

8/2/1964 At 3:40pm (3:40am Washington time), Maddox attacked in Gulf of Tonkin. A North Vietnamese commander in the area ordered three PT boats to attack the destroyer to test the destroyer's reaction. Officially, three North Vietnamese PT boats fired torpedoes and shells at the Maddox while it was on patrol 30 miles off the coast; the destroyer fired back and drove them off. Actually, the Maddox was between 4 and 10 miles from the coast during the first attack, not in international waters; the destroyer was providing cover for South Vietnamese gunboats, "manned with CIA crew" according to former CIA station chief John Stockwell, who had long been raiding the North Vietnamese coast. The Maddox's log also showed that it fired the first shot while the PT boats were still 6 miles away. Robert McNamara says that Hanoi had never made a claim on the size of its territorial waters, so the administration assumed three miles; only after the Gulf of Tonkin did Hanoi claim a 12-mile territorial limit. As it was, he says that the Maddox was more than 25 miles off the coast. (In Retrospect p130-1) The Maddox was actually the first to open fire, and some of the crew (and the ship's log) said they were not "warning shots." The PT boats continued coming and returned fire with torpedoes and machine guns. Capt Herrick: "They came at us with blood in their eyes." Planes from the nearby Ticonderoga came to their assistance. The Maddox was going to finish off the PT boats when one of the planes thought it was experiencing a malfunction, and the destroyer pulled away in case the pilot had to ditch. Only one North Vietnamese bullet struck the Maddox; this bullet would be produced by the administration to prove to Congress that the attack happened. (Truth is the First Casualty p132, 202) The admiral in charge of the US fleet in the gulf was George Stephen Morrison, father of Doors singer Jim Morrison. (LA Times 12/8/2008, NYT 12/9/2008; Adm. Morrison died Nov 17 2008 at the age of 89)

11:30am (Washington time), LBJ met with his advisers, decided to overlook the incident and not retaliate because the Maddox had hit the PT boats hard; Max Taylor urged retaliation. Johnson did want the destroyer to go back into the area to demonstrate that the US had a right to be there. The meeting lasted 45 minutes; they mostly wondered why the North Vietnamese would attack the US Navy. A note of protest was sent to Hanoi and another destroyer was sent into the Gulf. General Nguyen Dinh Voc, director of the Institute of Military History in Hanoi, confirmed LBJ's belief that this attack was ordered by a local commander acting on his own, not Hanoi. (NYT Magazine 8/10/1997) Johnson also decided to draft a personal message to Khrushchev and sent it over the 'hot line,' assuring him that the US did not want a wider war in Vietnam. 

8/3/1964 9:46am Robert Anderson phone conversation with LBJ.
LBJ: There have been some covert operations in that area that we have been carrying on - blowing up some bridges and things of that kind, roads and so forth. So I imagine they wanted to put a stop to it. So they...fired and we responded immediately with five-inch [shells] from the destroyer and with planes overhead. And we...knock one of 'em out and cripple the other two.
Anderson: You're going to be running against a man who's a wild man on this subject. Any lack of firmness he'll make up...You've got to do what's right for the country...we're not soft...I haven't heard any adverse criticism from anybody. But I just know that this fellow's [Goldwater] going to play all the angles."

Noon: The Maddox, joined by the destroyer C. Turner Joy, began patrolling the Tonkin Gulf again. Maddox radarman James Stankevitz recalled, "We didn't even know this South Vietnamese deal had taken place. We thought it was kind of a shady deal to be pulling on us, setting us up as ducks. The crew was very resentful of it." (Truth is the First Casualty p139) NY Times reported today Defense Dept officials saying that they had no idea why the North Vietnamese patrol boats would attack the US fleet.  At this time, the North Vietnamese navy consisted of 4 wooden PT boats, 12 aluminum PT boats, three subchaser patrol craft and three small gunboats.

4pm: a group of South Vietnamese patrol boats left Da Nang, and by midnight were attacking North Vietnamese island installations at Cua Ron and Cape Vinh Son. Washington was not made aware of these attacks until sometime after 8/6. Why local US commanders did not inform Washington is not known. (Truth p139)    

In 1966, professors Franz Schurmann, Peter Dale Scott and Reginald Zelnik would advance the thesis (in The Politics of Escalation) that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was created to quash a Geneva-style conference on ending the war in Vietnam, which had been agreed to by the UN, France, the USSR, North Vietnam and China.

8/6/1964 Senator Daniel Brewster of Maryland expressed concern that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution might be used to introduce US combat troops into Vietnam. Sen. Fulbright replied, "There is nothing in the resolution, as I read it, that contemplates it. I agree with the Senator that that is the last thing we would want to do. However, the language of the resolution would not prevent it."

8/7/1964 Further debate in the Senate: Sen. Gruening denounced the resolution as "a predated declaration of war." Sen. Morse predicted "that history will record that we have made a great mistake...we are in effect giving the President's warmaking powers in the absence of a declaration of war." Altogether, the Senate debated the resolution for a total of 8 hours.
Congress passed Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It was approved by the Senate 88-2 (with only Morse and Gruening dissenting), by the House unanimously. "Even while he was blasting Goldwater as a warmonger, LBJ had made up his mind to escalate the conflict by bombing North Vietnam - a fact he later confided to Charles W. Roberts of Newsweek...he ordered his national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, to draw up a resolution which would give him a free hand in Vietnam. The idea was to send it to Congress for approval at the proper time. Bundy later confirmed there was such a draft, explaining, 'We had always anticipated...the possibility that things might take a more drastic turn at any time.'" (It Didn't Start with Watergate 183) McNamara says that the reason why the resolution was prepared a couple of months in advance was because of the deteriorating situation in Vietnam, and because they had briefly considered escalating the war effort in June 1964, but then decided against it. (In Retrospect 121-22) George Ball told the BBC in 1977 that "Many of the people who were associated with the war...were looking for any excuse to initiate bombing...The DESOTO [covert action] patrol [raids] was primarily for provocation...There was a feeling that if the destroyer got into some trouble, that would provide the provocation we needed." William Bundy said in the same interview that the crisis had not been "engineered"; he believed that both Hanoi and Washington miscalculated.

8/14/1964 Time and LIFE magazines had blatantly inaccurate stories about the second Gulf of Tonkin attack. From Life, a story "pieced together by Life correspondent Bill Wise with the help of US Navy Intelligence and the Department of Defense" "A few of [the PT boats] amazed those aboard the Maddox by brazenly using searchlights to light up the destroyers - thus making ideal targets of themselves. They also peppered the ships with more 37mm fire, keeping heads on the US craft low but causing no real damage." From Time: "The night glowed eerily with the nightmarish glare of air-dropped flares and boats' searchlights. For 3 1/2 hours the small boats attacked in pass after pass. Ten enemy torpedoes sizzled through the water...Two of the enemy boats went down. Then, at 1:30am, the remaining PTs ended the fight, roared off through the black night to the north." Maddox radarman James Stankevitz recalled four years later, "I couldn't believe it, the way they blew that story out of proportion. It was something out of Male Magazine, the way they described that "battle." All we needed were naked women running up and down the deck. We were disgusted, because it just wasn't true. It didn't happen that way."  (Truth is the First Casualty p158)

8/14/1964 Vice Adm. Roy L. Johnson and Adm. Thomas Moorer wrote a report on the Tonkin incident, and agreed that the night attack definitely occurred. Only the conclusions were made public, not the report itself.

10/5/1964 George Ball sent a lengthy memo to McNamara, Rusk and Bundy arguing that the US should find some political means to begin disengaging from Vietnam; he forcefully argued against escalation: "Once on the tiger's back we cannot be sure of picking the place to dismount." They met with Ball about the memo 10/7, but his proposals were ignored after that.

1965-67 Lady Bird Johnson writes in her diary about LBJ's unhappiness with the war and other pressures, and his desire to retire in 1968.

6/21/1965 LBJ told McNamara he was pessimistic that the American people would continue to support the war as things got worse. "And I don't believe they're [the communists] ever goin' to quit. And I don't see...that we have any...plan for victory militarily or diplomatically...[Sen. Richard] Russell thinks we ought to take one of these [regime] changes to get out of there. I do not think we can get out of there with our treaty like it is and with what all we've said and I think it would just lose us face in the world and I just shudder to think what all of 'em would say." (In Retrospect p190-1)

7/9/1965 RFK spoke about the need to find non-military solutions in Vietnam: "political first, political last, political always. Victory in a revolutionary war is won not by escalation, but by deescalation." LBJ was furious, and the press generally accused him of being politically motivated.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 09:24:58 PM by TLR »


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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2013, 08:26:20 PM »
7/14/1965 LBJ walks into a staff meeting, takes a seat, listens for a while, and then says: "Don't let me interrupt. But there's one thing you ought to know. Vietnam is like being in a plane without a parachute, when all the engines go out. If you jump, you'll probably be killed, and if you stay in, you'll crash and probably burn. That's what it is." Then, without waiting for a response, LBJ walks out of the room. During this period of time, both Bill Moyers and Richard N. Goodwin privately consult with psychiatrists concerning what they perceive to be LBJ's growing irrational behavior.

7/16-17/1965: McNamara met with Westmoreland in Saigon; he was told 175,000 troops would be needed by year's end and 100,000 more in 1966. Westy noted that air attacks were having little effect since the communists forces relied on so few supplies to move and fight.

9/13/1965 Columnist Joseph Alsop wrote about Vietnam: "At last there is light at the end of the tunnel."

10/10/1965 Speaking at Coalinga Junior College, Ronald Reagan calls for an official declaration of war in Vietnam. (SF Chronicle 6/9/02) Ronald Reagan said in an interview with the Fresno Bee, "We should declare war on North Vietnam…It's silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home by Christmas."

11/1965 Tom Wicker article ("Lyndon Johnson vs. the Ghost of Jack Kennedy") in Esquire. He reported that well before the Gulf of Tonkin incident, LBJ was carrying the resolution in his pocket waiting for a good occasion to use it.

11/5/1965 RFK told the press that he supported the right of Americans to dissent against the war, and even supported donating blood to the North Vietnamese.

1/31/1966 RFK said in the Senate, "If we regard bombing as the answer in Vietnam, we are headed straight for disaster."

2/1/1966 LBJ places a call today to Sen. Eugene McCarthy during which he complains about the Kennedy crowd and its left-wing allies in the Senate, who supported Kennedy's entrance into the war but not Johnson's continuance of it. "They started on me with Diem, you remember," Johnson tells McCarthy, recalling the words of the coup's proponents. "'He was corrupt and he ought to be killed.' So we killed him. We all got together and got a goddamn bunch of thugs and assassinated him. Now, we've really had no political stability [in South Vietnam] since then." Minutes later, in a call to Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, until recently America's ambassador to South Vietnam, LBJ expounds on his recollection, and the general echoes it. "They started out and says, 'We got to kill Diem, because he's no damn good. Let's, let's knock him off.' And we did," Johnson tells Taylor. "Yeah, that's where it all started," the general agrees. “That’s exactly where it started!” Johnson replies with obvious anger. “And I just pled with them at the time, ‘Please, don’t do it.’ But that’s where it started. And they knocked him off.”

2/21/1966 John Connally told LBJ that he thought RFK had been "the motivating force behind the Senate hearings and the Saturday statement was only his climax."  The Chicago Tribune's editorial was titled "Ho Chi Kennedy," an attack on RFK.

5/1966 Nixon said in a speech that "a retreat of the United States from Vietnam would be a Communist victory of massive proportions and would lead to World War III."

5/3/1966 Look magazine article quoted Sen. Fulbright: “But this Gulf of Tonkin incident, if I may say so, was a very vague one. We were briefed on it, but we have no way of knowing, even to this day, what actually happened...I have been told that there was no physical damage. They weren’t hit by anything.”

6/5/1966 Sunday Times (London) reporter Nicholas Tomalin quoted Gen. James F. Hollingsworth, "There's no better way to fight than goin' out to shoot VCs. An' there's nothing I love better than killin' Cong. No sir." 

9/20/1966 William Bundy testified before the Senate that a draft of what came to be the Gulf of Tonkin resolution had been readied earlier in the year as “a matter of normal contingency planning…I am not sure that my drafts were even known to others.” He said that “no serious thought” was given to submitting his resolution to Congress at the time he wrote it.   

11/21/1966 Henry Cabot Lodge was quoted by US News & World Report: "Yes, we have reached a turning point…it is clear to all that the Viet Cong cannot possibly win and that we cannot possibly be defeated."
« Last Edit: November 08, 2013, 09:29:54 PM by TLR »

Alan Dale

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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2013, 09:20:20 PM »
Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny.



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Re: JFK, Vietnam and Laos
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2013, 09:31:44 PM »
Exit Strategy   In 1963, JFK ordered a complete withdrawal from Vietnam
James K. Galbraith