Was JFK going to pull out of Vietnam?

The question is still “hotly debated” says the JFK Library and Museum, not the least because the question has become part of the debate over the causes of JFK’s assassination.

What does the record show about Kennedy’s thinking and actions on Vietnam?

“The view that Kennedy would have done what [his successor Lyndon] Johnson did — stay in Vietnam and gradually escalate the war in 1964 and 1965 — is held by left, center, and right,” wrote economist and historian James Galbraith in an extended 2003 Boston Review article about this question. Galbraith, whose father was among JFK’s most dovish advisers, cites leftist icon Noam Chomsky who has argued that Kennedy was no dove. In this YouTube interview, for example, Chomsky says JFK was “a hawk on Vietnam… He wanted to get out but only after victory” and “there was no significant change [in U.S. policy] after the assassination.”

That view is echoed by liberal biographer Kai Bird and conservative historian William Gibbons, according to Galbrath.

Yet, Galbraith notes, that a powerful counterargument came from unexpected source. Late in life, Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense for JFK and LBJ, and a man reviled by the anti-war movement in the 1960s for his support of the war, said that he thought JFK would not have escalated the war as LBJ did in 1964. McNamara’s statements lent credence to the arguments of historians, John Newman (“JFK and Vietnam”) and Howard Jones (“Death of a Generation”) who found that JFK had been quietly laying the groundwork for withdrawal without battlefield victory for much of 1963.

That interpretation gained more support in 1998 when the Assassination Records Review Board released the records of the May 1963 SecDef conference in which a phased withdrawal from Vietnam was put on the books as a policy option, something that was not known at the time and remained a state secret for 35 years. When JFK’s national security advisers met in Honolulu on Nov. 20, 1963, their briefing books reiterated the plans for withdrawal without victory.

The debate endures because JFK expressed support for both his dovish policy option (withdrawal without victory) and his hawkish option (escalation until victory). But overall, Galbraith notes that on a series of foreign policy decisions in his first two years and half years in office, JFK rejected the recommendation of his hawkish advisers. He sees JFK’s unfinished Vietnam policy in 1963 as

“part of a larger strategy, of a sequence that included the Laos and Berlin settlements in 1961, the non-invasion of Cuba in 1962, the Test Ban Treaty in 1963. Kennedy subordinated the timing of these events to politics: he was quite prepared to leave soldiers in harm’s way until after his own reelection. His larger goal after that was to settle the Cold War, without either victory or defeat—a strategic vision laid out in JFK’s commencement speech at American University on June 10, 1963.”

ANOTHER VIEW

JFK as hawk: “Going to Withdraw from Vietnam?

Two key documents:

Withdrawal from Vietnam (Oct. 11, 1963). JFK signs NSAM 263, an order to withdraw 1,000 troops out of roughly 16,000 Americans stationed in Vietnam by the end of 1963, with the complete withdrawal by the end of 1965.

Escalation in Vietnam (Nov. 26, 1963): Signed by President Lyndon Johnson four days after JFK’s death, NSAM 273 succeeded NSAM 263 and ordered the planning of increased activity in Vietnam.

JFK’s American University “Peace” Speech:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

186 comments

  1. [...] (4) Withdrawal-without-victory: He sees JFK’s unfinished Vietnam policy in 1963 as “part of a larger strategy, of a sequence that included the Laos and Berlin settlements in 1961, the non-invasion of Cuba in 1962, the Test Ban Treaty in 1963. Kennedy subordinated the timing of these events to politics: he was quite prepared to leave soldiers in harm’s way until after his own reelection. His larger goal after that was to settle the Cold War, without either victory or defeat—a strategic vision laid out in JFK’s commencement speech at American University on June 10, 1963.”  Fuente: http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/experts/was-jfk-going-to-pull-out-of-vietnam/ [...]

  2. Bart Kamp says:

    Let us not forget J. Douglass’ book which discusses this subject in quite a lot of detail.

  3. Nathaniel Heidenheimer says:

    Yes.

  4. Nathaniel Heidenheimer says:

    Why is Chomsky being quoted? He is not a historian. He is a professional Kennedy hater.

    I challenge everyone of you to find one of the thousand and one Chomsky drive by comments attacking JFK and find one with any degree of historical context whatsoever.

    Only one place is such context-less name-calling permitted. In OSTENSIBLY “left” publications in articles about the Kennedys. See Close Encounter Magazines of the Gatekeeping Kind.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Donald Gibson notes (in ‘Battling Wall Street: The Kennedy Presidency’, pg. 63) that “Finally, the November 22 issue of Life indicated its concern that President Kennedy was disengaging from Vietnam, asserting that ‘It is not a time to relax or schedule U.S. manpower withdrawals in time for our 1964 elections.’”

    On page 82 Gibson argues that “The commitment to a neo-colonialist policy in Southeast Asia goes back to the early 1940s, when the Morgan-led Council on Foreign Relations concluded that the U.S. ruling class should seek to control this region. The attraction was threefold. There were a variety of raw materials, the control of which would mean both money and economic power. The area was a major producer and exporter of rice and therefore a potential source of influence over consuming nations. Finally, the region was viewed as a strategic location in relation to important air and sea routes. From the early 40s through 1963, leaders within the CFR stated and restated their view that this area had to be held.”

  6. Jonathan says:

    The question here boils down in part to this: To what extent if any was Kennedy at odds with his military leaeders over Viet Nam policy? It also boils down in part to this: How did Kennedy perceive the situation in Viet Nam?

    There were glaring conflicts between JFK and the army in particular over Viet Nam. For example, JFK publicly admired the army’s Special Forces (Green Berets), which wound up playing a role in Viet Nam, albeit a restrained role. Mainstream army brass loathed the Special Forces, whom they regarded as counter-culture misfits and rebels. This was a big deal in the early 1960s.

    The mainstream army brass had a new doctrine (air mobility) and new weapons (including the M-16 rifle) they wanted to test in war. JFK was not enamoured with conventional military doctrine. He favored the unconventional tactics of the Special Forces, which involved working intimately with and helping indigenous peoples (e.g., Montagnards).

    Regardless of what JFK might have had in mind for Viet Nam, he lost control of the situation there with the assassination Diem. Things were already bad for South Viet Nam militarily. In January 1963, the Viet Cong had decimated an ARVN force advised and ferried by Americans at Ap Bac. It was clear by the time Diem was killed the South could not survive without substantial American support — air, land, and sea.

    Jfk had worked a so-called neutrality deal in Laos. He probably was at somewhat of a loss of what to do in Viet Nam. South Viet Nam, in some minds, wasn’t even a legitimate country.

    My guess is he wouldn’t have committed combat troops the way LBJ did, piecemeal, and fight an incrementally increasing war, as LBJ did. My guess is he would have been a realist and known that to keep the South afloat would take a tremendous investment over a very long time. I think he would have said no to war in Viet Nam.

    • mball says:

      I do believe that JFK’s liking of the Special Forces was because I think he saw them as a means of possibly accomplishing goals in Viet Nam that were viable, at far less cost both in combat and politically. Those goals were most likely to be effected by counterinsurgency tactics in which the SF’s were trained. There were rural development teams already in place and they had some very positive ideas for establishing some stability in Viet Nam that also countered the NLF’s attempts to subvert the government at the village level. The SF’s, rural development teams and Edward Lansadle were considered to be essential to that program. It was not military intensive, however. It required far fewer people to be effective. The mainstream military didn’t like it, and the State Dept. didn’t like Lansdale. The program met with opposition from the Army, and Lansdale got torpedoed politically. Then Diem got assassinated. It went out of control after that.

  7. John McAdams says:

    The real issue is not whether JFK would have eventually pulled out of Vietnam had he been in LBJ’s position in 1965.

    Conspiracy theorists have to argue that he had already decided to pull out and let the Communists take over.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Finally, the November 22 issue of LIFE indicated its concern that President Kennedy was disengaging from Vietnam, asserting that ‘It is not a time to relax or schedule U.S. manpower withdrawals in time for our 1964 elections.’”

    • TLR says:

      No, John, we don’t have to argue that. All JFK had to be doing was de-escalating in Vietnam (something he was clearly starting to do); continuing US financial and military aid while withdrawing US personnel. Basically the direction Nixon was taking later when he was being accused by Cold War hawks of “retreating” from Vietnam.

  8. George Simmons says:

    In his piece for this post, Mr Mcadams quotes some of Kennedy’s speeches made ( or undelivered) in late 1963 and asks the question, “If Kennedy…intended to pull out, why would he be bragging about US intervention?”

    I think one reason may be that Kennedy would soon have to face a battle to be re-elected, and maybe thought that such policies would bring him support amongst certain sections of the electorate and media. I feel that his speeches need to be looked at with this in mind.
    I don’t feel these speeches, quoted by Mr Mcadams, necessarily reflect the private views of Kennedy regarding Vietnam or any long term objectives he may have had for that region.

    • John McAdams says:

      Excellent. You think he was lying to gain political support.

      How about what Bobby said, after John was shot, when there was no need to fear electoral consequences?

      http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/vietnam.htm

      • Anonymous says:

        The fear wasn’t “electoral” based, John — rather, it was a fear of the War Hawks (military and intelligence) that surrounded JFK, and RFK after the death of his brother.

        There have been many articles published lately (including Dallek) that outlines this; I don’t think these revelations have gotten by anyone, including you.

      • TLR says:

        Seriously, in 1964? When he was still hoping to be LBJ’s running-mate, and aiming to get back in the White House himself someday? You think he was free to speak his mind about all of these things?

      • Paul Turner says:

        It seems to me that LBJ during the 1964 campaign said he was NOT going to do what he later did(escalate our involvement in the war).

        • Bill Clarke says:

          Paul Turner June 20, 2014 at 6:14 pm

          American involvement in the Vietnam War had been escalating for some time, especially after the MACV command was formed in 1962. Although seldom mentioned the communist North involvement in the war had escalated since late 1959. The communist sent down intact NVA combat units in 1964 and things went to hell in a basket. LBJ sent American combat units in March of 1965.

          Johnson made the same, “not sending American boys to do what Asian boys should do” remarks while running for the 1964 election. Of course he didn’t stick to this.

        • JSA says:

          Except LBJ used the Gulf of Tonkin incident as a pretext for war in August of 1964. Kennedy would have probably handled that differently, if you look at his record in Bay of Pigs, Berlin, Laos, Cuba. I think Kennedy was talking about supporting the South Vietnamese in the runup to 1964, but privately deciding to wait until after the election to pull out. As Bill points out, in Forth Worth the day he died, he talked about providing support to the South Vietnamese, which some have interpreted quite literally as the Gospel. According to the Joint Chiefs however, this was just empty talk. They thought Kennedy was a pacifist, an appeaser. They really didn’t like his pushing through the partial nuclear test ban in the summer of 1963. They thought he was soft, as Kennedy’s secret taping of them during the Cuban Missile Crisis reveals. So would Kennedy have broken with all his other foreign policy moves where he DIDN’T commit military force, and commit to Vietnam beyond military advisors, even though these advisors saw combat? I tend to doubt it. I think he was buying time for after the ’64 election. His record shows that he would probably not have handled the Gulf of Tonkin incident the same way LBJ did. And Kennedy had a record in the Senate for speaking out against Eisenhower’s consideration of military support after the French colonialists collapsed, in 1954.

          So far I haven’t seen any credible evidence put forward to show that JFK was going to escalate our involvement in Vietnam after the 1964 election. It doesn’t fit with Kennedy’s previous record.

          • JSA says:

            Evidently James Galbraith agrees with my theory about JFK and Vietnam, and cites Robert McNamara in his sources. To fully understand my position, I suggest that critics (like Bill and others) read his Boston Review article, which can be found here:
            http://www.bostonreview.net/us/galbraith-exit-strategy-vietnam

          • Bill Clarke says:

            JSA June 20, 2014 at 9:34 pm

            JSA, “So far I haven’t seen any credible evidence put forward to show that JFK was going to escalate our involvement in Vietnam after the 1964 election.”

            That would be because until the time of his death JFK had no reason to believe escalation in Vietnam would be necessary in 1964 or any other year. They thought we were winning for crying out loud! We could begin withdrawing! So no, JFK didn’t plan on escalating in Vietnam after 1964 and therefore there is no evidence of something that never was.

            However, I know of no credible evidence that Kennedy was going to abandon Vietnam as so many claim. The evidence isn’t there. Not credible anyway.

            Unfortunately the communist were actually winning the war when NSAM 263 was approved and THEY did indeed continue to escalate the war. With the instability caused by the removal of Diem and the infiltration of intact NVA combat units, by 1965 JFK would either have been forced to send U.S. combat units, as Johnson did, or be ran out of Vietnam. Now I don’t know what he would have done in 1965 but neither do you or John Newman or Mr. DiEugenio. The trouble with a lot of this crap is that no one seems to think the communist played any role in the rodeo.

            To understand the policy of JFK on Vietnam you have to be familiar with NSAM 263. From statements you and Mr. DiEugenio made in the “Senior Air Force Officer” thread it becomes clear that neither of you are familiar with it. So I posted the entire NSAM 263 in that thread for you and Mr. DiEugenio. Neither of you replied but I hope you at least read it.

            The real key to understanding NSAM 263 is the Miller Center tapes which I have referenced before. A must hear.

            1. http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1002_vietnam_am/

            2. http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1002_vietnam_pm/ind

            3. http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1005_vietnam/index.htm

          • Bill Clarke says:

            JSA June 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm

            Yes, Galbraith agrees with you. Really you agree with Galbraith and that is because judging from this statement I suspect you still haven’t read NSAM 263 and listened to the Miller Center Tapes. Plus you really have a need to believe Galbraith I believe.

            Now Galbraith stands head and shoulders above such fools as Peter Dale Scott and John Newman but he can be wrong just like anyone else. Since his father told JFK to withdraw it is nice for him to think JFK took the advice. Okay.

            Here is what the man said and I certainly agree;
            Quote on; Did John F. Kennedy give the order to withdraw from Vietnam?

            Certainly, most Vietnam historians have said “no”—or would have if they considered the question worth posing. They have asserted continuity between Kennedy’s policy and Lyndon Johnson’s, while usually claiming that neither president liked the war and also that Kennedy especially had expressed to friends his desire to get out sometime after the 1964 election.
            Quote off.

            So you can find a number of people (not all even historians) that agree with you. There are many more that do not. I had a great friend, Ted Gittinger, that worked at the LBJ Library at the time Newman came out with his book, “JFK and Vietnam”. Galbraith notes Ted and “Vietnam; the Early Years” in his article you referenced. Ted planned the seminar where Newman presented his case. It was roundly booed by the leading Vietnam historians. I posted Ted’s remarks for Mr. DiEugenio. I’ll be glad to repost them for you.

            To save space I’ll only comment on a few of the misconceptions one gets from reading your Galbraith reference;

            1. One would think that Oplan 34-A began with LBJ. It didn’t. The embryonic part of the plan began under JFK and was ran by the CIA. NSAM 273 moves it to the military since it wasn’t working as was. It still didn’t work and this is where Peter Dale thinks he nailed LBJ reversing JFK policy before “Jack” was cold in his grave. Pure junk.

            2. It seems they think 1965 was an end date for the withdrawal. If you ever listen to the Miller Center tapes you learn this isn’t true.

            3. That one can believe McNamara! More junk. He was a self serving liar.

            4. Galbraith relies heavily on Newman’s work. This disappoints me about Galbraith.

            5. We could go on but I’m running out of my allotted word limit.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Here is the oral history of Bobby Kennedy in the JFK Library. Bobby doesn’t seem to be agreeing with you and Galbraith. I post this once and the fellow didn’t respond. I’d like to hear your views on what Bobby had to say.

            http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/vietnam.htm

            Martin:
            There was never any consideration given to pulling out?
            Kennedy:
            No.
            Martin:
            But the same time, no disposition to go in all . . .
            Kennedy:
            No . . .

            Martin:
            It’s generally true all over the world, whether it’s in a shooting war or a different kind of a war. But the president was convinced that we had to keep, had to stay in there . . .
            Kennedy:
            Yes.
            Martin:
            . . . and couldn’t lose it.
            Kennedy:
            Yes.
            Martin:
            And if Vietnamese were about to lose it, would he propose to go in on land if he had to?
            Kennedy:
            Well, we’d face that when we came to it.

          • Jonathan says:

            Reply to:

            Bill Clarke
            June 21, 2014 at 1:08 pm

            As a student of the Vietnam War, you know there weren’t any battles involving U.S. combat units until 1965. The reason of course is that not until 1965 were U.S. ground and air combat units sited within Viet Nam.

            The first such battle, at Pleiku in early 1965 involving an attack against a U.S. airbase (8 U.S. KIA), occurred precisely because the U.S. had created an inviting target. In other words, the ramp up in fighting involving U.S. forces occurred precisely because LBJ put American ground and air forces in harm’s way.

            From then on, it was the U.S. vs. North Viet Nam. South Viet Nam simply went along for the ride, without any choice.

            It didn’t have to be that way. The U.S. didn’t have to send massive forces to South Viet Nam and assume its burden. LBJ couldn’t see that. Some here and some historians believe JFK did see that the burden to be borne was by the people of South Viet Nam. LBJ had no use for the people of Viet Nam; fought the war his own way; destroyed large parts of South Viet Nam with

          • JSA says:

            Reply to Bill Clarke:

            Bill,
            I will read NSAM 263 AND NSAM 273, to get the wording clear. However, I think you have to give Kennedy credit for the many times in his presidency that he did NOT use military force, when his civilian and military advisors urged him to do so. You seem to focus on Vietnam as if it existed in a vacuum, as if there was no JFK record to look at, to find patterns to see if his foreign policy fit into a pattern. Here’s another voice that says that JFK would probably not have escalated Vietnam, in a piece by Ed Kaplan. He makes some good points following historian Robert Dallek’s, after reading Dallek’s book ‘An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 – 1963′.

            Kaplan says:
            “What, then, is the compelling case for why JFK wouldn’t have gone to war? Those who argue that JFK would have gone into Vietnam just as LBJ did make the point that Kennedy was every bit as much a Cold Warrior as Johnson. They also note that the advisers who lured Johnson into war—Bundy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and the rest—had been appointed by Kennedy; they were very much Kennedy’s men.”/end quote

            Kaplan goes on to say:
            “But this is where there is a crucial difference between JFK and LBJ—a difference that Dallek misses. Over the course of his 1,000 days as president, Kennedy grew increasingly leery of these advisers. He found himself embroiled in too many crises where their judgment proved wrong and his own proved right. Dallek does note—and very colorfully so—Kennedy’s many conflicts with his military advisers in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But he neglects the instances—which grew in number and intensity as his term progressed—in which he displayed equal disenchantment with his civilian advisers. Yet Kennedy never told Johnson about this disenchantment. It didn’t help that Johnson was a bit cowed by these advisers’ intellectual sheen and Harvard degrees; Kennedy, who had his Harvard degree, was not.Indeed, the secret tapes are rife with examples of JFK’s challenging the wisdom of Bundy, McNamara, and the other architects-to-be of Vietnam. These disputes show up nowhere in Dallek’s biography. Yet the argument that Kennedy would have withdrawn from Vietnam becomes truly compelling only when you place his skepticism about the war in the context of his growing disenchantment with his advisers—and, by contrast, his failure to share this view with Johnson.”

            source:
            http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2003/05/the_war_room.html

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Jonathan June 21, 2014 at 6:07 pm

            True, no U.S. combat UNITS in Vietnam before March 8 (I believe the 8th). So no U.S. combat unit could have tangled with the communist before that date.

            Wrong. Pleiku (Camp Holloway)was not a battle between communist and American combat units. The communist attacked Pleiku in the early part of February 1965. Our first combat unit (Marine 3rd Division) didn’t get into country at Da Nang until early March of 1965. So we had no combat units in Vietnam in February of 65.

            Mac Bundy was in country at the time and toured the battle scene, calling for retaliation. Nothing worse than a civilian with the smell of burnt cordite in their nostril.

            In fact the base was constructed in 1962 so JFK is the one that put it out there for the communist to hit, not LBJ. The base was part of the escalation of the war in 1962 that so many tell me didn’t happen. Our eight dead were the “advisers” that so many tell me were not engaged in combat. Well, our men didn’t die of old age there.

            But I get your point. We put aircraft out there thinking that will scare the hell out of the communist. The communist, instead of being scared, think my god what a wonderful target. I believe that.

            But to not put out a defense is like thinking if we didn’t put the police on the streets they would never be shot by a bad guy. While that would be true it would be rather unsatisfactory I think.

            Was it necessary for Johnson to send in our combat units? You don’t think so. Perhaps you are right. I’m not sure but I strongly believe LBJ thought it was necessary at the time. Was Saigon really on the verge of collapse? This is the one I’m not sure about.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            JSA June 21, 2014 at 10:20 pm

            Glad to hear you will be reading NSAM 263 and 273. Please take time to listen to the Miller Center tapes. They are crucial to understanding what JFK was thinking when they formed the draft for NSAM 263. If you do all that I think it will give you a better understanding of what was going on in October of 1963.

            Please understand I don’t claim JFK would have sent in our Combat units. I’ve never claimed that and I never will, simply because we don’t know. No one knows despite all the opinions expressed. They are just that; opinions. This Kaplan fellow is doing just that. He isn’t a historian so what makes his opinion any better than yours or mine? It has been a long time sine I’ve read Dallek’s book but he is a solid historian. Best I remember the book was very good.

            Now for the fact that JFK didn’t use military power to solve his crisis. You have to remember that, except for the BOP and I’ll spot him that one for being new to the job, JFK always PREVAILED. He didn’t have to use military power. Now thank god JFK didn’t start firing nukes right off the bat like some of his advisers wanted him to do. I give him great credit for that. But he always PREVAILED. Now what would have happened if the Soviet ships had not turned back at the Cuban Missile Crisis or if the Soviets had signed a treaty with East Germany so they could roll over Berlin we don’t know what JFK would have done. And I’m glad of that fact.

            I honestly believe that JFK died planning to prevail in Vietnam. NSAM 263 confirms that. What would he have done? WE don’t know.

            Oh, and Laos was a flop but there wasn’t much else he could have done there. And in 35 years of reading history I’m aware that these things do not happen in a vacuum.

    • Dave says:

      JFK kept his closest advisors, Joint Chiefs and political pundits guessing as to what his real intentions were for Vietnam. This is a politician’s prerogative to appeal to as many voters as possible, as he was preparing for the 1964 election. But when you look at his prior educational, political, and military influences plus his 1963 American University speech and opening of back-channels to both Khrushchev and Castro, it all points to a withdrawal from Vietnam within a couple years. “JFK and the Unspeakable” by James Douglass is a convincing read.

      • John McAdams says:

        “JFK and the Unspeakable” by James Douglass is a convincing read.

        In fact, it’s a very bad book:

        http://www.washingtondecoded.com/site/2009/12/unspeakably-awful.html

        • Jonathan says:

          John,

          I wish you’d argue why the book is bad. Rather than providing a link. I want YOUR reasoning.

          I found “Unspeakable” informative but a bit speculative. The whole issue, which I’ve argued elsewhere on these pages, is whether JFK inteneded to plunge the U.S. into war into Viet Nam. Or whether he intended to leave the outcome to the people and government of South Viet Nam.

          All is speculation here. JFK gave all indications of wanting to avoid war. My informed guess is he wanted to avoid war in Viet Nam. On 11-22-63, no one could see how events would play out politically and militarily in South Viet Nam.

          To say Douglass’s book is bad is a categorical statement. An assertion. I expect more from a university professor. Please lay out your argument.

        • Anonymous says:

          No John, in fact is it a very good book, and very well researched.

          At Amazon, it is given 4-5 stars by 371 people out of a total of 421.

          I’d say that’s pretty good.

          But if you’re complaining that the book isn’t Perfect, then you’re right.

        • TLR says:

          That’s your opinion. It happens to be a very well-sourced book. The only weak spot is his reliance on Gordon Arnold and Ed Hoffman as witnesses.

          • mball says:

            Plus his take on JFK’s speech in Tampa on 11/18/63, as well as the episode with the airplane landing onn the trinity River bed to pick up conspirators. Those are serious weak points.

          • John McAdams says:

            And other witnesses such as James Willcott, Roger Craig, Abraham Bolden and Charles Crenshaw.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            How significantly did Ed Hoffman change his story? Also, how may of those stories were related by the FBI (who may have edited or changed his own account)?

            Basically, it’s the same, no?

          • Paul Turner says:

            I haven’t yet read the book, but Hoffman may have been the best of the witnesses. Too bad his disabilities disallowed him from showing that.

        • leslie sharp says:

          John McAdams has referenced the site of Max Holland. Any experienced “Googlist” will recognize Holland’s writings that include:

          The Power of Disinformation: The Lie That Linked CIA to the Kennedy Assassination By Max Holland “The 1967 arrest and indictment of Clay Shaw for conspiring to kill President Kennedy was one of the greatest travesties in the history of American jurisprudence. ”

          ‘Googlists’ can further see that Holland’s ‘board of “historians” ‘includes Priscilla McMillan and Patricial Lamber,

          Washington Decoded:
          David Barrett, professor, Villanova University
          Barton Bernstein, professor, Stanford University
          William Burr, senior analyst, National Security Archive
          Thomas Ferguson, professor, University of Massachusetts
          William Gaines, investigative reporter (ret.), Chicago Tribune
          Irwin Gellman, author
          John Haynes, historian, Library of Congress
          Joan Hoff, professor, Montana State University
          Mark Hulbert, editor, Hulbert Financial Digest
          William Joyce, director, Special Collections, Penn State Libraries
          Martin Kelly, professor (ret.), Hobart & William Smith Colleges
          Harvey Klehr, professor, Emory University
          Mark Kramer, editor, Journal of Cold War Studies
          Stanley Kutler, professor (ret.), University of Wisconsin
          Patricia Lambert, author & journalist
          Charles Lewis, professor, American University
          Priscilla McMillan, author & journalist
          Jay Peterzell, journalist
          Thomas Powers, author & journalist
          Leo Ribuffo, professor, George Washington University
          Jeffrey Richelson, senior fellow, National Security Archive
          Priscilla Roberts, lecturer, University of Hong Kong
          Thomas Schwartz, professor, Vanderbilt University
          Sheldon Stern, historian (ret.), John F. Kennedy Library
          Jay Tolson, author & journalist
          Alan Tonelson, research fellow, USBIC Educational Foundation
          Richard Whalen, author & journalist

        • Dave says:

          In your opinion. Douglass’ facts and historical analysis is more convincing than yours. In my opinion.

      • Paul says:

        How sadly ironic that with JFK as President, this country wouldn’t have begun going downhill in many ways in 1965, as it did with LBJ.

  9. Cousin Jack says:

    When squeezed between a rock and a hard place, a former journalist imprisoned within his own presidency, like the two executives before him who’d expressed serious reservations over the growing power of America’s Post WWII’s military-industrial complex, might perceive that poetically leaking his larger executive dilemma to the press-at-large might be the only honest political “out” he really had:

    “Which is that I must go withal? I am with both: each army hath a hand; and in their rage, I having hold of both, they whirl asunder and dismember me.” King John Act III Scene I

    At a Hotel Texas Presidential Breakfast on the morning of November 22, 1963, praise for the Fort Worth corporate firepower of Democracy’s Arsenal (perhaps in a noble ranger nod to “Mustang Gray”?) shows that Oval Office support for the “Domino Theory” in fighting the “Communist Advance” was still being publicly expressed whether sincerely believed in or not.

    “This act is as an ancient tale new told.”

  10. John McAdams says:

    When JFK’s national security advisers met in Honolulu on Nov. 20, 1963, their briefing books reiterated the plans for withdrawal without victory.

    And just where do you get “withdrawal without victory?”

    The hope, as of the Honolulu Conference, was that with U.S. help South Vietnam could fight off the invasion from the North.

    The AP reported, regarding the Conference:

    The signs are promising but it may take six months to tell whether the overthrow of the Diem regime has brought victory in the anti-Communist war closer.

    http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/viet17.htm

    • Anonymous says:

      “The hope, as of the Honolulu Conference, was that with U.S. help South Vietnam could fight off the invasion from the North.”

      That’s exactly right.

      The problem was, JFK wouldn’t approve of it, so they murdered him.

      • John McAdams says:

        An assertion for which you have no proof.

        Jeff wrote that the Honolulu Conference showed the acceptance of a withdrawal with a Communist victory.

        That wasn’t true.

        And Kennedy (like pretty much everybody else in his administration) wanted the South Vietnamese to fight off the invasion from the north — with U.S. aid and advisers.

        • Anonymous says:

          NSAM 263 before, and NSAM 273 after.

          Simple.

        • Gerry Simone says:

          There’s a big difference in LBJ’s approved NASM 273 (no mention of 1,000 troop withdrawal and paragraph 7 about increased activity) from early drafts.

          It seems that the first draft of NASM 273 merely omits mention of 1,000 troop withdrawal which was not to be publicized in the first place according to NASM 263.

          Also, JFK didn’t sign NASM 273.

          (There are others who can speak more knowledgeably than me on this matter).

          • Ronnie Wayne says:

            I don’t claim to know more than anyone but actually way less than many. But I do know as documented facts from what I’ve read that JFK signed NSAM263. LBJ signed NSAM273,around or less than 24 hours after JFK was buried. Call me simple minded but that seems more than suspicious to me.
            We’ve been through this on another thread but this begs the question, was LBJ possibly fulfilling a prior commitment or acting at the behest of those who had just slaughtered his predecessor in front of him?

    • Jonathan says:

      NSAM 263 and the document it incorporates by reference (?) make clear the total withdrawal by the end of 1965 was predicated on improvement of the Diem regime’s record against the Viet Cong, especially in the Delta, the southern-most part of Viet Nam, where the Viet Cong were very strong and where there were few Catholics like Diem.

      NSAM 263 contemplates that the South Vietnamese government will work both militarily against the Viet Cong and positively with the South Vietnamese people to harden the South’s stance against the Viet Cong (the National Liberation Front, or NLF).

      NSAM 273 is a charter for war.

      John, you need to give up this one. You weren’t there. You don’t know ONE BIT of the inside story.

      • Bill Clarke says:

        NSAM 263 make no mention of “total withdrawal” or “complete withdrawal” or any other words denoting “total” or “all”. You won’t find any such document with the approval of JFK that does.

        Here is what NSAM 263 says; “2. A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by U.S. military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time.”

        Please not the “should be possible”. This isn’t saying “we will”. Also please note “the bulk of U.S. personnel”. The bulk does not mean “all”. In fact they planned on leaving around 3,500 troops, about 20% of the force in Vietnam at the time. The numbers aren’t as important as the fact that we would maintain a presence in Vietnam. You can hear JFK say if 1965 doesn’t work we will get another date and hear about the 3,500 left behind at http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1002_vietnam_am/

  11. Ronnie Wayne says:

    JFK ordered NSAM 263 rewritten after the initial draft of his thoughts were not expressly communicated in it. He did this behind closed doors with the writer only. I think his intentions and message were clear. The above mentioned 11/22/63 Life article supports this along with comments he made to others. I don’t think there is much argument among the conspiracy realists about this.
    NSAM 273 is pretty damming. Not in the grave 24 hours and JFK’s former VP feels it is such a priority he must rescind it immediately.
    The real question is why did he feel motivated to do so so quickly? It makes me wonder and I know I shouldn’t. Could he have been fulfilling a prior commitment or following orders from people who had eliminated his predecessor?

  12. Photon says:

    The private views of JFK were rather evident when he gave the go ahead for the coup to remove the Ngo brothers.They were seeking back channel contacts with the communists,as JFK was well aware. They were planning on seeking an accommodation with the communist forces and were known to be planning to ask the Americans to leave after reaching that accommodation .
    The revisionist viewpoint has never adequately addressed this issue, particularly in view of the fact that decapitating the SVN government made further American involvement inevitable.
    The Nov. 1963 coup made every JFK statement made prior to the event meaningless.

    • bogman says:

      I think close JFK aides Schlesinger and Sorensen would disagree with the assessment that he approved the coup. They said it came as a shock to him as well.

      • Jonathan says:

        bogman,

        There is an October 29, 1963 tape of JFK, RFK, and other advisers discussing a possible coup in Saigon. The tape makes several things clear: (1) The Kennedys, although uncomfortable at the thought of a coup, came around only to worrying about whether a coup could succeed. (2) JFK did not veto a coup; it was on the table. (3) Neither JFK nor RFK gave any consideration to what might happen physically to Diem if a coup occurred. (4) JFK assumed the U.S. would be able to control the coup leaders if the coup succeeded.

        I give JFK a failing grade here for two reasons. First, he failed to act decisively and left room for Henry Cabot Lodge, ambassador to Saigon, to signal the coup leaders that the U.S. would back a coup. Second, he failed out of naivete to anticipate that the coup leaders would murder Diem and Nhu.

        • JSA says:

          I agree with Jonathan’s assessment, but would add that I think JFK was trying to buy time, specifically to wait until after the 1964 elections. He wanted to win reelection and didn’t want to screw his chances by appearing to be “soft on communism”. However, while he couldn’t control what CIA was doing by helping to rouse the Buddhist monks, and he couldn’t control the behind the scenes screwing over that he was getting from his Joint Chiefs (who tried to screw him behind his back during the Cuban Missile Crisis—it’s on tape), JFK could start to withdraw US forces, which he began doing in 1963. He intended to withdraw all forces by 1965, as he wasn’t planning to run again (he was limited to two terms thanks to the GOP fear of another FDR and the term limits imposed).

          Tellingly, Robert Kennedy said in 1967 that his brother was opposed to broadening the war in IndoChina, and that he would never have okayed an escalation of the war based on phony torpedo attacks (Gulf of Tonkin), as LBJ did. Sorensen said the same thing, as did Robert McNamara, many years after he sold his soul to the Devil (LBJ) in 1964 and until 1968.

          Anyone who thinks as Photon seems to think that JFK was going to put boots on the ground in Vietnam as LBJ did in 1965 just doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about.

          • John McAdams says:

            Robert Kennedy said in 1967 that his brother was opposed to broadening the war in IndoChina, and that he would never have okayed an escalation of the war based on phony torpedo attacks (Gulf of Tonkin), as LBJ did.

            That’s not what Bobby was saying in 1964.

            http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/vietnam.htm

            As for the “phony” attacks, the Maddox was indeed attacked.

            The Turner Joy was not attacked, but sailors thought they were under attack. That’s common among soldiers and sailors in a war zone.

          • JSA says:

            Interestingly, we didn’t go to war with Israel in 1967 when they attacked the USS Liberty, nor did we go to war with North Korea (declare renewed war with boots back after 1953) when the North Koreans captured the USS Pueblo.

            JFK could have declared war over the Berlin Wall, or over the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, but he chose not to. You REALLY THINK he would have escalated Vietnam over Gulf of Tonkin?
            Think again.

          • Photon says:

            And who was president during the U.S.S. Liberty attack?
            And who was president during the Pueblo incident?
            And who was president during the Korean EC-121 incident( the Flying Pueblo)?
            LBJ. What is your point?

          • JSA says:

            Photon,

            My point is, an attack on a US Naval vessel isn’t a GUARANTEE of war. LBJ didn’t have to go into Vietnam with boots on the ground just because of the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

            THAT’S MY POINT.

        • Ronnie Wayne says:

          Jonathan, I appreciate your service along with family members in this WAR. Though I believe it it ill conceived I appreciate the dedication of those who served their country. As I would have, I still have my draft card, I didn’t burn it.
          Lodge lost his Senate Seat to JFK which led to the Presidency.
          Lodge refused to communicate with the Kennedy’s during the course of the Diem Assassination.
          I think this was covered in Destiny Betrayed.

      • Bill Clarke says:

        Of course they would. They had tied their careers and reputations to JFK. Their credibility concerning JFK is suspect at best.

        I believe you are confusing Kennedy’s shock when told of Diem’s death because there certainly was no shock about the coup. The approval for the coup is well documented, the message to Lodge that okays it can be found on the internet.

        Kennedy didn’t order the assassination of Diem but he certainly allowed the coup to proceed.

    • Jonathan says:

      Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu craved power more than they cared about fighting the National Liberation Front (NLF), also called the Viet Cong. That’s a fact. It’s also a fact Nhu, the palace master, cared far more about screwing over Buddhists than communists.

      But the Ngo brothers were not naive about their country. They MIGHT have been able to make some sort of deal with the NLF that would have allowed them to remain in power insofar as the NLF was concerned. But the NLF always was a bit player in the Second Viet Nam War.

      The big dog on the communist side was Ho Chi Minh. Ho had one objective: reunification of Viet Nam. Period.

      Ho exploited the NLF. The communist troops that got creamed in large numbers in Tet ’68 were Viet Cong soldiers, not North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars. This was fine with Ho. He didn’t particularly like his southern colleagues. After the war’s end, he purged surviving NLF leaders.

      The NGO brothers could not have made any deal with Ho. And they could not have stood up alone to his forces. They knew this. They were corrupt and oppressive but not dummies.

      • Photon says:

        How could Ho have possibly purged the surviving NFL leaders after the war’s end when he was dead BEFORE the war’s end?
        It was the recently deceased Vo Nguyen Giap who used up the main force Viet Cong units in Tet ; it was an attempt to take over the country by general uprising. Giap was willing to accept massive troop loses to gain his objectives, probably more so than any recent military leader; ironically surviving as a bedridden old man who lived past 100 while hundreds of thousands of his soldiers never made it past 30.
        But that was not the situation in 1963. While everybody knew that Hanoi called the shots the Ngo brothers thought that the southern communists would make a deal, at least for a decent interval. At that time they saw a neutralist Laos and an independent Cambodia under Sihanouk ; both survived by accommodation. Besides, if the brothers got rid of the Americans why wouldn’t the communists accept them-at least as figureheads?
        That was the situation in 1963. Coupled with the Buddhist repression it was obvious to everybody in the Kennedy White House that they had to go- unless JFK really wanted to pull out. If he did he would have done nothing, not push a coup.

        • Jonathan says:

          Thanks for the refresher on Ho’s date of death.

          I generally agree with the content of your comment, photon. You are remarkably knowledgeable IMO in the history of the Second Viet Nam war. Makes me wonder where you get your information.

          I disagree though with your assessment of Kennedy’s take on Viet Nam. Kennedy was naive about the ability of the U.S. to control events in Viet Nam. Kennedy IMO bent toward the coup proponents. Not because however he was scheming against the Ngo brothers; but because the Ngo brothers just weren’t getting the job done against the NLF and were pissing off local villagers, the Buddhists, and the Cao Dai headquartered in Tay Ninh Province, where I served for a time.

          I tend to agree with the facts you state; not your interpretation. But where the hell did you get these facts?

          • Photon says:

            The Sacred Basket,Victor Hugo and Joan of Arc.
            If you really were in Tay Ninh you will understand.

          • Photon says:

            Jonathan, did you know that they added formaldehyde to “33″.

          • JSA says:

            Photon,

            Were you in Vietnam?

          • leslie sharp says:

            Photon, please enlighten us (with all due respects to Jonathan and anyone that served in Vietnam) what is this about:

            “Caodaists worship the left eye as an Asian synthesis of eastern and western traditions, and tell their stories of exile, anti-colonial struggle and building immigrant congregations in California. Rituals, temples and archival images combine to provide a personal perspective on a largely unknown mystical tradition. Older religious leaders tell how this new faith emerged in colonial Saigon in the 1920s and was soon followed by one of four people in southern Vietnam. Incorporating European figures like Victor Hugo and Jeanne d’Arc, Caodaists tried to heal the wounds of colonialism, but suffered persecution from the French, the Diem government and the communists. After 1975, new spirit mediums in California developed an innovative style of worship for a generation of followers facing the challenges of the American context and newly re-opened contact with religious centers in Vietnam. How independent can California congregations be from sacred authorities in the homeland?”

            Is this a subtle reference to Lansdale?

            Jonathan states: “Makes me wonder where you get your information.” I too wonder the same, and I wonder what is your agenda Photon? And as John Kirsch – a previous commenter on this sit – consistently challenged, who precisely is informing/advising you to the level of detail you are providing? Plain English, if the purpose of this site is to inform and disperse suspicion, to shed light on the assassination … what are your intentions?

          • Jonathan says:

            Photon,

            Your reply is obscure, I’m afraid. And yes, I was stationed in Tay Ninh City at the MACV compound, which sat next to the CIA compound and across the street from the MSS compound.

            I traveled from time to time across the triple-arch bridge into the city and out to the basecamp, where the 25th Infantry Division had an artillery regiment that periodically shelled Nui Ba Den, atop which was stationed an American radio relay team that was overrun and wiped out during the 1972 Easter Offensive.

            Yes, I’ve got vivid memories of Tay Ninh City, the mountain, the basecamp, the airfield and much more. But your reply to my question about where you got your information leaves me utterly puzzled.

            If your reply has something to do with the Cao Dai temple, which I did not visit until 1994, I’m still puzzled.

          • Jonathan says:

            Reply to Photon:

            I’M amazed. I drank “33 Beer” in Saigon at the Continental Hotel and elsewhere on Tu Do Street in 1971 and 1972.

            Formaldehyde? I didn’t get any effects.

          • Jonathan says:

            Reply to leslie sharpe (April 12):

            The Co Daists have a famous temple, a marvelous structure featured in a 1950s National Geographic, in Tay Ninh City. Tay Ninh City is the capital of Tay Ninh Province, which borders Cambodia west of Saigon (HCM City).

            I was in the temple in a return to Viet Nam in 1994. In the entryway is a display board containing the left-side of a figure’s head, prominently featuring the left eye. Below this figure is some writing in English, which as I recall is the writing of Victor Hugo.

            You can get an interesting take on the Cao Dai religion from “The Quiet American”, a Graham Greene novel (a truly great novel) set in 1950s Saigon, which revolves around a CIA false-flag plot to stir up the population. Greene’s protagonist is quite skeptical of the Cao Dai. It’s a very good read.

        • Anon. says:

          Why then, did JFK increase defence spending significantly, and have + 1000 ‘advisors’ in Vietnam from 1961-63, if he was not going to escalate the situation in Vietnam.

          Genuine quest.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            He gave them more assistance to defend themselves, not escalate the war.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            I don’t see how Gerry can think adding 16,000 Americans in SVN, sending jet fighters and bombers, helicopter units, many M-113s anything but escalation. We won’t even mention the fact that what used to be pure advisers under Ike now became Americans involved in combat.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            Relatively speaking, it was not an escalation.

            The advisors were a proportionate response to the rising insurgency and incursions by NVN.

  13. bogman says:

    I think the new evidence is clear that JFK wanted a peace settlement with India as the broker. He wanted to utilize his friend John Galbraith as the Indian ambassador for that purpose.

    Combine that with JFK’s long-held belief in self-determination for former colonies and the NSAM memo and I think it’s pretty obvious he was looking for an alternative to troops on the ground.

    • Paul says:

      It was said many times by our own government back during the Assassination that it must be proven Oswald was the killer so we can avoid World War 3. We didn’t get World War 3, but we got Vietnam, which was pretty bad by itself.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “The commitment to a neo-colonialist policy in Southeast Asia goes back to the early 1940s, when the Morgan-led Council on Foreign Relations concluded that the U.S. ruling class should seek to control this region. The attraction was threefold. There were a variety of raw materials, the control of which would mean both money and economic power. The area was a major producer and exporter of rice and therefore a potential source of influence over consuming nations. Finally, the region was viewed as a strategic location in relation to important air and sea routes. From the early 40s through 1963, leaders within the CFR stated and restated their view that this area had to be held.” (Gibson, ‘Battling Wall Street’).

    Let’s see now—we had the reneging by the USA on elections mandated at Geneva in 1956, following the fall of Dien Bien Phu.

    Then there’s the swiftness of LBJ in reaffirming the commitment to South Vietnam the day before the assassinated JFK was buried, and the issuance of NSAM 273 the day after.

    Then we have the dubious Gulf of Tonkin incidents of Fall 1964, and later the assassinations of Martin Luther King and RFK, both high-profile war opponents.

    Looking at the Big Picture, then, I’d say that Oliver Stone has a point when he says that President Kennedy was murdered over his emerging Vietnam policies.

    • Anonymous says:

      But wait, there’s more to add to the above:

      1) The profits from drug-running, based out of Vietnam.

      2) The need for a long, protracted war to sustain war profiteering, satisfied in Vietnam.

      3) The statements of Gary Underhill, who suspected a “Far Eastern” branch of the C.I.A.

      4) The shenanigans at the Honolulu Conference, now being uncovered by folks like Mr. Burnham.

      5) And when we look at today’s world (i.e., the rise of China) this all makes sense, and was certainly predictable way-back-when.

      • Jonathan says:

        Anonymous,

        Good comment. I served in the Nam for a year, toward the end.

        Many at the time believed the U.S. war in Nam was based on profits. Colt. PA&E. Lockheed. Sure lots of defense contractor profits.

        The biggest profits came from DRUGS. DRUGS brought into Viet Nam from Laos. Drugs (pure heroin) that fed U.S. soldiers in the closing days of the U.S. involvement.

        I saw the blue capsules on the ground. Everywhere.

        An intel officer buddy told me the heroin was being imported by high South Vietnamese officials. He was in a position to know. He was running drug runners for info on American POWs.

        The war in Viet Nam is one thing to the American people. It’s another thing to insiders.

        • Photon says:

          I actually know a veteran of the last American battle of the Vietnam war- which actually took place in Cambodia.

          • Jonathan says:

            What do you define as “the last American battle of the Vietnam war”? I’m quite curious.

            Americans were dying and getting wounded in Viet Nam in 1971 and 1972 when I was there.

            In III Corps, where I was located, elements of the First Infantry Division, the 25th I.D., and the 11th Armored Cav were conducting combat operations into 1972.

            The big incursion into Cambodia occurred in the spring of 1970. The Laos incursion occurred a year later. I’m unaware of any American-led conventional battle that occurred in Cambodia after 1970.

          • Photon says:

            Jonathan , it is truly a tragedy that you and the vast majority of Americans have no recollection of the heroic sacrifices of the U.S.Marines involved in the rescue of the crew of the S.S. Mayaguez
            The names of the fallen were the last names placed on the Wall in D.C. except for veterans who died of service-related injuries years after the conflict.
            Even the Marine Museum in Quantico makes little mention of the operation.

        • Ronnie Wayne says:

          Jonathan, my cousin was a navigator on choppers in about 1970. He never really talked about it until after his dads funeral in 2000. Then he told me of being drafted straight out of high school, given 6 months training and sent. “You don’t know shit from shinola, then your being shot at in a strange place”. He claimed to have been shot down 3x, the only survivor once (no wonder the grunts sat on their helments in the choppers to protect their nuts from fire below). He also told of becoming addicted to heroin while there between the fear, pressure, and the fact it was almost free. He kicked by surviving and coming home to a semi rural area where supply was severely limited and much more expensive. He’s been on disability for many years from the effects of agent orange and ptsd.
          Just posed this in support of your statement about the drug availability and running at high levels. We won’t delve into the stories of shipments in cadavers here. Profit, the American Way, any way you can get it, at some levels.

          • Jonathan says:

            Ronnie,

            Your cousin had a dangerous job, flying on choppers daily.

            I served in the Nam exactly one year. The pilot and co-pilot for my intel unit, who were pilots not intel-trained personnel, were in their their tours. Why did they re-up? Simple: the drugs were good; they had beaten the odds; for the most part they avoided firefights and hot LZs.

            They told me about their experiences. They’d been shot down several times. Flying with them, I experienced ground fire, creased rotors.

            I sat on my flak-jacket.

          • Photon says:

            Helicopters don’t have navigators.
            Navigators in the service were commissioned officers, not recruits with six months of training . This story is not credible.

      • John McAdams says:

        3) The statements of Gary Underhill, who suspected a “Far Eastern” branch of the C.I.A.

        There is no reason to believe that Underhill had any inside information, since he had had no connection with the CIA since the mid-fifties.

        http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/death16.htm

        As for:

        4) The shenanigans at the Honolulu Conference, now being uncovered by folks like Mr. Burnham.

        You need to explain what “shenanigans” you have in mind. The hope at the conference was that the coup might put in place a government better able to get the support of the people in fighting off the invasion from the north.

        • Anonymous says:

          “No proof” to your “no proof,” John.

          That’s the way it always is.

          • Anonymous says:

            John says (see well above) that NSAM 263 and 273 are very much alike.

            Then why issue 273?

            And that 273 was drafted while Kennedy was still alive.

            That might be true, but Kennedy was never able to ratify it.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      1. The United States did not sign the Geneva Accords. Diem, who didn’t sign either, told them at the time he wasn’t having anything to do with a communist election. The elections was a fell good thing at the time.

      2. Many mention this, as if the government should have shut completely down. Life goes on.

      3.The first attack was indeed real. The second wasn’t. If not the Tonkin Gulf then some other place soon. Too much is made of this.

      4. Oliver Stone is a very bad place to get your history of the assassination and of the Vietnam War.

  15. Curtis says:

    JFK was wary of Vietnam – He was there way back in 1951…JFK’s nephew recalls the fallen president’s attempts to halt the war machine: “His critics included not just the traditionally bellicose Joint Chiefs and the CIA, but also trusted advisers and friends, including Gen. Taylor; Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Rusk.”
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/john-f-kennedys-vision-of-peace-20131120?page=2

    “”What does the record show ”

    The public record was very different from the private record: History Professor, Peter Kuznick, describes how JFK’s public statements were hawkish but were privately dovish for the 64 election.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRJBJp6JQHE#t=172

    Published on Oct 11, 2012, Kennedy records a personal memo – heard on YouTube we can hear JFK in his own words describe the Diem coup positions of the doves and hawks. JFK also describes how he was “shocked by the death of Diem” :
    Listening In: JFK on Vietnam (Nov 4, 1963) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQX4cBV5Kfw

  16. Photon says:

    Your YouTube reference makes the case that for three months the White House had been aware of the coup and despite the advice of Taylor and McNamera JFK decided to go ahead with the coup.
    Let’s face it. Unless you subscribe to the notion that JFK was an airhead influenced by the last guy he talked to it is evident that he supported the coup and made the ultimate decision to proceed with it. As weeks before the Ngo brothers refused an American offer of asylum in exchange for abdication JFK had to know that they would not survive a coup. Perhaps his comments about the deaths were more in regards to them being shot down inside an American-made APC while bound and helpless in a particularly messy way.

  17. Anonymous says:

    As for the infamous Gulf of Tonkin attacks, apparently even the NSA has doubts about their validity:

    http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB132/press20051201.htm

    • JSA says:

      It wasn’t just the NSA who had doubts. My dad told me that many of his colleagues at the Pentagon had private doubts about those alleged attacks, but nobody wanted to say anything if they wanted to keep their career track intact, if you know what I mean.

      Let’s get one thing clear: Ike warned JFK in late 1960 about Laos and Vietnam, as a hot spot that needed attention. We had been engaged in Southeast Asia since the French pulled out, in the fifties. JFK didn’t start that mess. He INHERITED it. Most competent historians today recognize that, complicated as the issue was politically, JFK really wanted to pull us out of there (Vietnam). He was looking for an exit but had an election coming up, and didn’t want to push too far, too soon (what’s known as ‘timing’ in politics). For the same token, he wanted to recognize Communist China, but couldn’t—it was too much, too soon. Nixon seized on the opportunity to do so when he was president (timing). Robert Dallek, whom I don’t agree on with respect to his views on the JFK assassination, gets it right when he says that JFK didn’t want (nor would he) put boots on the ground in Vietnam, as LBJ did in 1965 (AFTER the election). Whereas LBJ’s timing was to escalate, JFK’s timing would have been the opposite, to DE-escalate, AFTER THE 1964 ELECTION, which both saw as key to nailing down first.

      • Bill Clarke says:

        Reply to JSA.

        If JFK was so keen on getting out of Vietnam can you tell me why he sent some 16,000 troops there? Why he sent the 400 Special Force troops there, the jet fighters and bombers, the helicopter units, the M-113s? Why did he depose Diem?

        Yes, he inherited the situation just as Ike inherited it from Truman. There was less than 1,000 American troops in Vietnam when JFK took office. There was around 17,000 when he was murdered.

        The cold hard facts, as unpopular as they may be, is that Kennedy was the first to escalate the American effort in Vietnam.

        • Jonathan says:

          I’m pleased to reply.

          THE SPECIAL FORCES(GREEN BERET) TROOPS: JFK liked the unconventional warfare doctrine of the S.F. They went in and lived among the people; won the people over by helping them; turned the people into a counter-revolutionary force. It was a concept that made sense in South Viet Nam, where Viet Cong (National Liberation Front, or NLF) forces were actively working to separate the people in the countryside from the SVN government. S.F. involvement in SVN, at the time, did not foretell a broader U.S. military presence there. Proof of that is that S.F. forces had been active in Laos prior to its becoming neutral.

          THE M-113s: These were armored personnel carriers used at the to ferry ARVN, not U.S., troops into battle.

          AIRCRAFT: The U.S. furnished aircraft including trainer jets that were turned into air-to-ground strike weapons — flown by VNAF pilots.

          THE 17,000 U.S. TROOPS: These were advisers assigned to the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV). Their role was not to participate in combat but to advise and train SVN army units, which were badly led and trained.

          None of this added up to a full-blown military escalation. It was a low-level military presence aimed at bolstering the government of SVN against the increasing effectiveness of the Viet Cong.

          You don’t understand the situation in Viet Nam in 1963, Bill Pierce, at least as I glean from your comment to JSA.

          • Jonathan says:

            Apologies to Bill Pierce. I mean Bill Clarke.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            I appreciate your reply Jonathan.

            The Special Forces: Yes, the 400 Special Force troops could have easily been brought home. But sending them in the first place seems to me to show a determination to defeat the communist. Adding 400 highly trained troops must be called what it is; an escalation.

            The M-113s: Neil Sheehan’s book, “Bright Shining Lie” gives a good account of the battle of Ap Bac. It details some of the conversation between the American “adviser” sitting on one of those M-113s. So the M-113s hauled much more that Vietnamese. More than a few were destroyed that day and 3 Americans killed. I guess the communist didn’t make the distinction between a combat soldier and an “adviser”.

            Aircraft: No, they were not flown by the Vietnamese and this is well documented. They threw a Vietnamese in the plane so they could call it a training mission and Americans flew the combat missions. Even John Newman in his crappy book, “JFK and Vietnam” acknowledges this. If you have the book I’ll look up some page numbers for you. Same for the helicopters.

            The 17,000 U.S. Troops: But they participated in combat as can be seen in the increasing number of KIAs we suffered. Most have given up on this “they were just advisers” line. By 1963 the line was a bad joke.

            Escalation: I didn’t say, and don’t believe, it was a “full blown military escalation”. But with a Division worth of troops with all their supporting units I’m
            not so sure we can call it “low level” either.

            I put it to you, Jonathan that I understand the situation in Vietnam in 1963 or any other year you wish to choose better than you.

            I too served in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971. I never saw Saigon but rode with an armored cavalry troop in the Americal Division.

            Bill Clarke

      • Gerry Simone says:

        The only thing President Kennedy escalated was military aid and advisors (rightly so in response to a worsening situation).

        There are several examples where Kennedy did not yield to pressure to intervene in a direct military way.

        http://www.virtualjfk.com

        What LBJ did was very different.

        • Bill Clarke says:

          Gerry; The situation was very different in 1965 as compared to 1963. Now what JFK would have done in 1965 is unknown, despite many opinions. You know what they say about opinions.

          In all this rush to blame LBJ for escalating the war seldom do you see anyone blame the communist for escalating the war from 1959 onward. Each year they got a bit stronger, got more help from China and the Soviet Union. They had a little sit-back in 1962 when JFK sent the helicopters and M-113s but they adjusted their tactics and overcame this set back. By 1965 they were knocking on the door of Saigon.

          Now I can’t tell you what Kennedy would have done in 1965 but I can tell you his options; send American troops or be ran out of Vietnam under military pressure from the communist.

          Kennedy doesn’t strike me as the running kind.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            It’s a fact that LBJ increased activity (the Gulf of Tonkin incident is as dubious as Iraqui WMDs), or escalated. Sure, it was a military response which proved ‘fatal’ years later.

            Kennedy did not invade Cuba and prevented giving the Ruskies any reason to invade Germany, for either the BOP fiasco and the CMC.

            In Virtual JFK, they give several examples where Kennedy did not choose the war option.

            I don’t think he would’ve gotten further involved in the VN quagmire which was a country close to two super-power enemies and far away from home.

            I think he knew that SVN was a lost cause at great expense to the nation.

            He already lost faith in the CIA and the hardline military advisors.

            I doubt he would invest in an unwinnable war. (SE Asia is not Europe).

            Not even LBJ could turn things around.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Gerry Simone May 17, 2014 at 2:38 pm

            I hear this unwinnable war stuff a great deal. Can you tell me why it was unwinnable? I would like to know.

            Of course LBJ couldn’t turn things around. He was the worst war president in our time. He had the worst Secretary of Defense and the worst general in Vietnam. The commies had the A team, we had a third string team.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            Oh please Bill.

            LBJ didn’t impede the JCOS.

            McNamara was a brilliant tactician, who’s analysis in WWII was very useful on both fronts (although he was frustrated after the Kennedy administration).

            It was unwinnable because the cause was weak and ultimately didn’t resonate in the hearts of those brave soldiers.

            Also, and perhaps more importantly, JFK spoke of the impotence of American military hardware might against guerrilla warfare.

            Watch these two videos:

            The Fog of War

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwXF6UdkeI4

            Why We Fight

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4SgEy2khOE

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Gerry Simone June 3, 2014 at 7:02 pm

            Good grief Gerry. I’m in shock at reading your reply. I have to ask who told you all this stuff? They certainly didn’t know anything about Vietnam.

            1. LBJ didn’t impede the Joint Chiefs.

            My god! He impeded them until March 1965 just as JFK had impeded them. LBJ controlled the air war against the north, even insisted on approving the target list himself. His efforts here were much less than the Joint Chiefs requested. He impeded any ground action against the north, wouldn’t let our military close the Trail in Laos. What Johnson did was squander the years that the war should have been won. McNamara and Westmoreland share this shame.

            2. McNamara was a brilliant tactician.

            This one really touched me. I’ve been reading about McNamara for over 35 years now and never have I read anyone calling him a brilliant tactician. That is because he wasn’t. Do you have a reference for this one? He was a glorified numbers cruncher for the Air Force in WWII. He got his “gradual escalation” strategy from an academic that had never been to war. So we had a REMF Secretary of Defense using a professors plan to win the war. We were dead before it started.

            3. It was unwinnable because the cause was weak and ultimately didn’t resonate in the hearts of those brave soldiers.

            Well, I’m still looking for the answer. At the time containing communism was not a weak cause. As for the brave soldiers most fought well in TET of 68, most fought very well at the Easter Offensive of 1972 when the NVA invaded SVN in a conventional attack. They didn’t fight well in 1975 because we stopped sending them enough supplies, like artillery rounds. A disgusting act of betrayal on our part I believe.

            4. JFK spoke of the impotence of American military hardware might against guerrilla warfare.

            True but that isn’t high on the list for losing the war. The NVA didn’t win the war with guerilla warfare anyway. They won it with a failed conventional attack in 1972 and won it in 1975 with another conventional attack. To win a guerilla war the population has to rise up to help overthrow the existing government. This never happened in Vietnam. The Viet Cong was smashed during TET 68, never to recover. So the communist had to move to conventional war to win after all our combat troops had been pulled out of SVN.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Gerry Simone June 3, 2014 at 7:02 pm

            Gerry, I went to your link for “The Fog of War”. I tried to stick it out but McNamara makes me sick and I couldn’t watch it. I wonder why you would believe anything McNamara had to say.

            I then went to, “Why We Fight” and got a message that it wasn’t avialible in my country. Surely this isn’t right so I’ll try again tomorrow.

            I’m not sure UTube is the best place to get one’s history.

  18. Jonathan says:

    Photon,

    I’ve been open here about my experience in Viet Nam.

    I’ll be be more open. Ask as much as you wish.

    I ask Photon to be open about her experience in the CIA.

  19. D. Olmens says:

    “I ask Photon to be open about her experience in the CIA.”

    Did I miss something? Photon was in the CIA?

  20. Paul May is in full bloom now.

    The whole idea that JFK “approved the coup” is dealt with in John Newman’s masterly book JFK and Vietnam.

    It details the whole saga behind the Saturday Night Special, the famous “coup cable”. No one can understand how the coup occurred unless you understand this story.

    Max Taylor understood it too late and failed to call JFK that night. But he later wrote that he understood what had occurred: the cabal in the State Department who were anti DIem had arranged to send the cable that night with all the principals out of town knowing it would never have been cleared under normal circumstances. Further, the plotters lied to Kennedy about who had signed off on it. He had s rigid guidelines as to what he would approve and these were broken.. This is why he was so furious when he got back and said, “This shit has to stop!”

    One of the guys who was in on it, Forrestal, offered to resign. JFK said, “You are not worth firing. You owe me something.”

    According to Lodge, Kennedy then sent a cancellation cable to Saigon. But Lodge and Conein had again broken with instructions and showed the cable to the generals that weekend, and without talking to DIem first. Conein told the Watergate Committee that he was getting conflicting instructions all the way through. The State Dept wanted him to move ahead, the White House didn’t. FInally Kennedy and Bundy tried to stop all other communications and direct everything through the Oval Office. But by then it was too late. The coup was on.

    No historian can tell this story without including these important facts. And Gordon Goldstein in his book on Bundy says that 1.) There was no question in Bundy’s mind JFK was getting out and 2.) The coup had no impact on his decision.

    That is agreed to by both McNamara and Taylor. All three of Kennedy’s military advisors said he was getting out and would never commit combat troops.

    This was reversed by LBJ within three months. He had full scale scale war plans delivered to his office by the Pentagon in March. Which is something JFK refused to contemplate in three years.

    Further, in the Blight book, it is revealed that LBJ himself knew he was reversing JFK’s policy and tried to con McNamara into denying that fact.

    Taylor, McNamara, Bundy, LBJ? How many witnesses do you need?

  21. Bill Clarke says:

    Newman’s Book is far from masterly as are Newman’s arguments. Newman was roundly booed at a seminar at the LBJ Library when he first came out with the book. It is popular only with the Camelot crowd and not so much the historians.

    Yes, there was trickery by Harriman, Hilsman and Forrestal in the Saturday Night Special cable. Yes JFK signed off on it and yes JFK polled ExCom about withdrawing the message. Not one voted to withdraw it and it was never canceled. They had more than enough time to cancel it; they didn’t. I respectfully request a reference for any cancellation order JFK sent to Saigon.

  22. John Newman’s book is almost a model of what revisionist history should be. When all the other so called professors and academics were parroting the old LBJ promoted meme of “Johnson continued Kennedy’s policy in Vietnam”, Newman saw through it since Southeast Asia was his specialty.

    He then did what no one had done. He actually wrote a book on the subject that simply made the whole thing so specious that you wonder how the thing got started. He did this by incorporating new material and interviews with a synthesis of what was good in the record before and stuff that was ignored.

    How do we know it was masterly? Because if its influence. Today others have followed in his footsteps: Kaiser, Goldstein, BLight for starters. When he came out, he was alone. Not anymore. ANd in VIrtual JFK, the academics at that conference sided with Newman’s ideas of a breakage rather than continuity in policy. Further John was a quiet influence to get McNamara to write his book. So the idea its only popular with Camelot types is simply wrong.

    As per LBJ LIbrary reception, I mean c’mon. What do you expect? Johnson, as Blight proves, tried to get McNamara to say he and Kennedy did not really mean to with draw a thousand troops. In other words he was taking advantage of his position to alter the record and disguise what Kennedy was doing and make it into what he was doing, when in fact he knew the truth. LBJ is clearly the biggest villian in the whole epic tragedy. He is the one who ordered the battle plans drawn up in three months. Which JFK did not do in three years. He then drew up the Gulf of Tonkin resolution before it happened. And used it over an attack which consisted of one bullet through one hull of a ship which had violated territorial waters. In other words, as Fred Logevall and Moise say, LBJ lied to get us into the war.

    As per the cancellation of the Saturday Night Special Lodge talks about this in his VIetnam special interview on PBS. It jibes with the interview Conein did for the Watergate committee. He said that they were getting two messages one from State and one from WH. As I wrote Bundy and Kennedy tried to stop this, but it was too late. JFK did not understand what was happening until it was too late. Which is why he was going to fire Lodge.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      Discussion subject changed to “”JFK and Vietnam” (was Re: Aguilar and Gittinger)” by Ted Gittinger

      Ted Gittinger View profile

      More options Jun 17 2002, 3:46 pm
      “Eric Chomko” wrote in message
      news:ael1qn$2pnm$2@news.ums.edu…

      - Show quoted text -

      Yes, I know of Dr. Newman’s work. I first met Dr. Newman when he was researching his topic in the early nineties. He was a participant in the LBJ Library symposium, “Vietnam: The Early
      Decisions,” which met in 1993. The proceedings of that conference were published and are available through amazon.com.
      Dr. Newman’s thesis was that JFK had decided to withdraw from Vietnam, but that LBJ had reversed that decision when Kennedy was assassinated. Newman presented his ideas at length, accompanied by a slide presentation of the physical evidence which he had assembled during his research in the original
      documents.

      My impression, gained by casual conversation with the other historians who were present, was that they were quite unpersuaded by Dr. Newman’s arguments. But that impression easily could be checked by inquiry. The other historians I here refer to were Lloyd Gardner, William Duiker,
      John Prados, George Herring, William Gibbons, and Larry Berman. I believe a search on their names will reveal their contributions to the literature.

      Should you wish to verify what I have given as my impression of their opinions of Dr.Newman’s thesis, that should be possible.
      Trouble is, none of those sources claim to be CINC of anything. I trust that will not impugn their credentials in your eyes.

      Warm regards,

      ted

  23. Bill Clarke says:

    I didn’t realize that you meant Newman’s book was a masterly model of revised history. I’ll certainly agree with you here. But just because he revised something doesn’t make it true.

    When a book starts off using Fletcher Prouty and Peter Dale Scott for references you know you are in trouble as far as the truth goes. Then Newman makes it worse by depending on Schlesinger and Sorenson for his information. Do you really think these two Camelot shiners are going to give us the true fact concerning JFK? Here is what Benjamin Schwarz has to say about it; http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/01/the-real-cuban-missile-crisis/309190/By Benjamin Schwarz. Page 3, “He justifiably excoriates the sycophantic courtier Schlesinger, whose histories “repeatedly manipulated and obscured the facts” and whose accounts—“profoundly misleading if not out-and-out deceptive”—were written to serve not scholarship but the Kennedys”.

    Then we have the problem of the notes in Newman’s book. Very numerous which I like but when it comes to the crunch they often disappear. We hear that Lansdale did this but no note! LBJ did this but no note! Why.

    As for Newman convincing McNamara to write his book all we got was another crappy book. Halberstam called McNamara’s book, “shockingly dishonest” and it was. I wasn’t shocked because I knew before the book that McNamara was a self-serving liar.

    And if LBJ drew up the Gulf of Tonkin resolution before it happened how did he know to call it “Gulf of Tonkin”? I mean before it happened and all? The plans to retaliate for communist strikes had long been ongoing before the Tonkin Gulf. It just happened to be in the Tonkin Gulf.

    Dr. Moise also says the pre-Oplan 34-A operations ran under Kennedy were a pinprick and remained a pinprick under Johnson. Not much of a change I think.

    The message went out Saturday. They had a meeting on Monday (morning I believe) and McNamara and Taylor were mad as hell. Now how Monday wasn’t enough time to rescind the message I hope you can explain for me.

    How do you rate “Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye”?

  24. Wow. I know Jeff wants to engage the other side, but a reply like the above shows why DPF would not let McAdams and his crowd on the board.

    Let me go through this stuff as clearly and concisely as possible:

    1.) Checking the first three chapters of Newman’s book. I could find no references to Prouty or Scott. In fact, Prouty’s name is not in John’s index. Neither is Scott’s.

    2.) In the first chapter of Newman’s book, maybe 10 % of his notes are from Schlesinger and Sorenson. It then decreases from there. Until near the end, in the chapter on the Saturday Night Special, there are none.

    3.) Every major tenet of John’s book is noted. He follows the rules and does not overdo, nor does he underdo it. When he notes continuously from one source, like Bill Moyers in his talk with LBJ after Kennedy died, when LBJ told the cabinet he was going to be more militant in Vietnam, John does not toss in a lot of ibids. (See pgs. 443-45) He sources it once.

    4.McNamara finally told the truth in his book. Vietnam was a huge mistake and Kennedy would likely not have done what Johnson had. Period. End of story. Taylor and Bundy agree.

    5. You cannot be serious with “How did he know to call it the Tonkin Gulf resolution in advance?” Are you? The resolution was waiting for a causus belli, which the DeSoto patrols would likely provide. This is why it was drafted by Bill Bundy in advance and was ready to go once the word came in. THen it was titled. (Gordon Goldstein, Lessons in Disaster, p.125) In Choosing War, Fred Logevall is even more explicit about Johnson’s war planning behind the scenes led by Bundy during the 1964 election. As LBJ was promising no larger war.

    6. NSAM 273, was altered by LBJ so the Desoto Patrols were done with American forces. (Newman p. 446) This is what gave LBJ the excuse for American intervention.

    7. When the Saturday Night Special went out to Saigon, Lodge broke two guidelines. He did not show it to DIem, and he then showed it to the generals immediately. (Newman, p. 350) Both were done without Kennedy’s permission. And this was the main problem. Along with the fact that even after the cancellation order,the State Dept. was still sending out conflicting messages to Saigon. ANd unbeknownst to Kennedy, Lodge and Conein were in bed with the perps.

    If you are going to smear John Newman by saying that 1.) He does not annotate key points and 2.) He overwhelmingly relies on Sorenson and Schlesinger, then back it up with evidence.

    If you cannot then your stuff is just anti-Kennedy boilerplate.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      James DiEugenio May 12, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      Part 1

      Wow. I know Jeff wants to engage the other side, but a reply like the above shows why DPF would not let McAdams and his crowd on the board.

      After reading my reply please point out anything I said that you can document as false. I’ll be glad to discuss it. And what profit is there in being surrounded by “yes men”?

      Let me go through this stuff as clearly and concisely as possible:
      1.) Checking the first three chapters of Newman’s book. I could find no references to Prouty or Scott. In fact, Prouty’s name is not in John’s index. Neither is Scott’s.

      Chapter 2, page 42, note #5; Prouty interview with John Newman.
      I believe there are more but time is a factor here.

      2.) In the first chapter of Newman’s book, maybe 10 % of his notes are from Schlesinger and Sorenson. It then decreases from there. Until near the end, in the chapter on the Saturday Night Special, there are none.

      Okay. Ten percent will do it for me.

      3.) Every major tenet of John’s book is noted. He follows the rules and does not overdo, nor does he underdo it. When he notes continuously from one source, like Bill Moyers in his talk with LBJ after Kennedy died, when LBJ told the cabinet he was going to be more militant in Vietnam, John does not toss in a lot of ibids. (See pgs. 443-45) He sources it once.

      No the book isn’t. In fact, the very MAIN tenet of his book is not noted. It appears to me it not noted because there is no evidence for it. It is simply Newman’s opinion and I don’t think his opinion is all that hot. Neither did the historians at the LBJ Seminar.

      a. “Kennedy decided, apparently, as we will see, in February or March 1963, to get out of Vietnam even if it meant the war would be lost.” Page 321, no notation.
      b. “Kennedy decided to use Taylor’s and Harkins’ reports of battlefield success to justify the beginning of the withdrawal he was planning.” Page 322, no notation.
      c. “Kennedy kept his plan a closely guarded secret, but by March he was determined not only to withdraw-come what may-after 1964, but, if possible, to take a clear step in that direction during the presidential campaign as well: the 1,000-man withdrawal.” Page 322, no notation.
      The 1,000 man withdrawal was political theater. You can listen to JFK and McNamara agree to withdraw these 1,000 men (no longer needed) by normal rotation at http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1005_vietnam/index.htm. Normal rotation means one goes home and one comes over.

      4. McNamara finally told the truth in his book. Vietnam was a huge mistake and Kennedy would likely not have done what Johnson had. Period. End of story. Taylor and Bundy agree.

      McNamara was a self-serving liar and, as Halberstam pointed out, so was his book. Of course Vietnam was a huge mistake the way the fool McNamara ran it but that is for another discussion. As for what McNamara, Taylor and Bundy had to say about what JFK would have done is not the end of the story. Period. It is their opinion. I’m not saying they are wrong, I’m saying no one knows.

      5. You cannot be serious with “How did he know to call it the Tonkin Gulf resolution in advance?” Are you? The resolution was waiting for a causus belli, which the Desoto patrols would likely provide. This is why it was drafted by Bill Bundy in advance and was ready to go once the word came in. THen it was titled. (Gordon Goldstein, Lessons in Disaster, p.125) In Choosing War, Fred Logevall is even more explicit about Johnson’s war planning behind the scenes led by Bundy during the 1964 election. As LBJ was promising no larger war.

      Sorry you missed the satire. But yes, I am rather serious. Yes, they were just waiting for the causus belli to retaliate for VC attacks in SVN. But they didn’t know it would come from the Desoto Patrols in the Tonkin Gulf. Unless you just have to see spooks all around you. It could have been a communist mortar attack on our forces in Saigon or an attack at Da Nang.

      continued in Part 2

      • Bill Clarke says:

        James DiEugenio May 12, 2014 at 9:19 pm

        Part 2

        6. NSAM 273, was altered by LBJ so the Desoto Patrols were done with American forces. (Newman p. 446) This is what gave LBJ the excuse for American intervention.

        In his defense, this isn’t what Newman says. On page 446 he is speaking of the Oplan 34-A operations and not the Desoto Patrols. However, on page 447 Newman claims that the Desoto Patrols was part of the 34-A operations. This isn’t true (another bad mark for Newman). The 34-A operations were run under the MACV command. Desoto was run under Naval command and was an intelligence operation, not one of combat. Of course Desoto was done with American forces since it was American ships. The 34-A plans took pains to insure that no American went above the DMZ or into NVN. When the Vietnamese couldn’t pilot the fast boats used we hired Europeans to pilot them.
        Newman claims that 34-A “opened the door to “direct” U.S. attacks against North Vietnam”, page 446 and no notation. This isn’t true. I suppose that is why there is no notation.
        Dr. Moise says these operations (34-A) were pinpricks under Kennedy and remained pinpricks under Johnson. They were a flop. And this is supposed to be the big deal where LBJ reversed Kennedy policy in Vietnam! Not hardly.

        7. When the Saturday Night Special went out to Saigon, Lodge broke two guidelines. He did not show it to DIem, and he then showed it to the generals immediately. (Newman, p. 350) Both were done without Kennedy’s permission. And this was the main problem. Along with the fact that even after the cancellation order,the State Dept. was still sending out conflicting messages to Saigon. ANd unbeknownst to Kennedy, Lodge and Conein were in bed with the perps.

        Good thinking of Lodge not to show Diem a U.S. message calling for his overthrow. I still haven’t run down this cancellation order but am still trying. And yes, Lodge was guilty of insubordination in my mind. But of course the only reason JFK had not already fired him is because of domestic politics in the United States. So.

        If you are going to smear John Newman by saying that 1.) He does not annotate key points and 2.) He overwhelmingly relies on Sorenson and Schlesinger, then back it up with evidence.

        When Newman gives me a credible reference to JFK making a total withdrawal from Vietnam come hell or high water he will have annotated his main point. Until then….I’m waiting. Perhaps I was too harsh about Sorenson and Schlesinger but it doesn’t take much of either one for me. It has been years since I’d read Newman’s book so I’m rereading it. I’d forgot that he does a good job on the false reports Taylor and his boy Harkins manufactured. Sheehan and Halberstam also give good accounts on this.

        If you cannot then your stuff is just anti-Kennedy boilerplate.

        Ah, if you want facts instead of the Camelot myth you have to be a Kennedy hater! Not really.

        • Jonathan says:

          Bill Clarke,

          The issue on the table is not whether Kennedy was going to pull all American troops out of Viet Nam come hell or high water. That’s a red herring. The U.S. has and always has had troops IN MANY COUNTRIES.

          The issue is whether JFK intended to TAKE OVER THE WAR in Viet Nam the way LBJ did. There is nothing, NADA, in the historical record to suggest that was JFK’s intent. There is much in the historical record to show that was LBJ’s intent from the get go.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            Precisely. And we know from prior situations during his administration, that JFK resisted escalation and avoided war as best as possible. (Watch Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived.)

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Jonathan May 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm

            Oh, I’m sorry Jonathan but usually the problem comes when someone tells me, and this happens frequently, that “Jack was withdrawing ALL American troops from Vietnam”. This isn’t true so I’m glad we can agree on this point.

            I believe you hook the red herring when you point out that we keep our troops in other countries. Yes, but you fail to point out that we don’t (can’t) keep our troops IN MANY COUNTRIES (ALL CAPS YOURS) in which we have been ran out of due to a communist victory. Except for Embassy guards do we have American troops in Russia? China? Cuba? Vietnam? No, we don’t. Now since JFK planed on keeping 3,500 American troops in Vietnam it seems simple to understand that he wasn’t anticipating a communist victory there. Isn’t this the way you see it.

            I know of no evidence that LBJ wanted to take over the war. I know of evidence that he was forced to do so in 1965. I know of evidence that he would have much preferred to spend his time and money on his Great Society instead of the war.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Gerry Simone June 3, 2014 at 7:20 pm

            No, it rally wasn’t precise at all, Gerry.

            To increase troop force from less than 1,000 to over 17,000 is escalation by definition.

            To send three helicopter companies to Vietnam when there was less than 5 birds in country is escalation. Plain and simple.

            To send jet fighters and bombers to Vietnam when there were none before is escalation.

            To send M-113s to Vietnam when there was none before is escalation.

            To use Agent Orange when none was used before is escalation.

            So it is incorrect to say that Jack didn’t escalate in Vietnam.

            The trouble with “Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived” is the very big “IF” in it. That means get ready for a lot of speculation without support. No thanks.

  25. “OK ten percent will do it for me”?

    But you ignore what I said about the later chapters. The ration is even less. Therefore the ten percent won’t do it for you since its less than that for the entire book. And you are even more wrong with Prouty and Scott direct quotations. In fact, John did not like Fletcher and that is why he uses him so little.

    Dead wrong about John’s main point not being footnoted.

    John begins his picture of the withdrawal plan on page 236, this is with the meeting with Galbraith in April of 1961, a few months after the two week debate which ended with the decision not to send combat troops into Vietnam in late 1961. This begins on page 236, and John titles it “A struggle erupts over “Reversal of US Policy”.

    JFK, knew Galbraith wanted us out of Vietnam and had him create a memo about this. The Pentagon objected to the Galbraith memo but JFK said in reply to it that “he wished us to be prepared to seize upon any favorable moment to reduce our commitment.” (Newman, p. 236) In introducing this segment of the book, John has six footnotes on one page. Since he wrote this, this has become sort of the standard reference to how the withdrawal program began. Douglass uses it and I use it all the time. It took John’s book to really underline how important this was.

    Wow, to use Halberstam to knock McNamara, and indirectly Newman? Halberstam deliberately covered up the break in policy between JFK and LBJ, because it is noted in the Pentagon papers which he says he read as his book was going to galleys. The Best and the Brightest is a museum piece today after Newman, Douglass, Blight and Goldstein and Kaiser. Utterly irrelevant.

    You outsmarted yourself on the OPLAN 34 A. What Newman says is that ” A Special Operations Group was established under MACV on January 24 to exercise operational control over 34 A activities, which included maritime Desoto Patrols…” Then was not Desoto part of Oplan 34 A? Yesirree.

    John needed to note that these new plans were direct attacks by USA? LOL. No he did not since they were now run and supplied by the USA, and not SVN. It does not matter if they were pin pricks. The point is they violated territorial waters with American ships and equipment. You again outsmarted yourself, for Moise not only admits that, he proves it. And that is the point of them being provocations.

    Your last part is a real doozy. As Douglass proves, Lodge’s whole point was that he was anti DIem from the start. Which is why he got rid of the pro DIem CIA station chief. For Lodge not to tell DIem what was in the memo about having to change his policy, but yet going to the generals with the message without the warning to DIem, wow, and you excuse that?

    I never thought I would meet someone who would defend what Lodge did from August to November 1963, but the politicization of this case never surprises me. As Douglass makes clear in his book, it was Conein and Lodge who facilatated the murders of the Nhu brothers. JFK did not understand that until it was too late. That is why he was recalling Lodge, in order to fire him. LBJ reversed that one also.

    There is no Camelot myth about this. If you don’t know him, and you do not, John Newman is a Libertarian. He is a real basic conservative, not a liberal at all. But the pint is, he is a real historian who obeys the rules of evidence and knew the history of Indochina, since it was his specialty. I mean does this mean Kaiser, Blight, Goldstein and Jones, among others, are all in on the Camelot myth?

    Please tell me this is another joke of yours. Please.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      James DiEugenio May 16, 2014 at 1:57 am

      I’ve told you perhaps I was too harsh on Schlesinger and Sorenson. I apologize if that will help you.

      If I’m “dead wrong” about Newman’s major points not being footnoted then you should be able to give me the footnotes for these points below. There is much speculation in Newman’s book.

      a. “Kennedy decided, apparently, as we will see, in February or March 1963, to get out of Vietnam even if it meant the war would be lost.” Page 321, no notation.

      b. “Kennedy decided to use Taylor’s and Harkins’ reports of battlefield success to justify the beginning of the withdrawal he was planning.” Page 322, no notation.

      c. “Kennedy kept his plan a closely guarded secret, but by March he was determined not only to withdraw-come what may-after 1964, but, if possible, to take a clear step in that direction during the presidential campaign as well: the 1,000-man withdrawal.” Page 322, no notation.

      I’m not impressed that Douglass and you use Newman’s work as a “standard”.

      I’d much rather have good old history than I had a bunch of crap hot off the press. It appears we differ here. And that is the situation with Halberstam and Newman. For you to claim that this foundation history is “Utterly irrelevant” while you buy Newman’s junk is laughable. I haven’t read all the writers you listed but the ones I’ve read, including Newman’s, are Kennedy apologist books and that is far as it goes.

      You are familiar with the controversy over the new limits the communist placed on their territorial waters? They tried to steal about 4 miles of the open seas. We weren’t going to allow that to happen.

      I’ve told you I thought Lodge was a loose cannon and I certainly don’t excuse his actions. JFK knew Lodge wasn’t a team player when he appointed him.

      What I think is that they are rather lightweights in the history of our involvement in Vietnam. Kaiser might be a bit better.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      James DiEugenio May 16, 2014 at 1:57 am

      Yesirree, and you are the one outsmarting yourself when you believed Newman. The point is that Newman was wrong as hell here and another example of how weak his book is on facts. Sorry you missed that point. From the beginning you have been confused about 34-A and the DeSoto patrols so I’ve enclosed a rather lengthy reference in hopes you can grasp it. Note; 34-A was always supplied and supported by the U.S. under both JFK and LBJ. Kennedy ran it under the CIA. LBJ gave it to MACV-SOG when he signed NSAM 273. But we didn’t fly the planes dropping SVN troops into the north or pilot the fast boats into NVN waters. The Vietnamese did it. Please note that 34-A and the DeSoto Patrols were “While 34A and the Desoto patrols were independent operations”. As I’ve already told you, 34-A ran under MCAV-SOG and the Desoto Patrols ran under Naval Command. And please get this one right’ 34-A was not a “direct attack by Americans” as Newman states. If you knew the history of this you would know what lengths the U.S. went to keep Americans from being anywhere near this actual action. You might want to clue Newman in on that.

      Quote on;

      In an effort to increase pressure on North Vietnam, several Norwegian-built fast patrol boats (PTFs) were covertly purchased and transferred to South Vietnam.
      These PTFs were manned with South Vietnamese crews and conducted a series of coastal attacks against targets in North Vietnam as part of Operation 34A. Originally begun by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1961, 34A was a highly-classified program of covert operations against North Vietnam. After several early failures, it was transferred to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group in 1964, at which time its focus shifted to maritime operations. In addition, the US Navy was instructed to conduct Desoto patrols off North Vietnam.
      A long-standing program, the Desoto patrols consisted of American warships cruising in international waters to conduct electronic surveillance operations. These types of patrols had previously been conducted off the coasts of the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea. While 34A and the Desoto patrols were independent operations, the latter benefited from the increased signals traffic generated by the attacks of the former. As a result, the ships offshore were able to collect valuable information on North Vietnamese military capabilities.

      http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/vietnamwar/p/gulfoftonkin.htm
      Also see http://www.history.navy.mil/docs/vietnam/tonkin-6.htm#desotapat

      Quote off.

  26. vann wilson says:

    blessed are the peace makers for they will be called the children of god

    • Bill Clarke says:

      And may our peace makers be very well armed.

      • Paul Turner says:

        Bill, we were “well-armed” during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but war was prevented, thanks to JFK. We were well-armed before the Tonkin Gulf incident, but LBJ brought soldiers into Vietnam because of those attacks. To paraphrase the great Bentsen line “Tonkin Gulf, you’re NO PEARL HARBOR”. Did we win in Vietnam??? I don’t think history will say we did.

        • Bill Clarke says:

          Sorry I’ve missed this one Paul.

          LBJ didn’t send in combat units because of the Tonkin Gulf. The Tonkin Gulf Resolution was what he claimed gave him the authority to send in combat units much later.

          The Tonkin Gulf incident occurred in August of 1964. Johnson didn’t commit combat units until March of 1965. LBJ did this in belief that Saigon would soon fall if he didn’t. Not because of a puny attack on a U.S. ship.

          With communist tanks sitting on the palace grounds in Saigon I don’t know how anyone could say we won the war in Vietnam. Vietnam was but a inning or quarter of the Cold War. We lost that quarter but won the game.

  27. David Regan says:

    LBJ misled the American public into launching an all-out war in Vietnam. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/02/vietnam-presidents-lie-to-wage-war-iraq

    • Bill Clarke says:

      David Regan December 13, 2014 at 1:21 am

      You are aware that the Maddox was in fact attacked by NVN? The Turner Joy was not, it was a mistake. The commander of the Turner Joy notified higher within an hour that there might be trouble with his report of taking fire.

      There had been a lot of war going on in Vietnam since 1962 with the creation of the MACV command. The Tonkin Gulf was just one more step.

  28. David Regan says:

    JFK’s Vietnam Withdrawal Plan Is a Fact, Not Speculation | The Nation http://www.thenation.com/article/177332/jfks-vietnam-withdrawal-plan-fact-not-speculation

    • John McAdams says:

      Then was Kennedy lying when he told Walter Cronkite:

      But I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake. I know people don’t like Americans to be engaged in this kind of an effort. Forty-seven Americans have been killed in combat with the enemy, but this is a very important struggle even though it is far away.

      Then, in the speech he was to deliver at the Trade Mart:

      Our assistance to these nations can be painful, risky and costly—as is true in Southeast Asia today. But we dare not weary of the task . . . . A successful Communist breakthrough in these areas, necessitating direct United States intervention, would cost us several times as much as our entire foreign aid program—and might cost us heavily in American lives as well.

      http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/context1.htm

      So go ahead and say Kennedy was lying.

      • David Regan says:

        So, are you saying NSAM 263 was bogus and James K. Galbraith is misinformed? Exit Strategy: In 1963, JFK ordered a complete withdrawal from Vietnam | Boston Review http://www.bostonreview.net/us/galbraith-exit-strategy-vietnam#.VIyqbgxlsAc.twitter

        • John McAdams says:

          NSAM 263 is not bogus, but it does not mean what the conspiracists claim it does.

          And yes, Galbraith is misinformed.

        • Bill Clarke says:

          David Regan December 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm

          Of course NSAM 263 isn’t bogus. I posted part of it for you earlier today. You need to read it instead of buying this junk you use as a reference. No, Galbraith isn’t misinformed. He is playing loose with the facts. His father advised JFK early on to get out of Vietnam. Young Galbraith keeps the family flame going.

          Have you ever noticed, David, that all these smart boys telling you JFK had ordered a “complete withdrawal” from VN never show you the order? Doesn’t that seem strange to you? NSAM 263 certainly isn’t an order for a complete withdrawal.

          Do they have something else? No, just more junk.

          • David Regan says:

            I suppose you know better than RFK Jr, then Bill? John F. Kennedy’s Vision of Peace http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/john-f-kennedys-vision-of-peace-20131120

          • Bill Clarke says:

            David Regan December 14, 2014 at 8:49 am

            What makes you think Jr. knew squat about anything? And his article is so much crap. “Peace at any cost”? I chortle! JFK stood firm during the missile crisis and Berlin for starters. What do you think those ships and tanks were for? The article claims our military wanted 140,000 men in Laos. Our military didn’t want any part of Laos due to logistic problems and the lack of any warrior cant in the people. Nobody wanted to fight in Laos, including Khrushchev. That is why JFK was able to sign an agreement. A few months later the killing began again, just as everyone knew it would.

            David, you have got to stop accepting the words of these agenda driven people you quote as a reference and look at the primary evidence. That would be this order from JFK to withdraw ALL the troops and per McNamara, the announcement JFK made that he was going to do this. I ask again and would appreciate an answer; why don’t these people show us the order and announcement?

            If you want to quote a Kennedy why not quote one that was at least old enough to know something and was in the thick of things. Here is an oral interview of Bobby Kennedy on file at the JFK Library. Bobby doesn’t say anything about bugging out of Vietnam.

            Martin
            There was never any consideration given to pulling out?
            Kennedy:
            No.
            Martin:
            But the same time, no disposition to go in all . . .
            Kennedy:
            No . . .
            Martin:
            It’s generally true all over the world, whether it’s in a shooting war or a different kind of a war. But the president was convinced that we had to keep, had to stay in there . . .
            Kennedy:
            . . . and Yes.
            Martin: couldn’t lose it.
            Kennedy:
            Yes.
            Martin:
            And if Vietnamese were about to lose it, would he propose to go in on land if he had to?
            Kennedy:
            Well, we’d face that when we came to it.

            http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/vietnam.htm

      • David Regan says:

        Are you saying Robert McNamara was lying? See following video at the 1:07:00 mark: http://youtu.be/ze8P-KAt3bc

        AUDIO: Robert McNamara’s phone calls with John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson – Marc Selverstone – POLITICO.com http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0709/24595.html#.VIy4KSfBmGw.twitter

        • John McAdams says:

          You’re going to have to explain what buried in those sources show that Kennedy was going to immediately get out of Vietnam.

          He (and his entire administration) hoped to be out (mostly) by the end of 1965, since they hoped that by then the South Vietnamese could defend themselves from aggression from the North.

        • Bill Clarke says:

          David Regan December 13, 2014 at 5:06 pm

          Yes David, I’m saying McNamara is lying through his teeth and I hope he is burning in a very hot hell. In your reference he claims, “under my recommendation” JFK “announced” that we were going to withdraw “ALL” personnel from Vietnam by 1965.

          Have you ever seen this announcement? No, you haven’t, just like this order for a complete withdrawal. Do you wonder why such an important announcement and order isn’t readily available to us? I don’t. Because they don’t exist, that is why.

          McNamara is a self serving lair, he even admits to “over statements” in your reference. Halberstam called McNamara’s book “shockingly dishonest”. It was.

      • Bill Clarke says:

        David gave a reference by Galbraith in which Galbraith gives a hearty salute to John Newman, Peter Dale Scott and James Schlesinger.

        So I guess if old JFK had to tell a lie he’d be in good company.

        I’m surprised Galbraith didn’t mention Fletcher Prouty!

        • David Regan says:

          Bill, by chance did you concur with the Domino theory?

          • Bill Clarke says:

            David Regan December 13, 2014 at 9:42 pm

            David, are you attempting to poke fun at me here? If so I don’t understand why because I’ve given you a more honest appraisal of JFK’s Vietnam policy than your heroes Galbraith and Company. If you are capable of thinking for yourself then read NSAM 263,listen to the White House Tapes

            1. http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1002_vietnam_am/ , 2.http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1002_vietnam_pm/ind
            3. http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1005_vietnam/index.htm)

            and then I think you will be disappointed in what your hero told you. You have to keep an open mind.

            To answer your question, and again it will be more honest that what you hear from many of the smart boys, Yes and NO.

            In the mid 50s and early 60s when the early decisions on Vietnam was made I’d say the theory was for the most part true. You had all of these new countries in South East Asia sitting on the fence waiting to see which way to go. China was building roads to Thailand and I don’t think it was for trade. So at this time I think yes, the Domino Theory held water.

            15 or 20 years later,say by 1975, I think no; the theory was no longer true. Mainly Indonesia had by then dumped any communist influence. Thailand and the Philippine Islands had resisted the communist and so on. The dye had been set by then.

            The smart boys think it camp to ridicule the Domino Theory. It really is them that should be ridiculed.

            Study NSAM 263 and we’ll have a good discussion on what JFK was planning to do in Vietnam.

          • Vanessa says:

            Dear Bill

            I respect your views and experience on this issue, after all you’ve been there.

            However, even if the Domino Theory was valid there was more than one way to skin that cat.

            My background is in foreign aid and development and all I can say is that if the US had spent a fraction of the billions spent on the Vietnam War in development assistance to those countries then it wouldn’t have had a Domino Theory to worry about. And it would have saved almost 60,000 American lives and over a million Vietnamese plus the countless suffering in both countries due to that war.

            JFK recognised that there were other ways to win hearts and minds in the Cold War and that’s why he set up the Peace Corps and tried to increase foreign aid. As per Edmund Gullion’s comments in “JFK and the Unspeakable” JFK had learnt the lessons of the French in Vietnam and didn’t believe in conducting colonial wars.

            I think JFK demonstrated a fixed foreign policy template in Laos, Cuba and Vietnam of supplying every kind of support to anti-communists except for American troops on the ground.

            And that’s because he didn’t believe in fighting other people’s wars for them. He had plenty of opportunities to go to war in his Presidency and he didn’t take any of them.

            We’ve seen many Presidents, before and after JFK, who want to go to war and they do just that, sometimes on the flimsiest of premisses. Their policies don’t look like JFK’s did.

            Thanks for your views.

        • David Regan says:

          Apologies Bill, no offense intended. I appreciate the information.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            David Regan December 14, 2014 at 4:49 pm

            Thanks David, no problem. I enjoy discussing the subject myself. I realize I might be wrong on some things but I honestly present what I think is true according to the evidence (and not some unsupported BS) I’m aware of. I think that is about the best any of us can do.

        • Bill Clarke says:

          Vanessa December 14, 2014 at 5:54 pm

          Thank you for the kind words, Vanessa. I mostly agree with you here keeping in mind that you can’t solve all problems all of the time with money. I’m reminded of Johnson’s offer to old Ho for a billion dollar development deal, mostly on the Mekong River. LBJ couldn’t believe it when Ho turned him down. Any U.S. congressman would have taken the deal for his home district.

          I think what you suggest is what actually happened, especially in Indonesia and a little less so in Thailand, the PI and other Pacific Rim countries. As you know these things don’t happen overnight but takes years sometime to see results. We gave them this time. We should, as you say, given them more money.

          The anti-communist purge in Indonesia occurred in 1965 and Sukarno took power in 1968. I’d say by 1965 or surely by 1968 the Domino Theory no longer applied.

          As for JFK, I think he was lucky that it was never necessary to commit ground combat units to any of his hot spots, noting our combat units in Berlin. And I agree with you that JFK didn’t want to commit combat units if there was another way to skin the cat. Kennedy should get great credit for his reluctance to commit combat units, especially when most, if not all, of his leading advisers were recommending everything from invasions to nukes.

          • Vanessa says:

            Thanks Bill

            I think where we differ is on how the problem in Vietnam was defined. Gullion defined it as primarily a nationalist movement with a charismatic leader that could not be countered by anything the French or US could offer. According to James Douglass, JFK accepted Gullion’s views as the correct interpretation of that war.

            If JFK accepted that view then I don’t see how he could have contemplated ground troops.

            Thanks for your views.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Vanessa December 16, 2014 at 6:34 am

            I haven’t read the book by Douglass but I have read that it isn’t reliable. Since you reference it I assume you have a different opinion. I probably need to read it.

            If JFK accepted this view by Gullion then why would he have escalated in Vietnam to the extent that he did, especially in 1962 and 1963? If he knew there was no hope then why go to the expense? Better to keep it low key like Ike did to make a withdrawal not so inflammatory to our public?

            I believe JFK thought he was prevailing and would prevail in South Vietnam at the time of his death. I also think he thought he could do it without committing U.S. ground combat units.

            As for Guillion, he might have been mostly right in the early years but not after around 1969 or so I think. When I got there in 1970 the Vietnamese I worked with hated the VC, hated their own government and I’m sure hated us too but were too nice to say so. They would have taken the first good deal offered from either side of the fence.

          • Vanessa says:

            Hi Bill

            It is worth the read. And if you do read it I’d be interested to hear your interpretation :) . It’s very strong on the pacifist element and there is a bit of purple prose along that line. For me the best part was the part on JFK’s foreign policy and also explaining how the CIA operated.

            The part on the technicalities of the assassination is the weakest part of the book.

            I’ll check what Douglass specifically says about whether Gullion thought any support at all was a complete waste of time.

            I do think the distinction between advisers and ground troops is an absolutely critical one though. Sometimes the debate about withdrawal from Vietnam references the US support as though it was ground troops.

            That’s very interesting what you say about the South Vietnamese being sick of the war. I’m sure you know Australia had troops in Vietnam too and all we ever hear is that it was a nationalist war that we got in the middle of.

            Can I ask what you think the best book on the war is?

            Thanks for your views.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Vanessa December 18, 2014 at 6:27 am

            The foreign policy of JFK is a big interest to me so I’ll probably read the book since you mentioned that part of his book. But I seem to be way behind in my reading!

            I think it important to make the distinction between ground combat troops and ground combat “units” like the Big Red One or the Americal. JFK sent advisors. Some of these advisors served down at the battalion level of ARVN, the SVN army. These men were in fact drawn into combat while performing their job as advisors. So in fact JFK had ground troops engaged in combat in SV while serving as advisors. We can see this in the increase of our KIA in 62 and 63. Their numbers were not that high and they were in fact advisors. Not the same as sending in intact combat units, which JFK never did.

            Yes, the Australian troops were down south of my location and I never saw any of them. We did work with the Korean Marines who were very good soldiers but rather brutal at times.

            I don’t see how anyone can argue that it wasn’t a nationalist war. The rub came because one side was led and controlled by a group of hard core communist. If not for this taint of communism I doubt we would have ever heard of Vietnam. That would have been fine by me. I didn’t like it.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Vanessa December 18, 2014 at 6:27 am

            Hard question but I’ll ask you if I was to read only one conspiracy book what book should that be?

            If was to recommend only one book it would probably be, “Vietnam; A History by Stanley Karnow. The book is old and some younger hotshots diss it for that but I think it gives one a base or foundation from which to grow and read other accounts. Be sure to get the latest edition, it has been revised and updated several times. Karnow is of the left. Not that I consider that a bad thing but when reading one always needs to be alert to any slant of the writer.

            Then I’d read, “Vietnam at War; The History 1945-1975 by Phillip B. Davidson. This one is over 800 pages but includes the damnable French effort to reclaim their colony and our increasing involvement to assist the French and then take over the war. Davidson is of the right. Not that I consider that a bad thing but when reading one always needs to be alert to any slant of the writer.

            Since you are interested in John Kennedy several books are good on what was happening in Vietnam on the ground and in Washington DC while JFK was president.

            “The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam During the Kennedy Era” by David Halberstam and “A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam” by Neil Sheehan.

            Most of the literature goes cold after Tet of 1968 with very little time given to what happened after 68. “Triumph Forsaken by Mark Moyar is a good one for that.

            Happy reading.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      David Regan December 13, 2014 at 1:24 am

      Yes, Kennedy’s Vietnam policy was a fact but there is much speculation and down right lies about what it was. Galbraith is a bit disingenuous in the article you referenced. But you don’t have to take his words, look up the policy yourself.
      ____________________________________________________
      http://www.jfklancer.com/NSAM263.html

      A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by U.S. military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time.
      ____________________________________________________

      This is the meat and potatoes of the withdrawal plan. Note that it says, “it should be possible”. It doesn’t say, as Newman claims that we will withdraw come what may. Note Newman can’t reference this junk in his book. No evidence even though Galbraith salutes Newman in your reference.

      The White House Tapes let us hear JFK saying if 1965 didn’t work out we’d get another date. 1965 wasn’t set in stone.

      Also note it says, “to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel”. It doesn’t say, “all of the personnel”. Galbraith says 1,500 would be left as support troops. The White House Tapes Galbraith mentions in your reference says 3,500 will be left and some will be down in the battalions. The battalions and below are where people get killed.

      The section on withdrawing the 1,000 men before the end of the year also says “without harm to the war effort”. The Whit House Tapes tell us that JFK and McNamara agreed to withdraw these men on a rotational basis. One went home and one went over.

      • Jonathan says:

        Bill, no disagreement, but question: Do you believe JFK’s view of how to deal with the Viet Nam problem would have evolved into LBJ’s view had Kennedy not been killed?

        It appears to me JFK had pretty strong reservations about committing U.S. combat units to Viet Nam and LBJ had none. Put another way, it appears to me JFK was loath to make the conflict in Viet Nam America’s war, but LBJ had no such reluctance.

        • Bill Clarke says:

          Jonathan December 13, 2014 at 8:15 pm

          Bill, no disagreement, but question: Do you believe JFK’s view of how to deal with the Viet Nam problem would have evolved into LBJ’s view had Kennedy not been killed?

          I don’t know Jonathan. If I had to lean one way or the other I think JFK would have done something smarter than what LBJ did. What that would be I don’t know either but I don’t think JFK would have sent half a million troops to Vietnam and use them poorly. Despite the teachings of Newman, Scott and several others it is clear that JFK was not prepared to leave VN at the time of his death. The trouble was the intact NVA combat units coming south in 1964. That changed the game. Until then U.S. combat units were not necessary. By 1965 they were necessary. That or leave VN and Johnson wasn’t going to do that. What JFK would have done remains an unanswered question I’m afraid.

          It appears to me JFK had pretty strong reservations about committing U.S. combat units to Viet Nam and LBJ had none. Put another way, it appears to me JFK was loath to make the conflict in Viet Nam America’s war, but LBJ had no such reluctance.

          I’m pretty sure both men wished to hell they didn’t have to deal with Vietnam. While it is camp to call LBJ a war monger and claim Lady Bird owned Brown and Root and Bell Helicopter that is mostly junk.

        • Photon says:

          If that was the case, why the Oct. 29 , 1963 White House discussion about the pending coup and the understanding that if successful it would mean an increase in the U.S. role.? Very similar to Colin Powell’s warning to Bush about ” owning Iraq”.
          After the Diem coup JFK owned Vietnam.Every previous policy position, projection or military strategy went out the window.

          • Jonathan says:

            JFK did not want to be seen as losing South Viet Nam to the communists. That much is clear.

            His and RFK’s failure to understand what coup would mean (the murder of Diem and Nhu, infighting among SVN generals) was in character. It was BOP redux. JFK had another mess on his hands post-coup. But the mess was, in its newness, just a moral mess. Things hadn’t really changed in Viet Nam. There was still the possibility the South could survive with the support of U.S. aid but not U.S. combat forces.

            JFK never turned his back on that possibility.

            One can speculate that JFK, had he lived, would have gotten drawn into combat in Viet Nam. JFK’s approach to conflict, however, was to avoid war, pretty much at all costs. I find it hard to imagine therefore JFK’s taking the path to war in Viet Nam LBJ took.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Jonathan December 14, 2014 at 10:42 am

            I probably agree with you on JFK not taking the path LBJ chose. This doesn’t mean I think he would have abandoned SVN though.

            I can’t agree with the “avoid war at all cost” however.

            JFK was fortunate Khrushchev blinked at the missile crisis. Had he not we might have seen war. The barricade of Cuba was an act of war. Some Air units went to Defcon 2. Troops were traveling to Florida ricky tick.

            JFK didn’t let Khrushchev push him out of Berlin at the threat of war.

            I don’t think JFK would have hesitated to use military force if necessary. Luckily it wasn’t necessary during his life.

          • BrotherBruce says:

            JFK wanted the Diem brothers exiled not murdered. Lodge and the CIA did an end-around on Kennedy. Lodge refused to let the Diem brothers use his airplane, the only one available, to get out of Viet Nam with their families. That left the Diems to the Generals who picked them up at Church and promptly butchered them. JFK didn’t own Viet Nam – the CIA did. Y

          • Bill Clarke says:

            BrotherBruce December 15, 2014 at 2:50 am

            Wrong and I’d like to know where you got this. In a phone call Diem had placed, Lodge offered Diem safe passage out of the country. Diem refused it, telling Lodge that he was trying to restore order. Big mistake on Diem’s part.

      • BrotherBruce says:

        To Bill Clark,
        Are you serious? The only mistake here is yours. Quoting a phone call that you didn’t hear is nothing more than hear-say.
        Let me get this straight: You’re telling me that Diem phoned Henry Cabot Lodge; And during their telephone conversation Lodge asked Diem if he wanted to use his airplane for safe passage out of the Country. Diem refused the offer and said he was trying to restore order? Who overheard this private phone call? If your answer is “no one” then where did this information of yours come from: An intimate of Lodge or of Diem? Also, please provide me with an approximate date that the phone call you’re referencing took place. Lodge offered asylum but refused to pick up Diem and his brother and refused the use of the plane being held for Lodge by the CIA. This was on 11/2/63, the call was answered by Mike Dunn, Lodge’s personal assistant – who discussed the call with Lodge and detailed it in his notes. Where did your information come from?
        .

        • Bill Clarke says:

          BrotherBruce December 15, 2014 at 2:35 pm

          Bro. Are you serious? The only mistake here is yours. Quoting a phone call that you didn’t hear is nothing more than hear-say.

          Clarke. Ease up Bro. If it is referenced by a credible person it is hardly hear-say. By your logic everything we read would be hear-say.

          Bro. Let me get this straight: You’re telling me that Diem phoned Henry Cabot Lodge; And during their telephone conversation Lodge asked Diem if he wanted to use his airplane for safe passage out of the Country.

          Clarke. I didn’t say anything about Lodge’s plane. I said Lodge offered Diem safe passage and Diem refused. I haven’t found the reference for that yet but I did find some interesting information in Stanley Karnow’s, “Vietnam, a history. Page 323 Lodge says to Diem, “Yes. If I can do anything for your physical safety, please call me”. Diem replies that, “I am trying to reestablish order”.

          Bro. Diem refused the offer and said he was trying to restore order? Who overheard this private phone call? If your answer is “no one” then where did this information of yours come from: An intimate of Lodge or of Diem?

          How about Lodge himself? Page 734.

          Also, please provide me with an approximate date that the phone call you’re referencing took place. Lodge offered asylum but refused to pick up Diem and his brother and refused the use of the plane being held for Lodge by the CIA. This was on 11/2/63, the call was answered by Mike Dunn, Lodge’s personal assistant – who discussed the call with Lodge and detailed it in his notes. Where did your information come from?

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Oops, fired to soon. Sorry Bro.

            Bro. Also, please provide me with an approximate date that the phone call you’re referencing took place.

            Clarke. At four-thirty in the afternoon, 11/2/63.

            Bro. Lodge offered asylum but refused to pick up Diem and his brother

            Clarke. Did Diem ask to be picked up? Since he refused the offer of safety by Lodge I think not. He didn’t want to be picked up.

            and refused the use of the plane being held for Lodge by the CIA. This was on 11/2/63, the call was answered by Mike Dunn, Lodge’s personal assistant – who discussed the call with Lodge and detailed it in his not es. Where did your information come from?

            Stanley Karnow.

  29. David Regan says:

    1963: 16,300 non-combat advisors / 1968: 536,100 troops.
    Would there have been the Gulk of Tonkin and major escalation if JFK had lived? Not in my opinon, but I guess we’ll never know. We do know we never went into Cuba or Laos, much to the chagrin of the CIA & JCS.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      Actually the CIA was in Laos before JFK signed the agreement, after he signed the agreement, in 1969 and no doubt much later.

      JOSEPH KERR BUSH JR
      CAPT – O3 – Army – Regular
      JUSMAGTHAI, Army Element
      Length of service 2 years
      Casualty was on Feb 10, 1969
      In , LAOS
      HOSTILE, GROUND CASUALTY
      GUN, SMALL ARMS FIRE
      Body was recovered

      Panel

      • David Regan says:

        How Kennedy Viewed the Vietnam Conflict: http://www.nytimes.com/1992/01/20/opinion/l-how-kennedy-viewed-the-vietnam-conflict-892092.html

        Kennedy and Khrushchev agree on neutrality for Laos — History.com This Day in History — 6/4/1961 @history on History.com http://fw.to/alu2wKK

        • Jean Davison says:

          David,

          You quoted an opinion piece from 1992, but here’s what JFK himself told NBC on 9/9/1963:

          Mr. BRINKLEY. Mr. President, have you had any reason to doubt this so-called “domino theory,” that if South Viet-Nam falls, the rest of Southeast Asia will go behind it ?

          The PRESIDENT. No, I believe it. I believe it. I think that the struggle is close enough. China is so large, looms so high just beyond the frontiers, that if South Viet-Nam went, it would not only give them an improved geographic position for a guerrilla assault on Malaya but would also give the impression that the wave of the future in Southeast Asia was China and the Communists. So I believe it.

          https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/kentv.htm

          What JFK would have actually done when push came to shove later on, we’ll never know, imo.

          • David Regan says:

            Perhaps Jean, but note the Cronkite remarks that it was their war to win or lose and we could help as advisors, with no mention of combat troops. If I was a betting man, I would feel rather confident with my money on the ‘Peace’ President not following LBJ’s path. JFK Wanted Out of Vietnam http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/3446 via @sharethis

          • Bill Clarke says:

            David Regan December 15, 2014 at 7:24 pm

            I don’t think there is any doubt that both JFK and LBJ would have loved to be rid of the Vietnam problem.

            But I don’t think either one could let it go.

  30. BrotherBruce says:

    Whether JFK planned on pulling out of Viet Nam or nuking Hanoi to Kingdom come didn’t matter a tinker’s dam to Lyndon Johnson. LBJ wanted the big seat as badly as he wanted food and water. The fact that Kennedy was loathed and despised by the Chiefs, the intelligence community, the hard-line right, the anti-Castro Cubans, the husbands who’d been cuckolded, Secret Service men who watched him shooting up and screwing hookers and J. Edgar Hoover just made it easier for Johnson to spring his trap after luring the President to Texas. This case is one helluva lot simpler than you’re all making it. One man and only one man had the means the motive and the opportunity to kill the President and cover the crime up. Look under that rock and you’ll find all the answers you could ever want!

  31. BrotherBruce says:

    This should clear it up. Here’s what JFK actually told Cronkite:

    “I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government 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 Viet-Nam, against the Communists.”

    Was JFK lying – or do some contributors simply stoop to cherry picking words out of context to make their point?

    • David Regan says:

      I would like to think JFK would not have pursued the course LBJ did. This article covers the discrepancies of Kennedy’s public and private statements: Currently reading Kennedy 50 Years Later: Little Evidence JFK Would Have Left Vietnam in Second Term http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/kennedy-50-years-anniversary/2013/11/22/id/538067/

      • Bill Clarke says:

        David Regan December 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm

        I have my doubts about JFK doing what LBJ did in Vietnam. I think JFK was smarter than that. LBJ sent all those men to Vietnam and allowed Westmoreland to waste them running his damn fool search and destroy missions with division and brigade size units. On top of that they wasted the period of time in which the war should have been won before our citizens tired of it to such a great extent.

        JFK sent 400 Special Force troops to Vietnam and was a fan of the program. I don’t think he would have left Vietnam unless under the most severe pressure (from communist or American public). So I think he would have done more things like the Special Forces and perhaps even a few divisions to secure the major cities. This could have led to the ink blot or enclave strategy which was probably the only hope we had of prevailing in SVN.

        But never forget those communist combat units coming south in 1964. They were bad news.

        • David Regan says:

          Agreed Bill. I think he was well aware of the French experience there and he received poignant advice from Gen. MacArthur: “Anyone wanting to commit American ground forces to the mainland of Asia should have his head examined.”

          As a side note to the JFK-LBJ debate, it’s interesting to note how Kennedy feared the prospect of LBJ succeeding him: JFK Did Not Want LBJ to Succeed Him
          http://abcn.ws/16p10oP

  32. David Regan says:

    Off topic, but CIA related could be the story of Robert Vinson. I didn’t see any previous threads on this, but check out his story. Was A Wichita Man Part of the Kennedy Assassination Puzzle? (From 1993) – Hatteberg’s People http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JePCoo3W_Vs&sns=tw via @youtube

  33. Bob Prudhomme says:

    A little off topic but, was there actually a South and North Viet Nam prior to the mid 50′s, or were they created in Geneva, following the route of the French at Dien Bien Phu? And speaking of that little meeting in Geneva, were any of the Vietnamese (ie. Ho Chi Minh) invited to this little get together to discuss the future of their land, or was it exclusively colonial powers invited? And speaking of Ho Chi Minh, was he really naïve enough, in 1945, to believe the Americans would help him establish an independent nation, in reward for helping to expel the Japanese, instead of re-instating the French colonial system?

    Ho Chi Minh greatly admired the Americans, so much so that, when he declared an independent Viet Nam in 1945, he adopted Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence word for word. A fat lot of good THAT did him. The State Dept. not only would not recognize Viet Nam, they didn’t even answer the letter he sent them.

    Gee, I wonder why Ho turned to the Soviets….

    • Bill Clarke says:

      Bob Prudhomme December 16, 2014 at 12:28 am

      Have faith Bob, my memory is a bit better here.

      The North and South Vietnam that we know (or knew) was a product of the Geneva accords when they drew the DMZ at the 17th Parallel. Before the French and during their long stay the country was usually in 3 sections. Cochin China (South Vietnam), Annam (the narrow neck between the two) and Tonkin (North Vietnam). They were never one big happy family and when not fighting Chinese invaders they enjoyed their other favorite past time of fighting between themselves. At times Annam was absorbed by either the north or the south.

      Yes, the Vietnamese were graciously allowed to attend.~~ The French puppet Bao Dia was there but no one paid much attention to him. Even Laos and Cambodia had envoys present. Old Ho didn’t show but was well represented by Pham Van Dong. However, since the Viet Minh depended on China and Russia they had to defer to their benefactors, getting much less than they had hoped for.

      I think Ho mostly hoped for American aid and did all he could to get it. We are the one that gave him 5,000 weapons while he was helping us and so we made him the only armed nationalist group in Vietnam. This allowed him to move into the power vacuum when Japan surrendered.

      Old Ho had turned to the Soviets long before 1945. He was a founding member of the French Communist Party in 1920, went to Moscow in 1924 to attend the communist finishing schools and spent most of the 1930s working for the Comintern in China and the Pacific Rim. Ho was a great nationalist but he was also a hard core communist. A true believer. This, “we pushed Ho into the communist camp” doesn’t hold water although it is a rather popular slogan.

  34. David Regan says:

    Folks, please see following JCSM-180-63 for “Comprehensive Plan for South Vietnam”, submitted by President Kennedy to the JCS on 25 January 1962; confirming “essentially no help from US personnel after Calendar Year1965″. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v03/d51#fn2

    JFK Wanted Out of Vietnam http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/3446 via @sharethis

    • Bill Clarke says:

      David, I salute you on finding primary sources for your work and not the speculations of some agenda driven men. Good work.

      https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v03/d51#fn2

      Paragraph 1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the attached Comprehensive Plan for South Vietnam (CPSVN), submitted 25 January 1963 by CINCPAC2 for approval in response to your (that would be McNamara) directive set forth during the 23 July 1962 Honolulu Conference.

      a. So in July of 62 McNamara gave CINCPAC a directive. CINCPAC is the Pacific Command and in the chain of command of Vietnam. It went from Vietnam to CINCPAC to the Pentagon to JFK.

      b. CINCPAC makes their report (CPSVN) and sends it up the chain of command to the Pentagon by 25 January 1963.

      c. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed this CPSVN and is now sending it up to McNamara.

      The way this reads it was CINCPAC that submitted the report (CPSVN) on 25 January 1963 to the Joint Chiefs and not JFK. In fact, Kennedy isn’t mentioned in all of this. IF JFK saw it I have no doubt he would have approved it since it reflected his policy at the time and remained his policy in October 1963 with NSAM 263. But he isn’t the one that submitted it.

      Paragraph 2. This comprehensive plan provides the special military assistance and equipment the Government of Vietnam will require to carry on an adequate and effective counterinsurgency program with essentially no help from US personnel after Calendar Year 1965.

      You have to remember that the brilliant fools thought they were winning the war at this time. They were not.

      Paragraph 3 (edit for space). To attain its objectives, the CPSVN is dependent upon the success of the parallel development of many mutually supporting national plans and programs such as the National Campaign Plan, the Strategic Hamlet Program, and the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) Program.

      And here is the killer. The whole thing (CPSVN) is DEPENDENT on the success of the South Vietnamese policies. Sadly they don’t tell us what they will do if the SVG do not succeed in these actions so we wonder if the prospect was ever seriously considered. Again we have to remember they thought they were winning the war at the time. All this could also be said about NSAM 263 in October.

      JFK Wanted Out of Vietnam http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/3446 via @sharethis

      Jones is another Camelot shiner. You read one you’ve read them all. You should know enough about NSAM 263 now to see where Jones plays loose with the facts.

      • David Regan says:

        Thank you, Bill. I appreciate the insight. My impression was that by 1963, Kennedy was aware of the pessimistic reports coming back from VN, so was under no illusion it was going well. My opinion was that he was aware enough to see the potential quagmire and after seeing what the French went through and the advice received from Gen. MacArthur, he had no intention of committing combat troops. Based on statements made to O’Donnell and Hilsman, he was planning to be out by end ’65, regardless of status. And yes, I agree things escalated from 1961-63, but depending which camp you’re in, the chances of Kennedy committing over half a million troops were either possible or unthinkable.

        See following open letter by Roger Hilsman to NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/1992/01/20/opinion/l-how-kennedy-viewed-the-vietnam-conflict-892092.html

        • Bill Clarke says:

          David Regan December 16, 2014 at 10:38 pm

          My impression was that by 1963, Kennedy was aware of the pessimistic reports coming back from VN, so was under no illusion it was going well.
          This is much the same point John Newman makes in his, “JFK and Vietnam”, page 322. I’ll post part of the page;
          ________________________________________________________
          “Kennedy decided to use Taylor’s and Harkin’ reports of battlefield success to justify the beginning of the withdrawal he was planning.” Italics by Newman.
          “Kennedy kept his plan a closely guarded secret, but by March he was determined not only to withdraw—come what may—after 1964, but, if possible, to take a clear step in that direction….”
          The problem here is that in a book otherwise well referenced Newman fails to give us a reference for his BS here. The reason being he has nothing to support his statement; he pulled it out of the air. There is no record of a JFK plan withdrawing “come what may”. As we have seen in the CPSVN you posted and in NSAM 263 the withdrawal is always DEPENDANT on the South Vietnamese coming up to standard.
          And I’m not familiar with these pessimistic reports you speak of. Harkin and Taylor made sure no bad news news came from the military. The CIA was never as optimistic as the military but hardly defeatist.

          My opinion was that he was aware enough to see the potential quagmire and after seeing what the French went through and the advice received from Gen. MacArthur, he had no intention of committing combat troops.

          I don’t believe I’ve ever claimed JFK intended to commit U.S. combat units. I know of no evidence that says he did intend such an action and I doubt that he did.

          Based on statements made to O’Donnell and Hilsman, he was planning to be out by end ’65, regardless of status. And yes, I agree things escalated from 1961-63, but depending which camp you’re in, the chances of Kennedy committing over half a million troops were either possible or unthinkable.

          O’Donnell and Dave Powers are hard core Kennedy apologist. Believe what they say about JFK at your risk. Hilsman, on the other hand, deserves to be listened to. I’m most shocked by his account of JFK chewing him out and then JFK suggesting he’d negotiate Vietnam like he did Laos. That is a biggie and I wonder about it. I know of no supporting evidence of JFK wanting to negotiate SVN. And I believe Hilsman is quoting John McNaughton on JFK withdrawing “come what may”. And Hilsman’s statement, “This does not prove he would have withdrawn completely, including the 16,500 advisers” nails it. I certainly agree.

  35. David Regan says:

    Agreed Bill, there is no hard evidence of JFK withdrawing without victory, mostly due to ambiguity between his public and private statements. The only corroboration for that is in statements by his contemporaries, although I do agree Hilsman carries extra weight.

    October 13, 1961 – Letter to Gen. Taylor prior to Saigon trip: http://www.shapell.org/manuscript.aspx?jfk-vietnam-maxwell-taylor

    We do know the Taylor-Rostow Report recommended an increaase in military advisors and a commitment of 8,000 combat troops. Kennedy increased advisor support, but not ground troops. (see memo) Meeting to discuss the recommendations of the Taylor Mission to South VietNam – 11/6/61: https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v01/d211

    Another conflicting recommendation by McNamara and the JCS called for committing six American combat divisions – comprised of 200,000 troops.

    As for getting pessimistic reports,it appears JFK had begun hearing reports from American journalists that were not nearly as optimistic as reports from the military brass. Galbraith, Harriman, Forrestal and Mansfield all gave less than glowing updates. While the Hilsman-Forrestal Report in January 1963 was lukewarm at best, stating “our overall judgement is that we are probably winning, but certainly more slowly that we had hoped. At the rate it is now going the war will last longer than we would like, cost more in terms of both lives and money than we anticipated…”

    Mansfield also came back from a fact-fidning mission and advised Kennedy to curb U.S. involvement, which at first angered JFK, partly because he agreed with Mansfield’s assessment.

    Thanks for the exchange, Bill. A different topic not covered much, but worth discussion is NSAM 271 – Cooperation with the USSR on Outer Space Matters. I doubt this went over well with the CIA/NSA!

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