While discussing a new set of instructions for Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge∇ to help manage a deteriorating situation in South Vietnam, President Kennedy continues to ruminate on the public relations dimension of an American troop withdrawal. As he does in the meetings of October 2, Kennedy considers the prospects for troop reduction against the backdrop of the war effort.
Following a morning briefing by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor on their trip to Vietnam, the National Security Council meets to review their recommendations and to draft a statement on their report for public consumption. As in the earlier meeting, President Kennedy questions the wisdom of committing his administration publicly to an American troop withdrawal.
Having returned to Washington earlier that morning from their fact-finding mission to South Vietnam, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor brief President Kennedy on the status of the U.S. military advisory effort. On the table is a recommendation to begin the process of withdrawing American troops from Vietnam, some of which are to leave by the end of the year, with the bulk of U.S. forces to return home by the end of 1965.
Over the course of several meetings, from October 2 through October 5, 1963, Kennedy and his advisers debated the merits of a plan to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from Vietnam by the end of 1965. Segments from two of those meetings, from the morning and evening of October 2, reveal Kennedy's concerns about that plan and the language with which it was to be explained to the American public.
Over the course of several meetings, from October 2 through October 5, 1963, President Kennedy and his advisers debated the merits of a plan to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from Vietnam by the end of 1965. Segments from two of those meetings, from the morning and evening of October 2, reveal Kennedy's concerns about that plan and the language with which it was to be explained to the American public.
Just prior to a discussion of a possible troop withdrawal from Vietnam, Kennedy and his advisers discuss media coverage of the war in Southeast Asia. The group is particularly concerned about New York Times reporter David Halberstam and UPI∇ correspondent Neil Sheehan. According to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, the two were "allowing an idealistic philosophy to color all their writing."
Johnson had given a speech at UCLA that accused the Vietnamese of engaging in a "deeply dangerous game" in Southeast Asia. Reaction had not been favorable. Internationally, the U.S.S.R. warned the United States against extending the war to North Vietnam. Domestically, Mansfield∇ reiterated his public and private calls for a negotiated settlement leading to the neutralization of Southeast Asia in the face of a widespread popular impression that the United States was preparing to begin a psychological campaign against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). In further fallout from the perceived stiffening of policy, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Roger Hilsman announced his resignation. Although the stated reason was a desire to return to academia, the New York Daily News claimed that Hilsman departed under pressure because of his approach to Vietnam policy, a assertion that Hilsman's memoirs confirmed.
In this discussion with McNamara, Johnson seemed to backtrack from both his public and private statements on Vietnam and to reconsider the wisdom of escalation. In the process, he displayed a level of assertiveness on an issue where heretofore he had deferred to his advisers or avoided discussing the broad outlines of policy. The major issue here was Johnson's criticism of the announced withdrawal of 1,000 troops from South Vietnam, a move that many commentators cite as evidence that President Kennedy would not have escalated the war in Southeast Asia.
The immediate reason for the call concerned the shaping of remarks for this night's congressional reception at the White House.
The newspaper baron John Knight was a regular target of Johnson's lobbying efforts, which paid their reward in the fall, when all Knight Ridder papers endorsed Johnson's reelection.
Foreign policy dominated this call after Knight mentioned a column he had written about the situation in Panama, as the Panamanians had made impassioned charges that the United States had engaged in aggression in January and called for the Organization of American States (OAS∇) to investigate under the authority of the Rio Treaty. The two men then turned, at Johnson's request, to an even more challenging situation: Vietnam. Johnson offered Knight his assessment of his current options, none of which was good. This clip picks up at the beginning of the Vietnam discussion
Johnson had spent much of the day on the phone with Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corps Director. Despite Shriver's clear resistance, Johnson named him the director of the War on Poverty effort earlier today. In tone and substance, this final call of the day differed remarkably from the three earlier discussions. After having dispensed with the question of whether Shriver would accept the position as the new coordinator of a domestic War on Poverty, Johnson delved into several policy areas and even touched on the issue of Shriver being a potential running mate for the fall. Expectedly, they explored the poverty issue, but the President also reached out to him on matters involving Panama, Latin America, and Vietnam, implying at one point that Americans had been involved in the assassination of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem∇.
In this conversation with chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee J. William Fulbright∇ (D-AR), President Johnson considers the reasons for the appointment of Henry Cabot Lodge∇ as ambassador to Vietnam and the prospects for replacing him.
At the end of a long conversation with Senator Richard Russell about the senator's upcoming recuperative holiday in Puerto Rico -- Russell had been hospitalized in February -- Johnson reveals his pessimism about the increasing difficulty of achieving U.S. objectives in Vietnam.
John S. McCain III, (1936-) currently a Republican Senator from Arizona and Republican nominee for President in the 2008 Presidential election, was a U.S. Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. In October 1967 he was shot down over North Vietnam, taken prisoner, and held captive as a prisoner of war for five and a half years. His father, Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., was Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC∇) during much of the time his son was a POW.
We've compiled transcripts of the most substantive mentions of the McCain family in the LBJ and Nixon recordings. Given the time period the tapes span, most of these discussions relate to the Senator's father, Admiral John S. McCain, Jr. (1911-1981), who became a four star admiral in the U.S. Navy and served during the Vietnam War as CINCPAC from 1968 to 1972. Senator McCain's grandfather, John S. McCain, Sr. (1884-1945), had also been an Admiral in the U.S. Navy.
In August 1964 , Congress passed the Tonkin∇ Gulf Resolution—or Southeast Asia Resolution, as it is officially known—the congressional decree that gave Johnson a broad mandate to wage war in Vietnam. Its passage was a pivotal moment in the war and arguably the tipping point for the disaster that followed. The Resolution, passed by Congress on August 7, 1964, and signed into law on August 10, capped a series of events which remain controversial.
In the December 21, 1970, entry of his tape recorded diary, White House Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman∇ recorded how National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger∇ tried to convince Richard Nixon∇ out of withdrawing the last American combat troops from Vietnam by the end of 1971. Kissinger proposed delaying the withdrawal until after the 1972 presidential election.
In an effort to provide space for negotiations during the Vietnam War, Johnson ordered a cessation of air strikes against North Vietnam on December 25, 1965. After one month of failed attempts to use diplomacy to promote peace, President Johnson voiced his intentions to former President Eisenhower to proceed with offensive attacks against the North. In a telephone conversation recorded on January 25, 1966, Johnson insisted upon the impossibility of extending the bombing pause without progress in negotiations. Evoking the criticism of Senators Wayne Morse (D-OR) and J. William Fulbright∇ (D-AR) regarding his policy decisions in Southeast Asia, the President turned to Eisenhower for counsel. The General responded by labeling Johnson's critics "overeducated Senators."