Tuesday, November 26, 2013


November 26, 2013


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) 50 years ago today, November 26, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed National Security Action Memo #273 at the White House.

The declassified document available on the JFK and LBJ Library websites. includes the following statements...

"It remains the central objective of the United States in South Vietnam to assist the people and government to win (the war)...

"The objectives of the United States...remains as stated in the White House statement of October 2, 1963."

The second statement above refers to JFK's NSAM #263 which came as a result of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara's and  General Maxwell Taylor's mission and report on the situation in Vietnam.  It was signed on October 2, 1963.

NSAM #263 included this statement...

"The... program for training Vietnamese should have progressed to the point where 1000 US military personnel assigned to South Vietnam can be withdrawn."

On October 31, 1963, JFK was asked at a news conference if there was "any speedup in the withdrawal...?"

The President responded...

"I think the 1st unit...would be 250 men who are not operations.  It would be our hope to lessen the number of Americans there by 1000, as the training intensifies and is carried on in South Vietnam."

Since JFK used the phrase "it would be our hope," it can be argued that he may or may not have actually carried through with the reduction in US forces in Vietnam.

In television interviews with Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley in the weeks before he went to Dallas, President Kennedy made it clear that, in his opinion, it would be "a mistake" to withdraw from Vietnam.

Michael Morrissey, however, in his essay 'The Second Biggest Lie,' argues...

"Despite the massive efforts to obscure it, the fact remains...that (LBJ) reversed the withdrawal policy."

Morrissey is of the opinion that this "fact" is rarely seen in historical writings. 

He cites the "rare exception" being Richard Goodwin who he quotes as follows...

"In later years (LBJ) and others in his administration would assert that they were merely fulfilling the commitment (in Vietnam) of previous...presidents.

The claim was untrue.

During the 1st half of 1965 I attended meetings...where the issues of escalation were discussed.  Not once did any participant claim that we had to...send combat troops because of 'previous commitments.'

The claim of continuity was reserved for public justification; intended to conceal the fact that a major policy change was being made."^

^Mr. Morrissey's source is 'Remembering America,' New York: Harper and Row, 1988.

Figures available on the internet indicate that when JFK became president in January 1961 there were 900 American military advisers in South Vietnam and 16,000 when he died in November 1963.

Those figures also show that LBJ had sent 5000 more advisers by July 1964 bringing the total to 21,000.  

On August 2, 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred and by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the Congress gave LBJ authority to conduct military operations in SE Asia without benefit of a war declaration.

According to the History Channel, the 1st American combat troops were sent to South Vietnam on February 9, 1965 and by the end of the year, there were 184,000 US troops in Vietnam.

As the year 1966 came to a close, that number was up to 385,000.

The buildup continued until by 1968, there were 536,000 Americans in South Vietnam.

               JFK and Bob McNamara
                         June 19, 1962
              Photo by Cecil Stoughton
                    JFK Library Image


"The Second Biggest Lie," by Michael Morrissey,


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) 50 years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson met with foreign leaders at the White House here in the Nation's Capitol.

These leaders had remained in Washington after coming to attend the previous day's funeral services for President John F. Kennedy.

The LBJ Library provides the following list of foreign leaders with whom President Johnson met:

Haile Selassie of Ethiopia
Alec Douglas-Home of Great Britain
Prince Philip of Great Britain
Diosdado Macapaqal of the Philippines
Ismet Inodu of Turkey
Eamon de Valera of Ireland
Anastas Mikoyan of the Soviet Union
Ludwig Erhard of Germany
Heinrich Lubke of Germany

The new president also met with the Latin American delegations.

White House Daily Diary
November 26, 1963
LBJ Library/NARA Document