Wednesday, November 26, 2014



Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-one years ago today, November 26, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson met with world leaders at the White House who had come to the United States to attend the funeral services of President John F. Kennedy.

The guest list included...

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.

Alexi Kosygin and LBJ
Photo by Yoichi Okamoto
LBJ Library Image (1967)


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) On 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 stated...

"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Vietnamese should have progressed to the point where 1000 US military personnel assigned to South Vietnam can be withdrawn."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, President Kennedy was asked at a news conference if there was any speedup in the withdrawal.

JFK answered...

"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."

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 is rarely seen in historical writings. 

He cites the exception being Richard Goodwin who said that in discussions regarding escalation of the effort in Vietnam there was never any mention that this was in consideration because of "previous commitments."  Morrissey concludes...

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

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.  LBJ had sent 5000 more advisers by July 1964 bringing the total to 21,000.  

By the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, the Congress gave LBJ authority to conduct military operations in Southeast Asia without benefit of a war declaration.

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


"The Second Biggest Lie," by Michael Morrissey,