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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"We Are Not About to Send American Boys..." -- LBJ, Fifty Years Ago Today

Fifty years ago today,on October 21, 1964, Lyndon Johnson went to Akron and spoke about the Vietnam War.  He said: “Sometimes our folks get a little impatient. Sometimes they rattle their rockets some, and they bluff about their bombs. But we are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

On September 24, however, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had told him that the situation was likely to deteriorate after the election:
President Johnson: I’ve been reading about all these coups out there, and all the problems of [South Vietnamese leader Nguyen] Khanh and everything. I was just wondering what’s happening to me. [Both chuckle.] I start out with a war.
Now, tell me, what’s your evaluation of the stuff we’re getting from [Ambassador Maxwell] Taylor tonight? I’m just reading it, and it doesn’t look very good.
McNamara: It doesn’t look good, Mr. President. It’s no different, you know, than what we’ve seen here and sensed here for some time. I think the odds are we can squeeze through between now and the next several weeks. But it certainly is a weak situation.
I’m going to meet tomorrow at 11:00 with Dean Rusk and Mac [Bundy] and others to reappraise it and see what we think can be done, if anything. I really don’t think there’s much we can do in the next several weeks to change the outlook. But neither do I think it’s going to completely collapse in that period.
Afterwards, though, after the election, we’ve got a real problem on our hands.