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 Kennedy and Vietnam: 58,173 Unnecessary Deaths?
SSFeldjager  [Member]
2/9/2010 4:50:53 PM EST
So, what's your thoughts on Kennedy and Vietnam? What would his policies have been, if he had lived?

JFK and Vietnam Policy

Vietnam War: US Military Casualties in SE Asia

Would JFK Have Withdrawn From Vietnam?
President Kennedy’s Conflicted Policies On The Vietnam War

Nov 26, 2009 Lawrence Koppy

While vocal in his support of the South Vietnamese in their war against the North, did JFK have plans to withdraw all US advisors from the country by 1965?

John Kennedy came to office an avowed anti-Communist, having been a staunch critic of Cold War diplomacy practiced by the Eisenhower Administration. Over the course of his presidency JFK and members of his administration repeatedly expressed strong convictions about the importance of supporting South Vietnam in their war against the North.

Kennedy Takes Office

The President said the US had a “strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam” and that failure in Vietnam would affect US policy throughout Southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East.

Others in the administration echoed this support. Vice President Lyndon Johnson referred to South Vietnamese President Diem as “The Churchill of Asia” and promised continued US aid. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, while on a tour to Saigon in 1962, said, “we are going to win” when asked about US commitment to the war.

Kennedy Escalates the War

Kennedy took a number of steps to escalate the war after taking office. In February 1961, he secretly sent 400 Green Berets to teach “counterinsurgency war” to South Vietnamese troops against Communist guerrillas. Later that year he sent an aircraft carrier loaded with helicopters to aid South Vietnamese forces. President Kennedy also authorized the US military to begin using Agent Orange in Vietnam to eradicate the enemy’s jungle cover.

Yet despite his commitment to support South Vietnam with military advisors and material, Kennedy resisted recommendations and appeals to introduce US combat troops into South Vietnam to actively engage in a ground war.

Kennedy felt that a land conflict involving US troops would be a disaster and that the South Vietnamese had to win the war for themselves. He refused a request in October 1961, for 11,000 combat troops recommended by his advisors.

Kennedy’s Conflicted Policy

President Kennedy’s unease with support for South Vietnam is evident in remarks he made in September, 1963, when he stated “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.” But later in the interview he qualified these remarks saying “But I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake.”

In another interview a few days later JFK expressed his belief in the “domino theory”, that if South Vietnam were to fall, the rest of Southeast Asia would go behind it. “I think that the struggle is close enough”, he said, concluding the interview by reiterating that the United States should stay in South Vietnam and not withdraw.

Plans For Withdrawal?

On October 4th, 1963, a memo was drafted by General Max Taylor that read “all planning will be directed towards preparing Republic of Vietnam forces for the withdrawal of all US special assistance units and personnel by the end of calendar year 1965. Execute the plan to withdraw 1,000 United States military personnel by the end of 1963.”

This memo came to be National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263 and was signed by President Kennedy on October 11th. While Kennedy had the memo made public he kept the withdrawal of the 1,000 troops by the end of ‘63 secret and did not raise the matter formally with South Vietnamese President Diem.

NSAM 263 has been the topic of hot debate over the years. It has been put forth as proof that Kennedy planned on withdrawing totally from Vietnam by 1965. Others say it was a device to gain political support for the upcoming election in ‘64 against likely challenger Barry Goldwater. Others believe Kennedy’s withdrawal plans were based on overly optimistic battlefield reports or a desire to force change on the corrupt Diem government in South Vietnam.

Historian Lawrence Freedman maintains the plan for withdrawal was “less a definite decision than a working assumption, based on a hope for stability rather than an expectation of chaos.” Either way, NSAM 263 contradicts the administration’s public proclamations to “win the war” and is one more example of the conflicted policy held by the Kennedy administration.

Vietnam After Kennedy’s Death

President Kennedy’s policies increased American involvement in Vietnam without introducing combat troops to the area. At the time of his death in 1963 less than 100 Americans had lost their lives in Vietnam. There is no way to know exactly what path JFK would have taken in Vietnam had he lived to fill out his term of office. Whether he would have withdrawn American forces or continued supporting South Vietnam will likely be argued for generations.

Sources

Cronkite, Walter, Television Interviews on Vietnam with President Kennedy, September 2 and 9, 1963

Isaacson, W., “If Kennedy had Lived History”, Time Magazine, 4/13/92, Vol. 139, Issue 15

Karnow, Sidney, “Vietnam, a History”, Viking, N.Y. 1983
Vancil, L., “Agent Orange”

Weiner, Tim, "Kennedy Had Plan for Early Vietnam Exit", New York Times, December 23, 1997
“JFK's Secret Formula for Vietnam”, review of Exit Strategy by James K. Galbraith, Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2003, Vol. 28, Issue 1.
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RedFalconBill  [Team Member]
2/9/2010 5:22:36 PM EST
Since JFK brought McNamara and the Whiz Kids to DC, he would have done what these losers did, which is to say implement a strategy based on their own brilliance.

IOW, nothing would have changed.
Rick-OShay  [Team Member]
2/10/2010 12:40:04 PM EST
Originally Posted By RedFalconBill:
Since JFK brought McNamara and the Whiz Kids to DC, he would have done what these losers did, which is to say implement a strategy based on their own brilliance.

IOW, nothing would have changed.


This. JFK screwed everything he touched, including Mar. Monroe. He was saved from being a 1 term prez or impeached by a bullet....

Sgt_Gold  [Team Member]
2/16/2010 7:09:09 PM EST
"Lessons in Disaster" by Gordon M. Goldstein makes this same arguement except Goldstein puts forth the issue that JFK had to appear 'hard' on communism until he won reelection. After that he, (Goldstein), makes the argument that JFK would have 'declared victory' and withdrawn most of our forces from the RVN. Kennedy was unwilling to commit to the amount of force he felt was necessary to defeat North Vietnam.

Originally Posted By SSFeldjager:
NSAM 263 has been the topic of hot debate over the years. It has been put forth as proof that Kennedy planned on withdrawing totally from Vietnam by 1965. Others say it was a device to gain political support for the upcoming election in ‘64 against likely challenger Barry Goldwater. Others believe Kennedy’s withdrawal plans were based on overly optimistic battlefield reports or a desire to force change on the corrupt Diem government in South Vietnam.


joedapro  [Member]
4/22/2010 12:41:15 PM EST
Originally Posted By Rick-OShay:
Originally Posted By RedFalconBill:
Since JFK brought McNamara and the Whiz Kids to DC, he would have done what these losers did, which is to say implement a strategy based on their own brilliance.

IOW, nothing would have changed.


This. JFK screwed everything he touched, including Mar. Monroe. He was saved from being a 1 term prez or impeached by a bullet....



i thought he was impeached by a bullet.
skid2041  [Team Member]
4/23/2010 8:50:34 AM EST
I cannot remember where i read it so take this with a grain of salt. But an article dissussed that initally

Ho Chi Minh wasn't a communist he was fighting for independance of France and he originally sent envoys to the US

for support against the French. But since we were "allies" with the French, Kennedy refused. Along with China

wanting a buffer from us, they were more than happy to oblige Ho Chi Minh. So if this was true maybe we wouldn't

have been there in the first place. Just a thought.
Sgt_Gold  [Team Member]
4/23/2010 9:48:53 PM EST
Uncle Ho was a communist from the get go, but he wasn't an international communist bent on exporting the revolution. His primary goal was independence from France, and once the US decided to restore the French to their colonial throne there was nothing to do but wait for the fighting to break out. Due to the cold war, there was no way any US administration could allow a communist movement to acheive a victory without a fight.
6mmAR15  [Member]
4/28/2010 10:52:32 AM EST
Indeed........Uncle Ho was a nationalist.........who was also a commie.........The US policy at that time was to contain communism..........and the cold war grew hot!
RedFalconBill  [Team Member]
4/28/2010 12:01:51 PM EST
Uncle Ho was a member of the French Communist Party, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Chinese Communist Party, and founded the Communist Party of Vietnam

The "Uncle" part was an act that he cobbled together from seeing the cult of personalities that surrounded Stalin and Mao.

Make no mistake, he was a mean spirited SOB who saw people as tools to be used to achieve an end. That end was Communism.
Rick-OShay  [Team Member]
4/28/2010 12:42:49 PM EST
Originally Posted By joedapro:
Originally Posted By Rick-OShay:
Originally Posted By RedFalconBill:
Since JFK brought McNamara and the Whiz Kids to DC, he would have done what these losers did, which is to say implement a strategy based on their own brilliance.

IOW, nothing would have changed.


This. JFK screwed everything he touched, including Mar. Monroe. He was saved from being a 1 term prez or impeached by a bullet....



i thought he was impeached by a bullet.


You may insert comma as needed, Punctuation Nazi.....
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