So, what's your thoughts on Kennedy and Vietnam? What would his policies have been, if he had lived? http://modern-us-history.suite101.com/article.cfm/would_jfk_have_withdrawn_from_vietnam http://thewall-usa.com/summary.asp Would JFK Have Withdrawn From Vietnam? President Kennedys 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 enemys 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. Kennedys Conflicted Policy President Kennedys 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 dont 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 Kennedys 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 administrations public proclamations to win the war and is one more example of the conflicted policy held by the Kennedy administration. Vietnam After Kennedys Death President Kennedys 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.