I would like to comment on the letter by Thomas Fohne in the July 29 paper in which President John F. Kennedy is mentioned in relation to Vietnam.
In October 1963, President Kennedy said to Walter Cronkite about the South Vietnamese: “In the final analysis it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it.”
Even with all the money, material and advice the Untied States provided, the South Vietnamese military was not performing well against the communists. When President Kennedy signed National Security Action Memorandum 263, he thought that the predicament of South Vietnamese was hopeless. It is not surprising that NSAM 263 stated that all U.S. personnel were to be out of Vietnam by 1965.
The day after President Kennedy’s funeral, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed NSAM 273 that superseded the NSAM signed by President Kennedy and reversed the course of action specified by President Kennedy. Shortly after the inauguration of President Johnson on Jan. 20, 1965, Vietnam soon turned into an American war. The results of it are all too well known today.
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As Lyndon Johnson was campaigning for election to his own term as president and portrayed himself as a peace candidate, he made an interesting speech in Louisville, Ky. on Oct. 9, 1964, in which he said: “I didn’t get us into Vietnam. I didn’t ring up out there and say, “I want some trouble.” I was there in 1961, one of the first things that I did. President Kennedy sent me out there when we were worried about the stability of the government there. We can’t pick other peoples governments. We have enough trouble picking our own.”
Quite obviously, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson had different ideas, and possibly different motives, concerning Vietnam. However, in any outlook, the course of action we following in Vietnam was not to our advantage.
Frank B. Austin