Sunday, January 30, 2005
VIETNAM: KENNEDY'S WAR?
"In early 1963, Kennedy called me to the Oval office. There was only the two of us. He said that he wanted this private talk to make sure that I understood that my primary mission as assistant secretary for Far Eastern affairs was to keep the United States out of a war in Vietnam. The South Vietnam government wasn't going to make it, but that we should do everything to help them short of sending American soldiers to fight. After the Buddhist crisis in the summer of 1963, Kennedy instructed Secretary Robert McNamara to develop a withdrawal plan. In the fall of 1963, the Joint Chiefs of Staff presented a plan. The very next day, Kennedy ordered the first 1,000 of 16,500 American military advisers in Vietnam to withdraw. The plan called for a total reduction within months, but Kennedy was assassinated before it could be implemented. He also told me in that meeting to stay on top of the CIA because he didn't trust them. That lesson he learned from the Bay of Pigs."
- Roger Hilsman, Assistant Secretary of State for Far-Eastern Affairs