LBJ Goes to War 8

A Vietcong attack against a U.S. base near Pleiku, in the central highlands of South Vietnam, was to have a shattering impact on both Kosygin’s and Bundy’s journeys—and propel the conflict into a fresh phase. Pleiku, traditionally a market town for the region’s mountain tribes, had become the site of a South Vietnamese army headquarters that directed patrols against Communist ... Read More »

LBJ Goes to War 7

Raising many of the same doubts that Taylor had expressed earlier, and observing that “our own security seems at first glance to be very weak,” Johnson was worried that reprisals might spark a Communist response that the U.S. advisory force of twenty-three thousand then in Vietnam could not withstand. The political disarray in Saigon also troubled him, and he peevishly ... Read More »

LBJ Goes to War 6

As usual, the South Vietnamese had advantages—tanks, armored personnel carriers, heavy artillery and helicopters flown by American pilots. But the superior equipment made them complacent in contrast to the Vietcong, which had learned to be fast and flexible. In typical style, Vietcong soldiers would hit a target while their comrades am¬bushed South Vietnamese convoys speeding to the rescue along ex¬posed ... Read More »

LBJ Goes to War 5

A liberal New Deal lawyer, Ball had served on a mission to survey the effects of the Allied bombing of Germany during World War II. The raids, he learned, had barely dented German industry, and he could not imagine that bombing rural North Vietnam would be any more effective. He had also conversed frequently with Charles de Gaulle, who had ... Read More »

LBJ Goes to War 4

Late in October, a hundred Vietcong troops armed with mortars slipped into the surrounding area of rice fields, palm groves and placid villages. Though they were dressed in black peasant pajamas, the local peasants knew their identity, yet not a hint of their presence reached the authorities. Before dawn on November 1, a shower of shells fell on the base, ... Read More »

LBJ Goes to War 3

In Vietnam itself, though covert Vietcong agents may have been exacerbating the chaos then engulfing Saigon, the Communists in Hanoi were not counting on the disarray in the south to gain their objectives. For one thing, they tended to trust only movements that they themselves had organized and disciplined, and they were reluctant to associate with the unruly factions defying ... Read More »

LBJ Goes to War 2

The joint chiefs of staff shared Taylor’s concern about sending U.S. troops to Vietnam, but they criticized his reluctance to bomb North Vietnam, contending that only such “significantly stronger military pressures” against the Hanoi regime would give the Saigon govern¬ment the “relief and psychological boost” it required to attain “stability and viability.” They favored immediate air strikes against the targets ... Read More »

LBJ Goes to War

The trend was clear before midnight on November 3, 1964, and it fulfilled Johnson’s most optimistic expectations. He had crushed Barry Goldwater by a margin of sixteen mil¬lion votes, the highest proportion ever scored by a presi¬dential candidate. The spectacular landside swept the rest of his party along and gave the Democrats huge majorities in both chambers of Congress. Now ... Read More »

Disorder and Decision 13

By early January 1965, the Buddhists were again demanding Huong’s ouster, and Khanh saw this as a chance to advance his own ambitions. He offered to protect Huong on condition that four army officers, among them Ky and Thieu, be given cabinet posts. But he also encouraged the Buddhist protests, now beginning to turn against the United States. Buddhist militants ... Read More »

Disorder and Decision 12

The new chief of state, Phan Khac Suu, was an octogenarian who advertised his obsolescence by dressing in a black mandarin gown. A French-trained agricultural engineer who vaguely belonged to the Cao Dai sect, he had once served the Emperor Bao Dai and was briefly jailed by Ngo Dinh Diem for mild dissidence. The prime minister, Tran Van Huong, a ... Read More »

Categories

Meta