Johnson's War

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  • Created on: 06-04-14 16:24

Why Johnson continued U.S involvement - A man of h

A man of his time*

  • patriotic anti-Comm. misunderstood foreigners
  •  proud of U.S military prowess
  •  always voted to build up armed forces as a senator
  •  believed U.S fought for world freedom+U.S security
  •  as vice-pres firmly believed U.S should fight 'Communist aggressors' in S.E Asia
  • believe in Domino theory
  •  felt HCM another Hitler
  • misunderstood foreigners and foreign affairs
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Why Johnson continued U.S involvement

impact of Kennedy's assassination

  • knew long war would lose support of public
  •  saw weakness in Saigon gov
  •  only China+S.U would benefit if U.S "bogged down chasing guerrillas"
  • "when I took over, I often felt as if President Kennedy were sitting there in the room looking at me"
  •  continued U.S involvement - main reason = Kennedy legacy
  •  felt sorrow for Kennedy assass but also joy becoming Pres.
  •  Vietnam = Kennedy's war?
  • Johnson didn't have a popular mandate - he couldn't abandon any of Kennedy's policies or advisers else he wouldn't be elected.
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Why Johnson continued U.S involvement

Johnson and his advisers

  • Johnson freedom of thought+action limited as tied to Kennedy's men
  •  retention of Mcnamara+Rusk meant no fresh ideas - Rusk obsessed about continuing struggle - withdrawal lead to loss of faith in U.S commitment to oppose Comm. aggression would lead to ww3
  • McNamara key in forming policy - 'McNamara's War'
  • McNamara memoirs(1995) - criticised himself and Johnson for failing to ask relevant questions that needed to be asked at every stage of the war.
  • Democrat Senate Leader Mike Mansfield(1963) suggested united and neutralised Vietnam would be the only option - Johnson rejected this view
  • Johnson, Rusk, Mcnamara assured Mansfield that if S.V gov. adopted political, economic and social policies to win over people there would be no need for US involvement - Mansfield knew Saign gov. unlikely to reform.
  • Kennedy men remaining in State/Defence Departments and WHitehouse wanted to save face.
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Why Johnson continued U.S involvement - warning vo

warning voices

  • Democrat Senate Leader Mike Mansfield(1963) suggested united and neutralised Vietnam would be the only option - Johnson rejected this view
  • Johnson, Rusk, Mcnamara assured Mansfield that if S.V gov. adopted olitical, economic and social policies to win over people there would be no need for US involvement - Mansfield knew Saign gov. unlikely to reform.
  • Kennedy men remaining in State/Defence Departments and WHitehouse wanted to save face.
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Why Johnson continued U.S involvement

advice from the military

  • belief+advice from military influential
  •  Johnson found some military men scary
  •  Johnson inherited involvement in a war and as commander in chief he was bound to listen to generals
  • Vietnam was the only war at the time so Generals didn't want to lose it.
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Why Johnson continued U.S involvement

The first president to lose a war

  • Johnson political ambition reinforced what generals were advising
  •  repeatedly said he didn't want to be first president to lose a war
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Why Johnson continued U.S involvement - early deba

early debates, doubts and decisions

  • From Dec 1963 Hano sent increasing number of PAVN south greatly strengthened VC
  • strategic hamlet clearly failure
  •  VC countered U.S air power with large amounts of Chinese+Soviet weaponry
  •  Comms controlled around half of Vietnam
  •  Mcnamara visited Saigon March 1964 described situation "very disturbing"
  •  South vietnamese apathetic - unwilling to fight
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How Johnson was able to escalate

  • by July 1964 200 U.S died in Vietnam - S.V war going badly but Washington focused on how to win, not get out
  • Most of Johnson's advisers, led by Rusk and Mcnamara urged escalation
  • Johnson knew he would need congressional and public support to escalate - obtain the former with Gulf of Tonkin resolution and latter in presidential election Nov 1964

Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution

  • Johnson claimed N.V made 2 unprovoked attacks on Maddox and Turner Joy in Gulf of Tonkin
  •  4th August 1964 ask congress for support avenging attacks
  • Johnson - the resolution was "like grandam's night-shirt - it covered everything
  • the resolution would expire when Johnson felt the situation in S.E Asia was safe
  • The Senate was 2/3 empty for the debate on the resolution - it passed 88-2
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How Johnson was able to escalate

who was to blame for the escalation?

  • Johnson -"for all I know, our navy was shooting at whales out there"
  • summer 1964, Republican president candidate Barry Goldwater accusing Johnson of being soft on communism
  • media quickly reported on the supposed incident so Johnson had to act
  • difficult to know what did happen in Gulf of Tonkin
  •  would have been irresponsible to not have a solution ready for a crisis
  •  many believe political calculations played big part in Johnson's actions
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How Johnson was able to escalate

Results and significance of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution

  • With resolution Johnson had the nation behind him
  •  war would be taken to the north
  •  American aircraft bombed N.V
  •  Escalation made Johnson look tough on Comm.
  •  public approval rose 42% -> 72% helped him win presidential election
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How Johnson was able to escalate

The 1964 presidential election

  • admin became aware public were asking why U.S was still in Vietnam - other questions regard problems of winning and why wasn't UN effort like Korea
  •  Johnson knew if left-wing called him war-monger and right wing soft on communism then he may not get re-elected
  •  re-assured left wing saying he didn't plan to have a war - he hoped Saigon would win own war
  •  he and his advisers didn't know what to do about Vietnam during election - concentrated on winning election
  • Christmas 1963 Johnson told JCS "Just let me get elected and then you can have your war"
  •  once election won he thought he had popular support to do as he pleased
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Why did Johnson escalate?

Saigon incompetence

  • Johnson's personality made escalation inevitable - combative, arrogant, over confident
  • privately admitted he didn't know what to do about Vietnam
  •  responded to advice and pressure, major cause of escalation = Saigon regime incompetence
  •  Lodge had enough by 1964 - suggested only option was for US to run S.V
  •  Nov. 1964 100 VS attacked/damaged US airbase near Saigon - Saigon regime seemed powerless to halt these attacks pushed Johnson admin toward escalation - seemed necessary for safety of Americans in Vietnam
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Why did Johnson escalate?

The working group recommendations

  • Johnson ordered group from Defence Department+Stat Department+CIA+JCS to study Vietnam and suggest policy
  •  Independent anti-Comm S.V vital to U.S
  •  emphasised Domino Theory
  •  U.S prestige credibility honour at stake
  •  escalation necessary due to weak Saigon gov.
  •  heavy bombing halted if N.V negotiate
  • Johnson cannot be blamed entirely - 'the ebst and brightest' were behind him. He was commander in chief and his experts were urging escalation in interests of national security.
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Why did Johnson escalate?

Defending American bomber bases with Rolling Thunder

  • Christmas 1964 VC planted bomb in an American Officer bar - Johnson didn't want escalation at christmas, so ignored it.
  • Feb 1956 VS attack US base near Peiku - 8 US killed 100 wounded - Johnson -"I've had enough of this!" - advisers urged escalation
  • Early 1965 Johnson 1st step in escalation - continuous bombing - 68% approval rate
  •  Trigger = concern for security of U.S bomber bases + personell
  • Johnson refused to declare war because he feared pressure from Cold Warriors - they wanted full scale invasion, doing so would have jeopardised Johnson's Great Society and lead to SU/China involvement
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Why did Johnson escalate?

Defending American bomber bases with ground troops

  • Spring 1965 2nd escalation step sent ground troops to Vietnam - response to a request from Westmoreland who had been commanding 16k 'advisers' in Vietnam since June 1964
  •  Spring 1965 requested US marines be sent to bomber base in Danang
  •  3500 marines land Danang beach 8th March 1965
  • Westmoreland requests were one of triggers for escalation
  • Lodge warned once US forces committed, more would have to be sent to protect them - warned white Americans would fight no better than French is Asiatic jungles
  •  April 6th 1965 Johnson approve increase 18,000 - also sent more marines
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Defending American bomber bases with troops

Defending American bomber bases with troops - support for sending in group troops

  • many accuse Johnson of waging war without declaration of war
  •  May 1965 congress granted $700m for military operations - Johnson told them was "a vote to continue opposing Communism in Vietnam"
  •  House of representatives voted 408-7 and Senate 88-3 in favour
  • at this point, majority of US journalists were hawks
  • When Vietnam is called 'Johnson's' war, support from congress and press at the time should be remembered
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Why did Johnson escalate?

Johnson's explanation of the escalation

  • April 1965 speech - Johnson summed up reasons why US had to escalate:
  • US needed to fight if it wanted to live securely in a free world
  •  N.V had attacked S.V needed to be opposed
  •  N.V puppet of Comm. powers
  •  S.U+China wanted to conquer all of Asia
  • Eisenhower + Kennedy helped to build and defend S.V - dishonourable to defend it
  •  Appeasement could lead to ww3
  •  abandoning S.V would cause U.S allies to doubt America's power/word/credibility
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Where are we going?

Deterioration in Saigon

  • Johnson hoped arrival U.S troops would protect bomber bases+improve Saigon regime - situation continued to deteriorate
  •  June 1965 civilian gov overthrown by military - Thieu became head of state, Air Marshal Ky became PM - said Vietnam needed men like Hitler
  • Ky and Thieu were incompetent, corrupt and unpopular
  •  under Ky+Thieu Saigon gov. controlled less of S.V and controlled less effectively
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Where are we going?

More American troops

  • 1965 - Ky gov. losing territory to VC who had 75% countryside
  •  more U.S troops = less ARVN wanted to fight
  •  Westmoreland demanded more troops to prevent collapse of south
  •  July - Johnson began doubting usefulness of more troops
  •  28th July 1965 noon - TV audiences low Johnson announced Westmoreland requests for more troops would be met - 75,000 troops -> 125,000
  •  1965 polls showed 70% nation behind Johnson - 80% believed domino theory - 80% favoured sending more troops - 47% wanted Johnson to send more troops
  • By end of 1965 nearly 200,000 US soldiers were in Vietnam
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Where are we going?

Doubts

  • not everyone sure further escalation was answer
  •  March 1965 university protests began
  • upon hearing a plane had been shot down, Johnson shouted "where are we going?"
  •  December 1965 bombing halt failed to persuade Hanoi to negotiate - Mcnamara felt military victory unlikely
  • CIA opposed sending more US troops
  •  Johnson knew US couldn't get out without irreprable damage to his/US position
  • admin+military couldn't agree what to do - most still agreed they should be there - this was not just Johnson's war.
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Where are we going?

Escalation 1965-8

  • despite doubts about Ky/Thieu regime - Westmoreland JCS and Mcnamara agreed to increase troops in S.V in second half 1965 - Mcnamara didn't claim this would = victory
  • end of 1965 - 200,000 troops in S.V
  •  end 1966 385,000 troops
  •  early 1968 535,000
  •  Westmoreland initially though he could end Communists within 6 months but war of attrition failed
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Where are we going?

Was it Johnson's war?

  • he made the decision to continue Kennedy's legacy and then escalate
  • many people shared the responsibility for continuing + escalation
  • circumstances of his accession made it difficult to disngage US from Vietnam - bound to Kennedy's policies and advisers
  • military and civilian advisers shared responsibility for escalation
  • December 1965 poll showed large majority of US public favoured increasing troop numbers to 500,000
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Historians and 'Johnson's war'

How much control did Johnson have over the escalation process?

  • Burke and Grrenstein(1989) - Johnson dominated policy making
  • Herring(1979) - Johnson's impatient character not indeally suited to complex counter-insurgency warfare - however, over emphasis on his character should be avoided
  • VanDeMark(1991), Barrett(1993), Herring(1979) - Johnson almost pathalogically unable to make a decision, cautious and reluctant in escalation
  • McMaster(1997) - accuses JCS of dishonestyRobert Mcnamara(1995) - admitted universal ignorance of Vietnam
  • Kearns(1976), Berman(1989) - Johnson had to appear tough of foreign policy to stop conservatives defeating his domestic plans
  • Schmitz(2005) - Johnson a victim of the commitment trap
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Historians and 'Johnson's war'

Did Johnson lie about the Gulf of Tonkin incident?

  • Moise(1996) - looked at declassified documents - found the admin genuinely believed there had been 2 attacks on destroyers
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