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The War Bells Have Rung

McNamara has long been vilified for his role in the Vietnam War, and critical reaction to In Retrospect demonstrated a similar harshness.

Johnson and Escalation: 1964–1966

In large part, critics generally concluded, as did Charles F. Neu in America, that McNamara's book is "too little too late. Pandora's Keepers: Nine Men and the Atomic Bomb is a "biography of a scientific generation," an account of the nine scientists who "built the atom bomb and how each of them grappled with the implications of their awesome creation," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "a well considered portrait of the scientists who made the atomic bomb and then repented ever after.

Controversy erupted around VanDeMark and Pandora's Keepers in when he was accused of plagiarism. A three-member investigating committee at the Academy concluded that VanDeMark had indeed engaged in "improper borrowing and inadequate paraphrasing," but that the "borrowing was the result of carelessness and not deliberate," noted Nelson Hernandez in the Washington Post. As a result, VanDeMark lost the tenure he had earned in and was demoted to assistant professor.

The erroneous edition of the book was recalled and VanDeMark made the necessary corrections; he was also allowed to reapply for tenure after six years of probation. America, May 20, , Charles F. Glennon, review of In Retrospect, p. Crowell, review of Into the Quagmire, p. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. September 22, Retrieved September 22, from Encyclopedia.

Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. Don Si Nguyen brought in battalions of engineers to improve the Trail, principally in Laos, with up-to-date Soviet and Chinese construction equipment, with a goal, over several years, of building a supply route that could pass 10 to 20, soldiers per month. At this time, the U.


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Before the operations scheduled by the Krulak committee could be attempted, there had to be an organization to carry them out. The U. Today, officers from the special operations community have risen to four-star rank, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff , but special operators were regarded as outcasts, unlikely to rise high in rank, during the Vietnam War.

They would be on a graduated scale of intensity, ranging from reconnaissance, threats, cross-border operations, and limited strikes on logistical targets supporting DRV operations against South Vietnam and Laos, to strikes if necessary on a growing number of DRV military and economic targets. In the absence of all-out strikes by the DRV or Communist China, the measures foreseen would not include attacks on population centers or the use of nuclear weapons.

Further assumptions is that the U. It was estimated that while there would be a strong diplomatic and propaganda response, the DRV and its allies would "refrain from dramatic new attacks, and refrain from raising the level of insurrection for the moment.

President Lyndon B. Johnson, "Why We Are in Vietnam"

Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara , in selecting a strategy in , had assumed the enemy forces were assumed that much as the defeat of the Axis military had won the Second World War, the Communist military was the center of gravity of the opposition, rather than the political opposition or the security of the populace. In contrast, the North Vietnamese took a centre of gravity built around gradual and small-scale erosion of US capabilities, closing the enormous technological disadvantage with surprise attacks and strategies, while building and consolidating political control over the rural areas of South Vietnam.

See the protracted warfare model. Despite differences in were both sides believe their centres of gravity were, the NVA and Viet Cong would retain strategic initiative throughout this period, choosing when and were to attack, and being capable of controlling their losses quite widely [16]. A different study by the department of defence breaks down the types of engagements from a periodic study here.

William Westmoreland , and to a lesser extent Maxwell Taylor , rejected, if they seriously considered, the protracted war doctrine stated by Mao and restated [18] by the DRV leadership, mirror-imaging that they would be reasonable by American standards, and see that they could not prevail against steady escalation. They proposed to defeat an enemy, through attrition of his forces, who guided by the Maoist doctrine of Protracted War, which itself assumed it would attrit the counterinsurgents. An alternative view, considering overall security as the center of gravity, was shared by the Marine leadership and some other U.

Roughly until mid, the SVN-US strategy still focused around pacification in South Vietnam , but it was increasingly irrelevant in the face of larger and larger VC conventional attacks. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam began to refer to the "two wars", one against conventional forces, and the other of pacification.

The former was the priority for U.

What caused President Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War?

Arguably, however, there were three wars:. There were, however, changes in the overall situation from early to the winter of , from to late , and from late until the U. Nixon's papers show that in , as a presidential candidate, he ordered Anna Chennault, his liaison to the South Vietnam government, to persuade them to refuse a cease-fire being brokered by President Lyndon Johnson.

This action violated the Logan Act , banning private citizens from intruding into official government negotiations with a foreign nation, and thus constituted treason. North Vietnamese forces took a more grand strategic view than did the U. Following the Tet Offensive and with US Withdrawal, once the United States was no longer likely to intervene, the North Vietnamese changed to a conventional, combined-arms conquest against the Army of the Republic of Vietnam , and taking and holding land permanently.

Military developments in this period should be considered in several broad phases that do not fit neatly into a single year:. Some fundamental decisions about U. Essentially, there were three alternatives:. Even with these three approaches, there was still significant doubt, in the U.

In July, two senior U. Department of State officials formally recommended withdrawal to President Lyndon B. Johnson ; Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara , at the same time, saw the situation as bad but potentially retrievable with major escalation. To pacify the Republic of [South] Vietnam by destroying the VC—his forces, organization, terrorists, agents, and propagandists—while at the same time reestablishing the government apparatus, strengthening GVN military forces, rebuilding the administrative machinery, and re-instituting the services of the Government. During this process security must be provided to all of the people on a progressive basis.

Westmoreland complained that, "we are not engaging the VC with sufficient frequency or effectiveness to win the war in Vietnam. Yet, the operational initiative— decisions to engage and disengage—continued to be with the enemy. In December , the Politburo apparently decided that it was possible to strike for victory in There is no contradiction in the concept of a protracted war and the concept of taking opportunities to gain victories in a short time. Palmer suggests that there might be at least two reasons beyond a simple speedup: [21].

They may also have believed the long-trumpeted U. This goal at first seemed straightforward, but was reevaluated when major U. In particular, the PAVN were not sure of the best tactics to use against the air assault capability of the 1st Cav, so BG Man revised a plan to bring to try to fight the helicopter-mobile forces on terms favorable to the North Vietnamese. They fully expected to incur heavy casualties, but it would be worth it if they could learn to counter the new U.

That planned movement was very similar to the successful PAVN maneuver in In the larger Battle of Bong Son approximately a month later, which extended into , 1st Cav drew their own lessons from what they believed the PAVN developed as countertactics to air assault , and used obvious helicopters to cause the PAVN to retreat onto very reasonable paths to break away from the Americans — but different Americans had silently set ambushes, earlier, across those escape routes.

Kimball on VanDeMark, 'Road to Disaster: A New History of America's Descent into Vietnam'

If there was a larger plan, to what extent were North Vietnamese actions in the period of this article a part of it? Losing elite troops during the Tet Offensive never let them develop the "second wave" or "third phase" "We don't ever know what the second wave was; we have never been able to find out because probably only a couple of dozen people knew it. You're not going to win militarily on the ground in the South. You've just proven what we've said; the way to win is in Washington. Invasion of "a member country of the Socialist camp" would enlarge the war, which Giap said would cause the "U.

Throughout the intensified war, it should be noticed the Vietnamese weather enforced seasonal offensives. Typically, there was a winter-spring offensive, from perhaps November to March, and a summer offensive, separated by rainy or monsoon seasons. Planning for guerilla operations in the North and, although no Americans knew the North Vietnamese fear of such, actions against the Trail in Laos were still denied. The February attack on U. As well as raids, terrorist attacks against Americans increased, in keeping with the changed political theory, or, as Truong Chinh put it, to "properly punish a number of reactionaries and tyrants who owe blood debts to the people.

The sending of a headquarters, however, is not obvious.

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North Vietnamese combat units started deploying in October, but, again, this was preparation. Reasonably, they wanted to know the outcome of the November Presidential election before assessing the potential for U. Both sides, in mid, were misreading one another. On the U. Unknown to the U. Dong Sy Nguyen , the North Vietnamese general running trail operations, was less concerned with bombing than.

What worries me most is that they will send in troops or use choppers to send some commandos or drop paratroopers, who would then occupy a chunk of the trail. This would throw the entire complicated system out of whack. North Vietnam received foreign military aid shipments through its ports and rail system. At the end of an arduous journey the men and supplies entered South Vietnam's border areas.

Lyndon Johnson's War? - Herring - - Diplomatic History - Wiley Online Library

Beginning in December , however, the U. Ultimately seven battalions of South Vietnamese forces were engaged resulting in almost soldiers and 5 US advisors killed. If the Politburo had assumed the U. President Johnson, on 7—8 February, responded with the first specifically retaliatory air raid, Operation Flaming Dart or, more specifically, Flaming Dart I , of the broader Operation Rolling Thunder plan, which had not yet officially started. Alternatively, the North Vietnamese may have accepted the risk of being bombed, correctly predicting that even if ground troops were introduced, the U. The Pleiku attack seems to have been a vital decision point for the U.


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While the introduction of U. Bundy's memorandum to Johnson about the attack, on 7 February, did not propose the introduction of combat troops. Johnson made no public announcements, although the U. The attack was carried out by U. Navy aviators from an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. In response, initially unknown to the U.

In fact, the missiles were used, setting off upward spiral of air attack and air defense. It must be emphasized that for most of the war, the bulk of the attacks on the North came, at first, from Navy carriers offshore. When the bombing escalated, they were joined by U. Air Force fighter-bombers flying from bases in Thailand. Da Nang was the primary South Vietnamese base for such strikes. Bases in SVN, however, were accessible to the VC, by ground attack, or with rockets and mortars of only a few miles' range.

As Flaming Dart progressed and the detailed planning for the major air escalation of Rolling Thunder, Westmoreland was concerned about the security of the exposed U. On 22 February, he sent his deputy, Lieutenant General John Throckmorton , to inspect the Marine aviation base at Da Nang ; Throckmorton reported that a full Marine Expeditionary Brigade, with three infantry battalions and supporting elements, were needed to ensure its defense.

Westmoreland, according to Davidson, believed a two-battalion MEB was more politically acceptable, but submitted that request. The President approved sending two Marine battalions on 26 February. Other than possibly Westmoreland, they were seen purely as defensive troops. Westmoreland denies assuming they would be available for missions outside the base. Ambassador Taylor, a retired general with extensive combat experience, objected. His calculation was that one battalion would protect the base from any plausible direct VC ground attack, but that six, not three, battalions would be necessary to establish a sufficiently large area to prevent the VC firing on Da Nang with standard and easily portable 81mm mortars.

He was seriously concerned about the situation, and proposed external forces be brought in to free the ARVN for offensive action because "what the situation requires may exceed what the Vietnamese can be expected to do. McNamara, however, did not think such action would make enough ARVN troops available and preferred that a Republic of Korea division be sent rather than U.

GEN Johnson said a decision was needed "now to determine what the Vietnamese should be expected to do for themselves and how much more the U. Johnson's main public announcement at the time, however, was an 7 April speech, in which he offered economic support to North Vietnam, and Southeast Asia in general, if it would stop military action.

This offer was quite in keeping with his goals for development, the Great Society , in the United States, and was likely a sincere offer. That he saw such an offer as attractive to the enemy, however, is an indication of his lack of understanding of the opposing ideology. The manning level was increased, to increase RVN infantry battalions from to The new battalions were generally added to existing regiments, to avoid the need of creating more headquarters units.

By the end of , twenty-four were either in the field or in training areas. McCone said that this would merely encourage the Soviets and Chinese to take a low-risk course of supporting infiltration. Westmoreland obtained Taylor's agreement on a plan for reinforcement. Westmoreland, in early June, saw the situation as close to collapse without a major commitment of ground troops, in addition to the ARVN. This triggered several weeks of intense debate among the President's close civilian advisers, with McNamara controlling all direct military input to the process.

There were two drivers among the inner circle. First, some, but not all, were fervent believers in the containment doctrine, especially Rusk. McNamara quoted Rusk's direct appeal to Johnson:. The integrity of the U. If that commitment becomes unreliable, the communist world would draw conclusions that would lead to our ruin and almost certainly to a catastrophic war. So long as the South Vietnamese are prepared to fight for themselves, we cannot abandon them without disaster to peace and to our other interests throughout the world [42].

Second, the principals viewed the situation with their own experiential and analytical filters, well articulated by Ball in an oral history interview. Bob McNamara was analyzing this thing as a man who was trained in quantification, who believed in systems analysis, who believed in application of games theory to strategy, who was enormously persuaded by the disparity in military power Rusk, it was quite a different thing.

He was enormously influenced by his experience during the Korean War. Mac Bundy saw this as a fascinating set of operational problems. I think he assumed that we were so clever, somehow we could find the key hook. For myself, I had a whole different set of experiences. As a practicing lawyer, I had had among my clients various agencies of the French government when they went through the Indo-Chinese experience. I had heard everything before. Mid-May saw a new series of Communist offensives, all over the country.

Its capital, Songbe, was overrun. An unprecedented amount of air support, including the first use of a company-sized armed helicopter unit, [44] allowed a successful defense. Higher command, however, was concern that this large a VC unit could take an initiative. ARVN leadership disintegrated, and, contrary to policy, American advisers took command.

To prevent what he called collapse, he wanted to double the size of his forces, with 34 U. Even then, he told Lyndon Johnson, they would be a stopgap, with at least , more needed in For Johnson, it was a choice between deeper involvement or defeat. McNamara said this cable was the most disturbing of the war; it forced a major decision and discussions with the President on the 9th and 10th.

In a telephone conversation afterwards, McNamara told Johnson that he personally had limitations in mind, but he did not think that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had them.