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FTR #978 The JFK Assassination and the Vietnam War

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained HERE [1]. The new dri­ve is a 32-giga­byte dri­ve that is cur­rent as of the pro­grams and arti­cles post­ed by late sum­mer of 2018. The new dri­ve (avail­able for a tax-deductible con­tri­bu­tion of $65.00 or more.)

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This broad­cast was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment [5].

[6] [7]Intro­duc­tion: Con­sid­er­able atten­tion has been devot­ed by the media to a TV doc­u­men­tary by Ken Burns about the Viet­nam War. What has not been cov­ered by Burns et al is the fact that JFK’s assas­si­na­tion was the deci­sive piv­ot-point of the pol­i­cy pur­sued by the U.S. in the con­flict.

Excerpt­ing The Guns of Novem­ber, Part 3 [8] (record­ed on 11/15/1983), this pro­gram notes how Kennedy’s deci­sion to begin a phased with­draw­al from Viet­nam was one of the cen­tral rea­sons for his mur­der.

The cen­tral ele­ment in the broad­cast is pro­fes­sor Peter Dale Scot­t’s skill­ful dis­cus­sion (and excerpt­ing) of rel­e­vant Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Action Mem­o­ran­da per­tain­ing to Kennedy’s Viet­nam pol­i­cy. The pro­gram details Kennedy’s plans to phase out direct U.S. mil­i­tary par­tic­i­pa­tion in the con­flict.

Pre­sid­ing over severe dis­sent from with­in his own admin­is­tra­tion, as well as from the mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence estab­lish­ments, Kennedy ini­ti­at­ed this U.S. with­draw­al sev­en weeks before his death. Two days after the assas­si­na­tion, Kennedy’s Viet­nam pol­i­cy was reversed and the course of action was deter­mined for what was to fol­low. In addi­tion to can­cel­ing the troop with­draw­al and pro­vid­ing for troop increas­es, the pol­i­cy shift resumed the pro­gram of covert action against North Viet­nam that lead to the Gulf of Tonkin inci­dent. That alleged attack on U.S. destroy­ers (nev­er inde­pen­dent­ly ver­i­fied and wide­ly believed to be fraud­u­lent) pre­cip­i­tat­ed U.S. mil­i­tary esca­la­tion.

[9]

Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Mem­o­ran­dum 263

The prin­ci­pal doc­u­ments in ques­tion are Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Action Mem­o­ran­da #‘s 111, 249, 263 and 273.

Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Mem­o­ran­dum 111, dat­ed two years to the day from JFK’s assas­si­na­tion, resolved a long-stand­ing debate with­in the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion. That mem­o­ran­dum com­mit­ted the U.S. to “help­ing” the South Viet­namese gov­ern­ment in the war, point­ed­ly avoid­ing the lan­guage “help­ing the South Viet­namese win the war.”

Although this might appear to an untrained observ­er as a minor seman­tic dis­tinc­tion, it was well under­stood with­in the Kennedy admin­is­tra­tion to define the dif­fer­ence between a lim­it­ed com­mit­ment to aid­ing the South Viet­namese and an unlim­it­ed, open-end­ed com­mit­ment to help­ing the South Viet­namese win. 

Craft­ed in June 25 of 1963, NSAM 249 sus­pend­ed covert oper­a­tions against North Viet­nam pend­ing a review of pol­i­cy.

[10]In Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Action Mem­o­ran­dum 263 (10/11/1963), Kennedy sched­uled the ini­tial with­draw­al of 1,000 mil­i­tary per­son­nel by the end of 1963, as part of a phased with­draw­al of all U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Action Mem­o­ran­dum 273, which was for­mu­lat­ed by LBJ on the Sun­day after Kennedy’s mur­der (the day Jack Ruby killed Oswald) and released two days after that, negat­ed the pre­vi­ous three doc­u­ments. The troop with­draw­al for­mu­lat­ed in NSAM 263 was can­celled and troop increas­es were sched­uled. The U.S. was com­mit­ted to “help­ing the South Viet­namese win,” point­ed­ly using the lan­guage avoid­ed by Kennedy in NSAM 111.

Fur­ther­more plans were for­mu­lat­ed for the pro­gram of covert oper­a­tions against North Viet­nam that result­ed in the Gulf of Tonkin Inci­dent [11] and the Gulf of Tonkin Res­o­lu­tion (per­mit­ting LBJ to plunge the U.S. into the war).

Covert oper­a­tions against the North had been sus­pend­ed  and were resumed in June of 1963 against JFK’s wish­es and appar­ent­ly with­out his knowl­edge.

In the rough­ly 34 years since this pro­gram excerpt was record­ed, oth­er books have explored how JFK’s assas­si­na­tion reversed U.S. Viet­nam pol­i­cy. One of the best is James Dou­glass’s JFK and the Unspeak­able: Why He Died and Why It Mat­ters [12].

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

  1. The inten­si­fi­ca­tion in late 1963 of U.S. covert para­mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Laos.
  2. The inten­si­fi­ca­tion in that same peri­od of U.S. covert para­mil­i­tary oper­a­tions against Cam­bo­dia.
  3. The Pen­ta­gon Papers’ appar­ent­ly delib­er­ate fal­si­fi­ca­tion of U.S. Viet­nam pol­i­cy, main­tain­ing against the his­tor­i­cal record that there was con­ti­nu­ity of Viet­nam pol­i­cy from JFK’s admin­is­tra­tion to LBJ’s.