By John J. Fitzgerald
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Extra info for A Teacher's Guide to The Vietnam War: A History in Documents
In late 1967, Johnson temporarily recalled Westmoreland and sent him out, along with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, to bolster support for the war and foretell that success was in sight. THE SIEGE OF KHE SAHN Despite predictions of victory, the New Year began on an ominous note. On January 2, 1968, a marine patrol at Khe Sahn spotted six men in marine uniforms outside the perimeter. When challenged, one of the men reached for a hand grenade; the patrol opened fire, killing five of the six.
One by one, the Vietminh surrounded and overran the strongpoints surrounding the main compound. By April 2, all the eastern outposts had been lost as well as most of the strongpoints on the base’s western approaches. The French requested American air strikes on the Vietminh emplacements, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons. ” President Dwight D. Eisenhower shared the French concerns. During the siege of Dien Bien Phu, he stated that if Vietnam fell, then Communism would spread from Laos to 6 THE VIETNAM WAR Cambodia to Thailand, and on to other neighboring countries, likening it to a row of dominoes toppling over.
6 Johnson agreed and knew the dangers of further American involvement, but he feared that he was already trapped by circumstances. In a May 27, 1964, phone conversation with national security advisor McGeorge Bundy, the president referred to Vietnam as “the biggest damn mess I ever saw. . ”7 Johnson, like Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy before him, was a Cold Warrior who believed that Communism was a direct threat to American security and had to be contained. He also believed that the United States had made a promise to help South Vietnam and that it was at least partially responsible for the chaotic situation that developed after Diem’s assassination.
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