tv Donald Ritchie on the 1966 Vietnam Hearings General Maxwell Taylor CSPAN February 20, 2016 10:00pm-10:11pm EST
1966 vietnam hearings, the first televised hearings on the vietnam war. in 1965, retired general maxwell taylor appeared before the senate foreign relations committee to defend policy is a special consultant to president johnson. the 75 minute broadcast from cbs news includes general taylor's opening statements, questions and comments from senators. but first, donald ritchie discuss the significance of the hearing. >> what is his book? donald: it was experts from the hearings they convened on the 1966.m war in early it was both proponents and
supporters of the war, people like dean rusk and general maxwell taylor, and opponents like general gavin. we could teach this by showing the students both sides of the argument. they were being interrogated by senators on both sides of the argument, so you got to look at what the issues were and got some idea of what the defense wasand what the opposition to the war in vietnam. it was one of the first really usable books that came out. it was not enormously partisan one way or the other about the war, and that is why those hearings were so important, because they did present both , and it the issues enabled the american people to hear from people who thought the war was a great idea to people who thought the war was a terrible idea to the people who thought the work of the one to people who thought there was no possible way the war could be people thought it was
a communist conspiracy to take over vietnam and to people who thought it was a legitimate civil war in via non-. over we never had a debate going to war, a declaration of 1966 were hearings in essentially the first congressional debate over whether or not we should be in vietnam. >> in a few minutes, we will hear the testimony of general maxwell taylor. what was the situation at that time in vietnam? how many troops were there and who was general maxwell taylor? there were perhaps 125,000 american troops in many asin 1966, not as there would be by 1968, but for more than a year earlier when we -- before that, there had been about 16,000 advisors,
so there was a gradual increase. president johnson did not want it to appear that he was sending large numbers, so he sent troops and small segments, essentially announcing 50,000 troops here or 75,000 troops there, always with the idea that this would be enough. always the military on the ground needed more, and johnson would have to send more troops. general taylor had been very much involved in american vietnam policy from the beginning. sentdent kennedy had taylor to vietnam in 1961 to look at the situation, and taylor said it was a dire situation, that he did not believe the south vietnamese government could defend itself, that americans would have to get involved. sendingmerican naval support and air support. believetaylor did not that u.s. combat troops should ever be sent to vietnam. he was totally opposed to that.
general taylor became ambassador, u.s. ambassador, to vietnam in 1964. the preview ambassador, henry cabot lodge, came home to run for president, so general taylor was sent. while he was there, he sent regular telegrams to the defense department, state department, the president, saying he would be a big mistake to send ground troops. when president johnson decided to do that, it went against the recommendation of general taylor. general taylor was a loyal soldier, and in his testimony supports what the johnson administration is doing, gives rationale for it, talks about what the north vietnamese were doing, what the viet cong were doing, the atrocities going on. is not giving a realist perspective on the war. , because his telegrams are not public record,
and even his telephone conversations with the president of public record, we know that he had great reservations about sending ground troops, that he believed the united states should struggle on and only send naval support and air support . >> you mention senator fulbright>>. who were some of the other senators on this committee? donald: this was the senate foreign relations committee. you had senator john sparkman of alabama, previously a vice presidential candidate, george mcgovern, an up-and-coming senator from south dakota. , one of wayne morris the two votes against the gulf of tonkin resolution. -- aave people like republican from iowa, who was a supporter of the war. or you have george aiken, who is a skeptic about the war, but not a hard-line skeptic.
so you really have a whole range of people who support the administration, people who oppose the administration, people who are willing to trust the president, give the president a bipartisan foreign-policy, people who feel the president has led the country off the side of a cliff, that this is a disaster and he should never have done this, congress should never have given up their right to declare war, and so you have those senators asking questions of all the witnesses, the witnesses in favor of the war, the witnesses who are opponents of the war, being grilled on both sides. wayne morris in particular is a heocious interrogator, and brings up a lot of sparks when he does his questioning. >> is there any way to know at this time what the american public in general thought about the war? donald: polls were following what public opinion was. president johnson felt pretty convinced that the american public was with him.
when he started sending troops support inabout 65% vietnam. he had won the presidency by 60%. everybody came on board in this case, but of course he won the presidency promising not to get involved in the war and send troops. while it is true that the public opinion shows that the public did not want south vietnam to fall to communism, the public was much more ambiguous about this. they certainly did not want to send their sons to fight in vietnam. there was no great desire to have another korean war fought in vietnam, so while there was support for the principle that america needed to stand up for non-communist countries, small countries that were under threat, there was also this sense, why are we the only ones fighting. where are the other western democracies?
and of course president johnson by not calling up the reserves had to double the draft, and suddenly that meant that people my age at the time in their 20's were vulnerable to the draft. there were lots of deferments available. if you are in college, you were deferred, which meant that if you weren't a college student, eyes clustered in or drop out, you could get drafted. -- a college student, a high or drop out, you can get drafted. the draft politicized the generation that came of age in the 1960's in their 20's. it made this big issue, which had been a peripheral issue -- they barely knew where vietnam was on the map -- a very personal issue, a life-and-death issue for them. there are lots of studies about how that happened and how public
opinion, which johnson thought was solidly in his corner, split very much. theby 1968, it's put to point were johnson thought he could not run for reelection. >> we are about to see general maxwell taylor. how was he received by the committee? donald: the committee respected general taylor. he had a lot of gravitas. he worked for john kennedy, dwight eisenhower, lyndon johnson, had been our ambassador there. they gave him a lot of leeway. there was a great of respect for anybody in a military uniform. but general taylor brought a sort of american attitude towards this war. people deferred to that. was generation of senators the generation that fought world war ii, and they sort of solve
this is the continuation. in fact, the administration kept used world war ii analogies, trying to make it ,nto a second world war essentially. that was an appealing argument to the united states who had fought in the second world war and believed this was the mission of the united states. it divided parents and children, very much so. even robert mcnamara's own children rebelled against the war at the time. a lot of senators had great arguments when they went home and had dinner with their families. we arelbright: privileged this morning to have as our witness, general maxwell taylor, one of the a list military leaders we have had in his country in many years. his record of this thing were service to the nation goes back nearly 45 years. he was an outstanding combat