tv State of the War in 1967 CSPAN November 11, 2017 11:29am-1:01pm EST
go about the process of trying to build a nation in the middle of a war. this is charles collingwood, cbs news. good night. >> this has been a cbs news special report. "where we stand in vietnam." with charles collingwood. this program has been brought to you by western electric -- , the people who provide telephones and the equipment that connects them. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
,> professor lien-hang nguyen looking back to 1960 seven, was it still possible at that point for the u.s. to win the war in vietnam? prof. nguyen: no. it was not a war for the united states to win or lose. by 1967, it was not in the cards. mark lawrence, take us to the end of 1967. in 1960l elections eight, what is on the horizon for lyndon johnson? prof lawrence: lbj was in a fair amount of political difficulty. in the 19 six progress in elections, the democrats had not
, butcontrol over congress lbj had lost 47 seats in the house, this was a significant setback. the war was damaging lbj's political popularity. you can see a decline across 1967. on a more fundamental level, what you see leading into 1968 as the breakup of that coalition int lbj had depended on 1964. by 1967, as lbj looks forward in 1968, he can see that was a thing of the past and the coalition he had cobbled together was fracturing. here on american history tv, we are focusing on the war in vietnam. for the next hour and a half we are going to focus on the state of the war in 1967.
to help us do that, our guests are professor lien-hang nguyen, history professor at columbia university and author of the book "hanoi's war." also mark lawrence, professor of history at the university of texas at austin and author of war: ak "the vietnam concise international history. " for years of you in the eastern and central time zones, call -- 202-748ht 900 -8900. if your protester, that line is 202-748,--- let's start with lien-hang
nguyen. vietnam, you are born in vietnam, tell us your postwar experience. i was born in november of 1974 and was 12 months old when my family fled saigon. i do not really have any direct memories of the war. from where iry grew up in pennsylvania outside philadelphia. what happened in 1975 to my family is the story that is very common for vietnamese refugees who fled during that turbulent period. it began with bing crosby's white christmas, we all knew it was the signal the americans were going to leave. like other families we had an escape route planned in that eventuality. our first one failed, we were
supposed to meet my uncle on the roof of the high school where he was going to try to get access to a helicopter. that did not happen, he was not able to land the helicopter, they were shooting, it was dangerous and so we were not able to leave in that fashion. route wasscape revealed to us through -- to go down to the saigon river. there another uncle had access to a boat. we almost lost a brother on the , we found him milling around in a buddhist pagoda. i remember from stories that was clear chaos. we managed to secure a place on a boat and eventually we were able to get on board the u.s. seventh fleet and from there
spent many different periods at various refugee camps and the south pacific and eventually we were settled in carlisle barracks. a broad look at 1967 by going back to the origin of u.s. involvement in that war. tell us how the u.s. first got involved. prof lawrence: vietnam was that proverbial place that americans could have -- that few americans could have recognized on a map before 1941. the second world war brings this part of the world to the attention of american policy, not the general public at that point. what really puts vietnam front and center for american policymakers and ultimately the american public is the cold war. becoming coming of the cold war in asia in the late 1940's really causes concern among americans about the potential expansion of communism into
vietnam, the loss of vietnam to communist control. 1949 is the most important date when the chinese civil war comes to an end, the chinese communists come to power and declare the people's republic of china. from that point forward, americans were extremely anxious that something similar would lay out against southeast asia. these other territories would fall into communist hands. from that point onward, you see americans trying to prevent the absorption of that part of the world into the communist bloc. >> what does president johnson encounter when he comes into office in terms of the vietnam war? what is he facing? prof. nguyen: a proverbial mess? in many ways johnson had inherited a war that had begun by his predecessors. he made choices to deepen an
american involvement into vietnam after kennedy's assassination, but it was under kennedy that the number of u.s. violated theietnam terms of the geneva accord. when kennedy inherited office, there were about 600 advisors. by the time of his death, there was about 23,000 good -- there was about 23,000. that is what lbj had inherited. >> we look forward to your calls and will get to them shortly. i wanted to play some audio from very early on in the johnson administration in 1964. he is speaking with his national security adviser. we will play that and get your
reaction to what is talking about and then hear from some of our viewers. >> i stayed awake last night thinking about this thing. the more i think about it i do not know what in the hell -- it looks like we are getting into another korea, it worries the hell out of me. i do not see what we can ever get out of there with. i believe the chinese communists come into it, i do not believe we can fight them 10,000 miles away from home and ever get anywhere. i do not think it is worth fighting for and i do not think we can get out. it is just the biggest ms -- it is just the biggest damn mess. i look to the sergeant to as six little kids -- i look at the sergeant to has six little kids. what in the hell am i ordering him out there for? what is laos worth to me?
what is it worth to this country? we have a treaty, but, hell, everybody else has a treaty out there. you start running the communists, they may chase you into your own kitchen. rest of thehat the world is going to think if this thing comes apart on us. that is the dilemma. >> that sounds like a very personal phone call talking about a serious international crisis. prof lawrence: it is incredibly striking. there was a time when most historians of the vietnam war, and thinking about lbj, ascribed inevitability to his decisions. the tracks had been laid for american intervention. lbj happened to be the man in the white house went nothing
short of the introduction of american combat forces would save the day. thisa conversation like shows is lbj was deeply aware of the problems the united states would confront if it went down paused andhat he thought hard about what the united states was getting into. he made the decision to intervene, but this conversation shows that he knew it would not be easy, it would potentially be a difficult scenario. >> soon events would propel things forward. the gulf of tonkin incident. made,nguyen: that was 1964. the events of early august, you see a very different johnson, especially the second attack that never occurred, he and made a decision to fabricate events
achieve theould golf of tonkin -- >> he needed that to legitimize his action in the war? prof. nguyen: yes. that does not show hesitation. it shows preplanning and manipulation. we see many different sides of johnson. we see in terms of his response to the attack on august 4 is very different. to lien-hangking nguyen and mark lawrence, our focus is on 1967 in the vietnam war. we will go to asheville, north carolina. ler: i want to ask, what has our country spent in removing the land mines -- i know we are
to getolved in trying rid of some of the agent orange that is built into the store -- built into the soil. how much has my country spent to repair the damage that we did to that country? prof. nguyen: that is a great question. of individual efforts americans, many of whom served in vietnam and are back in the country working to remove these those thatell as continue to operate in vietnam, with many americans who are involved are in the war in trying to clear the minds -- address thenes, .ictims of agent orange is it enough? i think much more can be done. i was just at the national a video and there was
montage of the amount of bombing that took place over south vietnam, laos, and cambodia. the sheer scale of the bombing -- it blows my mind, it is devastating. it hurts to watch the video. to know there are these whovidual efforts by people might've been involved in the war effort but are trying to amend -- make amends, it is great. it is disheartening, the lack of to have it many ways be done at the government level. i would say one has to applaud the individual and the nongovernmental organizations. >> these things about the bombing and the agent orange, was the mines, what mood of the american public in
1967? how much did we know about the war? aof. lawrence: fascinating year when lots more americans were focusing on the war that had been the case in the earlier days of american escalation. the approval of the war, of lbj's performance was dropping quite dramatically across this year as more americans focused on it, as the draft calls increased which had the effect of drawing much more attention to the war that had been the case previously. thess 1967, you see dramatic expansion of the antiwar movement, where the biggest demonstration took place about 50 years ago in washington. that resulted in the famous march on the pentagon. public opinion was paying more attention, it was fracturing
like the larger american political scene, and this was not to deny the fact that some people, when they're looking at the war, thought more should be done. we need to take it out of -- we need to look at the hawkish side of the spectrum as well. >> let's hear from john in georgetown, pennsylvania. caller: i'm happy to have this chance to be on the air. i was a medic, i served with the first calvary division, alpha company 15th medical battalion. i was assigned to the dispensary that provided medical services. anybody knows, did of these programs we had over there? i was a drafty, i was u.s. all the way, i was glad i had the
chance to do something productive to help people in need of medical treatment. to this day, everything is as clear as a bell to me. if you can address that, and one more thing? since you are both historians, i have taken courses on the vietnam war. "vietnam:ook we use an american ordeal." you know anything about that text in particular? prof. lawrence: i do know that book. it is not one i've used a great deal, but i have a lot of respect for it and have consulted it. i would hold that out as one of the best textbooks out there. as far as the other question, i think it is fair to say kindcans were aware of the of programs the caller asked about.
i think the american view of the war as more americans became fixated on it was difficult for the american public to pick out what was most essential about the war. this was one of the things that was jarring for people living through this experience. you understood there were humanitarian programs, but at the same time, massive uses of firepower, brutality, and american at its best all happening simultaneously. >> let's hear from rocky point, new york. caller: thanks for taking my call. -- what would happen if we decided to use nuclear weapons in the war? would it have ended the war or would we have had to use too many of them or would it have started another world war? what other countries protest that an say this is not right and join forces?
about the exhibit at the archives and the incredible amount of armament that was drawn upon. what was the impact on north vietnam in particular? prof. nguyen: i can tie those two questions together. that last scenario, the people's republic of china and the soviet union would have definitely gotten involved directly had nuclear weapons been used. all of theled out by superpowers, the great powers involved, directly or indirectly involved in the vietnam war. this would not escalate to a nuclear war. in terms of north vietnamese leadership, there are semi-debates going on in hanoi and they mirror the debates taking place in washington, d.c. in 1967. that was how to deal with the military stalemate that a descendent over south vietnam.
this was raging in hanoi, you can compare the months going 1967, whenring of there were high-level meetings taking place between the military and party leadership about what to do to break the stalemate, all the way through to the end of the year, what would take place. deeply fractured the vietnamese communist party. >> who are the key leaders? we know about ho chi minh, but who were the leaders making the decisions? prof. nguyen: one of the most surprising things about what i discovered through my research was the extent to which ho chi minh and the minister of defense were marginalized during the war , particularly 1967. this is when that happened. it happens on the part of two man who carried out the campaign
to marginalize their power in the party. that included the general secretary and his right-hand man, the party organizational chief who would rise to fame as the main negotiator against henry kissinger. >> in the early 1970's. prof. nguyen: yes. >> let's go to calls and hear from danbury, connecticut. was the south vietnamese government in 1967 anti-buddhist? and was this a missed opportunity to build broad support among the south vietnamese in the fight against communism? many buddhist: activists understood the south vietnamese government to be anti-buddhist. a resurgence of buddhist opposition and demonstrations against the saigon government.
there is no doubt a spectrum of opinion when it comes to buddhist organizations, buddhist leaders in south vietnam. is the southation vietnamese government had a persistent problem with that element of the population. it is a striking example of the south vietnamese government's and ability to extend its popularity beyond that part of the south vietnamese population that was most strongly behind it. >> what was the u.s. government's relationship with the leadership? lyndon johnson's national security teams relationship with the selfie enemies government -- with the south vietnamese government? it wasawrence: complicated and a source of frustration alongside some of the other sources of frustration for lbj. johnson recognized there had to be a partnership between the united states and south vietnam in order for the war to succeed. the war at the end of the day
was in pursuit of a political objective. the south been amazed government was a central component of any successful strategy. that relationship had to be cultivated. at the same time, lbj was consistently frustrated with what he saw as the foot dragging, as the inefficiency, as the unwillingness to do the kind of things that in the american view would have established greater political popularity for that government. >> let's hear from robert in orlando florida. since we have a couple history experts, what do we learn from the vietnam war? , andhas the history showed one of we learned not to get ourselves into wind in these future conflicts? >> thanks. prof. nguyen: one of the main takeaways from the vietnam war and the american experience with the war is that what was
happening in vietnam predated american intervention. this is one of the situations where the united states came into a very complicated civil war that had been brewing for decades, if not centuries. in terms of the infighting between political groups in north and south and central vietnam. the united states did not know the situation. this gets to the previous question about the south vietnamese government, its policy toward the buddhist majority. it is a lot more complicated. there were many different -- the buddhist movement was heterogeneous. foras a difficult position both governments, north and south vietnam during the war, as well as various political actors in both countries. democratic the
republic of vietnam, was able to squash dissent, the south vietnamese government was less capable of doing that. gets to theuestion question about the relationships between saigon and hanoi. what i find striking during the course of my research is you find some of the same lines from about howes, difficult it was for the patrons to deal with their junior clients or allies. of the to the difficulty state of international relations and the cold war and decolonization and these postcolonial conflicts. it sucked in these great powers,
and even though they wanted to dictate and direct the course of the war, they were unable to. >> take that question of what did we learn from it, and maybe what did we learn -- look back at 1967, what were the decisions lbj could have made then that could have changed the course of u.s. involvement in the war? how could it have turned out differently for the u.s.? prof. lawrence: that is a fascinating question. what were his options? if we put ourselves into lbj shoes, we can see how difficult it might have been to break out in another direction. nevertheless, there were ideas at that period. sometimes it is assumed there were no ideas reaching lbj's daesch, that is not true. robert mcnamara was increasingly souring on the war. what he had in mind were steps
toward negotiation, the softening of the american negotiating position in a way that would have led to some sort of negotiated settlement short of maximum american objectives. interesting point on this is that in september of 1967, the cia did a study of this question -- what were the alternatives and what would be the alternatives -- what will be the consequences to united states winding down the war. with the catastrophe be what so many assumed it was? would the domino affect play out, what would happen internationally? the cia's conclusion was probably not. southeast would probably fall to the communists, but the upshot was that could be managed and american interests elsewhere in the world would survive intact. heard earlier in that phone conversation with lbj and george bundy, you said robert
mcnamara, both holdovers from the kennedy administration. tell us about those men. prof. lawrence: these were typical kennedy appointees. brilliant man, accomplished men. george bundy having been dean of arts and sciences at harvard university. there were other characters from the kennedy administration that were like that. these biographies are important because they capture the fact men, mene were can-do who did not back down in the face of a challenge. these were men who had a lot of confidence in their ability to use american power in very precise ways to achieve american objectives. that is important, even going back to the conversation we heard earlier between bundy and lbj. thesear lbj voicing all concerns, but it seems at the end of the day, lbj believed they could solve the problems.
that is the kind of people they were and the kind of experiences that had during the second world war and the cold war down to 1967. prof. nguyen: it would be their hubris. there was no way the united states could lose the war against this third rate, fifth rate, whatever johnson had described vietnam at the time, that this would lead to america's downfall. it was u.s. hubris. >> let's hear from john in florida. go ahead with your comments. caller: thanks for this opportunity. i was drafted in 1967, september, lost a brother there in january of 1969. i did not go, primarily because i got orders in 1968, and he already had orders -- two brothers cannot be in the country at the same time.
my question goes to the points you raised, the missed opportunities. why were not the voices of our coalition government listened to, why were not the scholars, the people who knew the mind and the aspirations of the vietnamese, why were they not listen to? i have cried many hot tears over this war. episodes,e ken burns those questions were brought forth and the missed opportunities were shown. you have sown -- you have shown some of them this morning. that theif you agree world war ii and cold war mentality of our leaders was what drug us down this path. thank you. prof. nguyen: that is a good question and a difficult one. why weren't other roads taken?
professor lawrence nailed it. there were other options and they were not taken. they include all of these peace you had operation marigold and operation pennsylvania. these talks were not leaders in washington wanted to pursue. what i see from records from the other side, the north vietnamese side, they did not want to pursue negotiations in 1967. you had militant leaders wanting to pursue a military solution, first and foremost, before they engaged in any talks. despite influential policymakers, scholars, other voices saying the united states and the dod, belligerents needed
to engage in talks. >> may i say one thing but with? -- quickly? if we are looking for roads not taken, opportunities missed, we would do best to go further back in time to the 1950's. maybe the early 1960's. one significant numbers of americans are on the ground and people are dying and politically eisenhower, kennedy, definitely johnson are engaged, it becomes difficult for reasons of politics and prestige and reputation the pullback. it may be there were significant missed opportunities at an earlier point in 1954 or 1956 or various other points in the history of the world. >> we are looking at 1967 all weekend long on american history tv, focusing on the vietnam war. we are joined by mark lawrence from university of texas at
austin, and leeann nguyen. glad to be joined by you and your phone calls. eastern essential time zones 202-748-8971. for all of our vietnam era 202-748-8902. we will get to some of the twitter comments and others. let's go to new york in here from david. electra, we lost you. david -- electra in new york city. go ahead. new york city, go ahead. >> hello. this is electra. i was an antiwar protester. electra is a pseudonym.
my father also was protesting the war separately. i attended the famous pentagon demonstration with my block group in manhattan, new york. teargassed as the soldiers came out of the pentagon with bayonet strong. we were peaceful protesters. war?o we still celebrate when are we ever going to have peace? we honor the veterans he went to fight. what we did was support the protesters, the people who refused to honor the drafts. >> thanks for the call. that's a very big question that goes beyond what a
historian of the work and probably grapple with fairly. i will say this about the history of the vietnam war and the longer flow of american history. it seems to me one of the lessons american society took away from vietnam is a should be able to distinguish between the servicemen and women who were called on to perform a particular function, and the policies and the policymakers who sent them there. and a more recent times our society has learned to celebrate the sacrifice and service of the people without necessarily implicating them in the decisions that sent them to a place like vietnam or iraq or afghanistan or any number of other places. it seems to me that is a healthy development. i do understand the spirit of the question. >> as the u.s. ever seen protests, antiwar protests of this science -- size and scale
before? world war ii, world war i? >> on this scale, no. scale -- i don't of the figures of my fingertips but a connection with the first world war in particular it seems to me that there is striking evidence of large-scale dissent in earlier periods that are not normally part of how we think about american military history. i think there is a tendency to think of the anon as exceptional because of the degree and intense the opposition inspired. it may be in the number one position in terms of those kinds of experiences, but if you look at the mexican war were the first world war or the korean war you can see striking levels. >> draft riots in the civil war, the spanish american war.
the antiwar movement in the itted states, the history of is very interesting. i think in the end the debate about if it mattered or had a natural impact on the policies that were passed made in washington, d.c. depends on the scholar you asked. many who were participating in the antiwar movement would say no, we had no impact. they did not listen to us. on the other they will say the antiwar movement was the reason that the united states eventually did pull out. i would tend to actually agree with the latter. heavily constrained in washington, d.c. and in a good way. the war could've been much more destructive, could have lasted much longer, but thanks to the opposition on the streets, on campuses and in congress, did limit the ability of
policymakers in washington lbj under and the nixon administration. they pursued the policies they wanted mainly in secret. >> q talk about the political conflict in vietnam in 1967. was there and if it were movement in north vietnam or south vietnam? >> there were antiwar movements and south vietnam for sure. it is not quite accurate to call them antiwar movements in north vietnam. thatwere different options some segments of the population in the north, particularly within the party wanted to pursue in terms of reunification. they never wanted to go to war. there was a faction of pro-soviet party officials who wanted to unify the country through political means. they believed waging war and supporting the southern insurgency would be a quagmire that would drain away resources
from building the north. they were on the losing side. arrested in awere few waves of arrests that began in july of 1967 always until the tet offensive. it was tied to the strategy behind the offensive. that was one element. another was sidelining ho chi minh. and to quite his dissent. people calling for negotiations to end american intervention by talking directly with washington, d.c., but the leaders in hanoi did not want to pursue that option. >> you are welcome and invited to tweet us. an issue that is still resounding today. this question is about how many people were fathered by g.i.'s
in vietnam. how are they treated 45 years after the u.s. departure? what do we know of that population in vietnam? >> it is the tragic story. after 1975, the wounds of war did not heal. vietnam went through another war after that to unify vietnam under communist rule, the third indochina war. remindersen they were of the devastating conflict. they were talking were lower than the soil you walked upon. their plight is very tragic. immigrateallowed to over to the united states, but this also caused havoc on the families in vietnam because it was also a chance for some the
enemies to try to leave vietnam 1980's.he you could try to -- those children became valuable. if you could link yourself to them, possibly you could come to the united states. it was difficult for those children. >> more of your calls and comments. the anon more, 1967. we want to hear from vietnam veterans and protesters as we heard from that era. we wanted to show you a short portion of the 1967 cbs report on the state of the war. some of the experiences of marines at that time. here is a look. 25 or 30 incoming heavy artillery rounds. that area seems to be really covered. i will get these people out of and it for me when i have done so, over. >> roger. go ahead and fire.
make sure your own troops are out of the way. but the tigers do their business. has become a focal point for more than a year of heavy fighting along the dmz. a lightning rod for north vietnamese artillery across the border. and the closest the vietnam war has come to be in conventional. the marines are holding half a dozen outposts and base camps south of the dmz. from caisson near the border to camp carol to the east along and to the the south north of leathernecks where. they provide the marines with observation posts overlooking the narrow mountain valleys and "the planes the north vietnamese use to move their troops south. they are staging bases for patrols and operations. they are connected by a six mile strip of all those land, cleared to get the marines a better view
and intended to become part of a longer, more elaborate barrier from the south china sea 40 miles to the order. work has stopped on the strip. meditation is going back. it does not appear possible to resume the job without many more marines to protect the engineers. river, the north vietnamese introduce their heavy artillery the summer. 152 millimeter shells as often as 1001 day. the marine in september had a 50-50 chance of being hit. there were 600 casualties among the 1200 men who were on it. the marines took a terrible pounding, but they held their ground gallantly. how you feel about this kind of war? >> it is what we are trained for. we will prevail. we will win. >> have you ever imagined work
is like this war? >> negative. i did not. i thought it was a big joke until i came over here. >> it is serious business? >> real serious. now i realize it was no joke. >> you can't reach the big guns and they keep dropping them and there is nothing you can do. you are just sitting there waiting. you can be lucky, that is it. >> that report from 1967 from a couple of marines on the ground. how did the experience of american troops influence policy? was it beginning to influence policy back home? >> the line that stands out to me more than any other from the report is close to the beginning. the narrator says this is as close to conventional fighting as we have seen. this is important with connection to 19 67. the war was starting to take place on a larger scale.
some of the conventional wisdom we hold in our heads about vietnam and the war as a guerrilla war, this is starting to change. the war was being conducted on a larger and larger scale. there were simply more americans in the country, between 400000 and 500,000 depending on the month and 19 67. 67. you see the operation cedar falls, unprecedentedly large search and destroy mission your site on. -- near saigon. your question about how policymakers looking at this from washington, i think they saw more and more resources were being pumped into vietnam. the war was being taken to the enemy and an unprecedented intense way, and yet stalemate was the best that could be achieved. >> the reporter said they were at the dmz. the demilitarized zone in northern south vietnam. tell us about that. >> connected to a professor
lawrence was just talking about. these are more conventional battles taking place in 1967. this is part of vietnamese strategy. they were ready to move to big unit battles after having to assume this defensive posture following american military intervention in 1965. this caused so many debates in some ofcause one side, the leaders did not want to revert to a defensive posture. in doing so, the morale would be low. they had to wait big unit war because that was the only way to win and maintain strategic initiative. you can see this more in 1967. these were the big battles. but this -- they were hoping u.s. policymakers would look further south and -- to the
south into the west. that was caisson. they were hoping william westmoreland and lbj would think it would become like the dmv fu, and they would pool their resources to take it and engage in negotiations that you would have the scenario of what happened during the french indochina war and the fact they circulated what was called the diversion plan. it was a deception plan. -dg1.s 694 it was distributed throughout the south. it was so the americans would find it and it talked about how many resources they were going to put into taking it. it would go through three waves
all the way to 1969 and talks would be a rounded so the -- so that when north vietnamese troops would seize it, as what happened in 1954 with the geneva accords. >> the marines are getting hammered by big guns from the north vietnamese army. where are the north vietnamese getting those guns? this is a very important fight because the rockets could reach this marine military base. >> the chinese or russian rockets? >> yes, soviet rockets. vietnamese could seize this area, they could infiltrate the region.
this was very pivotal for the north vietnamese as well. >> let's hear from the and david welcome to american history tv. >> thank you. i want to ask about h.r. mcmaster's national security adviser when he was a major 21 years ago wrote his masters these this in a book called "dereliction of duty" now. a powerful book. when i learned he was going to be in the white house i was impressed. i thought this is a guy who is a serious scholar and will be a stabilizing influence. i was wondering what the historians think about that, and particularly we are looking at a situation in korea that looks like militarily it is spinning out of control. and the military folks seem to be in a very similar situation to her the joint chiefs were during the period mcmasters was
covering from 1963 to 1967, but they are not being listened to. the white house is controlling the agenda. i would love to hear your guests' thoughts on this. i am in my 70's so i was 20 in 1964 when i am listed. i was four f. i went out to be an anti-communist, antiwar person. i saw the soviet threat and i knew we could not win this war. >> mark lawrence? >> i agree h.r. mcmaster's book is a fantastic book, a classic now in the study of the vietnam war. he argues quite persuasively that the joint chiefs of staff are guilty of a dereliction of the for exaggerating potential for military solutions to the problem that was much more complicated than they were -- than the intended to suggest.
they failed civilian policy makers and bore responsibility for many mistakes ever made. i agree with the sentiment of the call that having mcmaster in this position would presumably of usreassuring to those that would like to see some restraint in the present day. whether he is having that affect and to what extent his ideas that may spring from his understanding of the vietnam war affecting foreign policy, i don't think i have a strong opinion about that. i share the hope that is the case. >> you mentioned william westmoreland. he was among the lead commanders in vietnam, certainly the public face of the war. tell us about him. >> westmoreland, like many of the senior commanders in vietnam
cut their teeth and gained prominence and rank in the second world war and korea. the complaint often botched by scholars against westmoreland and others like him if they thought of you and him too much in terms of their experiences in the second world war and korea. they thought of it too much as a war that would be settled on big unit engagements. the critique that is often made goes one step further. what they missed was the vietnam war in the early stages was a guerrilla conflict. these guys are blinded by their own experiences and not able to see that until late in the war when it was too little too late. i think in recent times the best scholarship on westmoreland,'s generalship, has checked away in the caricature and encouraged us to see him and others in the u.s. command and more new wants nuanced-- new wants --
ways. i think there is a lot in that. >> the most prominent of those groups, the viet cong, who were they and how are they different from the north vietnamese army? what americans are called the vietcong was a derogatory term given to the south vietnamese communists movements, the people's liberation armed forces or the political front which was a national liberation front. their relationship with parties in north vietnam is a complicated one and we are only beginning to understand the decisions. according to my research, what i they decided to go to the war in the south in witnessed69, we
basically the sidelining of the -- theese communist southern communist movement in the wrong war effort. 1969, especially surrounding the tet offensive, one of the arguments given how it failed and how it would have wiped out 80% of the viet cong infrastructure was that is it something northern leaders and wanting to do -- wanted to do so they would control this war effort. i don't see that. there are a ton of reasons why the tet offensive did not unfold in a way that they planned. takenes who did have to the brunt was the nls where the viet cong. >> cliff in essex, maryland. >> good afternoon, c-span.
i am a disabled veteran. guests your historian were talking about similarities between other wars. the simulator to me between vietnam where we were fighting, and is him and the war in the middle east where we are fighting terrorism. the most striking similarity is that both wars, vietnam and the war in the middle east, were preceded by false flag events. the gulf of tonkin in vietnam and 9/11 in the middle east. thank you. >> thank you, cliff. we talked briefly about the gulf of tonkin. professor lawrence, tell us what that was all about. incidentlf of tonkin is a very complicated set of events that happened in early august of 1964.
with anode began american destroyer coming under attack. we know it did come under attack by northfield mise troll boats -- north the emmys patrol boats. eseth vietnam patrol boats. they were in support of raids against the north vietnamese coast. this was seen as very provocative. where the story gets more complicated is there appeared to be a second attack. we are pretty confident now, certain in fact the attack did not occur. there seems to have been a jumpy sonar operator that thought they were coming under attack. the johnson administration used this as confirmation that the first attack was no accident. there is no one-off event that the americans were coming under attack. this was used as a method for
getting approval by congress for a blank check. lbj from that point forward had a legal cover, political cover to do with the wanted in -- >> the caller called a false flag event. has research -- >> it was precisely the case. johnson received word it was sonar. even he said they could be firing at wales for all we know -- whales for all we know, that he purposely misconstrued the event. it was just as controversial in hanoi. after it took place there was an investigation headed by ho chi minh about who precisely allowed or give the order to the captain, the man on the spot the fire on the u.s. vessel. even though everyone who was a part of the committee knew the
equivalent of william general was, the not in hanoi on august 2, 1964. the general secretary gave the order. by ho chi minh brought in the man and said who give you the go-ahead? he just said some very high up in the politburo. he was not at all feeling under attack. the reason ho chi minh had once the investigation was the chinese were demanding answers. they also did not think this was a very wise move. at this point the younger general said no matter what we do, the imperials will strike. we must strike first. it was basically reaffirming his boss. >> that was a quick ramp up of
u.s. troops after that after the incident? >> not really. this is another way in which this is an interesting episode. this happened in august, 1964 during the presidential campaign. the only reason for lbj's caution, he did not want to stir the vietnam pot during the election campaign. to the extent he wanted to address the anon at all, he wanted to present himself as a moderate and reasonable leader who could be counted on to act in a reasonable way. in contrast to the hockenberry goldwater. hawk of barry goldwater. then the issue sort of settled back down. vietnam did not document is a political issue throughout the campaign. the big decisions to wage war would come after his election.
january and4, february of 1965 are the crucial months if you want to focus on thedecision that led to initiation of a sustained bombing campaign against north vietnam and the introduction of american ground troops. that theywrence and are joining us. half an hour of your calls and comments looking at 19 six seven and the vietnam war. 202-748-8901 for mountain and pacific. vets and protesters, 202- 748-8902. gary in pennsylvania. >> as a way of background, i spent 20 years as an infantry
officer in the u.s. army. deployed my first toward the vietnam in november, 50 years ago, next week. and i was wondering if your indications that president eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex. is there any evidence where the johnson administration may have been influenced by them? >>harry, you are talking about 50 years ago this week -- next week. you first went to vietnam. what were your expectations and what did you find when you hit the ground? how is it different? >> the expectations were high from the standpoint of going over to help the south vietnamese. to help them fight the communist threat they were facing.
beat into our heads all the time and training. i trained for two years, from december 1965 until november 1957. two years of training. it was talked about all the time. it was a part of the fact that the south vietnamese were under this heavy influence of being controlled by the communist government out of north vietnam. that is how i felt when i went there. i was glad to go and help them. changed in my second tour. things were different. 1968 to 1969. that is when you began to really realize that in order for us to help them they have got to help themselves more.
to be problems with the selfie of his government being totally involved in the effort. the kind of had the feeling they -- instead we really of helping them we were being hindered by the political decisions being made both in south vietnam and in washington, d.c. >> plots there for the historians to absorb. remind us of your original question. he wanted to find out about the eisenhower -- >> the warning about the military-industrial complex. >> thank for sharing your story. mark lawrence? >> fascinating reminiscences. thank you for sharing that. that's a really interesting question about the influence of the military-industrial complex. my answer is yes and no.
no because it is always difficult to tease out the influence of something like the military-industrial complex. directifficult to find causation between the influences of arms manufacturers or this or that branch of the military on big decisions of national security. in that sense i am cautious about that. yet, did seems to me a no-brainer that because it is everywhere it must have had some impact. here is 1.i would be confident and offering they make it a little bit of specificity. it seems to me eisenhower and arguably john f. kennedy were aware of these dangers. within limits and imperfectly tried to resist the pressures that they felt might well push
american national security in the wrong direction. i think one of the important distinctions between maybe eisenhower and kennedy on one side and lbj is lbj did not have the same instinct. he was not as cautious as the other two about pressure coming on him from the military, from hawks in congress. he tended to go along with them, maybe to serve other political objectives. i think he was less sophisticated and savvy about that than his predecessors. >> if you think about the american military presence in vietnam and what mcnamara was able to set up, it does blow your mind in terms of this was -- this was a of war in which you had stadium
-sized factories producing bread for american soldiers. that access with shouts of the south vietnamese population, which did not have access to these luxuries and technology. the american abundance that was brought to match the american abundance in country. thateded to show americans the boys were being treated well in vietnam. they could have ice cream and hundred degree weather. this also gets to the amazing comments about the south vietnamese army. one of the understudied aspects of the vietnam war is precisely the republic of vietnam armed forces. if we get past the political leadership of the military leadership and the factionalism that did divide the leaders. they lost the war.
it was not the fault of the rank-and-file. the average soldier. many fought valiantly. their voices are not heard or seen or written about and scholarship. i think this was a very tough -- before the americans arrived, the vietnamese were at war. >> tom, welcome. >> my concern is both professors are talking more on a liberal aim. i served from 1962 to 1965. never served in the vietnam. they were told to go. they were either drafted or enlisted. i'm thinking i'm going monday to listen to captain bill albrecht
who had three silver stars and he had the same concern. we have forgotten about the soldiers and sailors. johnson, eisenhower, kennedy stuff. what about the people who volunteered and could not come home and were told to take the uniforms off because i could not walk down the street without being spit upon? i was never spit upon, but i think they need to talk about the foot soldiers and the people who had to fight. all i am here and is about this esoteric conversation of two professors. i'm having a hard time listening to this without getting excited. thank you for the opportunity to share my point. >> the impact of the war on the soldiers coming home. the impact of the protests and what that means to the soldiers coming home from this war. >> i think the caller raises a very important point. in not sure and interest
high-level policymaking in decision-making on the vietnamese or american side necessarily implies a particular clinical orientation towards the war. there are conservative and liberal historians across the spectrum who are interested in this questions, just as there are people across the political spectrum interested in the experiences of ordinary people who fought the war. that is clearly an important, crucial element of the history of the war without question. i would never want to be caught saying anything other than that. i think the experiences of ordinary soldiers who fought the havended the heavy lifting capturedcontinue to be in various projects across the country to collect oral histories and testimony and experiences and reminiscences. this program is a small
indication of that broad-based effort and i applaud that kind of thing. i would add only one thing i mentioned earlier. american society has done a good job and should be commended for its ability since vietnam to separate the politics and the policymaking surrounding the war from the very honorable experiences of so many people who were called on to do their duty and sacrificed. >> how does the work viewed now in vietnam in terms of those who fought and it and the victims of it? what is it like an 2017? >> it's a very young population. you have more than half born after 1975. one of the things i constantly hear about is that the vietnamese have forgiven the united states and the americans and they have moved on. i think that to a certain extent is true, especially if you look at the demographics. time it has had
major repercussions on the rest of the evolution of vietnam after 1975. that is a lot to ask of any population, to be able to move on from that war. has sort of -- the individuals, the average americans who served. -- of these really amazing it is great to witness when a veteran returns to vietnam and visits the site so battle and how he or she is able to connect with possibly some other enemies at the time. there is an outpouring of love. you see this sort of reconciliation and that is amazing. at the same time so much happened after 1975.
vietnam was marginalized in the international community and entered into a dark economic time. it is something that the annan still wonders today -- vietnam still wonders today. why are we not at this stage that south korea or thailand is? it is because we fought against united states during the war. >> they want to remind our callers that this is 40 hours of coverage this weekend on american history tv of the vietnam war. a lot of that includes the experiences of veterans of that war. this program is focusing on 1967. we have set aside a line for the veterans of vietnam. 748-8502. let's hear next from john in tucson. go ahead. >> hello. how are you?
in 1965.ed in the army i want to officer candidate school in fort benning, georgia. subsequently ended up being transferred or assigned to vietnam. when i got to vietnam i was assigned to the first air cavalry division, one of the finer units. not being prejudiced. -- i was with a group and we got transferred up near que san. i was there for the tet offensive. i'm calling because i recently watched they can burn's special -- ken burns special. i was taken at how good the special was. there were two events. that
really caught my attention one was the clip you showed earlier 1964, the recording where he commented he was bothered by the whole situation and concerned it would be another korea. i think to myself if he only had enough you know what, gumption to have stopped the whole thing right there and he missed it. the other thing ken burns' special i was struck by, and i don't think anybody knew are realized during the whole event was the determination of the north vietnamese people and their army. if i remember correctly, ken burns suggested as many as 2
million people from north vietnamese are casualties. and they kept coming and coming and the ho chi minh trail they were determined, and i don't think if we had realized the level of their determination that we could never win the war. >> thank you for your call in your service. thatere is a lot and caller's comments. i will address the point that was made about the conversation between lbj we heard earlier in the comment that if only these opportunities have been seized, only lbj have the guts to see the opportunity that was there. this is a fascinating question.
alternativesactual in 1964 and 1965? we can look from 2017 and imagine what he should have done. he should have neutralized vietnam, come up with some sort of scheme to reach a fig leaf political settlement that would have kept vietnam out of the communist orbit for some time. it's an idea any people were advocating in 1964. we now know lbj was exposed to the ideas, there were coming from, in favor of them. i think in order to put ourselves back in his shoes we have to recognize the extraordinary weight of the pressures he was under. what was pushing him forward, the dominant idea. the theory of containment. the political pressures. all of these were 20 years in
the making and all pushed in the same direction towards escalation, towards doing more in vietnam. the pattern american presidents followed starting with fdr and truman is do enough to prevent vietnam from falling into the communist camp. lbj was the poor guy in the white house for nothing short of the introduction of american combat troops with the masses very to have that effect. we can see how this pressures, that pattern, the precedent not blinded him, discouraged him from pursuing the options. >> that is visualized in this next video we will show you, a conversation between george bundy and president johnson in 1964. here is lbj at a news conference in 1967 speaking about the war with the white house reporters. president johnson: we have a lot to do yet. a great many mistakes of inmate.
we are taking two steps forward and we slipped back one. it is not all perfect by any means. there are many days where we get a c minus. we're making progress. know in the area that is familiar with what is happening thanks it is absolutely essential that uncle sam keep her word and stay there until we can find an honorable peace. who reads ourh, papers and listens to our radio and looks at our television, if he has any doubts i want to dissolution him this morning. we keep our commitments. our people are going to support the men that are there and in and there are going to bring us an honorable peace. mr. reynolds? >> hanoi may be interpreting up
with opinion polls indicate he will be replaced next year. how should this affect the campaign in this country? >> i don't know how it will affect the campaign. whatever interpretation finally might make that leads them to believe that uncle sam, whoever may be president, is going to be pulling out and it will be easier for them to make an insight deal with another president, they will make a serious misjudgment. >> president johnson from 1967. we are here in honorable progress. a color set the north vietnamese had determination. we are not giving up from president johnson in 1967. >> that is a great clip to show right after the caller's interesting comments. i think lbj, seeing him there in that press conference at the national archives, i saw his
letters in response to a mother who just lost her son in the summer of 1967. johnson's response to her, which is why the united states has to stay committed in vietnam and he is sorry for her loss. he has scribbled all over this letter. he took so much time and effort to crafting this response to this mother. it is amazing. it is amazing putting that in contrast to the conversation he had with bundy in 1964 and the press conference. what that shows is in addition 's all of professor lawrence -- the principles that guided american foreign-policy makers at this time, credibility with definitely high. johnson did not want to be the one to lose the war. he did not want to go down in history for losing vietnam the way truman lost china.
this also weighed heavily on johnson's mind at this point. in terms of looking at north , another part of what the caller mentioned, if you look at infiltration and numbers in 1967, they are amazing in terms of anywhere from 200,000 north vietnamese soldiers infiltrating the south during that year. this was a huge push on the part of the hanoi government and party to win the war outright in 1968. they do not want to give negotiations a chance. they believed they could topple the government and south vietnam and defeat the saigon army in saigon government, this would be the way to win and they would not have to engage in talks with americans because they could say we trounced your ally, now
leave. this is something we also have to take into account only think about if the americans -- the only option then certainly was a cut their losses and run. to think they could come to any sort of compromised political settlement in 1967, early 1968 was not in the cards. >> and lbj did not run for president. how much was that were a part of that decision? >> excellent question. it seems to me the conventional wisdom was about it was -- was it was about the war there was evidence that lbj had concerns about his health he shared with confidence and his family. for many of the people who knew lbj best it was about the war but also about other things. we need to have more complicated view of that decision. leonid in brooklyn.
>> thank you. i have two questions. aware ofion are they any dogfights between the soviet aviators posing as vietnamese and the american aviators? russia made an official admission that russian aviators, soviet aviators in korea. they made a documentary about it which i watched. the soviet pilots were interviewed. nothing like that was done regarding vietnam. it is known that the russian crews managed some antiaircraft missile batteries in vietnam, but nothing is not about the soviet aviators posing
as vietnamese. are they aware of any american flyers shut down, it was to the soviet union and what happened to these individuals? >> thank you. any idea about that? russia's role if any in military conflicts in vietnam? don't believe that there is hard evidence of soviet involvement as pilots carrying out dogfights over north vietnam. i believe it is speculation along those lines. i'm not aware of any hard evidence on that. what the caller says about the soviet technicians manning antiaircraft batteries, that i think is well-established and speaks to a larger point about the important involvement in russia and china and supporting
north vietnam. we know for example a total of about 300,000 chinese soldiers, including 360,000 at one time or present. not fighting for doing behind-the-scenes duties that freed up north vietnamese personnel to go off and fight. >> much the role of u.s. trainers? >> the chinese were combat engineering troops. they were building bridges when they were bombed, paving roads. numbers of soviet advisers, much less. still sizable. they were precisely there to help the vietnamese air force. in thethe things you see historical records was how much moscow and beijing were squabbling and fighting about the chinese would always say to the north vietnamese do not
trust the soviets. do not let these advisers into your country because moscow will betray you like they betrayed us. in the soviets would say to the vietnamese as the chinese cultural revolution was gin, look at what they are doing. cultural revolution is coming on and they care more about things in china than your war effort. both sides basically for fighting the vietnam war in order to show that they were the leader of the international proletariat movement. to show mao's military doctrine with defeat the u.s. or the soviet conventional weaponry. they both had a high stake in the vietnam war. but not about helping the vietnamese commonest revolution. >> let's hear from oxnard, california. richard.
welcome. >> good morning. i found this interesting because , these are areas i served in. i was in vietnam in 1968 to early 1970. one of the things that really bothers me, i was in force recon unit in the marine corps. we get a lot of missions up in the dmz, in that area. mainly concentrated on routes. we is to put in sensors and things like this so we can track movement. it seemed like a lot of things we found in these areas, the information we got back in our debriefings, they were just ignored. book my written in a
company commander, colonel alex lead put out. i often wondered about that. why the information was never looked at or considered. >> thanks for moving is also into 1968. professor nguyeh, you are working on a history of the tet offensive in 1968. tell us of things ramp up in the war that year. >> back to one of the earlier questions about lbj in the video clip we saw in november of 1967. he wanted the united states to stay and see an honorable end to the war. this square is with what he told keliam westmoreland, to hold san when the north vietnamese ained this would be the
strategic battle that would bring them to victory. negotiations would occur and there would be talks. talked with open and they would be in a militarily stronger position, wherever the negotiations were to take place. he told all of his military commanders, johnson did not lose. was as the tet offensive unfolding in cities and towns across south vietnam, those were the main targets of what became known as the 1968 tet offensive. >> mark lawrence, bring a stateside. we talked about lbj not running for president. what does it look like as far as how the war is perceived? >> if you don't mind i might start answering tech in 1967 with a clip. in late 1967 the johnson administration sets out to change public perception of the war.
there is a big public relations campaign to reverse some of the declining supports and growing criticism of the war. lbj brings general westmoreland back from vietnam. westmoreland makes high-profile speeches. lbj gives a number of public appearances, including that press conference. they are all on the same page. trying to bolster american dedication to the war. at the end of january 1968 comes the tet offensive, this massive communist attack focused on the cities of south vietnam. for a lot of americans this was a jarring thing. they had just been told things are going well. in west moreland's words, the end is starting to come into view. suddenly the communist display this remarkable ability to use force in unprecedented ways all over the south. a lot of americans were asking what is going on?
we know behind-the-scenes lbj and many of his advisers had doubts about what was going on. that was not with a were putting up publicly. why did americans' opinions sour so dramatically in the expectations of what's it have been happening. >> history professor at the university of texas at austin. and professor of history at columbia university thank you so much for being here with us today. thank you for joining us for this discussion on the vietnam war in 1967, heart of our weekend long look at the vietnam war.