tv State of the War in 1967 CSPAN November 11, 2017 7:30pm-9:02pm EST
only on c-span 3. our vietnam war coverage continues. now a conversation recorded earlier with historians mark atwood lawrence and lien-hang nguyen. >> professor lien-hang nguyen, back 50 years to 1967, was it still possible at that for the u.s. to win the war in vietnam? >> simple answer, no. would definitely say no. it wasn't a war for the united states to win or lose. 1967, it definitely was not in the cards. >> mark lawrence, take us to the end of 1967 and politically, the presidential elections are in 1968. what's on the horizon for lyndon b. johnson? >> well, l.b.j. was in a fair amount of political difficulty questiond of '67, no about that. in the 1966 elections, the not controld lost,
over congress, but he had -- democraticlost 47 seats in the house and two seats in the senate. this was a significant setback. certainly damaging. l.b.j.'s political popularity, pretty steadya decline across 1967. see importantly, what you across 1967 is a kind of breakup centrist coalition that on and beenepended one ofctively in 1964, the biggest landslides in american presidential history. by 196 #, he could -- 1967, he ofld see that was a thing the past and the coalition was fracturing into any number of pieces. on american history t.v., all weekend long, we are focusing on the war in vietnam. and for the next hour and a half, we're going to focus on 1967.ate of the war in
to help us do that, our guests are professor lien-hang nguyen. history professor at columbia university and author book "an international history of the war for peace in vietnam." also, mark lawrence, professor of history at the university of texas at austin and author of "the vietnam war, a history."ternational we'd also like you to join the conversation. for those of you in the eastern central time zones, call the screen.n your vietnam vet or a protests from that era, we look forward to your calls and on your experience. 202-748-8902. of course we welcome your comments on twitter and facebook. that, we're @c-span history and on
facebook.com/c-span history. let's start with lien-hang nguyen. you are from vietnam. you were born in vietnam. tell us your post-war experience. >> i was born november 1974. when my five months old family fled saigon. so in terms of memories, i don't have any direct memories of the war. and my first memories, of where i grew up, from where i grew up in pennsylvania, outside philadelphia. but what happened in the end of april 1975, to my family, is this story that is very common who fledamese refugees during that turbulent period. began with bing crosby's white christmas. my father heard that on the radio. all knew it was a signal that the americans were going to leave. so like other vietnamese we had an escape route eventuality.at
our first one failed. we were supposed to meet my uncle on top of a roof of a high school. where he was going to try to get helicopter. that didn't happen. he wasn't able to land the helicopter. they were shooting. dangerous. and so we weren't able to leave in that fashion. and then a second escape route to us to go down to river.gon and there, another uncle had access to a boat. we almost lost a brother on the way. we found him at the last minute, milling around, with many other children out in the streets, because it was i think, from telling me,lders stellin that it was clear chaos. but we managed to secure a space boat and eventually we were able to get on board the fleet. from there, we spent many
varioust periods on refugee camps in the south pacific and eventually we were in carlisle barracks. >> let's set the broad look at by going back to the origins of the u.s. involvement in that war. mark lawrence, tell us how the u.s. first got involved in vietnam. was thatvietnam proverbial place that few americans could have recognized on a map. before about 1941. the second world war bring brins world, vietnam specifically, to the attention of americans. policy makers, not the general public certainly at that point. but what really puts vietnam american center for policy makers and ultimately the american public as well is, of course, the cold war. of the cold war in asia, in the late 1940's, concern amonguses americans about the potential of communism in
vietnam. 1949, i think, is the most important date when china -- the chinese civil war comes to an end. come to power, chinese communists come to power. from that point forward, americans were extremely anxious similar would play out across southeast asia. from 1949,t point, it seems that you see americans toing, in various ways, prevent the absorption of that part of the world into the communist block. >> how does president johnson, what does he encounter when he comes into office? the vietnam war, what is he facing? >> a proverbial mess. i think in many ways, johnson that hadited a war begun by his predecessors. he definitely made choices to
deepen american involvement into office when he assumed after kennedy's assassination. but it was under kennedy that number of u.s. advisors to vietnam violated the terms of the geneva accord. so when kennedy inherited office, there were about 600 advisors. by the time of his death, it was tens of thousands of advisors. i think about 23,000. and that's when l.b.j. -- that's inherited. had >> we look forward to your calls and comments. we'll get to them shortly. 202-748-8901. fromted to play some audio very early on in the johnson 1964.stration in he is speaking with his national security advisor. we'll play that, get your what he's talking
about that, and then hear from some of our viewers. is. it >> i will tell you, i stood awake last night, the more i it, i don't know what in the hell. looks like we're getting into another korea. it just worries the hell out of me. see what we can ever hope to get out of there once we're committed. the chinese communists is coming into it. i don't think it's worth thinkng for, and i don't we can get out. it's just the biggest damn mess and we just got to think look at this sergeant of mine this morning. there. little kids over he is getting out of things and bringing me in the night, all that kind of stuff. i just thought about ordering am i -- what in the hell ordering him out there for? what is a man worth to me? what is laos worth to me?
what is it worth to this country? but hell,reaty, everybody else got a treaty and they're not doing anything about it. of course, if you start running into communists, they may just into your ownt kitchen. >> that's the trouble. and that is what the rest of goingalf of the world is to think if this thing comes apart on us. that's the dilemma. >> professor mark lawrence, that sounds like a very personal phone call, talking about a serious international and foreign policy crisis. >> it is. an incredibly striking phone conversation. there was a time, it seems to me, not too long ago, when most historians of the vietnam war, about l.b.j. and the decisions he made, ascribed a oftain amount inevidentability to his decisions. the tracks had been laid. happened to be the man in the white house when nothing short of the introduction of
american combat force would save the day. would a conversation like this -- what a conversation like this shows is that l.b.j. was deeply aware of the problems that the united states would thatont if it went down path. he paused and thought hard about states wasited getting ready to do. in the end, of course, he did to intervene.ion but this conversation, i think, shows more than anything else he knew it would not be easy, that it would potentially scenario.difficult >> and pretty soon, events would propel things forward. the gulf incident. >> that's precisely what i was thinking about. events ofay 1964, the early august. we see a very different johnson. one who, especially the second occurred, heever had made a decision to, you of fabricate events
achieve thatuld situation. hise needed to legitimize actions in the war, you think? >> yes, and that does not show hesitation. shows, you know, preplanning and manipulation. we see many different sides of think, depending on the source you're looking at. this was a conversation with bundy. what we see in terms of his response to the non-attack of is very different. >> we are talking to lien-hang nguyen and mark lawrence. focus, on the year 1967 in the vietnam war. we have callers waiting. first, ino jane asheville, north carolina. jane, go ahead. >> good morning. is jane white. and i had the liberty of moving forward. want to ask, what can our did our country spend in removing the land mines? now, i think,'re
involved in trying to get rid of the agent orange built into the soil. but how much has my country spent to repair the damage that to that country? >> that's a great question. individual effort of americans, many of whom served and are back in the country working to remove these ngo's thatll as continue to operate in vietnam, with many americans who were involved during the war, and the mines, you know, address the victims of these arege, and issues that really, you know, sort of strengthen the ties between the united states and vietnam. is it enough? i think much more can be done whavment was interesting -- what interesting, i was just at the national archives exhibit and it was vietnam
really interesting. it was a video montage of the that tookbombing place over laos and cambodia. the sheer scale of the bombing, it boggles -- blows my mind. it's devastating. watch the video. and to know that there are these efforts by ngo's, by people who might have been the war effort but are trying to, you know, sort of amend -- make amends, it's really -- it's great. disheartening, the lack of movement, i guess, in many ways, to have it be done at the government level. but i would say one really has to applaud the individuals and the nongovernmental organizations. >> the bombings and agent orange, the land mines, as our caller mentioned, we know this in hindsight. the, mark lawrence, was
mood of the american public in 1967? how much did we know about the war? >> well, i think 1967 is a fascinating year, when lots more americans were focusing on the war. than had been the case in the earlier days of the american escalation. the public approval of the war, of l.b.j.'s performance, was dropping quite dramatically across this year, as more focused on it, as the draft calls increased, which of of drawingthe effect much more attention to the war than had been the case previously. it's no surprise that across 1967, you see the dramatic expansion of the anti-war where theo the point biggest demonstration to that point took place just about 50 washington.ere in >> in the fall? >> exactly. that resulted in the famous pentagon.he so i think public opinion was paying more attention. it was fracturing, like the
larger american political scene. not to deny the fact that some people, when they were looking at the war, thought more not less.done, but we need to take account of the more hawkish side of the spectrum as well. >> let's hear from john in pennsylvania. >> greetings! i'm very happy to have this be on the air. i was a medic. calvary with the first division, alpha company 15. but i was within a month in country. i was assigned to the dispensary. provided medical services to that district. my question is, did anybody really know, of these programs there? had over i was a draftee. i was u.s. all the way. i had a chanceat
at least to do something productive and to help people who were in need of medical treatment. and to this day, everything is a bell to me. so if you can address that. and one more thing. are both historians, the taken courses on vietnam war, and as a textbook, moss's vietnam and american ordeal. do you know anything about that text in particular? for your kind attention to this. >> okay, john. thank you. you can take that. >> i do know that book. it's not one that personally i've used a great deal, but i have a lot of respect for it and i certainly consulted it. so i would hold that out as one best texts that's out there. by way of a survey, on the war. the other question goes, i think it's fair to say that americans were aware of the that theprograms caller asks about. viewnk that the american
of the war, as more americans it, was sortd on of like a kaleidoscope. difficult for the american public to pick out what was most essential about the war. this was one of the things that was probably really jarring for people. you understand that there were humanitarian programs. yet at the same time, massive firepower, brutality, all happening simultaneously. from rocky point, nevada. new york. i'm sorry. new york.t, go ahead. >> hi. thanks for taking my call. good morning, everybody. is, what would happen if we decided to use a nuclear weapon in the war? would it have ended the war, or to use too many of them? or would it start another world war? would people -- other countries, you know, would they protest that and say, this is not right
and join forces with them? >> lien-hang nguyen, you talked thet the exhibit and incredible amount of armament that was dropped on vietnam. yourwas the impact, in research, on north vietnam in particular? those two questions together. basically that last scenario, war, the people's republic of china and the soviet union gottenave definitely involved, directly intervened, had nuclear weapons been used. that was pulled out by all of greatperpowers, the powers involved, directly or indirectly involved in the it would notthat escalate to a nuclear war. in terms of north vietnamese leadership, you know, one of the -- there were so many debates going on in hanoi. the debates taking place in washington, d.c. in 1967. the was how to deal with military stalemate that had descended over south vietnam. sort of raging
in hanoi, almost -- i mean, you compare the month, going from something like, you know, 1967, when spring of there were high-level meetings taking place between the leadership, party about what to do to break the stalemate, all the way to the that, you know, what would take place deeply the vietnamese communist party. >> who were the key leaders decisions in north vietnam? most surprising things about what i had discovered through the course of extent toh was the which the president and the ofretary -- the minister were marginalized, particularly 1967. this was when that happened. it happened to them on the part of two men who carried out the much to pretty
marginalize their power in the party. and included the general his right hand man, the party wouldzational chief, who rise to fame as the main negotiator against nixon. >> in the early 70's? >> yes. >> let's go to calls and hear ed in danbury, connecticut. the south vietnamese government in 1967 anti-buddhist? certainly was at one time. was this a missed opportunity to build broad support from the in the fightese against communism, and that is from religion? many buddhist activists understood the government to be anti-buddhist. in 1966, you have a resurgence of buddhist opposition and demonstrations against the saigon government. no doubt ahere's
spectrum of opinion when it comes to buddhist organizations, within south vietnam. but as a generalization, it seems to me that the government persistent problem with that element of the population. of thestriking example south vietnamese government's inability to extend its its popularity beyond that part of the south vietnamese population that was behind it. strongly >> what was the u.s. government's relationship with the leadership? lyndon b. johnson's national relationship, his with the south vietnamese government? think it was complicated. and a source of frustration many other sources of frustration for l.b.j. hand, johnson recognized that there had to be a partnership between the united vietnam insouth order for the war to succeed. and war, at the end of the day,
pursuit of the political objective. so naturally, the south was amese government central component of any successful strategy in that relationship. at the same time, l.b.j., like presidents before him, was consistently frustrated with saw, what americans typically saw as the foot inefficiency,he as the unwillingness to do the kinds of things that, in the american view, would have established greater political popularity for that government. robert, hear from orlando, florida. you're on american history t.v. >> yes. since we have a couple history expert there, i'm just curious, learn fromhat did we the vietnam war? what has history showed? learned, not to get ourselves embroiled into these conflicts? >> thanks, robert. lien-hang nguyen, go ahead. >> so i think one of the main from the vietnam war, the american experience with the is that what was
happening in vietnam predated american intervention. know, this is one of the situations where the united states came into a very complicated civil war that had been brewing for decades, if know, centuries, one can argue, in terms of the different sort of infighting between various political groups in north and south and even central vietnam. clearlyunited states did not know the situation. of this gets through sort the other -- the previous question about the south government, its policy towards the buddhist majority. i think it's a lot more complicated, and that there were many different -- you know, the itself is verynt very -- it's a very difficult position for both governments as sorthe war, as well of various political actors in both countries. able -- thee was
democratic republic of vietnam -- to be able to squash dissent. governmentietnamese was less capable at doing that. know, this second question gets to sort of also the question about the relationships between saigon and hanoi and their big power patrons. i think what i find striking, through the course of my research, is that you actually the same lines from tiny sources, soviet sources and sources, with how difficult it was for these patrons to deal with their junior clients or allies in saigon and hanoi. it really gets to the difficulty sort of the, the state of international relations andthe cold war decolonization and these that,olonial conflicts you know -- it sucked in, in these great powers.
and even though they wanted to dictate and direct the course of unable to.ey were >> take that question of what did we learn from it, and maybe we learn -- when you look back at 1967, what were the l.b.j. could have made, then, that could have changed the course of u.s. involvement in the war? it have turned out differently for the u.s.? >> that's a fascinating question. what were his options? think if we put ourselves back see l.b.j.'s shoes, we can how difficult it might have been for him to break out in another direction. nevertheless, there were concrete ideas that were in the mix, in that period. assumed thats there were no ideas, you know, sort of reaching l.b.j.'s desk. that's not true. example, the secretary of defense, was increasingly sawyering on the sourerring on the war.
it seems to me what he had in mind, a softening of the negotiating position in a way that would have led to some sort of negotiated settlement, short of american objectives. ininteresting point is that september of 1976, the c.i.a. did a study of exactly this question. the alternatives? especially what would be the consequences to the united war?s of winding down the would the catastrophe be what so americans assumed it would be? would the domino effect play out? would a catastrophe ensue internationally? and the c.i.a.'s conclusion was probably not. asia, vietnam itself, cambodia, laos, would probably themately fall to communists. but the upshot of the report was and that could be managed that american interests elsewhere in the world would probably survive. earlier from george bundy. you mentioned mcnamara. these holdovers from the
kennedy administration. tell us briefly about both of those men. were typical kennedy appointees, i think. brilliant men, highly men.plished mcnamara having been president of ford motors. without aage 34, ph.d., having been dean of arts and sciences at harvard. charactersere other from the kennedy administration who were very much like that. arebiographies important. these were men who did not back down easily in the face of a challenge. had awere men who really lot of confidence in their ability to use american power in precise ways to achieve american objectives. i think that's very important, the going back to conversation that we heard earlier between bundy an l.b.j. voicing all.j. these concerns. but it seems to me, at the end buthe day, l.b.j., especially his advisors, believe that they could solve those problems.
that's just the kind of people they were and the kind of experiences they they had had, 1967.he >> professor? >> it would be their hubris. is precisely the best and brighters, the united states -- briegest. the united states, there was just no way it could lose the third-rate --this whatever johnson had described vietnam at the time, that this lead to america's downfall. hubris..s. >> let's hear from john, florida. go ahead with your comment. >> good morning. thanks for this opportunity. degree -- well, background. i was drafted in 1967, september. lost a brother there in january of '69. didn't go, primarily because i '68.rders in and he already had orders. two brothers can't be in country time. same
my question goes to some of the points you raised, the missed opportunities. voices for thee coalition government listened to? why were not the scholars, the who knew the minds and the aspirations of the they note, why were listened to? i cried many hot tears over this war. recently, viewing the ken type ofpisodes, those episodes were brought forth. and the missed opportunities shown. and in detail, as you've shown some of them this morning. agree thater if you the world war ii and cold war mentality of our leaders was down this path? thank you much. >> thank you, john. >> that's a good question. it's a difficult one. why weren't other roads taken? i think professor lawrence
nailed it. there were other options. they weren't taken -- those roads weren't taken. they include all of these attempts. you had operation marigold and operation pennsylvania. peace talks were not leaders in washington wanted to pursue. at the same time 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. >> bass strait one thing very quickly? -- may i say one thing very 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 once people are dying and politically eisenhower, kennedy, definitely johnson are engaged, it becomes difficult for reasons of politics and prestige and reputation to pull back. 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
, professor of history at the university of texas at austin, and leeann nguyen. history professor at columbia university. glad to be joined by you and your phone calls. eastern essential time zones 202-748-8971. for all of our vietnam era vets, 202-748-8902. we will get to some of the twitter comments and others. let's go to new york and here from david. excuse me, -- 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. we were teargassed as the soldiers came out of the pentagon with bayonet strong. we were peaceful protesters. why do we still celebrate war? when are we ever going to have peace? we are fighting war to get peace, that never happens. 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 war can 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. >> has the u.s. ever seen protests, antiwar protests of
this size and scale before? world war ii, world war i, the korean war? >> on this scale, no. but on a large scale -- i don't have the figures of my fingertips, but in connection with the first world war in particular it seems to me that there is striking evidence of large-scale dissent in earlier periods of american history, that are not normally part of how we think about american military history. i think there is a tendency to think vietnam 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, or the first world war, or the korean war, you can see striking levels. >> draft riots in the civil war,
the spanish american war. there has been, and i do think that -- the antiwar movement in the united states, the history of it is very interesting. i think in the end the debate about if it mattered or had a n actual 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. did heavily constrained policymakers 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, under lbj, under the nixon administration. they pursued the policies they wanted mainly in secret. >> q talk about the political conflict in vietnam in 1967. was there in antiwar movement in north vietnam or south vietnam? >> there were antiwar movements in south vietnam for sure. it is not quite accurate to call them antiwar movements in north vietnam. there were different options that 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 reunify 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. in 1967, this all came to a four when they were arrested. a few waves of arrests that began in july of 1967 always -- 1967 all the way 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 quiet 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 tweak us at c-span history. a tweet asking about 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. in terms of the -- there were children, they were reminders of the devastating conflict. they were called dust children because they were lower than the soil you walked upon. their plight is very tragic. -- is a very tragic one. they were allowed to immigrate over to the united states, but this also caused havoc on the
families in vietnam because it was also a chance for some the -- some vietnamese to try to leave vietnam during the 1980's. you could try to -- those dust 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. looking at the vietnam war in 1967. particularly want to hear from vietnam vets and protesters 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. >> got about 25 or 30 incoming heavy artillery rounds. that area seems to be really covered. i will go ahead and get these people out and inform you when i have done so, over. >> roger.
go ahead and fire. make sure your own troops are out of the way. let the tigers do their business. 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 being 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 route 9, to the south and to the north of leathernecks square. they provide the marines with observation posts overlooking the narrow mountain valleys and open coastal plains 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 bulldozed 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 border. the laotian 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. above the river, the north vietnamese introduce their heavy artillery the summer. pounding these lands with 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 -- imagined war 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. a lot of lives been lost. i thought it was a joke before. 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't be safe, 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 1967.
the war was starting to take place on a larger scale. some of the conventional wisdom we hold in our heads about vietnam 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 1967. you see the operation cedar falls, unprecedentedly large search and destroy mission near saigon. your question about how policymakers were 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, at least in the american perception, it in 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 what professor lawrence was just talking about. this was part of north vietnamese shadow g at the time. to newre ready to move battles following the defensive posture. following american military intervention in 1965. this caused so many debates in hanoi because one side, some of the leaders did not want to revert to a defensive posture. in doing so, the morale would be low. they had to wage big unit war because that was the only way to win, to maintain strategic initiative. you can see this more in 1967. these were the big battles. but this is also -- they were hoping u.s. policymakers would
look further south and -- to the south into the west. that was caisson. what they were hoping for was lbj william wes moore and would think it would become like the dien bien fu, and they would pull 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. it was 694-dg1. 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 from 1967 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? who are supplying this? -- who is supplying this? >> yes, soviet rockets. if the north vietnamese could seize this area, they could infiltrate the region.
this was very pivotal for the north vietnamese as well. >> a tear from new york city. 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 thesis 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 where the joint chiefs were during the period mcmasters was
covering from 1963 to 1967, but they are not being listened to. there is a group within the white house that is filtering their opinions and controlling the agenda. i would love to hear your guest historians thoughts on this. i am in my 70's so i was 20 in 1964 when i enlisted. 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 were guilty of a dereliction of duty for exaggerating the potential for military solutions to the problem that was much
braver, more serious, 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 is -- is reassuring to those of us 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 am enough an expert to 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 prominent and the public face of the war. tell us about him. what was his story? >> 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 that is often by scholarslodged 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 ways. i think there is a fundamental problem in the ways the americans on about the war. i think there is a lot in that. >> the most prominent of those groups, the viet cong, who were they and how were they different from the north vietnamese army? americans had 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 center in north vietnam is a complicated one and we are only beginning to understand the divisions there. according to my research, what i found was when they decided to go to war in the south in 1959,
to which he embarked on total war in 1963. we also witness the sidelining of the vietnamese communist -- southern communist movement in their own or effort. by 1967, 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 had wanted to do to ensure they would control the war effort. i don't see that. there are a ton of reasons why the tet offensive did not unfold in a way that party leaders had planned. the ones who did have to take the brunt was the nls where the viet cong. >> cliff in essex, maryland. >> good afternoon, c-span.
i am a disabled veteran. some of your historian guests were talking about similarities between other wars. the similarities to me between vietnam where we were fighting, the war in the middle east where we were fighting terrorism, but is thatking similarity 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. >> we talked briefly. thank you, cliff. we talked briefly about the gulf of tonkin. professor lawrence, tell us what that incident was all about. >> the gulf of tonkin incident very complicated set of
events that happened in early august of 1964. the episode began with an american destroyer coming under attack. we know for a fact that it did come under attack by north vietnamese patrol boats. this was seen by lbj and his advisors as a provocative acts. we now know that the american ships or conducting surveillance operations against the north vietnamese coast. in any case this is a very provocative act. 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 on the destroyer that thought it was 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 by the north vietnamese. this was used as a method for getting approval by congress for a blank check. lbj from that point forward had the legal cover -- the political cover to what he wanted. research born and that out? >> i think that was the case. johnson received word it was sonar. even he said they could be firing at wales -- whales, for all we know that he purposely misconstrued the event. i want to talk about that april 2 attack. it was just as controversial in hanoi. after it took place there was an investigation headed by ho chi minh about who precisely allowed -- who gave 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 westmoreland, the general was not in hanoi on august 2, 1964. the one man who gave it was the general secretary. when 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 standing there and he was not at all feeling under attack. the reason ho chi minh had once -- had to launch 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 lbj's 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 vietnam at all, he wanted to present himself as a cautious, and reasonable leader who could be counted on to act in a reasonable way. in contrast to the hockenberry -- the hawk of barry goldwater. could act decisively and there were bombing attacks against the north vietnamese coast. 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. december 1964, january and february of 1965 are the crucial months if you want to focus on the decision that led to the initiation of a sustained bombing campaign against north vietnam and the introduction of american ground troops. >> mark lawrence, history professor at the university of texas. us for theoining next half hour. we have a half hour left. and comments we're looking at 1967 and the vietnam war. 202-748-8901 for mountain and pacific. vets and protesters, 202-748-8902. let's go to carry in chesterfield, virginia. in chesterfield,
virginia. >> as a way of background, i spent 20 years as an infantry officer in the u.s. army. deployed my first tour of vietnam in november, 50 years ago, next week. and i was wondering if your guests had any 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? go,arry, before we let you you are talking about 50 years 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.
that was in a beat into our heads all the time in our training. i trained for two years, from december 1965 until november 1967. 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. but things 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.
there seemed to be problems with that. with the south vietnamese government being totally involved in the effort. had this feeling later on that we really -- instead of helping them we were being hindered by the political decisions being made both in south vietnam and in washington, d.c. lots therefore our historians to absorb. thank you for sharing your story. remind us of your original question. we want 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. by its nature it is sort of everywhere and nowhere. it is difficult to find direct 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, it seems to me a no-brainer that because it is everywhere it must have had some impact. here is one point that 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. meted to make to hawkish, to aggressive decisions nationally. i think one of the important distinctions between maybe eisenhower and kennedy on one side and lbj on the other 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 that lay outside the national security sphere. 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, logistical, the success of that, it does blow your mind in terms of this was the first sort of -- this was a war in which you had
stadium-sized factories producing fresh bread for american soldiers. that access was shown to 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. we needed to show, americans had to see that the boys were being treated well in vietnam. they could have ice cream and hundred degree weather. this also gets to the amazing caller's comments about the south vietnamese army. one of the understudied aspects of the vietnam war is precisely the republic of vietnam armed forces. i think, 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 -- in the scholarship because they were on the losing side. i think this was a very tough war that had -- before the americans arrived, the vietnamese were at war. >> is tom in illinois, welcome. >> my concern is both professors are talking more on a liberal aim. i served from 1962 to 1965. i was a cb in california. never served in the vietnam. i served in the philippines. i don't hear anything about the foot soldiers, the marines. they were told to go. they were either drafted or in listed like i did.
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, who 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, i don't know what i had -- would have done it happen to me, 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. >> thanks for your call, tom. 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.
i'm not sure that in -- an interest in 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 political spectrum who are interested in those 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 war, and did so much of the heavy lifting have been and continue to be captured 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 is the war 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. more than half were burned --
ward afterre brooke 1975. -- were born after 1975. at the same 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. i think vietnam has sort of -- the individuals, the average americans who served. one of these really amazing -- it is great to witness when a veteran returns to vietnam and visits the sites of battle and how he or she is able to connect with possibly some other enemies at the time. there is an outpouring of love. in that way you see this sort of reconciliation and that is amazing. at the same time so much
happened to vietnam after 1975. vietnam was marginalized in the international community and entered into a dark economic time. it is something that vietnam still wonders today. why are we not at this stage that south korea or thailand is? you always hear that phrase, it is because we fought against united states during the war. >> they want to remind our callers that that is 48 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 want to remind you that we have set aside a line for the veterans of vietnam. 202-748-8502. 902.
let's hear next from john in tucson. go ahead. >> hello. how are you? i am listed in the army in 1965. 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. we started -- 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 the ken burns special. good coverage the that the special was.
there was to events that really caught my attention. one was the clip you showed earlier about lbj in 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 the enemies were casualties. and they kept coming and coming down the ho chi minh trail and 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 -- and for your service. >> there is a lot in that callers comments. 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 -- to seize it the opportunity that was there. this is a fascinating question. did lbj have actual alternatives
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 is an idea that many people were advocating in 1964 and 1965. we now know lbj was exposed to he knew where they were coming from, he was 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 domino 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 would be necessary to have that effect. we can see how this pressures, that pattern, the precedent not blinded him, discouraged him from pursuing the options. >> perhaps some of 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. -- mistakes have been made. 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 ac minus instead of in a plus. overall, we're making progress. pleased with that progress, and every country i know in that area that is familiar with what is happening, thinks it is absolutely essential that uncle sam keep her word and stay there until we can find an honorable peace. if they have any doubts about it, mr. ho chi minh, who reads our papers and listens to our radio and looks at our television, if he has any doubts i want to disillusion 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? >> mr. president, 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 they 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 inside deal with another president, they will make a serious misjudgment. >> president johnson from 1967. we are hearing honorable progress. our previous caller said the north vietnamese had determination. we are not hearing that 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 to all of professor lawrence's , we know what he set forth as 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 vietnam now, 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 in 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.
that did not happen in 1968. 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 with the north vietnamese in 1967, early 1968 was not in the cards. >> and lbj did not run for president. how much was the war a part of that decision? >> excellent question. it seems to me the conventional wisdom used to be that it was all about the war. i think we have evidence that lbj had concerns about his health he shared with close confidants 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. one question are they aware of 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 known about the soviet aviators posing as vietnamese.
are they aware of any american flyers shot down over vietnam, 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? >> i 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 role played by both china and the soviet union in supporting north vietnam.
we know for example a total of about 300,000 chinese soldiers, including maximum 360,000 at one time are 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. 320,000, but still sizable. they were precisely there to help the vietnamese air force. one of the things you see in the 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. at the same time the soviets would say to the vietnamese as the chinese cultural revolution was raging look at what they are , doing. their cultural revolution is going on and they care more about things in china than your war effort. both sites basically wanted, they were 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. -- communist revolution. >> let's hear from oxnard, california. richard. welcome. >> good morning.
i found this interesting because this whole area, 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 used 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. this was written in a book my 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 -- moving us 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. >> this ties 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 squares very much with what he told william westmoreland, to hold ke san when the north vietnamese had fained this would be the strategic battle that would bring them to victory. negotiations would occur and
there would be talks. the talks would open and the north vietnamese 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. even as the tet offensive was 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, 1968. politically 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 by answering your question back in 1967 with that 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. expressing confidence of 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 communists display this remarkable ability to use force all overedented ways the south. so a lot of americans were in the position of asking, what's going on here? know that behind the scenes,
l.b.j., and his advisors, deep doubts about what was going on, but that was outwhat they were putting publicly. so why did american opinion continue to sour on the war in 8 -- 1968? with thet has to do expectations of what should have 1968.appening in historyatwood lawrence, professor at u.t. texas austin and lien-hang nguyen, professor at columbia university, thank hereor being with us today. thank you for joining us on this discussion. week-long look at the vietnam war. >> all weekend, american history years toooking back 50 the vietnam war. now from saturday afternoon, the therans day ceremony at vietnam veterans memorial in washington, d.c.