tv State of the War in 1967 CSPAN December 30, 2017 2:00am-3:35am EST
of other people, danny davis and carter collins and robin washington and rob emanuel, a lot of people in politics, but i haven't heard of barack obama. we met him that spring of 2003. let me say this. the rest is history. >> q&a, sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span. the c-span bus tour continues its 50 capitols tour in january. on each visit we will speak with state officials during our live "washington journal" program. follow the tour and join us at 9:30 a.m. eastern for our stop in raleigh, north carolina, our guest is north carolina general, joshstein. our vietnam war coverage continues. next, a conversation with
historians, mark lawrence and lien hang nguyen on the legacy of the vietnam war. this is an hour and a half. >> professor nguyen, looking back was it possible for the u.s. to win the war in vietnam? >> no. it wasn't a war for the united states to win or lose and by 1967 it definitely wasn't in the cards. >> take us to the end of 1967 and politically that presidential elections are happening in 1968. what's on the horizon? >> lbj was there a fair amount of difficulty. the democrats had lost -- not control over congress, an important point but lbj had lost 47 democratic seats in
the house and two in the senate. this was a significant setback. the war was damaging lbj's political popularity. i think what you see is a kind of breakup of that centrist coalition lbj had depended on and ridden so effectively in 1964 to one of the biggest landslides in american presidential history. you could see it was a thing of the past and that the coalition he had so effectively cobbled together was fracturing into any number of pieces. >> here on american history tv all weekend long 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. also mark lawrence, professor of history. we would also like you to join the conversation with your calls and comments. for those of you in eastern time zones. we look forward to your calls 202-7488900. 202-748-8902. if you're a vietnam vet or protester to that era, we look forward to your calls. we welcome your comments on twitter and facebook. to do that, we're on facebook history.
you are from vietnam. you were born there vietnam. tell us your post war experience. >> i was born november 1974. i was five months old when my family fled saigon. in terms of memories i don't really have any direct memories of the war. my first memory of course where i grew up in springfield, pennsylvania. outside philadelphia. what happened in the end of april, 1975, to my family is a story that is very common for vietnamese refugees that fled during that turbulent period. it began with ben crosby's "white christmas." it was a signal the americans were going to leave. like all vietnamese families we had escape plans.
our first one failed. we were supposed to meet my uncle on top of a roof of a high school. that didn't happen. he wasn't able to land the helicopter. they were shooting. we weren't able to leave in that fashion. a second escape route was revealed to us to go down to the saigon river. 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 at a buddhist bagoda with many other children out in the streets because it was clear chaos what my brothers and sisters were telling me. we managed to secure space on a boat and eventually we were able to get on board the u.s. 7th fleet, and from there, spent many different periods in
various refugee camps in the south pacific and eventually we were settled in carlisle barracks. >> let's set the broad look in 1967 by going back to the origins of the u.s. involvement in that war. tell us how the u.s. first got involved in vietnam. >> well, vietnam was that proverbial place few americans could have recognized on a map. what really puts vietnam front and center is of course the cold war for the american policymakers and the american public as well. it is the coming of the cold war in asia in the late 1940s that really causes concern among americans about the potential expansion of communism into vietnam and the loss of vietnam to communist control. 1949 is the most important date
when the chinese civil war comes to an end. the chinese come to power. chinese communists come to power and declare the chinese republic of china. from that point forward americans were anxious something similar would play out in southeast asia and these others would fall into communist hands. from 1949 it seems to be on ward. you see americans trying to prevent absorption from that part of the world into the communist block. >> how does president johnson what does he encounter when he comes into office, in terms of the vietnam war? what is he facing? >> sa proverbial mess. i think in many ways johnson had inherited a war that had begun by his predecessors. he definitely made choices to deepen american involvement into
vietnam with when he assumed office after kennedy's assassination. it was under kennedy that the number of u.s. advisers so vietnam violated the terms. when kennedy inherited office there were 600 advisers. by the time of his death, it was tens of thousands of advisors, about 23,000. and that's what lbj inherited. >> i look forward to your calls and comments and get to them shortly. 202-748-8900. vietnam vets, 202-748-8902 for -- i wanted to play some audio very early on in the johnson administration in 1964. he is speaking with his national security advisor. i wanted to play this, get your reaction of what he is talk about there. here it is. >> i'll tell you the more i
stayed away -- awake last night, the more i think of it i don't know what -- it looks like we are getting into another korea. it worries the hell out of me. i believe the chinese communists coming into it. i don't think we can fight them 10,000 miles away from home and ever get anywhere in that area. i don't think it's worth fighting for and i don't think we can get out. >> it is an awful mess. >> we have got to think about -- i look at this sergeant of mine this morning and he has six little old kids and bringing me night reading and i'm thinking and what am i ordering them out there for? what is it worth to me? what is laos worth to me? what is it worth to this country? we have a treaty but everybody else has a treaty out there and
they are not doing a thing about it. >> yeah. >> you start running the communists they may just chase you right in your own kitchen. >> that's the trouble. that's what the rest of the -- hat half of the world will think if it comes apart on us. that's the dilemma. >> it sounds like a very personal phone call. talking about the foreign international crisis. >> it is an incredibly striking phone conversation. there was a time it seems to me when most historians thinking about lbj and decisions he made, ascribed a certain amount to his decisions. the tracks had been laid for intervention. the argument happened to the man in the white house when nothing short of the introduction combat force would save the day.
what a conversation like this i think shows was that lbj was deeply aware of the problems that the united states would confront if it went down that path, that he paused and thought hard about what the united states was getting ready to do. in the end he did make the decisions to intervene. this conversation shows more than anything else to my mind that he knew it would not be easy, that it would potentially be difficult. >> and pretty soon events would propel things forward. >> that's what i was thinking about. that was may 1964. the events of early august we see a very different johnson, one who especially the nonincident, the second attack that never occurred. had it made a decision to sort of fabricate events so he could
achieve the gulf of tonken resolution. >> he needed it to legitimize? >> yes. it does not show hesitation. it shows pre-planning and manipulation. we see many different sides of johnson. what we see is very different. we see his conversation with bundy. the decision to attack august 4th is very different. >> we are talking to lien hang nguyen and mark. we'll go to jane in north carolina first. >> good morning. this is jane. i want to ask what had our country spent in removing the land mines, and i know we're involved in trying to get rid of some of the agent orange built
into the soil. how much has my country spent to repair the damage that we did to that country? >> that's a great question. you know, the individual efforts of americans, many of whom served in vietnam and are back in the country working to remove these mines as well as ngos, as well as many americans that were involved during the war there trying to clear the mines, address the victims of agent orange and these are 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. what was interesting, i was just at the national archives exhibit remembering vietnam. it was a video montage of the
amount of bombing that took place over laos and cambodia. the sheer scale of the bombing blows my mind. it is devastating. it hurts to watch the video and to know there are these individual efforts by ngos, by people who, you know, might have been involved in the war effort but are trying to sort of amend, make amends, it is great. it is 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 23407b government organizations. >> and the things about the bombings, the land mine, we know this in hindsight. we know it from reporting. what, mark lawrence, was the mood of the american public in 1967? how much did we know about the war?
>> i think 1967 is a fascinating year when lots more americans were focusing on the war than the earlier case of american escalation. the public approval of the war of lbj's performance was certainly 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 than had been the case previously. there is the dramatic expansion of the anti-war movement. it is no surprise you see the dramatic expansion to the point where the biggest demonstration took place about 50 years ago. >> in the fall? >> exactly. it resulted in the famous march on the pentagon. i think the public opinion was paying more attention. it was fracturing like the larger american political scene.
this is not to deny the fact that some people when they were looking at the war, thought more should be done, not less. we need to take a look -- >> okay. let's hear from john in norristown, pennsylvania. >> caller: greetings. i'm very happy to have the chance to be on the air. i was a medic. i served with the first calvary division fail company 15th medical battalion. but i was a month in country. i was assigned to the medical dispensary and we provided medical services to the people. in the province. my thought and my question is did anybody really know of these programs that we had over there? i was a draftee. i was u.s. all the way. i'm glad i had a chance to do something productive and to help people that were in need of
medical treatment. to this day everything is as clear as a bell to me. if you could address that. and one more thing, since you are both historians, i've taken courses on the vietnam war. as a textbook, we used george morse's environmental and american ordeal. do you know anything about that text in particular? thank you for your kind attention to this. >> thank you. either of you can take that? >> i do know that book. it is not one that personally i have used but i have a lot of respect for it and certainly consulted it. i would hold that out as one of the best texts that's out there by way of a survey on the war. as far as the other question goes, i think it's fair to say that americans were aware of the kinds of programs that the caller asked about. i think that the american view of the war as more americans
became fixated on it across 1968 and '67, it was sort of kaleidoscopic. 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 living through this experience. massive uses of firepower and america at its best all happening simultaneously. let's hear from rocky point, new york. jim, hello there, go ahead. >> caller: hi, thanks for taking my call. good morning, everybody. my question is what would happen if we decided to use a nuclear weapons in the war? would it have ended the war or would we have to use too many of them because they were all over the place or would it have started another world war? would other countries protest and say this is not right and join forces with them? >> lien, when you talk about the
exhibit and the incredible amount of armament that was dropped on vietnam, what was in your research study on north vietnam in particular? >> i can tie those two questions together. basically that last scenario, world war, peoples republic of china and the soviet union would have definitely gotten involved. directly intervened had nuclear weapons been used. that was ruled out by all the super powers, the great powers involved directly in the vietnam war they would not escalate to a nuclear war. in terms of the leadership, there are so many debates going on. they mirrored the debates. it was descending over south vietnam. this was sort of raging in hanoi.
you can compare the months going from something like the spring of 1967, when there were high levels taking place about what to do to break the stalemate all the way to the end of the year, what would take place deeply fractured the vietnamese communist party. >> who were making the decisions in north vietnam? >> one of the most surprising things about what i had discovered through the course of my research was the ex sent to which president ho chi minh and the secretary of the minister of defense were marg ginalized and sidelined during the war, particularly in 1967. this is when that happens. it happens to them on the part of two men who carried out a campaign pretty much to marginalize their power in the
party, including the secretary and his right handman who would rise to fame as being the main negotiate against kissinger, nixon and kissinger. >> in the early 1970s, right? >> yes. >> let's go to calls and hear from ed in danbury, connecticut. >> caller: was the south vietnam government in 1967 anti-buddhist? it certainly was before. and was it to build support from freedom of religion? >> certainly many buddhist activists understood the south vietnamese government to be anti-buddhist. in 1966, you had demonstrations against the saigon government. there is no doubt a spectrum of opinion when it comes to
buddhist leaders of south vietnam. it seems the south vietnamese government had a persistent problem. it is beyond that part of the south vietnamese population that was most strongly behind it. >> what was the u.s. government's relationship with johnson's relationship with the south vietnamese government? >> well, i think it was complicated and a source of frustration alongside so many other sources of frustration for lbj. on the one hand, johnson recognized there had to be a partnership for the war to succeed. the war at the end of the day was in pursuit of a political objective.
naturally the south vietnamese government was a central component of any successful strategy. at the same time, lbj, like presidents before him, was consistently frustrated with foot dragging and 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. orlando, florida. go ahead, you're on american history tv. >> caller: yes. since we have a couple history experts there, i'm just curious, what did we learn from the vietnam war? what has the history showed and what have we learned not to get ourselves embroider and entwined in these future conflicts? >> go ahead. >> i think one of the main takeaways in the american experience with the vietnam war, 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, we can argue, in terms of the different infighting between various political groups in north and south and central vietnam. united states clearly didn't know the situation. and this gets to the other previous question about the south vietnamese government. policy towards the buddhist majority. it's more comp ri kated and many different the buddhist movement itself is very hetero genius. it was a difficult position for both governments. north and south vietnam. during the war. as well as sort of various political actors in both countries. one side was able of the democratic republic of north
vietnam. to be able to squash dissent. the south vietnamese government was less capable of doing that. this second question gets to also the question about the relationships between saigon and the big power patrons. i think what i find striking to the course of my research is you see some of the same lines from chinese sources. soviet sources approximate american sources with how difficult it was for the big power patrons to deal with gene yor clients or allies. and really gets to sort of the difficulty of the sort of the state of international relations and the cold war and decolonization and the conflicts that it sucked in in my many ways the great powers. they wanted to dictate and
direct the course of the war they were unable to. >> what did we learn from it. and 1967 what could -- what were the decisions that lbj could have made that could have changed the course of u.s. involvement in the war. how could it have turned out differently for the u.s.? >> fascinating question. what were his options. i think if we put ourselves into his shoes we can see how difficult it might have been for him. to break out in another direction. never the less there were concrete ideas. that were in the mix in that period. it's sometimes assumed that there were no ideas. sort of a reaching his desk. that's not true. robe robert the secretary of defense was souring on the war. what he had in mind were steps towards negotiation. a softening of the position that
would have led to some sort of negotiated settlement short of maximum american objective. interesting point on that is that in september of 1967, the cia did a study of this question. what were the alternatives and the consequences to the united states of winding down the war. would the catastrophe be what so many americans assumed it was. would be. would the domino effect play out. would a kas tast fe ensue international. the conclusion was probably not. southeast asia and vietnam etc. would ultimately fall to the communist. the upshot was that could be managed. and american interest elsewhere in the world would survive in tact. >> we heard earlier in a phone conversation with lbj. both of them hold overs from the kennedy administration chl tell is about both of those men. >> those were typical kennedy
appointees. brilliant men. highly accomplished. having been president of george motor. and age 34 having been art of dean and arts of sciences at harvard university. i think these biographies are important. because they capture the fact they were can do men. men who didn't back down easily in the face of a challenge. these were men who really had confidence in their about to use american power. and very precise ways to achieve american objective. that's very important going back to the conversation that we heard earlier. you hear lbj voicing the concerns. it seems to me lbj and his advisors believe they could solve the problems. that's the kind of people they were. and the experiences they had. during the second world war is
cold car. to 1967. >> this is the hue brus. the united states it was just no way it could lose the war against this thinker rate, fifth rate whatever johnson had described. vietnam at the time. that this would lead to america's downfall. it was u.s. hubrus. >> good morning. go ahead with your comment. >> caller: to a degree, background. i was drafted in 1967. september. lost a brother there in january of 69. i didn't go because i got orders in 68 and he already had orders two brothers can't be in the country at the same time. my question goes to some of the points you raised the missed opportunities.
why were not the voices for coalition government listened to. why were not the scholars the people who knew the minds in the aspirations of the vietnamese. why are they not listened to? i cried many tears over this war. and recently viewing the ken burns episode those type of questions were brought forth. and the missed opportunities were shown. and detail as you have shown some of them this morning. i just wonder if you agree that the world war ii and cold war mentality of the leaders were was drug us down this path. thaur thank you much. >> it's a good question. it's difficult. why weren't the other roads taken. professor lawrence just nailed it. there were other options. and they weren't taken.
and they include all of these peace attempts. u had operation marigold. operation pennsylvania. in 66 and 67. but peace talks were not what leaders and in washington wanted to pursue. and at the same time what i see from records from the other side the north side. they didn't want fo pursue negotiations. in 1966 and 67. and so you had sort of more militant leaders wanting to pursue a military solution. first and foremost. before they engage in any substive talks. despite influential policy makers. scholars other voices saying that the united states and the dov the combativeness needed to engage in talks. >> may i!
very quickly. it seems to me if we are looking for roads not taken. opportunities missed. we would do best to go further back in time into the 1950s. maybe the very early 1960 ds. once significant numbers of americans are on the ground and people are dying. politically maybe eisenhower certainly kennedy and johnson are engaged. it becomes difficult for reasons of politics and prestige and reputation to pull back. but it maybe that there were significant missed opportunities can earlier point many 1954 or 1956. or various other points in the earlier history of the war. >> the year 1967 and the vietnam war all weekend long. focusing on the vietnam war. we are joined by mark lawrence professor of history at university of texas. at austin. and history professor at columbia university.
glad to be joined by you two and your phone calls and comments. for those of you in the eastern and central time zones. mountain and pacific and for all of our vietnam vets and era vets and antiwar protestors. that number 2027488902. we'll get to the twitter comments and others. let's go to new york. and hear from david. i'm sorry. we'll go to david in -- i can get. in new york city. go ahead. >> caller: hello. this is electra. i was an antiwar protestors. my name is a pseudonym. my father also was protesting the war separately. i attended the famous pentagon
demonstration. with my tenth street block group in manhattan. new york. and we were tear gassed as the then the soldiers came out of the pentagon with drawn. we were peaceful protestors. why do we still celebrate war? when are we going to have peace? the peace we're fighting war to bet peace. that never happens. we honors veterans who went to fight. what we did is support the protestors. the draft. the people bho refused to honor the draft. >> thanks for the call. >> that's a very big question. that goes beyond what a a historian of the war can probably grapple with fairly.
i will say this about the history of the vietnam war in the longer flow of american history, it seems to me that one of the lessons that american society very broadly took away from vietnam is we should be able to distinguish between this servicemen and women. who were called onto perform a particular function. and on the other hand the policy and policy makers who sent them there. and in more recent times in the united states i think our society has learned to celebrate the sk sacrifice and service of the people without necessarily implicating them in the decisions that sent them to a place like vietnam or iraq or other places. it seems to me that's a healthy development. i do understand the spirit of the question. >> had the u.s. ever seen protest antiwar protest 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. but in connection with 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. there's a tendency to think of the vietnam as exceptional because of the degree and intensity of opposition. that maybe. it maybe in the number one position in terms of those kinds of experiences. if you look at the mexican war or the first world war. you can see i think quite striking levels. >> draft heights and civil war. so the spanish american war. there has been. i do think the antiwar movement
in the united states -- the history of it is very interesting. and i this that in the end the debate about did it matter, did it have an actual impact on the policies that were passed and made in washington dc. it depends on the scholar you ask. and many even who were participating in the airnt war movement who say no. we had no impact. they didn't listen to us. and the antiwar movement was the reason that the united states eventually did pull out. and i would tend to actually agree with the ladder. it did heavily constrain policy makers in washington dc. and in a good way. the war could have been much more destructive. it could have lasted longer. thanks to the op session on the streets and campuses and congress, it did limit the ability policy makers in washington under lbj and nixon.
but at the end of the day they did pursue the policies they wanted to do in secret. >> you talk about the political conflict in vietnam in 1967. was there an antiwar movement in vietnam as well? >> there were. it's not quite accurate to call them antiwar movements. there were different options that some segments of the population in the north in particular within the party want wanted to pursue. they never wanted to go to war. there were provoef jet party officials who wanted to reunify through political means. and they believed that waging war in the south, supporting the southern insurge si would be a quagmire of epic proportions that would drain away resoirss from building the north. they were on the losing side.
in 1967 this came to a fore when they were arrested. and arrested in about like a few waves of arrests that began in july of 1967. all the way into the ted offensive. it was tied to the strategy deliberation. that was one element. another element was sidelining general on the -- and to quiet this dissent. people calling for negotiations to end american intervention. but the leaders in did not want to pursue that option. >> you're welcome to invited to tweet us as c-span history. asking about an issue that resounds today. his question is about the how many people were fathered by gis in vietnam. how were they treated 45 years
after the u.s. departure. what do with e know of that population in vietnam now? >> it's the tragic story. after 1975, the wounds of war did not heal. vietnam went through another war after that. unified vietnam under communist rule. that was the third war. in terms of the they were called the children in vietnamese. they were reminders of the devastating conflict. they were lower than the what you walk upon the soil that you walk upon. and so their plight is tragic. and they were allowed to immigrate to the united states. but this also caused brought havoc on many families in vietnam. it was also a chance for some vietnamese to leave. during the economic in 1980s.
and so if you could try to these children this dust children became valuable. if you could link yourself to them you could come to the united states. it was very difficult for the children. >> more of the calls and comments for guests. looking at the vietnam war in 1967. particularly we want to hear from vets. and protestors. as we have heard from the era. we want to show you a short portion of a 1967 report. on the state of the war. and some of the experiences of marines. at that time. here's a look. we have about 25, 35 incoming heavy artillery rounds. and that area seems to be covered. i'll go ahead and get the people out. >> okay, roger. go ahead and fire. make sure your troops are out of the way. and let the tigers do their business.
>> a focal point for more than a year of heavy fighting. a lightning rod for north vietnamese across the border. and the closest it has become to being conventional. the marine are holding a half dozen out posts south. from caisson near the border. to camp carol to the east. along route 9. to the south. and to the north of what's called leather neck square. they provide the marines with observation posts. over locking the narrow mountain valleys and open coastal plains to move troops out. there are stanl staging bases for control and operation. connected by a 6 mile strip of bull loezed land. cleared to give the marines a better view. and become part of a longer more elaborate border from the south
china sea to the border. work stopped on the strip. vegetation is growing back. and it doesn't appear possible to resume the job without many more marines to protect the engineers. >> above the river the north vietnamese introduce the heavy artillery this summer. with 150 shells. as often as a thousand a day. a marine who was there in september had a 50, 50 chance of being hit. 600 casualties among the 1,200 men who were on it. the marines took a terrible pounding. but held the ground gallantly. >> how do you feel about this war? >> it's what we train for. and we will prevail. we will win. >> do you ever imagine war is like this war is this. >> it's a negative. i did not. it was a big joke until i came
over here. very serious business. >> a lot of lives over here. if it was a joke pfr i came over. i realize it's not joke. >> you can't reach the big guns and they keep dropping in. there's nothing you can do. it's a big bulls eye on top of the hill. you sit there. waiting. you can't be safe. you can be lucky. >> professor the report from 1967. hearing from a couple marines on the ground. how did the experience of american trops at that time influence policy or was it beginning to influence policy back home? >> well, the the line that stand out to me more than any other is close to the beginning. where he says this is as close to conventional fighting as we have seen. this is important increase to 1967. the war was taking place on a larger scale chl some of the conventional wisdom we hold in our heads about the war is a
guerrilla war. this is starting to change. it was being conducted on a larger scale. there were more americans in the country. between 4 and 500,000. depending on the month. you see big operations near the dmz and the famous operation cedar falls of unprecedented large search and destroy mission. near saigon. to connect this back to your question about how policy makers were looking at this from washington. they saw that more and more resources were being pumped into vietnam. it was really being taken to the enemy at least in the american perception in an unprecedented entrens way. yet stalemate was the best that could be achieved. >> the reporter said they were at the demilitaryized zone. >> connect to what professor lawrence was talking about. in terms of the more
conventional battle taking place in 1967. that was part of north vietnamese strategy at time. they were ready to move to big unit battle after having to assume the defensive posture. following american military intervention in 1965. and throughout 1966. this caused so many debates. because on one side some of the leaders didn't want to revert to a defensive posture. that in doing so moral of the trops would be low. that they had to wage big unit war because that was the only way to win. to maintain the strategic initiative. these were the big battles. but, this was also they were hoping that u.s. policy makers would look not at but further south. and then to to the west. and that was caisson. what they were hoping for was
that lbj would think that it would become from 1967 and that the north vietnamese would pull their resources to take caisson. and engage in negotiations. so that you would have the scenario of what happened. and in fact they circulated what was called the this was called the the diversion plan. it was a deception plan. it was called in the vietnamese 694/tg 1. this plan was distributed throughout the south. and it was so that the americans would find it. it talked about how many resources they were going to pore into taking caisson. and three waes from 1967 through 1969. and that talks would be planned
around it. so that when north vietnamese troops would seize the talks would open. this is what happened. in 1954. opening to talk about vietnam a day after the siege began. >> the marines are getting hammered in the clip. by big guns. where the north getting the guns? >> well, so what the -- this is also for the north vietnamese a very important site. because their rockets could reach this base. this marine military base. on the other side. >> chinese or russian rockets? who is supplying them. >> soviet rockets. so the if the north vietnamese could seize this area they could infiltrate the region. this is eye core. to the north and. this was pivotal for the north vietnamese. >> let's hear from new york
city. david, welcome to american history tv. >> caller: thank you. i want to ask about hr mcmaster the current national security advisor when he was a major 21 years ago. wrote a book called dereliction of duty. very powerful. and when i read it, i learned he was going to be in the white house i was impressed. i thought this a is guy who is serious sol lar and will be a stabilizing influence. i was wondering what the two historians think about that. and particularly in terms of right now we're looking at a situation in korea that looks like militarily spinning out of control. and the military folks seem to be in a similar situation. to where the joint chiefs were dirg r during the period he was covering durlg 63 and 67. they're not being listened to.
there's a group filtering opinions and the agenda. i would love to hear your guests thoughts on this. i'm in my 70s. i was 20. in 64 when i enlisted. i went onto be sort of an anticommunist antiwar person. in other words i saw the soef jet threat and i knew we couldn't win the war. >> all right. david. >> i agree that the dereliction of duty is a great book. a classic now. in the study of the vietnam war. in the book he argues quite persuasively that the joint chief of staff were guilty of a dereliction of duty for exaggerating the potential for military solution to a problem that was much graver and serious and complicated than they were tended to suggest. therefore they failed civilian policy makers and bore a heavy responsibility for many of the
mistakes that were made. and i certainly agree with what i take to be the sentiment of the call. that having mcmaster in this position would presumably is reassuring to those who want to see a restraint and conduct in the present day. whether he's actually having that effect and to what extent his ideas that may spring from the understanding of the war effect current policy, i don't think i'm enough expert to have a strong opinion about that. i share the hope that's the case. >> you mention william west mor land. the among the lead commanders. prominent and the public face of the war. tell us a bit about him. what was his story? >> more land sort of cut their teeth. gained prominence gained rank. in the second world war and
korea. and a complaint that is often lodged by scholars against others like him. they thought of vietnam too much in terms of their experiences in second world war. they thought of it as a war of maneuver. a war that would be settled on big unit engagement. the critique that is often made goes one step further. and says what they missed was that the vietnam war was fundamentally a guerrilla conflict. these guys blinded by their experiences weren't able to see that until too late in the war. too little too late. in recent times the best scholarship on more land has chipped away at the characterture. and engourgeed us to see him and others in his the u.s. command in more nuanced ways. for my money i still am drawn to that critique of wes as a
fundamental problem as wa way americans went about the war. >> the most prominent the veet cong. who were they? how were they different from the north army. >> what americans called the veet cong was a derogatory term given to the movement. the peoples liberation. or the political front which was the national liberation front. they are relationship be party center in north vietnam it was a complicated one and we're only beginning to understand the division there. according to to my research what i found was that when decided to support and go to war in the south in 1959 to when he embarked on bigger war. or total war in 1963. it was we also saw we witnessed
basically the sidelining of the vietnamese communist southern communist movement and leadership in their war effort. and so that by 1967 and 1969. especially surrounding the ted offensive one of the arguments made about that given how it failed to achieve the subjective and how it wiped out 80% of the nhlf infrastructure. is it something northern leads wanted to do to ensure they would control the war effort. i don't see that. there's a ton of reasons why the offensive didn't unfold in the way that party leaders had planned. but the ones who did have to take bare most of the brunt was the nlf. and the veet kong for sure. >> caller: i'm a disabled vetder ran. and some of your historian
guests talk about similarities between other wars. and the similarity to me between vietnam we were fighting communism. and the war in the middle east where we're fighting terrorism. but the most striking similarity is that both wars vietnam and the war in the middle east were both proceeded by false flag events. the gulf in veal nam. and 911 in the middle east. thank you. >> thank you, cliff. we appreciate that. we talked about the gull m. tell us what that incident was about? >> well, the gulf incidents 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 it came under attack by north vietnamese patrol boats. this was seen by lbj and advisors as a provocative act. we now know that the american ships that were operating off the coast were conducting surveillance operations in support of command raids against the coast. but in any case this was seen as provocative. the destroyer gets more complicated. there appeared to be a second attack. we are confident very certain in fact that didn't occur. there was a sonar operator on the destroyer that thought it was coming urpd attack. but the administration used this as confirmation that the first attack was no accident. that americans were now coming under attack. this was used as a method for getting approval by congress for
essentially a blank check. lbj had the legal cover the political cover to do what he saw fit. >> the caller terms it a false flag. as history and research born that out. >> yes. yes. that was precisely the case. johnson received word it was sort of sonar. and he said it could be firing at whales out there. for all we know. but he purposely misconstrued the situation for his own ends. i want to address the first attack. april 2. it was just as controversial. after it took place, there was an investigation headed about who precisely allowed who gave the order. to the captain the man at the spot to fire on the u.s. vessel. even though everyone who was a part of the committee knew the
equivalent of the general. who was head of general zap were not there in august 2. the one man who gave was general secretary. when they brought the captain who ordered the attack on april 2nd. who gave you the green light the go ahead? and he was just said someone very high up in the pilot bureau. and he was standing there he didn't was not at all feeling under attack. and the reason they had to launch the investigation was the soviets and the chinese demanded answers. they also didn't think this was a very wise move. he thought it was a wise move and at this point a younger general lieutenant general said no matter what we do, the imperial will strike. so we must strike first. it was basically reaffirming his boss decisions.
>> this is another way in which this is interesting. that happened in august 1964. during lbj presidential campaign. and it's not the only reason for the caution. it's a major reason. he basically didn't want to stir the vietnam pot during the election campaign. in fact to the extent he wanted to address vietnam at all he wanted to present hips as the moderate the cautious. the reasonable leader. who could be counted onto act in reasonable ways. in contrast to the hawk. barry gold water. in some ways the gulf was made to order. he could act decisively. and there were bombing attacks against the coast. then the issue settled back down. and vietnam didn't really dog his political issue throughout the campaign. the big decisions to wage war in a bigger war would come after his election. december 1964. january, february 1965. are the really crucial months if
you you want to focus on the decisions that led to the initiation of a sustained bombing campaign. and the introduction of american ground troops. >> they're joining us for the next half hour. about a half hour left of calls and comments. looking at 1967 in particular. and more broadly the vietnam war. let's go to harry. in chesterfield, virginia. >> caller: good morning. background i spent 20 years as an infantry officer. in the united states army. deployed my first tour to
vietnam in november. 50 years ago. next week. and i was wondering if your guests had any indication. you know president eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex. is there any evidence where the johnson administration may have been influenced by them? >> before we let you go, are you talking about 50 years ago this week. next week. you first went into vietnam. what were your expectations and what did you find when you hit the ground? how was it different from expectations? >> caller: the expectations were high from going o over to help the south vietnamese. to help them fight the communist threat. they were facing. that was kind of beat into our head all the time. in our training.
i trained for two years from december 65. until november of 1967. two years of training. and it was talked about all the time. and of course 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 the north. so that's how i felt. when i went there. i was glad to go and help them. things changed in the second tour. things were different. second tour was 68 to 69. that's when you began to really realize that in order for us to help them, they have to help themselves more. and there seemed to be problems with that. with the south vietnamese
government being totally involved in that effort. so you kind of had the feeling later on that we really instead of helping them were really being hindered by the political decisions were being made both in south vietnam and washington dc. >> lots there for the historianing to absorb. thanks for sharing your story. remind us of your original question. the eisenhower -- >> caller: the warning about the military industrial complex. >> thanks for that. thanks for sharing your story. >> fascinating. thank you so much for sharing that. that's really interesting question about the influence of the military industrial complex. and i answer i think is yes and no. no because it's always difficult
to tease out the influence of something like the military industrial complex. by the nature it's everywhere and nowhere. it's very difficult to find direct causation between the influence of arms manufacturers. or this or that branch of the military on big decisions of national security. so in that sense i'm cautious about that. yet it seems to me sort of a no brainer that because it's everywhere it must have had impact. here's one point i would be confident in offering. that may give a specificity. it seems that eisenhower in very arguably kennedy were aware of the dangers. and within limits and tried to resist the pressures that they felt might well push american national security in the wrong drerks. lead it to make too hawkish too aggressive decisions
internationally. i think one of the important distinctions between eisenhower and kennedy. and lbj. he didn't have the same extinct. he wasn't as cautious as the other two about pressure coming on him from the military. from hawks and congress. he tended to go along with them. maybe in order to serve political objectives. he was less sophisticated and savvy than his sprepredecessors >> if you think about the military presence. and what logistical brilliant success of that. it does blow your mind in terms of there were this was the first sort of -- this was a war in which you had stadiums size factories producing presh bread for american soldiers.
that excess was shown to the south vietnamese population. which didn't have access to these luxuries to this technology. to the american abundance that was brought to the pacific. to match the american abundance in country. the soldiers we needed to show americans had to see that the boys were being treated really well. they could have ice cream in 100 degree weather. i think this is amazing. this gets to the callers comments about the sort of the south veet neez army. one of the under studied aspects of vietnam war is precisely the armed forces. if we get passed the political leadership of the military leadership that did divide the leaders and really they lost the war. and it was not the fault of the rank and file. the average soldier.
that many fought and many fought. their voices aren't heard and aren't seen. and aren't written about in the scholarship. because they were on the losing side. but i think this was a very very tough war that had sort of this before the americans even arrived the vietnamese were at war. >> caller: my name is tom. i'm calling because my concern is both professors are talking more on a liberal. i served for 62 to 65. never served in the nit mar. in the philippines. i don't hear anything about the foot soldier the marines. who fought because they were told to go. they were trafted or enlisted like i did. and i'm thinking i'm going monday to listen to captain who had three silver stars and he has the same concern.
forgotten about the soldiers and the sailors and the military boat. i don't hear talk about that. above and beyond johnson. eisenhower and kennedy. what about the people who volunteered who couldn't come home and were told to take their uniforms off. because they couldn't walk down the street without being spit upon. but they need to talk about the foot soldier the people who had to fight. i don't hear that. i hear about the conversation with two professors who are history. but i have a hard time listening to this. i get very excited. thaurng thank you for the opportunity to share my point. >> the impact of the war on the soldiers coming home. and the protest. >> well, i think the caller raises a very important point. i'm not sure that an interest in high level policy making and decision making on the vietnamese or american side
necessarily implies a particular political orientation towards the war. there are conservative and liberal historians. who are interested in the questions. just as there are people interested in the experiences of ordinary people who fought the war. that is clearly a very 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 that the experiences of ordinary soldiers who fought the war and did so much of the heavy lifting have been in continue to be captured in various projects across the country to collect oral history and testimony. to collect experiences. this program is a small indication of exactly that broad based effort. i applaud that. hugely i would only add one thing that i mentioned a little
bit earlier. american society has done a good job and should be commended for its ability since vietnam to separate the politics and the policy making surrounding the war from the honorable experiences of so many people called on to do their duty and stack fis. >> how is the war vied now in vietnam? in terms of those who fought in it. the victims of it. what's it like in 2017, 50 years later? >> it's a very young population. so you have more than half born after 1975. so one of the things that i constantly hear about is that the vietnamese have forgiven the united states. and the americans. and they moved on from the war. i think that to a certain extent is true. especially if you look at the demographic. but at the same time it has had major repercussions on the
evolution of vietnam after 1975 to present day. that's a lot to ask of any population to move on from that war. at the same time the vietnam has sort of different between u.s. policy and the war. and the individual average american who served. i think that it's one of the really amazing it's great to witness. when an american when a veteran returns to vietnam and visits the sites of battle and how he or she is able to connect with possibly some of the enemies at the time. and there's just an out pouring of love. in that way you see the reconciliation. that's amazing. at the same time so much happened to vietnam after 1975 that has its roots in that war. in ways that vietnam was margin alized in the international community.
how is entered into the very dark economic times. that it's something that vietnam still wonders today. but is finally moving out of that. which is why are we not at the level or the stage that south korea or thailand is. and you'll always hear it's because we were we fought against the united states during the war. >> we want to remind the previous caller. this is 48 hours of coverage this weekend. of the vietnam war. and a lot of that includes the experiences of veterans of the war. and this program itself focusing on in particular 1967. we want to remind you we set aside a line for veterans of vietnam. we'll try to get to a few more. let's hear from john. in tucson. >> caller: how are you? >> fine thanks. >> caller: i enlisted in 1965.
there after i went to the school in georgia. then subsequently ended up in transfer assigned to vietnam. when i got to vietnam i was assigned to the first air cavalry division. one of the finer units. not being prejudice that i am. i was we started in -- and later i was with the group we got transferred up to qualm tree in caisson. that was the whole i was even there for the ted offensive. i'm calling because i recently watched the ken burns special. and i was taken what a good coverage that special was. there were two events that really caught my attention. one of them was the clip that
you showed there earlier. the about lbj and 1964. the recording where he commented that he just honored by the whole situation and concerned it was going to be another korea. and 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 in the ken burns special that i was very struck by that i don't think anybody even knew or realized during the whole event, the determination of the north vietnamese people and the army. if i remember correctly ken burns suggested that as many as 2 million people from north
vietnamese were casualties. and they kept coming and coming down that trail. and they were determined. and i don't think if we had realized the level of their determination, we could never win that war. >> thank you. for your call. and for your service. >> there's a lot in that callers comments. as far as the i'll address the point that was made about the conversation between lbg and bun di. that we heard earlier. and the comment that if only these opportunities had been seized if only he had the guts to seize this opportunity. that was there. this is a fascinating question. a reasonable people can disagree. did lbj have actual alternatives in 1964 and 65?
yes. we can imagine what he might have, what he should have done. he should have neutralized. come up with some sort of scheme to reach a fig leaf political settlement that would have kept vietnam out of the orbit for sometime. this was an idea people were advocating. maybe. we now know that lbj was expoeszed to the ideas and he understood them. he knew who was in favor. in order to put ourselves in his shoes we have to recognize the extraordinary weight of the pressures he was under. what was pushing him forth. the domino idea. the theory of containment. the political pressure. and all of these were 20 years in the making and all pushed in the same direction. towards escalation.
towards doing more in vietnam. and the pattern that american presidents had followed starting arguably with fdr. at least truman. to do enough to prevent vietnam from falling into the communist camp. lbj happened to be the poor guy in the wit house when nothing short of the troops would be necessary to have that effect. we can see how the pressures, that pattern the precedence. not blinded him. discouraged him from pursuing the options. >> perhaps visualized here in the next short piece of video. we showed the conversation between. here's lbj at a news conference in 1967. speaking about the war. with white house reporters. >> we have a lot to do yet. a great many mistakes have been made. we take two steps forward and slip back one.
it's not all perfect by any means. there are days we get a c minus instead of a plus. over all we're making progress. we're satisfied with that progress. allies are pleased with that progress. and every country that i know in that area that is familiar with what's happening thinks it's absolutely essential that uncle sam keep their word and stay there. until we can find peace. if they have any doubt about that, if he has any doubt about it. i want to disillusion him this morning. because we keep our commitment. our people are going to support the men that are there. and the men there are going to bring us an honorable peace. >> i know i made the to indicate you will be replaced next year.
how should this effect the campaign in this country? >> i don't know how to affect the campaign in the country. i think whatever interpretation that would lead them to believe that uncle sam whoever maybe president is going to pull out, and it will be easier for them to make an inside deal with another president. they'll make a serious misjudgment. >> we're hearing honorable peace. progress. previous caller meanwhile said the north had determination. we're not hearing that. in 1967. >> that's a great clip to show. right after the callers very interesting comment. i think that lbj seeing him there in the press conference just visiting the national archives where remembering the vietnam the exhibit. i saw his letter to in response to a mother who had just lost
her son in the spring summer of 1967. and johnsons response to her which is why that united states has this stay committed nd vietnam. and he's sorry for her loss. and he has scribbled all over this letter. he took so much time and effort into crafting this response. to this mother. it's amazing. putting that in contrast to the conversation he had in 1964. and this press conference. what that shows is that one of the in addition to all of the professor lawrences what he set forth as sort of principles that guided american foreign policy makers. credibility was high. he didn't want to be the one to lose o this war. he didn't want to go down in history as losing vietnam. the way truman lost china. this weighed heavily on his
mind. and in terms of if we look the at north vietnam now. taking another part of what the caller had mentioned. if you look at infiltration routes and numbers. in is the 67. they are amazing in terms of anywhere from the figures 200,000 north vietnamese soldiers infiltrated the south during the year. this was a huge push on the part of the government. and party. to win the war out right in 1968. and that way they didn't want to give negotiations a chance. because they believed that if they could topple the government in south vietnam. to defeat the saigon army and defeat the government. that this would be the way to win. and this would be the sort of they wouldn't have to engage in talks with americans. because they could say we trounsed your ally. now leave. that didn't happen. so this is something we also
have to take into account when we think about if the americans the only option to them in certain ways was to cut their losdss and run. losses and run. to think they could come to a political settlement in 1967 was not nd card. >> lbj didn't run for president. how much was the war a part of that decision? >> that's an excellent question. it seems to me the convention, it was all about the war. we have a fair amount of evidence that he had serious concerns about his health. that he was seriously thinking about not running. for many of the people who knew lbj best, it was about the war but it was about other things. so we need to have a complicated view of that decision. than needs to be the case. >> let's hear from brooklyn. you're on the air.
>> caller: thank you. i have two questions. one question is is there any dog fights between the soviet aviators. posing actually as vietnamese. and the american avenue ya tors. russia unofficial admission there were russian aviators in korea. we made a document about it. which i watched with the soviet air force. who are still alye. being interviewed in. nothing like that was done in contempt by russia. it is known that the russian crews managed some antiaircraft missiles in vietnam. but nothing is known about the soviet aviator posing as vietnamese. the second question is is there aware any americans fliers shot
down over vietnam. to the soviet union. and aware of what happened to the individuals. >> anybody have any idea about that. russians role if any if vietnam the role in as pilots carrying otdog fights over vietnam. i believe there's speculation along those lines but not aware of any hard evidence. but what it says about manning antiaircraft batteries, that i think is well established and this is to the larger point that professor nguyen touched on earlier about it important role in different degrees at dirant points in supporting north vietnam and the economy. i believe a total of about
300,000 soelg chinese soldiers were present in north vietnam. not fighting but doing behind it scenes duties that freed up personnel -- >> much like. >> basically yes. they were combat injunearing troops. the numbers of soviet advisors much less than 320,000. but still sizeable and they were precisely there to help these vietnamese air force. one of the things you see in this historical record is how much moscow and beijing were squabbling and fighting about the chinese would always say do not trust the soviets, do not net these advisors into your
country because eventually moscow will betray you like they did the u.s. and they would say to the vietnamese as the cultural evolution was waging, look at what they're doing to the war effort. we can't get aid to you because the chinese had cultural revolutions going on and they care more about things going on in china than the war effort. so both sides basically wanted -- they were fighting it vietnam war in order to show that they were the leader of the international movement. the show that either was military back in the united states or soviet conventional weaponry. so they both have a high stake in the vietnam war but hypervietnamese cultural revolution. >> and this is richard. welcome. >> caller: hi. good morning. i found this kind of really
interesting because this whole area are areas i served and i was in vietnam in 1968 to early 1970. one thing that really bothers me is i was in the reconunit in the marine corps and we dade lot of missions in the dmz mainly concentrating on the routes. and we used to put incensers and things like this so we could track movement and that. but it seemed like a lot of things that we found in these areas that the information we get, brought back in our debriefings, they were ignored. this was written in a book that my company commander, colonel alex lee put out and he and i
often wondered about that. why that information was never looked at or considered. >> thanks, richard, for also moving us a bit into 1968 and professor, nguyen, you're working on a history of the tet offensive in 1968. >> so one of the interesting things is this ties back to one of the earlier questions about lbj. we saw what he was doing in november 1967 and honorable end to the vietnam war. that this was very much what he told morgan west moreland when the north vietnamese had had sort of -- this was a strategic battle that would bring them into victory, and negotiations
would occur and there would be talks. wherever it negotiations were to take place sw so he told all of his his military commanders he could not lose. so even as the offensive was unfolding in the cities and towns across south vietnam, those were the main targets of what became known as 1968 tet offensive. >> bring us state side 1968. politically we talked about lbj and not running for are president. >> actually if you don't mind i might start my answer back in 1967 with that clip. so in late 1967 the johnson administration deliberately sets out to change perceptions of the war. there's a big public relations campaign to reverse some of the
declining support. so lbj brings him back from vietnam. he make as series of very high profile speeches. lbj give as number of public appearan appearances, including the press conference and they're all on the same page, trying to bolster american dedication to the war. along at the end of january 1968 comes this massive communist attack, especially focussed on the cities of south vietnam. for lots of americans sitting back on the home front this was a very jarring thing. they had just been told that in west moreland's words, the end was starting to come into view in vietnam and suddenly the communists display this remarkable ability to use force in unprecedented ways all over the south. so a lot of americans were in the position of asking what's going on here. we know behind the scenes they
actually had deep doubts about what was going on but that's not what they were putting out publicly. so why does american continue continue to sour so drupatically on the war in 1968? some of this has to do with defied expectations of what should have been happening in 1968 if they were correct. >> mark lawrence, history professor and hang nguyen, professor of history at columbia university, thank you so much for being with us here today. and thank you for joining us for this discussion thon vietnam war in 1967. part of our weekend long look at the vietnam war.
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