What Would JFK Have Done in Vietnam After 1963?

w1056This is rather fascinating. In it, JFK comes across as more of a smart realist than anything else. Getting caught in a situation where all choices are bad, like the Congo, he appears to have his head on pretty straight, I doubt many of us would have done better.

By Sheldon Stern, who is “the author of numerous articles and “’: John F. Kennedy and the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Meetings” (2003), “The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Averting ‘the Final FailureSecret Cuban Missile Crisis” (2005), and “The Cuban Missile Crisis in American Memory: Myths vs. Reality” (2012), all in the Stanford University Press Nuclear Age Series. He was Historian at the Kennedy Library from 1977 to 2000.”

For five decades, historians have debated one of the most intriguing “what ifs” about the presidency of John F. Kennedy: would he, like Lyndon Johnson, have committed hundreds of thousands of American military forces in Vietnam? My view, rooted in the documents and tape recordings at the JFK Library, does not support the conclusions of either Kennedy advocates or critics. The former insist that he had already decided to withdraw American troops, no later than after the 1964 election; the latter point to the fact that he was a committed cold warrior and that the principal architects of escalation—Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Walt Rostow and Dean Rusk—were all Kennedy appointees. However, the primary sources often suggest that JFK had not made up his mind about Vietnam and was pursuing parallel paths which would enable him to make a decision when and if necessary. If he had been asked about Vietnam in Fort Worth on the last morning of his life, he would likely have responded by essentially saying, “I don’t know what the hell we’re going to do in Vietnam.”

My books on the Cuban missile crisis tape recordings plainly document Kennedy’s profound skepticism about military solutions to political problems in the nuclear age. But, it is likely misleading to jump to conclusions about JFK and Vietnam based on decisions made during an unprecedented global crisis shaped by 13 days of around-the-clock dread of an imminent nuclear holocaust. The missile crisis was unique and, as Barton Bernstein argues, too concentrated and intense for reliable generalizations that “would fit more normal times and situations.” The remaining Kennedy recordings, particularly those dealing with ‘more normal’ crises, may actually be more instructive for thinking about JFK’s possible course in Vietnam.

In 1960, the former Belgian Congo gained its independence and was promptly torn apart by civil, political, and tribal violence. By late 1962, a UN peacekeeping force was struggling to save the government of Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula, especially after Katanga province, led by Moise Tshombe, declared its own independence and sought Soviet military and technical aid. President Kennedy convened his advisers to consider American options. …

via History News Network | What Would JFK Have Done in Vietnam After 1963?

See what I mean, pretty interesting, both in whatKennedy thought and how wary of getting our people involved he was. I have little insight here, I was in grade school at the time, and haven’t really studied the period, but unless Stern is spinning the information out of all recognition, and I strongly doubt that he is, JFK comes across as a pretty solid guy, not much given to posturing, grounded in reality type of guy.

We could use another JFK, in either party about now, I think.


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12 Responses to What Would JFK Have Done in Vietnam After 1963?

  1. I was in early High School in 1963, but of course in Ireland. But we were keen on JFK being Irish and Catholic! I can remember my Irish family talking about the election and after. And of course when he got killed – perhaps the worst day in America, in the 20th century in many ways! Btw, I have been to the John F. Kennedy, Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS), at Fort Bragg, NC. (I got to parachute several times at Bragg in fact. With both American Army Green Berets/ Special Forces, and Marine Recon.. Great memories! 1967 as I remember?) Of course Bragg is the Special Forces Command. In Nam we got to do some missions with MACVSOG. One of the American Marine Recon officers I knew went to the Army Recondo School in the Nam, Nha Trang. It doesn’t get any better than that! That breed is also not active anymore, and many have also passed! I do remember this statement there: ‘The U.S. Army Special Forces: Where your mind is your most powerful weapon!’ And Semper Fi to that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Agreed, all the way through, and SOCOM owes its very existence to JFK. You know, I think we all admired him, probably more than he deserved, but he was a good’un.


      • Yes, I remember many Irish people crying when Jack/John Kennedy died! I cannot express how much I valued my time with the whole of the American Military! (Three wars) Btw, many Americans are NOT aware of the essence of the Montagnard and Mnong people! CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Group) in Vietnam during the war. So much anonymity generally. Yes, Kennedy was a “good’un”, and always an American good guy!

        Liked by 1 person

        • And btw, don’t let anybody ever tell you the Cream of the American Military, and some Allied Soldiers/Marines/Airman, and here I think of the Aussies especially were not fully involved in the Nam!

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Lots of draftees, but lots of elites as well. The point about the Aussies is one I make every chance I get.


        • NEO says:

          I don’t know much myself, and what I do I learned from SF guys, almost nothing published that I know of.


        • Here’s a great American SF and writer, Major John L. Plaster (born 1949, same age as me) is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier regarded as one of the leading sniper experts in the world. A decorated Vietnam War veteran who served in the covert Studies and Observations Group (SOG), Plaster co-founded a renowned sniper school that trains military and law enforcement personnel in highly specialized sniper tactics. He is the author of The Ultimate Sniper: An Advanced Training Manual for Military and Police Snipers, The History of Sniping and Sharpshooting, and Secret Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG, a memoir of his 3 years of service with SOG.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I met some American Marines who were drafted, when the Marines did not get their quota, they cherry picked some when the Army let them with the draft.

          And there are some published books about MACVSOG and the Nam, of course the majority of MACV’s were Green Berets, but there were some Air Force Commando’s as they called them, a few Seals, and of course some Marine Force Recon. It was one Hell of a Group! And yes, one at least of the instructors at the Recondo School in Nha Trang was an Aussie! (1966 to 1971, Recondo at Nha Trang).

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Good they did, no point in having even more drop out at Quantico. Heck, I was a football player, and I doubt I could have made through basic.


        • the unit says:

          Fr. Robert don’t forget the bright democrat that said as quoted as follows:
          NEWS – Sun-Sentinel
          Shalala Remark Insults `Best And Brightest’
          May 1, 1995
          Where is the outrage over Donna Shalala’s “we didn’t send our best and brightest to Vietnam” statement? Is the woman so ignorant that she doesn’t know the names Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, Bob Kerrey, John McCain? And you in the media just sit in silence while she insults the men and women who served, fought and died in that war. Don’t tell me there is no media bias. Outrage only applies to Republicans. LARRY DORAZIO Miramar

          Now back then she and her apologists said she didn’t mean it the way it was being taken by conservatives.

          As to what JFK might have done had he lived, I don’t know. The older I get the more I ask myself the what might have been question about certain events in my own life. It could’ve been different, but it, my life, could’ve been lots worse.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Indeed there are tons of myth about Vietnam! I actually asked to stay longer, to extend as they called it, as an RMC. And I loved MACVSOG, and of course Marine Force Recon! But, I was both lucky and crazy in those days, hell I was young and full of it! And I MUST say GOD had mercy on this wee lad, especially in those days! I was 5’11 and 145lbs (American standards) dripping wet! A lean and mean fighting machine as the American Marines called it! But GOD did have mercy, and I survived! What a blessed life! I mean that, and I thank God for every day, but mostly for my redemption in Jesus Christ! HE never gets Old!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Btw, I don’t think much about the what if’s? I have learned that GOD’s providence & sovereign grace are REAL, and I am not just speaking theologically, but from my own life and God’s hand, grace and mercy therein! HE IS REAL, the most real thing and BEING there is!

          Liked by 1 person

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