18
18
Kennedy, John F., thirty-fifth President
Estimate
5,0007,000
LOT SOLD. 21,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT
18
Kennedy, John F., thirty-fifth President
Estimate
5,0007,000
LOT SOLD. 21,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The White House Years of Robert S. McNamara

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New York

Kennedy, John F., thirty-fifth President
Typed memorandum signed ("John F. Kennedy, 2 pages (10 1/4 x 7 in.; 260 x 180 mm), on pale green White House stationery, Washington, D.C., 21 September 1963 to Secretary of Defense McNamara, marked "Top Secret," emphasizing the need to assess political stabilitiy of the South Vietnamese government in order to ensure defeat of the Viet Cong, also enclosing a letter [not present] to President Ngo Dinh Diem the tenor of which McNamara is to discuss with Ambassador Lodge before conveying it to Diem, if at all; very minor discoloration along bottom margin, blind impression from paper clip in upper left corners.
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Catalogue Note

"The events in South Vietnam since May have now raised serious questions both about the present prospects for success against the Viet Cong and still more about the future effectiveness of this effort unless there can be important political improvement in the country."  President Ngo Dinh Diem's repression of religious freedom, specifically targeted at the Buddhist majority in South Vietnam, provoked protests that led to violent retaliation by the government.  The worsening political situation led Diem to declare martial law that culminated in the destruction of Buddhist pagodas in August 1963 and self-immolation of Buddhist monks. In turn, the turmoil created a serious political issue for President Kennedy who faced the difficult position in continuing economic and military aid to a government that was so blatantly and ruthlessly violating the human rights of its people. Within days of the raids, South Vietnamese officers approached American officials to inquire what the U.S. response might be to a military coup in Saigon. 

In fact, in August Roger Hilsman, Jr., assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern affairs, had prepared a cable that essentially gave the South Vietnamese generals the green light  to initiate a coup against Diem. President Kennedy agreed to transmit the cable to Ambassador Lodge after his senior advisors approved it but soon after regretted his decision. Kennedy sent  McNamara and General Maxwell D. Taylor on a survey trip to Saigon where they could speak to Diem privately, as well as evaluate prospects for a coup: "I am asking you to go because of my desire to have the best possible on-the-spot appraisal of the military and paramilitary effort to defeat the Viet Cong ... Ambassador Lodge has joined heartily in supporting this mission and I will rely on you both for the closest exchange of views. It is obvious that the overall political situation and the military and paramilitary effort are closely interconnected ... and in executing your responsibility for appraisal of the military and paramilitary problem I expect that you will consult fully with Ambassador Lodge on related political and social questions. ...

"I am providing you separately with a letter from me to President Diem which Ambassador Lodge and you should discuss and which the Ambassador should deliver on the occasion of a call on President Diem if after discussion and reference to me I conclude that such a letter is desirable."  Initially it was thought that threatening to reduce support or actually withdrawing it altogether would persuade Diem to halt his aggressions against his own people. But by early October plans were well underway to depose Diem's government. He was arrested along with his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu on 1 November and both were assassinated the following day. Both McNamara and historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. record that President Kennedy blanched at the news of the overthrow and was shocked at the murder of Diem. The ultimate effect of U.S. involvement in the coup was to commit Washington to Saigon more deeply. And the ineffectiveness of the military juntas became a factor in U.S. escalation of the war, leading to a major ground offensive that began in 1965 under the Johnson administration.

The White House Years of Robert S. McNamara

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New York