Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Clark Clifford


Q: It seems amazing to someone like myself that anyone could seriously attack the patriotism of General Marshall and Dean Acheson. How was that whole thing responded to? Was there damage caused there to these two individuals?

A: Well, it had a certain danger in it. Here was a United States Senator making the charges. And he made charges against Acheson. He hurt Achesona good deal. Mrs Acheson said sthought McCarthy maybe took 10 years off of Dean Acheson's life, it upset him so. He fought back against it. Dean Acheson didn't have a Communist thought in his body and never had had. And of course, General Marshall didn't. But it was going to the extremes. It was like someone who becomes addicted to a narcotic. They have to have more and more and more. And when he ran out of Democrats to criticise, then he began to criticise Acheson and Marshall. He made one serious tactical mistake. When he was making a speech, McCarthy was, in Indiana, in a speech which had been given out to the press he had a paragraph in there that praised General Marshall. Well, the press all knew that that was in there. The General, who was Senator from Indiana persuaded President Eisenhower to take out that part of the speech and Ike came in for a great deal of criticism on it, but he would buckle and turn under pressure from a fellow like McCarthy.

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ROLL 10018


Q: I'd like to move you right forward now to early 1965.. I'd always thought of you as someone who was a real hawk in Vietnam, and I read your memoirs and we find it's much more complex than that. I wonder if you could begin by telling me something about the letter you sent to President Johnson in May. ...

A: I was a long time friend of President Johnson. Before he became President, why I was something of an adviser to him. He was a Senator. So when he became President he would call me in and when the subject became important on Vietnam he called me in to sit in the meetings. So for months and months prior to that letter, I had sat in meetings on Vietnam. So I came in May, and I really knew quite a lot about it, and I was just as sure as I could be that we had a loser out there. And I thought that we could help the South Vietnamese, we might even send in a few American troops to protect the airport, but the last thing in the world we should do would be to send in ground troops. Our troops had never fought that kind of war before, in the jungles of South East Asia. And later on I went to Vietnam a number of times and that feeling became accentuated all the time. So finally when he sent to four or five of us some report he wanted us to read and for us to give our reaction, I wrote him the letter of March 5th. And I said there is no reasonable chance for us to prevail in this world - in this war. It's going to be a morass and we'll get drawn into it more all the time. I think the decision should be made now to limit our participation merely to helping the South Vietnamese. He received the letter, he thanked me for it, he was in the process of making the decision. The meetings went on in May, sometimes almost daily, and then in July he indicated that he'd reached the point where he was almost ready to make his decision. He called me and said, 'I want you to come up to Camp David on Saturday and Sunday, and I'm asking Bob McNamara, who was Secretary of Defense, to come up.' I had led the forces that were opposed to our ground force solution in Vietnam. McNamara had led those who were for it all the way. So I went to Camp David, and the three of us, together with two or three of his staff me, spent the day. He asked a number of questions, I had a wonderful opportunity to present my position then. McNamara had the same chance. The notes of that meeting are very good. At one point I got off a statement that proved to be dramatically prophetic. I said, 'I can picture us, Mr President, going into a ground war and losing more than 50,000 troops and still not being able to win the war.' Well, we lost 55,000 troops in Vietnam. He made the decision about two weeks after that last meeting in Camp David. I was not surprised. People on a number of occasions said, 'well here you were advising the President. You felt so strongly about it. How did he happen to go against you?' The reason he did was all of his military advisers said he should send in ground troops, and all but about two or three of his civilian advisers said he should send in ground troops. That makes the situation almost hopeless for a President. You have to go against your military leaders, that is the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you have to go against your Secretary of State, your Secretary of Defense, it's very difficult for a President to do. So he made the decision to go ahead and send in ground troops to South Vietnam. The idea was that with our enormous fire power it wouldn't take too long for us to clean up the situation out there. I'd been out there by then, and everything that concerned me before concerned me more as I saw what's there. But he made the decision, it followed the Gulf of Tonkin incident, when a North Vietnamese naval vessel fired at one of our naval vessels. And Lyndon Johnson just felt that we ought to step up and teach the North Vietnamese a lesson. It was very unfortunate. He was a good President in many ways. His domestic programme was magnificent. He'd grown up down in Texas where the Hispanics and the negroes had not chance at all. They could lead their lives, leave no impact, and he swore that he was going to help them, and he did. His programme finally worked its way through Congress under his skilful leading. And it's been