When it comes to JFK and his Vietnam policy, it is maddeningly difficult to separate truth from fiction because there are so many lies propagated by the state’s “official historians.” Among these propagandists is David Halberstam, an award-winning author whose book “The Best and The Brightest” spread the most despicable misinformation about Kennedy’s attitude towards Vietnam. Halberstam, in essence, blames the Vietnam escalation on Kennedy and his cabinet. Putting blinders on and ignoring undeniable facts, Halberstam refuses to acknowledge that Kennedy inherited Vietnam its repressive Diem regime from a CIA that meddled in southeat Asia politics long before JFK was elected. In January 1961, at the time of Kennedy’s inauguration, Dwight Eisenhower and defacto POTUS Allen Dulles had already committed 700 advisers to South Vietnam. Subsequently, JFK’s military and intelligence advisers clamored loudly for ground troops and a full-fledged war in SE Asia. Kennedy resisted.
John Newman, in his truthful book “JFK And Vietnam,” came to a clear conclusion:
“Kennedy turned down combat troops, not when the decision was clouded by ambiguities and contradictions … but when the battle was unequivocally desperate, when all concerned agreed that Vietnam’s fate hung in the balance and when his principal advisers told him that vital U.S. interests in the region and the world were at stake.” [Newman, p. 138]
No mention of this appears in Halberstam’s book; instead he concentrated on Kennedy’s issuance of National Security Action Memorandum 111 on Nov. 22, 1961, when Kennedy — even as he turned down the hawks’ request for troops — granted them around 15, 000 more advisers to see if this would fend off the growing insurgency.
Kennedy did something else that Halberstam completely missed or chose to ignore.
Realizing that his advisers opposed him over Vietnam, he decided to go around them on the issue. He sent John K. Galbraith to Vietnam to put together a report that he knew would undercut his military advisers.
We have more than Galbraith’s account to confirm that Kennedy was never going to commit to a war in Vietnam. Roswell Gilpatric, deputy Secretary of Defense, admitted that Kennedy told Gilpatric’s boss, Robert McNamara that he was “going to unwind this whole thing.”
By 1963 Kennedy had drawn up preliminary plans for complete withdrawal of American military personnel by 1965. Halberstam missed this memo completely.