Gen. William Westmorland Made Plans

The commander of US forces in Vietnam had devised a secret plan to use nuclear warheads against the communist North during the Vietnam War, before President Johnson halted the ongoing preparations, declassified documents reveal.

General William Westmoreland, who commanded American military operations in the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1968 had authorized a nuclear weapons transfer to the Southeast Asian nation, before national security advisor, Walt W. Rostow, notified the White House, prompting President Lyndon Johnson to immediately cancel the secret deployment of weapons, which could have sparked World War III, the New York Times reports, citing declassified documents.

Finding themselves in a stalemate against the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) in the middle of the months-long Battle of Khe Sanh, Gen. Westmoreland devised a contingency scheme to use nuclear weapons should US forces be overrun by their enemy. The secret plan codenamed Fracture Jaw required the US nukes to get transferred from Okinawa, Japan to South Vietnam by the US Pacific command, under the leadership of Admiral Ulysses Simpson Grant Sharp Jr. The secretly planned operation was to be set in motion under a memo sent by Westmoreland to Sharp on February 10, 1968.

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Once President Johnson was alerted about the plan by his national security advisor Rostow through an “eyes only” memorandum to the president, he immediately put a halt to the operation.

“When [President Johnson] learned that the planning had been set in motion, he was extraordinarily upset and forcefully sent word through Rostow and, I think, directly to Westmoreland, to shut it down,” Tom Johnson, a special assistant to the…

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