We Will Stand in Viet-Nam
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Department of State
This pamphlet is the text of a statement on Viet-Nam made by President Johnson at his press conference of July 28, 1965, at the White House.
We Will Stand in Viet-Nam
My fellow Americans: Not long ago I received a letter from a woman in the Midwest. She wrote,
Dear Mr. President: In my humble way I am writing to you about the crisis in Viet-Nam. I have a son who is now in Viet-Nam. My husband served in World War II. Our country was at war, but now, this time, it is just something that I don't understand. Why?
Well, I have tried to answer that question dozens of times and more in practically every State in this Union. I have discussed it fully in Baltimore in April, in Washington in May, in San Francisco in June. Let me again, now, discuss it here in the East Room of the White House.
Why must young Americans, born into a land exultant with hope and with golden promise, toil and suffer and sometimes die in such a remote and distant place?
THE LESSON OF HISTORY
The answer, like the war itself, is not an easy one, but it echoes clearly from the painful lessons of half a century. Three times in my lifetime, in two world wars and in Korea, Americans have gone to far lands to fight for freedom. We have learned at a terrible and brutal cost that retreat does not bring safety and weakness does not bring peace.
It is this lesson that has brought us to Viet-Nam. This is a different kind of war. There are no marching armies or solemn declarations. Some citizens of South Viet-Nam, at times with understandable grievances, have joined in the attack on their own government.
But we must not let this mask the central fact that this is really war. It is guided by North Viet-Nam, and it is spurred by Communist China. Its goal is to conquer the South, to defeat American power, and to extend the Asiatic dominion of communism.
There are great stakes in the balance.
Most of the non-Communist nations of Asia cannot, by themselves and alone, resist growing might and the grasping ambition of Asian communism.
Our power, therefore, is a very vital shield. If we are driven from the field in Viet-Nam, then no nation can ever again have the same confidence in American protection.
In each land the forces of independence would be considerably weakened and an Asia so threatened by Communist domination would certainly imperil the security of the United States itself.
We did not choose to be the guardians at the gate, but there is no one else.
Nor would surrender in Viet-Nam bring peace, because we learned from Hitler at Munich that success only feeds the appetite of aggression. The battle would be renewed in one country and then another country, bringing with it perhaps even larger and crueler conflict, as we have learned from the lessons of history.
Moreover, we are in Viet-Nam to fulfill one of the most solemn pledges of the American nation. Three Presidents - President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, and your present President - over 11 years have committed themselves and have promised to help defend this small and valiant nation.
Strengthened by that promise, the people of South Viet-Nam have fought for many long years. Thousands of them have died. Thousands more have been crippled and scarred by war. We just cannot now dishonor our word, or abandon our commitment, or leave those who believed us and who trusted us to the terror and repression and murder that would follow.
This, then, my fellow Americans, is why we are in Viet-Nam.
INCREASE IN US FORCES
What are our goals in that war-stained land?
First: We intend to convince the Communists that we cannot be defeated by force of arms or by superior power. They are not easily convinced. In recent months they have greatly increased their fighting forces and their attacks and the number of incidents. I have asked the Commanding General, General [William C.] Westmoreland, what more he needs to meet this mounting aggression. He has told me. We will meet his needs.
I have today ordered to Viet-Nam the Air Mobile Division and certain other forces which will raise our fighting strength from 75,000 to 125,000 men almost immediately. Additional forces will be needed later, and they will be sent as requested. This will make it necessary to increase our active fighting forces by raising the monthly draft call from 17,000 over a period of time to 35,000 per month, and for us to step up our campaign for voluntary enlistments.
After this past week of deliberations, I have concluded that it is not essential to order Reserve units into service now. If that necessity should later be indicated, I will give the matter most careful consideration and I will give the country due and adequate notice before taking such action, but only after full preparations.
We have also discussed with the Government of South Viet-Nam lately the steps that we will take to substantially increase their own effort, both on the battlefield and toward reform and progress in the villages. Ambassador Lodge is now formulating a new program to be tested upon his return to that area.
I have directed Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara to be available immediately to the Congress to review with these committees, the appropriate congressional committees, what we plan to do in these areas. I have asked them to be able to answer the questions of any Member of Congress.
Secretary McNamara, in addition, will ask the Senate Appropriations Committee to add a limited amount to present legislation to help meet part of this new cost until a supplemental measure is ready, and hearings can be held when the Congress assembles in January.
In the meantime, we will use the authority contained in the present defense appropriations bill under consideration, to transfer funds in addition to the additional money that we will ask.
These steps, like our actions in the past, are carefully measured to do what must be done to bring an end to aggression and a peaceful settlement.
We do not want an expanding struggle with consequences that no one can perceive, nor will we bluster or bully or flaunt our power, but we will not surrender and we will not retreat, for behind our American pledge lies the determination and resources, I believe, of all of the American nation.
US WELCOMES UNCONDITIONAL DISCUSSIONS
Second, once the Communists know, as we know, that a violent solution is impossible, then a peaceful solution is inevitable.
We are ready now, as we have always been, to move from the battlefield to the conference table. I have stated publicly and many times, again and again, America's willingness to begin unconditional discussions with any government at any place at any time. Fifteen efforts have been made to start these discussions with the help of 40 nations throughout the world, but there has been no answer.
But we are going to continue to persist, if persist we must, until death and desolation have led to the same conference table where others could now join us at a much smaller cost.
I have spoken many times of our objectives in Viet-Nam. So has the Government of South Viet-Nam. Hanoi has set forth its own proposals. We are ready to discuss their proposals and our proposals and any proposals of any government whose people may be affected, for we fear the meeting room no more than we fear the battlefield.
In this pursuit we welcome and we ask for the concern and the assistance of any nation and all nations. If the United Nations and its officials or any one of its 114 members can by deed or word, private initiative or public action, bring us nearer an honorable peace, then they will have the support and the gratitude of the United States of America.
I have directed Ambassador Goldberg to go to New York today and to present immediately to Secretary-General U Thant a letter from me requesting that all the resources, energy, and immense prestige of the United Nations be employed to find ways to halt aggression and to bring peace in Viet-Nam.
PURPOSE OF US NATION
I made a similar request at San Francisco a few weeks ago, because we do not seek the destruction of any government, nor do we covet a foot of any territory, but we insist and we will always insist that the people of South Viet-Nam shall have the right of choice, the right to shape their own destiny in free elections in the South, or throughout all Viet-Nam under international supervision, and they shall not have any government imposed upon them by force and terror so long as we can prevent it.
This was the purpose of the 1954 agreements which the Communists have now cruelly shattered. If the machinery of those agreements was tragically weak, its purposes still guide our action. As battle rages, we will continue as best we can to help the good people of South Viet-Nam enrich the condition of their life, to feed the hungry, and to tend the sick, and teach the young, and shelter the homeless, and help the farmer to increase crops, and the worker to find a job.
It is an ancient but still terrible irony that while many leaders of men create division in pursuit of grand ambitions, the children of man are really united in the simple, elusive desire for a life of fruitful and rewarding toil.
As I said at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, I hope that one day we can help all the people of Asia towards that desire. Eugene Black has made great progress since my appearance in Baltimore in that direction - not as the price of peace, for we are ready always to bear a more painful cost, but rather as a part of our obligations of justice toward our fellow man.
A PERSONAL NOTE
Let me also add now a personal note. I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth, our finest young men, into battle. I have spoken to you today of the divisions and the forces and the battalions and the units. But I know them all, every one. I have seen them in thousand streets, of a hundred towns, in every State in this Union - working and laughing and building, and filled with hope and life. I think that I know, too, how their mothers weep and how their families sorrow. This is the most agonizing and the most painful duty of your President.
There is something else, too. When I was young, poverty was so common that we didn't know it had a name. And education was something that you had to fight for. Water was really life itself. I have now been in public life 35 years, more than three decades, and in each of those 35 years I have seen good men and wise leaders struggle to bring the blessings of this land to all of our people.
Now I am the President. It is now my opportunity to help every child get an education, to help every Negro and every other American citizen have an equal opportunity, to help every family get a decent home, and to help bring healing to the sick and dignity to the old.
As I have said before, that is what I have lived for. That is what I have wanted all my life, since I was a little boy, and I do not want to see all those hopes and all those dreams of so many people for so many years drowned in the wasteful ravages of cruel wars. I am going to do all I can to see that that never happens.
But I also know, as a realistic public servant, that as long as there are men who hate and destroy, we must have the courage to resist or we will see it all - all that we have built, all that we hope to build, all of our dreams for freedom - all - all - will be swept away with the flood of conquest.
So, too, this shall not happen. We will stand in Viet-Nam.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE PUBLICATION 7937
Far Eastern Series 137
Released August 1965
Office of Media Services
BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
US GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1965 O-782-931