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February 18, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today JFK+50 continues our report on Chapter 15 of Chris Matthews’ new book, Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, published by Simon & Schuster.

The title of Chapter 15 is GOALS.

Chris writes that “within days” of becoming President JFK had signed a directive to “defeat (the) Communist insurgency” in South Vietnam.

By 1963, while there were 12,000 U.S. military advisers in Vietnam, there were no combat troops.  

JFK’s problem, in 1963, was President Diem who was “conducting a campaign of repression” against the Buddhists of his country.

Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam

President Kennedy knew he had no choice but to do something about Diem.

So JFK appointed his former Republican opponent in 1952, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. as ambassador to South Vietnam.

Lodge favored a coup against Diem & JFK approved American support of the coup on August 24th.

On November  2nd, the military coup succeeded in not only overthrowing Diem, but also in killing him.

Chris makes it clear that while the President of the United States had not expected Diem to die, he bore responsibility for the coup.

Chris says that JFK made a personal audio recording on November 2 in which he said:

“I feel I must bear a good deal of responsibility for (the coup).”

Over the years, historians and others have debated on just what JFK would have eventually done in Vietnam had he lived.  Chris quotes Ted Sorensen, who said:

“I do not believe (JFK) knew in his last weeks what he was going to do (in Vietnam).

McNamara, General Taylor & JFK, January 25, 1963



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