NATIONAL SECURITY MEMORANDUM 328
WHITE HOUSE NSM 328 PUT U.S. FORCES ON THE OFFENSIVE IN VIETNAM 50 YEARS AGO TODAY
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty years ago today, April 6, 1965, National Security adviser McGeorge Bundy issued, on behalf of President Lyndon B. Johnson, National Security Memorandum 328.
The memo, drafted and signed by Bundy, is titled “Presidential Decisions in Regard to Vietnam,” and was, at the time, labeled TOP SECRET.
Mr. Bundy began by saying that President Johnson had “made the following decisions” on April 1, 1965.
They included a 41 point program of “non-military actions submitted by Ambassador Taylor,” an “urgent exploration of…suggestions for covert…actions submitted by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and a repeat of earlier approval of a 21 point program of military actions,” including an 18,000-20,000 increase in support forces as well as the continuation of Operation Rolling Thunder.
The memo represented a shift in policy in that previously all American military operations in South Vietnam had been defensive in nature.
It is well known that while John F. Kennedy substantially increased America’s commitment to South Vietnam, he did not send U.S. combat troops in the traditional sense. Lyndon B. Johnson did.
Gordon M. Goldstein quotes McGeorge Bundy’s take on the difference in attitude toward Vietnam by the two presidents for which he worked…
“There was a dramatic difference between Kennedy and Johnson on the question of Vietnam. Kennedy didn’t want to be dumb. Johnson didn’t want to be a coward.”
McGeorge Bundy served in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations as National Security Adviser (1961-1966).
“Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam,” by Gordon M. Goldstein, Time Books, 2013.