Robert McNamara, Maxwell Taylor, John F. Kennedy
Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, General Maxwell Taylor and President Kennedy, January 25, 1963. Photo credit: JFK Library

The Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary series on Vietnam, currently airing on PBS, skates very lightly over one of the war’s most contentious questions: Did John F. Kennedy intend to pursue the fight or to pull out?

The second program alludes almost in passing to a withdrawal plan in 1962, conditioned on a then-optimistic assessment of how the war was going. But it also reports Kennedy’s qualms, expressed to a friend, as “We don’t have a prayer of staying in Vietnam. Those people hate us. They are going to throw our asses out of there at any point. But I can’t give up that territory to the communists and get the American people to re-elect me.” From this point, the program moves quickly to events in Saigon, to the November 1, 1963 South Vietnamese coup, and to Kennedy’s own assassination three weeks later.

But this presentation is highly misleading. In fact, Kennedy’s feelings about Vietnam went beyond mere qualms: he had already reached a decision and acted on it. In National Security Action Memorandum 263, dated October 11, 1963, Kennedy articulated his decision to withdraw all US military forces from Vietnam by the end of 1965 — with the withdrawal to be completed after the 1964 election. This was the formal policy of the United States government on the day he died.

Evidence of JFK’s Decision to Withdraw from Vietnam


The evidence is massive and categorical. It includes:

* Robert McNamara’s instructions to the May 1963 SecDef Conference in Honolulu to develop the withdrawal plan.

* A  detailed account of the McNamara-Taylor mission to Vietnam that returned with the withdrawal plan, drafted in their absence in the Pentagon by a team under Kennedy’s direct control.

* An audiotape of the discussion at the White House that led to the approval of NSAM 263 (National Security Action Memorandum), which implemented the plan; this audio was released by the Assassination Records Review Board at my request.

* The precise instructions for withdrawal delivered by Maxwell Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to his fellow Chiefs on October 4, 1963, in a memorandum that remained classified until 1997.

Taylor wrote:

“On 2 October the President approved recommendations on military matters contained in the report of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The following actions derived from these recommendations are directed: … all planning will be directed toward preparing RVN forces for the withdrawal of all US special assistance units and personnel by the end of calendar year 1965. The US Comprehensive Plan, Vietnam, will be revised to bring it into consonance with these objectives, and to reduce planned residual (post-1965) MAAG strengths to approximately pre-insurgency levels… Execute the plan to withdraw 1,000 US military personnel by the end of 1963…”

False Narratives


Why do so few Americans know that President Kennedy, a few weeks before his assassination, had decided to get the US military out, and avert what would later become the “quagmire” of a full-scale American war in Vietnam?

John F. Kennedy, press conference

President John F. Kennedy press conference, State Department Auditorium, March 23, 1961. Photo credit: JFK Library

Because for three decades following these events, many historians adopted a false narrative which assumed an absolute continuity in policy between Kennedy and Johnson. By no coincidence, this was the line of the government at the time.

But a small minority of historians — beginning with Peter Dale Scott in 1972, followed by John Newman in his 1992 book JFK and Vietnam — were able to tease out the truth from the record. Their work was supported by a key witness, Robert McNamara, in his 1995 memoir In Retrospect.

The historian Fredrik Logevall has provided a chapter to the companion volume for The Vietnam War. [The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward, Burn’s collaborator.] Logevall does not acknowledge the withdrawal plan, although he gives the following personal view:

“…the better argument is that JFK most likely would not have Americanized the war, but instead would have opted for some form of disengagement, presumably by way of a face-saving negotiated settlement.”

This is an improvement over the long-standing official story, but still misleading. Logevall states that “withdrawal theorists” have made their judgments “hastily,” with “evident reluctance,” based on “scant hints” in the documentary record.

In fact the record is rich and decisive. The issue has been debated many times. I would refer readers seeking a full account to the second edition of Newman’s JFK and Vietnam, which appeared in 2017 after a hiatus of 25 years following suppression by the publisher of the original book.

A good summary of arguments is Virtual JFK, an account of the 2005 Musgrove conference of historians and participants on this matter. My articles appeared in Boston Review and Salon. For those who would like a compressed version, I reproduce my letter to the New York Review of Books, dated December 6, 2007.

“A presidential decision requires a plan. The elements of a decision must include: (a) previous planning, reflected in military documents in this case; (b) discussion of the plan; (c) a decision to accept or reject the plan, reflected in a decision document; and (d) steps to implement the plan. In the case of JFK and withdrawal from Vietnam, all these elements are present.

“We have records of the 8th Secretary of Defense conference in Honolulu on May 6, 1963, which tell of a ‘Comprehensive Plan’ for Vietnam, including: ‘plan to withdraw 1000 US personnel from RVN by December 1963. McNamara also ordered that ‘training plans’ be developed for the Vietnamese to permit ‘a more rapid phase-out of the remaining US forces.

“On October 2, 1963, these plans were discussed at the White House. We have the tape. McNamara states to Kennedy: ‘And the advantage of taking them out is that we can say to the Congress and the people that we do have a plan for reducing the exposure of US combat personnel to the guerilla actions in South Vietnam.

“On October 5, 1963, at a meeting at 9:30 AM, Kennedy made the formal decision to implement the withdrawal plan. Again, we have the tape. On October 11, the White House issued National Security Action Memorandum 263, which speaks of ‘the implementation of plans to withdraw troops from Vietnam.

“A memorandum conveying the decision, from JCS Chair Maxwell Taylor to his military colleagues, had already been sent. It states: ‘All planning will be directed towards preparing RVN forces for the withdrawal of all US special assistance units and personnel by the end of calendar year 1965. The US Comprehensive Plan, Vietnam, will be revised to bring it into consonance with these objectives….

As a coda, the distinguished economist Francis Bator replied to my letter on January 17, 2008. Bator had served Lyndon Johnson as Deputy National Security Advisor; he cannot be accused of being what Logevall calls a “withdrawal theorist.” Bator’s opening sentence: “Professor Galbraith is correct that ‘there was a plan to withdraw US forces from Vietnam, beginning with the first thousand by December 1963, and almost all of the rest by the end of 1965…. President Kennedy had approved that plan. It was the actual policy of the United States on the day Kennedy died.’”

Dean Rusk, Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara

Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, February 9, 1968. Photo credit: The White House / Wikimedia

To be fair, Bator goes on to argue that the plan was conditional on military success — the same caveat offered by Burns and Novick in the documentary series when they refer to a 1962 withdrawal plan. But this is a case that McNamara contradicts and Newman has rebutted in detail.

There was no full withdrawal plan as yet in 1962, although Kennedy remained firm throughout that combat troops would not be sent, and he did instruct McNamara to develop a plan to remove the advisers who were there. McNamara — portrayed in the PBS film as the villain technocrat, a role that he played all too well — actually agreed that US forces should be withdrawn, whether or not the war could be won.

The full development of the plan, including the final timetable, came during the summer of 1963. By that time, official reporting — previously falsely optimistic — came into line with Kennedy’s own understanding, as he expressed it, that “we don’t have a prayer.”

As of October 2, 1963, the decision had been made. The plan existed. It had been approved. It had even been announced, albeit low-key, and by McNamara rather than Kennedy himself.

Could it have been reversed later? Yes. But Kennedy gave no sign of wavering in the few weeks that remained to him, despite the Saigon coup. And he could not in 1965 have faced the same dilemma that Lyndon Johnson did when, following the Tonkin Gulf incident, the North Vietnamese began to escalate the war. With withdrawals having progressed through 1964, only a small force would have been left by then. It would have been in Hanoi’s interest to wait until they were all gone, and the North Vietnamese leadership was nothing if not patient. And even if the Vietnamese had not waited, the die, by that time, would have been cast.

When Lyndon Johnson assumed the presidency, many things were different, immediately. To get Kennedy’s role right is not to demonize LBJ, even though Johnson’s decisions led to catastrophe for Vietnam and for America, including for Johnson’s dream of the Great Society. But LBJ’s actions in Vietnam cannot be understood without first understanding what Kennedy did, and how policy stood on the day he was killed.

James K. Galbraith is a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from JFK press conference (JFK Library).

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May I suggest that in addition to the cited sources by Professor Galbraith, the excellent documentary “Virtual JFK” is well worth watching in its entirety for this very point?

R Ferraro

Galbraith mentions this source and has a link in the article.

Josh Stern

And he vetoed Operation Northwoods, proposed by the Joint Chiefs, as a deadly false flag to trigger a full scale invasion/conquest of Cuba.

John Breen

“…and we call ourselves the ‘human race’.”


No, he really wasn’t going to pull out, not at least until he would have been re-elected.


I believe the plan (NSAM263) was to pull all troops out out by 1965, had he been reelected in 1964.

News Nag

Did you even read the essay, Dwight? Your point was clearly covered in it.


Yes, I did. I really doubt if he would have pulled out at all, despite what this documentary and the information suggests. Kennedy was strong willed towards communism and he had a deep seated hatred for them. If Kennedy was truly going to pull out forces completely, more than likely it would have been very late into his second term.


One more thing, go fuk yourself, leftist loon.


Professor Galbraith has nicely summarized the main points, points he has been making for two decades. There is no debate about President Kennedy’s plans any longer, and the fact that JFK’s decision on 10/05/63 was hidden for decades and decades from the American people means that the events of 11/22/63 can no longer be viewed in historical isolation.
“Oswald” didn’t shoot anyone, yet the media and all of our institutions insisted that he did.
President Kennedy had ordered the withdrawal of all American forces by the end of 1965, but all of our institutions – especially the prestige media – has insisted otherwise.

It is impossible to dismiss the possibility – the overwhelming probability – that these two events are related.


I always believed that the Joint Chiefs wanted the Vietnam War to test their new toys of war and when Kennedy opposed them as he did in Cuba they took action.


Yes, but it’s debatable whether the JCS would have acted entirely on their own. Before they could move, they had to be sure that all other major institutions in the country would go along with it.
And that meant controlling the patsy, and then making sure there would be no real investigation afterward.
The decision to proceed probably came about after some kind of agreement with other players, notably a certain small faction within the CIA who, I’ve always believed anyway, controlled the actual mechanics of 11/22/63.

Joe Dante

This is such nonsense and has been debunked so many times. In the end who cares? JFK also ordered napalm to be dropped on vietnamese villages, supplied Iraq with napalm bombs to burn kurdish villages. he invaded cuba and waged a terrorist campaign against cuba to bring them “the terrors of the earth”, almost started nuclear war with the soviet union by placing nuclear weapons near its border in turkey and refusing to remove them when the soviets responded in kind in cuba but jfk refused to negotiate with them and have both countries remove their nuclear weapons, nevermind almost attacking soviet nuclear submarines and ordering nuclear equipped b52s to bomb the soviet union from turkey and only Khruschev’s sane decision to remove the missiles in late October 1962 averted catastrophe. he helped put in power and supported financially and with military equipment and weapons a repressive dictator in bolivia and began repression, coup-de-tats, assassinations, and election meddling that continues to this day in south america. he meddled in guyana’s election as well.

News Nag

Joe, you call it nonsense. Good argument! So convincing! That’s all you and your true unbelievers have left after having your B.S. denialism demolished.

Hugh O'Neill

I note Dante’s use of Noam Chomsky’s phrase “In the end, who cares?”. If the CIA murdered JFK and have for the last 54 years poisoned the historical well aided by the likes of Chomsky, Hollywood and Wisner’s “Mighty Wurlitzer”, then Dante is either a fool or a knave. Since I have never seen such a collection of blatant distortions, I suspect the latter.


Chomsky’s ‘Who cares?’ really is a giveaway.


Actually with the unraveling it look like it might have been army intelligence using the CIA who had the deed done.

Hugh O'Neill

Afternoon Brente. If you look at the signatories to “Operation Northwoods” you can see the whole panoply of JCS and CIA are evil to the core. Because JFK vetoed it, Northwoods was then re-jigged so that his assassination could be blamed on either Cuba or Russia in order to achieve their goal of WWIII. The insanity remains. James Douglass’ phrase for those poisoned minds is “The Unspeakable” and that is the best cover-all phrase to describe them. Blaming one part more than another is yet more pointless distraction. THEY did it, and THEY are still in power. As Orwell said: “Who controls the present controls the past. Who controls the past, controls the future.” JFK was the brief 1000 days when the Unspeakable had their power challenged.

Dennis Berube

That is a truly butchered recounting of history. First, JFK never approved Napalm, he did approve certain chemicals, but not napalm, another Burnsian distortion. The Bay of Pigs was halted because JFK refused to use overt military support and the CIA lied about the entire operation including their operation to kill the successors chosen by JFK. CIA also never informed JFK of Castro assassination plots or that they internally assessed the BOP had no chance without US military.

JFK did not put nukes in Turkey, he was surprised to find out we had them there during the Missile crisis. He did however strike a deal with USSR to remove them in exchange for the USSR to remove the nukes in Cuba.
As for the rest of your rant, JFK never ordered B52s to bomb the Soviet Union, thats nonsense. Also, cite a source for any assassination JFK ever approved, didnt happen. Im afraid your anti Kennedy paranoia has gotten the best of you when it comes to factual history.

Jimmie Graves

The author is a professor and historian, no? Isn’t it painfully obvious to you that this one of many reasons that JFK had his head blown off by our own government in plain sight?


The continuing sanitization of the Viet Nam War in order to allow further wars for Wall Street interests is the reason for Americans’ ignorance about JFK’s withdrawal plans. Wall Street killed JFK for his resistance to their imperialism.

News Nag

With enthusiastic help from Mafiosi and certain Cuban exile community people, as well as MCI folks in Texas.

Pete Simon

Two points here. I understood JFK wanted to leave Vietnam, but he was probably waiting until after the ’64 President election to do it. No matter what the timeline was, I agree that Ken Burns glossed over this important distinction in Kennedy’s thinking about Vietnam. To give him some credit, Burns has handled a mountain of information and material fairly well, but as with all documentaries, he leaves some holes. Are the holes there by accident, or are they there because there were problems with funders for this project?
… The episode on 1969 that finished with Kent State was titled “The History Of The World”, but it did not contain anything during those two hours about the Vietnam-like wars taking place across Africa which were being bankrolled from 1961 to 1974 by the United States in Portuguese Africa. I witnessed part of this involvement while serving in the Navy during a trip to Luanda in 1969, when the city was surrounded with barbed wire while Portuguese commandos patrolled the streets in machine gun-mounted jeeps. Oficers aboard our ship lied to the crew when they told us we were a neutral party in the fighting. Senior Portuguese officers met with our officers aboard ship for more than an hour behind closed doors; our ship had state-of-the-art radio and electronic listening gear that could receive radio transmissions across the Angolan countryside and beyond. Through NATO, Portugal was receiving munitions and jet aircraft from the U.S., and untold amounts of financial aid for the fighting. This was a hidden, troubling FACT, that if it had been understood by people in this country would have blown the lid off of everything. It would have poured gasoline on the fire of the anti-war protests taking place. For Ken Burns to continue to cover-up this part of world history, involving our empire, is truly disappointing. We still need a document which serves as a true documentary of this era.

News Nag

Thanks for this, Pete. Interesting and revealing. Appreciate your sharing it. You might write further on this and publish?

Pete Simon

I would like to publish and am looking for interested publishers. This part of our history has been greatly ignored by the masses because the mass media and institutions of higher learning have steered them away from examining much about The Congo and Southern Africa, and how that richest region of our planet figures into the Great American Empire.

Hugh O'Neill

One character worthy of further investigation is CIA man Frank Carlucci, who after the assassinations of Patrice Lumumba and Dag Hammarskjold, was next appointed to Portugal. Old lizard eyes later went on to found the Carlyle Group, who may know more about 9/11 than most.

Pete Simon

Carlucci’s name comes up in Kenneth Maxwell’s essay “Portugal: The Revolution of The Carnations”. The Essay if found in the book CIVIL RESISTANCE & POWER POLITICS – The Experience of Non-violent Action from Ghandi to the Present. Edited by Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash. ….. Maxwell wrote that Carlucci was considered “Kissinger’s right hand man” at the State Department in 1974 when the coup took place in Lisbon, so Kissinger sent Carlucci there to be U.S. Ambassador to asses the situation. Kissinger wanted to start a civil war to reinstate the fascists by supplying conservative Portuguese farmers in the northern part of the country and elsewhere. The fear on the surface was Portugal’s Communist Party, which controlled 13 per cent of the electorate. Carlucci convinced Kissinger the CP had no chance of gaining power in a country where the citizens wanted absolutely nothing to do with another totalitarian regime. In elections the following year they chose a left-of-center coalition government, as Carlucci had predicted. ….. Carlucci is no dummy. According to one search I did on line, after his adventure in The Congo in 1961 he was station chief in neighboring Angola when the MPLA started fighting Portugal — the C.I.A. countered the same year by funding the FNLA, lead by Holden Roberto, based in the Bakongo region of Northern Angola. Roberto was a Bakongo klan relative of Mobutu Seso Seko.

The same search turned up Carlucci’s name in Brazil in 1964, the year when the military overthrew the popularly- elected government, ushering in 25 years of dictatorial rule.

If “60 Minutes” was the true kick-ass news magazine it claims to be, it would have had Frank Carlucci on decades ago.

Hugh O'Neill

Evening Pete. Apologies for late response. I cannot recall which documentary it was, but Carlucci was explaining how Carlyle Group was just a hobby club of investors: “We own several countries in Europe…..I mean companies in Europe.” Sometimes, the truth will out. How else to explain the craven spinelessness of European leaders in kowtowing to World Bank and Wall Street in direct opposition to their countries’ best interests or their citizens desires? How to explain Operation Gladio? How to explain the lick spittle BBC announcing the collapse of the Salomon Brothers Building (aka WTC 7) 25 minutes before the event? As Edward Gibbon said of the Roman Empire, the wonder is: how could it last so long despite being rotten to the core for centuries? Panes et Circenses.

Pete Simon

You may have just explained why Frank Carlucci has never been on “60 Minutes”. It is very creepy, not only because of what people like him have done, but because the American populace is just happy to have “60 Minutes” parade on with “hard-hitting” stuff as it does. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Dennis Berube

Sorry but when you don’t explain the may 63 sec/def conference or NSAM 263, it can’t be a coincidence. Not to mention the Koch brothers major support never helps truth.


L Fletcher Prouty said the same thing in a 1972 manuscript that eventually got published as ‘The Secret Team’.

Kevin Wirsing

Have always wondered: how much of Johnson’s poor decision making in 1965 was being driven by fear of Bobby Kennedy? lose Vietnam and face RFK in ’68: “My brother would not have abandoned the Vietnamese…”


We used to discuss that sort of thing early in the Gene McCarthy campaign (I was still in college as we worked canvassing in New Hampshire). Bobby was considered sort of ruthless and amoral, but was also admired for his push on civil rights, and he sat out the early primary season in deference to LBJ and the belief that no one could unseat him — while we were doing the heavy lifting. Was he assassinated because he really wanted to get out of Vietnam ASAP? What about George McGovern, who threw his hat into the ring just before the Chicago convention and split the liberal delegate vote, making it easier for Humphrey to win the nomination?

Kevin Wirsing

I think LBJ and RFK were both victims of the circumstance that on Saturday November 23, 1963, LBJ was quite literally in the office he always coveted, but he got there in a way in which he knew his legitimacy would always be questioned (even after ’64 )and RFK was left with an adversary in that office who he despised and who despised him…with due respect to Prof. Galbraith, for me documentation that JFK wanted to get out after ’64 is frankly not as pertinent as the fact that getting out would have no doubt been a lot easier for JFK than it was in fact for LBJ: a JFK who survived and was reelected would not have had to worry about RFK or much of anything for that matter; LBJ worried about Bobby until some time early in the morning of 6/6/68…another thing I think that people miss about this period and the whole question of what would have happened if the bubble had been up on the limo that day: all the Great Society/War on Poverty legislation that LBJ got passed…yes it took a lot of skill, but it also took a certain mood in the country …a mood which Lee Harvey Oswald created, not LBJ…so while it is true that if JFK survived it is hard to imagine a ’64 landslide and adoption of all the Great Society programs or even the Civil Rights or Voting Rights Acts, nonetheless that circumstance in early ’65 would have given us a second term President, more anxious to avoid catastrophe than a first termer anxious to protect all his social programs…


Worth thinking about, but I think the landslide would have happened anyway — Barry Goldwater was a rather unappetizing candidate. LBJ did juice his vote with the fake Gulf of Tonkin incident, and probably that would not have happened under JFK. But even if JFK’s vote total was 5% less, Goldwater would have only won a few more states.


Not only was he going to withdraw from Vietnam, RFK was going to reopen his brother’s case – the same powers that assassinated JFK had to stop RFK.

Kevin Wirsing

The issue Prof. Galbraith doesn’t discuss and the one that may have upended Kennedy’s plans (and to some degree left LBJ in a box): faulty assumptions about the politburo in Hanoi. Burns and Novick do a good job explaining that by August ’64, Ho Chi Minh’s power was diminished and Le Duan’s power was ascending; Duan was very much a hardliner and supporter of the Chinese aggressive attitude…which may well have meant that in 1965 “a face saving” way out may not have been in the cards. Helpful perhaps to remember that although in ’65 the Cultural Revolution had not yet really reached its zenith in China, it was heading there; would Duan and his Chinese patrons have countenanced giving the Americans a “face saving” way out?

News Nag

If that’s true, that a hardliner was gaining power in Hanoi, it almost certainly was because JFK was killed in 1963, and to Hanoi’s leadership it became very clear that American escalation was going to happen now that Kennedy’s decision and legal order were being overturned.

Your thought about a withdrawal maybe not having “been in the cards” is a mental contortion that switches effect and cause. That’s due to he JFK-Vietnam mythology still being so strong that it contorts thinking around the subject, like light bending due to gravity.


FRUS and National Security Archive have all the details information about JFK and Ngo Dinh Diem.


Once again, too many academics (and journalists) distort history on behalf of their rich benefactors.


National Security Action Memorandum 263 was reversed two days after JFK was removed. That says it all.


JFK was the first sitting president killed by the US government but he was not the last gotten rid of because he wasn’t part of the system but an outsider, Nixon comes to mind and they were very careful that Agnew was gone and the acceptable Ford was VP to take his place. They are now at work doing more of the same to a sitting president right now and if I was Trump I wouldn’t feel very comfortable because his VP Pence is their man.


Ah Ford – he knew how to run a coverup. After being the FBI’s man on the Warren Commission, he pardoned Nixon so the connection between Watergate and the JFK Assassination would never be made. Way to Ford – a willing puppet of the Deep State.


Guess I live in a bubble, in Boston… my impression has been that NSAM263 is kinda common knowledge, discussed off and on for years at JFK library and elsewhere in the city — at least during the receptions. The perspective is that there were about 16,000 USA soldiers on the ground in Vietnam in 1963, up more than 10,000 during the first three years of the JFK administration and that the rise was frightening to JFK. The number of support troops in Thailand, on ships, and in Australia and Japan was also growing during that period. JFK obviously wanted out. At least that’s what we say in the bubble.

The issue to me was that moving 16,000 out of Vietnam, maybe only to Thailand and maybe secretly funding mercenaries to do training, should not take a year. But the time to next election was a year and the election was the thing…. THEN the withdrawal.


Steve, if common knowledge, that would mean that 90 percent plus of Americans would have heard of it, not the other way around. Cmon out of your bubble — and consider the implications that mainstream media does not tell the full/real story.


Hell, half the population does not realize that Puerto Ricans are American citizens — and until a day or two ago that included the President of the United States. Mainstream media doesn’t keep that secret, either. My point is that mainstream media doesn’t keep JFK’s seemingly obvious intentions secret — it is just that when a story runs on this, it seems to have no legs outside of Boston (where things JFK are still of interest). Makes no difference whether I am in Boston or not.

Should people care? Sure. They should care about a lot of things — a quarter to half of all rural job loss is due to lack of broadband access. Lack of broadband access is the BIGGEST single cause of rural population loss since 2010 and arguably since 2000. Neither Sanders (who screwed up rural broadband in VT) or Trump (who cares only that big national carriers make bigly money) gave a damn. Press ignored major Obama initiatives in that area, even when Hillary tried to bring that up. I’ve won seven editorial awards for my coverage, including for second-best original research by a B2B magazine in the country last year. Hardly a secret. But no one in mainstream media cares. No conspiracy, just stupidity. Hell 2.0, the NYT couldn’t get Si Newhouse’s name right in his OBIT!!!!

My prediction is that Trump does not have to be killed by the power structure. Once his tax returns are subpoenaed, he’ll make a deal to resign rather than risk having them made public. So even there, the JFK example’s parallels will be lost.

Paul Udstrand

Our government and military have all kinds of “plans”, we had “plans” to annihilate the Soviet Union. A “plan” isn’t an order. What’s conspicuously missing here is an actual order for complete withdrawal, or even quote by Kennedy saying that he’s ordered a complete withdrawal. If he ordered a withdrawal, then Johnson would have to countermand that order, where’s the documentary evidence or quote by Johnson that countermanded Kennedy’s withdrawal order?

Plans are contingencies, and all contingencies depend on other contingencies. Sure, both Johnson and Kennedy realized that Vietnam was quagmire, and anyone with any sense wants to get out of a quagmire, but simply getting out wasn’t the problem these guys were working. You can have a plan to prepare the ARVN for autonomy, but if the facts on the ground tell you the South Vietnamese government will fall if you pull out, your plan for ARVN autonomy becomes a plan to turn the country over to the North Vietnamese. Is Galbraith really telling us that Kennedy actually intended to hand the South over to the North? Seriously?

There’s no reason to develop an alternative history here. Sure, JFK and LBJ wanted to get out of Vietnam, they just didn’t want to make the political sacrifices that were required to get out. There’s no evidence that either president intended to abandon South Vietnam to the North, and all available evidence clearly indicates that that is exactly what would have happened had the US withdrawn or failed to escalate. The most likely scenario is that drawing down to 15k from 16k would have been a gesture towards a negotiated settlement that never materialized for a variety of reasons. The argument that the withdrawal of 1,000 troops would have been the first step towards a complete withdrawal regardless of facts on the ground is simply not supported.

Dennis Berube

You apparently missed it but NSAM 263 is the order to withdraw and NSAM 273 was LBJ’s order to NOT withdraw made 2-3 days after the assassination. It included, as this article says, the COMPLETE withdrawal by the end of 1965. Not sure you fully read it or not but this is not really a debate with all we know nowadays. Most of this stuff was classified until the 90’s which is why an alternative history was allowed to flourish about it. JFK knew that Vietnam was not about Communism and was in fact about Nationalism and had no intention of killing Americans over it.
The only alternative history is the one portrayed by the media and Ken Burns about how “nothing changed” between JFK and LBJ. Vietnam, Congo, Indonesia, Soviet Union, Cuba, Guinea, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Egypt, Algeria, Tanganyika, and South Africa, all had vastly different relations under JFK, far better.


Good response, Dennis.
We need to persuade Professor Galbraith to examine the draft for NSAM 273 (which ultimately paved the way for the escalation via OPLAN 34A) which was written while President Kennedy was still alive, but had not yet seen. That draft was written by McGeorge Bundy, JFK’s national security adviser, a man whose phone call to Air Force One while it was in the air returning from Dallas, informed the new administration that JFK had been killed by a “lone nut”.

At that moment in time, no one, not even the FBI, could say that the assassination was the result of a “lone nut.”

Professor Galbraith needs to examine the role of McGeorge Bundy in shaping the new Vietnam policy of LBJ, and also to determine the precise nature of Bundy’s personal position on America’s Vietnam policy while JFK was still alive.

NSAM 273 was used by LBJ to overturn the the Kennedy administration’s policy as set forth in NSAM 263. Although LBJ and all mainstream historians until the early 1990’s pretended that JFK’s policies were continued under LBJ, they were not.


Not only the purview of highly-skilled middlebrow PBS documentarians, many other media institutions are highly adept at burying JFK’s policy to avoid a war in Southeast Asia. To name but a few: impressively authored political biographies, Sunday newspaper supplements (both in the US and UK,) general interest magazines, political magazines liberal and conservative alike, Cable News, Wikipedia, the NYRB, the LRB, and Chomsky-influenced “far left” structural critiques. Are we to accept that those setting the line at such a diverse lineup of organs invested in the Kennedy Vietnam hawk myth (some of whom disagree violently with each other on most every other foreign policy matter) each possess their own well-thought-out reasons for not exploring NSAM 263 and how it came to be? Or is something else afoot?


The way you can tell an American liberal from a leftist is that an American liberal is always in the final instance pro-American imperialism. This documentary is so laughably pro-American imperialism it is hilarious – as can be seen from its ‘good intentions’ theory of American involvement in Vietnam. Such fairy tale motivation theories extend to other American liberals like Noam Chomsky. Chomsky pretends to be a leftist, but thinks it’s ‘impossible’ the murder of JFK was a conspiracy, ‘impossible’ American officials might have left 3,000 Americans die on 9/11 to advance their own imperialist ends, etc.

Hugh O'Neill

JFK vetoed The proposed False Flag Operation Northwoods, despite it having the approval of the JCS, CIA, State Dept. etc. that’s fact, not theory. The hawks were lusting after war with little Cuba’s ally Russia, because they felt they would “win” the nuclear war. Oswald was patently the patsy he claimed to be; his being sheep dipped as being pro-Cuba and pro-Russia was to later blame them for the CIA assassination of JFK. The first action RFK took was to inform the Russians that he knew they were innocent, and that AMERICAN right wing extremists were responsible. It’s all in James Douglass “JFK & The Unspeakable”.
9/11 was designed by Zelikow and Carter to be another Pearl Harbor to provide the Casus Belli for the wars of their choice and reduce domestic civil rights. Google their 1998 “Catastrophic Terrorism” for the smoking gun.


Actually Hugh some of the newest CIA documents released seem to show that Oswald was a CIA asset who traveled to Russia pretending to be a communist will all the time working for the CIA.

Hugh O'Neill

Morning, Brente. Can you post here online that link? That confirmation that Oswald was in Russia on a CIA mission would surely destroy the “Lone Nut” narrative. I suspect that even then, Oswald was a Patsy to provide the CIA a plausible explanation for how Gary Powers’ U2 was shot down – intended by the Dulles Bros to destroy the Paris Peace talks. Oswald had worked at the Atsugi U2 base as a Radar Operative and thus it could appear that he had been the traitor etc. The nefarious minds of the CIA creates the wilderness of mirrors to confound truth. The CIA are specialists in lies and assassinations – both living and posthumously.


Sorry this is not available on the net yet but was passed to me in conversation with a friend who is a researcher, he spends must days researching for a person who is a former military intelligence agent and is compiling this information for a some to be released paper on the Kennedy assassination. I believe it is from documents that refer to the missing volume 5.

Hugh O'Neill

Many thanks, Brente. You have some excellent friends. I wish you all the very best of luck. We cannot go on like this, with every thinking person fully aware of the truth, yet the entire MSM in official denial.


Hugh I really think that with the amount of data that is becoming available over the next couple of years that the msm and the general public itself will have no choice but accept the fact that they no longer control their own government and only then there may be a concerted effort to wrestle that control back.