Death of a Generation
The Assassinations of Diem and JFK
the Vietnam War
Amy Williams, Staff
PALO ALTO -- A compelling argument that
if Kennedy had lived he planned to end American involvement in Vietnam
and thus spare a generation who died fighting there.
When John F. Kennedy was shot, millions
were left to wonder how America, and the world, would have been
different had he lived to fulfill the enormous promise of his presidency.
For many historians and political observers, what Kennedy would
and would not have done in Vietnam has been a source of enduring
Now, based on convincing new evidence--including
a startling revelation about the Kennedy administration's involvement
in the assassination of Premier Diem--Howard Jones argues that Kennedy
intended to withdraw the great bulk of American soldiers and pursue
a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Vietnam.
Drawing upon recently declassified hearings
by the Church Committee on the U.S. role in assassinations, newly
released tapes of Kennedy White House discussions, and interviews
with John Kenneth Galbraith, Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, and others
from the president's inner circle, Jones shows that Kennedy firmly
believed that the outcome of the war depended on the South Vietnamese.
In the spring of 1962, he instructed Secretary
of Defense McNamara to draft a withdrawal plan aimed at having all
special military forces home by the end of 1965.
The "Comprehensive Plan for South
Vietnam" was ready for approval in early May 1963, but then
the Buddhist revolt erupted and postponed the program. Convinced
that the war was not winnable under Diem's leadership, President
Kennedy made his most critical mistake--promoting a coup as a means
for facilitating a U.S. withdrawal.
In the cruelest of ironies, the coup resulted
in Diem's death followed by a state of turmoil in Vietnam that further
obstructed disengagement. Still, these events only confirmed Kennedy's
view about South Vietnam's inability to win the war and therefore
did not lessen his resolve to reduce the U.S. commitment.
By the end of November, however,
the president was dead and Lyndon Johnson began his campaign of
escalation. Jones argues forcefully that if Kennedy had not been
assassinated, his withdrawal plan would have spared the lives of
58,000 Americans and countless Vietnamese.
Written with vivid immediacy, supported with
authoritative research, Death of a Generation answers one of the
most profoundly important questions left hanging in the aftermath
of John F. Kennedy's death.
Howard Jones is University Research Professor in the Department
of History at the University of Alabama. He is the author of Mutiny
on the Amistad (1997), Abraham Lincoln and a New Birth of Freedom,
and Crucible of Power. He lives in Northport, Alabama.]
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