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President Johnson Justifies U.S. Intervention in Vietnam

President Johnson, in this speech delivered at Johns Hopkins University on April 7, 1965, lists the reasons for escalating the United State's involvement in Vietnam. Having secured Congressional authorization with the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, Johnson launched a bombing campaign in the North, and in March 1965, dispatched 3,500 marines to South Vietnam. With this speech, Johnson laid the political groundwork for a major commitment of U.S. troops.

April 7, 1965

The world as it is in Asia is not a serene or peaceful place.

The first reality is that North Viet-Nam has attacked the independent nation of South Viet-Nam. Its object is total conquest.

Of course, some of the people of South Viet-Nam are participating in attack on their own government. But trained men and supplies, orders and arms, flow in a constant stream from north to south.

This support is the heartbeat of the war.

And it is a war of unparalleled brutality. Simple farmers are the targets of assassination and kidnapping. Women and children are strangled in the night because their men are loyal to their government. And helpless villages are ravaged by sneak attacks. Large-scale raids are conducted on towns, and terror strikes in the heart of cities….

Over this war—and all Asia—is another reality: the deepening shadow of Communist China. The rulers in Hanoi are urged on by Peking. This is a regime which has destroyed freedom in Tibet, which has attacked India, and has been condemned by the United Nations for aggression in Korea. It is a nation which is helping the forces of violence in almost every continent. The contest in Viet-Nam is part of a wider pattern of aggressive purposes.

Why are these realities our concern? Why are we in South Viet-Nam ?

We are there because we have a promise to keep. Since 1954 every American President has offered support to the people of South Viet-Nam….

We are also there to strengthen world order. Around the globe, from Berlin to Thailand, are people whose well-being rests, in part, on the belief that they can count on us if they are attacked. To leave Viet-Nam to its fate would shake the confidence of all these people in the value of an American commitment and in the value of America's word. The result would be increased unrest and instability, and even wider war.

We are also there because there are great stakes in the balance. Let no one think for a moment that retreat from Viet-Nam would bring an end to conflict. The battle would be renewed in one country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never satisfied. To withdraw from one battlefield means only to prepare for the next….

In recent months attacks on South Viet-Nam were stepped up. Thus, it became necessary for us to increase our response and to make attacks by air. This is not a change of purpose. It is a change in what we believe that purpose requires.

We do this in order to slow down aggression.

We do this to increase the confidence of the brave people of South Viet-Nam who have bravely borne this brutal battle for so many years with so many casualties.

And we do this to convince the leaders of North Viet-Nam—and all who seek to share their conquest—of a very simple fact: We will not be defeated. We will not grow tired.

Source | Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, vol. 1, entry 172, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1966), 394-399; from Michael H. Hunt, ed., The World Transformed, 1945 to the Present: A Documentary Reader (New York: Bedford/St.Martin's, 2004), 156-57.
Creator | Lyndon B. Johnson
Item Type | Speech
Cite This document | Lyndon B. Johnson, “President Johnson Justifies U.S. Intervention in Vietnam,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 10, 2018, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1242.

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