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JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power Hardcover – February, 1992

4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Had he lived, would President Kennedy have committed U.S. troops to Vietnam? According to the evidence marshalled here, the answer is a resounding no. Newman, who teaches international politics at the University of Maryland, argues that when JFK went to Dallas he already intended to withdraw U.S. advisers from Vietnam, but held off to ensure his reelection in 1964. The book traces the president's pullout plan back to April '62, when he stated that the U.S. should seize every opportunity to reduce its commitment to Vietnam. A month later Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara asked U.S. generals in Saigon how soon the South Vietnamese would be ready to take over the war effort. This well-documented study shows that JFK was for a time deceived by Gen. Maxwell Taylor, head of the joint chiefs, and others in a blizzard of briefings that claimed unadulterated progress and success. Newman maintains that although the president paid public lip service to a continued commitment to appease the right, his goal was to abandon a venture that he early recognized as a lost cause. No other study has revealed so clearly how the tragedy in Dallas affected the course of the war in Vietnam, since two days after the assassination Lyndon Johnson signed a National Security Action Memo that opened the way for the fateful escalation of the war. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Bold and authoritative revisionist analysis of Kennedy's Vietnam policy, by a US Army major who teaches history at the Univ. of Maryland. What was JFK's real agenda regarding Vietnam? Newman claims that the young President planned to withdraw American forces from that war-torn country--and his case is strong. The author pictures an isolated Kennedy battling both cold war jingoism and a military- industrial lobby avid for a war that would make tens of billions of dollars. Conventional wisdom generally sees JFK's early attacks on Eisenhower's covert liaison with France regarding Vietnam as simple political expediency, and Kennedy as another adherent to the domino theory. JFK's speeches buttress that position, but Newman, working with newly declassified material, argues that these speeches were simply requisite political twistings and turnings--and that Kennedy planned to get the US out of Vietnam despite a hawkish palace clique (led by Lyndon Johnson) that fed him disinformation on this most crucial foreign-policy issue. Document by document, incident by incident, the author reveals Kennedy as stranded within his own Administration, alienated by his desire to avoid this ultimate wrong-time, wrong-place war. Newman's research culminates in two crucial National Security Action Memos. In one, authored several weeks before Kennedy's death, the President formally endorsed withdrawal from Vietnam of a thousand advisors by the end of 1963 (to be followed by complete withdrawal by the end of 1965). In the second, written six days after the assassination, LBJ reversed the withdrawal policy and planned in some detail the escalation to follow. Crucial to any reevaluation of JFK as President and statesman, this electrifying report portrays a wily, stubborn, conflicted leader who grasped realities that eluded virtually everyone else in the US establishment. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 506 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books; First Edition edition (February 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446516783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446516785
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book tackles an oft debated subject,namely just what were the intentions of John F. Kennedy's Vietnam policy? Those close to him such as Dave Powers and Kenneth O'Donnell stated it was his intention to withdraw from Vietnam after the 1964 election. However, the president had also given a number of hawkish speeches on the subject which left little doubt he intended to escalate American involvment if necessary. To me that often seemed the last word on the subject. Why would the president make hawkish statements on Vietnam if he was secretly planning to withdraw? Of course, we might well ask why LBJ made dovish statements on the war when in fact he intended to escalate it after the 1964 election? This book (which I believe is the outgrowth of the author's Ph.d. dissertation) provides fresh evidence that Kennedy never intended to send troops into a combat role in Southeast Asia. Newman's research benefited from a raft of documentation which was declassified in the 1990's regarding JFK's Vietnam policy. Readers will learn the details of the military's pressure for American troops in a combat role as early as 1961. The record shows JFK resisted that. His strategy for Vietnam was really a counter-insurgency strategy with American troops acting as trainers and supporters of the South Vietnamese. As the narrative develops based on now declassified national security meetings as well as the recollections of participants a picture is drawn of a president who is in sharp disagreement not only with the military but with his own cabinet. The president sends three fact finding missions to South Vietnam; each returns stating the need for an immediate full fledged combat role for the USA to save Southeast Asia. Each time JFK rejects their advice.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
JFK and Vietnam by John M. Newman

In order to get ones academic hands around the issue of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War you must scrutinize the actions, statements and decisions of three Presidents: Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Certainly Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Truman all had some dealings with Vietnam but direct military involvement draws us back to the later three individuals.

Mr. Newman's 1992 book is, in my opinion, absolutely essential reading for anyone desiring awareness of the U.S.-Vietnam military involvement during the Kennedy administration 1961-3. The book is an objective overview of the diplomatic maneuvers and military shenanigans that took place on Kennedy's watch. This is a seminal work and Mr. Newman's research is evident on every page. I was particularly impressed with the extensive notes that were placed - not at the end of the book - but after each chapter. I found this very helpful since I was constantly checking citations and noted several books I wished to add to my "want list". In addition to the impressive notes the following listings are included that enhance the usefulness of this volume: acronyms, biography of key persons, glossary, chronology, bibliography and index. The subtitle of this book is "Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power" and indeed it was.

A good case has been made that Kennedy had no intention to ever become trapped in a Asian land war. This is in spite of the hawkish advice and consul he was receiving from his national security advisor, Mac Bundy and the Joint Chiefs. Some memoirs by Kennedy insiders have stated the if he had not been assassinated all "military advisors" would of been withdrawn upon his re-election in 1964 and the Vietnam War would never have occurred. The author makes this point convincingly and it is hard to refute.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most of us have a vague idea that the Vietnam war grew gradually until 1965, when the main force of US action began.

Vietnam is an important series of events in American history. An entire generation of Americans were deeply shaped by what happened during that war, the political side effects of the war shaped the resurgence of the Republican party in the 1970s and 1980s, and there are some who wonder if the deaths of President Kennedy and other such events were not related to the war.

Newman's book details 2 strains in the Kennedy administration. One was President Kennedy's, who was seeking to draw down the number and strength of US advisers serving in Vietnam. The other strain had leadership from Vice President Johnson, and sought to escalate US military intervention. This book provides careful, well thought out analysis of both the pro and anti interventionist groups, and details the strengths and weaknesses both sides brought to the table, as well as the personalities in each group.

Newman is methodical and does not draw out conclusions that he cannot sustain by factual information. This book provides much needed information and details about a segment of American history that has shaped current events, but about which most of us don't know enough. It is a good, well done, and superbly interesting book.
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Format: Hardcover
As one who has both read Newman's book and as one who served in Vietnam myself, (1970) I can only say I feel a deep sense of betrayal by my own Government, that I have served so well in two wars in a military capacity and as a Civil Servant in a civilian capacity. The document's that Newman publishes in his book were classified "Top Secret" at the time of Kennedy's Assassination. Thanks to the "Freedom of Information" act, that is no longer the case and we can now see the behind the scenes moves that led the US deeper and deeper into Vietnam. We can also see Kennedy's efforts to reverse course before it became too late.
My grandmother who is now dead and millions of other Americans never saw JFK's NSAM - 263 classified Top Secret. Nor did I. That NSAM was quietly shelved by Lyndon Johnson two days after Kennedy's Assassination and his own NSAM implimented. NSAM - 273 freezing everyone in place. Today, thanks to Newman's book we can now see who was the real culprit responsible for America's slide into Vietnam. And it certainly wasn't that awful Roman Catholic President (in the eyes of anti-Kennedy bigots) in the White House, John F. Kennedy.
Instead the REAL culprit was Lyndon Baines Johnson and THAT is how History will eventually record it. Hats off to John M. Newman for bringing these Document's into public view for future generations to "learn" from. That is IF, people are now willing to learn.
William P. Urban
Sgt US Army
PO2 US Navy
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