Annex: Examples of . . .
September 1953: [An unidentified American official in Saigon said] A year ago none of us could see victory. There wasn't a prayer. Now we can see it clearly--like light at the end of a tunnel.(1) --Time magazine
9 September 1953: [Adm. Arthur Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an NSC meeting] that this was the first time that the political climate had actually improved to a point where military success could be achieved. With aggressive implementation of the Navarre Plan, Admiral Radford predicted that the war in Indochina could be reduced in scale to mere guerrilla operations in the course of a single season of fighting--certainly in two such seasons.(2)
November 1953: I attended his [Gen. John O'Daniel's] briefing of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which he opened by stating that he was "encouraged by the prospects of victory in Indochina in the next twelve to fifteen months. (3) --George Allen
21 January 1954: Admiral Radford . . . was inclined to feel that the press had exaggerated the emergency in French Indochina, and that things were not as bad as they were presented.(4)
11 February 1954: [DCI Allen Dulles told the NSC meeting that] The surrounding force [of Viet Minh troops] which remained at Dien Bien Phu was now sufficiently reduced so that a frontal attack on the French strongpoint appeared unlikely.(5)
12 October 1960: If ever there was a war where we would have been engaged in a hopeless struggle without allies, for an unpopular colonialist cause, it was the 1954 war in Indochina.(6) --John F. Kennedy
7 April 1962: The following considerations influence our thinking on Vietnam: 1. We have a growing military commitment. This could expand step by step into a major, long-drawn out indecisive military involvement. 2. We are backing a weak and, on the record, ineffectual government and a leader who as a politician may be beyond the point of no return. 3. There is consequent danger we shall replace the French as the colonial forces in the area and bleed as the French did.(7) --John Kenneth Galbraith
30 January 1963: Adm. Harry D. Felt, Pacific commander, predicted today that the American-backed Government of Vietnam would win its war against communist guerrillas within three years.(8) --The New York Times
Spring 1963: . . . barring greatly increased resupply and reinforcement of the Viet Cong by infiltration, the military phase of the war can be virtually won in 1963.(9) --DIA
Spring 1963: We are winning, this we know. General Harkins tells us so. In the delta, things are rough. In the mountains, mighty tough. But we're winning, this we know. General Harkins tells us so. If you doubt that this is true, McNamara says so too.(10)
April 1963: [At the Secretary of Defense's conference in Honolulu] General Harkins said the war would be over by Christmas.(11)
6 May 1963: A Pentagon spokesman said today that "the corner has definitely been turned" toward victory in South Vietnam and Defense officials are hopeful that the 12,000 man U.S. force in Vietnam could be reduced in one to three years.(12) --The New York Times
31 August 1963: [Secretary of State Rusk added] that he believes we have good proof that we have been winning the war, particularly the contrast between the first six months of 1962 and the first six months of 1963.(13) --Unidentified NSC principal
14 March 1964: The military tools and concepts of the GVN-US effort are generally sound and adequate. . . . Substantial reductions in the number of US military training personnel should be possible before the end of 1965.(14) --Robert McNamara
10 September 1964: Senator Wayne Morse: Is it presently contemplated as you survey the problems of the next 6 to 12 months that it will be necessary to send additional military personnel to South Vietnam? Gen. Maxwell Taylor: No. The present authorized strength is about 20,000, which, in General Westmoreland's estimate, would last him. He foresaw no requirement beyond that in the coming year.(15)
1 March 1967: Mr. [Robert] Komer opened by exuding optimism on the current trend in Vietnam. . . . [he] expressed considerable disdain for MACV J-2, and particularly what he believes to be its over-estimate of enemy strength. . . . Concluding, Mr. Komer recognized the possible trip-ups in the overall situation but anticipated that unless they occur, major military operations might gradually fade as the enemy either began to fade away or put his emphasis on a protracted guerrilla level war. In either case, he said, the size of the problem in Vietnam will diminish and fewer U.S. resources will be needed. He felt that the enemy threat had peaked out, and that we may be facing a Malaya-type run-down.(16) --William Colby
2 March 1967: The contrasts between the situation existing then [spring of 1965] and that existing today were dramatic and striking. There are many soft spots and weak areas in the present situation but the overall progress made in the last twenty-odd months is inescapable and overwhelming. . . . It would be too much to say that our side scents victory, but there is certainly no atmosphere of defeat or impending disaster.(17) --George Carver
January 1968: Westmoreland's summary of 1967 had reached Washington just four days before the Tet offensive began. Like nearly every official, the general was optimistic. He confidently reported: "In many areas the enemy has been driven away from the population centers; in others he has been compelled to disperse and evade contact, thus nullifying much of his potential. The year ended with the enemy resorting to desperation tactics in attempting to achieve military/psychological victory, and he has experienced only failure in these attempts."(18) --Col. Dave Palmer
March 1968: Three days after the New Hampshire primary [in which anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy had gained a stunning number of votes], on March 15, Acheson sat down to lunch alone with the President and told him what he had found. Johnson, already shaken by the wobbly attitude of one renowned hawk, Clark Clifford, was thunderstruck by Acheson's apparent defection. Acheson told the President that his recent Vietnam speeches were so far out of touch with reality that no one believed him, at home or abroad.(19) --Marvin Kalb and Elie Abel
II: Distortions of Intelligence
In the June  BBC Listener, Martin Harrison discusses the role of the press in war. "Freedom of information," he writes, "was an early victim of the Algerian War. At the root of the chronic failure of Algerian policy lay an irrational insistence on taking wish for reality. Governments assiduously cultivated fictions of which they were as much the prisoners as the public. . . . To close the gap between myth and reality," Harrison concludes, "progressively tighter control of information seemed essential." Without the change of a syllable, the lesson can be applied in South Vietnam.(20)
1979: As the last operational chief of (MACV) collection in Vietnam, I encountered problem areas and restrictions on my ability to report that I feel worthy of note. . . . All reports generated by my office (approximately some 1,200 per month) were passed to the Ambassador. . . . My attempts to bring some qualitative dimension to RVNAF reporting came to his attention quickly, and his displeasure was voiced to [the DAO] in clear and unmistakable terms. . . . In the earlier experiences reports were severely edited, refused approval, or delayed to the point that [they] were no longer of value. In the latter months most reports simply disappeared into the great Embassy maw never to be seen or heard. . . . To their credit, and particularly because of their justifiable feeling that the DAO operation was amateurish, the CIA did not interfere with DAO operations. . . . From my earliest associations with Vietnam (1961) I have been concerned about US handling of information from that area. . . . This included deliberate and reflexive manipulation of information, restrictions on collection, and censorship of reporting.(21) --Henry Shockley
29 November 1975: [Col. Shockley's memorandum] is a fascinating document of considerable intrinsic interest and importance. It points up a problem that was particularly acute in Vietnam but occurs world-wide, especially in areas where there is a close relationship between a US advisory establishment and the local government's armed services. It is a piece of paper I commend to your perusal and believe will be of interest to the other recipients of this memorandum.(22) --George Carver
Every military man with whom I talked [during my recent Southeast Asia tour] privately admitted that we are losing the war.(23) --Richard M. Nixon
The United States mission in Saigon is under instructions from Washington to get along with President Ngo Dinh Diem's regime come hell or high water and forget about political reforms. . . . American officials who "leak" stories unflattering to the Saigon Government or who depart from the Washington line of "cautious optimism" are tracked down by the embassy and muzzled. Correspondents who send gloomy dispatches are apt to be upbraided for lack of patriotism.(24) --Homer Bigart, The New York Times
1969: The men to watch as the pressure of events grew, he [John Mecklen, USIA chief in Saigon] said, were the two who were at the fulcrum, William Trueheart, the Deputy Chief of Mission, and Brig. Gen. Richard Stilwell, the new chief of staff to Harkins . . . .[Stilwell] became the hatchet man for Harkins, the man who personally quashed the reporting of the dissenting colonels, who challenged all dissenting views, and who, though he was not in the intelligence operation, went through the intelligence reports, tidying them up.(25) --David Halberstam
One area we failed to investigate during those early years of the American buildup was the growing gap between the optimistic reports of progress that were coming in through the official chain of command and the increasingly skeptical reporting by some of the journalists covering the war. . . Even though these skeptical reports were based in part on the views of many junior American officers serving as advisers to the South Vietnamese Army, the Administration viewed the reports as a public-relations nuisance rather than as something that needed to be looked at carefully.(26) --Clark Clifford
1 October 1963: The restrictive US press policy in Vietnam . . . unquestionably contributed to the lack of information about conditions in Vietnam which created an international crisis. Instead of hiding the facts from the American public, the State Department should have done everything possible to expose the true situation to full view.(27) --House Subcommittee
I was summoned to Ambassador Taylor's office to go over the estimate [drawn up in response to a Washington request that the field submit a coordinated assessment]. . . . The Ambassador at first wanted to omit the conclusions entirely. . . . Then he suggested eliminating those parts of the concluding paragraphs which attempted to assess future trends. . . . Finally, he directed that I omit two of the five concluding paragraphs, on the grounds that they painted too dark a picture. . . . So the estimate was sent off to Washington without those paragraphs assessing ARVN's diminishing effectiveness and future prospects.(28) --George Allen
1984: [In late 1963, my own cursory on-the-spot impression of the sorry state of the strategic hamlet program in the Delta] was confirmed in a more extensive survey conducted by Earl Young, the senior U.S. representative in the province. He reported in early December that three quarters of the two hundred strategic hamlets in Long An had been destroyed since the summer, either by the Vietcong or by their own occupants, or by a combination of both. He also contradicted the American and South Vietnamese optimists in Saigon, who had been heralding the decline in enemy activity, by pointing out that Vietcong attacks in the province had subsided primarily because there were no longer any strategic hamlets worth attacking. "The only progress made in Long An Province," he concluded, "has been by the Vietcong."(29) --Stanley Karnow
June 1966: I must admit that unless I maintained some degree of optimism it was hard to get out of bed in the morning. One tended, I think, to magnify those points which made the situation a little promising and tended to discount a little the things that made it less so. . . . Basically the fellows who are optimistic are not so much those in the field, as the chaps in headquarters in Washington and Saigon who . . . tend to take a happier view than perhaps the objective circumstances might indicate.(30) --Chester Cooper
III: The Domino Thesis
June 1949: . . . the extension of Communist authority in China represents a grievous political defeat for us . . . If Southeast Asia is also swept by communism, we shall have suffered a major political rout the repercussions of which will be felt throughout the rest of the world, especially in the Middle East and in a then critically exposed Australia . . . the colonial-nationalist conflict provides a fertile field for subversive Communist movements, and it is now clear that Southeast Asia is the target for a coordinated offensive directed by the Kremlin. (NSC 48/1).(31) --Pentagon Papers
27 February 1950: It is recognized that the threat of Communist aggression against Indochina is only one phase of anticipated Communist plans to seize all of Southeast Asia. . . . The neighboring countries of Thailand and Burma could be expected to fall under Communist domination if Indochina were controlled by a Communist-dominated government. The balance of Southeast Asia would then be in grave hazard. (Report by the National Security Council).(32) --Pentagon Papers
31 January 1951: [Military assistance for Indochina is essential because] it is generally acknowledged that if Indochina were to fall under control of the Communists, Burma and Thailand would follow suit almost immediately. Thereafter, it would be difficult, if not impossible for Indonesia, India and the others to remain outside the Soviet-dominated Asian Bloc.(33) --Dean Rusk
17 March 1951: General de Lattre is to be here in a few minutes (at 8:45) to see me reference his request for reinforcement for Indochina: the French have a knotty problem on that one--the campaign out there is a draining sore in their side. Yet if they quit and Indochina falls to Commies, it is easily possible that the entire Southeast Asia and Indonesia will go, soon to be followed by India.(34) --Dwight D. Eisenhower
13 February 1952: Communist domination of Southeast Asia, whether by means of overt invasion, subversion, or accommodation on the part of the indigenous governments, would be critical to United States security interests. . . . The fall of Southeast Asia would underline the apparent economic advantages to Japan of association with the Communist-dominated Asian sphere. . . . In the long run the loss of Southeast Asia, especially Malaya and Indonesia, could result in such economic and political pressures in Japan as to make it extremely difficult to prevent Japan's political accommodation to the Soviet Bloc.(35) --NSC Staff Study
16 January 1954: In the conflict in Indochina, the Communist and non-Communist worlds clearly confront one another on the field of battle. The loss of the struggle in Indochina, in addition to its impact in Southeast Asia and in South Asia, would therefore have the most serious repercussions on US and free world interests in Europe and elsewhere.(36) --NSC 5404
12 March 1954: Should Indochina be lost to the Communists and in the absence of immediate and effective counteraction on the part of the Western Powers which would of necessity be on a much greater scale than that which could be decisive in Indochina, the conquest of the remainder of Southeast Asia would inevitably follow. . . . Orientation of Japan toward the West is the keystone of United States policy in the Far East. In the judgment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the loss of Southeast Asia to Communism would, through economic and political pressures, drive Japan into an accommodation with the Communist Bloc. The communization of Japan would be the predictable result.(37) --Adm. Arthur Radford, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
6 April 1954: [President Eisenhower stated that] Indochina was the first in a row of dominoes. If it fell its neighbors would shortly thereafter fall with it, and where did the process end? If he was correct, said the President, it would end with the United States directly behind the 9-ball: "in certain areas at least we cannot afford to let Moscow gain another bit of territory. Dien Bien Phu itself may be such a critical point."(38)
7 April 1954: In a press conference on April 7, 1954, Eisenhower . . . [applied] what might be called the falling domino principle; he compared Indochina to the first of a row of dominoes which is knocked over, making the fall of the last one a certainty. The fall of Indochina would lead to the fall of Burma, Thailand, Malaya and Indonesia. India would then be hemmed in by Communism and Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Formosa and Japan would all be gravely threatened.(39) --Sherman Adams, President Eisenhower's Special Assistant
19 January 1961: President Eisenhower opened the discussion on Laos by stating that the United States was determined to preserve the independence of Laos. It was his opinion that if Laos should fall to the Communists, then it would be just a question of time until South Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma would collapse. He felt that the Communists had designs on all of Southeast Asia, and that it would be a tragedy to permit Laos to fall.(40) --Memorandum of Conversation, Eisenhower-Kennedy meeting on Laos
19 January 1961: As I listened to him [Eisenhower] in the Cabinet Room that January morning, I recalled that it was President Eisenhower who had acquainted the public with the phrase "domino theory" by using it to describe how one country after another could be expected to fall under Communist control once the process started in Southeast Asia.(41) --Clark Clifford
8 November 1961: The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff agree: 1. The fall of South Vietnam to Communism would lead to the fairly rapid extension of Communist control, or complete accommodation to Communism, in the rest of mainland Southeast Asia and in Indonesia. The strategic implications, world-wide, particularly in the Orient, would be extremely dangerous.(42) 13 January 1962: It must be recognized that the fall of South Vietnam to Communist control would mean the eventual Communist domination of all of the Southeast Asian mainland. . . . Of equal importance to the immediate losses are the eventualities which could follow the loss of the Southeast Asian mainland. All of the Indonesian archipelago could come under the domination and control of the USSR and would become a Communist base posing a threat against Australia and New Zealand. The Sino-Soviet Bloc would have control of the eastern access to the Indian Ocean. The Philippines and Japan could be pressured to assume, at best, a neutralist role, thus eliminating two of our major bases of defense in the Western Pacific. Our lines of defense then would be pulled north to Korea, Okinawa and Taiwan resulting in the subsequent overtaxing of our lines of communications in a limited war. India's ability to remain neutral would be jeopardized and, as the Bloc meets success, its concurrent stepped-up activities to move into and control Africa can be expected. . . . It is, in fact, a planned phase in the Communist timetable for world domination.(43) --Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
10 May 1962: Eisenhower dwelt at length on the danger to South Vietnam and Thailand as both will be outflanked if Laos is in Communist hands and concluded that such a situation would be so critical to Southeast Asia and so important to the U.S. that most extreme measures, including the commitment of U.S. forces to combat in Laos, were justified. . . . Finally Eisenhower warned of the consequences of losing Southeast Asia, pointing out that if it is lost, nothing would stop the southward movement of Communism through Indonesia and this would have the effect of cutting the world in half.(44) --John McCone
September 1963: [Upon being asked by Chet Huntley whether he believed in the "domino theory," he replied] I believe it, I believe it. I think that the struggle is close enough. China is so large, looms so high just beyond the frontier, that if South Vietnam went, it would not only give them an improved geographic position for a guerrilla assault on Malaya, but would also give the impression that the wave of the future in Southeast Asia was China and the Communists. So I believe it.(45) --President Kennedy, on NBC/TV
17 March 1964: We seek an independent non-Communist Vietnam. . . . Unless we can achieve this objective in South Vietnam, almost all of Southeast Asia will probably fall under Communist dominance (all of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), accommodate to Communism so as to remove effective U.S. and anti-Communist influence (Burma), or fall under the domination of forces not now explicitly Communist but likely then to become so (Indonesia taking over Malaysia). Thailand might hold for a period without help, but would become shaky, and the threat to India on the West, Australia and New Zealand to the South, and Taiwan, Korea, and Japan to the North would be greatly increased.(46) --NSC Action Memorandum (NSAM) 288
9 June 1964: A formal question the President [Lyndon Johnson] submitted to the C.I.A. in June also indicated what was on his mind. "Would the rest of Southeast Asia necessarily fall if Laos and South Vietnam came under North Vietnamese control?" he asked. The agency's reply on June 9 challenged the domino theory, widely believed in one form or another within the Administration. "With the possible exception of Cambodia," the C.I.A. memorandum said, "it is likely that no nation in the area would quickly succumb to Communism as a result of the fall of Laos and Vietnam. Furthermore, a continuation of the spread of Communism in the area would not be inexorable, and any spread which did occur would take time--time in which the total situation might change in any number of ways unfavorable to the Communist cause." The C.I.A. analysis conceded that the loss of South Vietnam and Laos "would be profoundly damaging to the U.S. position in the Far East" and would raise the prestige of China "as a leader of world Communism" at the expense of a more moderate Soviet Union. But the analysis argued that so long as the United States could retain its island bases, such as those on Okinawa, Guam, the Philippines and Japan, it could wield enough military power in Asia to deter China and North Vietnam from overt military aggression against Southeast Asia in general. Even in the "worst case," if South Vietnam and Laos were to fall through "a clear-cut Communist victory," the United States would still retain some leverage to affect the final outcome in Southeast Asia, according to the analysis. It said that "the extent to which individual countries would move away from the U.S. towards the Communists would be significantly affected by the substance and manner of U.S. policy in the period following the loss of Laos and South Vietnam."(47) -- Pentagon Papers
February-March 1968: Also, I could not free myself from the continuing nagging doubt left over from that August  trip, that if the nations living in the shadow of Viet Nam were not now persuaded by the domino theory, perhaps it was time for us to take another look.(48) --Clark Clifford, then Secretary of Defense
(1) From Time magazine, as cited in U.S. Congress, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War: Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships, Part I, 1945-1961, p. 141. Written by Dr. William Conrad Gibbons. Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, 98th Congress, 2d Session, 1984. (Hereafter cited as Gibbons).
(6) US Senator and Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, remarks to Democratic National and State Committees, New York. U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Commerce, Subcommittee of the Subcommittee on Communications, Freedom of Communications, Part I, as cited in Chester L. Cooper, The Lost Crusade, p. 162.
(7) Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith, Memorandum for the President, as cited in Pentagon Papers (DoD ed.), Book 12, V-B-4, "U.S. Involvement in the War, Internal Documents, The Kennedy Administration, January 1961-November 1963," Book II, p. 461.
(15) Statements at executive session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. U.S. Senate, 88th Congress, 2d Session, 1964, Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Together with Joint Sessions of the Senate Armed Services Committee (Historical Series). Made public December 1987 (USGPO, 1988), p. 332.
(16) William E. Colby, Memorandum for the Record, "VIC Meeting, 1 March 1967," 3 March 1967 (S). CIA/DDO files, Job No. 72-233R, Box 1, Folder 3, "Vietnam Interagency Committee (Komer Meetings), April 1966 - May 67."
(17) George A. Carver (assessing the situation after a two-week visit to South Vietnam), Memorandum, "Comments on Vietnam," 2 March 1967. (S) On 14 March Carver sent a copy of his memo to the DDI, R. J. Smith, indicating that he had prepared it at the request of Walt Rostow but had told Rostow it was a personal paper, not an official CIA memorandum. CIA files, Job No. 80B01721R, O/D/NFAC, Box 1, "Substantive Policy Files, DDI Vietnam Files," Folder 7, "Special Assistant for Vietnam Affairs (SAVA) Jan-June 1967." George Allen told the author on 1 December 1995 that Carver had asked O/NE and DDI officers for a draft memo for Rostow but had then "rosied up" the judgments provided.
(22) George Carver, cover memorandum to DCI Colby. "Lt. Col. Shockley's Critique of the Collection of Intelligence on the ARVN," 29 November 1975 (S). CIA/DDI files, Job No. 80R01720R, O/D/NFAC, Box 1, Folder 9.
(37) Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, "Preparation of Department of Defense Views Regarding Negotiations on Indochina for the Forthcoming Geneva Conference," Pentagon Papers (Gravel ed.), Vol. I, pp. 449-450.
(43) Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, "The Strategic Importance of the Southeast Asia Mainland," Pentagon Papers (DoD ed.), Book 12, V-B-4; U.S. Involvement in the War, Internal Documents, The Kennedy Administration: January 1961-November 1963, Book II, pp. 448-450.
(46) "U.S. Objectives in South Vietnam." Pentagon Papers (The New York Times Edition: Bantam Books, 1971), pp. 283, 284. The above statement, incorporated into the NSAM, was a verbatim repeat of a Memorandum for the President the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, had prepared the previous day, 16 March 1964. Ibid., p. 278.
(47) The New York Times Edition, pp. 253-254. The CIA memorandum was prepared by the Office of National Estimates. President Johnson's request for CIA's views on the validity of the domino thesis came some 12 weeks after he had already made that thesis a part of formal US policy (NSAM 288, of 17 March 1964). Former Secretary of Defense McNamara, referring to the O/NE memorandum but omitting the language cited, claims that it supported the domino thesis. In Retrospect, pp.124-125.