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Goldwater Floats Atomic Weapons Use in Southeast Asia

May 24, 1964 - Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) said today that low-yield atomic weapons could be used to defoliate the forests along South Vietnam’s border to expose the jungle supply lines of the Communist Viet Cong.

Goldwater, the leading contender for the Republican Presidential nomination, also urged the bombing of bridges, roads, and railroads used for bringing supplies from Communist China and North Vietnam unless the Communists halt military shipments over them.

Such nonatomic attacks on supply lines should be carried out wherever the supply lines are, he said.

The Senator discussed his views on Vietnam and other issues in a recorded interview on the ABC radio and television program “Issues and Answers.”

The present U.S. policy in Vietnam, he said, “lacks decision.” He then outlined his views when asked what decisions he would suggest.

“I think the first decision is that we are going to win,” he said. “In other words, we are not just down there as advisers, we are down there with our boys, now, and the boys are getting shot.”

He said the U.S. was waging a defensive war there, and “a defensive war is never won.”

After he had proposed cutting the supply lines to the Viet Cong, he was asked how he would deal with the trails running through dense jungles. These cannot be seen from the air.

“There have been several suggestions made,” he said. “I don’t think we would use any of them. But defoliation of the forests by low-yield atomic weapons could well be done. When you remove the foliage, you remove the cover.”

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