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Johnson Administration Accused of Hiding Facts on Vietnam

Apr. 21, 1964 - The Senate and House Republican floor leaders accused the Johnson Administration today of hiding the facts about South Vietnam from the American people. They said evidence was mounting that the U.S. was actually fighting the war there.

Rep. Charles Halleck (R-Ind.), the House leader, said there was an average of 42 American casualties a month in 1963 and 91 a month so far this year.

At a joint news conference with Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.), he read excerpts from letters written by an Air Force captain before he was killed in South Vietnam last month. The letters were made public by the captain’s widow.

On Jan. 8, Halleck said, Capt. Edwin G. Shank Jr. of Winimac, Ind., wrote: “I don’t know what the U.S. is doing. They tell you people we’re just in a training situation and they try to run us as a training base. But we’re at war, we are doing the flying and fighting. We are losing. Morale is very bad.”

From a letter dated Jan. 20, Halleck quoted: “I’ll bet you that anyone you talk to does not know that American pilots fight this war. The Vietnamese ‘students’ we have on board are airmen basics [recruits]. The only reason they are on board is, in case we crash, there is one American ‘adviser’ and one Vietnamese ‘student.’ They are sacrificial lambs, and they are a menace to have on board.”

“If we are going to war,” Halleck said, “let us prepare the American people for it.”

“Let’s have the whole brutal business out on the table,” Dirksen said, “and let the American people see it for what it is.”

President Johnson discussed Vietnam briefly at his news conference earlier today. He said: “We think it is very important that the freedom of South Vietnam be preserved. If our enemies and their neighbors would quit attacking them and go on back home, we could have peace in that area. But since they won’t do it, we are going to advise them and help them in every way we can to preserve freedom.”

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