Dec. 11, 1963 - President Johnson told the nation’s top defense strategists today that America’s most urgent task is elimination of Communist subversion from South Vietnam and the Caribbean. The U.S. must battle with “all our energy,” Mr. Johnson said, to stamp out the Communist threat in these two vital areas. He made the statement before roughly 800 senior military officers and civilian defense leaders in the Pentagon auditorium. The President made clear his conviction that there must be no letup in the fight to halt terrorism and sabotage which spread from Cuba to other Caribbean countries and from Red China and North Vietnam into South Vietnam. “In these two areas,” Mr. Johnson declared, “we must be constantly alert to every opportunity to sustain and strengthen the forces of freedom.” The President met in private with the defense officials, but his comments were passed along to newsmen by White House sources. He told those gathered in the auditorium: “This country has never had an abler or more dedicated Secretary of Defense, and I have known them all.” He called Secretary McNamara a “great American executive” and said that President Kennedy was “right and fortunate” in obtaining the former automobile company head “as his chief lieutenant.” Mr. Johnson also said he had “special confidence” in General Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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