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McNamara “Optimistic Over Progress To Be Made” in Vietnam

Dec. 20, 1963 - Revamped battle plans led Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to express hope today for tough campaigning by South Vietnam’s U.S.-backed armed forces against Communist guerrillas in 1964. “Now let’s be real tough,” the Secretary urged his Vietnamese counterpart, Maj. Gen. Tran Van Don (left), in winding up his second visit to Saigon in three months. McNamara said after an afternoon conference with officials of the junta, including Maj. Gen. Duong Van Minh and Premier Nguyen Ngoc Tho, “I am optimistic over progress to be made during the coming year.” Significant progress has been lacking since President Ngo Dinh Diem’s regime was destroyed in the military coup of Nov. 1-2 that made Minh Chief of State. In several sectors, the Viet Cong has claimed the initiative. A senior U.S. spokesman said the Army was forced to take a defensive role throughout November. After his September visit, McNamara forecast that the major U.S. part in the war — involving 16,000 Americans and expenditures of $500 million a year — could be completed by the end of 1965. Some observers in Washington and Saigon viewed that prediction as overly optimistic and intended to provide political benefit to President Kennedy’s reelection campaign. During his just-completed visit, Secretary McNamara was reported to have pointed out hard facts of the future to Vietnam’s high command. The junta was told the American commitment is not expected to continue indefinitely and positive results are hoped for — soon.


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