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McNamara Orders Seventh Fleet to South Vietnam Vicinity

Nov. 1, 1963 - The Defense Department ordered ships of the Seventh Fleet to the vicinity of South Vietnam today to protect any Americans who might be endangered by disorders accompanying the overthrow of President Ngo Dinh Diem. The Pentagon emphasized the order was strictly a “precautionary measure” and did not signify any intention to intervene militarily in the Vietnamese crisis. “This order has been given should it be necessary to protect American lives in South Vietnam,” a brief Pentagon announcement said. The order was issued by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara shortly before 11 a.m. — about 8 hours after Washington learned of the military revolt. The first word of the outbreak of fighting in Saigon (pictured) came shortly before 3 a.m. EST, in a report from the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam teletyped to the White House situation room, a command center in the White House basement that receives diplomatic and intelligence reports from around the world. The report set off a flurry of early-morning activity that turned on the lights in the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, and the Central Intelligence Agency. McGeorge Bundy, the President’s special assistant for national security affairs, awakened President Kennedy with a 3 a.m. telephone call. During the predawn hours, the President kept informed on developments by telephone. At 6 a.m., Mr. Bundy went to the President’s bedroom to give him a briefing on the situation.


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