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McNamara Responds to Morse’s Vietnam Criticism

Apr. 24, 1964 - Defense Secretary Robert McNamara said today that he did not mind if the fighting in Vietnam was termed “McNamara’s War.”

Senator Wayne Morse (D-Ore.), who renewed his attack on U.S. policy in South Vietnam in a Senate speech, has been calling it “McNamara’s war.”

Morse has objected especially to the Administration’s commitment to continue supporting the South Vietnamese forces as long as it takes to defeat the Communist Viet Cong insurgents.

“I have a high regard for Senator Morse, but not in this respect,” McNamara said at a news conference. “This is a war of the United States Government. I am following the President’s policy and obviously in close cooperation with the Secretary of State. I must say, I don’t object to its being called ‘McNamara’s War.’ I think it is a very important war, and I am pleased to be identified with it and do whatever I can to win it.”

In lengthy floor speech, Senator Morse charged that the United States’ participation in the war in Vietnam was “illegal and a menace to the American nation.”

“Aside from the illegality of our intervention,” he continued, “there is the sheer stupidity of a unilateral American land war in Asia whose only promise is to bog us down there indefinitely.”

At his press conference, McNamara was asked whether American personnel would be withdrawn by the end of 1965.

“In early October of last year,” he replied, “I stated that I believed we should bring back U.S. personnel as they completed their training missions. I anticipated that the missions could be completed by the end of 1965. I continue to believe we should not leave an American in South Vietnam longer than necessary to train a Vietnamese counterpart to carry on that action.

But he added emphatically that “withdrawals” of personnel would be balanced by further “additions” if the situation required them and that the U.S. would continue to provide “whatever military assistance in the form of advice and logistical support is required and will provide it for however long it is required.”

McNamara said he still believed in ultimate victory. In response to questions, he repeated the Administration’s view opposing direct United States intervention.

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