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McNamara Testifies Before Armed Services Committee

Feb. 18, 1964 - Defense Secretary Robert McNamara has told members of Congress that the U.S. still hopes to withdraw most of its troops from South Vietnam before the end of 1965. There are about 15,500 officers and men of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps serving in training and other assignments with the South Vietnamese in their war against the Viet Cong.

The Defense Secretary, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee made public today, disclosed that orders had gone out to certain U.S. commanders to complete their training assignments and start sending their men home. He called attention to the fact that 1,000 training troops were withdrawn last December. In answer to a question, Mr. McNamara said 101 Americans had been killed in combat operations in Vietnam.

On a current problem, a Pentagon spokesman said there was no plan to bring home any of the dependents of Americans in Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital, although Viet Cong terrorists have stepped up their attacks on the American community. There are 785 dependents in South Vietnam, the Pentagon said, of whom 569 are in military families and 216 with employees of civilian agencies.

The essential view expressed by Mr. McNamara was that the fighting will be long and hard, that victory is probable, and the U.S. will find it possible to withdraw most, if not all, of its support troops. “We continue to be hopeful that we will be able to complete the training responsibilities of many of the other U.S. personnel now in Vietnam and gradually withdraw them over the period between now and the end of 1965,” he said. “I simply believe that the war in South Vietnam will be won primarily through Vietnamese effort; it is a Vietnamese war. It is a war of counterguerrillas against the guerrillas. We are only assisting them through training and logistical support.”

The U.S. started a major assistance program in late 1961, Mr. McNamara recalled, adding: “I think it is reasonable to expect that after four years of such training, we should be able gradually to withdraw certain of our training personnel.”


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