General Maxwell Taylor, returning to the U.S. after spending a year as our Ambassador to South Vietnam went before the panel on Meet The Press and told, in no uncertain terms, that this was going to be a long, protracted War and that we better get used to it.
In 1965, those words didn’t seem as ominous as they would later on, when the war really did become protracted and the voices calling for our withdrawal were getting larger and louder. But in 1965, we were a year away from the episode that got it all started; the Gulf of Tonkin. America had believed it was an “honorable war” – that our boots-on-the-ground in Vietnam meant the Communist influence in Southeast Asia would be stopped; the Domino theory wouldn’t go any further and that the North Vietnamese could be beaten into submission.
But even in 1965, there were doubts. As is evidenced by the testy exchange between Taylor of the correspondents. Taylor seemed unwilling to make any predictions, unable to give a timeframe and this was a cause for concern. Taylor felt that whatever the U.S. did to prevent Communist aggression in the region was worth it and that his answers carried a certain level of arrogance; that we were justified in any actions we took to win the war.
In 1965 the Anti-War movement hadn’t gained the strength it did only a few years later, but even the Media were beginning to question just how much sacrifice was going to be needed in order to stop the perceived threat of aggression from Hanoi, and ultimately from Beijing and Moscow. Taylor’s answers are sometimes evasive, sometimes contentious. It was a sample of what we were going to be seeing and hearing on an almost daily basis, along with body counts and Missing In Action. And we would soon be consumed by it.
So here is a reminder of what we all heard and kept hearing all through the mid-60s on. Exactly as broadcast on August 8, 1965.