Defense Secretary McNamara Addresses The DNC Platform – 1964 – Past Daily Reference Room
Seven days after the infamous “Gulf of Tonkin Incident“, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was giving a pep talk to the Democratic Party Platform, ahead of the Convention which would see Lyndon Johnson secure nomination for President. It was too early to tell and too vague to know just how all of this was going to end up. At the time it was looking like the U.S. was going to be more heavily involved in a shooting war in Southeast Asia than it had when the U.S. presence in Vietnam consisted of “advisers” – and how it would change and shape lives and affect the decade of the 60s still remained to be seen. At the time though, we had enemies described and objectives spelled out and the notion of a drawn-out, protracted war wasn’t even considered.
Here is a transcribe excerpt of that address:
To deal with this form of political and military aggression and similar acts of violence which are less than all‐out war, since 1961:
¶We have increased the regular strength of the Army by 100,000 men, and the number of combat‐ready divisions from 11 to 16.
¶We have raised the number of tactical fighter squadrons from 5 to 79.
¶We have trained over 100,000 officers in counter‐insurgency skills necessary to fight guerrilla and anti‐guerrilla warfare.
¶We have put into production the new C‐141 Starlifter, which will, by 1968, increase our airlift by 400 per cent over what we had in 1961.
What I have just described is an aggregation of force without parallel in human history. As President Johnson has said, “we as well as our adversaries, must stand in awe before the power our craft has created and our wisdom must labor to control.”
To create and maintain such a force has required the investment of $30 billion more for the fiscal years 1962‐1965 than would have been spent had we continued at the level of the last defense budget of the previous Administration.
To create and maintain such a force requires natural resources, scientific ingenuity, industrial complexes, and millions of Americans dedicated to the security of this country and the free world.
To harness this wide array of human and material resources, and to form them into usable power requires an exceedingly precise degree of control. The engine of defense must be so harnessed that its vast power may be unleashed to the precise degree required by whatever threat we face.
And here is that complete address, as given to the Democratic Platform Committee – August 17, 1964.