JOHNSON, Lyndon B. Typed letter signed (''Lyndon B. Johnson'') to General Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Austin, TX, 24 June 1970. 3 pages, 4to (10 3/8 x 7 1/8 in.), on his personal stationery, in very fine condition.
JOHNSON, Lyndon B. Typed letter signed ("Lyndon B. Johnson") to General Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Austin, TX, 24 June 1970. 3 pages, 4to (10 3/8 x 7 1/8 in.), on his personal stationery, in very fine condition.
DEFENDING HIS REPUTATION: JOHNSON SEEKS IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON THE VIETNAM WAR FOR HIS MEMOIRES.
An important letter in which former President Johnson attempts to clarify a 1968 Joint Chiefs of Staff memo which suggested reducing American involvement in Vietnam by focusing on the training of the South Vietnamese Army as an effective counter to the Viet Cong. Johnson was the subject of severe criticism during his presidency. A growing antiwar movement which featured increasingly large protest events had chosen the President as the focal point for its criticism. Johnson was perplexed by the public reaction: "[He] couldn't understand how people saw him as a villain in the struggle. He sincerely believed that the war from the American side was a fight for people everywhere...to enjoy freedom from political oppression and economic want" (Dallek, Flawed Giant, p. 366). After the Presidency, Johnson looked upon the publication of his memoires as the last chance to redeem his reputation.
Here, in the process of gathering information for his book, he asks "Bus" Wheeler to interpret a 1968 Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum: "I continue to be puzzled by this matter of a program in 1968 for modernization and improvement of ARVN that, if adopted, would have left South Viet Nam's forces in a position to cope alone with both the Viet Cong threat and North Vietnamese aggression. You write that the Joint Chiefs submitted such a plan to the Secretary of Defense in 'the spring of 1968'...and, 'presumably because of the price tag,' [the OSD] directed the JCS to cut back the program' to the point where the South Vietnamese forces would be improved to the degree that they could handle effectively the Viet Cong threat."
Johnson provides a list of relevant information from other documents which might aid Wheeler in responding. The list begins on April 8, 1968 and specifies various actions taken to increase the size of the South Vietnamese Air Force and is completed with a "detailed plan" by the Joint Chiefs of 23 May which includes the assumption "that an improved RVNAF [Republic of Viet Nam Air Force] could 'counter effectively Viet Cong operations not supported by extensive infiltration in the long term'." Johnson states, however, that he can "find nothing that fits the description of a plan for 'Vietnamization' predicated on either total withdrawal of U.S. forces or on raising the capability of RVNAF.
Despite his hope that his memoirs would vindicate his Administration, Johnson did not live to realize any dramatic reinterpretation of his role in the much maligned Vietnam War.