Wednesday, January 27, 1965: Vietnam memo

National security adviser McGeorge Bundy and defense secretary Robert McNamara send to President Johnson a memo titled "Basic Policy in Vietnam." They state:

What we want to say to you is that both of us are now pretty well convinced that our current policy can lead only to disastrous defeat. What we are doing now, essentially, is to wait and hope for a stable government. ... We see two alternatives. The first is to use our military power in the Far East and to force a change of Communist policy. The second is to deploy all our resources along a track of negotiation, aimed at salvaging what little can be preserved with no major addition to our military risks. Bob and I tend to favor the first course, but we believe that both should be carefully studied and that alternative programs should be argued out before you. ... the time has come for harder choices.

This came to be known as the "fork in the road" or "fork in the Y" memo, though neither phrase was used.

     -- Photo (cropped) from July 23, 1965; from left, Johnson, McNamara and Bundy. Original White House image: @

* Full text of memo (from "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968): @
* Original document (from LBJ Library): @
* "Observations Re South Vietnam After Khanh's 'Re-Coup' " (January 27, by assistant secretary of defense J.T. McNaughton; from Pentagon Papers): @
* January 27 telegram from Johnson to Gen. Maxwell Taylor, U.S. ambassador to Vietnam (from FRUS): @
* "The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam" (Andrew Preston, 2006): @
* "Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy" (McNamara et al., 1999): @
* "American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War" (David Kaiser, 2000): @
* "Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam" (Fredrik Logevall, 1999): @
* "The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War: Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships, Part III" (William Conrad Gibbons, 1989): @
* "The Case for the Vietnam War" (W.W. Rostow, Times Literary Supplement, June 1995): @ 

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