JFK on Staying in Vietnam


CBS Interview, September 2, 1963

MR. CRONKITE. Mr. President, the only hot war we’ve got running at the moment is of course the one in Viet-Nam, and we have our difficulties here, quite obviously.

PRESIDENT KENNEDY. I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it-the people of Viet-Nam-against the Communists. We are prepared to continue to assist them, but I don’t think that the war can be won unless the people support the effort….

….In the final analysis it is the people end the Government itself who have to win or lose this struggle. All he can do is help, and we are making it very clear. But I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake. That would be a great mistake. I know people don’t like Americans to be engaged in this kind of an effort. Forty-seven Americans have been killed in combat with the enemy, but this is a very important struggle even though it is far away.


* * * * * * *


NBC Interview, September 9, 1963

Mr. HUNTLEY. Are we likely to reduce our aid to South Viet-Nam now?

The PRESIDENT. I don’t think we think that would be helpful at this time. If you reduce your aid, it is possible you could have some effect upon the government structure there. On the other hand, you might have a situation which could bring about a collapse. Strongly in our mind is what happened in the case of China at the end of World War II, where China was lost-a weak government became increasingly unable to control events. We don’t want that….

What I am concerned about is that Americans will get impatient and say, because they don’t like events in Southeast Asia or they don’t like the Government in Saigon, that we should withdraw. That only makes it easy for the Communists. I think we should stay. We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw.

Thanks to Zolton Grossman for unearthing these transcripts.


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