Page 12


fail, and each cribbed from the others what he believed was the only correct responseescalation. Truman and Eisenhower had poured ever-larger sums of money into Southeast Asia to prop up the fading French Empire. Kennedy beefed up our financial investment in the tottering puppet government of South Vietnam, and then sent a bevy of advisors to train the South Vietnamese army, and the Green Berets to run special operations; by his death in November 1963, our armed forces numbered upwards of 20,000. Johnson followed suit, and in early 1965 signed off on a new campaign dubbed “Rolling Thunder.” This plan for the sustained bombing of North Vietnamese military targets by U.S. jets stationed at Danang and elsewhere not only widened our strategic ambitions, but ratcheted up our presence on the ground. To defend these air bases required more troops on their perimeters; to protect those entrenched forceswhom the National Liberation Front and the North Vietnamese Army quickly targeteddemanded that hundreds of thousands more fight to secure the embattled countryside. LBJ recognized in advance the consequences of each step he would take. As he admit -continued on page 35 7~ Above: Lyndon Johnson in 1938, standing in front of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative offices in Johnson City. Left: In the Oval Office 1118/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13