tv The Sixties CNN November 24, 2016 12:00am-1:01am PST
it is a mixture of pretty scenery and ugly events. vietnam reports the day of the bloodiest fighting in almost a year. >> we will not surrender, and we will not retreat. >> you think you can win? >> oh, i know we can win. >> these people are being killed. and they're being killed why? >> the united states has to stop this bloody aggression.
progress. can you give us your assessment? >> we are putting in a major effort in vietnam. as you know we have 10 or 11 times as many advisers in there as we had a year ago. so we don't see the end of the tunnel, but i must say i don't think it's darker than a year ago, in someways lighter. >> early on, kennedy made a command decision, we will not allow south vietnam to fall to the communists. >> in southeast, asia, communist-inspired subversion was unrelenting. south vietnam looked to others for assistance in stemming north vietnamese aggression. >> going back to the eisenhower administration in the '50s, the country split into south and north vietnam. you have communists in the north and so the united states is very eager to preserve the south from a communist takeover. >> the communist north vietnamese believed in nationalism, uniting their country under their own control.
>> the cold war conspiracy was that if the vietnamese communist won the war in vietnam, all of southeast asia would fall. the dominos would fall, one after another. >> there is no doubt the fall of south vietnam would have serious repercussions on other countries of southeast asia. this is fundamentally the reason why we're in south vietnam. >> after all, eastern europe has fallen to communism. china has fallen to communism. we can't lose southeast asia. so we have to stabilize south vietnam. >> on january 2nd, 1963, south vietnamese troops surprise a vietcong battalion at a village called ap bac. five american helicopters are shot down. three american advisers are killed. 63 south vietnamese die, half of them shooting at each other.
>> we've got u.s. military advisers flying combat missions. we've got advisers that are accompanying south vietnamese forces into the field. so by this point, their role had gone beyond simply advising. >> we have learned a bitter lesson. the army of south vietnam cannot cope with the committed guerilla enemy. it is trained for conventional war american style. >> there is growing uncertainty about whether the advisory effort is really working. >> then in the midst there is a what's called a buddhist crisis. >> the war in vietnam has literally become a fight on two fronts. on one hand, the they face the vietcong communists and on the other hand a revolt of the majority, a fight which has been joined by thousands of students. >> the country's buddhist majority sees the president as a tyrant.
>> we had established a government in south vietnam lead by a western educated catholic named diem. diem was our boy. >> but absolute power corrupts, and diem becomes a dictator. >> a catholic presence imposing itself on a buddhist majority, and now they're going after the buddhists. >> soldiers and police broke up the demonstrations and killed nine persons. >> a debate broke out in the american government over whether we should continue to support diem or not. >> by the summer of 1963, there had been discussions in the cia the in the pentagon about toppling the regime. >> mr. president, has our government in any way been tardy in recognizing the nature of the diem government? >> we are faced with a problem
of wanting to protect the area against the communists. on the other hand we have to deal with the governments there. that produces a kind of ambivalence in our efforts, which expose us to some criticism. >> mr. president, in the last 48 hours, there have been a great many conflicting reports from there about what the cia was up to. can you give us any enlightenment on that? >> no, i don't think so. >> okay. >> this is an nbc special news report. the government of south vietnam has been overthrown by a military coup. >> now this happens with our understanding and knowledge and then the president of south vietnam is shot and killed by a cabal of south vietnamese generals. >> once the u.s. had lead the coup to get rid of diem, kennedy realized that the united states had finally bitten into a bad apple.
>> monday, november 4th, 1963, over the weekend, the coup in saigon took place. i feel that we must bear a good deal of responsibility for it. i should not have given my consent to it without a round table conference. i was shocked by the death of diem. the way he was killed made it particularly abhorrent. >> when that assassination took place, we owned it. it actually started that early in the '60s, in the kennedy administration. >> when kennedy came into office in january of 1961, you had on the order of about 600 u.s. military advisors in south
vietnam. by the time he left on that fateful trip to dallas in november 1963, there were more than 16,000. >> john kennedy's death commands what his life conveyed, that america must move forward. >> i think johnson genuinely felt that continuity in the government after this terrible event was essential to retaining the confidence of the american people. >> and now the ideas and the ideals which he so nobly represented must and will be translated into effective action.
congress and the nation had reminders today while the world seems suspended by our tragedy, it really kept on it's whirling way. vietnam reports today in the bloodiest fighting in almost a year. >> bob, how are we doing? >> oh, fine, mr. president. >> i want you to dictate to me on the situation in vietnam. i've got to have some kind of a summarized logical factual analysis of it. >> well, i do think, mr. president, it would be wise for you to say as little as possible. the frank answer, we don't know what is going on out there. the signs i see coming through the tables are disturbing signs. >> yeah, yeah.
>> robert mcnamara, secretary of defense, he had been the head of the ford motor company, a brilliant executive. >> famous especially for his cold analytic methods. >> he was a world war ii vet. he wanted to stop waste in the pentagon. >> we increased the number of army combat divisions by 45%. >> the expectation was he would figure out vietnam. >> the intention of my government is clear. we are prepared to produce whatever economic aid, whatever military training and whatever quantities are required and for as long as that is required. vietnam! >> the public secretary of defense mcnamara is full of bullish bravado, that we will prevail.
but privately, he is gloomy about the prospects. >> until a strong government begins to function here in saigon, the war against the communists will continue to flounder. >> i tell you, the more i stayed away last night thinking about this thing, it worries the hell out of me. i don't think it's worth fighting for and i don't think we can get out. of course, if you start running the communists, they may just chase you into your own kitchen. >> that's the trouble. >> gentlemen, this is a modern war but different war. we're here to advise and support our courageous vietnamese ally. >> the most complex war we had fought to this time and i think his plan for the war was an entirely conventional plan in a very unconventional war. >> we're over here to win, and we have what it takes to assist
them in this victory. is that enough for you? >> yes, sir. >> i'm going to put this in two parts. i'll be a little more candid in a second. >> lyndon johnson doesn't want to be a president who found his administration torpedoed by an unpopular war. parenthetically, however, we have a very interesting episode that happens in august of 1964 in the tonkin gulf. >> three pt boats identified by our state department as north vietnamese attacked the uss maddox, a destroyer operating in the tonkin gulf some 35 miles off the north vietnamese coast. >> this was not an unprovoked attack. there had been these covert actions against north vietnamese directed by the united states, and the north vietnamese were responding to that on august 2nd. >> this is a special report from cbs news in washington. today just past the midday point, unofficial sources
started to report additional naval combat action in the same tonkin gulf. >> now i would like to review briefly in chronological order, the unprovoked attacks that took place today, august 4th. >> we know now for sure the second tonkin gulf incident didn't happen. but the johnson administration pretty much dismissed evidence indicating that an attack actually hadn't taken place. >> there was this acute political pressure from the right wing to be strong, stand up to communist aggression. >> certainly, i think a more prudent administration that wasn't looking for a pretext to flex some american muscle would have stepped back and said, let's determine what actually happened here before we launch an retaliation. >> my fellow americans, hostile actions against united states
ships on the high seas have today required me to order the military forces of the united states to take action in reply. >> that was the beginning of the american air assault on north vietnam. >> president johnson has asked for and will soon get a congressional resolution authorizing the president to act as he is. >> the tonkin gulf resolution said that johnson had all-out power to use american military strength to defend american interests as he deemed necessary. >> and that is the beginning of the slippery slope. >> lyndon baines johnson has been elected president of the united states and the landslide has carried him in for his first term in office on his own right
by his own election. >> communist vietcong guerrillas killed seven americans and wounded 109 yesterday in a sneak nighttime attack on the american helicopter base at pleiku. >> i don't wish to speculate on action we may take in the future. i don't believe it will ever be possible to protect our forces against sneak attacks of that kind. >> vietnam keeps creeping into the oval office but johnson is stuck. he refuses to be the american president who loses southeast asia. so he has to keep going in deeper. >> are we going to send the marines in? >> yeah. >> i guess we got no choice but scares the death out of me and westmoreland and taylor come in every day and say please send them on.
mcnamara and rush say send them on. what do you think? >> well, it's better than being like we just got in this thing and another way out. >> you couldn't have been here for the worse mess. >> be lucky but they will say i created it. the trouble, the great trouble i'm under, a man can fight if he can see daylight down the road somewhere but there is no daylight in vietnam. there is not a bit. who says i shouldn't have a soda every day?
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early in 1965, the president decided to launch operation rolling thunder, a sustained bombing campaign directed against north vietnam. >> the emphasis is on the destruction of strategic enemy targets. raids are designed to cut off supplies to the north from vietcong rebels in the south. >> our first mission was more or less static defense of the principle air field for the bombing missions over north vietnam. >> general, will this entail any offensive operations? >> no, no, i don't believe it will. >> the reason we put ground troops in was to protect air fields. and then we had to protect ground troops around the air fields and we backed into this war, not really understanding what we were doing.
>> let's go! >> the soldiers moved cautiously off into the jungle, encountering only an occasional sniper. >> the vietcong and the north vietnamese didn't play by our rules. >> green hornets. >> couldn't find the enemy. they were invisible. it was their country. [ gunshots ] >> the enemy again broke contact, slipped away and disappeared. >> combat arouses emotions so powerful that teaches you about human nature at its best and at its worst. >> give the baby to mama. come on. give the baby to mama, son. come on. >> you vc? yeah, you vc. you vietcong. >> the rule of thumb was not to trust anybody, regardless of sex
or age. >> what is going on? >> enemy fire opens up from surrounding villages. >> the vietcong has opened fire. we're now firing back. >> if the americans got a sniper fire from a village, they didn't send a squad in to find the sniper and kill him. they called for artilleries and air strikes and blew the whole hamlet away. the united states was killing 25,000 civilians a year.
we were blowing up and burning down this country we were supposed to be saving. >> success continues to be elusive in any meaningful way, and johnson keeps being told i need more troops. >> i have today ordered to vietnam certain forces which will raise our fighting strength from 75,000 to 125,000 men, almost immediately. this will make it necessary to raise the monthly draft call from 17,000 to 35,000 per month. this is the most agonizing and the most painful duty of your president. >> it's difficult to understand. why would you take the course that is going to lead to large scale war, even with what we now know is a deep skepticism on the part of lyndon johnson? but it seems he felt no matter which way he went on vietnam, he would be crucified.
>> we're on the outskirts of the village of cam ne with elements of the 1st battalion ninth marines. >> it first appeared that the marines had been sniped at and that a few houses were made to pay. shortly after an officer told me he had orders to go in and level the string of hamlets that surrounds cam ne village. >> i wasn't looking for the story, but what i saw was absolutely shocking. >> the day's operation burned down 150 houses, wounded three women, killed one baby and netted these four prisoners who could not answer questions put to them in english. to a vietnamese peasant, it will take more than presidential
promises to convince him we are on his side. >> the morning news put the footage on the air. i had no idea it would have the kind of repercussions it had. >> do you ever have regrets about some of these people you're leaving homeless? >> you can't expect to do your job and feel pity for these people. >> i think it's sad in a way but i don't think there is any other way you can get around it in this kind of war. >> what vietnam did to america via television was introduce us to a new kind of america, one that was not pure, one that committed the same kinds of atrocities that are always committed in war, but we had never allowed ourselves to see them. >> the president, i understand, called the senior executive at cbs, and lyndon johnson said frank, this is your president. your boys just shat on the flag
of the united states. >> three months ago, the first division shipped out from charleston, south carolina. last week some of them came home. most of these casualties were suffered in the battle of ia drang valley, the most significant yet fought by american troops in vietnam. it looked at first like a routine vietcong attack, but this was a full-scale sustained assault by not only the vietcong of south vietnam, but with north vietnam and its strong and dedicated army. at first light, the full shock
came. americans and north vietnamese lay side by side in the grass. >> kind of walked right into an ambush. it was -- it was pretty bad to listen to your friends crying out for help, not being able to do a thing. we just -- we all pinned down. >> i want to congratulate you on your distinguished victory. you were fighting regular north vietnamese troops. >> the consensus of the military after ia drang is we can inflict enough casualties on them to win. >> our armed forces are prepared to take the necessary casualties in order to seek out and destroy the enemy. the question remains, are the american people prepared to lose more and more young men in vietnam? ♪
and to show how much we are able to protect you, the air force are going to hit some vietcong on the other side of the valley. ♪ >> the televising of the vietnam war was like the split screen reality in american culture. on one side, you had what the official story was, which was we're winning in vietnam. and yet, every time that americans looked up, what they saw was body bags. >> marine colonel michael yunk was hit by fire from a village while he was directing close air support from a helicopter. he saw women and children there and decided not to order an air attack. the colonial talked about it while surgeons amputated his
leg. >> they can do all they can to save that leg. >> i know. god dang it, i hate to put bombs and napalm on these women and children. i just didn't do it. i said they can't be there. i'm sure now that that's where they were. >> as the casualties mounted, that was turning the public in this country against the war. >> how do you expect to be protected in this country unless you have people fighting for you? >> they are not fighting for me. >> they are not. >> this is a genocide, these people are being killed and killed why? >> dissent spread across campuses all over the country and gave a sense of empowerment to students who were about to be drafted but still couldn't vote. >> a new type of protest and civil disobedience occurs in new york city. david miller publicly burns his draft card. >> seven young and earnest protesters burn draft cards on the steps of a boston courthouse.
a group of high schoolboys set upon them with fists. >> the draft was in place from world war ii. when you turned 18 you had to register. >> in january 1965, 5,400 young men were called to the draft. in december 1965, 45,224 young men were called. this is one fact boring in on the american conscience and causing increasing concern. >> it was a compulsory draft, forced you to make a choice, vietnam against your will, jail against your will, canada against your will, no good options. >> all kinds of ways are found to try to beat the physical. people are known to mutilate themselves. >> starve themselves, declare they were homosexual when they weren't. >> there were escape hatches in terms of deferments, like deferments for college students, which means that working class young people are likely to get drafted before upper middle class.
>> the war was waged in a lot of living rooms in america. it was a real generational divide because my father's generation went off and saved europe. i fully expected to have a military experience, but it was the wrong damn war. >> no more war! no more war! >> washington, november 27th, the rally was to be held at the washington monument. the protesters began to arrive about 20,000 strong. ♪ most of the world says that killing's all right ♪ ♪ peace corps by day bombers at night ♪ >> the whole world watching right now. >> support the constitution of the united states. i will not fight in vietnam. >> we forget this, but there was always a substantial number of americans who supported the vietnam war.
>> you bunch of bums. >> where is your son? my son is a marine! >> it's hard to recapture how intense that period was, how morally conflictual it was and your relationship with your country, which was something we never questioned. >> the pressure on mr. johnson to choose sides has been growing. clinging to a middle line, he tried to give one ear to the war of hawks in america, one ear to the dove, but both ears to neither. >> we halted bombing in the north in hope that the government in hanoi would signal its willingness to talk instead of fight. but i regret to tell you that no signal came during those 37 days. >> johnson feels alternately outraged that he's being attacked in this way when he is doing the best he can. >> until the day they decide to end this aggression and to make an honorable peace, i can assure
you that we speaking for the united states of america intend to carry on. >> a large committee of responsible lawyers has examined the united states' legal position in vietnam. its conclusions, briefly and bluntly are, that the united states is violating the united nations charter, the geneva agreements and finally, violating the united states constitution which says only congress can declare war. >> when the congress tried to ask questions about the vietnam war, they found it very difficult to get answers and sometimes they were lied to. >> we're engaged in a historic debate in this country. we have honest differences of opinion. >> hearings are one of the first times when people who weren't far on the left or extreme on the right started raising some very serious questions about the war. >> all i'm asking is if the
people decide that this war should be stopped, are you going to take the position that's weakness on the home front in the democracy? >> i will distill our people were badly misguided and did not understand the consequences of such a disaster. >> well, we agree on one thing, that they can be badly misguided. and you and the president and my judgment have been misguiding them for a long time in this war. whythen get worse?nks taste chalky? introducing protein shots from 5-hour energy.
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at the beginning of 1965 there were 23,000 american servicemen in vietnam. currently, there are about 267,000 fighting men in vietnam, and 18,000 more will be there by the end of this month. >> the commitment got bigger and bigger and bigger. you could feel the spirit of the troops was draining. >> how old are you? >> 22. >> did you volunteer? >> nope. >> would you? >> nope. >> what's the worst thing about it? >> getting shot, getting hit. well, you see buddies get hit, living in the swamps, dirt.
>> three days out in the bush, you would be covered with ringworm and jungle rot. it was just the nature of the terrain and the weather. >> it is hot in vietnam. often hotter than the mohave desert. the temperature rises to 120 degrees. >> if we've got two hours sleep a night, i'd be surprised. you're almost in a hypnotic state. >> i'm amazed that these kids didn't just fall apart. humans are really, really tough. >> things are going reasonably well in the south, aren't they? >> yes, i think so. >> what are these men doing? they're trying to locate the enemy. i see it, and they're running them in. >> we think we're taking a heavy toll on them, but it just scares me to see what we're doing here. we're taking soldiers with god knows how many airplanes and helicopters and firepower and going after a bunch of half starved beggars.
it's not a certainty, but it's a danger we need to look at is that they can keep that up almost indefinitely. >> today i can tell you that military progress in the past 12 months has exceeded our expectations. our policy remains what it was, and has been. we would supply our commanders whatever they required to accomplish our objective in south vietnam. >> you started to distrust your own leaders because you started to say well, they are lying to us. i mean, or if they're not lying to us, they don't know what's going on over there. if they don't know what is going on, what the hell is going on? [ gunshots ] >> i'm glad they are on our side. >> move out, move out!
>> alpha company has reached hill 943. [ gunshots ] >> coming this way. up! >> after sweeping the area around 943, hill 943 is taken. there is nothing to take. and now that the enemy is gone, there is no reason for the americans to stay. >> when we abandoned the hill, it was crushing to morale because your friends died. what was all that about? >> there is a hill in vietnam, which was assaulted twice, taken twice, and abandoned twice by americans. and today, 943 is again controlled by the north vietnamese. >> progress was not being made. there was no end in sight. how would you measure progress? so it was a kind of absurd situation.
>> how do you feel about it now that it's all over? >> pretty bad in a way. you live with them. you work with them. you get really attached to them. i had three that died in my arms. that hurt more than anything else. [ gunshots ] >> we have to carry them out, you know, and that's when it bothers you, you have to carry them to the slump. it really gets to you. ♪ >> i'd lose friends, and i would just, like, wow, you know. i got a job to do here. and you would throw them on a chopper and that would be the last you would see them. so you were constantly shoving it down, because if you didn't, you couldn't function.
>> stop the war now! stop the war now! stop the war now! >> these women came by the thousands to the pentagon this week. they demanded to see secretary of defense robert mcnamara, to ask him to stop sending their sons to vietnam. and they showed their anger and frustration. >> stop the war now! stop the war now! >> shut the door. >> given the nature of the enemy, it seems to me that the strategy we are following at this time is the proper one and that it is producing results.
we will prevail in vietnam over the communist aggressor. >> fundamentally, we didn't have a strategy in the vietnam war, except that of attrition. >> they talk about, well, we can kill 300 north vietnamese for every one of us. do the american people care about the 300? no. they care about the one. who says i shouldn't have a soda every day? my doctor. my dentist. definitely my wife. hey wait. we have better bubbles. make sparkling water at home and drink 43% more water every day. sodastream. love your water.
500,000 american troops, 14,000 american dead. the war in vietnam is no longer simply their war to win or lose, it's ours as well. and it has become the most divisive in 100 years of american history. >> please stop, please stop! please stop! please stop! >> it was the first time that all of these different factions and philosophies and personalities came together in one place. >> the seed was planted when there was a massive march on the pentagon. people realized that we could go beyond polite protests into more massive civil disobedience and shake up the war makers.
. >> mcnamara had been managing the war since 1961. the man was just overwhelmed with guilt. >> in less than 60 days, i will have served seven years as secretary of defense. no one of my predecessors has served so long. i myself did not plan. >> robert mcnamara leaves office. i think it's fair to say that he is by that point tortured on a personal level by the war. >> tonight the communists hit the very heart of saigon, the brand-new u.s. embassy building. and at least ten cities in that war-torn country.
>> the offensive was the big show of the vietcong. >> it's huge. they've got the americans and south vietnamese completely by surprise. >> it exposed how tenuous the u.s. hold was. >> who won and who lost in the great tet offensive against the cities? i'm not sure. the terrible loss in american lives, prestige, and morale, and this is a tragedy of our stubbornness there. it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of vietnam is to end in a stalemate. >> when walter cronkite, who is the most trusted man in america said that, lyndon johnson said "if i've lost walter, i've lost middle america." lyndon johnson realized he was no longer in charge of the war. the war was in charge of him. >> what did you lose? >> i had 36 when we started.
we got 21 killed. >> what were you thinking about? >> i was thinking of my wife and my baby that i haven't seen, i guess. i got a baby coming in june. that was on my mind. i just knew we were going to get overrun. >> if you look at the history of vietnam, it was a tragic comedy of errors from beginning to end. and the tragedy of johnson is that he achieved remarkable things, particularly in terms of civil rights, but will be remembered for vietnam. >> it's the full shakespearean wheel of fortune, the man who has nothing who rises to everything and then loses it all. >> in a moment of tragedy and trauma, the duties of this
office fell upon me with america's sons in the field far away, with america's future under challenge right here at home, i have concluded that i should not permit the presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year. accordingly, i shall not seek and i will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.
a developing story out of china where dozens are dead after a construction platform collapses. we will have a live report for you. business before pleasure. president-elect trump gets in a cabinet selection before heading off to holiday. will he have to deal with a recount when he returns? and america gives thanks. they will do so for the men and women fighting isis. i'm maxwell foster in london. this is "cnn newsroom."