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IN RETROSPECT:
THE TRAGEDY AND LESSONS OF VIETNAM

ROBERT S. MCNAMARA WITH BRIAN VANDEMARK


7. The Decision to Escalate:
January 28-July 28, 1965

(selections from pp. 187-188)

The president listened. He seemed troubled and pensive. "The great danger," he concluded darkly, "is we'll pick up a very big problem any day."

How right he was.

The bombshell exploded on June 7. On that day, Westy sent a cable to the Pentagon that stated:

Westy said he needed 41,000 more combat troops now and another 52,000 later. This would increase total U.S. strength from 82,000 to 175,000. The last paragraph of his cable read: "Studies must continue and plans developed to deploy even greater forces, if and when required." His request meant a dramatic and open-ended expansion of American military involvement.

Of the thousands of cables I received during my seven years in the Defense Department, this one disturbed me most. We were forced to make a decision. We could no longer postpone a choice about which path to take. The issue would hang over all of us like a menacing cloud for the next seven weeks.


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