Recently declassified documents from the Vietnam era reveal that the United States’ top military commander in Saigon activated a plan in 1968 to place nuclear weapons in South Vietnam, but was overruled by President Lyndon B. Johnson, reports the New York Times.
The commander, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, had been preparing the nuclear option in secret – drafting plans to have nuclear weapons on hand in case American forces should find themselves near-defeat in the battle of Khe Sanh – one of the most gruesome battles in the war.
“Should the situation in the DMZ area change dramatically, we should be prepared to introduce weapons of greater effectiveness against massed forces,” General Westmoreland wrote in a cable that was declassified in 2014 but did not come to light until Mr. Beschloss cited it in his forthcoming book.
“Under such circumstances, I visualize that either tactical nuclear weapons or chemical agents would be active candidates for employment.” –NY Times
The plan to use nukes, code-named Fracture Jaw, would see nuclear weapons placed in South Vietnam for use on short notice against Vietnamese troops. It was scuttled by LBJ after Johnson’s National Security Adviser, Walt Rostow, alerted the president to the plan in a memorandum.
The president immediately rejected the plan and ordered a turnaround, according to presidential assistant Tom Johnson, who took notes during the meetings on the issue which were held in the family dining room on the second floor of the White House.
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