With Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara back from a visit to Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson begins a weeklong series of conferences with his civilian and military advisers on Vietnam. He also met with private citizens that he trusted during this period. Johnson appeared to be considering all the options with an open mind, but it was clear that he was leaning toward providing more combat troops to bolster the faltering South Vietnamese government.
Johnson was faced with a rapidly deteriorating situation in Vietnam. The Viet Cong had increased the level of combat and there were indications that Hanoi was sending troops to fight in South Vietnam. It was apparent that the South Vietnamese were in danger of being overwhelmed. Johnson had sent Marines and paratroopers to protect American installations, but he was becoming convinced that more had to be done to stop the communists or they would soon overwhelm South Vietnam. While some advisers, such as Undersecretary of State George Ball, recommended a negotiated settlement, McNamara urged the president to “expand promptly and substantially” the U.S. military presence in South Vietnam. Johnson, not wanting to “lose” Vietnam to the communists, ultimately accepted McNamara’s recommendation. On July 22, he authorized a total of 44 U.S. battalions for commitment in South Vietnam, a decision that led to a massive escalation of the war. There were less than ten U.S. Army and Marine battalions in South Vietnam at this time. Eventually there would be more than 540,000 U.S. troops in South Vietnam.