May 12

This Day in History

Vietnam War

May 12, 1961:

Lyndon B. Johnson visits South Vietnam

Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon during his tour of Asian countries. Calling Diem the "Churchill of Asia," he encouraged the South Vietnamese president to view himself as indispensable to the United States and promised additional military aid to assist his government in fighting the communists. On his return home, Johnson echoed domino theorists, saying that the loss of Vietnam would compel the United States to fight "on the beaches of Waikiki" and eventually on "our own shores." With the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, Johnson became president and inherited a deteriorating situation in South Vietnam. Over time, he escalated the war, ultimately committing more than 500,000 U.S. troops to Vietnam.

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