Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara declares at a news conference in Saigon that he found that military operations have “progressed very satisfactorily since 1965.”
McNamara had arrived in Saigon on October 11 for his eighth fact-finding visit to South Vietnam. He conferred with General William Westmoreland, the senior U.S. military commander; Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge; various military leaders; and South Vietnam’s Premier Nguyen Cao Ky and President Nguyen Van Thieu. McNamara said he was pleased with the overall progress in South Vietnam, but he later revealed to President Lyndon Johnson in private that he thought progress was “very slow indeed” in the pacification program.
McNamara wrote after the war that he realized early on “the complexity of the situation and the uncertainties of our ability to deal with it by military means.” Though he did understand the obstacles, he was dedicated to the U.S. commitment to preventing Communist takeover of South Vietnam. By the end of 1965, however, even McNamara had begun to doubt that a military solution in Southeast Asia could be achieved. Still, as late as July 1967, he told President Johnson that the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces were making headway in the war. Johnson tired of McNamara’s vacillation and eventually replaced him with Clark Clifford in February 1968.