Um. When I went into the Pentagon, I still believed in our policy. Um. I, I, I recognized that Tet was a serious setback, but we’d had this policy for so long and it had become such an ingrained part of us, that I still believed in it. President Johnson appointed a task force as soon as I went into the Pentagon and named me chairman of the task force. The reason was that the military had specifically requested 206,000 more troops be sent to Vietnam. He wanted that analyzed, he wanted us to determine how the troops could be gathered and sent; what the social, political, economic impact might be on the United States. The first th—three or four weeks in the Pentagon, I gave most of my time to this examination in depth.
I know for three full days I spent down in the tank with the Joint Chiefs of Staff where you sit with all of the communications devices that go all over the world. We had long talks. How long would it take? They didn’t know. How many more troops would it take? They didn’t know. Would 206,000 answer the demand? They didn’t know. Might there be more? Yes, there might be more. So, when it was all over, I said, what is the plan to win the war in Vietnam? Well, the only plan is that ultimately the attrition will wear down the North Vietnamese and they will have had enough. Is there any indication that we’ve reached that point? No, there isn’t. As a result of that kind of interview and that kind of information, before the final examination was over and we submitted our report to President Johnson, I had turned against the war. I found out that we couldn’t win the war with the limitations that we had, which I thought were correct limitations, and I thought all we were going to do was just waste the lives of our men and our treasure out in the jungles of North and South Vietnam.
So that by time I reached that conclusion, I then decided that what I must do would be to get all of the strength that I could, because the mere fact that I had reached the conclusion was not very significant, because the decision really lay with President Johnson. I remember talking with Harry McPherson, I talked to people in the state like, in State Department, like Nick Katzenbach. We began to develop a group and I know that after a while the question would be very secretly, “is he with us?” That means is he part of this group that is ah organized and dedicated to changing Lyndon Johnson’s mind? It was almost like ah some very similar
expression used in the French Revolution, is he with us, do you see. And, we finally worked together that way. Ah. I think I bore the brunt of it because it was appropriate that I should. And, starting in then, within a month or five weeks after I landed in the Pentagon, our major aim then began to change the policy of our country in Vietnam.