April 6, 1965 – U.S. Officially Goes on the Offensive in Vietnam

On this day in history, President Lyndon Johnson’s National Security Adviser, McGeorge Bundy, issued on his behalf “National Security Memorandum 328.” (McGeorge “Mac” Bundy was United States National Security Advisor first to President John F. Kennedy, and stayed on to serve Lyndon B. Johnson in that capacity after Kennedy’s assassination. Today he is known primarily for his role in escalating the involvement of the United States in Vietnam during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.)

McGeorge Bundy,  June 25, 1965

McGeorge Bundy, June 25, 1965

Memo 328 represented a shift in policy from the position that all U.S. military operations in South Vietnam were to be defensive in nature.

 The memo, drafted and signed by Bundy, approved the “slowly ascending tempo of ROlLING THUNDER operations” or sustained bombing missions, over North Vietnam. These actions, along with the introduction of combat troops in March, 1965, in turn created a reassessment in the Vietnamese Communist Party of its own war strategy. 

As suggested by an online seminar on the War at Vassar College, the Communist Party in Hanoi endeavored (successfully, as it turned out) to get the United States bogged down in a war that it could not win militarily and that would create unfavorable conditions for political victory. The Communist Party believed the United States would eventually tire of the war and demand a negotiated settlement.

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