President John F. Kennedy appoints Henry Cabot Lodge, his former Republican political opponent, to succeed Frederick E. Nolting as ambassador to Vietnam. The appointing of Lodge and the recall of Nolting signaled a change in U.S. policy in South Vietnam. Lodge was a firm believer in the “domino theory,” and when he became convinced that the United States could not defeat the communists in Vietnam with President Ngo Dinh Diem in office, he became very critical of Diem’s regime in his dispatches back to Washington. Diem was ultimately removed from office and assassinated during a coup by opposition South Vietnamese generals that began on November 1, 1963. On orders from the Kennedy administration, Lodge had conveyed to the coup plotters that the United States would not thwart any proposed coup. Lodge served in Saigon until June 1964, when he resigned his ambassadorial post to pursue the Republican presidential nomination. Ultimately, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona secured the nomination and was defeated by Johnson in the general election. Lodge returned to Saigon in 1965 for another two-year stint as ambassador.
Posted in Vietnam War.