Ambassador Maxwell Taylor resigns from his post in Vietnam. Former Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge replaced Taylor. As ambassador, Taylor had pressed for the return of civilian rule after a military coup had overthrown President Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963. Although Taylor had initially opposed the employment of U.S. combat troops, he had come to accept this strategy. However, Taylor had an argument with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and General William Westmoreland, U.S. commander in South Vietnam, at a conference in Honolulu in April. He took exception with the shift in strategy from counterinsurgency to large-scale ground operations by U.S. units. According to journalist David Halberstam, this argument marked “the last time that Max Taylor was a major player, his farewell in fact.” Upon his return to the United States, Taylor served as a special consultant to President Lyndon B. Johnson and was a member of the Senior Advisory Group–who became known as the “Wise!
Men”–that convened in March 1968 to advise the president on the course of the war.
Also on this day: President Johnson decrees that a Vietnam Service Medal be awarded to Americans serving in the conflict, even though there had been no official declaration of war. There were 16,300 U.S. troops in South Vietnam at the end of 1964. With Johnson’s decision to send U.S. combat units, total U.S. strength in South Vietnam would reach 184,300 by the end of 1965.