U.S. Forces Are Available For Ground Support

A State Department press officer notes that, “American forces would be available for combat support together with Vietnamese forces when and if necessary,” alerting the press to an apparently major change in the U.S. commitment to the war. Prior to this time, U.S. forces had been restricted to protecting American airbases and other installations. The next day, the White House tried to calm the protests by some in Congress and the media who were alarmed at this potential escalation of the war by issuing a statement claiming, “There has been no change in the missions of United States ground combat units in Vietnam.” The statement went on to explain that General Westmoreland, senior U.S. commander in Saigon, did have the authority to employ troops “in support of Vietnamese forces faced with aggressive attack.”

Later in the month, Westmoreland was given formal authority to commit U.S. forces to battle when he decided they were necessary “to strengthen the relative position of the GVN [Government of Vietnam] forces.” This authority and the influx of American combat troops that followed forever changed the role of the United States in the war.

Posted in Vietnam War.

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