General Westmoreland requests a total of 35 battalions of combat troops, with another nine in reserve. This gave rise to the “44 battalion” debate within the Johnson administration, a discussion of how many U.S. combat troops to commit to the war. Westmoreland felt that the South Vietnamese could not defeat the communists alone and he wanted U.S. combat troops to go on the offensive against the enemy. His plan was to secure the coastlines, block infiltration of North Vietnamese troops into the south, and then wage a war of attrition with “search and destroy” missions into the countryside, using helicopters for rapid deployment and evacuation. Westmoreland had some supporters in the Johnson administration, but others of the president’s advisers did not support Westmoreland’s request for more troops, because they disagreed with what would be a fundamental change in the U.S. role in Vietnam. In the end, Johnson acquiesced to Westmoreland’s request; eventually there would be over 500,000 U.S. troops in South Vietnam.
Posted in Vietnam War.