Friday, December 31, 2010

Acknowledgements and Bibliography

Many thanks to all who have helped.  Here is an initial list of people who have assisted with advice, information and support:

Chester Cooper
Teresa R. Cunningham
Bradley Graham
Morton Halperin
Leigh Henson
Michael Hillinger, Ph.D.
Peggy McAlister Klein
Robert S. McNamara
Alex McNaughton
Christopher Mosher
Petey O’Donnell
Ellen L. Paullin
The Pekin Daily Times
Stephen H. Sachs
Pam King Sams
Asheley Smith
James Unland, Sr.


Academic Papers

  • Carlson Donnelly,  Dorothy Jeanne,  American  Policy in Vietnam 1949-1965: A Perceptual Analysis of the Domino Theory and Enemy Based Upon the Pentagon Papers, University of Pittsburgh Ph.D.
  • Janes, Thomas W.,  Rational Man – Irrational Policy (A Political Biography of John McNaughton’s Involvement in the Vietnam War), Essay presented March 31, 1977 in partial fulfillment of requirement for Bachelor of Arts at Harvard College.
  • Travis-Cline, Suzan Ruth, Maintaining Power and Voicing Dissent: John Theodore McNaughton and the Vietnam War, 1964-1967, Thesis in partial fulfillment of requirement for Master of Arts at Bowling Green University December 1993

Interviews and Correspondence

Cooper, Chester, September 14, 2003 telephone interview.
Fisher, Roger,  December 16, 2005 telephone interview. 
Halberstam, David,  telephone conversation, 2004.
Halperin, Morton interview, Washington DC, June 27, 2003.
Hoopes, Townsend, July 23, 2003 telephone conversation and emails.
Robert S. McNamara, telephone interview – July 11, 2003
McNaughton, Alex, Sept. 12, 2003 interview, 2003 meeting and emails
Paullin, Ellen, interview and emails, May 2003.
Stolley, Richard, July 9 2003 email to Tom Paullin.
Unland, James, telephone interview, 2003.

Oral History Statements

·    John T. McNaughton personal statement dated November 14, 1964 (Larry McQuade interviewer) for JFK Library.

·    John T. McNaughton personal statement dated November 21, 1964 (George Bunn interviewer) for JFK Library
Publications  and Photos

·        Bird, Kai, The Color of Truth, McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy: Brothers in Arms Simon and Schuster, New York, 1998.
·        Chomsky, Noam,  For Reason of State , New York, The New Press, 1970.
·        Cooper, Chester  L., The Lost Crusade-America in Vietnam, Fawcett, 1970. 
·        Ellsberg, Daniel, Papers on the War, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1972.
·        Ellsberg, Daniel,  Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, Viking, New York, 2002.
·        FBI files on John T. McNaughton, Declassified under Freedom of Information Act request from Thomas S. Paullin, 2004.
·        Fisher, Roger and Ury, William, Getting to Yes, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1981
·        Halberstam, David, The Best and the Brightest, New York, Random House, 1969.
·        Hoopes, Townsend, The Limits of Intervention, Norton & Company, New York, 1969
·        JFK Library Presidential Recordings Tapes #3 and #5
·        Kaiser, David,  American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War, Cambridge, MA, Belknap, 2000.
·        Languth, A. J.  Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975, Touchtone, New York, 2000.
·        Warnke, Paul files at LBJ Library, Austin, TX.
·        McNamara,  Robert S., Argument without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy, PublicAffairs, New York, 1999. 
·        McNamara, Robert S., In Retrospect – The Tragedy and Lesson of Vietnam, New York, Vintage-Random House, 1995
·        McMaster, H. R., Dereliction of Duty, Harper Perennial, New York 1997.
·        McNaughton, John T., Diary Volume 3, 9/25/1951-9/7/52.
·        McNaughton, John T., unclassified personal diary, Washington, DC, January 1, 1966-April 22, 1967.
·        McNaughton, John T.,  personal calendar notes, 1960-1967.
·        McNaughton collection of photographs, Official U.S. Navy Photographs and others with original sources not identified, 1960-1967.
·        The Pentagon Papers
·        Rudenstine, David, The Day the Presses Stopped: A History of the Pentagon Papers Case, University of California, Berkeley1996., CA,
·        Sheehan, Neil,  A Bright  Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam, Vintage (Random House), New York, 1988.  
·        Summers, Harry G. Jr., Historical Atlas of the Vietnam War, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1995.
·        Summers, Harry G. Jr., The Vietnam War Almanac, Presidio, Novato, CA, 1995.
·        Timberg, Robert, The Nightingale’s Song, New York, Touchtone (Simon & Schuster, 1995.
·        Westmoreland, William C. A Soldier Reports, Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1976.  
·        Westmoreland, Report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, July 1968-June 1972, Dept. of the Army, Washington, DC, 1972.

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Chapter III -- Harvard, Havana and Nukes

Later in 1953, McNaughton returned to Harvard, to be an associate professor in the Harvard Law School, becoming a full professor in 1956. McNaughton became involved in arms control in the Fall of 1960 when Harvard colleague Thomas Schelling encouraged him to participate in the Harvard-MIT Arms Control Seminar.  Seminar participants comprised America’s foremost group in arms control and included Schelling, Henry Kissinger, Walt Rostow, McGeorge Bundy, Abram Chayes, Morton Halperin, Jerome Weisner, Milton Katz and Paul Doty.  The Harvard-MIT seminar group participants would advance many of the arms control tenets and proposals that McNaughton furthered after he came to Washington a year later. [i] 

Arms Control Summit with Soviets and William Averell Harriman
(McNaughton at left facing center of table wearing black glasses)

McNaughton, who initially worked for former Illinois Democratic governor Adlai Stevenson II during the presidential primary campaign for the 1960 election, had become increasingly supportive of John F. Kennedy after Kennedy secured the party’s nomination. [ii]  After the new administration took office, McNaughton took a one-year sabbatical from Harvard, entering the Pentagon’s International Security Agency (ISA), first as a consultant and then as Deputy for Arms Control under Paul Nitze beginning October of 1961.  “We reached out far and wide to find the best and the brightest to come to the Department of Defense,” said Robert McNamara, “Harvard law review people and Rhodes Scholars.  John was both.” [iii]   A lull in arms control activity prompted a move to the position of General Counsel of the Defense Department, where McNaughton worked on the country’s most vexing Cold War issues including nuclear proliferation, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and America’s posture regarding the building of the Berlin Wall.

In White House with President John F. Kennedy (McNaughton at far right with bow tie)

Just one year after coming to Washington, and twenty years after enlisting in the Navy, McNaughton was General Counsel in the Department of Defense when he called upon his experience at sea as he played a key role in modern history’s most perilous period.  On Wednesday October 17, 1962 McNamara’s Special Assistant Adam Yarmolinsky approached McNaughton’s office to inform him of intelligence photographs verifying the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.  The photos had been shown around key places in Washington two days earlier, but the General Counsel was not among the first to be brought into the loop.  At 10 pm on Friday, October 19, with the crisis deepening, McNamara tracked McNaughton down and said “are you willing to go to work tonight?’ 

For the next three days and nights McNaughton led working sessions that hammered out a quarantine proclamation and the detailed procedures outlining how the U.S. fleet should conduct operations with respect to ships encountered by the blockade.  At 7:00 pm October 22 McNamara and McNaughton watched from the television in McNamara’s office as Kennedy told an anxious nation to “…let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can see precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead--months in which our patience and our will will be tested--months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.”

With tensions mounting, McNamara and McNaughton breakfasted on Wednesday, October 24, the morning the quarantine was to begin, and discussed a crescendo message to the Soviets which would increasingly signal the seriousness of U.S. intent, without immediately escalating to an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.  McNamara said, “What we want to do is first have a friendly ship, a Swedish or British ship, then we want an Iron Curtain but not a Soviet ship, and then we want a Soviet ship, then we might have a Soviet submarine."   McNaughton, the experienced captain, was amused and asked McNamara if he had ever spent any time at sea “because the chances of finding what you’re looking for just aren’t all that great.”  

On Friday October 27, United Nation’s Secretary U Thant received the U.S. message, largely crafted by McNaughton, which mapped the quarantine boundary area five hundred miles offshore from Cuba, where inbound ships would be intercepted.  U Thant took the message to the Soviets, who read it carefully and refused to accept it.  “Saturday” said McNaughton later, “was a crucial day.   I remember going home that night.  The two nights prior I’d been in the Pentagon all night, and my wife commented that things must have improved.  I told her that that was not the case: that war, if it was going to start, was in the next two days, and that I just needed some rest in order to be ready.”   That Saturday morning a U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba, the Cubans had fired at two low-flying U.S. aircraft, and a Soviet ship was proceeding toward the island with no signs of stopping.  “With this momentum,” said McNaughton, “I didn’t know whether history and everything else dictate that then you had gone this far – whether things could be stopped, and I had this very strange feeling.  That night, I recall taking a look at our basement to see what we had down there in the way of canned goods, bottled water and the like.” [iv]

On Monday, October 29, McNaughton dropped off papers in McNamara’s office and asked “What do you want me to do now?” to which McNamara replied “Take the afternoon off.”   McNaughton went back to his office, called a friend and scheduled tennis for the next morning.  In a speech aired on Radio Moscow, Khrushchev had announced the dismantling of Soviet missiles in Cuba.   

[i]               Rational Man – Irrational Policy (A Political Biography of John McNaughton’s Involvement in the Vietnam War) Essay by Thomas W. Janes March 31, 1977
[ii]               November 14, 1964 oral history interview with Larry McQuade for JFK library.
[iii]              Robert S. McNamara phone interview, July 11, 2003
[iv]              John T. McNaughton oral history interview with Larry McQuade, Nov. 14, 1964, declassified December 27, 1995,  JFK Library.

Chapter II -- Setting Sail

Born November 21, 1921 in Bicknell, Indiana, McNaughton moved with his family (circa 1926) to Pekin, Illinois where he would graduate in three years from the public high school. There he and excelled as a student, a debater and a tennis player.   His business savvy newspaper publisher father F. F. McNaughton had a strong belief in the importance of world knowledge, so after graduation John McNaughton traveled with his family for eight months on four continents.[1]   As McNaughton was selecting a college, his father wrote a newspaper column about his answer to a college application question that asked “What do you want your boy to achieve?”  The senior McNaughton, in a faux down-home tone that years later his son would occasionally employ to disarm Pentagon reporters, responded “I am not caring about his being crammed full of book larnin’, but I do want him to get enough background of European and American history and politics that he can become one of the next generation that will give intelligent direction involving the problems which MUST be solved if American democracy is to survive.  I want him to get a background from which he can move in the direction of the correct answers to the problems of American lawlessness, American labor unrest and economic distress, the negro problem and the REvival and SURvival of Christianity.”

McNaughton chose DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana from which he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1942.   He departed college facing a world at war, enlisted in the Navy and was commissioned an Ensign.  Despite a susceptibility to seasickness that necessitated bringing a bucket to the bridge during high seas[i], McNaughton commanded a gun crew on a merchant ship in the Caribbean and in the North Atlantic, and later served on a destroyer escort in the Pacific.   For his service on the Atlantic which included service on a Liberty Ship plying the “Murmansk Run” McNaughton was awarded a medal by the Soviet Union which credited him with saving a shipload of munitions from Nazi U-boats when he brought a torpedoed vessel to port after its captain had abandoned ship.

After the war, McNaughton entered Harvard Law School in 1946, graduating magna cum laude 1948.  Named a Rhodes Scholar while at Harvard, McNaughton studied for a year at Oxford, then took a year’s leave to be an aide to Averill Harriman (under Harvard Law professor Milton Katz) on the Marshall Plan [ii] working on the European Payments Union, and finally returned to Oxford to fulfill the requirements for the B. Litt. in International Trade.”  [iii]   While at Oxford, McNaughton was exposed to liberal views that contrasted with those of his conservative family.     

Returning from Oxford in 1951, McNaughton settled in Pekin with wife Sally who he had met at DePauw.  Politically, the McNaughtons were kindred spirits, both being “Stevenson liberals”, but their personalities clearly differed.  The daughter of a civil engineer and a domineering mother, Sally McNaughton was, according to their son Alex, “just a regular human like the rest of us.”   A difference in family cultures was humorously illustrated by a 1952 McNaughton diary entry privately showing his inclination for rational decision-making and expressing frustrations with his mother-in-law’s way of thinking after she visited the young couple.   “Reason gets nowhere with her – as it fails to get anywhere with many – because of her revulsion against logic.  Whereas I try to start with a premise and work toward a conclusion, she starts with the conclusion & only toys with the premises.  She’ll listen to the process until she suspects that the result will be something other than her foregone conclusion.  She thinks with her solarplexis (sic).  She is governed by unreasoned prejudices.” [iv]   John McNaughton processed information using logic; Sally McNaughton like her mother, tended to be emotional and sometimes volatile.  However, said son Alex McNaughton, “No one was rational like my Dad.” 

After returning home, McNaughton tried out different career options.  He briefly worked on the assembly line at nearby Peoria’s Caterpillar Tractor, attempting to join the union so he could better understand the viewpoints of industrial workers.  And he spent two years from 1951-1953 as editor of his family’s newspaper, where he was described by the editor of neighboring Peoria Journal Star as one who “never performed in his newspaper work for one moment in the language of the Harvard graduate school.” [v]  

In April, 1952, a local Democratic political power broker approached McNaughton about running for office.  McNaughton’s diary exposed a growing restlessness with the pace of life in his small town: “I surely need a good hobby.  Maybe it should be sketching.  So I can carry my pen, ruler & notebook with me to odd places.  Add that to some woodworking – maybe even carving – and I’d be fixed.”  Early in May, McNaughton went to see the Democratic leader about running for Congress, even though both of them assessed the odds of winning as “negligible.”

McNaughton ran in the Illinois 18th District in 1952 as a Democrat, even though he had struggled with a party choice until the spring when he saw that his chances for nomination looked better on the Democratic ticket.  As the party decision loomed, McNaughton wrote in his diary that “a vacancy exists on the Demo slate” and recounted a local party official saying that he could “get the Demo party appointment” for McNaughton.  McNaughton finally consented, saying in his diary that “if Taft [2] nominated by GOP, I could wholeheartedly represent opposition to his view point.  I’ve about decided I am not a Republican, although I could be if the complexion of the party would change from a Taft-like to a Teddy Roosevelt-like here.  It is possible that Eisenhower will provide that change of emphasis, but from his pronouncements on domestic affairs, I doubt it.”  He mused “But to choose a party is a job.  Any political party and any election race is so messy.  Principles confused, shady elements, ‘deals’ forced on you, etc.  We’ll see what comes of it.” [vi]

Campaigning did not come naturally to McNaughton.  On July 4, 1952, he wrote in his diary “…it was tough at first to force myself on these people.   One noon, I was almost sick at my stomach at the thought of going through that afternoon.  But the last couple days, it didn’t bother me. Got used to it, I guess.” [vii]   Facing tough odds in a Republican district and in an Eisenhower year, McNaughton campaigned hard.   With fund raising assistance from his Republican father and brother, the newly minted Democrat knocked on doors, posed for photos and analyzed strategy options. [3]   “I must have shaken 10,000-15,000 hands in the week.  My hand is bruised and sore,” wrote McNaughton in his diary that summer, “but, by golly, if they don’t know I exist now, they’re both blind and deaf.”  [viii]  

McNaughton managed a majority in his conservative-leaning home county and the more politically balanced Peoria County, but the Illinois 18th District’s staunchly Republican northern counties tilted the race in his opponent’s favor. [ix]    McNaughton’s opponent, conservative Republican Harold H. Velde, was an attorney who had been an F.B.I. special agent during World War II and after winning the congressional seat became chair of the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy era.  McNaughton’s diary admitted that “The defeat on Nov. 4 was not unexpected – since no Demo has made the grade since 1912 when Teddy split the GOP and carried this district.  However, it did leave a bit of a vacuum in my schedule.”[x]    By early 1953, McNaughton’s confided to himself that there were “… several conversations lately that indicate I am a bit out of touch with the area.  My concept of freedom – especially freedom of thought is considered radical.” [xi]  

[1] In 1944, McNaughton’s father F. F. McNaughton raised $5,000 for the world travels of then-congressman Everett Dirksen when Dirksen was briefly considered as the Republican Presidential nominee in 1944 and whom F.F. McNaughton thought needed more international exposure to round out his experience.

[2] Taft’s stringently conservative economic views and neo-isolationism had little appeal to Democratic or independent voters, whom the GOP needed at the time to attract to have any hope of winning the national elections.

[3] In the aftermath of the Vietnam escalation and the failed involvement, some analysts cited the Pentagon and White House leaders’ collective lack of political experience as a reason for their insularity in making decisions about the conflict, and their subsequent over reliance on empirical data and statistical models.  Ironically, it was McNaughton who was perhaps most criticized for being overly rational in  making decisions who had experience running for office, and who was in fact quietly planning to run again.

[i]                Interview with Mrs. Robert I Paullin, 2003
[ii]               Janes, Thomas W. 
[iii]               Janes, Thomas W.
[iv]              John T. McNaughton private diary, Volume 3 9/25/51-9/7/1952
[v]               C.L. Dancey editorial, Peoria Journal Star, July 20, 1967
[vi]              John T. McNaughton private diary, Volume 3 9/25/51-9/7/1952
[vii]             John T. McNaughton private diary, Volume 3 9/25/51-9/7/1952
[viii]            John T. McNaughton private diary, Volume 3 9/25/51-9/7/1952
[ix]              C.L. Dancey editorial, Peoria Journal Star, July 20, 1967
[x]               John T. McNaughton private diary, Volume 4  9/21/1952-9/9/1953
[xi]              John T. McNaughton private diary, Volume 3 9/25/51-9/7/1952

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chapter I -- A Fork in the Road

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The atmosphere on the Boeing 707 carrying Assistant Secretary of Defense John T. McNaughton, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy and their delegation from Saigon to Washington was somber, recalled Chester Cooper some 38 years later.  “There were no jokes, no smiles.  Everyone was apprehensive.  The mood music was bass saxophones rather than flutes. We knew that we had closed one chapter and were opening another.  You could feel the anger.”  [i]

At 2 a.m. on that morning of February 6, 1965 a platoon-size Viet Cong force struck II Corps Headquarters in Pleiku, 240 miles north of Saigon.  While one group of Viet Cong troops outside the perimeter readied their mortars, their comrades cut through barbed wire surrounding the encampment.  With hand fashioned grenades made from bamboo-wrapped beer cans filled with explosives and connected to delay fuses, the intruders walked toward the compound’s center placing charges next to barracks where Americans slept and near unguarded aircraft.  In the span of about ten minutes 34 mortar rounds[ii] hit their mark while the timed charges added to the death and mayhem.  When it was over, eight Americans had died and 60 had been wounded.

Informed of the attack, General William C. Westmoreland walked to the guest quarters of his Saigon residence to wake McNaughton.  Before sunrise, McNaughton joined Westmoreland and Bundy at the military operations center in Saigon and phoned the Pentagon recommending retaliations. [iii]   Soon after, while the American delegation visited the wounded in Pleiku, 49 U.S. Navy jets struck targeted barracks in North Vietnam following an attack plan that had been in the works in Washington for months. And 11 miles northeast of Pleiku, a force of GVN soldiers was making contact with the escaping Viet Cong force, killing 28 of the attackers and capturing documents that included a mapped out plan of attack on the II Corps Compound and Camp Hollaway four miles away -- but nothing linking the actions directly to Hanoi. [iv]   

Later, as their flight returned to the U.S., Bundy and McNaughton and others feverishly worked on a response to the day’s events while the plane made its way through Japan, to Alaska for refueling and on to Washington.  Cooper, who was with the delegation in his capacity as White House Assistant for Asian Affairs recalled that it was difficult for the delegation to hear each other over the dull roar of the engines, so participants wrote out respective sections of a memo in longhand, walking up and down the plane’s aisle passing sections back and forth as their paper took shape.[v] 

McGeorge Bundy, Chester Cooper, John McNaughton (and unidentified) on flight returning from Saigon on or about February 7, 1965.

Their February 7 document, signed by Bundy and addressed to the President, began: “The situation in Vietnam is deteriorating, and without new U.S. action defeat appears inevitable - - probably not in a matter of weeks or perhaps even months, but within the next year or so.  There is still time to turn it around, but not much.”  The assessment was transmitted to the White House hours before the plane touched down at Andrews Air Force Base at 10:15 pm on February 7, 1965.  President Johnson read the eight-page memo and its five-page annex before he went to bed. [vi]  

Ten days earlier, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Bundy had presented a memo to the President hoping to precipitate a decision on Vietnam.  It, said McNamara, raised the questions: “should we get further into Vietnam or get out?  Could we prevent the fall of the dominoes by external military action?”   Known as the Fork in the Road Memo, the January 27 communication told the President that “both of us are now pretty well convinced that our current policy can lead only to disastrous defeat.”   McNamara and Bundy proposed two alternatives to the President: 1) to use our military power in the Far East and to force a change in Communist policy, or 2) to deploy all our resources along a track of negotiation, aimed at salvaging what little can be preserved.  

With the question raised, McNaughton and Bundy were dispatched to Vietnam to reach conclusions on which of the Fork in the Road’s paths should be chosen.  Chester Cooper recalled that there was still a hope for the path of disengagement when they left for Vietnam.  “This was washed away by the Pleiku attack.  It came as a shock, because it was during the time of the Tet cease-fire.  Since Bundy was in Saigon and (Soviet Premier) Alexei Kosygin was in Hanoi at the time, we thought that the action was approved by Hanoi.  Thus, it appeared to us at the time that the message of the attack was more serious than it actually was.”  [vii]

By February 26, 1965, Washington Post columnist Drew Pearson had learned enough to complete a column headlined “Pleiku Attack Not a Hanoi Plot.”   In 1997 Viet Cong commanders meeting with McNamara and Cooper confirmed that the attack on Pleiku was not ordered by Hanoi and that prior to the attack they were not even aware that Americans were present in the compound.   But, in the emotions of the day of the attack, little thought was given to the possibility that the timing of the raid was not related to the presence of Bundy’s delegation or Kosygin's trip to Hanoi.   Cooper recalls that “ if we would have had enough smarts we would have realized that a Hanoi decision to attack Americans would have taken more time, since the order could not have reached the local commanders in time for the attack to be carried out while Bundy was in Saigon. There was very little analysis.”  [viii]

Among the thousands of papers written during the Vietnam War period, few were as influential as the February 7, 1965, memo drafted by Bundy and McNaughton, and signed by Bundy on the plane back from Vietnam.  It, wrote David Halberstam in The Best and the Brightest, stood alongside the 1961 Taylor-Rostow report calling for U.S. troop involvement in “such combat operations as are necessary for self-defense and for the security of the area in which they are stationed”, and March 1964’s NSAM 288 which was the only statement of U.S. objectives for the conflict. “It had effect,” opined Halberstam, “it moved people, it changed people at the time.” [ix]

[i]               Chester Cooper, September 14, 2003
[ii]               DOD briefing, Warnke Filesl, LBJ Library 149c
[iii]              Janes, Thomas W., Rational Man, Irrational Policy (A Political Biography of John McNaughton’s Involvement in the Vietnam War), March 1977
[iv]              DOD Briefing, Warnke Files, LBJ library
[v]               Chester Cooper, September 14, 2003
[vi]              A. J. Langguth, “Our Vietnam” page 339
[vii]             Chester Cooper, September 14, 2003
[viii]            Chester Cooper, September 14, 2003
[ix]             David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest, page 595-596