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(55,745 posts)
Wed Oct 1, 2014, 08:55 PM Oct 2014

Secret Service didn't like African Americans in 1963. Ask Agent Abraham Bolden.

Former U.S. Secret Service Agent Abraham BOLDEN was the first African American Secret Service agent to serve in the White House, personally appointed and literally hand-picked by President John F. Kennedy to the White House detail. Agent Abraham Bolden reported overt racism by his fellow agents and outright hostility toward the "n------loving president," quoting fellow Secret Service agents on the JFK detail.

In addition to enduring all manner of personal indignities, he was concerned at the lack of professionalism in those assigned to protect the president and reported his concerns. He was told, "OK. Thanks" by his superiors. When the problems weren't addressed, Bolden requested transfer back to the Secret Service office in Chicago.

Abraham Bolden speaks at JFK Lancer.

The story of a man who told the truth:

After 45 Years, a Civil Rights Hero Waits for Justice

Thom Hartmann
June 12, 2009 11:52 AM

A great miscarriage of justice has kept most Americas from learning about a Civil Rights pioneer who worked with President John F. Kennedy. But there is finally a way for citizens to not only right that wrong, but bring closure to the most tragic chapter of American presidential history.

After an outstanding career in law enforcement, Abraham Bolden was appointed by JFK to be the first African American presidential Secret Service agent, where he served with distinction. He was part of the Secret Service effort that prevented JFK's assassination in Chicago, three weeks before Dallas. But Bolden was framed by the Mafia and arrested on the very day he went to Washington to tell the Warren Commission staff about the Chicago attempt against JFK.

Bolden was sentenced to six years in prison, despite glaring problems with his prosecution. His arrest resulted from accusations by two criminals Bolden had sent to prison. In Bolden's first trial, an apparently biased judge told the jury that Bolden was guilty, even before they began their deliberations. Though granted a new trial because of that, the same problematic judge was assigned to oversee Bolden's second trial, which resulted in his conviction. Later, the main witness against Bolden admitted committing perjury against him. A key member of the prosecution even took the fifth when asked about the perjury. Yet Bolden's appeals were denied, and he had to serve hard time in prison, and today is considered a convicted felon.

After the release of four million pages of JFK assassination files in the 1990s, it became clear that Bolden -- and the official secrecy surrounding the Chicago attempt against JFK -- were due to National Security concerns about Cuba, that were unknown to Bolden, the press, Congress, and the public not just in 1963, but for the next four decades.


Abraham Bolden paid a heavy price for trying to tell the truth about events involving the man he was sworn to protect -- JFK -- that became mired in National Security concerns. Bolden still lives in Chicago, and has never given up trying to clear his name.

Will Abraham Bolden live to finally see the justice so long denied to him?



After the assassination, he went to Washington on his own dime and reported what he saw to the Warren Commission. For his trouble -- and despite an exemplary record as a Brinks detective, Illinois State Trooper, and Secret Service agent -- Bolden was framed by the government using a paid informant's admitted perjury and spent a long time in prison. The government also drugged him and put him into psychiatric hospitals.His real crime was telling the truth.

Americans know the Truth: the country hasn't been the same since Nov. 22, 1963. President Kennedy kept the nation out of Vietnam and started toward the moon. Imagine what the New Frontier could have become for us today? Certainly would not be a time where "money trumps peace."
49 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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Secret Service didn't like African Americans in 1963. Ask Agent Abraham Bolden. (Original Post) Octafish Oct 2014 OP
k and r -- bookmarking for later too :) nashville_brook Oct 2014 #1
The Chicago Plot Octafish Oct 2014 #17
Racist culture in federal law-enforcement? DirkGently Oct 2014 #2
Meriah Heller interviewed Mr. Bolden... Octafish Oct 2014 #18
*sigh* So much fucked-uppediness. scarletwoman Oct 2014 #3
Yeah but... toddwv Oct 2014 #10
You are most welcome, scarletwoman! Edwin Black helped keep Abraham Bolden's story alive. Octafish Oct 2014 #38
You are simply amazing, Octafish! scarletwoman Oct 2014 #41
Thanks for this. You know that some people are going to call you crazy LawDeeDah Oct 2014 #4
For keeping his integrity, Abraham Bolden was put in a psych ward and force-fed drugs. Octafish Oct 2014 #22
What sucks is that not everyone has the mental toughness of Bolden RufusTFirefly Oct 2014 #40
Pres. Obama should issue a pardon to this man so he won't still have the stigma of being a tblue37 Oct 2014 #5
It may be that things are so twisted he can't. Octafish Oct 2014 #23
They couldn't have Mr Bolden interfering with their plans for Mr Kennedy. n/t 951-Riverside Oct 2014 #6
Universal sign of WTF Octafish Oct 2014 #24
i hope he gets a presidential pardon. I wouldn't be underthematrix Oct 2014 #7
It's my bet that the WH is working on pardons for Bush and Cheney and the hell with this rhett o rick Oct 2014 #25
K&R. Bolden was also a crucial part of this brilliant and beautiful book RufusTFirefly Oct 2014 #8
Recommended! Thank you! LongTomH Oct 2014 #9
''He chose peace. They marked him for death.'' -- James W. Douglass, PhD. and man of peace, himself Octafish Oct 2014 #39
A Coup In Camelot Trailer: Narrated by Peter Coyote Ichingcarpenter Oct 2014 #11
1963 - over 50 years ago TorchTheWitch Oct 2014 #12
but, there's a long way to go...... a kennedy Oct 2014 #13
no denying that TorchTheWitch Oct 2014 #16
I agree, the past can't be changed gratuitous Oct 2014 #30
The past can't be changed... malthaussen Oct 2014 #46
Bolden describes his WH service starting at the 1:16 mark here KurtNYC Oct 2014 #14
Great video..narrated by Martin Sheen Ichingcarpenter Oct 2014 #19
K&R for the original post and subsequent informative posts and links. JEB Oct 2014 #15
Here's an old newspaper clipping from 1964... Octafish Oct 2014 #43
kicking for visibility. nashville_brook Oct 2014 #20
Meeting President Kennedy Octafish Oct 2014 #44
HUGE K & R !!! - THANK YOU !!! WillyT Oct 2014 #21
Excerpt from book review: 'You're the ''Jackie Robinson'' of the Secret Service.' Octafish Oct 2014 #45
And Thank You For All Your Invaluable Information WillyT Oct 2014 #47
Huger K&R rhett o rick Oct 2014 #26
Abraham Bolden heard agents say they wouldn't take a bullet for JFK. Octafish Oct 2014 #49
Actually, Kennedy escalated troop numbers in Vietnam. valerief Oct 2014 #27
True, ''advisors,'' whom he ordered home. Octafish Oct 2014 #28
Wow, thanks for this refresher course! Duppers Oct 2014 #31
Thanks, I'm another who did not know all of this. Scuba Oct 2014 #32
Right, but the troops he wanted to pull, he had put there to begin with. nt valerief Oct 2014 #35
OPLAN-34A Octafish Oct 2014 #37
This message was self-deleted by its author Duppers Oct 2014 #29
Great thread, thanks to all. Kicking. Bookmarking. Scuba Oct 2014 #33
Damn!! Hutzpa Oct 2014 #34
Thanks for this thread malaise Oct 2014 #36
Thank you. n/t Judi Lynn Oct 2014 #42
Every time I read anything about JFK, I think how different history could have been! LongTomH Oct 2014 #48


(20,958 posts)
1. k and r -- bookmarking for later too :)
Wed Oct 1, 2014, 09:52 PM
Oct 2014

i remember this story -- might have been when his book came out. holy crap, these people are criminals.


(55,745 posts)
17. The Chicago Plot
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 09:56 AM
Oct 2014

Former Secret Service Agent Abraham Bolden helped investigate the Chicago Plot to assassinate President Kennedy, about three weeks before Dallas.

The same basic M.O. as Dallas, ambush, high-power rifles, high-rise, and one patsy by the name of Thomas Arthur Vallee, a USMC veteran from a U-2 base in Japan. The plot was broken up by the Secret Service in Chicago. Not that they wanted to, they sort of had to when the local cops got a call from a landlady with the guns, passports, maps and "parade route" in Highlighter still on the bed.

The great author and investigative reporter Edwin Black wrote about it -- a very important read in PDF:



(55,745 posts)
18. Meriah Heller interviewed Mr. Bolden...
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 10:01 AM
Oct 2014

A man of integrity.

PS: Thank you for caring about that which is most difficult to think about, DirkGently.


(31,893 posts)
3. *sigh* So much fucked-uppediness.
Wed Oct 1, 2014, 10:09 PM
Oct 2014

Thank you for posting this, and for ALL the valuable information you so tirelessly bring to DU.


(55,745 posts)
38. You are most welcome, scarletwoman! Edwin Black helped keep Abraham Bolden's story alive.
Fri Oct 3, 2014, 08:47 AM
Oct 2014

The great author and journalist Edwin Black broke the story, "The Plot to Kill JFK in Chicago," way back in 1975 or so. Scribd has a copy, posted by Mr. Black (an outstanding author, New York Times journalist, and a good friend of someone I met once):


On the above article, from Edwin Black:

This file has been transcribed from a poor set of photo-copies. The images in those photocopies are, at best, very poor and I chose not to include them except to reference them and provide any subtext attached.The text in the original article was formatted in one to three columns per page and, to make referencing the original a bit easier, I’ve referenced those columns as well. I hope I’ve maintained the integrity of the original article to everyone’s satisfaction.

But first…

Five years ago on a commission from Atlantic Monthly, I began investigating a Chicago conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy just 20 days before Dallas. When I asked the wrong questions and came too close to sensitive information, I was followed and investigated by a Defense Intelligence Agency (D. I. A.) operative. By examining my own file, I identified him and embarrassed the DIA into halting the harassment. There's a record of their "project" in the credit bureau where it began, Credit Information Corporation. (named Cook County credit bureau at the time). The DIA's inquiry listed my employer as Atlantic Monthly although, that assignment was my only work for the magazine.

Unfortunately, the harassment didn't end until after my apartment was broken into. No valuables were taken. But all my files were obviously and clumsily searched.

But that was five years ago, before Watergate, a different era. Today, when reporters edge close to dirty government secrets, it is the agencies who become nervous. And they think thrice before attempting the retaliation and tactics once common to the game.

My investigation, revived within the past eight months, took me to New York, Long Island,Houston and Washington as well as through courts, warehouses, police stations and federal offices in Chicago. Hundreds of hours scrutinizing federal, state and local documents,dozens of interviews, hundreds of leads. And always with the Secret Service and FBI working against me, doing what they could to make the investigation tedious, time-consuming, and expensive. Perhaps they hoped the investigation would just disappear after all the obstructions.

I hope they now know they must come up with the answers. It is simply unacceptable to wait until the 21st century for the release of seventy or so top secret Warren Commission documents.

(image: Edwin Black’s signature)

PS: For a long time, scarletwoman, your friendship has meant the world to me.


(31,893 posts)
41. You are simply amazing, Octafish!
Fri Oct 3, 2014, 09:33 PM
Oct 2014

You are the most tireless seeker of truth on DU, hands down.

I've been reading one link after another from your posts on this thread. I am and remain constantly in awe of all your research!

Re: your P.S. - I am honored - more than I can put into words - that you call me friend.



(1,596 posts)
4. Thanks for this. You know that some people are going to call you crazy
Wed Oct 1, 2014, 10:23 PM
Oct 2014

and that conspiracies and truly evil people that would do this, just never happen. And they will point and laugh with smugness at their comfort in their perfectly lawful worlds.


(55,745 posts)
22. For keeping his integrity, Abraham Bolden was put in a psych ward and force-fed drugs.
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 02:03 PM
Oct 2014

He was supposed to have gone crazy and died there, broken and forgotten. Instead, he fought back and survived.


What's the real shame, how few listen, especially in the corporate news media. Then, that's their job.


(8,812 posts)
40. What sucks is that not everyone has the mental toughness of Bolden
Fri Oct 3, 2014, 03:46 PM
Oct 2014

For those who dissent, the accusations of craziness can sometimes become self-fulfilling. Not everyone can withstand the very real social pain (uses the identical part of the brain as physical pain) of being ostracized by the public and rejected by many friends and loved ones. Over time, it can take a dreadful toll.


(65,795 posts)
5. Pres. Obama should issue a pardon to this man so he won't still have the stigma of being a
Wed Oct 1, 2014, 10:29 PM
Oct 2014

"convicted felon," when everyone knows he was innocent and his trial was rigged.


(55,745 posts)
23. It may be that things are so twisted he can't.
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 02:08 PM
Oct 2014

And we find ourselves in a Bizarro World where those who elected to restore Justice are not empowered to administer it.


(55,745 posts)
24. Universal sign of WTF
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 02:16 PM
Oct 2014

Last edited Sat Oct 4, 2014, 04:47 PM - Edit history (2)

Love Field, Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963

PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Oct. 1, 2014


rhett o rick

(55,981 posts)
25. It's my bet that the WH is working on pardons for Bush and Cheney and the hell with this
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 05:19 PM
Oct 2014

guy and Gov Siegelman.


(8,636 posts)
9. Recommended! Thank you!
Wed Oct 1, 2014, 11:32 PM
Oct 2014

Mr. Douglass' book is an excellent resource for info about JFK's life, influences, and achievements as well as his death.


(55,745 posts)
39. ''He chose peace. They marked him for death.'' -- James W. Douglass, PhD. and man of peace, himself
Fri Oct 3, 2014, 03:23 PM
Oct 2014

Roots of Memology

A popular notion for spreading amongst the information set:
National Rationalization for War in Vietnam


(36,988 posts)
11. A Coup In Camelot Trailer: Narrated by Peter Coyote
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 03:00 AM
Oct 2014

A Coup In Camelot provides an in-depth study of how Secret Service protocols were not followed, and offers analysis of the famous Zapruder film with stunning 6k digital scans to show a clarity 10 times greater than High Definition. Modern day forensics and wound ballistic techniques are applied to determine where the fatal head shot came from. Details of a casket shell game and shocking medical alterations done to the President's body are revealed, to uncover a chilling story of conspiracy.


another link


The Omar Gonzales case is interesting in that
Multiple layers of security failed. Alarm box muted, guards not at posts, cameras ignored, etc. Is the deep state giving P Obama a warning?


(11,065 posts)
12. 1963 - over 50 years ago
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 03:19 AM
Oct 2014

Yes, we were a very bigoted country toward black people then. Pretty much any non-white people as well. Women were also discriminated against far more than today. LGBT? No one dared speak of such things at that time. Fortunately, we've come a long way since then. And that's a good thing.


(11,065 posts)
16. no denying that
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 09:18 AM
Oct 2014

I'm just not seeing the point of bringing up a past that can't be changed that bares no relation to how things are today.

50 years ago was good and bad in a lot of ways. In 1963, for instance, one could work as a clerk in a drug store yet still be able to afford a home, a car, have a wife that didn't work and more children than couples normally have today. We had strong unions that even Republicans supported, people were valued as employees, we didn't send our jobs overseas or import foreign workers to do them, we didn't have an epidemic of homeless people, the wealthy were taxed at a FAR higher rate than the bloodsuckers are today, monied interest trying to bribe politicians for laws tailored to them was called bribery rather than lobbying, adults behaved like adults, people were much more civil and courteous to one another, there weren't dozens of crazed people with guns or bombs conducting mass murders, no drug epidemic, good public schools, people were actually proud to pay taxes, the media did what it was designed by the founders to do by being government watch keepers, we had no opinion in news reporting, Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather were anchors that acted adult rather than the screaming nuts that shout over each other today, etc., etc., etc.

Here's something that a DUer posted in another thread that should blow anyone's mind in how different in a good way we were just a mere seven years before 1963...

In some ways we've gotten better, but in other ways that effect far more people we've gotten so much worse.


(82,849 posts)
30. I agree, the past can't be changed
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 06:23 PM
Oct 2014

But by not bringing it up, we fall prey to hucksters and mountebanks who would have us believe that the way things are is the way things have always been, there's no point in trying to change things, and that the icons of our past would endorse the inequities of the present.

Republicans especially have been adept at trying to graft yesterday's heroes onto their regressive schemes, claiming that President Kennedy or Dr. King would have endorsed their greedy machinations. By maintaining and communicating a truer picture of the past we can help chart our way to a better future, and blunt the efforts of those who would bring back the worst of the past dressed up in modernist tropes.


(36,988 posts)
19. Great video..narrated by Martin Sheen
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 11:04 AM
Oct 2014

Can't wait to see it and also the one I posted.

I'm glad they updated the original 1966 ''A Rush to judgement '' which started the whole thing and were able to keep the title.

Both films cover the Secret Service changing and ignoring protocols which came from the top of the agency's higher ups.


(55,745 posts)
43. Here's an old newspaper clipping from 1964...
Sat Oct 4, 2014, 12:15 PM
Oct 2014

PS: "The Echo from Dealey Plaza" is a heartbreaking -- and inspiring -- read. Anyone who cares about Justice should at least know about it. Thank you for caring, JEB!


(55,745 posts)
44. Meeting President Kennedy
Sat Oct 4, 2014, 12:19 PM
Oct 2014


President Kennedy met Bolden at the door of the men's room at McCormick Place, Chicago's convention center that borders Lake Michigan.

Bolden was guarding the men's restroom on April 28, 1961, so it could only be used by top political officials. It was a job normally assigned to a uniformed Chicago policeman, but his fellow Secret Service agents wanted to demean Bolden by assigning him the task.

"It was very difficult because I was African American. I wasn't wearing a uniform and many people did not believe I was a Secret Service agent," he said.

Bolden was standing at his assigned post when he heard a rumble of footsteps coming down the stairs.

Leading the group was President Kennedy, followed by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner and Ill. Sen. Paul Douglas and Chicago Congressman William L. Dawson.

"I stepped aside. I didn't say hello, Mr. President," Bolden recalled. But President Kennedy followed Bolden and asked him if he was a Chicago police officer or a Secret Service agent.

Bolden told the president he was a Secret Service agent. "Has there been a (negro) Secret Service agent assigned on the White House detail?" President Kennedy asked. "Not to my knowledge," Bolden answered. The President asked Bolden if he would like to be the first. The president shook Bolden's hand and cameramen snapped photographs, but those photos have since disappeared. "The Secret Service did not want me to be seen with the President," he said.

President Kennedy arranged for Bolden to be assigned to the White House Secret Service detail. The President told Pierre Salinger, White House press secretary, that Bolden was the Jackie Robinson of the U.S. Secret Service.




(55,745 posts)
45. Excerpt from book review: 'You're the ''Jackie Robinson'' of the Secret Service.'
Sat Oct 4, 2014, 12:28 PM
Oct 2014


'You're a Nigger So Act Like One!'

When the Kennedy family vacationed at Hyannis Port, Mass., the agents all lived together in a house on the compound. As the agents were driving to the compound, Secret Service Agent Bob Foster saw a black woman in an Air Force uniform. "Thar goes a nigger," he shouted before realizing that Bolden was in the car. Foster covered his mouth. "I was there, but they did not see me," he said of the other agents.

Agent Harvey Henderson, however, did not shy away from calling Bolden vicious names. Henderson said, " 'I am going to tell you something, and I don't want you to ever forget it," Henderson said. "You were born a nigger, and when you die, you'll still be a nigger. You will always be nothing but a nigger. So act like one! '"

It was at the Kennedy compound that Bolden learned how much some of the agents hated the President, calling him a "nigger lover" who was pushing integration on the country. "They wanted Lyndon Johnson, who was Kennedy's vice president in the White House, because he was a Southerner.

It was a turbulent period in the nation's history. Blacks demonstrated to integrate stores, lunch counters and better-paying jobs. In return, they were being met by police with water hoses, billy clubs, snarling dogs and angry white crowds.



PS: Thank you, WillyT! Your support means the world to me.


(55,745 posts)
49. Abraham Bolden heard agents say they wouldn't take a bullet for JFK.
Sat Oct 4, 2014, 05:39 PM
Oct 2014

Which is very troubling, considering what these asshats brought to the Oval Office.

Ted Kennedy survived Richard Nixon's Plots

By Don Fulsom

In September 1972, Nixon’s continued political fear, personal loathing, and jealously of Kennedy led him to plant a spy in Kennedy’s Secret Service detail.

The mole Nixon selected for the Kennedy camp was already being groomed. He was a former agent from his Nixon’s vice presidential detail, Robert Newbrand—a man so loyal he once pledged he would do anything—even kill—for Nixon.

The President was most interested in learning about the Sen. Kennedy’s sex life. He wanted, more than anything, stated Haldeman in The Ends of Power, to “catch (Kennedy) in the sack with one of his babes.”

In a recently transcribed tape of a September 8, 1972 talk among the President and aides Bob Haldeman and Alexander Butterfield, Nixon asks whether Secret Service chief James Rowley would appoint Newbrand to head Kennedy’s detail:

Haldeman: He's to assign Newbrand.

President Nixon: Does he understand that he's to do that?

Butterfield: He's effectively already done it. And we have a full force assigned, 40 men.

Haldeman: I told them to put a big detail on him (unclear).

President Nixon: A big detail is correct. One that can cover him around the clock, every place he goes. (Laughter obscures mixed voices.)

President Nixon: Right. No, that's really true. He has got to have the same coverage that we give the others, because we're concerned about security and we will not assume the responsibility unless we're with him all the time.

Haldeman: And Amanda Burden (one of Kennedy’s alleged girlfriends) can't be trusted. (Unclear.) You never know what she might do. (Unclear.)

Haldeman then assures the President that Newbrand “will do anything that I tell him to … He really will. And he has come to me twice and absolutely, sincerely said, "With what you've done for me and what the President's done for me, I just want you to know, if you want someone killed, if you want anything else done, any way, any direction …"

President Nixon: The thing that I (unclear) is this: We just might get lucky and catch this son-of-a-bitch and ruin him for '76.

Haldeman: That's right.

President Nixon: He doesn't know what he's really getting into. We're going to cover him, and we are not going to take "no" for an answer. He can't say "no." The Kennedys are arrogant as hell with these Secret Service. He says, "Fine," and (Newbrand) should pick the detail, too.

Toward the end of this conversation, Nixon exclaims that Newbrand’s spying “(is) going to be fun,” and Haldeman responds: “Newbrand will just love it.”



Reagan obstruct justice when Jim Garrison investigated the New Orleans connections to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Then-governor of California, Reagan denied Garrison's request to extradite a suspect in his case, Edgar Eugene Bradley. Some investigators believe disruptors within his office fed Garrison a false lead -- one Eugene Hale Brading. The thing is, Braden was arrested in Dealey Plaza.

So, remember: Nixon and Reagan couldn't give a damn about the Kennedy brothers, liberal Democrats. Nixon and Reagan devoted their public "service" to helping end the New Deal and install the New War State. Those two are worse than asshats. They, and those who think like them, are un-democratic.

PS: Thank you, Rhett!


(53,235 posts)
27. Actually, Kennedy escalated troop numbers in Vietnam.
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 05:24 PM
Oct 2014
There are thing we do know about JFK and South Vietnam: First, U.S. troop levels there grew from around 900 to approximately 16,000 during his presidency.



(55,745 posts)
28. True, ''advisors,'' whom he ordered home.
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 06:00 PM
Oct 2014

JFK wanted to withdraw all U.S. forces from Vietnam and approved National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263. A few days after JFK was dead, LBJ ordered the opposite -- to extend military aid to South Vietnam in NSAM 273.

In the year before JFK's assassination, the Pentagon and CIA gave LBJ, as veep, a more accurate picture of what was happening in Vietnam than they provided JFK, as president. John M. Newman, in "JFK and Vietnam,"documented all that, work originally sourced by Canadian diplomat and educator Peter Dale Scott in the later 1970s.

Why did JFK want to withdraw from Vietnam? JFK said he would not get into a land war in Southeast Asia and he certainly was not going to place US draftees in the middle of Vietnam's civil war. Note: Johnson did and he went along with the CIA/NSA lie that North Vietnam intentionally attacked US destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Vietnam Withdrawal Plans

The 1990s saw the gaps in the declassified record on Vietnam filled in—with spring 1963 plans for the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces. An initial 1000 man pullout (of the approximately 17,000 stationed in Vietnam at that time) was initiated in October 1963, though it was diluted and rendered meaningless in the aftermath of Kennedy's death. The longer-range plans called for complete withdrawal of U. S. forces and a "Vietnamization" of the war, scheduled to happen largely after the 1964 elections.

The debate over whether withdrawal plans were underway in 1963 is now settled. What remains contentious is the "what if" scenario. What would Kennedy have done if he lived, given the worsening situation in Vietnam after the coup which resulted in the assassination of Vietnamese President Diem?

At the core of the debate is this question: Did President Kennedy really believe the rosy picture of the war effort being conveyed by his military advisors. Or was he onto the game, and instead couching his withdrawal plans in the language of optimism being fed to the White House?

The landmark book JFK and Vietnam asserted the latter, that Kennedy knew he was being deceived and played a deception game of his own, using the military's own rosy analysis as a justification for withdrawal. Newman's analysis, with its dark implications regarding JFK's murder, has been attacked from both mainstream sources and even those on the left. No less than Noam Chomsky devoted an entire book to disputing the thesis.

But declassifications since Newman's 1992 book have only served to buttress the thesis that the Vietnam withdrawal, kept under wraps to avoid a pre-election attack from the right, was Kennedy's plan regardless of the war's success. New releases have also brought into focus the chilling visions of the militarists of that era—four Presidents were advised to use nuclear weapons in Indochina. A recent book by David Kaiser, American Tragedy, shows a military hell bent on war in Asia.

CONTINUED with very important IMFO links:


New Deal economist and Ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith worked to bring a back-door peace to Vietnam with Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru:

Galbraith and Vietnam

The Nation, March 14, 2005 issue

In the fall of 1961, unknown to the American public, John F. Kennedy was weighing a crucial decision about Vietnam not unlike that which George W. Bush faced about Iraq in early 2002--whether to go to war. It was the height of the cold war, when Communism was the "terrorist threat," and Ho Chi Minh the era's Saddam Hussein to many in Washington. But the new President was a liberal Massachusetts Democrat (and a decorated war veteran), not a conservative Sunbelt Republican who claimed God's hand guided his foreign policy. JFK's tough-minded instincts about war were thus very different. Contrary to what many have come to believe about the Vietnam War's origins, new research shows that Kennedy wanted no war in Asia and had clear criteria for conditions under which he'd send Americans abroad to fight and die for their country--criteria quite relevant today.

But thanks also in part to recently declassified records, we now know that Kennedy's top aides--whatever his own views--were offering him counsel not all that different from what Bush was told forty years later. Early that November, his personal military adviser, Gen. Maxwell Taylor, and his deputy National Security Adviser, Walt Rostow, were on their way back from Saigon with a draft of the "Taylor report," their bold plan to "save" Vietnam, beginning with the commitment of at least 8,000 US troops--a down payment, they hoped, on thousands more to follow. But they knew JFK had no interest in their idea because six months earlier in a top-secret meeting, he had forcefully vetoed his aides' proposed dispatch of 60,000 troops to neighboring Laos--and they were worried about how to maneuver his assent.

Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, then Ambassador to India, got wind of their plan--and rushed to block their efforts. He was not an expert on Vietnam, but India chaired the International Control Commission, which had been set up following French withdrawal from Indochina to oversee a shaky peace accord meant to stabilize the region, and so from State Department cables he knew about the Taylor mission--and thus had a clear sense of what was at stake. For Galbraith, a trusted adviser with unique back-channel access to the President, a potential US war in Vietnam represented more than a disastrous misadventure in foreign policy--it risked derailing the New Frontier's domestic plans for Keynesian-led full employment, and for massive new spending on education, the environment and what would become the War on Poverty. Worse, he feared, it might ultimately tear not only the Democratic Party but the nation apart--and usher in a new conservative era in American politics.

Early that November, just as Taylor and his team arrived back in Washington, Galbraith arrived from New Delhi for the state visit of Prime Minister Nehru. Hoping to gain a quick upper hand over Taylor and his mission, he arranged a private luncheon for Kennedy and Nehru at the Newport estate of Jacqueline Kennedy's mother and stepfather. No one from the State Department--to Secretary of State Dean Rusk's great consternation--was invited, save Galbraith. Ten days earlier, Galbraith, in one of his back-channel messages, had shared with Kennedy his growing concerns about Vietnam. From India, he'd played a role in defusing the Laos situation that spring, but over the summer, the Berlin crisis had sent a sharp chill through relations with the Soviets, with the risks of nuclear confrontation for a time all too real. About this, Galbraith now told the President:

Although at times I have been rather troubled by Berlin, I have always had the feeling that it would be worked out. I have continued to worry far, far more about South Viet Nam. This is more complex, far less controllable, far more varied in the factors involved, far more susceptible to misunderstanding. And to make matters worse, I have no real confidence in the sophistication and political judgment of our people there.

This was advice Kennedy was hearing from no one else in his Administration, but clearly welcomed.



This is an important part of modern US history. I hope more people continue its study.


(55,745 posts)
37. OPLAN-34A
Thu Oct 2, 2014, 10:30 PM
Oct 2014

US and South Vietnamese naval intrusions of North Vietnam waters and territory for commando/terrorist operations.


Major difference between JFK and LBJ: OPLAN 34A and its related operations led to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the pretext for LBJ to escalate the war and send in draftees.

Response to valerief (Reply #27)


(8,636 posts)
48. Every time I read anything about JFK, I think how different history could have been!
Sat Oct 4, 2014, 03:34 PM
Oct 2014

What if we hadn't spent all those lives and treasure for the Vietnam War?

What if we had actually gone to the moon with the Soviets, as Kennedy wished?

What if the Apollo program, and the follow-on Apollo Applications program had not been dismantled by Richard Nixon?

What if the War on Poverty had continued?

What if the nation had not taken a sharp turn to the right after Vietnam?

I wonder, I really, really wonder!

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