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A Pentagon Official Observes the Situation in South Vietnam

John T. McNaughton was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. He was considered McNamara's heir apparent as Secretary of Defense, but died in a plane crash with his wife and son on a commercial domestic flight in July 1967.

DRAFT: January 4, 1965-Observations Re South Vietnam….

Our stakes in South Vietnam are:

(a)    Buffer real estate near Thailand and Malaysia and

(b)    Our reputation.

The latter is more important than the former; the latter is sensitive to how, as well as whether, the area is lost.

The best present estimate is that South Vietnam is being "lost." From the point of view of the real estate this means that a government not unfriendly to the DRV will probably emerge within two years; from the point of view of our reputation, it will suffer least if we continue to support South Vietnam and if Khanh [Nguyễn Khánh, a general who led a military coup that toppled the South Vietnam leadership in January, 1964, and who, shortly after McNaughton wrote his memo, was toppled in another coup] and company continue to behave like children if the game is lost….

If things slip, have, plans to shore up Thailand and Malaysia.

Source | The Pentagon Papers, Gravel edition, vol. 3, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), 683-684.
Creator | John T. McNaughton
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | John T. McNaughton, “A Pentagon Official Observes the Situation in South Vietnam,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed April 21, 2021,

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