On this day in 1966, Lyndon Johnson, in his State of the Union address, commits the United States to staying in Vietnam as long as aggression commands us to battle. Johnson justified his position on the basis of national security and the principles of democracy and national sovereignty. Citing communist China’s intention to dominate all of Asia, Johnson pledged renewed commitment to helping the South Vietnamese defeat North Vietnam in a war that had become increasingly controversial among Americans.
By 1965, the number of U.S. military advisors in Vietnam had increased to approximately 200,000 troops. In December, the draft quota doubled. Growing numbers of Americans protested the escalation of the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam. In his speech, Johnson attempted to restore confidence in America’s word and in America’s protection[while] the American Nation is asked to sacrifice the blood of its children and the fruits of its labor for the love of freedom.
Seeking to appease domestic opponents of the war, Johnson vowed to limit the conflict. He assured the international community that the United States sought neither territory nor bases, economic domination nor military alliance in Vietnam. At the same time, he pledged to give our fighting men what they must have: every gun, and every dollar, and every decision–whatever the cost or whatever the challenge. Johnson’s speech was a wasted attempt to sway increasingly polarized public opinion in favor of the Vietnam War. By year’s end, Johnson increased American troop numbers in Vietnam to 400,000.