The Top American General In Vietnam Considered Using Nukes During The Siege Of Khe Sanh, New Documents Reveal

Bullet Points
Associated Press photo

The top commander of U.S. military forces in Vietnam readied nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield in the early months of the brutal 1968 battle at Khe Sanh, according to recently declassified documents obtained by the New York Times.


  • A series of memos, declassified in 2014 and first discovered by historian Michael Beschloss, reveals that Gen. William C. Westmoreland had in February 1968 activated Fracture Jaw, a secret plan to move nuclear warheads into South Vietnam "so that they could be used on short notice" should U.S. troops face imminent defeat at Khe Sanh.
  • Westmoreland, who had previously touted the North Vietnamese advanced on Khe Sanh as “the main event" of the Communist advance, put Fracture Jaw together with the approval of the then-U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Ulysses S. Grant Sharp Jr. so that, "should the situation in the DMZ area change dramatically, we should be prepared to introduce weapons of greater effectiveness against massed forces."

  • President Lyndon B. Johnson quickly quashed the contingency plan out of fear of “a wider war," the Times reports. "There are no nuclear weapons in South Vietnam," White House national security advisory Walt W. Rostow wrote to Johnson in a February 10, 1968, memo alerting him to Fracture Jaw. "Presidential authority would be required to put them there."
  • The idea of throwing nukes into Vietnam wasn't unprecedented, but it was still terrible. As the National Interest notes, a classified 1967 study conducted by members of the Pentagon's JASON brain trust of scientist and researchers had previously determined that a tactical nuclear bombing campaign in Southeast Asia would require a significant investment to ramp up bomb production with minimal impact on the war effort.
  • More importantly, JASON researchers concluded that the introduction of nukes to Vietnam would have had dire long-term consequences on global warfare writ large. Historian Alex Wallerstein put it best: "Since World War II, the U.S. has the strongest interest in not breaking the 'nuclear taboo' because once nukes start becoming normalized, the U.S. usually stands to lose the most, or at least a lot."
  • President Johnson "certainly made serious mistakes in waging the Vietnam War,” Bechloss, the historian, told the Times. “But we have to thank him for making sure that there was no chance in early 1968 of that tragic conflict going nuclear.”

The entire report from the Times is fascinating — and eerily familiar. Read the whole thing here.

WATCH NEXT:

An Oregon Air National Guard F-15C Eagle that made an emergency landing on Wednesday ditched its entire arsenal of live air-to-air missiles before touching down at Portland International Airport, The War Zone reports.

Read More Show Less

Several hundred U.S. troops will remain in Syria after allied forces clear ISIS fighters out of their last stronghold in the country, officials said on Friday.

President Donald Trump announced in December that he would withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, but Sen. Lindsey Graham has since made a strong push to keep a small residual force along the Turkish border along with troops from European allies.

Read More Show Less
Chris Osman (Photo: _chris_osman_designs/Instagram)

The former Navy SEAL among a group of eight men arrested earlier this week in Port-au-Prince on weapons charges says he was providing security work "for people who are directly connected to the current President" of Haiti.

"We were being used as pawns in a public fight between him and the current Prime Minister of Haiti," said Chris Osman, 44, in a post on Instagram Friday. "We were not released we were in fact rescued."

Read More Show Less
Former Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis (DoD photo)

A Richland, Washington city councilman thinks native son Jim Mattis would make a terrific governor or even president.

Read More Show Less

It's a photo for the ages: a Marine NCO, a Greek god in his dress blues, catches the eye of a lovely young woman as her boyfriend urges her on in distress. It's the photographic ancestor of the much-loved "distracted boyfriend" stock photo meme, made even sweeter by the fact that this is clearly a sailor about to lose his girl to a Devil Dog.

Well, this photo and the Marine in it, which hopscotched around Marine Corps Facebook and Instagram pages before skyrocketing to the front page of Reddit on Thursday, are very real.

The photo shows then-Staff Sgt. Louis A. Capozzoli — and he is absolutely not on his way to steal your girl.

Read More Show Less