With the risk of sounding insensitive,
business must go on. Not only was Lynden B. Johnson immediately inaugurated as President
of the United States, but also immediately thrown into the middle of a war. Only days
after the assassination, actually the day of Kennedy's funeral, President Johnson signed
National Security Action Memoranda 273 on November 26, 1963(McNamara).
NSAM 273 in comparison to 263 has attracted a great deal of suspicion over the last few
years. They have been the subjects of many charges and claims over the years. Without
knowing the details of the memoranda, it seemed as though President Johnson was completely
disregarding the former President Kennedy with an entirely new policy that contradicts
Kennedy's 263. But that was not the case. NSAM 263 and 273 are essentially the same
document, with only small differences. No direct United States involvement is proposed in
273 beyond what was already from the Kennedy administration.
Kennedy's NSAM 263 concentrated on the political aspect of avoiding an endless commitment
to the war, while Johnson's 273 centered on the military aspect for an eventual withdrawal
(Scott). Here are two small sections of the documents:\
NSAM 263:With respect
to action against North Vietnam, there should be a detailed plan for the development of
additional government of Vietnam resources, especially for sea-going activity, and such
planning should indicate the time an investment necessary to achieve a wholly new level of
effectiveness in this field of action.
should include different levels of possible increased activity, and in each instance there
should be estimates of such factors as: A. Resulting damage to North Vietnam B. The
plausibility of denial C. Possible North Vietnamese retaliation D. Other international
reaction (Chomsky). It is fairly clear that there is no major difference between
these two excerpts.