The Craziest Schemes that the Government Ever Tried to Push on the Masses
The Craziest Schemes that the Government Ever Tried to Push on the Masses

The Craziest Schemes that the Government Ever Tried to Push on the Masses

Khalid Elhassan - August 13, 2022

The Craziest Schemes that the Government Ever Tried to Push on the Masses
French prisoners herded into captivity by victorious Viet Minh. Wikimedia

3. A Bad French Plan That Had Them Begging America to Nuke France’s Colonial Subjects

Unfortunately for the French, things at Dien Bien Phu did not go in accordance with the plan. So many airplanes were shot down as they tried to resupply the paratroopers at the besieged garrison, that their situation became critical. The French had also assumed that the Vietnamese would have no artillery. They were mistaken. The Viet Minh organized tens of thousands of porters into a supply line, and hauled disassembled guns over rough terrain to the hills overlooking the French. Within two months, Dien Bien Phu’s garrison lost 4000 dead and missing, and nearly 7000 wounded. The survivors, about 12,000 men, surrendered.

The Craziest Schemes that the Government Ever Tried to Push on the Masses
American forces in Khe Sanh. Veteran News

Understandably, as the North Vietnamese besieged Khe Sanh in 1968, fears of another Dien Bien Phu preyed upon the minds of American military and civilian leaders. As the situation at Khe Sanh seemed to grow ever more critical, President Johnson sought repeated assurances from Westmoreland and Defense Secretary McNamara that it would not turn into an American Dien Bien Phu. It was against that backdrop that Westmoreland put together a seemingly crazy contingency plan, that the president knew nothing about. Nuclear weapons were to be used against North Vietnam, to avert disaster if things got desperate at Khe Sanh.

The Craziest Schemes that the Government Ever Tried to Push on the Masses
General Westmoreland, informing CincPac of Operation Fracture Jaw. New York Times

2. A Plan That Made the President Think His Top General Had Gone Crazy

The contingency plan to save the Marine garrison at Khe Sanh was codenamed Operation FRACTURE JAW. It called for the secret movement of nuclear weapons to South Vietnam, so they could be at hand to be used at short notice against North Vietnam if needed. On February 10th, 1968, Westmoreland sent a top secret message to Admiral Grant Sharp, Commander in Chief, Pacific, to inform him that “Oplan FRACTURE JAW has been approved by me“. Westmoreland also informed other military commanders, such as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle Wheeler, and discussed with them how to execute FRACTURE JAW.

The Craziest Schemes that the Government Ever Tried to Push on the Masses
Memorandum from National Security Advisor Walt Rostow to President Johnson, about Operation Fracture Jaw. New York Times

However, a key figure who was not informed of the plans to introduce nukes to the Vietnam War was President Johnson. Then Walter Rostow, the president’s National Security Adviser, found out and told his boss. LBJ was seriously ticked off at what seemed like his chief general in Vietnam having gone crazy. As a presidential aide who took notes at a White House meeting about the issue put it: “When [the president] learned that planning had been set in motion, he was extraordinarily upset and forcefully sent word through Rostow, and I think directly to Westmoreland, to shut it down“.

The Craziest Schemes that the Government Ever Tried to Push on the Masses
Operation Fracture Jaw further soured President Johnson on General Westmoreland. Imgur

1. Fortunately, This Plan Was Abandoned Early On

FRACTURE JAW never went beyond the planning stage. As things turned out, fears of an American Dien Bien Phu at Khe Sanh proved to be overblown. The French debacle in the earlier siege was caused by France’s inability to resupply its beleaguered garrison from the air. However, America had an ace in the hole that France did not: the US Air Force, whose capabilities were orders of magnitude greater than that of France. American aerial assets managed to sustain the US garrison at Khe Sanh with adequate resupplies of men and materiel. Simultaneously, American air power severely punished the North Vietnamese besiegers until they lifted the siege and withdrew in the summer of 1968.

The Craziest Schemes that the Government Ever Tried to Push on the Masses
General William Westmoreland, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and President Lyndon Baines Johnson. All Poster

As to General Westmoreland, after years of LBJ acceding to his requests for more and more troops, the president finally drew a line in 1968. That year, the American buildup in Vietnam reached a peak of 535,000 men. When Westmoreland asked for 200,000 more men, the president had enough. The general was already on thin ice because of his insatiable appetite for troops and materials. The attempt to keep secret from the White House a plan to nuke North Vietnam, and overall dissatisfaction with the war’s direction and prospects, soured LBJ on him even more. So Johnson decided to get a new commander. Westmoreland was sacked by promoting him upstairs to Army Chief of Staff. He was replaced with his deputy, Creighton Abrams, who began a steady troop draw down.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Agriculture Victoria – Red Fox

All That is Interesting – Newly Declassified Documents Reveal That a Top US General Planned For Nuclear Attack During the Vietnam War

Anderson, Jon Lee – Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (1997)

Atavist – American Hippopotamus: A Bracing and Eccentric Epic of Espionage and Hippos

Atlantic, The, April 4th, 2011 – Old, Weird Tech: The Bat Bombs of World War II

Atlas Obscura – The Almost Perfect World War II Plot to Bomb Japan With Bats

Beschloss, Michael – Presidents of War (2018)

Boing Boing – US Air Force Proposal: Pause the Earth’s Rotation So Nukes Would Miss Targets

Cabinet Magazine, Summer, 2005 – New Foundlands: How Many Countries Are There in the World?

Coman, Brian – Tooth & Nail: The Story of the Rabbit in Australia (2010)

Cracked – Hippos in Louisiana? Learn About America’s Failed Plan to Raise Hippopotamuses as Farm Animals

Crompton, Samuel – Che Guevara: The Making of a Revolutionary (2009)

Davidson, Phillip – Vietnam at War: The History, 1946-1975 (1988)

Disciples of Flight – Napalm Bats: The Bat Bomb

Fall, Bernard B. – Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu (1967)

Fossen, Anthony Van, and Chambers, Kristy – Tax Havens and Sovereignty in the Pacific Islands (2012)

History Collection – 10 Conspiracies That Are Far From Crazy Theories

New York Times, October 6th, 2018 – US General Considered Nuclear Response in Vietnam, Cables Show

New York Times Magazine, January 15th, 1995 – The Great Ivy League Nude Photo Posture Scandal

Philosopher of the Boudoir – Grim History: Michael Oliver, the Phoenix Foundation and Three Failed Attempts at Starting a New Nation

Rabbit Free Australia – The Rabbit Problem

Seattle Times, October 6th, 2018 – Cables Show US Was Close to Adding Nuclear Weapons to Vietnam War

Smithsonian Magazine, August 10th, 2015 – Bats and Balloon Bombs: The Weird Weapons That Could Have Won WWII

War History Online – Crazy: General Westmoreland Initiated Plan to Use Nukes in Vietnam

We Are the Mighty – America Wanted to Stop Earth’s Rotation During Cold War

Wired – The Crazy, Ingenious Plan to Bring Hippopotamus Ranching to America

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