The Kennedy Withdrawal: Camelot and the American Commitment to Vietnam
In October 1963, the United States publicly proposed the removal of American troops from Vietnam, earning President John F. Kennedy an enduring reputation as a skeptic on the war. In fact, Kennedy was ambivalent about withdrawal and was largely detached from its planning. Its details were the handiwork of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who turned a loosely defined presidential aspiration into a systemic program for a U.S. troop withdrawal. Its announcement in October 1963 ultimately served Kennedy’s political needs, allowing him to limit American involvement while preserving the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam.
Marc J. Selverstone is associate professor in Presidential Studies and chair of the Presidential Recordings Program at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. He is the author of Constructing the Monolith: The United States, Great Britain, and International Communism, 1945–1950, winner of the Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and editor of A Companion to John F. Kennedy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014). He received his Ph.D. in U.S. History from Ohio University.
The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is organized jointly by the American Historical Association and the Woodrow Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks its anonymous individual donors and institutional partner (the George Washington University History Department) for their continued support.
Marc J. Selverstone
Christian F. Ostermann
Woodrow Wilson Center
Professor of History, The George Washington University. Director, National History Center of the American Historical Association.
History and Public Policy Program
The History and Public Policy Program makes public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, facilitates scholarship based on those records, and uses these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs. Read more
Thank you for your interest in this event. Please send any feedback or questions to our Events staff.