Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks to American and Korean Servicemen at Camp Stanley, Korea.

November 01, 1966

Ladies and gentlemen:

I have come a long way to see you. When we get back home we will have traveled 30,000 miles. We will have talked to the statesmen and the soldiers of the Pacific-Asian area. If we can just learn to do our jobs as politicians as well as you do as soldiers, we will eliminate yours--there won't be any need for soldiers. But until we do, you are going to have to carry on.

We have made some progress since I left home. We sat down in Manila with the Foreign Ministers and Presidents from seven nations. We outlined a program for those seven nations.

They are the nations that are furnishing men that are defending freedom in Vietnam today.

The average fellow in the world doesn't ask for much. He wants an opportunity to have a job so he can earn enough to satisfy the needs of his stomach and to cover his body. He wants a place where he can protect himself from the elements of the sun, the heat, and the cold, and have a roof over his head. He wants a chance for his kids to go to school and to learn to read and write, to get as much education as they can take.

If there is anything left over after that, he would like to have a little recreation for his family, a movie now and then, or to be able to load them all in the old jalopy and take them to see grandma on Sunday.

Then he would like to have a place where he can worship according to the dictates of his own conscience.

That is what you are all working at. That is why you are out here. You want to make it possible for people in this world to do those things. That is not asking much for those people, those people who produce the boys who are willing to die all over the world.

But except for you, people couldn't do that. Except for you and your brothers who came here ahead of you years ago, Korea would now be under the master's heel and people would tell them how to worship, what they could learn, what they could read, and how they would live every hour of every day. They would have no choice.

We tried to avoid getting involved in all these things. Twice in my lifetime before Korea we thought we could sit it out, that it didn't make any difference what happened on the other side of the pond. But we found out we couldn't do that.

Everything that happens in this world affects us because pretty soon it gets on our doorstep. We thought we could sit out World War I, but we couldn't. The Kaiser misunderstood us and didn't think we would fight. He sank the Lusitania and we were involved.

We thought we could sit out World War II and said, "Let's let them take care of these problems themselves."

What happened? Hitler went through Poland.

We turned our head in the other direction as if we didn't see it. He picked up Eastern Europe.

The first thing we knew, practically everything that we held dear was gone.

Then they turned our fleet upside down in Pearl Harbor. We were at war with Japan and Germany before we knew what happened, and we had to get the job done.

Then the same type of dictatorship and totalitarianism that allows no choice from the top down, that tells you what to think, what to say, how to read it, write it, and speak it, started marching in this area of the world. We had to come to Korea to stop that march. We joined with our Korean-Pacific brothers, and we stopped it.

The country I just came from, Malaysia, which, with our British brothers, loves freedom, they came in--Australia, New Zealand, and others--and they stopped the Communist envelopment there.

In Indonesia there are 100 million people that enjoy a measure of freedom today that they didn't enjoy yesterday. All these developments in Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, or Vietnam are possible only because of you.

Some people have said: "Why don't we let the old men go fight? It won't make much difference if they do get killed. Why do we snuff out all these young lives protecting this thing we call liberty and freedom?"

Well, I think that would be a pretty good idea if the old men could get the job done. But they can't do it. They are a little broader around the middle and they can't break these rocks with their fists. They can't face these elements. They can't stand the pace you can. They can't insure this freedom and this liberty that we love, that we cherish, that we want to hand down to our children.

My great great-grandfather died at the Alamo.

There was the battle of San Jacinto, or Texas wouldn't have had its independence.

In all the years we have been represented in some way down through the years. You are preserving it for them today.

We hope this won't go on always. As I said in the beginning, until we learn to do our job, understand others, get along, be as efficient, be as competent as you, until the politicians get to understand people, we are going to have to protect liberty and freedom. We are going to have to make freedom and independence free from aggression. We are going to have to stand and say, "Might doesn't make right."

There are 3 billion people in the world and we have only 200 million of them. We are outnumbered 15 to 1. If might did make right they would sweep over the United States and take what we have. We have what they want.

We had better establish a rule we established in Europe when we went there: that no dictator, just because he has power, because he has might, can snuff out freedom and liberty.

We have had to show it couldn't be done in Korea. We may have to show it can't be done in other areas of the Pacific. We are showing right now it can't be done in Vietnam. Four hundred thousand of our young men, the flower of our manhood, the very tops, are out there.

It is better to do it there than it is in Honolulu. We hope that we can establish the fact that men are equal in the world; might doesn't make right in the world.

We don't ask for much, but what we ask for we are going to get, we are going to keep, we are going to hold.

You weren't born into this world, the Good Lord didn't bring you here, to liquidate the freedom and liberty that your grandfathers fought for with bows and arrows or old muskets. You have a heritage, a tradition to carry on.

General Westmoreland, who landed on some of these hills not far from here with his paratrooper boots. on, told me the other day, "Mr. President, I think you ought to know this: You haven't been to the field; you haven't been to the rice paddies I have seen in Vietnam, but no Commander in Chief in the history of all glorious America ever commanded a more courageous and competent army or armed force than the Commander in Chief does today."

That is not a tribute to the Commander in Chief; that is a tribute to the men that he is commanding.

So I came here to tell you that you are protecting what we prize most--freedom for ourselves and freedom for all human beings. And you are doing a mighty good job of it.

Whatever you read about the demonstrators, whatever you hear about those that burn their draft cards, remember that there are always some in every crowd. But the bulk of the 200 million people in America and the bulk of the 3 billion people in the world thank God there are men like you.

Keep your chin in and your chest out and do your duty as you see it. You are doing it. We are proud of you. f came here today to tell you so.

I want you to tell the other 40,000 or 50,000 that can't be within sound of my voice today that I came, I saw, and I believed.

Your parents and your dependents may not see some of you again, but they will always be mighty proud that you came this way, and so am I.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke extemporaneously in the Mess Hall, Camp Stanley, at approximately 2:45 p.m. As printed above this item follows the text released by the Office of the White House Press Secretary, Seoul, Korea.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks to American and Korean Servicemen at Camp Stanley, Korea. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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