Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the Supplemental Military Authorization Bill

March 15, 1966

Members of the House and Senate, Secretaries of the Services, members of the Joint Chiefs, ladies and gentlemen:

The bill that we have come here to approve this morning authorizes appropriations of more than $4 billion, 800 million for the support of the Defense Establishment of the United States of America. Later today the Congress will act upon the appropriation of some $13 billion. This is authorization for only a part of that appropriation, but this bill will help to meet the military needs that we have in Vietnam.

I also believe that it will do something else. By its overwhelming vote on this measure, I believe the Congress has repeated its declaration to the American people that they, stand behind our fighting men in Vietnam.

Let me remind you that it was just 25 years ago that the Congress extended the Selective Service Act by only one vote. That was in August, as I recall it, before Pearl Harbor in December. On the eve of Pearl Harbor the House of Representatives, of which I was then a Member, by a vote of 203 to 202 turned this country from the brink of the cliff and saved the Army from being dismantled.

We had refused to fortify Guam a short time before that. We had sent several false impressions throughout the world by our action.

Now in contrast, this supplemental military authorization bill passed the House of Representatives, under the bipartisan leadership of the Armed Services Committee and its members, by a vote of 392 to 4; it passed the Senate by a vote of 95 to 2. This overwhelming vote is visible confidence in our modern Defense Department and the civilians and the military who direct the destinies of that department.

In all the history of military movement, there has never been the equal of the Defense Department's accomplishment of moving more than 100,000 men 10,000 miles in 150 days and moving them with equipment, doctors, housing, ammunition, vehicles, planes, and support materiel. In speed, quantities, and efficiency, history recalls no similar achievement of that kind and it deserves the recognition and the gratitude of every single American who lives securely in the United States today.

The overwhelming vote on this measure also testifies that we may have learned something from recent history. It is a lesson which we should have learned long ago for it was really one of our Founding Fathers, John Jay, who warned us: "It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it."

I believe that many of the world's nations have since learned the final futility of war. Most of the world's leaders today, I believe, genuinely desire peace, but there are still a few who do not. So to those who ask what our present struggle in Vietnam really means, let me say: Our purpose is to demonstrate to the remaining advocates of violence that there is more human profit to be had from peace than there is from war.

That is the real purpose of the more than 200,000 brave Americans who are at this moment risking their lives 10,000 miles from home. That is the real purpose of the Congress in registering such dramatic support for legislation of this kind. That is the only purpose of the President and this administration in Vietnam.

How sad it is that such great sums must be spent for the bombs and the planes and the gunpowders of war. How joyous it would be if these great resources could he put, instead, to the service of peace. We have said this and we have repeated it time and time again, and we will never tire of saying it, and I repeat it now: The people of Vietnam, North and South, have the same basic human needs. The people of Asia and the people of China have the same basic human needs.

They need food, shelter, and education. They need an end to disease and to disaster. They need a future for their children. They need hope. They need peace. These are the very simple things, the basic things, the building blocks of life and of civilization. They are the vital and fundamental things that all men have in common; that all men can together seek and together achieve.

In my Baltimore declaration of April of last year, I said to the people of the world how much we would welcome taking some of the funds that we are now spending in bombs and bullets and putting in efforts to rid that area of disease and disaster and provide education and training. At that time I recommended the study and the creation of a Southeast Asia Development Bank, which will soon come into being as a result of the efficiency of this Congress.

So, again, this morning I repeat that we look forward with hope and with prayer to the day when the leaders who provoked and the leaders who continue this aggression in Vietnam will finally abandon their hopeless attempts at conquest. It is my greatest wish to someday stand here and sign another bill, one that is designed to bring progress and fulfillment to a Southeast Asia which is at peace with itself and also at peace with the rest of the world.

Thank each of you for coming this morning to this little ceremony. We will now sign the bill.

Note: The President spoke at 9:05 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. As enacted, the supplemental military authorization bill is Public Law 89-367 (80 Stat. 36).

The Asian Development Bank Act was approved by the President on March 16, 1966 (see Item 133).

For the President's Baltimore address of April 7, 1965, see 1965 volume, this series, Book I, Item 172.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the Supplemental Military Authorization Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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