Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks of Welcome to Vietnamese Leaders Upon Arriving at Honolulu International Airport

February 06, 1966

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:

I welcome these two brave leaders of the Vietnamese Republic and their colleagues to American soil. We meet here in a time of testing and trial, but we will talk also of hope and harvest.

Our friends in Korea and Australia and New Zealand have sent their own men to join with Vietnamese and Americans in a conflict to decide if aggression and terror are the way of the future or whether free men are to decide their own course.

It is a question of the gravest importance to all other nations, large or small, whose peoples seek to walk in independence and peace. For were the Communist aggressors to win in Vietnam, they would know that they can accomplish through so-called "wars of national liberation" what they could not accomplish through naked aggression in Korea, or insurgency in the Philippines, in Greece and Malaya, or the threat of aggression in Turkey, or in a free election booth anywhere in the world.

During the past year more than 1,300 Americans have lost their lives from Communist action in Vietnam. But more than 11,000 of our Vietnamese brothers-in-arms died last year protecting their homeland.

Why do these Vietnamese fight on? Because they are not going to let others enslave them or rule their future. And with their soldiers are the administrators and civil officials, and the villagers themselves--to many of whom each darkness of the evening is filled with fear, and to many of whom each noise in the night may be a terrorist's bomb or an assassin's grenade.

And yet they fight on.

They fight for dreams beyond the din of battle--the dream of security in their village, a teacher for their children, food for their bodies, medicine for their sick, the right to worship in the way they choose. They fight for the essential rights of human existence, and only the callous or the timid can ignore their cause.

There are special pleaders who counsel retreat in Vietnam. They belong to a group that has always been blind to experience and has been deaf to hope. We cannot accept their logic that tyranny 10,000 miles away is not tyranny to concern us, or that subjugation by an armed minority in Asia is different from subjugation by an armed minority in Europe. Were we to follow their course, how many nations might fall before the aggressor? Where would our treaties be respected, our word honored, and our commitments believed?

In the forties and the fifties we took our stand in Europe to protect the freedom of those threatened by aggression. If we had not then acted, what kind of Europe might there be today?

Now the center of attention has shifted to another part of the world where aggression is on the march and enslavement of free men is its goal.

Our stand must be as firm as ever.

If we allow the Communists to win in Vietnam, it will become easier and more appetizing for them to take over other countries in other parts of the world. We will have to fight again someplace else--at what cost no one knows. And that is why it is vitally important to every American that we stop the Communists in South Vietnam.

To these beautiful islands and the newest of our States have come the leaders of South Vietnam and the United States--come here to talk of our resolution to defend the peace and to build a decent society for the people of South Vietnam. Because we are here to talk especially of the works of peace, we will leave here determined not only to achieve victory over aggression, but to win victory over hunger, disease, and despair.

We are making reality out of the hopes of the common people--hope for a better life. We will talk here of health and education, of agriculture and economics--and we will talk of those other important aspects of a vital future for the people of Vietnam. In all of these endeavors, we will give all the support possible to the energetic efforts of our Vietnamese allies.

As leaders of our two nations, engaged in this struggle, it is appropriate that we should meet together in order that we may best move forward together. So this afternoon I extend to these two friends and these allies of ours a most warm welcome to our country.

Note: The President spoke at 5:25 p.m. at Honolulu International Airport where Lt. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, Chairman of the National Leadership Committee (Chief of State), Republic of Vietnam, was given a formal welcome with full military honors. In his opening remarks the President referred to General Thieu and Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky.

General Thieu responded as follows: "Mr. President:

"Today as we set foot on American territory, on behalf of the people and the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, we extend to the people of the United States our friendly greeting.

"We also express our gratitude for the warm support and the precious assistance of the American people and Government.

"Your words have gone beyond the usual welcoming address, for they have told Vietnam and the world of a renewed and much stronger determination on the part of the United States to draw a line and stop Communist aggression in Vietnam, and now.

"Your review of the past Communist aggressions the world over leaves no doubt whatsoever as to the logical conclusion that has been drawn. Once again the Americans have confirmed themselves as the champions of liberty, the worthy descendants of the Minuteman. By adopting the Vietnamese cause, you have not only carried on the American tradition of coming to the assistance of a friend in need, but you have also shown enlightenment, vision, and realism in the best American tradition.

"We welcome your initiative, Mr. President, in inviting us to this conference. This is a precious occasion for the leaders of our countries to personally meet. This also serves to further strengthen the friendship and the close cooperation already existing between our Governments in the common struggle against Communist aggression so as to maintain world peace and protect the freedom of mankind.

"This is also a meeting between friends who already are in agreement for the purpose of showing the Communists our unwavering determination to call a stop to their efforts at enslaving the people of the world, notwithstanding the force they may adopt in going about this task.

"Our determination is also to go one step further toward the complete eradication of the Communist wish, for whereas the Communists only promise a better society, we will wage every effort to make a reality of this dream for a better society that is in the mind of every Vietnamese.

"We Vietnamese have a great admiration for the remarkable fighting spirit of the Americans, and are grateful to those who have sacrificed their lives for a just cause and for the sake of our people. We send to the families of those valiant fighters our most sincere admiration for their loved ones and our condolence.

"Mr. President, we firmly believe that the efforts of our two nations in the service of the ideals of liberty and peace in the world will lead to final victory.

"In closing, we sincerely thank you, Mr. President, for the warm and heartening welcome which you have extended to us, and we take this opportunity to reiterate the solemn pledge of the Vietnamese people to continue to fight this war for as long as is necessary, and to be willing and ready to make sacrifices so as not to betray all those brave Americans and Vietnamese who have given their lives so that we may be free."

See also Items 54-56.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks of Welcome to Vietnamese Leaders Upon Arriving at Honolulu International Airport Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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