Determined to Persist takes readers inside the White House, the Pentagon, and the U.S. military headquarters in Hawaii and South Vietnam. Based on exclusive contemporaneous correspondence, recently declassified top-secret documents, interviews with participants, and their memoirs, Determined to Persist traces the internal debates, tensions, and critical inflection points in the Vietnam War during an extraordinary six-year period.
The longest serving Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle G. Wheeler was the senior military advisor to Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. In disgust with their administrations' disastrous Vietnam War policies, Wheeler shredded his memoirs. He died three years later. In consequence, a gaping hole has existed in the historiography of the Vietnam War -- until now.
Using exclusive documents from the Wheeler family and others recently declassified, Determined to Persist overturns long-held, inaccurate perceptions of civilian-military relations during the Vietnam era and provides a fuller, more accurate representation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's role in the Vietnam War.
Approximating the viewpoint that Wheeler would have provided, Determined to Persist restores voice to this key foreign policy advisor to three U.S. Presidents who has remained an enigma for 46 years.
Although Lyndon Johnson was perhaps the most intimidating President to occupy the Oval Office, Wheeler was undaunted and openly resisted Johnson's Vietnam War policies, both publicly and behind the scenes. Between June 1965 and January 1969, Wheeler led his Joint Chiefs of Staff colleagues to advocate a more aggressive, offensive strategy toward victory over North Vietnam. Determined to Persist details for the first time the centerpiece of Wheeler's strategy -- a heretofore obscure, top-secret plan to invade North Vietnam.
Determined to Persist also details the Chiefs' decision to resign en masse after Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara betrayed them before Congress, a decision some of them later officially denied. Initially in league with his colleagues, Wheeler dissuaded them, and they soldiered on.
Determined to Persist reveals the depth of Wheeler's determination to present military advice to the unreceptive Johnson Administration, which did not solicit and often dismissed out of hand the military's independent recommendations, and later to the more receptive but politically constrained Nixon Administration.
Not only does Determined to Persist comprehensively detail what Wheeler, the Chiefs, and other senior military officers recommended to the President and Secretary of Defense, but more importantly, it explains why.
Determined to Persist conclusively disproves the misperception that Wheeler and the Chiefs failed to warn their civilian bosses of the probable negative military consequences of presidential decisions made contrary to their recommendations.
Remaining objective, Determined to Persist does not argue that the military had a panacea that could have won the war had the President and Secretary of Defense given them freer rein. While the expanded offensive operations the military recommended may have increased the likelihood of success, they may also have widened the war unacceptably and certainly would have raised the death toll, increased spending, inflamed the antiwar movement, and would not have changed the war's negative outcome for the United States. The increased costs associated with the military's recommendations were too much for the Johnson and Nixon Administrations, and therein lies the reason why many of the military's recommendations were rejected or not adopted in-full. It was not a matter that Wheeler and Chiefs failed to effectively articulate their recommendations and state probable military consequences of presidential decisions. They certainly did, as Determined to Persist proves.