October 26, 1966
Lyndon B. Johnson
I came here today for one good reason: simply because I could not come to this part of the world and not come to see you.
I came here today for one good purpose, to tell you and through you to tell every soldier, sailor, airman and marine in Vietnam how proud we are of what you are doing and how proud we are of the way you are doing it.
I came here today with only one regret: that I could not begin to personally thank every man in Vietnam for what he is doing. I wish very much that I could visit every battalion, every squadron, every ship.
You know what you are fighting against: a vicious and illegal aggression across this little nation's frontier.
You know what you are fighting for: to give the Vietnamese people a chance to build a kind of nation that they want -- free from terror, free from intimidation, free from fear.
I do not have to tell you that this is a tough battle. But from the first day you have shown that you are up to the job.
General (William C.) Westmoreland told me as we were reviewing the troops that no armed forces any where at any time, commanded by any commander in chief, were up to the group that we have in Vietnam now. I cannot decorate each of you, but I cannot visualize a better decoration for any of you to have than to know that this great soldier thinks that you are the best prepared, that you are the most skilled, that you know what you are doing, and you know why you are doing it -- and you are doing it. No American army in all of our long history has ever been so compassionate.
Make no mistake about it: The American people whom you serve are proud of you. There are some who may disagree with what we are doing here, but that is not the way most of us feel and act when freedom and the nation's security are in danger.
We in America depend on you, on the young and on the brave to stop aggression before it sweeps forward. For then it must be stopped by larger sacrifice and a heavier cost.
We depend upon you. We know that a nation that stops producing brave men soon ceases to be a nation. I give you my pledge we shall never let you down, nor your fighting comrades, not the 15 million people of South Vietnam, nor the hundreds of millions of Asians who are counting on us to show here in Vietnam that aggression does not pay and that aggression cannot succeed.
You stand today in a long line of brave men -- the kind of men that our nation has produced when they were needed, the kind of men who fought at Valley Forge and Gettysburg, in the Argonne and Iwo Jima, on the Pusan perimeter, and at the 38th parallel.
Such men today are in Vietnam. You are in Vietnam and at your side are the men of five other allied nations. They also know what is at stake and are willing to fight and die for it. That is what the conference we have just completed at Manila demonstrated.
And above all think of our Vietnamese friends.
These are people who have been fighting, suffering and dying, some of them for more years than most of you have lived. With our help and with the help of the other allies they will succeed in giving their people the right to shape their own destiny.
One day when they know peace the whole world will acknowledge that what you have done here was worth the price. Then this wonderful harbor built here by you will become a source of strength to the economic life of Vietnam and of Asia and of this part of the world.
We are working, each of us in our own way, to bring that day even closer.
One of your number has been working longer than most and harder than most to speed that day along. In decorating him today we honor all the men in all the services in this.
It gives me a great pleasure to award to your gallant commander, General Westmoreland, the Distinguished Service Medal for his courage, for his leadership, for his determination, and for his great ability as a soldier and as a patriot.
American fighting men, I salute you. You have the respect, you have the support, you have the prayers of a grateful President and of a grateful nation.
I hope through each of you to take this message to all of you:
We believe in you. We know you are going to get the job done.
And soon, when peace can come to the world, we will receive you back in your homeland with open arms, with great pride and with great thanks. Thank you.