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This Day In History: President John F. Kennedy Authorized U.S. Military Advisors In Vietnam To Fire In Self Defense

February 14, 2017

This day in history, February 14, 1962, President John F. Kennedy authorized U.S. military advisors in Vietnam to return fire if fired upon.

“The training missions we have [in South Vietnam] have been instructed that if they are fired upon, they are of course to fire back, but we have not sent combat troops in [the] generally understood sense of the word,” Kennedy said at a news conference.

Kennedy was acknowledging that U.S. forces were involved in the fighting, but he wished to downplay any appearance of increased American involvement in the war. The next day, former Vice President Nixon expressed hopes that President Kennedy would “step up the build-up and under no circumstances curtail it because of possible criticism.”

At the time, United States military assistance in South Vietnam was increasing. Six days earlier, U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam was created in response to the increase.