Did we consider dropping nukes on Viet Nam?

I didn’t want to make a Great Debate.

Was the US committed/desperate enough to entertain thoughts of nuclear engagement in southeast asia?

The answer to your question is, yes, it was considered. Here’s a report, in PDF format, from 1967, about the feasabilty and consequences of the use of tactical nuclear weapons in SE Asia.


The conclusion of the report was that unilateral use of tactical nucler weapons would not grant the US a decisive advantage, and both the negative public opinion and the risk of retalitory tactical nuclear strikes by the North Vietnamese (aided of course by the Chinese or Soviets), would leave the US at a significant disadvantage.

I was in high school at the time, and I can verify that the idea of “Nuke Hanoi” was publicly discussed. I don’t remember exactly what Barry Goldwater said, but the idea was enough in the air for the LBJ campaign to make the ad showing the little girl picking flowers and ending with a mushroom cloud. If you want to check newspapers/magazines of the time, you’ll find the topic. Here’s a recent column about that by someone who fought in Vietnam: http://www.politicalgateway.com/main/columns/read.html?col=513

As Captain Amazing said, the possibility was explored, but then war planners always explore possibilities that have no chance of actually being used.

Gen. Curtis (Bull in the China Shop) LeMay urged “nuking Hanoi.” Wasn’t that his notorious “nuke 'em back to the stone age” solution?

What presidential candidate Barry Goldwater said in 1964 about using nuclear weapons in Vietnam.

That was in 1964, well before the Vietnam War was on most peoples’ radar. Although the Tonkin Gulf incident took place in 1964, the number of troops there was still small (15-20K), with the big buildup not taking place until Johnson’s second term.

The mushroom cloud in the “Daisy” commercial symbolized Goldwater’s instigating a nuclear war with the USSR. Everybody at the time understood that. (Besides, the commercial is more famous in retrospect, since it only ran once before it was pulled, and that was before the days of home videorecorders, much less DVRs. A few repetitions on the news thereafter didn’t have nearly the impact that the constant hammering of clips on 24 hour cable channels have today.)

Not to hijack but Eisenhower threatened to nuke North Korea with fairly positive results.