President Johnson: Things are going reasonably well in the South [Vietnam], aren’t they?
McNamara: Yes, I think so.
President Johnson: What are these 6,000 men doing? They’re trying to locate the enemy, I see, and they’ve run them into caves.
President Johnson: Do you know anything about that?
McNamara: Yeah, and they’ve–but it’s a small–it’s just so typical, Mr. President. It’s a relatively small enemy force. We think we’re taking a heavy toll of them, but it just scares me to see what we’re doing there with taking 6,000 U.S. soldiers with God knows how many airplanes and helicopters and firepower and going after a bunch of half-starved beggars … And the great danger – and it’s not a certainty, but it’s a danger we need to look at, is that they can keep that up almost indefinitely.
It happens in the morning, usually. I am reading, or in the garden, or writing at a table outdoors, so lost in my own thoughts that at first it doesn’t register. Because it is unlike the other sounds of my day, for a long time I just didn’t have a place to put what I was hearing. It didn’t fit, which meant I couldn’t identify it. I’m lucky. My life is so supremely peaceful that I simply could not find room in my brain for volleys of gunfire.