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Check Six: Origins of the Total Force

May 26, 2019

From the Air Force Magazine website

Lyndon Johnson’s refusal to activate the Guard and Reserve lit the fuse on big changes in force structure policy.

In 1965, the United States entered the Vietnam War in strength, with large-scale deployments of air and ground combat units to Southeast Asia. President Lyndon B. Johnson rejected the advice of his Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he request Congress for approval to call up the National Guard and Reserves.

Johnson stuck to his stand for three years as US troop levels in Vietnam rose steadily toward 500,000. He was determined to meet the need with active duty forces, increased recruiting, and larger draft calls.

In that, he was bucking almost 200 years of precedent. In every war since the American Revolution, the militia—which evolved into the National Guard and Reserves—was mobilized to fight. They were mobilized in both the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

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