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Compounding this was the lack of clear guidance from the US leadership on just what the mission and objectives of the military were in Vietnam. Following a summit between the leaders of South Vietnam and the United States held in Honolulu, Hawaii in February of 1966, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk remained in Hawaii and met with General Westmoreland to establish goals and objectives for the military in Vietnam and a means to measure their progress. Percentages were set for securing and pacifying areas, for opening roads and railroads, and for denying enemy access to base areas.
59 With a definite end of the war in sight, the American public caught some of the optimism General Westmoreland brought with him to the United States in November 1967. 60 The number of people responding that they supported the war also halted a downward trend after General Westmoreland’s predictions. The number of people opposing the war also stopped increasing. The overall public trends, which had been increasingly anti-war, were halted in November 1967. The public seemed willing to await a verdict on the validity of General Westmoreland’s words.
MACV was originally set up in 1954 under the Eisenhower administration as the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), with a strictly advisory mission. In 1955, the MAAG mission was expanded to organize, train, and equip the military forces of South Vietnam. US military personnel were to train, organize, and equip, but not fight for the South Vietnamese, and were not even permitted to accompany them on operational missions. This changed in 1961 under President Kennedy when he authorized US personnel to accompany South Vietnamese military units into the field, but still only to act as advisors.