From the Annals of the War Presidents – In 1966, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson met with South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Cao Ky in Honolulu. At the time, American involvement in the Vietnam War was already spiraling out of control and the motivation for the talks may have been to address growing public opinion against the war. The talks resulted in the issuance of a joint declaration in which the United States promised to help South Vietnam “prevent aggression” and establish “the principles of self-determination of peoples and government by the consent of the governed.” As part of his public relations campaign for continuing the war, Johnson declared: “We are determined to win not only military victory but victory over hunger, disease, and despair.” Johnson referred to this as “The Other War” meaning the supposed effort to improve the lives of the South Vietnamese through increased security, and economic and social programs to win the so-called “hearts and minds.” Red does not need to point out the utter failure of all of this.
From the Annals of the Libraries – In 1971, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library was dedicated on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. LBJ was in attendance along with President Richard M. Nixon and many notable Texas politicians.
The LBJ Library is one of 13 Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The LBJL contains over 45 million pages of documents – including LBJ’s papers as well as those of his staff and many of his close associates. The Library building has been described as a ten-story unadorned travertine monolith. The architectural design was not critically acclaimed and described by some as a structure that would have pleased Mussolini. Red for one has always more or less liked the massive structure which is accompanied by an impressive fountain and a genteel garden as a tribute to Lady Bird. The Library archives are open to researchers and there are numerous exhibits for the general public.
From the Annals of the U.S. Wars of Choice – In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent a Marine Corps Hawk air defense missile battalion to Da Nang, South Vietnam. The troops were deployed to provide protection for the key U.S. airbase there. This was the first deployment of U.S. combat troops to South Vietnam. The move provoked strong reactions to an apparent new level of involvement in the Vietnamese conflict. Communist China and the Soviet Union threatened to intervene if the U.S. continued military support of the South Vietnamese regime. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow was attacked by demonstrators (including Vietnamese and Chinese students) in a move orchestrated by the Kremlin. Britain and Australia supported the U.S. action, but France called for negotiations.
LBJ had little appreciation of the horrors of war as he had avoided any real combat action in WWII and he was known throughout his life as being an intense physical coward. He showed no hesitation in sending others off to die in his foolish war. The escalation of U.S. involvement in what had been essentially a civil war was now official and the mistaken judgment of LBJ in blundering into the Vietnam War would not end until more than 58,000 U.S. servicemen and women had lost their lives in the futile struggle.
From the Annals of the Undeclared Wars – In 1964, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson first began to come under pressure for his plan to escalate the undeclared war in Vietnam. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) began to speak out against preparation for additional troops in Vietnam. Nelson claimed that Congress did not intend the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to endorse escalation into a full scale war in Vietnam.
The GOTR had been passed on August 7 in response to North Vietnamese patrol boats allegedly firing on U.S. warships in the waters off North Vietnam on August 2 and 4. Whether there was an attack and if so, whether it was provoked has been much debated, but the incident prompted Congress to pass the GOTR with only two dissenting votes in the Senate. The GOTR gave Johnson power to “take all necessary measures to repel an armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” Johnson apparently viewed the resolution as giving him a free hand and began a major escalation of the conflict which ultimately cost the U.S. 58,220 lives and achieved nothing.
From the Annals of Warmongering – In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent a Marine Corps Hawk air defense missile battalion to Da Nang, South Vietnam. The troops were deployed to provide protection for the key U.S. airbase there. This was the first deployment of U.S. combat troops to South Vietnam. The move provoked strong reactions to an apparent new level of involvement in the Vietnamese conflict. Communist China and the Soviet Union threatened to intervene if the U.S. continued military support of the South Vietnamese regime. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow was attacked by demonstrators (including Vietnamese and Chinese students) in a move orchestrated by the Kremlin. Britain and Australia supported the U.S. action, but France called for negotiations. But the escalation of U.S. involvement in what was essentially a civil war had begun and would not end until more than 58,000 U.S. servicemen and women had lost their lives in the futile struggle.
From the Annals of All the Way with LBJ – In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson was nominated to as the Democratic candidate for president at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, NJ. LBJ had of course been elevated to the presidency upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy the previous November. Shortly before his nomination, the seeds of trouble had been planted when LBJ began the escalation of the Vietnam War based on the now discredited Gulf of Tonkin incident. Vietnam and the domestic unrest that it unleashed would be the undoing of Johnson’s presidency and he would decline to run again in 1968.
From the Annals of Mr. Texas – In 1941, Lt. Gov. Coke Stevenson was sworn in as Governor of Texas when Pappy O’Daniel resigned to take office as a United States senator. Stevenson’s story is rather remarkable. He grew up in hard scrabble land of the western Hill Country and had almost no formal education. He began work in his teens running mule teams that hauled freight between Junction and Brady. He educated himself on the trail studying history and bookkeeping at night. He worked his way up from janitor to bank cashier and continued to study – this time tackling law under the tutelage of Judge Marvin Blackburn. He passed the bar exam in 1913 and continued his banking career while practicing law. Stevenson organized and became president of the First National Bank in Junction and also aspired to politics. He was elected Kimble County Attorney and County Judge. He later was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1928 and became Speaker of the House in a remarkable short five years. In 1939, he was elected lieutenant governor. After succeeding Daniel he was elected governor on his own in 1942 and served until 1947. Unfortunately, he may be most famous for his loss to Lyndon Johnson in the 1948 Democratic Primary. It was a race filled with controversy and scandal and revealed LBJ as a politician who would stop at nothing to win. The race and Stevenson’s own remarkable rise to power is brilliantly chronicled in Robert Caro’s Path to Power volume of his series on LBJ.
From the Annals of the State Parks – in 1969, the Lyndon B. Johnson State Historical Park opened to the public. The state park is directly across the Pedernales River from the LBJ National Historical Park which encompasses much of the LBJ Ranch. The two parks operate largely in tandem and feature numerous sites including the family cemetery where LBJ and Lady Bird are laid to rest.
From the Annals of LBJ – In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson deployed a Marine Corps Hawk air defense missile battalion to Da Nang. LBJ sent the troops to provide protection for a U.S. airbase. This was the first commitment of American combat troops in South Vietnam and there was considerable reaction around the world to the new stage of U.S. involvement in the war. Red China and the Soviet Union threatened to intervene if the U.S. became further involved in propping up the South Vietnamese regime. In Moscow, some 2,000 demonstrators, led by Vietnamese and Chinese students, attacked the U.S. Embassy. Britain and Australia supported the U.S. action, but France called for negotiations.
From the Annals of the Presidency – In 1973, former President Lyndon Baines Johnson passed away in Johnson City at the age of 64. After deciding to not stand for re-election, LBJ went back his ranch in Central Texas. According to many, LBJ worked as hard at ranching as he had as a politician. The presidential biographer, Doris Kearns, observed Johnson working on the ranch with the same level of intensity he had tackled work in the Oval Office. Each morning, Johnson would instruct his ranch hands to make a “solemn pledge that you will not go to bed tonight until you are sure that every steer has everything he needs. We’ve got a chance of producing some of the finest beef in this country if we work at it. And if we treat those hens with loving care we should be able to produce the finest eggs in the country.” He ordered daily reports on the production of eggs. To Kearns, Johnson’s frustration with his hens’ egg production echoed the frustration he experienced in failing to conclude an un-winnable war in Vietnam.
The ranch work could not conceal the fact that LBJ was, in his own words, miserable. His legacy of accomplishment as the creator of a “Great Society” and in passing the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 was being overshadowed by the floundering war in Vietnam and the anti-war movement.
On the day of Richard M. Nixon’s inauguration, Johnson watched sullenly as Nixon announced the dismantling of many of Johnson’s Great Society social programs. The next day, Nixon announced that he had achieved the ceasefire in Vietnam that had eluded Johnson. Johnson had reportedly predicted that he would die if his vision of the Great Society died. The following day, while Lady Bird and their daughters were in Austin, Johnson suffered a fatal heart attack. He is buried in a family cemetery at the ranch. One can only imagine what he would think about the likes of Trump and Cruz.
Photo from the LBJ Library