Latest Episodes

5 - The Preacher and the President

LBJ's War September 19, 2017

“I’ll try to be worthy of your hopes,” LBJ told Martin Luther King, just days into his presidency, and for the next two years, largely made good on that vow. Dr. King, for his part, recognized their common goal – racial and economic justice – and threw his own considerable weight behind it, until finally, the war in Vietnam made it impossible to do so any longer. A look back at the 1967 speech that broke their bond forever.

4 - Parting the Curtains

LBJ's War September 12, 2017

For fifteen months, LBJ kept the country largely in the dark about the Vietnam War. Then, in February ’66, the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and its chairman William Fulbright, administered a strong dose of sunlight.

3 – The Carrot and the Stick

LBJ's War September 07, 2017

By the spring of 1965, pressure is building on President Johnson to make his case for the war to the American electorate. He resists, preferring to manage the conflict without public scrutiny, but finally agrees to go public, in a speech at Johns Hopkins University.  The strategy behind the speech: a little something for everybody.  A look at how that strategy works out, and what it reveals about LBJ's congenital bias for secrecy.

2 - The Tonkin Incident(s)

LBJ's War September 06, 2017

Twice in six weeks, in the late summer of 1964, U.S. destroyers reported they were under unprovoked attack, by North Vietnamese PT boats, while on patrol in the Gulf of Tonkin. The first incident produced a massive airstrike in retaliation, and three days later, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which changed the course of the Vietnam War. The second attack produced...no response at all. Did Lyndon Johnson learn something along the way?

1 - The Churchill of Asia

LBJ's War September 05, 2017

“They started with me on Diem,” LBJ told an old friend, “that he was corrupt, and he ought to be killed. So, we killed him.” Not quite true, it turns out, but the brutal assassination of South Vietnam’s President Diem, just three weeks before JFK met the same fate in Dallas, would cast a long shadow over the Johnson presidency, and shape LBJ’s thinking on the war. 1963.

Latest Stories

Conflict & Justice

The carrot and the stick: LBJ addresses the nation on the conflict in Vietnam

In an April 1965 address to the nation, President Lyndon Johnson laid out his argument for expanding US involvement in Vietnam. From archival audio, we now know that Johnson had believed for at least a year that the conflict was a disaster in the making. Why did he continue to push for escalation in a war he didn't think was worth fighting?

Politics

What really happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964?

Historians still argue about what exactly happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in August of 1964. What’s not in dispute is the aftermath: A resolution from the Senate passed by a vote of 98 to 2 authorizing President Lyndon Johnson to use whatever force he thought he needed against North Vietnam. The resolution was a major escalation of US involvement in Vietnam and helped Johnson win the presidential election. But it was built on a lie.