Anyone interested in exploring, at this half-century mark, the conflict waged on a then-partitioned Southeast Asian coastal land, Vietnam, ought not to stop at the 2017 televised PBS series. Also meriting attention is a less heralded, but entirely worthwhile Public Radio International podcast.
Called “LBJ’s War”, this multi-part podcast focuses on Executive Branch machinations after the United States became involved, siding with the South (Republic of Vietnam) against the North (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) – and against the Viet Cong, an armed ally of the North that operated in the South.
It begins in the fall of 1963, when Lyndon Baines Johnson assumed the U.S. Presidency after the November 22 assassination of his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, and soon confronted the question of whether to continue support for South Vietnam, where the incumbent President, Ngo Dinh Diem, himself had been assassinated on November 2. It ends 5 years later – well before the last Americans fled as Saigon fell, but after Johnson’s surprise March 1968 announcement that he would not seek another presidential term.
Most notable is the way that the podcast recounts these and other key events (including, of course, the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the 1968 Tet Offensive). As much as possible, it uses words spoken on cables, in taped phone calls and conversations, and, in the case of Lady Bird Johnson, entries in an audio-recorded diary. Coming to life are her voice, that of her husband, and those of others – among them two Georgians, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Secretary of State Dean Rusk.
Well worth a listen.
(credit for photo captioned “President Lyndon B. Johnson awards the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant Marty A. Hammer”)