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Who's Who of The Vietnam Escalation Debate
LBJ and Sen. Russell
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November 20, 2009

President Lyndon Johnson's taped conversations are a treasure-trove for both historians and current policy makers. On the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers explores the tapes to review Johnson's deliberations as he stepped up America's role in Vietnam. Some of the names on the tape, such as Robert F. Kennedy, will be familiar to Americans young and old — others less so. Find out more from the biography list below.

You can also explore the archives of a number of previous presidents online — many with multimedia offerings.

McGeorge Bundy
McGeorge Bundy After serving in U.S. Army intelligence during World War II, McGeorge Bundy worked as an assistant to former Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson. Though he considered himself a Republican, then-Harvard Dean of Faculty Bundy was disillusioned with the 1960 Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, and organized support for Kennedy among academics and scientists. Bundy was appointed special assistant to the president for National Security in 1961. Following President Kennedy's assassination, Mr. Bundy stayed on under President Johnson, and was best known for his role as a supporter of the American military effort in Vietnam. He resigned in 1966 to become president of the Ford Foundation.

  • Read McGeorge Bundy's oral history from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.

    J. William Fulbright
    Senator FullbrightJ. William Fulbright holds the record as the longest-serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, from 1959 to 1974. Elected to the Senate in 1944, he sponsored the Fulbright Scholars Act, creating Fulbright scholarships for Americans to study abroad, and for foreign scholars to study in the United States. In 1964, as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Fulbright managed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave President Lyndon Johnson sweeping powers to respond to military provocation in South Vietnam. Later, troubled over the gradual escalation of the war in Vietnam, Fulbright held nationally televised "educational" hearings on Vietnam, bringing the Arkansas senator to national attention.

    Robert F. Kennedy
    Robert Kennedy served as campaign manager for his brother John F. Kennedy's election to the Presidency in 1960. He served as Attorney General of the United States from January 1961 until his resignation September 3, 1964, to campaign for the U.S. Senate in New York. He was elected in 1964. Publicly splitting from President Johnson over the war in Vietnam, Kennedy began a run for the Democratic Party nomination in January 1968. He was assassinated on June 6, 1968.

  • View PBS' AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Robert F. Kennedy online.

    John S. Knight
    John Shively Knight inherited the AKRON BEACON JOURNAL from his father and built the business into Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc., which by 1981 consisted of 32 newspapers in 17 states, employed 15,000 workers and boasted a circulation of 3.6 million daily.

    Mike Mansfield
    Michael Joseph (Mike) Mansfield, Democrat of Montana, was the longest serving Senate Majority leader in American history (1961-1977). As Senate Majority Leader, Mansfield introduced the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An authority on U.S.-Asia relations, Mansfield undertook foreign policy assignments for Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. Senator Mansfield counseled President Johnson against U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

    Robert McNamara
    Robert McNameraRobert McNamara served as Secretary of Defense from 1961-68, for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and has gone down in history and public approbation as one of the primary architects of the Vietnam War. In later years, McNamara publicly reconsidered his Vietnam policies — raising another storm of controversy. In 1995, McNamara released his memoir IN RETROSPECT: THE TRAGEDY AND LESSONS OF VIETNAM which related his deep misgivings about the war beginning in 1967. He repeated his misgivings in the 2003 documentary THE FOG OF WAR: ELEVEN LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF ROBERT S. MCNAMARA.

  • Read Robert McNamara's oral history from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.
  • Visit THE FOG OF WAR Web site.

    Richard Russell
    Richard Russell, Democrat from Georgia, served in the United States Senate for almost 40 years, from 1932 until his death in 1971. Russell chaired the Armed Services Committee during two major wars, from 1951 to 1953 and from 1955 to 1969. As a member of the Committee on Appropriations he used his position to boost the defense budget. Although a crucial mentor to President Johnson during his time in the Senate, Russell and Johnson disagreed over a number of vital issues during the Johnson presidency, notably Civil Rights. Russell was one of the authors of the Southern Manifesto in 1956 which pledged the signers to exert "all lawful means" toward reversing the Supreme Court's desegregation decision. Russell privately warned President Johnson against deeper involvement in Vietnam.

  • View video of Russell and Johnson from PBS' AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: "LBJ"

    Birch Bayh
    Birch Bayh served as a senator from Indiana from 1963 to 1981. As chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments, Bayh was the principal architect of two constitutional amendments: The 25th Amendment, which established the rules for presidential succession and disability. And, the 26th Amendment, which lowered the minimum voting age to 18. Birch Bayh was also the principal Senate sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

  • Read Birch Bayh's oral history from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.

    Frank Church
    Frank Church served as Democratic Senator from Idaho from 1957-1981. He served as chairman, Special Committee on Aging (Ninety-second through Ninety-fifth Congresses), Special Committee on Termination of the National Emergency (Ninety-second through Ninety-fourth Congresses), Select Committee on Government Intelligence Activities (Ninety-fourth Congress), Committee on Foreign Relations (Ninety-sixth Congress); and United States delegate to the twenty-first General Assembly of the United Nations. In 1975 Senator Church headed an 11-member investigating allegations of intelligence service misdeeds.

  • Read more about The Church Committee.

    Everett McKinley Dirksen
    Everett McKinley Dirksen served as a Republican representative in the U.S. House from 1933-1948, the U.S. Senate from 1951-69, and as Minority Leader of the Senate from 1959 until 1969. Dirksen was a strong advocate for civil rights and instrumental in helping break the filibuster blocking the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from coming to a vote.

  • Read Everett McKinley Dirksen's oral history from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.

    Barry Goldwater
    Barry M. Goldwater was a five-term U.S. Senator from Arizona and a champion of conservatism whose 1964 presidential candidacy launched a revolution within the Republican party although Mr. Goldwater carried only six states and 36 percent of the popular vote in 1964. Barry Goldwater stated in his famous 1964 GOP nomination acceptance: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

  • Bill Moyers talks with Victor Gold, Deputy Press Secretary to Barry Goldwater during the 1964 campaign.

    Bourke Hickenlooper
    Bourke Hickenlooper was a member of the Republican Party, first elected to statewide office in Iowa as lieutenant governor, serving from 1939 to 1942 and then as Governor from 1943 to 1944. Hickenlooper was first elected to the United States Senate in 1944. He served in the Senate from 1945 to 1969 and served as the Republican policy committee chairman from 1962 to 1969. In this position, he had an intense rivalry with Everett Dirksen, the liberal Senate Republican leader at the time. Hickenlooper opposed civil rights legislation including the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    Hubert H. Humphrey, Jr.
    Hubert Humphrey was elected mayor of Minneapolis and served in that position until 1948. He gained national attention in 1948 at the Democratic National Convention when he delivered a speech in favor of a strong civil rights plank in the party's platform. In November of 1948, voters in Minnesota elected Humphrey to the Senate where he served as the Senate Democratic Whip from 1961 to 1964. In 1964, at the Democratic National Convention, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked the convention to select Humphrey as the Vice Presidential nominee. The ticket was elected in November in a Democratic landslide. In 1968, Humphrey was the Democratic Party's candidate for President when President Johnson decided not to run for a second term. The Democratic contest for the nomination was splintered by the issue of Vietnam with both Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy opposing Humphrey. Humphrey was defeated narrowly by Richard M. Nixon. After the defeat, Humphrey returned to Minnesota to teach at the University of Minnesota and Macalester College. He was elected again to the U.S. Senate in 1970 and 1976, remaining in office until his death.

  • Read Hubert H. Humphrey, Jr.'s oral history from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.

    Curtis LeMay
    General Curtis LeMay was Air Force Commander during the Johnson Administration. Known as a fierce Cold Warrior, LeMay took over Strategic Air Command (SAC) in late 1948 and was appointed Vice Chief of Staff for the US Air Force. Four years later he was promoted to chief of staff. During the Johnson administration LeMay came into conflict with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Air Force Secretary Eugene Zuckert, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army general Maxwell Taylor over the speed and magnitude of strategy, particularly strategic bombing, in Vietnam. In 1968 he ran for Vice President on George Wallace's ticket.

  • Read more about Curtis LeMay from PBS' AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: "Race for the Superbomb" .

    Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
    Cabot Lodge, a member of famed Massachusetts political and intellectual family, served in the U.S. Senate in 1936 and 1942 until he resigned in 1944 to go on active duty in Europe. Reelected to the Senate in 1946, he lost his seat to John F. Kennedy in 1952. Lodge served from 1953 to 1960 as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and was the Republican nominee for vice president in 1960. President Kennedy named Lodge ambassador to South Vietnam. When Lodge arrived in Saigon in August 1963, he tried unsuccessfully to get President Ngo Dinh Diem to remove his unpopular brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, from his powerful position as private advisor to Diem. On November 1, 1963, a coup toppled Diem's government and led to the murders of Diem and Nhu. Lodge resigned as ambassador in June 1964 to pursue the Republican presidential nomination, but he returned to head the U.S. Embassy in Saigon July 1965 to April 1967. In March 1968, Lodge was part of the group of elder statesmen who advised Lyndon B. Johnson not to send more troops to Vietnam. He was a delegate to the Vietnam peace talks in Paris in 1969.

    Wayne Morse
    Wayne Morse was Oregon's Senator from 1945 to 1969. During those years, Morse was variously a Republican, Democratic and Independent member of Congress. Morse became an Independent after Dwight D. Eisenhower's election to the presidency in 1952. While an Independent, he set a record for performing the longest one-person filibuster in the history of the Senate. Morse joined the Democratic Party in 1955. Morse was one of only two Senators who opposed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the President to take military action in Vietnam without a declaration of war.

    LBJ and General Westmoreland
    Dean Rusk
    (David) Dean Rusk served as Secretary of State through the eight years of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, the second longest tenure in U.S. History. Rusk was closely involved in relations with the Soviet Union, especially in negotiating the 1963 test ban treaty. He was a major participant in the secret Cuban missile crisis meetings, and later became a strong advocate of U.S. intervention in Vietnam. Mr. Rusk, a native of Georgia, has also been recognized for his support of the civil rights movement, becoming one of the first members of President Kennedyís cabinet to speak out on the issue.

  • Read Dean Rusk's oral history from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library.

    General William Westmoreland
    General William Westmoreland commanded U.S. military operations in Vietnam from 1964-68. His highly publicized, positive assessments of the American military prospects were shattered by the Tet offensive of 1968, in which Communist forces boldly attacked cities and towns throughout South Vietnam. Westmoreland later served as the Army's Chief of Staff.

  • More from PBS' AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: "Vietnam"
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    References and Reading:

    National Archives: Presidential Libraries
    From Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush, explore presidential documents and media online.

    Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
    The museum and library, located in Austin, Texas, presents a wealth of material online.

    CSPAN: American Presidents
    The network's collection of material and video won the Peabody Award in 2000.

    Also This Week:
    Bill Moyers considers a President's decision to escalate troop levels in a military conflict. Through LBJ's taped phone conversations and his own remembrances, Bill Moyers looks at Johnson's deliberations as he stepped up America's role in Vietnam. Explore a multimedia timeline.

    Find out more about the president's advisors and other political players in the escalation of the war in Vietnam.

    View a collection of reports on the United States and Afghanistan.

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