On July 28, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced an increase in the numbers of American troops deployed to Vietnam. From their prvious level of 75,000, another 50,000 troops were to be sent, bringing to total level to 125,000 – representing more than quintupling of American numbers from the end of 1964. By the end of 1965, numbers would have quintupled again, and American casualties would be running at over a thousand dead each month.
Johnson was acutely conscious of the importance of public opinion in the prosecution of the Vietnam War, and watched the polls closely. He made strong efforts to downplay the war, which were largely successful. At first. Only a few years later, backlash against the war would be enough to end Johnson’s political career.
It’s an event that is easily overlooked, but it had a great deal of significance for the entire world: the swearing in of Lyndon Baines Johnson as the 36th President of the United States of America at 2:38pm on November 22, 1963, a little over 2 hours after President Kennedy was shot in Dallas.
Johnson took the oath of office in cramped conditions aboard Air Force One, with 27 people crammed into a 16 square foot stateroom for the historic event – while down the hall, Jackie Kennedy sat grieving next to her husband’s corpse. Johnson would go on to be one of the most controversial Presidents in American history, remembered for the civil rights reforms of his Great Society program, but also for presiding over the massive escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War.