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520703

Lyndon B. Johnson

 I dont believe that any President ever came to office on a platform of doing what he thought was wrong.

Every President does what he thinks is best for America.

Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1908-1973.  36th President of the United States, 1963-1969.  Outstanding content Typed Letter Signed with initials, LBJ, one page, 6” x 8”, on gold-embossed personal stationery, Austin, Texas, March 2, 1972.  With original envelope bearing Johnson’s printed free frank.

Johnson responds to Jerry A. Simpson, who had written to thank Johnson for his “enlightening memoir,” The Vantage Point.  Johnson responds, in full: “Thank you for your thoughtful letter about The Vantage Point and for your generous comments about my Presidency.  /  I dont believe that any President ever came to office on a platform of doing what he thought was wrong.  Every President does what he thinks is best for America.  /  I did what I thought I had to do.”

Simpson had written:

While it almost seems to be a national passtime [sic] to second guess and thus denigrate your foreign policy as it pertained to Vietnam, I, for one, must confess my admiration for your tenacious adherance [sic] to the course you thought proper—even at the cost of your own political career.  Such courage in the face of vitriolic denunciation is rare—even among Presidents.  But as a fairly serious student of Presidents and our electoral system, it seems to me that this is the whole point.

Although I may not have agreed with all your policies, I shall always admire your courage in doing what you thought correct without regard to the political consequences.  The judgment of history will, I believe, vindicate your position.

Johnson undoubtedly appreciated the comments.  His response gives fascinating insight into his escalation of the Vietnam war.

When Johnson took office upon the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the United States had some 16,000 military advisors, but no combat troops, in Vietnam.  Johnson dramatically increased American involvement in Southeast Asia.  On July 27, 1964, an additional 5,000 advisors were ordered to Vietnam, bringing the total to 21,000.  Eleven days later, the United States Senate approved to Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave Johnson broad authorization to escalate American involvement as the President shall determine.”  Eventually the United States had 25,000 advisors in Vietnam. 

Then the United States sent combat troops.  The first were 3,500 Marines who landed on March 8, 1965.  By the end of 1965, there were 184,000 American troops in Vietnam, and by August 1966, Johnson had authorized a total of 429,000. By 1968 the number was approximately 550,000.

Johnson believed, as did many others, that the vital interests of the United States required that it oppose Communist aggression wherever it occurred.  They advanced the Domino Theory, which held that if South Vietnam fell to Communist guerillas, other nations, primarily in Southeast Asia, would fall like dominoes.  Johnson followed the policy of containment set by President Harry S. Truman, who sent aid to Greece and Turkey, used an airlift to prevent a Soviet takeover in West Berlin, and, most notably, sent American troops to South Korea to confront Communist expansionism.  In a televised address, Johnson said that “the challenge that we face in South-East Asia today is the same challenge that we have faced with courage and that we have met with strength in Greece and Turkey, in Berlin and Korea, in Lebanon and in Cuba.”

But protesters decried sending more troops to Vietnam and escalating the war.  There were protests on college campuses and public burnings of draft cards.  Critics argued that the war was political, that the South Vietnamese government was illegitimate, that support for the war was immoral, and that the military mission lacked clear objectives.  Johnson was often heckled by chants of “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?”  Public criticism forced Johnson to abandon the idea of increasing the number of American troops in Vietnam to about 700,000.

Johnson decided not to seek another term in 1968.  He announced that he would not accept renomination so that he could devote his full efforts, unimpeded by politics, to peace in Vietnam.  But the political handwriting was already on the wall: Eugene McCarthy, a vocal anti-war candidate, stunned Johnson by winning 20 of the 24 Democratic delegates in the New Hampshire primary.  Johnson appeared vulnerable.  A few days later, Robert F. Kennedy also entered the race.

Johnson retired to Texas, where he died on January 22, 1973.

The letter is toned and has tape stains in the upper corners from improper framing.  These could be matted out if the letter were reframed.  Overall the letter is in fine condition.  The original envelope, bearing Johnson’s printed free frank, is in mint condition.

Although Johnson was a fascinating man, he rarely said anything interesting in writing.  This letter has particularly outstanding content and is one of the best Johnson letters that we have ever seen.  Johnson has boldly signed it in black fountain pen. 

Unframed.

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