In the summer of 1965, President Johnson faced an agonizing decision. General Westmoreland had come to him with a "bombshell" request for 150,000 more troops in Vietnam. LBJ, who wished to be remembered as a great reformer, not as a war president, saw the proposed escalation for what it was—the turning point for American involvement in Vietnam. This is one of the most discussed chapters in modern presidential history, but George Herring, the acknowledged dean of Vietnam War historians, has found a fascinating new way to tell this story—through the remarkable legacy of LBJ’s taped telephone conversations. A concise, inside look at seven critical weeks in 1965—presented as a Rotunda ebook linking to transcripts and audio files of the original presidential tapes— The War Bells Have Rung offers both student and scholar a vivid and accessible look at a decision on which LBJ’s presidency would pivot and that would change modern American history.
“MR. PRESIDENT, I wish you’d install a tape recorder on your end.”
It was a request made only half in jest, as Russell B. Long, the Democratic senator from Louisiana, sought help in crafting an argument against Senate critics of U.S. policy in Vietnam. As he put it to President Lyndon B. Johnson in a February 1966 telephone conversation, “I wish we had this on tape, because I would like to say it exactly the way you say it, and I’m not sure I could recall it all that way, but I’ll do my best.”
As it turns out, President Johnson did have their exchange on tape, though he would not admit it to Long, for Johnson secretly recorded many of his conversations in the Oval Office. So, too, did his four immediate predecessors, as did his immediate successor. The resulting 5,000 hours of telephone and meeting tape that Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt through Richard M. Nixon recorded during their time in the White House capture some of the most significant moments in modern American political history. From Birmingham to Berlin, from Medicare to My Lai, from Selma to SALT, and from Watts to Watergate, the presidential recordings offer a unique window into the shaping of U.S. domestic and foreign policy.
- Marc J. Selverstone, general editor
- David G. Coleman
- Kent B. Germany
- Ken Hughes
- Guian A. McKee