No Vietnam War, What Does LBJ's Second Term Look Like?

The POD is LBJ decides not to send ground troops to Vietnam, recognizing that the war is unwinnable. In 1965, South Vietnam falls to the Communists without direct American military intervention. Republicans rail against Johnson for "losing South Vietnam," and they make gains in the 1966 midterms. Nonetheless, by 1968 LBJ remains a popular President thanks to the strong economy and the success of his domestic programs. He is elected to a second full term, but not by the same landslide margin as 1964. What does LBJ's second full term look like? Have any historians written about what Johnson planned to do, or might have done, had he been re-elected?
 
The POD is LBJ decides not to send ground troops to Vietnam, recognizing that the war is unwinnable. In 1965, South Vietnam falls to the Communists without direct American military intervention. Republicans rail against Johnson for "losing South Vietnam," and they make gains in the 1966 midterms. Nonetheless, by 1968 LBJ remains a popular President thanks to the strong economy and the success of his domestic programs. He is elected to a second full term, but not by the same landslide margin as 1964. What does LBJ's second full term look like? Have any historians written about what Johnson planned to do, or might have done, had he been re-elected?
I remember reading he commissioned an actuarial study on when he would die that told him he wouldnt live through a second term, and so his reason for not running again was mainly health.

Also I'm not a military guy, there were something like 11,000 active American troops in Vietnam when JFK was killed, are these different from ground troops? (I legitimately dont know) or are you referring to the escalation of forces and draft?
 
I remember reading he commissioned an actuarial study on when he would die that told him he wouldnt live through a second term, and so his reason for not running again was mainly health.

Also I'm not a military guy, there were something like 11,000 active American troops in Vietnam when JFK was killed, are these different from ground troops? (I legitimately dont know) or are you referring to the escalation of forces and draft?

If he were that concerned about his health, I wonder why he ran in the NH primary to begin with.

As for Vietnam, here is a quote from a Miller Center article on the war, "On 8 March 1965, two battalions of U.S. Marines waded ashore on the beaches at Danang. Those 3,500 soldiers were the first combat troops the United States had dispatched to South Vietnam to support the Saigon government in its effort to defeat an increasingly lethal Communist insurgency. Their mission was to protect an air base the Americans were using for a series of bombing raids they had recently conducted on North Vietnam, which had been supplying the insurgents with ever larger amounts of military aid. The raids were the first in what would become a three-year program of sustained bombing targeting sites north of the seventeenth parallel; the troops were the first in what would become a three-year escalation of U.S. military personnel fighting a counterinsurgency below the seventeenth parallel. Together, they Americanized a war the Vietnamese had been fighting for a generation."

EDIT: An article from Military Times agrees, "1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson decided to send the Marines — 3,500 of them — to Vietnam as what proves to be just the first American commitment of regular troops to that embattled country." This is different from the "advisors" who assisted South Vietnamese forces under Eisenhower and Kennedy.
 
Last edited:
Well it's a stressful job and he only made it to Jan 22 1973 IOTL, so who's his VP? They're going to be President.

Presumably Humphrey, though after leaving office LBJ basically drank and smoked himself to death out of depression. It's a coin toss if he lives or dies in office.
 
Well, without Americanization of the war and the draft, presumably significantly less conflict on the college campuses.

It would be very interesting to see how the GOP would pivot (or if they would) from the Southern Strategy if they were defeated again by the man who passed the Civil rights legislation.

I personally think the burst of pop culture and especially music at the time had more to do with the massive numbers of young people and new recording and amplifying technology - so the music should be just as good outside the protest genre.

There will still be lots of tension over racial justice, of course...but I wonder what else LBJ could accomplish in his Great Society? Without Vietnam, he'd have more money. How did he feel about Medicare for All?

I guess it also remains to be seen if he tries to rally from the "lost Vietnam" accusations and goes full Hawk, or if he takes election wins as vindication and becomes a Peace President.

I *imagine* that LBJ staying in the race means RFK lives? Could be wrong though.
 
Well, without Americanization of the war and the draft, presumably significantly less conflict on the college campuses.

It would be very interesting to see how the GOP would pivot (or if they would) from the Southern Strategy if they were defeated again by the man who passed the Civil rights legislation.

I personally think the burst of pop culture and especially music at the time had more to do with the massive numbers of young people and new recording and amplifying technology - so the music should be just as good outside the protest genre.

There will still be lots of tension over racial justice, of course...but I wonder what else LBJ could accomplish in his Great Society? Without Vietnam, he'd have more money. How did he feel about Medicare for All?

I guess it also remains to be seen if he tries to rally from the "lost Vietnam" accusations and goes full Hawk, or if he takes election wins as vindication and becomes a Peace President.

I *imagine* that LBJ staying in the race means RFK lives? Could be wrong though.

Kennedy's impetus for running in '68 was Vietnam, so I highly doubt he runs. I believe that he originally planned on running in '72 when Johnson would be a lame duck (if re-elected).
 
I remember reading he commissioned an actuarial study on when he would die that told him he wouldnt live through a second term, and so his reason for not running again was mainly health.

BTW I have a source to back up what you say about LBJ having reservations about a second term, "I'm going to enjoy the time I've got left," Johnson told friends when he left Washington in January, 1969, a worn old man at sixty, consumed by the bitter, often violent, five years of his presidency. He had never doubted that he could have won the 1968 election against Richard Nixon if he had chosen to run for another term. But in 1967 he launched a secret actuarial study on his life expectancy, supplying personal histories of all the males in the recent Johnson line, himself included. The men in the Johnson family have a history of dying young," he told me at his ranch in the summer of 1971, "My daddy was only sixty-two when he died, and I figured that with my history of heart trouble I'd never live through another four years. The American people had enough of Presidents dying in office." The prediction handed to Johnson was that he would die at the age of sixty-four. He did."

Credit to @josephcaillaux1 for providing me with the link.
 
This is a good point

I mean, if the stress of the office doesn't kill LBJ (no Vietnam would make the Presidency less of a burden) perhaps he lives to the age of 68 and dies in early 1977. The combination of Vietnam + accelerated usage of tobacco/alcohol during his post-Presidency is what killed him really.
 
I guess it also remains to be seen if he tries to rally from the "lost Vietnam" accusations and goes full Hawk, or if he takes election wins as vindication and becomes a Peace President.
I’d dearly love to see the later! :)

OTL — we pretty much supported every dictator we could find except the avowed communists! And even at least one of those in that we supported the Khmer Rouge post-genocide. Doesn’t make any sense other than the “logic” of the cold war. China was their ally, and we tilted toward China and away from the Soviet Union, and so, that was that. The upshot being that both the Carter and Reagan administrations supported the Khmer Rouge in their bid for Cambodia’s UN seat. Weird, but not weird.

ATL — Lyndon pushes a foreign policy all about trade and development, and on the cheap since straight up foreign aid has never been popular with America voters. And we have many more success stories than just the Asian Tiger and Tiger Cub economies!
 
I’d dearly love to see the later! :)

OTL — we pretty much supported every dictator we could find except the avowed communists! And even at least one of those in that we supported the Khmer Rouge post-genocide. Doesn’t make any sense other than the “logic” of the cold war. China was their ally, and we tilted toward China and away from the Soviet Union, and so, that was that. The upshot being that both the Carter and Reagan administrations supported the Khmer Rouge in their bid for Cambodia’s UN seat. Weird, but not weird.

ATL — Lyndon pushes a foreign policy all about trade and development, and on the cheap since straight up foreign aid has never been popular with America voters. And we have many more success stories than just the Asian Tiger and Tiger Cub economies!
Particularly interesting to see if the Alliance for Progress survives. It would at the very least last longer; and with Peace & Love LBJ, we could potentially avoid Banzer, Pinochet & Bordaberry (murderous neo fascist latin american dictators).
 
Please tell me a little about this. Thanks.
'Twas Kennedy's response to the Cuban revolution, after his classic "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable".

It was envisioned as a Marshall Plan for Latin America. The general gist was money and Peace Corps volunteers. Lasted throughout LBJs term, was ended in 1971 by Nixon in favour of old school CIA/military intervention.
 
'Twas Kennedy's response to the Cuban revolution, after his classic "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable".

It was envisioned as a Marshall Plan for Latin America. The general gist was money and Peace Corps volunteers. Lasted throughout LBJs term, was ended in 1971 by Nixon in favour of old school CIA/military intervention.

Since there was a recession in 1969, maybe a Republican is elected in 1972? Would they continue the Alliance for Progress? If it's Reagan, I'd say probably not. Though a moderate like Romney might be more open to it.
 
Since there was a recession in 1969, maybe a Republican is elected in 1972? Would they continue the Alliance for Progress? If it's Reagan, I'd say probably not. Though a moderate like Romney might be more open to it.
I guess it depends how successful it's been. But IOTL, Nixon was opposed to Allende from his election in 1970, culminating in his support for the coup of Pinochet in 1973; Alt LBJ might be more tolerating, and Allende then more moderate or at least conciliatory toward American gestures, and by 1973 Allende would be an odd target for an incoming President, even if it is Nixon. At the very least, the coup is delayed.
 
The POD is LBJ decides not to send ground troops to Vietnam, recognizing that the war is unwinnable. In 1965, South Vietnam falls to the Communists without direct American military intervention. Republicans rail against Johnson for "losing South Vietnam," and they make gains in the 1966 midterms. Nonetheless, by 1968 LBJ remains a popular President thanks to the strong economy and the success of his domestic programs. He is elected to a second full term, but not by the same landslide margin as 1964. What does LBJ's second full term look like? Have any historians written about what Johnson planned to do, or might have done, had he been re-elected?

Although this is certainly possible, I do want to state it is also possible he loses in 1968 for "losing South Vietnam". He well might not, but I think it might have been a "damned if you do , damned if you don't" position. If he sends troops you wind up with OTL, unless there are other PODs. If he doesn't he may well lose for doing nothing.
 
I’d dearly love to see the later! :)

OTL — we pretty much supported every dictator we could find except the avowed communists! And even at least one of those in that we supported the Khmer Rouge post-genocide. Doesn’t make any sense other than the “logic” of the cold war. China was their ally, and we tilted toward China and away from the Soviet Union, and so, that was that. The upshot being that both the Carter and Reagan administrations supported the Khmer Rouge in their bid for Cambodia’s UN seat. Weird, but not weird.

ATL — Lyndon pushes a foreign policy all about trade and development, and on the cheap since straight up foreign aid has never been popular with America voters. And we have many more success stories than just the Asian Tiger and Tiger Cub economies!
Dude, LBJ supported dictators too, he gave the greenlight for the 1964 coup in Brazil
 
Top