Great story in today’s WaPo on LBJ’s failed attempt to enlist the help of the Pope to end the conflict in Vietnam, as played out over the days leading up to Christmas, 1967.
“Air Force One roared into the air at noon on Dec. 19, 1967, carrying Lyndon Baines Johnson on a secret mission. The Vietnam War raged. Johnson was desperate for peace. He would risk a 4 1/2 -day, 27,000-mile globe-circling journey to find it, plowing the skies while awaiting word on his long-shot summit proposal.
“But, unknown to most in government and the accompanying press, LBJ planned to personally meet Pope Paul VI in Rome and try to enlist his help toward peace. Some 40 years later, it is a Christmastime story, of the war that raged on and of a long-shot airborne peace mission that became the first round-the-world flight of a U.S. president.”
“That Christmastime of 1967, four days after leaving Washington, Johnson headed home from Rome, landing in the early morning darkness of Christmas Eve. In three months, he would announce he would not seek reelection. The war would last six years more, ending with 57,690 U.S. soldiers dead, 27,080 of them killed after LBJ left office.
“To Johnson, weary of war, his health torn by the human cost, attempting a dramatic, attention-grabbing, globe-circling appeal to the pope at Christmas was worth the chance. Undaunted by criticism of his “flying circus,” his “global extravaganza,” Johnson defended his effort.
“No man,” he said, “can avoid being moved to try harder for peace at Christmastime.”
Would that the current occupant of the Oval Office feel the same.
Merry Xmas & Happy Holidays (and crossposted!) from all at AoF