Miller Center

LBJ and The Logic of Escalation

Five days before this call, Dr. King had given a speech in Petersburg, Virginia, to a chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. According to theNew York Times, King declared that “the war in Vietnam must be stopped” and called for “a negotiated settlement even with the Vietcong.”

President Johnson did not welcome these comments since he was soon to initiate a major escalation of the war, calling up 100,000 American soldiers to go to Vietnam. The first two-thirds of the call concerned voting rights legislation pending before Congress (to be signed into law a month later). King brought up the Petersburg matter towards the end of the call. In response, Johnson offers a detailed rationale for his war-fighting strategy, highlighting the risks of pulling out, as well as those of getting in too directly.

Open transcript in a new window→


President Lyndon Baines Johnson, thirty-sixth President of the United States, 1963-1969.

Biographical sketch from American President.

Newspaper Article Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a clergyman and an activist in the Civil Rights Movement.

Biography from The King Center.

Newspaper ArticleLBJ Daily Diary for July 7, 1965.
Newspaper Article"Notes of Meeting of Foreign Affairs Consultants: Vietnam Panel," July 8, 1965 Source: U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian.

Audio Tape citation numbers WH65707.02.8311 and WH6507.02.8312, Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum. Raw audio file available at the Miller Center's Scripps Library website.