June 8, 1967. Johnson receives the news that an American ship, the USS Liberty, has been torpedoed in the Middle East during the ongoing Six-Day War. LBJ later described the incident and the fallout:

“Thursday, June 8, began on a note of tragedy.  A morning news bulletin reported that a U.S. Navy communications ship, the Liberty, had been torpedoed in international waters off the Sinai coast. For seventy tense minutes we had no idea who was responsible, but at eleven o’clock we learned that the ship had been attacked in error by Israeli gunboats and planes.  Ten men of the Liberty crew were killed and a hundred were wounded.*  This heartbreaking episode grieved the Israelis deeply, as it did us.  There was a possibility that the incident might lead to even greater misfortune, and it was precisely to avoid further confusion and tragedy that I sent a message to Chairman Kosygin on the hot line.  I told him exactly what had happened and advised him that carrier aircraft were on their way to the scene to investigate.  I wanted him to know, I said, that investigation was the sole purpose of these flights, and I hoped he would inform the proper parties.  Kosygin replied that our message had been received and the information had been relayed immediately to the Egyptians.

Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson reported, after his return to Moscow, that this particular exchange had made a deep impression on the Russians.  Use of the hot line for this purpose, to prevent misunderstanding, was exactly what both parties had envisioned.”

—Lyndon Baines Johnson, The Vantage Point, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, pg 300-301.

*LBJ is referring to the initial reports—there were actually 34 men killed. More on the incident here

Memo, Rostow to LBJ, 6/8/67, #232a, “Middle East Crisis, Volume 4,” Country File, NSF, box 107, LBJ Presidential Library. Photo of USS Liberty from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

April 9, 1965. On a day of a legislative victory—his education bill will pass the Senate—LBJ also gets the kind of call that no President wants to receive: after a dogfight with a Chinese plane, a U.S. Navy pilot is missing over Hainan Island. 

There are follow-up conversations through that night and morning at 12:50a.m., 3:55a.m., 7:47a.m., and 9:30a.m. In the 9:30 call LBJ worries about the effect of the incident on the education bill vote— a harbinger of problems to come. 

August 4, 1964. 10:53 a.m. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara calls LBJ to tell him that unidentified vessels have been sighted in the Gulf of Tonkin. Ten minutes later, McNamara calls back to tell the President that the destroyer in the Gulf is under torpedo attack. 

August 4, 1964. 10:53 a.m. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara calls LBJ to tell him that unidentified vessels have been sighted in the Gulf of Tonkin. Ten minutes later, McNamara calls back to tell the President that the destroyer in the Gulf is under torpedo attack. 

December 17, 1960. JFK completes the selection of his cabinet. This includes, at LBJ’s request, the appointment of John Connally as Secretary of the Navy. Connally’s term will be short-lived: he will win his first political race as a candidate for Texas governor next year.
Above: The USS Forrestal, deployed to the Mediterranean from January to August in 1959 and then again in 1961. Secretary Connally visited the Forrestal on August 9, 1961 to congratulate the men via closed circuit television for achieving their second coveted Battle Efficiency “E” award. The Forrestal and her crew will later play a role in the Vietnam War, during which they suffer a terrible shipboard fire.

December 17, 1960. JFK completes the selection of his cabinet. This includes, at LBJ’s request, the appointment of John Connally as Secretary of the Navy. Connally’s term will be short-lived: he will win his first political race as a candidate for Texas governor next year.

Above: The USS Forrestal, deployed to the Mediterranean from January to August in 1959 and then again in 1961. Secretary Connally visited the Forrestal on August 9, 1961 to congratulate the men via closed circuit television for achieving their second coveted Battle Efficiency “E” award. The Forrestal and her crew will later play a role in the Vietnam War, during which they suffer a terrible shipboard fire.

"Washington Rumor Reports Lyndon Johnson to be Navy Secretary"—Tri County Signal, Luling, Texas. October 23, 1942

Upon his return to national politics, LBJ reports to FDR on the state of affairs in the Pacific. Johnson then turns his attention to presenting his plans directly to the public, including a widely transmitted radio broadcast on August 19th. His involvement in national politics prompts speculation that he will become Secretary of the Navy.

LBJ’s days in the Navy are numbered. On June 17, 1942, President Roosevelt issued a directive that read:
"All members of the House and Senate who are now serving in an active status will be placed on inactive duty as on July 1, 1942, or immediately upon returning to the United States."
LBJ Museum Image #1973.2210.1. Painting, Portrait of LBJ in Naval uniform during WWII.  Signature: LR “M. Kunstler”  This illustration done for McFadden Publications in 1964.
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LBJ’s days in the Navy are numbered. On June 17, 1942, President Roosevelt issued a directive that read:

"All members of the House and Senate who are now serving in an active status will be placed on inactive duty as on July 1, 1942, or immediately upon returning to the United States."

LBJ Museum Image #1973.2210.1. Painting, Portrait of LBJ in Naval uniform during WWII.  Signature: LR “M. Kunstler”  This illustration done for McFadden Publications in 1964.

1942: LBJ reported back to FDR about the need for more workers in the navy yards.

"He proposed that laborers be drawn from pre-draft-age men, men with dependents who would not be called, men deferred because of physical disabilities, and women who could not only do clerical jobs but also work on assembly lines and in repair shops as well as or even better than men."

——Woods, Randall B. LBJ: Architect of American Ambition. New York: Free Press, 2006, p. 232.
Photo from Library of Congress via Flickr.

1942: LBJ reported back to FDR about the need for more workers in the navy yards.

"He proposed that laborers be drawn from pre-draft-age men, men with dependents who would not be called, men deferred because of physical disabilities, and women who could not only do clerical jobs but also work on assembly lines and in repair shops as well as or even better than men."

——Woods, Randall B. LBJ: Architect of American Ambition. New York: Free Press, 2006, p. 232.

Photo from Library of Congress via Flickr.

1941-2: Because of his experience in leading the Texas NYA, the navy assigned LBJ to work on production and manpower problems in Texas, California, and Washington. He received his orders from the Office of Naval Operations on December 11, 1941, and headed to San Francisco soon after.
The photo above is from the Library of Congress, via Flickr. The title is “Lorena Craig is a cowler under civil service at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas.” Corpus Christi has been home to the Naval Air Station since 1941.

1941-2: Because of his experience in leading the Texas NYA, the navy assigned LBJ to work on production and manpower problems in Texas, California, and Washington. He received his orders from the Office of Naval Operations on December 11, 1941, and headed to San Francisco soon after.

The photo above is from the Library of Congress, via Flickr. The title is “Lorena Craig is a cowler under civil service at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas.” Corpus Christi has been home to the Naval Air Station since 1941.

1941: Lt. Commander Lyndon B. Johnson in his Navy uniform in Austin, TX. LBJ had joined the Naval reserve in 1940, after obtaining commissions for both himself and John Connally.

1941: Lt. Commander Lyndon B. Johnson in his Navy uniform in Austin, TX. LBJ had joined the Naval reserve in 1940, after obtaining commissions for both himself and John Connally.