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LBJ on Leaks During the Cuban Missile Crisis

LBJ in ExComm

LBJ in an ExComm meeting on October 29, 1962.
Photo by Cecil Stoughton / JFK Library

From time to time, LBJ liked to use small anecdotes from the Kennedy years to illustrate his points. They implied insider information, but by the time they got to the telling, the stories had often become something less than reliable historical recollections. They were also shaped by LBJ’s distinctive story-telling style where pesky facts shouldn’t get in the way of the message. In one notable example, which was coincidentally just a few days after the clip below, LBJ relayed to anti-Vietnam War Senator Eugene McCarthy his version of the Diem assassination in the closing weeks of Kennedy’s presidency:

But they started with me on Diem, you remember. That he was corrupt and he ought to be killed. So we killed him. We all got together and got a goddam bunch of thugs and we went in and assassinated him. Now, we’ve really had no political stability since then.{{1}}

In the clip below from January 28, 1966, LBJ is in the process of expressing his concerns to Vice President Hubert Humphrey that Humphrey’s travel plans might tip people off to an important impending meeting on Vietnam at which key decisions would be made. “I don’t want to take a chance on telegraphing Ho Chi Minh before my boys get there,” he says. He then provides the following illustration from the Cuban missile crisis.

From this clip alone, it’s not clear what LBJ is talking about. But in another conversation three weeks later with National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, he went into more detail on his source.

[[1]]Tape WH6602-01-9602, Lyndon B. Johnson Library.[[1]]

Source Tape: Tape WH6601-11-9541, Lyndon B. Johnson Library.

Also published on Medium.