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Woodrow Wilson Papers To Go Online

wilson-portrait Rotunda, the electronic imprint of the University of Virginia Press, announced it will create an online edition of the Papers of Woodrow Wilson. With the permission of the Princeton University Press and the generous support of friends of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, The Papers of Woodrow Wilson Digital Edition will be published as part of Rotunda’s American History collection.

Princeton University Press published the print edition of the Papers, edited byArthur Stanley Link and consisting of 69 volumes with a 5-part index, between 1966 and 1994. The Link edition includes Wilson’s personal correspondence, academic works, and speeches, minutes of the Paris Peace Conference, and diary entries of close associates Edward House, Cary Grayson, and Josephus Daniels, totaling approximately 38,400 documents from a vast range of government and academic sources.  The precise organization, annotation, and indexing of the Papers has made Woodrow Wilson one of the most accessible presidents in American history. The Rotunda digital edition will enhance discovery of Wilson’s papers by adapting the documents, annotation, and indexing created by Arthur Link and his fellow editors to a state-of-the-art electronic publishing platform.

Posted in History and Political Science, Press News, Rotunda

UVA Press Warehouse Sale

wsbooks blog 2015

Attention, book lovers, bargain hunters, and history buffs! Don’t miss the great deals at the University of Virginia Press Warehouse Sale, with most books priced at $2-$6. Thousands of first-quality books in Virginiana, history, literature, African American studies, founding fathers, the Civil War, and more will be on sale. Hours are Friday, October 23, from 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturday, October 24, from 10 am to 2 pm at the Press Warehouse, 500 Edgemont Road, three blocks west of McCormick and Alderman (driveway located off McCormick Road). For more information, please email or call 434-924-6070.

Posted in Art and Architecture, Caribbean and African Studies, Environmental Studies, History and Political Science, Literary and Cultural Studies, Press News, Virginiana

Rock Creek 125th Anniversary

September sees the celebration of Rock Creek Park’s 125 anniversary, and Melanie Choukas-Bradley, author of A Year in Rock Creek Park: The Wild, Wooded Heart of Washington D.C., has a number of events lined up, beginning with an interview on NPR’s Kojo Nnamdi Show(which you may listen to here). If you’re going to be in the nation’s capital, you may join Melanie on a number of walking tours through the historic park. A complete listing of events may be found on her web site

Posted in Environmental Studies, Press News, Virginiana

The World In One Zip Code

A tour in portraits of Washington D.C.’s exceptionally diverse Columbia Pike neighborhood, Living Diversity: The Columbia Pike Documentary Project features the work of five inspired photographers. Lead photographer Lloyd Wolf appeared on NPR’s Kojo Nnamdi Show, and in addition to posting the entire interview on their site ( listen to it here), they have created a stunning photo gallery. The Living Diversity web site is now online.

Posted in Art and Architecture, Literary and Cultural Studies, Press News, Virginiana

LISTEN: “No Sunday School Picnic”

LBJ_MLK_GF In the summer of 1965, exactly fifty years ago, President Johnson made the decision to “Americanize” the Vietnam War. This meant escalating dramatically the number of US troops in Vietnam and, after playing a comparatively peripheral role, assuming the burden of defending the south against the communist forces of the north. The southeast Asian country was about to gain a profoundly new significance for the American people. In the new essay-length ebook The War Bells Have Rung: The LBJ Tapes and the Americanization of the Vietnam War, George C. Herring explores this turning point in our history through a remarkable resource—LBJ’s privately taped conversations.

The tapes show how the president had grave doubts about eventual success in Vietnam. And yet, he felt he had to agree to General Westmoreland’s request for more troops. He cited America’s years-long commitment to southeast Asia and, displaying more than a little Cold War hubris, felt he could not abandon it. A peaceful exit through diplomacy seemed unrealistic; as long as Hanoi felt it had the upper hand, LBJ reasoned, why would they engage in peace talks that would only “get them to give up something they’re going to win”? He even compared their position to his own when he beat Barry Goldwater in a landslide election: “They’re arrogant as hell and I don’t blame them. I defeated Goldwater by 15 million [votes]. Now why would I want to give Goldwater half of my Cabinet?”

On July 7, Johnson spoke with Martin Luther King Jr. You may read a transcript and listen to the entire conversation here. Their main business was the voting rights bill, but the conversation eventually turned to controversial remarks King had made about Vietnam.

MLK: Now, there was one other point that I wanted to mention to you because it has, again, concerned me a great deal. In the last few days, in fact, last week I made a speech in [Petersburg]Virginia, where I made a statement concerning the Vietnam situation. And there have been a number of . . . press statements about it . . . I know the terrible burden and awesome responsibilities and decisions that you have to make are just very complicated. So I didn’t want to add to the burdens because I know they’re very difficult.

LBJ: Well, you’re very . . . helpful, and I appreciate it. I did see it. I was distressed. I do want to talk to you. I’d welcome a chance to review with you my problems and our alternatives there. And I not only know you have a right, I think you have a duty as a minister and as a leader of millions of people to give them a sense of purpose and direction. . . . I’ve lost about 264 lives up to now.

MLK: Yeah.

LBJ: And I could lose 265,000 mighty easy, and I’m trying to keep those zeros down and, at the same time, not trigger a conflagration that would be worse if we pulled out. I can’t stay there and do nothing.

After explaining to a patient King why he cannot “tuck tail and run,” the president goes onto invoke that trademark of Cold War logic, the domino theory.

LBJ: If I pulled out, I think that our commitments would be no good anywhere. I think it would immediately trigger a situation in Thailand that would be just as bad as it is in Vietnam. I think we’d be right back to the Philippines with problems. I think we’d . . . the Germans would be scared to death that our commitment to them was no good. And God knows what we’d have other places in the world.

Johnson remained an ambivalent hawk, however, wary of the Joint Chiefs’ military demands. He also needed to maintain the support of a Congress that he had to work with—above all to pass the Great Society legislation he hoped would be his chief legacy. Ten days after speaking with MLK, Johnson was on the phone with House minority leader  Gerald Ford, who supported more bombing of North Vietnam but balked at the idea of more troops on the ground. This July 17 phone call— which you may read and listen to here—is a master class in controlling a conversation. Whereas LBJ’s tone with Reverend King was very calm and sober, almost to the point of solemnity, with Ford he engages in a colorful performance, raising his voice, telling jokes, flattering. He insists the newly added troops cannot be sitting ducks and must be allowed to engage if they come under threat—a position that few would argue with but somewhat beside the point. He also manages to satisfy Ford when pressed for details on Congress’s role in approving any further military actions, although his answer is noncommittal. Ford is, as Herring puts it, “artfully worked over.” By the end of their talk, LBJ has Ford promising his cooperation.

Ford: [A]s far as I’m concerned, I will in the future, as I’ve done in the past, you know, I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder.

LBJ: I know that and I’m proud of you and your country’s proud of you. And the only thing I regret is that you’re going to pick up some Republican seats as a result of that kind of forward-looking policy. And I won’t be happy with that unless they’re like you. And if they’re like you, I won’t object.

There is a bitter layer of irony here, of course: as Herring points out, Ford would be president a decade later when the US endured the “inglorious end to the Vietnam War.”

The War Bells Have Rung, a specially priced essay-length ebook including links to audio files of LBJ’s private tapes, is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other ebook retailers. George Herring has contributed a piece on LBJ and Vietnam to Salon— read it here.

Posted in History and Political Science, Main, Rotunda

LISTEN: The Next Step Up the Ladder

LBJ-for-blog-post July 28 marks an anniversary that is not well known but which looms large in American history. On that day in 1965, Lyndon Johnson appeared on television to deliver his famous “Why We Are in Vietnam” speech, as he announced to the American public that he would be committing more American troops to that war-torn region. This massive escalation—General Westmoreland requested 150,000 additional troops—represents the “Americanization” of the war and is seen by most historians as the turning point in America’s involvement in a country that would help define, tragically, an entire era.

To coincide with the 50th anniversary of these events, we are presenting a special essay by George Herring, one of the great chroniclers of the Vietnam War. Published in a special ebook-only format, The War Bells Have Rung: The LBJ Tapes and the Americanization of the Vietnam War reveals that LBJ, like many of his eventual critics, saw the war as a doomed enterprise. And yet, he felt he had no choice but to pursue it. Using recordings of the president’s private phone calls from that fateful summer, Herring shares the fascinating behind-the-scenes drama of LBJ’s decision.

On June 8, only three days after Westmoreland’s request for more troops, LBJ was attempting to take a nap. The reader won’t be shocked to hear that LBJ failed to succeed. And so he turned to something he knew so well—working the phones. Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield had recently urged the president to find a diplomatic solution to the situation in Vietnam; Johnson called him now to discuss the troop escalation that they both knew would mean no such thing. This compelling conversation, like most of Johnson’s important conversations as president, was recorded and may be listened to here. Here is part of the transcript:

President Johnson: . . . I haven’t talked to a human. I’m over here in bed. I just tried to take a nap, get going on my second day and I couldn’t. I just decided I’d call you.

But I think I’ll say to the Congress that General [Dwight] Eisenhower thought we ought to go in here and do here what we, in effect, did in Greece and Turkey, and so forth. And the Congress thought that we ought to have the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, and we passed it, 82–1.  And President [John F.] Kennedy thought we ought to do this and he sent these people in here. And I have thought that we ought to stay there. But all of my military people tell me, and my economic people, that we cannot do this to the extent of the commitment we have now. It’s got to be materially increased and the outcome is not really predictable at the moment. I don’t think I’d use that language, but I would say something, that unless we have further augmentation, we cannot be secure. Our 75,000 men are going to be in great danger unless they have 75,000 more. My judgment is—and I’m no military man at all, but I study it every day and every night, and I read the cables. I look back over what’s happened in the last two years, or the last four, really, and if they get 150[000], they’ll have to have another 150[000], and then they’ll have to have another 150[000]. So the big question then is: What does the Congress want to do about it, under these circumstances? I get . . . I know that—I know what the military wants to do. I really know what I think Rusk and McNamara want to do, and Bundy. But I’m not sure—and I think I know what the country wants to do now—but I’m not sure that they’ll want to do that six months from now.

Mansfield: Right.

President Johnson: And I want you to give me your best thinking on it and see how we ought to handle it. If we handle it at all, what we ought to do. [Mansfield acknowledges.] If you—

Mansfield: Since our last conversation I’ve been doing some thinking.

President Johnson: Yeah.

Mansfield: And doing some writing, and I’m just . . .  Next time I see you, I’ll give it to you or send it down to you.

President Johnson: All right.

Mansfield: I’m afraid I’m just as worried as you are [unclear].

As Herring notes, LBJ “was brutally realistic in perceiving that escalation could acquire a momentum of its own, one request from the military likely leading to another—and then another.” Nonetheless, once he had made his decision to take the plunge and give the military what it requested, he would have to sell the idea to the American people. It is interesting to see Johnson mention Eisenhower’s and Kennedy’s involvement in Vietnam in this conversation, as he would invoke both of them in his eventual television speech.

When LBJ asked his Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara if the request for more troops was “just the next step. . . . up the ladder,” McNamara responded in the affirmative. History would prove him right.

The War Bells Have Rung, a specially priced essay-length ebook including links to audio files of LBJ’s private tapes, will be published on July 28. Available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other ebook retailers.

Posted in History and Political Science, Main, Rotunda

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