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Plot twist on anniversary of JFK assassination (SPOILER)

Lugh

While I've needed to clean up some continuity and reposted some chapters for my story, Ask Not What You Can Do For Your Country, I'm reminded that today is the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a central character in my "do-over".

Is it worth a blog post and a teaser about the anniversary, simply raising the question, "what if things had been different?"

Final spoiler warning

It may not yet be obvious, but one of the main historical things that the story examines is what would have happened in Vietnam had Kennedy lived? I don't kill him off, and, while things have been developing in Dallas, the way I've decided to have him live is not something dramatic in the November 22, 1963 motorcade -- although I'm suggesting that a bit as I build up to it.

Happy to discuss how I do avoid his death in this thread. I think I have a rational yet surprising way to do it. In addition to keeping him alive, I form a partnership with LBJ, making civil rights, as well as Vietnam, a major theme.

Crumbly Writer

@Lugh

I've always thought that, baring JFK's assassination, LBJ would never have been able to pass the Civil Rights Act. He had so much support to accomplish something major to commemorate his loss, it gave him more leeway he'd ever have had otherwise. However, the fallout over that one act continues to play out in American elections to this day.

I'm sure life in the U.S. would be significantly different today if he'd lived.

Replies:   Lugh
Lugh

@Crumbly Writer

Civil Rights Act.


JFK and LBJ weren't close collaborators, which is one of the changes that I've made using my characters' mind-affecting abilities -- not mind control. Both were flawed men, but I have no doubt that LBJ truly was concerned for people discriminated against.

Among the changes is that I have the two sit down and decide to work together closely. LBJ, under JFK, clearly becomes the deputy for civil rights. At the moment, I'm working on his interaction with the "Big 6" civil rights leaders, negotiating support for the March on Washington.

You raise an excellent point, but I'd respond that perhaps the two, as a team, could have passed it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Lugh

You raise an excellent point, but I'd respond that perhaps the two, as a team, could have passed it.

Except that, until JFK's assassination, LBJ had almost no role in the Kennedy administration. He was brought on to win Texas's more conservative voters to the Democratic ticket, but the two's views didn't exactly jive. Given LBJ's background, I'm not sure he'd have pushed the civil right agenda if the assassination hadn't provided an opening and a chance for the non-elected LBJ to establish a lasting legacy. But those are mostly my interpretation, rather than established theory.

Replies:   Lugh
StarFleet Carl

@Lugh

what would have happened in Vietnam had Kennedy lived?


We were already involved in Vietnam, so most of that wouldn't have changed. It's possible we would have increased operations into Laos and Cambodia, though.

But the biggest difference is that since Kennedy was killed at the start of the election season, chances are that when the Democratic Convention rolled around Johnson would NOT have been his running mate. Bobby Kennedy hated Johnson. So without Johnson, there's no Great Society. (I'd guess Brown or maybe even Wallace, since he would ALSO give Kennedy the South. You want to put a twist on things, make George Wallace VP and THEN have JFK killed.)

And then in 1968, presuming there's no additional assassination, you'd have Bobby running for President.

Replies:   Lugh
richardshagrin

We were "involved" in Vietnam in 1959, at least for some values of involved. My father, a colonel of artillery, West Point class of 1940, was attached to a South Vietnamese Infantry Division as an advisor. That's how he got his combat infantry badge, not something most artillery officers got. He was part of about 20 officers and a few senior enlisted men as a MAG (Military Assistance Group) to the South Vietnamese. That would have been under President Eisenhower. It seems unlikely to me JFK would have greatly increased this involvement particularly once the Catholic President of South Vietnam was killed.

Advisors, yes, we had advisors to lots of Countries. My dad was also head of the SHAPE (supreme headquarters, allied powers, Europe) mission to Portugal, him and a British Lieutenant Colonel, when Salazar and the Portuguese were trying to keep Angola and got weapons and advice from the US. But we didn't send troops and didn't send them until the non-military managers decided to escalate our aid.

Replies:   Lugh  Lugh
Lugh

@Crumbly Writer

Given LBJ's background, I'm not sure he'd have pushed the civil right agenda if the assassination hadn't provided an opening and a chance for the non-elected LBJ to establish a lasting legacy.


That's why this is alternate history. Do look, though, at LBJ's first job, even before college graduation, as a teacher of Mexican-Americans.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Lugh

@StarFleet Carl

We were already involved in Vietnam, so most of that wouldn't have changed. It's possible we would have increased operations into Laos and Cambodia, though.


Again, though, the devil is in the details--which makes for my story. There's questionable but substantial evidence that Kennedy, despairing that the South Vietnamese government could ever get its act together, may have decided on withdrawal in October 1963, but very shortly before he was killed (President Diem was killed a few weeks before JFK).

The covert operations against North Vietnam, CINCPAC OPLAN 34A, began planning under JFK, but were not authorized until early in LBJ's Administration. By August 1964, the fog of war brought 34A raids together with NSA SIGINT collection to result in what appeared to be the Gulf of Tonkin Incident -- where LBJ (and McNamara) took retaliatory strikes before full information was in. The first attack probably was investigating to see if the NSA destroyer was part of another covert raid; the second attack probably never happened.

Without 34A, there might have been no Gulf of Tonkin. Further, the US might have been pulling back in any event -- there are alternate diplomatic alternatives. I pick certain approaches in the interest of storytelling.

Lugh

@richardshagrin

We were "involved" in Vietnam in 1959, at least for some values of involved.

Actually, we stepped up our Military Assistance Advisory Group in 1954, after the French withdrawal. A Cold War motivation appeared to be that we believed that continuing to look after French interests would encourage the French to keep working with us in NATO/Europe. Even before that, while FDR had been strongly anticolonialist, we supported the British and French coming back to then-Indochina, for the same reason.

Remember that prior to 1962 or so, the assumption was that the main battleground would have been in Laos, not Vietnam. Eisenhower sent an initially covert mission, Project WHITE STAR, to Laos, which was generally successful for a time, and finally withdrawn as not needed by Kennedy.

Again, you're touching on some of the things that the story explores.

Replies:   REP
Lugh

@richardshagrin

It's fun to discuss some of the issues the story addresses, and I do appreciate that -- some of this is still in draft. Nevertheless, remember the point of the post here -- do I mention anything in a blog post?

Further, you're bringing up exactly some of the historical conflicts that the story addresses. In one respect, that's very good, although some of the younger readers will be asking, "Where is Veet Nahm and why should I care about it?"

That brings up the question of how best to make a story like this appealing, even to people that don't know much of the history. A challenge is giving enough background in the story, without having to write a textbook.

Apropos of textbook, you can see a couple of hundred linked nonfiction articles, relating to this, with the top level article at http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Wars_of_Vietnam -- the Second Indochina War/Vietnam War is under this major topic.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Lugh

Do look, though, at LBJ's first job, even before college graduation, as a teacher of Mexican-Americans.

Given Texas's ethnic diversity, that's not unusual. However, it's never mediated the conservative Texas elements to curtail access to services by immigrants. Just because someone capitalizes on opportunities doesn't necessarily imply a change in attitudes. It's odd that, the very voters that LBJ brought to JFK's election victory, he turned around and handed over to the Republican party with his Voting Rights Act.

Crumbly Writer

@Lugh

Nevertheless, remember the point of the post here -- do I mention anything in a blog post?

I wouldn't suggest you weaken your story by contradicting what's presented in the story itself. Let the story speak for itself. It'll either hold up on its own or it won't, but qualifying your position won't help one way or the other.

REP

@Lugh

Actually, we stepped up our Military Assistance Advisory Group in 1954


Our advisory effort began in 1950, so stepped up is a good way to put it.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@REP

Our advisory effort began in 1950

So we can blame Harry Truman.

REP

SEATO was established during his reign and we did sign the treaty. All he did is provide advisors when asked to do so; as we were supposed to do per the treaty.

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