It would have been the hallmark of his career. The Cold War was raging and sending thousands of US troops to Vietnam meant staving off the rise of communism around the globe. Battling Marxism was key, the fight for democracy paramount. And, perhaps, he felt it was preordained, his destiny to become the one true leader of the free world.
In the end, his anguish over the South East Asian conflict did little to combat the unforgiving reputation he attained during the course of the Vietnam War. Televised and widely viewed in living rooms back home, the images of intense and brutal fighting earned him one of the most famous protest chants now etched in US history.
There is much to be said about Lyndon Baines Johnson. Former teacher. Accorded the Silver Star as Lieutenant Commander in the US Naval Reserve during World War II. The youngest minority leader of his time. And, of course, the 36th President of the United States. Deemed a visionary and an astute politician, Johnson became one of the most misunderstood and controversial leaders to have ever set foot in the Oval Office.
Above all else, LBJ's rise to power was definitely unexpected. Johnson served under the shadow of one of the most charismatic leaders of the modern age. Yet November 22, 1963 was fated to happen. It was a sorrowful moment of defeat for the American citizenry. But for Johnson it was a time unlike any other. It was LBJ's time.
And so his reign came. The "Great Society" social service plans, Medicare programs, the passing of voting rights, tax cuts and the signing of the Civil Rights Act dotted his term at the White House. They were designed to help each member of the populace, and the Johnson presidency worked hard to ensure the benefits of these initiatives were cascaded to the American people.
While Johnson and his administration vigorously gnawed at overseeing hilltop skirmishes happening thousands of miles away, there was, in fact, another battle he fiercely fought back home, his "War on Poverty." LBJ sought to face this war by creating jobs through substantial government aid, a continuous intervention plan which he hoped would alleviate the shortages and scarcity being felt in many households and on the streets.
Ultimately, however, it was the Vietnam era that made his mark on the historical map. The increase he instituted in the number of combatants sent to the region inevitably meant a rise in the number of dead soldiers returning home. Bomber missions intended to destroy not just the enemy's lair but, more importantly, the spirit of the Viet Cong resulted in the enormous loss of lives, both Vietnamese and American. The use of a pesticide called Agent Orange was sanctioned, giving rise to unparalleled health risks among local civilians and US soldiers alike.
Inevitably, it dawned on the American people that Vietnam was a losing battle. The Tet Offensive of 1968 was, in many eyes, a catalyst of sorts. It was a moment of realization that the war was never going to end, for it was a war for independence, a war that will be fought by the Vietnamese at all costs.
In the end, President Lyndon B. Johnson sought ways to disengage himself from the growing fiasco, but he was too late. 500,000 troops were now mired in the bloody landscape of Vietnam, and casualties were rapidly mounting as anti-war protest actions roared across the streets of America. The ignominy was his, and he shocked the electorate by announcing he would not seek re-election.