Stan Atkinson / 1961: "This is Hickam Air Force Base near Honolulu, Hawaii. You can feel excitement in the bright afternoon. This is our newest state, and its rolling out the red carpet for the vice-president. This is a sound and picture portrait of Lyndon Baines Johnson, a man on the move."
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Watching Johnson work the crowds, you never would have guessed he'd suffered a heart attack six years before.|
That's what we called it. And man on the move was an understatement.
In two weeks, LBJ and his entourage made stops in Hawaii, Wake Island, Guam, South Vietnam, the Philippines, Formosa, Hong Kong, Thailand, India and Pakistan. LBJ ran the Secret Service people ragged. And there I am with some of those overworked men in black.
Everywhere we went, he looked like he was running for something. Wherever he was, that was always his style, the way he would wade into crowds and press the flesh.
Watching Johnson work the crowds, you never would have guessed he'd suffered a heart attack six years before. He had the energy of a 20-year-old. But if he needed to sleep, he could. He had, I swear, this ability to be able to grab a wink or two on his feet while at some big do, while waiting his turn to speak.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was the tour of the Taj Majal in India. The structure is, of course, beautiful and awe-inspiring; an enduring tribute to the love between a man and a woman. And it was also the sight of an amazing display of LBJ's huge personality.
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But make no mistake: LBJ was no fool, and he was first and foremost a patriot.|
We were inside the building as a guide talked about the acoustics and Buddhists were chanting. All of a sudden, Johnson says, "Lady Bird, ain't that something'? and he lets fly with a Texas cowboy's whoop.
Another great story to tell happened on my turn to ride on the plane with LBJ. On each flight, the secret service would let three or four reporters ride with the vice-president. On the flight to New Delhi, someone asked him how he planned to deal with Prime Minister Nehru. Johnson leaned forward and said, "Whattya mean son? I'm gonna sit down there with that boy. We'll talk for a couple of minutes. I'll have my hand up his dress and have him by the you-know-whats. He'll do anything I want!'"
But make no mistake: LBJ was no fool, and he was first and foremost a patriot. He was in top form on the most critical stop of the tour: Saigon.
Stan Atkinson / 1961: "The national anthems are played, and then the vice-president of the United States comes face to face with some of the men who fight his constant war with communism."
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After he got back home, Johnson recommended to President Kennedy that we step up our involvement in Vietnam.|
Indeed, this trip was a turning point for America. After he got back home, Johnson recommended to President Kennedy that we step up our involvement in Vietnam.
And for me, it opened my eyes to the world and marked the beginning of many more trips to bring the big stories of the world home to our viewers.
On the Saigon stop of that trip, I met a Sac. State professor who introduced me to probably the most memorable character I've ever met: a Catholic priest named Father Hoa. The story behind that is memorable.