Vietnam and the Presidents
An examination of America's descent into war from the exclusive vantage point of the Oval Office.
Across two decades, BBC Washington producer David Taylor conducted over 50 recorded interviews with first-hand witnesses to the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon Administrations mired in the Vietnam crisis.
He had privileged access to National Security Advisors, Secretaries of Defence, First Ladies and CIA Agents. Now, he can create a complete picture of the war, as the private presidential tapes were only recently released in their entirety. David discovers the intimate, hidden side of three presidential characters at war. Their bombast, insecurity, confidence, paranoia and euphoria shaped important decisions about Vietnam.
David discovers how President Kennedy's increasing dependence on amphetamines jeopardised the 1961 Vienna Summit and how he was racked with guilt after the CIA-supported Diem assassination. After the JFK Assassination, Johnson was riddled with doubts over Vietnam. His rampant mood swings are vividly captured on tape. As Johnson quit a presidency defined by Vietnam, enter Richard Nixon, who secretly escalated the war. With Watergate looming and Vietnam unending, Nixon adopted a paranoid bunker mentality and, according to some colleagues, was placed on suicide watch.
By revisiting his own archive and pouring through the complete presidential tapes, David constructs a surprising picture of the Vietnam War through the eyes of the embattled commanders-in-chief.
Producers: David Taylor and Colin McNulty
A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4.