President Lyndon B. Johnson feared that his successor would be pressed to drop an atomic bomb on North Vietnam to end the war, his widow, Lady Bird Johnson, said in an interview to be broadcast today.
Asked if Johnson ever considered using the bomb, Mrs. Johnson told ABC's "2 0/2 0" program: "Not by his order, but he kept on thinking that was a danger lurking on the sidelines and that there was a part of the country who wanted to do it that way and get it over with. And he was scareder of that than he was of people on the left."
Mrs. Johnson said her husband, who died in 1973, was afraid that pressures from other forces in the country to drop the bomb would mount on his successor.
Johnson began the conventional bombing of North Vietnam in 1965 and by 1969 had increased U.S. forces in South Vietnam to more than 500,000. President Richard M. Nixon later increased bombings and amid increasing U.S. opposition to American involvement in the war, withdrew troops before the United States completely pulled out of the conflict in 1973.
Speaking to Barbara Walters at the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, Texas, Mrs. Johnson, 82, also discussed her feelings about Jacqueline Kennedy's "shadow" dogging her at the White House.
"Nothing against that shadow. But you don't quite escape from that feeling," said Mrs. Johnson, whose first name is Claudia but is universally known as Lady Bird.