About this record
This photograph shows United States President Lyndon Baines Johnson among a crowd of people during an official visit to Australia in October 1966.
President Johnson and the Vietnam War
Lyndon B Johnson visited Australia during a crucial phase in the Vietnam War, which took place between 1962 and 1975. His visit was meant to strengthen relations between Australia and the United States at a time when the latter was calling for increased support from its allies.
Johnson's visit provided Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt with an opportunity to reaffirm Australia's policy position and gather public support for Australia’s involvement in Vietnam. Holt, who had invited Johnson to Australia, was steadfastly committed to the war effort. He was a firm supporter of the alliance with the United States. Holt's friendship with Johnson had led to his famous remark in Washington 4 months earlier that the president had a 'staunch friend that will be all the way with LBJ'.
Large crowds came out to see the president during his 4-day visit to major Australian capital cities. While there were reports of some anti-war protestors at these public tours, strong support was also visible. Curiosity probably contributed, at least partially, to the popularity of the tour, as Johnson was the first North American president to visit Australia while in office.
The Australian federal election took place a month after Johnson's visit. The Labor Party was campaigning against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The timing of Johnson’s visit led some to ask whether the tour was intended to strengthen the election chances of the Liberal government under Harold Holt. Vietnam, though, was already on the top of the agenda, and Johnson's influence on increasing public support for Holt is inconclusive. Holt and the Liberal Party won an overwhelming victory in the November election.
Learning resource text © Education Services Australia Limited and the National Archives of Australia 2010.