October 1, 1966 Lyndon Baines Johnson is killed when "Air Force Two", a DC-9, crashs south of Wemme, Oregon in low ceiling and rainy weather, while on his way to a campaign stop for Robert B. Duncan against Mark Hatfield. It is the first crash of a DC-9 and the first time that a Vice President has died in office since James Sherman under President Taft.
Nation-wide TV coverage of the funeral occurs some four days later, with Johnson's coffin lying in state in the Senate Rotunda for a day and a half. President Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy are at the side of "Lady Bird" and the Johnson daughters. There is a heart-wrenching photo of little Jan-Jan hugging Lady Bird on the cover of Life magazine.
Immediately politically jockeying occurs for a replacement Vice President. With the Congressional mid-terms ahead, and chances of Dems losing seats, Kennedy comes under pressure to find a political firebrand who will inspire the Party. His own pragmatists and moderates though want him to choose a candidate from the Senate who will help push through his agenda in the last two years of his Presidency, as well as a viable candidate for 1968.
October 8, 1966 President Kennedy announces that Russell Billiu Long of Louisiana will be his new Vice President. Long brings several elements to the position that Kennedy AND the Democratic Party is looking for: (1) He was a key aide and ally to Lyndon Johnson in the Senate and help on many items of legislation. (2) He was relatively young and would be 50 in 1968 for the Presidential election, again keeping Kennedy's aura of "youth" in the White House. But most importantly (3) He was a Southerner. Polling was showing erosion of support for Democrats in the South, following the Party's support for desegregation. It was hoped that Long could bolster that support again for 1968 and even the 1966 midterms.
In anticipation of the still-unapproved 25th Amendment, Kennedy asks for a vote in the US House of Representatives on Long's nomination. (This is not required yet, but will be under the 25th Amendment) A week and a half later, Long is approved as Vice President by the House by a large majority. He is sworn in the Capital Rotunda and a reception is held at the White House. A closed door meeting is held between Kennedy and Long later that afternoon, where Kennedy reveals his health condition to Long.
October 11, 1966 Thich Tri Quang is put under hospital arrest by President Tran. He is force-fed and IV'ed by Saigon doctors and guarded by members of the military. The United Nations immediately passes a resolution condemning the act. Secretary of State Dean Rusk calls for a meeting in Manilla to discuss the situation in South Vietnam. Tran Administration officials, as well as dissident Buddhists and Communists are invited, as well as several members of SEATO.
On October 24th, the meeting is held. Rusk himself leads the US delegation and talks continue for almost two weeks. At the end, they break down. Tran refuses to hold new elections until the scheduled date of 1970. Eventually, the delegates return home. The failure of the conference is seen as a personal embarrassment to Rusk and a political one for the Kennedy Administration. More riots occur in late October and to mid-November in South Vietnam.
November 1, 1966 The Congressional mid-terms are held. Senator Long's old seat is taken by his cousin Gillis Long. The Republicans pick up 24 seats in the House, two in the Senate. Not a huge defeat, but not good.
November 8, 1966 Ronald Reagan is elected Governor of California, by 800,000 votes. Part of the rising new conservatism in the Republican Party, Reagan's victory was based on two key points of being against welfare and for stronger law enforcement. Unlike OTL, there were no college protests to run against and Reagan's victory over Pat Brown was much closer.
December 1, 1966 President Tran Van Don, in the light of more rioting, declares martial law in South Vietnam "until security can be restored." A general resolution in the United Nations unanimously condemns the action. 100s of arrests are made, primarily Buddhist monks, Communists, and even non-Tran supporting moderates. A bill to end foreign aid to South Vietnam is entered in Congress. Sevearl Republicans and two Democrats oppose the bill, claiming Tran's actions though "disturbing" are necessary to "prevent South Vietnam from falling to the Communists."
December 5, 1966 As the fourth day of martial law in SV continues, the debate in Congress over the cut in foreign aid heightens. Republicans seize on it as a post-election issue and attacks again are made on JFK for being "soft on Communism." Richard Nixon, again, out making speeches to Republicans and other conservative groups, declares that "losing South Vietnam would be a blemish worse than the loss of China in 1947!" Torn between the hawks and those who wish to condemn Tran, the White House makes no definitive statements on the Congressional bill. Hints are that Kennedy won't sign it.
January 6-11, 1967 Fighting between Tran loyalist forces and armed insurgents occurs in the Mekong River Delta, especially near the city of Cần Thơ. President Tran announces that the VietCong have re-emerged and are being supplied by North Vietnam in violation of the Accord. CIA operatives concur with that and inform President Kennedy. Secretary of Defense McNamara states that the US should support Tran, even with "advisors" or even air support; most of the military advisors agree with McNamara. SecState Rusk argues for another opportunity to negotiate.
Kennedy orders more operations for the CIA and "Operation: Phoenix" and "third party" military aid and equipment through the Filipino military. But he refuses to consider direct US involvement. General Westmoreland, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Army, offers to visit Saigon unofficially to offer advice to Tran. Kennedy agrees, but only as part of a general "tour" of Southeast Asia, so as to not appear to be an actual "advisory visit".
Janaury 24, 1967 Two weeks later than OTL, Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, dies of an embolism related to systemic cancer. The funeral two days later is attended by a few friends and employees at the Westlawn Cemetery in Chicago.
February 23, 1967 The Apollo/Saturn 204 launch test is conducted at Cape Canaveral, mistakenly labelled "Apollo-1" by the press. It should be noted that due to a lack of a "martyred JFK", NASA was under less pressure from within and without to adhere to Kennedy's call for a "man on the Moon by the end of the decade". The agency and the civilian contractors wanted to fulfill that call, but felt less obligation than they did in OTL. As such, North American Aviation delayed delivery of the Apollo Command and Service Module by nearly a month more than OTL. Additionally, by virtue of nothing more than the "butterfly effect", the same effect that resulted in the death of Lyndon Johnson, the Primary Crew was scrubbed for the test and the Secondary Crew took their place. As such...
The crew, Command Pilot Walter Schirra, Senior Pilot Donn Eisele, and Pilot Walter Cunningham, entered the Command Module at 12:55pm. Almost immediately there were problems, most notably a problem of communications between the operations and checkout building and the complex 34 blockhouse. After many delays, at 6:02pm, a voltage transit was noted and ten seconds later, Wally Schirra reported a "Fire in the cockpit!" Within minutes, in the pure, highly pressurized atmosphere, it engulfed the crew.
Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walt Cunningham were buried six days later at Arlington National Cemetery. President Kennedy spoke at the funeral and praised the three astronauts. A Commission was created to determine the cause of the fire, with one of the most outspoken critics being the Prime Commander, Gus Grissom, who had repeated his criticism of the "inwardly-opening hatch". Major changes were made to the design and to the material used in the spacecraft and in the flight suits.
Within months, mourning turned to criticism of Kennedy and the "rush to get to the Moon". Some felt that the race to beat the Soviets AND Kennedy's demand for a mission to land a man by 1969-1970 was partially to blame for the deaths of the astronauts. Defenders of NASA and Kennedy protested, but notably the Gallup poll of April 1967, showed a 5% drop in Kennedy's approval (down to 50%) and a 6% drop in support of the space program (down to 79%).
February 25, 1967 The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is enacted.
February 26, 1967 Gallup releases a poll showing Richard Nixon leading George Romney of Michigan by 48-40% for the GOP nomination in 1968.
March 1, 1967 Six demonstrators in Saigon are killed by police, and twenty more wounded or overcome by tear gas in the largest anti-government protest within the capital city. President Tran was in Jakarta at the time; begrudgingly he says there "will be an investigation", but local commanders are never charged.
March 13, 1967 Five ARVN troops are killed and 11 wounded in an ambush outside of the town of Phan Thiết, in Bien Thuan Province. Pentagon and CIA analysts inform President Kennedy that there is little doubt the Viet Cong were responsible and becoming more aggressive.
March 15, 1967 Kennedy suffers a major bout of his Addison's. Pierre Salinger claims that the President "has the flu", but Vice-President Russell Long takes JFK's place at the National Security Council meeting the next day and the following day as well. Not until March 19th, does Kennedy resume his public duties. His personal physician begins to debate reductions in the number of pharmaceuticals being administered to the President, making a note in his personal journal.
April 4, 1967 Three days earlier than OTL, the Israeli Air Force shoots down five Syrian MiG-21s. The escalation to what will be known as the "Week's War" begins. For months to come, the Kennedy Administration continues to believe that a war between Israeli, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, etc. is not inevitable.
April 26, 1967 Vladimir Komarov successfully flies the first Soyuz spacecraft. (Again, the "butterfly effect" delays the launch allowing time for the parachute pressure sensor to be checked. In OTL, this failed and Komarov died when the manually-released parachute became tangled in the drogue.) The other problems with the Soyuz are corrected and Soyuz-2 and Soyuz-3 fly on schedule in June 1967.
May 1, 1967 A May Day celebration in Da Nang is broken up by ARVN forces in the city. 13 protestors are shot, two killed. Three days later, former mayor Trương Như Tạng, in hiding since martial law was declared, announced on pirate radio that the Viet Cong was officially re-formed and determined to "overthrow the corrupt Tran dictatorship". Two days after that, an ambush kills five ARVN troops in Quảng Nam province.
May 11, 1967 Syria mobilizes against Israel, as Egypt's President Nassar demands removal of the UN in the Sinai; U Thant agrees.
May 20, 1967 Nassar closes the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli sea traffic. U Thant immediately attempted to negotiate with Cairo to re-open them. Dean Rusk indicates that a negotiated settlement could still be reached, but the CIA informs Kennedy that Israel has now massed troops for an attack on Syria. Unknown to all, while the Israeli cabinet was still debating it, Prime Minister Eshkol already considered it an act of war.
Back to Part One Timeline: No Dallas