There was no stopping President Lyndon Baines Johnson when he wanted to go somewhere.
Johnson called for Air Force One as others might have summoned a taxi. His hand-picked
pilot, military assistant and personal confidante was General James “Jim” U Cross.
Cross has authored a book, "Around the World with LGB" detailing his experiences as
military aide and pilot for LBJ. He served as LBJ’s pilot from 1962 until mid-1968.
He retired from the Air Force as a Brigadier General and commander of Bergstrom Air
Force Base TX in 1971 returning to civilian life in Gatesville TX.
On December 19, 1967 Air Force One (VC-137B 86970) took-off from Andrews AFB
MD with Aircraft Commander, Colonel Jim Cross, second in command, Major Don Short and
augmented by Lt Col Carl A Peden carrying LBJ on a secret mission. Johnson was desperate
for peace as the Vietnam War raged on. This round-the-world search-for-peace flight
was a 4˝ day 26,959 mile globe-circling journey. It was supported by a mini air fleet
including an Air Force One backup and eight Air force cargo planes for staff,
telecommunications, helicopters and limousines plus a Pan American World Airways press
Ostensibly, LBJ was headed to Australia to attend the memorial services in Canberra
and Melbourne for Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt. Holt was LBJ’s good friend
and Vietnam War ally who perished in a coastal swimming accident. Unknown to most in
government and the accompanying press, LBJ had secret plans to fly to visit the troops
at the US Air Base in Korat Thailand and then to visit the US wounded at Cam Ranh Bay
On December 23rd LBJ visited Pakistan President Ayub Khan at the Karachi Airport
before flying on to Rome Italy. After a brief visit with Italian President Giuseppe
Saragat, LBJ and his presidential party made a short helicopter flight to the Vatican.
LBJ personally meet with Pope Paul VI soliciting his help toward obtaining peace.
LBJ wanted the Pope's help regarding treatment of US prisoners-of-war held in North
Vietnam and sought the Pope's influence in getting South Vietnamese (Catholic) Premier
Nguyen Van Thieu to the peace table.
This airborne peace mission would become the first round-the-world flight of a US
president. LBJ had circumnavigated the globe in 112 hours 30 minutes (59 hours in the air),
traveling 26,959 miles returning to Washington DC early in the morning of Christmas Eve,
December 24th. On his return LBJ said, "No man can avoid being moved to try harder for
peace at Christmastime."
Three months later, LBJ announced that he would not seek re-election. The Vietnam war
would last six years more, ending with 57,690 US soldiers dead, 27,080 of them killed
after LBJ left office in 1969. LBJ died on January 22, 1973. In May 1998 SAM 26000 was
flown to the National Museum of the US Air Force near Dayton OH where it is on public
display. "Air Force One" Stamp issued in 2007.
Departed Washington DC 12/19/67
01 Travis AFB CA 12/19/67
02 Honolulu HI 12/19/67
03 Pago Pago American Samoa 12/20/67
04 Camberra Australia 12/20/67
05 Melbourne Australia 12/21/67
06 Darwin Australia 12/21/67
07 US Air Base - Korat Thailand 12/22/67
08 Cam Ranh Bay - South Vietnam 12/22/67
09 Karachi Pakistan 12/23/67
10 Rome Italy 12/23/67
11 Vatican City Italy 12/23/67
12 Azores 12/23/67
Arrived Washington DC 12/24/67