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Navigator's son disputes LBJ ever saw combat

Lyndon Baines Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson  

By Jamie McIntyre
CNN Military Affairs Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The son of a navigator on a World War II B-26 bomber that carried former President Lyndon Johnson on his single combat mission has come forward with additional evidence that Johnson's plane might never have come under fire.

He spoke after viewing a CNN report that raised questions about whether Johnson deserved the Silver Star he was awarded for the flight.

Second Lt. Billy B. Boothe was the navigator on Johnson's plane for the June 9, 1942, flight, a bombing mission over Lae, New Guinea. Johnson was given the Army Silver Star for gallantry after the plane reputedly came under fire from Japanese Zeros.

His son, Billy Boothe Jr., says his father tried to correct the historical record before his death in 1996.

The full story of Lyndon Johnson's Silver Star  

Boothe has provided CNN with copies of his father's handwritten log, and newspaper clippings from the Charleston (South Carolina) Post Courier in which his father is quoted as saying the plane was not attacked by Japanese fighters.

"Anybody with any sense could have looked it up and proved it to themselves that we couldn't have flown over the target," the senior Boothe is quoted in the December 17, 1986, newspaper account.

In the article, Boothe says he refused to talk to two authors who wrote "The Mission," a 1964 book that gave a glowing account of Johnson's courage under fire.

Boothe, who was an Air Force major still on active duty in Germany at the time, said he was told by his superiors not to comment if he could not support the account of Johnson's bravery.

"I called Air Force intelligence, said that I didn't necessarily go along with the book that was being written and what should I do? And they said don't make any comments unless I could go along with what was being said," Boothe says in the 1986 article.

Boothe's handwritten dairy for June 9, 1942, says, "Our ship turned up with magneto trouble in the generator and had to return after being out for 45 minutes. To go on the mission with us was a congressman from Texas -- Johnson. I think he was glad to turn about and come in."

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