The American South And The Vietnam War: Belligerence, Protest, And Agony In Dixie by Joseph A. Fry

2457e0669221b6e.jpg Author Joseph A. Fry
Isbn 9780813161044
File size 8.9 MB
Year 2015
Pages 456
Language English
File format PDF
Category history


The American South and the Vietnam War The American South and the Vietnam War Belligerence, Protest, and Agony in Dixie Joseph A. Fry Due to variations in the technical specifications of different electronic reading devices, some elements of this ebook may not appear as they do in the print edition. Readers are encouraged to experiment with user settings for optimum results. Copyright © 2015 by The University Press of Kentucky Scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth, serving Bellarmine University, Berea College, Centre College of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, The Filson Historical Society, Georgetown College, Kentucky Historical Society, Kentucky State University, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, Transylvania University, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and Western Kentucky University. All rights reserved. Editorial and Sales Offices: The University Press of Kentucky 663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40508-4008 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Fry, Joseph A., 1947– The American South and the Vietnam War : belligerence, protest, and agony in Dixie / Joseph A. Fry. pages cm. — (Studies in conflict, diplomacy, and peace) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8131-6104-4 (hardcover : alk. paper) —   ISBN 978-0-8131-6109-9 (pdf) — ISBN 978-0-8131-6108-2 (epub)   1. Vietnam War, 1961–1975—Southern States. 2. Vietnam War, 1961– 1975—Political aspects—Southern States. 3. Southern States—Politics and government—20th century. 4. Public opinion—Southern States—History—20th century. 5. Southern States—History, Military—20th century. 6. Vietnam War, 1961–1975—Influence. I. Title. DS559.62.S68F79 2015 959.704'310975—dc23 2014049411 This book is printed on acid-free paper meeting the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence in Paper for Printed Library Materials. Manufactured in the United States of America. Member of the Association of American University Presses For Sandy Contents List of Abbreviations  ix Introduction 1 1.  Regionalism, Southerners, and US Foreign Relations,   1789–1973 11 2.  Southerners and the Vietnam Commitment, 1953–1964  51 3.  Southerners and the Decisions for War, 1965–1966  97 4.  Southern Soldiers  147 5.  Southerners and the Debate over the War’s Conduct, 1967  193 6.  Southerners and the Decisions to Withdraw from Vietnam,   1968–1970 239 7.  Southern College Students  285 8.  Southerners and the End of the Vietnam War, 1971–1973  323 Acknowledgments 367 Notes 371 Bibliographic Essay  429 Index 441 Photographs follow page 238 Abbreviations ABM Anti-Ballistic Missile System AFB air force base ARVN Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) CIDG Civilian Irregular Defense Group CINCPAC Commander in Chief, Pacific Command CO conscientious objection/objector CORE Congress of Racial Equality DMZ demilitarized zone DOD Department of Defense DRV Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) GVN Republic of South Vietnam HBCU historically black colleges and universities JCS Joint Chiefs of Staff LBJ Lyndon Baines Johnson LZ landing zone MACV Military Assistance Command, South Vietnam NAACP National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization NCO noncommissioned officer NLF National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam NSC-68 National Security Council Paper No. 68 NVA North Vietnamese Army OAS Organization of American States OPPLAN 34-A Operation Plan 34-A x Abbreviations PCUS Presbyterian Church in the United States PNBC Progressive National Baptist Convention POW/MIA prisoner of war/missing in action PRC People’s Republic of China R and R rest and recuperation ROTC Reserve Officer Training Corps SALT Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty SASC Senate Armed Services Committee SBC Southern Baptist Convention SCLC Southern Christian Leadership Conference SDS Students for a Democratic Society SEATO Southeast Asia Treaty Organization SFRC Senate Foreign Relations Committee SNCC Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee SPIS Senate Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee SSOC Southern Student Organizing Committee UN United Nations USAF United States Air Force VC Vietcong VVAW Vietnam Veterans Against the War Introduction Place matters in how Americans have responded to and been affected by US foreign policy. Over the past twenty-five years, scholars have cited the benefits of examining the impact of domestic regionalism on the formation and implementation of US foreign policy. In 1987 Carl N. Degler urged that the American South be viewed as “co-creator of the nation’s history” rather than an “outsider” or an “obstacle” to national development; and, he declared, “What is called American foreign policy has often been heavily influenced if not molded by the South.” A decade later, in 1998, Peter Trubowitz asserted, “In the final analysis, it is the realities of power inside a country, not the distribution of power in the international system, that determine the course of the nation’s foreign policy.” He continued, “When viewed over time and across a wide range of issues, sectional interests emerge as a powerful and consistent force shaping” US foreign policy. More recently, Paul Boyer has contended that “all diplomatic history” is “local”: “Just as other fields of history are taking into account the local and grassroots sources and consequences of the processes they study, so diplomatic historians are becoming more aware of how illuminating this perspective can be.”1 Nowhere has this dynamic of regional influence on US foreign relations been more apparent than in the American South. As residents of the most self-conscious and persistent US region from the nation’s founding through at least the mid-1970s, southerners have habitually viewed US foreign relations through a distinctly regional lens grounded in a variety of shared cultural values, historical assumptions, and perceived regional interests. Over the course of American history, regional foreign policy preferences have ultimately been expressed through the political process, and regions characterized by one-party dominance have had the greatest impact on US foreign relations. Here again, the South has been conspic- 2  The American South and the Vietnam War uous. Michael Perman has demonstrated that the one-party, politically solid South has regularly functioned not just as a region but also as a “selfconscious interest group” in domestic politics. This sectional perspective and leverage have also been brought to bear in the realm of foreign policy from the 1780s through the period of the Vietnam War.2 Indeed, Dixie’s regional importance was graphically apparent and influential as southerners took center stage during the Vietnam conflict, the largest and most disastrous US military intervention abroad during the Cold War. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk oversaw the dramatic escalation of US military involvement from 1964 through 1968. As chairmen of the Senate and House Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, southern political leaders such as Senators Richard B. Russell and John C. Stennis and Congressmen L. Mendel Rivers and George H. Mahon shepherded essential funding bills through Congress, first under Johnson and then under his successor, Richard M. Nixon. Collectively, Dixie’s senators and congressmen provided both decisive support for war appropriations and opposition to legislative attempts to hasten or compel US withdrawal from Vietnam. These strategically placed and conservative southern Democrats pressed relentlessly for more aggressive prosecution of the conflict and helped prolong the war, particularly as Democrats from other regions grew increasingly opposed to Nixon’s Vietnam policies. While serving and dying in disproportionate numbers relative to Dixie’s population, southern soldiers also played formative roles. General William Westmoreland from South Carolina commanded American forces during most of the Johnson presidency and initiated the policies of search and destroy and attrition; in 1965 then–Lieutenant Colonel Harold G. “Hal” Moore, a Kentuckian, led his air cavalry troops against North Vietnamese regulars in the brutal confrontation in the Ia Drang Valley, perhaps the war’s most celebrated battle; and two southerners were at the center of the My Lai massacre, the most infamous American-inflicted atrocity of the war. William L. Calley Jr. commanded the platoon responsible for killing more than five hundred unarmed women, children, and old men. Hugh C. Thompson Jr., a helicopter pilot and the “forgotten hero” of this tragic incident, dramatically confronted US soldiers while defending Vietnamese civilians. And two of Dixie’s marines, Jim Webb and Gustav Hasford, wrote very different but very southern and very Introduction 3 revealing novels based on their combat experiences in the war. Assessing the motives and experiences of these more recognizable southerners, as well as their less well-known comrades in arms, yields telling insights into the region’s military tradition, prowar proclivities, devotion to honor, and demonstrative patriotism. Majority opinion in the South, whether gauged through polling data, constituent correspondence, newspaper editorials, letters to editors, or the beliefs and attitudes of Dixie’s soldiers, endorsed the prowar positions of southern legislators. Compared to Americans from other regions, southerners most often agreed that “wars are sometimes necessary to settle differences”; were least comfortable with Johnson’s limited-war strategy and most in favor of going “all-out to win a military victory”; most supportive of bombing large North Vietnamese cities; most willing to pay higher taxes to finance the war; least sympathetic to proposals for a fixed withdrawal date for US troops; least willing to concede that US intervention in Vietnam had been a mistake; and most receptive to various “stab-inthe-back” explanations for the US defeat.3 The majority of southerners also evidenced intense dislike for student protestors. Antiwar students were a distinct minority on all American college campuses, but their status was especially pronounced in the South. Given the region’s prowar proclivities and the active hostility of southern politicians, press, college administrators, and communities toward demonstrators, southern students were predictably more prowar and less activist than their peers in other regions. Despite these obstacles, hardy southern dissenters objected to the war as early as the one-thousandperson teach-in at Emory University in 1965 and mounted important protests as late as 1970, when twenty thousand students marched from the University of Texas campus to the state capitol in Austin. Examining southern students’ responses to the war augments the regional perspectives gleaned from assessing Dixie’s political leaders, public opinion, and soldiers. The South’s majority prowar stance derived from a host of distinctly regional values, perspectives, and interests. Staunchly conservative, most southerners readily agreed with the nation’s Cold War goal of containing communism and viewed Vietnam as a crucial battleground in the worldwide conflict with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. Acute concern for personal, regional, and national honor rendered southerners decidedly sympathetic to the argument that US credibility in the 4  The American South and the Vietnam War international arena hinged on defeating North Vietnam and the Vietcong and avoiding the humiliation of losing the war. The region’s self-conscious military tradition and vocal patriotism, both central products of Dixie’s Civil War experience, strongly reinforced the section’s anticommunism and devotion to honor, as did the South’s overwhelming commitment to a conservative, evangelical Protestantism, which made defeating atheistic communism much more than a political, strategic, or military priority. To these ideological influences, most southerners added the critical constitutional practice of granting the president broad discretionary authority in the areas of foreign policy and war making. Economic, political, and racial calculations reinforced these southern ideological assumptions. “Fortress Dixie” had long benefited from national defense spending, and defense-related appropriations, which the Vietnam War stimulated. These fiscal benefits complemented the region’s conviction that peace was best ensured by possessing superior military strength.4 Partisan politics also colored southern attitudes on the war. Democratic loyalties were critical to Johnson’s retaining the support of a majority of southern legislators who deplored his civil rights and Great Society legislation and gradual escalation of the war. By contrast, Richard Nixon’s southern political strategy deemphasizing civil rights, promises to achieve “peace with honor,” and ostensibly more aggressive military posture induced Dixie’s conservative Democrats and a majority of the southern public to cross party lines and back the Republican president. For the majority of southerners, racial assumptions and the pursuit of traditional military victory trumped party politics. Not all southerners were hawks. Senators J. William Fulbright, Albert Gore Sr., and John Sherman Cooper and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. were among the nation’s most thoughtful, articulate, and influential critics of the war. Equally important, southern opposition to the war reached far beyond these political figures. Letters to the editors of southern papers and constituent correspondence to southern senators and congressmen reveal a highly discerning popular opposition to the war and a devastating critique of the conflict. The ability of these dissenters, whether prominent public figures or less well-known members of southern society, to transcend both the nation’s Cold War mentality and the South’s majority perception of the conflict warrants careful attention. Understanding the South’s dissenting minority not only yields more inclusive insight into Introduction 5 the region’s thinking and impact on the Vietnam War but also helps clarify Dixie’s majority sectional perspectives. That Reverend King was among the most significant opponents of the war highlights the ever-present consideration of race as Dixie responded to US involvement in Vietnam. Most white southerners viewed the nonwhite Vietnamese as inferior. As Thomas McCormick has aptly observed, “People do not think one way about their national society and a different way about world society. Instead, they tend to project and internalize conceptual frameworks first articulated at home.” Perceiving the Vietnamese as inferior, “as a damn little pissant country,” in the words of Lyndon Johnson, yielded different inclinations. Such assumptions could produce overconfidence, even arrogance, and led LBJ and other southerners to underestimate the North Vietnamese and Vietcong, or from a more benign perspective, caused Johnson to see the South Vietnamese as needing the same assistance as the poor or minorities in America. Similar perceptions could prompt war managers such as Westmoreland to Americanize the war in response to assumed South Vietnamese military deficiencies. Or perceived South Vietnamese incompetence could discourage US involvement. Richard Russell’s assessment of Asians as “devious, lazy and selfish”; unlikely to take responsibility for their own destiny; and unable to understand and adopt democracy led him to oppose American intervention.5 The views of black southerners complicate matters further. Like their white neighbors, African Americans agonized over the war, over the desire to serve the nation and demonstrate patriotism and the realization that blacks were more likely to be drafted, serve, and die in Vietnam. Given this reality and their objection to the disparity between stated US goals in Vietnam and the treatment of minorities at home, African Americans were more opposed to the war’s escalation and more in favor of US withdrawal than white southerners. Blacks placed a priority on domestic, especially economic, and racial issues and identified with nonwhite opponents of colonial domination. These perspectives led to prominent antiwar pronouncements from groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and individuals such as Julian Bond, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali), and, most important, Reverend King. These pronouncements elicited criticism from those in the black community who feared opposition to the war would divert and weaken the drive for 6  The American South and the Vietnam War civil rights and provide ammunition for hostile southern whites who condemned King and other African American critics of the war as unpatriotic, communist sympathizers. Despite these high-profile dissenters and black dissatisfaction in the military, the majority of African Americans, like their southern white neighbors, remained supportive of the war. Both Ali and King, the most well-known black Americans during the Vietnam War era, added a religious rationale for opposing the war. Of course, when compared to Ali’s Muslim tenets, King’s Baptist teachings were far more familiar to southern blacks and whites who opposed the war on the grounds that it violated their Christian beliefs. Just as religion and race could induce southerners to both support and oppose the war, Dixie’s devotion to honor also cut both ways. Rather than worrying about America’s international credibility and reputation, antiwar southerners contended that honor demanded the United States and its leaders admit their mistakes in becoming involved in Vietnam and right that tragic wrong with prompt US withdrawal. As the war devolved into a murderous stalemate by 1967, some southern fiscal conservatives objected to the waste of tax dollars and national resources. Pointing to the North’s occupation of the South following the Civil War and to Dixie’s persistent colonial economic status, Fulbright and other southern dissenters criticized the colonial nature of the US intervention and professed greater respect for the nationalistic Vietnamese opposition to outside domination. From another very southern perspective, antiwar residents of Dixie asked segregationists such as Richard Russell and J. Samuel Ervin Jr. how they would respond if another nation interfered in American racial disputes. This same sensitivity to regional dependence helped spawn southern objections to an overly powerful Cold War presidency and the dissenters’ campaign for the reassertion of congressional authority in foreign policy and war making. Therefore, from religion to race, the attitudes of southerners, whether supporting or opposing the Vietnam War, were firmly rooted in regional history, values, and perceived interests. In light of southerners’ prominent roles in the Vietnam War, an examination of how the South responded to and influenced US policies speaks to an important facet of Dixie’s history during the 1960s and 1970s. By assessing the region’s relation to this critical episode in US foreign relations, this study addresses an aspect of the South’s experience often ignored by historians of the region.6 Focusing on the importance of domestic region- Introduction 7 alism also moves the South from its frequent historical position on the periphery to the center of the narrative of a crucial national event. Understanding the South’s influence also requires an examination of the role of Congress during the Vietnam era. Robert David Johnson has decried the lack of attention to “congressional influence . . . especially in works dealing with the Cold War”; and Johnson, William Conrad Gibbons, Robert Mann, and Andrew L. Johns have helped remedy this historiographical oversight, but only Mark David has done so from a distinctly regional perspective.7 Employing regionalism as a methodological approach also provides a viable mechanism for emphasizing and assessing the “internal determinants” of American foreign relations and addressing topics that have become increasingly important to the analysis of American involvement abroad. Over the past two decades, students of US foreign relations have advocated that traditional political and economic concerns be supplemented with greater attention to ideology, race and civil rights, gender, religion, and conceptions of honor and manhood. Applying regionalism as a holistic vehicle, an umbrella under which all of these domestic considerations can be incorporated, affords an inclusive methodology for assessing this broad array of relevant southern bases of Dixie’s response to the Vietnam War. A careful evaluation of Dixie and the war also responds directly to recent scholarly appeals for closer appraisals of the Cold War’s “impact” on “regional, local, and human levels.” This appraisal elucidates not just the region’s belligerence and protests but also the travails and agonies of war on the home front. By incorporating the words and stories of “regular,” less prominent people as well as polling data, economic statistics, editorial opinion, and political debate, I hope to provide a more inclusive and textured understanding of the Vietnam experience within the United States. I have especially sought to gather the words and sentiments of the southern populace through an intensive reading of the correspondence southerners dispatched to their political representatives and to newspaper editors.8 Finally, approaching the war from the South’s regional perspective yields significant insights into the conflict’s nature and duration. Despite their prescient objections to a US military intervention in Southeast Asia, southern political leaders acquiesced in and even aided Johnson as he made the critical US commitments to ensuring an independent, noncom- 8  The American South and the Vietnam War munist South Vietnam and took the nation to war by “stealth.” Thereafter, conservative southern Democrats and majority southern opinion played a central role in sustaining the conflict for nearly ten years. While echoing the aggressive prowar sentiments of a decisive majority of their constituents, these conservative southern Democrats joined national Republicans in providing both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon their most dependable support for the war. This bellicose coalition reinforced the aggressive inclinations of both presidents and, in turn, made it politically hazardous for either chief executive to undertake meaningful negotiations with the North Vietnamese and Vietcong. By criticizing Johnson’s alleged timidity and limited-war strategy, these southern Democrats and southern Republicans such as John Tower and Strom Thurmond also helped to further domestic discord and “popular confusion” over the war. And John Stennis, one of the most prominent and influential hawks and the chair of the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Service Committee, led the most aggressive congressional-military attempt to force Johnson to alter the conduct of the war and pursue an all-out victory.9 Although the majority of southerners allied themselves with the US military in the search for a forceful military solution in Vietnam, Dixie’s doves also had a significant impact on Vietnam policy. Historian John Prados has asserted that “absent pressure” from forceful dissenters, Johnson (and by extension Nixon) would have faced “no political pressure to counteract escalation demands,” and Melvin Small has argued that these dissenters’ “antiwar messages . . . eventually filtered down to the public.” Senators Fulbright, Gore, and Cooper and Reverend King were among the most important dissenters applying that pressure and propagating the antiwar message. Just as Senator Stennis led the most ambitious congressional attempt to alter the conduct of the war, Fulbright held the 1966 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings that spurred the first sustained debate about the war’s origins and the nature of the US commitment, and Cooper spearheaded efforts during the Nixon years to legislate an end to the conflict.10 Before undertaking this examination of the South and Vietnam, two working definitions are in order. First, we must define regionalism, which, according to Edward L. Ayers and Peter S. Onuf, has embodied “a sense of common interest and identity across an extended” if at times “inde- Introduction 9 terminate space.” Regions exist only within the context of the whole and have developed at least in part as a “reaction” to other parts of the nation. Scholars such as Richard Bensel and Peter Trubowitz have located the bases of American regionalism in a section’s sense of common economic interests and the associated political representation. While agreeing on the centrality of economics and politics, other students of regionalism have added cultural and ideological dimensions. Within these latter domains, shared attitudes regarding honor, race, gender, religion, or violence contribute to regional coherence. This more comprehensive conception of regional determinants will be employed in this study.11 Defining the South constitutes the second critical task. While acknowledging several competing definitions of the South and even the strong objections in some quarters to the idea of southern “exceptionalism” or an overemphasis on a distinctive South, I remain convinced that the presence of the economic, political, cultural, and ideological criteria discussed in this introduction continued to sustain a “South” through at least the mid-1970s. For the purposes of this book, that South will include the eleven states of the Confederacy, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, plus Kentucky. The latter is included on the basis of geographic proximity, long dependence on staple agriculture and lowwage industries, racial attitudes, concern for personal and national honor, vocal patriotism, devotion to a Confederate-related military tradition, and religious preferences.12 Employing these definitions of regionalism and the South, this book is composed of six chronological and two topical chapters. The first chronological one, which examines the South and US foreign relations from 1789 through 1973, provides the broader historical background and context for Dixie’s role in the Vietnam War. Chapters 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8 trace the region’s political responses and influence from 1953 through 1973, while incorporating focused sections on Vietnam and defense spending in Dixie; African Americans, civil rights, and the war; southern reactions to GI coffeehouses; country music and Vietnam; southern women as mothers and wives; the attitudes and opinions of a broad cross section of the southern public as expressed in their own words; and the war-related experiences of such exceptional southerners as Frazier Woolard, a small-town attorney from eastern North Carolina, and Jerry McCuistion, a POW

Author Joseph A. Fry Isbn 9780813161044 File size 8.9 MB Year 2015 Pages 456 Language English File format PDF Category History Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare To fully comprehend the Vietnam War, it is essential to understand the central role that southerners played in the nation’s commitment to the war, in the conflict’s duration, and in the fighting itself. President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas and Secretary of State Dean Rusk of Georgia oversaw the dramatic escalation of U.S. military involvement from 1965 through 1968. General William Westmoreland, born and raised in South Carolina, commanded U.S. forces during most of the Johnson presidency. Widely supported by their constituents, southern legislators collectively provided the most dependable support for war funding and unwavering opposition to measures designed to hasten U.S. withdrawal from the conflict. In addition, southerners served, died, and were awarded the Medal of Honor in numbers significantly disproportionate to their states’ populations. In The American South and the Vietnam War, Joseph A. Fry demonstrates how Dixie’s majority pro-war stance derived from a host of distinctly regional values, perspectives, and interests. He also considers the views of the dissenters, from student protesters to legislators such as J. William Fulbright, Albert Gore Sr., and John Sherman Cooper, who worked in the corridors of power to end the conflict, and civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, and Julian Bond, who were among the nation’s most outspoken critics of the war. Fry’s innovative and masterful study draws on policy analysis and polling data as well as oral histories, transcripts, and letters to illuminate not only the South’s influence on foreign relations, but also the personal costs of war on the home front.       Download (8.9 MB) Southern Unionist Pamphlets and the Civil War Co. &Aytch&: The First Tennessee Regiment or a Side Show to the Big Show Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888-1908 Caissons Go Rolling Along: A Memoir of America in Post-World War I Germany The Cambodian Campaign during the Vietnam War Load more posts

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