Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Dow Chemical Demonstration In Madison, October 18, 1967

A half century ago today on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, Wisconsin was the first seriously violent demonstration against the war in Vietnam, which resulted in 76 injuries.  It brought a resounding end to the naïve idealism of the "Summer of Love" atmosphere that had gripped Madison and other parts of the country earlier during 1967, the peak year of flower power hippie love movements.  A hail of tear gas and billy clubs brought such views to a hard end in Madison on October 18,. 1967.

The protest was not initially violent.  Students attempted to block other students from interviewing for jobs with Dow Chemical Company, which manufactured napalm.  These interviews were being held in what was then the Commerce building, today Ingraham Hall, which then housed the Business School, now in Grainger Hall.  The hallway was narrow and when police came in to break up those blocking the doorway to the interviews, scuffling broke out and some initial violence.  As pretesting students left the building, full-scale violence broke out as the police began using tear gas and billy clubbing students.  Some observers claim they were provoked to do this by students chanting insults ("pigs") and making Nazi stiff armed salutes at the police, some of whom were WW II vets. 

The reaction to this violence by the police against students (in later demos students would fight back and throw objects and so forth, but not that day; it was all one-sided) was major shock by the rest of the campus population, with a 1700 person march to the State Capitol three days later to protest the police actions. A leader of that march was Paul Soglin, now in his third round of serving as mayor of Madison, and rumored to be contemplating a run for governor of the statre. 

A recently put together account from six different witnesses/participants of varying views is here.  A much more detailed account can be found in the best-selling book by David Maraniss, They Marched into Sunlight.  David walked into the demonstration thus personally witnessing it, without having been involved in the effort to block the interviews.  His book also tracked events in Washington and Vietnam at that time, with the latter focusing on the ambush that was covered at the end of the fourth episode of the recent Ken Burns documentary on the war.  According to Maraniss, this ambush convinced LBJ that winning the war was not possible, although he would not say so publicly then.

My own involvement with the demonstration resembled that of Maraniss.  While I had held hawkish views on Vietnam several years earlier, I had become gradually less supportive and more critical as time passed, becoming fully opposed to the war about a year prior to this demonstration after I read histories of French colonial rule in Vietnam that convinced me it was a nationalist cause with the US simply having taken over the role of the French.  However, at the time of the Dow demonstration, I was not for blocking students from interviewing for jobs with Dow, so did not participate in the opening part of the demonstration (described in some detail in the link provided above).  I walked into it as I was heading for an intermediate macroeconomics class (taught by Peter Lindert, an economic historian still active and now at UC Davis) that was to be in the building across the street from the Commerce building, then called the Social Science Building, now Sewell Hall (ironically named for the liberal sociologist, William H. Sewell, who was then chancellor of the campus and called in the police to the demonstration).  The open air violence occurred largely between the two buildings and I had my first taste of tear gas (not my last), although I managed to avoid getting billy clubbed.

This would open up an inevitable divide between me and my conservative and hawkish father, who was Director of the Army Math Research Center that would get bombed on August 24, 1970 by the New Year's Gang, resulting in the death of a physics grad student.  My father's office in Sterling Hall was very near where the Dow demo took place, and all enraged and tear gassed I went to his office to complain about the police actions, only to learn that he fully supported them.  And so it went.

Barkley Rosser


Longtooth said...

Your statement is absolutely pure poppycock false that sometime in 1967 in Madison the first violent demonstration against the War in Vietnam occurred.

I attended San Jose State from fall 1964 and had many friends going to Cal in Berkeley... SDS and other anti-war groups were constantly at war with the Berkeley police force, augmented by Oakland police ... violent with hospitalizations, bloodied heads, broken arms, just no deaths. These violent clashes began in 1965, spring semester and got bigger and more violent from then.

I was there...not in the violent clashes (which were planned and in those demonstrations students knew when violence was "probable", arrests and injuries likely) but in anti-war demonstrations.

I was even kicked out of AFROTC in 'spring '65 because the narrow minded local commander (passed over Major so put out to pasture in AFROTC at SJS) didn't like a paper I wrote about "U.S. Military campaigns in Vietnam" from the beginning with U.S. military support for the French (officially they were "CIA" but that was only because the Army attached the units to the CIA for political cover. The AFROTC commander said my paper was subversive propaganda, but it was all public knowledge in books from the College Library (some written in French some by Vietnamese in France others by French colonials, and former French officers in "French Indo-China" --- but I had studied 4 years of French in high school so reading French literature wasn't a problem.

I was reinstated with an A for the paper and course and promoted to head the drill team (normally a Jr's position) after a high ranking intelligence officer in Germany sent my paper to somebody at the Pentagon with a note saying "everything in the paper is publically documented and well known" including the knowledge that the European US Army's largest helicopter battalion was sent to Georgia in 1963 and then VN in late '63 or early '64 under the auspices of the CIA and "maintenance support". I knew this because other neighbors were in that Unit and left within 6 days of notice leaving their families behind... and there were reports in the Stars & Stripes on the deployment and mission. None of this was widely known in the US at the time (until the Pentagon Papers came out).

The high ranking intelligence officer (who was a West Point graduate, among the cream of the US Army's command in Europe) was the father of my best friend, who lived right next door to our apt. in the same stairwell, and who knew me well. He got my paper from my father to whom I had sent it remarking that this was the reason I was kicked out of AFROTC... so he gave it to our intelligence officer asking if this was reason enough for a F on the paper, and F in the course and being kicked out of AFROTC.

I accepted the A for the paper and course work and the promotion and the asshole passed over Major's apologies though he told me bluntly that it went against his grain (but in the military orders are orders). I then promptly resigned from the AFROTC program.

I was there in the middle of things on the West Coast and saw the violent demonstrations and police confrontations up close. And BTW they were broadcast on the local NBC, CBS, and ABC news channels on the 7 o'clock and 11 o'clock news as well.

And I even knew that the US Army was in Cambodia and Laos in 1963/64 because the downstairs friend of mine who graduated a year ahead of me was killed in combat in Cambodia around November/December in 1963. His father was a Lt Colonel and told us how he died and where.... though this was a military secret so I never divulged that information in my AFROTC paper. said...

On a roll, but not as much as you think so, Longtooth. I have checked the historical record and found exactly one seriously violent demo prior to the Dow one in Madison. That occurred in LA on June 23, 1967 when 10,000 people marched from the Century Hotel to the ABC Entertainment Center, where about 500 police attacked them. "Dozens" were injured (could not find an exact number, but that is plenty) and 51 were arrested.

The list I found had 59 anti-Vietnam war demonstrations happening prior to the Dow one, starting all the way back in 1945, then picking up again with one in 1962, three in 1963, seven in 1964, and plenty after that. Lots involved draft card burning, starting in 1964, although I do not think that counts as violence. There were two cases of people burning themselves to death, arguably violence, Alice Hertz in Detroit on March 26, 1965, and Norman Morrison outside the Pentagon on November 2, 1965. In March, 1965, the Stephen Smale committee organized a 35,000 person demonstration against the war in Berkeley, but there was no violence. In July, 1965, a large march in Oakland halted itself in order to avoid a confrontation with police. Oh, and on July 3, 1966, 4,000 people protested in London outside the US embassy, with "scuffles" occurring, arguably some minor violence, with 31 getting arrested.

So, Longtooth, maybe all those incidents you claim happened, but I would suggest that before you get too pompous here about all this, you provide some links about all those demonstrations back in the mid-60s where all these people you knew were getting bloodied and hospitalized and so on. I do not find any of it in the public record that I can find.

And I could care less about what you knew and your personal experiences with the ROTC at San Jose State. I know a lot of things about all this that are known by few people, but I am not going to go on about that stuff here on this thread.

lagarita said...

Another good source:

In Oakland. October 16, 1965, protesters were attacked by Hell's Angels, police then attacked the Hell's Angels. So the counter-protestors were attacked.

In Oakland again, October 16. 1967, protesters were attacked by police with nightsticks with 20 injured.

This source doesn't list any violence in between these 2 incidents.

So, it appears that police violence against peaceful protesters began in the latter part of October 1967 in agreement with Barkley's recollection.

Longtooth said...

I would only point out that the link provided by lagarita, which does in fact recite many of the instances, there are many which significantly understate actual events as they occurred. They also chronicle the largest or those most widely publicized in national news.

Furthermore lagarita either glosses over thus doesn't mention the several instances between the two he does mention .

I'm not going to try to find the local news paper archives that documented many of the violate clashes at Cal, in SF State, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Jose State and surroundings during 1965, 66, and long before late 1967. Today I was visiting with a long time friend who was at SJS at the same time I was, though we didn't know one another until after we'd graduated (and both of us had joined military reserve units -- he the Coast Guard, I the U.S. Army) to avoid being drafted first). He confirmed my recollection of when and where and the local news and newspaper documentation. He even called his sister while we were talking about it (a judge in LA) who was also in attendance at both Cal and SJS in these years and she also confirmed our recollections. This occurred this afternoon about 4 pm Pacific Day Light time. Another very close friend of mine whom I've known since we were ~ 5 years old and close our entire lives so far attended Cal during these same years and was a member at Cal of ROTC, which he in fact also resigned from as I had from AFROTC and independently of my reasons or timing. We've talked about those tumultuous days in our respective educational venues at various times in the past few years (old guys recollecting our youth) He, as I, recall the head bashing, baton using police in riot gear in bloody encounters that did take place as we viewed them (and our friends) from a safe distance in '65, '66 as well as '67.
It does occur to me though that if you weren't there and as I gather, lived on the east coast or in that region East of the Mississippi how could you know unless you were there yourselves. The Madison incident occurred late in '67 and apparently made Barkley more aware than perhaps he'd been before.

You can think if you wish that Madison was the big deal in '67 and it was I'm sure to you eastern folks who were not in the middle of the protests from '65 and on in the Bay Area. It just betrays your lack of awareness or attention or both, through no fault of your own and thus your ignorance of reality. If you think I'm exaggerating or lying or mis-recollecting that's simply a self-serving defense of your own ignorance in the matter.

My original comment was simply pointing out the facts that Madison was not the first major violet demonstration against the war by a huge margin.

Longtooth said...

Let me add what I think is far more significant about the VN war than the student demonstrations against it from 1965 and on.

I lived among the U.S. military in Germany from '59 until I graduated from Frankfurt American High School in June ' 64. My father was a civilian teacher for the Dependents Education Group of the DOD for the first two years I lived in Germany and after tool a position as an administrator with the Military's Education system as a civilian and still for the DOD. (Incidentally he and my mother remained in Europe until he retired as he rose in his new career to become the head of Education for NATA South under the auspices of the U.S. Navy command in Naples).

While in high school I worked part time on weeknights and full time on week-ends at the Officers club, initially as a glass washer and then shortly serving beer and then shortly a full fledged bar tender serving both a the officers club bars and at private officer parties. I did this for about 2.5 years --- there was no drinking age limit in Germany at the time, and though I was "officially" nnot allowed by US Army regulations to drink alcohol in Military establishments this reg was widely overlooked .. and for us high school kids the best job in the European theater for a kid was as a bottle washer at the Officer's club, and for me and a few others in other posts around Europe, becoming a full bartender was the crem-de-la-Crem of jobs.

So, as a result I heard officers and their wives talk a lot at the Bar all the time, when both drunk and sober. Some sat at the bar and of course one of the Bartender's jobs is to make sure those sitting at the Bar are given conversation (of the client's choosing) when they want it or to shut-up and say nothing other than "Do you want a refill, sir? (or Ma'am as the case may be).

But most want to talk and talk a lot. And since I'm a dependent "brat" and thus a trusted member of the military community by then and who was also a baby-sitter for many officer's families, and since I was also one of the three Officer's club Bartenders who set-up and served at private officer's parties in their homes, and saw things no normal high school kid would likely ever see in person, but kept my mouth shut (bribed of course by huge "tips") I was privy to lots of military goings on that was no public and was always the same: first 6 months at a U.S. Base for "training" and then Vietnam for a tour of duty. The officer's bar talk and occasionally wives saying that they were worried their husbands were going to deploy to "south-east-asia" sooner than they wanted... which clearly inferred they were going to go but only a matter of when,, became more prevalent, discussions more open

Continued in next my next comment.

Longtooth said...

Continued from my prior post.

And so in mid=1962 summer I began hearing about "south-east asia" and a place called "Vietnam" in talk among the officers at he Bar. The general gist of this was that it was becoming a major place for tours of duty if you wanted to advance in rank.. but with no dependents (unlike Europe) and rough quarters, often without air conditioning, etc. A tough tour of duty but "still safe"... meaning no likely possibility of injury or death. Then by Xmas of '62 I was hearing about larger deployments of certain larger military groups ... some had been deployed from other European commands.

Then in early '63 and maybe as late as summer '63, one of the nearby posts (where our officers club was the officers club for that post) got orders for half the battalion of helicopters, pilots and crews, spare parts and all to depart for a base in Georgia for 6 months "training". This was by far the largest shift of top military out of Europe for Vietnam and the top and major U.S. Army helicopter battalion in Europe no less. I knew several of the officers, CWO's, and their wives and kids. In private it was well known where they were going though publically it was "Georgia". The officer's themselves were elated.. they were the cream of the U.S. Army... the cream was in Germany at that time. and it meant active war was already happening in Vietnam... shootem-up real war, deaths and all and was escalating faster than the officers had previously thought in speculation of when (not IF, but when). (Incidentally I want to high school with General Abram's son at that time)

By Thanksgiving '63 my friend who lived in the apt below ours and who had graduated in May of '63 had joined the Army OCS and been killed d been killed in Cambodia (a military secret but the Lt. Colonel father who lived below us was told and he told us -- the military's unofficial communications channels are actually by far the fastest, most efficient, detailed, and honest.

By the time I'd graduated in June '64 I heard of other older brothers or cousins of my high-school friends having died in combat in Vietnam. I knew of wives of some of te officers that had frequented the officer's club who in '64 were still living in apts and houses in Germany who suddenly were gone because their husband had been killed in Vietnam (helicopter commanders) or was being shipped back to the US after being seriously wounded (maimed more often than not).

So what is most important is that the U.S. public was completely unaware of these things --- that we were fighting in a full fledged all-out war on the ground in Vietnam with professional U.S. Army officers and enlisted men being killed in combat. And that this had been going on since at least 1962 to my own knowledge based on military talk at the Officer's club bar. If you want to know anything about what's going in globally with the U.S. military get into an Officer's club bar.

Continued in my next comment

Longtooth said...

Continued from my prior comment:

Unbeknownst to me until a few years later, my cousin who was 3 years older than I and who had joined the U.S. Navy at 17 (which I knew) had been in Vietnamese as a SeaBee from 1960 already, getting shot at from the periphery land they were clearing for ports, air-bases, military posts, and roads fit for military traffic!!! He served 4 tours of duty in Vietnam from 1960 and was part of building the major air-bases, port facilities and beach landing facilities (these aren't Iwo Jima beach heads, but major beach landing facilities .. with roads to them, buildings a few hundred meters back, for command and communications, mess halls and medical facilities. These aren't build overnight so were being built in anticipation by military authorities at the Pentagon of a major build-up in Vietnam. .. back in 1960, '61. I learned this from him when my grandmother died in late '67 and he came back on bereavement leave from Vietnam for two weeks.

So you see that the war was real and much bigger than was known by the public and that the major news organizations in the US knew these things even better than I did, but kept quiet about it.... apparently and obviously voluntarily at the President's request (Ike than Kennedy). Not in the interests of national security but to keep the public from knowing. The leadership in Congress sure as shit knew what was going on since they had to provide the funds for it (just by padding the numbers in the sub-items by a few million here a few hundred million there).

And so I wasn't one of the naïve college freshmen in fall of '64 or naïve public for that matter. And I was shocked when I returned to the U.S in July '64 how little anybody knew about what was clearly already a real and major war since Korea.. newspapers had no headlines and nightly national news had almost nothing other than there were a few more advisors sent to South-east Asia or the U.S. has provided some more military equipment to the South Vietnamese gov't to combat the communist insurgency from the North.

The public is easily kept in the dark by the gov't... congress and the executive, and the national press an intentionally lied to and misled. We have no idea of how many troops we have in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria or Niger or, or, or... or why we have troops there at all (really.. other than War Against Terror, whatever that's supposd to mean nowdays)

Longtooth said...

What Barkley writes, read with caution and skepticism. said...

Well, Longtooth, I am not surprised you learned more than most Americans about the war in Vietham from hanging out with military types prior to your high school graduation in 1964. The first name on the memorial wall in Washington dates from 1959.

I am sorry, but your talks with your old friend and his sister about when there were violent demos in the Bay area do not suffice. I have granted that there was a major violent demo in LA on June 23, 1967, which I had not heard of previously, but all the public records I have seen report big demos in Berkeley and Oakland earlier, but none of them violent. I think if you wish to continue insisting on all this, you need to provide some better sources. Your friend and his sister might be like my cousin, whose story of being spat on when he returned from Vietnam is doubted by Sandwichman here, and I have no way of figuring out what is true or not. I gather that in fact you were not yourself an actual participant or witness of any of these violent demos, in contrast to me at the Dow Chemical demo in Madison on October 18, 1967.

BTW, Madison is in the Midwest, a part of the country that perhaps you think does not exist. A considerable amount of the politics of Wisconsin has long been driven by its consciousness of that and its enmity towards "eastern elites," which explains how you had people who voted both for Progressive "Fighting Bob" LaFollette and then later for Joe McCarthy and still later for George McGovern. They were all perceived as battling against those "eastern elites."

You may know a lot about the Vietnam War and maybe even some obscure history of the anti-war movement in the Bay area, but you do not seem to know much about the rest of America, Longtooth.

Barkley Rosser said...

For the record, Longtooth, since I came down on you pretty hard on the Kirkuk thread here, you are not as bad as Egmont who just repeats himself and denounces all economists from Adam Smith to now, with the implicit exception of a few he occasionally cherry picks quotes from. You may be boring hell out of most people with your life story here, but at least you do not repeat yourself all that much.

Anyway, Longtooth, maybe you do not think so, but for all my pompous arrogance, which will not be cured by dumbass lectures from you, I do care about the facts. So, I have readily accepted that I was wrong in my claim that the Dow demo was the first major violent anti-Vietnam war demo, with the one in LA four months earlier clearly preceding it. I remain fully willing to accept that there may have been some other earlier violent ones, although I suspect they were much smaller than either the LA or Dow ones, in which many people were injured. But if you can document that the people you claim to know really were "bloodied" earlier in anti-war demos, I shall be prepared to accept that.

But you must face the fact that you have very low cred with me or most of our readers, so the sources you have provided so far are insufficient. I shall be glad to accept that your claims are true if you can back them up with credible sources, which you are personally not, for better or worse.

Needless to say on the Kirkuk matter, you were, to use some of your language, simply full of poppycock.

Anonymous said...

I was thirteen years old and viewing the police violence against anti-war demonstrators on TV (also that associated with the civil rights movement). I expressed my deep concerns about the official violence and the poor reason for the Vietnam War to my father. He found no agreement with me and found my views 'radical' as did my older sisters. I have no recollections of any discussion about the Vietnam War in my hometown apart from my own. I remember being shocked by the stance Nixon took toward the younger generation in his 'moral majority'speech as it deepened a rift in many families.