There is a cosmic irony in the role payed by Vietnam in Lyndon Johnson’s career….What increased the irony was that Vietnam turned against him that group in society whose approbation he most desired—the college students. Nothing bewildered him more that the sieges of the White House by half-naked hippies chanting: “Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many kids have you killed today?”
He thought he had done everything for them—college loans, scholarships, subsidies—and he considered their conduct nothing but the grossest ingratitude. They were not showing the same concern for his problem that he had shown for their problems—or, at least, that was the way he reasoned.
Oct 21-22, 1967.
"This exorcism business is getting pretty exciting….The Pentagon happening transcended the issue of the War. The War is Over, sings Phil Ochs, and the protest becomes directed to the entire fabric of a restrictive, dull, brutal society,
"The protesters become total political animals.
"A totality emerges that renders the word political meaningless. ‘The war is over.’ Everyone’s yelling and screaming. Someone writes LBJ loves Ho Cho Minh on the wall.”
Abbie Hoffman, Revolution for the Hell of It, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1970, p 46.
Photo from USMarshalls.gov, which has a very different perspective on the weekend’s events.
Oct. 21, 1967
"In support of civil authority, we have the very delicate and difficult job of upholding constitutional rights of free assembly and expression and protecting government operations and property….We must avoid either overreacting or under-reacting. We must act in a way which holds to the absolute minimum the possibility of bloodshed and injury; which minimizes the need for arrest; which distinguishes to the extent feasible between those who are and are not breaking the law; and which uses the minimum force consistent with the mission of protecting the employees (military and civilian), the operations, and the property of the Government.”
David E. McGiffert, Memorandum to the Chief of Staff, U.S.Army, Oct. 20, 1967, “Anti-Vietnam Demonstrations,” Papers of Warren Christoper, Box 8, LBJ Library. As quoted in Robert S. McNamara with Brian VanDeMark, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, New York: Random House, 1995, p. 303-304.
October 21, 1967. Sometime in the late afternoon or early evening, a small group of protesters, including a group calling itself the “SDS Revolutionary Contingent” rushes the Pentagon building and are driven back by military police and federal marshals. Most of the dwindling crowd has gone home, however. In total. 647 people will be arrested (including Abbie Hoffman and Norman Mailer) and 47 hospitalized—a very small percentage of the estimated 100,000 demonstration participants (many of whom remained at the Mall instead of walking to the Pentagon).
Most of the mainstream US media condemns the activists’ actions as extremist, and Americans still agree 3:1 that antiwar demonstrations are “acts of disloyalty against the boys in Vietnam,” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Photo: via USMarshalls.gov. Reference: An American Ordeal: The Antiwar Movement of the Vietnam Era by Charles DeBenedetti.
October 21, 1967. Antiwar protesters participating in the March on the Pentagon include students, veterans, longtime radicals and pacifists, and many activists who have been or still are active in the civil rights movement, especially religious organizations.
One such religious organization is Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Viet Nam—National Emergency Committee (CALC), led by Rev. Richard Neuhaus, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, Father Daniel Berrigan, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King delivered his ‘Beyond Vietnam" speech condemning the war under the CALC auspices on April 4, 1967 and accepted the position as co-chair soon after.
Dr. King did not support organized draft evasion, mass civil disobedience, or confrontational rhetoric, however. He is not present at the October 21 march, and indeed the larger civil rights movement is divided about how much to support the antiwar movement.
October 20, 1967. Across the US people are responding, especially on college campuses, to the escalation of protest and conflict over Vietnam. This clipping from the Austin American-Statesman newspaper was sent to LBJ by old friend—now Congressman—Jake Pickle.
It describes the efforts of eight “long-haired, casually attired” University of Texas students on motorcycles as they attempt to recruit students from Southwest Texas State College (LBJ’s alma mater. now Texas State University). The “UT peaceniks” are turned away by the SWT dean, to the delight of Cong. Pickle, and, presumably, the President.
Note, Jake Pickle to the President, 10/20/67, Ex HU 4, WHCF, Box 60, LBJ Library.
Oct. 20-21, 1967. The March on the Pentagon begins.
100,000 people arrive in Washington on Friday and convene Saturday morning at the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool on the Mall. The weather is sunny and pleasant, and so far the mood is calm.
LBJ Library photo 7051-33, and 7051-35, public domain.
October 17-18, 1967. Less than a week before the scheduled March on the Pentagon, antiwar protests across the nation have erupted in violence. Abbie Hoffman notwithstanding, the mood is increasingly tense.
In Oakland, California, twenty city blocks have been engulfed in violence after demonstrators block the entrance to a draft induction center, and police respond with an attack that hospitalizes 20 people. Hundreds are arrested, including Joan Baez.
Meanwhile, in Madison, 60 people are injured at protests of the University of Wisconsin’s defense-industry involvement, particularly with Dow Chemical.
October 11, 1967. LBJ assistant Marvin Watson learns that coordinated demonstrations are being planned for overseas in connection with the October 21 March on the Pentagon. It is a foreshadowing of the extensive overseas and domestic antiwar protests of the years to come.
Memo, Sither to Watson, 10/11/67, #47, “Demonstrations (October 20-21, 1967) [2 of 2],” Office Files of Mildred Stegall, Box 64a, LBJ Presidential Library.
October 1967. A somewhat different take on the planned demonstrations for October 21, from activist Abbie Hoffman:
"Spiritual purification is sought as an antidote to the demons present in all imperialist war machines. On October 21, in the year 19 and 67, we would launch our holy crusade to cast out the evil spirits dwelling in the Pentagon."
Abbie Hoffman, Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture, New York: Perigree Books, 1980, p 129 Image from the Pentagon web site.
Sept, 22, 1967. The White House receives more details about the planned demonstrations in the capital, and LBJ’s aides immediately notify Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
Top: Flyer, Oct 21, 1967 Demonstration, #20a, “Demonstrations (October 20-21, 1967) [1 of 2],” Office Files of Mildred Stegall, Box 64a, LBJ Presidential Library.
Bottom: Memo, Sither to Watson, 9/22/67, #64, “Demonstrations (October 20-21, 1967) [2 of 2],” Office Files of Mildred Stegall, Box 64a, LBJ Presidential Library.
September 16, 1967. LBJ’s assistant Marvin Watson receives this memo notifying him of a planned march on Washington DC for October 21, 1967. At this time, details are sketchy—and most of the information reported in this memo will be proved inaccurate, or, for one reason or another, will not come to pass.
Memo, Sither to Watson, 9/16/67, #70, “Demonstrations (October 20-21, 1967) [2 of 2],” Office Files of Mildred Stegall, Box 64a, LBJ Presidential Library.
If the US really wants to talk it is necessary first to stop without conditions the bombing and all other acts of war against the DRV.