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.
Q. Mr. President, have you had any message from anyone in the Far East since your speech last night?
THE PRESIDENT. I don’t understand the full import of your question.
Q. Well, I wondered had there been any diplomatic response from Southeast Asia as a result of what you said last night?
THE PRESIDENT. Are you asking if I have heard from the North Vietnamese?
Q. Among other people, yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven’t read everything that has come in. To my knowledge, we haven’t heard from them.
But if some rancher from Australia had wired me congratulations, I wouldn’t want to be caught in a credibility gap by saying I hadn’t heard from that part of the world.
If you are asking about North Vietnam, the answer is, to my knowledge, no.
September 29, 1967. In the midst of the ongoing attempts at peace negotiations, President Johnson delivers a speech before the National Legislative Conference in San Antonio, Texas. He outlines what will become known as the “San Antonio Formula”:
“I am ready to talk with Ho Chi Minh, and other chiefs of state concerned, tomorrow.
I am ready to have Secretary Rusk meet with their foreign minister tomorrow.
I am ready to send a trusted representative of America to any spot on this earth to talk in public or private with a spokesman of Hanoi.
We have twice sought to have the issue of Vietnam dealt with by the United Nations-and twice Hanoi has refused.
Our desire to negotiate peace—through the United Nations or out—has been made very, very clear to Hanoi—directly and many times through third parties.
As we have told Hanoi time and time and time again, the heart of the matter is really this: The United States is willing to stop all aerial and naval bombardment of North Vietnam when this will lead promptly to productive discussions. We, of course, assume that while discussions proceed, North Vietnam would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitation.”
—Read the full speech at the American Presidency Project. Photo: Ho Chi Minh and East German President Wilhelm Pieck in 1957. Via Wkimedia Commons.
Sept. 28, 1967. 9:54 AM. On a phone call with Republican Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, LBJ complains about public criticism about Vietnam from Senators Thruston Morton, William Fulbright, and Clifford Case.
At about 8:38, the President says:
"Now, we don’t have a single military man or a single civilian man who thinks that these people are ready to talk now. We think they’re relying on the Senate—these speeches up there. And I think somebody’s just got to tell these Senators, ‘If you want to have some influence, come down here and we’ll expose you and debate with you right in the Cabinet Room. But for God’s sake, don’t tell Ho Chi Minh that if he holds out another month we may stop hitting him, because that what he’s hoping he can do.’”
Monday, Sept. 25, 1967. Last night was one of those bleak nights when the shadows take over. We both woke up about 3:30 AM and talked and talked and talked about when and how to make the statement that Lyndon is not going to be a candidate again.