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.
October 22, 1967, Sunday morning. It is the day that the March on the Pentagon protesters’ permit will expire, LBJ and Lady Bird are coming back from church services:
"Lem Johnson reports that when they were almost back to the White House from Church, the President asked Mrs. Johnson if she would like to take a ride over there to the Pentagon and see what they were doing.
At the Lincoln Memorial, it looked like there were about 150 people sitting on the steps — just scattered around the area. We drove around the Memorial one and one-half times —looked at the Mall area and the reflecting pool area.
"Mrs. Johnson particularly noticed the litter and refuse left by those gathered the Memorial yesterday. The President was highly interested in what a hippie looked like, their dress, age groups, and items they carried. ..some were carrying flags, bed rolls, blankets, flight bags, flowers…
"We then drove across Memorial Bridge and turned down Shirley highway—the road was blocked, but we told the Park Policemen we were secret service, and they let us through. We went around the blockade and up the highway, looking to the right up to the line of soldiers guarding the highway. We drove slowly, and looked carefully at the Mall Entrance of the Pentagon — we circled around, crossed the median strip, and then drove back to the White House.”
Jail is a goof. Easiest jailing of all time.
From Revolution for the Hell of It, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1970, p. 50.
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.
- Nikon SUPER COOLSCAN 9000 ED
October 19, 1967. LBJ, assistant Joe Califano, and Attorney General Ramsey Clark meet to discuss preparations for upcoming protests at the Pentagon.
"The Justice Department had been monitoring and reporting to the President on the planned demonstration since early October, and it too was concerned about far left and Communist involvement. Johnson decided to prepare for the worst. He had troops, including regular Army soldiers, marines, and police, deployed or on the alert to protect the Pentagon, the Capitol, and the White House. Army troops were even secretly stationed in the basement of the Commerce Department, so they could rapidly assume positions surrounding the White House if such action became necessary."
Joseph A. Califano, Jr., The Triumph and Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson: The White House Years, New York, Simon and Shuster, 1991, p. 199. LBJ Library photo 7018-5, public domain.
- Focal Length
- Nikon D80
'What do you guys think you're doing?'
'Measuring the Pentagon. We have to see how many people we'll need to form a ring around it.'
'It's very simple. You see, the Pentagon is a symbol of evil in most religions. You're religious, aren't you?'
Well, the only way to to exorcise the evil spirits here is to form a circle around the the Pentagon. 87-88-89….’”
Abbie Hoffman, Revolution for the Hell of It, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1970, p. 47. Image via Wikipedia.
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.
“It was our purpose to hold down the number of arrests, that is, the department’s purpose under the Attorney General. The thinking was that those who were marching on the Pentagon had as their purpose the creation of conditions which would lead to a large number of arrests. The number of arrests was approximately six hundred and seventy-six. That was a large number, but I think it was smaller than perhaps we had feared….
“It gave the federal government a chance to show the nation what orderly processing in a civil disturbance would be. It came not long after the very inadequate processing which was possible in Detroit, for example, where persons were held on buses for substantial periods of time following their arrest….
“One of my assignments was to make backup arrangements for the necessities of life—portable toilets, water, and first aid—in the event march leaders failed to carry out their agreed responsibility to provide such facilities. In fact, they did fail to carry out their responsibilities in that regard, and we had to provide some backup help.”
—-Steven Pollak, First Assistant, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice, in his oral history, page 33-34. Photo: the aftermath of the riots in Detroit, Bentley Image Bank, Bentley Historical Library via the Insititute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.