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NOTE
: THE DEFINING GENERATION is a project begun by Doug and Pam Sterner in 2002 and completed in 2006. Initially is was prepared for publication as a book, however with their changing focus to development of a database of military awards, was postponed indefinitely so they could concentrate on that larger, more important work. The stories found herein however, need to be shared, and they have consented to make this compilation available in this format. While each story can stand alone, it is recommended that for continuity, readers will be best served by reading the chapters sequentially from first to last.

 

The Defining Generation

-

Defining Dissent

General David Shoup

 

 

 

 

"Until you're 21 you can't vote…can't participate in this great democratic process. But you can make your vote heard. You don't have to be a vegetable 'til you're 21. You can demonstrate. Historically, demonstrations intended to bring unrealistic regimes to heel, have on balance, produced good for the exploited masses. It may be well that this technique has finally come in an exploding fashion to America and American students. It shows that you are thinking. That you're interested and want to do something to be heard. That you don't intend to sit ignorantly and idly by and watch this world panorama of confusion trot by under camouflage and not express yourselves about how you want the future to be. The future that will soon be your responsibility."

General David Shoup, USMC
Pierce College, May 14, 1966

 

It has been said that "Old men start wars and young men fight them." To the extent that foreign policies are developed by politicians and then enforced by men and women of the military this is certainly true. Historically, during every war in our history as the young at home watched former classmates returning with horrible wounds or in flag-draped coffins they have asked the tough questions "Why?" and "For what purpose?" In that, the Defining Generation was not unique. What did make the youth of the 1960s different from past generations was that their voice of dissent became so large and so active it could not be ignored.

Such dissent is not specific to the young; in every war a small minority in older generations has risen in opposition to war as well. Perhaps nowhere was this more true than during the Vietnam war, a conflict that seemed to drag on endlessly with no clear objective to be achieved. In past wars youthful anti-war activists were easily dismissed as young and naïve, the older as pacifists or anti-imperialists who were out of touch with reality. In the early days of intervention in Vietnam that approach worked well, but soon crumbled against aging voices of reason.

The term "Vietnam War protester" immediately conjures a range of stereotypical images: young, sandal-clad, long haired liberal college students; or, drugged out young hippies with flowers and peace signs painted on their faces; or, long-haired and bearded young veterans of that war wearing green military fatigues. In fact some of the first to voice their opposition to the war were military men of the older generation, including active-duty generals who had served honorably in the World War. In the mid--50s General Matthew Ridgeway and Lieutenant General James Gavin both warned President Eisenhower of potential problems when he proposed and then initiated intervention, and both left the army with misgivings about foreign policy before the first American advisors were sent to Vietnam. They continued to argue effectively against the war thereafter, albeit with some reservation as retired generals. Military officers and especially general officers generally do their best even in retirement to remain apolitical in the public's view. One who did not was a hero and icon of the Greatest Generation. Even as Dr. Martin Luther King had served to lead America 's young in their Civil Rights movement, General David Shoup, U.S.M.C. (Retired) became the experienced leader of a youthful anti-war movement.

David Shoup was born December 30, 1904 , the product of humble roots and the son of a farmer in Battleground, Indiana . In 1926 he graduated from DePauw University with a degree in mathematics and an ROTC degree, the latter leading to a distinguished career in the U.S. Marine Corps. After serving as an observer with the Army on New Georgia in the Pacific at the beginning of World War II, he was assigned to the 2d Marine Division and was a key planner for the American landings on Betio Island on Tarawa Atoll. It was the second Pacific offensive of the war, after the bitter but successful landings at Guadalcanal in August 1942. Shoup himself had concerns about the amphibious assault, noting to one correspondent, "The first wave will get in okay, but if the Amtracks fail we'll either have to wade in with machine guns shooting at us, or the Amtracs will have to run a shuttle service between the beach and the end of the shelf." His words and worries were insightful. When Colonel Shoup took his Marines on the offensive on November 20, 1943 , the Amtracks failed and he with his Marines waded ashore under heavy fire.

Tarawa was a huge American military success, thanks in large part to the commander who personally led for 60 hours without sleep and despite wounds to his leg. In a 76-hour fight for an island only about 1 square mile, 1,056 Americans were killed and 2,292 were wounded. Four Marines were awarded Medals of Honor for their heroism at Tarawa . Colonel David Shoup was the only one of them to survive to wear it.

Shoup received his first star in 1953 and became a Major General in 1955. On August 12, 1959 , President Eisenhower nominated Shoup for the highest post a Marine could hold at that time, Commandant of the Marine Corps. Shoup received his third star two months later and became a four-star General on January 1, 1960 , when he assumed his duties as the Corps' 22nd Commandant. He was only the third Commandant of the Marine Corps to wear the Medal of Honor, and only one other recipient of our nation's highest military honor has served in that post to date.

General Shoup was a fiercely independent commander, a man of his convictions who while remaining apolitical publicly, was quick to share his mind with the Chiefs of Staff or the President himself. During the Cuban crisis of 1962 President Kennedy summoned his closest advisors, the Chiefs of Staff and top military commanders to a meeting to discuss the option of mounting an invasion of Cuba , a map of which stood on an easel at the front of the room. It is said that General Shoup walked to the map, placed a transparent acetate bearing the image of Tarawa (9 square miles in all) over it, and the disparity in size was quickly evident…Tarawa was just a speck. Shoup then proceeded to enumerate how, against 4,500 Japanese he had lost so many Marines for that small speck and questioned how many lives would be lost trying to take Cuba against which they would face a 150,000-man army. His vivid example put such a planned invasion into context with its cost, and the idea was scrapped in favor of diplomacy, which did work--saving many lives. General Shoup was never a "yes" man, and it was such open honestly that made him one of John F. Kennedy's favorite generals.

Shoup had considered the debate over America 's role in Southeast Asia during the discussions of the late 1950s and came to a conclusion averse to intervention. In 1960 he carried these views into the hierarchy of the military establishment, specifically the Joint Chiefs of Staff.* As such he found himself often at odds with both his comrades and more importantly, the Presidential Administration. When Lyndon Johnson became President after the assassination of John Kennedy, his "voice of dissent" was not as respected and appreciated as it had been under Kennedy. One month later on December 31, 1963 , he retired from the Marine Corps.

Buoyed by the beliefs of comrades like Gavin and Ridgeway that validated his own concerns however, General David Shoup refused to become another old soldier fading away. Concerned that his country was losing its standing in the world he broke with precedent and tradition to attack the escalation of the war in Vietnam , even before offensive ground troops were committed in 1965.

Shoup's early overt activism stemmed from the changing philosophy of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after his departure. Reflecting on the period in a 1969 article titled "The New American Militarism" for Atlantic Monthly he wrote: "For years up to 1964 the chiefs of the armed services, of whom the author was then one, deemed it unnecessary and unwise for U.S. forces to become involved in any ground war in Southeast Asia . In 1964 there were changes in the composition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and in a matter of a few months the Johnson Administration, encouraged by the aggressive military, hastened into what has become the quagmire of Vietnam ."

The sacrifice his voice of dissent cost him personally was immeasurable. Among the general public in those early days most men and women who had fought aggression and genocide in World War II saw the Vietnam war as an equally noble cause. Of them he wrote: "As they get older, many veterans seem to romanticize and exaggerate their own military experience and loyalties. The policies, attitudes and positions of powerful veterans' organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and AMVETS, totaling over 4 million men, frequently reflect this pugnacious and chauvinistic tendency. Their memberships generally favor military solutions to world problems in the pattern of their own earlier experience, and often assert that their military service and sacrifice should be repeated by the younger generation." General Shoup therefore took his case to a new generation, the young men and women who might be called to fight that war whom he noted, "Don't get their total education from the boilerplate newspapers."

From the time Shoup retired in 1964 until 1966 troop strength in Vietnam rose from 23,300 to 385,300 and the war went from the back page to front page headlines. Faced with ever increasing possibilities that they might be conscripted into service to fight in a country few of them knew much about, America 's young began asking serious questions. Most felt that the answers they were receiving from Washington , D.C. were evasive, slanted, or even blatantly false. On May 14, 1966 , General David Shoup (Retired) addressed many of these concerns at the 10th Annual Junior College World Affairs Day at Pierce College in Los Angeles . He spoke to their idealism, to their confusion about world affairs, and to the war in Vietnam in specific terms that immediately raised the ire of the Johnson Administration. "Remember," he reminded them, "under our form of government, civilians always have, and always will--and they should--tell the military when to begin and when to stop war."

Speaking of an older generation that supported the war while being themselves confused about its value and objective he said, "These same people that place students in the category of the confused are just as confused, always have been and always will be. They've simply suffered more years of it and have accepted it as the normal state of man. And thus they are mistakenly surprised that young students are confused."

As to the Administration's Domino Theory and argument about the critical importance of preserving democracy in Vietnam he said, "You read, you're televised to, you're radioed to, you're preached to, that it is necessary that we have our armed forces fight, get killed and maimed, and kill and maim other human beings including women and children because now is the time we must stop some kind of unwanted ideology from creeping upon on this nation. The people we choose to do this to is 8,000 miles away with water in between. I believe there's a record of but two men walking on water and one  of them failed."

In his most damning statement about the war, which would resurface repeatedly to both cheers by the young and scorn by the older, noted: "I don't think the whole of South East Asia, as related to the present and future safety and freedom of the people of this country, is worth the life or limb of a single American…I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crocked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own. That they design and want. That they fight and work for."

Others who would later echo similar sentiments were attacked as being anti-American. "It has somehow become unpatriotic to question our military strategy and tactics or the motives of military leaders," he told the students at Pierce College . One year before retiring while speaking as Commandant, Shoup had given the word "patriotism" his own definition, "It is said that patriotism is the love of country. I think it is the love of the things about your country that you don't want to see lost--that you want to see perpetuated--and you're willing to sacrifice to ensure it." His leading role placed the Johnson Administration at a disadvantage--how do you discredit a World War II combat veteran, a Medal of Honor Recipient who achieved 4-star rank, and who was former Commandant of the Marine Corps. Trashing the reputation of college kids was one thing, trying to discredit General David Shoup was entirely something else.

As many of America 's young answered challenges like those issued by General Shoup they organized themselves like no anti-war movement prior to their time had done. In 1967 the cause was further bolstered when six veterans of the Vietnam War established an organization for other returning anti-war veterans, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). General Shoup became something of a mentor to these soldiers who had seen the war personally, and come away from it to speak their minds.

The movement slowly began gaining credibility, even among those of the older generation as the Vietnam War dragged into its eighth year and casualties topped 30,000. Early in 1968 over the Vietnamese New Year, called "Tet," the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong launched a massive offensive. Over night they simultaneously struck at more than 100 cities including 36 provincial capitols and Saigon . More than 1,500 Americans and nearly 3,000 ARVN were killed and 15,000 wounded. Still it was a stunning military victory for United States forces which quickly routed the Communists, killing some 45,000. When questioned about that event General Shoup replied, "If I had to go through another one of these Tet holidays winning streaks, I didn't know where I could take it or not." Much of the American public felt the same way and the slow erosion of support for the war back home became a watershed.

On March 20, 1968 , General Shoup was called to testify before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Chaired by Senator William Fulbright. A powerful Southern Democrat who had opposed the Bay of Pigs invasion under Kennedy and then the 1965 American military action in the Dominican Republic. He had began questioning the Vietnam War as well and held a series of televised hearings beginning in 1966. That same year he also published The Arrogance of Power, in which he attacked the justification of the Vietnam War placing himself at odds with President Johnson, also a Southern Democrat.

Before the Committee General Shoup began by noting that he was privileged to testify "without any fear of reprisal whatsoever except being called a dissenter, a traitor, and being accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy."

Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee assured him that he was not alone in such derision responding "You (are about to) have company!" While General Shoup, an extraordinary hero born of the Greatest Generation had indeed been called as much and worse, growing opposition in Congress to the war in Vietnam put him in good company, or perhaps it was the reverse that was true. Indeed most members of the Committee, to some extent, shared his views.

"It is ludicrous to think that just because we lose in South Vietnam that very soon somebody is going to be crawling and knocking at the doors of Pearl Harbor ," Shoup testified with candor. "As far as I know the Armed Forces objective in South Vietnam is not to defeat the Armed Forces of North Vietnam, but rather their objective is to rid this country, rid South Vietnam, of these interlopers, so-called, from the north and any others who have developed in the south…Our actions are limited to unlimited escalation in the South Vietnam area, because we have no objective as far as I know to defeat the armed forces of the enemy…North Vietnam is the aggressor and the United States is the aggressor."

Speaking to the Administration's efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people he stated bluntly, "Instead of winning the minds and hearts of their people, we have rather closed their minds and broken their hearts."

Eleven days later President Johnson shocked the nation when he announced that he would not run again for the office of the President. It was said that almost immediately Senator Fulbright received a telegram which simply said, "Mission Accomplished. Shoup." With LBJ out of the way his Vice President Hubert Humphrey sought the Democratic nomination. He was challenged by Eugene McCarthy and a strong anti-war movement. Despite growing unrest however, there remained in the voting public (over age 21) enough support for the war to validate the status quo. In the end Humphrey ran against Republican nominee Richard Nixon who appealed to a "silent majority" of conservatives that despised the hippie movement and the anti-war demonstrations. Promising "peace with honor" he eked out a 1% popular vote majority over Humphrey and a solid 301 to 191 elector majority to become President.

President Nixon's "peace with honor" was undefined and became something of an exercise in futility. He initiated what he called "Vietnamization of the War" in which offensive operations were gradually turned over to the ARVN forces. Still, it seemed that the war dragged on and young soldiers continued to come home in coffins. In November 1969 a half-million mostly-young marched on Washington , D.C. to protest the war. Meanwhile more and more returning Vietnam veterans joined the VVAW and unrest continued. When Nixon authorized American forces to cross from South Vietnam into Cambodia in 1970, despite dwindling U.S. troop strength, it was perceived as continued escalation. On May 4, 1970 , just four days after Nixon announced the Cambodian incursion, an anti-war demonstration at Kent State University in Ohio resulted in a confrontation between protesters and members of the National Guard. In a melee that followed the Guardsmen opened fire killing four and wounding nine. It was a tragedy for which Nixon would forever take the blame.

As new leadership sprung up among the young and inside the VVAW General Shoup became less a spokesman and more of a quiet mentor. He remained especially close to VVAW leadership as they organized and protested in the early '70s through Congressional hearings, public demonstrations, and in the media. In 1975 after nearly all American troops had departed Vietnam Saigon fell. At last an old soldier was able to fully retire.

General Shoup passed away on January 14, 1983 , unceremoniously and with little of the news coverage and attention due a Medal of Honor recipient and former Commandant of the Marine Corps. Even today, when people talk of the anti-Vietnam War movement, Shoup is overlooked. For many veterans it is almost shameful to bring up the subject, as if tying such a man to the radical anti-war movement is somehow a sacrilege. In fact General David Shoup was his own man, a man of strong conviction and the courage to voice those convictions. He was a leader in the minority viewpoint in opposition to much of what he had stood for all his life. He was indeed a man of great courage.



* The Chiefs of Staff included a Chairman and Chiefs from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. In 1952 the Commandant of the Marine Corps was authorized to participate in most JCS deliberations but it was not until 1978 that the top Marine Chief became a full member of the JCS.

 

The Defining Generation: Copyright © 2006 by Doug and Pam Sterner
All Rights Reserved

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cover & Introduction
     Preface
Out With the Old
     The Defining Generation

I. - Defining the New
     John Fitzgerald Kennedy
     Roger H.C. Donlon
     Robert Robin Moore
     Barry Sadler
     The Green Beret

II. - Defining Equality
     When Worlds Collide
     Dr. Martin Luther King
     Jimmy Stanford & Vince Yrineo
     Milton Lee Olive, III
     Specialist Lawrence Joel
     Sammy Lee Davis
     Black MOH Recipients - Vietnam War

III. - Defining the Role of the Sexes
     Evolution of a Husband
     Remember the Ladies
     Rosie the Riveter
     Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard
     Linda G. Alvarado
     Karen Irene Offutt
     Women in Military Service
     Lieutenant General Carol Mutter
     The Modern Woman in Combat
IV. - Defining Human Rights
     My Brother's Keeper
     Who is My Brother
     Christopher Dodd & Christopher Shays
     Peace Corps Politicians (Memories)
     Don Bendell
     Sir Edward Artis
     General Colin L. Powell

V. - Defining Entertainment
     Life Imitating Art
     Troubled Waters
     Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
     Brian's Song
     All in the Family
     Adrian Cronauer

VI. - Defining Dissent

     From Berkeley With Love
     The Pen and the Sword
     General David Shoup
     Muhammad Ali
     John Forbes Kerry

VII. - Defining the Future of Politics
     An Act of Congress
     All Politics is....Hereditary?
     Hillary Rodham Clinton
     Condoleezza Rice
     James Henry Webb
The next Section is scheduled for posting on May 20, 2011
VIII. - Defining Memories
     Jaime Pacheco
     The Glory of their Deeds
     Jan Scruggs
     Delbert Schmeling
     Peter C. Lemon

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
The authors extend our thanks to the following who granted personal interviews for this work
: Roger Donlon (MOH), Robin Moore, Don Bendell, Jimmy Stanford, Vince Yrineo, Sammy L. Davis (MOH), Linda Alvarado, Karen Offutt, Lieutenant General Carol Mutter, Sir Edward Artis, General Colin L. Powell, Katharine Houghton, Adrian Cronauer, Jan Scruggs, Delbert Schmeling, and Peter Lemon (MOH).
Our thanks to the staff of the following who either wrote or allowed reprint of their own works for this book: Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, Don Bendell, Congressman Sam Farr, Congressman Thomas Petri, Congressman Mike Honda, Congressman Jim Walsh, Governor Jim Doyle, and Scott Baron.
Our special thanks also to the staff of the following who provided information and fact-checked the chapters related to their subject: Staff of Senator John Kerry, Staff of (then) Senator Hillary Clinton, Staff of Senator Jim Webb
A SPECIAL THANKS also to Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard for his assistance in writing and editing the entire section on the Role of the Sexes.

 

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