Click on following for earlier article: Part 1.
On November 3, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson crushed Republican Candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater, in a landslide which has not been duplicated by the Dems since then.
As for me, a college freshman at the University of Illinois, the presidential election seemed a million miles away. Classes. Fraternity. Beer. Marlboro Cigarettes. And other aspects of college life were far more important to me than politics.
And Vietnam? There were only 12,000 military advisors in South Vietnam on the day when Johnson was elected. So, this little conflict was not on anyone’s radar screen at the time.
But all of this changed during the summer vacation following my freshman year when President Johnson announced:
I have today ordered to Vietnam the Air Mobile Division and certain other forces which will raise our fighting strength from 75,000 to 125,000 men almost immediately. Additional forces will be needed later, and they will be sent as requested. This will make it necessary to increase our active fighting forces by raising the monthly draft call from 17,000 over a period of time to 35,000 per month, and for us to step up our campaign for voluntary enlistments. (July 28, 1965, at a press conference)
From this date forward, the Vietnam War became a big deal to America and me. Walter Cronkite (CBS), Peter Jennings (ABC), Chet Huntley and David Brinkley (NBC) fed the brutal realities of war to us through their nightly broadcasts. Viet Cong, Hanoi Hilton, Ho Chi Minh Trail, napalm and Anti-War marches became a part of the war lexicon.
Now, like most fellow students, I had a valuable Get Out of Jail Free card called a 2-S Draft Deferment. This deferment allowed me to delay my military obligation until I finished college.
So, for my sophomore and junior years, the Vietnam War loomed as an after-graduation problem, not an immediate one. And maybe the war would be over by June, 1968, right?
Then, Senator Eugene McCarthy, a Democrat from Wisconsin, rocked the political world on November 30, 1967, by announcing his intention to campaign for the 1968 Democratic Party’s presidential nomination as an anti-Vietnam War candidate. Political skeptics pooh poohed him, but students, like me, flocked to his side.
In the New Hampshire Primary (March 12, 1968), President Johnson limped to victory with 49% of the Democratic vote, but McCarty was right on his tail with 42%. In the following three weeks, Senator Robert Kennedy entered the presidential campaign, President Johnson dropped out of the heated race and Senator McCarthy won the Wisconsin primary.
All of this was exhilarating to me. I became a liberal Democrat until my salvation on May 20, 1985. Senator George McGovern (1972) and Governor Jimmy Carter (1976, 1980) were some of my later presidential choices.
Tom Brokaw described the adults involved with WWII as the Greatest Generation. The war’s aftereffects were unity, love for America and a determination to build up our nation. One generation later, the Greatest Generation‘s children fought the Vietnam War with the resulting aftereffects being division, hatred of our nation’s values and determination to tear America’s moral fabric to pieces.
And while this was happening, the Church wavered from one side of the path to the other, not sure which side was the right one.
(Continued in Part 3)