“President Urgently Requests Congress to Back His Plans” – Dan Crosson

On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy delivered his famous “Moon Shot speech” to a joint session of Congress. The following day, the Los Angeles Times ran the story “President Urgently Requests Congress to Back His Plans” by Don Shannon. Shannon’s article immediately takes a serious tone, beginning with the title that explicitly labels the urgency of the president’s request.

Shannon goes on to describe the president’s “ominous plea” emphasizing the moon shot program, including estimated costs of $40 billion over the course of a decade for the entire defense program.  Shannon notes that Congress appear to be visibly cooler in its reception of the president when compared to his previous state of the union address in January. Nonetheless, Congress appeared to embrace the president’s call for taking on the challenge of space exploration.

Important to the context of the time, the moon shot was only a single, though attention dominating, piece of the president’s budget increase proposals. 1961 was a year full of challenges from the USSR, and President Kennedy wished to boost the security and military power of the United States as a whole. As Shannon reports, the president called for a number of other requests: $250 million for the Act for International Development (in specific response to the Vietnam situation),  $60 million to boost the size of the Marine Corps, $100 million for boosting modern Army vehicles, and $125 million for weather and communications equipment. This comes in conjunction with various other program requests, such as unconventional warfare units, new air wings, increases in reserve divisions, and other assets with undisclosed costs.

Attention towards President Kennedy’s moon shot speech naturally centers towards the space program, touted as an advancement in technology and for mankind as a whole. However, Don Shannon seems to recognize the emphasis for security that served as the general undertone of the speech.  The United States was increasing its challenge that USSR, and the moon shot was just one part of a truly massive effort.

 

 

 

Bibliography

SHANNON, DON. “President Urgently Requests Congress to Back His Plans: U.S. MOON SHOT.” Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File),1961.

Word count: 322

 

Franco Spain After the Sputnik – Dan Crosson

In 1957 the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite generated quite the stir around the world. Given the degree of political polarization at the time between West and East, it was only natural that reactions to the event varied. In the United States, there was a sense that the Soviets had beaten them to the punch in a major milestone in the “Space Race”.  Technological races aside, the launch of Sputnik also raised concerns surrounding the political and diplomatic fallout attached to the event. Richard Mowrer’s December article in the cultural and political magazine New Leader touched on some of these fears.

Titled “Franco Spain After the Sputnik”, Mowrer’s article focuses primarily on the reaction to Sputnik felt in Spain under General Francisco Franco, as well as in Yugoslavia under President Josip Broz, more commonly known as Tito.  Both Spain and Yugoslavia were friendly with the United States. Franco was an ardent anti-communist, and Tito’s Yugoslavia, while communist, had a history of tension with the USSR. As such, it was in the interest of the United States to remain in favor beyond the Soviets in both states.

General Francisco Franco

The launch of Sputnik raised questions about the future of US influence in both states.  Three days after the launch of Sputnik, Franco delivered a speech in which he praised the Russians for their achievement.  While no friend to communism, Mowrer writes that Franco acknowledged that the feat was possible due to the Soviet emphasis on order and unity, two traits of the “new Russia” that had emerged in direct challenge to the United States.  Franco is quoted as saying “We cannot ignore the political importance of the fact that a nation has succeeded in launching the first artificial satellite”, continuing with “what has effective value is political unity, continuity, authority and discipline.”

Front page of the Soviet Pravda newspaper on October 6, 1957. The image describes “the victory of Soviet Power.” Pravda articles were reprinted in the Spanish press in the days that followed the Sputnik launch.

Mowrer claims that this thinly veiled jab at U.S. prestige was only worsened by the follow on response in the Spanish press.  Spanish newspapers wrote that the United States had suffered a defeat in its own system of propaganda, releasing a series of articles laced with heavy criticism and even mockery of the US. Given that Franco’s regime tightly censored the media, these stories could not have been printed without formal consent.  In the following days, Soviet state media was reprinted in Spanish papers, and Soviet scientists and political figures were granted audience with Spanish representatives, a first in the era of Franco rule.

Mowrer’s article highlights the constant battle for influence that defined the Cold War period. While central ideologies between states could differ vastly, there were fears that alliances would form through means of sheer power, a measure of “diplomatic realism” as Mowrer called it. The situation in Spain following the Sputnik launch demonstrates that the Space Race was more than a simple technological contest of bragging rights; there was the very real fear that it could mean a tipping point in the Cold War itself.

 

Bibliography

Mowrer, Richard Scott. franco Spain After the Sputnik. Vol. 40. New York, N.Y: New Leader Publishing Association, 1957.

Franco image: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/12006647/Fury-in-Spain-over-tributes-on-anniversary-of-Francos-death.html

Pravda image: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41498083

 

Word count: 487

Between Cultures: Sioux Warriors and the Vietnam War – Dan Crosson

For our discussion on historiography and its forms and methods, I discovered an interesting article on the Sioux Native American perspective of the Vietnam War experience, both at home and on the front lines. John A. Little’s “Between Cultures: Sioux Warriors and the Vietnam War” focuses heavily on social and cultural aspects of the Sioux people during the war period, utilizing a great deal of oral history through interviews with a number of Sioux veterans.

Like many other racial minorities who served in Vietnam, many young Sioux men felt a great deal of patriotism and a sense of duty to their country. Yet culturally, the Sioux had another great motivator that drew them towards service. As a people, the Sioux have a proud warrior culture. Much of their history is structured around great battles and iconic warriors such as Crazy Horse. Sioux men carry the cultural expectation to embrace and honor this warrior legacy, so when the conflict in Vietnam intensified, many Sioux saw combat service as a necessary choice. Some of the Sioux mentioned in the article are quoted as hating military service, yet they felt the pressure and cultural importance of proving themselves as a true battle-tested warrior.

Legendary Sioux warrior and leader Crazy Horse

Once again in similar fashion to other minority service members,  the Sioux faced numerous racial stereotypes, particularly that Native Americans were inherently lazy and alcoholics. Many Sioux soldiers were given nicknames, especially “Chief”.  All of the men quoted in Little’s article recall a near constant battle with racism and prejudice. A point I found especially interesting was the impact of a racist belief the Sioux encountered that while meant to have a “positive” connotation, still had a negative and often deadly impact. Other soldiers, including GIs of other minorities like African Americans, held the belief that Native Americans were natural “super soldiers”, universally possessing advanced skills in combat, scouting, and tracking. As such, many Sioux soldiers were automatically assigned the position of point man in patrols, a role that is both extremely exhausting and carries a high risk of injury or death. Nearly all of the Sioux quoted in Little’s writing noted a near constant posting in the point man position, along with the somber question of how many may have died as a result of this prejudiced assignment.

U.S. Army LRRP, or Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. Many Native Americans found themselves in such specialized recon units due to the stereotypical belief that they were natural born scouts and trackers.

Homecoming for the Sioux warriors of Vietnam also carried its own unique cultural and social elements.  While soldiers of other races were often met with scorn and contempt upon returning home, in Sioux culture a warrior’s homecoming was a standard practice. Respect was given almost unanimously in all cases, with special ceremonies given to servicemen when they returned to their respective reservations. Despite this positive reception,  when the war was over, many Sioux were left struggling. Some recognized the problems of the reservation lifestyle and made careers out of military service. Others fell into vicious cycles of PTSD, problems related to the poverty of tribal lands, and alcohol/substance abuse.

Little’s article paints an intriguing portrait of Sioux culture, especially that of the warrior, during the Vietnam War period. It shows that while they shared many hardships with GIs of various races, the Sioux carried burdens unique to their culture and racial oppressions. Little’s writing shows that not every soldier in Vietnam shared the same experience. Cultural and social differences both at home and at war molded differing perspectives. The use of rich oral history from various Sioux veterans provides a very detailed view into the military life of these brave men, outlining a proud tradition of Sioux warriors that continues to this day.

 

Bibliography

John A. Little. “Between Cultures: Sioux Warriors and the Vietnam War.” Great Plains Quarterly 35, no. 4 (2015): 357-375. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed October 9, 2017).

Crazy Horse image. http://www.rugusavay.com/crazy-horse-biography/#prettyPhoto/0/

LRRP image.  http://www.thehistoryreader.com/contemporary-history/portrait-ranger-young-lrrp-warrior-vietnam/

 

Word count: 646