1950s-1970: Taylor and the Vietnam War - The Echo News
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1950s-1970: Taylor and the Vietnam War

Part 3 in our "100 Years" series

By David Seaman (’15) | Echo

In the mid ’60s to early ’70s, one of the most controversial wars in American history got students speaking their minds, and Taylor students used The Echo as a sounding board to voice opinions.

Articles about the war appeared in The Echo as early as 1964. In an article dated Jan. 17, 1964, Echo writer Jim Morris ’67 put readers in the perspective of an American soldier fighting in South Vietnam. “If you are an American, you might wonder why you are in South Vietnam, ‘advising’ an army which has little popular support,” Morris wrote.

Morris quoted Secretary of State Dean Rusk saying the war was “dirty, untidy and disagreeable” and mentions that the U.S. government spends $1.5 million daily to support leadership in the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon (a number that grew as the war progressed).

But Morris also puts the reader in the mind of a South Vietnamese Buddhist fighting for religious freedom and a Viet Cong member trying to protect his country from foreign invaders.

The Taylor campus leaned Republican and was mostly pro-Nixon, as evidenced by an Oct. 29, 1971, Echo poll that had Nixon leading by a large majority; out of 182 students questioned, 92 preferred Nixon.

But this was not the opinion of The Echo, according to some students.

“Many Young Republicans and conservative groups on campus were annoyed by some of the opinion pieces written,” said Tom Jones, dean of the School of Liberal Arts and a Taylor student during the late 1960s. “I heard slogans of ‘A Choice, Not the Echo!’. . . There were some interesting letters to the editor.”

These students were undoubtedly responding to sharp critiques of the war by Echo contributors. Contributors such as Lowell Boileau commented in the Feb. 26, 1966, Echo about President Lyndon Johnson’s assertion that the U.S. was winning the war.

“The first answer implies that we are embarked on some holy crusade for democracy,” Boileau wrote. “Such an answer serves a dual purpose. First, it makes the U.S. appear just and righteous in intervening in Vietnam. Second, it makes anyone who protests our policy in Vietnam seem undemocratic and unlibertarian.”

Boileau adds that military victory would come at an absurd cost, mentioning French losses in their war with Vietnam.

“I suggest we heed this lesson and withdraw now with our nearly 10,000 casualties rather than at a later date with much heavier losses,” Boileau concluded.

Echoing this sentiment, Echo writer Terry L. Deck said in the Oct. 10, 1969, issue that “the only realistic recourse for the present administration is to order an immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Vietnam. This is not only a desirable option, but considering the adverse effects of present American involvement, it is a highly practical one.”

Indictments of the My Lai massacre, along with a scathing review in the Nov. 21, 1969, Echo of President Nixon’s “war game politics that can lead to further disaster,” resulted in considerable backlash from conservative students to the Echo.

“It has become very popular to criticize governmental policies in all areas but the one policy that has received the most criticism has been the Vietnam policy,” Brian W. Secor said in the March 19, 1971, issue of The Echo. “The Echo has chosen to follow this line like a poor, blind, lost sheep.”

Secor went on to describe how “the Echo believes falsely . . . than men do not desire to be free” and ended by stating that Nixon was doing a good job. William Ewbank, a professor of mathematics, wrote against what he thought was a negative attitude toward the draft exhibited by Taylor students.

“I wish that every Taylor man who enlists or is called up would enter the armed forces with this type of positive attitude,” Ewbank wrote in the May 23, 1969, Echo. “And I wish that every Taylor woman would make a prayer list of her relatives and friends in uniform, pray for them daily, and encourage them to go all out for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ . . . .”

Yet, Jones says Taylor was not as divided as it seems, and President Milo Rediger strove to help students incorporate Christian values with objective perspectives on the war.

The Pax peace group was active on campus and engaged the students with speakers at chapel. Young Republicans and Young Democrats debated in political science classes. Even a movie, “No Greater Love,” was shown, depicting the overlooked situation of Vietnamese helping the Vietnamese. These events paled in comparison to a teach-in by the Sammy statues in 1970.

“Professors Herb Nygren and Phil Loy were in charge, and they just camped out there with students shouting phrases out of bullhorns and microphones,” Jones said. “There was a wagon, and everybody was discussing student involvement in ending the war. It was quite the experience.”

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our “100 Years” series, which was originally published during Homecoming on October 19, 2012. View the other parts by clicking the links below.

Part 1 — 1913-1930: The Echo: ahead of its time

Part 2 — 1930s-1950: Taylor’s accreditation—a Rediger accomplishment

Part 4 — 1970s-1990: Honoring a trustworthy voice

Part 5 — 1990s-Now: Taylor enters the Information Age

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