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February 18, 2007

Where Were You in 1964?

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Nearly a week ago I had elective surgery to tidy up part of my hydraulic system. So posting last week was in the form of articles that I'd cached to maintain the never-ending stream of content Blowhards readers expect and deserve.

I'm in recovery-mode, and the present post is something easy to write, allowing me to transition back into the blogging zone.

Faithful readers might have noticed that a trait common to all Blowhards writers is a lack of enthusiasm for many aspects of the "Sixties" -- roughly the period from the Gulf of Tonkin Incident to the fall of Saigon (1964-75).

I'm about 15 years older than Michael and Friedrich. They experienced the Sixties before leaving college, whereas I was an adult during that period. I touched on my first brush with the Sixties while I was a Guest Blogger here where I mentioned:

I entered grad school about the same time as the Free Speech Movement took shape down in Berkeley. That was in the fall of 1964; by winter of 1965 it had spread up the coast to Washington. I recall that one of the early issues championed by the Students for a Democratic Society was the poor quality of hamburgers at the student union cafeteria. They went on to other causes later.

Another aside: 1964-65 also produced the concept of college students as being "exploited by the system" -- "student as ni**er" was one sweet phrase of the day. Students were powerless wretches under the sway of evil powers. This might have been what started me on my return journey to conservatism. I had just spent nearly a year in Korea where there was a nightly curfew imposed by the government and enforced by police patrols. And I had endured almost three years in the army where I was essentially on-call at any time. To me, being a college student in America was just about the most free thing imaginable. To tell students they were virtual slaves was ridiculous. But sometimes I wonder what I would have thought or how I would have acted if I had been born six or eight years later and had been a lower-division undergraduate in 1965. It's quite possible that I would have joined the SDS either to spite the "establishment" or maybe just for the hell of it. Chilling thought.

Speaking of Korea, I was rummaging in the basement and located a photo taken of me there.

DBP - Taegu - 1964 -low.jpg
Donald in Taegu, Korea, 1964

The photo was snapped while we were on alert. Normally I didn't wear combat gear because my unit (7th Logistical Command) was a support organization based far down the peninsula from the DMZ. Had the Korean War boiled up again, it's likely that the 7th Log headquarters would have been pulled back to Japan.

It's hard to see, but the rifle slung over my shoulder is an M14, the replacement for the World War 2 M1 Garand. I was trained on the M1 and liked it. The M14 I was issued while in Korea usually jammed after I got two or three rounds off. (If the war had renewed, I would have gotten serious and asked for a more reliable weapon.)

My uniform is more a peacetime than wartime affair. Note the bright undershirt, name-tag, rank badge and shoulder patches that would have interfered with whatever camouflage the rest of my outfit offered. Technically, the hat normally worm with this was a baseball cap, but everyone in those days wore a "blocked" cap -- basically a képi. In the photo I'm wearing a steel helmet with a camouflage covering. The large packet hanging from my pistol belt is for M14 magazines.

Hardly a fearsome sight, I'm afraid.

But then, this was in the waning months of the sociocultural Fifties and I was counting the days to taking the troopship back to the States for my discharge and entering grad school.



posted by Donald at February 18, 2007


I entered a smallish liberal arts college in the Northeast in 1975 and graduated in 1979. It wasn't really apparent at the time, but looking back I realize just how non-turbulent a period it was, at least from a college student perspective. The Vietnam and civil rights protests of the 1960's and early 1970's were over, in fact a protest march and sit-in against Marine Corps recruiters in my freshman year fizzled out with hardly anyone participating. Many private Northeastern colleges had been male-only until the late 1960's, but whatever turmoil the conversion to co-education had caused was over by my time. My college had gone co-ed in 1969 by means of a phase-in process lasting a few years, and the senior class during my freshman year was the last one that had been subject to the phase-in and was disproportionately male.

Trends now affecting colleges hadn't begun during my stay. While overt racist behavior or speech was taboo, political correctness was not yet an issue - in fact, I don't believe the term had been invented. Everyone knew that some of the minority students had been admitted through affirmative action programs but no one made a big deal of it. The social segregation between white and minorities that today would cause all sorts of hand-wringing was simply accepted as the way things were, nothing to get upset over. No one worried about the under-representation of females in the sciences - if it even existed then - or the over-representation of females in the student body as a whole. Indeed, it was a peaceful time.

Posted by: Peter on February 18, 2007 6:05 PM

I hadn't yet started kindergarten. The only thing I remember about 1964 is the New York World's Fair.

Posted by: annette on February 18, 2007 6:17 PM

That photo makes you look like the most unconvincing soldier!

(and I mean that as a compliment)

Posted by: Masale.Wallah on February 18, 2007 9:07 PM

So now we know what nerds look like when they become soldiers... This is an argument for the all-volunteer force. ;)

Posted by: SFG on February 18, 2007 10:28 PM

I entered Tulane University in 1961,all seemed to go well that year. In late 1962 I was squatted down in a school hallway along with 100 or so various others waiting to hear what was going to happen with the Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba and wondering if I'd have the time and opportunity to call my scattered loved ones before the mushroom cloud ate us all. Then one year and one month after that (November, 1963)while I was driving to an early afternoon class I heard Walter Kronkite on the car's radio solemnly intone that President Kennedy had just died as a result of an assassination in Dallas. Six weeks after that (January, 1964) I was sitting in a troop car attached to a train heading to San Antonio,Texas, having enlisted in the Air Force... wanting to do something,to see something, and possibly even help our country before some bozo whom I'd likely never even met rang the big curtain down. In other words, to create the illusion of taking some small measure of control over my life; being more of an active agent and a moving target, as opposed to being passive and stationary. I spent that year(1964) in Air Force Intelligence training schools in Texas; spend the next two years(1965-66)in Berlin,Germany and the last year of my four-year hitch(1967)in Da Nang,Viet Nam. Returned to the land of the Big BX and the Round Doorknobs on January 8,1968 so fortunate to be none the worse for wear of the previous four years. Was put up with another fellow in a motel room in California for a couple of days while we were mustered out..remember that the California nights were too quiet to be able to go quickly to sleep. The perimeter of Da Nang was a Fourth of July celebration every night what with the parachute flares floating all around the sky, with Puff the Magic Dragon working those magnificenct Gatling guns whose red tongues showed a long streaming line of continuous fire just before they curved to lick the ground, and with Marine patrols firing individual and crew-served weapons into surrounding sounds and shadows all night long. Yet still, with all of these preventive efforts, Da Nang's miliary base was rocketed 6 or 7 times that year if memory serves, with the attack on July 15, 1967 doing more damage to physical structures since Pearl Harbor. I remember that both of the two-story tropical barracks on either side of the little sand and plywood structure between them in which we took shelter during these late-night attacks were burned completely to the ground with much loss of cameras,jewelry,radios and other assorted electronic equipment that the boys could get in the Base BX with their combat pay that had no federal taxes taken out. Planes on the runways were destroyed, the POL went up providing much sturm and drang until the little double-bladed helicopters and the men in silvery suits could bring those burning petroleum and oil storage tanks under control.

I guess I left there more angry at LBJ than at anyone else and my loathing for this man's laughable, hubristic and unwarranted sense of adequacy vis-a-vis military planning has not decreased significantly over the years. There ought to be mandatory field trips by all Civics classes in this country to his grave so that students could leave there a liquid memento on behalf of the 50,000 plus men and women who died as a result of the strategies he insisted in cooking up with Robert Strange Mc. and the bereaved and destroyed families they left behind to fend for themselves as best they could. This not to mention the sequellae of his Great Society programs that will likely end up finishing the work of destroying the social fabric and voiding the social contract of this country. The worst turn fanatical, the best lose all conviction; the center will not hold. Our minorities continue to hold others responsible for their felt failings; our churchs harbor ravenous wolves who defile our children and have attempted to hide these abominations from us and from themselves for decades; our courts are more and more becoming a legal system, not a justice system; millions of innocent children are killed by their own mothers each year in this county because allowing them to live would be an inconvenient;our public schools can't teach the good students and can't control the bad, can't fire the bad teachers or impose performance standards on either teachers or students; our police and border guards are hounded out of work or into jails themselves by politically correct fanatics; our political parties, the equivalent of the Crips and the Bloods, have defeating their rival party as their first, and only, agenda item...public good be damned; our public airwaves carry more filth than our sewer systems and to make remark on this could have you ostrasized as not being culturally sensitive, if not beaten on the street corner. You probably can add on examples of your own, but I'll bet that you have no more of a solution that I do, so what's the point?

Posted by: Pollingue on February 19, 2007 3:04 AM

I was 2 years old. Appropriately enough, my family and I were in Seoul.

Posted by: David Fleck on February 19, 2007 4:06 AM

In 64 I was entering high school, working on becoming an Eagle in the Boy Scouts and, in the light of the Civil Rights situation, Kennedy assassinations, the ramping up in Viet Nam and so on, beginning to wonder about the difference between what we were learning in school about the US as the supposed world exemplar of peace and freedom and what I saw on the evening news.

Posted by: Chris White on February 19, 2007 8:39 AM

I spent most of 1964 swimming in pleasantly warm amniotic fluid, conscious only of safety and comfort. Ah, the good old days....

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on February 19, 2007 10:56 AM

I was with the 101st Airborne, getting ready to go to Vietnam. I did not know that I have about one year to live.

Fast-forward to 1995. I'm an eastern-european-born, 25-year old Army sergeant at Ft Campbell. A buddy of mine, looking a bit freaked out, tells me that one of the base's admin buildings has a heros gallery, a set of portraits of various war heros past. One of those portraits showed a spitting image of me. It WAS me, such was the likeness. It was some kid, killed in action in 'Nam in '70, a month before I was born.

I don't believe in reincarnation, to the extent that I think about metaphysical things. But this one made me wonder.

Posted by: PA on February 19, 2007 12:21 PM

Love the boots, Donald.

Posted by: Tatyana on February 19, 2007 12:52 PM

I was a fresher at an Ancient Scottish University. It was bliss. Happily we Brits had abolished National Service some years before. In my first long vacation, '65, I bought a motorbike and spent days off zooming across the moors. In the late summer and fall of '66 I spent a day strolling around Berkeley and a month Greyhounding around the US. In the early summer of '67 I hitchhiked around Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France. When I graduated in '68, the job market was so good that I applied for 12 jobs and was offered 14. It was a bloody good time and place to be a young male. Mind you, in the early summer of '66 I worked in a small factory in NJ making bodybags for Vietnam.

Posted by: dearieme on February 19, 2007 1:37 PM

In '64, I was 7 years old and waking up in a dry bed was the big thing.

Posted by: HH on March 7, 2007 8:34 AM

Not born yet.

Posted by: the patriarch on March 7, 2007 3:53 PM

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