Friday, August 12, 2016

The War at Home - 1965

Evan Thomas – From The War at Home

“For a brief period the new military equipment, and especially the introduction of helicopters in large numbers, appeared to be stemming the Vietcong tied.”

“Like everyone else who read newspapers, I was reminded periodically of Vietnam…(But) the war did not really force itself upon me until February 7, 1965, when LBJ ordered the second bombing raid on North Vietnam following a Vietcong attack on American military barracks at Pleiku.”

“Two days earlier I had been inducted into the Army for National Guard training and had been transported to the snowy, windy, flatland of Fort Dix, New Jersey.”

“The lights went out at ten o’clock that night, but we all remained awake in the dark, covered by green army blankets, staring in the dim lights at the ceiling of army barracks, listening to transistor radios report the raids and half-believing (since anything seems possible in the army) that we would be on an early plane to South Vietnam.”

“The army, of course, made maximum use of the heightened situation during our eight weeks of basic training.”

“’This is important,’ Sergeants snapped. ‘What are you going to do if your M-14 jams in Veet-Nam?’”

“Since they jammed only too frequently on the Fort Dix firing ranges, we took this more or less seriously. We lay on the cold ground, looking at devastated areas where every living thing had long since been shot to pieces. The trunks of trees razed even twenty and thirty feet above the ground, the very ground itself literally poisoned by millions of copper jacketed bullets. A sergeant in a wooden tower shouted over a loud speaker system: ‘Ready on the right. Ready on the left. Firers, lock and load one fourteen round magazine and commence firing.’”

“When the stiff olive green silhouettes popped up behind the sand dunes and next to shattered tree stumps, it was not too hard to believe this was leading towards the dark and steaming jungles we imagined in Southeast Asia.”

“I was ‘against’ the war in an abstract way, but its impact on me personally was more confusing, it seemed possible the National Guard might be called up and that I might go. I’m not all together certain if I feared this would happen, or I wanted it to happen.” 

Rep. Norcross on MLK in Camden

Daniel Saunders Historic Preservation Office
Administrator PO Box 420
501 East State Street Trenton, NJ 08625-0420

August 10, 2016

Dear Administrator Saunders,

As a Camden City resident, when I drive through the city I see not only the great potential Camden has but also signs of Camden’s unique and rich history. From the old RCA building to the New York Shipbuilding Company and the Walt Whitman House, Camden City has an amazingly powerful history that grows stronger as new historical sites are found and invested in. That is why I urge you to consider designating the former residence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at 753 Walnut Street in Camden, a historically valuable landmark worthy of preservation.

 Martin Luther King Jr. lived at 753 Walnut St. while he attended Crozer Theological Seminary, on his path to achieving his Bachelors in Divinity. King’s residence at this house is both well documented and remembered.

In 1950, while King stayed at the house in Camden, King was denied service in a Maple Shade bar called “Mary’s Cafe” and threatened with violence. King filed a police report, which listed the Walnut St. address as his residence but ultimately there were no legal repercussions for the owner. Dr. King’s defeat in this case appears to have been foundational in shaping Dr. King’s approach to civil-rights. Later in his life as the nation’s most prolific civil-rights leader, Dr. King opted to use civil disobedience to combat systemic racism instead of seeking police assistance, quite possibly relying on the lessons learned from this formative failure.

Not only is this site historically significant through its association with this incident in Maple Shade but crucially there is a developed plan for the site should it be protected. The City of Camden has agreed to donate the plot next to the home, and the current land owner of the vacant apartment is also enthused about the project. President of the Camden County NAACP, Colandus Francis would like to see the building used as a museum and office space for his chapter of the NAACP and Rutgers University-Camden’s law school has offered to set up a non-profit for the property pro-bono.

I know that with historical designation and the effort of the community, the home at 753 Walnut Street can be a physical reminder of the profound role that Camden played in the shaping of our nation’s greatest civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. I urge you to give full consideration to designating 753 Walnut Street in Camden as historical site, worthy of preservation.

(Signed)  Donald Norcross
Member of Congress

First District NJ
1631 Longworth Building
Washington D.C. 20515
202-225-6583 Fax

10 Melrose Ave. Suite 210
Cherry Hill, N. J. 08003
(856) 427-7000

(856) 427-4109 Fax