December 1961: Vietnam

Friday, December 8

In 1961 President Kennedy sent a team to Vietnam on conditions in South Vietnam and to assess future American aid requirements. The report, now known as the "December 1961 White Paper," argued for an increase in military, technical and economic aid, and the introduction of large-scale American advisers to help stabilize Diem's government and crush the NLF. As Kennedy weighed the merits of these recommendations, some of his other advisers urged the president to withdraw from Vietnam altogether, claiming that it was a "dead-end alley."

The report concludes: Viet-Nam is not an isolated problem. The tactics used there have been used before. They will be used again, particularly if they prove successful. A government or a people who now think that "Viet-Nam is so far away from us" may well discover that they are the South Vietnamese of tomorrow. Then they may wish they had done more now. But then it will be late, very late, perhaps too late!

* Full text of "A Threat to the Peace: North Viet-Nam's Effort to Conquer South Viet-Nam" (from The Vietnam Center and Archive): @

Monday, December 11
The USNS Core arrives in Saigon, carrying 33 Army helicopters and 400 troops. This is considered the beginning of U.S. combat operations in Vietnam.

From The New York Times:

SAIGON, Vietnam, Dec. 11 -- Two United States Army helicopter companies arrived here today. The helicopters, to be flown and serviced by United States troops, are the first direct military support by the United States for South Vietnam's war against Communist guerrilla forces.
The craft will be assigned to the South Vietnamese Army in the field, but they will remain under United States Army control and operation.
At least thirty-three H-21C twin-rotor helicopters, their pilots and ground crews, an estimated total of 400 men, arrived aboard the Military Sea Transportation Service aircraft ferry Core.
South Vietnamese and United States official circles kept the entire operation under strict security wraps despite the fact that the Core, towering high above the surrounding rice paddies and with her unmistakable deck cargo visible for miles, had to travel upstream through countryside said to be alive with Communist agents and sympathizers.
Even without an announcement of the vessel's arrival, thousands of persons linked both banks of the narrow, muddy Saigon River to watch the former World War II auxiliary aircraft carrier tie up at a pier in front of the Majestic Hotel. The gray-painted ship, dozens of khaki-colored helicopters and hundreds of grinning, waving service men appeared as dramatic evidence of the United States' intention to bolster its assistance to South Vietnam in the face of the increasing threat from the Communists.
In addition to the helicopters the Core was carrying six or eight T-28 single-engine, propeller-driven training planes to be turned over to South Vietnam under the regular United States military assistance program.
Although the United States has made about twenty helicopters available to the Laotian Government in its fight against pro-Communist guerrillas, those machines are operated by civilian pilots of Air America, a subsidiary of Civil Air Transport of Taiwan.
The aircraft and men aboard the Core were here as the first fruits of Gen. Maxell D. Taylor's recent mission for President Kennedy and also of the lengthy series of conversations just concluded by President Ngo Dinh Diem and the United States Ambassador, Frederick E. Nolting Jr.
The South Vietnamese leader had given helicopters the highest priority in his listing of essential military assistance.
The vessel and her cargo were already in the South China sea only a few hundred miles off the Vietnamese coast last week when the State Department issued a White Paper on the crisis in South Vietnam. The document charged Communist North Vietnam with a wide ranger of overt and covert acts in violation of he 1954 treaty that ended the French-Indochinese war.
Neither the United States nor South Vietnam was a signatory of the treaty that ended the French empire in Southeast Asia and established the independent states of Laos, Cambodia, North Vietnam and South Vietnam. But the United States made it known at the time that it would not stand idly by if aggression occurred against any of the three non-Communist nations -- Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam.
It was widely presumed here today that the arrival of the United States helicopters and crews foreshadowed much more United States aid, but there was no confirmation of this by either South Vietnamese or United States official sources.
Today's shipment alone could make a great difference in South Vietnam's ability to prosecute the war against the Vietnamese Communist forces. It nearly trebles the number of helicopters available to the South Vietnamese Army.
In the anti-guerrilla operations in the mountains, heavy jungles and rice paddies, the ability of the helicopters to cruise, hover and land almost anywhere makes them invaluable.
According to normal United States Army usage, H-21C helicopters can carry a pilot, co-pilot and twelve combat-ready soldiers or 2,500 pounds of cargo. It may be possible to load fifteen or even eighteen smaller, lightly armed South Vietnamese solders into each of the aircraft.
The units that arrived today were the Fifty-seventh Helicopter Company of Fort Lewis, Wash., commanded by Maj. Robert J. Dillard, and the Eighth Helicopter Company of Fort Bragg, commanded by Maj. Charles N. Hardesty.
Both officers refused to say how many aircraft and men they had. The standard complement for a helicopter company is twenty machines and 200 men.

* More photos: @
* Excerpt from "Vietnam Choppers: Helicopters in Battle, 1950-1975" (book by Simon Dunstan): @
Thursday, December 14

From entry in history.com:

In a public exchange of letters with South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, President John F. Kennedy formally announces that the United States will increase aid to South Vietnam, which would include the expansion of the U.S. troop commitment.

* Text of letters (from the book "Vietnam and America: A Documented History" by Marvin E. Gettleman): @

Friday, December 22
U.S. Army Specialist 4 James T. Davis is killed after being ambushed by the Viet Cong. While not the first American to die in Vietnam, his death is the first U.S. combat fatality during what is now considered a time of war.

* Summary (from nsa.gov): @
* Tribute page (from National Army Security Agency Association): @

Sunday, December 24
U.S. Army Specialist 4 George F. Fryett Jr. is the first American taken prisoner of war. He would be released six months later. (Note: "Honor Bound" says Fryett was captured the day after Christmas. Most other accounts say it was Dec. 24.)

* Account from www.pownetwork.org: @
* Associated Press article, 1971: @
* Account from "Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961-1973" (book by Stuart I. Rochester, Frederick T. Kiley): @

Sunday, December 31

From the book "Vietnam War Almanac" by James H. Willbanks:

The total number of U.S. military personnel in Vietnam reaches 3,200. South Vietnamese military strength remains at 243,000. Total insurgent forces are estimated at 26,700. Fourteen Americans have been killed or wounded in combat. Two army helicopter units are flying combat missions in support of the AVRN; U.S. Air Force personnel are instructing VNAF and flying combat missions; U.S. Navy Mine Division 73 (a tender and five sweepers) is patrolling from Danang south along the coastline; U.S. aircraft from Thailand and Seventh Fleet carrers are flying surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Vietnam; and six C-123 aircraft equipped for support of defoliant operations have received "diplomatic clearance" to enter South Vietnam. In 1961, $65 million of U.S. military equipment and $136 million in economic aid have been delivered to South Vietnam.

* Earlier post on National Security Action Memorandum 52 (May 11, 1961): @
* Earlier post on use of herbicides in Vietnam (August 10, 1961): @
* "The Lovely Land That May Blow Up" (Life magazine, October 27, 1961): @


Saturday, December 16, 1961: Thalidomide

A letter from Australian obstetrician William McBride to the British medical journal The Lancet raises serious concerns about the safety of thalidomide, an anti-nausea sedative prescribed for pregnant women.

* Entry from the book "Medicine, Health and Bioethics: Essential Primary Sources": @
* "Thalidomide Neuropathy" (British Medical Journal, September 30, 1961): @
* "Thalidomide: Tragic Past and Promising Future" (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, July 2004): @
* "Dark Remedy: The Impact of Thalidomide and Its Revival as a Vital Medicine" (book by Trent D. Stephens and Rock Brynner): @
* Earlier post on thalidomide (September 12, 1960): @


Monday, December 11 and Friday, December 15, 1961: Adolf Eichmann verdict

Monday, December 11

From The Associated Press:

JERUSALEM -- Israel convicted Adolf Eichmann of "unsurpassed" crimes against the Jews and said his role in the Nazi pogrom would be remembered "until the end of time."
The special three-man tribunal, which for four months tried the 55-year-0ld Gestapo lieutenant colonel, handed down its judgment today, a judgment which may bring him death on the gallows.
In a 300-page judgment which they began reading aloud in turn, the three judges determined that Eichmann was proved to be such an important cog in Hitler's machinery for destroying the Jews that he merited conviction of these major counts:
1. Crimes against the Jews.
2. Crimes against humanity.
3. War crimes.
4. Membership in the criminal Nazi SS (Elite Guard) and SD (security police) organizations.
Reading the verdict, with all its elaboration of the legal reasoning, will require several days. Sentencing is expected by Friday.
In his bullet-proof, glass-enclosed case, Eichmann took the first blow of conviction on the major charges with aplomb. Through his hornrimmed spectacles, he fixed a steady stare on the judges.
The court delivered an exhaustive study of the "iniquities" of the Nazi Reich and said it later would describe in detail the role Eichmann played as chief of the Gestapo's Bureau for Jewish Affairs, the man who shipped millions to their death in the extermination camps.
The tribunal, headed by Justice Moshe Landau, went to considerable length to justify its right to try Eichmann.
Regard Eichmann's complaint that he was kidnapped, the court described at length a case in Vermont in 1935 in which a man complained he was seized in Canada and brought to justice in the United States. The Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the method of bringing the man was unimportant. That, in effect, was what the Israeli tribunal decided in Eichmann's case.
Eichmann had argued that he was only an underling who carried out orders. But the court said: The laws of humanity are binding on individuals. The guilt of Germany as a state does not detract one ita from the personal responsibility of the accused."
Eichmann is expected to be sentenced Friday.
He was tried under Israel's Nazi and Nazi collaborators' law of 1950, which provides death as the maximum penalty. The death penalty never has been invoked.
The packed courtroom was deathly silent as the verdict of guilty was pronounced. Many of the 600 spectators had relatives were victims of the Nazi pogrom or were themselves survivors of the death camps.
There was not a sigh or a ripple at the abrupt one-sentence verdict, which Judge Landau spoke rapidly before beginning to outline the court's reasoning.
The reading of the judgment was continue through today and Tuesday. Atty. Gen. Gideon Hauser -- who prosecuted the case, presented tons of captured documents and 112 witnesses -- will then advise the court on the penalty.
Defense counsel Robert Servatius of West Germany will make his final plea and Eichmann will be allowed to speak in his own behalf.
The court rejected Eichmann's defense plea that Israel had no right to try him for crimes committed elsewhere and under a law passed years after the crimes.
"The court finds the law in the best tradition of international law," the judgment found. The court said international crimes were tried as far back as the Middle Ages in areas where the guilty were caught. Piracy cases were so conducted on the theory that "all mankind must declare war against" such violations. The Israeli judges said this reasoning applies to Eichmann as well.
"A person guilty of piracy has placed himself beyond the protection of any state," the court said.
Eichmann, as chief of the Gestapo's bureau for Jewish affairs, was no better than a pirate, the tribunal concluded.
It was Eichmann's job to round up the Jews, arrange transport to the death camps and see that the human cargo was delivered. Out of that master Nazi plan to wipe out the Jewish race, six million ded, more than half of all of Europe's Jewish population.
If Eichmann is sentenced to death, his counsel can appeal to the state Supreme Court. If the high court rejects the appeal, Eichmann can ask clemency from President Izhak Ben-Zvi.

Friday, December 15:

From The Associated Press:

JERUSALEM -- Adolf Eichmann, Nazi Germany's expediter of Jews to the gas chambers, was sentenced today to be hanged in Israel for "a crime of unparalleled enormity." But no execution date was set pending appeals that may take several months.
Moshe Landau, president of the three-man Israeli court which tried and convicted the former Gestapo colonel, intoned:
"This court sentences Adolf Eichmann to death for crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity and war crimes."
Eichmann, now 55 and balding, stood stiffly erect for 15 minutes while the tribunal first gave its reasons and then condemned him to be hanged. Six hundred persons packing the courtroom were deadly silent throughout the brief session, then filed out with hardly a sound.
Still the "block of ice" Jewish survivors of the Nazi pogram called him, Eichmann never even gulped visibly. He quieted the facial nervous twitch evident during the trial, and his hands hung loose and unclenched by his side.
Eichmann, who had scornfully refused to plead for mercy before the sentence was pronounced, was told he has 10 days to file notice of appeal with the court and an additional five days to draft his reasons.
The chief defense counsel, Dr. Robert L. Servatius from West Germany, was advised if he felt the time given him was too short, he could ask the president of the supreme court or his deputy for an extension.
Dr. Servatius, already at work on Eichmann's appeal, told the court: "Thank you for the guidance and I shall think it over."
Decision on the appeal is not expected before March. If it goes against Eichmann, he can apply to Israeli President Izhak Ven-Zvi for clemency.

* "Eichmann Sentenced" (newsreel): @
* Judgment (from nizkor.org): @
* Eichmann's final statement to the court (from remember.org): @
* Links to Hannah Arendt's articles for The New Yorker: @
* Earlier post on abduction (May 11, 1960): @
* Earlier post on opening of trial, including links to several resources (April 11, 1961): @


1961: The origins of 'Ms.'

Sheila Michaels was a member of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and like other feminists was seeking an honorific that didn't disclose her private status. One day a newspaper dropped into her mailbox and she noticed what seemed to be a misprint in the address: Ms. She had never seen it before, but decided that this was what she sought.
There was still difficulty promoting the idea, but in a later radio interview discussing feminism, Michaels suggested that Ms. be adopted, and pronounced Miz as she had heard in her home state of Missouri. A friend of Gloria Steinem's heard the interview, and in 1971 suggested it to Ms. Steinem as the name for a new magazine about to be launched. The first issue of Ms. magazine sold 300,000 copies in one week, and the 'new' honorific started to take hold.

Note: In an email, Ms. Michael says the newspaper arrived in late 1961.

* Article from New York Times Magazine (October 2009): @
* "Missing piece of puzzle in story of 'Ms.' " (from japantimes.co.jp): @
* "Hunting the Elusive First 'Ms.' " (from visualthesaurus.com): @

-- More about Ms. Michaels' work in civil rights
* Entries from Civil Rights Movement Veterans (www.crmvet.org): @ and @
* Televised interview, 2009: @
* Oral history (from the University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Oral History & Cultural Heritage): @
* Sheilah Michaels Papers (housed at USM): @


December 11, 1961: 'Black Nativity'

From the book "Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History":

On this date in 1961, "Black Nativity" opened on Broadway. Langston Hughes' self-described "gospel song play" was staged at New York City's Lincoln Theater. The Christmas story performed in dialog, narrative, pantomine, gospel song and folk spirituals in an expression of Hughes' late-in-life interest in African-American spirituality and the oral traditions of the African-American church.

(Note: The Broadway opening was actually at the 41st Street Theatre.)

From a review in The New York Times:

There is a lot of song but hardly any play in Langston Hughes' Christmas song-play, "Black Nativity" ... what play there is might well be dispensed with. It takes the form of amateurish choreography, which gets in the way of the gospel singing. If there is any justification for "Black Nativity," it is in the singing. ... The rhythms are so vibrant that they seem to lead an independent existence. The voices plunge into sudden dark growls like muted trombones and soar in ecstatic squeals like frantic clarinets. ... It is not always art -- and the occasional organ sounds are embarrasingly cloying -- but it is overflowing in fervor.

* Excerpt from "Langston Hughes" (book by Harold Bloom): @
* Excerpt from "The Collected Works of Langston Hughes": (book): @
* Selections from "Black Nativity": @
* More about Hughes (from www.poetryfoundation.org): @


December 1961: Pampers

The disposable diapers are test-marketed in early December in Peoria, Illinois, by manufacturer Procter & Gamble. However, shoppers considered the cost -- 10 cents per diaper -- too expensive, and the product did not achieve nationwide success until P&G could sell them for about half that, thanks to advances in production.

* Excerpt from the book "Rising Tide: Lessons from 165 Years of Brand Building at Procter & Gamble": @
* Excerpt from the book "Strategic Marketing Management: A Means-End Approach": @
* "Disposable diapers are 25 years old now" (Associated Press article, 1986): @


Undated: 'Merda d'artista'

Italian artist Piero Manzoni creates 90 tin cans, all (presumably) containing his own feces. The cans are labeled in Italian, English, French and German:

"Artist's Shit / Contents: 30 gr net / Freshly preserved / Produced and Tinned / In May 1961."

He prices each can for what 30 grams of gold would cost at the time of purchase. The works were first exhibited in August; gold was selling for about $35.25 an ounce, meaning a single can intially sold for about $37.

From an essay on "Commodity Self" by Jennifer Way in the 2010 book "Encyclopedia of Identity, Volume 1," edited by Ronald L. Jackson II:

Interestingly, modern Western societies abhor overtly valuing individuals as commodities and seeming to directly exchange human life for money. Many find putting a price on a person objectionable if not also ludicrous. Nevertheless, in The Preservation of Self in Everyday Life, sociologist Erving Goffman observed that the middle classes made sense of themselves in terms of consumer culture, for example, as a finished product, polished and packaged for the social market. In 1961, something along the lines of a packaged self issued from the art world. ... Institutions from the art world valued the series for its contradictions. On one hand, the series seemed to avoid commodification because like many works of art, it insisted on qualities such as uniqueness and person expression, which was typical of avant-garde art. On the other hand, their standardized appearance rendered the cans similar to other consumer goods, and they were like some advertisements that avoid revealing what their rhetoric promotes. Additionally, associating waste with art raised important questions about value, the body, and the self. Do we value anything an artist generates ... ?

* Description from official website: @
* Description from Tate Collection: @
* "Excremental Value" (Tate Etc. magazine, 2007): @
* "Not exactly what it says on the tin" (The Guardian newspaper, 2007): @
* "Piero Manzoni: An Exemplary Life" (Art in America magazine, May/June, 1973): @
* "Poop Culture: How America Is Shaped By Its Grossest National Product" (book by Dave Praeger): @


Tuesday, December 5, 1961: Escape from East Berlin

From the book "Berlin Wall: Monument of the Cold War" by Hans-Hermann Hertle:

Train driver Harry Deterling and his wife Ingrid do not want to live in the GDR as prisoners with their four children. In early December 1961, word gets around among railway employees that a still-open rail connection to Berlin is soon to be blocked off. Harry Deterling resolves to escape immediately to West Berlin on this line by steam train. On December 5 1961, he tells his relatives and friends the departure time: "The last train to freedom departs today at 7.33 p.m."

At around 8.50 p.m., the train driven by Harry Deterling passes the East German terminus, Albrechtstof, crosses the border and stops on West German territory. As a safety precaution, train driver Deterling and his stoker Hartmut Lichy have climbed into the coal tender while crossing the border; the passengers who know about the escape have thrown themselves onto the floor -- but not a shot is fired.

Twenty-five passengers remain in the West; seven return to East Berlin of their own accord. The train is pulled back to the West by a GDR locomotive.

The railway line is closed off the very next day. Tracks are torn up and barriers put in place; the border is made impassable. No train ever succeeds in breaking through the barriers again.

* Associated Press article (December 6; headline at left): @
* "The Berlin Wall: Monument of the Cold War" (book): @


Monday, December 4, 1961: Yves Saint Laurent

From "International Directory of Company Histories":

Yves Mathieu-Saint-Laurent was born in the French Algerian port town of Oran in 1936. At the age of 18, Saint Laurent journeyed to Paris to begin a career as a fashion designer. Success was immediate: in November 1954 Saint Laurent was awarded his first prize, the Prix Robe (dress) in a competition held by the Secretariat. ...

Less than a year after his arrival in Paris, Saint Laurent entered the prestigious house of Christian Dior as Dior's assistant designer and designated heir-apparent. Saint Laurent debuted his first major design, an evening gown, in 1955. Two years later, at Dior's death, Saint Laurent assumed direction of the Christian Dior line. Saint Laurent's first full collection, dubbed Trapeze, debuted on January 30, 1958. The collection was a hit, elevating Saint Laurent to instant celebrity and earning the 21-year-old designer the prestigious Nieman Marcus Award for the Dior house. Three years later Saint Laurent set out to found his own fashion empire. Leaving Dior, Saint Laurent, joined by Pierre Berge, established his own maison de couture on the rue la Boetie in Paris in July 1961. The partners, assisted by several former Dior employees and backed financially by the American J. Mack Robinson, officially opened the House of Saint Laurent on the rue Spontini in December 1961, presenting the first true Yves Saint Laurent collection -- under the famed YSL logo designed by Cassandre -- one month later.

1961 photo of Yves Saint Laurent and dancer Zizi Jeanmaire by Getty Images.

* Biography from Fashion Model Directory: @
* Entry from "The Berg Companion to Fashion" (book by Valerie Steele): @
* Fashion show footage from 1962: @
* 1992 BBC documentary on Saint Laurent: @
* "The Genius of Yves Saint Laurent" (New York magazine, November 1983): @
* 2008 obituary from The Guardian newspaper: @
* Official website: @


December 1961: Avrocar

The joint Canada-United States project to develop a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) craft ends when the U.S. military withdraws funding for the Avrocar. The flying-saucer-like vehicle proved unstable in flight.

* Entry from National Museum of the Air Force: @
* Entry from "The Encyclopedia of Science": @
* Entry from Arrow Digital Archives: @
* "The Pentagon's Flying Saucer Problem" (Air & Space magazine, 2003): @
* Project Silver Bug summary: @
* Air Force technical report on Project Silver Bug (February 1955): @
* Newspaper stories from 1999 and 2000: @
* Footage: @
* "Flaws of the Avrocar" (video from howstuffworks.com): @


Friday, December 1, 1961: Fallout shelter sign

A press release issued on this date by the Department of Defense:

The National Fallout Shelter Sign will be a familiar sight in communities all over the United States next year. It will mark buildings and other facilities as areas where 50 or more persons can be sheltered from radioactive fallout resulting from a nuclear attack. The sign will be used only to mark Federally-approved buildings surveyed by architect-engineer firms under conract to the Department of Defense. The color combination, yellow and black, is considered as the most easily identified attention getter by psychologists in the graphic arts industry. The sign can be seen and recognized at distances up to 200 feet. The shelter symbol on the sign is a black circle set against a yellow rectangular background. Inside the circle, three yellow triangles are arranged in geometric pattern with the apex of the triangles pointing down. Below the fallout symbol, lettered in yellow against black, are the words FALLOUT SHELTER in plain block letters. Yellow directional arrows are located directly underneath the lettering which will indicate the location of the shelter.

"An Indelible Cold War Symbol: The Complete History of the Fallout Shelter Sign" (from conelrad.blogspot.com): @
* Signs page from Civil Defense Museum: @
* Signs page from Health Physics Instrumentation Museum Collection (Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Tennessee): @
* "Protection Factor 100" (1963 Office of Civil Defense film about National Fallout Shelter Survey Program): @
* "September 1961: Fallout shelters" (blog entry): @

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