October 11, 2009

Remembering Learning of the Battle of Oxford

Until I saw this linked on Instapundit, I never knew such an event took place:

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, Oxford, Miss., will be coming to terms with one of the major events of its past. Forty years ago on that day, in the early morning, a force of nearly 30,000 American combat troops raced toward Oxford in a colossal armada of helicopters, transport planes, Jeeps and Army trucks.

Their mission was to save Oxford, the University of Mississippi and a small force of federal marshals from being destroyed by over 2,000 white civilians who were rioting after James Meredith, a black Air Force veteran, arrived to integrate the school.

The troops were National Guardsmen from little towns all over Mississippi, regular Army men from across the United States and paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.

They had to capture the city quickly; the F.B.I. had intelligence that thousands of Klansmen and segregationists from California to Georgia may have set off for Oxford, many of them armed.

The first troops to reach Oxford found over 100 wounded federal marshals at the center of campus, 27 of them hit by civilian gunfire. Packs of hundreds of rioters swarmed the city, some holding war dances around burning vehicles.

Snipers opened fire on the Army convoys and bricks struck the heads of American soldiers. Black G.I.'s in one convoy were ambushed by white civilians who tried to decapitate them in their open Jeeps with metal pipes....

...The Army troops restored order to the school and the city, block by block. A girl watched a team of infantrymen under attack on the Oxford town square and, according to a reporter at the scene, wondered aloud, "When are they going to shoot back?" Except for a few warning shots, they never did.

This is just another dark chapter in American history that the "higher powers" in our education system preferred us not to know about growing up, like the Battle of Athens or the Wilmington Insurrection.

The claim has always been that " history is written by the winners," but have we lost knowing ourselves when both the winners and losers refuse to acknowledge what occurred?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at October 11, 2009 10:27 PM

I'm with you on the surprise. Glad to at least be learning about it now. Thanks to this internet-thingy that kind of secrecy should be in the past. After seeing the same link you did, I emailed it to my sister and brother-in-law. I'm guessing they'll pass it on as well.

This is how I commented to them on this story:

I had never heard of this event, and don't recall learning about it in any classes. The Civil Rights era is not something I've spent any time studying, not sure why. Certainly these soldiers were the best of us, and deserve to be remembered.

But read that article and think about it for a minute. We were all already alive, being taught by and influenced by the peers of these rioting civilians. Their view was, at that time, widely held, though their actions were far in the extreme. How very much has changed, how quickly.

Sure, there are changes to the technology and the stuff; those things change our actions. More shocking is what has deeply changed, in such a short time - what we think and feel about integration. Has there ever been such a seismic shift in a population's belief system - that did not require massive amounts of death? Usually that kind of change to a population's thoughts and beliefs requires a population-destroying plague, war, or invasion - something to cause complete change in societal makeup, something that makes changing thoughts a matter of survival. Plague devastates the population, peasants become landowners, serfs become shopkeepers, lords become farmers, class lines blur of necessity. But within our lifetime...from thousands rioting over a black guy attending college to the racial composition of my nephews being a big "who cares".

For all her faults, this country and her people amaze me in the most wonderful ways. It's nice to take a step back a gaze appreciatively at what God gave us, and the many good things we've been able to do with that gift.

And in case the message isn't clear - the American Military is without question, the best the world has ever seen.

(FYI, when I write to family, I write in the same run-on sentences with which I speak. They understand, read it in my tone of voice, and are required by law to love me anyway!)

Posted by: Less at October 11, 2009 11:04 PM

47 years ago. NYT editors did not read the article, first it says "Forty years ago on that day" then says "The Cuban missile crisis unfolded just weeks later, wiping Oxford from the front pages". The actual date was Oct 1, 1962.

Posted by: Richard Roark at October 11, 2009 11:07 PM

I knew of this, though not that it was that bad, and I know of the White Citizens League attacking the police of N.O. in 1874 (The Battle of Liberty Place. . the NOPD at the time was integrated) and know several people who decry the loss. . . of the successes of the WCL and KKK. They also wish the Fools had won in Oxford, and that we still remain segregated after the take over in Louisiana.
These idiots I know are also having one other thing in common with the WCL and KKK. They are all, to this day, democrats.
As far as we've come, we still have a long way to go.

Posted by: JP at October 12, 2009 01:47 AM

>>"Forty years ago on that day, in the early morning, a force of nearly 30,000 American combat troops raced toward Oxford in a colossal armada of helicopters, transport planes, Jeeps and Army trucks."

Isn't that illegal?

Posted by: Steve at October 12, 2009 07:53 AM

History is written by the poets, writers and film makers who shape popular culture. Thus the brutal reality of the South between 1876 and the 1960s got pushed aside for visions romantic, bucolic or gothic in nature in which race was seldom, if ever, mentioned.

I hadn't heard of this incident, either. That doesn't surprise me. The left isn't about to celebrate the military's role while those writers who do celebrate the military generally aren't interested in the Civil Rights movement.

Posted by: NC Mountain Girl at October 12, 2009 09:07 AM

The article is dated September 28, 2002, so "40 years ago" was correct when it was published.

Posted by: rafinlay at October 12, 2009 09:50 AM


Contrast this article with the real life 2009 college footbal scene in Oxford this past Saturday when the nearly all-black home Ol' Miss team played the nearly all-black visiting team from.....ALABAMA!!!.... both sides cheered on furiously by their nearly all white fans!!

Irony thick enough to cut with a knife.

Posted by: Earl T at October 12, 2009 09:58 AM

Steve, suggest you read up on just what it is the National Guard is for.

Posted by: DavidB at October 12, 2009 11:03 AM

I suggest that you read the article.

"The troops were National Guardsmen from little towns all over Mississippi, regular Army men from across the United States and paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions."

I repeat - is that legal?

Posted by: Steve at October 12, 2009 12:09 PM

It's a good question Steve. Wikipedia has the following, FWIW:

"There are a number of situations in which the Act does not apply. These include:

National Guard units while under the authority of the governor of a state;

Troops used under the order of the President of the United States pursuant to the Insurrection Act, as was the case during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

Under 18 U.S.C. 831, the Attorney General may request that the Secretary of Defense provide emergency assistance if civilian law enforcement is inadequate to address certain types of threats involving the release of nuclear materials, such as potential use of a nuclear or radiological weapon. Such assistance may be by any personnel under the authority of the Department of Defense, provided such assistance does not adversely affect U.S. military preparedness."

So it sounds like it might be legal. However, I get the impression that the reason the Gov't wanted to keep the whole incident hush-hush, was to both downplay the level of racial strife in the south as well as the fact that the US Gov't sent troops to potentially fire on US citizens. Really a no-win situation, and as such, best to sweep under the rug as quickly as possible.

Posted by: Jason at October 12, 2009 12:54 PM

The above quote was on the Posse Comitatus Act, in case anyone was wondering.

Posted by: Jason at October 12, 2009 12:56 PM

Regulars went to Little Rock, and Detroit in 1967.
Posse Comitatus--they were big on us knowing that at Benning in 69--forbids the use of federal, i.e. regulars, in law enforcement.
Exception is after declaration of martial law.
The Alabama Guard was federalized when U of Alabama was integrated and the governor stood in the school house door. I suppose that made them regulars for the moment.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 12, 2009 03:11 PM

I was in the 101st. in 1962. I was not sent to Oxford, but several friends were. These friends told me on their return that the regular army troops were not issued ammunition. It therefore dosn't surprise me that they didn't fire back.
The troops that went were issued both M-1 and M-14 rifles with bayonets. None of them said that they had been fired on.
Paul in Texas

Posted by: Paul at October 12, 2009 03:22 PM

I had a company commander who was a corporal at Little Rock, commanding a gun jeep. Had the old Browning air-cooled thirty on a pintle mount.
The ROE were scary. Fortunately, nutcases like those rioting were smart enough not to mess with paratroopers or there would have been a lot fewer of them the next day.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 12, 2009 03:57 PM

The third brigade 82nd. was in Detroit in 67. The story goes that LBJ called and said he wanted a paratrooper on every corner by morning and they were there. Four months later we were in Vietnam to stop NVA infiltration from Ah Shau into Hue. It took five days to accomplish that deployment.

Posted by: bman at October 12, 2009 04:00 PM

Earl T., also note the Alabama lineman who's fight with his white girlfriend got him arrested and almost suspended from the team. If not for her white father who interceded for the black player because he was such a big cog in the big crimson machine. Lots of stuff has changed where George Wallace once stood in the door. I would like to say also that a couple favorite sayings of George was that that there wasn't a dimes worth of different between the republican and democratic parties, so much truer today, he also said that government money meant government control and people did not seem to give a damn. Well do we today or not?

Posted by: tjbbpgobIII at October 12, 2009 06:33 PM

Are you kidding?? James Meredith and the riot at Ole Miss is one of the most well-known, well- publicized event of the civil rights era. And you're just hearing about it now?

Posted by: Landru at October 13, 2009 02:22 PM