December 7, 2013 By Chris Barber
RN answered the call for service following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, serving in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1946.
On this day, 72 years ago, Pearl Harbor was attacked and bombed by an Imperial Japanese Navy. On the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy,” the Nixon Foundation takes a look at how the 37th President learned of the bombing that brought the United States into World War II and how he volunteered for military service.
RN remembers in his memoirs:
One Sunday shortly before we were to leave for Washington, Pat and I decided to go to the movies in Hollywood. On the way we stopped for a visit at her sister Neva’s house. When we arrived, Neva’s husband, Marc, said that he had just heard on the radio an unconfirmed report that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. I said I was sure that it was just one more of the frequent scare stories we all had been hearing, and we went on to the matinee. Shortly before the film was finished, the theatre manager interrupted with an announcement that all servicemen had been called to their units immediately. When we left the theatre, I saw the headline: Japs Bomb Pearl Harbor. The newsboy held up the paper as I walked over. He said, ‘We’re at war, mister.’
A few days before December 7, 1941, Richard Nixon was offered a position with the Office of Price Administration (OPA) in Washington, D.C. Eight months of rationing coordination later, RN decided that he wanted to serve his country, despite his pacifist upbringing as a Quaker.
Many men in OPA were able to get draft deferments and spent the war in their offices. Despite my Quaker background and beliefs, I never considered doing this. When I heard that young lawyers were being recruited as officers for the Navy, I talked to Pat about it and applied for a commission. I was sent to the naval officer indoctrination school at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, in August 1942.
RN’s appointment diploma and letter for the Navy Reserves, signed by the Secretary of Navy, Frank Knox.
RN explains why he believed Quakerism was fundamentally flawed when in the face of a ruthless enemy:
The problem with Quaker pacifism, it seemed to me, was that it could only work if one were fighting a civilized, compassionate enemy. In the face of Hitler and Tojo, pacifism not only failed to stop violence—it actually played into the hands of a barbarous foe and weakened home-front morale
President Nixon was not satisfied with a shoreside role while men gave their lives abroad, so when the opportunity arose to apply for an overseas commission, he did not hesitate.
Just when it began to seem that I might be landlocked in Iowa for the rest of the war, I saw a notice that applications for sea duty would be accepted from officers aged twenty-nine, and I sent the application in immediately. Pat was worried about my safety, but she supported my decision to trip to play a real part in the war effort.
RN receives reassignment to San Francisco, where he will be preparing to sail out to the Pacific Theater.
RN was assigned to the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command (SCAT). His unit was responsible for preparing manifests and flight plans for C-47 aircraft as they made their rounds through the islands. Even though this unit was one that remained in the background, they experienced action when stationed in Bougainville.
Like many assigned ‘down the line,” I wanted to get where the action was, and I spent a lot of my time trying to get a battle-station assignment. Finally, in January 1944, I was assigned to Bougainville, which was a target for occasional Japanese bomber attacks. Shorty after I arrived, the Japanese staged an assault. When it was over, we counted thirty-five shell holes within a hundred feet of the air raid bunker six of us shared. Out tent had been completely destroyed.
RN, who in 1973 brought the Vietnam POWs home and invited them as guests to the White House, showed similar compassion for his fellow toops in the Pacific theater. Though not in the thick of battle, he thought of anything to help the fine men of the United States military.
Many fighter and bomber pilots came through Bougainville on their way to battle missions, and I felt that they deserved the best we could possibly give them. I used by SCAT resources to get small supplies of chopped meat and beer. Everyone in the unit had a nickname, and I was known as Nick Nixon. Whenever I received a fresh shipment, I opened ‘Nick’s Hamburger Stand’ and served a free hamburger and a bottle of Australian beer to flight crews who probably had not tasted anything to remind them of home in many weeks.
It is perhaps his time in the Pacific that molded his empathy and consideration of all military persons, and ultimately his dedication towards establishing long lasting peace in the modern world.
December 7, 2013 By Chris Barber
On the night of May 9, 1970, President Nixon made an unannounced and unprecedented visit to the Lincoln Memorial after his decision to attack North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia. He spoke to the youth who had been camped there preparing for the next day’s protests. It was just past four a.m. in the morning and the President, enduring a night of tossing and turning, spontaneously decided to bring his valet, Manolo Sanchez, and a small contingent of secret service agents to the Memorial. Egil Krogh, former Deputy Assistant to President Nixon for Domestic Affairs, was notified of the President’s doings and rushed to his location. Of the many topics President Nixon discussed, one made a lasting impression on Krogh—that of the American Indian.
In an interview with the Nixon Foundation last month, Krogh revealed what he heard on that night and told us his take on the administration’s American Indian effort. Krogh assisted the administration in resolving the Bureau of Indian Affairs building takeover in November of 1972, and handled the law enforcement aspects of prominent demonstrations.
Though Krogh only had peripheral involvement in crafting the administration’s overall American Indian policy, he lent some insightful thoughts on the President’s stance.
“Nixon was a very strong proponent of self-determination, and wanted to make sure that his Indian policies were really his sense of giving much more authority and power to the Indian nation,” he said. “I think he wanted to really do all he could, to support the efforts to bring them back, bring them forward to much better, more decent lives as he indicated.”
On September 27, 1968 then Presidential candidate Richard Nixon indicated his early support to rethink the country’s American Indian policy. In a statement addressed to The National Congress of American Indians, RN boldly drew the line on America’s “unwise and vacillating federal policies and serious, if unintentional, mistakes.”
“The right of self-determination of the Indian people will be respected and their participation in planning their own destiny will be encouraged,” RN claimed in this statement. “Termination of tribal recognition will not be a policy objective, and in no case will it be imposed without Indian consent.”
RN’s address to The National Congress of American Indians, indicating his early support for American Indian self-determination. His determination to bring justice to the American Indian was representative of his presidential goal to bring the nation, hampered by unrest and dissent, together and to formulate policies based on the desire of all Americans. In his first inaugural address, President Nixon orated his resolve to do just that:
“We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another—until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices. ..We will strive to listen in new ways—to the voices of quiet anguish, the voices that speak without words, the voices of the heart—to the injured voices, the anxious voices, the voices that have despaired of being heard.” RN, First Inaugural Address
President Nixon, as Krogh inferred, felt very heavily about the condition of the American Indian community. As it appeared to the President in these years of harsh divisiveness, if peace were to be established at home, it should also be brought to the first Americans. “I think Mr. Nixon felt strongly that the government, over many years, had really not given the Indian nation their proper due,” Krogh reflected. “We simply had failed them miserably, and taken things from them and violated treaty rights.” Asked whether or not the President faced heavy Congressional opposition—he couldn’t specifically recall. But Krogh believed that the administration was able to move forward with all the various programs it wanted to implement. At the dawn of 1970, Leonard Garment, former special consultant to President Nixon, sent a memorandum to the President offering insights as to the primacy of a Presidential Message on Indian Affairs. Garment deftly pointed out the buildup of pending initiatives as a green light for the President to make a public announcement.
Memo from Leonard Garment, special consultant to the President, detailing the primacy of a Presidential Message on Indian affairs in 1970.
On July 8, 1970, President Nixon delivered his American Indian Message. By the end of 1970, President Nixon amended Executive Order No. 11399 with respect to the membership of the national council on Indian opportunity and signed a bill restoring the Blue Lake lands in New Mexico to the Taos Pueblo Indians. It appeared the timing of the special message had paid off. Many more initiatives had been proposed—including economic development legislation for the American Indian—but they fell victim to a historically stagnant 91st Congress.
When members of the American Indian Movement commandeered the BIA building, it was critical that the administration take all steps possible towards mitigating the demonstration peacefully.
“We did what we could peacefully,” Krogh said. “I felt, and I think others did too, that if anybody had been injured or killed there, it would’ve been a real serious blow to the President’s very enlightened policies. We did not want that to happen.”
The administration strived fervently to listen to the voices of the anguished, despite the danger posed by demonstrators. They applied that in the case of the BIA incident, and President Nixon’s American Indian legacy remained intact.
“On the subject of America’s terrible treatment of the American Indian, he said that, ‘We had taken a proud and independent race and virtually destroyed them, and that we had to find ways to bring them back into decent lives in this country,’” Krogh recalled of the early morning visit with the demonstrators.
“That’s a very powerful statement right there. The fact that he made that at the Lincoln Memorial tied those two together in memory.”
December 7, 2013 By Nixon Foundation
By Scott Carlson
A White House Press Release detailing the Nixon Adminstration’s policies on the subject of desegregation of America’s elementary and secondary schools.
Prior to President Nixon’s first term, the first great strides were made in the civil rights movement. Legislation passed removing some of the final obstacles that had hindered minorities for decades. Minorities, by law at least, had equal access to jobs, education, and voting. Though the law may have given these rights to minorities, the enforcement of these laws was sporadic and largely ignored in some areas.
Yet major civil rights issues continued, and de facto segregation of schools, mainly in the South was still an issue when Richard Nixon took office. In his memoirs, President Nixon described school desegregation and busing as “the most explosive civil rights issue” during his presidency. He said that the issue of inequality of education was tougher to deal with because the segregation wasn’t enforced by law; rather this segregation was a natural development of economic and social patterns. This type of segregation was a naturally occurring outgrowth from previous decades of de jure segregation that occurred throughout the nation. When the civil rights laws were passed outlawing de jure segregation, segregation continued to be perpetuated in a de facto form.
In October of 1969, the Supreme Court came to a decision that required all schools across the nation to fully desegregate by February of 1970. President Nixon described this ruling as “well-intentioned but both legally and socially counterproductive.” He agreed that something needed to be done about segregation, yet he understood that it would take a gradual process to achieve full integration of schools. He strongly opposed a singular, strong handed enforcement policy from the federal government or from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. President Nixon also opposed busing saying, “I do not believe that schoolchildren should be torn from their home environments and, solely because of their race, be forced to go to distant schools where they might not be welcome or even safe.”
President Nixon believed that the best strategy for full integration would be formulated at the local and state level through the individual school districts. He said that the right approach to the issue would be to persuade the leaders from the South to understand and accept the “wisdom and humanity” behind the law. With this approach, President Nixon organized a Cabinet Committee on Education which would focus on this issue and formulate a plan for persuasion. Over the next few months, President Nixon and his committee met with representatives from seven of the Southern states which were struggling to desegregate.
Regarding his plan of persuading states to promote desegregation, President Nixon said, “I knew that I was walking a fine line between the instant integrationists and the segregation-forever extremists, but I felt that the risk would be well worth it if we could solve the problem without getting the federal government involved.”
When the school year was set to open in 1970, President Nixon was concerned about whether they would open peacefully or whether violence would occur and federal intervention would be needed. To his relief, the schools opened across the South peacefully and were compliant with the order of the Supreme Court.
President Nixon’s strategy on desegregating the schools peacefully through persuasion was an effective policy. When he took office in 1969, 68% of Southern black children were attending all black schools. By the end of President Nixon’s administration in 1974, only 8% of Southern black children were attending all black schools.
The process was also achieved in a peaceful and effective manner, and ultimately initiated progress and confirmed justice by putting the greater good of the country ahead of partisan politics.
December 4, 2013 By Nixon Foundation
On the website of First Things, papal biographer and author George Weigel reflects on the legacy of Peter Flanigan, generous philanthropist and a loyal friend and confidant of President Nixon who passed away this past summer at the age of 90.
Weigel recognizes Flanigan as one of the notable post-World War II Catholic Republicans who had an impact on American public life.
Flanigan was an integral part of that group of Catholic World War II veterans who re-cast American conservatism, helped effect one of the great political realignments in American history, and made the Republican Party a more comfortable home for Catholics.
Weigel admirably recounts Flanigan’s support of education philanthropy.
Although Peter Flanigan will be sorely missed, his memory will be blessed, especially by the kids he gave a chance.
Click here to read the full article
Click here to read more from the Nixon Foundation on Peter Flanigan
December 4, 2013 By Chris Barber
The oft-covered Iranian Nuclear Deal and the future developments that will result from it will greatly determine the stake of U.S.-Middle Eastern relations. The initial rapprochement between Iran and the P5+1 nations has generated such conjecture over the future of Middle Eastern geo-political relations that it has drawn comparisons to President Nixon’s diplomatic overture with China in 1972.
But does this deal with Iran truly compare to the stroke of skillful diplomacy President Nixon displayed?
Let us take a look at what the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran constitutes:
-A commitment to halt progress on the growth of existing stockpiles of low enriched uranium, to halt work on the heavy-water reactor at Arak, and full access by IAEA inspectors to all nuclear facilities.
-A limited, temporary, and reversible relief package that would provide $7 billion in relief, a fraction of Iran’s approximately $100 billion inaccessible foreign exchange holdings.
The Iranian Nuclear Deal is a concentrated effort towards mitigating nuclear hegemonic concerns. Some declare this a failure for United States foreign policy because it concedes too much to an untrustworthy nation. There are obviously some who declare the deal a success because it opens new diplomatic channels to a once isolated Iran.
But pundits on either side of the spectrum miss the point. The deal is a reaction to a very specific Iranian element, and is not emblematic of overarching Iranian interests or P5+1 interests. Coupling nuclear capabilities with all diplomatic interests of a nation is short-sited; it is difficult to negotiate with a country when a large portion of its economic capability is controlled by other world powers.
When we look back to the Nixon presidency, we see a leader who postured himself in favor of a new-age diplomacy—one that included diplomatic overtures with an isolated China. Leaders of the modern world should be mindful of how President Nixon established diplomatic relations with China, especially given the unknowns of China at that time.
He recognized in the 1960s that to continue on the same path of American indifference to the Chinese situation was unrealistic and dangerous, particularly in the case that China developed nuclear weapons.
“Taking the long view, we simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors. There is no place on this small planet for a billion of its potentially most able people to live in angry isolation.” RN, Nixon on the Issues
President Nixon would open the door to China with the foot of his diplomatic forte—“to carefully distinguish between long-range and short-range policies, and fashioning short-range programs so as to advance our long-range goals.”
These long-range goals were reflected upon in a set of letters from the President to critical allies in Taiwan and South Vietnam. He assured his allies that his visit to the “enemy” would not countermand prearranged treaty agreements. He urged them to understand the purpose “to help ensure that these events will move [all nations] in the direction of a stable and enduring international order.”
RN’s letters to President Nguyen Van Thieu of the Republic of Vietnam and President Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China stating his unwavering support of his allies’ interests despite meeting with Communist China.
A memo dated February 21, 1972, transcribes the famed conversation between President Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong at the onset of the China trip. During the conversation, he fashioned to Mao the purpose of their meeting:
“What brings us together is a recognition of a new situation in the world and a recognition on our part that what is important is not a nation’s internal political philosophy,” President Nixon said. “What is important is its policy toward the rest of the world and toward us.”
Transcript of conversation between President Nixon and Chairman Mao, talks that set the stage for the successful Shanghai Joint Communiqué.
In a conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua discussing final revisions to the joint communiqué, Kissinger reiterated the President’s strategy and the importance of the document.
“That after this long interval it has been a very delicate and difficult task for both of us, in which there are many obstacles ahead and in which both sides have had to exercise great restraint on many issues which are quite complex for them, but that it is in the spirit that it should be considered, and not every single word in the communiqué.”
Transcript of Henry Kissinger and Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua in the final stages of Joint Communiqué revisions.
Philosophical differences aside, President Nixon set the stage for the successful establishment of the Shanghai Joint Communiqué.
The differences between the communiqué and the current Iranian nuclear deal are glaring; while the deal narrowly discusses nuclear terms, the communiqué established a statement of both sides’ differences as well as agreements, particularly agreements in the principles of international relations and peace.
If President Nixon were overseeing negotiations with Iran today, he might proclaim that the Middle East cannot be safe until Iran changes just as he once said the world cannot be safe until China changes.
“The way to do this is to persuade China that it must change: that it cannot satisfy its imperial ambition, and that its own national interest requires a turning away from foreign adventuring and turning inward toward the solution of its own domestic problems.” RN, Nixon on the Issues
The administration convinced China to change via subtle signals and the establishment of various backchannels for communication. President Nixon made many low-level signals to the Chinese demonstrating an interest in opening discussions with China in 1969, a time when its relationship with the Soviet Union was hostile. When the trip to China was announced, the United States halted U-2 reconnaissance flights over Mainland China and attempted at all possible to prevent its Laotian agents operating in Northern Laos from entering Communist China. Through the use of backchannel sources, the United States pledged to provide intelligence reports of Soviet military activity to Chinese officials. To establish trust between both sides would take time, but it began with an extended hand from the United States and an acceptance of internal differences from both parties.
The Obama administration has initiated a short-term goal, believing that this in of itself is enough to quell concerns over Iran’s aggressive behavior. To apply Nixonian diplomacy, the administration will have to convince Iranian leaders, most notably Supreme leader of Iran Ali Khamenei, that it must turn away from opposition of the Israeli state and western powers and solve its own domestic political issues.
Only then can there confidently be a path towards normalization with Iran and peace in the Middle East.