Journal-News, Wednesday, April 5, 2000
Vietnam War drama ended in 1975
By Jim Blount
Nearly 25 years ago, Americans watched with mixed disbelief and relief as the last vestige of United States participation in the Vietnam ended. It didn’t take days or weeks for dramatic newsreels to reach local theater and TV screens. It was instant. Unlike previous wars, the climatic moments were televised. In April 1975, the desperate human scramble to board the last U. S. helicopters out of Saigon unfolded on TV sets in our homes, schools and work places.
A few days later, this writer observed that it was nearly impossible from "an immediate perspective" to write a history of U. S. involvement in Vietnam. "In fact, it may be the most difficult war to chronicle and explain" in U. S. History. After of 25 years, it remains so.
Those who lived through the period still disagree on the complex political, military, economic and social questions that divided American opinion. For those born later, the Vietnam era is mostly a mystery.
Regarding the local situation, what we wrote in 1975 remains valid. Much of those comments contrasted the Vietnam years (1963-1975) with the home front during previous wars.
"There were no public recruiting rallies in Hamilton, Fairfield, Oxford or any part of Butler County," this writer said. "There were no parades specifically to demonstrate public support of the war effort." Also, "there were no campaigns to sell war bonds, and there were no drives to save precious metals or commodities. "In fact, it was a war which was seldom discussed in public or at social functions" because it was so controversial.
"War-related events on the local level were sparse," the 1975 column continued. "There were scattered anti-war demonstrations" and "petition drives in behalf of prisoners of war and those missing in action."
The most publicized incident in opposition to the war was on Miami University’s Oxford campus in the spring of 1970, a few days before the tragedy at Kent State University.
Estimates of the number of people involved and accounts of what happened varied. Reports also conflicted on whether the Oxford event was spontaneous or orchestrated -- and, if planned, by what group and for what purpose.
A university investigation later said April 15, 1970, "was a day of nationwide anti-war rallies," including a university-authorized rally on the north lawn of Roudebush Hall. From there, the action shifted to the lawn of Rowan Hall, the Navy ROTC building. Around 4:15 p.m. about 20 people forced the locked doors and began a sit-in in Rowan Hall.
Protester motives were uncertain, the university study said, with possibilities including "anti-war sentiment, anti-draft sentiment and anti-university administration attitudes." Other factors, it said, were "the impact of one of the first balmy days in spring, of curiosity, of a search for excitement, and an element of peer pressure to be where the action was that night." Some early news reports had inaccurately attributed the unrest to racial tensions.
As the demonstration continued, the Ohio Highway Patrol was summoned and other police agencies were alerted. About 9:45 the unauthorized occupants were formally requested to leave and warned that students in their midst would be suspended from the university. The first arrests were made about 30 minutes later. By the end of the night, 176 people had been arrested, and published tallies of those injured ranged from 50 to 65.
Nineteen days later -- with the deadly confrontation at Kent State May 4 -- the Oxford disruption diminished in importance. In 13 seconds of gunfire at Kent, four people were killed and nine wounded as students and the Ohio National Guard clashed.
In the tense aftermath of that tragedy, Miami and other Ohio universities closed May 7 as a precaution. On the Hamilton Campus, students petitioned to resume classes, and missed only a day and a half. Students in Oxford returned to classes May 18.
Later, more than 1,000 Miami students signed statements supporting the university’s handling of the Rowan Hall sit-in. Peaceful demonstrations and vigils continued on the Oxford campus until U. S. combat troops were pulled out March 29, 1973. The last Americans were evacuated April 29, 1975, the day before Saigon was surrendered to North Vietnam forces.
Another local aspect of the Vietnam War will be covered in this column next week.
# # #
Journal-News, Wednesday, April 12, 2000
Vietnam War claimed 81 area men
By Jim Blount
The Vietnam War and its varied home front manifestations remain vivid memories for many readers -- except those about 30 years of age and younger. For them the war -- that ended 25 years ago this month -- is one they’ve experienced mostly through reading or via a TV or movie screen.
It was April 30, 1975, that North Vietnam accepted the unconditional surrender of South Vietnamese President Duong Van Minh in Saigon, ending a war that saw at least 8,000 Butler Countians serve in Vietnam and on surrounding Southeast Asia fronts.
That estimate of local involvement is based on a March 1971 report -- issued two years before U. S. combat troops were removed -- that said more than 7,380 Butler Countians had been among the 342,000 Ohioans who had been sent to Vietnam up to that time. The latest count lists at least 81 Butler County men who lost their lives during the war.
American involvement began in the 1950s when President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the first U. S. advisers into South Vietnam. In 1962, with John F. Kennedy in the White House, the U. S. military advisers increased to 12,000.
Aug. 7, 1964, five days after an alleged attack on U. S. ships in the Tonkin Gulf, Congress approved a resolution giving President Lyndon Johnson power to direct military action against communist North Vietnam. The first combat troops, about 3,500 Marines, landed in March 1965. U. S. forces numbered 200,000 by that year, and reached 540,000 in 1968. Cutbacks began in 1969 and the remaining 2,500 U. S. troops were withdrawn March 29, 1973. Some Americans remained for more than two years until Saigon fell April 30, 1975.
In the 1960s through the 1970s, young men possibly headed to war in Vietnam left the area without ceremony or notice. There were no speeches, bands or flag presentations. Some critics considered that an affront.
True, from the Civil War through World War II, the earliest draftees and volunteers left Hamilton with visible community support. In November 1940, for example, when the first World War II-era draftees departed for induction at Fort Thomas, Ky., about 400 patriotic Hamiltonians participated in a brief parade and ceremony.
Thirteen months later, after Pearl Harbor, government-ordered secrecy squelched public reports of the number of local military inductees and their departures for basic training. That remained policy through World War II and during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
The first area casualty was Air Force Captain Norman R. Davison, 28, killed in a plane crash in Vietnam Dec. 6, 1963, before massive U. S. participation in the war. He had graduated from Miami University and his wife was residing in Hamilton when his death was reported.
It was 20 months before a second name was added to the local death toll. Marine Pfc. Nelson Wilson, 19, was killed in action Aug. 31, 1965. About 16 to 18 months earlier he had been a senior at Taft High School, asking a teacher, with respectful curiosity, "Why are we studying about Vietnam?" (This writer was that teacher.)
Wilson was the first of four deaths reported in 1965. For a brief period that year, based on research by the Associated Press, the Hamilton area was believed to have suffered the highest casualty ratio in the Vietnam War.
Most Butler County deaths (63) were in a five years between August 1965 and August 1970. The deadliest year was 1967 when 17 men from this area died.
Unlike earlier wars, there were few published reports of men injured and wounded in Vietnam. Local newspapers had difficulty obtaining that information. Later, it was reported that the Defense Department had discouraged spouses and families from reporting such casualties to local media across the nation. As a result, Butler Countians have never known the extent to which men from this area were maimed and disabled in Southeast Asia.
In May 1975, the Vietnam tragedy reached here in another way. That’s when the first of several displaced Vietnamese families arrived in Hamilton to begin new lives. That family of four -- relocated from a tent city at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida -- was sponsored by Andrew Kornylak, a Hamilton industrialist.
# # #
Journal-News, Wednesday, April 19, 2000
Howells recalled market days
By Jim Blount
"Market day was a high day in the Boy’s Town, and it would be hard to say whether it was more so in summer than winter," recalled William Dean Howells in A Boy’s Town, an 1890 book about his boyhood in Hamilton. The noted writer and editor experienced the market in the 1840s between the formative ages of 3 and 11.
The origin of the Hamilton market is uncertain. It goes back to at least 1817. This is the second year that Historic Hamilton, in cooperation with the City of Hamilton, is encouraging patronage of the colorful tradition.
One of his vivid market memories, Howells said, was "the lines of wagons that stretched sometimes from the bridge to the courthouse" as Butler County farmers brought their offerings to downtown Hamilton.
"In summer, the market opened about 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, and by this hour my boy’s father was off twice a week with his market basket on his arm.
"All the people did their marketing in the same way; but it was a surprise for my boy, when he became old enough to go once with his father, to find the other boys’ fathers at market, too," he said.
"The market house, where the German butchers in their white aprons were standing behind their meat blocks, was lit up with candles in sconces that shone upon festoons of sausage and cuts of steak dangling from the hooks behind them."
"There was a market master, who rang a bell to open the market, and if anybody bought or sold anything before the tap of that bell, he would be fined." According to Howells, the smart shopper arrived well before the bell would ring.
"People would walk along the line of wagons, where butter and eggs, apples and peaches and melons, were piled up inside near the tailboards, and stop where they saw something they wanted, and stand near so as to lay hands on it the moment the bell rang," he wrote.
Howells remembered his father waiting for the bell at a wagon "of some nice old Quaker ladies." He surmised that "they probably had an understanding with him (his father) about the rolls of fragrant butter which he instantly lifted into his basket. But if you came long after the bell rang, you had to take what you could get."
"There was a smell of cantaloupes in the air along the line of wagons that morning, and so it must have been towards the end of the summer," said Howells, a prolific writer recognized in his time as "the dean of American letters."
"After the nights began to lengthen and to be too cold for the farmers to sleep in their wagons, as they did in summer on the market eves, the market time was changed to midday."
Howells recalled "the great heaps of apples and cabbages, and potatoes and turnips, and all the other fruits and vegetables which abounded in that fertile country. There was a great variety of poultry for sale, and from time to time the air would be startled with the clamor of fowls transferred from the coops where they had been softly err-crring in soliloquy to the hand of a purchaser who walked off with them and patiently waited for their well-grounded alarm to die away."
The market master’s authority wasn’t limited to sounding the starting bell, according to Howells, the author of hundreds of books, poems, short stories and articles.
"All the time the market master was making his rounds," he wrote, "and if he saw a pound of roll butter that he thought was under weight, he would weigh it . . . and if it was too light, he would seize it."
Howells was born March 1, 1837, in Martin's Ferry, Ohio. His family resided in Hamilton from 1840 through 1848, while his father edited a weekly newspaper.
# # #
Journal-News, Wednesday, April 26, 2000
Dr. John Francis from medical family
By Jim Blount
Dr. John Francis had practiced medicine in Hamilton for more than 50 years before he died May 25, 1948. "Throughout his medical career he was a general practitioner and most able at his profession," said his obituary, noting that the 86-year-old physician also "compiled a notable record as an anesthetist."
He was a son of Abner and Martha Vaughan Francis, born during the Civil War (Feb. 15, 1862) at Paddy’s Run -- a town of many names.
The post office in the Morgan Township community was known as Paddy’s Run between June 10, 1831, and Oct. 16, 1879. His birthplace -- whose names also have included New London, Vaughan, Cambria and Glendower -- became Shandon Aug. 26, 1892.
John Francis was raised on the family farm in Morgan Township with three sisters and four brothers.
After attending the Shandon school, he entered Wooster College in Wooster, Ohio. Francis graduated in 1886, and entered Miami Medical College (now the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine). He earned his medical degree in 1889 and completed his internship in Cincinnati a year later.
Dr. Francis, who never married, opened his practice in Hamilton Oct. 28, 1890, first in an office on South Third Street and for most of his long service at 230 Ludlow Street.
When he arrived in Hamilton, it was the era of house calls by doctors, who had no local hospital to help care for injured and seriously ill patients. It wasn’t until 1892 that a citizens committee collected $10,000 in pledges to start Mercy Hospital. That 15-bed institution was Butler County’s first hospital.
For more than 50 years -- although a prominent Hamilton resident and able physician -- Dr. Francis practiced medicine with a minimum of publicity while two younger brothers earned worldwide recognition in varying medical fields for their research and discoveries.
Dr. Mark Francis -- born March 19, 1863 -- was a veterinarian. He taught and conducted research at Texas A&M and is regarded as the savior of the Texas cattle industry. He developed immunization for Texas fever, an ailment believed once fatal to as much as 75 percent of the cattle in that state. The fever was so prevalent that other states prohibited the importation of Texas cattle.
Texas A&M designates major financial contributors to its college of veterinary medicine as Mark Francis Fellows, "people who are concerned about veterinary medicine in Texas" and "who recognize that the college . . . is in a unique position to make significant advancements for animals and human beings through education, research and service."
Another brother, Dr. Edward Francis -- born March 27, 1872 -- became a physician and served 37 years with the United States Public Health Service in Washington, D. C. As a researcher specializing in infectious diseases, his most notable achievement was identifying the cause of rabbit fever, which he named Tularemia Francis.
Paul de Kruif -- who also wrote Microbe Hunters -- devoted a chapter of his 1928 book, Hunger Fighters, to Dr. Edward Francis. He described the Butler County native as "a good obscure worker in the boldest band of death fighters that America's ever had the chance to be proud of."
Although their professional services varied and were performed in different locations, the three Francis doctors were reunited in death. They are buried in Shandon Cemetery. (The careers of Dr. Mark Francis and Dr. Edward Francis will be covered in more detail in future columns.)
The two oldest Francis brothers -- William, born in 1858, and David, born in 1859 -- were lifelong farmers in the Shandon area. William remained on his parents’ farm. Their three sisters -- Eliza Francis (born in 1865); Mary Francis Evans (1868) and Annie Francis Crafts (1873) -- moved away from Shandon as adults.
# # #
Journal-News, Opinion Page, Sunday, April 30, 2000
Hamilton experienced rare recall vote in 1948
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Some Fairfield residents have asked First Ward Councilman Jon Saylor to resign because of possible voting irregularities in his election to office Nov. 2, 1999. Saylor has refused to vacate his seat while the investigation continues. But, in a few weeks, citizens could initiate action to remove Saylor. This article reviews the right of recall, and an example its use in Hamilton 52 years ago.)
By Jim Blount
A little known part of the Ohio Constitution and most city charters, including those governing Hamilton and Fairfield, is recall. This gives citizens the right to petition to remove an elected official. It’s been employed once in Hamilton; never in Fairfield.
In both cities, the process requires a written statement of the "grounds alleged" for removal once "the elected official shall have served six months of his term." The reason doesn’t have to involve criminal activity. Neither city document refers to an indictment nor a conviction as a condition for requesting a recall.
To achieve a recall election in Hamilton, petitions must be signed by a number of eligible voters equal to at least 15 percent of those who voted in the last regular municipal election. In Fairfield, the signature requirement is 20 percent.
When all charter conditions are met, city council must schedule a recall election between 30 and 45 days after certifying the petitions. Voters face two decisions:
1. Shall the person be removed from office -- yes or no?
2. Who should assume the office if the majority vote to unseat the person?
Here’s what happened in Hamilton in 1948 when a councilman was subjected to recall in a highly politicized atmosphere.
Edward Beckett was elected to his second term on the seven-member council in November 1947. The recall movement began at a citizens meeting Jan. 3, 1948, but some legal questions delayed the petition campaign for several months.
Beckett’s transgression, according to his critics, was "broken promises." Others would say he was targeted for possibly changing his mind, or merely not making his intentions clear. The critical decision involved the future of the city manager, Frank R. Buechner, who had held that post since Sept. 23, 1946.
The Journal-News said Beckett "joined in a secret attempt" to persuade Buechner to resign. Also involved were three other councilmen, Andrew Bruck, an incumbent, and two newly-elected members, Frank Rosendahl and Vincent Emminger. When the city manager refused to resign, the four-man majority voted to dismiss Buechner Feb. 18, 1948.
Howard (Hack) Wilson -- who hadn’t sought reelection after serving three terms on council -- was offered the job and accepted. No other applicants were sought or considered. Wilson was appointed April 7, 1948, on the same 4-3 voting alignment. The dissenters were George Radcliffe, Robert Wittmam and William Beckett.
Wilson’s stormy tenure as city manager was brief. He announced his resignation, effective Aug. 1, 1948, after five councilmen failed to support him at a July 23 special meeting.
Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme Court had ruled unanimously that the recall section of the Hamilton city charter was constitutional, paving the way for petitioning by Edward Beckett’s critics, who took the name Hamilton Citizens Association (HCA).
K. Lewis Hackley chaired the group. Ford Hampton headed the petition drive, that ended Sept. 4 when 58 documents with 2,788 names were submitted to the city clerk. Later, it was determined there were 2,593 valid signatures, four more than the 2,589 required (15 percent of 17,259 valid ballots in the 1947 council election).
Under the charter, Beckett had a choice of resigning within five days, or facing the recall decision at the regular election, Nov. 2. Regardless, candidates were sought for the potential vacancy. Two men applied, John E. Hartleb and George Thomin.
When Beckett chose to fight his ouster, his campaign was directed by Wilson.
Beckett prevailed in the election by a margin of 1,513 votes, with 9,102 for recall, and 10,615 against. The total vote -- 19,717 -- exceeded the number who had cast ballots in the 22-candidate council contest a year earlier.
Beckett not only survived the recall, he was elected to eight more terms through 1967. In fact, he shares the record for most times elected to Hamilton council under the charter. Leo Welsh also was chosen 10 times, serving from 1928 until his death in 1947.
Beckett’s son, James W. Beckett, was elected to eight terms on council (1970-1984).
Wilson also remained prominent on the Hamilton political scene, including two more stints as city manager, 1957-1960 and 1970-1971. He also served a stint as director of parks and recreation.
# # #