Collecting Delaware Books

Vietnam War Protest in Delaware

Published in 1997

joseph donald craven
Joseph Donald Craven

Joseph Donald Craven's book, All Honorable Men: The Anti-War Movement in Delaware 1965-1966, privately printed in 1978, takes as its main title a quotation from Shakespeares Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 2. And the content of the book consists largely of quotations from important figures in the anti-war debate. It supplies the historian with a good base for study.

The book starts with a summary of war sentiment from the administrations of presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.

Anti-war sentiment in Delaware was not very visible. Civil rights leaders and members of the Society of Friends voiced protest that had little political effect. Students at the University of Delaware had louder voices, especially after the Kent State University killings. There was even an attempt to fire bomb the ROTC building.

In June 1965, the Wilmington Evening Journal printed a nationally syndicated column by David Lawrence about Americas intervention in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic, saying such intervention was justified and that the American people supported it. Craven immediately wrote a letter to the editor taking issue with Lawrence.

Craven was a native Delawarean, lawyer, and teacher. He served as Attorney General of Delaware from 1955 to 1959. He was not re-nominated by the Democratic Party, because, according to Craven, of his strict enforcement of gambling and traffic laws.

His letter to the editor was printed by the Journal on July 3, 1965, under the title "Lives of Sons Too Precious." It argued we had no legal or moral right to be in Vietnam, we were risking nuclear catastrophe, the French had not been able to win with 500,000 troops, and American blood should not be shed. He further claimed the American citizens and members of Congress who protested the war were being subject to McCarthy-like tactics.

Shortly thereafter John J. Williams, one of Delawares two U.S. Senators, told a regional meeting of Young Republicans "We should ship them [peace demonstrators] on the front lines and tell them to start marching." Craven responded in writing.

On March 3, 1966, Craven and 35 others met to form the Constitution Party to elect a U.S. Senator opposing the war. Craven took part in a well-publicized debate with political science professor Ralph E. Purcell in the spring of 1966 at a monthly breakfast meeting at Temple Beth Shalom of Wilmington. Veteran reporter Bill Frank wrote "Craven wiped the floor with Dr. Purcell." Frank went on to say, however, that the Constitution Party had little chance to be heard or to elect its candidate.

The major parties did not leave it to chance. A bill was passed in the Delaware legislature requiring minor political parties to have a certain number of signatures on nominating petitions from people who were not already registered as Democrats or Republicans. Governor Terry delayed signing with bill until one day before signatures would be required. Appeals to the state supreme court were unsuccessful.

After the withdrawal from Vietnam, Craven tried to obtain a list of the American war dead. He found no such list by state was available from the federal government and that no one in Delaware had compiled one. He began to put together such a list from local newspaper accounts. The list of 158 known dead appears in the appendix to the book. Name, rank, date of death, and home town are included.

The book also includes copies of Cravens extensive correspondence and 25 news clippings from the News-Journal papers.

All Honorable Men is one man's strong views on one of our countrys most divisive issues as it affected Delaware. Admittedly, it is biased, but no one has came forward to report the other view. It remains the one book to start from, if you are interested in the period. It lacks an adequate index, however. Copies are fairly common and not expensive.

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