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The American South and the Vietnam War: Belligerence, Protest, and Agony in Dixie

by Joseph A. Fry

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Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy, and Peace
456 pages  Pubdate: 06/19/2015  6 x 9  18 b&w photos

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To fully comprehend the Vietnam War, it is essential to understand the central role that southerners played in the nation’s commitment to the war, in the conflict’s duration, and in the fighting itself. President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas and Secretary of State Dean Rusk of Georgia oversaw the dramatic escalation of U.S. military involvement from 1965 through 1968. General William Westmoreland, born and raised in South Carolina, commanded U.S. forces during most of the Johnson presidency. Widely supported by their constituents, southern legislators collectively provided the most dependable support for war funding and unwavering opposition to measures designed to hasten U.S. withdrawal from the conflict. In addition, southerners served, died, and were awarded the Medal of Honor in numbers significantly disproportionate to their states’ populations.

In The American South and the Vietnam War, Joseph A. Fry demonstrates how Dixie’s majority pro-war stance derived from a host of distinctly regional values, perspectives, and interests. He also considers the views of the dissenters, from student protesters to legislators such as J. William Fulbright, Albert Gore Sr., and John Sherman Cooper, who worked in the corridors of power to end the conflict, and civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, and Julian Bond, who were among the nation’s most outspoken critics of the war. Fry’s innovative and masterful study draws on policy analysis and polling data as well as oral histories, transcripts, and letters to illuminate not only the South’s influence on foreign relations, but also the personal costs of war on the home front.

Joseph A. Fry is Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His most recent books include Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789–1973 and Debating Vietnam: Fulbright, Stennis, and Their Senate Hearings.

A major contribution to the existing literature on the Vietnam conflict. The American South and the Vietnam War intervenes in key and historiographically underdeveloped conversations regarding the role of domestic politics and domestic regionalism in the making and implementation of U.S. foreign policy. It will be the gold standard on the topic. -- Andrew L. Johns, Brigham Young University

An important book on the Vietnam War and American culture. Fry is the leading expert on the topic, and no other book of this scope exists. The South played a significant role in the policymaking and conduct of the war, and the way it reacted to and was affected by the war are critical to understanding this pivotal era. -- John Ernst, Morehead State University

A major contribution in an undeveloped area of foreign relations. Fry’s research is superb and his writing is clear and persuasive. -- George C. Herring, author of From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776

Dixie loomed large over the American political landscape of the 1960s, particularly during the Vietnam conflict, and Joseph Fry captures its power. He masterfully balances the South of martial, conservative, and religious reputation with a nuanced treatment of the less-known aspects of the region’s influence, including antiwar activism. Sensitive and judicious, this book portrays a region with grace and clarity, and gives that region its due in the national story. Regionalism itself is wielded smartly to analyze foreign and domestic policies. A tour de force for regional studies. -- Thomas W. Zeiler, author of Annihilation: A Global Military History of World War II

This is a nicely written and exhaustively researched study of the South's integral role in shaping national events and its divided reaction to and impact on the Vietnam War. A welcome addition to the field. -- Howard Jones, University Research Professor of History Emeritus, University of Alabama

While recent trends in the writing of U.S. history have emphasized globalization, it is also true that regional trends within the American national story remain significant. In The American South and the Vietnam War, Joseph Fry offers great insight into how the regional identity of the American South intersected with the making of U.S. foreign relations in the crucial engagement in Southeast Asia. Anyone interested in recent American history will enjoy this deeply researched study -- Thomas Borstelmann, author of The 1970s and The Cold War and the Color Line

Winner of the 2015 Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council Award for Excellence in Research Using the Holdings of Archives

Fry is a veteran scholar who has skillfully and perceptively written about the complex politics of Vietnam, and he has consistently highlighted the South’s complicated perspective on the war. -- Ohio Valley History

Joseph A. Fry convincingly demonstrates that the American South had a particularly strong influence on both foreign policy and the prosecution of the Vietnam War. The book is well researched and provides a nuanced look at the region’s complex and important role in the war.

The American South and the Vietnam War
provides valuable insight into how one region of the United States influenced and dominated American foreign policy and ultimately the decision to go to war in Vietnam. -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

Built on exhaustive research and a lifetime of study of US foreign policy, Joseph Fry has written the definitive work on the South and the Vietnam War. -- Pacific Historical Review