APRIL 13, 1956
NEW YORK—I don't think anyone can help but be shocked by the death of the six Marines in the swamp near Parris Island, S.C. It seems such a waste of young manhood.
I am well aware that rigid training is a safeguard and that Marines have to be prepared to fight in any area of the world. They must learn to fight in jungles under swamp conditions, or under any other that may confront them.
But their training should be a period when they are safeguarded as far as humanly possible, because they are then only learning and cannot be expected to know where the pitfalls and dangers lie.
I remember a mother writing to me in the early days of World War II, complaining that her boy was obliged to sit for hours in a swamp, wet to the waist, without moving.
At the time, I did not realize this was essential training for war in the Pacific. But when I saw fighting conditions in that area in the summer of 1943, I realized the training that this boy was undergoing was designed to save his life. Many a boy, who could not sit still under the most uncomfortable circumstances, moved and was shot by a Japanese who was able to sit still.
It seems to me, however, that an officer should be responsible for carefully instructing his men beforehand, so they know the difficulties they will meet, why they must learn to meet them, and how they can be safeguarded against them.
I hope this loss of life, sad as it is, will lead to the saving of many other young lives.
I saw in one newspaper yesterday that Congress was cold to the Administration's civil rights program. That was surely no surprise to anyone.
A part of the Congress is going to fight any civil rights program, and the only new thing in this legislation is the setting up of a committee to study what can be done. Long ago I came to feel that this was a device to get one's self out of the difficulty of making a decision. If you can set up a committee, it delays matters a little, at the same time relieving top officials from making decisions.
There are certain things that, if the Administration is really in earnest, could be pressed immediately. One of these is the safeguarding of the right to vote. That is purely in Federal hands and it would be a good first step in actually bringing about civil rights.
The next most efficacious thing would be the calling of a conference to include business and labor, thus making certain that the unions live up to their standards and that there is no discrimination in the kinds of jobs allotted to colored citizens and their opportunities for promotion.
This would quickly change the economic situation in the cities. And all of these steps could be forerunners to carrying out eventually the Supreme Court order on schools. I think they are necessary preludes.