Students of Michigan University’s actions against the Dow Chemical

Due to the intensified international political relationships between the Soviet Union and the United State, conflicts raised in Southeast Asia. During March 1965, President Johnson sent support from the U.S army to the south Vietnamese army (History.com).  According to history.com, “By June, 82,000 combat troops were stationed in Vietnam, and military leaders were calling for 175,000 more by the end of 1965 to shore up the struggling South Vietnamese army” (History.com). After the first initial batch of troops, Johnson authorized the immediate dispatch of 100,000 troops at the end of July and 100,000 in 1996 (History.com).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napalm#/media/File:French_indochina_napalm_1953-12_1.png

Many high damaged mass destructive weapons were introduced during the war. One of the most famous weapons used by the United States military was the napalm bomb. According to Wikipedia, about “388,000 tons of napalm was dropped in Vietnam during 1963 -1973 period”(Wikipedia). They were used as the flamethrower in the beginning and they soon became bombs that were been dropped on Vietnam land because that was more effective than a flamethrower.

According to vietnamawbb.weebly.com, “Napalm is a mixture of plastic polystyrene, hydrocarbon benzene, and gasoline. This mixture creates a jelly-like substance that, when ignited, sticks to practically anything and burns up to ten minutes. The effects of napalm on the human body are unbearably painful and almost always cause death among its victims” (vietnamawbb.weebly.com). During the war, Dow Chemical was the main manufacturer of the napalm for the U.S military. According to www.globalsecurity.org, “Dow Chemical was responsible for the manufacture of napalm for the US military between 1965 and 1969” (globalsecurity.org).

University of Michigan Students March Against Dow Chemical
http://michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu/antivietnamwar/items/show/18.

Dow Chemical’s development of napalm b cause mass destructions in Vietnam, and the company was getting boycotted for their product. Thousands of people were protesting against Dow Chemical. Thought out 1966 – 1969 people were protesting against the Dow Chemical for developing the deadly bomb for the war (nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu). The company was getting accused of causing lives of innocent citizens and children. Activists were determined to stop or interfering with the company, and students got involved in the role of the protesters. Students in multiple Universities recognized their University’s role on supporting companies such as Row by sent out new graduates to them.

Since Dow Chemical is a Michigan based chemical company, they were facing many protests and demonstrations from the student of the University of Michigan (michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu). The students of the University of Michigan during the mid-1960s were the strong voice during the protest against Dow Chemical. Many students organized sit-ins and wrote protesting letter to the Dow Chemical. According to michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu, “The first anti-war protests against Dow occurred in October 1966 and spread nationally to hundreds of universities. Anti-war activists made napalm a symbol of the Vietnam War because it called into question the morality of military tactics being used at the time” (michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu). The first antiwar protest of the University of Michigan students happened on August 6th, 1966 for anti-napalm usage (michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu). The protest continues to happen, and in 1967 during the November recruiting season, Dow Chemical was facing activist force for not allowing their recruitment happening on campus, and over 200 signatures were signed to support the movement  (michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu).

Flyer for the Protest at Dow Stockholders Meeting
http://michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu/antivietnamwar/items/show/138.

In Feb 22th, 1968, students and professors at the University of Michigan had an open forum with the Dow Chemical. The professor Richard Mann of the liberty college asked Dow the moral decision made when using napalm ( bhopal.net). This discussion showed people’s opinions and concern on Dow Chemical’s continue support of napalm manufacturing. This raises the public awareness of the role Dow Chemical was playing a main supporter in the Vietnam war. On May 8th, 1968, the organizers from Student Peace Union and National committee of clergy and laymen concerned was trying to show the board members the effect of napalm and they were hoping to convince them to stop napalm manufacturing (michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu). The national committee made flyers for the protest at Dow Stockholder meetings (michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu). On one of the images of the flayer, someone wrote: “Napalm is not healthy for children …nor other living things” (michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu). This quote was probability written by a more active student instead of people from the committee. The flyer itself explained the how they were going to do a nonviolent and safe

Dow Protest at Stockholders Meeting
http://michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu/antivietnamwar/items/show/133.

demonstration outside to persuade the committee on stopping napalm production. The flyer advocated the peaceful way of protesting to Dow Chemical. On the other hand, the students of the University of Michigan also made flyers for the protest with the bold text “DOW DOESN’T CARE ABOUT PEOPLE!” on the top of the flyer, and a picture of a person with a disfigured face on the left side of the flyer ( michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu). This flyer advocated for a more aggressive protesting against Dow Chemical. It also changed people’s perception of Dow Chemical when they see the picture of a burned man. The student protests have a slight disagreement with the national committee of Clergy and Laymen, they want their voice to be different and more militant tactic to be used than peaceful approach (michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu).

According to the michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu,

“Organizers disagreed with the youth believing civil disobedience would not be condoned by their group. Many of these students were beginning to believe civil disobedience was the only tactic that would establish political changes. A youth member complained about the clergymen’s tactics stating, ‘only a moral witness, which is not effective in American politics’.”

The efforts of students protests lead to Dow’s response in 1968. According to michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu, “President of Dow Chemical H.D. Doan, outlined the company’s stance in 1968”. The response articles composed expressed messages such as Dow has no choice of making them, and it was a necessary evil for the war, and that they were protecting the soldiers in the war, and lastly they were willing to stand judgment and peace (Arnold Kaufman Papers). In the response article, the author used official memory and patriotic approach to reader’s memory and challenge the public to support them instead of the protester.

During the same period, other universities also had protested against the Dow Chemical. Below is more protests against Dow Chemical. According to the bhopal.net,

  • 1968 – Oberlin College students petition the Board of Trustees to liquidate College investments in Dow due to war profiteering.
  • 1968 – When Dow Chemical recruiters came to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, they were greeted with a three-hour protest against their company as a producer of napalm.
  • 1968 – Students protest against Dow Chemical at Iowa State University.
  • Jan. 12, 1968 – Protest organized against the visit by Dow Chemical recruiters to Holy Cross. A spokesman for the Student Action Committee condemns Dow for the “immoral production of napalm.”
  • Feb. 21, 1968 – Students at Wisconsin State University, La Crosse stage a protest against Dow during a recruitment visit; collecting petition signatures, students march to the interview conference room and tape the petition to the door.
  • Feb. 22, 1968 – Students, faculty and a Dow representative participated in an open forum at the University of Michigan on the moral responsibilities of Napalm production. Prof. Richard Mann of the literary college questioned Dow’s moral judgment: “If the government starts pouring napalm down babies’ throats, when does Dow say ‘That’s not what we had in mind?'” Paul Harsha, speaking for Dow, replied: “We don’t think we’ve arrived at the answer to that.” He conceded that although Dow would supply napalm for a war against France or Canada, use of the chemical on American citizens, even in a civil war, would be “unthinkable.”
  • March 6, 1968 – More than 500 New York University students demonstrate against the reappearance of Dow Chemical Company recruiters on campus.
  • March 12, 1968 – More than 100 students at Syracuse University barricaded the administration building with benches, rope, and wire to protest Dow recruitment on campus. Several university officials were blocked from their offices.
  • Spring 1968 – Students at Stanford University organize a sit-in at the Student Union (now Old Union) and demand that the college change recruitment policy disallow recruiters from Dow Chemical on campus. For the first time in Stanford’s history, the faculty voted not to support the administration, and the policy is changed.
  • May 8, 1968 – Over 400 protestors, including several hundred students, protested Dow’s manufacture of napalm at their annual shareholder’s meeting in Midland.
  • Nov. 1968 – Students at Notre Dame organize a large-scale demonstration during several days of Dow recruitment interviews.

The protest from University of Michigan students continues to 1969, where anti-war activists organized a demonstration to pressure President to ban Dow from recruiting university students (michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu).

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Bibliography

  • “DOW Chemical.” Omeka RSS, michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu/antivietnamwar/exhibits/show/exhibit/military_and_the_university/dow_chemical.
  • “Dow Protest at Stockholders Meeting,” Resistance and Revolution: The Anti-Vietnam War Movement at the University of Michigan, 1965-1972, accessed April 20, 2018, http://michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu/antivietnamwar/items/show/133.
  • “Dow Will Direct Its Efforts Toward a Better Tomorrow”, Arnold Kaufman Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan https://docs.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=http://michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu/antivietnamwar/files/original/158002f6f7d7f3a1b50bbb4486e41b56.pdf
  • “Flyer for the Protest at Dow Stockholders Meeting,” Resistance and Revolution: The Anti-Vietnam War Movement at the University of Michigan, 1965-1972, accessed April 20, 2018, http://michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu/antivietnamwar/items/show/138.
  • History.com Staff. “Vietnam War.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/vietnam-war-history.
  • “Napalm.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napalm.
  • “Napalm in Vietnam War.” The Vietnam War, thevietnamwar.info/napalm-vietnam-war/.
  • “Napalm, Agent Orange.” Napalm, Agent Orange – The Vietnam War, vietnamawbb.weebly.com/napalm-agent-orange.html.
  • “Napalm: Student Power Crushes Dow.” Student Power Crushes Dow, www.bhopal.net/old_studentsforbhopal_org/DowVietnam.htm#StudentPower.
  • Pike, John. “Military.” Napalm in War, www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/napalm-war.htm.
  • “University of Michigan Students March Against Dow Chemical,” Resistance and Revolution: The Anti-Vietnam War Movement at the University of Michigan, 1965-1972, accessed April 20, 2018, http://michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu/antivietnamwar/items/show/18.
  • “US Students Campaign to Stop Dow Chemical Company From Manufacturing Napalm (1967-1969).” Global Nonviolent Action Database, nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/us-students-campaign-stop-dow-chemical-company-manufacturing-napalm-1967-1969.

 

One thought on “Students of Michigan University’s actions against the Dow Chemical”

  1. This post was very enlightening! I had no idea students were such a big part of the Dow Chemical. It is very interesting how closely our articles are relating with students being a driving force in American politics during this time. It is amazing to see how 1968 was a turning point in our history in which students were able to make an impact. Thank you for this post; it is great!

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