U.S. Wars Utah Participated in
Civil War (1861-1865)
Governor Alfred Cumming left Utah quietly on 17 May 1861. Officially, Cumming was on a leave of absence, but the citizens of Utah knew that his hasty departure meant that he did not intend to return. General Albert Sidney Johnston, another leading figure in the territory, also left the area during the same period. Both men’s actions were a result of events in South Carolina on 12 April 1861, when the Confederate Army attacked the federal garrison at Fort Sumter. This incident ignited one of the greatest tragedies in United States history, the American Civil War (1861-65). Both Cumming and Johnston were Southerners and chose to return to the South as the nation began to divide.
Many Mormons in Utah viewed the events in the east as fulfillment of statements made by their prophet/founder Joseph Smith nearly thirty years earlier: “Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina.” In a later statement made in 1843, Smith added: “The commencement of the difficulties which will cause much bloodshed previous to the coming of the Son of Man will be in South Carolina. It may probably arise through the slave question.”
Even while the Latter-day Saints believed that the dissolution of the Union vindicated their prophet’s statements, they also had profound regard for and belief in the divine nature of the U.S. Constitution. Such potentially conflicting emotions created a unique atmosphere in Utah.
Because some Saints construed Smith’s words to mean that the Second Coming of Christ was near at hand, they also had mixed emotions about the Civil War. In addition, they still were insecure in the aftermath of the Utah War. While they were interested in self-rule and state’s rights questions, it is apparent that the people in Utah never really seriously considered supporting the Confederacy. In fact, on numerous occasions they affirmed their loyalty to the Union. Although the majority were suspicious of Lincoln’s policies during the early days of his presidency, the Saints changed their attitude, especially after a reported favorable statement made by Lincoln about them gained general circulation in Utah.
President Abraham Lincoln, it was reported, said that when he was a boy there was a lot of timber to be cleared from his farm. Sometimes he came to a log that was “too hard to split, too wet to burn, and too heavy to move,” so he plowed around it. That, Lincoln contended, was exactly what he planned to do about the Mormons in Utah. “You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone I will let him alone.”
The Saints did not send men to the battlefields in the east to fight in the war, nor were they invited to do so. Some Utahns did go, but on an individual basis. Brigham Young believed that the dissolution of the Union would possibly be the end of the nation. The war was also seen by many Mormons as divine retribution upon the nation that had allowed the Saints to be driven from their homes, unprotected from the mobs, on several occasions. Following the departure of Cumming and Johnston, the troops at Camp Floyd also left by July 1861. This allowed the Saints to demonstrate their loyalty to the Union. Members of the Nauvoo Legion, the local militia, performed short-term volunteer service guarding the mail line. Another significant act of loyalty occurred when Brigham Young was given the privilege of sending the first message from Salt Lake City on the newly completed transcontinental telegraph in October 1861. His message to Lincoln: “Utah has not seceded, but is firm for the Constitution and laws of our once happy country.”
In April 1862 President Lincoln asked Young to provide a full company of one hundred men to protect the stage and telegraph lines and overland mail routes in Green River County (now southern Wyoming).
In 1863 the people of Utah made their third attempt to achieve statehood. The Mormons chided their critics by reminding them that while many states were trying to leave the Union, Utah was trying to get in. This third petition was denied, however. In the meantime, a constitution was drafted for the proposed state of Deseret and a full slate of officers was elected with Brigham Young as governor. This “ghost” government of Deseret met for several years and, in many cases, made decisions that usually became law when the territorial legislature met officially.
To the surprise of the citizens of Utah, the local militia was eventually replaced by the Third California Volunteers, who had been ordered to take over the guard duty from the Saints. In October 1862 General Patrick Edward Connor arrived in Salt Lake City at the head of the 750 volunteer soldiers from California and Nevada.
It was apparent from the time Connor arrived that he believed earlier accusations of the disloyalty of Utahns. The Saints were mortified when his army did not occupy abandoned Camp Floyd. Instead, Connor chose a site which overlooked the city in the foothills directly east of Salt Lake City. This new military post was named Camp Douglas (later Fort Douglas).
In his position as military leader, Connor’s main assignment was to suppress Indian attacks against the overland telegraph and mail. A skirmish between the army and Indians occurred shortly after the troops’ arrival when three Indians were killed and one wounded on 24 November 1862.
The most significant clash between federal troops and Indians took place on 29 January 1863, in what has become known as the Battle of Bear River or the Massacre at Bear River. Connor’s force of 300 troops attacked a Shoshoni encampment on the Bear River and killed more than 250 men, women, and children. They also burned the village and thus broke the strength of the Indians in the area.
Connor also attempted to influence Utah’s economics and politics. He established the Union Vedette, an anti-Mormon paper, when became a vehicle to criticize the Saints. Another consequence of the U.S. Army’s presence in Utah, directly related to Connor’s intentions of curing the Latter-day Saints’ influence in Utah, was the opening of mining operations in the area. Connor hoped that this would attract more non-Mormons to the area and thus curtail Mormon hegemony.
Shortly after the beginning of the Civil War, Governor Stephen S. Harding replaced acting governor Frank Fuller. Harding, along with Connor, sought to mitigate Mormon influence in Utah affairs. The new governor accused the Saints of disloyalty. After he attempted to set aside the powers of local probate courts and the territorial militia, the Saints petitioned the president for Harding’s removal. Lincoln responded, in what can be seen as an act of reconciliation, by replacing Harding. The president, however, in an effort to placate non-Mormons, also replaced officials liked by the Saints, including Judge John F. Kinney and territorial secretary Frank Fuller.
Harding’s replacement, Governor James Duane Doty, gained the Saints’ support and cooperation by showing the genuine impartiality advocated by Lincoln. Utahns showed their respect for the president during the celebration of his second inauguration. Salt Lake City authorities and LDS Church leaders organized a joint patriotic celebration on 4 March 1865.
News of Lincoln’s assassination caused a deep sense of loss among Utahns, and they joined in the national mourning. Businesses and the Salt Lake Theater were closed, flags were hung at half-mast, and many homes in the territory were decorated with emblems of mourning. Even Brigham Young’s personal carriage was draped in black crepe. Mormons and non-Mormons alike met in the Tabernacle, which had also been draped to eulogize the fallen president. A Mormon authority and the army chaplain from Camp Douglas spoke to those gathered.
Another sad event soon followed. Governor Doty, who was considered by Saints and non-Mormons alike as a judicious executive and perhaps the best the territory ever had, died in June 1865.
As the war was coming to an end and it was apparent that the Union would be victorious, Young still hoped that the crisis in the East would allow the Saints to achieve statehood, removal of the army from Utah, protection of the Saints’ rights, and election of local officials.
At the conclusion of the Civil War, General Connor was honorably mustered out of the volunteer army on 30 April 1865. In the immediate postwar years, he remained a leader of the anti-Mormon movement and became involved in Utah politics.
While Utah did not achieve statehood, the withdrawal of the army, or the ability to influence the appointment of federal officials, the LDS Church generally thrived during the Civil War period. Converts still gathered and settlements continued to be established in the Great Basin. Brigham Young remained the respected leader of the Saints, and the church remained a viable, independent power. Utah Territory and its people, however, were inevitably less isolated. Compromise by both federal officials and church leaders during the Civil War helped to bring about a period of more peaceful coexistence in Utah.
– Richard Neitzel Holzapfel
Spanish American War (1898)
The Spanish American War, which lasted from March to December in 1898, was a short war; but it was significant in bringing the United States into the world arena as a major power. The United States defeated the Spanish forces in naval and land battles in the Philippine Islands, in Cuba, and in Puerto Rico. In many ways, the war was a comedy of errors and a “lark” for Americans, who saw the war as a romantic adventure to save the native Filipinos and Cubans from the oppressive Spanish government and to defend the honor of the United States.
Like other states, Utah became involved in the war when the federal government called for 125,000 volunteers to augment the small regular army of the United States. Utah’s original quota of volunteers was 425, but by the end of the conflict Utah had sent 800 troops. Most Utahns served in units organized within the state which were formerly National Guard units; but because of a technicality in the law, the National Guardsmen were prohibited from serving outside the boundaries of the United States. The states got around this technicality by having the guardsmen resign and then reenlist as members of federal units. The units from Utah that served in this fashion were batteries A and B of the Utah Light Artillery; Troop A, Utah Cavalry (regular cavalry); and Troop I of Torrey’s Roughriders (a special troop of mounted riflemen). Most of the enlistment into the artillery batteries A and B, Utah Volunteers, came from the National Guard of Utah A and B batteries; and Troop A, Utah Cavalry, came mostly from the National Guard Cavalry Troop C. Torrey’s Regiment was designated as special cavalry for the state and was recruited from throughout the state. Company K of Engineers, 2nd Engineer Regiment, U.S. Volunteers, was recruited from Salt Lake City, and another two hundred men from Utah were recruited into the 4th U.S. Cavalry, the 14th U.S. Infantry, and the 11th U.S. Cavalry. In addition, two Afro-American regiments–the 24th Infantry, Regular Army, stationed at Fort Douglas, and the 9th Cavalry, Regular Army, stationed at Fort Duchesne in eastern Utah–left the state to fight in the Cuban and Philippines campaigns.
The service rendered by each of these units varied: some saw military action; others were stationed in areas of the United States and Hawaii. Batteries A and B, Utah Light Artillery, were mustered in on 9 May 1898 and proceeded to the Manila campaign in the Philippines. The officers appointed to lead these units were Captain Richard W. Young (a West Point graduate, former regular army artilleryman, and a son of Brigham Young), and Captain Frank Grant (who had served in the Utah National Guard as a colonel). In the Philippines, these units fought as the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division. The American campaigns resulted in the capture of Manila and the surrender of the Spanish troops on 14 August 1898.
After the defeat of the Spanish troops, the war moved into the Philippine Insurrection phase, in which the Americans fought against the Filipinos who were trying to gain their independence. American troops, assisted by the Utah Artillery until 1899, continued to fight until the insurrectionists were defeated in 1901. Utah A and B batteries left the Philippines on 24 June 1899, having fought in more than one hundred engagements and suffering casualties of fifteen men killed by fighting or disease and fourteen others wounded.
The other Utah troops to see action were the black units, the 24th Infantry Regiment and the 9th Cavalry Regiment, who were engaged at San Juan Hill in the fight for Santiago, Cuba. These troops left Fort Douglas, Utah, on 20 April and returned to Fort Douglas on 2 September 1898. They were noted for their heroic attack up San Juan Hill and for their humane nursing of yellow fever patients at Siboney Hospital in Cuba. The 24th and 9th regiments returned to Fort Douglas after the Cuban campaign; however, in 1899 members of these units were reassigned to other posts in the United States. The leadership of their commander, General J. Ford Kent, was highly praised during the war.
The other units from Utah did not get opportunity to prove their gallantry in war. Troop I of Torrey’s Roughriders, led by Utah Adjutant General John Q. Cannon, spent the period from 11 May to 24 October 1898 in federal service, most of the time in camp at Panama Park, Jacksonville, Florida. They suffered from the heat and many became sick with malaria and dysentery; some from the regiment died. The First Troop of Utah Cavalry, under the command of Captain Joseph E. Caine, did guard duty in Yosemite, Sequoia, and General Grant parks in California. Their duty was to patrol the parks to insure that these areas were protected from any threats from herdsmen of Spanish descent who tended sheep and cattle there. Artillery Battery C assumed post duties on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay; and Company K of Engineers spent the war near Diamond Head Mountain on Oahu, Hawaii, constructing permanent military barracks.
As units of the Utah Volunteers began to arrive home, Governor Heber Wells proclaimed the arrival day of Batteries A and B–19 August 1898–a holiday. A special “arch of triumph” was placed at 200 South and Main streets in Salt Lake City; a parade, with almost all of the volunteers represented, marched through Salt Lake City; and festivities and speeches at Liberty Park honored the soldiers.
– Richard C. Roberts
Known as “The Great War,” until the outbreak of World War II, World War I began on 1 August 1914 and ended with armistice on 11 November 1918. The two warring sides were the Allies–comprised of Russia, France, Great Britain, Italy, United States, Japan, Romania, Belgium, Serbia, Greece, Portugal, and Montenegro; and the Central Powers which included Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria. During the course of the war, Utahns were affected by the events in many ways. Immigrants followed events in their warring homelands, sent aide, volunteered to return to fight, and encouraged other Utahns to sympathize with the side they favored. Utah’s economy prospered because of the war. New coal mines were opened, metal and copper mining expanded, smelters ran at or near full capacity, and farmers and ranchers received more for their crops and animals than any other time in recent decades.
After the United States entered the war on 6 April 1917, many Utahns were directly affected as relatives and friends joined the armed services or were drafted. Approximately 21,000 Utahns saw military service; of these, 665 died and 864 were wounded. Of the 665 deaths, 219 were killed on the battlefield or died from wounds received in action; 32 died of accidental causes; the remaining 414 died from disease and illness. Of the 10 percent (2156) of the Utahns who served were of foreign birth or were members of U.S. ethnic or racial minorities. A number of Utah women, including eighty registered nurses, served during the war as nurses, ambulance drivers, clerical and canteen workers.
In the summer of 1914, most Utahns were little concerned with the rumblings of war in Europe. Most felt that the fight had little to do with United States interests, advocated a strict policy of neutrality, and insisted that the United States not become embroiled in a European conflict. There were exceptions, of course, primarily among the Utah immigrant groups including the South Slavs, Germans, Greeks, Italians whose homelands had been caught up in the Great War. Utah German-Americans openly demonstrated their sympathy for Germany, held rallies, collected money for the German Red Cross, complained of the virulent anti-German propaganda in most English-language newspapers, and, in some cases returned to Germany to fight.
As the war continued, and America’s position as a neutral became continually more difficult, especially with the loss of 124 American lives when the passenger ship Lusitania was sunk off the coast of Ireland in May 1915. After the outcry against Germany over the sinking of the Lusitania, Germany complied with American demands that ships carrying neutral passengers and cargo be allowed to sail without attack. By 1917, German strategists concluded that there best hope for victory was to resume unrestricted submarine warfare to keep essential war material from reaching the French and English, launch an offensive along the Western Front designed to end the nearly three years of stalemate, and to seek a secret alliance with Mexico which would restore to that nation the territory (including Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and California) lost to the United States in 1848. Faced with these events, President Woodrow Wilson saw no other option than to ask Congress for a declaration of war against Germany, which was passed on 6 April 1917.
Even before war was officially declared, Governor Simon Bamberger issued a proclamation on 24 March 1917 calling for Utahns to enlist in the Utah National Guard. Four months after war was declared, the Utah National Guard was drafted into Federal Service on 5 August 1917, sent to California, and then on to Europe where Utahns saw action along in the Argonne Forest, and at Chateau Thierry, Champagne, Soissons, St. Mihiel, Verdun, and other locations on the Western front.
World War I helped bring Utah into the mainstream of American life as much as anything during the first two decades of the twentieth century. As part of the national war effort, Utahns planted “victory gardens,” preserved food, volunteered for work in the beet fields and on Utah’s fruit farms, purchased Liberty Bonds, gave “Four Minute patriotic speeches, collected money for the Red Cross, used meat and sugar substitutes, observed meatless days, knitted socks, afghans, and shoulder wraps, wove rugs for soldiers’ hospitals, made posters, prohibited the teaching of the German language in some schools, and cultivated patriotism at every opportunity.
Utah’s economy prospered as wartime demands for farm and orchard produce, sugar, beef, coal, and copper placed a demand on production far beyond peacetime conditions.
Fort Douglas was an important military facility during the War. Thousands of recruits were trained at the fort and a prison was set up at the fort to house 870 enemy aliens, who had expressed pro-German sentiments or were considered dangerous, and as well as draft resisters from all states west of the Mississippi. An adjacent but separate part of the prison housed 686 German naval prisoners of war, who were sent to Utah after their ships were seized by American forces in Guam and Hawaii.
Most Utah servicemen returned home early in 1919 to cheering crowds, impressive parades, enthusiastic celebrations, and generous parties even though the influenza epidemic necessitated some precautions. Many joined the American Legion as posts were established in most Utah cities and towns. They were honored when the nation proclaimed 11 November as Armistice Day, a national holiday, and were moved when “Memory Grove,” located along City Creek at the mouth of City Creek Canyon just north of the downtown Salt Lake City, was dedicated on 27 June 1924, as a permanent memorial to the soldiers killed during the war.
Like many other Americans, Utahns became disillusioned with the formal peace treaty ending the war. They were also divided over Woodrow Wilson’s primary objective, the establishment of the League of Nations. Heber J. Grant, who became President of the LDS church in 1918, was an advocate of the League of Nations while Reed Smoot, an LDS apostle and Utah’s senior senator in Washington D.C. was an outspoken critic of the League. The war was something that many seemed to never really understand, a situation that hampered international cooperation and understanding and led to increased tensions and another war within a generation.
– Allan Kent Powell
Like those in many other western states, Utah’s leaders has long recognized that an important key to prosperity is federal spending in their state. Even so, until the Great Depression of the 1930s Utahns had been largely unsuccessful in securing very much federal investment in the state. However, as a result of a peculiar set of circumstances in the 1930s involving personalities, party politics, a favorable business environment, economic depression, and geographic serendipity Utah emerged from the 1940s a much different place than it had been at the beginning of the decade. Utah’s role in the World War II was at the heart of these changes. This activity led to a variety of other changes that fundamentally affected the cultural and political life of the state. Population shifts, societal alterations, transforming cultural patterns, and a host of other subtle moves recast Utah from an isolated and culturally backward state into an area much more tied to the national mainstream.
Without question, the rapid growth of defense spending in Utah, coming even before the first shots were fired at Pearl Harbor, fueled the major transformations of the society. Utah had been economically devastated during the 1930s; in the late 1930s Utah still had from 30 to 60 percent more people on federal relief projects–WPA, CCC, or some other program–than the national average. While the national average for people unemployed in the 1930s peaked at 25 percent, in Utah the number of workers without jobs reached a high of 36 percent. Utah government and business leaders tried a variety of avenues to ease this situation, and in the latter 1930s as the nation began to rearm in response to the crisis in Europe they exploited the opportunity offered to secure defense dollars in the state.
Some of this came directly from military installations that were established in the state. Fort Douglas, long established near Salt Lake City as a result of Col. Connor’s California Volunteers in the Civil War, was revitalized and made into a processing center for recruits. The Ogden Arsenal had been established in 1921 but had a relatively small mission to store ammunition until the crisis of World War II when it became a manufacturing, storage, and shipping location for the West Coast.
Hill Field, as another example, was established in 1940 as a result of a combination of influences that began in 1934 when the Army Air Corps flew the mail and based its western zone out of Salt Lake City. The zone’s commander, Henry H. Arnold, became enthusiastic about the area’s ability to support West Coast aeronautical logistics requirements. Arnold told his superiors in September 1934 “that any Depot west of the mountains might be rendered untenable by a determined adversary.” During the late 1930s two additional strategic reasons emerged for creating a supply and repair base near Salt Lake City: the historic confluence of highways and railroads in the area ensured that the base would be easily accessible, and the site was essentially equidistant from the three major military centers on the West Coast, Seattle-Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles-San Diego. Accordingly, on 7 November 1940, Hill became operational and served throughout the war as a major repair and supply depot for the Army Air Forces. At its largest, Hill Field employed 15,000 civilians, 6,000 military, and several thousand POWs, making it the largest employer in the state.
In all, Utah had fourteen important military installations operating during the war. These installations created nearly 40,000 jobs in the state during World War II, more than half of them at Hill Field, and the multiplying effect of federal paychecks spent in the local economy provided a great boost to the state.
In every case, the military services explicitly recognized several unique attributes Utah offered. First, there was the issue of safety from attack, a not unrealistic concern by the military in 1941 and 1942. The ability of the Japanese Navy to strike 6,000 miles east of their traditional sphere of operations and to cripple the American fleet in Hawaii was not an action to be dismissed without serious consideration. If Japan could do it there, what was to keep the Japanese from hitting core military installations on the West Coast? In the early days of the war, no one knew that the Japanese did not have that capability, and on 9 December 1941 Henry H. Arnold, commanding the United States Army’s Air Forces, directed that military resources be dispersed inland so that a single attack could not destroy significant military capability. In such an environment, decisions to locate training and other support facilities to inland areas was a natural extension. The greater security for bases in the Great Basin interior ensured that military efforts would not be impeded by possible enemy attack.
Second, the open spaces available in Utah and throughout the West also made training operations there all the more attractive. The selection of the Wendover, Utah, training site is a case in point. Located on the Utah-Nevada border approximately 110 miles west of Salt Lake City, it had vast amounts of open flat land that the Department of the Interior already controlled. The town had only a small population of approximately 103 people at the time and yet possessed adequate railroad lines running between Salt Lake City and the West Coast. The weather conditions in the area were also ideally suited for flying training, as there was very little rain or snow and flight training could take place year-round. Adding to the attractiveness of the desert area were Army Air Corps plans to base a heavy bomber unit at the Salt Lake City municipal airport and the location of the supply and repair depot at Hill Field, near Ogden. It was envisioned that the units at these bases would be prime users of the proposed range. In June 1940 a large area near Wendover was designated as a general purpose range for aerial gunnery and actual bombing practice.
Third, the Wasatch Front area was excellent for logistics support operations. It was basically equidistant from the three major West Coast military centers at Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. There was also a superb transportation infrastructure in place to support logistics activities. Transcontinental railroads and highways were in place, and Salt Lake City had been an integral part of the transcontinental airway system since the early 1920s. The shipping and receiving of war material, therefore, posed little difficulty.
Finally, the state of Utah had a large number of intelligent, deferential people who were out of work and willing to be retrained for military logistics purposed. That, coupled with the aggressive actions of the state’s business and political leaders prompted the sitting of installations in Utah. The military expansion built upon Utah’s recognized strengths and did not represent a great departure in direction, only an acceleration of what had been underway for some time.
In addition to the actual military installations established or revitalized in the state, defense contractors also enjoyed remarkable growth as a result of the war. By any measure an economist can devise, the economy of Utah boomed as a result of war contracts. The value added by the manufacturer between 1939 and 1947–a measure of profits after all costs have been subtracted– was $85 million, which represented a 196 percent increase. The state’s business and political leaders were aggressive in obtaining federal spending for the state, and 91 percent of Utah’s wartime expansion was financed by public funds. This allowed Utah’s per capita expenditure for new industrial plants from the federal government to be $534 while the national average was $188.
Industrial expansion in Utah took a course that emphasized historic strengths. The state, rich in natural resources and with a long tradition of extractive industry, contributed coal, iron, dolomite, limestone, alunite, copper, gas, and the refined products to the war effort. The most significant of these was the Geneva Steel Works in Orem. It accounted for nearly two-thirds of the $310 million made available to Utah for new facility construction by the Defense Plant Corporation in 1941, and when operating at maximum capacity employed 4,200 workers. During its period of government operation, it took iron from Utah’s mines, as well as from elsewhere, and produced 634,010 tons of plate steel and another 144,280 tons of shaped steel.
Throughout the state, mines for all types of minerals were reopened, expanded, or constructed. The capabilities of processing plants were also greatly enlarged. This practice was also repeated in the state’s weapons industry. The Browning Gun Works, manufacturers of fine small arms since the mid-nineteenth century, was expanded in the war. Also at the same time, the Ogden Arsenal began making ammunition. The Remington Arms Company constructed a small arms plant in Salt Lake County to make 30- and 50-caliber ammunition, and in the process created 10,000 new jobs.
The economic roller-coaster ride of Utah business was perhaps the most dramatic aspect of the state’s wartime role, but it may have not been the most significant. The social and political changes that were forced on the state as a result of the wartime expansion had a fundamental impact. Thousands of Utahns found themselves in military service literally around the world. In 1941, out of more than 1.3 million service members in the United States only 7,000 were from Utah, 2,000 of which were in the state’s National Guard units. In June 1945 there were 62,107 Utahns in active military service, and this did not include those already discharged for one reason or another and those killed. The movement of large numbers of people from the state to other places, disrupting lives and comfortable patterns of behavior, had a significant impact on those who went through the trauma of war. Upon return, they were never the same again and old perspectives had to be altered to take into account the new realities.
Equally important, the state experienced a rapid and sustained influx of immigrants from outside, most of whom did not subscribe to the dominant religious position and eschewed its conservatism. For instance, Utah’s population increased 25.2 percent during the decade — most of the increase coming along the Wasatch Front — as it grew from 555,310 to 688,862 persons. This immigration greatly increased the minority population of the state, especially as Black and Hispanic Americans moved in to take defense jobs. Another 10,000 Japanese-Americans were relocated from the West Coast to Topaz, Utah, as part of the anti-Japanese hysteria in late 1941 and 1942, and many remained in the state thereafter. This population growth and expansion brought a far greater degree of pluralism than ever before had been present in Utah.
The population shifts also changed the region in other subtle and vital ways. Servicemen and transient war workers, for instance, were everywhere: they were passing through the region enroute to debarkation points overseas or home on furlough, or were temporarily stationed in the state. These people pumped dollars into every community through which they passed. They also brought Iowa farmboy, New York streetwise, and southern homespun manners to a region that had been uniquely isolated by distance and mores from most of the rest of the nation. Many of those stationed in the region formed attachments to it that affected the rest of their lives. These population shifts also created housing and other urban problems that had to be dealt with throughout the 1940s.
The social dislocation arising from the war was also great. The disruption of the traditional family, the sense of impermanence, the absence of normal attachments, the competition for scarce resources, the stress of the crisis, and numerous other factors of a less tangible nature all came together to turn society topsy turvy. Historian John Costello documented one aspect of the changing sexual mores of the United States brought about by the war by suggesting that not only did women enter the work force in a big way, but many of the other traditional sexual boundaries were eroded by the war. He commented that total war unleashed a “Hedonistic impulse” in the overall society. The thought of perhaps dying tomorrow created a psyche directed toward living life to the fullest at the present both among those who might go into combat and those with whom they associated. It loosened morals and opened doors for opportunity as never before.
It apparently made little difference that Salt Lake City and Tooele, Utah, were far from the direct influences of combat. The comings and goings of military personnel in the region, most likely to combat theaters, held the same potential for eventual death as those closer to the action. There were large numbers of war brides in Utah, and they lived with the same fears as those closer to the front lines. The “flyboys” and “G.I.s” training or even permanently stationed at the many bases in the region met, fell in love, and in some cases married local young women. They were often condemned for a “love-them-and-leave-them” attitude, however, and virtually every community had problems of one sort or another relating to this social interaction. City fathers were forever trying to protect the local women from the perceived licentiousness of the servicemen.
Some even condoned prostitution as a means of easing pressures in the local community. The notorious “two-bit street,” Ogden, Utah’s 25th Street red light district had been around for many years prior to the war, but it was expanded during the war as the so-called “Victory Girls” catered to the wishes of the local servicemen. As long as the activity was out of sight from most of the public the city fathers turned a blind eye to the goings-on, in part because it eased some of the pressure on their daughters.
Other affects of the war to Utahns involved the challenges of living in a new environment. Never again would life in the state be as simple as it had seemed before the war. To a very real extent the war effort served as the catalyst to bring Utah’s economy, political culture, and social life into the national mainstream.
– Roger D. Launius
Korean War (1950-1953)
The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 when North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel in an invasion of South Korea. Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945, and had been divided into Soviet and American occupation zones along the 38th parallel at the conclusion of World War II. When American and Soviet occupation forces were withdrawn from Korea in 1949, two rival regimes were left behind, both claiming the right to rule an undivided Korea. Implementing the Truman Doctrine–“. . . to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures”–the United States quickly secured a United Nations Security Council resolution to assist South Korea to repel the armed attack while the Soviet delegate to the United Nations was boycotting meetings in protest of America’s refusal to allow the seating of the Chinese Communist delegation. Although Korea was a United Nations action and fourteen other countries did send 50,000 men, the 350,000 American troops sent to the country made up nearly 90 percent of the United Nations’ forces. Among these were 7,564 Utahns who served in Korea on active duty between June 1950 and the cease-fire which was negotiated in July 1953.
Utah had five battalions of the National Guard called up, which included approximately 2,070 officers and men, or 61.7 percent of the entire Utah Army National Guard, and all of the Utah Air National Guard. Units came from throughout the state: Beaver, Richfield, Fillmore, St. George, Cedar City, Logan, Smithfield, Garland, Brigham City, Salt Lake City, Provo, Pleasant Grove, Nephi, Mount Pleasant, and Spanish Fork. The units called up included the 204th Field Artillery Battalion, the 213th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, the 145th Field Artillery Battalion, the 653rd Field Artillery Observation Battalion, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, the 115th Engineer Combat Battalion, the 190th Fighter Squadron, the 191st Weather Station, the 130th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, and the 210th Tow Target Flight. Of these units, three–the 204th Field Artillery Battalion, the 213th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, and the 145th Field Artillery Battalion–served in Korea. The first of these, the 204th, was inducted into federal service on 19 August 1950 and sailed for Korea on board the troop transport USS General A.E. Anderson on 16 January 1951.
When Utah officials protested the large percentage of Utahns called to active service while other western states like Oregon and Washington sent no National Guard troops, Sixth Army Commander Lieutenant General A.C. Wedemeyer responded that he was concerned about winning the war and that meant calling up the best troops into service. Still, the war was not popular with Utahns and was a major factor in turning Utahns back to the Republican party in the 1952 election after voting for the Democratic presidential candidate in the five previous elections.
Many of the National Guardsmen called up were veterans of World War II, and leaving behind wives and children presented particular hardships for them. Others had joined the National Guard in order to be exempted from the draft so that they could complete their college educations. Once on active duty, Utah guardsmen objected strongly to the practice of breaking up Utah units and scattering the men into other army units.
While the Utah National Guard units represented a significant number of Utahns who saw service in Korea, the majority of Utahns who served in Korea either were inducted or volunteered. Of the more than 33,000 American deaths during the conflict, 436 were Utahns. They accounted for about 1.3 percent of the American dead in the war, even though Utah had only 0.4 percent of the U.S. population at the time.
Utahns served with valor and most made a favorable impression on those with whom they came in contact. The author Chaim Potok, who was a chaplain in Korea, had as an assistant a Mormon boy from Utah, “a man whom I would have trusted with my life,” he wrote. The lives of all who took part in the war were changed deeply, for better or worse–and so were the lives of many who did not actually go to war but were affected indirectly.
The majority of Utah’s population being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a high percentage of Utahns who were drafted or volunteered for the war had been expected to go on missions for the church at the time when the conflict erupted. Because of the Korean War, the number of LDS missionaries dropped from 4,847 in 1951 to 2,189 in 1953. The LDS Church responded to this crisis in various ways. Many members, mostly from Utah, who were older than the usual missionary age were called on short-term missions. These were usually men who had already served missions and were now married, so a measure of sacrifice was required. A large number of young women between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-three were called to give stenographic assistance at mission offices. Negotiations were conducted between the LDS Church and the Selective Service Department to find ways to provide enough manpower for both the nation’s armed forces and the church’s missionary corps. But it was the latter that had to give way, as both were competing for young Utahns and other Americans in the same age group, and their numbers were limited. However, LDS servicemen often were missionaries as well. They converted and baptized many Korean people and fellow American servicemen, and built chapels in Korea and in other areas where they were stationed.
In Utah, the war had a significant impact on the economy. At the Ogden Air Materiel Command, civilian employment grew from 3,656 in June 1950 to 12,210 in August 1952, or to over 75 percent of the World War II high of 15,780 employees. Where only 150,000 million tons of material were received and shipped in 1949, about 2.15 million tons were handled each year in 1951, 1952, and 1953. Other Utah defense installations saw similar increases in personnel and work loads. Also, in the Utah coal fields, coal production, which had dropped from more than 7 million tons in 1944 to 4.8 million tons in 1949, rebounded to 6.1 million tons in 1951. Other industries also benefited economically, but most Utahns were overjoyed when the fighting stopped in 1953.
– Benjamin Urrutia
Vietnam War (1955-1975)
During the 1960s and 1970s, Utah was affected by the Vietnam Conflict in many ways. Utahns served in all branches of the armed forces; many were decorated for valor in combat, were held prisoner in North Vietnam, or came home without limbs and with other permanent injuries. At home, Utahns both supported and protested the Vietnam policies; many resisted while others volunteered for the draft; some worked to supply, equip, and train personnel sent to Vietnam, sought to understand the meaning and implications of the war, and mourned the death of friends, neighbors, and relatives killed in action.
After the war, Utah welcomed home released prisoners of war while waiting for news of those still listed as missing in action. Utahns also helped Vietnamese refugees who escaped their communist-controlled homeland make new homes in the Beehive State. Returning Utah Vietnam veterans tried to put their war experience behind them without forgetting their personal and collective sacrifice. In doing so, they met with some support, a great amount of indifference, and, on occasion, hostility.
Like most of the country, the majority of Utahns saw the events leading up to the Vietnam War in the context of the Cold War–the world-wide struggle between democracy and communism for survival. From 1940 until 1945 Vietnam was occupied by the Japanese, who used the French colonial administration while controlling policies from behind the scenes. In 1941 Ho Chi Minh organized the Viet Minh to fight against the Japanese. After 1945 the Viet Minh successfully resisted France’s efforts to restore control in Vietnam. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu, at the conclusion of which French forces surrendered to the Viet Minh on 7 May 1954, drew headlines and articles in Utah daily newspapers. Two articles in the Salt Lake Tribune for 8 May 1954 proved ironic and prophetic. One quoted a Paris cafe owner who called the defeat “A terrible shame. They let our best soldiers get killed like that. Dien Bien Phu was not worth it.” Headlines in the article that followed asked, “Yanks to Indo?”
Five years later, the front page of the Tribune for July 10, 1959, carried an article on the deaths of Major Dale R. Buis and Master Sergeant Chester M. Guanand, the first two Americans to die in Vietnam. Following the Gulf of Tonkin attack in 1964 and on the eve of congressional passage of the Tonkin Resolution, the Tribune reflected the threefold view of most Utahns in justifying retaliation against North Vietnam while urging that the war be kept limited if possible and fearing that world communist leaders would expand the conflict into a full-scale war.
On 8 March 1965, when the first marine combat troops landed in Vietnam to guard the strategic Da Nang Air Base against communist attacks, the Tribune responded to European criticism that the landing marked an escalation of the conflict arguing that it was a step “designed to keep the brush fire from getting out of control.”
Less than five months after the first American combat troops were sent to defend Da Nang Airfield, the popular Deseret News sports writer and colonel in the Utah National Guard, Hack Miller, was in Vietnam; in a series of articles carried over a two-week period in August 1965 and during the month of March 1966 he described Vietnam, the war, and the activities of some native-born Utahns.
Utah sent more than its share of young men to Vietnam. Statistics from the 1970 census indicate that 27,910 served in Vietnam out of a potential 326,029 males age sixteen and over. The 8.6 percent placed Utah in fifth place behind Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, and Nevada, and well ahead of the national average of 6.9 percent. This high percentage was especially noteworthy because of several factors which tended to bring down the number of men serving in the military through the deferments that were available for them. These included: LDS missions for which deferments were available; a higher percentage of Utah males attending college with Utah leading the nation in young males attending college; and the tendency for Utahns to start families earlier than in most parts of the country. By 1976, the estimated number of Vietnam War Veterans living in Utah and who served between 1964 and 1975 was over 47,000. Among those who served in Vietnam were members of the Utah National Guard who volunteered individually for service. No Utah National Guard units were activated during the war; however, some volunteer crews from the Utah Air National Guard spent weeks and months on active duty in Vietnam.
Utah’s daily and weekly newspapers reported assignments to and the return from Vietnam of local soldiers and sailors. Too frequently the newspapers carried notices of local casualties from the war. The papers also carried reports of participation by Utahns in such projects as “Operation Friendship” in 1966, in which several organizations collected food, clothes, and medicine for South Vietnamese peasants. A year later, “Operation Schoolhouse,” sought to raise donations for the construction of schoolhouses in Vietnam through a marathon Volleyball game at the University of Utah over Memorial Day Weekend in 1967.
An early Utah opponent of the war in Vietnam was Marriner Eccles, president of the First Security Corporation, governor of the Federal Reserve Board under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and a supporter of Lyndon Johnson’s domestic programs. In July 1965 Eccles told Johnson that his Vietnam policy was based on fatal errors and that the “national interest would best be served if the administration disentangled itself from a course of action that is bound to be ruinous.” Six months later, in early January 1966, Eccles openly challenged Johnson’s Vietnam policy in a newspaper article that argued that the United States presence in Vietnam was indefensible. “We are there as an aggressor in violation of our treaty obligations under the United Nation’s charter.” Eccles remained steadfast in his opposition to American troops in Vietnam until the last were withdrawn. He pushed for international trade and positive diplomatic relations as a means for establishing world friendship and ultimately dealing wit the threat of communism.
Another Utahn who received national attention for his writing about the Vietnam War was University of Utah Professor James Clayton. An economic historian, Clayton argued that beyond the human suffering which the war brought, the real cost of the Vietnam War would come in the future through veteran benefit payments, interest payments, and other war related costs that would exceed by at least three times the $330 billion dollar cost of the war. He also put the expenditures on the Vietnam War for the ten-year period between 1959 and 1969 in perspective noting that it was more than had been spend in America’s entire history for public higher education or police protection, and that it represented one-fifth of the value of all personal financial assets of all living Americans.
While Utahns were not necessarily pleased with the draft laws, they did not favor those who sought to avoid military service by leaving the country or deserting once they were inducted. A month after the 1973 cease-fire, 80 percent of Utahns opposed amnesty for those who fled from military service, and a year later the 70 percent still opposed any form of amnesty. It is difficult to estimate how many Utahns fled the country to avoid the draft or deserted from military service. Following the war, fewer than fifty men who violated Selective Service rules or received dishonorable discharges, signed up for an amnesty program set up under President Gerald Ford. Of those who applied who applied, only fifteen were assigned to the civilian service called for under the amnesty program. Of the fifteen, ten dropped out of the program before completing their assigned time. In the end, the United States Attorney for the District of Utah concluded that none of the Utah applicants would be required to render alternative service.
During the course of the war, protests and demonstrations were held against America’s involvement in Vietnam. Counter-demonstrations also sought to indicate support for a military resolution to the Vietnam question. Utah’s first protest march occurred in downtown Salt Lake City on 18 April 1965 with forty demonstrators. Four and a half years later, the demonstrators had increased a hundredfold-on 15 October 1969 more than four thousand demonstrators participated in nearly a full day of protest-or moratorium, as it was called-which began with speeches at a teach-in held in the University of Utah Union Building and continued with a march from Reservoir Park down South Temple Street to the Federal Building at 100 South and State Street where Reverend G. Edward Howlett of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral read the names of Utahns killed in Vietnam and other speakers called for an immediate withdrawal from Vietnam. The demonstration was peaceful with only one teenage girl arrested, on the charge of displaying a flag or banner with intent to engender disloyalty to the government of the United States.
Students at other Utah campuses, including Westminster College, Utah State University, Weber State and Southern Utah State gathered to listen to opponents and proponents debate the war, while at Brigham Young University some professors used class time to discuss the war with their students. An estimated 250 counter-demonstrators met at the City and County Building in Salt Lake City on the same day (15 October) for a two-hour rally during which Salt Lake City Commissioner Jake Garn called for the nonvocal majority to stand up and be counted; he charged that if the moratorium were successful, the United States would be communist and 40,000 American lives would have been sacrificed in vain, and he blamed protestors for prolonging the war and aiding the enemy. However, Republican Representative Sherman P. Lloyd saw the moratorium as good for America because it was “a valid exercise of free speech….Americans came to grips with themselves. They decided where to stand.” While other demonstrations and anti-war activities followed, none were on a scale of the October 1969 moratorium, which the Salt Lake Tribune called the largest peace demonstration in Utah history.
Lieutenant Colonel Jay R. Jensen of Sandy was the first Utahn to write and publish a book-length account of his Vietnam experiences. His 1974 book, Six Years In Hell, describes his capture on 18 February 1967 and six year ordeal as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese.
On 14 October 1989 the Utah Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated. Located on the west side of the State Capitol Grounds, the memorial includes an eight-foot-high statue of a soldier returning from battle with his buddy’s rifle, flanked by a curved, gray granite wall with polished black granite panels on which are inscribed the names of the 388 men and one woman who died or were listed as missing in action in Vietnam between 13 August 1963 and 4 April 1975. The statue was sculpted by Clyde Ross Morgan and cast by Neil Hadlock of Wasatch Bronzeworks of Lehi. The granite work was done by Mark H. Bott Monument Company of Ogden and Dave Bott using gray granite from Georgia and black granite from the same source in southern India as that used in the Washington D.C. Vietnam Memorial. Cost for the Memorial was over $300,000 with the Utah State Legislature appropriating $116,000 and the rest from private donations.
More than two decades after the last Utah veterans returned from Vietnam, the legacy of the war continues to be an important factor in the lives of thousands of Utahns. Also, an ongoing legacy of the Vietnam War is the 12,000 South-east Asian refugees and immigrants who have made Utah their home since 1975.
– Allan Kent Powell