Dear Dr. Spock: Letters about the Vietnam War to America's Favorite Baby Doctor

Dear Dr. Spock: Letters about the Vietnam War to America's Favorite Baby Doctor

by Michael S. Foley
Pub. Date:
New York University Press
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Dear Dr. Spock: Letters about the Vietnam War to America's Favorite Baby Doctor

At the height of the Vietnam War, thousands of Americans wrote moving letters to Dr. Benjamin Spock, America’s pediatrician and a high-profile opponent of the war. Personal and heartfelt, thoughtful and volatile, these missives from Middle America provide an intriguing glimpse into the conflicts that took place over the dinner table as people wrestled with this divisive war and with their consciences.

Providing one of the first clear views of the home front during the war, Dear Dr. Spock collects the best of these letters and offers a window into the minds of ordinary Americans. They wrote to Spock because he was familiar, trustworthy, and controversial. His book Baby and Child Care was on the shelves of most homes, second only to the Bible in the number of copies sold. Starting in the 1960s, his activism in the antinuclear and antiwar movements drew mixed reactions from Americans—some puzzled, some supportive, some angry, and some desperate.

Most of the letters come from what Richard Nixon called the “silent majority”—white, middleclass, law-abiding citizens who the president thought supported the war to contain Communism. In fact, the letters reveal a complexity of reasoning and feeling that moves far beyond the opinion polls at the time. One mother of young children struggles to imagine how Vietnamese women could endure after their village was napalmed, while another chastises Spock for the “dark shadow” he had cast on the country and pledges to instill love of country in her sons.

What emerges is a portrait of articulate Americans struggling mightily to understand government policies in Vietnam and how those policies did or did not reflect their own sense of themselves and their country.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814727447
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 09/01/2007
Pages: 281
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Table of Contents

A Note on the Letters
1 Gunfire in the Distance, 1965
2 Into the Quagmire, 1966
3 Polarization, January–October 1967
4 The Antiwar Challenge and Its Discontents, October 1967–February 1968
5 Shock Waves: The Aftermath of Tet and the Ordeal at Home, February–May 1968
6 The War on Trial, May–September 1968
7 Toward Nixon’s War, September 1968–December 1969
8 The End of the Tunnel, 1970–1972
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