Interview with John Nichols
QUESTION 22
INTERVIEWER:

So if you could tell me a little bit about the visiting, the, the outside forces that came in and how that--

JOHN NICHOLS:

Well, I think one of the problems, aside from the political problems, was the problem of integrating the National Guard and the regular army. The National Guard had been mobilized, they'd been mobilized piece-meal because they were in, in encampment, and they were hauled out of their tents without their personal items, their razors, their soaps, their, their Bald Egg[SIC] shoe shine kits and all the rest of the stuff that good soldiers carry, and they'd been put on a truck and driving to Detroit and told to get out and fight. The regular army sent in one of the, the most battle-seasoned units that they had. It was the 82nd Airborne and it had just come back from Vietnam, it was well-disciplined, well-trained, well-schooled, and functioned pretty much like a, like a well-disciplined unit should function. There had been some problems in Washington about, between National Guard and the Reserve, and there's little doubt in my mind that the Reserves had weathered the storm and the Guard may have been selected as the next target for reduction by then-Secretary McNamara, and I think those kind of political overtones had eff--had an effect on it. The Guard was heavily involved in the, in the tenth precinct and the western sector of the city. The regular army moved in in the eastern sector, which is what they should have done. Military you don't attempt to relieve an outfit that's, that's engaged in, in the--





INTERVIEWER:

If you could just pick up on the last part of that, comparing how prepared the federal troops were versus how non-prepared--

JOHN NICHOLS:

Well, as I said, the federal troops were, were the cream of the crop. The National Guard had not been committed to any kind of action since the Korean War. Many of the officers and men had not been involved in anything that even looked like a combat situation. They were picked up on their bivouac area and deposited. They were poorly fed, they were poorly taken care of from the standpoint of their personal needs, and they, as I said, they looked shabby, we all looked shabby. Most of us had been in the same clothes for three or four days, and that does not lead to a smart military appearance, and I think that many of the regular Army people felt that they were, were substandard. I told some regular Army people there that if their people had had the same situation they wouldn't have looked any better. I think a lot of that was generated by, by protagonists of both the regular Army and the National Guard. The National Guard people rose up in righteous indignation when they were criticized for improper appearance, for lack of control, and for many other things, and they in turn had their people storming on the Nat--on the regular Army, that they took over the softest section, if they were up there where the action was they wouldn't look any better. A lot of it, I think, hinged upon really political considerations. There was a great lot of question as to why the regular Army immediately federalized the National Guard. The political reason for that is quite simple. You don't need the National Guard under state control and the federal troops under presidential control with po--with the possibility of having two separate missions. And it also enabled the federal government to pick up the pay tab for the National Guard, which would have been part of the city's res--the state's responsibility had they not done so, but many of the things that crossed--