The Effingham County Museum saluted veterans from the 1960s and 1970s on Sunday afternoon during a short program. Prior to the program, starting tours of the museum were offered.
The program was presented by Jane Ries, Vice President of the museum. Those that started serving in 1960 or earlier, the presidents that were involved were Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald B. Ford, Jimmy Carter. In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii became states, making those that served in the 1960s the first that served in a state if they were stationed there.
In 1960, a new house cost $12,700, the average income was $5,315 and a gallon of gas was 25 cents. Enlisted pay in 1960 was $78 per month. By 1963 it went up to $83.20 and it didn’t raise again until Vietnam started heating up and then it went up to $96.90 in 1966 and $102.30 in 1967.
In 1970 it reached $124.50 with an increase to $133.20 after 4 months. By the end of the era in 1979 it was up to $419.40 a month. In 2019 they are now making $1,555 with an increase to $1,681 after 4 months.
In 1960 the minimum wage was $1 an hour, a McDonald’s hamburger was 15 cents and a doctor’s visit was $5. A loaf of bread was 12 cents. In 1960 a long running show that was cancelled was Howdy Doody.
In 1961, the bestselling book was To Kill A Mockingbird. In 1964, the Beatles made their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.
In 1965, The 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade arrived in Vietnam on March 8. The 60s were dominated by the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Protests, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and the Cuban Missile Crisis. “We finally ended on a good note when the first man landed on the moon July 20, 1969,” Ries said.
The Draft started in 1940 and lasted until 1973, it was during both peacetime and periods of conflict that men were drafted to fill vacancies in the United States Armed Forces that could not be filled by voluntary means. “During the Vietnam War era 1964-1973 the US military drafted 2.2 million American men out of an eligible pool of 27 million,” she said.
Ries went on to say that many men enlisted to have a choice in the branch of service. In March 1965, the first marines landed as combat troops in Vietnam.
In 1968, the Communist forces executed 2800 South Vietmese civilians. In 1973, the cease fire agreement was reached by United States and North Vietnam and POW’s began to be sent home.
By March 29, 1973, the last US combat troops have left Vietnam. July 4, 1973 ended the draft. In the late 1960’s there was a feeling that too many being drafted were from the working middle class and the poorer class so they instituted the lottery.
Ries said 37 were drafted to go to Vietnam in the largest draft from Effingham County.
“They met at the bus depot in the early morning hours rode down to St. Louis,” she said. Ries said her neighbor was in that group.
According to Ries, even though we have closed many military bases we still have 800 bases across the globe. The next most is Britain at 30 bases.
The 1970s saw war time begin to wind down. On April 30, 1975 two years after the U.S. left, Saigon fell. On Nov. 13, 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Wall opened.
In 1970, the average price of a house was $23,450 and the average income was $9,400. Gas was 36 cents a gallon, a postage stamp was up to 6 cents.
“Throughout the years from 1960 to 1979 our military have been everywhere,” Ries said. “In peacetime as advisers and in wartime as troops.”