Shoup, David Monroe

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SHOUP, David Monroe

(b. 30 December 1904 near Battle Ground, Indiana; d. 13 January 1983 in Alexandria, Virginia), World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps from 1960 to 1963, and outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War.

Shoup was one of four children of John Lamar Shoup, a farmer, and Mary Layton, a homemaker. Shoup graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, in 1926 with a B.A. in mathematics. Although he was a college wrestler, football player, and record-setting marathoner, financial circumstances forced Shoup to wait tables, wash dishes, and work in a cement factory to pay for his education. Participation in the Reserve Officers Training Corps provided additional funds.

In no better financial straits at graduation, Shoup enrolled in the U.S. Army Infantry Reserve. By July 1926 Shoup had received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He remained in the corps until retiring as commandant and general in December 1963. On 15 September 1931 Shoup married Zola De Haven; they had two children.

As a colonel in World War II, Shoup was awarded the Medal of Honor for his command of the 20–23 November 1943 attack on the island of Betio in the Tarawa atoll. Although Shoup sustained eight shrapnel wounds on the first day of the assault, his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity" are credited in the fall of the heavily fortified island.

After the war Shoup continued to rise through the ranks. However, he was still a major general when he was advanced by President Dwight D. Eisenhower over other officers to the position of Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1959. His promotion to four-star general became effective when his four-year term as commandant began on 1 January 1960.

Shoup grew up in rural poverty but was proud of his "Indiana farm boy" roots. Five feet, eight inches tall and of stocky build, he was a demanding leader, not averse to coarse language to make a point. As commandant, Shoup emphasized internal reforms to improve the combat readiness of the corps, including reorganization of the supply system. He eliminated the use of "swagger sticks" and defended the corps from assertions by Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina that marines knew too little about communism.

Shoup was disturbed by the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961, believing that military leaders had not been adequately included in planning. Eighteen months later, when the Cuban Missile Crisis raised the specter of invasion of the island, Shoup was determined to prevent another miscalculation. He presented to the Joint Chiefs of Staff a map of Cuba overlaid on a map of the United States, showing the island stretching from New York to Chicago. He added a tiny red dot, representing the island of Betio, which, Shoup reminded, took 18,000 marines three days to subdue.

Shoup's belief in the scarcity and expense of military resources extended to Vietnam. A brief 1962 tour confirmed for him his conviction that the United States should not undertake a land war in Asia. In 1963, when an officer obtained an increase in the Marine Corps advisory role in Vietnam, Shoup disparaged the mission as a "rat hole."

Still, Shoup was a favorite of President John F. Kennedy. In 1962 Shoup stirred the president's passion for history with an invitation to the marine barracks, advising that while the Washington, D.C., location had been selected by Thomas Jefferson, an actual presidential inspection was long overdue. Kennedy subsequently directed Shoup to a Theodore Roosevelt memorandum requesting Marine Corps officers to demonstrate their fitness with fifty-mile hikes. When Shoup called present-day officers to the task, fifty-mile hikes became a national fad. Despite his affinity with Kennedy, Shoup declined an offer of reappointment, believing it unfair to lower-ranking officers who might otherwise vie for the position.

Shoup's stark view of Vietnam grew in retirement as he watched the U.S. commitment escalate. His feelings erupted in a 14 May 1966 speech to students at the Tenth Annual Junior College World Affairs Day in Los Angeles. Using incendiary language, Shoup told students that, with respect to the safety and freedom of the American people, the whole of Southeast Asia was not "worth the life or limb of a single American." Shoup asserted his belief that "if we had and would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own." He believed that the exploited people of the world had the right to pursue violent revolution if they deemed it necessary.

In his speech to the students, Shoup encouraged them to demonstrate. Professing a belief that communism would inevitably fade into capitalism, he nevertheless told the students that the most noble effort of humanity was to free humankind from the affluent who gorged on delicacies, while some children starved for lack of milk and bread.

In 1967 Shoup reiterated his opposition in a nationally televised interview, calling for negotiations with the North Vietnamese. His speech and the interview were inserted into the Congressional Record but also earned him investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Nevertheless, Shoup brought credibility to the antiwar movement, since, as it was observed, it was "difficult to cast doubt on the patriotism of a military man, and doubly so when he has [a] record of gallantry and leadership."

On 20 March 1968 Shoup testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. Although Shoup felt privileged, he pointedly noted that he had been called a dissenter and traitor, and had been accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Shoup told the committee that military victory was impossible, no matter how many troops were sent to Vietnam. The conflict, he believed, was essentially a civil war, pitting the unpopular South Vietnamese government against the revered North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh.

Shoup declined many invitations to speak at antiwar rallies. However, he expressed concern over a perceived militarization of the country in his writings, suggesting that intraservice rivalry and career ambition created momentum for military engagements. Later Senate testimony by Shoup in 1971 disparaged President Richard M. Nixon's "Vietnamization" plan and called upon Congress to take action to end the war.

Shoup spent his retirement in Alexandria, Virginia, where he died of a heart condition. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. On 24 February 2001 the U.S. Navy christened the AEGIS guided-missile destroyer Shoup in his honor.

Known as the "marine's marine," heroism in World War II made Shoup one of the most highly decorated in that service. Duty beckoned him in retirement to speak out against a war he considered foolhardy. As a voice from the 1960s establishment, he gave weight to the rising swell against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Shoup's papers are at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California. For a journal of his tour of duty in China, see Shoup, The Marines in China, 1927–1928: The China Expedition Which Turned out to Be the China Exhibition; A Contemporaneous Journal (1987), edited by Howard Jablon. See also Howard Jablon, "General David M. Shoup, U.S.M.C.: Warrior and War Protester," The Journal of Military History 60, no. 3 (1996): 513–538; Robert Buzzanco and Leigh Fought, "David Shoup: Four-Star Troublemaker," in The Human Tradition in the Vietnam Era (2000), edited by David L. Anderson; and Allen Mikaelian, Medal of Honor: Profiles of America's Military Heroes from the Civil War to the Present (2002). Obituaries are in the Washington Post (15 Jan. 1983) and New York Times (16 Jan. 1983).

Dennis Watson

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Shoup, David Monroe