When the Army Planned for a Fight in U.S. Cities

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Source: The Atlantic

In January 1968, Colonel Robert B. Rigg, a retired Army intelligence officer, published an article in ARMY magazine that captured the attention of an establishment reeling from recent riots in Watts, Detroit, and other American cities. He argued that those disturbances might be relatively mild precursors to a coming rebellion in the streets––that during the next few years, “organized urban insurrection could explode to the extent that large American cities could become scenes of destruction approaching those of Stalingrad in World War II.”…………..

What followed was a detailed blueprint for how the U.S. Army, on the president’s orders, would deploy simultaneously to 25 American cities to put down civil unrest. For instance, “Riot control agents should be used to accomplish your mission prior to the use of live ammunition,” it noted. “Authority to issue live ammunition to personnel under your command is authorized. They are not to load or fire their weapons except when authorized by an officer in person; when authorized in advance by an officer under certain specific conditions; or when required to save their lives. Warning shots will not be fired; however, when shooting is necessary, shots will be aimed to wound rather than to kill.”

The Army set forth these factors in “assessing the probabilities of civil disturbances” in a given urban area:

(a) Population by race.
(b) Population of the “core city” of the urban area; percentage and distribution of the minorities population.
(c) Presence of large “blue collar” neighborhoods, as reflected by the industrial payrolls and industrial concentrations.
(d) Presence of poor economic and sociological conditions, and their reflections in crime rates.
(e) Unemployment rate in the area, and sections of concentrated unemployment.
(f) Presence and degree of activity of militant racial, leftist and anti-draft, and extreme right-wing groups, and an assessment of the capabilities of these  to provoke disturbances.
(g) History of civil disturbances in the area.
(h) Assessment of known and probable demonstrations.
(i) Existence of widespread sense of injustice and real or imagined lack of means of redress.
(j) Caching of arms or explosives; other preparations for disturbances.

Twenty-five “high-priority” areas were identified, and the Army planned as if to combat civil disturbances in all of them at once. That would result in the activation of five brigades. They would deploy to Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Louisville, Newark, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Trenton, Wilmington, Atlanta, Memphis, Miami, Nashville, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, St. Louis, Gary, Milwaukee, Los Angeles/Long Beach, and San Francisco/Oakland, while an additional 30,000 troops would keep order in Washington, D.C.

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