During the three-year stretch in which Richard Rodgers’ and Oscar Hammerstein II’s South Pacific and The King and I reached the Broadway stage, theatrical expressions of support for the equality of black and white were a dicey proposition, courting charges of Communist sympathies. And yet in these two musicals, lyricist and librettist Hammerstein found a way to voice that support. However, in keeping with the times as well as his temperament, he did so by indirection, and also with what might be called camouflage: presenting the “destabilizing” message about race relations in a matrix that included remarkably conventional and reassuring, even retrograde, messages concerning the relations of the sexes and colonialism.
The internal justification for area bombing either espoused a view that civilians were collateral damage to attacks on the industrial war machine or that in modern warfare, the civilian/combatant distinction was not viable or important. In some cases, bombing of civilians was, ironically, presented as humanitarian and in keeping with the larger goals of the law of war, in that collapse of the enemy could be precipitated faster, and at a lower cost in human life overall, if civilian morale could be broken from the skies.
Stockdale should know about holding the bag: the next year he would be shot down and spend seven and a half years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war subject to routine torture. He would be kept in solitary confinement for four years. He would be held in leg irons for two years. He had to go through that and more because in the end McNamara’s men did not really care whether there had been any boats or not, and McNamara’s boss LBJ did not care about telling Congress what he was asking for.