Large Scale Protest to Vietnam War 1967 - History

Large Scale Protest to Vietnam War 1967 - History

Protesters in Washington DC 1967

Amidst growing opposition to the war in Vietnam, large scale anti-war protests were held in New York San Francisco and other cities. In New York, the rally began in Central Park, where draft cards were burned, and included a march to the United Nations led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Domestic Opposition to the War

Domestic protests against US participation in the war have been credited with shortening the war by both anti-war protestors themselves, and by supporters of the war effort, who felt that fears of a domestic backlash forced both Johnson and Nixon to limit US involvement in the conflict. However, this view of the anti-war movement&rsquos influence and impact, has arguably been significantly overstated.

Domestic opposition to the war was diverse in character, composition and strategy. Its roots lay in peace organizations such as the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy and the Students for a Democratic Society. However, before 1965, it made little impact on the public consciousness the overwhelming majority of the population supporting Johnson&rsquos decision to enter the war in 1965. Perhaps understandably, this decision provided fuel to the anti-war movement, and campus-based protests such as the &lsquoTeach-Ins&rsquo at Michigan State and Berkeley universities grew in number as the conflict continued. Protests even spread to US Army bases, such as Fort Hood, where three soldiers in 1966 refused to be shipped to Vietnam. In April 1967, the black civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, added his voice to the protests arguing that the &lsquomadness of Vietnam&rsquo needed to cease, with an immediate, unilateral US withdrawal.

Even so, such protests were very much the exception, and opponents to the war were dismissed as communist agitators or propagandists for Hanoi. The 1968 Tet Offensive provided a dramatic impetus to anti-war protests, broadening opposition to the war, and gaining a high profile critic of US strategy in the form of Walter Cronkite who articulated the shock many felt at the scale of the communist attack. This resulted in him arguing that a negotiated peace was the best outcome available to the US. Johnson&rsquos decision not to run again and to end the bombing of North Vietnam, was partially attributable to the effect of &lsquolosing&rsquo Cronkite. However, it was also a response to the threat posed by the poster boy for the mainstream anti-war movement, Eugene McCarthy, in the 1968 presidential primary campaign. Furthermore, many of his advisors, including his past and current Defense Secretaries, experienced serious doubts about the merits of US involvement in the war.

An anti-Vietnam demonstrator offers a flower to military police at the Pentagon. Arlington, Virginia, October 1967

The real successes of the anti-war movement occurred during Richard Nixon&rsquos presidency. His victory in the 1968 Presidential election owed much to his pledge to achieve &lsquopeace with honour&rsquo. However, his attempt to win the war through large-scale escalation, was thwarted by a three events. Firstly, increasing public demonstrations, such as the Moratorium March on Washington of 15 October 1969, when 250,000 protestors converged on the Capitol. Secondly, the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings, featuring ex-servicemen &lsquoconfessing&rsquo their crimes in Vietnam. The third, and most significant event was Congress passing the Cooper-Church Amendment prevented US forces from being deployed outside Vietnam, and by the end of 1972 it was clear that it was only a matter of time before Congress ultimately cut funding for the war in Vietnam.

There are very strong arguments to challenge the role of domestic opposition in bringing the war to a swift conclusion. Perhaps the most obvious argument focuses on the actual length of the war. US ground troops were involved for eight years, four years longer than the US involvement in the Second World War. They were involved for a further five years after the Tet Offensive. If the anti-war movement was so effective, why did the war last so long? Secondly, throughout the conflict, public opinion remained broadly supportive of presidential policy towards Vietnam, indeed Nixon won nearly 61 per cent of the vote, carrying 49 out of 50 States in the process in the 1972 election. And this, in a country where Gallup estimated fewer than 30 per cent of the population believed the US should have gone to war in Vietnam. The movement itself was too divided to have any real impact on decision-making. Ironically, this fragmentation occurred at the point when the anti-war movement appeared to have experienced a critical breakthrough: 1968. While establishment figures such as Cronkite calmly called for a negotiated peace, student radicals were prepared to raid draft offices and attack Dow Chemicals, the company which produced napalm. It seems that the most influential factor in turning the people at home against the war, was the lack of any hope of victory, and not the protests on the streets, bases and campuses.

Early Protests

American involvement in Southeast Asia began in the years following World War II. The principle of stopping the spread of communism in its tracks made sense to most Americans, and few people outside the military paid much attention to what at that time seemed like an obscure and distant land.

During the Kennedy administration, American military advisers began to flow into Vietnam, and America's footprint in the country grew larger. Vietnam had been divided into North and South Vietnam, and American officials resolved to prop up the government of South Vietnam as it fought against a communist insurgency supported by North Vietnam.

In the early 1960s, most Americans would have viewed the conflict in Vietnam as a minor proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Americans were comfortable supporting the anti-communist side. And as so few Americans were involved, it wasn't a terribly volatile issue.

Americans began to sense that Vietnam was turning into a major problem when, in the spring of 1963, Buddhists began a series of protests against the American-backed and extremely corrupt government of premier Ngo Dinh Diem. In a shocking gesture, a young Buddhist monk sat on a Saigon street and set himself on fire, creating an iconic image of Vietnam as a deeply troubled land.

Against a backdrop of such disturbing and discouraging news, the Kennedy administration continued to send American advisers to Vietnam. The issue of American involvement came up in an interview with President Kennedy conducted by journalist Walter Cronkite on September 2, 1963, less than three months before Kennedy's assassination.

Kennedy was careful to state that American involvement in Vietnam would remain limited:


1945 Edit

  • The first protests against U.S. involvement in Vietnam were in 1945, when United States Merchant Marine sailors condemned the U.S. government for the use of U.S. merchant ships to transport European troops to "subjugate the native population" of Vietnam. [1]

1963 Edit

  • May. Anti-Vietnam war protests in England and Australia.
  • September 21. War Resisters League organizes first U.S. protest against the Vietnam War and "anti-Buddhist terrorism" by the U.S.-supported South Vietnamese regime with a demonstration at the US Mission to the UN in New York City. [2]
  • October 9. WRL among other groups turn out 300 pickets against a speaking engagement by Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. [3]

1964 Edit

  • March. A conference at Yale plans demonstrations on May 4.
  • April 25. The Internal Protector published a pledge of draft resistance by some of these organizers.
  • May 2. Hundreds of students demonstrate on New York's Times Square and from there went to the United Nations. 700 marched in San Francisco. Smaller demonstrations took place in Boston, Madison, Wisconsin and Seattle. These protests were organized by the Progressive Labor Party, with help from the Young Socialist Alliance. The May 2nd Movement was the PLP's youth affiliate.
  • May 12. Twelve young men in New York publicly burn their draft cards to protest the war—the first such act of war resistance. [4][5]
  • Fall. Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley defends the right of students to carry out political organizing on campus. Founder: Mario Savio.
  • Early August. White and black activists gathered near Philadelphia, Mississippi for the memorial service of three civil rights workers. One of the speakers bitterly spoke out against Johnson's use of force in Vietnam, comparing it to violence used against blacks in Mississippi. [6]
  • December 19. First coordinated nationwide protests against the Vietnam War included demonstrations in New York City (sponsored by War Resisters League, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Committee for Non-Violent Action, the Socialist Party of America, and the Student Peace Union and attended by 1500 people), San Francisco (1000 people), Minneapolis, Miami, Austin, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, Cleveland, and other cities. [7]

1965 Edit

  • February 2 –March. Protests at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas organized by the RA Student Peace Union. [8]
  • February 12–16. Anti-U.S. demonstrations in various cities in the world, "including a break-in at the U.S. embassy in Budapest, Hungary, by some 200 Asian and African students." [9]
  • March 15. A debate organized by the Inter-University Committee for a Public Hearing on Vietnam is held in Washington, D.C. Radio and television coverage.
  • March 16. An 82-year-old Detroit woman named Alice Herz self-immolated to make a statement against the horrors of the war. She died ten days later. [10]
  • March 24. First SDS organized teach-in, at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. 3,000 students attend and the idea spreads fast.
  • March. Berkeley, California: Jerry Rubin and Stephen Smale's Vietnam Day Committee (VDC) organize a huge protest of 35,000. [citation needed]
  • April. Oklahoma college students sent out hundreds of thousands of pamphlets with pictures of dead babies in a combat zone on them to portray a message about battles taking place in Vietnam.
  • April 17. The SDS-organized March Against the Vietnam War onto Washington, D.C. was the largest anti-war demonstration in the U.S. to date with 15,000 to 20,000 people attending. Paul Potter demands a radical change of society.
  • May 5. Several hundred people carrying a black coffin marched to the Berkeley, California draft board, and 40 men burned their draft cards. [11]
  • May 21–23. Vietnam Day Committee organized large teach-in at UC Berkeley. 10–30,000 attend.
  • May 22. The Berkeley draft board was visited again, with 19 men burning their cards. President Lyndon B. Johnson was hung in effigy. [11]
  • Summer. Young blacks in McComb, Mississippi learn one of their classmates was killed in Vietnam and distribute a leaflet saying "No Mississippi Negroes should be fighting in Vietnam for the White man's freedom". [6]
  • June. Richard Steinke, a West Point graduate in Vietnam, refused to board an aircraft taking him to a remote Vietnamese village, stating the war "is not worth a single American life". [6]
  • June 27. End Your Silence, an open letter in the New York Times by the group Artists and Writers Protest against the War in Vietnam. [12]
  • July. The Vietnam Day Committee organized militant protest in Oakland, California ends in inglorious debacle, when the organizers end the march from Oakland to Berkeley to avoid a confrontation with police.
  • July. A Women Strike for Peace- delegation led by Cora Weiss meets its North Vietnamese and Vietcong counterpart in Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • July 30. A man from the Catholic Worker Movement is photographed burning his draft card on Whitehall Street in Manhattan in front of the Armed Forces Induction Center. His photograph appears in Life magazine in August. [13]
  • October 15. David J. Miller burned his draft card at a rally again held near the Armed Forces Induction Center on Whitehall Street. The 24-year-old pacifist, member of the Catholic Worker Movement, became the first man arrested and convicted under the 1965 amendment to the Selective Service Act of 1948. [14]
  • October 15–16.
  • Europe, October 15–16. First International Days of Protest. Anti-U.S. demonstrations in London, Rome, Brussels, Copenhagen and Stockholm.
  • October 20. Stephen Lynn Smith, a student at the University of Iowa, spoke to a rally at the Memorial Union in Iowa City, Iowa, and burned his draft card. He was arrested, found guilty and put on three years probation. [15]
  • October 30. Pro-Vietnam War march in New York City brings 25,000.
  • November 2. In front of the Pentagon in Washington, as thousands of employees were streaming out of the building in the late afternoon, Norman Morrison, a thirty-two-year-old pacifist, father of three, stood below the third-floor windows of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, doused himself with kerosene, and set himself afire, giving up his life in protest against the war. [6]
  • November 6. Thomas C. Cornell, Marc Paul Edelman, Roy Lisker, David McReynolds and James Wilson burned their draft cards at a public rally organized by the Committee for Non-Violent Action in Union Square, New York City. [16]
  • November 27. SANE-sponsored March on Washington in 1965. 15,000 to 20,000 demonstrators.
  • December 16–17. High school students in Des Moines, Iowa, are suspended for wearing black armbands to "mourn the deaths on both sides" and in support of Robert F. Kennedy's call for a Christmas truce. The students sued the Des Moines School District, resulting in the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of the students, Tinker v. Des Moines.

1966 Edit

  • From September 1965 to January 1970, 170,000 men had been drafted and another 180,000 enlisted. By January, 2,000,000 men had secured college deferments.
  • February. Local artists in Hollywood build a 60-foot tower of protest on Sunset Boulevard. [6]
  • March 25–26. Second Days of International Protest. Organized by the National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam, led by SANE, Women Strike for Peace, the Committee for Nonviolent Action and the SDS: 20,000 to 25,000 in New York alone, demonstrations also in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Oklahoma City. Abroad, in Ottawa, London, Oslo, Stockholm, Lyon, and Tokyo.
  • March 31. David Paul O'Brien and three companions burned their draft cards on the steps of the South Boston Courthouse. The case was tried by the Supreme Court in United States v. O'Brien.
  • Spring. Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam founded.
  • May 15. March Against the Vietnam War, led by SANE and Women Strike for Peace, with 8,000 to 10,000 taking part. (Cassius Clay) refused to go to war, famously stating that he had "no quarrel with the Viet Cong" and that "no Viet Cong ever called me nigger." Ali also stated he would not go "10,000 miles to help murder, kill, and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slavemasters over dark people." [17] In 1967 he was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but was released on appeal by the United States Supreme Court.
  • Summer. Six members of the SNCC invade an induction center in Atlanta and are later arrested. [6]
  • July 3. Crowd of over 4,000 demonstrate outside of the US Embassy in London. Scuffles break out between the protesters and police, and at least 31 people are arrested. [18]
  • September 10–11. First national antiwar Mobilization Committee established as the November 8 Mobilization Committee.
  • November 7. Protests against Secretary McNamara at Harvard University.
  • November 26. The November 8 Mobilization Committee becomes the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, formalized at the Cleveland Conference. National director is Reverend James Bevel.
  • Late December. Student Mobilization Committee formed.

1967 Edit

  • January 29 – February 5. Angry Arts Week by the Artists Protest group.
  • April 4. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at Riverside church in New York about the war: "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence". King stated that "somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours." [6]
  • April 15. At Sheep Meadow, Central Park, New York City, some 60 young men including a few students from Cornell University came together to burn their draft cards in a Maxwell House coffee can. [19] More join them, including uniformed Green Beret Army Reservist Gary Rader. As many as 158 cards are burned. [20]
  • April 15. Spring Mobe protests in New York City (300,000) and in San Francisco.
  • May 20–21. 700 activists at the Spring Mobilization Conference, Washington, D.C. The Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam becomes the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (the Mobe). , Sweden (May) and Roskilde, Denmark (November_. International War Crimes Tribunal (Russell Tribunal) unanimously finds the US government and its armed forces "guilty of the deliberate, systematic and large-scale bombardment of civilian targets, including civilian populations, dwellings, villages, dams, dikes, medical establishments, leper colonies, schools, churches, pagodas, historical and cultural monuments".
  • June 1. The Vietnam Veterans Against the War is formed. Veteran Jan Barry Crumb participated in a protest on April 7 called the "Fifth Avenue Peace Parade" in New York City. On May 30 Crumb and ten like-minded men attended a peace demonstration in Washington, D.C.
  • June 23. The Bond, the first G.I.underground paper established. [21]
  • June 23. 1,300 police attack 10,000 peace marchers at The Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, where President Lyndon B. Johnson was being honored.
  • In the summer of 1967, Neil Armstrong and various other NASA officials began a tour of South America to raise awareness for space travel. According to First Man, a biography of Armstrong's life, during the tour, several South American college students protested the astronaut, and shouted such phrases as "Murderers get out of Vietnam!" and other anti-Vietnam War messages.
  • October 16. A day of widespread war protest organized by The Mobe in 30 cities across the U.S., with some 1,400 draft cards burned. [22]
  • October 18. "Dow Day", University of Wisconsin–Madison. This was the first university Vietnam War protest to turn violent. Thousands of students protested Dow Chemical (maker of napalm) recruiting on campus. Nineteen police officers and about 50 students were treated for injuries at hospitals. [23][24]
  • October 20. Resist leaders present draft cards to the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. .
  • October 21–23. National Mobe organized the March on the Pentagon to Confront the War Makers. 100,000 are at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC, 35,000 (or up to 50,000?) go on to the Pentagon, some to engage in acts of civil disobedience. Norman Mailer's The Armies of the Night describes the event.
  • October 27. Father Philip Berrigan, a Josephite priest and World War II veteran, led a group now known as the Baltimore Four who went to a draft board in Baltimore, Maryland, drenched the draft records with blood, and waited to be arrested. [6]
  • December 4. National draft card turn-in. At San Francisco's Phillip Burton Federal Building, some 500 protesters witnessed 88 draft cards collected and burned. [11]
  • December 4–8. Stop the Draft Week demonstrations in New York. 585 arrested, amongst them Benjamin Spock.
  • Sweden, December 20. Seventh Year of the Viet Cong (the Front National de Libération du Vietnam du Sud, or FNL) celebrated with violent clashes in Stockholm. Demonstrations in forty Swedish towns.

1968 Edit

  • Peace Corps volunteers in Chile spoke out against the war. 92 volunteers defied the Peace Corps director and issued a circular denouncing the war. [6]
  • January. Singer Eartha Kitt, while at a luncheon at the White House, spoke out against the war and its effects on the youth, exclaiming, "you send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed," to her fellow guests. "They rebel in the street. They will take pot. and they will get high. They don't want to go to school because they're going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam." [25]
  • January 15. Jeannette Rankin leads a demonstration of thousands of women in Washington, D.C. .
  • London, Sunday, March 17. Violent protest in London (street occupation), not supported by the Old Left. Over 300 arrests.
  • Frankfurt, Germany, April 2. Gudrun Ensslin and Andreas Baader, joined by Thorwald Proll and Horst Söhnlein, set fire to two department stores.
  • April 3. National draft-card turn-in. About 1,000 draft cards were turned in. In Boston, 15,000 protesters watched 235 men turn in their draft cards. [22]
  • April 4. Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. silences one of the leading voices against the war.
  • Late April. Student Mobe sponsored national student strike, demonstrations in New York and San Francisco.
  • April–May. Protesters occupy five buildings at Columbia University. Future leading Weather Underground member Mark Rudd gains prominence.
  • Berlin, Germany, April 11. Rudi Dutschke shot and wounded. Massive riots against Axel Springer publishers.
  • May. FBI's COINTELPRO campaign launched against the New Left.
  • May. Agricultural Building at Southern Illinois University (SIU) bombed.
  • May 1. Boston University graduate Philip Supina wrote to his draft board in Tucson, Arizona, that he had "absolutely no intention to report for [his] exam, or for induction, or to aid in any way the American war effort against the people of Vietnam." [6]
  • May 17. Philip Berrigan and his brother, Daniel, led seven others into a draft board office in Catonsville, Maryland, removed records, and set them afire with homemade napalm outside in front of reporters and onlookers. [6]
  • June 4–5. The hope of the antiwar movement, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, is shot after celebrating victory in the California primary. He dies the next morning, June 6.
  • Late June. Student Mobe ruptures.
  • August 28. Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Police Violence.
  • October 14, 1968. Presidio mutiny sit-down protest carried out by 27 military prisoners at the U.S. Army's Presidio stockade in San Francisco, California.
  • October 21. In Japan, a group of 290,000 activists occupied the Shinjuku Station, protesting an earlier incident in August 1967 where a JNR freight train hauling kerosene to the Tachikawa Airbase collided with another train and exploded. The activists managed to disrupt all railway traffic at the station and led to clashes with riot police and acts of vandalism it was the largest anti-war protest in Japan at the time.
  • November 14. National draft-card turn-in.

1969 Edit

  • The whole year major campus protests take place across the country.
  • January 19–20. Protests against Richard Nixon's inauguration.
  • March 22. Nine protesters smashed glass, hurled files out a fourth floor window, and poured blood on files and furniture at the Dow Chemical offices in Washington, D.C.
  • March 29. Conspiracy charges against eight suspected organizers of the Chicago Convention protests.
  • April 5–6. Antiwar demonstrations and parades in several cities, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and others.
  • May 21. Silver Spring Three Les Bayless, John Bayless, and Michael Bransome walked into a Silver Spring, Maryland Selective Service office where they destroyed several hundred draft records to protest the war.
  • June. At the Brown University commencement, two-thirds of the graduating class turned their backs when Henry Kissinger stood up to address them. [6]
  • June 8. The Old Main building at SIU burns to the ground. Units of firefighters from all over the area tried to salvage the building but could not put out the fire before everything was destroyed. [26]
  • June. Chicago. SDS national convention. The SDS disintegrates into SDS-WSA and SDS. The Worker Student Alliance of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) has the majority of delegates (900) on its side. The smaller Revolutionary Youth Movement fraction (500) divide into RYM-I/Weatherman, who retained control of the SDS National Office, and maoist RYM-II. This fraction will further divide into the various groups of New Communist Movement.
  • July 4–5. Cleveland: national antiwar conference established National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam.
  • October 8–11. Weatherman's disastrous Days of Rage in Chicago. Only 300 militants show up, not the expected 10,000. 287 will be arrested.
  • October 15. National Moratorium against the War demonstrations. Huge crowds in Washington and in Boston (100,000). Anti-war Senator George McGovern gave a speech to the large crowd in Boston. [27]
  • November 15. The Mobe's Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam mobilizes 500,000. March against Death, Washington, D.C.
  • November 15. San Francisco. [clarification needed]
  • November 26. Selective Service System (draft-lottery) bill signed.
  • December 1. The Selective Service System of the United States conducted two lotteries
  • December 7. The 5th Dimension performs their song "Declaration" on the Ed Sullivan Show. Consisting of the opening of the Declaration of Independence (through "for their future security"), it suggests that the right and duty of revolting against a despotic government is still relevant.

1970 Edit

  • February, March. Wave of bombings across the US.
  • March. Antidraft protests across the US.
  • March 14. SS Columbia Eagle incident: Two American merchant marine sailors, Clyde McKay and Alvin Glatkowski, seized the SS Columbia Eagle and forced the master to sail in to Cambodia as opposed to Thailand, where it was on its way to deliver napalm bombs to be used by the US Air Force in Vietnam.
  • March 30: About 100 people protest in Albany, New York against the draft. [28]
  • April. New Mobe, Moratorium and SMC protests across the country.
  • April 4. A right-wing Victory March. organized by Reverend Carl McIntire calls for victory in the Vietnam War. 50,000 attend.
  • April 19: Moratorium announces disbanding.
  • May 2: violent anti-war rallies at many universities. , Ohio, May 4: Kent State Shootings: U.S. National Guard kill four young people during a demonstration. As a result, four million students go on strike at more than 450 universities and colleges. The best-known cultural response to the deaths at Kent State was the protest song "Ohio", written by Neil Young for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
  • May 8, New York. Hard Hat Riot: after a student anti-war demonstration, workers attack them and riot for two hours.
  • May 8. Jim Cairns, a member of the Australian parliament, led over 100,000 people in a demonstration in Melbourne. [27] Smaller protests were also held on the same day in every state capital of Australia.
  • May 9. Mobe sponsored Kent State/Cambodia Incursion Protest, Washington, D.C. between 75,000 and 100,000 demonstrators converged on Washington, D.C. to protest the Kent State shootings and the Nixon administration's incursion into Cambodia. Even though the demonstration was quickly put together, protesters were still able to bring out thousands to march in the National Mall in front of the Capitol. It was an almost spontaneous response to the events of the previous week. Police ringed the White House with buses to block the demonstrators from getting too close to the executive mansion. Early in the morning before the march, Nixon met with protesters briefly at the Lincoln Memorial.
  • May 14, Jackson State College. Jackson State killings: Two dead and twelve injured during violent protests.
  • May 20, New York. An estimated 60,000 to 150,000 are at a pro-war demonstration on Wall Street.
  • May 28, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennesse. Nixon at Billy Graham Crusade in Neyland Stadium. 800 students carry "Thou Shalt Not Kill" signs into the stadium. Many are arrested and charged with "disrupting a religious service" with only Republican candidates on the stage with Graham and Nixon. [29]
  • June. Before a commencement at the University of Massachusetts, students stenciled red fists of protests, white peace symbols, and blue doves onto their black gowns. [6] , August 24. Sterling Hall bombing: aimed at the Army Math Research Center on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors of the building, in missing its target, a Ford van packed with explosives hit the physics laboratory on the first floor and killed young researcher Robert Fassnacht and seriously injured another person.
  • August 29, Chicano Moratorium. 20–30,000 Mexican-Americans participated in the largest antiwar demonstration in Los Angeles. Police are attacked with clubs and guns and kill three people, including Rubén Salazar, a TV news director and LA Times reporter. [30]

1971 Edit

  • March 1. Weathermen plants a bomb in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., causing $300,000 in damage, but no casualties. [citation needed]
  • April. The Vancouver Indo-Chinese Women's Conference (VICWC), a six-day protest, gathers close to a thousand women in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
  • April 19–23. Vietnam Veterans against the War (VVAW) stages operation Dewey Canyon III. 1,000 camping on the National Mall. [31]
  • April 22–28. Veterans Against the War (and John Kerry) testify before various congressional panels. [citation needed]
  • April 24. Peaceful Vietnam War Out Now rally on the National Mall, Washington, D.C., with 200,000-500,000 [32][33] calling for an end to the Vietnam War, 156,000 participate in the largest demonstration so far on the West Coast, in San Francisco. [31]
  • April 26. More militant attempts in Washington, D.C. to shut down the government are futile against 5,000 police and 12,000 troops. [citation needed]
  • May 3–5, May Day Protests. Planned by Rennie Davis and Jerry Coffin of the War Resisters League, later joined by Michael Lerner militant mass-action tries to shut down the government in Washington, D.C. 12,614 arrested, a record in American history. [citation needed]
  • August. A group of nuns, priests, and laypeople raid a draft board in Camden, New Jersey. They came to be known as the Camden 28. [citation needed]
  • December. VVAW protests across the USA. [citation needed]

1972 Edit

  • April 15–20. May. New waves of protests across the country. [citation needed]
  • April 17. Militant anti-ROTC demonstration at the University of Maryland. 800 National Guardsmen are ordered onto the campus. [citation needed]
  • April 22. Mass antiwar demonstrations sponsored by National Peace Action Coalition, People's Coalition for Peace and Justice, and other organizations attracted an estimated 100,000 people in New York and 12,000 in Los Angeles, 25,000 in San Francisco and other cities around the US and the world. [34][35][36] , Germany, May 11. Headquarters of the V Corps of the U.S. Army at the IG Farben Building: The Commando Petra Schelm of the Rote Armee Fraktion killed U.S. Officer Paul Bloomquist and wounded thirteen in a bombing attack. [37]
  • May 21. Emergency March on Washington, D.C., organized by the National Peace Action Coalition and the People's Coalition for Peace and Justice. 8 to 15,000 protest in Washington, D.C. against the increased bombing of North Vietnam and the mining of its harbors. [citation needed]
  • Heidelberg, Germany, May 24. The Red Army Faction detonates two car bombs at the European Headquarters of the US Army, killing three. [38]
  • June 22. Ring around Congress demonstration, Washington, D.C. [citation needed]
  • In July. Jane Fonda visits North Vietnam and speaks on Hanoi Radio, earning herself the nickname "Hanoi Jane". [citation needed]
  • August 22. 3,000 protest against the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. Ron Kovic, a wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran, led fellow veterans into the Convention Hall, wheeled down the aisles, and as Nixon began his acceptance speech shouted, "Stop the bombing! Stop the war!" [6]
  • October 14. The "Peace March to End the Vietnam War" was held in San Francisco. This "silent-march" demonstration began at City Hall and moved down Fulton Street to Golden Gate Park, where speeches were given. Over 2,000 were in attendance. Numerous groups (including many veterans) marched to support the so-called "7-Point" plan to peace. George McGovern had given a speech at the Cow Palace the night before, which energized the Saturday morning event. [39]
  • November 7. General election day. President Nixon defeats George McGovern in a landslide election victory, with 60.7% popular votes and 520 electoral votes.
  • December. Protests against Hanoi and Haiphong bombings. [citation needed]

1973 Edit

There are many pro- and anti-war slogans and chants. Those who used the anti-war slogans were commonly called "doves" those who supported the war were known as "hawks" [ citation needed ]

6 Legendary Vietnam-Era Anti-War Movement Protests Everyone Should Know

May 4, 2019, marks 49 years since the infamous killings at Kent State University. On that day, students were participating in a protest against the United States' invasion of Cambodia (an offshoot of the Vietnam War effort that spawned years of protests around the country), when National Guard troops opened fire on the protestors, killing four and injuring nine.

According to the Ohio History Central, the protest came after days of intense anti-war resistance on the Kent State campus. By May 3, roughly a thousand National Guard troops were there. At a May 4 demonstration, armed guardsman advanced on the crowd and 29 opened fire for 13 seconds, shooting off 67 rounds. Students Allison Krause (19), Sandy Scheuer (20), Jeffrey Miller (20), and William Knox Schroeder (19) were killed. Scheuer and Schroeder had been walking to class and not even participating in the protest.

"They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America,” then-Ohio governor Jim Rhodes had said of the protesters, many of whom were college students, the day before the shooting. “I think that we're up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America." The Vietnam War was often viewed through a Cold War lens as a fight against the spread of global communism, so those opposed to the war were viewed suspiciously and often tied to communism.

Nearly half a century later, the Kent State shooting remains a touchstone moment of the anti-war movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. But this horrible tragedy is not the only moment of protest worth remembering from the Vietnam War era, which spanned the presidencies of Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon. Here are six other famous protests from that time everyone should know about.

University of Denver student strike planners in 1970.

David Cupp/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Students across the country went on strike in an action planned before the May 4 Kent State shootings. A poster in Cornell University’s digital archives lists campuses across the country where students walked out on May 6. A New York Times report from May 5, 1970, indicates that thousands of students walked out at several universities across the northeast on May 4, as well. The University of Washington’s Antiwar and Radical History Project reported that thousands walked out on their campus on May 5. At least one school, Ohio University, shut down in May 1970 as student protests continued.

Protesters burn their draft cards outside the Pentagon in 1972.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Coming in 1970, the Kent State killings were following on years of anti-war protests. One of the best-known protest tactics of the era was to burn draft cards, something those who were eligible for the draft, which was also called Selective Service, would do to show their unwillingness to be conscripted into military service.

A 1963 New York Times article tells the story of 22-year-old Eugene Keyes, who burned his draft card on Christmas Eve and used it to light a candle “for peace on earth.” The same day, he was mailed a notice that he had been drafted.

“The Selective Service is for organized violence,” Keyes told the Times. “I do not want to obey orders in any system of violence, not even orders to carry a draft card.” The draft ended in 1973 with the end of the Vietnam War.

Eartha Kitt (right) at the White House with Lady Bird Johnson (center) in 1968.

Students weren’t the only ones to get involved in the anti-war movement. Some celebrities of the era were also quite vocal about their opposition to U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. Perhaps the most famous example of this was legendary actress and singer Eartha Kitt’s famous January 1968 confrontation with first lady, Lady Bird Johnson at the White House during a luncheon that was supposed to be about juvenile delinquency.

“You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed,” Kitt told the First Lady, whose husband, President Johnson, had overseen the U.S. efforts in Vietnam transformed from support and advice to full-scale war. “They rebel in the street. They will take pot … and they will get high. They don’t want to go to school because they’re going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam," said Kitt.

Kitt told The Washington Post in 1978 that she was effectively blacklisted from the U.S. entertainment industry after her outburst upset the First Lady. According to a 1975 New York Times article, the CIA had already been looking into Kitt since the 1950s. She would eventually return to fame in the States in the late ‘70s.

Muhammad Ali (right) points to a newspaper headline about Vietnam War protests in 1966.

Kitt wasn’t the only famous name to get involved in the anti-war movement. In April 1967, heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. military through the draft, which resulted in him losing his boxing license and being effectively exiled from the world of boxing, where he was king, from 1967 to 1970. Later that year, he was sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for his refusal. His case would eventually make it the Supreme Court, where his conviction would be overturned in 1971.

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America,” Ali said in 1966, explaining his refusal. “They never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father," he said of the Vietnamese.

Vietnam vets leaving medals and more outside the U.S. Capitol in 1971.

Founded in 1967, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) tapped into a rich vein of anti-war sentiment coming from the very service members who had gone to Southeast Asia to fight. According to an article from the group’s publication The Veteran, the power of VVAW was perhaps most potently on display in D.C. in April 1971. It was there that Vietnam vets gathered for a protest called Operation Dewey Canyon III — a reference to secret U.S. operations Dewey Canyon I and II in Vietnam’s neighboring country Laos.

According to The Veteran, local chapters from across the country came together. During their six-day protest in D.C., they had their veteran status questioned thanks to President Richard Nixon’s White House, they occupied a senator’s office, and over 100 were arrested. By the end of the demonstration, more than 1,000 protesters had gathered. They marched on the Capitol and, as an exclamation point to their protest, tossed thousands of war medals at the building.

“In all, literally thousands of medals were thrown back at the government that had sent each of the veterans to fight for the U.S. ruling class. Never before had such a demonstration occurred by war veterans,” The Veteran remembered. “The sentiments of the vets was expressed best by one veteran who tossed his medals away and stated: ‘If we have to fight again, it will be to take these steps.’”

A button for the 1965 March on Washington organized by the SDS.

Stuart Lutz/Gado/Getty Images

Celebrities, veterans, parts of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, feminists, the Gay Liberation movement, the labor movement, and so many more were involved in anti-war activities during the Vietnam War. But it is often students, specifically those in college, who are best remembered for their activist work of the era — and not just for the tragedy at Kent State.

Consider, for example, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the group, founded in 1959, started working in the Civil Rights Movement and would evolve into a major force in the anti-war movement before it split into factions in the late ‘60s. But it was an April 1965 march on Washington that solidified SDS’s place in history. Estimates on crowd size range between 15,000 and 25,000 people it’s widely regarded as the largest peach march in American history up to that point.

“What kind of system is it that allows good men to make those kinds of decisions?” asked SDS founding member and president Paul Potter, then a University of Michigan grad student, in a famous speech called “Naming the System” at the march. “We must name that system. We must name it, describe it, analyze it, understand it, and change it. For it is only when that system is changed and brought under control that there can be any hope for stopping the forces that create a war in Vietnam today or a murder in the South tomorrow or all the incalculable, innumerable more subtle atrocities that are worked on people all over — all the time.”

According to a 1965 article from The New York Times (which noted that the SDS was “left-leaning but non-communist”), the group picketed the White House and prepared a petition to present to Congress to stop the war.

Vietnam War Protests

College students played an indispensable role in the anti-Vietnam war movement during the 1970s, and UCSB was no exception. Beginning in May of 1965, students protested and discussed the war in every way imaginable. Students participated through draft resistance, engaging in faculty discussions, attending teach-ins, and joining organizations such as the Student Peace Committee (see below). A large part of the UCSB student body, however, did not view these forums as adequate measures to protest the Johnson administration’s foreign policy measures. Student protests, both peaceful and violent, erupted across America as the U.S Army continually invaded and bombed Southeast Asia beginning in 1965. The validity of the UCSB Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) was being brought into question during this time as well, since many students believed its actions should be more accommodating to protestors. UCSB students expressed their vehement anger towards U.S foreign policy through a series of violent protests in 1967, causing thousands of dollars worth of property damage in Isla Vista and the temporary shutdown of the Santa Barbara Airport. These protests sent an unfiltered message to the U.S Government: that they would be held accountable for their decisions, no matter what the cost.

[(“New Draft Policy”, University of California, Santa Barbara, Student Organizations Collection, Box 4). University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. UArch 101. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

[(“Are You in Favor of Peace in Vietnam”, University of California, Santa Barbara, Student Organizations Collection, Box 4). University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. UArch 101. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

[(“University Committee on War and Peace”, University of California, Santa Barbara, Student Organizations Collection, Box 10). University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. UArch 101. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

Protests, marches, and calls to action were ubiquitous around campus. These took the form of movie showings, theater productions, lectures, speeches, and artwork. Here are some of the many postings reminding students of the urgency of protest and circumstances of the war:

[(Matson, R. 1971, November 3). “The Time to Act is Now.” Daily Nexus , Retrieved from]
[(Okamura/OPS 1972, April 19). Daily Nexus , Retrieved from ]
[(Levine, D 1973, May 11). Daily Nexus , Retrieved from ]
[(1967, October 20). “Scoreboard” El Gaucho, Retrieved from ]

In October of 1965, Students for Free Political Action (SFPA) sponsored the first teach-ins, movie screenings, and speeches from nationally recognized activists at UCSB. October also marked the first of many rallies in opposition to the war, which in turn sparked the first student conflicts regarding the morality of America’s involvement in Vietnam. For instance, the previously inactive Young Americans for Freedom group mobilized in 1965 in order to protest SFPA actions on campus.

[(Winograd, B. 1965, October 15). “Viet Nam protest today vigil stirs counter-pickets” El Gaucho, ]

Joan Baez, a widely known folk songwriter and activist, came to UCSB in October of 1966 to speak in David Arnold’s Sociology 128 class about the war in Vietnam, non-violence, and taking political action. Joan Baez was a part of the outspoken liberal minority that had been speaking out against U.S involvement in Vietnam since the beginning of the conflict.

[(Shelton, J. 1966, October 20). “Joan Baez describes Non Violence School” El Gaucho, Retrieved from ]
[(Shelton, J. 1966, October 20). “Non-Violent revolt asked by pacifist” El Gaucho, Retrieved from ]

Though Baez’s non-violent rhetoric resonated with many UCSB students, frustration with the war and the rise of organized student activism in the 1960s mobilized thousands of UCSB students. 1967 was filled with both peaceful and violent student protests. One of the primary debates within the UCSB student body was regarding the rights of the ROTC. The ROTC was voluntarily established at UCSB shortly after World War II and provided a way for male students during this period to fulfill their military obligations. When student protestors began attacking the ROTC during the height of the war, many students defended the military program, claiming that ROTC officers were facing injustice and stereotyping. Major Bailey told the Daily Nexus in 1967 that the ROTC faculty members would “jump at the chance to discuss the issues with anyone willing to take the time…Pacifist attacks such as those witnessed here recently do not help matters any” (1971, November 3) Daily Nexus.

[(1968, October 17) El Gaucho, Retrieved from ]

During Fall Quarter of 1967, The Daily Nexus and El Gaucho were covered with letters to the editor about how the ROTC should handle student activism, and whether or not the ROTC should be considered for academic credit. It was during this period that widespread disillusionment with the war began reaching the general American public. The televised atrocities of the war and the exponentially rising cost to taxpayers was becoming increasingly evident. The Student Peace Committee was a prominent voice in the ROTC debate.

[(Samuelsen, M. 1967, October 3). “Peace Committee ROTC Clash on ‘Academic’ Debate” El Gaucho, Retrieved from ]

Perspectives on the ROTC debate took on many forms. Many students viewed protests against the military institution as unjust and unsubstantiated. While most of these opinions were made public through the Daily Nexus, a group of students and Santa Barbara citizens formed an organization called “Friends of the ROTC”, which defended the military group’s role on campus (see below).

[(Hankins, J. 1971, November 3). “‘Friends of ROTC’ Formed by Santa Barbara Citizens” El Gaucho, Retrieved from ]
[(Russ, B. 1967, October 18). “A Defence of ROTC” El Gaucho, Retrieved from ]
[(Russ, B. 1967, October 18). “A Defence of ROTC” El Gaucho, Retrieved from ]
[(Krend, J. 1967, October 31). “ROTC Dispute Rages on” El Gaucho, Retrieved from ]

Each escalation of U.S involvement in the war brought with it a new wave of student protest. When the Nixon administration approved the U.S invasion of Cambodia in 1970, rising anti-war sentiments coalesced into an unprecedented national student strike. The magnitude of this strike delivered an ultimatum to the U.S government, warning that if the U.S extends the invasion in Southeast Asia, turmoil will ensue on the home front.

[(“The U.S. Military has Invaded Cambodia”, University of California, Santa Barbara, Student Organizations Collection, Box 10). University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. UArch 101. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

When Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger further escalated the war through implementing Operation Linebacker in 1972, UCSB students grew furious. The day after the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong, students shut down the Santa Barbara airport, resulting in the cancelation of all flights for that day. The violence of these riots resulted in one person falling from a three-story building, while 13 others were arrested.

[(Rimer, S Haight, A. 1972, May 10). “2,500 shut down S.B. airport” Daily Nexus, Retrieved from ]

When police forces tried to subdue the protest at 9:30 pm, students began yelling “freeway!”, and headed to Hollister Avenue and Highway 101. By 10:00 pm, when students realized a fence stood between them and the highway, they began walking back to IV, telling police officers they wanted no confrontation. A police car then sped directly towards the back of the marching group and swerved off the road, injuring and arresting protestors. As police officers continued to drive through the crowds, one woman parked on Hollister told the Daily Nexus “Well they must have been [beating protestors], didn’t you hear the screaming?”. At 10:35 pm, a bonfire was set off in Perfect Park, and protestors began marching through IV to gain members for a march on the ROTC. When the group was confronted by the ROTC, a protestor drove his car directly into the line of ROTC members. As rocks were being thrown back and forth, the ROTC threw a total of five canisters of tear gas into the crowd on Pardall. By 2:00 am the demonstrators had dispersed ( Rimer, S. 1972, May 11. Daily Nexus).

[ (Cline, V. 1972, May 10). “Night actions rock Isla Vista” Daily Nexus, Retrieved from ]
[ (Eber, R.1972, May 11). “Riot damage in Tuesday action at approximately $6,000” Daily Nexus, Retrieved from ]

This event angered many students who felt that these violent protests were unjustified, as demonstrated by this letter to the editor of the Daily Nexus:

[(Randall, T. 1972, May 10). “Letter to the Editor” Daily Nexus, Retrieved from ]

The following day, 1,000 UCSB students gathered on the UCen lawn to continue the anti-war rally. They marched throughout campus and into Oglesby’s History of California class in Campbell Hall, gathering more and more students as they went. Before the Isla Vista rally later that day, about 250 students confronted 25 ROTC officers at the ROTC building. “One officer was hit by a can and knocked down…two students climbed on top of the building, and 10 students were eventually allowed to enter the building to speak with Army Officers” (Daily Nexus, May 10 1972).

On May 11th, the following day, Ronald Reagan walked off his helicopter onto Santa Barbara grounds, where he was greeted by 1,000 demonstrators. While 1,200 members of Santa Barbara’s social elite dined with Reagan, the demonstrators (mostly from UCSB) sang and chanted outside. No confrontational or violent incidents occurred.

The events that occurred during these years at UCSB reflected the anger, disappointment, and frustration of students with the U.S government’s decisions. The debates, teach-ins, rallies, and protests that took place on campus are testaments to the abilities of young people to enact meaningful change. The Santa Barbara airport protestors received national news coverage fro m NBC and CBS, mirroring the American public’s growing opposition to the Vietnam war. Additionally, reactions to the anti-war protests demonstrated the wide range of political opinions that have always been present on the UCSB campus, and how social unrest can facilitate meaningful debate.

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Primary Sources

(1) Felix Greene, Vietnam! Vietnam! (1966)

The mounting fury of the richest and most powerful country is today being directed against one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world. The average income of the people of Vietnam is about $50 a year - what the average American earns in a single week. The war today is costing the United States three million dollars an hour. What could not the Vietnamese do for their country with what we spend in one day fighting them! It is costing the United States $400,000 to kill one guerrilla - enough to pay the annual income of 8,000 Vietnamese. The United States can burn and devastate it can annihilate the Vietnamese but it cannot conquer them.

(2) Jeff Needle was a Vietnam Veteran who protested against the war. When he returned to the United States he published and distributed a booklet called Please Read This.

A very sad thing happened while we were there - to everyone. It happened slowly and gradually so no one noticed when it happened. We began slowly with each death and every casualty until there were so many deaths and so many wounded, we started to treat death and loss of limbs with callousness, and it happens because the human mind can't hold that much suffering and survive.

(3) John Kerry, a naval officer who was awarded several medals for his efforts in Vietnam became active in the 'Vietnam Veterans Against the War' organisation in the late 1960s. On 22nd April, 1971, Kerry gave evidence to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Several months ago in Detroit we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged, and many very highly decorated, veterans testified to war crimes committed in South-East Asia. These were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day to day basis with a full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

They told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut-off ears, cutoff heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cutoff limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam.

I would like to talk to you a little bit about what the result is of the feelings these men carry with them after coming back from Vietnam. The country doesn't know it yet but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and trade in violence.

(4) Daniel Ellsberg, The Guardian (27th January, 2004)

I served three US presidents - Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon - who lied repeatedly and blatantly about our reasons for entering Vietnam, and the risks in our staying there. For the past year, I have found myself in the horrifying position of watching history repeat itself. I believe that George Bush and Tony Blair lied - and continue to lie - as blatantly about their reasons for entering Iraq and the prospects for the invasion and occupation as the presidents I served did about Vietnam.

By the time I released to the press in 1971 what became known as the Pentagon Papers - 7,000 pages of top-secret documents demonstrating that virtually everything four American presidents had told the public about our involvement in Vietnam was false - I had known that pattern as an insider for years, and I knew that a fifth president, Richard Nixon, was following in their footsteps. In the fall of 2002, I hoped that officials in Washington and London who knew that our countries were being lied into an illegal, bloody war and occupation would consider doing what I wish I had done in 1964 or 1965, years before I did, before the bombs started to fall: expose these lies, with documents.


As a result of Tet, President Lyndon Johnson chose not to run for reelection and was succeeded by Richard Nixon. Nixon's plan for ending US participation in the war was to build up the ARVN so that they could fight the war themselves. As this process of “Vietnamization” began, US troops started to return home. The mistrust of Washington that had begun after Tet increased with the release of news about bloody battles of questionable value such as Hamburger Hill (1969). Protests against the war and US policy in Southeast Asia further intensified with events such as soldiers massacring civilians at My Lai (1969), the invasion of Cambodia (1970), and the leaking of the Pentagon Papers (1971).

Behind the Image: Protesting the Vietnam War with a Flower

On October the 21 st , 1967, almost 100,000 people marched on Washington, D.C. to peacefully demonstrate around the buildings of the Pentagon in protest against the war in Vietnam. Then a Magnum photographer, Marc Riboud documented proceedings. The last frame he captured was that of 17-year-old Jan Rose Kasmir as she held up a chrysanthemum flower to a row of bayonet-wielding National Guard soldiers.

Kasmir was not aware of the photograph being taken at the time, but the image has come to represent bravery and the power of peaceful protest. Speaking to the Guardian in 2015, Jan Rose Kasmir said: “It wasn’t until I saw the impact of this photograph that I realized it wasn’t only momentary folly – I was standing for something important.”

On Protest Photography

Magnum Photographers

Marc Riboud made several trips to Vietnam in the 1960s, seeing for himself the war that he had heard reported on and debated over in the press. “It was hard not to feel sympathetic towards those Vietnamese putting up such a brave resistance to the relentless bombing,” he said, “and sympathy helps one understand a country, for a person, rather better than indifference or ‘objectivity’ (which is a spurious notion in any case).”

His work covering the Pentagon protests were a continuation of this line of interest. A handful of further frames, taken on the same day, show what the protestors must have seen when face to face with a row of bayonets, and give some idea of the scale of the event.

Riboud remembered the day’s event for an essay about his career, which was published in 1989:

“One day in October 1967, I found myself in Washington, swept along in the slipstream of a cause at the time simple and straightforward. A vast, ecstatic crowd was marching for peace in Vietnam as the sunlight of an Indian summer flooded the city’s streets. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women, both black and white, were defiantly closing in on the Pentagon, the citadel of the most powerful army in the world and for a day America’s youth presented America with a handsome face. I was taking photographs like mad, running out of film as night fell. The very last photo was the best. Framed in my viewfinder was the symbol of that America youth: a flower held before a row of Bayonets. America’s might that day, presented America with a sad face.”


African Americans have always been involved in United States military service since its inception despite official policies of racial segregation and discrimination. [2] In 1948 President Harry S. Truman abolished discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. [2] By 1953, the final black only unit was abolished. [2]

Black Americans were more likely to be drafted than White Americans. [3] At the time, the Vietnam War saw the highest proportion of African-Americans soldiers. [2] Though comprising 11% of US population in 1967, African Americans were 16.3% of all draftees. [3] The majority of African Americans who were drafted were not conscripted, with 70% of Black draftees rejected from the Army. [4] In 1967, only 29% of African American subjects were eligible for conscription, compared to 63% of white subjects. That same year the armed services drafted 64% of the eligible African American subjects in comparison to the 31% of eligible white subjects drafted. [5]

Project 100,000, which helped dramatically increase US troop presence in Vietnam from 23,300 in 1965 to 465,600 two years later, sharply increased the number of African American troops drafted. By lowering the education standards of the draft, an estimated 40% of the 246,000 draftees of Project 100,000 were Black. [6] A total of 300,000 African-Americans served in Vietnam. [5] According to Daniel Lucks the reason behind the high turnout was the pay, which for many, was more than they had ever made in their lives, and that young African Americans "perceived military service as a vocational opportunity, and they had the additional incentive to enlist to prove on the battlefield that they were worthy of their newly acquired civil rights." [5]

Some activists in the US speculated that the uneven application of the draft was a method of Black genocide. [6] From the years, 1966 to 1969, opinion of the draft grew increasingly negative. A 1966 poll from Newsweek found that 25% of African Americans thought of the laws as unfair. A similar poll in 1969 saw the number rise to 47%. [5] Black people were starkly under-represented on draft boards in this era, with none on the draft boards of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or Arkansas. [6] In Louisiana, Jack Helms, a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, served on the draft board from 1957 until 1966. [6] In 1966, 1.3% of the US draft board members were African American with only Delaware having a proportionate number of African American board members to the African American population. [5] In 1967, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in South Carolina demanding that South Carolina halt the drafting of African Americans on the grounds of their absence on the state's draft boards. [5] By 1970, the number of African Americans on the draft boards grew from 230 to 1,265, though this still only represented 6.6% of all draft board members. [7]

Across all branches of the military, African Americans composed 11% of all troops. However, a disproportionately small number were made officers, with only 5% of Army officers African American, [4] and 2% across all branches. [3] In 1968, out of the 400,000 officers, there were only 8325 African American officers. Out of the 1342 admirals and generals, there were only 2 African Americans generals – Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Davis and Brigadier General Frederic E. Davison – and no African-American admirals. [5]

African American troops were more likely to be assigned to combat units: 23% of such troops in Vietnam were African Americans. [3] In some airborne units African Americans composed 45-60% of troops. [5] Racism against African Americans was particularly pronounced in the Navy. Only 5% of sailors were Black in 1971, with less than 1% of Navy officers African American. [8] From 1966 to 1967, the reenlistment rate for African Americans was 50%, twice what it was for white soldiers. [5] It would rise to 66.5% in 1967 but then drop to 31.7% in 1968. [9]

Discrimination Edit

Overt racism was typical in American bases in Vietnam. Although initially uncommon at the start of the war, after the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., overt racism occurred at a higher rate. [3] Following the assassination, some White troops at Cam Ranh Base wore Ku Klux Klan robes and paraded around the base. [6] [10] : 183 At least three instances of cross burning were confirmed to have happened. [11] Da Nang Air Base flew the Confederate flag for three days in response. [11] [6] In addition to being used in response to King's murder, Confederate flags and icons were commonly painted on jeeps, tanks, and helicopters bathroom graffiti proclaimed that African Americans, not the Vietnamese, were the real enemy. Black troops were discouraged from taking pride in Black identity, with one troop ordered to remove a "Black is beautiful" poster from his locker. [6] Following complaints from African American soldiers, Confederate flags were briefly banned but soon allowed after resistance from Southern politicians objected. [3] Black identity publications and speeches were restricted, with some commanders banning recordings of speeches by Malcolm X or the newspaper The Black Panther. [10] Despite segregation being abolished in the military, it still affected troops. [4]

According to journalists Wallace Terry and Zalin Grant by 1968, racial incidents in Danang, Cam Ranh Bay, Dong Tam, Saigon, and Bien Hoa happened on an "almost daily basis" and had become "commonplace". Similar reports came from official channels with there being at least 33 incidents of racial violence in the two months between December 1969 and January 1970. In 1970 there were 1,060 reported cases of violent racial conflict. [3] Racial incidents also affected the Navy and Air Force. Following King's death race riots and conflicts occurred at Long Binh jail and Camp Lejuene. The former was the worst race riot in the U.S. Army's history and the latter garnered national attention due to 44 African-American soldiers being arrested but no white soldiers. It also inspired an investigation and creation of a committee to study racial bias and African American militancy in the armed forces. [5] Grant once claimed that the "biggest threat" to the U.S. military was "race riots, not the Vietcong." [3]

Many African American soldiers claimed that they were unfairly targeted for punishment, including being denied for promotion and disproportionately assigned menial tasks. A 1970 Army study of the 197th Infantry Brigade reported that African Americans soldiers frequently complained that “white NCOs always put black soldiers on the dirtiest details.” [3] L. Howard Bennett, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for civil rights in the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations noted a similar occurrence, that African Americans soldiers would "complained that they are discriminated against in promotions . that they will stay in grade too long, that they will train and teach whites who come in and pretty soon their trainees pass them by and get the promotion." [3] These complaints were rarely taken serious. From 1968 to 1969 only 10 out of 534 were deemed legitimate. During this time period (1966–1969) a study commissioned by the Army found that, commanders had failed to report 423 allegations of racial discrimination. [3]

Black culture and norms were also not initially acknowledged on bases. Black troops did not have access to Black haircare products, soul music tapes, nor books or magazines about Black culture and history. Instead, the Armed Forces Radio Network mostly played country music. Military barbers frequently had no experience cutting Black hair, and received no formal training on how to do so. [6]

The Armed Forces took some action to make Black troops feel more included, including adding more diverse music to club jukeboxes, hiring Black bands and dancers for events, and bringing over Black entertainers to perform, such as James Brown, Miss Black America, and Miss Black Utah. Base exchanges began to stock Black haircare products and garments like dashikis, while books about Black culture and history were added to base libraries. By 1973, military barbers had been trained on how to cut Black hair. [10] Mandated race relations training was introduced and soldiers were encouraged to be more accepting. [12] Ultimately, many of these changes were made towards the end of the war when personnel had been greatly reduced, meaning that a majority of Black troops who served during the Vietnam War did not benefit from these reforms. [10]

Internal resistance Edit

Racial tensions created internal divisions, causing Black soldiers to sometimes refuse to fight. One such incident near the A Sầu Valley caused fifteen Black soldiers to refuse to report for combat patrol the following day. Almost 200 Black troops who were imprisoned at Long Bình Jail staged a work strike for more than a month following a riot. In another incident, a race riot occurred on the USS Kitty Hawk, after the ship was forced to cancel its trip home and return to Vietnam. Black and White sailors attacked each other with chains and pipes, resulting in the arrest of twenty-five Black sailors, though no White ones. On the USS Constellation, Black sailors organized to investigate the application of non-judicial punishment among White and Black sailors. Six of the organizers were given less-than-honorable discharges, with rumors that up to 200 Black sailors would receive the same punishment. On November 3, 1972, about 100 Black sailors and a few White sailors staged a sit-in protest on the ship's deck. Many of the dissidents were ultimately reassigned from the ship, with a few discharged. [8]

Several Black troops deserted their posts. A few were smuggled through the USSR into Sweden, while up to 100 lived in a region of Saigon known as Soul Alley. [6]

Solidarity Edit

Black identity movements within Vietnam War troops grew over time, with Black troops drafted from 1967 – 1970 calling themselves "Bloods". Bloods distinguished themselves by wearing black gloves and amulets, as well as bracelets made out of boot laces. Dap handshakes, or complex ritualized handshakes, originated among Black troops of the Vietnam War. The dap varied among units. Black troops and officers acknowledged each other in public with a Black Power salute, which is raising a fist. [6] By 1969 a "new African American" soldier had arisen, categorized by "a new sense of African American pride and purpose." [5]

The Black Liberation Front of the Armed Forces was a Black solidarity group formed by Eddie Burney. In 1971, Burney and other Black troops stationed in Vietnam held a demonstration in response to King's assassination. Within the Air Force, at least twenty-five Black solidarity groups had formed by 1970, many of which were based in the US. Another group formed on the USS Constellation, known as The Black Fraction. [8] Other groups that formed included Minority Servicemen's Association, the Concerned Veterans Association, Black Brothers United, the Zulu 1200s, the Black Liberation Front of the Armed Forces, Blacks In Action, the Unsatisfied Black Soldier, the Ju Jus, and the Mau Maus. [3] [6]

Friendly white and black relations Edit

During the Vietnam War, many black and white soldiers formed close friendships. NBC journalist Frank McGee, who spent nearly a month living with soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division recalled that "Nowhere in America have I seen Negroes and whites as free, open and uninhibited with their associations. I saw no eyes clouded with resentment." African American Sergeant Lewis B. Larry shared similar sentiments stating that "There's no racial barrier of any sort here". [3] Many fellow African American soldiers echoed McGee's beliefs in 1989 Wallace Terry stated that "the front lines of Vietnam" was the only place where Martin Luther King Jr's dream of "sons of former slaves and sons of slave owners [sitting] at the same table [came true]". He did however acknowledge beforehand that "[there is] another war being fought in Vietnam — between black and white Americans." [3]

African American troops were punished more harshly and more frequently than White troops. A Defense Department study released in 1972 found that Black troops received 34.3% of court-martials, 25.5% of nonjudicial punishments, and comprised 58% of prisoners at Long Bình Jail, a military prison. [4] It further remarked, "No command or installation. is entirely free from the effects of systematic discrimination against minority servicemen." [8] Black troops were also almost twice as likely as White troops to receive a punitive discharge. [8] In 1972, African-Americans received more than one-fifth of the bad-conduct discharges and nearly one-third of the dishonorable discharges. [5]

In the Vietnam War, African American troops initially had a much higher casualty rate than other ethnicities, [4] though this declined somewhat throughout the course of the conflict. In 1965, nearly a quarter of troop casualties were African American. By 1967, it had fallen to 12.7%. [3] In total, 7,243 African Americans died during the Vietnam War, representing 12.4% of total casualties. [13] The refusal, by some southern communities, to bury dead African American soldiers in unsegregated cemeteries was met with outrage by African American communities. [5]

While at the start of the war the vast majority of African American soldiers "believed America was protecting the sovereignty of the democratically constituted government in South Vietnam and halting the spread of communism in Southeast Asia" King's opposition to the Vietnam War and death saw disillusionment and anti-war rhetoric grow among African American soldiers. The Project 100,000 and racism within the military also furthered the anger of African American soldiers. By the summer of 1968, correspondent Deckle McLean reported that few African-American soldiers supported the war. [5]

In the mid-1980s, African American veterans of the Vietnam War were twice as likely as White veterans to experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), at a prevalence of 40%. [5] Reasons for the disparity in PTSD prevalence could include social and racial discord during the war, institutional racism within the military, and racism after the war. Black troops were also more likely than White troops to relate to the Vietnamese people as an impoverished, non-white group. Additionally, Black troops were less likely to rationalize brutal violence employed against the Vietnamese, and were significantly more disturbed by it than White troops. It has been speculated that White troops were more able to dehumanize the Vietnamese than Black troops. [14]

According to psychologists Richard Strayer and Lewis Ellenhorn, African American veterans struggled more than other veterans with a return to civilian life and unemployment on the basis of their race. [5]

Black veterans were much less likely to write memoirs about their experiences. A 1997 paper noted that, of almost 400 such memoirs by participants in the Vietnam War, only seven were by African American veterans (less than 2%): [15]

  • GI Diary by David Parks (1968)
  • The Courageous and the Proud by Samuel Vance (1970)
  • Memphis-Nam-Sweden: The Autobiography of a Black American Exile by Terry Whitmore (1971)
  • Just Before the Dawn: A Doctor's Experiences in Vietnam by Fenton Williams (1971)
  • A Hero's Welcome: The Conscience of Sergeant James Daly versus the United States Army by James A. Daly (1975)
  • Yet Another Voice by Norman A. McDaniel (1975)
  • Thoughts about the Vietnam War by Eddie Wright (1984)

Both James A. Daly and Norman A. McDaniel were prisoners of war, publishing their respective memoirs within two years of their releases. [15] Of Daly and Whitmore's respective works, American literature scholar Jeff Loeb noted:

. their overall quality, perspective, and degree of self-reflection should have, in my opinion, long since earned them a place among the very best books about Vietnam by veterans, white or black, as well as having firmly ensconced them in the canon of contemporary African American autobiography. The sad fact is, however, that not only are these books barely mentioned in critical works but both were allowed to go out of print, though Whitmore's has recently been reissued. [15]

According to Daniel Lucks, African American soldiers hold a "nightmarish remembrance of the war." New York Times correspondent Thomas A. Jackson reported that “Bitterness and disappointment in America [were] typical of Negro veterans". A 1981 survey by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs found that only 20% of African Americans thought of their time as positive. After the Vietnam War, the number of African American officers in key positions throughout the armed forces rose. [5]

It has been investigated whether or not Black troops are less likely to be nominated for a Medal of Honor than White troops out of 3,500 recipients, only 92 have been Black men. As of 2019, the most recent Black Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War was John L. Canley, who received his Medal in 2018. Twenty-two Black men have received the Medal of Honor for actions undertaken during the Vietnam War: [16]

Watch the video: Opposition to the Vietnam War in the United States