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Vietnam War Protestors

April 28, 2011

Ex-Green Beret Master Sgt. Donald Duncan – Who later sat on a War Crime Tribunal described many incidents when American lead patrols arrested people who may or may not have been VC sympathisers who were routinely handed over the South Vietnamese interrogators who used extreme and brutal methods of torture on them. Duncan who initially supported the war explains how this contravened everything he was brought up to believe in. In 1966 he quit the Green Berets to become one of the most outspoken opponent of the war (Forgotten Heroes of the Vietnam War).

Megan Cornish – At high school in the early 1960s, Megan (pronounced MEG-on) Cornish started to become aware of the civil rights and antiwar movements but it was later, at Cornell University in upstate New York, that she became committed herself to activism. After graduation in 1970, she moved with a radical collective to Seattle to aid “movement organizing” on the West Coast. Upon their arrival, the collective was recruited by the staff of the GI coffeehouse in Tacoma, the Shelter Half, to take over the coffeehouse’s staffing, and Cornish was introduced to the burgeoning GI antiwar movement (Oral Histories: Megan Cornish).

Pvt. Bruce MacLean – Seattle native Bruce MacLean was drafted to the army after graduating from the University of Washington. Opposed to the Vietnam War, if not all wars, MacLean applied for conscientious objector status after being ordered to Vietnam in 1969. While his application was pending, MacLean was stationed at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, where he worked with an antiwar GI group, the American Servicemen’s Union (ASU), and helped publish Fed Up! underground newspaper (Oral Histories: Bruce MacLean).

Steve Ludwig – As a student activist, Ludwig took part in many of the mass demonstrations on campus during the late 1960s and early 1970s, including the Black Student Union strike and the May 1970 student strike against the war. After leaving the University in the early 1970s, Ludwig looked to other opportunities for social activism as the student and antiwar movements waned, and became involved in 1980s campaigns around nuclear weapons, targeting Bangor Naval Base on Hood Canal. As he says, “I’m just one of those people that like to be involved in whatever’s possible,” and is still active with Jobs With Justice and the antiwar group Sound Non-violent Opponents of War (Oral Histories: Steve Ludwig).

Lyle Quasim – After leaving the university, Quasim lost his student draft deferment and was drafted into the army. Ignoring his draft notice, he only realized he was AWOL from the army when two recruiters showed up at his house one evening. Within six days, he joined the Air Force and found himself sent to McChord Air Force Base, near Tacoma, WA. Always against the war, Quasim challenged his commanding officers for greater democracy in the service, who sent him on a long tour of Vietnam as a punishment. In Da Nang, Quasim served as an Air Force medic, where he worked with military nurses and doctors to set up a free medical clinic in downtown Da Nang—off-limits to American servicepeople—for Vietnamese civilians, Vietnamese soldiers, and Americans. His experiences as a medic in Vietnam solidified his commitment to ending the war, and upon his return to the States, Quasim began working at the GI coffeehouse in Tacoma, the Shelter Half, and with antiwar and progressive organizations across the Northwest (Oral Histories: Lyle Quasim).

Barbara Winslow – Feminism transformed Winslow’s academic, personal, and political life. She helped begin the women’s studies department at the University of Washington, and found intellectual and political inspiration while doing graduate work in 1969-1970 with legendary social historian E.P. Thompson in England, where she played a role in the early protests and conferences of the English women’s movement. As she says, the women’s movement was “inventing a whole new world”—an exhilarating, exhausting, and, as she put it, tremendously fun project. After leaving Seattle in 1973, Winslow continued teaching women’s, labor, and African American history at public colleges and universities from Cleveland to New York, and is still a committed socialist feminist and labor advocate. She is now an Associate Professor in the School of Education at Brooklyn College/CUNY, where she serves as the head of the women’s studies program and runs the Shirley Chisholm Project on grassroots women’s activism (Oral Histories: Barbara Winslow).

Randy Rowland – After deciding that the war was wrong, Rowland decided to file an application for conscientious objector status and was served, instead, with orders to ship to Vietnam. On leave in Berkeley in 1968 before being sent overseas, Rowland—inspired by the atmosphere of protest and antiwar politics in California—decided to go AWOL. Rowland’s decision was one of a number of individual acts by soldiers that were beginning to coalesce into a powerful GI antiwar movement (Oral Histories: Randy Rowland).

Captain Howard Levy – A Green Beret doctor also took a stand, refusing to train any more people because he considered what he was doing immoral. The Levy case demonstrated how widespread and early the revolt began in the professional army. In 1967 he was court marshalled and spent 3 years in prison. What was remarkable about his case was each day he attended the court marshal he was cheered by hundreds of GI’s on the base who regarded him a hero (Forgotten Heroes of the Vietnam War).

Lieutenant Susan Schnall – Since being a nurse who took care of wounded soldiers back from Vietnam battle, navy lieutenant Susan Schnall decided to do something by her own way to contribute to soon ending the American War in Vietnam. on October 12th, 1968, Mrs. Susan Schnall spread leaflets from her friend’s aircraft in San Francisco Gulf informing a demonstration for peace by American veterans and soldiers in the Gulf’s army camps, at an aircraft carrier and at Oak Knoll navy hospital where she worked. In the army uniform, she used to speak loudly “Bring our American sons back alive” and actively participated in anti – war demonstrations. For these actions, in February 1969, she was sentenced by the army court for a 6-month imprisonment and dismissed from the army forces. After the dismission, she continued to support Vietnam through propagandas against war at the army camps and raised funds for several hospitals in Vietnam (Mrs. Susan Schnall – who disseminated leaflets against American war in Vietnam – was conferred the medal “For Peace and Friendship among Peoples”).

Jeff Sharlet (1942–1969), a Vietnam veteran, was a leader of the GI resistance movement during the Vietnam War and the founding editor of Vietnam GI. David Cortright, a major chronicler of the Vietnam GI protest movement wrote, “Vietnam GI, the most influential early paper, surfaced at the end of 1967, distributed to tens of thousands of GIs, many in Vietnam, closed down after the death of founder Jeff Sharlet in June, 1969.” Sharlet was born and raised in Glens Falls, New York, a small town in the foothills of the Adirondacks, and later in the state capital of Albany. In 1960 he graduated from The Albany Academy, a private military academy. Restless during his first year of college, Sharlet withdrew and decided to fulfill his military obligation. In return for a three-year enlistment in the United States Army Security Agency (ASA), a communications intelligence outfit, he was promised a year’s training in a Slavic language followed by a European posting. But at the Army Language School he was bumped into the Vietnamese language course. He and fellow students spent six hours a day in class over 11½ months. In early 1963 Sharlet was sent to Clark Air Base in the Philippines where he was assigned to the 9th ASA2 at Stotsenberg Field Station as a Vietnamese translator/interpreter. With a Top Secret/Cryptographic security clearance he and fellow linguists monitored Vietnam People’s Army radio communications (Wikipedia).

John Kniffin (1940-2002), Mr. Kniffin was among the first Marines sent to Vietnam in 1965. While serving with Bravo Company, 3rd Tank Battalion of the 3rd Marine Division near Hue City during the Tet Offensive in 1968, Life magazine published a photograph of his tank covered with wounded U.S. servicemen with the caption, “Tank turned ambulance.” During his 32 months in Vietnam Mr. Kniffin received, among other decorations, the Bronze Star with the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and two Purple Hearts. He was honorably discharged in 1968 and returned to his native Texas where he devoted the rest of his life to improving conditions for all Americans (Vietnam Veterans Against The War).

Jerry Lembcke is a professor of sociology at the College of the Holy Cross. His 2010 book about actress Jane Fonda is titled, Hanoi Jane, War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal. His previous book was, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam. Jerry Lembcke has been trying to set the record straight about war in general, this era, and he is exposing a tactic of scapegoating peace activists like famed actress Jane Fonda. Just as with lies that were told about US soldiers being spat upon as they returned home, Fonda is blamed, peace activists are blamed, rather than the architects of the war itself. It is a rewriting of history to adjust our attention away from these grotesque U.S. policy blunders and atrocities (Dori SmithJerry Lembcke on his book, Hanoi Jane, War, Sex and Fantasies of Betrayal).

Tom Bernard – Tom went to Catholic schools, was an altar boy, took 12 years of Latin and attended Cornell University. It was the late 1960s, war was raging in Vietnam and the specter of the draft stalked him. After a little more than a year at Cornell, he decided to enlist in the Air Force before he was drafted into the Army. His father had served in World War II, and his grandfather had earned his citizenship by serving in World War I. Tom scored so well on the language tests that he was sent to El Paso, Texas, to learn Vietnamese. For two years, he flew over Vietnam, encapsulated in a C-131, listening in on and translating Viet Cong broadcast conversations. When their planes were detected, the pilots went into an immediate, terrifying nose dive to escape under the radar. Later, he sometimes jokingly summarized the years as, “There was always plenty of cigarettes and plenty of marijuana.” But the truth was uglier. He saw and heard things that changed him. He said the translators got to recognize the voices they were listening to. Knowing firsthand how civilian centers were targeted and hospitals were being bombed, he said, he and others decided to dedicate themselves to ending what they viewed was a criminal war. He helped create WORMS (We Openly Resist Military Stupidity) (Tom Bernard: Another Friend Dies).

Billy Dean Smith was born tenth in a family of twelve children in Bakersfield, California, in 1948. The family lived in Texas for ten years, moving to Watts in 1957. Billy was drafted into the Army in 1969. He was opposed to the war and the Army even then and wanted to resist induction, but respected his family’s desire that he not go to jail. He was sent to Vietnam in October 1970, where he was assigned to the command of Captain Rigby. On March 15, 1971, at 0045 hours, a fragmentation grenade exploded in an officers barracks in Bien Hoa — killing two young lieutenants and wounding a third. Captain Rigby and First Sgt. Willis, who were to have slept in these barracks, arrived on the scene, decided they were the real intended victims — and that the logical guilty party could only be one Pvt. Billy Smith. Without hesitation, they informed the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officer of their conclusion (verdict) and together they called a battalion formation. In spite of the absence of several individuals, without questioning Captain Rigby’s “theory”, and without a single scrap of evidence, Billy Dean Smith was called forward to the front of the formation, a heavy CID hand slapped on his shoulder, and was told that he was under apprehension for murder — the equivalent to a declaration of guilt before all the potential witnesses. He was also charged with resisting arrest and two charges of attempted murder. The Army is asking the death penalty (Seize the Time: Black Disciple Party, 1971).

Mike Wong was born and raised in San Francisco, and became a soldier during the Vietnam War. He was very influenced by the anti-war movement. So when he received Viet Nam orders, he went AWOL, then turned himself in to the Presidio stockade with his lawyer, pleaded guilty to AWOL, and attempted to press a limited conscientious objector case. The Army turned him down, and put him back on Viet Nam orders. Mike escaped to Canada and lived in exile for five years. He returned after the war, pleaded guilty to Long Term AWOL, and received an Undesirable Discharge (Mike Wong: Resistance to U.S. Wars).

Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2004, first came to national prominence through his spokesman role for Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) before the US Congress. In 1971, when Kerry was 27 years old, he represented VVAW when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The next day, H. R. Haldeman, chief of staff to President Richard Nixon, told Nixon that Kerry had done “a superb job” in denouncing the Nixon administration’s policy. Nixon, agreeing that Kerry had been “extremely effective”, resolved to discredit him. VVAW consisted of veterans whom, like Kerry, had served in Vietnam, and opposed American involvement in the Vietnam War. During the course of his Presidential campaign, as well as his previous campaigns for senatorial seats, his work with VVAW was raised as a subject of controversy. During his campaigns for political office, he was charged with making inconsistent statements about two events in 1971: an antiwar demonstration at the United States Capitol in April, and a series of VVAW meetings in Missouri in 1971 (Wikipedia).

Dave Blalock volunteered for the US Army and served from 1968 to 1971. After being AWOL for nine days in basic training he was court-martialed and spent one month out of a possible six-month prison term doing “Hard Labor” time in the Fort Jackson stockade. He then spent one year in Vietnam (1969-1970) where he became politicized by his experiences there. After returning, he spent his last 15 months in the army by joining the large anti war movement that had existed within the US military and actively worked inside one of the many underground GI organizations. In 1989 Blalock, along with three other people burned American flags on the steps of the US Capital building in protest against the new Flag Protection Act of 1989. They were arrested for this and their case ended up in the Supreme Court, which ruled the law un-constitutional. From Vietnam, to the 1980’s counter-insurgency wars in Central America, to the ‘91 Gulf War, to the ’99 Kosovar war, to 2001 bombing of Afghanistan, to the present war on Iraq he has been active in the fight to expose and oppose all US war moves around the world. He puts special emphasis on building support for the GI anti war resisters inside the armed forces. At present, Blalock is also writing a book that tells his life story through the Vietnam War (2 Viet Nam Veterans to hold Press Conference in Heidelberg Germany 15.07.04).

Darnell Summers volunteered for the US Army and served from 1966 to 1970. While home on leave before going to Vietnam in 1968 he became involved in the struggle to found the “Malcolm X Cultural Center (MXCC) in Inkster Michigan, a suburb of Detroit and was one of the spokespersons for the “MXCC”. Because of his political activities he was later targeted by COINTELPRO and arrested in Viet Nam. He was then brought back to the United States and ultimately charged with the murder of a Michigan State Police “Red Squad” Detective Sergeant, Robert Gonser, who was allegedly shot by Summers while he was home on leave. The charges were dropped in 1969 due to the statement of the Prosecutors “State” witness, Milford Scott, who wrote a letter to the presiding Judge stating that the police had scripted his testimony and that he knew nothing about the events in question. This was one year after the Detroit Rebellion, which saw 43 people killed, and thousands arrested. Then again in February 1982 Summers was arrested here in Germany and charged again with the Gonser murder based on the same evidence and illegally extradited to the US. Then in 1984 after the State refused to release sensitive surveillance documents (From the FBI, CIA, NSA, ASA, DOD, etc.) the charges were suddenly dropped with the stipulation that given new evidence the charges would be re-instated. Darnell S. Summers remains the only suspect and under U.S. statutes he can be arrested at any time. As a Black man inside the Army he was confronted by not only by racism but also the fact that he was in a military organization that was murdering people across the globe. Since then Summers has been active in the struggles against racism and U.S. instigated aggression. He was instrumental in organizing the “STOP THE WAR BRIGADE” in Germany during the Gulf war to build support for anti-war GIs (2 Viet Nam Veterans to hold Press Conference in Heidelberg Germany 15.07.04).

David Cline (January 8, 1947 – September 14, 2007) was an American anti-war and veterans rights activist. He was best known as National President of Veterans For Peace (VFP) from 2000 to 2006, Chapter Vice President of Alan Reilly – Gene Glazer VFP Chapter 21, and co-founder of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign. Cline was featured in the 2006 film Sir! No Sir!, which documented the GI antiwar movement during the Vietnam war as well as in the book “Winter Soldiers: An Oral History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War” by Richard Stacewicz. Returning to Fort Hood, Texas, Cline became an anti-war activist, serving as a civilian organizer of active duty servicemen at one of the first GI coffeehouses, the Oleo Strut, in Killeen, Texas and producing a one-sheet underground newspaper on politics and veterans issues called Fatigue Press, which was distributed clandestinely on the military base. He joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1970, where he served as a coordinator and national director, and remained a member until his death. While working for the U.S. Postal Service in Jersey City, Cline was a post office union representative and served as vice president of Transportation Workers Union Local 600 (Wikipedia).

Keith Mather, works for the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection and remains involved in antiwar work.   THEN: The Vietnam War’s last prisoner of conscience was living at home in San Bruno and going to shows at the Fillmore when he received his draft notice during the Summer of Love. And then the whole military thing began. Went to Oakland and was inducted. Went to Fort Lewis and went through basic training there at North Fort and was given the end of basic training, was given the military occupational skill of infantryman. I took my advanced infantry training at Fort Lewis and I started that. Went home during AIT on leave for Christmas and went back late. Went back three days late and with an earring, knitted tie, red socks with a little crest at the heel, totally out of uniform and I’d given away my brass at a party. 

I was unconscious when I arrived at the airport. I was taken off the plane by the MPs and taken to the stockade and given an Article 15 for being late, possession of marijuana and put back to duty.   Hurry up and get back in training. I only lasted about four or five days and went AWOL again and went back home. Did the classic put your civilian clothes on underneath your uniform and drop them in a phone booth while you’re waiting for a cab. Went to Seattle and flew home. And then I got involved in the anti-war movement after I was AWOL for quite a few months, met a bunch of other people had a similar experience. Initially you felt alone, paranoid and worried, depending on others and didn’t have a lot of power.  Then when you start organizing and getting together with people of similar experiences and similar interests, things started getting a little more enjoyable. It seemed like we were doing something positive. We were going to jail anyway – we figured what do we really have to lose?  We can be silent or we can go down swinging.

I got involved with the Nine For Peace and that was a big time experience for me.  The bio on it is that we represented all four branches of the military – Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force – and we had all resigned and opposed the war and we all made different statements and we were chained to ministers of different denominations and different faiths and we were held in sanctuary in San Francisco, until we got a bomb threat and moved it to Marin City. We were arrested in Marin City in July ’68, the following summer (Summer of Love: 40 Years Later / Keith Mather).

Protests against the Vietnam War took place in the 1960s and 1970s. The protests were part of a movement in opposition to the Vietnam War and took place mainly in the United States. The very 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 French troops to “subjugate the native population” of Vietnam; these protesters opposed the “recolonization” of Vietnam (Wikipedia).

Official Web-site: Sir! No Sir!
Draft and Military Resistance to the Vietnam War We Ain’t Marching Anymore
GI opposition to the Vietnam War, 1965-1973 – Howard Zinn
Vietnam War: Special Section
Donald Duncan-Vietnam was a lie, 1966
Vietnam Veterans Against The War – Media Gallery (Videos)
Retired Army Col. Charged With Sedition For Handing Flyer on Anti-War Vietnam Vets
The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam (Video)

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