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Shanet Clark

Vietnam War Student Protests

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Boston’s Vietnam Era Draft Resistance Movement: The Public Memory of Draft Evasion, Card Burning and Draft Prosecutions

A Book review by David Shanet Clark, Georgia State University

Michael S. Foley:

Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance During the Vietnam War,

Chapel Hill, N.C., University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

In Confronting the War Machine, historian Michael Foley establishes his principal proposition, documenting the distinction between the draft resistance, Vietnam anti-war protesters and 1960s draft dodgers, three varieties of misunderstood and intertwined young people. In the 1960s draft dodgers gamed the system, playing tactics with their draft boards and with weak Federal draft law enforcement, to avoid fighting in Vietnam. The draft resister is entirely different, as Foley makes clear, and both are distinct from the anti-war protester. These distinctions are important and add weight to the book’s impact. Foley proves his thesis, concerning the need for us to recognize the full range of draft responses, i.e., being drafted, avoiding the draft, exile, or resistance, and what motivated and sprung from those responses.

The public memory retains an image of draft age men in the Harvard, BU, and MIT area burning their draft cards. Foley points out that these were Selective Service Induction Deferrals and Exemptions being sent back to the Justice Department (only a minority burned them for the camera) and that the draft resisters took risks--based on acts of conscience--by renouncing the draft that protected them, via exemptions and deferrals.

The public memory includes Dr. Benjamin Spock (the baby doc) and Reverend William Sloane Coffin being prosecuted for counseling the draft resisters who gathered in the Back Bay in Boston at the Arlington Street Church, October 16, 1967. Foley carefully analyzes the prosecution of the older, non-draft age men, and decides that moderate Attorney General Ramsey Clark chose them for a very pointed show trial in which the mass of protesters would be fairly represented by the older men. The televised altar-ceremony draft card burnings followed on the heels of March 31, 1966, when four young Boston men burned their cards in a filmed protest. Boston was home to a strong pacifism and just war critical thinkers’ tradition, most evident in H.D. Thoreau’s Concord, Massachusetts memoirs. (Many of the 1960s draft resisters also cite Gandhi in Foley’s intensive oral history interviews and documentation review). Boston is a central source for the fast growing culture of resistance to the draft in the mid 1960’s and the Resistance, as they were called, were fully aware of their romantic, anti-fascist and existential namesakes.

The public memory is rich with folklore on Vietnam induction. Weight gain, weight loss, feigned and real medical exemptions, feigned and real homosexual and psychological exemptions were all employed, and the morally secure public draft resister would often counsel the high school age youth about the rules of the Vietnam avoidance game. Foley doesn’t go into all the deferment strategies used, but the 17-category 1967 U.S. draft deferment schedule is quite valuable, (4-f, 1-a, 1-w, etc.)

Foley makes important clarifications and distinctions about the 1960s anti-war universe. Most importantly, he stresses that the draft resistance were college deferred, upper class students, who gave up deferral to contact the Attorney General with their cards and letters, risking retaliation. Johnson’s head of the Selective Service General Lewis Hershey did retaliate. He reclassified the resisters 1A and inducted them for Vietnam service. By 1969 the Supreme Court would rule that the punitive loss of exemptions was illegal, but that was too late if you were overseas in the jungle.

Foley focuses his narrative’s periodization nicely. In the beginning, in 1966 and 1967 the draft Resistance would regularly go out to induction centers and buses for inductees and try to talk draftees out of induction. They followed a moral call to conscience and were cold to SDS organizer’s call for class struggle and revolutionary acts. This changed by Monday, July 22, 1968, when Foley’s period of “classic” Boston Vietnam era draft resistance ends.

Bill Hunt, the Boston Draft Resistance Group and New England Resistance leader spoke to a rally on Boston Common for the Peace and Freedom Party, who had nominated the Black Panthers’ Eldridge Cleaver for President of the United States. Hunt spoke of the “galactic” distance of “dedication and risk” between the Oakland Black Panthers and the Boston Resistance, since the Panthers were faced with the “western genocidal technology” of the “Oakland Pigs.” The leader of the Boston draft movement saw “a new climate of insurgency…(preparing the way for) … a white revolutionary left.” Similarly, leader Alex Jack became alienated and militant, urging Boston to reject “the most monstrous and destructive society in history…. rise up and utterly destroy this universe.” Foley uses these statements to draw the curtain on the classic stage of resistance, and show its problematic assimilation into the later anti-war era, marked by the Chicago Democratic Convention, the Yippies, the Maoists of SDS and the agent provocateurs of the FBI.

Deftly written, richly researched, Foley’s book straightens out the public memory on the role of draft resisters in ending the draft and in forcing the re-appraisal of the Vietnam War’s policy by the Johnson administration. With a strong narrative and case study approach, Foley succeeds in impressing us with the range of options open to draft age men in the northeast in the late 1960s. The public memory of a chaotic time is clarified and Foley enhances the dignity of draft resisters in this important addition to the history of the period.

Vietnam War Period, Anti-War Protest and Draft Resistance

Selected For Further Reading:

Baritz, Loren

Backfire: A History of How American Culture Led Us Into Vietnam

N.Y., William Morrow, 1985.

Davis, James Kirkpatrick

Assault on the Left: the FBI and the Sixties Antiwar Movement

Westport Conn., Praeger

DeBenedetti, Charles

The Peace Reform in American History

Bloomington & London, Indiana Univ. Press, 1980

Gettleman, Marvin, Editor

Vietnam and America: Most Comprehensive Documented History of the Vietnam War

N.Y. Grove Press, 1995

Heineman, Kenneth J.

Campus Wars: the Peace Movement of American State

Universities in the Vietnam Era.

London & N.Y., NYU Press, 1993.

Katsiaficas, G.

The Imagination of the New Left, a Global Analysis of 1968

Boston, South End Press, 1987

Lewes, James

Protest and Survive: Underground GI newspapers During the Vietnam War

City, Publisher, Date.

Powers, Thomas

The War at Home: Vietnam and the American People 1964-1968

New York, Grossman, 1973.

Zaroulis, Nancy and Gerald Sullivan

Who Spoke Up: American Protest against the War in Vietnam 1963-1975

N.Y. Doubleday, 1984.

Zinn, Howard

Disobedience and Democracy: Nine Fallacies on Law and Order

Boston, South End Press, 1968,2002

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Boston’s Vietnam Era Draft Resistance Movement: The Public Memory of Draft Evasion, Card Burning and Draft Prosecutions

A Book review by David Shanet Clark, Georgia State University

Michael S. Foley:

Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance During the Vietnam War,

Chapel Hill, N.C., University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

In Confronting the War Machine, historian Michael Foley establishes his principal proposition, documenting the distinction between the draft resistance, Vietnam anti-war protesters and 1960s draft dodgers, three varieties of misunderstood and intertwined young people.  In the 1960s draft dodgers gamed the system, playing tactics with their draft boards and with weak Federal draft law enforcement, to avoid fighting in Vietnam.  The draft resister is entirely different, as Foley makes clear, and both are distinct from the anti-war protester.  These distinctions are important and add weight to the book’s impact.  Foley proves his thesis, concerning the need for us to recognize the full range of draft responses, i.e., being drafted, avoiding the draft, exile, or resistance, and what motivated and sprung from those responses.

The public memory retains an image of draft age men in the Harvard, BU, and MIT area burning their draft cards. Foley points out that these were Selective Service Induction Deferrals and Exemptions being sent back to the Justice Department (only a minority burned them for the camera) and that the draft resisters took risks--based on acts of conscience--by renouncing the draft that protected them, via exemptions and deferrals.

The public memory includes Dr. Benjamin Spock (the baby doc) and Reverend William Sloane Coffin being prosecuted for counseling the draft resisters who gathered in the Back Bay in Boston at the Arlington Street Church, October 16, 1967.  Foley carefully analyzes the prosecution of the older, non-draft age men, and decides that moderate Attorney General Ramsey Clark chose them for a very pointed show trial in which the mass of protesters would be fairly represented by the older men.  The televised altar-ceremony draft card burnings followed on the heels of March 31, 1966, when four young Boston men burned their cards in a filmed protest.  Boston was home to a strong pacifism and just war critical thinkers’ tradition, most evident in H.D. Thoreau’s Concord, Massachusetts memoirs. (Many of the 1960s draft resisters also cite Gandhi in Foley’s intensive oral history interviews and documentation review).  Boston is a central source for the fast growing culture of resistance to the draft in the mid 1960’s and the Resistance, as they were called, were fully aware of their romantic, anti-fascist and existential namesakes.

The public memory is rich with folklore on Vietnam induction. Weight gain, weight loss, feigned and real medical exemptions, feigned and real homosexual and psychological exemptions were all employed, and the morally secure public draft resister would often counsel the high school age youth about the rules of the Vietnam avoidance game.  Foley doesn’t go into all the deferment strategies used, but the 17-category 1967 U.S. draft deferment schedule is quite valuable, (4-f, 1-a, 1-w, etc.)

Foley makes important clarifications and distinctions about the 1960s anti-war universe.  Most importantly, he stresses that the draft resistance were college deferred, upper class students, who gave up deferral to contact the Attorney General with their cards and letters, risking retaliation.  Johnson’s head of the Selective Service General Lewis Hershey did retaliate.  He reclassified the resisters 1A and inducted them for Vietnam service. By 1969 the Supreme Court would rule that the punitive loss of exemptions was illegal, but that was too late if you were overseas in the jungle.

Foley focuses his narrative’s periodization nicely.  In the beginning, in 1966 and 1967 the draft Resistance would regularly go out to induction centers and buses for inductees and try to talk draftees out of induction.  They followed a moral call to conscience and were cold to SDS organizer’s call for class struggle and revolutionary acts.  This changed by Monday, July 22, 1968, when Foley’s period of “classic” Boston Vietnam era draft resistance ends. 

Bill Hunt, the Boston Draft Resistance Group and New England Resistance leader spoke to a rally on Boston Common for the Peace and Freedom Party, who had nominated the Black Panthers’ Eldridge Cleaver for President of the United States.  Hunt spoke of the “galactic” distance of “dedication and risk” between the Oakland Black Panthers and the Boston Resistance, since the Panthers were faced with the “western genocidal technology” of the “Oakland Pigs.” The leader of the Boston draft movement saw “a new climate of insurgency…(preparing the way for) … a white revolutionary left.” Similarly, leader Alex Jack became alienated and militant, urging Boston to reject “the most monstrous and destructive society in history…. rise up and utterly destroy this universe.” Foley uses these statements to draw the curtain on the classic stage of resistance, and show its problematic assimilation into the later anti-war era, marked by the Chicago Democratic Convention, the Yippies, the Maoists of SDS and the agent provocateurs of the FBI.

Deftly written, richly researched, Foley’s book straightens out the public memory on the role of draft resisters in ending the draft and in forcing the re-appraisal of the Vietnam War’s policy by the Johnson administration.  With a strong narrative and case study approach, Foley succeeds in impressing us with the range of options open to draft age men in the northeast in the late 1960s.  The public memory of a chaotic time is clarified and Foley enhances the dignity of draft resisters in this important addition to the history of the period.

===========================================

There is an area of interest that all of the media ignored with regard to a judgement on whether or not our nation was trying to win the war in Veitnam and whether or not we really cared about our military forces deployed in Vietnam and the people of South Vietnam. I was with 64,000 Buddhist Hoa Haos in 1966 and I still remember them as the finest people I have ever had the pleasure of living amongst. Did you know that our government - from the White House down to General William C. Westmoreland - gave the enemy preferential treatment? There would have been a lot more war protestors if these facts had been known. Read on what follows - PLEASE.

General William C. Westmoreland

The Man and the Myth

by

Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Marvin, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

There are many displays and tributes to this general who we should instead have established a wall of shame to signify those who would be with us today had it not been for a man named William C. Westmoreland who knowingly aided and abetted our enemy in the war against Communism in Vietnam and who admitted that fact in his own published testimony: A Soldier Reports © William C. Westmoreland. If we are so unwise as to ignore these facts of the Vietnam era we will but set ourselves up for future recurrences of same. Who is calling the shots in Iraq and Afghanistan? Are the generals and admirals, at the expense of KIAs, WIAs and MIAs acquiescing to the dictates of a circle of men dedicated to maintaining a conflict of sufficient depth to satisfy the lusts of the political/industrial complex?

Nearer to now: on 24 July 2003 I spoke on the telephone with General Tommy Franks’ aide, LTC Chris Goedeke, expressing my admiration of the General and my concern that he did not appear to have sufficient troops in his command in Iraq to secure the population centers after they taken the area and cleared the enemy out. I was led to believe, when told unequivocally that General Franks had only received half of the numbers of forces he asked for to properly conduct the war, that General Franks had acquiesced to instructions from the Secretary of Defense, and knowingly went to war with insufficient men and women to get the job done. One who wishes to remain anonymous advised that the staff who developed the invasion scenario for Secretary Rumsfeld were primarily without combat experience.

My question to those who love this great nation of ours and who want it to once again be known to the world as The Defender of Freedom is:

Why has the world press refused to publish the truth?

General William C. Westmoreland, as Commander of all American Forces in South Vietnam from June of 1964 through March of 1968, aided and abetted the enemy by permitting them safe havens inside the Cambodian territory adjacent to South Vietnam and by permitting that same enemy the unrestricted use of the Mekong River as a protected waterway to transport war materiel through South Vietnam to their sanctuaries in Cambodia. It seemed obvious to me, after putting all of the facts together, that General Westmoreland considered his own position, rank and place in history more important to him than the lives of American and Vietnamese warriors and South Vietnamese civilians (men, women and children) alike or he would have demanded an end to President Lyndon Johnson’s provision of safe-havens and protected supply routes to the enemy. Lacking positive action by the President, General Westmoreland should have resigned publicly, informing the American people that he was leaving the service not wanting to be a part of the sham that was Vietnam, the sham that supported the enemy while subjecting our forces and our allies, along with the civilian population to death and destruction.

Corroborated proof of my direct knowledge of General Westmoreland’s acts to encourage and assist the enemy is contained in my book Expendable Elite – One Soldier’s Journey Into Covert Warfare, © 2003, Trine Day Publishers.

In General Westmoreland’s book A Soldier Reports © 1976, Doubleday & Company, Inc. he states rather matter-of-factly and very clearly on page 218: “The enemy’s obvious use of Cambodia as a sanctuary and refusal of Washington authorities to allow me to do anything about it was frustrating.” He went on to write, on page 219, of the proof of major shipments of arms and other supplies “reaching the VC via international shipping passing through South Vietnam up the Mekong...” It may have been “frustrating” to General Westmoreland, but his lack of action to deny the enemy sanctuaries and a protected supply route was indeed deadly to many tens of thousands of Americans who depended on him for leadership. From what I was told by officers in Saigon at the time, General Westmoreland wasn’t so frustrated that he denied himself the playful pleasures of a daily tennis routine.

Strangely enough, General Westmoreland writes at the beginning of Chapter XV (Reflections on Command) of having a quotation of Napoleon Bonaparte under a panel on my desk which states, “A commander-in-chief cannot take as an excuse for his mistakes in warfare an order by his sovereign or his minister, when the person giving the order is absent from the field of operations and is imperfectly aware or wholly unaware of the latest state of affairs. It follows that any commander-in-chief who undertakes to carry out a plan which he considers defective is at fault; he must put forward his reasons, insist on the plan being changed, and finally tender his resignation rather than be the instrument of his army’s downfall.”

The lack of strong moral leadership in this four star general is typified in his own admission, on page 220 of his book: “For long all we could do to the enemy in Cambodia was drop propaganda leaflets on our side of the border whenever the wind was right to blow them across.” And, on page 222, he states unequivocally, “My every request to inform the world press of the enemy’s use of Cambodia was denied...” Why then, inasmuch as our permitting of “the enemy’s use of Cambodia” was somewhat akin to tying our soldiers’ hands behind their back as they were ordered into battle, didn’t he take that matter forward as the sole rationale for his resignation from the military service?

In 1983, Presidio Press published LTC Charles M. Simpson’s book, Inside the Green Berets, included the account of how LTC Dick Ruble, a member of General Westmoreland’s Intelligence staff, had without the knowledge of the Special Forces Group commander, denied their access to intelligence (“code word” documents) as retribution for Special Forces’ denying MACV non-airborne personnel, who were to be disguised as Green Berets, access to Special Forces Camps (see page 181). The Special Forces Group had been excluded purposely from their distribution list and would include intelligence gathered by CIA resources. Many of those resources were highly classified and compartmentalized, according to my source, who understandably wishes to remain anonymous.

Directly related to this denial of critical combat intelligence, was a time of solemn remembrance one summer afternoon in 1988 when I stepped through the doors of the Special Warfare Museum on Smoke Bomb Hill at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, wanting to revisit my past. The Green Berets were, after all, a very special organization that would and could tackle any mission, anytime, anywhere and get the job done. No task was too dangerous, too onerous or too difficult as “the impossible just takes a little longer.”

I was enjoying the many and varied exhibits in that small, but awesome collection of unconventional warfare memorabilia until I was stopped in my tracks in front of an exhibit honoring General William C. Westmoreland. I understand fully that one should not despise another, but that singular word best describes my feeling for that military man who, by his own inaction and lack of courage before Congress and his military superiors, aided and abetted the enemy in the Vietnam conflict, the same foe that had killed my four best friends, all of them Green Berets.

My best friend Jerry, his name now engraved on THE WALL - Master Sergeant Gerard V. Parmentier - was killed in action his fifth time in combat in the Southeast Asian War Theater. Jerry, a fellow Green Beret and a number of South Vietnamese irregulars, all mortally wounded in battle by Viet Cong insurgents on 17 August 1967 near Dak To, South Vietnam, were also unsuspecting victims of a power struggle between General William C. Westmoreland’s headquarters and the Special Forces Group commander.

His son Albert, a Green Beret himself, was serving in a neighboring Special Forces camp when he got word that his father had been killed. After learning details of the battle and its aftermath from his father’s commanding officer, Albert accompanied his Father’s body back to the United States where he was interred with military honors, including a Special Forces Color Guard, at Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

After the funeral I spoke with Albert and he confirmed what I’d suspected, having learned from his father’s commanding officer that Jerry’s unit had met defeat and suffered heavy casualties, with most KIA due to faulty or withheld intelligence. The enemy force that killed Jerry was many times the strength that had been gleaned from available intelligence. That fact, in and of itself, was not uncommon in war, particularly in a counter-insurgency situation. What was unusual and unforgivable in my judgment, was the fact that the enemy order of battle was known but withheld from Special Forces. Hard to believe? Yes, I would rather it had been a lie. But those facts were told Albert by Jerry’s commander before he left Vietnam escorting his father’s body to the US. Albert told me, just a few days later and agreed it was important information for the book I was writing about Special Forces in South Vietnam. We also agreed that it would be put on the back burner until his mother was gone as it would hurt too much for her to know the truth. When Jerry’s widow, Rose, died and was buried in Providence, Rhode Island, I spoke with Albert shortly after the funeral had concluded. I told Albert of my need to obtain his signed statement telling of the facts of his father’s death so as to be evidence with which I would demand an investigation and a public disclosure of facts.

I was to learn instead that Albert had retired from the U.S. Army and was working for the “company.” Needless to say, he was then conveniently forbidden from disclosing any knowledge relating to the CIA. No sense arguing, the cards were stacked against the truth.

My book, Expendable Elite – One Soldier’s Journey Into Covert Warfare, contains much detail regarding General Westmoreland’s refusal to demand an end to the enemy’s safe-havens in Cambodia and his lack of courage when given the opportunity to go before Congress and tell them that American and Allied forces and innocent civilians were being killed and maimed by the enemy operating out of the “sanctuaries” that President Johnson had provided against the wishes of then Premier Nguyen Cao Ky. He admits to these failures in his book A Soldier Reports.

Another fact of life in South Vietnam at the time I served as a Green Beret in An Phu and Chau Doc was the absence of routine resupply of Special Forces units by General Westmoreland’s Saigon depot. This was a great cause of concern to me when stationed at the B team and responsible for logistical support of Special Forces Camps under the wing of B-42 in Chau Doc in late 1966. That lack of logistical support by the Saigon depot forced me to “borrow” a Landing Craft Utility (LCU) from the US Navy, pilot it down the Bassac River and on into the Mekong to reach the Saigon Depot. We then “borrowed” two of the depot’s trucks and drove past the fearful guards to pick what we desperately needed from shelves, bins and pallet storage, loaded everything on the trucks and then off loaded onto the LCU at the depot docking site. From there we re-traced our way back to Chau Doc and returned the LCU to where it had been tied up. Within a year of my return to the US, while attending the US Army Career Course at Fort Lee, Virginia, Colonel Pieklik, the former commander of the Saigon Depot - who had commanded it at the time we were forced to steal supplies from that same depot, was a guest lecturer and stood in front of our class at the end of his presentation and responded to questions. I was class president and got to field the first question. I was impressed with the fact that he answered unequivocally, telling our class that the reason his depot was not supplying the Special Forces needs in the IV Tactical Zone (the entire delta area) was that General Westmoreland had ordered him not to. I would learn that Westmoreland’s futile attempts to convince the Commanding General of IV Tactical Zone (Lieutenant General Quang Van Dang) of the need to permit the use of conventional American forces in the delta had angered him to the extent that he refused logistical support of all unconventional forces in the Delta area.

Is this of whom I write the General Westmoreland you have pictured in the past?

Interestingly enough, General Westmoreland’s personal Analysis of America’s Unique Experience in Vietnam, titled As I Saw it and Now See It © 1988 General William C. Westmoreland (Go to http://members.aol.com/USAHeroes/wcw2.htm) contains NO reference to the safe havens or protected shipping permitted our enemy during his watch.

©2005 LTC Daniel Marvin, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

Edited by Daniel Marvin

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