Soldiers for Peace

Opposition to the Vietnam War among active duty GIs and veterans was organized, intense, and widespread. Yet it goes virtually forgotten in public recollections of the era.

Henry Burroughs | AP

Opposition to the Vietnam War among active duty GIs and veterans was organized, intense, and widespread. Yet it goes virtually forgotten in public recollections of the era.

The GIs and veterans who opposed the Vietnam War came from all walks of life. Many were from poor and working-class backgrounds. Some had enlisted and some were drafted. Anti-war GIs and veterans included officers, front-line fighters, naval personnel, combat pilots and those "in the rear with the gear."

Some GIs came to Vietnam with political misgivings. But a good number had grown up in military families and were eager to be the next in line to fight for freedom. As children of the Cold War, many soldiers felt it their duty to battle communism.

Regardless of their backgrounds, what united the GIs who turned against the Vietnam War was the belief that the United States was lying about its motives and about what was actually happening on the ground. They felt that, rather than fighting for democracy, they were committing acts of terror and barbarity against an impoverished nation. Like civilian anti-war protestors, they believed that the United States' involvement in Vietnam violated America's most basic ideals of democracy. And they felt that as soldiers and veterans, they had a unique responsibility to speak out.

Conventional narratives of the Vietnam War depict most GIs and returning veterans as bystanders to the anti-war movement. They are often portrayed as psychologically damaged victims of the war who found themselves ignored, shunned, or reviled by peace activists. But the truth is that more active-duty service men and women — and more veterans of the war — took part in the anti-war movement than in any American military conflict before or since. Civilian peace activists were often their close allies.

The first U.S. combat troops landed in South Vietnam in 1965.

The United States supported the government of South Vietnam in its war against communist North Vietnam and communist guerillas in the South. North Vietnam was backed by China and the Soviet Union.

American leaders warned that if South Vietnam fell to communism, other countries in Southeast Asia would topple like dominoes.

Patrick Christain | Getty Images
Second lieutenant Barry Romo in South Vietnam. Submitted photo

Barry Romo was 19 years old when he arrived in Vietnam as a second lieutenant in a light infantry brigade. Within weeks he was leading men on search and destroy missions. They were fighting enemy soldiers and guerillas at close range.

"I volunteered because I was a dedicated anti-communist. I'd grown up in the 50s. I thought the world was being controlled by an international communist conspiracy."

Marine Bill Ehrhart in South Vietnam. Submitted photo

Bill Ehrhart volunteered for the Marines when he was 17 years old. He was raised in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, the son of a minister. Like many of his generation, Ehrhart had been taught to trust what the U.S. government said. After he served a 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam, that trust would crumble.

"When Lyndon Johnson said in a speech, 'If we do not stop the communists in Vietnam, we will one day have to fight them on the sands of Waikiki,' that sounded serious to me. I had every reason to believe that, and virtually no indication that I ought to be skeptical of that."

The Fort Hood Three

The first widely publicized protest by active duty soldiers against the war happened in 1966. Dennis Mora, JJ Johnson and David Samas refused to ship out for Vietnam. They had been training together at Fort Hood in Texas.

The men had decided the war against the North Vietnamese was an extension of unjust racial and political conditions at home.

The Fort Hood Three, as they came to be known, were found guilty of insubordination and sentenced to three years in prison.

Army privates Dennis Mora, James "JJ" Johnson, and David Samas hold a press conference announcing their refusal to fight in Vietnam War. June 30, 1966. Finer/Memorial University of Newfoundland
JJ Johnson Kate Ellis | APM Reports

"It finally began to dawn on me that this whole concept of national liberation, independence, self-determination, hey, those are things that maybe we should have here in the United States, never mind Vietnam. And that we didn't have self-determination. We didn't have our full rights. Our democracy was fatally flawed. And that the Cold War had been, had been a tool, a weapon, to not only stifle and weaken democracy, but especially to weaken poor people, working people, and people of color."

March led by the newly-formed VVAW in 1967. Vietnam Veterans Against the War

Jan Barry enlisted in the Army in 1962 because he dreamed of going to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

He served for nearly a year as a military adviser in Vietnam. From the outset, Barry was skeptical about America's presence there. Later, when U.S. combat troops were sent to fight and America's involvement in the war escalated, Barry grew increasingly alarmed.

In 1967, he attended his first peace rally, in New York City. Soon after, he founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War with a handful of other veterans. VVAW would grow to become one of the largest and most influential veteran anti-war groups.

Jan Barry Stephen Smith | APM Reports

"Just in front of us were some dignitaries — I didn't know who any of them were — and in front of them was a marine in full-dress blues carrying an American flag. And then we stepped out into people hollering and screaming; construction workers threatening or throwing some things. And then this great big huge block of veterans came marching along and this crowd noise just changed like, 'Wow, what are these veterans doing with these peaceniks?' And I thought, 'This is where I want to be.'"

In January 1968, the North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies launched a wave of surprise attacks in cities and villages across the South on the Vietnamese New Year of Tet. It became known as the Tet Offensive.

For many Americans — in the military and among civilians back home — the success of the attacks led them to doubt that the United States could win the war.

U.S. Marines rest after a battle in Hue, South Vietnam, during the Tet Offensive. STR | AP
Marine Bill Ehrhart in Vietnam. Submitted photo

"What it did was put the lie to everything the Johnson administration had been saying about what's happening in Vietnam and the progress we are making. And from that point on, it became perfectly obvious that the only thing left to be determined was how long the United States would stay before we finally packed up and went home."

Barry Romo was eager to fight communists in Vietnam but, from the beginning, there were things about the war that troubled him. He identified as a Chicano, and he saw a deep strain of racism in the military.

One event, in particular, stuck with him. U.S. troops paid Vietnamese civilians to turn in unexploded American bombs and artillery shells. The military wanted those explosives back before enemy soldiers could find them. At a base where Romo was stationed, several children were carrying a round and it exploded.

"All but one of them were burned and dead and didn't exist," Romo said. "I mean, they were pulverized."

One girl survived but was badly burned. Romo wrapped her in a poncho and carried her to a helicopter. They flew to a nearby Naval Hospital. When Romo arrived with the girl in his arms, the military doctors refused to help her. They said they didn't treat Vietnamese nationals.

Barry Romo at a base in Vietnam. Submitted photo

"And it didn't matter that this little girl was what we were supposedly fighting for. And it didn't matter that she had got blown up because she was bringing back an unexploded round. It didn't matter that she was doing America's bidding. The only thing that mattered was the color of her skin and the shape of her eyes."

Romo took the girl to a Catholic missionary hospital. He never found out whether she lived or died.

Romo's tour in Vietnam ended in the spring of 1968. He was sent to an Army post in California where infantry units were trained for combat and he was discharged nine months later. Romo enrolled in a community college in San Bernardino, California, where he'd grown up. Romo liked college, but he was haunted by the war and what he'd done in Vietnam. He would eventually join the anti-war movement and become a lifelong activist.

GI Anti-War Protests

In October 1968, Navy Lieutenant Susan Schnall and a friend borrowed a single-engine airplane to drop flyers at five Bay Area military bases. The leaflets encouraged veterans and active-duty GIs to attend an upcoming anti-war rally in San Francisco.

Schnall had always been opposed to war. Working as a Navy nurse at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California, she treated wounded GIs sent there from battle in Vietnam. She came to feel that she was part of a military machine sending soldiers to die.

She had to try to stop it.

The rally in San Francisco drew hundreds of active-duty personnel and veterans, but Schnall was later court-martialed for dropping the flyers and for wearing her uniform at the demonstration.

She was eventually dismissed from the Navy.

As a civilian, she stayed heavily involved in the peace movement.

Navy Lieutenant Susan Schnall leads GI anti-war protest in San Francisco. October 1968. Harvey Richards Media Archive
Susan Schnall condemns the war during the GI anti-war march in San Francisco. October 1968. Harvey Richards Media Archive

"As a nurse in the armed forces of the United States, the war in Vietnam has taken on a very real and personal meaning. It means young men, 18 to 19 years of age, being turned into trained killers. It means young soldiers returning home and suffering from the wounds of war. It means training, working with young corpsmen to care for the ill and the injured, only to see them returned home, shot up, minus a limb, grossly infected, or in a flag-draped coffin. It means getting to know, to love these guys, and then to lose them in a dirty, filthy war. It means men obeying orders and dying, while those who may obey live. For these reasons I plead: End the war now. Bring our boys home."

David Cortright was drafted as soon as he graduated from college in 1968. Rather than risk being assigned a combat unit, Cortright enlisted and was able to get into an Army band. Cortright was never deployed to Vietnam, but from the start, he had serious doubts about the war. He decided to join other GIs, in uniform, at anti-war protests.

Stories endure from the Vietnam era that civilian protestors often verbally abused veterans or even spat on them. Those stories are largely myth, according to sociologist Jerry Lembcke. He says anti-war protestors, civilians and veterans alike, were more likely to be targets than aggressors. "The violence and spit surrounding anti-war demonstrations was real, but the demonstrators were usually the victims, not the perpetrators," Lembcke writes. "Meanwhile, the story of the mutually supportive relations between Vietnam veterans and the anti-war movement never made it to the big screen." Quite the opposite, he says. "By 1977…the first films portraying hostility between the anti-war movement and Vietnam veterans appear," and continued in popular movies like the Rambo series.

The relationship between peace activists and returning veterans could be fraught, but that was not the experience of active duty GI, David Cortright. "I always found that the civilian anti-war movement people were very welcoming," he says.

Cortright continues: "They kind of made us into heroes. We were tentative, uncertain. They were helpful and supportive. And when we would go to the anti- war rallies, people would thank us. Not thank us for our service, thank us for our protest. And they put us at the front of the march."

Active duty GI David Cortright appears on a poster for the Student Mobilization Committee, 1969. Poster for the Student Mobilization Committee by Richard Avedon and Marvin Israel, 1969. Photograph by Richard Avedon, © The Richard Avedon Foundation

"This was a way in which I could try to speak against the war, talk back to the Army, if you will. And my thinking was, if people see that even the soldiers are opposed to the war, surely they're going to pay attention. I mean, it's one thing to have students protesting or whatever, but if soldiers and veterans are speaking out, they've got to pay attention to us, right?"

The Military Erodes

As opposition to the war grew, active-duty GIs found ways to resist fighting: insubordination, mutiny, desertion, and even killing superior officers.

Refusing to go on combat missions became a potent form of opposition to the war.

First Lieutenant Jesse Rosen of New York City on combat patrol in Vietnam wearing a black armband on his left arm to honor anti-war demonstrations taking place in the United States, October 1969. Charles J. Ryan | AP

Increasing numbers of squad leaders refused to lead men on missions that seemed senseless or suicidal.

In extreme cases, soldiers "fragged" a superior, intentionally killing or wounding the officer with a fragmentation grenade or other weapon.

Rick Merron | AP
Underground newspaper published by GIs stationed at Fort Knox in Kentucky. Wisconsin Historical Society

GIs, veterans and civilian protestors communicated with each other through underground newspapers. These papers encouraged resistance among the troops and advertised anti-war gatherings they could attend.

More than 300 underground newspapers circulated on American military installations worldwide. There were even papers on Navy ships. Marine Sergeant Paul Cox secretly published a newspaper at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. It was called Rage.

Marine corporal Paul Cox (second from right) pictured with fellow GIs in Vietnam. Submitted photo

"I polished my shoes, and I showed up every day and did my job. And then I would go in at night and work all night on this paper. And we would go to Chapel Hill where we would have it printed up under the table, load up a car with it and then drive onto base at midnight."

Keeping a lookout for military police, Cox and his crew dropped the papers throughout the barracks. They could have been jailed if they were caught. Cox says he took the risk because some men in his unit in Vietnam had committed a massacre and he stayed silent. Cox felt ashamed. The underground newspaper was his way to start speaking up. Cox says that collectively, "all those anti-war newspapers really had an effect on the military, because they saw their discipline and the unquestioning obedience of the enlisted troops coming apart."

In 1971, a report in Armed Forces Journal revealed the disarray. It concluded that, "the morale, discipline and battle-worthiness of the U.S. armed forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly the history of the United States."

Veteran Opposition Grows

The U.S. military was increasingly dysfunctional, but the war dragged on. Back home, veterans felt a growing urgency to explain what was really happening on the ground in Vietnam. They believed that if the people of the United States knew, they would demand an end to the war.

In November, 1969 Americans began learning of a massacre committed by U.S. troops in South Vietnam. In a hamlet called My Lai, American soldiers killed more than 500 Vietnamese civilians.

The Army kept it secret for over a year.

More disturbing news arrived in the spring of 1970. President Nixon announced an incursion into the neutral country of Cambodia. Then the National Guard killed four students at Kent State University.

All these events triggered an intense wave of anti-war activism among veterans.

A South Vietnamese woman grieves the death of her husband. April 1969. HORST FAAS | AP
Bill Ehrhart Submitted photo

Bill Ehrhart got out of the service in June 1969. That fall, he enrolled at Swarthmore College. It was a major anti-war school. At first, Ehrhart didn't get involved. He was too messed up by his experience in Vietnam. He drank. He did drugs. And he told himself that the war had nothing to do with him. Then the Kent State killings jolted Ehrhart into action. He joined some anti-war protests, and began reading everything he could about the Vietnam War. He concluded that the war was evil and that "our government had been lying to us for 25 years." He was ashamed of what he'd done in Vietnam.

"There are people who never had the joy of being a father, never got to be married, never got to live out their lives, literally because of me. And for nothing. For worse than nothing. I was on the wrong side. Those people were fighting for their country."

Jan Barry, head of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), with another protestor on a multi-day, 100-mile march from Morristown, New Jersey to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. September 1970. Sheldon Ramsdell
Winter Soldier Investigation
A poster advertising Winter Soldier, a documentary featuring veterans testifying about war atrocities they saw and committed in Vietnam. The hearings were organized by VVAW in 1971. Wisconsin Historical Society

In the winter of 1971, VVAW hosted a set of public hearings on war crimes witnessed and committed by U.S. troops in Vietnam.

More than 125 veterans gathered at a hotel in Detroit to take part.

Army veteran William Light, a participant in Winter Soldier Investigation. Courtesy of Winter Soldier documentary

Over three days, they described carrying out acts of murder, torture and rape against Vietnamese people, and destroying their land and animals. VVAW organizers wanted the public to understand that the My Lai massacre was not an aberration.

The hearings were named the "Winter Soldier Investigation," in reference to Revolutionary War soldiers who endured the hardships of the brutal winter encampment at Valley Forge.

A program outlines the three-day schedule of the Winter Soldier Investigation. Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Barry Romo in 2019. Stephen Smith | APM Reports

Barry Romo flew in from California for the hearings. At the same time, in Georgia, Lt. William Calley was on trial for the murder of civilians at My Lai. Romo and other veterans testifying in Detroit believed the U.S. military was using Calley as a scapegoat. They saw the My Lai massacre as an extreme example of U.S. military policy in Vietnam. Romo said all combat veterans had served, metaphorically, in Calley's unit.

"And what's been brought out during this whole testimony is that it's a general policy and not an isolated incident. It would be impossible with our background to go into a village and kill a woman and child unless we looked at those people as nonhumans. And because of the service, and because of the military establishment, that's how we look at the Vietnamese."

In February, 1971, Playboy ran a free ad for VVAW. Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Operation Dewey Canyon III

VVAW activists decided to take their fight to Washington, D.C.

They called the protest "Operation Dewey Canyon III," echoing the name of two invasions of Laos that the military had kept secret.

More than 1,500 Vietnam veterans descended on Washington, D.C., for a week of demonstrations in April 1971.

Veterans camped out on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during their five-day protest in April 1971. Henry Burroughs | AP

Former Navy lieutenant John Kerry was one of the organizers. That week, he became the first Vietnam veteran to testify before Congress against the war.

Kerry later became a U.S. senator and secretary of state.

In his testimony, Kerry attacked the idea that anti-war protestors were the enemies of American soldiers.

Former Navy lieutenant John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, D.C., April 22, 1971. Henry Griffin | AP

"In 1970, at West Point, Vice President Agnew said 'some glamorize the criminal misfits of society while our best men die in Asian rice paddies to preserve the freedoms which most of those misfits abuse,' and this was used as a rallying point for our effort in Vietnam.

"But for us, his boys in Asia, whom the country was supposed to support, his statement is a terrible distortion from which we can only draw a very deep sense of revulsion. Hence the anger of some of the men who are here in Washington today. It is a distortion because we in no way considered ourselves the best men of this country, because those he calls misfits were standing up for us in a way that nobody else in this country dared to, because so many who have died, would have returned to this country to join the misfits in their efforts to ask for an immediate withdrawal from South Vietnam."

On the final day of the protest, the veterans silently marched to the steps of the Capitol.

In a three-hour ceremony, they hurled their war medals over a fence erected as a barrier.

Veterans throws medals over a barrier at the demonstration. AP

The event drew international attention. It also helped draw protestors to a massive anti-war demonstration the following day.

Marine Rusty Sachs throws his Bronze Star in a protest at the U.S. Capitol, April 1971. Vietnam Veterans Against the War

Barry Romo: "We were doing it to say, 'Your game is no longer going to run with us. People are going to reject defining themselves as a man and a patriot based upon the medals that you're willing to give to us.'"

Kate Ellis: "How did it feel?"

Romo: "It felt great. It felt like, like, pulling 1,000 tons off of my back. And then I would fall back and remember stuff I had done and who had died. And so it's still with me. But, for a while it was gone."

Capturing a Symbol of Liberty

During the 1971 Christmas season, 15 members of VVAW occupied the Statue of Liberty in New York. They barricaded the entrance.

From the statue's crown, they flew an upside-down flag — an international distress signal, like SOS.

VVAW demonstrators pose after occupying the Statue of Liberty for two days. December 1971. Vietnam Veterans Against the War

The men spoke to a crowd of reporters through a crack in the blocked door.

Tim Murphy, one of the activists, said, "The reason we chose the Statue of Liberty is that since we were children, the statue has been analogous in our minds with freedom and an America we love."

Murphy: "Then we went to fight a war in the name of freedom. We saw that freedom is a selective expression allowed only to those who are white and who maintain the status quo."

After 42 hours, the vets left peacefully. No one was arrested.

VVAW activists who seized the Statue of Liberty hoisted an inverted American flag, a historic signal of distress. Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Jim Murphy was one of the VVAW members who took over the Statue of Liberty in 1971. Stephen Smith | APM Reports

Jim Murphy: "We had the international press and local press three deep at the doors, the main doors going in. And we're running interviews through the cracks in the door. And it was headlines all over the world."

Kate Ellis: "So what were your demands?"

Jim Murphy: "Bring our brothers home. This war is immoral. We're killing innocent people. Bring our brothers home."

Protesting Nixon at the Republican National Convention

Vietnam veterans and their allies trekked to Miami to demonstrate against the war at the 1972 GOP convention.

Some vets called the trip "The Last Patrol." President Richard Nixon was up for re-election. Demonstrators charged that Nixon had unnecessarily prolonged the war.

Members of VVAW traveled from all over the country to stage non-violent protests at the convention in Miami Beach. Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Prominent Vietnam veteran and anti-war activist Ron Kovic (right) at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. AP

Leading activist Ron Kovic made his way into the convention in his wheelchair. Kovic, a former Marine sergeant, had been wounded in Vietnam. Kovic and other veterans interrupted Nixon's acceptance speech from the convention floor.

"Stop the bombing! We are Vietnam Veterans against this war. We have suffered for this war. [Crowd] Stop the bombing! Stop the bombing! Stop killing women and children. Stop killing human beings."

Nixon Strikes Back

The White House mounted a counteroffensive that included a campaign to discredit anti-war veterans.

Historian George Herring writes that President Nixon "responded fiercely to what he regarded as sinister threats to his authority to govern."

Federal agents infiltrated organizations like VVAW and arrested members on a range of charges, from disturbing the peace to conspiracy to injure and kill state officials and police.

Nixon called Americans who supported the war the "silent majority." He urged them to speak out.

Demonstrators march in support of the Gainesville 8. Vietnam Veterans Against the War

In July 1972, eight members of VVAW were charged with conspiring to violently disrupt the Republican National Convention. The charges were based on stories from government informants who had infiltrated VVAW.

All members of the Gainesville Eight, photographed on the day of their arraignment. Pictured back row (left to right): John Briggs, Peter Mahoney, Stan Michelson, Bill Patterson, Don Perdue; Front row (left to right): Scott Camil, Alton Foss, John Kniffin. Wisconsin Historical Society

The defendants became known as the Gainesville Eight, for the town where they allegedly hatched their plan. The government had no hard evidence of a conspiracy, but VVAW was forced to mount an expensive and time-consuming legal defense.

According to historian Richard Stacewicz, this damaged the organization. He said, "It required that VVAW move away from their primary mission, raising public awareness about what was happening with the war and to veterans, and caused them to instead spend a year defending themselves."

In August, 1973, a jury found the Gainesville Eight not guilty. By the time the group was exonerated, the United States and Vietnam had signed a peace treaty. All the American troops had come home. The war was effectively over, at least for the U.S. And so was the anti-war movement.

Veterans march in Washington, D.C. April 1971. Vietnam Veterans Against the War

Historians don't agree about the extent to which the GI and veteran anti-war movement helped end the war.

GI protests and rebellion certainly made it harder for the United States to wage war. But there's no question that participating in the anti-war movement was healing for some veterans.

Bill Branson (right) with fellow veteran and VVAW member Bart Savage in 1973. Submitted photo

Bill Branson, an Army veteran, says working with VVAW and the peace movement saved his life. He joined up with Barry Romo in 1970 to protest the war. He now serves on the board of VVAW.

"I'll tell you right now, if it wasn't for them I'd been dead. We've had so many veterans over the years say that. Without VVAW they'd have never made it. Being able to sit there, smoke some weed, drink some wine with a bunch of people and plot how to go out and do something significant to try to end the war — that made a huge difference to us."

Bill Ehrhart says that in the early 1970s, VVAW's Jan Barry invited him to help assemble an anthology of poems about the war. They named it Demilitarized Zones: Veterans After Vietnam. Ehrhart is a poet, and the project kept him busy for more than a year. Ehrhart was deeply angry about the war. He says Barry gave him something constructive to do with that rage.

Ehrhart publishes under the name W. D. Ehrhart. Here he reads a poem called, "Second Thoughts."

Bill Ehrhart in 2019. Stephen Smith | APM Reports

"I was in Vietnam in 1985 with two other veteran poets, and we went to a factory where they were putting together — they were assembling televisions. The parts had been made in I think Czechoslovakia, and all the employees were wounded veterans, disabled veterans. And then we went to dinner with the management. And I discovered that this guy, this one-armed guy, was exactly my age. We were less than 30 days apart in age, and he had fought in Hue City as an NVA soldier.

"So this is 'Second Thoughts.' For Nguyen Van Hung."

You watch with admiration as I roll
a cigarette from papers and tobacco.
Hanoi. The Rising Dragon. 1985.
You can't do what I can do
because it takes two hands

and you have only one, the other
lost years ago somewhere near Laos.
I roll another one for you. You smile,
then shrug, as if deformity from war
were just a minor inconvenience.

Together we discover what we share:
Hue City. Tet. 1968.
Sipping Lua Moi, we walk again
familiar ground when you were whole
and I was whole and everything around us

lay in ruins, dead or burning.
But not us. Not you and I. We're partners
in that ugly dance of men
who do the killing and the dying
and survive.

Now you run a factory; I teach and write.
You lost your arm, but have no
second thoughts about the war you fought.
I lost a piece of my humanity,
it's absence heavy as a severed arm—

but there I go again: those second thoughts
I carry always like an empty sleeve
when you are happy just to share
a cigarette and Lua Moi, the simple joy
of being with an old friend.

Copyright W. D. Ehrhart
Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 2019

Charles Tasnadi | AP

In 1971, during the demonstrations where veterans threw their medals onto the steps of the Capitol, they also staged a candlelight march around the White House. They carried an American flag, turned upside-down.

Veterans and active duty GI's used American symbols of liberty and democracy to remind the public that they were still fighting on behalf of their country. That they were still patriotic Americans. But now they were soldiers for peace.

Historian Richard Stacewicz says that for soldiers going into the war, "Patriotism meant doing your duty, following the orders of your leaders, going to war to protect the United States, to protect the ideals of the United States."

As those soldiers turned against the Vietnam War and tried to stop it, their sense of patriotism deepened. "Because they still held on to this ideal that democracy matters," Stacewicz says. "That as citizen soldiers, in particular, they had a unique perspective to share with the American public, and that it was their duty to protect the ideals of the United States."

David Cortright Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame

David Cortright agrees. After getting an honorable discharge from the Army, Cortright went on to write the first detailed study of troop rebellion and dissent during the Vietnam War. It's called "Soldiers in Revolt," and was published in 1975. Cortright is now Director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He says the soldiers and veterans who spoke out against the war were motivated by a deep sense of patriotism.

"We were trying to stand up against the political system, against what the president was telling us. To say, this war is wrong. This war is damaging our country. We love our country. And if we love our country and we stand with it, we want to stop this terrible war."

Soldiers for Peace
Kate Ellis
Stephen Smith
Chris Julin
Craig Thorson
Andy Kruse
Dave Mann
Chris Worthington
Alex Baumhardt
Sabby Robinson
Gary Meister
Betsy Towner Levine
Shelly Langford
Hilary Smith
Rachel Smoka-Richardson
Kristen Wesloh
Douglas P. Bekke
David Cortright
Brian Horrigan
Lien-Hang Nguyen
Richard Stacewicz
Heather Stur
Support for this project was provided, in part, by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Resources: Selected bibliography | Documentary transcript

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