Today In History: Veterans Protest Vietnam War

April 19, 1971

Substance News

Today in 1971, an anti-war protest was held, organized by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War group, in Washington, D.C. The protest was named “Operation Dewey Canyon III,” after two military operations during the War. It was described as “a limited incursion into the country of Congress.”

While there were veterans demonstrations before Dewey Canyon III, none of them garnered as much media coverage. It was a large, visible protest that made waves in the news.

The demonstration was led by a group called the Gold Star Mothers, women whose sons were killed in Vietnam. With them marched about 1,100 veterans, across the Lincoln Memorial Bridge. They marched to the gate of Arlington National Cemetery.

Winter Soldier

The Reverend Jackson H. Day delivered a eulogy for American soldiers who had died in the War. Day had recently resigned his post as a military chaplain. His service read:

“Maybe there are some others here like me–who wanted desperately to believe that what we were doing was acceptable, who hung on the words of “revolutionary development” and “winning the hearts and minds of the people.” We had been told that on the balance the war was a good thing and we tried to make it a good thing; all of us can tell of somebody who helped out an orphanage, or of men like one sergeant who adopted a crippled Vietnamese child; and even at My Lai the grief of one of the survivors was mixed with bewilderment as he told a reporter, “I just don’t understand it … always before, the Americans brought medicine and candy.” I believe there is something in all of us that would wave a flag for the dream of an America that brings medicine and candy, but we are gathered here today, waving no flags, in the ruins of that dream. Some of you saw right away the evil of what was going on; others of us one by one, adding and re-adding the balance sheet of what was happening and what could possibly be accomplished finally saw that no goal could be so laudable, or defense so necessary, as to justify what we have visited upon the people of Indochina.”

The protests lasted for five days, with soldiers attempting to turn themselves in as war criminals and publicly discarding the medals they won in combat.

Vietnam remains a highly controversial war, with prevailing attitude towards it being a sour one.

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