Panel: “Waging Peace in Vietnam: U.S. Soldiers and Veterans who Opposed the War”

October 18, 2019 12:10 pm –2:00 pm 1512 International Affairs
Speaker(s):
Ron Carver, Co-editor with David Cortright and Barbara Doherty, Waging Peace in Vietnam: U.S. Soldiers and Veterans who Opposed the War, and Associate Fellow, New Internationalism, Institute for Policy Studies; Jan Barry, Resigned from West Point to become writer and peace activist; J.J. Johnson, Member of “Fort Hood Three,” who in 1966 became the first soldiers to publicly refuse to deploy to Vietnam; Dr. Howard Levy, Court-martialed in 1967 for refusing to train Special Forces combatants in medical procedures and was sentenced to three years in Federal prison; Lt. Susan Schnall, Sentenced to six months hard labor for her antiwar activities

While mainstream narratives of the Vietnam War all but marginalize anti-war activity of soldiers, opposition and resistance from within the three branches of the military made a real difference to the course of America’s engagement in Vietnam. By 1968, every major peace march in the United States was led by active duty GIs and Vietnam War veterans. By 1970, thousands of active duty soldiers and marines were marching in protest in US cities. Hundreds of soldiers and marines in Vietnam were refusing to fight; tens of thousands were deserting to Canada, France and Sweden. Eventually the US Armed Forces were no longer able to sustain large-scale offensive operations and ceased to be effective. Yet this history is largely unknown and has been glossed over in much of the written and visual remembrances produced in recent years. 

Waging Peace in Vietnam shows how the GI movement unfolded, from the numerous anti-war coffee houses springing up outside military bases, to the hundreds of GI newspapers giving an independent voice to active soldiers, to the stockade revolts and the strikes and near-mutinies on naval vessels and in the air force. The book presents first-hand accounts, oral histories, and a wealth of underground newspapers, posters, flyers, and photographs documenting the actions of GIs and veterans who took part in the resistance. In addition, the book features fourteen original essays by leading scholars and activists. Notable contributors include Vietnam War scholar and author, Christian Appy, and Mme Nguyen Thi Binh, who played a major role in the Paris Peace Accord.

Ron Carver is an associate fellow at Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies and a graduate of Columbia College. He was an assistant to the director of the United States Servicemen’s Fund, the principal sponsor of the newspapers produced by and for antiwar soldiers, sailors and airmen during the American War in Vietnam. He is co-editor of Waging Peace in Vietnam: U.S. Soldiers and Veterans Who Opposed the War (New Village Press, 2019).

Jan Barry is a poet, author and journalist. Appointed to the U.S. Military Academy after a war tour in Vietnam, he resigned from West Point to become a writer and peace activist. A co-founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Barry is co-editor of Winning Hearts and Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans (McGraw Hill 1972). His poems have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times.

James “JJ” Johnson was a member of the Fort Hood Three, the first soldiers to publicly refuse to deploy to Vietnam. For their refusal in 1966, they served twenty-eight months in Fort Leavenworth federal prison. Johnson subsequently worked as a labor journalist and the communications director of AFSCME District Council 1707 and editor of 1199 SEIU’s Our Life and Times.

Howard Levy, MD, was an Army captain stationed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, when he was sentenced to three years in Fort Leavenworth prison for refusing to train “Green Beret” Special Forces soldiers. Citing the Geneva Conventions, Levy explained that training combat soldiers threatened the loss of international codes of protection for all medical providers. Levy has practiced dermatology in the South Bronx at Lincoln Hospital for fifty years.

Susan Schnall, a former Navy Lieutenant, was convicted and sentenced to six months hard labor for leading a peace march in San Francisco in October 1968.  She is an assistant adjunct professor at NYU’s School of Professional Studies, Healthcare Management and is president of NYC Veterans for Peace. Schnall organizes scientific panels about Agent Orange at the American Public Health Association’s annual meetings.