Skip to Content

The 1967 Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam: Confrontation at the Pentagon

An eye-witness report from 50 years ago

When I got to the Reflecting Pool, I was standing between memorials to two of the greatest founders of this country: Washington and Lincoln. This impressed me very much, as it did many other people. Both of them had been presidents during wartime; the two most important wars in our history, in fact. It emphasized to me the fact that I did love this country, and also that I was not opposing them by being in Washington.

As the day progressed, the word went around that the penalty for civil-disobedience was not too petty, in fact. We were told that it could be as high as $500 and/or six months in jail. After a good deal of deliberation and discussion, I decided that I could not commit myself to such a heavy penalty , as a freshman in college only five weeks into the term, since I was not convinced that my sacrifice (of my parents money) would accomplish anything.

While waiting for the march to start, I met a girl whom I stayed with throughout the whole demonstration. We talked a good deal about the march and what our own part in it was. Finally the march began.

I think I should describe briefly the composition of the marchers. Regardless of what the news media have stated, I can state categorically that the vast majority of marchers were college students, graduates and middle-class adults. Certainly there were hippies too. I am disappointed in the deliberate focus on them by the news media. Another failure on the media’s part was to place the more politically radical groups in their proper perspective within the march. Initially the demonstration was assembled around the one-mile perimeter of the pool, under the letters of the alphabet, so that groups from New England, for instance, gathered under the letter “P” and groups from New York under “S.”

Notably, those political groups mentioned above were all concentrated at first under two letters: D and F, and their total assembly was smaller than any other single contingent. The point is that these groups, when the march started, broke order and ran about the march making themselves prominent. It doesn’t take too much insight to realize this, but reporters and cameramen failed notoriously and therefore, I assume, deliberately.

As the march moved towards the Pentagon, I was surprised and relieved to see virtually no signs of harassment, of which there was a lot at the New York march, from bystanders and from the police. There was a rather gay feeling through the march as the day got warmer.

We got across the Potomac and the Pentagon came into view. People were there already. The march began to move faster, and soon we were on the Pentagon grounds.

When we got to the North Parking Lot, the buses were already there to take us home, but many people were moving off towards the mall of the Pentagon —a sort of enormous front porch. I went there with another Wesleyan freshman and the girl I had met. When we got there, we saw that the stairs to the mall were packed with demonstrators. Along the edge of the mall was a line of MPs carrying billy clubs and wearing helmets. Some people were using ropes to climb the wall. There was general disorder and confusion but apparently no violence on either side.

story | by Dr. Radut