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

An eye-witness report from 50 years ago

A while before, my girl friend, who had been wearing a yellow gardenia in her hair, offered it to the MP in front of us with whom we had talked earlier. He smiled. I said, “Can’t you wear it?” and he shook his head no. Then the girl took the flower and asked him if she could put it in his gun barrel. He smiled and she did it. We were friends.

I informed him that I could no longer move back; that I would not do it. The troops on either side of him continued to advance and marshals were clubbing those who refused to retreat. Our MP did not move forward. The others were six inches ahead of him when a cheer went up from the far left side of the mall.

The megaphone declared that an MP had deserted! I since met another Wesleyan student who saw it happen, and it has now made it into the papers. At any rate, I looked up at the MP to try to persuade him to do the same. There were tears in his eyes. Someone said, “Hey man, you can do it. I’ll do it!” and then burned his draft card, holding it up for the MP to see. Five other guys near me followed suit and at that point I joined them. Two more cheers went up and we were informed that two more MPs had deserted. I thought that this man in front of us was really considering it himself. He was sticking out behind his line at that point like a blister.

Then another soldier came up and told him to leave. He was replaced. As he turned to go, he took the flower out of his gun and put it slowly in his pocket.

His replacement was quick to catch up with the rest of the line. We were packed up so tightly that there was no longer any possibility of backing up. The megaphone suggested that we turn our backs on the MPs so as not to provoke them. We were also told that a concussion was not as likely on the back of the head. We did this. We also linked arms and legs, to make ourselves difficult to remove. We now knew that arrest was imminent, and people continually reminded us over the megaphone that those who did not want to risk arrest were free to leave. The military would not bother them. No mass exodus occurred. I saw no one go, though I considered going myself. We really began to feel that we owed it to those who had been arrested and, I’m afraid, beaten, to get arrested ourselved, six-month sentence or not.

At about this time, another incident occurred near me, which I feel should be mentioned for the light it throws on the character of the demonstrators. An attempt was made to split us in half by a wedge tactic. The lead man, helmet number 503, must have been a really demented person, completely atypical. He was using his gun butt viciously to beat back sitters, regardless of sex or age. His face was intense and grim. Those who sat and faced him were being hit on the shoulders; those who tried to flee were hit on the back. The other MPs were not hitting anyone. They were just lining the gap he was making.

story | by Dr. Radut