Anti Vietnam Protests

The first organised protests against the Vietnam War took place in both New York and Philadelphia during August 1963. These protests were attended by American pacifists commemorating the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War. The next year, opposition spread to the countries college campuses, at a time of unprecedented student activism, and went on to include wide cross section of American society. By 1965, the peace movement had gained national prominence and it was in November of that year that two men, Norman Morrison and Roger Allen Laporte, set themselves on fire in protest at the conflict.

Criticism of the war was varied. Some argued that the war was immoral and an attack on Vietnamese independence. Others questioned the military itself, claiming it lacked any clear idea of how to achieve its objectives. By 1968 opposition to the war had spread to government itself, with three peace candidates, including Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy, standing against Lyndon B Johnson during the presidential election campaign.

John Lennon and John Kerry

John Lennon and John Kerry, two famous anti war protestors.

The system of conscription for the war also proved unpopular, as demonstrated in May 1965 when a group of students from the University of California staged the first public burning of a draft card. In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed concern about the ratio of African American casualties in the war leading to high levels of support for the campaign from that section of society. Unlike those from the upper and middle classes, poorer people and minority groups found it harder to defer their service, but it was not until 1970 that the system was changed.

Protestors also included veterans of the Vietnam conflict itself, some of whom converged on the White House in April 1971 to throw their medals on the Capitol steps. Two years later, in 1973, America finally withdrew from the war, having lost almost 60, 000 troops. The war continued until 1975, when the communist forces in North Vietnam claimed victory over the south.