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472 pp., 61/8 x 91/4, 30 illus., 29 tables, appends., notes, bibl., index

$55.00 cloth
ISBN 0-8078-2767-3

$19.95 paper
ISBN 0-8078-5436-0

Published: Spring 2003

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Confronting the War Machine
Draft Resistance during the Vietnam War

by Michael S. Foley

Copyright (c) 2003 by the University of North Carolina Press. All rights reserved.


Draft Resistance in American Memory

The love of Americans for their country is not an indulgent, it is an exacting and chastising love; they cannot tolerate its defects. —Jacques Maritain, Reflections on America, 1958
On October 18, 1997, about three dozen men and women gathered in the same church in which they had, thirty years earlier, confronted their nation's government during wartime. Seated in a large circle, they went around, one after another, summarizing their lives since their activist days in Boston's draft resistance movement. At first they agreed to keep the reports to five minutes each, but gradually they stretched to fifteen and twenty minutes. As they looked across the circle at one another, and through the mist of three decades of memory, they spoke of careers and family, but few dwelled very long on the years since 1970 or so; instead, most focused on the draft resistance years themselves and the few years after. It became increasingly clear that while most had a general sense of how they had all come to draft resistance, they knew very little about how they each had experienced those years, or how their respective antiwar stories had concluded.

The former draft resistance activists who came to the Arlington Street Church that day no doubt got more out of this group discussion—which lasted several hours and continued over a Vietnamese dinner—than they did from the next day's more formal Sunday service that acknowledged the work they had done in attempting to end the American war in Vietnam. Though the church service produced several moving moments, the few activists who participated in it spoke primarily to the current congregation, as if to pass on a chapter of family history. On the previous day, however, those in the larger group spoke only to each other, and the range of stories varied in ways that surprised even themselves.

For example, Larry Etscovitz, who had been enrolled as a junior at Boston University in 1967, described his persistent regret that he had not followed through with his resistance all the way to prison. After agonizing over the war for more than two years, and finally turning in his draft card as part of an organized movement against the draft and the war, his draft board reclassified him 1-A, draft eligible. When he went to the Boston Army Base for his pre-induction physical and did not cooperate, however, the officers let him leave. They did not have him arrested, and the government did not attempt to prosecute. He never knew why. Later, his draft board reclassified him with a draft deferment. In retrospect, he saw that the system had made it easy for him, at a time when he had never been so scared, to take a way out. Sheepishly, now, he told the others he wished he had gone to prison.

Similarly, David Clennon, who disrupted his studies at the Yale Drama School when he resisted the draft, recounted his ambivalence on the day of the big draft card turn-in at the Arlington Street Church and on the damage his resistance did to his relationship with his father. When his draft board finally tried to call him for induction more than a year after he turned in his draft card, Clennon applied for conscientious objector status; the board rejected the idea outright. Recognizing by then that the movement had lost confidence in its strategy of flooding the courts and filling the jails, and at the same time more acutely doubting his ability to withstand more than two years of prison, he succeeded in getting a psychological deferment. Thirty years later, Clennon characterized this act to his peers as "a copout."

The way such confessions were made, conveying a genuine sense of shame, elicited an immediate response from the others present, who, like a big brother offering reassurance to a younger sibling, made it clear that the community did not judge them harshly. Going to prison, someone mentioned, did not stop the war. That these men even harbored such feelings so many years later, however, came as news to most of the group.

In fact, no one in attendance had gone to prison, though most had welcomed the idea. Some, like Alex Jack, one of Boston's main draft resistance organizers, had been interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and fully expected to be prosecuted, but heard nothing. As a student at the Boston University School of Theology, Jack had been one of the original founders of the New England Resistance (NER)—the primary sponsor of Boston's draft card turn-ins—and a key movement strategist. Although Boston University later expelled him for Resistance work on campus, his draft board never reclassified him and the Justice Department never indicted him. He later speculated that the government must have decided that it would be more trouble than it was worth to go after a movement "leader."

As Nan Stone, another key organizer, noted, women could not be prosecuted for draft resistance, per se, because they were not subject to the draft. Nevertheless, Stone, who also had been a student at the BU School of Theology, did everything possible to assume the same level of risk as the men, and constantly had to push the men in the movement for the opportunity to do so. And at a time when women in social movements were so often restricted to support roles, Stone also had to fight for more responsibility throughout her tenure with the New England Resistance. As she told the group, she came to the women's movement directly from this experience in draft resistance. When she spoke to the parishioners at the Arlington Street Church the next day, she noted that it marked the first time that she had been invited to speak on the same platform with the men of the movement. Certainly, the men who were involved in the day-to-day operations of the draft resistance organizations knew something of the way women felt as a result of such treatment, but for others around the room, Stone's account came as another revelation.

So, too, did Harvard professor Hilary Putnam's report of his experience in the draft resistance movement. One of the century's most influential philosophers, Putnam had organized faculty and students against the war as early as 1965. Later, in 1967 and 1968, he accepted draft cards from resisters at all of Boston's major draft card turn-ins. By the spring of 1968, however, he joined many opponents of the war in the Progressive Labor Party (PL), a doctrinaire Maoist organization that many activists later blamed for destroying the New Left and some strains of the antiwar movement. Thirty years later, Putnam told the reunion that he had made a mistake in joining PL. He had been impressed with the organization's commitment to building alliances and the members' willingness to try to organize from within the army, but he later grew alienated from the undemocratic, browbeating tactics they used to command unity among their ranks.

Not all of the stories told at the reunion were new to those in attendance. Michael Ferber, another of the original founders of the Boston movement, for example, required little time to tell his story because, unlike the other resisters', his had been so public. The government did indict Ferber, in part for delivering a sermon at the Arlington Street Church draft card turn-in on October 16, 1967, but they put him on trial with the noted pediatrician Benjamin Spock, the Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin Jr., and two other older advisers. The trial, set in Boston, became a cause célèbre in 1968 and resulted in convictions for four of the men, including Ferber. A year later, an appeals court overturned the convictions, and Ferber eventually drifted back to his graduate studies at Harvard.

Today, library shelves groan under the weight of books about the Vietnam War, including scores of memoirs written by politicians and veterans, so if most of these reunion stories were unfamiliar to the people who participated in this movement, the day's discussion of such varied experiences and emotions certainly would have surprised most Americans who know anything about the Vietnam War era. And if more draft resistance alumni had been able to attend, the stories of defiance and accommodation, of alienation and support from friends and family, of FBI visits, of induction calls, of demonstrations, and of prison would have been even more varied. The reality is that American collective memory about both the war and opposition to it has long been too simplistic, and draft resistance may be one of the least understood phenomena of the period. To paraphrase historian Robert Buzzanco, thirty years have passed since the United States withdrew its forces from Southeast Asia, and still Americans believe lies about the Vietnam War. Thanks to the examples of several high-profile draft "dodgers"-turned-politicians, the public's distinction between draft evaders and draft resisters is imperceptible; anyone who violated a draft law, it seems, was and is a draft dodger. And draft dodgers, it follows, were disloyal and un-American. That draft resistance may have been an important strain of the antiwar movement, or that it even influenced government policy, does not come up for consideration. That draft resisters may have broken the law as an act of patriotism seems inconceivable.[1]

To date, historians have not done enough to investigate and understand the experience of draft resisters and their movement. In fact, draft resistance has been virtually forgotten or, at best, understated by historians of the antiwar movement,[2] the 1960s, and the New Left. Todd Gitlin's influential history/memoir called The Sixties, for example, describes draft resistance as just one of the "varieties of antiwar experience." Likewise, Terry Anderson's popular book, The Movement and the Sixties, devotes approximately 2 of its 423 pages to draft resistance.[3] Even the many books on the events of 1968 contain few references to draft resistance, which is most puzzling given the amount of space the subject occupied in big-city newspapers across the country that year, especially from January to July.[4] Furthermore, critics of the sixties generation or of the antiwar movement emphasize the most militant factions of the New Left and the civil rights movement and, consequently, pay no attention to draft resistance.[5] By the time descriptions of the antiwar movement filter down to surveys about the 1960s and to college textbooks, then, the history of draft resistance is often absent or inaccurate. To the extent that some textbooks or syntheses on the 1960s discuss the draft and the protest against it, the emphasis inevitably centers on draft card burning or draft evasion, neither of which, as this book shows, was at all synonymous with draft resistance.[6]

Finally, the situation is made worse by several books that examine the experience of men who evaded the draft, either by emigrating to Canada or by pulling off some ploy that got them rejected by the Selective Service, but use the term "resister" to describe men who, by draft resistance standards, dodged the draft. The blurring of this distinction annoys former draft resisters who today find themselves stressing the difference whenever they talk about it. Part of the reason they chose to resist the draft derived from the unfairness of the Selective Service System, the machinery of which provided "safety valves" that channeled potential troublemakers or recalcitrants out of the system while it required others to take their places on the battlefield. To accept one of the deferments that marked a man ineligible for service or even to leave the country was viewed by resisters as tantamount to letting the system win. The confusion of "draft resister" and "draft dodger" labels has become so frustrating that one draft resistance leader has said on several occasions (only partially in jest) that when he dies, his epitaph should read, "I Didn't Dodge, I Resisted."[7]

The extent of the general public's misunderstanding of draft resistance during the Vietnam War became obvious almost immediately when I began six years of research for this book. I soon grew used to being reminded of the controversial and misunderstood nature of the historical events described here. When people asked about the project, almost inevitably they interpreted it as a study of draft "dodgers," they made comments about Bill Clinton, Dan Quayle, or George W. Bush, and they sometimes wondered aloud why I would be interested in such people. Others understood quite well the difference between draft resistance and draft dodging but still could barely contain their contempt. For example, in the course of explaining the process for requesting certain papers in a collection at the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library, one archivist smiled and used the name "Idiots against the Draft" as an example of an organization that might have some letters in President Johnson's correspondence files.

The most hostile reactions, however, came from people I never met. In the course of trying to locate hundreds of former draft resistance movement participants, I often used Internet sites with the nation's phone listings. Frequently, however, I could not determine if a person who had the same name as a former activist was the person I sought. Often I could not narrow my search down to fewer than seven or eight people, all of whom had the same name. Consequently, on a case-by-case basis, I sometimes decided to send an introductory letter to, say, seven people named John Doe to inquire if any of them were the John Doe who had participated in the draft resistance movement in Boston. If I sent seven letters, of course, it meant that at least six—and maybe all seven—were going to the wrong people and so I tried to make it clear in the opening paragraph of each letter that I was not sure if I had sent the letter to the right person.

In most cases, I received very courteous (what I would call "neutral") responses to my inquiries either by phone call, by e-mail, or by letter.[8] Most of these communications were made simply to inform me that I had not found the correct person. One of those was from a man who called me directly because he feared he might not receive an expected government security clearance if his name could be found somewhere out there, even erroneously, on a document identifying him as a draft resister.

At the same time, however, another ten individuals called or wrote to express their disapproval of draft resistance and, sometimes, their disapproval of the project. In spite of my attempts to make it clear that I did not know if I was writing to the correct person, some recipients interpreted my letter as some kind of accusation that they were draft resisters or that they were somehow on an official list of American draft resisters. "Please insure that my name and address is not on your list. I would hate to be in any way associated with this group," wrote one man. Another scribbled, "I have never participated in any draft card turn-in ceremony. I [sic] never been to Boston. How my name got in your file, I don't know. Please remove it! I have serviced [sic] my country. And proud of it and I was not drafted. I enlisted." Several, it turned out, were veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, and they made sure to express their pride in having served their country and their "disdain" for those who did not. In a letter to the president of my university, one former marine demanded that his name be removed from the records I cited and urged the president to caution her faculty "to be more thorough in their efforts to communicate with 'possible participants' especially with such a controversial subject as 'draft resistance.'"

Some phone calls and letters were particularly vituperative. One man called to tell me that his middle initial was different from the man I sought but concluded the conversation by saying his namesake "ought to be shot, that's what I say." Another wrote, "I was shocked to receive your letter wondering if I was one of the contemptible scum you are trying to locate. I served twenty-two years in the Army, and you are free to do your research due to the efforts of people like me. I find it hard to imagine that someone would attempt to develop a history of a group of self-centered 'useful fools,' to quote Lenin." Another veteran wrote that he believed civil disobedience to be a "synonym for anarchy" and that he regarded draft resisters, including, he said, "our draft-doging [sic] president," as cowards. He went on to criticize the "army of second-guessers who simply can't comprehend the magnitude of the Soviet Menace to our way of life," and especially to the United States. "It is so easy for the cloistered PhD," he wrote, "to ruminate over the way it should have been with present knowledge. It is quite another thing to have been there, and been fully informed on what the Reds would have done to all of us, had they been able to do the job."

This is a pretty unscientific sampling of public opinion, but given the failure of historians to properly chronicle the draft resistance movement, its ideals, and its impact on its participants and the government, it is not surprising that these Americans characterized draft resisters as they did. Draft resisters, the writers and callers suggested, were "cowards," "self-centered," and, by not serving their country, disloyal and unpatriotic. Indeed, Lawrence Baskir and William Strauss, two analysts of the Vietnam War-era draft, asserted in 1978 that "the most severe punishment suffered by draft resisters … has been the condemnation and misunderstanding of their fellow citizens." True forgiveness, they wrote, could not come from any government amnesty program but "only from understanding."[9] Today, a lack of understanding regarding draft resisters persists.

One goal of this book is to provide a basis for that understanding by exploring the contested notions of morality, citizenship, and freedom that fueled the draft resistance movement during its brief but influential history, while also being attentive to the day-to-day experiences of the draft resisters themselves. The stories told here dismantle the popular misperceptions of the citizens who confronted the war machine and restore the draft resistance movement to its rightful place as the leading edge of opposition to the war in 1967 and 1968. In short, I argue that draft resisters were the antiwar movement's equivalent to the civil rights movement's Freedom Riders and lunch-counter sit-in participants; today, Americans regard those dissenters as heroes while they view draft resisters as selfish, cowardly, and traitorous.

Yet the draft resistance movement targeted a system of conscription that, by 1967, few Americans would defend as fair and equitable. The stories of Muhammad Ali's and Bill Clinton's encounters with the draft are useful in demonstrating the system's inequities. In April 1960, when he turned eighteen, Ali (still known as Cassius Clay) registered for the draft just as every other draft-age man in Louisville, Kentucky, did through Selective Service Local Board 47. In March 1962, Local Board 47 reclassified Ali 1-A, eligible to be drafted. Two years later, just weeks before he won the heavyweight boxing title from Sonny Liston, he failed the pre-induction mental examinations. Ali scored in the sixteenth percentile, far below the thirtieth percentile score required to pass. A second mental test proved that Ali did not fake the first exam, and he soon received a classification of 1-Y, not qualified for service. The publicity that followed his deferment humiliated Ali. "I said I was the greatest," he told reporters, "not the smartest."[10] In early 1966, as the demand for troops increased with the escalation of the war in Southeast Asia, however, the U.S. Army lowered its standards on the mental examination to make anyone with a score in the fifteenth percentile or better eligible for the draft. In February, Ali's local draft board reclassified him 1-A. The heavyweight champ could not understand it and, in frustration, uttered the words heard around the world: "Man, I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong." The media and the public recoiled; by the time he refused induction over a year later, he had become so controversial that some state boxing commissions moved to bar closed-circuit broadcasts of his fights. Although the retired judge who heard his appeal recommended that the appeals board grant Ali conscientious objector status—based on his membership in the Nation of Islam—by fall 1966, Ali's case had become politicized and the board rejected the appeal. Ali refused induction and did not fight again until 1971, when the Supreme Court finally ruled in his favor. He gave up the best years of his athletic career to make a point.[11]

The apparently arbitrary manner in which Ali's case had been handled by the Selective Service was not unique. As draft calls soared, it grew increasingly obvious that the men being called to serve in this war came primarily from minority and working-class homes and were often undereducated or close to illiterate. Where, for instance, were the white professional athletes? Unlike the World War II system, this draft called few national celebrities. Elvis Presley answered the call of the armed forces in the late 1950s during a period of relative peace. In 1966, George Hamilton, the handsome Hollywood actor who was then dating one of President Johnson's daughters, escaped conscription by claiming his mother needed him to care for her. But famous, wealthy, white men were not the only safe ones; more glaring were the millions of college and graduate students who held deferments while those who could not go to college faced the draft.

Bill Clinton, a young Arkansan studying at Georgetown University, benefited from just such a deferment. As an undergraduate, the future president dodged the draft the same way millions of other college men did: legally. As part of its program of "manpower channeling," the Selective Service maintained its peacetime system of deferments for vocations deemed to be in the "national interest." Students in college, they assumed, were being educated for the future benefit of the nation, whereas gas station attendants and construction workers were not. Like thousands of other men who graduated from college in the middle of the war (1966), Clinton "pyramided" a graduate school deferment on top of his undergraduate one. Before graduate deferments were eliminated in 1968, registrants could conceivably use this tactic until they reached the age of twenty-six, when they were much less likely to be drafted. Clinton came along too late to adopt a similar strategy; in the middle of his Rhodes scholarship at Oxford University, Congress eliminated graduate deferments. Despite the example of the draft resistance movement and his Rhodes scholar roommate, who chose to accept prison over induction, Clinton manipulated the system as well as he could. After receiving an induction notice in May 1969, he sought and gained acceptance into an advanced Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at the University of Arkansas Law School. This move successfully pushed him out of the 1-A pool into the 1-D classification for reserves and kept him from being inducted. Clinton held that deferment until late October, when he reneged on his ROTC commitment and asked to be reclassified as 1-A. By that time, President Nixon had changed draft regulations to allow graduate students who were called to finish the entire school year (which meant Clinton would be safe until July 1970) and was strongly hinting that a random selection process would soon begin. When the Selective Service held its first draft lottery on December 1, 1969, Clinton's number was so high (311), he knew he would never be called.[12]

Bill Clinton's Selective Service saga is important not simply because he is now seen (along with Dan Quayle and George W. Bush, among others) as one of the nation's best-known draft dodgers, but because it illustrates how the draft, which so efficiently marched some men off to war, could be so easily subverted and ignored by others. In New York City and Cleveland, Ohio, thirty-eight fathers and sons were arrested for paying up to $5,000 for false papers used to get deferments. One New York draft board official was convicted of selling deferments and exemptions for as much as $30,000.[13] The parallels with the Civil War-era practice of buying substitutes to fight on one's behalf are obvious. As unscrupulous parents bought bogus medical records to keep their sons out of Vietnam, working-class men vanished from their neighborhoods and landed in Southeast Asia. The same could be said of the forty to fifty thousand draft-age men who emigrated to Canada, Sweden, Mexico, and other countries. Asylum in these places cost money and resulted in someone else bearing the burden of fighting in Vietnam. Most important, students who wrote annual checks to their university's bursar's office not only paid their tuition but ensured that other draft-age men—in effect, substitutes—took their places in the army.

At its heart, draft resistance turned on this question: What could a man do when his country expected him to participate in a system of conscription that sent some of his fellow citizens to fight in a war he regarded as immoral and illegal yet protected him? It was a complicated dilemma of conscience versus obligation. Those who, like Bill Clinton, opposed the war but manipulated the system to evade service in Vietnam, served neither their conscience nor their sense of obligation. James Fallows is another case in point. A few years after the war ended, Fallows, a Harvard graduate and today a high-profile journalist and former editor for U.S. News & World Report, wrote about the sense of guilt he felt for evading the draft. On the day of his pre-induction physical, Fallows and all of the other registrants from Harvard and Cambridge arrived at the Boston Army Base with letters from doctors and psychiatrists that would keep them from being drafted. In the weeks leading up to the physical, Fallows dropped his weight to 120 pounds, making him virtually useless to the army. Meanwhile, as the Harvard men were being processed, a busload of strapping working-class kids from Chelsea arrived. Fallows quickly realized that they knew nothing about draft loopholes. On that day, the middle-class kids escaped the draft as the Chelsea boys went off to serve in the army.[14]

During wartime, political scientist Michael Shafer has argued, the obligation of citizenship is not merely to serve. "It is," he writes, "an obligation to active involvement whether in pursuit of policy or protest against it." Those who opposed the war but accepted the Selective Service System and their privileged places within it, Shafer charges, did not fulfill their responsibilities as citizens. Two other men were drafted into the armed forces instead of Bill Clinton and James Fallows. They may have served in Vietnam. They may have died there. Draft resisters cannot claim to have prevented other men from being drafted in their stead, but they can take some comfort in knowing that their actions fully exemplified their opposition to the war. In the end, the Selective Service moved to a more equitable lottery system (though some deferments remained), and in time, an all-volunteer force replaced conscription altogether. Even so, if as many draft-age men resisted the draft as opposed the war, the war effort might have crumbled before 1968.[15]

The point of making this distinction between resisters and dodgers is not, however, to pass judgment on either. Instead, it is to make clear that during the Vietnam War, the Johnson and Nixon administrations dishonored a generation of men by making them decide between 1) fighting in a war regarded by many as immoral and illegal, 2) going to prison, or 3) evading both the war and prison. To this day, those choices haunt many of that generation and, I would argue, contribute significantly to the cynicism so many Americans have come to share about the faithfulness of their government.

The virtual omission of draft resistance from the historical accounts of the Vietnam War is a manifestation of the period's still nagging effect on American culture and memory. The irony is that while most Americans—across the political spectrum—regard the war as a disaster (or a "tragedy" or a "mistake"), most Americans also regard those who sought to end the war as equally worthy of contempt. Those who tried to end a villainous war are themselves seen as villains.[16]

The stories told in this book complicate such simplistic characterizations. The experience of the draft resistance community in Boston, one of the cities where it was strongest, reminds us that an expanded definition of citizenship is possible and, indeed, derives from well-worn American traditions of dissent. In particular, the emphasis on obedience to one's conscience over allegiance to one's government has roots that reach as far back as the abolitionist movement and more directly to Henry David Thoreau. The movement made frequent references to twentieth-century peace heroes such as Mohandas Gandhi, Albert Camus, and Martin Luther King Jr., but draft resistance organizers quoted no one as often as they did Thoreau.

Resisters and their supporters acted on the premise that when the nation's government sets illegal or immoral policy, citizens are obligated to disagree with those policies, to disobey them if necessary, and to accept the legally prescribed punishment. But while they emphasized dissent and civil disobedience to one's government as a necessary duty of citizenship, critics of the movement charged it with being unpatriotic; they likened refusal to answer the government's call to service to an act of disloyalty. Perhaps in no other part of the antiwar movement did the battle over citizenship and patriotism grow so intense. In this debate, however, the draft resistance movement took a page from the civil rights movement, which had, after all, produced citizens who, despite repeated jailings, were counted among America's finest in the 1960s.

The draft resistance movement that emerged in Boston and across the country in 1967 and 1968 raised the stakes for both the rest of the antiwar movement and for the Johnson administration. "From Protest to Resistance" became the slogan that gained popularity throughout the antiwar movement in 1967, but it might have been more accurately phrased "From Protest to Confrontation," for the draft resisters' strategy constituted an open challenge to the administration to prosecute them for violation of draft laws in hopes that the system would break under the weight of so many court cases. More important, draft resistance activists possessed a moral clarity that fueled a kind of impatient citizenship. By late 1967, when thousands of men and women, young and old, gravitated to draft resistance, their minds were made up: the war in Vietnam was not only illegal and immoral but "obscene." They had studied Vietnamese history and culture and believed the United States had upset an indigenous drive for independence led by Ho Chi Minh and had established a puppet government in South Vietnam. In creating and perpetuating the conflict in Vietnam, draft resistance activists reasoned, American forces killed thousands of noncombatants and did incalculable damage to the rural countryside. In short, the war offended them in every possible way.

The impatience and urgency that drove these activists did not betray a lack of deliberation, however; rather, it reflected a realization among people who had protested this war legally for a long time that going to teach-ins, picketing Dow Chemical (the manufacturer of napalm) and ROTC, and boarding buses bound for marches in Washington or New York no longer seemed useful. Those events occurred only periodically and could not sustain an ongoing grass-roots effort to oppose the war. Draft resistance, on the other hand, mobilized the local antiwar community to take positive action against the administration and against the war in ways that marches and teach-ins could not.

This book focuses on draft resistance in Boston, though, in many ways, of course, the city is unique. First, there is the long heritage of disobeying authority that dates to before the Revolution and that resurfaced especially during the antebellum period, when Boston led the nation's movement to abolish slavery. One draft resistance activist later emphasized the importance of Boston's history to draft resistance when he said, "You could just feel it. There was something in the bricks." In addition, the religious tradition in Boston made it atypical among other draft resistance communities. Across most of the country, the location for draft card turn-ins and other public events mattered little, but in Boston they often took place in churches, where the actions of draft resisters appeared more solemn. Finally, the concentration of colleges and universities in Boston also meant that more than 100,000 students lived within a very small area, thus providing a ready-made base for protest.

In spite of these uncommon characteristics, Boston makes sense as the focus of this analysis for several reasons. First, although the Resistance grew to over seventy-five chapters across the country, the New England Resistance, centered primarily in Boston, quickly became the largest single chapter. The Boston branch published the national newsletter and later a national newspaper called The Resistance. Indeed, a March 1968 issue of the Resistance characterized the New England Resistance as the country's "coordinating center for the movement."[17] In addition, several United States Supreme Court decisions evolved out of Boston draft cases, and the widely followed trial of Dr. Benjamin Spock, the famed pediatrician, and his four codefendants for conspiracy to aid and abet draft resistance took place in Boston in 1968. By 1969, the city had become so clearly identified with draft resistance that when the Rolling Stones performed at the Boston Garden, Mick Jagger strutted out onto the stage in a tight long-sleeve T-shirt emblazoned with a hand-painted omega symbol, the mark of the Resistance, on his chest.[18] Although Resistance groups in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Madison, the Bay Area, and elsewhere also thrived and, in some cases, outlasted their New England counterpart, Boston led the way through the movement's most effective period.

More than thirty years have passed since the heyday of Vietnam War-era draft resistance and until now it has gone almost forgotten. This book argues that the Resistance is worth remembering. Although their numbers never amounted to a significant portion of the American population, draft resistance activists dominated the antiwar movement at a time when Johnson administration policy in Vietnam approached a crisis state. Like so many nonviolent American dissenters before them, their clear-eyed interpretation of the problem (in this case, the war) fueled an intense urgency to act. Draft resisters and their allies, like the abolitionists and the young civil rights activists, pushed their movement toward confronting their own government and demanding an end to the violence of war. Draft resisters were, as their critics charged, radicals, but they were home-grown radicals who, despite their faults, represented long-standing American traditions of dissent. This is, therefore, a story about veterans of the Vietnam War: civilian veterans who tried to reclaim American hearts and minds from the culture of the military-industrial complex that permeated American life in the late 1960s.

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