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Leading Protests to End the Vietnam War: Focusing on the Effects of the War on Hope Students

by: Halla Maas

The Vietnam war happened in 1955-1975, and it spurred many protests. One of the main protests during the war was over the draft since it touched most people, those subject to the drafts as well as their friends and family. Many Hope College students participated in protesting or avoiding the draft because they felt that the war was a hopeless cause. 

During the Vietnam War era, young men from across the nation sought ways to avoid the draft. In a book chapter “The War That Never Ends: New Perspectives on the Vietnam War,” historian Terry Anderson said that “all 

men from their eighteenth birthday until they turned twenty-six could be drafted. But there were numerous deferments available (college, medical, hardship, occupational), and only individuals who lived in the United States could be drafted, so numerous men went off to Canada or Europe.”[1] In the Hope College newspaper The Anchor, many editors published stories about people who were drafted and who protested or got out of the draft. John Striker and Andrew Shapiro, editors of The Anchor, came out with an article stating that young men would be exempt from the draft if they were preparing for ministry or becoming a minister.[2] Current Hope College President Dennis Voskuil, who was a student at the Western Seminary at the time, he stated that “the number of students in the seminary program during the Vietnam War increased.”[3]

            The Vietnam predominantly drafted the working class and

people of color instead of white college students. Anderson states

that the “Selective Service System officials did not want to draft their

own sons or their friends’ sons. Minorities were usually the least

educated and skilled and were usually not attending college and

so, they were the first to receive their induction notice.”[4] The draft

did discriminate against the minorities in America, and it began

with the testing component on whether or not they were eligible to

fight in the war. On May 13, 1966, John Renwick, an editor of The

Anchor, came out with an article about the draft test. He believed

that the draft test would fail “a great many Negroes because in this

country Negroes are not as well educated as whites.”[5]  The test he

was referring to was the draft deferment. Thus, if the black people

scored low on the test, they would be reclassified as 1A, which meant they were more likely to be drafted. Once they were drafted, the discrimination that they faced extended into Vietnam because the black people were positioned in the front lines more than the white people.[6]

                                                                             Hope students found multiple ways to protest and avoid                                                                                the draft. Many radicals, as quoted by Paul Goodman in                                                                                The Anchor, fought for justice by “burning their draft                                                                                      cards.”[7] The students did this because they wanted to stay far away from the “rice paddies”.[8] Some men admittedly avoided the draft by staying in college but they were angry about it. They were angry about staying in college in order to avoid the draft because they felt they weren’t being radical enough.[9] Bob Gabler wrote in The Anchor that students from Hope College showed their radical sides by protesting for peace in Washington D.C.[10] While they were at the rally, Jane Fonda spoke out about the war. She said, “It is easier to kill Viet-Cong when they are known as ‘gooks’. . .and it is easier to kill students when they are known as bums.”[11] The rallies were for the four students killed at Kent State and for the deaths of the “brothers they have never known.”[12]

Mary Houting wrote an article in The Anchor about Glenn Pontier, a radical, who fasted

for peace while in prison for resisting the draft. While he was imprisoned, he joined the

Danburry 11, a group of inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danburry,

Conn. On August 6, 1972, Pontier and the Danburry 11 began water fasting in order to

protest the American atrocities in Indochina. He claimed that they would stop fasting

once America stopped committing mass genocide in Vietnam. Pontier told Houting that

“there is little fair about a system which chooses some men to die and others to live,

while causing all to exist in a state of uncertainty until their fate is decided.”[13]

                                                                                                The draft was an injustice for many men.                                                                                                         Some men tried to stay away from the draft and others tried to protest the draft. Hope College was torn apart by the Vietnam War because many men were subjected to the draft. As these men continued their education at Hope, some were subject to the draft and they started to realize how unfair it was.

 

[1] Terry Anderson, “Vietnam is Here: The Antiwar Movement,” in The War That Never Ends: New Perspectives on the Vietnam War, ed. David L. Anderson and Ernest John, 245-264 (University Press of Kentucky, 2007) 245-264, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrrsx.15.

[2] John Striker and Andrew Shapiro, “Mastering the Draft,” The Anchor, Dec. 15, 1970, accessed May 23, 2018, https://digitalcommons.hope.edu/anchor_1970/25/.

[3] President Voskuil, May 17, 2018, accessed May 23, 2018.

[4] Anderson, “Vietnam is Here: The Antiwar Movement,” 254.

[5] John Renwick, “Will Guard Against Cheating: Controversial Draft Test Given Tomorrow,” The Anchor, May 13, 1966, accessed May 23, 2018, https://digitalcommons.hope.edu/anchor_1966/16/.

[6] Anderson, “Vietnam is Here: The Antiwar Movement,” 255.

[7] Paul Goodman, “On Drafting Students,” The Anchor, March 18, 1966, accessed May 23, 2018, https://digitalcommons.hope.edu/anchor_1966/10/.

[8] “On Drafting Students,” 1966.

[9] “On Drafting Students,” 1966.

[10] Bob Gabler, “Hope Students Take Part in D.C. Peace Rally,” The Anchor, May 15, 1970, accessed May 23, 2018, https://digitalcommons.hope.edu/anchor_1970/13/.

[11] “Hope Students Take Part in D.C. Peace Rally,” 1970.

[12] “Hope Students Take Part in D.C. Peace Rally,” 1970.

[13] Mary Houting, “Hope Graduate Involved in Prison Peace Fast,” The Anchor, Sept, 15, 1972, accessed May 23, 2018, https://digitalcommons.hope.edu/anchor_1972/18/.