Archive for Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thousands marched 40 years ago at KU to protest Vietnam conflict

Event mostly peaceful, but ‘lid blew off’ with violent incidents months later

Students in protest of the Vietnam War march down Jayhawk Boulevard on Oct. 15, 1969.

Students in protest of the Vietnam War march down Jayhawk Boulevard on Oct. 15, 1969.

October 15, 2009


October 15, 1969.

A young Bob Swan remembers being surrounded by thousands of people on Jayhawk Boulevard, and making a note to himself to write to his brother in Vietnam.

A young Allan Hanson remembers the feeling of “euphoria” as he watched thousands of people unite for a common cause.

Bob Marvin mainly remembers that he was young.

“I miss the excitement of youth, but not that much,” he said this week with a laugh.

But what most remember is that they marched.

It was on this day 40 years ago that Lawrence became consumed by the Vietnam War Moratorium March. The Lawrence march was just one of hundreds across the country that day. A month later, about 500,000 marchers descended upon Washington, D.C. The anti-war movement in America had reached its zenith, and some of the city’s more fervent activists came into their own that day.

“It was that moratorium day that I began my peace activist life,” said Hanson, who went on to be a longtime leader of the Lawrence Peace and Justice Coalition and an organizer of weekly rallies against the Iraq War. “That is the day I decided I couldn’t stand by anymore.”

No major violence at march According to front-page articles in the Journal-World in October 1969, anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 people marched down Kansas University’s Jayhawk Boulevard. (KU police estimated 2,000 people. March organizers estimated 5,000.) The headline the next day read “Conduct of Moratorium Activities Praised.” There was no major violence on the day, but that wouldn’t always be the case.

“Looking back, it was just months thereafter that the lid blew off here,” said Hanson, who was an assistant professor at the time and was among a group of faculty who returned a day’s salary because they refused to teach during the event.

Six months later — in April 1970 — the Kansas Union burned, in what authorities believed was an arson. The case was never solved. Also in 1970 two young men were shot to death and KU’s computer center was bombed as Lawrence and KU became hotbeds of racial and political turmoil.

But on that day, most didn’t see that coming.

“The way I would describe the mood is that it was one of hopefulness,” said Swan, who was a featured speaker at the event after one year earlier having run unsuccessfully as a 26-year old for Congress on an anti-war platform. “We were all hopeful that there were such large numbers who turned out.”

Well, perhaps not everyone.

Students in protest of the Vietnam War march down Jayhawk Boulevard on Oct. 15, 1969.

Students in protest of the Vietnam War march down Jayhawk Boulevard on Oct. 15, 1969.

Veterans’ perspective

Don Dalquest was a member of the Lawrence Police Department, had served in the Air Force in the days leading up to the war, and had many friends who were still fighting it.

“It was tough for us,” said Dalquest, who is now commander of the local American Legion post, “because the fact was that being a veteran at that time wasn’t a very cool thing to be. People were calling them baby-killers and that sort of thing.”

Marvin, who was a KU undergraduate at the march, said the times that followed were a mix of good and bad.

“I don’t miss the number of (expletive)-off people,” said Marvin, who is now a library assistant at KU. “There were a lot of them. I do remember a lot of people giving (expletive) to people coming back from the war, and that was really bad.”

And he certainly doesn’t miss the anxiety.

“I remember feeling like I was going to be drafted,” Marvin said. “I remember that nervousness. It wasn’t a matter so much of not wanting to die. I felt it was much more about not wanting to kill.”

Effect of protests

The Paris Peace Accords that ended U.S. involvement in the war did not come until January 1973 — more than three years after the War Moratorium March. Participants, though, believe the march made a difference.

“Yes, of course, it was worth doing,” Hanson said. “I would do it again. I have been doing it again.”

Hanson and others, though, said the times do feel different.

“One of the things that is different is I don’t think the campus has ever been quite so engaged since then,” Hanson said. “More recently, our events have been downtown. There’s been a few students but more community people. It may be that we don’t have a draft now and we did back then.”

Dalquest said the times feel different for veterans’ groups, too. He said when protests over the Iraq War began to emerge, many veterans, including himself, organized counterprotests.

“There were a lot of veterans who rose up and said, ‘We’re not going to let them do it that way again,’” Dalquest said.

Though the times may be different, many of the participants say their feelings haven’t changed much. Hanson participated in weekly rallies against the Iraq War for about seven years, before he stopped after President Barack Obama was elected.

Swan went on to gain widespread attention for promoting better relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. And Marvin said he still has “fairly liberal” convictions.

“I’m just one and a half times the amount that I was,” Marvin said.

Yes, that may be the biggest difference. Everyone’s 40 years older — today.

“I think the attitude is still the same,” said Lance Burr, a Lawrence attorney who was a law school student at the march. “But I don’t know whether I can back it up like I used to. But the attitude is still there. Maybe more so.”


Maddy Griffin 7 years ago

And what a march it was! I wish I would see that kind of passion in today's youth. Nobody stand up or marches for what they believe in any more.

yankeevet 7 years ago

I was marching then also; except I was marching in the Ashau Valley; helmet; rifle; etc............I was never a hero; but I served alongside many of them......

Vietnam Veteran 69-70

DB Ashton 7 years ago

Those were the days: In Vietnam, in oblivious anticipation of a return to a pacific KU, when an amused mate slapped down a copy of “Stars&Stripes,” with a snapshot of the Kansas Union on fire. Then back in Lawrence, just a few days out of the jungle and in summer school, walking through a police ambush, a young man dead, from my old neighbourhood. (The Chancellor was hiding out in his residence, writing about it, he told me, for “Newsweek.”) Then returning from an infrequent evening out, to a trembling babysitter, in shock from a bomb blast just up the hill. Then stopped by police on my way to a part-time job at the KU library; some local idiot had just been arrested, packing a gun. Rock Chalk!

conservativepunker 7 years ago

Freakin Hippies. Right On! Woodstock! Oh Please....

Practicality 7 years ago

People have a right to protest, but what I find totally disrespectful was the way in which many treated the veterans who had fought in Vietnam. People should still be ashamed of that. I think people who oppose the war today do a better job with finding ways to show dissent without spitting on the soldiers.

blindrabbit 7 years ago

I, a KU student during 1968-71 period, and a prior Vientam Vet 1965-66 and a participant in the protest march discussed here. The issue about treatment of Vet's on campus was not right; but what was really being protested was our involvement in a phoney war championed by Johnson (later Nixon), McNamara and Westmoreland and profit making big business. The situation in Iraq/Afghanistan is the same, just different players. What is unfortunate is the lack of interest by the KU student body, but times have changed.

I guess the fact that the military is all-volunteer now and no fear of a draft has led to a lot of complacency. Many vets, though well intentioned, continue to buy the military crap about justifyable wars. Oh well, too old to worry about where we are headed; I did my share.

stuckinthemiddle 7 years ago

Polly_Gomer - tough guy? psycho... I think...

Danimal 7 years ago

If there hadn't been a draft back then, the college kids wouldn't have cared about the war in Vietnam. That's one thing that they have in common with today's college kids. Institute a draft today and require them to do something other than listen to their iPods and abuse prescription drugs and they'll be howling for an end to the wars.

thepianoman 7 years ago

Yankeevet...Thanks for your service....hats off to you sir......and all of our vets.....

2002 7 years ago

I was totally against the Viet Nam war. It was stupid and useless.

But the protesters of the era that whine about kids today not caring about Iraq-Afghanistan are off their rocker. You're (we're) from a generation that as a whole has provided a pathetic example to kids today-a generation that is symbolized by gross selfishness and that has bread a political climate that despises political compromise. But then that's what most protest is all about.

gordonflash 7 years ago

It's okay to march for a cause one believes in, but those idiot students who marched back then also spewed hate on the Vets. My dad, uncle, great uncle were Vietnam Vets and they have first hand accounts of these ignorant students taking out their hate on the returning soldiers.

Clark Coan 7 years ago

Over 2 million participated nationwide. It probably convinced Nixon not to rachet up the war, though he invaded Cambodia a few months later. It was most likely the largest march in the city's history.

Some of the returning vets WERE war criminals who had killed civilians whether intentionally or not. Approximately 2 million civilians were killed in that terrible war. The Mai Lai Massacre was just one of many plus there were the horrible bombings of residential areas in North Vietnam.

blindrabbit 7 years ago

2002: Might check-up on your history! The generation you disparage is also the one that:

Brought environmental issues to the forefront Brought women's rights to the forefront Brought racial civil rights to the forefront Brought gay rights issues to the forefront Exposed the fallacy of the Vietnam war Helped us avoid County/Western music for at least a few years

blindrabbit 7 years ago

gordonflash: I, a Viet Vet on campus during the time. The vets were handy for the student protesters. The Government was hiding, denying and ultimately embarrassed out of Vietnam because of protesters, as well as news coming from the likes of Walter Cronkite about the futility of the war.

Vets should not take the protests so personally. The Govt. really screwed-up the whole thing.

Gareth Skarka 7 years ago

Boris, from everything I've seen you spout in your posts, you're exactly the sort who deserved to be spit on.

DB Ashton 7 years ago

I might add that one of my mates, an infantry captain, was attacked by a gang of anti-war youths on his return from Vietnam in the early morning hours, alone at a shut-down San Francisco Airport, his first night back in “the World.” But this was the only horror story of the kind I was close to; most of us remained silent on the war after our return – folks didn’t ask and we didn’t tell. I was 26 then, and I was welcomed back with great respect and kindness by the university community. I presume many of my friends then, and now, were among those on that march. Fair play to them – if my service meant anything, it was to protect their right of expression. I believe what we’ve learned since is that it’s perfectly reasonable to hate the war, but love the soldier.

Practicality 7 years ago


Quite a brazen statement concerning the war criminals accusation. Civilians die in war, that is true. Combat missions rarely occur as they are designed, which contributes to the mayhem of battle and the collateral damage which includes civilian casulties. But, to classify soldiers, many of who are but 18 or 19, and give them a gun, and put in an alien enviroment which happens to be a war zone, often unable to distinguish the enemy from a friendly civilian, while at the same time frightened out of their wits as war criminals, seems totally ridiculous.

I assume you were able to make that distinction from the comfort of your dorm room right?

mom_of_three 7 years ago

what's with the personal attacks on Grammaddy, people? All she said was that she wish todays youth had the same fire.

Gareth Skarka 7 years ago

Name the time and place, Grandpa Boris.

Gareth Skarka 7 years ago

Yeah, that's what I thought, coward.

mom_of_three 7 years ago

barry, doesn't answer the questions why they were so derogotory for a comment.

Kat Christian 7 years ago

Thank you Vets for serving in our military. Pywacket you said it right. My finance' was killed in Viet Nam Jan 2, 1970 on Hill 285. This weekend in St. Louis at the Crowne Plaza they are having a reunion of the 4/3 Bravo Company who fought during 1968-1971. Some of these men haven't spoken or seen each other in 40 years. I think this Reunion (first of its kind) will be a healing experience for most of them. I wish I could be there. If you know of someone who was part of this crew I hope you join them. God bless you all.

Danielle Brunin 7 years ago

My father-in-law was a Vietnam vet and he has horror stories. On the other, my brother in the military now has been treated extremely well. However, I do resent the implication that people of my generation didn't get involved in issues concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We protested and marched against both wars. In the pro-war fervor after 9/11, the media suppressed stories about anti-war protests by ignoring them or drastically underestimating the number of people involved. (I remember at a protest in San Diego, the number was estimated by the NYT to be less than 3,000 people. The BBC and other international news orgs reported it as over 35,000. Kind of a big discrepancy.) People screamed obscenities at protesters and were fairly awful. Most people didn't pay attention because they were excited to go to war and rally around the flagpole. I wish they would have listened, at least on Iraq. We were right, but nobody cared.

gogoplata 7 years ago

The idea of a draft is repulsive to me. It should be for anyone who loves liberty. In a free republic your life does not belong to the state it belongs to you. Our elected "leaders" are liars. We cannot trust them. So why would anyone accept the idea that they could force people to fight in these misguided wars that have nothing to do with "fighting for our freedom"?

stuckinthemiddle 7 years ago

giving and nod to both redentgirl16 and gogoplata...

2002 7 years ago

Some big mistakes during the 1960's

Viet Nam Electing JFK who brought the warmongers into the process Tolerating LBJ's warmongering tactics and if you're going to fight and have a draft: the policy for College "deferment" Painting the so-called non-violent protests as legitimate and noble because most of it wasn't

UfoPilot 7 years ago

They are responsible for over a million deaths.............

(Main articles: Mayagüez Incident, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Democratic Kampuchea, Third Indochina War, Reeducation camp, and boat people)

Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, fell to the Khmer Rouge on 17 April 1975. Over the next four years, the Khmer Rouge would enact a genocidal policy that would kill over one-fifth of all Cambodians, or more than a million people.[174] After repeated border clashes in 1978, Vietnam invaded Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia) and ousted the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War. In response, China invaded Vietnam in 1979. The two countries fought a brief border war, known as the Third Indochina War or the Sino-Vietnamese War. From 1978 to 1979, some 450,000 ethnic Chinese left Vietnam by boat as refugees or were expelled across the land border with China.[175] The Pathet Lao overthrew the royalist government of Laos in December 1975. They established the Lao People's Democratic Republic.[176] From 1975 to 1996, the U.S. resettled some 250,000 Lao refugees from Thailand, including 130,000 Hmong.[177] More than 3 million people fled from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, many as "boat people". Most Asian countries were unwilling to accept refugees.[178] Since 1975, an estimated 1.4 million refugees from Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries have been resettled to the United States.[179]

I'm still waiting for an apology .......

HogJiver 7 years ago

If it wasn't for all of the students protesting the lousy war it would still be going on. I lost several close friends for what????????????

Keep protesting and raising hell.

Semper Fi

BigPrune 7 years ago

...then armored personel carriers had to be brought in and martial law declared, but the people that ran the businesses in Lawrence back in the day breathed a sigh of relief since they were getting death threats on a daily basis from the hippies. They stood on the curb and applauded our men in uniform as they came in to protect our City.

blindrabbit 7 years ago

HogJiver: As a vet, I ditto your comments.

Others: Keep in mind that the military is "run" by officers who are either Academy Grads or college ROTC participants. Do you think that there might be some "molding" of these individuals to "military think" as part of their training?? Also, is fair to assume that these individuals are not going to "into the world" to sell shoes, vacuum cleaners or computers. My guess, they will "sell" what they are trained for : war.

gordonflash 7 years ago

You really are a blind rabbit, Blindrabbit. How can a Nam Vet not take what happened then personally? You must've been one of the lucky ones who didn't get spit on, cussed at, put down, etc., etc. My dad, uncle, & great uncle suffered all those degrading things after their return from Nam. While our government may have erred in that war, there is no excuse for treating our young men in that fashion. Don't make excuses for those rallyer's bad behavior. It is not always the government's fault, certainly not for the mistreatment of returning Nam Vets by these so called peace loving student protesters.

Mel Briscoe 7 years ago

i think that's why folks have been so accomodating to veterans of desert storm, iraq and afghanistan because of the deplorable way many of the vietnam vets were treated when they first came back.

Mel Briscoe 7 years ago

i wouldn't know. i was but a babe at the time.

all that i am cognizant of is that many of them were treated like poo when they got back. classic case of displacement on the parts of folks who didn't want the war in the first place and decided to take it out on the vets.

lounger 7 years ago

grammaddy (Anonymous) says… And what a march it was! I wish I would see that kind of passion in today's youth. Nobody stand up or marches for what they believe in any more.

Thats because grammaddy up until Obama got into office the Bush S.S. would just shoot at the crowd and then twist the press around!! Gestapo mentality was not nice!! I know it wasnt a picnic back then either but Not as scary as G.W. years!!!

gordonflash 7 years ago

TomShewmon, maybe if as a 19 year old you saw your buddy's head blown off and another buddy's leg torn-off right in front of you then you might have taken a lot of LSD as well as be living under a bridge and pan handling shoppers right now. BTW, my dad, uncle, and great uncle (all nam vets) all got their degrees from KU with my dad going further with a JD degree also from KU. And while they may have possibly done LSD back in those nam days they are quite the productive citizens today and not living under a bridge and pan handling. Just say God Bless America and drop the sarcasm. Just be thankful those vets did what you're probably too scared to do even in your own dreams. God Bless America, and God Bless our soldiers and vets!!!

stuckinthemiddle 7 years ago

this just keeps getting stranger and stranger...

blindrabbit 7 years ago

gordonflash: I agree, any protestations against servicemen coming back were deplorable. One thing, after coming back from overseas, most vets I know did not parade around in uniform; especially on a campus such as KU. ROTC students got some grief though. I used to pick-up my GI Bill checks on the main floor of Strong Hall (for 2 years) 1968-1970 and never did have a problem. Of course, I could have found trouble if I looked for it. Also, agreed, many students were hanger-ons were looking for anything to protest at that time; but the illegitimacy of the war was valid.

gogoplata 7 years ago

--Just be thankful those vets did what you're probably too scared to do even in your own dreams.

What is there to be thankful about? What did they do that I should thank them?

frankfussman 7 years ago

I was at the computer center -- in Summerfield Hall then -- the night the bomb went off. I was, in fact, the one who answered the phone when someone on the other end said, "There's a bomb in the computer room. It's going off in 5 minutes." (or 3 minutes, I don't remember). When I turned around and told a man with higher authority what happened, he immediately called for the computer center to be closed down, and he pulled the fire alarm to clear the building. Then, precisely 5 (or 3) minutes later, the bomb went off. Luckily, the bomb did not dammage the mainframe computer. However, a few people were slightly injured. There is a long story about that night. You could write a book.

frankfussman 7 years ago

...and thanks to Chad for another wonderful story. ...and to Clark who got it going.

Practicality 7 years ago

Why are hippies so violent? Why, why, why????

gordonflash 7 years ago

Gogoplata, igonaramuses are not supposed to post here. Please find something better to do with your lousy existence than post your ignorant, ungrateful posts here. However, our soldiers & vets fought these wars so ignorant folks such as yourself can have freedom of speech, so go ahead and keep posting.

stuckinthemiddle 7 years ago

gordonflash - can you answer Gogoplata's question about what U.S. soldiers did during the Vietnam war that he or any American should be thankful for?

it's a good question...

gordonflash 7 years ago

Stuckinthemiddle -- It's not just the nam vets, i was speaking about all the vets in general. Our soldiers/vets are what preserves the freedom you and i and the rest of America (and most of the world) enjoys today. Be thankful for that. I don't have enough space here to list every little thing, I suggest you do a lot of research and learn our history. The vietnam war may have been a wrong move by our government but don't blame those nam vets for fighting that war as they were drafted to go fight that war. Be thankful you don't have to go fight in the trenches as are vets/soldiers have to do...

stuckinthemiddle 7 years ago

gordonflash - specifically about the Vietnam war... what is there to thank the soldiers for? I think that's what Gogoplata was asking...

I'm not blaming soldiers for anything...

and regarding what I am thankful for... I'll decide for myself what those things are...

Practicality 7 years ago


Are you thankful for the soldiers who went and fought in WWII?

Practicality 7 years ago

So, you should be thankful that there are men and women who go and put themselves in harms way to uphold the ideals, lifestyles, safety, and security of the Nation in which we reside and in which you enjoy the benefits of. It wasn't any soldier in Vietnam's fault if the government shouldn't have used them in the manner in which they did if that is your hangup. They did what they were asked, same as the soldiers in WWII. Same as the soldiers today. For that, you should be thankful that Men and Women were willing to do that, and continue to do that. Would you do that for me?

mom_of_three 7 years ago

because our southern border is not being invaded by people with guns.......

While war is never good, WWII did help the country out of the depression.

Gareth Skarka 7 years ago

Yeah, it was chock full of metaphors, Tom -- unfortunately, you appear to have missed the biggest one: That Forrest, who represented the average American, was a friggin' idiot, who stumbled through his life, oblivious to the history occuring around him.

Somehow, the wingers always seem to miss that point.


Kat Christian 7 years ago

Gogoplata you can always go move to another country if you think this one isn't good to you. Honestly I wish you would go because the less people like you in this country the better. Go, just go.

HogJiver 7 years ago

After leaving Nam in 1968 I landed in California on my way home to Lawrence. My hippie brother picked me up at Travis Air Base and took me to San Francisco and Haight Ashbury. I was in my USMC uniform and people looked at me as if I were from the moon. But, a hippie girl placed some flowers in my shirt pockets and welcomed me to SF. No one spit on this Marine. That was a long time ago and we should learn from history.

Godot 7 years ago

I was there. For most of us, the protests were just another way to cut class and break away and get high and have sex afterwards. Anyone who matriculated from KU from 1969-73 got by easy. Classes were cancelled, they were held on the grass, no tests, the instructors were high on LSD and/or marijuana, or were simply insane. Complete bullsht and chaos reigned at KU during those years. Those fckups who led the insanity are running/ruining our country now. Let them burn in hell.

Practicality 7 years ago

Interesting post Marion. I never would have thought you once were a hippie protester.

Maddy Griffin 7 years ago

I come from a family of military men. My dad's side was all Navy and all my male relatives were Marines. Why am I being jumped on? I just would like to see the youth of today stand up for something...anything. I can't believe the comparison between the Vietnam era and the 8 years of "W". Anyone alive during the 60's knows better. All I've done is try to keep my kids safe from the horrors my uncles, father and grandfather and others saw. I wasn't here in a dorm room watching from afar. My family was proud that I took a stand, they knew we had been lied to about Vietnam and Cambodia. I would never disrespect a Veteran. I just wish kids today felt compelled to take a stand about something.

Mel Briscoe 7 years ago

wow, godot... i went to KU in the late 80s. sounds like i missed all the fun! ;P

gogoplata 7 years ago

--However, our soldiers & vets fought these wars so ignorant folks such as yourself can have freedom of speech, so go ahead and keep posting.

No, the vietnam war had nothing to do with preserving the freedom of US citizens. I'm not ignorant on this subject. I know enough not too believe ths BS "troops are fighting for our freedom" propaganda that people like you dish out.

--Gogoplata you can always go move to another country if you think this one isn't good to you. Honestly I wish you would go because the less people like you in this country the better. Go, just go.

I didn't know that the best way to support the country you love is just to ignore the stupid mistakes our government makes. Thanks for the heads up. Should I just put on my flag pin, get a "love it or leave it" bumper sticker for my car, and go around chanting U S A, U S A? Would that make me a good American?

gogoplata 7 years ago

So, you should be thankful that there are men and women who go and put themselves in harms way to uphold the ideals, lifestyles, safety, and security of the Nation in which we reside and in which you enjoy the benefits of. It wasn't any soldier in Vietnam's fault if the government shouldn't have used them in the manner in which they did if that is your hangup. They did what they were asked, same as the soldiers in WWII. Same as the soldiers today. For that, you should be thankful that Men and Women were willing to do that, and continue to do that. Would you do that for me?

My point is that they didn't put themselves in harms way to uphold the ideals, lifestyles, safety, and security of the Nation in which we reside and in which you enjoy the benefits of. It was a needless war. Read about the gulf of tonkin casus belli. If our government is going to put people in harms way in is the duty of we the people to hold them to the flame and make damn sure that there is a good reason. True patriots take a stand against the government when is is not serving the people. And the troops themselves bear some responsibility. I don't go along with the old "ours is not to reason why" BS. Our troops are grown men and women that should read the constitution that they swear an oath to God to uphold. Then when our leaders try and send them off to fight in these stupid wars they should refuse to go.

Kirk Larson 7 years ago

The problem with Viet Nam was we came in on the wrong side. Instead of supporting those rebeling against their Euro-colonial exploiters, we aided those colonialists and their subsequent puppet government.

Clark Coan 7 years ago

Conservative Chad Lawhorn did a misdirect by including the treatment of returning vets. Very few vets were mistreated in the Midwest. Antiwar activists worked well with the very effective and radical Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

The Vietnam Moratorium was necessary to end the illegal, unjust and unconstitutional war in which US troops killed tens of thousands of children. That is what Lawhorn should have focused on.

BMI 7 years ago

Am I the only one who felt like copying that photo over to enlarge it enough to see if I remembered anyone in it?

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