GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Date Written: 2018-01-16
Year Published: 2018
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21957
The New York Times has published an op-ed piece by historian David Parsons about the coffeehouses started near US bases during the War in Vietnam.
In the summer of 1967, Fred Gardner arrived in San Francisco with the Vietnam War weighing heavily on his mind. Gardner was 25 years old, a Harvard graduate and a freelance journalist for a number of major publications. He was attracted to Northern California’s mix of counterculture and radical politics, and hoped to become more actively involved in the movement to end the war. He was particularly interested in the revolutionary potential of American servicemen and couldn't understand why antiwar activists and organizers weren’t paying more attention to such a powerful group of potential allies.
I arrived in the Bay Area because my wife had a fellowship to Stanford and I thought -- like a jackass -- that her getting a master's in math was as important as my fabulous job on the editorial board of Scientific American. My friends and family were Back East and I was not especially attracted to Northern California (until I saw the redwoods in Cazadero)… I knew damn well what was keeping the peace movement from seeing GIs as potential allies: The Class Thing.
Ever since completing a two-year stint in the Army Reserves in 1965,
The National Guard/USAR stint was six years. I enlisted in '63 and was honorably discharged in '69, having made PFC. The circumstances of my enlistment are described in here.
Gardner had been closely watching the increasing instances of military insubordination, resistance and outright refusal that were accompanying the war's escalation. From the case of the Fort Hood Three -- G.I.s arrested in 1966 for publicly declaring their opposition to the war and refusal to deploy -- to the case of Howard Levy, an Army dermatologist who refused his assignment to provide medical training for Special Forces troops headed to Vietnam, it was clear that the Army was fast becoming the central site of an unprecedented uprising.