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   January 2014

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Vietnam Veterans Against the War

Washington Star via MLK Library Washingtoniana Room

Opposition to the Vietnam War grew slowly but steadily during the 1960s, as American involvement grew and casualties mounted. A stunning development was the formation of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Never in living memory had American veterans organized against the very war in which they had fought. At first, its numbers were small. In 1967, a mere six veterans marched in a New York City protest. By spring 1970, the VVAW had 600 members, soon to be thousands.

In 1971 VVAW held "hearings" on the war under the title "Winter Soldier Investigation," gathering testimony on political and military leaders' conduct of the war. Senator Mark Hatfield (R-Oregon) entered the testimony into the Congressional Record. Although the media showed little interest in the Winter Soldier Investigation, veterans such as John Kerry, by 1971 a VVAW leader, testified about the organization's investigation in a Senate committee hearing April 22, 1971.

For five days in April 1971, VVAW led demonstrations in Washington, callimg them "a limited incursion into the country of Congress." The protest lasted a week and included an encampment to protest the war and to lobby Congress. Veterans and mothers of soldiers killed in Vietnam marched to Arlington Cemetery while veteran John Kerry testified against the war during Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings.

Vets Against The War Wire Service via MLK Library, Washingtoniana Room

The day after this VVAW-led protest, April 24, 1971, over 500,000 demonstrators arrived in Washington to lobby Congress and to "stop the government" if President Nixon did not stop the war. May 4 saw the arrest of over 1,400 protesters on the steps of Congress. VVAW continued antiwar protests in 1972, and as American involvement in Vietnam ended in 1973, advocated universal amnesty for draft resisters and deserters.

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Great Moments on the Mall

• Marian Anderson, 1939
• The March On Washington
• Vietnam Veterans Against the War
• AIDS Quilt
• Million Man March
• Million Mom March

Personal Great Moments
• Charles I. Cassell
• George Idelson
• Virginia Mondale
• Laura Richards

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