Reflection: The other face of Vietnam, protests supporting the war

By Emma Collins, F/G Scholar

The era of the Vietnam War is well known for the anti-war protests, particularly during 1968. They were covered heavily by the media, and now some of the most poignant pictures of the war are of demonstrators marching or protestors burning draft cards. A lesser-known area of the Vietnam War protests were the marches and rallies held in support of the war. These pro-war Americans often found themselves largely outnumbered by the anti-war protestors, but that didn’t stop them from gathering together in support of the war and hosting parades to both show their support of the war and condemn the actions of the anti-war demonstrators (Pro-Vietnam War Parade in New York (1967)).

It’s hard to find much coverage on the pro-war demonstrators, and a search through news articles from the time brings up almost nothing. What little can be found shows that pro-war demonstrators employed similar tactics to the anti-war protestors, although there seems to have been much less violence. Like their counterparts, pro-war activists used handmade signs for their marches and rallies. The signs’ messages ranged from simple (“Bomb Hanoi Now!,” referencing the capital of North Vietnam) to more complicated (“Communism is the enemy in Vietnam not a ‘national liberation front,’” referencing the North Vietnamese political organization seeking to reunite the north and south) (1960s US Pro Vietnam War Protest, Pro-Vietnam War Parade in New York (1967)).

Other signs read:

  • We share with you one ideal: Freedom
  • Support our boys in Vietnam
  • Cong burn better than FLAGS!
  • Love and support our soldiers in Vietnam
  • Cambridge supports our men in Vietnam

Some signs explicitly addressed the ongoing protests, calling for the draft-card burners to be drafted (“Draft the draft card burners”) (Photos: Today in history, October 29). Others urged for more violence in Vietnam, like: “Bomb Berkley (sic),” referencing the protests at University of California, Berkeley, and “End the war in 1 day with 1 A-bomb,” referencing the use of the atomic bomb. Another sign called on President Lyndon B. Johnson to continue to be tough against the Vietnamese (1960s US Pro Vietnam War Protest).

Like the anti-war protestors, the pro-war demonstrators used chants to united the crowd. Video of an unspecified march in the 1960s shows demonstrators chanting this victory chant (1960s US Pro Vietnam War Protest):

Leader: Give me a V!                   Group: V!

Leader: Give me an I!                   Group: I!

Leader: Give me a C!                   Group: C!

Leader: Give me a T!                    Group: T!

Leader: Give me an O!                 Group: O!

Leader: Give me an R!                 Group: R!

Leader: Give me a Y!                   Group: Y!

Leader: What do you got?            Group: Victory!

Victory was a common theme throughout the pro-war demonstrations. The word can be seen written on numerous signs. At a protest in 1967, a man is wearing a button with the word “victory” (1960s US Pro Vietnam War Protest). Other people held signs referencing victory. These signs included ones that read: “Let’s demand victory in Vietnam,” “Why lose when you can win?” and “Win the war” (Murrmann).

At one rally in 1967, participants were asked to sign a petition declaring their support for the war and asking Congress to continue the war efforts (1960s US Pro Vietnam War Protest).

While the pro- and anti-war demonstrators employed similar tactics, they catered to very different crowds. Many of the anti-war protestors were young, middle class college students, and eventually, African Americans (Rohn).

In contrast, the pro-war demonstrators were mostly older white people with families and small children. World War I and II vets also attended the demonstrations. In several scenes, however, there also appear to be a few Vietnamese individuals participating in the pro-war demonstrations (1960s US Pro Vietnam War Protest, Pro-Vietnam War Parade in New York (1967)).

Another difference was the presence of religion. The anti-war movement was mostly secular with very few references to God. In contrast, the pro-war demonstrators openly displayed their faith in Jesus and God by holding up signs with Jesus’ face or wearing crosses (Murrmann). One particular sign called for a continuation of the “holy war against godless communism” (Photos: Today in history, October 29).

The effectiveness of the anti-war protests is up for debate, especially when one looks at how long the war lasted. The same can be said for the pro-war demonstrators. How effective were their protests? Judging by the amount of resources on the internet referencing them, they weren’t effective at all, but it doesn’t seem like they needed to be. The war continued for years, and the argument could be made that it was pro-war politicians who made sure it didn’t end.

Works Cited

“1960s US Pro Vietnam War Protest.” Kinolibrary Archive Film, 28 Jan. 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_nlTrAx3nw. 29 Oct. 2018.

Murrmann, Mark and Tom Norpell. “‘Why lose when you can win?’ Scenes from a pro-Vietnam war rally 45 years ago.” Mother Jones, 8 Apr. 2015, https://www.motherjones.com/media/2015/04/vietnam-pro-war-rally-washington/. 28 Oct. 2018.

“Photos: Today in history, October 29.” MetroWest Daily News, 29 Oct. 2018, https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/entertainment. 29 Oct. 2018.

“Pro-Vietnam War Parade in New York (1967).” British Pathe, 13 Apr. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKxJ0XcqkvE. 28 Oct. 2018.

Rohn, Alan. “Vietnam War protests.” The Vietnam War, 15 Apr. 2014, https://thevietnamwar.info/vietnam-war-protests/. 28 Oct. 2018.

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