The Vietnam War affected almost every
American in the 1960s and ‘70s. The following lists
some milestones in the war and describes
some of the anti-war activities that went on close to home.
Much of this information was taken from a History Channel
documentary, the pages of the St.
Louis Park Dispatch,
and materials provided by
Marv Davidov, founder of the
Honeywell Project. Please
contact us if you have additional information.
U.S. "advisors" arrived beginning in 1950 to help the South
Vietnamese beat back Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh, who were
seeking to unite the country, but were seen as dangerous
Communists. Justification for entering the otherwise civil
war was the so-called "domino theory," which posited that if
Vietnam fell, then Laos, Cambodia, etc. would also fall.
U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with U.S.
troop levels tripling in 1961 and tripling again in 1962.
Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 2,
1964, giving President Johnson broad powers to deploy
troops. The name came from the so-called Gulf of
Tonkin Incident, where the USS Maddox was attacked by the
North Vietnamese. It is widely thought now that this
attack never actually happened and was instead a misreading
On March 2, 1965, Operation Rolling Thunder began, with the
U.S. bombing North Vietnam. Conspicuously absent from
the target list was Haiphong Harbor, which frustrated the
U.S. troops. The harbor could not be bombed because
the Soviet Union kept a ship there and the U.S. did not want
the war escalated to include the USSR or China.
On March 3, 1965, the first 3,500 ground troops landed, with
Marines deployed to defend the air base near DaNang.
General Westmoreland's strategy was simply to find Viet Cong
and kill them, with the assumption that if the U.S. killed
enough of his people, Ho Chi Mihn would give up.
By June 1966, 200,000 troops were on the ground.
The June 9, 1967 issue of Westwood Jr. High's Westwinds
newspaper reported that the school's first debate team
debated "Resolved: That the U.S. should withdraw all
armed forces out of Viet Nam."
The Minnesota Committee to end the War in Vietnam conducted
a Teach-In at Coffman Memorial Union at the U of M on
November 7, 1966.
Vietnam Veterans Against the War was founded by six Vietnam
war veterans, including Jan "Barry" Crumb, Mark Donnelly,
and David Braum, in New York City in June, 1967 after they
marched together in the April 15, 1967 Spring Mobilization
to End the War anti-war demonstration with over 400,000
A Peace March was planned for August 5, 1967 to commemorate
the bombing of Hiroshima and to protest the U.S.'s
increasing involvement in Viet Nam. The march was to
start at the Mayo Auditorium on the St. Paul Campus of the U
of M and travel down Raymond Ave. and University Ave. to end
at Dinkytown. The march was announced in the news
segment the previous day, which was the day the
took over as guest disk jockeys at KDWB.
An October 25, 1967, article in the Echo reminded boys that
within five days after he becomes 18 he must register with
the Selective Service System. "This means that some
time thereafter he will probably either face the prospect of
being drafted or enlisting into some branch of the armed
forces." The Echo embarked on a series of articles
describing what could be expected in the various branches of
the military, starting with the Marines.
The Tet Offensive began on January 31,
1968 when the Viet Cong attacked Saigon and over 100 towns,
villages, and cities. This surprise attack
contradicted statements by Johnson and Westmoreland that the
end was in sight.
On February 27, 1968, Walter Cronkite went on the air and
opined that the war could not end any other way than in a
On March 16, 1968, American troops massacred hundreds of
civilians in the Village of My Lai. An American
helicopter crew landed and put a stop to it. The
incident was covered up by officers until November 1969.
Only. Lt. William Calley was ever convicted, sentenced to 40
months, mostly spent in his apartment at Fort Benning, Ga.
The Park High Echo reported that Norman Mailer spoke
against the war at Northrup Auditorium in March.
On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that he would
not send the additional 200,000 troops that General
Westmoreland wanted, that he was initiating peace talks, and
that he would not run for re-election.
In July 1968, General Westmoreland was replaced by General
Creighton Abrams. Abrams ended the body count method
of determining success, the "find and kill as many as you
can" battle plan, and instead sought to win the "hearts and
minds" of the Vietnamese people.
In November 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president.
On December 8, 1968, activist Marv Davidov organized the
Honeywell Project, with the purpose of stopping Honeywell
from making deadly cluster bombs that were killing civilians
A picture of a cluster bomb is at left. Davidov was a
major force in Twin Cities activism and merited a half page
obituary in the StarTribune when he died on
January 14, 2012 at age 80.
Nixon was inaugurated in January 1969, promising "peace with
The Park High Echo of January 29, 1969,
included two pages on the draft. Included was a notice
about a study series to take place at Westwood Lutheran
Church. An interesting note said "Warn us of your
coming by calling..."
February 10: "The Law Says" -
February 17: "Resistance &
C.O." - Dave Pence, resistor
February 24: "If I Enlist" -
The same issue noted that Park's Debate
topic was "Resolved: That the United States should
establish a system of compulsory national service by all
The Twin City Draft Information Center (TCDIC) was the
Minnesota area coordinator of the Resistance, a nationwide
movement of men who refuse all cooperation with the
Selective Service. It started at the draft card
burnings at the Mobilization in New York on April 15, 1967
and spread to nearly every large city, coming to the Twin
Cities in September 1967. By 1969 the local group had
17 full time and 100 part time counselors, led by former U
of M student Greg Mills. The Echo reported:
"The purpose of the counseling is not to persuade men to
take any particular course of action, but rather to inform
them of their alternatives and help them to understand fully
the decisions they must make."
Nixon ordered the bombing of Cambodia in March 1969.
In May 1969 the Honeywell Project leafleted workers at the
St. Louis Park plant, handing out information about cluster
bombs. Concerned citizens tried to get the City Council to
change the zoning law to get rid of the plant.
In May 1969 400-500 St. Louis Park High School students
participated in a two-day walkout in protest of the war.
Also in May 1969 was the Battle of Hamburger Hill, a brutal
and deadly fight. The battle was televised and
Americans looked on with horror. Once the hill was
taken it was abandoned and immediately reclaimed by the MVA.
October 15, 1969, was Moratorium Day, when the Student
Mobilization Committee demanded “Peace Now” and gathered at
Northrop Auditorium for speeches by Walter Mondale and
Julian Bond. Numbers of St. Louis Park
High School students joined the march to the Federal
Building. The protesters had a license for the march
from Mayor Stenvig. Others walked out of classes carrying candles. Those at
Central Jr. High were told to get away from the windows.
The My Lai Massacre, which took place in March 1968, hit the
media in November 1969 and was responsible for people
calling veterans "baby killers" upon their return to the
On December 12, 1969, the Honeywell Project leafleted
workers at all plants in the Twin Cities, including the St.
Louis Park plant, alerting them to the evils of the cluster
bombs made at the plant.
An article in the December 17, 1969 Park High Echo
reported that the recently enacted lottery will not affect
most Park students this year; those who become 19 years old
in 1970 will go into the lottery for 1971. However,
there were at least four teachers were eligible for the draft and
were seeking teaching deferments. The article also
listed various organizations at the U of M:
The Young Socialist Alliance
described themselves as Trotskyist
Students Against Selective Service,
headed by John Crocker
The Students for a Democratic
Society (SDS) in Minneapolis were aligned with the
Worker-Student Alliance. Members were
self-declared Maoists. The Weathermen and the
Revolutionary Youth Movement had already split from the
Student Mobilization Committee to
End the War in Viet Nam was the force behind moratoria
in October and November 1969. Mimi Harary was the
The article also described the
conservative Young Americans for Freedom, which was founded
in 1960. The organization's beliefs included:
Trading with Russia is "national
Social Security is "fraud against
The minimum wage is a "crime
against the Negro."
Victory in Viet Nam is an
The April 8, 1970 Echo announced a three day
"Draft Class" for seniors, featuring speakers from the
American Friends Service Committee and the Selective
Service. The class was instigated by senior Joel Levie.
On April 28, 1970, a group including Jerry Rubin and Dennis
Banks marched from the Fair Oaks Park in Minneapolis to Honeywell
Headquarters. The demonstration was marred by violence
On May 1, 1970, President Nixon announced that the Vietnam
War had expanded into Cambodia. U.S. troops could go
no further than 19 miles into the country, for no longer
than 2 months. This action unleashed student protests
across the country, including a student strike at the
University of Minnesota. On May 4, at
Kent State University, Ohio National Guardsmen opened
fire on protesting students, killing four and wounding nine
On May 6, 1970, a Wednesday, approximately 600 Park High
students attended a rally after school. Student Irving Barr
was a moving force.
On May 7 and 8, 1970, 400-500 Park High students staged a
student strike by walking out of their classrooms at 7:45.
On Friday afternoon, students leafleted the city.
On May 9, 1970, Saturday, approximately 150 Park students
joined a march from the U of M to the Capitol, with
the slogan “No Business as Usual.” An estimated
40,000 people participated in the march.
On Monday, May 11, 1970, a meeting was held at the Jewish
Community Center, and two factions emerged – those who
wanted to keep the activity at the high school level, and
those who wanted to involve the entire community. As a
result, an organization called Park Action Coalition for
Students (PACS) was formed.
On June 4, 1970, PACS sponsored a Teach-In at the high
school. B. Robert Lewis of the School Board approved the
meeting, as long as the students could pay for the required
insurance. The Chamber of Commerce came up with the money. A
panel of five speakers spoke to about 150 people.
On May 20, 1970, Margie Levie, Gloria Kamman, and others
organized Mothers For Peace, with 50 members. The group
carried out a public education campaign, and urged people
(among other things) not to pay the 10 percent tax on phone
bills levied in 1966 to pay for the war. The group also
called for the cessation of all American military
involvement in Southeast Asia by the end of 1971.
A program was held at the Jewish Community Center on June
13, 1970, which attracted hundreds of concerned citizens.
The last major offensive of the war was Operation Firebase
Ripcord, in July 1970. Unlike Hamburger Hill, this
infantry battle was not televised.
The American policy had moved to "Vietnamization," whereas
the South Vietnamese were to replace American troops.
On February 1, 1971, the South Vietnamese invaded Laos to
try to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The U.S.
Congress forbade any American troops to participate, and the
action was a failure.
February 10, 1971, about 250 students marched from the U of M
campus to the Federal Building on Washington Ave. downtown.
They threw some snowballs, distributed leaflets, and got
into “rap groups with people about the war.”
On November 6, 1971, there was a 5-state march on the
Minnesota capitol to protest the war in Southeast Asia. The
march was endorsed by Governor Wendell Anderson, Senator
Walter Mondale, and former Senator Eugene McCarthy. There
were 17 such marches around the country. The march was
coordinated by Dave Riehle, and included representatives
from the gay community, women, veterans, teachers, unions,
and local politicians.
In the spring of 1972 there were 70,000 U.S. ground troops
in Viet Nam. The U.S. started bombing North Viet Nam
for the first time since 1968.
16, 1972, U of M students occupied the Air Force Recruiting Office
in Dinkytown and the ROTC office on campus. An organization
called Minnesota Clergy and Laity Concerned staged a sit-in
at Senator Humphrey's office at the Federal Building in
On April 26, 1972, protesters besieged Honeywell
headquarters in Minneapolis, which was
manufacturing fragmentation bombs.
On May 8, 1972, it was announced that the U.S. was
blockading and mining Haiphong Harbor. The next day, 1,500
students held a rally on Northrup Mall. On May 10, 3,000
students broke into the Army recruiting station, marched to
the Armory and then to Coffman Union, where they put up
barricades and occupied Washington Avenue. Police were
called and the proceeded to beat up students on bridges and
spread teargas up and down the mall. Some of the
teargas leaked into the nearby University Hospital.
Dinkeytown was teargassed by helicopter. Governor
Wendell Anderson called in the National Guard. It took two hours to clear the area.
The last American ground troops were withdrawn in August
In October 1972, POW/MIA bracelets could be found on the
wrists of many Park High and Junior High school
students. Each bracelet had the name and other information
on a soldier who was a prisoner of war or missing in action
in Viet Nam.
In October 1972 a draft cease-fire agreement was readied,
but South Viet Nam wouldn't sign.
In December 1972, U.S. airpower bombed Hanoi and the
Only when President Nixon secretly promises to bring back
American bombers if North Viet Nam violates the treaty would
the South agree to sign the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973.
The first 91 American POWs were freed in February 1973.
Some had been held for 9 years.
The United States withdrew from Viet Nam by March 29, 1973.
It retained an embassy in Saigon.
President Nixon resigned in 1974 and Gerald Ford became
On March 1, 1975, the North attacked the South and Ford did
not honor Nixon's secret promise to bring back American
On April 30, 1975, 2,000 people, including South Vietnamese
officials and the last of the U.S. Marines, were evacuated
from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Four hours later, the
MVA entered the city.
With the Northern victory, the country was
unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam with a
communist-controlled government based in the new capital of
According to the web site
following men from St. Louis Park were killed in Viet Nam. The site indicates where their names are etched
on the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC.
PVT Kent Douglas Erickson, Killed in
SP4 John Alvin Ilstrup, Killed in
PFC Edward David Larson, Killed in
SP4 John Forman Lobsinger, Killed in
PFC John Thomas McDaniel, Killed in
PVT Steven Dale Plath, Killed in Action
PFC John Kim Vogelsang, Killed in
LCPL Gordon David Walensky, Killed in
SGT James R. Weisler, Killed in Action