Opposition to the Vietnam War

As opposition to the Vietnam War grew, protests erupted in communities and college campuses across the United States. In May of 1970, four students were killed by Ohio National Guard troops on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio during a protest. The deaths shocked the nation and brought attention to the unrest of the times. This video includes archival footage and and first-person accounts from an Iowa news reporter, protester, and draft resistor from the era.


Opposition to the war was growing. 

Voices of those objecting to U.S. involvement in Vietnam were getting louder. In May of 1970, four students were killed by National Guard troops during a campus protest at Kent State University in Ohio. 

Borg learned of the incident while he was on the air reading the news in Cedar Rapids. 

"And I thought, boy, this is getting out of hand. These student demonstrations are getting out of hand. I don't blame the National Guardsmen, they're trying to keep the peace. But the students have overstepped bounds. And who is at fault here? But we've got to get some order back in the United States because we're fighting a war in South Vietnam and yet we can't keep the peace in our own country."

Student unrest in the Hawkeye State reached its peak that same month. Borg spent several nights on the University of Iowa campus covering the events as they unfolded. 

One evening, Borg was covering police preparing to arrest some of the protestors. And, as the battle lines were drawn, he turned on a battery powered spot light mounted on his camera. 

"Within three seconds there was a policeman with a club raised racing toward me. 'Turn off that light!!' And I could see that billy club coming down over my head if I hadn't extinguished that light very quickly. I think I felt more danger right there that night in that incident than I had in Vietnam."

"End the war! End the war!"

Bob Burchfield was attending the University of Iowa when Borg was covering campus unrest. The Iowa City transplant was often found on the opposite side of the police lines. 

"We wanted to make it clear that business as usual could not go on. You could have a mass protest during the day, a huge rally on the Pentacrest, very little reporting of it. It took action in the streets and getting the police to come out to get coverage of the anti-war effort. And we were trying to show that you're upset about a rock going through a glass window but you're not upset about people dying and killing in Vietnam."

Mirroring unrest at Berkeley, Columbia and Wisconsin, the events in Iowa City were getting volatile that spring. And University officials opted to let students go home before the end of the semester. 

While many protestors stridently, and at times violently, demonstrated their opposition to the war, other young people voiced their disapproval in more peaceful ways. 

In 1965, Mike Smith from rural Dallas County, received his draft notice and a 1A classification card indicating he was fit for duty. 

"I just tore that induction notice in about four pieces and tore my draft card and my, I think there were two cards, we had a 1A classification card and I tore them into a couple of pieces and put them in an envelope and mailed them to the Dallas County Draft Board."

Hoping to keep their son out of legal trouble, Smith's parents persuaded the Dallas County Draft Board to reclassify him as 4F, indicating he was unfit for service. 

"I felt like I was dodging the draft. I didn't want to dodge the draft, I wanted to resist the draft. And so I tore those cards up and mailed them to the Draft Board. They lost their patience at that point and they contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office. I was ordered to report for a physical. I didn't. I was ordered to report for induction. I didn't. And then the U.S. Attorney charged me with two counts, failing to report for a physical and failing to report for induction."

Smith pled guilty to both charges and was sentenced to four years in the federal prison at Sandstone, Minnesota. 

However, after serving 22 months, he was released. 

"I wasn't a pacifist. I'm not a pacifist now. I haven't changed my views. I think the war was a terrible mistake and at the same time I have great respect for those who served."

Excerpt from "Iowans Remember Vietnam," Iowa PBS, 2015


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