Dissent in the Heartland: The Sixties at Indiana University

By Mary Ann Wynkoop | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
The Antiwar Movement

From 1967 to 1969, student activists focused on the war in Vietnam. The antiwar movement increased in numbers and effectiveness and began to turn the nation against American policy in Southeast Asia. Beginning with the March on the Pentagon in October 1967, when thousands of young people gathered in the nation’s capital to protest the war, more and more students—and their families—began to agree with critics of the war in Vietnam. When policymakers came to university and college campuses to make the government’s case for the war, students asked questions that they could not or would not answer satisfactorily. Recruiters from large corporations faced protestors who criticized their companies’ involvement in the war effort. Young men confronted national leaders directly when they defied the law and burned their draft cards, found ways of avoiding the draft, or, once in the army, began organizing resistance within their units.

Throughout this period, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, his military leaders, especially General William Westmoreland, and the press insisted that the war was going well. Americans received consistently positive reports about military progress in Vietnam and were promised “light at the end of the tunnel.” But in February 1968, the Viet Cong launched an offensive against American bases during the Tet holiday, the Buddhist celebration of the lunar new year, usually a time when fighting ceased. The incredible fury of the guerrillas’ attack, which included a brief assault on the American embassy in Saigon, left Americans stunned. Despite the fact that military leaders insisted that the Tet Offensive was a terrible defeat for

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