Protest and Survive: Underground GI Newspapers during the Vietnam War

By Ponder, Steve | Journalism History, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Protest and Survive: Underground GI Newspapers during the Vietnam War


Ponder, Steve, Journalism History


Lewes, James. Protest and Survive: Underground GI Newspapers during the Vietnam War. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003.243 pp. $67.95.

Late in the Vietnam War, when disillusionment had spread within the U.S. military as well as among civilians, an underground press of GI newspapers emerged at military bases and their communities. Writing in irreverently named papers, such as Attitude Check (Camp Pendleton, California) or Shakedown (Fort Dix, New Jersey), soldiers criticized and ridiculed military life and the war, and promoted anti-war demonstrations. Because of likely retaliation, the GI journalists largely were anonymous. The newspapers were circulated surreptitiously on military bases and more openly at anti-war coffeehouses in nearby communities.

In Protest and Survive, James Lewes has located and examined 130 of these newspapers, which were published between 1968 and 1970. In 720 articles, he found that in content, they often resembled stories in the civilian underground press of the 1960s and 1970s. But unlike the civilian journalists, who have received somewhat more scholarly attention, the GI journalists were "embedded" in the military subculture and faced possible imprisonment, transfer, or discharge for trying to exercise freedom of expression through their newspapers. For that reason, the author argues forcefully that they represented a unique protest movement and underground press that has been under-appreciated by scholars of that era, especially communication historians.

Most of the book is dedicated to analyxing the GI press from the theoretical perspective of British cultural studies. In particular, the Lewes argues that the GI press should be seen as a product of its environment: a military subculture. Because of their subordinate status in the military, the journalists of the GI press represented more of a truly revolutionary response to the war and to repression than the civilian protest press. …

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