DANGEROUS GROUNDS: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era

By Rogers-Cooper, Justin | American Studies, January 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

DANGEROUS GROUNDS: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era


Rogers-Cooper, Justin, American Studies


DANGEROUS GROUNDS: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era. David L. Parsons. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 2017.

In Dangerous Grounds, David L. Parsons adds a valuable perspective to the evolving scholarship on the antiwar GI-movement during the Vietnam War. Following scholars such as Christian Appy and Penny Lewis, whose work has challenged popular ste- reotypes about the class and racial composition of the larger antiwar movement, Parsons focuses on a network of GI coffeehouses that proliferated in military towns between 1968 and 1974. Like the GI movement itself, the coffeehouse network reflected a decentralized, but not disconnected set of local initiatives contributing to the antiwar effort. Part of what makes the movement so significant is how coffeehouses became spaces for GIs to organize resistance in a climate of countercultural comfort. At the same time, Parsons makes clear that the coffeehouses became sites of both racial and class conflict, as well as targets of government surveillance and policing.

Parsons begins his story with Fred Gardner, who believed stopping the war in Vietnam meant building "an antiwar movement within the army" (16, italicized in original). Taking inspiration from radical coffeehouses in San Francisco, where he lived, Gardner decided to open "The UFO" outside Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina in 1967. He believed a "hip antiwar coffeehouse, designed for GIs, might be an effective way of starting conversations between antiwar soldiers and civilians" (17). The UFO soon caught the attention of national organizations, which began supporting more coffeehouses. The chapter introduces the UFO, the Oleo Strut outside Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, and the Shelter Half outside Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Washington, which are the main sites explored in the book.

In chapter two, Parsons describes the role of these coffeehouses during significant episodes of the GI movement, such as the Fort Jackson Eight, when GI resisters fought the army for First Amendment rights to oppose the war. He also relates the Fort Hood 43 case, when a large group of black soldiers refused mobilization for riot control duty outside the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. This chapter also details other ways the coffeehouses supported acts of resistance, including peace marches, local boycotts, and counterculture demonstrations. …

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