March on the Pentagon

02 November 2018

History | Politics | War and Conflict

In 1967, the sentiment against the Vietnam War had spread nationwide. Many Americans had protested U.S participation and had become involved in a largely nonviolent and diverse war resistance. In October of 1967, at a march in Washington organised by The National Mobilisation Committee to End the War in Vietnam, the anti-war movement entered a new stage – typified by a willingness to engage in direct confrontation with authority. This became known as the March on the Pentagon. 

On October 21st, 1967, protestors gathered at the Lincoln Memorial and marched over the Memorial Bridge towards the Pentagon to ask for an end to the conflict. Several thousand federal troops and U.S Marshals were stationed with tear gas and rifles to protect the Pentagon. When protestors challenged the line of government forces, they were met with force and many were subsequently arrested.

Whilst looking through Adam Matthew’s Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975, I came across an article by Margie Stamberg in the Washington Free Press that gave a retrospective account of the event. I found the tone and language used by Stamberg interesting. The terminology used provides evidence for the confrontational direction the anti-war movement was to take. 

Image © Bowling Green State University. Further reproduction prohibited without permission

Stamberg frequently uses military terminology in the article – suggesting the protest was seen as a battle between opposing enemies. Specifically, she writes ‘Some of those who had scaled the wall, rushed the side door to the main pentagon entrance.’ These actions are described as establishing a “temporary Pentagon beach head.” This is a term used to describe a position being taken by enemy forces.

Image © Bowling Green State University. Further reproduction prohibited without permission

Furthermore, there is reference to the “right flank” as she describes the main mobile leaders veering to the right of the building to engage military police between the east wing. Below is a military style map used to demonstrate the actions of the protestors.

Image © Bowling Green State University. Further reproduction prohibited without permission

Stamberg uses emotive language throughout – she compares the protestors to the “Vietnamese men and women slaughtered previously,” referring to the experience as a “miniature Vietnam.” The article reveals a nation deeply split, with government forces often being referred to as the “enemy.” This was a battle between two opposing sides that saw each other as unpatriotic and traitorous.

The protest was a dramatic sign of the reducing support for the war in Vietnam. Despite the anti-war efforts, the War in Vietnam would claim 58,220 American lives before the U.S finally withdrew in 1975. The march on the Pentagon was a defining moment of the anti-war movement and is now part of the collective memory of the Vietnam War.

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About the Author

Matt Braisher

Matt Braisher

Since joining the Editorial Development team at Adam Matthew, I have worked on a range of new products. My background is in history and my main academic interests are in the Holocaust and Jewish studies.