This page features a timeline of regional and national events from the GI Movement in the Pacific Northwest, particularly the organizing based at Fort Lewis Army Base and McChord Air Force Base in Western Washington. For a more detailed history of the regional GI movement, click here. Compiled by Jessie Kindig, from the sources listed below.
March 18: “Operation Menu,” the secret bombing Cambodia, begins.
April 4: “Pain the Brass Night,” where civilians leaflet at Ft. Lewis about the upcoming weekend of antiwar events.
April 5-6: “Antiwar Basic Training Days” conference at the Moore Theater in downtown Seattle, sponsored by GI-CAP. Speakers include Aaron Dixon from the Black Panther Party, Native American activist Sidney Mills, Ann Fetter from the ACLU, and Bill Massy from the Young Socialist Alliance.
April 5: Large GI-civilian Easter demonstrations in New York City (100,000); San Francisco (40,000); Chicago (30,000).
May: GI Alliance formed in Washington, DC.
May: Military passes the “Directive on Dissent” to loosen some of the strict regulations on soldiers and broaden their First Amendment rights to attend meetings, possess personal written material, publish newspapers, and petition for grievances, due to increasing dissent and defiance within the military.
May 4: GI-CAP’s clambake fundraiser at Point Defiance in Tacoma.
May 17: GI-CAP celebrates Armed Forces Day by handing out antiwar leaflets at Seattle Center.
Summer: Black GIs from Fort Lewis’ Third Cavalry Division walk out of riot control classes en masse, receiving no punishment because of commanders’ fears of creating a potentially explosive incident.
June: The GI Press Service is formed by the Student Mobilization Committee as an “associated press” of the GI underground newspapers, serving as a national disseminator of articles and publishing national roundup issues.
June 8: Nixon announces withdrawal of 25,000 US combat troops from Vietnam.
June 10: GI-CAP, the Young Socialist Alliance, and the Seattle Antiwar Action Movement demonstrate during a “welcome home” parade for troops returning from Vietnam, with signs that read “Welcome home—We’ll stay in the streets until all of the GIs are home.”
July 10: 800 GIs parade in Seattle for returning soldiers.
July 13:GI-CAP’s aquatic invasion of Ft Lewis, across American Lake, to “liberate” GIs.
Mid-Sept: GI-CAP amicably splits, and the soldiers involved begin a chapter of the all-soldier GIs United Against the War in Vietnam; civilians in GI-CAP join the Seattle New Mobilization Committee, which later merges with the Student Mobilization Committee.
Fall: The Pacific Counseling Service, an activist GI counseling service from San Francisco, opens a branch in Tacoma.
October: National Moratorium Days.
Mid-Oct: Fed Up, a GI antiwar paper, debuts at Fort Lewis, and is soon associated with the chapter of the American Servicemen’s Union founded a week later; First issue urges GIs to take an active part in the migrant farmworkers’ grape boycott, due to Departmett of Defense attempts to break it by increasing Army orders of non-union grapes.
October 20: Antiwar meeting at Cascadian Service Club, on base at Fort Lewis, raided.
November 12: Pfc Leonard Wathen, a GI at Fort Lewis and member of the ASU, refuses an order to serve on a riot control force, leading to a court-martial and sentence, on January 12, 1971, to six months in the stockade.
November 13: Reports of the My Lai massacre (which took place on March 16, 1968) surface.
November 15: Large Moratorium demonstration in Washington, DC.
November 20: Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board decides to put the Shelter Half coffeehouse in Tacoma on trial.
December 11: The Shelter Half receives letter from the Army threatening to declare them “off limits” to soldiers.
December 18: ASU members questioned by military police for passing out Fed Up at SeaTac Airport.
February 28: GI demonstration at Fort Lewis to protest the military’s “kidnapping” of Bruce McLean, a soldier and ASU member taken from his cell in the stockade and shipped to Vietnam with little notice.
May-June: B-Troop News, an antiwar unit newsletter with the 1st/3rd Cavalry from Fort Lewis, appears.
May 4: Shooting of unarmed student demonstrators at Kent State University in Ohio by the Ohio State Guard, killing four and wounding nine.
March 8: Actress and antiwar figure Jane Fonda visits Fort Lewis and is detained for “questioning” by military authorities. Later in the evening Fonda visits the Shelter Half coffeehouse, and holds a press conference in Seattle the following day.
March 9: ASU chapter at Fort Lewis breaks from the national organization and reorganizes as the Independent Servicemen’s Movement, continuing to publish Fed Up and hoping to work with the national Movement for a Democratic Military.
March 14: Hey-Tra-Sneyo, ISM GIs, civilians, and Northwest and Alcatraz Indians picket at the Madigan gate of Fort Lewis as an extension of the occupation of Fort Lawton, laying claim to the soon-to-be-abandoned army base for Native American tribes.
May: US invasion of Cambodia begins, bombing continues under name of “Operation Freedom Deal.”
May 14-15: Shooting of unarmed student demonstrators by state and city police at the historically black Jackson State University in Mississippi, killing two and injuring twelve.
April 15: National Moratorium Day protests around the country; in Seattle, soldiers at Fort Lewis in the ASU organize a mess hall strike.
April 18: Large antiwar demonstration in Seattle, drawing around 6,000 people.
May: Army issues new regulations allowing mustaches and sideburns.
May: “Armed Farces Day” demonstrations organized by GIs at seventeen locations around the country; at Fort Lewis on May 15-16, there are demonstrations outside the gates of Fort Lewis in the town of Tillicum, drawing around 60 GIs and 200 civilians.
May 29-31: National GI antiwar conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
Summer: GI Alliance regional branch formed with the help of the local Pacific Counseling Service chapter in Tacoma.
June 14: Four civilians (from Tacoma Resistance and the PCS) and four GIs interrupt Fort Lewis chapel services to honor St. Maximilian, the patron saint of conscientious objectors, on “Flag Day,” the “birthday” of the US Army.
June 26-27: Six antiwar GIs at Fort Lewis publicly refuse to be sent to Vietnam, possibly the largest action to date at any Army Shipment Center on grounds of conscientious objection, and become known as the “Fort Lewis Six.”
June 29: Private Willie Williams, a black GI at Fort Lewis, is court-martialed for presenting an antiwar statement and poster to his commanding officer, and sentenced despite a June 19 rally at the Shelter Half in his support.
August: The Ft. Lewis-McChord Free Press, edited by soldiers from the GI Alliance, debuts.
September: First of the Worst, another unit newsletter, circulated at Ft. Lewis.
Dec 14: The military declares Fort Lewis a closed base to civilians.
Early 1971: Antiwar paper Sacstrated appears at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane.
Early 1971: Ft. Lewis GIs urge participation in the United Farm Workers' non-union lettuce boycott, distributing leaflets and printing articles.
January 1971: Military launches an experiment to transition the Army from draft-based induction to an all-volunteer force, a program called VOLAR; The 3rd Armored Cavalry at Fort Lewis was one of three units nationwide chosen for the VOLAR experiment.
Jan 31-Feb 2: Vietnam Veterans Against the War’s “Winter Soldier” hearings held in Detroit.
February 13: Private Wade Carson, an ASU member, is court-martialed and convicted for attempting to distribute Fed Up on post. The prosecution’s case was flimsy, and Carson was being prosecuted more for his active role in the ASU and organizing on the other bases to which he was transferred as punishment.
March 23: Puget Sound Sound Off, an antiwar paper, debuts from the Puget Sound Naval Complex in Bremerton, initiated by active duty soldiers and officers from the Concerned Officers Movement (COM).
March 29: Lt. William Calley found guilty for his involvement in My Lai massacre.
April 11: Protest and all-night vigil in downtown Bremerton, organized by the Navy’s Concerned Officers’ Movement, as the Navy supercarrier USS Constellation (nicknamed “Connie”) set sail from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for a scheduled bombing mission in Southeast Asia. The Connie would become the focus of larger protests during a stop in San Diego, and en route, as crew members became part of the “Save Our Ship” (SOS) antiwar movement and held protests on board ships.
May 1-3: National antiwar May Day actions called; at Fort Lewis on May 3, the GIA organizes a “sick in” strike of active duty men, which is partially successful; antiwar rallies scheduled in Seattle (May 1) and Tacoma (May 2).
May 3: “FTA,” an antiwar musical/comedy/political show, featuring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, performed at University of Puget Sound.
May 4: Antiwar teach-in at the University of Puget Sound.
May 5: University of Washington/Washington State University memorials held for Kent and Jackson State students killed by police; May Day actions continue with a march and rally in Bremerton, where the Bremerton mayor signs an “anti-Viet Nam war statement.”
May 15: Second “Armed Farces Day” activities held, the largest united nationwide action of the GI movement, with protests at 19 separate posts (including Air Force and Navy); at Fort Lewis, over 700 army and McChord airmen attend the two-day people’s fair organized by the GIA; in Bremerton, members of the COM and veterans leaflet the Bremerton Armed Forces Day parade.
May 22: At Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, a mass rebellion among mostly African American airmen results in the arrest of 135 airmen, the largest mass rebellion in Air Force history. The events at Travis spark the formation of the Coromantee Brothers Council among black airmen at McChord, who launched a series of anti-discrimination programs aimed at off-base housing, legal counseling, and greater participation in base cultural/educational activities, and sponsored a visit from the Seattle Black Panther Party.
June 13: The “Pentagon Papers,” top-secret government documents detailing the planning and administration of the Vietnam War, are leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, showing the illegal expansion of the war and the “credibility gap” between the government’s public pronouncements and internal policy.
Mid-June: Three officers from Fairchild AFB in Spokane, all members of the COM, bring a suit against the Air Force in the Federal District Court, claiming unjust punishment for their antiwar views, mirrored by the national COM filing charges in DC against the Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to protect antiwar officers.
June 30: Six GIs and ten civilians arrested for distributing the Declaration of Independence at Fort Lewis as an act of protest.
September 1: The Shelter Half coffeehouse moves to a second location in Tacoma (1902 Tacoma Ave South). Fed Up stops appearing regularly.
October 20: United States Congressional Committee on Internal Security begins the first of a three-part series of investigative hearings into the GI movement, with a focus on activity at Fort Lewis (published in the summer of 1972).
December: GIA begins a survey of tenants in Tillicum, a tiny impoverished town outside the gates to Fort Lewis where many soldiers lived off-base and were subject to high levels of exploitation by landlords.
December 26: Members of VVAW seize the Statue of Liberty in protest of renewed air attacks on North Vietnam.
Sam J. Lee, Fed Up at Fort Lewis: A Regional History of the GI Protest Movement Against the War in Vietnam (unpublished MA thesis, 1997: Washington State University).
Copyright (c) 2008 Jessie Kindig