Iowa Alumni Magazine | February 2012 | Features

More War and Peace

By IAM Staff
Readers sent in so many memories in response to our War & Peace article, they couldn't all fit in the print edition of Iowa Alumni Magazine. Here are the extra, web-exclusive stories.

By 1970, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had splintered to such a degree that many members of the splinter groups did not realize that SDS had once been their common parent. There was a Radical Students Association, a Women's Liberation Front, a Student Moratorium Committee, a Student Boycott Committee, and a Guerilla Theater group supporting the radical students. The split had come from disagreements over how much effort was to be devoted to anti-Vietnam activity and how much to other issues such as American imperialism. Some of the dissention came from philosophical arguments, bitterly waged, about how many Marxists could dance on the head of a pin or whether Gerber baby food was (or was not) part of the dreaded military-industrial complex. For the most part, the "movement" had moved so far beyond the Vietnam War that the demonstrations dealing purely with the war were denigrated as being too much under the control of the Young Democrats.

Fred Kopp, 71BA, 74JD
Rock Island, Ill.
[Excerpted from his self-published book, I Choose to Be Ignorant]

PHOTO: FREDERICK W. KENT COLLECTION OF PHOTOGRAPHS, IOWA DIGITAL LIBRARY, SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, IOWA CITY, IOWA

Many people of the 1960s and '70s may have missed what was happening in the world during the previous decades. There was World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Some Americans wanted to be isolationists, while others felt America needed to get involved. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

I was a college student in December 1950 and received notice that I would be drafted for the Korean War the following week. Instead of being drafted, 17 boys from my hometown decided to enlist. I was stationed at a Naval Air Base in Japan, one mile from a Korean refugee village. When you are in close proximity to people who have suffered, your perspective on what's happening in the world changes. It's much different than the perspective of those still at home, sitting on their butts and whining. Fear is an illusion that warps your mind and runs wild when you think it may involve you.

What would the world be like if the Americans and students in 1917, 1941, and 1950 all burned their draft cards? If we had not sent servicemen to fight in World War I, European countries would speak German today. If we had not gotten involved in World War II, the Japanese would be in charge of the south, central, and northern Pacific Ocean—plus Australia, Hawaii, and Alaska. Without the efforts of U.S. troops, there would be no free South Korea; North Korean communism would be imposed on the entire country.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Who knows what else might've been different if it hadn't been for American service personnel. The students of the 1960s and '70s should be glad there were people of the previous generations who carried the ball, which allowed them to do their "protesting."

I have never regretted any part of my service. I lived during a time when my generation could make a positive difference in the world. My father, who served in WWI, also displayed the same attitude. It is a wonderful feeling to live for something more important than one's own life. I came back to America with my eyes open to what was going on in the world that others may have missed. If you haven't "been there and done that," you don't get the picture. Peace and freedom are not free.

Fred E. Hartman, UIAA Life Member, 58BSPE
Boone

My family moved to Iowa City after my Dad, an Army major, returned from his second tour in Vietnam.

I remember the riots and how students closed I-80, the very divisive presidential election, and how, as a young kid, I was exposed to some very different viewpoints than my parents'. It was the first time I remember openly discussing politics with kids my own age. We all were molded by what we heard around our own houses; only then did I learn how different my parents' views were from other kids' parents.

I was so non-political that I didn't even realize George McGovern was coming to town until all my friends at Central Junior High asked to be excused from school to attend the rally. For some reason, McGovern was delayed. So, we went to the recreation center instead.

While many of my opinions were shaped by my parents, they encouraged me to think for myself regarding critical issues. They were great parents, and we have very different viewpoints from their generation to mine. My views started to change in Iowa City and continued through my own undergraduate education.

I believe we owe a great debt of gratitude to men like my father who hung around after the Vietnam War and provided the foundation upon which the all-volunteer military was formed and has been so successful.

Dan Peppers, UIAA Life Member, 82BGS
Papillion, NE

I was born and raised on a small farm in Northwest Iowa. I came to the University of Iowa in 1964 and graduated in 1969. I was in Army ROC, commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry, and saw combat as an Army advisor in Vietnam in 1970-71. While I have many fond memories of the 1960s and 1970s, I also had times when I wasn't treated well because I was in the Army. When I returned from service, I was one of the fortunate ones to have a tremendous support group of family, my new bosses at the UI (both veterans), and members of the Iowa City-based U.S. Army Reserve (First Battalion, 410th Infantry).

I'm 65 now, and it still hurts when I remember the hate and disrespect people from my own country, state, and community demonstrated to returning veterans. Here is a poem I wrote about an incident I witnessed in fall 1970. It's dedicated to a young Vietnamese girl who, along with her father, stepped on a mine while working in a rice paddy in Nghia Hanh District, Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. Her very last words were, "But who will care for my father's water buffalo?" They were at our helicopter pad waiting for a Medivac, and then she died. I've never shared this with anyone outside my family.

"But who will care for my father's water buffalo?"
Words bubble beneath a crimson stream
foaming to a flood.

Her onyx hair, matted, singed
No longer framed a picture of youth.
"But who will care for my father's water buffalo?"

Her almond eyes once bright as night,
fog...
"But who will care for my father's water buffalo?"

A daughter, a vision, a hope.
Once waded in the paddy muck with her bent old man.
"But who will care for my father's water buffalo?"

From the water-covered earth a manmade burst
Red, Hot, Roaring, Angry, Piercing, Shredding!
"But who will care for my father's water buffalo?"

The bent old man and his gift of life
Now blackened to death.
"But who will care for my father's water buffalo?"

John A. Kundel, UIAA Life Member, 69BA, 74MA
Florissant, MO

I remember the protests clearly, especially in view of the current "99%" movement. Students felt frustrated that they were sacrificing for a war they believed was unjust. A small band of radicals—the most prominent being the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)—had no plan for change. They just felt if they protested and destroyed our institutions, that things would be rebuilt. None had the will, means, or knowledge to accomplish anything positive.

When they boycotted the Marine recruiter at the student union, it became a pitched battle. The Johnson County sheriff couldn't restore order, so the Scott County sheriff's posse was activated. After protesters were given the choice to move or be moved, they finally were cleared by posse members wielding three-foot-long wooden batons. A few were bloodied and cried for sympathy. If they had been in class learning how to be productive members of society, they would not have been hurt.

They soon got better organized and used mobile radios to coordinate their movements. Yes, mobile radios the size of bricks did exist. The police changed their tactics and noticed an increase in the sophistication of the protesters. Local officials raised the disorderly conduct fines from $50 to around $500.The university never thought of expulsion, which was what should have happened. The protesters who burned down UI buildings didn't help end communism—it was the students who used the university facilities productively.

Our university needs to be at the forefront of teaching students how to effectively implement change instead of just crying, "Help me, Mommy! I cannot get what I want."

James French, UIAA Life Member, 72BBA

After UI graduation, I entered the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant and served 30-plus years. I took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States," including defending freedom of speech.

I defend the actions of student demonstrators who were peaceful and did not violate the rights of others. But there were also those who damaged property—and caused the cancellation of the 1970 Governor's Day.

Like many other ROTC cadets, I was scheduled to receive an award at that event, and my family planned to drive over from Des Moines to witness the momentous occasion. No one had the right to force its cancellation. Throughout my life, I have always found it interesting that those who cry the loudest about their rights are often the first to violate the rights of others. That is what happened on that day in May 1970.

Henry "Kodak" Horton, UIAA Life Member, 71BS
Fort Worth, Texas

I grew up in University City, Mo., close enough to Saint Louis that I was aware of social issues, especially those of segregation. When I arrived at the University of Iowa [in the late 1950s], I asked for a foreign student to be my roommate. I was told "that would be impossible" and it was important for "likes to room together." Further, I was shocked when I learned in a constitutional government class that we had many Japanese-American people placed in internment camps. I was speechless when I learned that black people did not always have a vote. My eyes were opened fast!

Having been active in the student council in high school, I decided to run for student council representative for my residence hall. My main goal was to end discrimination in on- and off-campus housing. I felt I was discriminated against by not receiving a roommate with a different background than me. More importantly, I believed that African-American students were not treated as equal. Many articles and letters published in the student newspaper reflected the student body's outrage at the resolutions I proposed.

A week after Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the UI, a note appeared in the city newspaper inviting people who wanted to discuss King's ideas to a meeting. This was the beginning of the Iowa City chapter of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), of which I was an officer. We organized sit-ins and pickets and went to regional meetings.

In between all this, someone I had briefly met called and asked me to dinner. The evening was boring until we walked to the car and he said, "Do you know you are the most hated girl on campus? All the fraternity houses have a dartboard with your picture in the bull's-eye." That made the evening worth the time. I was very proud of myself.

I have always been grateful for my years at the UI, which allowed me to grow in many ways, both expected and unexpected.

Myrna Balk, Old Capitol Club, 61BA
Jamaica Plain, Mass.

I belonged to the only Iowa Army National Guard unit activated during the Vietnam era. The Sioux City-based Second Mechanized Battalion, 133rd Infantry, was sent to Fort Carson, Colo., in spring 1968. Eventually, I shipped to Vietnam as an individual replacement, and was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade.

At the end of my tour, I landed in Sioux City on a Saturday afternoon in September 1969 and registered for classes at Iowa the following Monday.

To augment my G.I. Bill, I found a job as a part-time janitor working evenings at the Civic Center, which included the police station and jail (imagine how much fun that was to clean after a weekend of "civil disobedience"). During the height of the demonstrations, the police would be called uptown for crowd control. They sent us to the roof with portable radios to let them know if the protesters were moving on the Civic Center.

Imagine the irony (learned in English lit class) of being, within a matter of months, on the perimeter of a small firebase in Vietnam with a machine gun, protecting it from the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army, to being atop a U.S. public building, protecting it from its own citizens.

Gary Clemon, UIAA Life Member, 72BBA
Newton

I entered the Ph.D. English program in the fall of 1961. I was 29, married with a four-month-old son, and living in student housing. I received a Fulbright scholarship to England for 1965-66, returning to Iowa in 1968 to finish my degree. During my UI years, I taught freshmen rhetoric classes, helped prepare teaching materials for the first Peace Corps contingent to Indonesia, and assisted in teaching a graduate course in linguistics, but I do not recall any student protests, disruption of classes, or student marches (except for Homecoming parades). The birth of my second son occurred during this time as well.

I do, however, recall the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Classes were dismissed that day and for the day of the funeral. I recall listening to the broadcast of Lieutenant Colonel John Glenn circling the Earth in a Mercury-6 space capsule named Friendship in 1962. And I recall the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs fiasco (not mentioned in your pictorial timeline), both of which concerned us very much. A group of graduate students met almost every Friday evening to discuss academic, political, and social issues over a glass or two of cheer at a local pub, so it was not a case of existing in the proverbial ivory tower.

Charles L. Houck, UIAA Life Member, 69PhD
Muncie, Ind.

Ientered the UI in the fall of 1972. By that time the anti-war energy on college campuses had waned considerably. That spring, there was a rally for the legalization of marijuana on the steps of the Old Capitol. In the late 1960s, the police stayed away from rallies and protests to avoid inciting violent behavior. That policy had changed by 1973—plainclothes cops were everywhere.

At some point, somebody decided to take a risk and lit up a joint. The cops quickly arrested him and hustled him away. They happened to carry him by the area where I was standing, and the cops elbowed me and a bunch of others out of the way. We weren't getting in their way, but I guess they were taking no chances. Later, somebody got on the top of the steps and gave the crowd the address for the so-called "after party." I never went, and I hope the cops didn't either. The photo the next day in the Daily Iowan showed the university police chief sitting on the steps of Old Capitol, just like another protester.

I also remember that ROTC was no longer a dirty word. During my senior year, I took a military history class in the ROTC building. I think I was the only non-ROTC student. I was a teeny bit nervous hearing about what happened to ROTC students and the building during the 1960s. But to paraphrase Bob Dylan, the times had a'changed. Just about every student wore uniform to class, and none seemed the least bit worried. On the contrary, they seemed proud. Of course, the year before, we had all watched the helicopter take off from the top of the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, signifying the end of a tumultuous era.

David Modi, UIAA Life Member, 76BGS
Rockville, Md.