Warhawk Almanac: Vietnam War Moratorium at UW-Whitewater

This post was written by Jacob Ober.

From 1955 to 1973, the United States was involved in the Vietnam War, a brutal conflict between the communist forces of North Vietnam and the non-communist forces of South Vietnam. Intervening on the side of South Vietnam, the United States gradually increased its military involvement throughout the 1960s, authorizing the deployment of troops in 1965. Troop deployment to Vietnam reached a peak of over 543,000 in April 1969, with a total of 3.1 million American soldiers being deployed to Vietnam throughout the war.[1] Back home, opposition to the war grew as causalities mounted, resulting in large-scale anti-war protests, including at UW-Whitewater, then known as Wisconsin State College-Whitewater.

Anti-War student march in downtown Whitewater
A student-led antiwar march approaches the war memorial in downtown Whitewater on October 15th, 1969.[2]

In Fall of 1969, a massive nationwide protest called “The Moratorium to End the Vietnam War” took place nationwide. While the anti-war movement had been active for several years, this protest propelled it to new heights as US soldiers began participating in protests for the first time on a large scale.[3] At Wisconsin State College-Whitewater, around 1,000 people, mainly comprised of students, marched downtown in protest on October 15th, 1969, the day of the nationwide mortarium.[4] Many students also went door-to-door asking for signatures on an anti-war petition to be sent to President Nixon, garnering about 400 signatures in total.[5] The protest was mostly peaceful and looked upon with general approval by city residents.[6]

Anti-War student march in downtown Whitewater
Students participate in antiwar march in downtown Whitewater on October 15th, 1969.[7]

The march to downtown Whitewater was not the only protest event that occurred on that day. Prior to the march, a rally was held at Hamilton Field before being moved indoors to Hyer Auditorium. The rally featured speakers, including former Wisconsin attorney general Bronson LaFollette.[8] Wisconsin State College-Whitewater English department chairman Dr. Robert Burrows also spoke, expressing hope that more and more students would seek to get involved, stating, “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. This is a time to speak.”[9] Overall, many saw the day as a success and reflected Whitewater’s anti-war sentiment in a pivotal moment in American history.

Police Officers holding up peace signs at the anti-war march
Whitewater police officers express their support for the protests by holding up peace signs.[10]

[1] “Vietnam War Statistics,” Vietnam Veterans Association, Accessed October 31, 2023, https://www.vva310.org/vietnam-war-statistics.

[2] Minneiska, 1970, UW-Whitewater Archives and Area Research Center, 46. https://jstor.org/stable/community.29546586.

[3] Derek Seidman, “Fifty Years Ago Today, US Soldiers Joined the Vietnam Moratorium Protests in Mass Numbers,” Jacobin, October 15, 2019.

[4] “400 Citizens Sign Moratorium Petition,” The Royal Purple, October 16, 1969.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Students March to Gain Peace,” The Royal Purple, October 16, 1969.

[8] Barb Cheek, “Speakers Want Withdrawal, Urge Student Involvement,” The Royal Purple, October 16, 1969.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Minneiska, 1970, UW-Whitewater Archives and Area Research Center, 46. https://jstor.org/stable/community.29546586

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