UMass Boston, the Strike, and Vietnam

John Hopkins

Alumni

1970-1979

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As the class of ’66 graduated that June, 268 American soldiers died as did 4805 Viet Cong and 468 civilians.

That fall I was accepted to the University of Massachusetts.

In June I got a notice to register and I did. I knew Vietnam was escalating; one of my girlfriends had a brother who had come back from Vietnam.

It didn’t take long for me to become active against the war. Part of it was being in the atmosphere of UMass, post–Kent State shootings. I knew about the shooting of 4 students on May 4, 1970 because we had been training for riot duty in Arizona.

The student world had exploded in May and strikes broke out on campuses everywhere. UMass, I learned, had been a hub of activity. It was into that atmosphere that I reappeared into civilian society. It was intimidating at first, me being one of the “killers,” one of the bad guys. Little did I know how soon I would be a voice for resistance to the war. I still have one of the strike posters. I just wanted to get on with my life, forget Vietnam. I didn’t tell people I was a vet; I didn’t talk to anyone about the war.

And then I saw a little Boston Globe article about a group meeting in Cambridge called Vietnam Veterans Against the War, I found their meeting place and instantly felt at home with other vets who had come to hate the war and what it had done to them, to their buddies and to the people of Vietnam.

I joined in and helped to bring a chapter to the UMass campus and from that point on there was no more looking for a career. There was just learning about what had happened to me and resisting the ongoing war.