Patriotism Through Dissent
A Review of Who Spoke Up?
American Protest Against the War in Vietnam 1963-1975
Nancy Zaroulis and Gerald Sullivan
Nancy Zaroulis is a pseudonym for Cynthia
Peale. She is the author of other successful books, mainly
fiction novels such as The Poe Papers, Call of the Darkness
Light and The Last Waltz, which have been highly praised for
their historical accuracy. She is married to Gerald
Sullivan, co-author of Who Spoke Up? They both live in
Massachusetts outside of Boston.
The Vietnam War was met by much opposition from people who
saw it as a morally wrong and pointless struggle. Who
Spoke Up? American Protest Against the War in Vietnam
1963-1975, written by Nancy Zaroulis and Gerald
Sullivan, is a
comprehensive history on the birth, growth and culmination
of the antiwar movement. This book provides a very detailed
account of the movement and follows it year by year in a
chronological fashion starting from the year 1963 to the end of
the war in 1975. One of the most horrendous methods of
protest was self-immolation, copied from the Buddhist monks of
Vietnam who burned themselves as an act of self-sacrifice
for others. Between the years 1965 and 1970, eight individuals
in the U.S. had chosen to meet death in this way. The
contemporaries of that era, especially those who chose to
the Buddhist monks, had strong sentiments against the war
and must have felt hopelessly ignored. The antiwar movement’s
importance lies not in stopping the war but rather, it is
important because it existed and is a historical “reminder to
Americans that times come when citizens can and, indeed,
must challenge their government’s authority.”1
The first few chapters of the book describe how protest
manifested itself, peaceful and otherwise. Self-immolation
horrified Americans who, upon the shock of learning that
such desperate means were taken to protest, began asking
themselves, “Why are we in Vietnam? What is upsetting these
individuals to the point that they would burn themselves
alive in protest?” The origins of the antiwar movement began
small, with only a few individuals and a few groups
opposing the war, thus the authors called it “lonely
dissent.” In 1963 issues like international disarmament, the
rights movement, the free speech movement and John F.
Kennedy’s assassination overshadowed the Vietnam War.
Consequently, the problem of “Vietnam nagged at the edges of
the nation’s consciousness.”2 Many Americans
didn’t even know that there was a war in Vietnam, least of
all that the U.S. was involved in it. However the few that
did know and opposed the war included individuals like
Congress members Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening and groups
pacifists, religious, civil rights, disarmament, Leftists,
and student campus groups. The most well known of these
student campus groups is the Students for a Democratic
Society, SDS. The SDS became a primary force in the protest
movement and has become synonomous with the Vietnam antiwar
Chapters 1964 to 1966 describe the reactions to the Gulf of
Tonkin and the other events that succeed it. In 1964 the SDS
began plans for the first national antiwar demonstration. In
1965 the first “teach-in” on the war was held in Ann Arbor.
Johnson began efforts to counter the antiwar sentiment that
was growing on college campuses by visiting and speaking to
the students. The use of napalm, an incendiary liquid used
in bombs that have the capacity to stick to and burn or melt
human flesh, further escalated the war and generated more
opposition. Demonstrations were held, particularly against the
company DOW, who was the sole manufacturer of napalm, and
who sold their product to the government. The effect of the
protest against napalm had no real effect in ending the
usage of napalm, but the author accredited it because it did
“raise the public awareness of the nature of the
Events of the late sixties are described in chapters 1967 to
1969. The Tet Offensive in 1968 in South Vietnam dashed
Johnson’s hopes of gaining support as people increasingly
began to oppose the war. The offensive created a need for even
more troops to be deployed in Vietnam. Robert Kennedy
decided to run for president and gave great hope through his
policies that the war in Vietnam could be ended peacefully.
The authors felt that all of that hope was lost when Robert
Kennedy was assassinated along with Martin Luther King Jr.
in 1963. King’s methods of civil disobedience and mass
mobilization, combined with Kennedy’s leadership as a
politician and sensitivity to the people’s concerns, generated
hope because “only through a combination of mass
mobilization and effective leadership within a system
you get real change with out violence.”4
Johnson’s decision not to enter the presidential race for a
term disoriented the antiwar movement by removing their only
source of unity, their hatred for him.
The last chapters deal with protest during Nixon’s
administration. With Nixon as president, the war began to
again. In 1969 college campus demonstrations began to
proliferate and spread across the country. Nixon began secretly
bombing Cambodia and began implementing “Vietnamization,”
the process of slowly pulling American troops out of Vietnam.
In 1970, bombings and antidraft protests began to spread
through the country. Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia
in April, causing riots to erupt on many campuses and lead
to police brutality and death in many demonstrations. An
invasion of Laos in 1971 began to muster much opposition.
The New York Times published the Pentagon Papers at this time
that “not only gave the lie to the government’s line on
Vietnam, but also destroyed that government’s policy and,
indirectly, brought down its leadership.”5 It was
an extraordinary collection of documents and a history of
U.S involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to March 1968.
The authors believed that many wrongly perceived the antiwar
movement. The antiwar movement is seen by many to be a
“movement inspired or led by foreign powers,” a “violent
movement,” a “movement of the young,” a “movement of cowards
afraid to fight for their country,” a “movement of
licentious counterculturals,” a movement lead by a “monolithic
organization following the dictates of a party line,” and
finally a movement that was “anti-American.” All these are
seen by Zaroulis and Sullivan to be false. They aim to
portray the war as it truly was, a “homegrown movement of the
Left” that was “American born and bred,” a movement “begun
and led by lifelong pacifists,” a movement “conceived,
nurtured, and largely directed by adults,” a movement whose
“leaders and members endured years of harassment,
surveillance, court trials, jailing, and… long separation
from home, family, and friends,” a movement whose “membership
was ordinary citizens,” a movement that was “loose,
shifting, often uneasy coalition of groups and individuals that
disagreed on every issue except their hatred of the war,”
and a movement “arising from profound patriotism.”6
Who Spoke Up? was published in 1984 in response to having
almost a decade to reflect upon the antiwar movements and the
effects that it had upon American society. Writing a book
during the early 80s contributed greatly to its creation
because previously, information regarding Vietnam was not
available. Also around this time there was a sudden resurgence
in interest in Vietnam resulting in a “Vietnam book boom.”
Books were written dealing with the “emotional ordeal of
Vietnam” that “haunts the memories and nights of those who
fought it” according to Peter Loewenberg.7 The
title is taken from I.F. Stone’s Weekly in October 17, 1966.
It compared the actions of the U.S. in Vietnam to that of
the German genocide of its Jewish population. It asks what
would have happened if no one spoke up in opposition to the
war in Vietnam. Would the later generations look back and
ask as the Germans asked, who spoke up?
Professional criticisms praise the book for its great
attention to detail and its chronological account of the events
that took place in the years between 1963 and 1975. Elinor
Langer noted that Zaroulis and Sullivan’s book is not as much
an interpretation of the war and its events and meanings,
but rather a compilation of the events that occurred. She
gives credit to the authors because the topic of the antiwar
movement is one that is difficult to write about because
“in addition to dealing with the sheer mechanics of the
movement, its historians must deal with the deeper
issues.”8 The authors however, lacked thorough
explanations to accompany and clarify its immense amount of
facts. These facts also lacked a new perspective and instead
portrayed only a perspective seen by that time period.
Langer believes that this was the goal of the authors, to
stay as true to the time as possible. Thomas Doherty of the
National Review compliments the book on its “dozens of frank
interviews” and its “command of contemporary materials.” In
contrast to Langer, he feels that the authors did not
abandon the reader to a confusion of facts, but rather was a
that helped clear a path through the “bewildering overgrowth
of political-action groups” and provided “crucial detail in
a complex web of events.” Doherty noted that the authors
paid little attention to the sex, drugs and rock and roll
background of the movement, concentrating on the movement
and not the style of some of its supporters. He, too, felt
that the book was “woefully deficient in historical
perspective”9 because the book lacked its own
interpretation of events of the antiwar movement, resulting
in a disability to captivate the reader. Though the authors
were able to stay true to its goal of portraying the war as
it was and as it occurred, the effect of doing so was to
compensate the element of interest for providing the reader
with straight facts. It also lacks a discussion about the
aftermath of the war and its long-term impact upon America.
The book is, however, still a very successful historical
work and a very reliable source of comprehensive accounts of
the antiwar movement activities.
To the authors, America during the Vietnam War was a world
in which brave individuals stood up and opposed their
government in the name of their morals and beliefs. Those
that spoke out risked exclusion, harm, imprisonment and scorn.
These people were often mistaken as being cowardly and
unloyal to their country, but to the authors, these people were
far from committing treasonous acts against their
governments. They felt that the actions the protesters took
from their patriotism and commitment to the principles upon
which the United States was built upon. The sixties and
early seventies were a time of chaos and disruption—a period
of time in which people could not look to their government
for guidance and had to take decisive actions against their
own country to save and preserve the ideals that their
nation represents. People took strong actions to mend the
mistakes of the government through advocating civil rights,
actions against poverty, black power, changing the
workplace, and improving the environment. The nation and its
matured and grew stronger, manifesting into a wiser and
greater nation. Thus the time period was a time of great
a watershed in our nation’s history. Vietnam affected
America politically, economically and culturally. The Tet
Offensive caused events that marked a profound change in
American political history and opened up the eyes of America to
the war and instigated greater agitation to end the United
States’s involvement in Vietnam. It was able to “cast new
doubts on America’s rationale for being there at
all.”10 The growing antiwar sentiment was so
strong that it
strongly influenced the government’s decisions. It was
unprecedented to be able to impact the government agenda
lobbying and protesting and resulted in expanding the rights
and freedoms of American citizens. Economically America was
deeply affected because of the war’s great cost in both
resources and human lives. Finally, this era was a time of
cultural change in America. It sprouted a generation of
countercultures that openly disobeyed their parents and
believed and exerted their rights and freedoms. Also during
this time media coverage for news shifted from newspapers to
television sets. It displayed graphic and haunting images
and served to catalyze the movement to end the war.
America matured into a much more patriotic society, one in
which the rights of citizens were expanded and reinforced. It
is okay to oppose things that are wrong in the government.
Protesting is no longer an act of unfaithfulness to one’s
country and has become an act that is a worthy cause and
effort. Students also gained much respectability from this
movement. The student’s ability to heavily influence and
impact the government has created greater prestige for future
students and youths. Other impacts that the sixties era made
was a new civil rights bill as a result of the civil rights
movement, a new concern for the poor due to Kennedy’s new
frontier and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. There was more
respect for black people, an improvement of the workplace,
and the creation of a new generation of countercultures. The
antiwar movement is even felt today, in our culture and our
politics. Vietnam even has ties to the war against Iraq.
Today people look back on Vietnam with respect for those who
perished in the effort to stop the war as well as those who
perished fighting in the war. “A monument consists entirely
of two walls of black polished granite set into a gentle
down slope of land that forms something like a shallow
amphitheater” upon which the names of those who died in the war
Who Spoke Up? allows one to see the antiwar movement as a
much more complex and dynamic event. It was not as simplistic
as one might have previously known it to be. The information
from this book is substantial and compiles many facts.
Despite the authors lacking their own point of view and
perspective on the antiwar activities, the book allows one to
come to their own conclusion, one that is supposed to be
most true to the book. The sixties and seventies was a time of
great unrest in America through which America grew stronger
as a nation. The movement overtime has become a
“quasi-mythical, half-buried in time, and increasingly dim
and distorted historical presence remembered kindly by some,
belittled and reviled by others, recalled inaccurately even
by many who helped to make it happen.” Thus the goal of Who
Spoke Up? was to let the antiwar movement be remembered for
“what it was.”12
review by Mimi Lan
- Zaroulis, Nancy, and Sullivan, Gerald. Who Spoke Up?
American Protest Against the War in Vietnam 1963-1975.
Doubleday and Company Inc., 1984, xi.
- Zaroulis, Nancy 15.
- Zaroulis, Nancy 107.
- Zaroulis, Nancy 419.
- Zaroulis, Nancy 408.
- Zaroulis, Nancy xiii.
- Loewenberg, Peter. Los Angeles Times. 1984.
- Langer, Elinor. New York Times. 1984.
- Doherty, Thomas. Booksmart. 1985.
- Zaroulis, Nancy 151.
- Zaroulis, Nancy 422.
- Zaroulis, Nancy xiv.