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US Out of Vietnam!
By Ted Scott
I worked all summer in 1966 gathering signatures for a petition against the Vietnam war. That led to my discovery that every college student I came in contact with had a deferment, and nearly every other young man in Cambridge had received a draft notice. Among the large working class Portuguese community they were being drafted right out of high school. Nearly every street was a Gold Star street. The unfairness was appalling but not surprising.
I told Boston University to cancel my deferment, and soon got a notice to report to the Army base in Nashville; included was a quarter for bus fare. I responded and got a new notice for the Boston Army Base. In the two weeks before reporting, I managed to find two other younger students who were reporting at the same time and place as me, so we decided to try to disrupt the event somehow. They were conscientious objectors, but they hadn't played that card. We wore t-shirts with slogans on the back. We planned to call out questions when we were assembled. My slogan said "US Out of Vietnam." It was also printed on my bare back with a Sharpie pen.
At the assembly, standing with a group of about 90 would-be draftees, I called out, "Why is the US In Vietnam?" Immediately I felt myself grabbed from behind. As I was being pulled away I heard, "What are you doing to him?" Then another loud question and we found ourselves sitting in a small office with three guards, and being questioned by an officer, who finally sent us back to stand in lines with the others in our underwear. The guy at the first desk I came to made me take off my t-shirt, then, seeing the Sharpie message on my back, he reversed the t-shirt and made me put it back on. After the physical, we went to lunch. I must admit that after my question at the beginning of the day, I was sweating, trembling with fear and almost unable to talk.
During lunch four young men came over and thanked us. Halfway through lunch the same officer came into the lunch room, and called us back to the small office we had been in before. He said that they needed to find out why we were there and what our plan was. He said we would be interviewed by Army Intelligence. If we promised to return the next morning for the interview, we would be allowed to take the written test with our group and could go home; otherwise we would be kept overnight.
We agreed, took the test and went home. At my house we decided to get a BU photographer to come with us to take pictures. My wife and five other women from SDS would make a large banner from bed sheets to carry, and we would wear our t-shirts with our messages. The next day we rode the MTA to the base. The reporter snapped a lot of good pictures as we entered the base. Unexpectedly, a group of men dressed as longshoremen came around the corner from the building where we were headed. The first thing they did was to grab and break the camera man's $700 camera. Then they made like they were going to attack the women, forcing them outside of the base. Then they pretended to attack us, but they didn't hurt us, they just ripped our shirts apart.
Inside the building some Red Cross nurses were collecting blood. I had found a little courage so, as they stared at us, I said we were POWs. They gave us lollypops. An officer appeared and took us to a small waiting room and called us one by one in to an office for questioning. I was first, and noticing a large brown machine on the desk, I asked if it was a recording device. "Yes," was the reply. I asked if we would get copies or transcripts. "No."
I told the two officers that I didn't have anything to say except my name, rank, and serial number and I didn't know the last two. I was let go, as were my comrades. A few weeks later I received a letter from the Nashville draft board saying I had passed all the tests. I never heard from them again.
Ted Scott is not a Veteran, just an ordinary retired physics teacher. He has read and thought about the Vietnamese war ever since it happened. He considers it the most important historical event since WWII. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife of 48 years.