Public Opinion on Long Island about the Vietnam War: A School Year Project Using Local Sources and Perspectives in the Classroom and in Student Research Papers

A SCHOOL-YEAR RESEARCH EXPERIMENT using primary resources to teach an important national issue—protest movements against the Vietnam War at the local level—is an excellent way to motivate students and energize classroom teaching. In my case, it is just the charge I need to jumpstart my intellectual battery. As a teacher for over thirty years, I constantly look for new pedagogical challenges. I teach in the small suburban school district of Amityville, New York. Amityville is approximately thirty miles east of New York City, on Long Island. It is a culturally diverse community best known for a famous incident later made into a movie trilogy—”The Amityville Horror.” Unfortunately, Amityville Memorial High School is often sarcastically referred to as the “real horror.” Indeed, because the school has almost ninety percent minority students, many with low reading and writing levels, its academic reputation has been less than stellar. However, this has not deterred me from challenging my own students to undertake serious scholarly research and apply it to the study of American history.

The results of this one special project on war and local public opinion proved particularly gratifying to me. Not only did my most advanced students profit from this research project; so, too, did my slower learners. They interacted and helped one another, regardless of academic ability. The bar was raised. My students appreciated my own commitment to academic excellence based on scholarly research and writing. Collectively moreover, at the conclusion of the project, the classroom came alive with excitement when they presented their research findings and enthusiastically shared them with their fellow students. They put the documents to work as tools of instruction. But, perhaps more importantly, the research project enabled all of my students to arrive at basically the same conclusions about local public opinion that university scholars have learned about national public opinion. They thus used documentary evidence to interpret and formulate answers to the larger issues at hand. Based on the success of this project, I now assign a primary source research project involving the local history of Long Island as a yearly requirement.

I began approaching this project with one very important objective: working with the real evidence of historical research rather than a textbook-centered approach to learning. Cognizant of time commitments and not wanting to detract from other issues needing coverage in the 11th grade New York State Regents curriculum in Social Studies, I immediately set aside one week at the start of the school year to discuss the nature and purpose of the project. I also spent time teaching students how to analyze and interpret documents, as well as the most effective techniques for conducting interviews. Additionally, I provided time after school for students to discuss the progress of their research. I also provided about five minutes at the start of each class to answer any questions students had about their research assignments. A timeline was also set up at the start of the first semester. It was rigorously adhered to throughout the year. In the first week of February, after midterms and regents exams, students were required to present a progress report on their research. The time was used to iron out any problems they may have had with the data and to allow them to discuss their documents in class. Discussions were a means of classroom instruction in which I had them explain the significance of the documents in relationship to the war and Long Islanders’ opinions about it. They also served as an additional motivator to keep them working on the finished product, a written report. All research papers were to be turned in the last week of May. Many extra hours were spent helping students organize their ideas and write their papers.

Every local community in America has its own story to tell about the war in Vietnam. Whether it is about a local son who lost his life in combat or a young college student living away from home expressing anger about the draft and the morality of the war, there is information waiting to be uncovered. Certainly, and a point I stress in my own classroom, students need to feel a tangible connection to the land and people where they live. This may mean shifting emphasis from the larger events and figures of history to the smaller things, the not so famous lives and events, which are just as important in the sweep of historical change. Or it may even mean examining the way small things have been dramatically impacted by past events. Either way, this project was designed to encourage students to extend themselves, to understand and appreciate what they had not personally experienced, and to connect with those from times past.

The Project

My objective in this and other similar projects is simple: I want students to remove themselves from an emphasis on fact-oriented teaching to the test to one of encouraging them to recreate a piece of the Island’s history through their own efforts. Sometimes I suggest a thematic approach like this one. Or, as is often the case, I allow them to pick out a topic that interests them. Specifically, I want them to dig deeper into problem solving—namely, asking the “how” and “whys” of events, personalities, and actions. I encourage them “to understand clearly that history puts its emphasis on ‘the facts’ not for their own sake but for the sake of the meanings they can actually be seen to carry.”[1] In particular, I want to impress upon them that sound historical scholarship proceeds best with materials that are original sources. For students to reach more sophisticated levels of historical inquiry, a teacher must develop assignments, based on primary sources, which call attention to areas of controversy and are subject to differing interpretations, each calling into play meaningful connections. It is not enough for them merely to accept what is found in print, but to examine as well the way in which historians arrive at their conclusions. If students are required to research and write an original paper using primary source documents, they will not only be testing their own ability to make sound historical judgments but also understand how historians work at deriving answers to questions.[2]

This assigned project dealing with the Vietnam War era required students to flesh out public opinion on the war. Pro-war and anti-war demonstrations served as an appropriate starting point. Like the rest of the nation, the Vietnam War left deep scars in nearly every community on Long Island, and the wounds are still apparent to this very day. According to Newsday staff writer David Behrens, “More than 58,000 Americans were killed in the decade-long conflict. When the war ended in 1975, 574 servicemen from the villages and hamlets of Nassau and Suffolk counties were among the dead.” For instance, in Nassau, East Meadow, Hempstead, Levittown, Massapequa, Merrick, and New Hyde Park each lost more than a dozen servicemen. In Suffolk, a similar fate befell the communities of Brentwood, Central Islip, Huntington, and Lindenhurst.”[3]

A number of questions were posed for student exploration. What was the impact of the war? What feelings did residents express when learning that one of theirs was killed or missing in action? Are unity and divisiveness mutually exclusive communal traits or do they co-exist during time of war? How does war unite or divide communities? Lastly, what effect, if any, do grassroots movements have in waging a campaign of resistance against established national policies? Establishing an appropriate setting for initiating the research is critical to the project. These were the questions and, from the beginning, I provided students with a list of background readings. Among the recommended works were personal accounts by veterans like Long Island’s own Ron Kovic’s Born on the Fourth of July, as well as scholarly overviews like George C. Herring’s America’s Longest War.[4] Striking an appropriate balance between autobiographical accounts and scholarly analyses was emphasized. In addition, students were asked to read literature on the antiwar protests as a means of assessing the effectiveness of social and political movements impacting Long Island’s public opinion. At the beginning of the school year I arranged a class session in the school library, a process I still continue for new research projects. The librarian discussed pertinent books available and what resources students could use to assist them. As is generally the case, the librarian gave them a handout from the MLA Manual of Style for properly citing and documenting the information they would use in their papers.

Getting access to primary sources can be a problem for most high school students. I managed to arrange for a field trip to a university in our area. (A secondary purpose of this trip was to promote collaboration between school and university.) Adelphi University in Garden City was happy to oblige. More importantly, Adelphi’s library has a complete set of all issues of Long Island’s major daily press, Newsday, on microfilm. Students were assigned to read one full year of the newspaper. They began with the year 1965 and ended with the defeat the South Vietnamese Army in 1975. Specific instructions were to: real all news stories related to the war and carefully sift through all editorial opinions and individual letters to the editor. One full day was spent at the library and students then went back to continue their own research.

Naturally, one might ask if this activity can be reproduced in areas not close to major universities. In this regard, Long Island teachers have a distinct advantage. There are numerous universities within traveling distance for a field trip. For teachers and students who are not so lucky, there are other ways to accomplish the task. First, students can research bibliographic leads found in their own school library and the nearby local public library. Students and teachers can begin by first consulting scholarly sources on the Vietnam War. Second, they can go online and research regional sections of major newspapers in their geographic area covering the period of the war like The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Miami Herald, among others. Third, by going online or through interlibrary loan, students can refer to periodicals such as Newsweek, Time, U.S News and World Report, Atlantic Monthly, Ramparts, Dissent, The New Republic, Look, and The Progressive. Fourth, students can travel to the nearest editorial office of their local newspaper and check the archives for stories about residents who served in the war to see if they or their families still live nearby. Interviews and acquisition of personal letters can then be arranged. They can also read letters to the editor. Usually, small town presses tend to be politically conservative. It would be challenging to trace the opinions expressed in these papers. Did they remain generally supportive of the nation’s conduct of the war or did they gradually change course and express disappointment? Fifth, almost all counties in the nation have a historical society. Personal papers and local newspapers can be found there. For example, most recently I found online that the Watkins Museum in Lawrence, Kansas, had just established an entire section devoted to the Vietnam War. Sixth, teachers can assist their students by contacting their own state historical society. An archivist should be available to provide leads and contact people. Each state historical society publishes a scholarly journal. There may very well be an article to the point. Seventh, students can write to the superintendents of nearby school districts asking for copies of the school newspapers published in the sixties and early seventies. Eighth, it is possible for students to write to the archivist or reference librarian at the state university seeking any information he or she may have regarding college protests. Certainly, college newspapers of that period can be easily reproduced for a small fee. Ninth, students should be motivated to visit the nearby American Legion Post or Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting hall. They can arrange for interviews there. Lastly, there are a number of important archival centers housing abundant material on the war and reaction to it. Among them are: The State Historical Society of Wisconsin; The Swarthmore College Peace Collection; The Lyndon Baines Johnson Historical Society; The Tamiment Library, New York University; the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change; the Vietnam Project at Texas Tech University; the Vietnam Veterans Oral History Project at Buffalo State College; and the Vietnam Veterans History Project at Young Harris College.

Indeed, there are many ways to obtain pertinent information once the library research is underway. But understanding the importance of primary sources is a different matter. For high school students, in particular, it is critical that teachers instruct them on what to look for when examining a primary source. To properly analyze a document requires that certain procedures be followed. In general, I encourage students to know the historical context in which the document was written, the timeframe in which the document is set, and the main idea. Are there any hidden agendas involved? Are the opinions based on sound factual content or are they merely subjective in nature? Does a photo capture the real feelings conveyed in it? A classic example is the photo depicting a weeping female student standing over a lifeless body at Kent State University. Very often, I ask my students to bring in one of their documents for a brief discussion about its historical relevance. When they bring in their local newspaper stories, editorials, and personal letters and diaries, I always asked the same questions: what is the point of view or bias of the author; is the author a disinterested observer; does the author have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are or changing them; and, specifically, with a news story, does it uphold the journalistic standards of objectivity and impartiality or is it a deliberate attempt to reflect the point of view of the editors or publishers.

There are also standards I apply for the conduct of interviews. The first prerequisite is to write a formal letter asking for an interview. The letter must explain the nature of the project and under whose direction it is being conducted. The second requirement is that the taped interview be held in a quiet setting, one avoiding any background noise. The final directive is for students to write a basic set of questions to be answered—age, background, education, if in the military was service performed in Vietnam, if a student protestor what were the issues motivating the protest. Other questions require background reading about the period and some personal knowledge of the person. In every case, I remind students that the questions should be designed to obtain information that truly reveals events and actions. Armed with these instructions, students are prepared to fully engage themselves in primary source research.

The initial phase of reading newspaper accounts (Newsday was the major press consulted) set the tone for the project under discussion. Subsequently, students went about their tasks of interviewing Vietnam veterans and antiwar activists, searching for personal letters available from family members, reading commentaries by community leaders, patriotic organizations, and church and protest movement groups, examining whatever opinions could be found in local village presses and high school student newspapers, and, lastly, visiting historical societies. Students were also advised to visit Hofstra University’s Long Island Studies Institute. The real thrust was getting them out into the field and away from the teacher-centered classroom.[5]

As noted earlier, due to the nature of the project and because these were high school students, I assigned the project for the entire school year. In the classroom, and during my after school extra help sessions, I periodically addressed matters of research technique, taking proper notes, writing style, and citation methodology. Most of my students’ questions were directed at how to cite sources and avoid plagiarism. When it came to addressing the elements of organization and writing, I referred them to Jacques Barzun and Henry Graff’s The Modern Researcher, the Chicago Manual of Style, Wood Gray’s The Historian’s Handbook, and my own favorite, William Strunk and E.B. White’s Elements of Style. The finished product had to be between ten and fifteen typed pages, including the endnotes. One of the most rewarding aspects of this project was the open forum I held in the classroom. Students readily shared their successes and disappointments. Very often they would comment that what they thought was the case was actually contradicted by the evidence uncovered. It was also uplifting to hear them evaluate the material they were placing within a certain historical context.

The real joy came, however, when I discovered the quality of writing and analytical skills demonstrated by these amateur historians. I was pleased by the way they were able to use primary sources to interpret and assess public opinion on the war. Tellingly, but not surprisingly, these papers revealed that the views of Long Islanders were generally consistent with those of the nation at large, At first, there was strong support for the men fighting the war only to be followed by growing disillusionment and distrust. Long Island was indeed part of America.

One of the more interesting facets of the students’ research was uncovering what high school students at the time felt about the war. This proved to be important in connecting the students with history. They were surprised to find out how widespread antiwar feelings were even among high school students and the various forms of protest—passive and confrontational—students had undertaken. For example, on February 12,1967, fifteen high school students conducted a vigil for peace at the Lynbrook Post Office. A counter-demonstration by fifty Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion members resulted in a nonviolent confrontation. Ten days later, fifty members of Huntington Students for Peace, bearing signs and chanting “Peace Now!,” was met by egg-throwing hecklers. In April, a group calling itself the Long Island Student Mobilization to End the War demonstrated in Hempstead. Led by a Port Washington High School junior, Michael Stamm, one hundred demonstrators carried antiwar and anti-draft

signs and shouted the standard couplet,

Hey, hey LBJ
How many kids did you kill today?

The papers revealed many more instances of student activism. My students were simply amazed at the discoveries they found using primary source documents and interviews.[6]

Examining Long Island high school student newspapers represented the high watermark of their research.[7] In the early stages of the war, community support was strong. This was also reflected in school newspapers. For instance, in 1966, one Amityville student opined that “the reason our soldiers are there is so that our children and grandchildren may enjoy the freedoms that we now enjoy. All I can say is, please God help us end this war successfully and bless our soldiers and give strength to their boss in the White House.” In time, however, this multiracial community, and its school district, experienced a change of heart. By 1971, the student newspaper, The Echo, ran the following editorial: “Where Lies the Blame for the War?… It falls on nearly all of us. And ‘all of us’ do not exclude the armchair generals dealing death in the basements of the Pentagon. Or the Congress. Or the President.” Near the war’s end the paper passed its own judgment on those who resisted: “Moral objection to the war is nationwide, so why are draft resisters so persecuted? How can someone be condemned for a belief in principle?… The U.S. must allow the draft resisters to return home.”[8] Some powerful moral judgments respecting conscience had been made. My student researchers were coming to grips with the enormous complexities involving the prolonged Vietnam conflict at home and abroad.

What my experience shows is that working with primary sources also enables high school students to make comparisons and flesh out opinions in other high school papers. Some ten miles east of Amityville there is the almost all-white community of West Islip. Student opinions there were quite similar to those of Amityville. In the fall of 1966, West Islip High School’s The Rudder observed: “How can a man 10,000 miles from home go on risking his daily life for a cause in which his fellow countrymen do not whole-heartedly believe…. Where are the flag-waving crowds that jammed Times Square in the 1940s or have they too gone out with the Twist and knee socks?” Just as was the case with Amityville students, events like Kent State and rising body counts quickly turned West Islip student opinion against the war. The Rudder began issuing its own condemnation. Shortly before the 1973 peace accords were signed, for example, one West Islip student aptly summarized the situation in an article entitled, “Political Football.”

1stdown: Richard Nixon is elected on the premise of ending a senseless war in Vietnam. He decides to be the best starting quarterback and throw the ball (America) into Cambodia. The defense (anti-Nixon protestors) on the blitz. Nixon calls a huddle. We think he may be sending tight end Kissenger[sic] for a long pass. Because Quarterback Nixon is keeping it a secret, we are not sure what the next play will be.
2nddown: The defensive unit is waiting to tackle the communist line. But WAIT! Nixon decides to throw the bomb. Proving again that under pressure He will go to the air.
3rddown: Nixon calls time out. WAIT! What’s this? He’s talking with Head Coach Chou-En-Lai and team captain Leonid Brezhnev. Could he be making a secret deal to end this game? It seems as though Nixon has lost 3rddown due to delay of game?
4thdown: YES! Tight end Kissenger[sic] is sent on a long pass. He missed the first one but maybe he will get a first down and three more chances. It seems as though Quarterback Nixon has called time out, but nobody knows for sure. I really think he is delaying the game. He’s only got one time out left and I think he is gonna make this one the last.[9]

The students’ research, moreover, led to additional examples of opposition to the war. One of the more unique discoveries was the movie production made by six students from Levittown’s Division Avenue High School. In September 1970, the six students went to Mitchel Field, a former Army Air Force Base in Nassau County, where they enacted a twenty-minute film that “portrays a captain of a firing squad in a political labor camp in Asia who slowly goes insane because of the killings he has ordered.” No doubt, these enterprising filmmakers were influenced by the My Lai Massacre. They were led by the ambitious fifteen-year-old writer-producer, Roy Firestone, later of ESPN fame. The students spent four hours filming their presentation. They did this one Sunday afternoon. It was later shown in one of their classes.[10]

The methodology adopted by my students enabled them to take an inside look at the extent, dynamics, problems, successes, failures and legacies of the Vietnam War. Students came away with a newfound appreciation for primary source documentation. Their writing style was improved, well documented, and, most importantly, critically interesting. Using primary sources forced them to render value judgments necessary for interpreting events in their correct historical perspective. Indeed, reading their research papers turned out to be a personally rewarding exercise for me. More important, however, is the way in which the documents and interviews were used as classroom teaching devices. The results were positive learning experiences.

There were mid-year reports that merely wetted my students’ appetites. When the students reported on their final papers I set aside one week and each student was permitted a five minute discussion. The interaction was wonderful. I actually let the students do the teaching. I asked them to explain how they integrated the primary sources into their papers and the conclusions they reached. I also asked them to explain why they thought some documents were more important than others in shaping public opinion on the war. The presentation of their materials was left to the discretion of the students who brought all their materials with them. One student shared her newspaper story about a group of high school students marching through a local shopping mall carrying banners protesting the war. The culture of protest in the 1960s was dramatized by this document. Another student discussed a story depicting the action of housewives in one community who drove around in their own creatively-designed peacemobile. A striking connection was made between this form of protest and the growing national women’s peace movement led by the organization, Women Strike for Peace. Yet another student brought in his documents describing Long Island high school and college students leaving their classes in the wake of the Kent State tragedy. While some protests of a violent nature captured the headlines, he pointed out that the vast majority of antiwar protests were peaceful in nature. His documents raised the interesting question of how successful the nonviolent aspects of the antiwar movement were in helping to sway public opinion—locally and nationally.

Whether they cited an interview, newspaper story, editorial opinion, or cartoon, my students readily discussed both sides of the issue. They even explained how veterans, past and present, either justified or condemned the war. They asked what led to disillusionment on the part of many World War II and Korean War veterans. These were very patriotic men. They were also surprised at the number of Vietnam veterans who criticized the war. They tried to understand how the “hard-hat” construction workers viewed the longhaired, bearded, student war protestors. All of this proved more valuable to them than reading textbook accounts. My students found a valuable way to connect to one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

College Collaboration

Intrigued by the success of my high school students, I decided to expand the project to the university level, where I had been working in an adjunct capacity. Teaching a college course, “Major Themes in American History,” enabled me to compare the quality and level of work produced by both groups. Sharing the work undertaken by my Amityville students was critical to the collaborative process. But rather than have my college students focus on community reaction to the war with an emphasis on the popular press and high school papers, I asked them to research the role of campus protests. I wanted to see if their research would support Kenneth Heineman’s observation that “The 1960s student antiwar movement caught up great numbers of culturally diverse partisans who shared a general sense of idealism mixed with feelings of alienation from society. Cultural diversity gave the student peace movement an enriched political vision seldom seen in the history of mass movements in America.”[11]

The primary source research they completed did bear out Heineman’s thesis. His study had examined non-elite universities. In their interviews with former Long Island college students and reading of campus newspapers, my students were struck by the depth and conviction of the student peace movement.[12] As one would expect, college antiwar protests were spirited. They were prompted in part by opposition to the draft and dissatisfaction with corporate materialism. One of the key comparisons I was able to share with both groups—part of the collaborative experiment—was that college newspapers had been far more liberal in their political views and more openly critical of the war from the very beginning than were high school papers. In addition looking at events such as the role of teach-ins, the draft, peace marches, the October 15, 1969 Moratorium, and boycotting of classes after Kent State showed how much more important social justice causes were to college students than to high school students where protests were mainly limited to the war itself. Sharing this information with my Amityville students taught them that while civic duty and responsibility govern secondary learning, college learning seeks to promote awareness of social justice and change.

There were two other telling observations uncovered by my college students which I happily shared with Amityville students. First, at Hofstra University where ROTC had been a long-standing and compulsory program for all male students since World War II, a fierce tug of war erupted between the administration’s support for military training and student activists calling for social change and curriculum reform. From this conflict emerged an ongoing debate between members of the Student Peace Union calling for reform and a larger majority of students preoccupied with career goals.[13] This aspect of the research project provoked healthy debate among both my high school and my college students and both were effectively engaged in the learning process. The merits and pitfalls of campus activism were thoroughly discussed, raising the issue of the purpose of learning and the goals to which it should be directed.

Second, my college level researchers learned that on many of Long Island’s campuses fragmentation based on cultural diversity emerged among dissenting groups. At Hofstra, C.W. Post, SUNY-Farmingdale, and SUNY-Stony Brook, for instance, pitched battles over ideological supremacy were commonplace between radical groups like Students for a Democratic Society and the Student Peace Union. Once again, Heineman’s observation is on point: the antiwar student activists “were profoundly divided along class, ethnic, religious and racial lines” and this ” spawned movements within movements.” The acrimony among war time college student protest groups was far more divisive than in the larger communities. As my high school students revealed in the course of their research, Long Island community protests cut across generational, political, and economic lines. These protests involved a unique composite of ad hoc protestors and were in tandem with agendas of Old and New Leftists. However, despite such ideological differences, whether protestors were conservative, liberal, radical, or pacifist, the vast majority of community protests focused on only one objective: an end to the fighting and a negotiated settlement.[15] In large measure, protests were nonviolent and carried more weight with the populace than college protests did.

There is one final observation I wish to make regarding the use of primary sources in projects such as these. It is particularly relevant to my high school students. In the course of his research, one student came upon a state supreme court case involving Pete Seeger, a noted folk singer, who was an outspoken critic of the war. One community group had invited the singer to perform at a local high school in East Meadow. To its dismay, the group’s request was rejected by the local board of education. The group sued in court. A couple of my students made the case a learning tool by writing a classroom skit, performed by students, demonstrating how divisive the war had become. The theme of their skit was how unity and acrimony coexist in real life situations.[16] They showed how the case illustrated what I had taught them in class regarding the Constitution and First Amendment rights. Their work paralleled a New York jurist’s observation in another antiwar protest case: “Events that occur in small towns sometimes have a way of raising large constitutional questions.”[17]


What lessons did my high school and college students learn from their collaborative research efforts? Sharing research enabled both groups to reach similar observations regarding the role of social movements, in this case the antiwar movement of the 1960s. In general, their research reveals that the movement on Long Island reflected the national movement, but lacked its divisive acrimony among the many groups involved, the exception being the ideological differences among college protestors on campus. Most actions were local, they noted, with some of the large protests marked by the sharing of resources and personnel. As the war dragged on, more and more community-based groups formed coalitions questioning the war’s moral legitimacy and allying themselves with those who believed that the United States should withdraw because victory was no longer a viable option. Interestingly, both my high school and college students commented that although the antiwar movement provided a vehicle for political and legislative reforms, and was marked by the election of a number of peace/antiwar candidates, it did not end the war.[18] Events on Long Island thus confirm Heineman’s observation about the country at large: “In reality, even though the antiwar protests turned the universities into ideological, and often actual battlefields, the U.S. withdrew from Indochina because the war could not be won militarily.”[19]

Working with an abundance of primary sources thus enables high school and college students to place events in proper historical perspective. They came to an appreciation of how the 1960s antiwar movement compelled many communities throughout the nation to speak out in the name of peace and justice.[20] Noticeably, on Long Island, the many peace groups demonstrated a significant degree of harmony and consistency. The events the students uncovered included teach-ins, campus objections to mandatory ROTC, the creation of a housewives’ peacemobile in Levittown, open letters to elected officials condemning the war, candlelight vigils like the one on Hofstra’s Unispan over Hempstead Turnpike, high school students producing an antiwar film at Mitchel Field, students carrying peace banners through Bay Shore’s South Shore Shopping Mall, establishing peace and freedom schools, guerrilla theatre performances, draft resistance at Local Board 2 in Bay Shore, accounts by the thousands of Long Island participants in the October 15, 1969 Moratorium, and massive protest actions in high schools and on college campuses in the wake of Kent State. The documents they found illustrated how extensive and emotionally charged opposition to the war was on Long Island. Learning this did strike close to home. Indeed, of all the lessons the students learned from this worthwhile project, there is one that truly stands out: local communities can overcome their own resistance to change and develop forms of protest enabling diverse coalitions to call for change in national policy.


This is a revised version of a paper I presented at the 2003 Organization of American Historians Meeting in Memphis, Tennessee. I would like to thank panel members Barbara Winslow and Peter Levy and organizer Robert Shaffer for their support and observations. I would also like to thank the journal’s anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticisms.
1.� Paul L. Ward, Elements of Historical Thinking. Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association, rev. ed., 1971. p. 5.
2.� Charles F. Howlett, “The Creation of a Students’ Local History Journal: Amityville, New York in the Twentieth Century” in JoAnn P. Krieg & Natalie Naylor, eds. To Know the Place: Exploring Long Island History. Interlaken, NY: Heart of the Lakes Publishers, 1995. pp. 66–70.
3.� David Behrens, “Vietnam War’s Deep Wounds” in Long Island: Our Story. Melville, NY: Newsday Publishers, 1998. p. 357.
4.� The suggested list of readings included: Ron Kovic, Born on the Fourth of July. NY: McGraw Hill, 1976; George C. Herring, America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950–1975. NY: Wiley & Sons, 2nded., 1986; Thomas Powers, Vietnam: The War at Home. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1984; Nancy Zaroulis & Gerald Sullivan, Who Spoke Up? American Protest Against the War in Vietnam, 1963–1974. NY: Holt, Reinhardt, Winston, 1984; Fred Halstead, Out Now! : A Participant’s Account of the American Movement Against the Vietnam War. NY: Monad Press, 1978; Mel Small, Johnson, Nixon and the Doves. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1988; Mel Small & Bill Hoover, eds., Give Peace A Chance: Exploring the Vietnam Antiwar Movement. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1992; Michael Ferber & Staughton Lynd, eds., The Resistance. Boston: Beacon Press, 1972; Richard Moser, The New Winter Soldiers: GI and Veteran Dissent During the Vietnam Era. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1996; Tom Wells, The War Within: America’s Battle over Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994; Michael S. Foley, Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance During the Vietnam War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003; and Charles DeBenedetti & Charles Chatfield, An American Ordeal: The Antiwar Movement of the Vietnam Era. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1990. Charles Chatfield’s “At the Hands of Historians: The Antiwar Movement of the Vietnam Era,” in Peace and Change, Vol. 29 (July 2004): pp. 483–526, is the most comprehensive, analytic bibliography on the subject. It is a must read for teachers examining the anti-Vietnam War literature.
5.� Research at local historical societies included the villages and towns of Amityville, Babylon, Massapequa, Smithtown, Huntington, Patchogue, Lynbrook, Hempstead and the county historical societies of Nassau and Suffolk. Unfortunately, little was revealed in the way of political and social commentary. Emphasis was on restoration and photographic aspects of times past.
6.� “Pickets, Pro & Con, parade on Viet War Issue in Lynbrook,” Newsday, February 13, 1967, p. 19; “Anti-War March Almost Peaceful,” Ibid., February 23, 1967, p. 21; “Students Plan War Protest,” Ibid., April 6, 1967, p. 21.
7.� High School student newspapers yielding the most pertinent information were Amityville’s The Echo, West Islip’s The Rudder, and Baldwin’s The Golden Wave. I was quite disappointed that many school districts have done little to document and preserve student newspapers. High School yearbooks are another matter.
8.�The Echo 46 (April 1966), p. 2; “Do You Question the Draft,” Ibid., 48 (April 1968), p. 2; Ibid., 49 (October 25, 1968), p. 2; “AMHS Students Strike; Many Participate in Rally,” Ibid., 50 (May 22, 1970), p. 1; “Amnesty—Yes or No?,” Ibid., 52 (February 1972), p. 2.
9.�The Rudder 11 (September 1966), p. 2; “The American Spirit,” Ibid., 12 (December 1967), p. 2; “Honor the Veteran,” Ibid., 12 (November 1968), p. 1; “Student Forum—Lt. Calley,” Ibid., 15 (May 7, 1971), pp. 3–4; “Political Football,” Ibid., 16 (November 1972), p. 6.
10.� “War Becomes Real in Teen’s Project,” Newsday, September 17, 1969.
11.� Kenneth Heineman, Campus Wars. NY: New York University Press, 1993. p. 269.
12.� College newspapers consulted were: Hofstra Chronicle, C.W. Post’s Pioneer, Adelphi’s Adelphian, Stony Brook’s Statesman, St John’s The Torch, SUNY-Farmingdale’s The Rambler, and Dowling’s The New Voice.
13.� Charles F. Howlett, “Long Island Confronts the Vietnam War,” Part II Long Island Historical Journal 8 (Fall 1995), pp. 56–75.
14.� Heineman, Campus Wars, p. 269.
15.� Howlett, “Long Island Confronts the Vietnam War,” Part I Long Island Historical Journal 7 (Spring 1995), pp. 146–47.
16.�East Meadow Community Concerts Assoc. v. B.O.E. of Union Free School District No. 3, East Meadow 18 NY 2d 1929 (1966).
17.�Russo v. Central School District No 1.; Towns of Rush et. al, Monroe County 469 F.2d 623 (1972).
18.� Refer in passing to Mel Small’s Johnson, Nixon and the Doves.
19.� Heineman, Campus Wars, p. 2. Vietnam Veterans Louis Buffardi and Jimmy Kay, who were interviewed for this project a few years ago, expressed similar sentiments. The common feeling expressed by veterans, including myself, is that this was a war we never should have fought. However, the way veterans were treated upon returning home left much to be desired.
20.� There are a number of organizations and websites covering all aspects of the war. These are particularly useful for teachers and students elsewhere. Kali Tal’s Vietnam Generation and the Sixties is an organization dealing with the social and political aspects of the conflict in general. There is a focus on the antiwar developments and social protest in the 1960s. One of the largest projects dealing with primary source materials is the Vietnam Project at Texas Tech. The Vietnam War Internet Links is a useful website which has been compiled by Professor William A. Joseph of Wellesley College. Three websites to consult are: ; School Web Sites for the Vietnam Conflict, and>vietnam Website. The most comprehensive bibliography is Vietnam War Bibliography. It can be accessed at ~umoise. For the Vietnam Veterans Oral History and Folklore Project at Buffalo State College, contact Dr. Lydia Fish at [email protected] . Currently, the Library of Congress is conducting a Veterans History Project. Funded by the U.S. Congress, this project will consist of thousands of interviews of any person who served in the armed forces. I am having all my students locate and interview a minimum of three veterans during the 2003–04 school year. In the future, this will serve as another important archival source for students and scholars alike.

By Charles Howlett