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Wars that shaped America bring students together at USM

Remembering the aftermath of 9/11
Archive Issue
Remembering the aftermath of 9/11

Posted on February 23, 2016 in News
By USM Free Press

Archive Issue

By Zachary Searles/News Editor

The Free Press archives date all the way back to the 1960s. The earlier editions, known back then as The Stein, are full of politically charged editorials and letters to the editor about the Vietnam War, a war that most students at the university seemed to be against.

The archives span through three major wars: the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the second war in Iraq. All three wars shaped America to what it is today and they also brought students together around campus, both in terms of protests, rallies, discussions and student groups.

The Vietnam War started in November 1955 and spanned nearly 20 years until Saigon fell in April 1975. US involvement was ramped up in the early 60s, with President John F. Kennedy tripling the number of troops that were sent to fight.

There were nearly 1.5 million U.S. casualties in the war, with the average age of a man killed in Vietnam being 22.That  was part of the reason it hit home for so many college age kids: a lot of young men were drafted, and either had to wait until the war ended to go to college or never got the chance

An article from the early years at The Stein details the escalation of the war and increased draft quotas, which led to more protests and an increase in acts of civil disobedience.

On March 8, 1968, an article was published detailing a forum that was held on campus, which allowed  students and professors to discuss the war. The article even states that the library was putting out books about the war so students could read and be educated about what was happening.

“The program can best be summed up as a vigorous program on a vigorous issue for a vigorous campus,” the chairman said at the time.

When students returned that fall, Saigon was still years away from falling. So on Oct. 13, 1968, the front page of the paper read: “MARCH TO END THE WAR NOW.” Students were encouraged to march to city hall two days later to take part in Peace Action day.

One student who took part in the march, F. Wood, published an editorial in the next week’s paper, stating: “I hope that we will all work next month and the month after that and so on until the war has ended. I hope that we don’t stop then, we really can’t stop until peace is a household word… If we stop talking peace then there will be more Vietnams.”

One issue even published President Richard Nixon’s phone number, encouraging students to call him if there was anything that they wanted to discuss with him.

During the fall of 1971, a group came to campus to encourage students to register to vote, that week an editorial was published entitled: “Don’t Vote, Don’t Bitch.”

“It’s really a painless thing, but a very necessary act. We have so little time to straighten out some pretty horrible things,” the editorial reads. “You can bitch about taxes, the environment, and the War, but if you won’t even take the time to register, your complaining is going to ring hollow. If you don’t vote, don’t bitch.”

The final years of the war consisted of articles critiquing President Nixon and his inability to lead the nation as well as to end the war.

In 1990, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait sparking the beginning to the Gulf War which would last until February of 1991 and would cause the deployment of 700,000 US troops.

The country was divided at the President George H.W. Bush’s decision to enter the war, and USM was no exception. Some supported American efforts to protect their allies, while other criticized that it was not our war to fight.

Many protests erupted on campus and on campuses throughout the country. Protestors and ralliers filled the streets, frustrated because they felt that their government wasn’t listening to them. This spilt over onto USM soil and into the editorials and letters to the editor at the Free Press.

Andrew J. Levesque expressed his frustration in a column where he compared politicians to zits and claimed that they needed to be popped. He criticized the government’s inability to get anything done, to stick to a budget and for cutting programs, such as AIDs research, to fund the military.

“Instead of cutting valuable domestic programs, we should be cutting our military, but we’re not. It is a simple concept: if we stop provoking wars and being the world’s police officer, we could cut back on defense,” Levesque said.

Helen Foss also shared her frustration, writing a column that opened with: “Is it possible to keep a job that you don’t do?” She went on to say: “While they pursue personal advancement and reelection, we, the people, are forgotten. Somewhere along the line, people become secondary to the politics of a chosen few.”

Despite protests, President Bush  Sr. announced that he would be sending 100,000 more soldiers over seas, and even spoke on the possibility of reinstating the draft.

When that occurred, Free Press staff member, Mishe Pietkiewicz, wrote an article entitled “Hell no, we won’t go,” where she detailed how you could avoid the draft by registering as a conscientious cbjector, and explained that you could still receive your full financial aid benefits because you would still technically be registered for the draft.

Although the war raged on overseas, it was eventually  overshadowed by more pressing, local news when USM was facing its own problems with budgets.

In the fall of 2001, an event so tragic shook America to its very core when terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers in New York City and brought down the World Trade Center. This terrorist attack would eventually lead to the Iraq War and the War on Terror, with President George W. Bush promising to bring those involved to justice and to investigate rumors that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and would use them against the US.

In the September 24 issue from 2001, the Free Press asked students what they would do if the country went to war over the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Tim Morris, a senior business major at the time, said that he would go if he was drafted. Malinda Fitzgerald, a freshman nursing major at the time, said, “As a mother and a nursing student, I would want to go and help the wounded.”

Nate Greene, a sophomore theater major at the time, said simply that he would “donate blood because they are going to need it.”

On March 10, 2003, ten days before the United States would officially declare war, peace demonstrations took place on both campuses after President Bush said that he felt the country had been at war since 9/11, giving students the idea that war was impending. They turned out to be right.

Just as the war kicked off, a large crowd gathered in Portland to protest, among them was a professor at the university, Richard Abrams, who was arrested during the rally. He had been a protestor of the Vietnam War as well.

A month after the start of the war, a letter to the editor was published in which the writer claims that they feel the start of the war was illegal and that the United States had no right to invade on preemptive terms.

“I think whatever good reason there might be to intervene, to overthrow a dictatorship, it is likely that more harm than good will come from the United States and Britain,” the letter said.

Even though U.S. troops still remain in the Middle East, the war was officially declared over in May 2011 with the capturing and killing of Osama Bin Laden, the man who was responsible for the attacks on the Twin Towers.

Whether you were for or against the wars, they shaped America into what it is today and brought students together to accomplish a single mission, to get out a single message.

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