Vietnam War-era documentary studies protest in the military
Harper Barnes, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (found via Lexis Nexis)
The first time I remember seeing the now-familiar peace symbol was in the early 1960s. It was pasted onto the rear fender of a motorcycle ridden by a fellow American soldier. A friend of mine asked the soldier how a man in the U.S. military came to be displaying the symbol of the British anti-nuclear movement, and the soldier replied, "Life is full of contradictions."
That seeming contradiction is at the heart of "Sir! No Sir!", an impassioned and well-constructed documentary about the anti-war movement in the American military during the Vietnam era.
Filmmaker David Zeiger, who as a teenager helped run one of the dozens of anti-war coffeehouses that opened near U.S. bases in the 1960s, has unearthed excellent archival footage of the war in Vietnam as well as what has been described as the war at home.
Some of the footage features much younger versions of the men (and one woman), now in late middle-age, whom he interviewed about their experiences, enlisted men and officers who, in some cases, served long prison sentences for opposing the war from within the military. Without exception, they still believe what they did was right and generally agree with Zieger's conclusion that widespread rebellion within the ranks was a powerful factor in forcing the United States to withdraw from Vietnam.
The movie comes, without apology, from an anti-war point of view and does not wrestle with the issue of how a nation can maintain a military without an obedient army. As a former soldier who later supported the anti-Vietnam War movement, I cannot pretend to be totally objective on the subject; I can only say that everything jibes with what happened as I remember it.
My only real complaint is that the film does not deal with the crucial fact that, because of the draft, the Army in the Vietnam era, particularly in the early years, was much more representative of the population as a whole than after the draft was abolished.
Screens at 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday in Moore Auditorium at Webster University.