North Dakota was not considered a hotbed of antiwar protests in the Vietnam era.
Places like California and Ohio drew more attention with large rallies that often resulted in the National Guard being called in to maintain order.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some protests including one in Jamestown in September 1960.
James Smorada, then a staff writer for The Jamestown Sun, called it a “peaceful but cold demonstration.” His news story indicated that the protest was led by four veterans who were students at Jamestown College, now known as the University of Jamestown.
The protest began in front of the Student Union building at 8:45 a.m. in anticipation of the arrival of a Marine Corps recruiter at 10 a.m. The small group of veterans was supported by about 20 other members of the student body. They carried hand-drawn signs that said things like “War is Hazardous to your health” and “No veterans for future wars.”
The recruiter, who had traveled to Jamestown from Fargo, arrived 15 minutes late and came in by a back door. At least initially, the protesters outside were unaware that the recruiter had set up his table in the lobby.
When they did, the protest moved inside and attempted to surround the recruiter and his table of brochures. As that occurred, another group developed in support of the Marine Corps recruiter. Smorada referred to these people as “hecklers.”
“During the shuffle a sign carried by one of demonstrators was shredded,” he reported.
Campus security “restored order” and it doesn’t appear any arrests were made.
“We are all sick of this war that is going on,” one of the protest organizers was quoted as saying. “The war has become a real situation of ‘for what, for whom.’”
A freshman at the college “wearing the traditional college beanie” had told Roy Joe Stuckey, president of the school, the protests made him “sick” but they did have the right to express their opinions.
Another Jamestown College student who was a veteran but not involved in the protest, said he was not in favor of the demonstration.
“But I guess I’m in the minority when I say this,” he added.
The North Dakota Historical Society website notes there were few protests in the state during the war.
“Perhaps this was because North Dakotans had a strong sense of patriotism,” the article speculates.
The only noted protests occurred in 1966 in Fargo when some North Dakota State University students lead a protest march that was described as “small, quiet and did not cause conflict.”
During the war, the monthly draft quota for North Dakota ranged from 100 to 200 men. In addition many enlisted feeling it was their patriotic duty.
Off those that served, 198 North Dakotans were killed. Many more were wounded and some still suffer the psychological and physical effects of their service.
Author Keith Norman can be reached at www.KeithNormanBooks.com