Letters: Tug of War Stories

(See also: Letter from the Spring 2011 issue, “Were Anti-War Protesters Anti-Soldier?”)

What a surprise to find your article “Tug of War” in On Wisconsin [Fall 2010]. The photos brought back a painful memory. During “the troubles” of 1970, while I was in Vietnam and my wife and young children were in Madison, her car was nearly turned over, apparently because it had an identification sticker from an army post on the bumper. She was saved by a couple of good guys. Now, light years and many hard miles later, my sympathies are with the candlelight marchers at the Capitol, because I see General Petraeus’s Afghanistan counter-insurgency strategy as just a re-cooked Vietnam pacification program.

We now live happily in Texas near my two little granddaughters while I pursue my second career as a professional genealogist.

Richard Hooverson ’60 Lieutenant Colonel, Retired Belton, Texas

In 1967–68, at the height of the Vietnam War, I was an air force captain studying on campus for an MA in political science, and unless things got worse in 1970, Jenny Price’s interesting “Tug of War” was a bit harder on the university’s reputation than the UW I experienced.

I was well aware that, next to Berkeley, UW-Madison was the most radical school in the country. Still, being a bit naive (I saw my presence at the UW as a military assignment — after all, the air force had approved my scholarship), I spent the first week registering, getting advised, and orienting myself on campus in uniform, without a single incident or even a dirty look. It wasn’t until the day before classes when I reported to the professor of air science, who was to be my nominal commander while at the UW, that I was warned to “never, never wear your uniform on campus!” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that his warning was a week too late.

That said, when classes began and we were asked to introduce ourselves, I made no secret that I was an active-duty air force officer. In retrospect, it was probably the best thing I could have done, as it resulted in several very interesting class discussions about the role of the military in a democratic society.

I also made a number of good friends in the department, most of whom were very much against the war for various reasons. None of them, however, held my military status against me, and we had some great times. Antiwar protests caused tear gas to flow on Bascom Hill and into the graduate student lounge in North Hall — yet I was never put upon, insulted, or made to feel unwanted in any way by any of the students I met.

During my year on campus, the UW was definitely antiwar but, at least in my experience, not anti-military.

Sheldon Goldberg MA’68 Lieutenant Colonel, USAF, Retired Silver Spring, Maryland

The contrast on campus between now and the Vietnam years was an excellent reprise, but missing one key element.

The animosity and hysteria of Vietnam protesters on campus made an illogical and emotional jump to include anyone who had served honorably in the past in any branch of our armed services. This was most evident in the [Bill Dyke LLB’60-Paul Soglin ’66, JD’72] mayoral race in Madison in ’72. Dyke and six of his key committeemen, myself included, were all Korean vets, and all graduates of the UW. As a campaign tactic, we were all labeled “warmongers,” even by one of Madison’s newspapers.

We were nonplussed as to how this had any relevance in a small town, mid-America mayoral race.

Marshall Smith ’66 Madison

Published in the Winter 2010 issue

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