The Vietnam war is remembered by some Americans almost as much for the dissent it aroused in this country as for the staggering loss of life and the legacy of grief it visited upon the Vietnamese. The protests became a movement whose skirmishes were fought in Berkeley, at Kent State and on the Mall in Washington, D.C. But one of the most controversial fronts of the anti-war movement is also one of the least remembered: within the military itself.
This compelling documentary by director David Zeiger recounts what were -- by the Pentagon's own figures, according to the filmmakers -- more than half a million ``incidents of desertion'' during the war, many of them acts of direct rebellion against the legitimacy of the war. At San Francisco's Presidio army base, 27 soldiers staged a sitdown strike to protest the war, and were put on trial for mutiny, which could have resulted in their execution. ``We were scared, man, we were really scared,'' recalls one of the strike's ringleaders. ``But we finally had them where we wanted them.'' The military brass would finally have to listen to them.
Many of the veterans interviewed for the film, such as former Green Beret Donald Duncan, were labeled traitors after they turned against the war, and in the current climate of strict fealty to the military chain of command, they no doubt will be seen anew by some as criminals. And the tales of ``fragging'' officers -- killing them with fragmentation grenades -- are a reminder that some ``acts of conscience'' were a fig leaf for murder. But the vast majority of uniformed incidents of insubordination required a mettle that many of these men and women wear on haunted faces, not on their chests.