When American soldiers fought against Vietnam War

“Sir, No Sir!” an Audience Award winner for best documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival, tells the largely unknown story of the GI movement against the war in Vietnam.

“It really was very much the buildup to the Iraq war that prompted it,” said filmmaker David Zeiger by phone from Los Angeles. “Suddenly this story from 35 years ago was very current.”

The film begins with images of a bombing raid over Vietnam, the sound of a staticky unauthorized radio broadcast and the strains of “Soldier Boy.”

Narrator Troy Garity tells of the early 1960s troop buildup and the first acts of opposition within the military.

Ex-Green-Beret Donald Duncan says he “liked being a Green Beret … but I wasn’t doing right,” and quits to oppose the war. Howard Levy, a military doctor, is jailed for refusing to help “win hearts and minds.”

In “another time and place, I might have been a very good soldier,” says Bill Short, who disobeys an order to count bodies; Army nurse Susan Schnall is prosecuted for demonstrating against the war in uniform; and Puerto Rican Louis Font becomes the first West Pointer to refuse to fight in a war.

A Black soldier says, “The only place a Black man should fight is where he’s being oppressed.”

“Sir, No Sir!” combines often wrenching testimony, past and present, with media accounts and film footage — much new to the public — of soldiers relaxing at antiwar coffeehouses, protesting and facing trial.

Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland perform for enthusiastic GIs and Fonda speaks of what she did and why.

The movement grows from individual acts of refusal to a powerful force for change. By the time the United States pulls out of Vietnam in 1975, the war is so unpopular among those meant to wage it — the desertion rate is enormous and the murder of officers is a constant threat — that it has to end.

“Sir, No Sir!” is playing at various locations across the country. To check the schedule, go to www.sirnosir.com.

Reprinted from New York Public Employee Press.

Sir, No Sir!
Directed by David Zeiger
Documentary, 85 min.