Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Tinker v Des Moines 1969

Tinker v Des Moines 1969

1969. It was a time of empowerment. Blacks. Women. College students. The disabled. LGBTQ. Migrant laborers.  Native Americans. Immigrants.

And high school students.

Tinker v Des Moines


Tinker v Des Moines 1969

December 16, 1965

On December 11, 1965, high school student Christopher Eckhardt held a meeting with a group of students at his Des Moines, Iowa home. The group decided to wear black armbands in school on December 16 as both a Vietnam War protest and in support of Robert F Kennedy’s proposed extension of a truce the Viet Cong proposed truce on Christmas Eve. The student would keep wearing the bands until January 1, 1966.

Principals of the Des Moines schools learned of the plan and on December 14, 1965, adopted a policy that required any student wearing an armband in school to remove it. Any student who refused would be suspended until they agreed to comply.

On December 16, 1965, Chrisopher Eckhardt (16), Mary Beth Tinker (13) and her siblings, Hope (11) and Paul (8) wore black armbands. Christopher and Mary were suspended. The two younger students were not.  Mary Beth’s brother, John Tinker (15), was suspended for doing the same on the following day.

Tinker v DesMoines
Mary and John Tinker
Tinker v Des Moines 1969

Echhardt explains why

Christopher Eckhardt: I wore the black armband over a camel-colored jacket. The captain of the football team attempted to rip it off. I turned myself in to the principal’s office where the vice principal asked if ‘I wanted a busted nose.’ He said seniors wouldn’t like the armband. Tears welled up in my eyes because I was afraid of violence. He called my mom to get her to ask me to take the armband off. Then he called a school counselor in. The counselor asked if I wanted to go to college, and said that colleges didn’t accept protesters. She said I would probably need to look for a new high school if I didn’t take the armband off.

Tinker v Des Moines 1969

The beginning

The Iowa Civil Liberties Union approached the families and the ACLU agreed to help the family with a lawsuit. The Tinker and Eckhardts filed suit in U.S. District Court which upheld the board’s decision.

Tinker v Des Moines


A tie vote in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit meant that the U.S. District Court’s decision continued to stand.

Continues still…

The Tinkers and Eckhardts to appealed to the Supreme Court. The case was argued before the court on November 12, 1968.


On February 24, 1969 the US Supreme Court sided with the Tinkers in  Tinker v. Des Moines. Justice Abe Fortas delivered the opinion of the 7-2 majority. The Supreme Court held that the armbands represented pure speech that is entirely separate from the actions or conduct of those participating in it. The Court also held that the students did not lose their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech when they stepped onto school property. In order to justify the suppression of speech, the school officials must be able to prove that the conduct in question would “materially and substantially interfere” with the operation of the school. In this case, the school district’s actions evidently stemmed from a fear of possible disruption rather than any actual interference. (Tinker article) [Oyez article]

Tinker v Des Moines Independent Community School District
Mary Beth Tinker, and her brother, John Tinker, stand next to locker 319 in 2013 at Harding Elementary School in Des Moines
Tinker v Des Moines 1969

John & Yoko

Appropriately, on December 16, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono put up eleven billboards in major cities worldwide with the slogan: War Is Over!

Tinker v Des Moines 1969
John & Yoko’s billboard
Tinker v Des Moines 1969

John F. Tinker Foundation

Today, the  mission of the John F. Tinker Foundation is to promote awareness and understanding of the First Amendment rights of students and teachers, and to facilitate civil conversation about controversial social issues.

Here is a link to a 2019 Smithsonian Magazine article entitled The Young Anti-War Activists Who Fought for Free Speech at School

Tinker v Des Moines 1969

Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving

Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving

Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving
L-R: PFC Victor R. Sheets; SP4 Jim L. Barstad; and SP4 Clint R. Bath of D Co., 12th Inf Regt., 3rd Bde, 4th Inf Div, enjoy their Thanksgiving Day dinner at LZ St. George. 27 November 69.
Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving

Long road into American consciousness

An American military presence in Vietnam began in 1950 under President Truman.

Four days after the assassination of President Kennedy, on Tuesday 26 November 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s new administration reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the Republic of Vietnam.

The American public’s conception of the war did not began until August 1964 when naval attacks by the North Vietnamese was reported and on August 7 the U.S. congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Johnson the power to take whatever actions he saw necessary to defend southeast Asia.

Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving

Fog of War

In 2003, Sony Pictures Classics released Errol Morris‘s documentary “Fog of War.” In it, Robert McNamara, President Johnson’s Secretary of Defense. admitted that there was no actual second attack.

Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving

Increased troops/casualties

In any case, as you can see, following the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the American presence in Vietnam, and the resulting casualties, increased dramatically.

1960 Nov 24 900 American troops 5 Americans died
1961 Nov 23 3205 American troops 16  Americans died
1962 Nov 22 11,300 American troops 53  Americans died
1963 Nov 19 16,300 American troops 122  Americans died
1964 Nov 26 23,300 American troops 216  Americans died
1965 Nov 25 184,300 American troops 1,928  Americans died
1966 Nov 24 385,300 American troops 6,350  Americans died
1967 Nov 23 485,600 American troops 11,363  Americans died
1968 Nov 28 536,100 American troops 16,899  Americans died
1969 Nov 27 475,200 American troops 11,780  Americans died
Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving

From live turkeys dropped in 1962…

…to fasting in protest in 1969

Thanksgiving in the Vietnam War 1962…live turkeys airdropped. [Thanksgiving and Vietnam 1962]

Thanksgiving in the Vietnam War 1965…from President Johnson to the armed services: Today Americans of all faiths gather in their homes and places of worship and give thanks for the blessings of our great land. [Thanksgiving and Vietnam, 1965]

Thanksgiving in the Vietnam War 1966… Most American servicemen in Vietnam will haveThanksgiving dinners tomorrow starting off with shrimp cocktail and going on through turkey and giblet gravy…. [Thanksgiving and Vietnam, 1966]

Thanksgiving in the Vietnam War 1967…Thanksgiving Day church services in the nation… [Thanksgiving and Vietnam, 1967]

Thanksgiving in the Vietnam War 1968…Some 500,000 pounds of turkey are on the way to mess halls and tents throughout South Vietnam… [Thanksgiving and Vietnam, 1968]

Thanksgiving in the Vietnam War 1969… More than a hundred G.I.’s serving in a field evacuation hospital here boycotted Thanksgiving dinner today…  [Thanksgiving and Vietnam, 1969] [see also]

Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving

Alice’s Restaurant

Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving

The day after Thanksgiving 1965, Friday 26 November, Great Barrington police arrested Arlo Guthrie for littering in the nearby town of Stockbridge, MA. The resulting adventure would be immortalized in his song “Alice’s Restaurant,” one of the most influential protest songs of that era.

Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving

John Lennon

Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving

By the mid-60s’ Beatlemania was gone, but individual Beatles still had an impact.

On November 26, 1969,  the day before the American Thanksgiving celebration, John Lennon returned his MBE to the Queen as an act of protest against the Vietnam war.

Your Majesty,

I am returning my Member of the British Empire as a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts.

With love. John Lennon of Bag

Good Morning Vietnam Happy Thanksgiving