Melbourne, Australia – Bob Manz is 19 years old, in 1967 he received a notice of enlistment to serve in the Australian Army during the Vietnam War.
“I’m going to turn 20,” he told Al Jazeera. “That didn’t seem real to me – I never felt really that I could end up in Vietnam with bullets flying around.”
In 1964, the Australian government pledged to send troops to Vietnam to support the United States.
During a visit to the White House, Prime Minister Harold Holt at the time said his country would “go with the LBJ (Lyndon B Johnson)” – even if that meant forcing young men like Bob must “serve the country”.
However, Bob – and many young men like him – will take an impressive step towards becoming an anti-draft; a person is required to enlist to serve under the law, but will actively refuse to do so.
“When I became an objection to the draft, I did so on the basis that I wanted to do all I could to prevent the Australian government’s participation in the war on the basis that it was a war. War of nonsense, ”he said.
Bobbie Oliver, a lecturer at the University of Western Australia, is currently researching and writing a book about conscientious opposers and serpentine opponents.
Her research shows that between 1961 and 1972, more than 60,000 Australians served in the Vietnam War, a third of which were conscripts.
Of the 521 Australians who died in the act, nearly half were enlisted.
But the military service also met with fierce resistance.
Oliver said the embargo was unpopular because it was not guaranteed with public or Congressional consent.
She told Al Jazeera: “When national service was brought back in 1964, very quickly there was an option of sending conscripts to Vietnam,” she told Al Jazeera, noting that the objection with the draft also affected by protest movements in the US.
“There was no referendum. It was not agreed upon by either side of Congress or anything. It was just announced that this would happen. That is one of the reasons there is a strong opposition to that national service plan. “
An ‘undeclared war’
April 25 marks ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, as people in both countries remember the various conflicts their armies have engaged in, often in partnership – New Zealand also sends troops came to Vietnam, though they were not conscripted soldiers.
But while this day highlights the personal sacrifice and commitment of those who go to battle, few acknowledge those who oppose such conflicts, often at the expense of individuals.
Oliver said those who refused to serve initially would apply for conscientious objection, meaning going to court and demonstrating strict adherence to pacifism, often for religious reasons.
However, she said that “between 1967 and 1968, more people refused to comply”.
“Many people do not object for Christian reasons or any other religion – many people specifically oppose the Vietnam War, an undeclared war,” she said.
For young men who become anti-draft or conscientious opposers, the penalties for not complying with the draft or failing to prove complete pacifism can be severe – including both extended prison sentences in either military or civil prisons.
Teacher William “Bill” White was one of the first known anti-publicists, when in 1966 his conscientious objection application was rejected by the court.
After he refused to pay attention to the follow-up notices, he was dragged out of the house by the police and imprisoned.
In 1969, two years in prison for conscripted soldier John Zarb in the notorious Pentridge prison in Melbourne also attracted massive protests, with the government finally releasing him after 10 months.
Her research reveals “pretty horrible stories of how they’re treated,” Oliver said [in prison] Continue to eat cakes and water, wake up for hours and at night, be told to get up and write their names, ranks and numbers. “
– Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) April 24, 2021
This is not a popular opinion… but for me Anzac Day has become increasingly unrelated to history. We remember the war but not the people who fought it.
I’m ready for some strong objections to what I just tweeted.#nzpol
– DRD (@NZedAUS) April 24, 2021
Such punishments – along with social and family exclusion, and harassment – mean that some people who oppose conscience and those who are against the discussion have left psychological scars.
“People who have previous work experience or loved ones refuse to talk to them after that,” said Oliver. “Some told me they had a disadvantage at work and were denied a promotion.”
After refusing to take part in the medical examination, a judge sentenced Bob Manz to one week in prison, according to him to let him taste the prison if he continued to disobey his order.
After his release, Manz went underground after ignoring the last “call up” announcement and spent most of 1972 “one step ahead of the police”.
Fortunately, the voting Counter-war Prime Minister Gough Whitlam That same year meant the end of both war and military service.
It also means that Manz can return in public life.
“Whitlam won the election on Saturday and on Wednesday, [the conscripts] out of jail, ”he recalls. “And that’s it. Normal life. I am free, I can walk around ”.
The Australian War Memorial, which oversees the country’s military history, put on display information about the Vietnam War on war opposition and the role of conscientious protesters.
The memorial also holds photos, movies, interviews and articles about the protest movement in its archive collection.
But Bob Manz says more needs to be done to acknowledge opposition to the Vietnam War, along with supporting veterans, whether or not they enlisted.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced one Royal Committee on Veterans’ Suicide – including those who have recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At least 400 Australian Defense Force veterans have died from suicide since 2001 compared with 41 who died fighting in Afghanistan during the same period.
“The veterans have suffered a terrible injustice over the years,” Manz said. “They guarantee our understanding and support. And while we’re at it, we should reaffirm the anti-war movement’s contributions. ”
Before ANZAC Day, Bob – now 73 years old – pondered his role as an anti-draft.
He has no regrets.
“I am still very proud of what I have done. I think it was the right thing to do and I’m glad I did ”.