Vietnam War Protest Songs

This is a Guest Post by Michael Ezra

The 1960s was an important period in socialist history. It saw the rise of the New Left, those that looked to third world revolutionary leaders such as Che Guevara, Mao Tse Tung and Ho Chi Minh for inspiration. As opposed to the Old Left of course, which idolised Stalin and the Soviet Union. The movement reached its zenith in 1968, a year that as Tod Gitlin reports (The Sixties [Bantam Books, 1993]p.344),  an opinion poll of US college students showed more of them identifying with Che Guevara (20 percent) than with any of the presidential candidates. Max Elbaum adds (Revolution in the Air [Verso,2006] p.40), “For thousands and even tens of thousands … revolution had become the most important thing in their lives.”

Dominating much of the New Left’s political activity for the latter part of the decade was opposition to the Vietnam War. The 1960s will be remembered by those that were teenagers and in their twenties during it for many things – sexual liberation, mind altering drugs and the music scene. It was not surprising that many put pen to paper and composed songs either against the war, in favour of peace or in favour of a win by Ho Chi Minh and the Vietcong. Below are a few of those songs, all of which have been taken from Barbara Dane and Irwin Silber’s The Vietnam Songbook (Guardian Books, 1969):

Yankee Doodle

(Words by Ewan MacColl )

Yankee Doodle came to town,
H-Bombs in his pocket,
Says, “Chum, if you don’t toe the line,
I’ll blast you with a rocket!”


Yankee Doodle, Uncle Sam,
Batman, also Superman,
Known from here to Viet Nam
As Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Yankee Doodle went to Mars
Landed on a Sunday,
Found some people living there
And killed ‘em off by Monday. (Chorus)

Yankee Doodle went to work,
As hard as he was able.
Bombing schools and hospitals
And infants in the cradle. (Chorus)

Yankee Doodle’s got a plan
It’s called ‘Defoliation’,
Tried it out in Viet Nam
To civilize the nation. (Chorus)

Yankee Doodle, he’s the boy,
For rape, assault and pillage –
Never lets a day go by
Without he burns a village. (Chorus)

Yankee Doodle never crosses
Over any border,
Except to kill more people
In the name of law and order. (Chorus)

Yankee Doodle, he is brave,
A bold and gallant fighter!
He’s great at burning people’s houses
With his petrol lighter. (Chorus)

Yankee Doodle feels that he
Is not appreciated,
He’s generous with his napalm
And yet, somehow, he’s hated. (Chorus)

Yankee Doodle’s got the know-how,
Death is what he teaches:
And as he kills, dear Mr. Wilson
Murmurs little speeches. (Chorus)

National Interest March

(“Battle Hymn of the Republic”)

(Words by Tuli Kupferberg)

The flower of our youth arise from every town and dell,
The flower of our youth have heard the draft board’s magic spell.
The flower of our youth will soon be marching straight to hell,
And it’s in the national interest.


Gory, gory, give ‘em napalm,
Gory, gory, drop the A-bomb,
Gory, gory, make it H-bomb,
Cause it’s in the national interest.

I have listened to the mothers, I have listened to the sons,
I have listened to my generals, I have listened to my guns,
We shall strike them with a power greater than a thousand suns,
And it’s in the national interest.

Fracture, fracture me infractions,
Slay me, slay me with abstractions,
Killing has its great attractions,
When it’s in the national interest.

I don’t Stand Alone

(Words and music by Perry Friedman)

My name is David Mitchell,*
I am twenty two years old,
I refused to fight in Vietnam,
And that’s a crime I’m told.

I refused to kill in Vietnam,
Good folks just like my own,
And I know I’m in the right, judge,
And I don’t stand alone.

The U.S. judge in Nuremberg
Who judged the Nazi crimes
Said killing’s just as bad a sin
When it’s done six million times,

I wouldn’t do it once judge,
I never could atone,
And I know I’m in the right, judge,
And I don’t stand alone.

I saw the moving pictures,
Of homes in napalm flames,
I saw men burning children,
Men with American names.

To fly those wicked missions,
I’d never leave my home,
And I know I’m in the right, judge,
And I don’t stand alone.

They dragged me in this courtroom
‘Cause I won’t play their game,
I won’t burn peaceful villages,
Won’t torture, gas, or maim.

Thou shalt not kill, the Lord said,
That’s what I learned at home,
And I know I’m in the right, judge,
And I don’t stand alone.

Radicals don’t write songs like they used to.

*David Mitchell was a 24-year-old draft resistor who was sent to Federal Prison with a five-year sentence.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Verfasst von entdinglichung am 25. Januar 2010 ältere Archiv-Updates und Hinweise zu weiteren linken Archivalien unter “Sozialistika” und im Download-Archiv, ansonsten hier der Hinweis auf einen autobiographischen Text im Solidarity Webzine von 2007 von Tom Condit, der am 9. Januar im Alter von 72 Jahren verstarb und einen Nachruf auf die argentinischen revolutionären MarxistInnen Angel Fanjul (1927–2009) und Dora Coledesky (1928–2009) in der aktuellen Inprekorr, weiterhin finden sich eine Reihe von lesenswerten Texten auf der Seite der Offenen Uni Kassel und Poumista weist auf einige Protestsongs gegen den Vietnamkrieg hin: […]

  2. We have to remember that songs can become a for of propaganda and a morale booster. In Afganistan the Taliban banned music, musiciains, etc for the same reason. In Vietnam…same thing.

  3. […] vietnam war protest songs […]

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