This Week in Universal News: The March on the Pentagon, 1967

On October 21, 1967, an estimated crowd of 100,000 gathered by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to protest the Vietnam War and march on the Pentagon. Organized by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, the demonstration was the first major national protest against the Vietnam War. Along with the signs, chants, and other hallmarks of an anti-war demonstration, activists Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, Ed Sanders, and Jerry Rubin planned an exorcism designed to raise the Pentagon off its foundation and put an end to the war. While the exorcism was mostly designed as political theater, the group purportedly met with officials from the General Services Administration and obtained permission to attempt a three-foot levitation (reduced dramatically from their original plan of 300 feet). The group also planned to use an airplane to drop a multitude of daisies on the Pentagon. They were foiled by the FBI at the airport, but the daisies played a part in creating one of the most iconic images of the late 1960s–that of a young protester placing a flower into the barrel of a National Guardsman’s rifle. By the end of the protest, the Pentagon remained firmly on its foundation, nearly 700 protesters had been jailed, and dozens were hospitalized. While it would be nearly seven years until the end of fighting in Vietnam, the march on the Pentagon had a lasting impact on public discussions surrounding the war. In its contemporary assessment of the events, the Universal News narration straddles the political line, saying that both sides ended up as losers.

From the release sheet: 

WASH, D.C. DEMO– Violence at the Pentagon, more than six-hundred persons arrested, and the general feeling that everyone lost are the parts and sum of a two-day anti-Vietnam-War demonstration in the nation’s capital.

Anti-war protesters march in a “three hour parade across the Potomac” to demonstrate at the Pentagon.

You may view the complete reel, which also includes stories about a new fire extinguisher created in response to tragic fires on Navy aircraft carriers, an inflatable windshield, and college football, on our YouTube channel.

About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:

The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.

In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).

While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in OPA, and on this playlist.

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