Friday, August 9, 2013

A General Who Championed Dissent

Douglas Kinnard fought in three wars, retired as a brigadier general and began studying dissent. That was in 1970, when the high-flying West Pointer turned down a promotion after his second tour in Vietnam and returned to college to study for a Ph.D at Princeton. Like many other colleges, the Ivy League campus in New Jersey was in turmoil as students and faculty passionately protested the expansion of the war in Vietnam into Cambodia.

Kinnard, who had harbored private doubts about the war while in uniform, said in an interview years later: “I think that the people who demonstrated against the war … frankly, I think they did the country a great service.”

Asked what, in subsequent years, he taught his political science students at the University of Vermont about the Vietnam War, he said: “I taught them that it was a war that should not have been fought.”

Kinnard, a native of Paterson, NJ, who died July 29 at age 91, after Army service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, was widely known as an author of military histories that reexamined established views. His obituary in The Record of North Jersey noted that he “ruffled the military establishment with his 1977 book ‘The War Managers,’ which asserted that the majority of generals who served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1972 were critical of how the war was run and, in retrospect, regretted U.S. involvement.”

According to The Record obit, Kinnard’s son, Frederick, said his father “also disagreed with the U.S. invasion of Iraq after 9/11. ‘He was extremely critical of going to war,’ the son said. ‘He felt that is the very last thing you do.’”

Kinnard was the author of several books, including an autobiography titled Adventures in Two Worlds: Vietnam General and Vermont Professor.

An insightful interview on Kinnard’s transformation from soldier to war critic can be found at:


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