Directed by David Zeiger
Year of production : 2005
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Sir! No Sir! energetically reveals the untold story of the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam. This is the story of one of the most vibrant and widespread upheavals of the 1960s – one that had a profound impact on American society, yet has been virtually obliterated from the collective memory of that time. This hidden history combines fast-paced archival footage with thoughtful interviews, “perfectly timed with new doubts about the Iraq War” (Variety).
In the 1960’s an anti-war movement emerged that altered the course of history. This movement didn’t take place on college campuses, but in barracks and on aircraft carriers. It flourished in army stockades, navy brigs and in the dingy towns that surround military bases. It penetrated elite military colleges like West Point. And it spread throughout the battlefields of Vietnam. It was a movement no one expected, least of all those in it. Hundreds went to prison and thousands into exile. And by 1971 it had, in the words of one colonel, infested the entire armed services. Yet today few people know about the GI movement against the war in Vietnam.
The Vietnam War has been the subject of hundreds of films, both fiction and non-fiction, but this story–the story of the rebellion of thousands of American soldiers against the war–has never been told in film. This is certainly not for lack of evidence. By the Pentagon’s own figures, 503,926 “incidents of desertion” occurred between 1966 and 1971; officers were being “fragged”(killed with fragmentation grenades by their own troops) at an alarming rate; and by 1971 entire units were refusing to go into battle in unprecedented numbers. In the course of a few short years, over 200 underground newspapers were published by soldiers around the world; local and national antiwar GI organizations were joined by thousands; thousands more demonstrated against the war at every major base in the world in 1970 and 1971, including in Vietnam itself; stockades and federal prisons were filling up with soldiers jailed for their opposition to the war and the military.
Yet today, with hundreds of thousands of American GIs once again occupying countries on the other side of the world, these history-changing events have been erased from America’s public memory.
Sir! No Sir! aims to change all that.
The film does four things:
1) Brings to life the history of the GI movement through the stories of those who were part of it;
2) Reveals the explosion of defiance that the movement gave birth to with never-before-seen archival material;
3) Explores the profound impact that movement had on the military and the war itself; and
4) Tells the story of how and why the GI Movement has been replaced with the myth of the spat-upon veteran.
Sir! No Sir! is a film that challenges deeply-held beliefs not just about the Vietnam War and those who fought it, but about the world we live in today. It is a vivid portrayal of William Faulkner’s famous observation that “The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.”