CALCAV announces plan to aid Vietnam War deserters on December 8, 1969.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 12/11/2001
  • Essay 3650

On December 8, 1969, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam (CALCAV) announce that the organization will aid deserters in escaping to Canada. Dr. Edward Palmason (1915-1997), president of the Seattle School Board and a CALCAV member, becomes briefly entangled in the resulting controversy.

Palmason's Position

Palmason was a physician and World War II veteran first elected to the school board in 1958. He became board president in 1969. CALCAV was formed in the 1960s to oppose U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. On December 8, 1969, in New York, CALCAV announced a national fund-raising campaign to assist draft resisters and deserters from the armed forces. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer identified Palmason as a local co-chair of CALCAV and quoted him as saying, "I admire a man who has the guts and the courage to take a stand." He predicted that the U.S. Government would eventually offer amnesty to men who resisted military service.

After Palmason's statement, U.S. Attorney Stan Pitkin announced that his office would "look into" (P-I) illegal activity by CALCAV. It was a violation of federal law for persons to aid and abet desertion or refusal of induction into the armed forces. The Rev. Thomas W. Miller, president of the Northwest Chapter of the American Coalition of Christian Churches publicly demanded Palmason's resignation.

Two days later, Palmason issued a statement in which he denied membership in CALCAV. Because of his opposition to the War in Vietnam in 1966, Palmason had allowed his name to be used on the CALCAV letterhead. He spoke out against the war only as a private citizen and not as a member of the school board. He did not encourage young men to resist the draft, or to desert.

Palmason lost his bid for reelection to the school board in 1971 because of his support for mandatory busing for desegregation.


"Seattle Group To Aid Deserters," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 10, 1969, p. 3; "Deserters' Aid To Be 'Looked Into,'" Ibid., December 11, 1969, p. 2; "Palmason Explains Affiliation," Ibid., December 12, 1969, p. 7; Constantine Angelos, "Race Became A Referendum On Busing Plan," Ibid., September 16, 1987, p. D-2; Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 278.

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