In recent days, Lt. Ehren Watada has been saying in public addresses in Western Washington that the current U.S. predicament in Iraq is the result of a failure of the nation to learn the lesson of Vietnam.  --  As far as we know, no newspaper has reported this argument, and only one has alluded to it: the Tacoma Weekly [Matt Nagle, “Lt. Ehren Watada States His Case at UPS,” Tacoma Weekly, Jan. 25, 2007, p. A2].  --  Lt. Watada’s belief is that in a democracy leaders who are responsible for waging illegal wars must be held accountable.  --  Watada predicts that the current situation is likely to repeat itself until the lesson is learned.  --  Iraq, he says, is a “sick, twisted déjà vu of a tragedy of an older generation. Nothing has changed except the faces and the names.”  --  On Sunday, in the New York Times, eight days before Lt. Watada’s court-martial is scheduled to begin, an obituary appeared to corroborate Watada’s argument by reminding the nation of the case of Capt. Dale E. Noyd.[1]  --  Noyd died in Seattle on Jan. 11 at the age of 73.  --  In 1966 Capt. Noyd concluded that the Vietnam War was immoral and illegal, and refused on those grounds to train a pilot who was likely to be assigned to Vietnam.  --  Capt. Noyd was court-martialed, convicted, and sent to prison.  --  His argument that the war was illegal and immoral was not presented at his court-martial; like Ehren Watada’s Nuremberg defense, it was “ruled out as a matter for the court.”  --  Capt. Noyd also took his case to federal court in March 1967, and was supported by the ACLU, which called it “the first lawsuit claiming conscientious objector status based on opposition to a specific war.”  --  (Unlike Capt. Noyd, Lt. Watada has not claimed conscientious objector status.)  --  The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately refused to take the case.  --  Capt. Noyd was sentenced to a year in prison, given a dishonorable discharge, and stripped of his pension and benefits.  --  Dale Noyd went on to teach psychology for many years at Earlham College in Indiana, and for the rest of his life proudly displayed in his office both a commendation he received from the U.S. for heroism and his dishonorable discharge, his son, Erik, of Kirkland, WA, told the New York Times.  --  On Sunday, the Seattle Times also printed the obituary, but to date no other newspaper appears to have mentioned his death....



By Douglas Martin

New York Times
January 28, 2007

Dale E. Noyd, who as a decorated Air Force captain and fighter pilot attracted worldwide attention in the 1960s as a conscientious objector who objected to only one war, the one in Vietnam, died Jan. 11 in Seattle. He was 73.

The cause was complications of emphysema, his son, Erik, said.

Captain Noyd seemed the model serviceman. He was the only member of the 1955 Reserve Officers Training Corps class at Washington State University to be offered a regular, not a reserve, commission. He received a medal for successfully landing a badly damaged nuclear-armed F-100 fighter at an English airfield. He taught at the Air Force Academy.

But after 11 years in the Air Force, he became deeply disturbed by the Vietnam War, which he regarded as immoral and illegal. In 1966, he wrote an eight-page single-spaced letter to the Air Force asking that he either be allowed to resign his commission or be classified a conscientious objector. Denied on both counts, Captain Noyd took his case to federal court in Denver in March 1967, saying he was motivated by humanist beliefs. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented him, said it was the first lawsuit claiming conscientious objector status based on opposition to a specific war. In December 1967, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, saying it belonged in military jurisdiction.

At roughly the same time, the Air Force ordered Captain Noyd to train a pilot who was likely to be assigned to Vietnam. Captain Noyd refused and was court-martialed for disobeying orders.

His military trial, before a panel of 10 officers, was significant in part for what it did not address: the captain’s assertions that the war was immoral and illegal as well as the basis of his professed humanism. The central issue of whether his objecting to a particular war, rather than all wars, was valid was also ruled out as a matter for the court.

The panel did allow discussion of how Captain Noyd’s humanist beliefs affected his character. In the sentencing phase of the trial, a theologian told the judges, all Vietnam veterans, that risking one’s life for a core belief, as the officers had all done in battle, constituted a religious act. That was persuasive. The prosecutor summarized this view as “two religions butting heads against each other.” As a result, Captain Noyd was sentenced March 9, 1968, to a year in prison instead of the five years he could have received. He was given a dishonorable discharge and stripped of his pension and benefits.

Dale Edwin Noyd was born in Wenatchee, Wash., on May 1, 1933. His superior R.O.T.C. record gave him the privilege of choosing his first base, at Woodbridge, England.

In the resignation letter preceding his suit, he wrote, “My three-year assignment in an operational fighter squadron — with the attendant capacity for inflicting terrible killing and destruction — was based on the personal premise that I was serving a useful deterrent purpose and that I would never be used as an instrument of aggression.”

What changed Captain Noyd’s world view were three years he spent at the University of Michigan doing graduate work in psychology. The Air Force paid his tuition in return for six more years of service.

Charlotte Doyle, a fellow graduate student who is now a psychology professor at Sarah Lawrence, said in an interview that Captain Noyd arrived in class in a crisp blue uniform and rose whenever a woman entered the room. Quickly, though, he was swept up in intellectual conversations with other students.

“His whole intellectual framework changed,” Ms. Doyle said in an interview.

The Air Force sent him to teach psychology at the Air Force Academy. He assigned readings of French existentialists and tried to encourage a liberal arts atmosphere.

Captain Noyd served his sentence at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, N.M., and was released in December 1968. A month later, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of his case but noted that under a recently passed law, Captain Noyd should not have been imprisoned during his appeal.

Mr. Noyd was twice divorced. In addition to his son, of Kirkland, Wash., he is survived by his daughter, Heather Taylor, of Vancouver, Wash.; his brother, Gus, of Wenatchee; and five grandchildren.

He went on to teach at Earlham College in Indiana for two decades, then built a boat and sailed it to Tahiti. He lived in Hawaii before coming home to Washington State when his health began to fail.

Mr. Noyd kept two certificates on the wall of his study, his son said. One was his commendation for heroism, the other his dishonorable discharge.