Original photographer:
Jim Marshall
Jim Marshall

Bill Ganzel


Thomas Q. Reefe – "The Draft ‘Resisters’ 1965"

Thomas Q. Reefe

From the LOOK caption: "Berkeley, Calif., was the scene of an anti-war Vietnam Day rally. Placard holder at right strikes a militant note among the spectators." Berkeley CA, December 1965, photo by Jim Marshall.

Thomas Q. Reefe with the volunteers of the Santa Cruz Foster Grandparents program that he managed for a decade after a career as a professor of African Studies at various colleges. Santa Cruz, CA, December 2012.

"Few military involvements in our history have brought forth such massive, organized protests as the war in Vietnam," LOOK editor Chandler Brossard wrote at the end of 1965. "And no other dissent has been met with such official rage and counterattack as the action of 1965's 'resisters.'" The article showed photos of resisters burning their draft cards, police arresting demonstrators, conservatives heckling anti-war marchers, and … one reserve officer who was very public with his opposition to the war, Thomas Q. Reefe.

Reefe joined the Army Reserves (through ROTC) earlier in his undergraduate career. By the time he started graduate school in African history at UC Berkeley, and he was questioning the Cold War rationale for the war. He was in a bind – he knew he was destined to serve in Vietnam but no longer believed that the U.S. intervention was good policy. Reefe now describes himself as "a load mouth." So, of course, he couldn't just demonstrate against the war – he had to show up with a sign personalizing his opposition.

Shortly after LOOK published the article and the photograph, Reefe was visited by a couple of Army intelligence officers questioning his stands. We knows he was watched. Yet he continued demonstrating. He got beat up in the Berkeley Peace Park.

None of that got him out of the War. In 1970, he was sent to Vietnam, but somehow found a sympathetic commanding officer who assigned Reefe, the academic, to study race relations in the Army and heroin use. It was an eye-opening experience.

After the war, Reefe completed his PhD degree in African history with a year of field work in Cameroon. He taught and served as an administrator at several universities. Then he led several community organizations in California. From 1994 to 2011, Reefe directed the Foster Grandparents group in Santa Cruz. Even after retirement, he stays in touch with the group. He also organized a volunteer group that collects surplus items form scores of companies and distributes the items to the poor.

Thomas Reefe, Peace Wall