Flower Child, Pentagon



The March on the Pentagon on October 21st 1967 was not the first, the last or the largest of anti-Vietnam war protests by activists, hippies, students and draft resisters. However, the rally was envisioned with one adamant purpose: to shut down the war effort, if only for a day — and on that October morning the crowd of some 100,000 confronted 2,500 rifle-wielding soldiers for just that. The organizerorganizer Abbie Hoffman held a mass exorcism, hoping to levitate the Pentagon 300 feet off the ground, turn it orange and vibrate out any evil spirits.

French photojournalist Marc Riboud noticed a lone girl posturing inches from the soldiers’ sheathed bayonets. She was trying to start a dialogue with them. Riboud crept close, snapping away in the soft, dying light of the late afternoon with the last of his film. He wouldn’t learn the girl’s name for three decades, but the photograph he took—a gauzy juxtaposition of armed force and flower child innocence—soon became a defining image of the antiwar era. The girl, Jan Rose Kasmir, was 17 when the picture was taken, a high-school student who’d bounced from foster home to foster home in the nearby Maryland suburbs. Now she had settled in Denmark.

The photo–perhaps as as proxy for the girl–talked to the soldiers; it convinced them to throw down their guns and join the anti-war movement soothingly and softly. However, what happened that day was anything but: it resulted in some of the first violent clashes of the antiwar movement as the soldiers lobbed tear gas into the crowds trying to force their way into the building. Six hundred eighty-one protesters were arrested, and dozens were beaten as they were pushed off the Pentagon’s steps. Norman Mailer chronicled these events in his firsthand account, The Armies of the Night.

In 2004, Riboud reunited with Kasmir when the latter was protesting the Iraq War in London.


36 thoughts on “Flower Child, Pentagon

  1. WO! At that demonstration I was absolutely NOT hit by any tear gas. that is not to say that it was not used – I just didn’t get gassed that day. May Day was another story! I walked into the cloud from an exploding “bowling ball” – what did i know? why would I think they were really going to hurt me? Dumb! My guy friend was whacked in the leg with a police bat – THAT HURT!
    But on the day of my picture when I was demonstrating at the Pentagon, the soldiers that lined up did nothing but shake. (Marc’s observation.) I just felt that they were stonewalling me – until THAT MOMENT – WHEN THE CAMERA CLICKED, IT WAS AT THE EXACT MOMENT I REALIZED THAT WE WERE ONE – THEY COULD HAVE BEEN MY BROTHERS – MY DATE – MY FRIENDS – THE RHETORIC OF THE WAR MACHINE WAS DEAD. WE WERE ONE.

    • Good Afternoon Jan
      WOW … I am currently evaluating the image of you taken at the Pentagon and for me it is very powerful … I would be very grateful if you could email me and tell me what prompted you to take such action … was it spontaneous and did you expect your image to become so iconic … how has this affected you throughout your life ? I understand you still protest for peace .. you are very inspirational and thank you for your time x

  2. Hello Jan – My daughters (8 years old) were asking about war and who protests war. They were asking what a hippie was and I told them about the movement for peace in the 60’s. I didn’t want to tell them too much because I like them to draw their own conclusions from life. But I remembered these photographs from an art history class and looked them up.

    Here’s what they say to you:

    “I am proud of you. Someday maybe I would like to stand up against war myself. You didn’t look scared at all. The soldiers looked confused. I am glad that you stood against the war.”

    “I think you did a great job keeping peace during the war. You are a great person. You are very confident. We learned a lot from these pictures.”

    Thanks for your continued effort for peace.
    The York girls
    Cat, Melanie and Charlotte York

    • “I didn’t want to tell them too much because I like them to draw their own conclusions from life.”

      Our children are constantly being propagandized, and one of parents’ main jobs is to educate and sensitize them to this. You missed a great opportunity to discuss the difference between how the war and war protestors are portrayed now, and what your own personal reality was. Hopefully, after six years, your daughters are still interested in your take on life. Don’t hold back!

  3. I’m form china.and my English is not well,but I still want to say:”it’s moved me so,almost maked me cry”.
    thank u for your share.

  4. This picture is still relevant today as I ask why are we still at war? Thank you for your courage in getting the message out.

  5. I was one of those Military Police standing on that line that day. Someone did pop some tear gas but it did not come from any of us. When we were taken back inside we accounted for all the tear gas we had. None of us had any ammo for our weapons. When the tear gas was popped we were caught in it and surrounded by demonstrators. Some were taking our helmets and trying to take our weapons. It was a scary thing for all of us. I will never forget October 1967. I was with the 503rd MPs from Fort Bragg. In December I was sent to Vietnam where I served with the 545th MP Company of The First Air Cav. Div.

    • I’d like to make a correction. I was not in that line pictured but in another line of Military Police. That line was not a line of Military Police. We all experienced some of the same events like putting flowers in the barrels of our unarmed weapons. Please not that all the bayonet’s were sheathed with the covers over them. They were never at any time unsheathed. Our job was to protect the Pentagon and also to allow protesters to protest and to do our best not to hurt anyone if at all possible. It was cold and we stood for many hours outside in it. We just wanted it to be over so we could go on with our lives. Our officers did a great job of getting us back inside so we could get warm again. I think we as American soldiers did an outstanding job that we had been training for for many months.

      • I was the company commander of the unit pictured, B Company of the 91st Engineering Battalion stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va. We were the only unit that fixed bayonets, at the direction of a general from the Pentagon, and he directed that we keep the scabbards on. That was is direct conflict with orders I had received from my chain of command.

  6. I recall the incident very well. Many Canadians opposed the Vietnam War, however there were tens of thousands of our citizens who served as civilians in a variety of positions such as medical units. Others joined US Forces. I believe the media greatly distorted America’s role in the VN War. As for the events of Oct. 21, 1967, the US military had every right to protect the pentagon. I also believe that drugs were the motivational force behind the hippies that organized those protests, had they been thinking clearly, they would have been defending their nation instead of rioting.

  7. My name is Tom Cox and I was the company commander of the troops shown in the two photographs! It is B Company 91st Combat Engineering Battalion, stationed at the time at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. I can identify the troops because we were the only unit that had fixed bayonets with scabbards. Many, if not most of the troops were draftees and their sympathies were probably very divided between supporting the protesters and fulfilling their military duties. And at no time did any of these troops inflict any harm to any of the protesters and we did not have tear gas although we did have our gas masks, as you can see in the picture.

    • Thomas!!!!!! I am so happy to have found you. I have been I praying that I could meet the soldiers who stood across from me that day. I hope you will take this as an invitation to contact me. I am on Facebook, Jan Rose Kasmir. I wanted you to understand that I honestly connected with the soldiers at the moment that photo was taken. The rhetoric melted – you were no longer the “war machine” – I SAW that you were just young men- boys who could have been my cousin, my date….. I SAW that you all were just as much a victim of war as my brothers and sisters in Vietnam. I sincerely identified with ALL people as belonging to the Family of Man.
      I understand so much more now. I am still a pacifist at heart, but a realist as well. Thank G!d the nazis were opposed in WW2, though, it has been impossible for me to justify any military action since then. In a perfect world the UN Peacekeepers would do just that, but alas that is an illusion.
      Please contact me! I would be so happy to connect with you and hear about your experience that day.
      Your sister in peace,

      • Jan,

        I am delighted to make contact with you! I am in Spain as I right this, participating in a program called Pueblo Ingles that is an English immersion program for Spaniards and I had not been back to this posting due to my travels and I will go to your Facebook page and write you a note.

      • Jan Rose Kasmir,
        it’s good that you are concerned about the world, and want it to be a better place. However, there are many secret meetings, plans, protocols, etc that are either totally ignored, or deliberately misrepresented by the corporate-controlled media, which is owned by the same people who control our politicians.

        Do not be so easily fooled into thinking the UN would be an altruistic, honorable peace-keeping force. The UN is controlled by the same criminals that control everything else, and who keep us at war for their own benefit and purposes.

    • My name is David Baugh. I was with B Company, 503rd Military Police Battalion and was at the Anti-Vietnam War protest as an MP during the time this picture was taken. Tom Cox may be correct with the identity of those soldiers in this picture but he is mistaken that they were the only ones with bayonets on their rifles with the scabbards still on. One other mistake is about who released a CS Tear Gas Grenade. None of us popped a grenade. We believed at the time that one of the protesters did it. None of us had any ammo. Not a single round. We did not go there to start trouble but to protect the Pentagon and allow prptestors to protest. A few of the protesters were jerks and said stupid stuff to us. We were tired, cold and hungry and just wanted the thing to end. The protesters left one heck of a mess for someone to clean up. They should be ashamed of that. Later that year I was sent to Vietnam. I served my time and came home to people calling me names. I tried to put the war behind me and go on with my life. I never did anything during my time in service to ashamed of.

      • I believe one of the soldiers was a Michael Hatfield from Springfield, Oh. I had dated him in high school. He went on to become a police officer in Springfield, Oh, now retired.

  8. I was there that day too. After walking across the bridge from the Mall we gathered to figure out what to do next. I was with some friends standing about 20 feet from some soldiers when a canister came bouncing along the ground and began emitting tear gas. It was painful and many people turned back toward the Mall.
    I moved along, choking with tears running down my face. Someone gave me some water and a wet rag for my eyes.
    After a while I walked over to the line of soldiers with some flowers in my hand. As I stood face to face with one particular soldier I saw he was my age, 18. He was shaking. I began talking to him, asking him if he really could shoot someone. I took one of the flowers and slid it into the barrel of his gun and his commander came quickly over to see what was happening. The young man I was talking to was pulled out of the line and the flower taken out. He was returned to stand in front of me again. Along the line others began holding their flowers up, some putting them in the guns levelled at our chests.
    I must have been about 20 or more yards to the left of Jan Rose Kasmir, nearer to the corner of the building.

    The tear gas had affected me a lot and I had to back away, sitting on some grass for a while, my eyes still full of tears.
    The flower gesture was spontaneous from me. It seemed to come simultaneously for several people in the crowd. I had learned from my father about gun safety and how something obstructing the barrel is dangerous. He had worked in the Pentagon for many years, and I was glad he had retired only months before.
    The pictures are beautiful and still hold such important lessons. I am glad to have been there and done that.

  9. […] Another impressive film photographer is Robert Capa, who was famous for his D-Day landings photographs that were taken in 1944. He risked his life to get the photographs but even though he used many films up, he only managed to get several decent photographs of the landings. However, the photographs that came out had the movement of soldiers that added a rushed effect. Capa was a specialist in documenting war related events such as the anti-Vietnam protests. https://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/flower-child-pentagon/ […]

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