#AtoZ 1968 – “C” is for the Catonsville Nine

“You’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.” ~ Astronaut Frank Borman, on seeing the entire earth from outer space as he and the crew of the Apollo 8 returned from orbiting the moon.

The Catonsville Nine
The Catonsville Nine in a picture taken in the police station minutes after the action by Jean Walsh. From left to right (standing) George Mische, Philip Berrigan, Daniel Berrigan, Tom Lewis. From left to right (seated) David Darst, Mary Moylan, John Hogan, Marjorie Melville, Tom Melville

The Catonsville Nine were nine Catholic activists who burned draft files as a protest against the Vietnam War. On May 17, 1968, they went to the draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, took 378 draft files, brought them to the parking lot in wire baskets, dumped them out, poured homemade napalm over them, and set them on fire. The Catonsville Nine were tried in federal court from October 5 to October 9, 1968. The lead defense attorney was William Kunstler.  They were found guilty of destruction of US property, destruction of Selective Service files, and interference with the Selective Service Act of 1967. They were sentenced to a total of 18 years’ jail time and a fine of $22,000.

Four of the nine – Mary Moylan, Philip Berrigan, Daniel Berrigan, and George Mische – went “underground” when it came time to show up for prison. In other words, the FBI had to try to find them. Father Daniel Berrigan caused considerable embarrassment to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover by popping up and giving sermons and then fading back into the “underground.” (Wikipedia)

Click here to listen to “Catonsville Nine (War No More),” a recording by Joe DeFilippo, a retired Baltimore County history teacher.

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Here’s the #89 song from Billboard’s Year-End Top 100 singles of 1968

“Scarborough Fair” by Simon & Garfunkel, joined by Andy Williams on “The Andy Williams Show”

20 thoughts on “#AtoZ 1968 – “C” is for the Catonsville Nine

  1. What a fab idea for a theme – might have to borrow it next year 🙂 Although I get what this group did was wrong, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought of a priest bobbing around 🙂


  2. Like your other commenters, I’d never heard of the Catonsville Nine but I do admire them for standing by their convictions. And I love the image I now have of Father Berrigan popping up to preach and then going underground again.


  3. People with principles, who didn’t abandon them when convenient or dangerous. History is full of them, yet their names remain in shadows, thanks for bringing them out in the open.


  4. Martha,

    I was too young to understand things about this war and while it was an unpopular one but I wonder how productive these sorts of demonstrations were in the end. Simon and Garfunkel is a favorite 60s group of mine and “Scarborough Fair” is quite memorable. Thank you for visiting my newest A2Z iPad Art Sketches Through the Alphabet post today on Curious as a Cathy! 😉


    1. I don’t know about how productive they were, Cathy, but I believe these young people at the time felt they had to do something. We were involved, for decades, in a war that we couldn’t win, yet more and more young men were sent to fight…and die. I love “Scarborough Fair” as well, and this rendition with Andy Williams is just beautiful. ❤


  5. Your Blog post today is just one more piece of evidence, that there is far more important history to a whole generation than just a concert at Woodstock. Very nice!


    1. Exactly, ZD. The music balances out some of the horror of what happened that year. I knew as I was building these posts that they weren’t uplifting (not many of them, anyway), but nonetheless important in history. Thanks.


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