We entered the draft boards and took the 1A files,
those were about to be drafted without choice, put them in a bag
and took them outside put them in a pile in a small triangle area, poured homemade Napalm on them and burned them.
record which was at the time 4 D, a divinity deferment.
I did not know that the draft board got suspicious of my deferment and on the day of the
action had classified me as 1 A,
and thus I was taking my own draft file to be burned.
They were offered an opportunity to avoid the draft and the decision to serve in Vietnam, go to prison and Canada.
We received many thank yous over the years and one received last appears on the Milwaukee 14 Today home page.
On September 24, 1968, fourteen men, including five priests and a minister, removed approximately 10,000 1-A draft files from Milwaukee's Selective Service boards and burned them with home-made napalm in a nearby square dedicated to America's war dead.
After being arrested, they spent a month in prison, unable to raise the unusually harsh bail set at $415,000.
Trial was set for the following year, and most members served jail time.
Protesters marched on every court date, and Father Groppi came to their aid, co-chairing the Milwaukee 14 Defense Committee.
Their actions became legendary, along with other groups at the time, such as the Chicago 7 and the Catonsville 9 lead by activist Daniel Berrigan.
The Milwaukee 14 collection contains newspaper clippings, a newsletter that includes "The Prison Diary of Jim Forrest," written by one of the Milwaukee 14, and other items documenting their arrest and trial.
We reap exactly what we sow.”
(Hind Swarj or Indian Home Rule by M.K. Gandhi, First Edition 1938.)
BOB GRAF, 66, lives in Milwaukee.
He was a member of the Milwaukee 14, a group that burned A-1 draft records on Sept. 24, 1968 to protest the Vietnam War and to disrupt the Selective Service System
From the Milwaukee 14 news release at the time:
Bob Graf, 25, a Milwaukee native, is an editor of The Catholic Radical and graduate student in sociology at Marquette University. He is a graduate of St. Louis University and for seven years was a member of the Society of Jesus.
The Milwaukee 14 Today website:
Bob’s website: www.nonviolentcow.org
From the website:
On September 24th 1968, fourteen people — including five priests and a minister — removed approximately 10,000 draft files from Milwaukee’s Selective Service office and burned them with homemade napalm.
NAD: Bob, hello, thank you for taking time for this.
Has being a member of the Milwaukee 14 defined your life?
It has not defined my life but certainly affected it.
NAD: What else would you like people to know about you?
I am compelled by my nature to work for social justice and peace and to try my best to bridge the gap between what we believe and what we do.
Family, Friends, Catholic Worker Movement, Ignation Spirituality and nonviolence have been a major influence in my life.
NAD: At that time, you were 25, and had been in the Jesuits for seven years already? Were you ordained? How far had you gone in your training?
After high school in 1961 I joined the Society of Jesus. I was a novice and Jesuit scholastic student for those seven years. I was about halfway through my training as a Jesuit and was not ordained.
NAD: You were a seminarian at Marquette, right?
My last year in the Society of Jesus as a seminarian, Sept. 67-June 68 was as a graduate student at Marquette University.
NAD: On the day you heard about the action, what were your life plans?
Can you recall?
And can you remember if you thought oh boy, or oh shit?
In the summer of 1968 after I left the Jesuits I first heard about a nonviolent action similar to Catonsville 9 action in spring of 1968.
I had no clear-cut life plans and was naturally interested to learn more.
When I was at a gathering to plan the action I felt, as I did throughout the whole process that this was the next step on the road for me.
This natural feeling remained with me. At the trial when I was asked what I was feeling the action I said I felt like I would if I saw someone drowning.
I just did what I had to do.
NAD: Whose idea was the action?
As I said it was an action that flowed from the Catonsville Nine Action.
NAD: You followed actions in Baltimore [Oct. 1967], Catonsville [May 1968] and Boston [June 1968]?
I am not aware of the Boston action in June 1968. In fact there were three priests from the Boston area in Milwaukee 14 action.
Where was the action?
How did it happen?
What sort of stealthiness was required?
What was your part?
The action was, at the time, the Selective Service Office at Plankinton and Wells Street in Milwaukee, WI.
The action was carefully planed by a number of persons. There was a major need for secrecy.
After office hours on Sept. 24th we entered the building.
Two of the priests took the keys from a cleaning lady.
We entered the draft boards and took the 1A files, those were about to be drafted without choice, put them in a bag and took them outside put them in a pile in a small triangle area, poured homemade Napalm on them and burned them.
We stood arm in arm reading from the Gospel, praying and singing until the police arrived and arrested us.
My part was to enter the draft board that I was registered in, remove the 1A files, and take them outside to be burned.
An interesting side note that when I scouted the draft boards out I asked to see my own draft record which was at the time 4 D, a divinity deferment.
I did not know that the draft board got suspicious of my deferment and on the day of the action had classified me as 1 A, and thus I was taking my own draft file to be burned.
NAD: And then similar actions followed in Silver Spring, Chicago, and New York?
There were many similar actions that followed all over the country.
NAD: What good did it do?
The action was a symbolic protest to the war in Vietnam and the non-voluntary Selective Service.
The action made a major difference in the lives of many young men who were classified 1A and whose files were burned.
They were offered an opportunity to avoid the draft and the decision to serve in Vietnam, go to prison and Canada.
We received many thank yous over the years and one received last appears on the Milwaukee 14 Today home page. http://www.nonviolentworm.org/Milwaukee14Today/HomePage
Also, as I said before, for me it was not a matter of ‘doing good’ but just something I had to do.
NAD: And ... how many times have you been asked that question? Do you get angry when you hear it?
I really have not been asked that question of “what good did it do” very much.
At the time we were either loved or hated for the action and now it has become just a footnote in Milwaukee history.
When I was in the maximum security state prison it was a joke why I was there.
I learned to laugh at it and never have felt angry being asked about it.
NAD: What was going on at the time in Vietnam and in the United States that convinced you this was necessary?
Young man were being forced ‘to kill or be killed’ in an immoral and unjust war in Vietnam.
There was an increasing protest of the war and selective service system at the time when I felt I had to do something.
NAD: They would surely call you a terrorist now on Fox News.
Fox News is a creation of a divided and uncivil country.
In those days, as a Jesuit student at St. Louis University I was able to go to “teach ins” and learn from both sides what the war was about.
Now days I tried to get Marquette, to no avail, to have an open and honest discussion or debate on the moral question: Is it moral for Marquette University to Host Military Training on campus?
Not many, on either side of the question is interested in talking about this moral issue.
So I have an Internet debate forum at
NAD: What would you say to that?
I would try not to answer but just accept the insult and stigma as best I could.
There is no sense in arguing with persons who feel they have the “truth” and are not interested in ‘seeking the truth.’
NAD: Were there similar charges back then?
People certainly called us names.
If we were called a name similar to “terrorist” it would have been “communist.”
The communist were the terrorist of 50’s and 60’s. We were in Vietnam after all to fight the “communist” just like now we are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan to find the “terrorist.”
The name changes but the depersonalization of the enemies unfortunately stays the same.
NAD: William Ayers, a member of the Weather Underground, caught a lot of flack recently, being called a terrorist.
What do you say about that?
I say people should be judged but who they are or better yet not judged at all.
Labels, name-calling, stigmas are a major problem in our society.
You are right now interviewing a felon convicted of burglary, theft and arson.
NAD: How that does make you feel?
William Ayers is who he is and should be looked on in this light.
He and I are more fortunate than most persons who have to live with the stigma of criminal convictions or mental illness all their life.
NAD: There are actions today, civil disobedience, plowshares, but even when they do happen, we don't hear about them.
Over the years the ‘powers that be’ and the media have learned how to deal with nonviolent actions: Do not react to them just ignore them.
A good example is the 20,000 plus of the School of Americas Watch who march on Fort Bragg every year.
There is no media coverage, outside of Georgia, of this protest.
Where the powers that be and media have learned how to deal with us, we keep on doing the same old, same old protest and actions that are largely ignored.
In Milwaukee we are looking for some nonviolent actions that cannot be ignored.
NAD: I would imagine that news about your action spread far and wide. Correct?
Why is that? Is it because "they" had not yet fine-tuned their control of the media? Or what?
Yes, it did for, I believe, two reasons.
Milwaukee was a very divided town at the time along racial and political lines.
Something in Milwaukee had more impact than a similar action in Chicago.
As I said, persons literally loved or hated us.
My parents and some of the other parents of men in Milwaukee 14 band together in a support group to understand what had happened and share their feelings.
Also in those days, as I learned as a community organizer in the 70's, politicians would react to any question of their authority.
The reaction would help us organize more opposition and draw more media attention to our actions.
Now days politicians try to buy you out with compliments or honors and if that does not work they just ignore you.
NAD: Would you say people today are more complacent than they were in the 1960s?
I am not sure ‘complacent’ is the right word.
I just do think persons are aware of the power within them to make a difference and change.
They are looking for persons, like our new President, to make change but fail to realize it is, as the Catholic Worker Ammon Hennessey said a “One person revolution.”
(Actually he called it a One Man revolution in the days when man meant both woman and men.)
However, I am seeing more and more persons of all ages “waking up” so what goes around will come around.
NAD: Tell us more about yourself. What do you do? Your family? What is your passion today?
You can find a lot about me, probably more than you want to know, on www.nonviolentcow.org, formerly www.nonviolentworm.org.
My immediate family is my wife and son who live here in Milwaukee and my son, his wife and my grandchildren who live up north.
My passion these days is expressed in the name of my web page, nonviolence and the cow or worm representing sustainability.
I grow, serve friends and family, write, pray, reflect and read.
I have been called various names from prophet to manic, but now that I am retired and no one can fire me, kick me out of school and praise or insults do not matter much I feel grateful for my life, especially my family and friends.
NAD: If you could answer one or all of these, short or long, that would be great.
We don't ask these to make fun, but because we really seek the answers.
— Are UFOs real?
I do not know.
— Did we land on the moon?
— Did Bush knock down the towers?
I do not think so, but am not sure who all was in on it.
— Was Paul Wellstone's death an accident?
I do not know enough about the incident to say anything.
— Who did the Oklahoma City bombing? Timothy McVeigh, with others, with the Ryder truck, or was it the U.S. government, for whatever reason?
I think it was Timothy McVeigh with others.
— Waco. We burned kids right? On purpose, right? You can see flames shooting out of the tank.
We did burn the kids, on purpose or not I do not know. Certainly it was careless action not respecting life.
— Is Bigfoot real?
I do not think so.
— Is there a God?
NAD: Do you have hope in Obama?
Yes, I have hope in Obama but fear he cannot make real change, like avoiding a terrible war in Afghanistan, without each one of us doing something.
NAD: Does your favorite coffee cup have words on it? If so, what does it say?
I do not have a favorite coffee cup.
NAD: What else? What should I have asked?
You asked what you wanted to ask and I answered how I wanted to answer.
Ask more and it will be given to you.
NAD: And ... if you would like to, please insert link to something you want linked to.
NAD: Oh, just one more thing. [The Colombo Question]
What ever happened to the Milwaukee 14? Did you go to trial? Prison?
Twelve of us went on trial in state court for burglary, arson and thief and were convicted by a jury.
We went to state prisons in Wisconsin for a year-18 months and were on parole after that.
Two of the 14, Mike Cullen and Jerry Gardner, went to the federal system and spent time, about a year, in a federal prison.
Mike and his family were deported to Ireland after serving his prison time.
If you search the archives below, you will find, in a sort of order [last to first], interviews with:
Loren Coleman, Bigfoot researcher
Monty Borror, Sci-Fi artist from Virginia
David Ray, Great American Poet
Jack Blood, radio show host, in Austin, Texas
Danny Schechter, A Real Reporter
Bob Kincaid, host, Head-On Radio Show
Tony Packes, Animal Farm Radio Host, Keeping An Eye on Big Brother
Richard Flamer, Working With the Poor in Chiapas
David Ray Griffin, 9/11 Truth activist author
Barry Crimmins, U.S. comedian, author, social activist
Bret Hayworth, political reporter for the Sioux City [IA] Journal
Lisa Casey, publisher of website All Hat No Cattle
Joe & Elaine Mayer, activist couple in Rochester, Minnesota
Fr. Darrell Rupiper, U.S. priest revolutionary
Whitney Trettien, MIT student, Green Party activist
Meria Heller, radio show host
Phil Hey, professor, poet
John Crawford, book publisher
Steve Moon, Iowa Bigfoot researcher
Carol Brouillet, California social activist, 9/11 Truth
Russell Brutsche, Santa Cruz artist
Kevin Barrett, professor, radio show host, 9/11 Truth activist
A'Jamal Rashad Byndon, social activist in Omaha
Chris Rooney, Vancouver, Canada Catholic Worker, website publisher
Marc Estrin, political novelist, from the left
Peter Dale Scott, poet, professor, author, activist
Anthony Rayson, anarchist zine publisher, works with prisoners
Alice Cherbonnier, editor of The Baltimore Chronicle, an independent newspaper