Duty to Serve, Duty to Conscience

The Story of Two Conscientious Objector Combat Medics during the Vietnam War

978-1-57441-896-5 Cloth
6 x 9 x 0 in
288 pp. 40 b-w illus. Notes.
Pub Date: 07/04/2023


  • Cloth $34.95
Despite all that has been written about Vietnam, the story of the 1-A-O conscientious objector, who agreed to put on a uni-form and serve in the field without weapons rather than accept alternative service outside the military, has received scarce atten-tion. This joint memoir by two 1-A-O combat medics, James C. Kearney and William H. Clamurro, represents a unique approach to the subject. It is a blend of their personal narratives—with select Vietnam poems by Clamurro—to illustrate noncombatant objection as a unique and relatively unknown form of Vietnam War protest.
Both men initially met during training and then served as frontline medics in separate units “outside the wire” in Vietnam. Clamurro was assigned to a tank company in Tay Ninh province next to the Cambodian border, before reassignment to an aid station with the 1st Air Cavalry. Kearney served first as a medic with an artillery battery in the 1st Infantry Division, then as a convoy medic during the Cambodian invasion with the 25th Infantry Division, and finally as a Medevac medic with the 1st Air Cavalry. In this capacity Kearney was seriously wounded during a “hot hoist” in February 1971 and ended up being treated by his friend Clamurro back at base.
Because of their status as “a new breed of conscientious objector”—i.e., more political than religious in their convictions—the authors’ experience of the Vietnam War differed fundamentally from that of their fellow draftees and contrasted even with the great majority of their fellow 1-A-O medics, whose conscientious objector status was largely or entirely faith-based.

North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series

Published by University of North Texas Press