Brian Willson

Brian Willson

S. Brian Willson (born July 4 1941) is a United States Air Force (USAF) veteran who became a prominent anti-war activist.

Willson served, from 1966 to 1970, in the USAF, including several months as a combat security officer in Vietnam. He left the Air Force as a Captain. He subsequently became a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace (Humboldt Bay Chapter 56, California). Upon completion of Law School at American University in Washington, D.C., he became a member of the District of Columbia Bar. Willson has had a variety of jobs including penal consultant, prisoner rights advocate, dairy farmer, legislative aide, town tax assessor and building inspector, veteran's advocate, and small businessman.

As a trained lawyer and writer, he has documented U.S. policy in nearly two dozen countries. Since 1986, Willson has studied on-site policies in a number of countries, among them Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Cuba, Haiti, Iraq, Israel (and Palestinian territories), Japan, and Korea, both North and South. Documenting the pattern of policies that he says "violate U.S. Constitutional and international laws prohibiting aggression and war crimes," Willson has been an educator and activist, teaching about the dangers of these policies. He has participated in lengthy fasts, actions of nonviolent civil disobedience, and tax refusal along with voluntary simplicity.

enate aide

He was prisoner rights aide to Massachusetts State Senator Jack Backman, served on Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis' homeless veterans and Agent Orange task forces, and worked with Massachusetts Lt. Governor John Kerry on Agent Orange and other veterans' isues, later becoming a volunteer for Kerry's first U.S. Senatorial campaign in 1984. After Kerry's victory, Willson was appointed to his veterans advisory committee.

Concord protest and injuries

In 1987, while engaged in a protest of U.S. weapons to Central America, an action publicized in advance, Willson and other members of a Veterans Peace Action Team were blocking the train tracks at the Concord, California Naval Weapons Station. Due to a government policy decision, the train refused to stop, and the veterans were injured when the train did not slow down as they expected. Willson was hit, run over, and nearly died. Ultimately, he survived but lost both legs below the knee while suffering a severe skull fracture with loss of his right frontal lobe, among other injuries. Subsequently, he discovered that he had been identified for more than a year as an FBI domestic "terrorist" suspect under President Reagan's anti-terrorist task force provisions and that the train crew that day had been ordered to not stop the train to prevent any Hijacking attempts. Willson filed a law suit contending that the Navy and individual supervisors were given ample warning of their plan to nonviolently remain on the tracks, and that the crew had plenty of time to stop--which the subsequent official Navy report confirmed. The train crew filed a law suit against Willson, requesting punitive damages for the "humiliation, mental anguish, and physical stress" they suffered as a result of the incident. Their suit was dismissed. Willson later agreed to settle his lawsuit against the Government and train crew for $920,000. He now walks with prostheses.


Brian Willson helped create "Veterans Education Project" (VEP) in Massachusetts; "Vietnam Veterans Peace Education Network" (VVPEN) in New England; "National Federation of Veterans For Peace" (NFVFP) in 1986 in Washington, DC; "Veterans Fast For Life" (VFFL) in 1986 on steps of US Capitol, a water-only fast that concluded after 47 days, which led to the four fasters being placed on a domestic "terrorist" watch list; "Veterans Peace Action Teams" (VPAT) in 1987, training and sending observation and work teams into Nicaragua and El Salvador, a project that lasted 3 years; "Nuremberg Actions" at Concord, CA in 1987; "Institute For the Practice of Nonviolence" in 1988 in San Francisco; and "The People's Fast For Justice and Peace in the Americas", a 42-day water fast on the steps of the US Capitol in 1992. Brian Willson was one of the very first members of Veterans for Peace.

Writing and film-making

While working for Massachusetts Senator Jack Backman, he investigated brutality at Walpole State Prison for more than a year, concluding in an official report that Walpole revealed "An Exercise In Torture."

His first book, an autobiography, "On Third World Legs" (Chicago: Kerr) was published in 1992. Willson has written numerous articles and essays, many of which are posted on his [ website] . He is Executive Producer of Santa Cruz Film Foundation, currently working on a documentary about the history of U.S. intervention in Korea that directly led to the Korean War, which he considers "one of the remaining unresolved international crimes of the Twentieth Century."

Personal life

Today, Brian Willson and his partner, Becky Luening, have a permaculture garden and generate most of their household and transportation energy needs from the sun. Becky is the organizer and coordinator of the Humboldt Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

Brian has been a member of a local community Post Oil Action Group, Humboldt Electric Vehicle Association, and his city's Nuclear Free Zone and Peace Commission. He considers himself a pacifist. In addition to possessing a Juris Doctor, he holds two honorary degrees (LL.D. and Ph.D.).

Vietnam veteran, anti-war activist and author for his extraordinary personal sacrifices to demonstrate opposition to militarism and U.S. involvement in Latin America, he was awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award at the Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston on September 26, 1992. [ [ The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Recipients List ] ]

ee also

*Ron Kovic
*Rachel Corrie
*Charlie Liteky
*Ben Linder
*Roy Bourgeois
*Veterans For Peace
*Addicted To War
*Nevada Shakespeare Company


External links

* [ Progressive Newswire statement from Brian Willson]
* [ An Essay on Common Dreams about the 20th Anniversary of Veteran’s for Peace]
* [ Interview of Brian Willson by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now]
* [ July 4, 2002 Essay on CounterPunch by Brian Willson]
* [ March 18, 2006 Essay on CounterPunch by Brian Willson]
* [ Speech against the War Machine]
* [ Testimony by Brian Willson of His Time in Vietnam]
* [ S. Brian Willson's homepage]
* [ "On Track", a play about Brian Willson]
* [ "Addicted To War" Frank Dorrel, publisher]
* [ US WILPF Website]
* [ "Arlington West Santa Monica" a project of Veterans For Peace]

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