[Marxism] After Decades Out of View, Navy Deserter Hopes to Rally a New Antiwar Generation

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 23 09:18:05 MST 2016

NY Times, Dec. 23 2016
After Decades Out of View, Navy Deserter Hopes to Rally a New Antiwar 

Craig W. Anderson at home in Las Vegas last month. Mr. Anderson was one 
of the “Intrepid Four,” a group of seamen who deserted in Japan during 
the Vietnam War. Credit Isaac Brekken for The New York Times
LAS VEGAS — Nearly a half-century ago, Craig W. Anderson took a highly 
visible stand against what he considered an unjust war.

In 1967, he and three other Navy seamen walked away from their ship, the 
aircraft carrier Intrepid, when it docked in Japan after a bombing 
mission in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of Vietnam. Calling 
themselves “patriotic deserters,” they set off an unrelenting 
international manhunt.

Aided by a local pacifist group and hounded by United States and 
Japanese military police, the fugitives sneaked aboard a Siberia-bound 
Russian freighter and were later taken to Moscow by hard-drinking K.G.B. 

Called the “Intrepid Four,” they were both hailed as heroes and 
condemned as cowards. Mr. Anderson didn’t see himself as a 
rabble-rouser, just a sincere, blue-collar kid who had made a 
conscientious act against the continuing deaths of innocent Vietnamese 

He was eventually arrested by the F.B.I. and served for several months 
in a military prison before being released in November 1972 with a bad 
conduct discharge.

For more than four decades, Mr. Anderson went into his own personal 

He bounced around North America, produced a movie, wrote country music 
and wrote mystery books under the pen name Will Hart while living in Mexico.

He wasn’t running, he said.

“It was my past; it was private,” he said. “I’d just decided to set it 

Like many veterans who have survived tours of duty in Iraq and 
Afghanistan, he had returned from war emotionally damaged. And he still 
struggles to confront the consequences of that chapter of his life.

Now Mr. Anderson, 69, has decided to speak out about his experience, in 
part to promote a memoir he is writing. He wants other veterans to know 
what he went through, and hopes to rally a new generation of Americans 
to take a more vocal stand against the nation’s current military campaigns.

Mr. Anderson said he sees today none of the organized public protests 
against American war efforts so common on college campuses in his youth.

Writing has unleashed some personal ghosts.

“It was torture,” he said of the process. “It was like bleeding.”

A ‘Patriotic’ Desertion
On the night of Oct. 23, 1967, the four Navy seamen stood on a busy 
Tokyo street, approaching the end of a daylong shore leave.

“I’m not going back,” Mr. Anderson said. None of them were.

They destroyed their ID cards and uniforms. In the eyes of the military, 
they had committed the unforgivable sin.

Mr. Anderson and John Barilla were 20, Richard Bailey and Michael 
Lindner 19.

Mr. Anderson’s family’s military roots dated to the Civil War, but he 
had attended Berkeley peace rallies and believed that the Vietnam War 
was wrong. Yet he felt a duty to his mother and his grandmother to 
continue the tradition and serve.

The four spent their first AWOL night in civilian clothes, sleeping in a 
subway station and expecting the shore patrol to tap their shoulders at 
any moment.

“They were conscious of the fact this was a big thing they were doing,” 
said Ernest Young, a professor emeritus of Chinese history at the 
University of Michigan who met with them soon after they deserted.

In the days that followed, the deserters gave a taped interview to a 
Japanese television producer and Mr. Anderson read a statement.

“You are looking at four deserters, four patriotic deserters from the 
United States Armed Forces,” he began. “Throughout history, the term 
‘deserter’ has applied to cowards, traitors and misfits. We are not 
concerned with categories or labels. We have reached the point where we 
must stand up for what we believe to be the truth.”

By the time the video aired, the four men had left Japan. Seeking safety 
in a foreign country, they were aided by an unlikely ally.

With the assistance of Russian officials, the men stowed away aboard the 
freighter Baikal, using visitor’s passes supplied by the Soviet Embassy. 
They hid in the men’s room until the ship was out to sea, then presented 
themselves to a surprised captain.

Arriving at the Siberian port of Nahodka, they were met by K.G.B. 
agents, who poured them shots of vodka on the long trip to Moscow. For 
six weeks after arriving in Moscow, they were hailed as heroes, awarded 
the Lenin Peace Prize as a theater full of Moscow University students 
chanted “Molodets!” or “atta boy.”

Eventually, the four ended up in Sweden. But after three years there, 
Mr. Anderson wanted to rebuild his life in America.

He was able to pass through United States customs from Canada without a 
passport and arrived in San Jose, Calif., to a frigid welcome. His 
mother had become an alcoholic, he said; his brother refused to speak to 
him. “He was outright against me,” Mr. Anderson recalled. “We never 
repaired that.”

One morning, as he left his San Francisco apartment to buy a newspaper, 
he was greeted by two men in suits. “They said, ‘Mr. Anderson?’” he 
said. “And I knew right away.”

He spent nine months in a high-security brig on San Francisco’s Treasure 
Island, often in solitary confinement, addressed only by his military 
number, B887517. After he went on a hunger strike, Mr. Anderson was 
hospitalized for a psychiatric assessment.

Military prosecutors had wanted a four-year sentence, but a judge 
released him with a bad conduct discharge.

Mr. Anderson emerged another person. “I couldn’t tolerate crowds,” he 
said. “Sirens made me jump.”

He and his second wife moved to rural Mendocino County, where they lived 
in a tent. After they divorced, Mr. Anderson went on to become a 
songwriter and author, beginning a decades-long journey in search of 

He said he didn’t speak of his experience for more than 40 years.

Preserving a Legacy
At the end of 2015, while living in Mexico, Mr. Anderson met Kathleen 
Watterson, who was living in Las Vegas, in a political chat room. They 
quickly became friends, and he decided to relocate to southern Nevada.

Ms. Watterson knew him only as the author Will Hart and had no inkling 
of his past. But in April, Mr. Anderson finally confided his secret. For 
some reason, he trusted her.

“I have something to tell you,” he began. “You’ve probably seen me 
before. My real name is Craig Anderson. I’m one of the Intrepid Four.”

Then he related the story of how a decision he made at 20 had recast his 
entire life.

Mr. Anderson is considering a visit to his old ship, the now-retired 
Intrepid, which serves as a military museum in New York City and 
features a small exhibit of the Intrepid Four.

Recently, he spoke with another Intrepid Four member, John Barilla, who 
lives in Canada. The other two remained in Sweden.

“I recognized his voice,” Mr. Barilla said. “It was still there, the old 
Craig, after 40 years.”

They relived what Mr. Barilla called “our magical mystery tour.”

“It was fantastic,” he said. “I didn’t realize that when I was in it.”

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