US Students Campaign to Stop Dow Chemical Company From Manufacturing Napalm (1967-1969)


Initially the campaign targeted Dow Chemical in a bid to get the company to stop manufacturing Napalm. This later morphed into a demand for Universities to rid campus of Dow recruiters and their connections to the military industrial complex in general.

Time period notes

Dow Chemical stopped manufacturing napalm around June 1969, however it remains unclear if student demonstrations against campus recruitment continued after this date.

Time period

February, 1967 to June, 1969


United States

Location City/State/Province

Madison, Wisconsin; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Boston, Massachusetts; Mansfield, Connecticut; etc.

Location Description

Campaign coordinated across major US college campuses.
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • Students initiated campaign with op-eds in opposition to Dow at Berkeley and U. Wisconsin.
  • On October 10th, 1966, first action of campaign takes place with a march against Dow at UC Berkeley

Methods in 2nd segment

  • Activists organized a speaking event at a Dow board meeting to convince them of the harm Napalm was causing.
  • Leaflets recruit students for actions against Dow, including board speeches.

Methods in 3rd segment

  • Students took over Dow recruitment location and staged teach-in
  • Students staged a series of sit-ins at the recruitment center for Dow at U. Wisconsin-Madison in 1967

Methods in 4th segment

  • Protesters at several campuses targeted Dow recruiters by blockading them into offices; tactic also used against administrators.

Methods in 5th segment

  • Later on in the campaign, attempts were made at drawing connections across the activist left and including intersectionality by advocating resistance for other protest groups.

Methods in 6th segment

  • The last stage of the campaign involved advocating for University divestment from Dow and other companies engaged in the military-industrial complex

Segment Length

Campaign length: 2 years. Segment length: 4 months.

Notes on Methods

While generally nonviolent and dedicated to civil disobedience, the second sit in of a Dow recruitment center at U Wisconsin marked the first case of violence in the student movement against the Vietnam war, in which protesters retaliated to police violence with rock-throwing, spitting and name calling.


Students for a Democratic Society, Student Peace Union


The National Committee of Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam

External allies

Some University faculty members

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Dow Chemical Company, University Administrators, local police

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Public relations campaign by Dow to counter news reports and statements issued by protesters.

Campaigner violence

Spontaneous and non-sanctioned violence, including rock throwing and spitting, in retaliation to violent police response at October 1967 sit-in at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Repressive Violence

Beatings by police in response to October 1967 sit-in at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, first noted incidence of violence at a student protest against the Vietnam war.


Human Rights



Group characterization

Undergraduate and graduate students

Groups in 1st Segment

Student Peace Union

Groups in 2nd Segment

Students for a Democratic Society

Groups in 3rd Segment

The National Committee of Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam

Groups in 5th Segment

Students for a Democratic Society (Exit)

Segment Length

Campaign length: 2 years. Segment length: 4 months.

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

0 out of 6 points


0 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

2 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

While the campaign failed to directly stop Dow from manufacturing Napalm or end recruitment on campuses, Dow lost their contract with the government in June 1969. The campaign effectively stigmatized the company, and whether or not they lost their contract for this reason remains unclear. Additionally, while the instrumental goals were not achieved, social change was insofar as intense national media coverage was focused on the campaign. While growth in such a national context is hard to measure, the campaign clearly spread to campuses across the US, indicating cohesive growth.

Database Narrative

The United States first used Napalm as an incendiary device in Japan
during WWII. It melted flesh and produced horrific wounds. Napalm once
again took on a functional role for the US in Vietnam, and the
government requested bids from chemical manufacturing companies to make
Napalm in 1965. Dow Chemical, based out of Midland, Michigan, won the

In January 1967, Rampart magazine published color photographs of
mutilated Vietnamese napalm victims, cementing napalm's reputation as an
unethical tool in the arsenal of US military tactics. This was a
culmination of images of brutal napalm effects that had been flooding
into the US news stream during the previous year and a half.

Students for a Democratic Society launched the campaign to get DOW to
stop manufacturing Napalm with a rally at the corporation’s headquarters
on 8 August 1966. Dow responded that they had no say in the execution
of military orders and were only fulfilling their duty to country by
signing the contract. In October 1966, Students at the University of
California Berkeley held the first campus demonstrations in the form of a
rally and march against Dow Chemical and it's napalm production. This
demonstration sparked a wave of national campaigns against Dow and its
recruitment practices on college campuses. Movement leaders demanded
that colleges divest from DOW and end its recruitment on campus.
Initially, the campaign was organized by Students for a Democratic
Society and the Student Peace Union.

In the fall of 1967, students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
launched a series of sit-ins at Dow recruitment offices on campus. At
the second sit-in, in October 1967, administrators called in police, who
beat demonstrators with clubs. Students returned the violence with
stone throwing, spitting and name calling directed at the police.
Seventy-five protesters and 10 police officers were injured in the first
recorded incidence of violence at a campus protest against the Vietnam
war. Elsewhere across the US, student and faculty organized teach-ins
and blockades against Dow recruitment. Organizers at Harvard blockaded a
Dow recruiter in an office for 7 hours, and similar such stories were
commonplace on campuses across the US. In response to these tactics, Dow
launched a public image campaign aimed at countering the narrative of
the protesters and analyzed student organizing before sending recruiters
to campuses.

Organizers with the Student Peace Union and the National Committee of
Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam organized a lecture to the Dow
Board on 6 May 1968, hoping that what they considered was a thoughtful
demonstration of the effects of napalm would convince board members to
discontinue their contract. Internal division among the organizers over
tactics became apparent however during the planning process with
students advocating for more coercive tactics of civil disobedience than
persuasive ones. In the end, the board voted to renew the contract. As
1969 began, burnout and infighting in student groups across the country,
including Students for a Democratic Society, is reported to have led to
disarray and a loss of momentum.

In June 1969, Dow lost it's bid to continue manufacturing napalm for the
U.S. government, and ceased to produce the chemical. Despite this
development, student protesters continued to target Dow for it's
manufacture of other devices used in the deployment of napalm and other
weapons in Vietnam. Organizers shifted the campaign tone in a way that
aimed specifically at getting universities to sever ties with the
military industrial complex as a whole by cutting off recruitment and
selling endowment investments in Dow chemical. Neither demands were met,
and Dow reported that its recruitment numbers remained stable
throughout this period. While the campaign failed to meet its goals of
divestment and an end to recruiting, Dow did lose its contract. The
campaign against Dow continued past June 1969, merging with the larger
Vietnam war protest movement aimed at severing university ties with
companies engaged in the war effort.


Not known


Cole, Robert J. 1970 "'Keep Your Cool,' Dow Advises Targets of Anti-War Protesters." The New York Times, June 4, p. 61.

1967 "Chancellor Puts Up Bail for War Critics at U. of Wisconsin." The New York Times, February 23, P. 2.

Flint, Jerry M. 1969 "Napalm Bid Lost, Dow Still Target." The New York Times, November 2338.

Flint, Jerry M. 1969 "Dow Recruiters Try a New Tactic." The New York Times, February 10, P. 53.

2005 "Dow Chemical and the Use of Napalm." PBS. September 22, Retrieved September 21, 2015.

N.D."DOW Chemical." Resistance and Revolution: The Anti-Vietnam War Movement At the University of Michigan, 1965-1972. The University of Michigan. Retrieved September 21, 2015.

N.D."UC Berkeley Library Social Activism Sound Recording Project: Anti-Vietnam War Protests - San Francisco Bay Area." UC Berkeley Library Social Activism Sound Recording Project: Anti-Vietnam War Protests - San Francisco Bay Area. UC Berkeley. Retrieved September 21, 2015.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Lewis Fitzgerald-Holland, 21/11/2015