|Protesting the Amchitka nuclear test
Richard Nixon was president, the Pentagon Papers had been released just a few months earlier, the Vietnam War raged on, and the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union seemed out of control.
And, with the whole world watching, the U.S. government prepared to detonate a nuclear bomb on Amchitka Island in the Aleutian chain in Western Alaska. The planned blast would be almost 400 times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima at the end of WWII. It was the third and largest in a series of nuclear weapons tests which quickly became a focal point for environmental and anti-war protests.
One group of nonviolent activists in Vancouver, British Columbia, attempted to block the test by sailing into the test zone in an old boat they called "The Greenpeace".
Meanwhile, in Hawaii, four sailors from the guided missile destroyer USS Cochrane refused to board their ship when it was ordered to Amchitka to block the Greenpeace protesters.
After several days "underground", the quartet decided to make a public stand after being offered "santuary" in the Wesley Foundation, the United Methodist Student Center at the University of Hawaii. They were joined by a fifth sailor, David Mills, from the destroyer escort USS Ouellet.
The group was supported by a local coalition dubbed Harbor Project II, which had initially formed to support crew members from the aircraft carrier USS Constellation, then bound for Hawaii on its way from the west coast to Vietnam. One group of sailors had just been arrested after protesting the continuing war in Vietnam by refusing to rejoin the ship when it sailed from San Diego, and it was expected that others might leave the ship once it arrived in Honolulu.