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Dale E. Noyd, 73; Air Force captain became conscientious objector

January 30, 2007|From the Associated Press

Dale E. Noyd, a decorated Air Force captain and fighter pilot who during the Vietnam War became the first conscientious objector to oppose a specific conflict, has died. He was 73.

Noyd died Jan. 11 in Seattle of complications of emphysema, his son Erik told the New York Times.

Noyd was given a medal for successfully landing a badly damaged nuclear-armed F-100 fighter at an English airfield. He also taught psychology at the Air Force Academy.

But in 1966, after 11 years in the Air Force, Noyd asked that he either be allowed to resign his commission or be classified as a conscientious objector because of his feelings about the Vietnam War. His request was denied and Noyd took his case to federal court in Denver in March 1967.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented him, said it was the first lawsuit claiming conscientious objector status because of an opposition to a specific war. In December 1967, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, saying the military had jurisdiction.

Then the Air Force ordered Noyd to train a pilot who was likely on the path toward Vietnam. Noyd refused and was court-martialed for disobeying orders.

During his military trial, the captain's belief that the war was immoral and illegal was not addressed. The panel of 10 officers, who were all Vietnam veterans, also did not allow discussion of Noyd's humanist beliefs.

Noyd, a native of Wenatchee, Wash., was sentenced March 9, 1968, to a year in prison. He was also given a dishonorable discharge and stripped of his pension and benefits.

After completing his sentence, he spent much of the next two decades teaching at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. He later built a boat and sailed to Tahiti.

In addition to his son, he is survived by a daughter, a brother and five grandchildren.

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