The Few, the Proud, the Spies

Spying on civilians was part of El Toros mission

In a 1969 Los Angeles Times profile on UCI political activists preserved in a FBI file, Hofmann is quoted as being unsure what he would do after college. Criticizing corporate capitalism, Hofmann told the Times: "There just aren't many jobs today that let you be a human being. Everything contributes to the kind of society we have now—the hypocrisy and preoccupation with material possessions that victimize everyone who doesn't define success and happiness in terms of money and status." These days, Hofmann limits his political activism to donations to such liberal causes as Amnesty International. An English major then, he didn't graduate with his comrades who entered UCI's first freshman class; instead, he came back about 10 years ago to finish his degree—this time in philosophy—amazed at how the campus had transformed itself from four buildings to a major university. After editing guitar and graphics-design magazines, he now works for a major computer company.

The report claimed that many participants were "obviously not students," suggesting they could be from the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy. The report concluded that no military personnel were involved and that there was no evidence the rally influenced any such personnel. "The departure of the participants at 4:24 p.m. was orderly and without incident."

According to the El Toro base commanding general's July 19, 1966, cover memo accompanying the report, the protesters "failed to obtain the desired publicity," which he attributed to the military's ample warning of the pending demonstration, thorough briefing of military personnel as to the aims of the demonstration, Orange County law enforcement's "cooperation and control," the protest's restriction to a remote area with limited contact with military personnel, "no visible concern" on the base, the remoteness of the base from populated areas, and the "local conservative press."

By conservative, it undoubtedly meant the then-Santa Ana Register, which published two front-page photos on the demonstration but with no story beyond a brief caption: "Pickets at El Toro." One photo showed a protester holding a sign reading, "We Americans Want Peace." Right below one photo was a headline about another protest 3,000 miles away: "NYC Vietniks Sit in Path of Armed Forces Parade."

Spence Olin, then a young faculty member who was also assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at the time of the El Toro demonstration, does not remember that protest, but "I presume my picture is in there," he said in reference to the military dossier. [The photocopies released do not clearly identify anyone.]

Olin, who was subsequently promoted to dean of humanities at UCI before retiring, recalled Parmalee as a "bright" graduate student. A historian who co-edited the now defunct Journal of Orange County Studies, Olin views that initial UCI class as exceptional. "Unlike any subsequent period in UCI history at least, there was a substantial proportion of the students who were prepared to be activists on behalf of what could be called radical causes . . . never a majority, but certainly several hundred," he said.

He attributed the radicalism to the Vietnam War and the "general tone of the times." About the FBI, Olin said, "I remember they were on campus, but I don't believe they ever talked to me. Hazard [Adams] is a man of real principle. . . . He wasn't on the side of the student protesters, but he's a man of conscience, so [what he] would not want to do is undercut them."

Olin believes that period of student turmoil was "influential in the long-term thinking," even of those "opposed to what was going on" in the area of democratization of university decision making. "What the students there now don't realize is the sort of battles that were waged in opening up the process . . . and many departments have abandoned those," he noted.

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