The Catonsville Nine: Priests and Napalm

While searching for local activists I stumbled upon Philip Berrigan, a former priest. As I read his Wikipedia page, my interest was piqued when I learned about his involvement with the Baltimore Four. The Baltimore Four were two Protestants, David Eberhardt and Rev. James L. Mengel, as well as two Catholics who would later form the Nine, Philip Berrigan and Tom Lewis.

On October 27, 1967, they used a mix of their own blood and blood from poultry they purchased on Gay St. Market, and poured it over draft files.


Later at the Baltimore Four’s trial, Berrigan said that “this sacrificial and constructive act” was meant to protest “the pitiful waste of American and Vietnamese blood…” Mengel said that the Four used both human blood and blood from poultry because United States military forces had killed and maimed not only humans but animals and vegetation. Philip and Tom were sentenced to six years in prison, David was sentenced to two years in prison, and Jim went on probation and took mandatory psychiatric counseling.

The Catonsville Nine protested for the same reasons. Most of Nine had worked in Guatemala or Uganda as teachers and nurses. Others were ex-military.  They experienced the United States military’s support of “dirty wars”.

On May 17, 1968, the Nine walked into a Catonsville draft board office, carried wire baskets full of 600 papers to the parking lot and burned them with homemade napalm.


This act shocked Americans and sparked debate across the nation, especially in Catholic households. It inspired other groups that followed, such as the Milwaukee Fourteen and the New York Eight. It also intensified protest against the draft and established pacifism as a reasonable response to war.

It was important that all of the Catonsville Nine were Catholic because it was previously a given that only hippies executed radical protests. Using nonviolent protest that they learned from participation in civil rights movement, the Nine became a catalyst for later peace movements.


This website contains more interesting information on the events that occurred before and after May 17th, 1968.

Works Cited

Kelly, Jacques, and Carl Schoettler. “Philip Berrigan, Apostle of Peace, Dies at Age

79.” tribunedigital-baltimoresun. N.p., 7 Dec. 2002. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

“Peacemaking: Images from Resistance Actions 1967-73.” Peacemaking: Images from

            Resistance Actions 1967-73. Jonah House, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Peters, Benjamin. “The Catonsville Nine: A Story of Faith and Resistance in the Vietnam

Era.” Peace & Change 39.1 (2014): 147–149. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

“The Catonsville Nine File: George Mische.” The Catonsville Nine File : George Mische. Enoch

Pratt Free Library, 2005. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.


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