It may not be surprising that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) snooped on renowned singer-songwriter Pete Seeger for decades and even that the bureau’s file on Seeger runs to nearly 1,800 pages. After all, Seeger was a high-profile opponent of the Vietnam War, and war is the health of the state. But, Seeger was targeted by the FBI before his singing and songwriting gained widespread attention. About twenty-five years before Seeger sang “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the Smothers Brothers national television show in 1968, Seeger drew the attention of the FBI by writing a letter to the California chapter of the American Legion.
The year was 1942, and the 23-year-old Seeger, who had been drafted into the United States Army, wrote a short letter to the American Legion chapter expressing his opposition to the chapter’s vote supporting action, as Seeger put it, to “1) deport all Japanese after the war, citizen or not, 2) Bar all Japanese descendants from citizenship!!” Seeger characterized the vote as expressing “narrow jingoism” and noted that he “felt sick at heart to read of this matter.”