PLEASE WRITE A LETTER TO THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL (THE WALL)
When then-president Barack Obama announced his government was willing to spend $63 million on a series of commemorations of the American War in Viet Nam stretching over a decade, we in Veterans For Peace knew we had to respond. We built a website vietnamfulldisclosure.org to counter the Pentagon’s own website that supposedly chronicles how that war unfolded. We knew that their story would leave many of our stories out. We wanted more.
For example, if you go to our site you’ll find a detailed timeline capturing the many ways that soldiers resisted that war in and out of uniform. You’ll find plenty of narratives from soldiers and war resisters that do not flinch from the truth nor equivocate on the immorality of that war. We will continue to give our accounts — and yours — so that younger generations can get the whole picture, the full disclosure.
Part of our efforts includes a letter writing campaign. Over the past four years we have collected and delivered, on Memorial Day, 400 letters written to The Wall. We print the letters out and then put them into envelopes marked “Please Read Me.” At 10:30 am on Memorial Day we descend into The Wall in Washington, DC to solemnly place these letters where they belong at the feet of the names on that memorial. They are read by visitors to The Wall throughout the weekend and then are placed into the National Parks Archives. We take this ceremony very seriously. It is not a political gimmick. It is an act of reverence. If you’re interested in what these letters say, we have collected them into two volumes (Letters To The Wall) that can be purchased through LuLu.com .
Since 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the upsurge of resistance against the war in the ranks and on the streets of America, we are extending a special invitation to those who resisted and their loved ones who bore witness to their courage. Please write a letter to The Wall. Please join those who were impacted by the war, from soldiers to mothers and fathers to children and grandchildren to peace activists, as we write to those who died a half a century ago. Let them know that we have not forgotten them.
If you’re so moved, please send your letter to me, Doug Rawlings, at this address: email@example.com I promise you that we will deliver your words on May 27, 2019 to The Wall in Washington, DC. No matter how you lived out those days, your story needs to be told. It is through your words that history will reveal itself to all generations. Please join us.
Toward an honest commemoration of the American War in Vietnam
The Full Disclosure campaign is a Veterans For Peace effort to speak truth to power and keep alive the antiwar perspective on the American war in Viet Nam — which is being commemorated during this decade with a series of 50th anniversary events. Full Disclosure represents a clear alternative to the Pentagon’s current efforts to sanitize and mythologize that war, and to thereby legitimize further unnecessary and destructive wars.
November – Solidarity actions with the Vietnam Moratorium are taken by GIs in Long Binh, Pleiku, and Da Nang (Đà Nẵng), Vietnam.
November 3 – President Nixon delivers a major TV speech asking for support from “the great silent majority of my fellow Americans” for his Vietnam strategy. “…The more divided we are at home, the less likely the enemy is to negotiate at Paris…North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.” He articulates his “Vietnamization” strategy of protracted withdrawal of American ground troops and increased training of the South Vietnamese army along with continued air support. “Vietnamization” is Nixon’s alternative to what he terms “precipitous withdrawal.”
November 5 – Judge Julius Hoffman sentences Bobby Seale to four years in prison for 16 counts of contempt, each count accounting for three months of his imprisonment, because of his loud protests during the Chicago 8 Conspiracy trial, after he and seven others were indicted on March 20 for alleged actions at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
November 9 – 1,365 active-duty GIs sign a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for an end to the war.
November 11 – 100 GIs hold a Veteran’s Day antiwar demonstration in El Paso, Texas.
November 13-14 – GI Defense Organization organizes a National Conference on GI Rights in Washington D.C.
November 15 – The “Mobilization” peace demonstration draws an estimated 500,000–1 million demonstrators to Washington, D.C., for the largest antiwar protest in U.S. history (up to that point). The protest is organized by the New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (New Mob) and the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (SMC). Over 500,000 demonstrators gathered across from the White House for a rally where they were led by Pete Seeger in singing John Lennon‘s new song “Give Peace A Chance” for ten minutes or more. His voice above the crowd, Seeger intersperses phrases like, “Are you listening, Nixon?”, “Are you listening, Agnew?”, “Are you listening, Pentagon?” between the choruses of protesters singing, “All we are saying … is give peace a chance.” This massive Saturday march and rally was preceded by the March against Death, which began on Thursday evening and continued throughout that night and all the next day. Over 40,000 people gathered to parade silently down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. Hour after hour, they walked in single file, each bearing a placard with the name of a dead American soldier or a destroyed Vietnamese village. The marchers finished in front of the Capitol building, where the placards were placed in coffins. The vast majority of demonstrators during these days were peaceful; however, late on Friday, conflict broke out at DuPont Circle, and the police sprayed the crowd with tear gas. The people of Washington, D.C., generously opened schools, seminaries, and other places of shelter to the thousands of students and others who converged for this purpose. A daytime march before the White House was lined by parked tour buses and uniformed police officers, some flashing peace symbols on the inside of their jackets in a show of support for the crowd. Solidarity events by GIs, including whole units, were held throughout South Vietnam.
President Richard Nixon’s response to the march: “Now, I understand that there has been, and continues to be, opposition to the war in Vietnam on the campuses and also in the nation. As far as this kind of activity is concerned, we expect it; however under no circumstances will I be affected whatever by it.”
Activists at some universities continued to hold monthly “Moratoria” on the 15th of each month.
November 16 – For the first time, the U.S. Army publicly discusses events surrounding the My Lai massacre.
November 16 – Soldier’s Liberation Front forms at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
November 19 – In Washington, D.C., a military judge throws out solicitation charge against Roger Priest. [On July 22, the Navy Seaman was charged with soliciting men to desert, disrespect toward Gen. Earl Wheeler, J. Edgar Hoover, and Melvin Laird (for publishing a headline in his paper, Om: “TODAY’S PIGS ARE TOMORROW’S BACON”), intending to interfere with, impair and influence the loyalty, morale and discipline of the military and Naval Forces of the U.S.] The judge is overruled by Rear Admiral George Koch, Commandant Washington naval District.
2016 National Book Award Finalist, Viet Thanh Nguyen:
“All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory . . . . Memory is haunted, not just by ghostly others but by the horrors we have done, seen, and condoned, or by the unspeakable things from which we have profited.”