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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 now approaching a series of 50th anniversary events. It represents a clear alternative to the Pentagon’s current efforts to sanitize and mythologize the Vietnam war and to thereby legitimize further unnecessary and destructive wars.
At Camp Lejeune, the display of “peace symbols” is outlawed.
Home Front coffeehouse in Colorado Springs loses its lease after the FBI visits the landlord.
The New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Viet Nam (New Mobe), is formed at a conference held in Ohio, hosted by the Cleveland Area Peace Action Council.
At Fort Ord, California, Private Benny Amos attempts self-immolation in protest against the war (he does not sustain serious injuries).
July 2: Wrightstown, New Jersey—Sgt. Harold Hariston (McGuire AFB), Specialist 4 Hal Muskat (Fort Dix) and 2 staff members of the Fort Dix coffee house file a $1,000,000 damage suit against the commanding general of Fort Dix and state and local officials for harassment of employees and patrons of the coffeehouse.
July 4-5: First national antiwar conference involving GIs is convened in Cleveland.
July 8: The very first U.S. troop withdrawal occurs as 800 men from the 9th Infantry Division are sent home. The phased troop withdrawal will occur in 14 stages from July 1969 through November 1972.
July 9: At the invitation of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam, Dave Dellinger arrives in Paris to arrange the release of three American POWs.
July 15: President Nixon, through a French emissary, sends a secret letter to Ho Chi Minh urging him to settle the war, while at the same time threatening to resume bombing on November 1 if peace talks remain stalled. [Come August, Hanoi will respond by repeating earlier demands for NLF participation in a coalition government in South Viet Nam.]
July 16: Peace activist David Harris is arrested for refusing the draft. [Harris ultimately served a 15-month prison sentence; Harris’ wife, prominent musician, pacifist and activist Joan Baez, toured and performed on behalf of her husband, throughout the remainder of 1969, attempting to raise consciousness around the issue of ending the draft.]
July 17: Secretary of State William Rogers accuses Hanoi of “lacking humanity” in the treatment of American POWs.
July 20: At Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a brawl between white and black marines at an enlisted men’s club spreads over the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines barracks area. The fighting leaves fourteen injured and one Marine dead.
July 22: TheNew York Times reports that, at a pretrial hearing for Navy seaman Roger Priest, the Pentagon admitted that they had 25 military agents assigned to his case, that attempts had been made by these agents under assumed names to receive copies of his paper, and that special arrangements had been made with the Washington, D.C. Sanitation Department to collect his trash and deliver it to Naval Intelligence. Priest is charged with soliciting men to desert, disrespect toward Gen. Earl Wheeler, J. Edgar Hoover, and Melvin Laird (a result of a headline in this 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., and that “Roger Lee Priest, journalist seaman apprentice, U.S. Navy, did, at Washington, District of Columbia, on or about 1 June 1969 in the June issue of a pamphlet entitled “OM The Liberation Newsletter” wrongfully used contemptuous words against the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, L. Mendel Rivers.”
July 25: The “Nixon Doctrine” is made public. It advocates U.S. military and economic assistance to nations around the world struggling against Communism, but no more VietNam-style ground wars involving American troops. The emphasis is thus placed on local military self-sufficiency, backed by U.S. air power and technical assistance to assure security.
July 30: President Nixon visits U.S. troops and President Thiệu in Vietnam. This is Nixon’s only trip to Vietnam during his Presidency.
July 30: At a press conference called by the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee, Bob Kukiel (who had been discharged from the Marine Corps on July 1, three months early, after requesting permission to distribute GI paper Head-On! at Camp Lejeune) refuted Rep. Mario Biaggi’s attempt to use clashes at Camp Lejeune between blacks and whites as an excuse for a witch hunt attack on all dissent in the military. Kukiel, who became opposed to the war while fighting in VietNam, described the unlawful harassment meted out to him and other antiwar Marines and to anyone found with a copy of Head-On!
July 30: A hundred soldiers demonstrate against the war at Qui Nhon (Quy Nhơn).
July 31 The New York Times publishes the results of a Gallup poll in which 53 percent of respondents approve of Nixon’s handling of the war, 30 percent disapprove, and 17 percent have no opinion.
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.”