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 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.
May 20,000+ Selective Service records are burned in Chicago and Pasadena, while at post offices and federal buildings around the country, the names of the war dead are recited.
May 6 Fort Dix – Edwin Arnett, the first GI to be tried for desertion from Vietnam to a foreign country, is sentenced to four years at hard labor.
May 8 The NLF puts forth its 10-point position at the Paris negotiations calling for (1) respecting Vietnam’s independence, unity, and territorial integrity as recognized by the 1954 Geneva Agreements, (2) total US withdrawal, (4 & 5) establishment of a provisional, coalition government, (6 & 8) a neutralist foreign policy, (7) the DMZ as only a provisional boundary, (9) mutual release of POWs and the US bearing full responsibility for the devastation of Vietnam, and (10) international supervision of the withdrawal of foreign troops and war material. This remained the consistent position of the NLF — and then its replacement Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG); see June 8, 1969 entry — throughout the Paris negotiations. This position may be compared to the actual Peace Accords of January 27, 1973 (see https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Paris_Peace_Accords).
May9 The New York Times (in an article by military reporter William M. Beecher) breaks the news of the secret bombing of Cambodia. As a result, Nixon orders FBI wiretaps on the telephones of four journalists, along with 13 government officials to determine the source of news leak. Beecher claimed that an unnamed source within the administration had provided the information. Nixon was furious when he hears the news and orders Kissinger to obtain the assistance of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover and discover the source of the leak. Hoover suspected Kissinger’s own NSC aide, Morton Halperin, of the deed and so informed Kissinger. Halperin’s phone was then illegally tapped for 21 months. This was the first in a series of illegal surveillance activities authorized by Nixon in the name of national security.
May 10-May 20 Forty-six men of the 101st Airborne as part of Operation Apache Snow (May 10- June 7) die during a fierce ten-day battle at ‘Hamburger Hill’ in the A Shau Valley near Hue. 400 others are wounded. After the hill is taken, the troops are then ordered to abandon it by their commander. The NVA (PAVN or VPA) then moves in and takes back the hill unopposed.
The costly assault, and its confused aftermath, provokes a political outcry back in the U.S. that American lives are being wasted in Vietnam. The debate over Hamburger Hill reaches the US Congress, with severe criticism of military leadership by Senators Edward Kennedy, George McGovern, and Stephen M. Young. In its June 27 issue, Life Magazine publishes the photographs of 241 Americans killed in one week in Vietnam; a watershed event in turning public opinion against the war. While only five of the 241 photos were of those killed in the battle, many Americans thought that all of the photos were casualties of the battle. It is the beginning of the end for America in Vietnam as Washington now orders MACV Commander Gen. Creighton Abrams to avoid such encounters in the future. General Abrams discontinues the policy of “maximum pressure” against the PAVN to one of “protective reaction” for troops threatened with combat action. ‘Hamburger Hill’ is the last major search and destroy mission by U.S. troops during the war. Small unit actions will now be used instead. Following the bloody battle, soldiers offer a $10,000 reward in an underground newspaper for fragging the officers in charge.
May 14 During his first TV speech, President Nixon presents an 8-Point peace plan in which America and North Vietnam would simultaneously pull out of South Vietnam over the next year. The offer is rejected by Hanoi, as it viewed all Vietnamese forces as legitimate participants in the conflict (Point 3 of their May 8 Ten-Point plan) and not as outside interlopers.
May 15 Daily support of the Presidio swells to 5,000 as GIs, vets, and civilians protest sentencing of the Presidio 27. See entry for February 14.
May 20 Army announces it is dropping charges against the Fort Jackson 8. See entry for March 21.
May 22 Canadian government announces that immigration officials would not and could not ask about immigration applicants’ military status if they showed up at the border seeking permanent residence in Canada.
Wright-Patterson AFB – Airman 1/c Larry Friedberg and Sgt. Rossarie Bisson are arrested for distributing leaflets announcing May 31 anti-war march in Dayton.
Pentagon drafts Guidance on Dissent as a guideline in the handling of “dissenters.” The letter gives instructions to commanders on how to handle many facets of dissent ranging from possession and distribution of political materials, Servicemen’s Unions, and demonstrations to the publication of “Underground” newspapers.
May 24 GIs and Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) organize an antiwar picnic in Riverside, California.
May 25 A group that came to be known as the Chicago 15 burn draft records in Southside Chicago.
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.”