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.
March US forces in Vietnam peak at more than 540,000.
Polls indicate that 19% of Americans want the war to end as soon as possible, 26% want South Vietnam to take over responsibility for the war from the U.S., 19% favor the current policy, and 33% want total military victory.
National Draft and Military Law Panel of the National lawyers Guild files suit to protect the rights of GIs marching in Easter antiwar demonstrations.
March 2 GI civilian conference held at Wright State University in Ohio.
March 4 President Nixon threatens to resume bombing the DRV (North Vietnam) in retaliation for NLF attacks in the South.
March 15 U.S. troops go on the offensive inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for the first time since 1968.
March 17 President Nixon authorizes Operation Menu, the secret bombing of Cambodia by B-52s, targeting enemy supply sanctuaries located along the border of Vietnam. See March 18, 1969-May 26, 1970 entry below for further details.
March 18 Reps Jeffrey Cohelan and Robert Leggett, both California Democrats, accuse the Pentagon of handing out “unconscionable, excessive, and unfair” sentences to soldiers convicted in a sit-down protest at the Presidio Stockade. See entries for October 14, 1968 and February 14, 1969.
Fort Lewis – Pvt. Isaac Barr, who had refused orders to Vietnam, is dragged on to a plane and shipped to Vietnam.
Fort Jackson – Founder of GIs United, Pvt. Tommie Woodfin, is” acquitted of charges of circulating GIs United petition asking for a post meeting to discuss the war.”
March 18-May 26, 1970 Operation Menu – the secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos — the codename of a covert United States Strategic Air Command (SAC) bombing campaign conducted in eastern Cambodia and Laos — is launched. Operation Menu was succeeded by Operation Freedom Deal, which lasted until August 1973. Operation Menu marked an illegal invasion of neutral countries which had not attacked the US and with which the US was not at war, setting a dangerous precedent for future preemptive military actions. Eventually more bombs were dropped on Laos and Cambodia than combined on Germany and Japan in World War II. Laos became the most bombed country in history. Agent Orange was also widely sprayed. The targets of these attacks were presumed sanctuaries and base areas of the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and forces of the NLF, which Nixon and Kissinger thought, utilized them for resupply, training, and resting between campaigns across the border in the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). The US also built up General Vang Pao’s Hmong forces in the northern and southern regions of Laos.
The impact of the bombing campaign on the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, the PAVN, and Cambodian civilians in the bombed areas is disputed by historians, though undoubtedly it led to the collapse of a neutralist Cambodia.
An official United States Air Force record of U.S. bombing activity over Indochina from 1964 to 1973 was declassified by President Bill Clinton in 2000. The report gives details of the extent of the bombing of Cambodia, as well as of Laos and Vietnam. According to the data, the Air Force began bombing rural regions of Cambodia along its South Vietnam border in 1965; the bombings were an escalation of what had previously been tactical air attacks. Newly inaugurated President Richard Nixon authorized for the first time use of long-range B-52 heavy bombers to carpet bomb Cambodia.
This bombing campaign was carried on in extreme secrecy was closely supervised by Kissinger with the help of Air Force Colonel Claude Sitton. A duel reporting system (to circumvent the Strategic Air command’s normal command and control system) wars set up to pretend that South Vietnam was the target of the Cambodia and Laos bombings. The real documentation was destroyed (in a special furnace) while false documentation was created to justify expenditures.
The simultaneous rise of the Khmer Rouge and the increase in area and intensity of U.S. bombing between 1969 and 1973 incited speculation as to the relationship between the two events. Ben Kiernan, Director of the Genocide Studies Program at Yale University, argues:
“Apart from the large human toll, perhaps the most powerful and direct impact of the bombing was the political backlash it caused…The CIA‘s Directorate of Operations, after investigations south of Phnom Penh, reported in May 1973 that the communists there were successfully ‘using damage caused by B-52 strikes as the main theme of their propaganda’… .The U.S. carpet bombing of Cambodia was partly responsible for the rise of what had been a small-scale Khmer Rouge insurgency, which now grew capable of overthrowing the Lon Nol government”
March 20 Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale., collectively known as the Chicago 8 are indicted for alleged actions at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago — charged under the anti-riot provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which made it a federal crime to cross state lines with the intent to incite a riot. The Chicago 8 indictment alleged crimes of three kinds: that all eight defendants conspired (together with another sixteen unindicted co-conspirators) to cross state lines to incite a riot, to teach the making of an incendiary device, and to commit acts to impede law enforcement officers in their lawful duties; that David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Bobby Seale individually crossed state lines to incite a riot; that John Froines and Lee Weiner instructed other persons in the construction and use of an incendiary device.
Black Panther, Bobby Seale, the eighth man charged, had his trial severed during the proceedings, lowering the number from eight to seven. The evidence against Seale was slim as he was a last-minute replacement for Eldridge Cleaver and had been in Chicago for only two days of the convention. On November 5, 1969, Judge Julius Hoffman sentenced him to four years in prison for 16 counts of contempt, each count accounting for three months of his imprisonment, because of his loud protests, and eventually ordered Seale severed from the case, hence the “Chicago Seven“. During the trial, one of Seale’s many protests led the judge to have him bound and gagged,
The 16 unindicted co-conspirators are: Wolfe B. Lowenthal, Stewart E. Albert, Sidney M. Peck, Kathy Boudin, Corina F. Fales, Benjamin Radford, Thomas W. Neumann, Craig Shimabukuro, Bo Taylor, David A. Baker, Richard Bosciano, Terry Gross, Donna Gripe, Benjamin Ortiz, Joseph Toornabene, and Richard Palmer.
March 21 Fort Jackson – Fort Jackson 9 (later 8), are arrested for “holding an illegal demonstration, … breach of the peace, … and disobeying an order.” See entry for May 20.
March 22 In this wide ranging discussion of Vietnam strategy, probably drafted by NSC staffer Morton Halperin, the central role of the Soviet Union in White House thinking about a diplomatic solution to the war is evident; so are ideas closely related to linkage and the Madman Theory-that Nixon is out of control and is capable of even seemingly irrational actions. According to Kissinger/Halperin, “There is no question that the Soviets could play a major role in bringing the war to an end if they decide to put pressure on Hanoi.” To accomplish that, it was necessary to “change the current Soviet calculation of gains and risks” associated with pressuring their Vietnamese allies. One way to do that would be for the Soviets to see risks in not helping Washington: “Within Vietnam we must worry the Soviets about the possibility that we are losing our patience and may get out of control.” Escalatory measures might be “considered in this light.”
9 antiwar protestors arrested for ransacking the Dow Chemical company in Washington DC. Dow produced Agent Orange and napalm for use in the war.
March 28 Fort Dix – SP/4 Allen Myers is arrested for posting sticker advertising April 5th GI-civilian demonstration in New York.
Tacoma – Founders of The Shelter Half coffeehouse are tried for “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” See entry for October 1968.
March 29 Letters from Vietnam veteran Ronald Ridenhour results in a U.S. Army investigation into the My Lai (Mỹ Lai) massacre.
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