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.
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This Month in History: 1970
May 1970 – A Gallup poll shows that 56% of the public believe that sending troops to Vietnam was a mistake, 61% of those over 50 expressed that belief compared to 49% of those between the ages of 21–29.
Cambodian President Lon Nol’s army and police round up and shoot thousands of Vietnamese in Cambodia; others are placed in concentration camps. Eventually Lon Nol allows for the emigration of 300,000 Vietnamese to the RVN.
The U.S. Army issues new regulations allowing mustaches and sideburns.
May 1 – A combined force of 15,000 U.S. and ARVN soldiers attack NVA (PAVN or VPA) supply bases inside neutral Cambodia. The Cambodian government was not informed in advance of the attack. Throughout this offensive, NVA and the NLF carefully avoid large-scale battles and instead withdraw westward, further into Cambodia (centered in Kratie), leaving behind their base camps containing stores of weapons and ammunition. Kissinger staffers, William Watts, Anthony Lake, Laurence Lynn, and Roger Morris, resign over the invasion. In response to Watt’s resignation, Kissinger snaps, “Your views represent the cowardice of the Eastern establishment.”
President Nixon calls anti-war students “bums blowing up campuses.”
May 2 – American college campuses erupt in protest over the invasion of Cambodia.
When the press reports the secret U.S.-led invasion of Cambodia and the subsequent massive air strikes in that country, Alexander Haig, military aide to Henry Kissinger, notes that New York Times reporter William Beecher has been asking ‘suspiciously’ well-informed questions about the operation. Beecher’s latest story also alerts Defense Secretary Melvin Laird to the bombings (Laird has been kept out of the loop on the bombings). Haig tells the FBI he suspects a “serious security violation” has taken place, and receives four new wiretaps: on Beecher; Laird’s assistant Robert Pursley; Secretary of State William Rogers’s assistant Richard Pederson; and Rogers’s deputy, William Sullivan.
A total of 470 reservists sign an antiwar petition in the New Republic.
May 4 – At Kent State University in Ohio, National Guardsmen shoot and kill four student protesters and wounded nine. The four murdered students are Jeffrey Glenn Miller, Allison B. Krause, William Knox Schroeder, and Sandra Lee Scheuer. The Kent State incident attracts national and later worldwide media attention by way of dramatic photographs published in Newsweek; Time, and Life magazines.
In response to the shootings, over 450 high schools, colleges and universities across America are shut down. More than 4 million students participate in the only national student strike in U.S. history. In Washington, 100,000 protesters surround various government buildings including the White House. Police ring the White House with buses to block the demonstrators from getting too close to the executive mansion President Nixon pays a late night surprise visit to the Lincoln Memorial to speak with young protesters-to little effect.
May 5 – Speaking in support of the Kent State shootings, Governor Ronald Reagan (R-CA) says of efforts to stop student protests on university campuses, “If it takes a bloodbath, then let’s get it over with.”
General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (VCP) Lê Duẩn visits Soviet leader Brezhnev in Moscow. This is part of the developing diplomatic struggle between the Soviet Union, China, the DRV, the RVN, Cambodia, and the U.S.
May 7 – The American Federation of State, City, and Municipal Employees (AFCSME) calls for immediate U.S. withdrawal. Walter Reuther, UAW President, telegrams President Nixon condemning the war.
May 8 – The Hard Hat Riot in New York City: The riot starts around noon when about 200 construction workers mobilized by the New York State AFL-CIO attack some 1,000 college and high school students and others who are protesting the May 4th Kent State shootings, the Vietnam War, and the April 30th announcement by President Richard Nixon of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. The Hard Hat Riot, breaking out first near the intersection of Wall Street and Broad Street in Lower Manhattan, soon spills into New York City Hall, and lasts approximately two hours. More than 70 people, including four policemen, are injured on what became known as “Bloody Friday.” Six people are arrested.
May 11 – Lê Duẩn visits Mao in Beijing; they had not met since the mid-1960s, where Lê Duẩn allows that the situation in Southeast Asia is “complicated and there exist some difficulties.
May 13 – Project Pursestrings organized by Sam Brown and Mike Brewer in which hundreds of student lobbyists came to Congress for the McGovern-Hatfield ‘end the war’ amendment.
May 14-15 – At Jackson State University in Mississippi a student demonstration against U.S. policies in Vietnam and Cambodia, the killings at Kent State, as well as unequal and dehumanizing treatment—particularly racial intimidation and harassment by white motorists traveling Lynch Street, a major thoroughfare that divides the campus and links West Jackson to downtown. The combined force of police and National Guardsmen fire on the protestors. Two students are killed–a junior studying pre-law– Phillip L. Gibbs and a high school senior, James Earl Green, who had stopped to view the protest on his way home from his job at a grocery store. Eleven others are seriously injured.
May 15-16 – Armed Forces’ Day demonstrations against the war are staged at 12 Army and Marine Corps installations and 5 Air Force and Navy bases, with thousands of GIs participating.
At Fort Lewis, Washington, on May 15-16, there are demonstrations outside the gates of Fort Lewis in the town of Tillicum, drawing around 60 GIs and 200 civilians.
May 16-17 – Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik convenes the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Cambodian Question, which is hostile to Sihanouk and the Vietnamese Communists. While the DRV and the RVN are invited, the PRG is not.
May 18 – An estimated 150,000 pro-war protesters march without opposition through the streets of downtown Manhattan. Some workers in surrounding buildings show their support by showering the marchers with ticker tape.
A full-page ad in the San Francisco Examiner calling for immediate withdrawal is signed by 451 labor leaders.
May 19 – Operation Freedom Deal, a prolonged and extensive U.S. bombing mission against NVA (PAVN or VPA) and Khmer Rouge forces in Cambodia is launched. Some raids consist of up to 120 warplanes.
The National GI Alliance is formed.
May 21-26 – A Gallup poll shows that 56% of the public believe that sending troops to Vietnam was a mistake, 61% of those over 50 agree compared to 49% of those between the ages of 21–29.
May 26 – Destroyer USS Anderson leaving for Vietnam from San Diego breaks down and suffers over $200,000 in property damage, delaying its arrival by several weeks; later investigation finds sabotage as cause.
May 28 – The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia was incorporated in the District of Columbia on May 28, 1970. The League’s origins date to groups created by Sybil Stockdale and a group of POW/MIA wives in California, as well as POW/MIA wives in the Hampton, Virginia area led by Evelyn Grubb and Mary Crowe, in 1967.
May 29-31 – National GI antiwar conference in Atlanta, Georgia.