Call for Teach-Ins on the American War in Vietnam in March, 2015
This March marks the 50th anniversary of the official introduction of US ground troops to Vietnam (March 2) as well as the launching of the bombing campaign, Rolling Thunder (March 8). On March 9, President Johnson authorized the use of napalm, a petroleum-based substance mixed with a thickening agent into a gel that would burn continuously and stick to anything it touched. While US involvement in Vietnam had been growing throughout the post-World War II era, the landing of marines in Da Nang marked a qualitative escalation in a war that resulted in the deaths and displacement of millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians, as well as the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans and the disruption of millions of American lives.
As the Pentagon pursues its program to commemorate the “valor” of US troops in Vietnam which “upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces” –as proclaimed by President Obama — we think it is crucial for Americans, and especially young people, to be reminded of the realities of that brutal and unnecessary war. As the Pentagon seeks to legitimize current and future American wars as it rewrites the history of the American war in Vietnam, we believe it is of the utmost importance that we commemorate the broad-based resistance to that war by young people, people of color, and the soldiers themselves.
March, 2015 is also the 50th anniversary of the teach-in movement which initiated the questioning of the war on college campuses. We are calling for a series of nation-wide teach-ins this March to counter the Pentagon’s propaganda and develop an honest commemoration.
- To understand what is at stake in the Pentagon’s commemoration
- To understand the devastating impact of the war on the people of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, as well as the American people.
- To unearth stories of the impact of the war as well as resistance to the war.
- To critique the continuing US policy of intervention and war since the Vietnam War.
Possible audiences and sources of support:
Young people in high school and college; prospective teachers; 60s generation people, including veterans.
Schools of Education and History, Geography, Communications, and Social Studies Departments are all sites of interest and possible support.
The 1965 teach-ins invited government spokespeople to present the pro-war position, and some of the time they put in an appearance which, in general, demonstrated the weaknesses in the pro-war position. Organizers should decide if this is possible and/or effective.
- Find a space with a large room – for general talks — and 3 (or more) smaller rooms for workshops.
- Be sure to obtain contact information from attendees. Have a note taker at each session. Highlight the web site (https://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org/).
- One day with opening talk or panel, one or more sets of workshops (say, morning or afternoon) and evening keynote or panel.
- Opening talk or panel should provide basic context as people’s knowledge of the war is at best uneven and often marred by media-based stereotypes.
Possible Keynote and Panel topics:
- What actually happened
- What people have or haven’t learned from the experience of the war
- Implications for Today
- The significance of Historical narrative
- US role in the world: Realities and Critiques
- America’s postwar memory; coming to terms or not?
5. Workshops can include films (possibilities listed below) and possible topics including:
- How it happened – a simple timeline highlighting actions and decisions from waning days of World War II to collapse of Saigon government in 1975.
- The impact on the civilian population of Southeast Asia (Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves is an excellent source)
- US government motives for intervention in Vietnam
- What was lost and what was won in the war
- The antiwar movement in the US, including differing strategies and tactics; what worked, what didn’t?
- International opposition and resistance to the war
- GI and veteran resistance
- Connections of antiwar movement to civil rights, Black power, and women’s movements
- US government reaction to and repression of antiwar movement
- The role of the media in covering the war and covering the antiwar movement
- War legacies, including Agent Orange and Unexploded Ordinance (UXO)
- US war and interventions since the war
- Militarization of society
- Implications for today
6. Possible speakers (obviously there are many others; for contact information email us at vncom50@gmPail.com):
- Authors: Christian Appy, H. Bruce Franklin, Nick Turse
- Veterans: Paul Cox, John Grant, Suel Jones, Jerry Lembcke, Camilo Mac Bica, Doug Rawlings, Susan Schnall, Brian Willson, Michael Uhl
- Others: Trude Bennett, Charlie Cobb, Bill Fletcher, Diane Fox, Susan Hammond
7. Possible Films For more information on these films look at Background Resources under Educational Resources on the Full Disclosure web site at https://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org/index.php/background-resources/#Videosdvds:
- Hearts and Minds, Academy Award winning documentary by Peter Davis (1974).
- Sir! No Sir! – The Suppressed Story of the GI Movement to End the War in Vietnam; produced, directed and written by David Zeigler. http://www.displacedfilms.com/films/sir-no-sir/
- Winter Soldier (1972) directed by The Winterfilm Collective.
- The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (2009); directed by Judith Ehrlich, Rick Goldsmith. With Peter Arnett, Ben Bagdikian, Ann Beeson, John Dean.
- http://zinnedproject.org/materials/dr-martin-luther-king-jr-beyond-vietnam/ [A video reading of MLK’s historic antiwar speech by Michael Ealy]
- Vietnam: The 10,000 Day War, Peter Arnett: Episode 1 (“France in Vietnam” and “America in Vietnam”)
- PBS’s Vietnam: A Television History: Episode 1: Roots of War
- Remember My Lai May, 23, 1989. 60 minutes. Producer(s): Kevin Sim, Michael Bilton
- The Untold History of the United States MP3 CD – Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged by Oliver Stone (Author) , Peter Kuznick (Author) , Peter Berkrot (Reader), Episode 7.
- Regret to Inform by Barbara Sonneborn. Sun Fountain Productions, 1999. 72 min. and teacher’s guide by Bill Bigelow.
- Biography of Ho Chi Minh on Biography (Release Date: 29 April 2000): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w0Mtv5i4d4&feature=related
- In the Year of the Pig Academy Award nominated documentary by Emilio de Antonio (1968)
For additional resources, check out https://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org/index.php/background-resources/ and https://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org/index.php/unit-plan/.
For further information, comments, additions, and critique, please contact us at: email@example.com.