Sunday, July 22, 2018

Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee
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July 11, 2018 

The Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee is preparing for a new stage of action and invites both your counsel and participation.

Our primary focus moving forward will be the 50th anniversaries in 2019 of the nationwide Moratorium (October) and the Mobilization demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco (November).

For that to be real, we depend on your help in deciding what to aim for  
locally and nationally.  An easy way to join the process is through the survey form available here.  Make use of the comment box or write us at greater length.

Following are accounts of how VPCC addressed the 50th anniversary of My Lai, in Vietnam and in Washington.  If you organized or participated in an observation of any kind, please let us know, and send copies of press coverage. 

The PBS Vietnam War documentary continues to be both a concern and an opportunity, as reported below with a link to VPCC's new Ten Questions guide.

We were represented at the 50th anniversary of the Catonsville Nine draft file burning in May and will publicize other commemorations organized locally with national significance such as for the Chicago Democratic Convention protests.

We envision the Martin Luther King Holiday and the anniversary of My Lai as annual opportunities to lift up in our communities the link between peace and social justice as well as the ongoing need to address the humanitarian legacies of war.

Despite decades of peace, the war constantly claims new victims from land mines, unexploded ordnance and Agent Orange.

And Vietnam's sovereignty faces new yet very old threats in the South China / East Sea, ironically this time with Washington as Hanoi's ally.

Enjoy the summer,

Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee

Sally Benson * David Cortright * Ann Gallivan * Susan Hammond * Rick Hind * Susanne Jackson * Frank Joyce * Steven Ladd * Paul Lauter * John McAuliff * Terry Provance * Brewster Rhoads * Nancy Jane Woodside 

Remembering the Moratorium 
and the Mobilization

The Moratorium proved to the country that the movement against the Vietnam war was diverse and widespread.  Newscaster Walter Cronkite told a national audience that October 15, 1969 was "historic in its scope. Never before had so many demonstrated their hope for peace." 

The BBC reported, "The Peace Moratorium is believed to have been the largest demonstration in US history with an estimated two million people involved.
In towns and cities throughout the US.  Students, working men and women, school children, the young and the old, took part in religious services, school seminars, street rallies and meetings."

Church and school bells rang; black armbands were worn; candlelight vigils were held; films were shown; neighborhoods were canvassed; names of war dead were read; groups of business people, professionals and government workers participated; more than 1,000 high schools joined in.  Several cities witnessed demonstrations of thousands, most notably 50,000 in Washington and 100,000 in Boston.  Forty members of the House and Senate endorsed the action. 

A good example is what took place at North Carolina State University as documented in 2011 by its library (click here)  Another illustration of the excitement of the day was the paper of the most conservative Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania (click here).  A Google search is likely to quickly turn up similar accounts from where you lived then or your home now.


"At the University of Pittsburgh, more than 1,000 students planted wooden crosses in the lawn
in the shape of a peace symbol in Pittsburgh to support the Vietnam Day moratorium, Oct. 15, 1969. The 137 wooden crosses bore the names of men from Allegheny County who have died in Vietnam." (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)

A month later some schools and communities carried on the Moratorium's goal of monthly grassroots action, but most energy and media attention went to the Mobilization, the largest anti-war demonstrations to date.  It brought as many as 500,000 people to Washington and 150,000 to San Francisco, including active duty GIs and Vietnam veterans.  

The Mobilization was preceded by the 40 hour March Against Death.   Contingents carried on individual placards the names of Americans from their own state who had been killed, totaling 38,000 at that time, as well as of destroyed villages, pausing and proclaiming them in front of the White House.  

Merging the styles and politics of the Moratorium and the Mobilization was not simple.  Unfortunately the idea of coordinated grass roots nationwide activity faded away, until the eruption that followed Nixon's invasion of Cambodia and the killings at Kent and Jackson States.


The Moratorium's 50th anniversary  is a special opportunity to remind our country of the power and influence of the antiwar movement and to explore lessons for today.  A columnist in the Philadelphia Inquirer portrayed the 1969 Moratorium it as a model for mobilizing opposition to Donald Trump.

Discussion is under way with leaders of the October Moratorium (Sam Brown, David Hawk and others) and of the November Mobilization (Cora Weiss, Dick Fernandez, Ron Young) to learn what they plan to do and how VPCC can cooperate. 

Conversations are also being initiated with contemporary young activists.  We are inspired by these energizing words of Jaime Mattingly, a young mother who helped lead the March for Our Lives in Key West.  She described her Millennial Generation of activists as standing on the shoulders of grass roots struggles of the past including the anti- war movement.

A major goal is to understand how the Vietnam experience is relevant to current movements for peace and social justice, especially those seeking to control private and police gun violence, to address the dangers facing immigrants and to end similar military interventions.  

We envision sharing and weighing options over the next few months, contingent always on our search for funding.  A decision about how to move forward will be made in the fall.

Your feedback is crucial to what we will do.

For this to work we need a preliminary sense of interest from people receiving this newsletter.  Please spend a few minutes completing an online survey here.

An important question is whether to focus on stimulating local programs in October or a national event in November, or to try to do both.  A working draft for local activity is outlined here.  A different approach to build a national action is described here.   

Add your own ideas in the comment boxes on the survey form and on the working drafts or return longer responses to  Your personal thoughts are welcome now.  Also very useful are later suggestions based on conversations or meetings with former and current activists.


Help us honor the Moratorium and the Mobe. 

My Lai, March 16  
Never Again!  Never Forget!

A welcome amount of attention was given by the US mass media to the 50th anniversary of the massacre in My Lai.  

In Vietnam there was a large public ceremony at My Lai, headlined by the presence of recently retired President Trương Tấn Sang, seen with his wife placing flowers in this AP Video.  While the victims were honored, the orientation of the event was more to the present and future.  The Vice Chair of the Province gave the principal address  but none of the survivors or eyewitnesses spoke.  (Brief video by Rick Hind here.)

The launch of a My Lai Peace Foundation was announced with this mission:  

"We remember war crimes so that everybody will remember peace more, and will consider any future actions that might leave a mark on peoples lives."  

The Foundation is creating a My Lai Memorial Square and Park with conference facilities that "will serve as an icon for Quang Ngai and a global destination for peace seekers and anti-war activists"  (see article here; for more information or to support them, contact

The US was represented at My Lai by delegations from Veterans for Peace and the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee.  No one from the US embassy took part.  (See VPCC response read at a meeting after the ceremony here.)  

The same day in Washington, VPCC held a one hour vigil in front of the White House.  Organizer Terry Provance reported;

Leaflets were given to passersby, some of whom joined us. Our large banner "MY LAI: NEVER AGAIN" could be seen from all parts of Lafayette Square and we took time to discuss the reasons for our gathering with people who stopped and showed interest. Tourists photographed us. Three television crews covered the demonstration.  Reuters, Religious News Service, Al Jezeera, and BBC Radio 5 interviewed speakers. Vietnam News Agency ran a story and The Washington Post had an op-ed by Howard Jones, author of a new book on the massacre and a speaker.  (see pictures and text here )

We have adapted the My Lai 50th anniversary statement that was endorsed by 250 people into a permanent sign-on call urging the date be observed annually.  Read it and add your name here.  

50th anniversary memorial at My Lai (photo by Rick Hind) 

"The Vietnam War" of PBS (cont.)

The full PBS series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick can now be viewed on Netflix. Those who buy the double box set have the option of watching a more explicit language version. There is also "bonus content" provided but it does not affect problems in the series from a peace movement perspective.

PBS has created nineteen lesson plans for high schools using sections of the documentary.  They are listed here  The Chicago Democratic Convention unit is here .  (If you are or were a teacher, we very much need publishable evaluations of each of these lesson plans.)
VPCC member Paul Lauter has authored Ten Questions, an essential supplement to the PBS guides that will help teachers, librarians and others using the series for educational purposes.  View and download them here

[update 7/14]
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Directing For Nonfiction Programming for "Episode 8: The History Of The World (April 1969-May 1970)". Other nominations that were received by the production team are for Outstanding Writing  for Nonfiction Programming (Geoffrey C. Ward for the same episode), Outstanding Sound Editing For Non Fiction Programming and Outstanding Sound Mixing For Nonfiction Programming.  (Full list here.)
Documentaries don't get a lot of attention from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences but if Burns, Novick and Ward receive an Emmy in September, it will benefit long term use of the series and bring some attention to the episode that includes the Moratorium. 

Veterans for Peace objected to "The Vietnam War" being nominated because of its content.  The organization is expected to oppose the directing and writing awards.  
A key organizer is actor/activist Dave Clennon who wrote us, 

The cumulative effect [of the series] is sobering, and it might act as a deterrent when viewers are confronted by American leaders promoting the next war.
But a debate over the historical accuracy and truthfulness of the series would have the benefit of keeping the subject in the public mind. Does the "The Vietnam War" deserve to be rewarded and canonized with Peabodys, Emmys and Pulitzer prizes? Or should we say "No," and push PBS to put forth a deeper, more honest historical account? 

Some members of VPCC agree with the VFP campaign. Others feel that on balance Burns and Novick deserve recognition by the television industry for professional  achievement. One friend observed 

The film, despite its many flaws, does have a positive impact on people new to the history of the war. If Buns and Novick win, it will build more of an audience, which in the long run will create more interest in the war that we might be able to take advantage of. If they lose, it will have no impact on antiwar work.

A new critical article has been published by Michael Stewart Foley of the University of Grenoble in The Sixties:  A Journal of History, Politics and Culture: "There is no single lie in war (films): Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and The Vietnam War".  Read it here.  Links to additional reviews are here and here. Please send reports of new reviews to .

Who else will tell our story?

Voices of Conscience Conference
a report from the University of Notre Dame 

This Kroc Institute in the Hesburgh Center for International Studies sponsored a successful conference May 22-24 to examine the history and moral and political implications of opposition to war within the military during both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. 

This is the link to its YouTube channel.  It contains full video of the opening day plenaries, the last day plenary and the film and literary events.

This is the link to the Voices of Conscience Google Drive. It contains a Panel Audio folder with full recordings of all the May 23 workshops. The sessions are labeled according to time and the names of moderators. 

Also on the Google Drive are other videos from the conference, a large collection of photos and documents with the conference schedule.

Waging Peace, a photo display about GI opposition to the war organized by Ron Carver was presented at the conference.  It is shown here as a slide show and available for public exhibition in the US.

Other Anniversaries of Note

Chicago Democratic Convention Protest  August 1968

The demonstrations in August 1968 in Chicago confronted the pro-war Democratic Party of President Johnson and Mayor Daley with many forms of activism.  The police riot in response was part of a tumultuous and tragic year that witnessed the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. In addition to everything else they represented, Martin and Bobby seemed uniquely able to bring together into mass politics the struggles for domestic justice and peace. 

For many of us who participated in the Chicago maelstrom, an unintended consequence was the election of Richard Nixon and six more years of death and destruction in Indochina.   Alienation from LBJ's candidate Hubert Humphrey led people to vote for Dr. Benjamin Spock or Eldridge Cleaver or to stay home.
Activists is Chicago are undertaking commemorative events that speak to the whole year and the broader progressive movement in the city. Michael Klonsky is the primary organizer.  Contact him at  A regularly updated listing of their planned program can be found ib Facebook here

The Media and the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention - Then and Now series has examined issues of objectivity and patriotism in a turbulent time. The last program presented by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University is "The Media Legacy of Chicago '68" on August 8th.-- How well did established and counter-media do as 'the first draft of history?' What is the media legacy of Chicago '68, from social media to the alt-right?"

Catonsville Nine   May 1968

The 50th anniversary of the first draft file burning led by Catholic priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan was observed in Catonsville and Baltimore, with a web site, a symposium and the dedication of an official state historical marker.  Past activists and the inheritors of their spirit offer a model for locally organized commemorations with national significance.. 

US v. Dr. Benjamin Spock, et. al.    June 1968

"When the Government Went After Dr. Spock", a good op ed in the New York Timesby Michael Stewart Foley

Film and Exhibit Resources

Don't Burn

The most accessible film made in Vietnam about the war is "Don't Burn" by Dang Nhat Minh.  It powerfully dramatizes the story of a young woman doctor from Hanoi who was killed in the south.  Her diary was found by a US soldier and 35 years later returned to her family.  It became a literary phenomena in Vietnam and was published in the US as "Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram"

Minh's film can be seen on Youtube here with characters speaking their native Vietnamese or English, but without subtitled translations.  A DVD copy with English subtitles has just become available in the US for a $20 donation to the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, 64 Jean Court, Riverhead, NY 11901.  It is a superb follow-up and balance to the Burns and Novick series.

Whistleblower of My Lai  

The preview of a moving new film by Connie Field about the making of Kronos opera on helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson and My Lai can be seen here  It was shown in Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the massacre.  US distribution will begin soon.

The Boys Who Said No

An essential and energizing film about the draft resistance movement is moving towards completion. Release is likely in early 2019 with broadcast in the fall. Progress and the latest video previews can be followed on its web site.

Three Photo Exhibits

Any public space can be utilized for education about the real history of the war.  Good venues are museums, art galleries, student unions or religious institutions.  Exhibits can be accompanied by film showings, panels, poetry and journal readings, etc.  Three compelling examples: 

My Lai  
The Chicago chapter of Veterans for Peace has organized a traveling exhibit about My Lai that has been mounted in West Coast venues and is seeking additional sites.  Preview it here.  It will be shown in northern New York state July - September then return to Chicago to tour the Midwest in October-November and again in 2019.   A brief video from the showing in Spokane, WA, can be seenhere.   To arrange a visit, contact Mac MacDevitt

Waging Peace 
The exhibit illustrates US soldiers and veterans who opposed the war, including through GI newspapers and coffeehouses.  It was shown at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City in March.  View it here.  To arrange for an exhibition, contact Ron Howard

Bill offers several collections, among them "Memories of the Vietnam War" that can be previewed  here and "A Matter of Conscience:  G. I. Resistance During the Vietnam War" seen here.  Contact

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News from the region

Escalating Tensions Between Vietnam and China

The oldest and newest threat to the independence and freedom of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos comes from their superpower neighbor China.  Its economic influence is growing in all three countries, most dramatically in the latter two.  Protests erupted in Vietnam when plans were announced for 99 year leases in economic development zones that could benefit Chinese financial penetration.  The complex political challenge they reflect was described in this story by long term Indochina reporter Tom Fawthrop.  

China's aggressive and legally discredited "nine dash line" territorial claims have endangered Vietnamese fishermen, forced the withdrawal of a Spanish oil exploration rig from Vietnam's maritime territory, and led to the creation of artificial islands with military emplacements.  (More in this article.)  Because the US sees China's claims as a threat to freedom of navigation, strengthening American military presence paradoxically supports Vietnam's sovereignty, prompting conflicting feelings among former anti-war activists.

US Finally Recognizes AO Victims

In March a US aircraft carrier docked in Da Nang harbor for the first time after the end of the war. The purpose was to send a signal to China that its actions in the South China Sea are disturbing to both the US and Vietnam.  Widely noted by the Vietnamese was the visit for the first time by US sailors to a center for young people suffering the impact of Agent Orange as reported by Reuters.  While the US has provided funds for remediation of contamination at the Da Nang airport and will begin a similar process at Bien Hoa, the largest remaining dioxin hot spot, it has avoided any direct recognition of victims, other than a breakthrough visit by then ambassador Ted Osius to the Friendship Village in Hanoi.

Elections in Cambodia

On July 29th National Assembly elections will be held in Cambodia.  VPCC committee member John McAuliff will be a registered observer for the fourth time.  The elections are controversial because the principle opposition party created by Sam Rainsy, the Khmer National Rescue Party (KNRP), has been outlawed.  Rainsy has long associated himself with anti-Vietnam sentiment and can be seen expressing support for separatist Montagnards here.  However 19 other parties with varied political viewpoints are actively contesting the authority of the Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) led by Hun Sen. Sixty percent of the candidates of the newly formed Khmer Will Party (KWP) were members of  KNRP.  Three parties are campaigning for release of KNRP leaders and others they believe are prisoners of conscience.

Over the past decade Cambodia has aligned more closely to its primary foreign investor China, another paradox considering the history of Chinese support for the Khmer Rouge before and after they were deposed by Vietnam -- itself now deeply concerned by Cambodia's position on the conflict in the South China / East Sea.  The US which previously distrusted Rainsy has turned against cooperation with the CPP and along with the European Union will not send government sponsored election observers.  The Phnom Penh Post has also changed to Malaysian ownership.  While more sympathetic to the government than under the American founder, it remains a useful source of information about the election.    

Since VPCC reconstituted itself after Tom Hayden's memorial more than a year ago, we have forged ahead with a part time staff person in Washington, a national committee of volunteers and a network of local activists.  Regrettably after our My Lai work 
we are $2,000 in the red.  As a result, we cannot continue even a part time representative in Washington to carry on this work. 

 Personal contributions and grants from $10 to $5,000, with 
most in the $25 to $100 range, made our work to date possible
 and are urgently required to continue.

To sustain our otherwise unheard voice,
 we depend on you.

(Please consider monthly support.)
or by mail, payable to "Fund for Reconciliation and Development"
64 Jean Court, Riverhead, NY  11901