Category Archives: Vietnam

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

The story of Daniel Ellsberg and his release of the so-called Pentagon Papers is one of the biggest stories of the tumultuous 1960s. Ellsberg was not an underground Wikileak hacker who surreptitiously acquired secret information and arranged for its release. He was a part of the process to begin with.

Here are highlights of his and those famous papers' stories. 
Academic Marine
Daniel Ellsberg graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude in 1952 and received a fellowship to study economics at Cambridge. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1954 and served as a platoon leader. After serving, he resumed his graduate studies at Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D. 
Government and Vietnam

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

RAND Corporation, a California think-tank, hired him in 1959. He specialized in crisis decision-making and the command and control of nuclear weapons. 

While at RAND, Ellsberg consulted with the Pentagon Under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during the Kennedy administration. Ellsberg visited South Vietnam with a research team to examine problems with non-nuclear, limited warfare.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Ellsberg was working for the Defense Department as assistant to John McNaughton (assistant secretary of defense and a close adviser to McNamara) when on August 4, 1964 the  “second” Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred. It turned out that North Vietnamese “boats” were radar ghosts.”

The validity of Johnson's Gulf of Tonkin claim is later questioned. The claim will become one of presidential lies that led to U.S. escalation in Vietnam.

Students for a Democratic Society

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

On April 17, 1965 the SDS led an anti-Vietnam war march in Washington. 15,000 attend including Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and Judy Collins. Daniel Ellsberg and Patricia Marx go on their first date...this rally. For the next two years Ellsberg served in Vietnam as a civilian on special assignment for the U.S. Department of State, studying counter-insurgency. 
History of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68
In June 1967  Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara assembled a team of analysts, many of whom had worked for RAND. Ellsberg was among them. Leslie Gelb and Morton Halperin headed the group. 

In late 1968 they finish a report called the "History of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68."  By then, McNamara had resigned as secretary of defense. The study was never officially distributed or acted upon.

On March 1, 1968 Clark Clifford replaced McNamara as secretary of defense. 
Henry Kissinger
In December 1968 Ellsberg first met with Henry Kissinger, national security adviser to president-elect Richard Nixon. Ellsberg advised Kissinger on options in the U.S. military action in Vietnam. Kissinger and Ellsberg  continued to have a relationship during the first two years of Nixon's presidency. 
Randy Kehler
Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner, refused to pay federal taxes as a protest against war and military spending.
In September 1969 Ellsberg met draft resister and antiwar activist Randy Kehler, whose willingness to go to prison based on his opposition to the war had a great impact on Ellsberg. Shortly thereafter, Ellsberg finished reading a copy of the entire McNamara study, which revealed a pattern of war escalation even in the face of evidence that the war was unwinnable. The study also revealed lies told to the public about U.S. military actions. The report inspired Ellsberg to take action against what he now sees as "a wrongful war." 
Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers
October 1, 1969:  Ellseberg, with his Rand Corporation colleague Anthony Russo, began copying the secret Pentagon Papers in Los Angeles. 
On  August 8, 1970 Daniel Ellsberg and Patricia Marx married.
Neil Sheehan
In March 1971 Ellsberg met with reporter Neil Sheehan of The New York Times and showed him the top-secret McNamara study. Sheehan, reporter Hedrick Smith and a handful of other New York Times reporters and editors began working on a massive story based on the Pentagon Papers, while lawyers at The New York Times debated whether they could or should, publish top-secret government documents.  They decided yes on both.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

June 13, 1971: the New York Times began to publish the Pentagon Papers. Later, in a 1996 article, the Times said that the Pentagon Papers "demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance".

Two days later, on June 15, the government, invoking "prior restraint," obtained a temporary injunction to stop Times from publishing any more material from the Pentagon Papers.
Into hiding
On June 17, 1971 Daniel and Patricia Ellsberg went underground after reporter Sidney Ellsberg identified Daniel Ellsberg as the probable source for the Pentagon Papers. 
The Washington Post 
June 18, 1971: The Washington Post published excerpts of the Pentagon Papers but was immediately enjoined from publishing additional excerpts. Eventually, 17 other papers will publish portions of the report.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

June 28, 1971: Ellsberg surrendered to face criminal charges under the Espionage Act. 
Senator Mike Gravel
June 29, 1971: Alaska Senator Mike Gravel convened a hearing of the Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds in the middle of the night (and only he attended). He read the Pentagon Papers aloud for three hours, officially entering them into the Senate record. 
New York Times Co. v. United States

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

On June 30, 1971: the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Pentagon Papers may be published, rejecting government injunctions as unconstitutional prior restraint.

Nixon retaliates

In July 1971 President Nixon appointed Egil "Bud" Krogh, Jr. and Kissinger aide David Young, Jr. to head a special investigations unit (nicknamed "the plumbers") to obtain evidence to discredit Ellsberg, whom Henry Kissinger has deemed "the most dangerous man in America" who "has to be stopped." 

Krogh and Young hired G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, who hatched a plan to burglarize the offices of Ellsberg's one-time psychiatrist in Los Angeles which they did on September 9.
Indictments,  Watergate, and trial
On December 29, 1971: Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo were indicted on charges of theft of government documents and espionage for copying the Pentagon Papers and leaking them to the news media. 

Meanwhile, on October 10, 1972 the Washington Post reported that FBI agents had established that the Watergate break-in stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of the Nixon reelection effort.

On November 7, 1972 Richard Nixon was reelected in one of the largest landslides in American political history, taking more than 60 percent of the vote .

January 3, 1973 The United States v. Anthony Joseph Russo and Daniel Ellsberg trial began in Los Angeles. 

On January 8, 1973 the trial opened of seven men accused of bugging Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex.
Nixon aide  John Ehrlichman
Between April 5 – 7, 1973 top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman secretly met twice with Judge Matthew Byrne, who was presiding over the Russo/Ellsberg trial, and offered him a job as the new director of the F.B.I.

April 15 – 18, 1973: Ellsberg testified in his own defense.

April 30, 1973: after being confronted by Ellsberg's defense lawyers, Judge Byrne admitted to meeting with Ehrlichman earlier in the month.

On the same day, Nixon's top White House staffers, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resigned over the Watergate scandal. White House counsel John Dean was fired. 
FBI secret tapes
On May 10, 1973 it was revealed in court that in 1969 the F.B.I. secretly wire-tapped and taped phone conversations between Ellsberg and then Kissinger aide Morton Halperin, who had earlier supervised the study that became the Pentagon Papers. The government claimed that all records of the wiretapping had been lost.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

The next day, May 11, 1973, Judge Byrne granted a mistrial due to what he deemed to be serious government misconduct. All charges against Ellsberg and Russo dropped. 

June 13, 1973:  the Washington Post reported that Watergate prosecutors had found a memo addressed to John Ehrlichman describing in detail the plans to burglarize the office of Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist, 

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October 1969 National Moratorium

October 1969 National Moratorium

Speech from Moratorium Day Rally at UCLA

October 1969 National Moratorium

National Moratorium

Autumn 1969. The Vietnam War continued. Protests continued. David Hawk and Sam Brown, two antiwar activists, forged a broad-based movement against the Vietnam War called the National Moratorium.

The organization initially focused its effort on 300 college campuses, but the idea soon grew and spread beyond the colleges and universities. Hawk and Brown were assisted by the New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, which was instrumental in organizing the nation-wide protest.


Many felt that these organizers were unpatriotic. Before the event, Los Angeles Mayor Samuel W. Yorty described them as "loud, marching, foolish and subversive dissenters."

President Nixon urged Americans not to "buckle under" or "run away" from a "fair peace." Senate minority leader Hugh Scott (R-PA)  scolded protesters they encouraged the US to "cut and run" and capitulate to the enemy.

Keep in mind that in 1969 TV for most people meant only nine letter: ABC, CBS, and NBC. If you didn't see something there it wasn't important. None of those networks planned on live coverage of the October 15 National Moratorium. 


Ben Kubasik, executive director of the National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting, said of the networks' decision: What passes for the commercial networks' news judgement astounds me. If a famous man had died, a manned moon space shot were launched, or President Nixon chose to go on the air to say he would be unmoved by the moratorium, those would have been carried alive. The Vietnam Moratorium is the greatest peaceful outpouring in our history and the networks choose to ignore it as it is happening by running regular programming."

In New York City, as in many large urban areas, local electronic media did cover the event. For example alternate rock station WNEW-FM suspended all advertising for the entire day. WOR-TV devoted more than seven hours to coverage. WBAI-FM covered the event in its entirety. 

October 1969 National Moratorium

Vietnam is 11 hours ahead of Eastern time and so when a group of 20 young Americans assembled in front of the American Embassy at 10 AM on October 15, 1969, the National Moratorium began.

In New York City, the New York Times  headline was that "Tommie Agee's Bat and Glove Lead Mets to Second World Series Victory." Baseball fans across the country would be able to see game four that night and watch the Amazin' Mets take a 3 - 1 lead on its way to an improbable World Championship.

Other smaller headlines that morning read "Massive Protest On Vietnam War Expected Today" and "Nixon Challenges Protest Leaders."

Across the United States over two million people in their own cities and neighborhoods held protests against the War. Some read names of the war dead in town squares, some churches tolled their bells for each of the dead. One of the largest demonstrations occurred when 100,000 people converged on the Boston Common. Walter Cronkite called it “historic in its scope. Never before had so many demonstrated their hope for peace.”

…and the beat goes on…

On April 28, 1970, Nixon authorized U.S. combat troops to cross the border from South Vietnam into Cambodia.

On April 30 Nixon announced that invasion and the expansion of the war.

On May 1 protests erupted on campuses across the US.

On May 3 during a press conference, the Republican governor of Ohio, James A. Rhodes, called anti-war protesters "the worst type of people we harbor in America, worse than the brown shirts and the communist element." Rhodes ordered the National Guard to quell a demonstration at Kent State University. 

On May 4, 1970, National Guard troops shot and killed four Kent State students protesting the war.

On May 6 hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation shut down as thousands of students join a nationwide campus protest.

Vice-President Spiro Agnew stated, “We have listened to these elitists laugh at honesty and thrift and hard work and prudence and logic and respect and self –denial. Why then are we surprised to discover we have traitors and thieves and perverts and irrational and illogical people in our midst?

October 1969 National Moratorium

On May 8 about 200 construction workers in New York City attacked a crowd of Vietnam war protesters. Some workers use pipes wrapped with the American flag. More than 70 people were injured, including four police officers. Peter Brennan, head of the New York building trades, was honored at the Nixon White House two weeks later. He later became Secretary of Labor. 

On May 15 in Jackson, Mississippi police confronted a group of student protesters. The police opened fire, killing two students.

On May 20 around 100,000 people demonstrated in NYC's Wall Street district in support of the war. 

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Sing-In For Peace

Sing-In For Peace

September 24, 1965Sing-In For Peace

Sing-In For Peace

On Friday evening September 24, 1965 at 8:30 PM there was a Sing-In For Peace. The program stated that "The undersigned are gathered for one purpose: to protest the immoral, irrational and irresponsible act of war which are government carries out in Viet-Nam in our names. The folksinger, like the poet, artist, and writer everywhere must be in touch with what is human in himself as well as those around him. He responds to life, and expresses his dismay at death-ward motions of every kind..."where have all the flowers gone?" While he does not necessarily consider himself a political being, he asks serious questions..."what heave they done to the rain?" And while the government need not fear the musician and the poet when he raises his gentle weapons of sanity, it cannot deny his questions, for "the answer is blowing int he wind."

Irwin Silber, editor of Sing Out!’ magazine, Barbara Dane, and Pete Seeger, and other folk musicians organized “Sing-In For Peace." 

Obviously the concert did not end the war. Or did it? What weighs more, a ton of feathers or a ton of steel. The answer, of course, is both weigh the same and this concert was one of the many feathers that collectively helped educate other Americans to the the horrors and immorality of the Vietnam.
Concert Across America to End Gun Violence

Sing-In For Peace

In 2007, Congress designated September 25 as a day of remembrance for murder victims. September 25, 2016, marked the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. Across the United States  in more than 300 venues hundreds of musicians will perform for a cause: end gun violence.

While American soldiers are today still stationed across the world and many in harms way, another war is happening. A war on ourselves. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control show that on an average day, 91 Americans are killed with guns. There are nearly 12,000 gun murders a year in the U.S. – and despite falling crime rates, that number has barely changed since the late 1990s.

If the media's enthusiastic and over-the-top coverage of the far less lethal zika virus was as intense regarding gun violence, perhaps we'd realize that gun violence is far more dangerous to Americans than any mosquito.

The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence may only be a feather, but it will, like the Sing-In for Peace, be part of an increasing activism on the part of all citizens to stop the madness.  
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