Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Thich Quang Duc

Thich Quang Duc

           On June 11, 1963 I was about to finish 7th grade. I had 8th grade and imagined girlfriends on my mind. It was a Tuesday and the the afternoon paper would be light. My route done quickly enough to have time to play basketball on the side of my house with a few friends perhaps. 

           The sun set that evening at 8:27. I don't remember that, of course, but it meant that I might have gone out after dinner despite it being a weekday.

           On June 11, 1963, John F Kennedy was President. November 22 164 days away. 

           I don't know if the place Vietnam was familiar to me yet. Perhaps, but the Gulf of Tonkin was 418 days away. That would be the day that many more Americans would learn that name. 

           Little did they realize that it would be 3,100 days before the signing of the Paris Peace Accord. What would they have thought had they known?
           In Vietnam itself was in turmoil. Ho Chi Min's northern forces faced a series of leaders in South Vietnam.

           Malcolm Wilde Browne was Associated Press's first permanent correspondent in South Vietnam when he arrived there in 1961. The large majority of South Vietnamese were Buddhist, but the current President, Ngo Dinh Diem, was Roman Catholic and had instituted repressive Buddhist policies. 

           On May 8, 1963 South Vietnamese soldiers had opened fire on a group of Buddhists who were flying the Buddhist flag--a violation of a government ban. Nine were killed. Protests followed.

Thich Quang Duc

           The evening of June 10, Browne and other correspondents received a message that something important would happen the next day.

           On June 11 Browne and a few other correspondents witnessed a peaceful protest with about 350 monks marching and carrying banners demanding religious equality.

           Thich Quang Duc was one of those monks. A senior leader who had helped establish many Buddhist temples. 

           After the march had gone a few blocks, the monks formed a circle and Thich Quang Duc took the lotus position at the center. Another monk poured gasoline over Thich Quang Duc who moments later lighted a match and self-immolated. 
           In a letter he left, Thich Quang Duc wrote: Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngô Đình Diệm to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organize in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism.

           It took 15 hours over 9,000 miles of AP WirePhoto cable for Malcolm Browne's pictures to reach the USA. 
Thich Quang Duc
photos by Malcolm Browne

Thich Quang Duc

           Other Buddhist monks later did the same and inspired a few Americans to do the same in protest to the undeclared war.

           I was in 7th grade and had no idea what the next 3,100 days would cause for Americans. 

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

June 21, 1920 -- June 8, 1956

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

          Apparently a person's date of death is easier to determine than the date a war began. 

          Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr  fought in World War II in the Navy. After the war he joined the Air Force and was eventually promoted to Technical Sargent. He served in Vietnam as part of the serving as part of the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), the advisors to the South Vietnamese army.

         Fitzgibbon died on June 8, 1956 after S/Sgt Edward Clarke had shot him. On June 20, 1956, an Associated Press article in the New York Times reported the deaths:

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

         When the Vietnam Memorial was in its planning stages, one of the obvious decisions was "Who was the first American killed in Vietnam?" It would seem obvious that Fitzgibbon would at least have been one of the first if not the first.

         Chronologically, he was as no other American military person had been killed in Vietnam since the US Government had begun sending MAAG personnel on September 3, 1950.

         The first date used for the "beginning" of the war was January 1, 1961 because President Johnson had stated that Spec/4 James T. Davis, who died in a Viet Cong ambush on 22 December 1961, was "The first American to fall in defense of our freedom in Vietnam."
         For years, the Fitzgibbon family argued that Richard should be included. Finally the Department of Defense decided to use the start date November 1, 1955, thus qualifying Fitzgibbon.

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

         Fitzgibbon's son, Lance Cpl. Richard B Fitzgibbon III, joined the Marines because he wanted to connect to the place where his father had died.

         Fitzgibbon III was killed in combat on Sept. 7, 1965, in Quang Tin, Vietnam, at the age of 21. The Fitzgibbon father-son deaths in Vietnam were one of three pairs: Leo Hester Sr. and his son Leo Hester Jr and Fred C. Jenkins and his son Bert M. Jenkins were the other two.

Richard B Fitzgibbon Jr

Ohio Governor James Rhodes

Ohio Governor James Rhodes

May 3, 1970

The fuse is lit

Ohio Governor James Rhodes

May 4, 1970. Life ended suddenly and horribly for Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Knox life on the Kent State (OH) campus.

Like any historic event, the story was not a spontaneous one. The story had a lead up.

Ohio Governor James A Rhodes, first elected in 1963, had what was known then as a "law and order" view of unrest.  
          From Mendo Coast article
Less than year before the tragic shootings at Kent State, the SAC [Special Agent in Charge] of the Cincinnati Bureau [FBI] sent [FBI Director] Hoover a memo detailing Rhodes’ attitude towards civil unrest: “He personally feels that the Director is the outstanding American and that he is the only person who has consistently opposed those persons who would subvert our government. He feels that the Director’s stated position of dealing firmly with these groups is the only sensible method.”

          “He [Rhodes] commented on the riots and unrest which have occurred repeatedly and said that some of this might well have been avoided if the Director’s warnings and advice had been followed. In Ohio, he has not hesitated to use the National Guard to deal with these situations and has instructed the Guard to act quickly and firmly. He feels that this is the only way to maintain law and order, and that the maintenance of law and order is the only way our government can survive,” the memo records. [my emphasis]

  Ohio Governor James Rhodes

Keep in mind the days preceding May 4.

As promised by the newly-elect President Nixon, the Vietnam War seemed to be winding down. Then in late April of 1970, the US invaded Cambodia and widened the Vietnam War. Nixon announced the invasion on April 30, l970.

The next day student protests erupted on many college campuses. Kent State University was one of those place. Students planned a second rally for noon Monday 4 May.

Saturday 2 May. Kent Mayor Leroy Satrom asked Governor Rhodes to send in the Ohio National Guard. Stationed close by, the Guard arrived that evening to the burning of the University's ROTC building.
Sunday 3 May. About 1000 Ohio National Guardsmen occupied the campus, While tense, the mood was not threatening.  Student quietly conversed with Guard members. It was on this day at a press conference that Ohio Governor James A Rhodes called the anti-war protesters "the worst type of people we harbor in America, worse than the brown shirts and the communist element 

That evening confrontations between protesters and guardsmen occurred and once again rocks, tear gas, and arrests characterized a tense campus.

May 4, 1970

“Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
Most are familiar with the questions surrounding May 4, 1970. Did the National Guard need to shoot? Were their lives in danger? Why were between 61 and 67 shots were fired in a 13 second period? Should the Guard have been on campus to begin with?

In 1970, the Scranton Committee Report on the event determined that "The indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable."

No legal proceedings ever found the Guard culpable and the January 1979 monetary settlement paid out of court by the State of Ohio was termed an apology, not an admission of guilt. 
Regardless of any possibilities, for Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Knox life ended suddenly and horribly on May 4, 1970.

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