Category Archives: Vietnam

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

What’s a Vietnam?

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

For most Americans, the Vietnam War was not something that suddenly became part of their consciousness, but something that seeped into it.

On June 11, 1963 the Gulf of Tonkin “attacks” were 418 days away. And of course we didn’t know that President Kennedy’s assassination was 164 days away.

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

Thích Quảng Đức

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

On June 11, 1963, Thích Quảng Đức became part of our lives when he burned himself to death in protest of the South Vietnamese government’s treatment of Buddhists.  He’d written beforhand:

“[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.”

The media called his action a self-immolation. I knew it meant to burn oneself to death, which it does and doesn’t. It specifically means “”a sacrificing, sacrificial killing,” but immolation is a much softer-sounding word than burning to death.

South Vietnam’s government saw the immolation, and the several that would follow in that country, as stunts. [see Thich for more]

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

How could they?

For a white Christian American like me, it was confusing. After all, what could be worse than the thought of burning to death? Parents had raised their Baby Boomers with the threat of burning in Hell for an eternity as punishment for one’s sins.

It didn’t occur to us that an eternal punishment (billions of years wasn’t even a beginning!) was incongruous when compared to the perhaps 80 year life expectancy we might have.

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

American Immolations

Yet as familiar as we Boomers may be with the picture of Thích Quảng Đức self-sacrifice, it comes as a surprise to find out that there were several Americans who did the same in protest of the Vietnam War.

Unfortunately, for some of those on this list, not much is known despite their sacrifice.

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

March 16, 1965: Alice Herz

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

Alice Herz had been born in Germany in 1882. A widow in 1933 and anticipating the increasing horrors that Nazism was about to inflict on Jews and other minorities, she left there with her daughter Helga for France .  Alice and Helga got caught up in the Nazi invasion of France, but successfully escaped to the United States in 1942.

An opponent of war in general and the Vietnam war specifically, Alice Herz marched, protested, and wrote letters and articles expressing that opinion.

Frustrated with the peace movement’s lack of progress and the government’s seeming disregard for the movement’s view, Alice Herz decided to follow the example of Thích Quảng Đức.

She died on March  26, 1965 from the injuries. Alice Herz was 82. (NYT article)

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

 October 12, 1965: Hiroko Hayasaki

Hiroko Hayasaki was a 36-year old Japanese-American Buddhist who immolated herself in San Diego, California.

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

November 2, 1965: Norman Morrison

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

Norman Morrison was born in Erie, Pennsylvania and was married with two daughters and a son in Baltimore in 1965.  He set himself on fire below the Pentagon office window of Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense.

In a letter he mailed to his wife Anne, he wrote, “Know that I love thee … but I must go to help the children of the priest’s village”. McNamara described Morrison’s death as “a tragedy not only for his family but also for me and the country. It was an outcry against the killing that was destroying the lives of so many Vietnamese and American youth.” (NYT)

Morrison died that day. He was 31.

Five days after Morrison died, Vietnamese poet Tố Hữu wrote a poem, “Emily, My Child”,

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

Ê-mi-ly, con (Emily, Child) – by Tố Hữu (1965)

Ê mi-ly, con đi cùng cha

Sau khôn lớn con thuộc đường, khỏi lạc…

Đi đâu cha?
Ra bờ sông Pô-tô-mác
Xem gì cha? 
Không con ơi, chỉ có Lầu ngũ giác.

Ôi con tôi, đôi mắt tròn xoe

Ôi con tôi, mái tóc vàng hoe

Đừng có hỏi cha nhiều con nhé!

Cha bế con đi, tối con về với mẹ…

Emily, come with me

Later you’ll grow up you’ll know the streets, no longer feel lost.

Where are we going, dad?

To the banks of the Potomac

To see what, dad?

Nothing my child, there’s just the Pentagon.

Oh my child, your round eyes

Oh my child, your locks so golden

Don’t ask your father so many questions, dear!

I’ll carry you out, this evening you’ll going home with your mother…

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

November 9, 1965: Roger Allen LaPorte

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

A week later, Roger Allen LaPorte, set himself on fire in front of the United Nations Building in New York City. He was a member of the Catholic Workers Movement–founded by Dorothy Day an dPeter Maurin in 1933–an organization that has, as one of its guiding principles, “hospitality toward those on the margin of society.”

LaPorte had attended an antiwar demonstration on November 6 at which Day spoke and said, in part, “ “I speak today as one who is old, and who must endorse the courage of the young who themselves are willing to give up their freedom… This very struggle was begun by courage, even in martyrdom, which has been shared by the little children, in the struggle for full freedom and human dignity.”

LaPorte survived for one day and was conscious. When asked why, he responded, ““I’m a Catholic Worker. I’m against war, all wars. I did this as a religious action…all the hatred of the world.”

LaPorte was  22. (NYT)

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

Celene Jankowski

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

24-year-old Celene Jankowski had just given birth to a daughter three months before. The daughter had died  on October 28 and the death left the mother “despondent” — what today doctors would likely diagnosed as Postpartum Depression & Anxiety.

Bert John Nowakowski, Jr, one of Jankowski’s brothers had died in the Korean war.

The week before, Richard Jankowski, Celene’s husband, reported that Celene suggested they both burn themselves to death, that “all the world’s problems are my problems.”

He had rejected the idea and she stopped speaking about it, so Mr Jankowski assumed she was past the notion. Celene Jankowski had not put any accelerant on herself beforehand and her screaming brought a neighbor who smothered the flames with a blanket. (NYT)

She survived.

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

October 15, 1967: Florence Beaumont

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

From the INSROLAND–lost lore of the historic core site:

“Late on Sunday morning, Florence Beaumont, 56-year-old former English teacher, Unitarian peace activist and mother of two, gathered a selection of literature pertaining to her activities in the anti-Vietnam war movement, climbed into her pickup truck with its Peace and Freedom Party bumper sticker and drove from her home in La Puente to downtown Los Angeles.

“At 1:05 pm, after climbing the steps of the new Federal Building, Florence poured most of a can of gasoline over herself, put the can down on a wall and lit a match. She immediately erupted in flames, let out a cry, and walked about 40 feet before collapsing, an unrecognizable charred mass. Over by the gas can was her purse, with a card taped to the front which read “Hello, I’m Florence Beaumont.”

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

“Federal Building guard Ben Brown heard a scream, ran outside and saw the woman in flames. He returned to his post for a fire extinguisher, but arrived too late to help her. Retiree John Osberg was sunning himself on the steps nearby and heard a moan, looking up to see Florence burning and walking along the veranda. ‘There were flames all over her. She didn’t say anything, she just moaned. She was burning from head to foot.

“Two nights earlier, Florence had told a friend, Ada Pettigrove, that she had been thinking of immolating herself. Ada told her not to talk like that, and put off mentioning the conversation to Florence’s husband George because she had to leave for San Diego to retrieve a lost dog. ‘I really didn’t think she would carry it out. I guess I really didn’t know her that well.‘”

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

December 4, 1967: Erik Thoen

Erik Thoen was a student of Zen Buddhism

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

March 19, 1968: Ronald Brazee

From a 2015 piece on the Syracuse NEWTIMES site:

On a chilly March day in 1968, a woman walked into the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Syracuse. The magnificent Gothic Revival structure was quiet and peaceful. She thought she was alone, but soon saw a teenager standing near the altar.

Sixteen year-old Ronald Brazee had thought he too was alone, and quickly exited through the side door, leaving his coat and a metal gasoline can behind.

Outside, he asked a man if he could spare a match.

Brazee’s quick departure probably seemed strange to the woman, but then again a lot of things seemed strange in 1968. Above everything else, the American war in Vietnam had become the focal point of world-wide protest against authority of all kinds.

Ron, or “Ronnie,” was the second of eight children of Hugh and Elaine Brazee. “We weren’t dirt poor, but we were barely three rungs above it,” says software engineer Michael Brazee, the fourth oldest of the siblings.

The day that Ron died, he skipped school and hitchhiked from Auburn to Syracuse with his cousin. Mike isn’t troubled that they played hooky, “It shows that he was a regular kid,” Mike says. “We used to hitchhike sometimes, it was more normal then.”

At one point the cousins split up and “sometime after 2 p.m.,” Ron walked into a gas station. The clerk refused to fill his plastic container so he returned with a proper metal gas can. He then went to the Cathedral and once inside, poured the gasoline over his body. When Catherine O’Connell entered, he fled. He quickly made his way around the building to the front of the Cathedral and asked Joseph Madden, of Solvay, for a light. The elderly man told the Syracuse Post-Standard, “I gave him a match and he lit it and went up in flames and ran ahead.”

“Other passersby, including Charles Fahey, director of Catholic Charities, and Harry Honan, former deputy county executive, ran after the blazing youth, tore off their coats and used them to cover the flames,” the same article reported.

Ron had almost no chance of making it out of the hospital, as he suffered burns over 90% of his body. Not many people could visit him because of the severity of his wounds…

Ronald Brazee died on April 27, [1968] of pneumonia. There was no public vigil after his death….

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

May 30, 1969: Bruce Mayrock 

Bruce Mayrock died sacrificing himself for others. In this case he wanted to bring attention to the starving people of Biafra, an unrecognized country in West Africa from 1967 to 1970, made up of the states in the Eastern Region of Nigeria.

In 2016, the widow of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu [a Nigerian military officer and politician who served as the military governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1966 and  was the leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra from 1967 to 1970.] spoke of her husband’s final wishes.

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

A Widow’s Story

From the EduJandon.com site [She said] “…his body must be taken to Aba, Abia state before burial, erecting a monument in memory of a 19 year old American, Bruce Mayrock who died for Biafra…”

She continued

“He told me that this young boy was 19 years old, a white American and University student who came from a wealthy family. During the Biafra war, Mayrock was too disturbed about the pictures of starving Biafran children and the genocide. He wrote letters to American senators and President, individuals, Christian organizations and the United Nations calling on them to come to the aid of the Biafran people. Mayrock lamented that the Biafrans were facing extermination.

“All these people even the United Nations could not do anything. To bring attention to the plight of suffering Biafrans, this boy went to the front of the United Nations building doused himself with gasoline, struck a match and set himself on fire. When they were chasing him to put away the fire he was running with the inferno. He ran until he collapsed. He was taken to the hospital and by midnight on 30th May 1966, he died. Ojukwu was humbled that a 19 year old boy sacrificed his life for a people thousand miles away that he never knew or met.

Bruce Mayrock taken away by UN after setting himself ablaze

“His parents were unhappy that he sacrificed himself but he had told his priest that it was the only way he could get attention from the United Nation to take notice and save dying Biafra people.

“Ojukwu demanded that when he is dead, the story be narrated to his children and when his son turns 19, that a little plot of land be gotten to erect a monument in honour of Bruce Mayrock who sacrificed his life for the people of Biafra. Today in America, many Igbo people regularly visit Mayrock’s grave to lay flowers and pray for him.”

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War
Mount Ararat Cemetery, East Farmingdale, NY
American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

May 10, 1970: George Winne Jr

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

George Winne Jr. was 23 and a student at the University of California, San Diego. In protest of the  US involvement in the Vietnam war, set himself on fire.

From the  University of California. San Diego Triton site:

Winne was standing in the the northeast corner of the plaza by Ridge Walk, covered in towels and holding a sign that read, “In the name of God, end the war.” A physics graduate student named Ralph J. Archuleta passed by Winne while he was dousing himself in gasoline. “I thought it was water and that he was just trying to cool himself off,” Archuleta said. He kept walking.

Then Winne set himself on fire.

Witnesses, many of whom watched in horror from their dorm room windows, said that he ran diagonally across the quad to the southwest side, all the while clutching the sign and screaming, “Stop the war! Stop the war!”

A group of student activists were meeting in the Blake Hall Commuter Lounge when they heard the screams. Keith Stowe, a graduate student, was the first to reach Winne. “I grabbed him by the ankles and tackled him to the ground,” he said. “I rolled over him, thinking it would put out the flames. It didn’t help.”

After murmuring the Lord’s Prayer under his breath for nine hours, Winne passed away early the following morning.

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

21st Century

April 14, 2017: David Buckel

From a NYT articleA lawyer nationally known for being a champion of gay rights died after setting himself on fire in Prospect Park in Brooklyn early Saturday morning and leaving a note exhorting people to lead less selfish lives as a way to protect the planet, the police said.

The remains of the lawyer, David S. Buckel, 60, were found near Prospect Park West in a field near baseball diamonds and the main loop used by joggers and bikers.

Mr. Buckel left a note in a shopping cart not far from his body and also emailed it to several news media outlets, including The New York Times.

Mr. Buckel was the lead attorney in Brandon v. County of Richardson, in which a Nebraska county sheriff was found liable for failing to protect Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in Falls City, Neb. Hilary Swank won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Mr. Teena in the 1999 movie “Boys Don’t Cry.”

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War

John Michael Watts, 58,  an Air Force veteran upset with the Department of Veterans Affairs set himself on fire outside the state Capitol in Atlanta. EMT took him to Grady Memorial Hospital in critical condition with burns on 85 to 90 percent of his body. [NYT story]

American Protest Immolations Vietnam War
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Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

The podcast 99% Invisible had a story about weather control. That story inspired the following.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Weather control is an attractive idea. Warmth when we want it; rain when we need it. Light wind? Sure. No snow? Why not.

The 19th century’s Industrial Revolution led many to believe that if we could control and increase production so efficiently, why can’t we control nature, too? Beyond the ceremonial rain dance. Beyond prayer and sacrifices to the gods.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Civil War impetus

During the American Civil War, some thought that its large battles had affected the weather and the idea of shooting cannons, setting off fireworks, exploding hydrogen balloons might cause rain.

The US Department of Agriculture experimented with this idea in Texas in the 1890s. It worked since it rained, but some suggested that it rained because it was the rainy season in Texas anyway.

Sporadic attempts continued with no actual success.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Weather Race

Like the impact of the Industrial Revolution, the development of the atomic bomb again led us to feel we had conquered the unconquerable and renewed the idea of weather control.

So before the so-called Space Race of the 1960s, the US joined the Weather Race. Communism had arrived and the Cold War was around the corner.

Of course, the race wasn’t just for a gold medal to the winner of weather control. The military advantages were immense.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Irving Langmuir

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

In July 1946, Irving Langmuir, the 1932 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awardee, and his assistant Vincent Schaefer discovered that moisture that normally stayed  vaporous below freezing, would turn into ice crystals when they super-cooled it with dry ice.

And on November 13 of that year at the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York Langmuir, and Bernard Vonnegut discovered that silver iodide could be used with dry ice as a nucleating agent to seed clouds.

Seeding clouds involved inserting large quantities of a nucleating agent into clouds to facilitate the formation of ice crystals. The intent of this process was to cause the clouds to produce rain or snow.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Dr. Felix Hoenikker

Side note: Langmuir was the inspiration for Bernard’s brother Kurt Vonnegut’s fictional scientist Dr. Felix Hoenikker in the novel Cat’s Cradle.  The character’s invention of ice-nine eventually destroyed the world. Kurt had briefly worked at GE as well.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

GE out; Langmuir still in

While GE was initially interested in the science of weather control, the worry that chemically-induced snow storms causing damage and the likelihood of subsequent litigation persuaded them to curtail such research.

December 11, 1950 Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, WV) ran a short article about Langmuir:

“Rainmaking” or weather control can be as powerful a war weapon as the atom bomb, a Nobel prize winning physicist said today.

Dr. Irving Langmuir, pioneer in “rainmaking,” said the government should seize on the phenomenon of weather control as it did on atomic energy when Albert Einstein told the late President Roosevelt in 1939 of the potential power of an atom-splitting weapon.

“In the amount of energy liberated, the effect of 30 milligrams of silver iodide under optimum conditions equals that of one atomic bomb,” Langmuir said.

While further experimentation continued—Langmuir was particularly interested in neutering hurricanes (Project Cirrus in 1952)—none proved effective and critics pointed out that they could explain any proffered “proofs” with more logical and meteorological explanations.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

President’s Advisory Committee on Weather Control

In August of 1953 the United States formed the President’s Advisory Committee on Weather Control. Its stated purpose was to determine the effectiveness of weather modification procedures and the extent to which the government should engage in such activities. Captain Howard T Orville chaired the committee.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

The May 28, 1954 cover of Collier’s magazine showed a man quite literally changing the seasons by a system of levers and push buttons. Orville wrote the article. In it he said, “if investigation of weather control receives the public support and funds for research which its importance merits, we may be able eventually to make weather almost to order.

The July 6, 1954 edition of Minnesota’s Brainerd Daily Dispatch said:

It may someday be possible to cause torrents of rain over Russia by seeding clouds moving toward the Soviet Union.

Or it may be possible — if an opposite effect is desired — to cause destructive droughts which dry up food crops by “overseeding” those same clouds.

And fortunately for the United States, Russia could do little to retaliate because most weather moves from west to east.”

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Project Stormfury

Despite the lack of concrete observable results, interest continued. Project Stormfury began in 1956 and continued the attempt to control or mollify severe weather.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Captain Howard T Orville

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

In a January 1, 1958, article in the Pasadena Star-News Captain Orville warned that “if an unfriendly nation solves the problem of weather control and gets into the position to control the large-scale weather patterns before we can, the results could be even more disastrous than nuclear warfare.”

The May 25, 1958, issue of The American Weekly ran an article by Frances Leighton using information from Captain Howard T. Orville. Leighton wrote,

“Behind the scenes, while statesmen argue policies and engineers build space satellites, other men are working day and night. They are quiet men, so little known to the public that the magnitude of their job, when you first hear of it, staggers the imagination. Their object is to control the weather and change the face of the world.

Some of these men are Americans. Others are Russians. The first skirmishes of an undeclared cold war between them already have been fought. Unless a peace is achieved the war’s end will determine whether Russia or the United States rules the earth’s thermometers.”

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Kennedy’s Weather Race

September 25, 1961: President Kennedy spoke at the UN.  Among his various points, he stated: We shall propose further cooperative efforts between all nations in weather prediction and eventually in weather control. (text of entire speech)

Less than a year later, on May 27, 1962, Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson presented the graduation address at his alma mater, Southwest Texas State University (today Texas State University) in San Marcos.

Among various points, Johnson spoke about weather control and stated that, “..to control the weather and ultimately he who controls the weather controls the world.”

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Committee on Atmospheric Science

In November 1963, the Committee on Atmospheric Science appointed a Panel on Weather and Climate Modification “to undertake a deliberate and thoughtful review of the present status of activities in this field.” 

The Committee issued its report in October 1964. In it the Committee stated that, “We conclude that the initiation of large-scale operational weather modification programs would be premature. Many fundamental problems must be answered first….We believe that the patient investigation of atmospheric processes coupled with an exploration of the technical applications may eventually lead to useful weather modification, but we emphasize that the time-scale required for success may be measured in decades.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Project Popeye

Despite such pessimism, Project Popeye happened nonetheless. Due to the weak science and questionable results, the military kept the project secret.

August 10, 1966:  the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed a weather modification program for selected areas of Laos. The Command of US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (COMUSMACV) and the Commander in Chief of US Pacific Command (CINCPAC) concurred. (see Global Security dot com for more)

September 1, 1966:  the Joint Chiefs of Staff granted approval of the project and issued  the execute order on September 17, 1966.

September 29 1966 — October 28 1966: the US military began Project Popeye in a strip of the Laos panhandle east of the Bolovens Plateau in the Se Kong River valley. Naval personnel eventually conducted 50 seeding cloud experiments. Project leaders claimed that 82% of the clouds produced rain within a brief period after having been seeded and that one of the clouds drifted across the Vietnam border and dropped nine inches of rain on a US special forces camp over a four hour period.

They declared the project a success and on January 13, 1967 a “Memorandum From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Kohler) to Secretary of State Rusk” Its proposal stated, ” The Department of Defense has requested our approval to initiate the operational phase of Project …. The objective of the program is to produce sufficient rainfall along these lines of communication to interdict or at least interfere with truck traffic between North and South Vietnam. Recently improved cloud seeding techniques would be applied on a sustained basis, in a non-publicized effort to induce continued rainfall through the months of the normal dry season.” (entire text of proposal

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Operation Popeye-Make Mud, Not War

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

March 20, 1967: a highly classified weather modification program in Southeast Asia called Operation Popeye began. It was an attempt to extend the monsoon season, specifically over areas of the Ho Chi Minh Trail maze. The military seeded the clouds over the Trail to create floods and wash out supply routes to hinder North Vietnam’s supply chain into and from South Vietnam.

The 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron carried out the operation using the slogan “make mud, not war.”

 The initial area of operations was the eastern half of the Laotian panhandle. 

At times the program was also known as Operation Motorpool, and Operation Intermediary-Compatriot.  (V, see Mar 25; OP, see July 11)

July 11, 1967:  the Operation’s operational area was increased northward to around the area of the 20th parallel and included portions of far western North Vietnam.

September 25, 1968:  the southern region of North Vietnam was added to the operational area                          

November 1, 1968:  the southern region of North Vietnam was removed from the Operation concurrent with a halt to conventional bombing of North Vietnam.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Leaks

In 1971, leaks about the program began to appear in the press and in September 1971, Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island as
chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans and the International Environment requested the Department of Defense to provide information with respect to the program. 

April 18, 1972: regarding any US program to affect the weather/rainfall in Vietnam, Nixon’s secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird testified at a Senate that, “we have never engaged in that type of activity over Northern Vietnam.”

July 3, 1972: a NY Times article on Operation Popeye appeared. It’s lead paragraph stated that “The United States has been secretly seeding clouds over North Vietnam, Laos and South Viet nam to increase and control the rainfall for military purposes.” 

That same day, another NY Times article quoted Dr. Matthew Meseison, a professor of biology at Harvard University, from the June 16 issue of the magazine Science:

“It is obvious that weather modification used as a weapon of war has the potential for causing large‐scale and quite possibly uncontrollable and unpredictable destruction. Furthermore, such destruction might well have a far greater impact on civilians than on combatants. This would be especially true in areas where subsistence agriculture is practiced, in food‐deficit areas, and in areas subject to flooding.”

Also on the same day, a third NYT article stated: Two former high‐ranking officials of the Johnson Administration said…that Robert S. McNamara, while Secretary of Defense, specifically ordered the Air Force to stop all rainmaking late in 1967….

But other officials, who served in both the Johnson and Nixon Administrations, said they recalled no such clear‐cut order.

It was not clear whether Mr. McNamara’s order was dis obeyed, ignored, or—as one of ficial suggested—“there was a kind of slippage” in putting it into effect.

July 5, 1972: Operation Popeye ended.

July 28, 1972: sponsored by Senators Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin and Clairborne Pell, the US Senate voted for an amendment to cut off Defense Department funds for any use of rainmaking or creation of forest fires as a weapon of war.

The US Dept of Defense continued to deny such operations and also refused to discuss the operational aspects in Vietnam. (NYT article)

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Declassified

March 20, 1974, the Defense Department provided Senator
Pell’s Subcommittee with a top secret briefing on weather modification activities in Southeast Asia.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Environmental Modification Convention

The Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD), formally the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques is an international treaty prohibiting the military or other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects. It opened for signature on 18 May 1977 in Geneva and entered into force on 5 October 1978.

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

Fixing the Sky

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Contro

In  September 2010, James Rodger Fleming published Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control. In it he wrote: Although some claimed that [Operation Popeye] induced from 1 to 7 inches of additional rainfall annually along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, no scientific data were collected to verify the claim. General Westmoreland thought there was “no appreciable increase” in rain from the project. Even if the cloud seeding had produced a tactical victory or two in Vietnam (it did not), the extreme secrecy surrounding the operation and the subsequent denials and stonewalling of Congress by the military resulted in a major strategic defeat for military weather modification.

Related: 2011 Smithsonian article

Vietnam Operation Popeye Weather Control

 

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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.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Government and Vietnam

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

RAND Corporation [begun in 1948 and adapting its name  from a contraction of the term research and development], 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

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Gulf of Tonkin “attack”

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.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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. [U Michigan article]

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers
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.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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.” [NPR story]

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Anthony Russo

October 1, 1969:  Ellseberg, with his Rand Corporation colleague Anthony Russo, began copying the secret Pentagon Papers in Los Angeles.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Marriage

On  August 8, 1970 Daniel Ellsberg and Patricia Marx married.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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.

Daniel Ellsberg 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. 

Daniel Ellsberg 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

Surrender

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

June 28, 1971: Ellsberg surrendered to face criminal charges under the Espionage Act.  [NY Ttimes article]

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers
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. [NY Times article]

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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.

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

Mistrial

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. [NY Times article]

Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers

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