Tag Archives: Vietnam War

1961 Women Strike for Peace

1961 Women Strike for Peace


1961 Women Strike for Peace
photo credit: The New York Historical Society

As the nuclear arms race escalated so did the number of groups who protested that expansion. And as the US participation in Vietnam’s civil war increased, the same became true.

1961 Women Strike for Peace

Abzug & Wilson

Bella Abzug (left) and Dagmar Wilson (right) founded Women Strike for Peace on November 1, 1961 by when they organized an anti-nuclear weapon protest.

1961 Women Strike for Peace 1961 Women Strike for Peace

1961 Women Strike for Peace

First Conference

At its first national conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1962, Women Strike for Peace adopted the following declaration: “We are women of all races, creeds and political persuasions. We are dedicated to the purpose of general and complete disarmament. We demand that nuclear tests be banned forever, that the arms race end and the world abolish all weapons of destruction under United Nations safeguards. We cherish the Historical Introduction right and accept the responsibility to act to influence the course of government for peace. We join with women throughout the world to challenge the right of any nation or group of nations to hold the power of life and death over the world.” (from >>> Swarthmore edu)

1961 Women Strike for Peace
Dorothy Marder
1961 Women Strike for Peace

Dorothy Marder

From the same site:  Dorothy Marder (1926-2007), was a social realist photographer active during the politically energetic 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.  In her photography Dorothy Marder captured the peace, anti-nuclear, social justice, women’s liberation, lesbian/gay pride, and disability rights movements, especially in New York City and Washington, DC.  For many years, she was the photographer for the women’s peace group, Women Strike for Peace.  Marder’s work has appeared in numerous alternative-press publications, as well as in books, and even a documentary film.  Dorothy Marder was not only a photographer, but also a self educated artist and dedicated activist, whose strong passionate for life was reflected in her art.

Here is a slide show with some of her Women Strike for Peace work:

Women Srike for PeaceWomen Srike for PeaceWomen Strike for PeaceWomen Strike for PeaceWomen Strike for PeaceWomen Strike for PeaceWomen Strike for PeaceWomen Strike for PeaceWomen Srike for PeaceWomen Strike for PeaceWomen Strike for PeaceWomen Strike for Peace


1961 Women Strike for Peace

Long after the 60s

From WikipediaWSP remained a significant voice in the peace movement throughout the 1980s and ’90s, speaking out against U.S. intervention in Latin America and the Persian Gulf states. On June 12, 1982, Women Strike for Peace helped organize one million people who demanded an end to the arms race. In 1988 they supported Carolyna Marks in the creation of the Unique Berkeley Peace Wall, as well as similar walls in Oakland, Moscow, Hiroshima and Israel (a joint Jewish and Palestinian children’s Peace Wall). In 1991, they protested the Iraq-Persian Gulf War; afterwards, they urged the American government to lift sanctions on Iraq. In the late 1990s Women Strike for Peace mainly focused on nuclear disarmament.

It was on this date, March 26, in 1969 that Women Strike for Peace demonstrated in Washington, D.C., in the first large antiwar demonstration since President Richard Nixon’s inauguration in January.

More important was the fact that Paul Findley, a Republican from Illinois, had inserted into the daily Congressional Record the 31,379 names of the United States dead in Vietnam.  [>>> NYT article]

WSP remained active through the 1990s.

1961 Women Strike for Peace

 

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Vietnam My Lai Massacre

Vietnam My Lai Massacre

March 16, 1968

Vietnam My Lai Massacre
Photo from Life Magazine, Dec 1, 1969, by Ronald L. Haeberle
Vietnam My Lai Massacre

Charlie Company


Charlie Company had departed  for Vietnam on December 1, 1967. The company was comprised of five platoons. Captain Ernest Medina had earned the nickname “Mad Dog” from his high expectations and his quick temper.


               William L. Calley, Lieutenant of Charlie Company’s 1st Platoon, struggled with basic leadership and was often ridiculed and belittled by Medina, who called Calley “Sweetheart.”


               On January 30, 1968 the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops had launched the Tet Offensive attacking a hundred cities and towns throughout South Vietnam. Charlie Company was not involved.


               Charlie Company continued to have limited contact with the enemy, but while on routine patrols men are injured or killed by landmines. Frustration developed.

Vietnam My Lai Massacre

Booby trap


 On March 14, while on a patrol, a booby trap killed Sergeant George Cox. Two other GI’s were seriously injured. In one of the first documented instances of outright aggression, angry members of Charlie Company lashed out – while passing through a village troops shoot and killed a woman civilian working in a field.


On March 15, Captain Medina and the other commanders were briefed about increased intelligence that pointed to a small group of villages called My Lai as the haven for a Vietcong battalion. This intelligence will later prove faulty.


               The men were encouraged to be aggressive, that anyone they encounter will likely be the enemy as the residents of My Lai will be away at market.

Vietnam My Lai Massacre

March 16, 1968

A partial account


               The attack began. Troops did encounter some enemy. At…

Vietnam My Lai Massacre

7:50 AM


               The two lead platoons moved through the village and shot fleeing Vietnamese or bayonet others. They throw hand grenades into houses and bunkers and destroy livestock and crops.

Vietnam My Lai Massacre

7:50 – 8:30 AM


               The two platoons in the village rounded up approximately 20-50 civilians (mostly women, children and old men,) pushed them along trails to a dirt road south of the village, and placed them under guard. Another group of 70 civilians were moved to the east of the village.


               Without pretext, soldiers begin bayoneting  or shooting the civilians. One GI pushed a man down a well and threw a grenade in after him. Over a dozen women and children praying by a temple were shot in the head.


Vietnam My Lai Massacre

8:15 AM


               Two soldiers come across a woman carrying an infant and walking with a toddler; they fire at her. An elderly woman is spotted running down a path with an unexploded M79 grenade lodged in her stomach. One soldier forces a woman around the age of 20 to perform oral sex on him while holding a gun to a four-year-old child’s head.


Vietnam My Lai Massacre

Massacre continues…

9:00 AM


               Lieutenant Calley reached the drainage ditch into which the civilians had been herded and gave the order to start killing them. Within ten minutes, all were shot down by members of the 1st Platoon. Witnesses to the shooting reported anywhere between 75 and 150 Vietnamese were killed. None of the Vietnamese were armed.


Vietnam My Lai Massacre

 Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson


Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson was a helicopter pilot and part of the operation. Early on, he had radioed for medical help when he saw wounded civilians. When he flew over the same group later he realized that they were dead. At  9:40 AM the crew of Thompson’s observation helicopter watched as a small group of soldiers approached a young woman lying wounded on the ground. Thompson had previously marked this woman with smoke. A captain walked up to the woman, prodded her with his foot and shot her in the head. (This captain was later identified as Medina.) 


 Two days later Thompson was called in to report and he described what he saw as the unnecessary killing of civilians. After the meeting, Thompson was described as being furious at command’s lack of concern.


Vietnam My Lai Massacre

My Lai Massacre


In an official report regarding the My Lai operation, a Lieutenant Colonel Barker concluded that the assault was successful: “This operation was well planned, well executed, and successful. Friendly casualties were light and the enemy suffered heavily. The infantry unit on the ground and helicopters were able to assist civilians in leaving the area in caring for and/or evacuating the wounded.”


Vietnam My Lai Massacre

April-May 1968


               The army sent Thompson out in increasingly dangerous situations. Thompson was shot down five times, the last occurred during a mission from Da Nang to an airbase at Chu Lai, which broke his back.


               During this time, G.I. Ron Ridenhour began to hear stories from members of Charlie Company and was curious. By November 1968 Ridenhour was no longer in the Army and had returned home to Phoenix.


Vietnam My Lai Massacre

A year later…April 1969


               Ron Ridenhour’s information and requests for an official investigation finally yielded results and on April 23, 1969 the Office of the Inspector General began a full inquiry.


               On September 10, NBC Correspondent Robert Goralski reported that Lieutenant Calley “has been accused of premeditated murder of a number of South Vietnamese civilians. The murders are alleged to have been committed a year ago and the investigation is continuing.”


Vietnam My Lai Massacre             


 November 17, 1969. The New York Times ran a story that quoted survivors of the My Lai massacre, who claimed over 567 Vietnamese men, women, and children were killed by American soldiers.


               December 5, 1969: photos of the massacre are published. On the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite issues a warning about the disturbing images for viewers before showing them. The horrific images immediately cause a country-wide uproar.


               March 29, 1971: Calley (and only Calley) was found guilty of premeditated murder of 22 civilians and sentenced to life in prison. The sentence was controversial and generated public outcry. Draft board members resign, veterans turned in their medals, and the “Free Calley” movement was born. Georgian governor Jimmy Carter asked his constituency to drive for a week with their lights on in protest, and flags were flown at half-mast in the state of Indiana.


Vietnam My Lai Massacre

 Fall 1971


Fall 1971: Captain Medina was acquitted of all charges and Lieutenant Calley’s life sentence was reduced to 20 years.


                March 6, 1998: Warrant Officer Thompson was recognized for his courage and honesty with the Soldier’s Medal. Thompson died on January 6, 2006.


                 August 20, 2009: for the first time Lieutenant Calley spoke publicly about My Lai. In front of the Kiwanis Club of Columbus, OH, he said, “There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”


 Dates are from PBS for the American Experience.
[>>>American Experience timeline]

Vietnam My Lai Massacre
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Walter Cronkite Vietnam

Walter Cronkite Vietnam

February 27, 1968
Walter Cronkite Vietnam
Cronkite in Vietnam (photo from CBS news)
Walter Cronkite Vietnam

The News


In 1968 you got your news from newspapers, radio, or TV. Newspapers typically published a morning edition, though there were certainly afternoon papers that the grammar school paperboy delivered while listening to his transistor radio.


At 7 PM (ET), that paperboy might have sat down with his father (Mom was putting younger siblings to bed) and watched the half-hour evening news. There were three networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS and until 1963 the shows had been just 15 minutes long.


Walter Cronkite Vietnam

Walter Cronkite


The news anchors were Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC,  Frank Reynolds on ABC, and  Walter Cronkite on CBS. They ruled the news airwaves, particularly Walter Cronkite, who was sometimes referred to as “the most trusted man in America.” I learned the word avuncular when someone used it describing him.


Every news organization has biases. It selects what to report and what not to report, but the aim is to be objective. Reports tried to stick with observable facts. Editorializing during the evening news was unusual.


Reporting from the field was different, too.  Unlike today when reporters are “embedded” with a military group and go only where that group go, reporters then could go where they could go. In other words, if a reporter could find a way to get to the front or wherever, that reporter could go there.


Walter Cronkite Vietnam

Tet Offensive


On January 30, 1968, the Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army troops launched the Tet Offensive attacking a hundred cities and towns throughout South Vietnam. The surprise offensive was closely observed by American TV news crews in Vietnam which filmed the U.S. embassy in Saigon being attacked by 17 Viet Cong commandos, along with bloody scenes from battle areas showing American soldiers under fire, dead and wounded. The graphic color film footage was then quickly relayed back to the states for broadcast on nightly news programs.



While the Tet Offensive was repulsed by the American troops, at home the idea that we had been in control, that we were winning, that the war would end soon was severely questioned.  Particularly in light of what Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, had told U.S. news reporters the previous November: “I am absolutely certain that whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing.”


Walter Cronkite Vietnam

February 27, 1968

On February 27, 1968, Walter Cronkite delivered the news. Objectively. Calmly.


At the end of his report he did something unusual. Prepared. Not off script. Cronkite said…


Tonight, back in more familiar surroundings in New York, we’d like to sum up our findings in Vietnam, an analysis that must be speculative, personal, subjective. Who won and who lost in the great Tet Offensive against the cities? I’m not sure. The Vietcong did not win by a knockout but neither did we.


We’ve been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders…


Both in Vietnam and Washington to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. For it seems now more certain than ever, that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past.


To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, if unsatisfactory conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy’s intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations.


But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.


This is Walter Cronkite. Good night.


Here is a piece of that report:


The common story after Cronkite’s report is that President Lyndon Johnson turned to his press secretary, George Christian, and said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country.”


It can be argued that Cronkite’s statement didn’t actually have the impact that history credits it, but it can’t be argued that at time of relatively limited news media when a generally well-respected man whom people watched five nights a week and depended upon for their news went against something, opinion scales were tipped toward getting out of Vietnam.


Walter Cronkite Vietnam
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