Tag Archives: Vietnam War

NSA Memorandum 328

NSA Memorandum 328

April 6, 1965

NSA Memorandum 328

NSA Memorandum 328

Old war

Wars rarely start without warning. Perhaps the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise, yet their aggression was not.

War in Vietnam was not new in 1965. France had promised its colony independence after World War II. On September 2, 1945 Ho Chi Minh declared that independence. His proclamation paraphrased the U.S. Declaration of Independence: “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness!

War with the French ensued. Ho Chi Minh defeated them and the US, under President Eisenhower, stepped in in the mid-1950s. Eisenhower was sure that a Communist ruled Vietnam would lead to Communism throughout southeast Asia. The Domino Theory.

At first we sent advisors, but as time exposed the weakness and corruption of the so-called democratic South Vietnam, the United States, now under President Lyndon B Johnson, decided to change from advisors to attackers.

NSA Memorandum 328

Ground troops

The US National Security Council meetings on April 1 and 2 in 1965 were about what we should do regarding Vietnam. The people of the United States found out on April 6.

President Johnson authorized the National Security Action Memorandum 328: the use of ground troops in combat operations in Vietnam.

The memorandum authorized U.S. personnel to take the offensive in South Vietnam to secure “enclaves” and to support South Vietnamese operations. The so-called “enclave strategy” called for the U.S. forces to control the densely-populated coastal areas while the South Vietnamese forces moved inland to fight the communists.

This memorandum represented a major mission change for the American soldiers and Marines who had recently arrived in Vietnam. American forces had been limited to strictly defensive operations around the U.S. air bases, but the memorandum authorized them to go on the offensive to secure large areas of terrain, an escalation of U.S. involvement in the war.

NSA Memorandum 328

TV explanation

On July 28 that year, Johnson explained why we were in Vietnam.

Today,  there are 58,307 names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.

NSA Memorandum 328
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Women Strike for Peace

Women Strike for Peace


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.

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.

Women Strike for Peace Women Strike for Peace

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)

Women Strike for Peace
Dorothy Marder
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


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.

Women Strike for Peace
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Vietnam My Lai Massacre

Vietnam My Lai Massacre

March 16, 1968

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 MassacreNovember 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 & following

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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