American culture has shaped powerful myths about the war - and some of the most powerful ones surround the Vietnam-era veteran. This American RadioWorks documentary, “Revisiting Vietnam: 25 Years From Vietnam,” presents various reports and interviews from an American perspective.
Documentary segments include:
The Movie in Our Heads
American culture has shaped powerful myths about the war - and some of the most powerful ones surround the Vietnam-era veteran. John Biewen looks at who they were then, and who they are today.
The Vietnam Tapes of Michael A. Baronowski
In 1966 a young Marine took a reel-to-reel tape recorder with him to the battlefield. Until he was killed in action, Michael Baronowski made tapes of his friends, of life in foxholes, and of combat. His comrade Tim Duffie tells the story of war, loss, and friendship with the help of Lost & Found Sound's Christina Egloff and Jay Allison.
The War Against the War
The protesters and supporters of US involvement in Vietnam have had three decades to reflect on what they were fighting for. Sandy Tolan reviews the impact and legacy of the antiwar movement.
(00:00:00) From Minnesota Public Radio and National Public Radio. This is an American radio works Special Report 25 years from Vietnam. I'm Bill Busan Berg a quarter Century after the Vietnam War ended Americans are still debating what it meant this hour we explore myths about Vietnam veterans and I did what I had to do to win, but somebody would Didn't you know you don't go through three or four years of military discipline and come out say boy. I'm going to go rob a bank or shoot my mother. We hear the raw sounds of the war as experienced by a 19 year old marine
(00:00:32) and there's all kinds of garbage going on. We don't know whether it's outgoing or incoming or words passed down like that sounds of the Enchanted Forest
(00:00:41) and we take a fresh look at the Vietnam anti-war movement. We expressed the division of the nation in a form that was out there socially and in everybody's face this our 25 years from Vietnam first the news. This is a special report from American radio works 25 years from Vietnam. I'm Bill Busan Berg. The Vietnam War ended on April 30th 1975 when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese this hour an American perspective on the Wars legacy. The Vietnam veteran is perhaps the most mythologized figure to emerge from the war some three million men and women served in Vietnam most are in their 50s now in our first segment the In our heads American radio works correspondent John be one looks at some of the competing stories told by and about Vietnam Vets the Vietnam War and the Deep divided over its meaning is seemingly hardwired into the soul and psyche of America. Duluth Minnesota is a long way from Saigon or for that matter from the Pentagon were Berkeley but Vietnam lives here too. And so when I walk in here, this is like Holy Ground to us and it means something that's how Durbin Kini feels about Duluth Vietnam War Memorial. It was dedicated in 1992. It's a Concrete Half Dome with its back to Lake Superior across from it as though taking shelter in a bunker is a black granite. All reminiscent of the much larger one in Washington DC while has a hundred thirty six names on it five pows in the area from the seven counties surrounding this area. So we're real proud of what we put together here to provide healing for the families for the community. I've come down here in the middle night and found guys playing guitars and singing to the wall Durbin. Keaney is 51 a big man with red hair and a gray beard. He served in Vietnam in 1970 and 71 is an Air Force security officer on this Cool Spring day. He wears a black jacket and a cap with a visor both declare him a Vietnam veteran. So do Durbin's belt buckle and his license plate. He says his fellow Vietnam Vets are his life now. They are his Tation in a basement office. Keaney runs a small nonprofit group that helps homeless veterans find housing treatment and other
(00:03:16) health, right, but you're working through this. Okay, you're working through that.
(00:03:21) That's Earl net counselor in the office on the phone with a troubled vet trying to get somebody in the treatment you let
(00:03:28) go of the past. So if you're going to rise above all those other issues the
(00:03:35) vet on the other end of the line. A need to let go of the past but Durbin Keeney says he couldn't do it in the 1970s and 80s. He worked in insurance and other business ventures trying to forget the war everything changed a few years ago. He says when he finally faced his own Vietnam memories, there are times that I guarded the Blackbird and the Blackbird would take off after the freedom birds at night Freedom Bridge took troops home. The Blackbird was where the soldiers who were killed or taken out. And the hardest thing that I've always dealt with Excuse me is what we call Survivor skill. I made it in somebody else didn't. I know now why I believe I believe very firmly that those Rhymes reason why some of us surviving some of us didn't summons from different states are survival because that's allowed me to do what I'm doing today. I'm Tom Morgan.
(00:04:33) I teach Russian language Russian literature Russian history, and he
(00:04:40) studies here at the College of st. Scholastica and Duluth at 55. Tom Morgan looks the part of the college professor tweed jacket and round wire-rimmed glasses. He grew up in Duluth. He graduated from the local University of Minnesota Campus before enlisting in the Navy and going to Vietnam in 1968. The walls of Morgan's small office are covered with photos posters and flyers almost all of them having to do with Russia Morgan's academic field if there is any reference to your background as a Vietnam veteran in the office. I'm not seeing it.
(00:05:20) Well, neither am I
(00:05:22) it was definitely an
(00:05:24) important and a defining moment in my life and it has shaped me but I continue to grow and expand and look
(00:05:32) forward. In fact though Morgan does carry Vietnam with him in midlife. He's become a peace activist of sorts.
(00:05:39) First of all, I mean, I saw people get blown apart, you know, and that would get anybody to begin to question, you know the value of any War.
(00:05:50) Of years ago Morgan worked to defeat a plan to park a World War II era battleship in the Duluth Port as a tourist attraction a project Durbin Kini actively supported Morgan objected that the ship would glorify War. He says his anti-war convictions grew straight out of
(00:06:07) Vietnam. Now, you know what to think about this war but I was you know, fairly patriotic and still em, I mean, I think this country is pretty wonderful country. Because I couldn't make up my mind or didn't really have a clear understanding. I just went along with it because we're all against communism, aren't we it took a while to sort of for me to understand the futility and the hopelessness of that situation
(00:06:46) Morgan and Kenny are just to Veterans with two very different. Ways of fitting Vietnam into their lives unlike the rest of us who struggle over the meaning of that War veterans have the added experience or burden of watching politicians the news media and the makers of popular culture tell their story one recurring image. Is that of the violently unbalanced Vietnam vet the movies have turned out many such characters like Robert De Niro's Taxi Driver. Listen, you freak. Hers, you screwheads. Here's a man who would not take it anymore a man who stood up against the scum the cunts the dog's of course some Vietnam veterans are mentally ill some are chemically addicted and homeless but veteran BG berkut author of a book on vets called Stolen Valor says, he looked hard at government statistics. He thinks most people will be surprised by what he discovered about Vietnam Vets. We had the lowest unemployment rate of any major. Had the highest per capita income had the highest educational rate. We had one of the lowest criminality rates of any group in America, you know, you don't go through three or four years of military discipline and come out and say boy, I'm going to go rob a bank or shoot. My mother another stock Hollywood character is the gung-ho Vietnam soldier turned veteran with a grudge you think Rambo is the only guy who had a tough time in Vietnam. He killed a police officer for Christ's sake and God damn lucky. He didn't kill all of you The Grudge is usually directed toward the anti-war movement and a government that didn't wage an all-out attack and I did what I had to do to win, but somebody wouldn't let us win. So the loss of the war is attributed to something that happened here on the home front. Jerry Lemke is a Vietnam veteran and a sociologist at Holy Cross College. We were sold out by liberals in Congress who wouldn't fund the War and who wouldn't approve the military strategy that we needed to win the war and we were we were In the back by the anti-war movement in the streets that demoralized our soldiers in Vietnam and gave Aid and comfort to the enemy that we were fighting against Lemke says, that's the dominant opinion expressed by Vietnam vets in the movies, but it's not lemke's view. He says most vets. He knows don't feel that way either nor did most of the gis he knew in Vietnam. He served as an army chaplains assistant in 1969 the unit that I was assigned to attend time, I would say most One of the men there couldn't wait to get home to join the anti-war movement. The prevailing opinion was that the people at home who are protesting the war are right there on the right side of this issue and we're on the wrong side. BG berkut had a very different experience. He says the men in his infantry Unit were gung-ho but then he did his tour in 1968. The morale did not really start to decline until probably mid 69.
(00:09:49) And then of
(00:09:49) course by 7071 it got terrible because by that time with the peace talks is started and Nixon's talking peace with honor. And so if you're over there, you know, you're not there to win a war and the only thing is going to happen to you the longer you stay there is you're going to get killed or wounded. There are no firm statistics on how many Vietnam G is actively opposed their own War most experts say it was far short of a majority but in the early 1970s military leaders themselves described a crisis among Vietnam soldiers saying many were dispirited and nearly mutinous
(00:10:31) sitting in a bunker with about a dozen of grunts of the 1st Cav division
(00:10:36) journalist, Richard Boyle made this recording at a military base in South Vietnam in October. 71
(00:10:44) last night I ordered to go into night combat assault several of the men refused to go and none of the 15 on the
(00:10:54) patrol. Wanted to go not only to what they saw as a suicidal Mission, but to the war effort itself, they said their commanding officer wouldn't let them wear T-shirts with Peace symbols, he calls us Hypocrites because we were a peace signs like if we wanted to come over here and fight
(00:11:19) now we do you believe in protecting my
(00:11:20) own country if the country became came down where I'm
(00:11:24) going to be a final war but
(00:11:26) called it means nothing to me historians say so called combat refusals became increasingly common in Vietnam after 1969 G is also expressed their opposition to the war in underground newspapers and coffeehouse rap sessions. Wore black armbands in the field some went further says historian Terry Anderson of Texas AM during the years of 1969 down to 1973. We have the rise of fragging that is shooting or hand grenading your NCO or your officer who orders you out into the field. It's my own troops. I have to watch out for he said I sleep with a piss. It'll right under my head. The US Army itself does not know exactly how many ncos and officers were murdered. But had they know at least 600 were murdered and then they have another 1400 that died. Mysteriously consequently by the early 1970s the armies at War not with the Enemy, but with itself, of course the vast majority of Vietnam G is carried out their orders and came home is a Kelly f Base in San Antonio to give a very special welcome home to some very special people the end of 1966 a Universal Studios newsreel described. The return of wounded Vietnam soldiers President Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Bird greeted the man president expresses the Gratitude of a Grateful Nation. By the end of the war there was not much Sonny talk of a Grateful Nation. The country had lost its first war Americans were profoundly divided over the conflict and held complicated feelings about its veterans. Sociologists. Jerry Lemke says from the late 1970s on politicians and the media dwelled increasingly on returning vets. What popular culture did was rewrite the history rewrite the story of the Vietnam War in many ways as being a story about
(00:13:33) veterans coming home. Home from the war
(00:13:35) in other words. He says the nation's public soul-searching on Vietnam turn to questions about post-traumatic stress disorder the lack of Welcome Home parades and poww am IA s Lemke and some others who thought about Vietnam for decades now would rather talk about other perhaps more troubling questions. Why did we send those men and women to Vietnam in the first place? What did we ask them to do on our behalf historian? Young of New York University says Americans have a big stake in not thinking too hard about those questions and insisting that the United States founded in Freedom pursuing freedom and liberty for all throughout its history that that story of America is salvaged and it's a good deal to give up. It's a lot to give up to reckon with the actual history of any country and how what it's done. In the world and what any government is done abroad and to its own people and then people don't want to give out the simple story because it's it's an Isis story and it always has a happy ending. There's no sign of consensus among Vietnam vet about the meaning of their War as one veteran in Duluth. Minnesota says the conversation is still continuing. This is John be one. Coming up a portrait of the war based on recordings made by a 19 year old Marine. I'm Bill boozing Burg, you're listening to 25 years from Vietnam a special report from American radio works and NPR National Public Radio. You're listening to a special report from American radio works 25 years from Vietnam. I'm Bill view Sandberg. Michael Barone house key was a 19 year old Marine when he landed in Vietnam in 1966. He brought a reel-to-reel tape recorder with him and used it to record audio letters to his family back in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Aronofsky was killed in 1967 his friend and fellow platoon member Tim Duffy found those tapes a few years ago. Our next segment was Deuced by Christina a glove with Jay Allison the Vietnam tapes of Lance corporal Michael a baron house key every death is a tragedy and I don't buy into the any given death was more tragic than the others. Okay. But in in this of all the 58,000 tragedies, this is one that's very close to me.
(00:17:33) Delaware to beginner so much to tell you about I've been real lucky with a rain so far. It's rained only about four of the days. We've been here and the rest of the time they've been busy every hour every minute with setting in and digging in preparing fields of fire clearing fields of fire patrolling ambushing standing 50% security at night stringing up barbed wire trip flares and other goodies the terrain is Majestic it's like something out of Heidi. The view is magnificent. and just as Sinister as it is magnificent Sinister because this is the perfect terrain the perfect country for Mortar attacks and the VC have made use of
(00:18:27) it. My name is Tim Duffy at the time. I was in Vietnam. I was Corporal Corporal Tim Duffy United States Marine Corps to one nine nine 108 Mike at the time was a lance corporal. And we were together in October and November of 1966.
(00:18:46) There's another number get to know for the topes here if I'm able to hang on to the recorder. Mr. Tim Duffy. I got to know Mike back in Okinawa. He introduced himself one night.
(00:18:58) We met in Okinawa in September of 1966. Then we took the USS, Iwo Jima from Okinawa down to Vietnam. Then we moved up to what was called payable Hill which was located between Rock pile in the Razorback approximately four to five thousand yards south of the demilitarized zone in Quang Tri Province
(00:19:19) by the recorder here and I'm going to try to keep it elevated off the ground and away from everything here. I'm going to try to keep it up in the air because everything I touch here eats through my skin or bites me or rot something this is this is something else the grass will cut you the mud will rot your skin. This is something else.
(00:19:41) We're in my bunker and what we would do was during the day you had some free time if you were not on patrol or on operation. So if Mike happened to have his free time while I'm on whole watch he would come down with his tape recorder and we would tape while I'm you know on whole watch.
(00:19:59) This is the 35 watt boys have station Mo XP broadcasting to you from the swamps jungles Boondocks and infected salad the fort McCourt, home of the fighting first platoon of hungry
(00:20:11) iron. We're Taping that comedy session and we did it in my fighting hole and I can't see him sitting there doing that that tape
(00:20:21) this portion of our programming is brought to you by 20 round burst. The candy bar voted best acts waste of the war.
(00:20:28) Mike had made me go out and buy a harmonica and he taught he gave me one lesson how to hold my tongue and play one note of the time but he knew he wanted background music for all this crazy crap. So he, you know made me learn how to to quote play the harmonica and that's me in the background with the Marine Corps
(00:20:45) hymn. Don't be one of those unfortunates who suffer tragically from that Melody sometimes referred to as Vietcong yellow stripe at fever Stoops troops stupefy your friends and making your enemies exercise your god-given right to kill or maim at a distance. It's a great feeling to know that you can wipe out your entire neighborhood. Yes be the first kid on your block to rule the world. See y'all Marine Corps recruiter today.
(00:21:15) I really think Mike and I were just such Kindred Spirits, you know, ironically I don't ever remember us sitting around talking about the potential that one of us would die. You know, we we just were not sitting there waiting to die.
(00:21:32) I just don't know what to say. I'm a total loss for words here. I'm looking at our window now hole in the sandbag wall in the back of the hooch. Looking out toward the East up toward home. Long Way From Home Actually, I guess home is closer straight down. It'll be great to hear your voice is again, and I can't wait to get a tape. Make sure they'll good. When you send a tape. It's on a two-inch just sitting here listening to your tapes were already had breakfast Terry mom cooking and myself came up to Scranton. Sandy worked all day yesterday. Try to State not get ready for Thanksgiving and I'm starting to get Daddy's lunch dinner ready. He eats his dinner about 12 o'clock. So what I prepared Prepare for the whole family and just yesterday. Mom. Took me to see Mary Poppins and I was really good movie. I enjoyed it very much faster. Take care of yourself. And don't do anything. I wouldn't do is everybody in schools this by Terry and I like it's cookie. So I came in to say a few words. Hello to brighten your day. So I'll see you Mike. I appreciate you sending the money home like but I can't I just doesn't seem right for me to spend your money. So I opened an account and I'm putting the money that you sent home to me into the bank for you when you get home. I wish you could be home for Christmas. I'd be the greatest thing in the world. Everybody's anxious to get home. Get back to there. families and their girls but while we're over here, we're not wasting away thinking about it work. Glad and proud. This is where I belong I think. More so than any place
(00:23:37) else? These tapes I assume these tapes were long gone. I never even considered the possibly they'd still be around then I met cookie in 97 and I couldn't believe that she had those tapes. I personally think that what he did with the tape recorder was practice. I think it would have been his portfolio when he came home. He was going in radio when he came home and he was just going to take that around and play it and say see this is what I can
(00:24:16) do. The rest of the tape here on this side are sounds as a recorded them when they called a hundred percent alert, which is pretty rare. The the
(00:24:37) attack was officially I guess referred to as a probe. So what the NVA were doing is they were looking for a weakness and that whole battle was taking place. 30 yards from Mike and I
(00:24:52) know the woods been passed to fix bayonets. Sarge just came running by his and let me go get my pants. I can get it on this started to be a fun tape skin too much like a $0.12 combat comic book now. Yeah. Hey Carter, how many of you over there where the Wherever you're not home, okay? There's all kinds of garbage going on. We don't know whether it's outgoing or incoming over. It's passed down like that. Illumination is being kept up every once in a while a 60 millimeter mortar mission is called out to our left front whole Mountain out there one of us. Looks like a dagger Christmas tree fire high explosive. You can hear the illumination being kept up there. Those were heat rounds high explosive. It's dark now. We're waiting for the illumination to go off. It has a hairy. Are we feeling sitting there in the dark with all that stuff going on? sounds of the Enchanted Forest Jesus it's too close. Airstrike wipe Napalm all over the place. Look at that. You're in the Pepsi generation.
(00:27:09) I don't see any any indication of fear in his voice. We didn't know what we were going to have to grab our rifles and M14 or in grenades and have at it because if they'd have broken through that point then we were going to be in an all-out hand-to-hand combat and that very potencial there was no way I could have stood there and did what he did.
(00:27:32) It's dark quiet. Everything's been quiet for about 15 minutes now. Let's just crouching down in the hole there talking to a hand grenade. I thought it was the microphone realized what I was doing. And the rains just on time. I will rain the rest of the night.
(00:28:07) My memories of how Mike died are he was walking point and I was in a squad. I was carrying a radio and I was probably five or six people back and we're moving along side of a Vietnamese Village and the village was deserted and we I heard One shot which we knew was not an M14 we knew it wasn't one of ours and then two more shots, and basically that was the end of it in somebody shouted. Mike was down and I ran up through the fence row and I saw Mike laying off to the side on the ground. I moved up beside him and in my memory he was looking at me and so I had to run off and we dealt with the with the firefight. And then they had to set up perimeter security to bring in the Medevac helicopters. And so thinking that Mike has been wounded. I'm sitting under the tree and I'm kind of smiling to myself good he's going home now and I thought he had gotten the million-dollar wound and I began to kind of in my imagination. I could see myself driving across the Interstate 70 driving into Norristown. I pictured a house like I think he would live in And I pictured myself walking up the sidewalk and Mike sees me and he comes running out the door and a big hug and welcome home. And let's go to New York City. That was our dream then the helicopters land I look up and I see four people one on each ankle and wrist literally they've lifted him up like a sack of potatoes. They're running across the field. His head was hanging back bouncing across the dirt and I started to stand up and say, Say that's no way to treat a wounded
(00:29:55) man. And boom
(00:29:59) and I knew he was wounded. I knew he was dead. If you were to take me back to the beginning of it and say okay now here's how it's going to end. Are you sure you want to do this? Thank God still have to say yeah, I want to do it again and it's not the war. It's not the cause. It's not Vietnam. It's just the the kind of of love that you get in such a short intense period of time. I think I can go to his grave now. I've never done it. and take a copy of the tape and just kind of dig a little hole there and maybe we'll put one of the copy of the broadcast there for him. I don't know but I think it's I'm going to have to go tell him that that it worked that he's been on the radio and he made
(00:31:07) it. Well, that's my Hooch. But what I usually do. Is stumble around and if I can find my way through the darkness that come down here and talk to one of the men standing whole watch her on the hill. Who's there? My friends down here. His name is nine. He's sitting here with his eyes half closed poor guys been on watch Adam are you doing night? Fine. He look like you're about to fall over. He's just sitting here on the Sandbags, right up one probably doesn't care who's out there. Too tired to care about anything got they move. Yoga know that time. Oh God means maybe rain and he doesn't think so. I don't think so either Billion Stars visible tonight beautiful almost every night that's clear and now more and more nights aren't clear because the monsoon is fast coming but those nights that are clear. Every Star that's visible with the human eye I guess is visible. It's a beautiful sight no key way and all the constellations. Of course, they're a little bit different. now that we're on the other side of the planet and looking at them from some weird cockeyed angle. I don't know. Hey, I've got some news for you, and they meritorious Lance corporal today. How about that proud of me? Wow, you see that shooting Stormer. See that was a big shooting star just now. and that was Motors. This is so much easier than writing. I can do it that dark of course, which is nice except that this damn red blinker here as lavender get me Zapped. So I've got my hand over it. I'm not quite as awake as I should be when I try to tape, but just wanted to get this one off to you. but I can so that you'll have it and we're going to thinking about you. I think about it. I love you and miss you so much. every day You just don't have any idea Mom and Dad Cookie, Sandy and Terry how good it was to hear your voice again. It was really wonderful. That's all I can see. What else can I say? It was really great to hear you all again.
(00:34:29) The Vietnam tapes of Lance corporal Michael Abe. Aronofsky was produced by Christina a glove with Jay Allison as part of the series Lost and Found sound still to come a fresh. Look at the Vietnam anti-war movement. This is 25 years from Vietnam a special report from American radio works and NPR national public radio. For more on the Vietnam War visit our website American radio works dot o-- r-- g-- you'll find photographs of some of the people in this room. Word and an account by a veteran and poet not included in this radio special. You'll also find reports by Deborah George and Daniel zwerdling on the Wars legacy in Vietnam. All that plus the complete audio of this news special at American radio works dot-org lost and found sound is produced by the kitchen sisters Divya Nelson and Nikki Silva and Jay Allison in collaboration with NPR with funding from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting the Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities major funding for revisiting Vietnam is provided by the Stanley foundation and major funding for American radio works is provided by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Florence and John schuhmann foundation with additional support from the John D and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. American radio works is the national documentary unit of Minnesota Public Radio in cooperation with NPR National Public Radio. I'm Bill boozing Berg. This is a special report from American radio works 25 years from Vietnam by the mid-1960s as the war in Vietnam escalated so did tensions in the United States in our final segment journalist, Sandy Tolan explores the Vietnam anti-war movement and its impact on America ladies and gentlemen Country Joe well, Help again got himself in a terrible Jam Way Down Yonder in Vietnam put down your books and pick up a gun. We're gonna have a whole lot of fun and it's one two, three. What are we fighting for? Don't ask me. I don't give a damn. The next stop is Vietnam the protesters and the proponents of u.s. Involvement in Vietnam have had three decades to reflect on what they were fighting for the children born during that time. After the war and the war at home over Vietnam is as distant as World War II was for their parents when I first got here into Berkeley nothing. Oh, this is where it all happened. This is so cool for students it on a cement Cube at the University of California Campus a cradle of the Eddie War movement as I wait here for a veteran of the movement these students from the School of Public Health. Try to imagine what the campus was like before they were born the first images that come to my mind are just rallies people standing.
(00:38:29) On podiums
(00:38:30) and big poster signal out of Vietnam and
(00:38:34) and flashing images of Kennedy and Nixon and and just Wong boys going away. I like and I'm these are things that I've seen on movies. This is what I've grown up hearing about the vehicle. Yeah Forrest Gump movies. Just I mean my parents And I
(00:38:55) think our generation doesn't even know what war is anymore. You have no conception of what it is for just random people to be killed. I hear a voice behind me in turn around. It's the guy I've been waiting for graduate. It's so striking deep lines carved into Michael Ross man's face. The students look suddenly shiny faces smooth ice clear. They consider this man with the gray pony tail. We divided the nation. We expressed the division of the nation in a form that was out there socially and in everybody's face later in an off-campus Coffee House Michael and I go over some of the history in 1964 many students returned from Mississippi summer in the Civil Rights Movement the next year in Berkeley Vietnam to in campus-wide tietjens kicked off years of protests by 1967 frustration and rage and an escalating War brought more radical. Activists tried to shut down the draft process at the Oakland induction Center violent conflict filled the streets and the television screens is pushing against them all pushing. It wasn't polite protest thousands of kids would get beat and gassed in the streets and the numbers kept increasing and then they started shooting kids dead from the perspective of those who wanted to persecute the war successfully. It fatally divided America's will Now look I'm going one where the saber and the gun they'll be as it were that all the official history of the anti-war movement read something like this the protests in the street helps slow the war and the war and the government's resolve to continue fighting. But was it really that effective anti-war protesters had aimed at a higher negative public favor quotient according to all the polls then the John Birch Society and the Klu Klux Klan
(00:41:03) anti-war protesters as a group. What was the what was the most hated group in American society
(00:41:07) Adam garfinkel is author of a book examining what he calls the myths of the anti-war movement even people who were concerned about the wisdom of the war were not prepared to oppose it because of the company that they would be seen to be keeping people flying the Vietcong flag people using obscenities.
(00:41:21) In vulgarity people doing
(00:41:23) things that were blatantly anti-patriotic still by 1968 the protests appeared to be making an impact in March in the wake of a strong showing by any War presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, New Hampshire President. Lyndon Johnson stunned the nation. I shall not see
(00:41:41) And I will not
(00:41:42) accept. The nomination of my party for another term as your president yet. If any were protesters took the credit for toppling LBJ, they would soon be assigned blame for What followed? Chicago August 1968. It had already been perhaps the most divisive year in America since the Civil War in January the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive and shattered American Illusions about a quick end to the war two months. Later Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis two months after that Bobby. Kennedy was shot down after winning the California Democratic primary and then at summer said came the Democratic
(00:42:23) Convention. The truck is spraying a a gas the kids are now moving back into the street. They are fighting and pushing
(00:42:52) the indelible image from Chicago was not Hubert Humphrey accepting the Democratic nomination nor the efforts to insert an Eddy War plank into the party platform. It was the picture of enraged you. People coming up against the Defenders of Law and Order as some youth started the police the cops waited into the crowds clubbing some demonstrators into
(00:43:19) Fact-finding commission called it a police Riot yet soon bumper stickers began to appear we support Mayor Daley and the Chicago Police the backlash was in full swing. No doubt the precipitation of the confrontation in Chicago in August 68 had very bad political consequences Todd gitlin former leader of students for a Democratic Society SDS, and now a Sociology professor at New York University says the backlash helped elect Richard Nixon gitlin believes Hubert Humphrey as president would have been under far more pressure within his party to end American involvement quickly among those who bear the blame for that turn of events for the 68 default are those militants in the anti-war movement who didn't vote for Humphrey. I don't exempt myself. Most people. I know including myself didn't vote for for president that year and that was a big mistake
(00:44:18) so tonight. Do you the great silent majority I ask for your
(00:44:25) support during his campaign Richard Nixon said he had a plan to end the war. He wasn't specific a year after his election. He told America the negotiations in Paris were moving forward. He called for Unity
(00:44:37) because let us understand North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that
(00:44:49) mixes strategy was to divide domestic dissent from the great political middle for a Time the message played well. Gloucester Massachusetts on the Seacoast North of Boston here like in many American communities the anti-war movement was made up of middle-class parents who had grown increasingly alarmed at the country's Behavior yet. They were dogged by the radical images of the national movement. We were constantly battling those kinds of images here. Ellen gayben has been an activist for 35 years marching and Selma 1965 joining an American citizens delegation to Cuba last year and in the 60s typing. Letters in organizing forums against the war but the Specter of groups like The Weather Underground the bombings and the violence made her work more difficult locally people talked about and say we told you so look at that. Look at those crazies and began putting us in the same camp. And so not only will we be part of the drug Camp the flower children camp now, we were part of the the bombings in the hysteria that was happening those things they made people afraid. Made to be part of the movement afraid also because people knew the government was watching this was at the height of an extensive us domestic spying campaign. When the FBI the CIA the Army and the National Security Agency infiltrated and kept watch over a vast range of anti-war groups and individuals from the hippies and the weathermen to Martin Luther King to the concerned mothers of Calumet High School in Chicago alone of the several thousand demonstrators at the convention an estimated. A hundred of them were government agents informants and provocateurs. We were much closer to the McCarthy era than anybody is now Joe McCarthy, even though we were doing perfectly legal things with our constitution said we could do but yet there was that element of fear that they could come for us at any time but in the conservative core of the Town among the sons and daughters of the fishermen the call for honor and Duty was answered. I was in high school in the city. 60s and and we we knew that our neighborhood friends once graduated from Gloucester High School. We're going to Vietnam Lucia marrow was born and raised in Gloucester at Good Harbor Beach. We sit on a dune on a cold windy. April day close friends friends that you grow up with next door neighbors. It just seemed as though the neighborhood's were clearing out of all these young guys that we played with we played basketball. With we played Kick the Can in the middle of Granite Street with 11 Gloucester families lost men in Vietnam Lucia new 10 of them. Sammy piscatella lived two doors down and Frank D Amico and her best friend Maddie Amaral. He went into the
(00:47:46) army and
(00:47:51) he didn't come back as 1968 came and the protests built Lucia watched and stayed away. I was never a supporter of the war
(00:48:00) and I ain't never objected to the war. My stand was to support my brother to support my cousin and
(00:48:09) we were brought up at home doing dishes in the kitchen
(00:48:12) singing Kate
(00:48:13) Smith. God Bless America flag waving. My mother would have
(00:48:18) never thought To keep her son home from Vietnam.
(00:48:24) She had friends who demonstrated friends who escaped the draft by going to Canada, but Lucia who now works with Veterans for the city of Gloucester also recalls how her brother Anthony and her cousin Ricky were spurned by some people when they came home from Vietnam young guys, and they were family and I love them and and how could they be doing this to them? But if the excesses of the anti-war movement to learn so many people off so did the In May 1970 blood spilled on a college campus in Middle
(00:49:20) Four students were shot dead by national Guardsmen at Kent State and Ohio. This was for many the ultimate sign of the war at
(00:49:31) why they had live ammunition. I don't know Colonel Walter be Russell with his wife Nancy had long been part of the silent majority but sitting poolside on a visit with the grandkids in Phoenix, they recall their anguish watching the country come apart when I was four kids got killed was absolutely out of line and inexcusable. And it really tore my heart out in 1965 Colonel Russell was shot in the head in Vietnam while on helicopter mission. He lost part of his brain and the use of the left side of his body and spent years in rehab with mrs. Russell and the kids at his side. Then he won a seat in the Georgia house is National disillusionment deepened and the release of the Pentagon papers revealed official lies. The government had long been telling about Vietnam the colonel introduced a resolution. In urging the u.s. To get out of Vietnam Walt Russell West Point grad decorated veteran of Korea and Vietnam and a man who had little time for protesters was fed up. Well my feeling was that the internal fine, but Vietnam, we're doing a lot of damage to the country mean corset 9M decision-making power, but I could do about it was to get this little resolution through and it said we should either go ahead and make a little withdrawal, you know, Nancy Russell kept her silence. She resented the kids who avoided service. The Jane Fonda for going to Hanoi but she and Colonel Russell raised in the time of the good war in Europe came to believe that Vietnam was not the kind of wore their country should fight like so many other Americans Walton Nancy Russell grew exhausted with the Vietnam War. I was against the Vietnam War from the get-go. Of course when Walt got shot in the head. That didn't make me feel any better about that War. I felt my feelings, you know, somebody's got to get this war over pretty fast. 58,000 s is a lot for us and the media of course had never gotten into a war like this one like they did Vietnam. So the capital naked girl coming down the road, you know on fire so, you know the other horrible pictures, but all that would probably do they did that is not the way Americans I think of themselves as doing that but you know, we did it.
(00:51:47) We are going to win
(00:51:50) I'm Sandy Tolan for NPR news an American radio
(00:51:53) works and we don't let people divided our nation in a time of national Peril. The hour is here
(00:52:03) in the face of the people who know they're gonna win. There's a string that's greater than the power of the wind and you can stand around when the ice is growing thin. Are these are the days of decision? This has been a special report from American radio works and NPR 25 years from Vietnam. It was produced and edited by Deborah George associate producer Stephanie Curtis mixing by Craig Thorson and Maggie villiger production help from art Silverman Bill deputy and Darcy bacon of NPR interns Dan gornstein. Nicole's owner and Carlos briceno. The managing editor of American radio works is Stephen Smith project manager Nancy Fusion, I'm Bill. Berg major funding for revisiting Vietnam is provided by the Stanley Foundation major funding for American radio works is provided by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Florence and John schuhmann foundation with additional support from the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation for more on our two-part series on Vietnam visit our website American radio works dot-org American radio works is the national documentary unit of Minnesota Public Radio. Leo in cooperation with NPR National Public Radio.