A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Publication Year: 1999
The anti-Vietnam War movement in the United States is perhaps best remembered for its young, counterculture student protesters. However, the Vietnam War was the first conflict in American history in which a substantial number of military personnel actively protested the war while it was in progress.
In The Turning, Andrew Hunt reclaims the history of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), an organization that transformed the antiwar movement by placing Vietnam veterans in the forefront of the nationwide struggle to end the war. Misunderstood by both authorities and radicals alike, VVAW members were mostly young men who had served in Vietnam and returned profoundly disillusioned with the rationale for the war and with American conduct in Southeast Asia. Angry, impassioned, and uncompromisingly militant, the VVAW that Hunt chronicles in this first history of the organization posed a formidable threat to America's Vietnam policy and further contributed to the sense that the nation was under siege from within.
Based on extensive interviews and in-depth primary research, including recently declassified government files, The Turning is a vivid history of the men who risked censures, stigma, even imprisonment for a cause they believed to be "an extended tour of duty."
Published by: NYU Press
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A book is seldom a solitary endeavor. Numerous people assisted me in my effort to conceive and write this history. First, I would like to thank Robert Goldberg, of the University of Utah. I am proud to count him as my Ph.D. chair, longtime mentor, and close friend. Those who know and respect Goldberg’s writings will instantly detect his influence...
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The 1960s and the first half of the 1970s—an era known as “the sixties” to most observers—has perhaps generated more mythology than any other period in American history. Over time, the standard paradigms of the sixties have become clichés. The scenario is familiar: The decade began with the highest of ideals and aspirations, as embodied by...
Chapter 1: The Highest Form of Patriotism
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In the summer of 1967, J. Edgar Hoover, the aging director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, received a memorandum from FBI field agents in New York City concerning the formation of a new organization, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). The agents described it as a loose-knit, “non-membership organization” based at 17 East 17th...
Chapter 2: To Redeem the Promise Lost
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Throughout most of 1969, VVAW was moribund. Its remains—posters, pamphlets, address cards, stationery, photographs, and buttons—lay boxed in Jan Barry’s apartment. But renewal was forthcoming. The participation of veterans in the Vietnam Moratorium protests in the fall of 1969 revived VVAW. The American invasion of Cambodia and...
Chapter 3: The War Itself Is a War Crime
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While sitting around the evening campfires during Operation RAW, veterans shared stories about Vietnam. For many of them, talking about the war marked the beginning of the long healing process. Their accounts often dealt with death, pain, and guilt. Most of the participants simply could not reconcile their actions in Vietnam with their individual...
Chapter 4: Prelude to an Incursion
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Government officials watched VVAW closely during and after the Winter Soldier Investigation. Though the hearings resulted in little media coverage, the organization alarmed the FBI and the Nixon administration. Authorities monitored activists, collected dossiers on witnesses who had testified in Detroit, infiltrated meetings, and attempted to rouse...
Chapter 5: The Turning
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The Winter Soldier Investigation was a critical juncture for VVAW. Entering its fifth year, the organization had come a long way since its early existence as a New York–based speakers’ clearinghouse headquartered in a cramped office shared with other peace groups. It had metamorphosed into a nationwide, multi-issue organization, with...
Chapter 6: The Spirit of ’71
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Dewey Canyon III had been one of the most successful demonstrations against the Vietnam War. It thrust VVAW to the forefront of the antiwar movement and quickly doubled its membership rolls. The medal throwers had left an imprint on the popular imagination, and they were subsequently mythologized by their antiwar veteran...
Chapter 7: The Last Patrol
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VVAW’S evolution in 1971 was rapid, yet far-reaching. At the start of the year, a highly centralized national office oversaw virtually every protest. Local branches, scattered throughout the country, simply recruited antiwar Vietnam veterans. The opposite could be said of VVAW at the end of the year: The national office had diminished in strength...
Chapter 8: Making Peace
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Decline did not come suddenly for VVAW. Membership had peaked at more than twenty-five thousand just a few months before U.S. and Vietnamese leaders signed the Paris agreement of January 1973, formally ending the Vietnam War. Although the effect of the treaty was swift and VVAW rapidly diminished in size, with numerous chapters...
Chapter 9: Reflections
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The term “the sixties” summons flashbacks of Kent State, the Vietnam War, the rock festival at Woodstock, and a deeply divided America. The rise of VVAW in the late sixties and early seventies had a profound impact on the antiwar movement in the United States, yet the breadth of its influence remains largely neglected. VVAW transformed...
About the Author
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The son of antiwar activists, Andrew E. Hunt first encountered Vietnam Veterans Against the War while still a young boy in the early 1970s, when hundreds of members of the Southern California chapter assembled for their annual meeting/campout in his family’s sprawling...
Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 1999