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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Last Revised Spring 2004; references provided at end


  1. Did VVAW lengthen the war by protesting it?
  2. Did VVAW betray the troops by protesting the war?
  3. How has VVAW supported veterans and active duty GI's?
  4. What is Senator John Kerry's relationship to VVAW?
  5. What was Dewey Canyon III?
  6. Does VVAW endorse John Kerry for president?
  7. Who founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War?
  8. Did John Kerry state that US troops committed war crimes when he addressed the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate?
  9. What was the Winter Soldier Investigation?
  10. Have the testimonies of the VVAW members in the Winter Soldier Investigation been discredited?
  11. Did one of VVAW's leaders lie about his military service in 1971?
  12. Was John Kerry photographed with Jane Fonda?
  13. What is Jane Fonda's relationship to VVAW?
  14. What was FTA?
  15. What is VVAW's relationship to Communism and Communists?

Did VVAW lengthen the war by protesting it?

The suggestion that VVAW lengthened the war comes from convicted arms dealer, perjurer, and media personality Oliver North. In a cited quote from North (Greg Lewis, "Fellow Travelers, Useful Idiots, and Other Innocents", Washington Dispatch, 2/19/2004), North alleges that Giap in a 1985 book stated that John Kerry and VVAW lengthened the war and insured the ultimate Vietnamese victory. Giap published no 1985 book. THERE IS NO SUCH QUOTE in either of General Giap's two post-war publications (Vo Nguyen Giap, Unforgettable Months And Years, Southeast Asia Program, Dept. of Asian Studies, Cornell University, 1975 or How We Won the War (coauthored by Van Tien Dung) RECON Publications, 1976).

This particular slander on VVAW and Kerry was disseminated on the Internet from a column in the Washington Dispatch by Greg Lewis, February 19, 2004. (Complete article: http://www.washingtondispatch.com/article_8129.shtml) In reaction to responses to his original column, on March 2, 2004, Greg Lewis retracted his initial accusation against Kerry with: "A few weeks ago in a column about Kerry, I referred to what has turned out to be an 'urban legend.' Specifically, based on a 'news' item that appeared on NewsMax.com, I repeated a reference to a volume of memoirs supposedly published by North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap in 1985 as the source of an assertion by Colonel Oliver North. After a reader requested a reference to Giap's 1985 "Memoirs," I did research that convinced me no such volume exists. For that matter, I haven't been able to verify through Fox News that Colonel North actually made the comments he is said to have made and which I repeated. My apologies to Colonel North and to WashingtonDispatch.com readers for including inadequately verified material in my piece on Kerry."

Complete article: http://www.washingtondispatch.com/article_8268.shtml.

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Did VVAW betray the troops by protesting the war?

What you are asking is whether, by protesting, VVAW caused the US to lose the war. The answer is no. The Vietnamese fought the French, the Japanese (for us during WWII), the French again, the US, and the Chinese--one after the other. None of these world-class militaries managed to defeat their nationalistic fervor. We couldn't have won--using conventional tactics.

From its beginning, VVAW has held no value greater than supporting those serving their country in the armed forces. By the time VVAW demonstrated in Washington, DC, US forces in Vietnam were verging on chaos. Nixon had invoked the strategy of Vietnamization and begun steady troop withdrawals that continued until the end of the war. By 1971, the number of US troops in Vietnam had been cut in half. Acts of violence (fraggings) against officers and NCO's had increased. Drug and alcohol abuse were prevalent. Instances in which GI's refused to go on patrol were recorded. Combat patrols by US forces were halted in fall 1971 as Vietnamese forces took over that task (Boyle, 85-103; Curry, 7-12; Savage & Gabriel, 340-376; Wells, 474-475).

Though our military and our government may attempt to portray "the troops" as a homogeneous group the military is made up of individuals. As many currentVVAW members who were fighting in Vietnam in 1971 will tell you, VVAW was trying to stop the senseless waste of life. Whenever there has been a choice between the welfare of GI's and the interests of politicians, VVAW has always chosen support the welfare of fighting men and women (Stacewicz, 196-229). Honor the warrior not the war.

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How has VVAW supported veterans and active duty GI's?

In the mid '70s to mid '80s when traditional veterans groups were calling Vietnam veterans losers, VVAW was the first veterans organizations to set up rap groups to deal with traumatic after-effects of war, setting the example for readjustment counseling at Vet Centers now (Hunt, 86-87, 221n.65; Nicosia, 162-165, 548). VVAW exposed the shameful neglect of many disabled vets in VA Hospitals (Hunt, 40, 186; Nicosia, 317-320; Stacewicz, 209, 262, 283) and helped draft legislation to improve educational benefits and create job programs (Stacewicz, 23, 163, 181; Wells, 489). VVAW fought for amnesty for war resisters, including vets with bad discharges (Nicosia, 309). We helped make known the negative health effects of exposure to chemical defoliants and the VA's attempts to cover-up these conditions as well as their continued refusal to provide treatment and compensation for many Agent Orange Victims (Hunt, 183; Nicosia, 88; Stacewicz, 350-355). VVAW has supported Gulf War vets in their struggles with Gulf War Syndrome (Veteran, vol. 33, no. 1, p. 21) and deleted uranium (DU) ammunition (Veteran, vol. 33, no. 1, p. 2, p. 24).

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What is Senator John Kerry's relationship to VVAW?

Since Vietnam Veterans Against the War's inception in 1967, tens of thousands of vets, GIs and supporters have participated in and supported the actions of VVAW. One of those members in the early 1970s was John Kerry. Kerry was appointed to the VVAW Executive Committee to assist in preparing Dewey Canyon III, VVAW's limited incursion into the land of Congress in 1971 (Nicosia, 98-99). Kerry made his greatest contribution to the anti-war movement and to VVAW in his speech to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 23, 1971 (Brinkley, 371-373: Hunt, 109-110; Nicosia, 136-138; Wells, 495). Content of the speech is found at: http://lists.village.virginia.edu/sixties/HTML_docs/Resources/Primary/Manifestos/VVAW_Kerry_Senate.html.

By 1972, John Kerry had moved on from VVAW (Brinkley, 406: Hunt, 127-128; Nicosia, 211). He was not one of the original founding members of VVAW in 1967.

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What was Dewey Canyon III?

The code names for two secret U.S. invasions of Laos were Dewey Canyon I and Dewey Canyon II. The choice of calling VVAW's incursion into Washington in April 1971 was a dramatic one. In terms of media coverage and Vietnam veteran participation, Dewey Canyon III transcended the Winter Soldier Investigation and any previous VVAW action. VVAW members defied orders that they not camp on the mall, led by Gold Star mothers placed wreaths in Arlington Cemetery, demonstrated at the Pentagon and Supreme Court, and threw their medals onto the steps of the Capitol Building (Brinkley, 2-11; Hunt, 94-119; Nicosia, 98-149; Wells, 493-498).

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Does VVAW endorse John Kerry for president?

VVAW does not endorse John Kerry or any other candidate for political office. VVAW is a non-profit organization with tax-exempt status. To endorse a candidate as an organization would cost us that status.

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Who founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War?

John Kerry was not involved in the founding of VVAW. Kerry had not returned from Vietnam at the time that VVAW was founded. Jan Barry Crumb (later Jan Barry) who served in Vietnam in 1962-1963 and enrolled in and then resigned from West Point after his Vietnam service is the best known of the veterans who founded VVAW. About six Vietnam veterans, including Barry marched under an improvised "Vietnam Veterans Against the War" banner in an April 1967 peace demonstration in New York City. On June 1, 1967, six Vietnam veterans gathered in Barry's apartment to form VVAW. Another vet associated with the early days of VVAW is Carl Rogers. Rogers held a press conference upon his return from his Vietnam service as a chaplain's assistant announcing his opposition to the war. Barry recruited him and at some point he became "vice president" of VVAW. Other early influential members who are mentioned are David Braum, John Talbot, and Art Blank. Jan Barry also lists Steve Greene and Frank (Rocky) Rocks (Barry; Hunt, 10-19; Nicosia, 15-25, f112; Moser, 194; Stacewicz, 193-203).

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Did John Kerry state that US troops committed war crimes when he addressed the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate?

In his speech to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in other speeches, Kerry summarized the findings of the Winter Soldier Investigation. (See text of Kerry's speech referenced above.) For a more detailed account of the relationship between the Winter Soldier Investigation and John Kerry, see http://www.vvaw.org/commentary/?id=399.

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What was the Winter Soldier Investigation?

In 1971 more than a hundred Vietnam War veterans from around the United States gathered at a Howard Johnson hotel in Detroit, Michigan to testify about their experiences in Vietnam. "Winter Soldier" was a reference to Thomas Paine's "The American Crisis," written to bolster commitment and spirit among soldiers and civilians during the Revolutionary War. Testimony was given unit by unit starting with the First and Third Marine Divisions. During the Winter Soldier Investigation, more than 100 veterans recounted in detail atrocities committed in Vietnam by themselves or observed first-hand. The transcript of the Winter Soldier Investigation was read into the Congressional Record. (Hunt, 55-72; Nicosia, 84-93; Wells, 473-74). The complete transcript can be read online at http://lists.village.virginia.edu/sixties/HTML_docs/Resources/Primary/Winter_Soldier/WS_entry.html.

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Have the testimonies of the VVAW members in the Winter Soldier Investigation been discredited?

Each veteran's authenticity and testimony were checked before the hearings by Investigation organizers. Who better to authenticate Vietnam service than other Vietnam vets (Brinkley, 349; Hunt, 66-68). Each veteran's authenticity and testimony were checked after the hearings by Nixon's "plumbers". Charles Colson was assigned the task. In a CONFIDENTIAL "Plan to Counteract Viet Nam Veterans Against the War", Colson wrote, "The men that participated in the pseudo-atrocity hearings in Detroit will be checked to ascertain if they are genuine combat veterans." At one point, the Nixon team suggested in a memo about VVAW, "Several of their regional coordinators are former Kennedy supporters." With the exception of the attack on Al Hubbard, nothing worse was ever produced (Brinkley, 356-357;Hunt, 73-84; Wells, 489-490).

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Did one of VVAW's leaders lie about his military service in 1971?

Al Hubbard was an important leader in Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Hubbard had been an Air Force enlisted man who actually served. He felt that as a black man, with racism what it is in this country, he had to portray himself as an officer in order to get any respect (Overend, 589; Stacewicz, 293). This was wrong on his part, but he was a good man, and he worked hard for VVAW. VVAW forgave him for lying, but he shouldn't have done it. This one fact doesn't detract from the tens of thousands in VVAW who did not lie about their service and experiences. Hubbard's exposure (June 1971) came very shortly after Dewey Canyon III and shows how aggressively the Nixon administration scrutinized every member of VVAW. In the end, the Nixon's plumbers exposed only one guy whose records show that he actually served, more than any Chickenhawk in the current administration.

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Was John Kerry photographed with Jane Fonda?

Both John Kerry and Jane Fonda spoke at a VVAW rally in 1970 at Valley Forge, PA. (Brinkley, 344-345; Nicosia, 68-70). There is an alleged photograph of Fonda and Kerry listening to other speakers at that rally. Kerry is seen several rows back in the bleachers from Fonda . The photo was reportedly purchased by Ted Sampley for $179 from an anonymous source. That is the same Ted Sampley on whom Senator John McCain has a protection order for assaulting a member of his staff and who called McCain the "Manchurian Candidate" when McCain was running against Bush in the Republican primaries in 2000 (Janofsky, 15). The photo and story can be seen at http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20040210-094330-7435r.htm.

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What is Jane Fonda's relationship to VVAW?

Jane Fonda did not "found" or "organize" VVAW. Jane Fonda was a moral supporter of and financial contributor to VVAW. Jane Fonda (along with thousands of others) was a speaker (along with amputees from an Army hospital) in a VVAW rally at Valley Forge, PA, in 1970 (Wells, 455). Jane Fonda contributed funds to the Winter Soldier Investigation (Nicosia, 79-80). Jane Fonda supported active duty GI's and veterans through her participation in the FTA ensemble (Moser, 91-93).

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What was FTA?

FTA (Fuck the Army or Fun, Travel, Adventure) served as a USO for troops that did not require strict adherence to the President Nixon's continuation of the Vietnam War. In addition to Jane Fonda, participants in FTA included Dick Gregory, Donald Sutherland, Ben Vereen, Peter Boyle, Ossie Davis, Holly Near, and Nina Simone. FTA was supported by the United States Serviceman Fund (USSF). From its founding in 1969, USSF supported the real needs of GI's by funding coffee houses, GI newspapers, military counseling, and legal support. Among sponsors and supporters of USSF were Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, Noam Chomsky, Betty Friedan, Nat Hentoff, and several unions and their locals. Another project supported by USSF organized military wives and families (Moser, 91-93).

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What is VVAW's relationship to Communism and Communists?

Of course, all Vietnam veterans, at one time, participated in a war that was ostensibly anti-communist. Identifying people as "communists" when there is no longer a unified block of Communist nations makes little sense. The nations that were formerly the Soviet Union are no longer communist. During the 1970's, one would-be communist organization supported the formation of VVAW-AI which is not to be confused with VVAW, Inc. (Nicosia, 310, 490; "Beware VVAW-AI," http://www.vvaw.org/about/vvawai.php).

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References

  1. Barry, Jan. E-mail communication to Gerald Gioglio 3/9/2004
  2. Boyle, Richard. Flower of the Dragon: Breakdown of the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Ramparts Press, 1972.
  3. Curry, G. David. Sunshine Patriots: Punishment and the Vietnam Offender. Notre Dame University Press, 1985.
  4. Hunt, Andrew. The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. New York University Press, 1999.
  5. Janofsky, Michael. "McCain Fights Old Foe Who Now Fights Kerry." New York Times, February 14, 2004, Section A, p. 15.
  6. Kerry, John and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, The New Soldier. MacMillan, 1971.
  7. Nicosia, Gerald. Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans Movement. Crown, 2001.
  8. Overend, William. "Who Is Al Hubbard?" National Review, June 1, 1971.
  9. Richard Moser. The New Winter Soldiers: GI and Veterans Dissent During the Vietnam Era. Rutgers University Press, 1996.
  10. Savage, Paul, and Richard A. Gabriel. "Cohesion and Disintegration in the American Army: An Alternative Perspective." In Armed Forces and Society, 2, Spring, 1976, 340-376.
  11. Richard Stacewicz. Winter Soldiers: An Oral History Of The Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Twayne Publishers, 1997.
  12. Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. "Conservatives Shine Spotlight on Kerry's Antiwar Record," New York Times, February 13, 2004.
  13. Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The Winter Soldier Investigation; An Inquiry Into American War Crimes. Beacon Press, 1972
  14. Tom Wells. The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam. University of California Press, 1994.

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