Chronology: Operation Dewey Canyon III
Operation Dewey Canyon I took place during January and February 1969. During a five-day period in February, elements of the Third Marine Division invaded Laos. Operation Dewey Canyon II was the name given to the first seven days of the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos in February 1971. The name of the operation was subsequently changed. Operation Dewey Canyon III took place in Washington, DC, April 19 through April 23, 1971. It was called "a limited incursion into the country of Congress."
APRIL 18, 1971
Anti-war Vietnam veterans from nearly every state begin filtering into West Potomac Park. By nightfall, only 900 have registered and the veteran leaders are worried that they will not have the requisite numbers for the desired impact.
APRIL 19, 1971
About 1,100 veterans move across the Lincoln Memorial Bridge to Arlington Cemetery, some in wheelchairs, some on crutches. Mothers who lost their sons in Vietnam (Gold Star Mothers) head the procession.
Photo by George Butler.
A brief ceremony for the war dead on both sides is conducted by Reverend Jackson Day on the small plot of grass outside the Cemetery beneath the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the grave of John F. Kennedy. (Reverend Day had resigned his military chaplainship a few days before.)
After the ceremony, a small delegation of mothers and veterans is barred from entering the Cemetery and lays two memorial wreaths at the entrance. The march re-forms and makes its way to the Capitol.
The march reaches the Capitol steps. Congressman Paul McCloskey, who joined the march en route, and Representatives Bella Abzug, Donald Edwards, and Ogden Reid address the crowd. Jan Crumb, member of the executive committee of VVAW, formally presents sixteen demands to Congress.
The veterans march to the Mall and establish a campsite on a small grassy quadrangle between Third and Fourth streets. Some veterans go directly into the halls of Congress to lobby against the war.
Washington District Court of Appeals lifts an injunction barring veterans from camping on the Mall. The injunction had been requested by the Justice Department.
APRIL 20, 1971
About 200 veterans attend hearings by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on proposals to end the war.
Veterans lobby all day in Congress.
A contingent of 200 veterans, feeling that the affront of the day before cannot be overlooked, marches from the Mall back to Arlington Cemetery. They march single file across the Lincoln Memorial Bridge. The Superintendent tries to stop the veterans at the gates but then backs down.
In the afternoon, a guerilla theater performance is given on the steps of the Capitol.
Senators Claiborne Pell and Philip Hart hold a fund-raising party for the veterans. During the party, it is announced that Chief Justice Warren Burger has reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals — allegedly, the speediest process of an appeal to the Supreme Court on record. The injunction is once again in effect and the veterans are given until 4:30 the following afternoon to break camp.
APRIL 21, 1971
A contingent of fifty veterans marches to the Pentagon to turn themselves in as war criminals. They are not arrested.
Lobbying on Capitol Hill continues all day. Guerilla theater is performed in front of the Justice Department. At 4:30 PM, the appointed hour of eviction from the camp, an alarm clock rings over the microphone on the speaker's platform. No police are in sight. The area is packed with curious onlookers. The Supreme Court is meeting in special session.
At 5:30 PM, Ramsey Clark announces that the Supreme Court has offered the veterans an option: Stay on the Mall, don't sleep, and the government won't arrest you; or sleep on the Mall and the government will arrest you. The veterans retire into their various delegations and vote, in effect, on whether to sleep or not to sleep. By a close vote a majority choose to sleep. All agree to abide by that decision.
Washington Park Police state they have no intention of inspecting the campsite during the night. The cast of the musical Hair entertains the troops.
Senator Edward Kennedy makes a midnight visit to the Mall. He remains for one hour, talking and singing with the veterans.
The veterans sleep on the Mall without interruption.
APRIL 22, 1971
A large group of veterans march to the steps of the Supreme Court to ask the Court why it has not ruled on the constitutionality of the war. They sing God Bless America. One hundred and ten are arrested for disturbing the peace and are led off the steps with their hands clasped behind their heads.
John Kerry testifies before a special session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for two hours.
Lobbying on Capitol Hill continues all day.
A District Court judge angrily dissolves his injunction order, rebuking Justice Department lawyers for requesting the court order and then not enforcing it.
Veterans stage a candlelight march around the White House. A huge American flag is carried upside down as a signal of distress. The march ends back at the camp when the flag carriers mount the stage.
APRIL 23, 1971
Veterans cast down their medals and ribbons on the steps of the Capitol.
Congressman Jonathan Bingham holds hearings with former intelligence and public information officers over distortion of news and information concerning the war.
Senators George McGovern and Philip Hart hold hearings on atrocities committed by US soldiers in Vietnam.
Veterans begin breaking camp. A tree, donated by the veterans, is planted as a symbolic plea for the preservation of all life and the environment.
The quadrangle on the Mall is vacant.
Not one act of violence has been committed.
They came in peace.
The war in Indochina continues.
Reprinted from VVAW's 25th anniversary booklet produced in 1992.
Photo by Fred W. McDarrah.