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THE VETERAN

Page 26
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Christmas Bombings 1972

By Susan Schnall

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Susan Schnall.

On Sunday, March 17, 2013 CBS aired an episode of Amazing Race where contestants were traipsing through the remnants of American B-52 bomber shot down by the Vietnamese during the Christmas Bombing in 1972. Known as the Stratofortress heavy bombers, the B-52's along with Marine tactical support aircraft, dropped over 20,000 tons of bombs, destroying Hanoi and Haiphong, including Bach Mai Hospital. From December 18, 1972 until December 29, 1972, 729 sorties killed over 1600 Vietnamese and knocked out 80% of the country's electrical supply. And what was the military gain? Why did President Richard Nixon order this reign of terror on a country and its people thousands of miles from the United States? What was the threat posed to the people of the United States by the Vietnamese? Or was this action part of the American political process, a desperate effort by the President taken before the incoming Congress would meet and deny continued funding for this unpopular war in southeast Asia?

Response to the Christmas Bombing in the United States was anger and outrage against the bombings and President Nixon who had declared: "Peace is at hand." On December 21st, 1972, I was part of the group, Medical Aid for Indochina (MAI), gathered in front of the Army Recruiting Station in Times Square, New York City. Medical Aid for Indochina was an organization that raised money to purchase medical supplies for the civilian medical facilities in North Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and south Vietnam under control of the Provisional Revolutionary Government. MAI carried out its work in cooperation with medical aid groups engaged in relief work in Indochina. We believed that we had to accept responsibility for our government's actions, to say loud and clear that the people of Indochina were not our enemies, and to demand withdrawal of all US forces and weapons from Southeast Asia.

Getting arrested in Times Square, 1972.

We were part of the thousands of demonstrators peacefully gathered in Times Square until the NY police formed a line with raised batons and began hitting the demonstrators. We sang "Give peace a chance" as the police struck out at those of us in the front. We asked them to stop as we got caught between the crowd behind and the police contingent in front of us. I remember the bright, garish lights of Times Square, the Marlboro man blowing smoke rings into the dark night and images of the US bombs falling on the civilian population in Vietnam, people screaming as they ran from this rain from hell which merged in my mind. And then I was grabbed, hit, pulled and dragged by several police to a waiting squad car and shoved inside. In handcuffs, lying on the back seat, I felt one of the officers straddling my back as he pulled my hair and yanked my head up and down, slamming my face against the car floor. Once again, I saw Vietnamese people running and screaming as the US planes rained down death and destruction, babies dying in their mother's arms, buildings smashed and burning, bodies filled with shrapnel and felt impotent about stopping this madness my government was doing in my name in Vietnam.

When the car stopped, I was pulled out by my hair, once again dragged by my hair up the steps to the station house and booked for assault, resisting arrest, and obstructing the police. As a prisoner held overnight, I was strip searched, made to shower in front of the officers, made to squat nude, searched for contraband, and placed in a solitary cell with a cement bunk.

And the American planes continued to drop bomb after bomb, day after day, night after night and for what? To show that the United States of America could destroy a land and a people struggling for their independence that didn't have approval from the mightiest country on earth?

There has been a very righteous vocal response from VFW and VVA in response to the Amazing Race episode in Hanoi, talking about American sacrifice and the deaths of American pilots represented by the display of the B-52. CBS has apologized to "veterans, particularly those who served in Vietnam...and any others who were offended by the broadcast." Where is the American voice that decries the terrible violence against the Vietnamese caused by these weapons of war? Where is our outrage about the destructive use of the B-52's against Vietnam? Where is the apology from CBS to the Vietnamese for being insensitive to the costs of the American conflict in Vietnam, acknowledging the B-52 bomber as an instrument of destruction that caused the deaths of over 1600 Vietnamese during the 1972 Christmas bombings?


Susan Schnall is a co-coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign. She is currently a professor in Health Policy and Planning at NYU and a member of VFP and APHA. She is on the VVAW Board. In 1969 she was tried and convicted by a general court martial for her anti-war activities while a member of the US Navy.

Times Square, 1972.

Cops in Times Square, 1972.

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